The clearing of the Edinburgh flat is almost complete. There are four shelves of books left to pack and then that is it. 124 years of McKay and Moyes occupation will have been looked at, sorted, boxed up, thrown out, given away, given to charity, moved, or sent to an auction house. Every single piece of paper was checked, every nook and cranny searched. The dust was incredible, the task was formidable. It’s very sad when lives are reduced to packed boxes, no matter how thrilled the recipients of those boxes are. When Grandma died, I found it very hard when the house was sold and bank accounts closed because it felt to me as though we had put a price on her and Papa’s lives together. It’s been no different with this.
But the treasures and discoveries have been wonderful. When I emptied the bathroom cupboard I found old boxes. For the Brits reading this, who knew that Boots’ logo used to be red? It’s always been blue in my lifetime. Why would anyone keep things that long? I came to the conclusion that since both Nana and Auntie Aileen were/are short, after my Papa’s death no-one climbed up to look on the top shelf. There was a bottle of paraffin in the Glory Hole. The label showed that it was quite old. But it’s been illegal to sell paraffin in a bottle for many years! There was an old motor insurance certificate, quite beautiful and looking like a bond or share certificate. I have never seen anything like this. There were flat irons, irons with a three point round plugs, and irons with three point square plugs. Not bad for someone who never ironed. Every book we opened had a newspaper cutting inside. Something had attracted someone’s attention and had been lovingly snipped from the paper, slipped inside a book, and probably never looked at again. I have never seen so many recipes culled from papers and magazines piled into boxes or put into bags. Again, once clipped and piled, I doubt many of them were ever re-read. I confess to doing the same thing. I cut out recipes, but, and it’s a big but, I then put them into a scrapbook. I don’t stick them in properly at first. Every six months, I go through the book and take out any recipes I haven’t made or which no longer interest me. Maybe I should just hang on to everything instead and let people wonder what I was thinking at the time?
It seems my great aunt, Christina, did the same thing, and I now have her recipe book.
Christina Emily Marshall Moyes was born in Asansol, West Bengal on 31st January, 1891, the fourth child and fourth daughter of Andrew Moyes and Alice Roseanna (nee Marshall). They would go on to have five daughters, then six sons, then another daughter, but not all lived to adulthood. Christina was known as Chrissie or Churkie, which I’ve always been told was a derivative of the Urdu for ‘little frog’. Auntie Chrissie moved to Edinburgh when her father retired from the Indian railways just before the First World War. She never married and looked after her father in a flat in Edinburgh. They took in students and, like many other women in our family, she seems to have enjoyed cooking, and cutting out recipes! After Grandpa Moyes’ death, she moved into the flat where she stayed for the rest of her life, dying in 1951. This book is a true treasure. Many recipes are in her own handwriting, using a mixture of imperial measures and cups, and in some recipes Indian words. I have been googling a lot since starting to read this. There are recipes for Indian dishes which I am really looking forward to trying. When I was talking to Auntie Aileen about this book, and about a recipe for Fowl Pillau, I was told that Churkie’s lamb pillau was amazing. She used to boil a neck of lamb and then use the stock for the rice. Auntie Aileen’s mouth was watering at the memory.
Tucked in are the inevitable cuttings from newspapers, some from the Second World War about using egg substitute; many about many pickles and chutneys; one extraordinary article about holding babies by their feet and dangling them – definitely recommended; but most of them are cakes or puddings, large and small. Some I am tempted to try; some seem impossibly sweet; and some are just interesting to read. Tucked in the pages, I found this
It’s absolutely fascinating to read but can’t say that I fancy Mock Kidney Soup or Fish Custard! And in the back of Auntie Chrissie’s book is a pattern for a knitted bedspread. Which made me laugh. Gran’s recipe book also has, at the back, a knitting pattern but for socks. Gran and Auntie Chrissie weren’t related. Was this something that all women at that time did? Throw in a knitting pattern just to confuse later generations.
What a treasure. What a marvellous thing to own and read. And I started wondering (in a Carrie Bradshaw sort of way), will my children be the last ones to have a physical book of their mother’s recipes to read? With the internet, will people bother writing out, cutting out, or printing out a recipe that they fancy trying? Or will they just assume that they’ll google it if they ever need it, and read from a screen? While I don’t expect many people will have cut out and kept as many recipes as Auntie Aileen did, I find it a wee bit sad that our culinary lives will be just our internet history.
And today’s recipe is one which I cut out from a magazine, which survived my six-monthly cull and which I have made a couple of times. It’s very easy and very tasty, and contains two of my favourite ingredients, almonds and lemons. Today’s recipe is Pine Nut, Almond and Lemon Slice, and I think I cut it out of Good Housekeeping magazine since I’ve been here in New York.
Pine Nut, Almond and Lemon Slice
- 100 g unsalted butter
- 120 g golden castor sugar
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 3 eggs
- 150 g ground almonds
- 40 g pine nuts
- mascarpone, to serve
Heat the oven to 190 C / 170 C fan / gas 5. Beat the butter with the sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy, then slowly beat in the eggs, one by one. Beat in the lemon juice, and fold in the ground almonds. The mixture will look separated, however it will come back together once baked.
Spoon into a 20 cm buttered and paper base-lined tin, sprinkle over the pine nuts and level. Bake the tart on the middle shelf for 25-35 min or so until lightly coloured on top and just set. Serve while still warm, with mascarpone.