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My Halloween parkin

Angela CluttonSo here we are, approaching that time of the year when the weather plummets and yet there are loads of fun things for families to do together outside. Whether its oohing and aahing at fireworks; wheeling a "guy" around the neighbourhood (does anyone still do that?) or trick-or-treating in a witch costume that really wasn’t designed with warmth foremost in mind.

There's lots of fun to be had - right up to the point where folk are losing feeling in their toes and their spirits are starting to flag. That is the time when the most popular person at the bonfire is going to be the one who brought the parkin.

In the north of England (especially Lancashire and Yorkshire), parkin is - or at least, it was - as much a part of all the foods and fun that surround Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations as toffee apples or pumpkins are now. For the uninitiated, think of a dense ginger cake or gingerbread but with treacle and oatmeal added. Without both of those two ingredients, it's just not parkin no matter how scrummy it may be.

And in this sticky War of the Roses I'm afraid there's really only one side for me.

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My mum still has her cookery exercise book from her school days in Bolton in the late 1940s. As a daughter who is writing a book about ways of doing things that are or were passed down through the generations, you can imagine that for me this is right up there as the top of the pops of family heirlooms. Contained amongst its many treasures is a recipe for parkin which, when added to those in Mary Gaskell's Yorkshire Cookery Book, and Florence White's Good Things in England, makes me the proud if slightly befuddled possessor of 26 ways to bake a parkin!

There are not just differences between Lancashire and Yorkshire. It seems that every area, every town - maybe even every street, house and family - had their way to make parkin. Some things are common across the recipes: ginger and spices for a bit of a warming kick, treacle for satisfying stickiness and oats to keep the hungry hoards going a little while longer.

ParkinThen it gets trickier. Some have egg, flour, more spices, bicarbonate of soda or even cream. What all the recipes agree on is that parkin gets better with keeping, ideally for a week or so before cutting into it. Now there's a challenge.

So, do you have an old cookery book that your mother, grandmother or great-auntie treated like her bible and scribbled into? Because if you do, in it could well be your family’s perfect parkin recipe just waiting to be rediscovered for the next generations of your family to tuck into.

Angela Clutton shares two of her favourite parkin recipes on her blog. If you'd like to comment on this post or add your own parkin tips you can do so on the thread.