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Essentially England News, April 2011 - Teacake and a Wartime Mystery
April 28, 2011

Teacake and a Wartime Mystery

A cheerful welcome to everyone who subscribed to Essentially England News during the last month! Here you'll find England news, site news, travel tips, reviews and our Recipe of the Month, all in one easy-to-digest email.

Summer’s arrived early this year and England is bathed in warm sunshine. We couldn’t have had better days to move house and settle into our new home in a tiny village whose roots go back to Saxon times and that you can read about in the Domesday Book. Our cat has taken the second move this year completely in his stride and was a “great help” unpacking boxes and dusting books when I set up the study – just the way cats always are.

A Little History: The Plane that Vanished

There’s no doubt about it, moving house is disruptive. But it’s also great for re-discovering books, music and other family heirlooms I’d forgotten I had. Like the rather heavy box of records we unearthed from the loft. Amongst the contents I found an album by Big Band King Glenn Miller, who mysteriously disappeared in December 1944 on a flight to France.

As mysteries go, this is a good one. Miller was booked to appear at a concert in Paris, entertaining troops. History tells us that he left Twinwood Airfield just north of Bedford in a Norseman transport plane, even though thick fog made travel hazardous on that day and Miller didn’t actually like flying. He was never seen or heard of again. No plane wreckage was found and no distress call was ever received. And according to the airfield’s official records, no flights took off that day.

Had Glenn Miller been sent on a secret mission? Did someone make a mistake when recording activities at Twinwood airfield? Did the plane get into trouble over the English Channel and crash, unable to send an SOS? We'll probably never know. And that's just the thing with mysteries.

But fortunately for all of us. We still have the music.

Places to See and Things to Do

Usually, May is a busy month, but after all the preparations for the royal wedding and all the parties, England might just go to sleep for a while. Or will it?

Not really. If you've got green fingers - or you just like to admire someone else's work - then May's a good month. First, between May 12th and May 15th, there's the Malvern Spring Gardening Show (at the Three Counties Showground just outside Malvern). And then, in the last week of May, it's once again time for the famous Chelsea Flower Show. If you're going, have fun!

Gloucestershire used to be a place for much fun and merriment, especially at the end of May, when the famous cheese rolling event at Cooper's Hill took place. Last year, the event was cancelled (officially) due to safety concerns. And I have to admit, chasing a truckle of cheese down this extremely steep hill looks seriously scary. Nevertheless, an unofficial, locally-supported event did go ahead and supporters and afficionados hope that the same will happen this year. Keep an eye on the Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire website for updates.

If you prefer a slightly less hazardous activity for your weekend, then why not pop over to the Pie & Pint Music Festival, which will be held at Burley Field Lakes, Leckhampton near Cheltenham on May 28th and 29th. Some great bands are lining up to entertain you, there are about 50 different ales and ciders to sample and as for the pies.... For tickets, updates and news, please see the festival website.

Recipe of the Month - "Cup of" Teacake

We’re told that people around the world are hosting traditional English tea parties to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, so I thought this very tasty teacake would be my contribution to the festive spread. It’s easy to make and you can experiment with the tea – maybe using Earl Grey or Lady Grey teas instead of Assam or Ceylon – for a very tasty treat.

To feed four:

  • 4oz / 110g butter
  • 8fl oz freshly made tea
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 8oz / 220g sugar
  • 8oz / 220g mixed dried fruit
  • 8oz / 220g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg

In a saucepan mix the butter, tea and mixed fruit and warm gently. Once the butter has melted, stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Then leave to cool.

Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, then add the sugar, the tea and fruit mix and the beaten egg. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4. Grease and line a 7in round cake tin. Pour the cake mix into the tin and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. When cooked, a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean.

Leave until cool enough to handle, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack.

And Next Month …

After all the house moving we're having a week off next week and since we're so much closer now, I'm very keen for a day out amongst Norfolk's sandy beaches (and asparagus fields, of course.) Open skies, here we come...

So until next month, keep well and think of England…

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