I was born and brought up in Staffordshire during the 50s and smog was a common occurrence in winter – a nasty combination of fog and smoke from houses and factories before the introduction of smokeless coal.
Breathing the stuff in was not advised and so any trips outside would be made with a thick scarf wrapped firmly over nose and mouth.
Ironically, my first food-related memory is linked to coal – namely the fire in my grandparents’ house over which I used to toast crumpets with a long-handled brass toasting fork. You could hear them hissing gently as they heated up and there was quite an art in judging how long to hold them over the coals before they charred or burst into flames.
Even now, many years later, I can’t see or smell a crumpet without picturing a cosy sitting room on a winter’s Saturday afternoon with the football results playing on a little black and white TV and my grandfather checking his pools coupon.
We definitely knew how to have a good time in Staffordshire!
Sue’s Granny’s Crumpets
550ml full fat milk
2 teaspoons dried
450g bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
Butter or oil for
greasing a pan
6 Egg rings
Heat the milk in a microwave or saucepan until finger warm. If it’s too hot let it cool.
Stir the yeast and sugar into the milk thoroughly, then cover the bowl with a tea towel and put somewhere warm place to ferment for 10 minutes. (If the yeast isn’t frothy by then, the milk might have been too hot, killing the yeast, or the yeast may be too old. If this happens the best option is to start again with new yeast!)
Using another bowl, sift the flour and the salt together. Microwave for 10-20 seconds to warm the flour to finger warm, then make a well in the centre of the flour.
Tip the frothy yeast mixture into the flour and whisk using a circular motion until it becomes a thick, smooth batter. You can carefully add a little more milk if it’s too thick but the batter needs to hold its shape.
Cover the bowl and leave the batter in a warm place for 45-60 minutes to double in size.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan to medium-high. Grease the bottom with some butter or oil.
Grease the insides of 6 egg rings and heat them in the pan. When the rings are hot, spoon mixture into each one filling them to the top.
Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the top of each crumpet is full of holes and no longer looks wet.
Lift out the rings with tongs and flip them using a spatula. Then cook the reverse sides until golden brown.
Eat while still warm with plenty of butter.