I can if I want.
In years gone by our food was a much more seasonal affair. We were limited to produce that was only available at certain times of the year. Here in Blighty that put us on a bit of a back foot. Other nations (yes, I’m looking at you France) have long criticised our lack of capability in the culinary arts. As recently as 2005 French President Jacques Chirac went on record as saying “You can’t trust people whose cuisine is so bad”. Give us a break, fella. We were hardly going to be proficient when all we had to play with when winter came around was turnips and cabbages. There is much more choice now due to the supermarkets shipping in all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables from overseas. And I’m not just talking about the stuff that needs exotic climes to grow like bananas and pineapples. We ship in produce from abroad that would grow quite happily over here. Strawberries from Spain and Morocco. Pears from Holland. Blackberries rather vaguely described as being from the ‘Southern hemisphere’. There does seem to be a shift in the opposite direction now with more and more people returning to locally sourced produce. I’m not complaining too much. Perhaps we should be grateful for the variety. Without it you would barely see fruit at all over the winter months unless it was in a can. Which leads me neatly on to that most perennial of favourites – tinned peaches. They may not be glamorous. They may not be a gastronomic delicacy. But there was a time when they were probably the only protection most of us Brits had for staving off scurvy. And if Jacques Chirac wants to be snooty about it, he can cordon bleu it out of his ear.
A tinny bit marvellous.
There was a collection of stories on the BBC website recently which gave everyday people a chance to reminisce about the Second World War. There was one lovely memory that had been submitted by someone who talked about the luxury of a tin of peach slices. Tinned fruit was hard to find in those times of food rationing. And even harder to afford. Because one tin of fruit would cost the equivalent to a whole months rations for one person. Apparently, this would only ever be considered for a very special occasion such as Christmas or birthdays. They would have to fill up on bread and butter first. Then each person would be gifted a small amount of tinned fruit topped off with evaporated milk for afters. Even when the war was over and fresh peaches became available people would still hanker after those wartime tinned peaches. Even when tinned peaches became readily available people would complain they were somehow not so good as those wartime tinned peaches. And as it turned out that was mainly because the tinned peaches from the war were often tinned mangoes. It really made me smile because it’s funny what sticks in people’s minds sometimes. I can just imagine the conversation.
“Tell me about the war years Mrs. Shufflebottom”.
“Well they were some dark and difficult times sonny. All of our peaches were made of mango”.
It’s like something Abe Simpson might say in one of his ramblings. A masterpiece of abstract thinking. Or as the French might say, a peach de resistance.
Every silver lining has a cloud.
I make no apologies for using tinned peaches instead of fresh in this recipe, though you can use whichever you feel the most comfortable with of course. Fresh peaches are costly by comparison. When you can get a decent tin of peaches for 29p why would you waste the money? Or the time. They are just such a faff. I couldn’t be bothered to contend with the blanching and cooling and peeling. And it’s the devil’s work trying to separate the flesh from the stone. And fresh peaches can be slippery customers. As you are trying to slice them they shoot out of your hands like soap in the shower. The slices are all wonky and misshapen. It’s so much easier to drain a tin of peaches and pat them dry on some kitchen roll. Job sorted. As you might be able to tell from the photos, the recipe was originally supposed to be made in a cake tin lined with foil. This was a big mistake. The juices that leaked out from the peach slices combined with the granulated sugar that had been scattered over the top and caramelised together. When I say caramelised, I mean it practically welded the sides of the cake to the tinfoil. It was bad enough when the cake was still hot, but as the cake cooled the whole thing solidified and freeing the cake from the foil was proving to be all but impossible. After about 15 minutes of trying to gently tease the foil away my patience ran a bit thin and I had to resort to cutting around the top edge with a pair of scissors. I’ve changed the recipe now to use greaseproof paper. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through that. It was enough to make me peaches and scream.
A tin to bake it in.
The tin I used for this recipe was a shallow 21.5cm square cake tin. That’s just shy of eight and a half inches in old money. I bought mine from The Original Factory Shop for around £3. It was a while ago now but I think they still sell them. If you don’t want to buy one special or if the £3 is a bit too pricey, you could probably get away with using a slightly larger 7 x 11 inch tray bake tin. You can buy one of those from pound stores for £1. You might just need to reduce the cooking time a bit. The cake itself was nice enough though it could perhaps best be described as being good and sturdy. The mixed spice gives it a lovely flavour that complimented the peaches very well. The only problem is that this cake is not going to sit there indefinitely. You would be best off eating it in the first couple of days. There is a nice crispy topping from the granulated sugar when it is fresh but because of the peaches that quickly softens. Even then it’s not a complete load of old cobblers. If necessary you could always serve it warmed with a spot of custard or ice cream. I’m sure it will be just peachy. Now here’s that recipe… Enjoy.
Peach Cobbler Snack Cake.
- 280g Plain Flour.
- 200g Granulated Sugar.
- 2 tsp Baking Powder.
- 1 tsp Mixed Spice.
- ½ tsp Salt.
- 410g Tinned Peaches.
- 1 tbsp Cornflour.
- 330g Greek Yoghurt.
- 40g Margarine (melted and cooled slightly).
- 50g Granulated Sugar (4 tbsp).
- Position a shelf in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Grease and fully line a square 21.5cm cake tin with greaseproof paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
- Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, mixed spice and salt. Set aside.
- Drain the tinned peaches well and pat dry with paper towels. Toss together with the cornflour and set aside.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the yoghurt and melted margarine and gently stir everything together until just combined, taking care not to over mix.
- Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
- Place the peach slices evenly over the surface and gently press them into the cake mixture.
- Scatter the granulated sugar evenly over the top.
- Bake for 60 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes before carefully removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.