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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

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Tess serves up history of Cumbria’s food in book

IF you were to pick a Cumbrian speciality, a number of dishes might spring to mind, from Cumberland sausage to sticky toffee pudding.

But tyropatina and rum nicky?

The county’s Roman past is not only recognisable in the forts that remain today but also in some recipes.

Tyropatina may sound exotic but is just like a modern egg custard, with the addition of honey and black pepper.

The Lake District & Cumbria in Recipes and Photographs follows the social history of Cumbria through its food.

The new edition features 114 photographs of the landscape and contains 21 local and traditional recipes plus a wealth of local history.

Author Tess Baxter, of Rusland, Ulverston, says her inspiration comes from a combined love of cooking, photography and social history.

She says: “I’ve always had an interest in social history. As soon as I left home I started cooking and just cooked and cooked and that became more of the dominant thing, up until 12 years ago when I started trying to combine the two a lot more.

“I’ve brought out two books –Yorkshire, and The Lake District & Cumbria, in Recipes. What came first was the combination of photos and recipes and what the book allowed us was to bring in the social history.”

Tess has tried all the recipes in the book, at least once.

“I think most of the recipes in the book are fairly close to the originals,” she says.

“People didn’t have any more time then than they do now, in fact they had less time. People didn’t go for complexity unless it was posh food in big houses and that’s not the area I’m interested in. I’m much more interested in the ordinary things and while there are some changes I tend to pick the things people will like today.”

The recipes are drawn from Tess’ large collection of community recipe books. One of the features of traditional recipes is that they vary, and Tess finds as many versions as she can, and compares and tries them before writing them up.

The recipes are then woven with social history and photographs that she has taken.

It’s geographical position, and the trade in sugar, spices and rum through the ports of Cumberland had a considerable effect on food and diet.

“Cumbria is a relatively new county,” says Tess.

“It was part of Westmorland and Lancashire. It’s got industrial areas and influences from Ireland and Lancashire.

“Tatie Pot, for example, is related to Lancashire’s hotpot. But Cumbria has lots of gingerbread, which you don’t get in Lancashire, which has its parkin.

When asked to define Cumbrian food Tess responds: “It becomes more difficult because nothing is unique. Rum is a signature flavour because of the ports.

“We tend to forget that raisins, sultanas and currants, are sun-dried fruits and we take them for granted. A hundred years ago they were something people were finding out for new.

“I think now there are so many influences from around the world. In the past things were different in different places because places were much more isolated. Whereas now we can get pretty much anything we want, anywhere.”

Having tried all the recipes in the book Tess struggles to identify a favourite.

“I like the Cumberland apple pudding, the damson gin, the soft gingerbread and the Borrowdale teabread,” she says.

“The one I would pick out and go for most often is gingerbread.”

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