Friday, October 26, 2012

Going Away.

I'm off on holiday for a couple of days and have left it late to pack, partly because I thought I'd make quince jelly tonight. Not everything went according to plan (oven is especially sticky) and I need to be up at 4.30 am. Imagine my happy face as I contemplate a sticky flat, a pile of random clothes that need to be turned into sensible outfits, a pile of books to be whittled down to carry-able proportions, and that early start.

Wish me luck. I think I might need another holiday to get over this one - but at least there might be book shops...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inspector Minahan Makes A Stand - Bridget O'Donnell

This is a book that landed unsolicited on my doorstep, I know I kept the press release but I don't know where I decided to keep it so if you sent it to me - thank you, I really enjoyed it. 

Bridget O'Donnell was a producer and director with the BBC before she went off and did an MA in creative non-fiction - not a term I'd heard before, but one I think I like - I generally get quite wound up by non fiction that contains, in my view, to much supposition. Sticking that creative in left me feeling forewarned and forearmed.  O'Donnell has also written for newspapers including The Guardian which goes some way to explaining why this book feels so assured despite being her first, it probably also explains why it feels like it would make such good television.

Inspector Minahan was a large (6 foot and a bit) and conscientious policeman who after a couple of decades exemplary service on the force started making waves in the early 1880's. he started by backing a prisoner who had been beaten in custody and carried on by taking exception to the brothel running activities of Mrs Mary Jefferies who catered to clients of the highest rank, and seems to have had the Chelsea police force in her pocket. The bigger picture sketched out here was familiar to me but Minahan was not but he played a vital part in our history.

In the 1860's the age of consent for girls was 13 and the Contagious Diseases act was passed - this allowed the police in navel ports and barracks towns to arrest and examine any woman suspected of being a prostitute to make sure she was 'clean' in an attempt to halt the spread of venereal disease in the troops . There was no question of these women's customers being examined in the same way. One unintended consequence though was a galvanisation of the emerging women's movement and an increased demand for female suffrage.

Twenty years later when Inspector Minahan lost his job after making a fuss about police corruption in Chelsea his actions helped repeal the contagious diseases act and raise the age of consent to 16. Minahan had been watching Jeffries brothels and knew who her clients were - potentially explosive information. It didn't help him much, he was still hounded out of the force every avenue of appeal closed down on him - all of which he pursued right up to an appeal to the Home Secretary who was having non of it. 

It was a journey that led Minahan to investigate for various purity campaigners including William Stead who's 'Maiden Tribute' expose caused such a stir, and to keep on challenging the establishment in one way or another for as long as he possibly could. It's a great story full of issues which haven't really gone away, it's also brilliantly handled. O'Donnell's research is impressive (she checked contemporary weather reports for when she wants to throw in a little dark and stormy atmosphere) but her story is also creative - she has a definite interpretation for her facts. Happily the results are compelling as well as convincing. There are also parallels with current events, specifically the grooming of young girls by groups of older men as in the Rochdale case, which call for some consideration. Then, as now, the girls most at risk seem almost disposable - potential commodities rather than people. In a hundred and thirty years you might have hoped we would have come further. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Miami Blues - Charles Willeford

'Miami Blues' is (I think I'm right in saying) the first of Willeford's Hoke Moseley books - it's the second one I read ('New Hope For The Dead' was the first) which could perhaps have been better organised on my part. This second meeting with Hoke Moseley has confirmed my enthusiasm for him. It's described as "A brutal, thrilling ride, Miami Blues is a classic of Florida crime fiction, revealing the sordid side of the Sunshine State' in the back blurb and that sums the book up quite accurately on one level but doesn't at all reveal the humanity that Willeford brings to his characters. 

With Hoke it's not his divorce that humanises him but his false teeth which become something of a running theme throughout the book, it's easy to relate to a man who has false teeth, and easy to like him when his actions may otherwise encourage ambivalence. Basically though Hoke is a decent man who behaves with honesty and integrity - always an encouraging thing - even if he does sometimes break the rules.

