what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Cooking with Stones

is the title of a cookery book I own. It contains ‘Ideas and Recipes from Stones Restaurant in Avebury’.

Stones Restaurant in Avebury went the way of many good things some time ago. It was a vegetarian restaurant run by two (disillusioned – their word not mine) archaeologists, Hilary Howard and Michael Pitts. It opened in 1984, and closed in 2000. Between 1984 and 1987 I was a student at King Alfred’s College, Winchester (now apparently the University of Winchester) and I studied History with Associated Archaeology. We spent a lot of weekends out and about in the college’s old red minibus looking at archaeological sites, and sometimes ended up at Avebury, either in the restaurant or the Red Lion.

The recipe book was first published in 1989, the version I have comes from slightly later as there’s an introduction from 1991. Michael (Mike) Pitts has turned up on TV talking about excavations and other archaeological investigations in the Avebury/Stonehenge area in more recent times, and he has a blog over here http://mikepitts.wordpress.com/about/. And seems to be pretty busy. So perhaps he’s not disillusioned about archaeology any more.

The recipes are probably what you’d expect from a veggie restaurant of that era, good solid pastry, robust soups and veggie versions of favourites such as shepherds pie, lasagne, koulibiaca, and many recipes they developed themselves, some salads and some cakes. All good stuff to eat after a hearty walk to West Kennet Long Barrow or around the henge and along the Avenue at Avebury. None of that new fangled ‘fusion’ cooking and from a time before Heston Blumenthal was let loose in an apron.  They also recommended using locally sourced ingredients long before it became fashionable and the book mentions lots of cheeses, ciders, beers and things that were local to the area. You can get second hand copies on Amazon I see.

The recipe I’ve cooked most frequently is for carrot cake. I don’t remember if I ever ate it at the restaurant, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve baked it for work for fundraising affairs and for friends. I’ve made it so many times that I think people think I can’t make other things, and this blog is a result of a desire to record that I can bake other things. So tomorrow, for McMillan Coffee Morning we’re having a Carrot Cake-athon. I’m doing mine and a colleague is doing two of hers, including the latest Hairy Bikers light-weight one. I will also be buying some from a local deli – which declares it has the “best carrot cake I’ve ever tasted” in the view of one of their customers and we’ll be doing a comparison.

In the meanwhile….

Carrot Cake from Stones Restaurant – recipe reproduced with permission from Mike Pitts because the book is out of print now.

10 oz wholewheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 tablespoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

9 fl oz sunflower oil

10 oz muscovado sugar

4 eggs

12 oz carrot, grated

3 oz desiccated coconut

You can mix it all up nicely, in stages and carefully like, – dry goods first, then in another bowl the oil and sugar, then the eggs one at a time, then add the flour and lastly stir in the carrot. But I favour just weighing it all out into a big bowl and giving and big stir up. The recipe says to bake it in one tin and then split it into two parts, I’ve never had the nerve for this because I know I’ll get it wonky so I bake it in two lined 8 inch sandwich tins at 160 C on fan setting for about 40 to 45 minutes. To fill it the book recommends cream cheese, but I usually use a bit of lemony butter cream made with the juice and zest of a lemon, some icing sugar and a dollop of soft butter, thrashed together in a bowl. The recipe is enormously tolerant of mixing in different kinds of flour and sugar and playing about with the amount and type of oil and spices. In fact, I have shared this recipe with lots of people, and oddly, it always comes out differently when they make it. One used olive oil, another used green coriander where I’ve always assumed it means ground coriander, perhaps I’m wrong. Anyway, they’ve all been very happy with the results, so I recommend this to you, along with a trip to Avebury in the autumn or winter.

Here’s the picture and there’s no top view because I’m somewhat unhappy that the top bit split – which happened when I picked up one bit and moved it into position – it’s never done that before. As this is for work where we don’t stand on ceremony and use cutlery I won’t hide it with more icing, but I would have done for more refined company.

[Edit] Result of the cake-off was the winner was Costco! Shakes head in despair. The statistician says it’s not significant and all the entries were yummy.

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3 thoughts on “Cooking with Stones

  1. And there was me expecting you to be baking on pebbles like that chap on bake off (still wondering if he misheard “baking stones” from “baking stone”!)!

    Nice bit of personal history. I went to Cranks once – but coming from a family of six kids restaurants were strictly outwith our experience. I still whince whenever I see the prices. Not sure whether that comes from childhood deprivation or from growing your own food…

  2. My Cranks recollections are still to come….. Me too on the restaurant prices. When I was small my mum and I used to go out and share a scone and a pot of tea for one! Generally I think I could do better things with the cost of a restaurant meal, especially when it’s just pizza. If there’s been an investment in developing a complicated recipe or using unusual processes then it might be worth the money.

  3. Pingback: Lemon coconut traybake « what? bread?

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