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Mrs Simkins’ ‘Nowt cake’ and Apple Shortcake

16 November 2018


WE BROKE a journey north to Yorkshire last week with a visit to Southwell Minster, and Southwell Workhouse. We went onwards with bagfuls of apples from its garden.

Traditional Yorkshire Cooking with Mrs Simkins offers a recipe for Kiddly, or workhouse broth: a good mill-worker’s tea made with meat and veg. “Kiddly” means “kettle”, but it might also be called “Nowt broth”, in the spirit of Mrs Simkins’s recipe for “Nowt cake”: what you whip up for unexpected visitors when you’ve nowt in the cake tin:

1 large onion, diced
50g (2 oz) bacon, diced
splash of oil or knob of dripping
approx. 100ml (2-3 fl. oz) beef stock
600ml (1 pt) hot water
1-2 thick slices dry bread, cubed
knob of butter or dripping
ground white and coarsely ground black pepper

Fry onion and bacon in oil or dripping. Add stock and pepper. Stir thoroughly. Stir in water. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Fry bread in butter or dripping. Serve broth in warm bowls, with bread on top. Allow bread to sink into the broth and soften.

Mrs Simkins also gives a recipe for Apple Shortcake, which can be made with cooking or dessert apples.

250g (9 oz) plain flour
2 level teapoons baking power
75g (3 oz) butter, diced
75g (3 oz) golden caster sugar, plus more for finishing
1 medium egg, beaten
4 tablespoons milk
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
700g (1½ lb) Bramley apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
75g (3 oz) granulated sugar (I use a low-GI substitute)
3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°C/Gas 6. Butter a 20cm (8-inch) brownie tin, and line with baking paper. Prepare the apples and toss in the lemon juice. Cook them in water for 5-10 minutes, and strain. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in butter, stir in sugar and make a well in the centre. Combine egg and milk, and pour into dry ingredients.

Gradually incorporate dry ingredients into wet with a wooden spoon, then bring the mixture together with your hands. Gently knead into a smooth ball. Divide into two equal pieces. Roll first piece gently into a rough rectangle the same size as the tin, and press lightly over the bottom to make the base.

Lay apple over mix and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out second piece of dough, and cover apples. Sprinkle with more sugar, and bake for approximately 20 minutes until risen and golden. Cut into 16 squares and serve warm or cold.


Traditional Yorkshire Cooking with Mrs Simkins is published by Dalesman at £5.99.

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