'Miami Blues' villain is another matter Freddie 'Junior' Frenger has just got out of prison in California with the advice that he ought to get out of the state if he doesn't want to end up right back in prison. It's advice he takes, stopping only to steal some credit cards and accidentally kill someone. When he reaches Miami he accidentally kills someone else - by breaking their finger - because they've annoyed him. Freddie has no morals at all and no compunction when it comes to using violence, but again Willeford makes him oddly attractive if not very likeable. Perhaps it's because it's inevitable that Freddie is going to come to a sticky end quite quickly that the reader can maintain some sympathy for him, possibly it's because he does whatever he wants and however unpleasant that is we've probably all half wished we could do it at some time or another.  

Freddie finds himself responsible for a hooker called Susan, she doesn't seem very bright and she's the sister of the corpse he left behind in the airport so he feels responsible for her. Susan is an interesting character - she seems to be exceptionally dim but as her story unfolds you begin to wonder... Susan went to Miami to have an abortion, it turns out that the father was her brother, who followed her to the city and forced her into prostitution. It's not then very surprising that Susan is seemingly disengaged from her surroundings. When she meets Freddy he offers her a way out - he provides her with the money to stay at home keeping house as long as she doesn't question him which for the most part suits her just fine, the last chapter though demands a re-assessment of Susan and who's been playing who.

Otherwise the pattern is much the same as it is in 'New Hope For The Dead'; a down and dirty look at Miami, lots of tangential detail, and occasionally something really shocking to pull the reader up short. It's a winning formula and I look forward to more. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the Kitchen

I have good intentions regarding spring cleaning but they never actually amount to very much. Autumn is a different matter - the run up to Christmas is such a big thing in retail that over the years I've developed a real need to feel organised in good time, part of that is a desire to clear the decks of all the past years accumulated crap, another part is settling down to making things ready for Christmas. I know it's only October but now is the time for jam and jelly making - and I've made a lot of it. It's also turned into a big week for baking...

Work asked me to make a cake for the shop's second birthday on Friday - a cake - there are about 150 of us and although not everyone will be around at cake time one was never going to be enough which I maybe ought to have thought of before I said yes. In the end I made four cakes, two got sandwiched together to make a giant chocolate cake, there is a carrot cake because it's my favourite and that's what matters after a couple of hours baking, and a lemon layer cake which tried to escape from it's pan but was just about rescued... Because I was in the kitchen all day and the oven was on I also made jam, some scones for afternoon tea with the Scottish one, roasted a pheasant to share with the blond, and made some Brownies as well. She had to stop me from making short bread too - by that time I was on a roll and didn't want to stop. 

It was, by my standards, a lot to get through in one day, normally my Kitchen would look like a bomb site at this point, but happily the blond took charge and wouldn't let me leave the washing up, she also put everything away so I really do feel organised today which is wonderful (it won't last).

The jam is particularly exciting - it's the Fig and Pomegranate from 'Salt Sugar Smoke' which I've wanted to make since I first opened the book. I think I'll call it Persephone jam though, partly as an homage to Persephone books reaching their 100th title, and partly because the generally Greek and Autumnal feel of figs and pomegranates make it appropriate - mostly though it's because I struggle to spell pomegranate (I try to put in another 'm', spell check changes it to permanganate which baffles me, and the whole thing becomes very stressful) Persephone I'm fine with. 

This is a lovely jam and absolutely worth making, figs in supermarkets are fiendishly expensive but I managed to buy well over a kilo of them for £3 from my local market. It was the end of the day and they were going cheap, normal price is four for a pound which is still considerably cheaper than the supermarket rate, so it's worth shopping around as 400g is roughly nine to ten figs.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Arabella Boxer's Book of English Food

Apparently it's national baking week this week - who new, and where do these things even come from? It does seem like a good excuse for a cake though, or possibly even a whole afternoon tea - something formal feels quite appropriate for Autumn (says she whilst dressed in pyjamas and huge cardigan) and it's certainly cold and damp enough to make a prolonged kitchen session very attractive. It may also be that Arabella Boxer has been having a civilising influence on me; something has certainly inspired a bit of a sort out.

This is another book that's beautiful to look at, the cover and illustrations are by Cressida Bell and she's bought a suitably Bloomsbury feel with her. Her black and white prints decorate the first page of every chapter (they really are charming) and that's it for illustration - which makes a refreshing change; I like to see pictures that show what I'm cooking will ideally look like, but from the days when cookbooks commonly had no pictures we've somehow ended up with books that are more image than substance. 

