Do you remember how holidays used to be?
Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, holidays were different. Going abroad, on a plane, was a fancy thing to do. It wasn’t for us. We took our holidays in the UK, though holiday is a loose term. More endurance test.
Preparation was key. In fact, the prep was more exciting than the holiday. It would be arranged for the neighbours to open and shut the curtains morning and evening whilst we were away. This was very important as it meant no one would actually know you were on holiday, thus greatly reducing the chance of being burgled. Never mind there being no car on the drive. That didn’t matter. The curtains did though.
The milkman has to be cancelled too. But he’d promise to keep an eye on the house despite not knowing where we were going or having any way to get in touch with us if there were to be a problem. Speaking of which, we’d leave the address and telephone number of the campsite/caravan park with family and friends ‘just in case’. No one ever called us but, well, you never know.
You had to make sure you had your spending money from the grandparents. Each set would bestow on you between 50p and £1 to spend on ice-cream or a spade. You guarded this money with your life, like precious gold. You would of course drop the ice cream or leave the spade on the beach. There would be some shouting about this. And probably tears too.
Packing was a lengthy process, sure to provoke maternal distress and paternal muttering. Clothes were just the beginning. Also required was a full first aid kit, washing up liquid, tea bags, instant coffee, a dishcloth, loo cleaner, a windbreaker, deck chairs, a tartan picnic rug, an empty ice-cream tub to be used as a mobile dog bowl and a transistor radio. These items were all very important. Sunhats, sun screen and sunglasses less so. Maybe it wasn’t sunny in the 80’s. I can’t remember.
The car would be packed up the night before leaving, but only in the dead of night. Again, to ensure would be burglars, who’d wait at every corner with swag bags poised, didn’t catch on that the house was empty. After a fitful night’s sleep, we’d leave at precisely 4.45am in order to ‘beat the traffic’. The plan being that anyone under 10 would sleep until arrival at the campsite/caravan. In reality I’d be singing Cliff Richard songs, playing eye spy and asking ‘are we nearly there yet?’ before the engine started.
By 7am we’d all succumb to the lure of the car picnic, park up and open our foil parcels. Mashed hard-boiled egg with vinegary salad cream and sprinkled with peppery cress, thickly sliced corned beef laced with HP sauce and psychedelic Red Leicester and crinkle cut picked beetroot sandwiches, all on Mighty White bread, were hastily scoffed, followed by pickled onion Monster Munch, Smiths Salt n’ Shake crisps and Chip Sticks. Pudding was a Penguin, a mint Club or a Wagon Wheel, washed down with a carton of Um Bongo and/or luke warm Thermos stewed tea. For me, this was the holiday highlight. Not even a static caravan in Hunstanton with a dining table that doubled as a bed could top a car picnic in a layby on the A47.
Lots of great recipes like this in my book, Recipes from a Normal Mum, out now… on Amazon, The Works, at Waterstones, WHSmith, The Book Depository and many smaller outlets. (Pssst! Did you know I have a new book coming out in September? Keep tuned for more info!)
Four years ago: Teacher’s pet chocolate and hazelnut oaty biscuits and Spelt loaf
Five years ago: Restorative chicken and leek risotto
Chocolate sandwich biscuits
Makes about 20 paired biscuits (though it depends on the size of your cutter)
For the biscuits:
- 75g soft salted butter
- 75g castor sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp milk
- 230g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
- 20g cocoa powder
For the chocolate ganache filling:
- 150mls double cream
- 1 tsp very finely crushed cardamom seeds
- 75g dark chocolate, finely chopped
Line two baking trays with non-stick baking parchment and preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This takes about 2 minutes with an electric mixer or double the time with a wooden spoon. Lightly whisk the egg, vanilla and milk and add to the mixture in quarters, beating well after each addition. Sieve the flour and cocoa over the top and lightly beat to combine.
Sieve a little flour on the work surface and on top of the biscuit dough to stop any sticking, then use a rolling pin (or wine bottle if you don’t have one) to roll the dough to about ½ cm thick. Cut shapes with your cutters and transfer to the lined baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes then leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the ganache by scalding the double cream in a saucepan until it just starts to boil, remove from the heat and add the crushed cardamom seeds and chocolate. Stir until the ganache is smooth and leave to solidify at room temperature.
Carefully spread half the biscuits with the ganache and sandwich together.
Don’t like cardamom? Try using a teaspoon of orange extract or mint flavouring instead.
This recipe and column first appeared in Back to School magazine.
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