While preparing for a trip to ‘Laurie Lee country’ – the Cotswolds – Kate Young bakes a batch of Eccles cakes, enjoyed by the author in his childhood.
We lined up in the cold, not noticing the cold, waiting for the doors to open. When they did, it was chins and boots and elbows, no queues, we just fought our way in. Lamplight and decorations had transformed the schoolroom from a prison into a banqueting hall. The long trestle-tables were patterned with food; fly-cake, brown buns, ham-sandwiches.
I’m heading out of London tomorrow. I’m off to Laurie Lee country: to the Cotswolds, where I hope to walk for hours, write recipes in the garden, drink an indecent amount of tea, and have at least one pub lunch. I found myself, while booking my coach ticket a couple of days ago, referring to this weekend away as “going home”. It’s not, of course, but lately I have been struggling to define where ‘home’ is. The room I live in at the moment is the spare room at the house I am working in. My kitchen things and most of my clothes and books are still in storage in Liverpool. I haven’t been in my parents’ houses, where I grew up, since 2014. So, for now, the wonderful house in the Cotswolds, where I spend Christmas and holidays and long weekends, is a home to return to.
London is vast, and wonderful, but on days when I have been squashed against a door on the tube, or battled crowds in a market, I long for some wide-open space. If I am bound to London, I will head for Epping Forest, or Hackney Marshes, or to Hampstead Heath. But I feel very lucky to be able to spend a couple of hours on a coach, and arrive in the green of the Cotswolds.
Laurie Lee’s Gloucestershire is a beautiful part of the world. The deep valleys, the fields of buttercups, the apple trees, the twisted brambles covered in blackberries. It is so different from the chocolate-box, dry-stone-wall picture of the Cotswolds I always imagined. I can’t wait to be there again.
* A note on the recipe: it is based on the one from St John’s, purveyors of the best Eccles cakes I have ever eaten and uses flaky puff pastry, rather than one with suet. It may not be quite as traditional as the fly-cakes Lee speaks of, but it is glorious.
Click here to read Kate’s full piece and Eccles cakes recipe in the Guardian.