'Arabella Boxer's Book of English Food' is all substance - like a very rich fruit cake. Originally published in 1991 this book has had a timely re-release, my general taste in fiction runs towards mid century, middle class, middle brow, and frequently feminine - this is the perfect compliment to all of those things. Arabella Boxer's early life was spent in a Scottish country house where her American mother had been rather thrown in at the deep end in the 1920's. Post war that country house lifestyle all but vanished from Britain, and 15 years of rationing certainly didn't help make food exciting so it's not surprising that Elizabeth David's Mediterranean descriptions caught the imagination. Boxer argues (and I agree) that this didn't necessarily do us many favours. 

What she does in 'English Food' is look at what was going in with food in fashionable circles between the wars. The emphasis tends towards what was being eaten in fairly sophisticated circles, be they social or artistic - generally because these were the people with the interest or means to experiment. In Bloomsbury this might have been because there wasn't enough money to afford a cook so you had to learn to cook instead. At the top of the scale there is Wallis Simpson introducing American habits to British food - but habits which had their roots in a shared culinary past.

It's fascinating, whether I use the recipes for afternoon tea in here or not, the understanding of what this and other meals were all about is invaluable. There are plenty of gossipy anecdotes from Mitfordesque circles which never go amiss, but lightly as it's handled this is a serious book with lots to say. The recipes themselves are a mix of Boxer's own and those culled from contemporary sources, something I particularly like is that she adds her comments and amendments to these in brackets and italics which lets the reader know when something has been amended. This suggests that the recipes have all been checked and used which is reassuring, and from a purely academic point of view it's good to know precisely what is and isn't original.

I'm really delighted with this book, it helps me bring another layer of understanding to many of the books I read which I appreciate, but primarily it's a fascinating and useful thing in itself. For anyone with a love of Persephone books, Virago's modern classics, or similar, you really need this on your shelf.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nature Near London - R. Jefferies

Since I started blogging it's become unusual for me to have more than one book on the go but this summer there have been a couple that I've read slowly and in-between other things. Like the summer though, all good things come to an end and so it is with 'Nature Near London'. This is the first in a series from Collins - their Collins Nature Library, 3 titles have been released so far, I hope there are more on the cards. 

The first thing to say about these books is how attractive they are. The cover is cloth in a muted shade with a picture stuck on - the effect is both old fashioned and authoritative - I love looking at this book; it's a truly pleasing object, the paper inside feels nice too and I like the type face, these are small things but all part of what makes books so desirable - it's not just about the contents.

Which is not to suggest that the contents aren't the main thing, of course they are. This series is selected by Robert Macfarlane and consists of texts he thinks have been unjustly neglected. On the basis of this one book I think he has a point. The introduction puts the book both into the context of its own time and also ours. Jefferies wrote this in the early 1880's, by 1887 he was dead at the age of 38 (tuberculosis), he lived in the country on the edge of London - the city was drawing ever closer and now the places he observed are long built over but his record of those edge lands remains.

Jefferies is an observer, 'Nature Near London' is an account of the things he saw around him from tiny insects all the way up the food chain to farm labourers - it's all here. I found I couldn't read this book quickly, I need plot for that and bar a chapter about a trout (will he be caught or not) there isn't much of that, but it's beautiful and I have returned to it week after week whenever I've needed half an hour or more of calm. 

I can't help but compare Jefferies to Miriam Darlington - 'Nature Near London' records opinion as well as observation but it is above all a contemplative book and this suits me better. After a few pages of reading on the bus I found I stopped to look out the window to see what the trees were doing - you can't read and remain indifferent to what's outside the window, and he also reminds you that everything is worth a closer look. I live in a city, but right next to a park and river. The park is a small and reasonably well tended one which leans towards the formal flower bed - though it also boasts an impressive collection of culinary herbs, even so there are wilder pockets including a whole strip of bankside between fence and river. Anything could be living down there - even otters (definitely rats), I've seen kingfishers which bodes well for the rivers health, but to see anything at all you have to stop and watch, something it's easy to forget to do. 

 'Nature Near London' and 'Otter Country' are not in the end so very different but  'Nature Near London'  elicited a very different response from me; it was a much closer meeting of minds. 'Otter Country' will certainly sell more copies but Jefferies book deserves this attempt to rescue it as a classic and it deserves to be sought out and looked over.     

