When I was teaching and with rather more responsibility than you might imagine if you met me now, I not only had teachers in my department but also had student teachers. I was very lucky because all that came through the department were really nice people – not all of them were cut out to be teachers, but there wasn’t one who didn’t try their best and give something to the team, even though they might struggle. Some I remember vividly, the young woman who was brilliant in every way and when a job came up inn the department I hoped she’d get it but sadly she didn’t. I often think of her and wonder where her talents took her. There was the young man, a great guy but hopeless as a teacher; I was having a chat with him in my office when suddenly my chair turned to jelly and shook… what??? What the heck??? I looked at him and he looked at me… ‘I think it was an earthquake!’ I said in some surprise, and yes indeed it was, in Oldham!
There was another young teacher from Scotland, a nice young woman and as it was the January term and she was new in the area and had not many friends, I invited her back for a meal. She accepted and said she would bring something Scottish to finish the meal, I don’t know what I cooked but she brought some Black Bun made by her mother. I had never heard of it, and no internet in those days so it was a compelled new thing for us. She told us it was a tradition to eat it at Hogmanay – and later I discovered that it was also something associated with Twelfth Night. She said it was like a cake but with pastry round it – which sounded strange but of course it was absolutely delicious. I imagine I said at the time that I would try making one the following year but of course I forgot. I’m so sorry that I have absolutely no memory of her name, but here is a recipe for Black Bun from Janet Murray:
- For the crust: ½ lb plain flour; 4 oz butter; pinch of salt and baking poder
- ¾ lb flour
- 5 oz butter
- ½ lb brown sugar
- ½ lb blue raisins seeded
- 2 lbs currants
- 1 lb sultanas
- 1 level dessertspoonful ground ginger
- 1 level dessertspoonful cinnamon
- 1 teaspoonful Jamaica pepper
- 1 small teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda
- 1 small teaspoonful cream of tarter
- 1 pinch black pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt
- milk to mix
For the crust sieve the flour into the bowl and add the salt and baking powder. Rub in the butter and make a firm dough with cold water.
Knead the dough until it is quite smooth, cut off a small piece and roll it out to make a lid for the bun. Roll out the rest to an even thickness and then carefully line a buttered cake tin.
For the mixture, put the flour into a roomy bowl and add the ground ginger, cinnamon, Jamaica pepper, black pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves, salt, bicarbonate of soda, and cream of tartar.
Sieve this twice, then rub in the butter.
Now add the brown sugar, raisins, currants, and sultanas, and mix all to a soft dough with milk. Fil it into the lined tin, keeping it up at the sides and down in the centre.
Dampen the lid of dough with cold water and fit it on firmly.
Take a skewer and pierce the cake almost to the bottom in at least a dozen places.
Bake in a moderate oven (temperature 325) for 3 hours.
At about half time, take the bun out of the oven and brush it quickly and heavily with well-beaten egg. Do not brush before putting it into the oven in the first place – this would seal the holes, and keeping in the steam would soften the paste.
This black bun will keep for months in an airtight tin.