Biscuit recipe of the week: Littlehampton Honey & Fig Biscuits

The second biscuit recipe of this week, by Alison Hilton, MERL Marketing Officer

Sometimes I really love social media! We’d never have come across this week’s recipes had it not been for a #ThrowbackThursday image we posted last week on Twitter.  As it was #BritishSandwichWeek, the picture was of recipes for sandwich spreads from a 1944 MAF leaflet – some of which sounded a little less than appetising! One follower, writer and historical consultant @DrIanFriel commented that he remembered a particularly revolting sounding WWII recipe for ‘fish custard’! After a brief Twitter exchange, I discovered that he had produced a 1940s recipe book at Littlehampton Museum in 1995.  In no time at all, Dr Friel had very kindly emailed the following:

Littlehampton Honey & Fig Biscuits

The recipes were published in Littlehampton Museum, Rationed Recipes.  Recipes from the Age of Austerity, Littlehampton Museum Publications, 1995.  The material in it derived from 1940s leaflets and from two ladies who lived through the period.  The booklet was produced in connection with an exhibition that we did about postwar Littlehampton, hence the focus on the Austerity rather than the WW2 era.

How easily available figs were in the 1940s, I don’t know, and I imagine that honey was easier to come by.  The recipes were based on pooling the rations of four people, so the two ounces of cooking fat in the fig biscuits would blow a couple’s fat ration for a week!

I’ve never tried cooking either of these so can’t be quite sure what they’re like.  The oven settings are a bit vague, but at a rough estimate ‘moderately hot’ equates to 190-200 C/Gas 5-6 and ‘hot’ to 220/230C/Gas 7-8: probably best to check the biscuits regularly.

Honey biscuits

2½ oz (75g) margarine
1 oz (30g) sugar
1 dried egg (or substitute with a shelled egg)
2 tablespoons honey
6 oz (180g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Cream the margarine and sugar and beat in the egg.  Add the honey, work in the flour, cinnamon and salt.  Roll out until ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.  Cut into rounds, place on a baking sheet, and bake in a moderately hot oven for 10 minutes.  This quantity makes approximately 40-50 biscuits.

Fig biscuits

Pastry:

8 oz (240g) plain flour
2 oz (60g) cooking fat
Pinch of salt
Water to mix

Filling:

2-3 oz (60-90g) figs
4 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon ginger and mixed spice
Few drops of lemon essence

Mix flour and salt and rub in the fat.  Mix in water and work to a stiff dough.  Chop up the figs and simmer in water till quite soft. Add spice, and lemon essence, and allow to become quite cold.

Roll pastry out into an oblong 12 inches (30 cm) by 24 inches (60 cm) and ¼ inch thick (6 mm).  Spread half of the pastry with the filling, cover with the other half (i.e. you fold one half over the other) and bake in a hot oven for ten minutes and cut into squares when cold.  This quantity makes approximately 40 biscuits.

Have a go at these recipes and let us know how you get on! And don’t forget to enter your best batch into the new Biscuit Bake-off competition at the MERL Village Fete on May 31st!

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