Thursday, 6 October 2011

Old faithfuls

I love trying new recipes, and I also love making old familiar recipes over and over again.  But something I've been very bad at trying is new versions of old favourite dishes.  It seems all wrong to go gallivanting around with new ideas when you've already got a recipe that is well loved, well tested and that you know by heart.

And yet...whisper it...maybe there could be something even better than that old faithful recipe you've been making forever.

So over the past month I have been RADICAL and DARING and tried out some new versions of old favourites.

I had an early success with flapjacks: out went the recipe my Mum gave me when I left home (sorry Ma!) and in came the Peyton & Byrne version.  The Peyton & Byrne recipe has dried fruit in it, and a high butter to syrup ratio, making them less good for your arteries, but kinder on your teeth.  O, who doesn't normally like flapjacks, loved these ones.

Then I decided to try a bigger challenge - meatloaf.  The recipe I've been baking since I was a teenager is one that a neighbour passed on to my Mum in the late 1970s.  My brother and I loved it as children, and my children now love it too.  It has hidden vegetables in it, succulent tender meat, and makes the whole house smell amazing while it bakes.  I felt very emotionally attached to my old recipe and thought that there was very little that could rival it.  But that recipe calls for both beef and pork, so when I only had beef but had already told my children and their friends that they were having meatloaf for tea, I had to look for another recipe.

I went for the one in the second Hairy Bikers Mum Knows Best book.  I didn't think anything was going to come up to the standard of my inherited recipe, but this new one was a revelation - quicker to make, much less fatty without the additional pork, and just as tasty.  The four children demolished the lot and asked for more.

And then I decided to mess around with that most sacred of old favourite recipes: fairy cakes.  I read somewhere a while back that if you swap half the quantity of flour for custard powder in your usual recipe then it makes for a more vanillary, creamy sponge  without altering the texture.  And today I tried it. 

I made autumn buns to use up the last of the unrefined icing sugar I bought in a fit of worthiness a couple of months ago.  Unrefined icing sugar is not a good idea.  It makes a murky, caramel-coloured icing that does not mix well with food colouring.  But the shade of icing is vaguely autumnal so I added some autumn sprinkles and rather liked the end result.

Autumn buns
Autumn buns

And the addition of custard powder to the recipe was agreed by all to be A Very Good Thing.  The buns were light and full of flavour.  There aren't many of them left.

So what's next?  Is nothing sacred?  I still haven't found the nerve to mess around with my shortbread recipe, but perhaps I should.


  1. They look lovely!! Almost like a toffee icing!! Mmmmm!!

  2. Ooh, cupcakes with custard powder, YUM! What a great idea. I have made some shortbread-like biscuits with custard powder too, very good.
    The way I usually mess with tried'n'true baking recipes is to swap half the flour for wholemeal. My family actually prefers pancakes this way and it makes a surprisingly good change in a chocolate cake.

  3. I did mess around with the shortbread and found I really like Lorraine Pascale's (though I'm not giving up my Hugh recipe, as they're actually quite different).

    Now must try the custard powder trick! And that does look like the perfect autumnal icing.

    K x

  4. What a thought provoking post. I rarely mess with favourite recipes too but I did find a Gordon Ramesy recipe for shortbread in a Sunday suuplement that uses ground almonds and it has a wonderful soft crumb, that repleced my favourite recipe.

  5. oh yum, I really really need to try more recipes, to justify the amount of books I have.... I've never ever made meatloaf, but I don't have that book, I wonder if it's on the bbc website, off to check x

  6. Oh my, you are changing everything! I am very guilty of not veering from my favourite recipes, too terrified of disaster. However, the cupcakes intrigue me, I shall add custard powder to my shopping list and who knows where it might lead....

  7. Your meatloaf sounds like something we should try! Just the thought sends me drifting towards the kitchen...

  8. I have never made meatloaf. In fact... I have never even eaten meatloaf.

    Does that make my life incomplete?

    Would you share the recipe?

  9. I think I need to make some cupcakes for tea. I also have worthy icing sugar, and the things it does to pink food colouring have to be seen to be believed.

  10. Oooh, I have an AMAZING shortbread recipe, no breadcrumbs or creaming needed, instead you just melt the butter and stir it into flour cornflour and sugar. It is v.yummy indeed.
    Loving the custard powder idea, and will check out the meatloaf idea too, my friend has that book so will have a look.
    But listen, all this messing about with recipes is just fine, but no messing with THE spag bog recipe, ok?! Or I shall send the lads round...x

  11. Custard buns are one of my standbys. But I've never made meatloaf. Am I mad?


Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.