Sunday 26 April 2009

WTSIM ... Retro Parkin

When I worked at the BBC, I remember Vic and Bob of zany Shooting Stars fame having a silly list of things to do. One stuck in my head: if you see Michael Parkinson on a cold day you could say to him, it’s parky Parky. This comes to mind when I see the word parkin. I also think of Yorkshire housewives in floral housecoats and hair in rollers serving up home-made afternoon tea.

While these words bring to mind images of yesteryear, they still have currency today. Parkinson has retired but is still revered, ‘parky’ is still used in the UK to refer to cold weather (I even heard Billy Connolly saying it last night on Journey to the Edge of the World on TV), and parkin is an evocatively named old fashioned treat which continues to be enjoyed today (I was recently given a box of Rennie Macintosh cards with recipes on the back including parkin).

I intended to post this yesterday because, although Wikipedia said it is traditionally made on Bonfire Night in the UK, it seemed an appropriate treat for ANZAC Day. But I just didn't find the time. Last year I posted about the traditional ANZAC biscuits.

So this year I thought I would post about Iced VoVos, an iconic Australian biscuit that was in the news last week because the manufacturer Arnotts threatened legal action against Krispy Kreme's Iced Dough-Vo. I felt a surge of nationalistic pride and was annoyed at this American donut giant using one of our biscuits to sell their products. But then I checked out Arnotts, I found the company is now American-owned. I then bought a packet of the biscuits out of curiosity and found they were not the marshmallow and jam biscuits I had been thinking of. Sigh! The best thing was digging out the wombat teatowel and finding the picture of a wombat eating an iced vovo – (if you don't look too closely)!

More successful was my experience of baking a Rose Elliot recipe for honey parkin a few weeks back. I had another burst of nostalgia while mixing it up. The buttermilk swirled through the molasses was so pretty and reminded me of a book I read as a child in which the main character had a drink called tiger milk which was molasses swirled through milk. It sounded alluringly exotic back then when I had never seen molasses, although now I am not sure I would fancy the taste of the drink.

Even more pleasing and curious was the strange chemistry at work in this cake-cum-slice. The mixture to go in the oven was a pleasing caramel colour that became a golden brown when baked. When it came out of the oven it was strangely devoid of smell. But even after a few hours the heavenly aromas of ginger and honey were wafting up from the parkin. The recipe said that it should be wrapped and stored in a tin for 2-7 days first. So I wrapped it in foil and a teatowel, made another cake to save me from temptation and I waited. When I finally opened it and had a piece, it was quite dry and disappointing. (I wonder if it would have been better if I had kept it in an airtight container for the week when it was wrapped in foil?) Nevertheless I took it out of the foil, cut it into pieces and put it in an airtight container.

After a few more days it was wonderfully sticky and moist with the mellow flavours of ginger and honey. It reminded me a little of the Orkney Ginger Broonie that I made last year. The parkin was more of a slice than cake and was nicer because it was much stickier than my broonie.

I enjoyed slowly eating my way through it. The parkin just got better and better the longer it sat there (umm… about a week). E was not so keen. He said it was ok with a cuppa in the afternoon but would not do for an evening snack (which makes me think of the Scottish saying ‘Wha’s like us? Damned few and they’re all deid.’) My mum and dad both thought it delicious. It felt a little healthier than some of my cakes and had a depth of flavour that I loved.

Jeanne at Cooksister is hosting this month’s Waiter There’s Something in MyRetro Classics (closing date 4 May). I am sending this to her because it is indeed a retro recipe which has been enjoyed for many generations.

Honey Parkin
(from Rose Elliot: The New Vegetarian Cookbook)

75g Barbados sugar (or brown sugar)
100g black treacle or molasses
100g honey
100g butter or margarine
175ml milk
100g plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
100g medium oatmeal

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin (I used an 18 x 28cm slice tin).

Place sugar, treacle (or molasses), honey and butter (or margarine) in large saucepan and melt gently over low heat. Alternatively, you could place in a large microwave proof bowl and melt in microwave which is what I did. The recipe says to cool this mixture but I didn’t bother. Add milk gradually and stir to mix. Add remaining ingredients ad mi til combined. Pour mixture into prepared tin.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until firm to touch. Turn out of tin and cook on a wire rack. Ideally store in foil and stored in a tin for 2-7 days before eating. It keeps getting better with age.

On the stereo:
Chill with Bach


  1. I miss Parky :(
    It looks like Arnotts make the best biscuits, I have only ever tried Tim Tams and thought they were AMAZING but those look even better. The Parkin looks so very lush too, I feel the need to bake today.

  2. Mmm it looks good! Probably lucky it doesn't taste fabulous right away. I have problems with temptation with baked goodies! My hand seems to develop a life of it's own.

    The final result sounds great!

  3. I've not tried Parkin before, but it looks good, although I am disappointed with the waiting time :(

  4. I've never heard of Parkin before. A sticky cake sounds really good though!

  5. I've heard of parkin before but didn't know quite what to picture. This sounds delicious (and as you say, almost healthy with the oatmeal & wholewheat flour & unrefined sugars...) Fascinated by the waiting time - you must have a lot of self-control! Thanks for a fab retro recipe for WTSIM :)

  6. I have never tasted real Arnott's, but I've heard they're so good.

  7. Parkin as something to eat and as another name for cold weather is new to me!

    Yes Arnotts and a lot of Australian brands are now overseas owned. The most amusing one is Uggs.

    The wombat does indeed look they are eating an Iced Vovo!

  8. Thanks Flower - tim tams are fantastic and so is parky!

    Thanks Vegetation - I agree that it helped it didn't taste great but still is hard to wait

    Thanks Holler - I'd like to do experiments and see if it made any difference without the waiting time

    Thanks Ashley - yes love sticky cake

    Thanks Jeanne - I don't have self-control but after a day or two I had to keep reminding myself the parkin was there (as I was distracted by chocolate cake!)

    Thanks Susan - Arnott's makes lots of Aussie biscuits that are excellent - esp the chocolate ones - although I probably would prefer home made baking

    Thanks Lorraine - the Ugg Boots American ownership is indeed bizarre - now I would like a teatowel with a wombat in Ugg Boots!!!

  9. This looks delicious. I like the honey addition.

  10. Oooh, wonderful Johanna, I love parkin. Have never tried making it myself and wasn't expecting it to have oatmeal in it. Do you know if Rose's recipe is a fairly traditional one?

  11. Never heard of parkin, but that does sound like an intriguing recipe (though quite a bit of work!). As for Krispy Kreme. . .well, never saw the appeal. I'm sure the original vovos are much better! Hope you had a lovely Anzac Day!

  12. thanks katie - I am going through a honey phase I think

    Thanks Sophie - I think Rose must like parkin because I have at least 3 parkin recipes by her - oatmeal, treacle/molasses, ginger and fat seem traditional from checking wikipedia

    Thanks Ricki - no dawn service for us on ANZAC Day - am happy to say that Sylvia is a late riser like her parents. Parkin is quite easy to make - it is the waiting that is hard :-)

  13. Such a beautiful, cozy recipe! I haven't fixed Parkin yet, and you've quite tempted me to remedy this lacking in my cake-baking!

  14. Never tried Parkin...sounds good and looks good.

  15. Thanks Astra Libra - cosy is such a good word for parkin - hope you enjoy it

    Thanks Juliana - nice to have you dropping by!

  16. The WTSIM retro classic round-up has now been posted! Come and take a look:


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