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Otter Country - Miriam Darlington

Otters are beguiling creatures and like Miriam Darlington I've been fascinated by them since childhood. Growing up in Shetland there were plenty of them about, even in the darkest days of the seventies and eighties when they had vanished from much of mainland Britain. The thrill of seeing a live otter has never diminished but perhaps the most profound experience I had was with a dead one. Our next door neighbour was handy at skinning things and someone had bought him an otter that had been hit by a car, children are callous little beasts so we had gathered to watch him do the job - and we really were young at the time.

Farming types aren't generally very squeamish so nobody thought this was an inappropriate form of entertainment, it was as gruesome as you might expect, but also educational - what I chiefly remember now is that between pelt and muscle there were perhaps have a dozen balls of shot in various places. That otter had been shot at, perhaps more than once, and that was truly shocking. An accident we could comprehend but the idea that someone would shoot at an otter of all things was utterly outrageous.

Shetland remains a particularly good place to see otters, twenty plus years of protection have increased their numbers and reduced their fear to the point that one of the best places to spot them is next to a busy ferry terminal. The overall combination of clean waters, food rich coasts, and relatively empty spaces to make homes in is obviously just what they need. Early this summer it was announced that for the first time in many years otters have been recorded in every county in Britain, which speaks volumes for the difference protection has made, and also for the improvement in water quality throughout our river network. It's not all good news though - numbers are marginal in many places, new diseases and parasites picked up from cats and ornamental fish are doing their damage, and there's a depressing number of road casualties.

The bad news I've gleaned from 'Otter Country', a book that's troubled me somewhat over the last few days. I wanted to love it, the reviews have been excellent, and theoretically I agree with much of what she says, but I still found myself swearing at this book in frustration. It's a question of style and Darlington does a few things I struggle with; she repeats, which can be a hugely powerful tool in making a point, but when someone uses the word 'water' seven or eight times a page with a good few 'wets' and 'oozes' thrown in I find I can't concentrate, and as it carries on the effect is positively to the point I found myself wincing every time another 'water' appeared. I don't really like similes either and in the end too many things were like other things - a wren creeps like a small brown mouse, a fox has a tail like a bottle brush - I want to know what things are, not what they're like.

Normally I don't persevere with books that I find I'm not enjoying, but I stuck with this one - which in some ways has done it a disservice as I got steadily more wound up. Darlington has some excellent points to make; wetlands are vital, not just to otters, but to our own defence strategy, when it comes to dealing with floods we need somewhere for the water to go, and forget it at our peril. Clean water is also important, the pollutants which affect the otters won't be doing us any good either, and nor is losing a sense of connection with nature.The things I take issue with here are a matter of taste, I prefer something quite pared down and far less lyrical, plenty of others have, and will, love this book for just the reasons I don't and it certainly has something to add to the general debate around how we treat our environment. 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Never Give Up (on a cake)

I am nothing if not persistent and hate to be beaten by a recipe, a couple of weeks back I mentioned being defeated by Dan Lepard's Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake. I duly bought more ingredients and had another go - the results was another disaster, so bad that I wish I'd taken a picture, if not of the cake than at least of the mess it left behind. Both times the problem was that it erupted out of the (carefully measured with an actual ruler to check it was the size specified in the book) tin, pouring in a cascade of increasingly crispy sponge onto the tray I had carefully placed beneath it against just such an emergency.

The second time round I attempted to make some cupcakes assuming that less mix in the tin would help. I clearly didn't divide off enough mix because it still escaped, this time mostly managing to miss the tray. I found the results - which quite honestly looked like dog shit - some days later. Also I had forgotten about the cupcakes so they were also crispy. Had only the excess mix escaped it might not have been so bad, but once the cake started to go it totally overwhelmed it's ruff of grease proof paper and just kept on pouring so what little was left in the tin might kindly be described as sunken.

Clearing out my fridge at the weekend I found the bowl of left over condensed milk from that last bake. It was miraculously mould free, I also had just enough glycerine and chocolate left as well as the more usual eggs, flour, and sugar so thought I'd see if the third time might actually be the charm. I chose a bigger tin, a much bigger tin, and the results were - excellent. I don't know why I had so much trouble using the smaller size but it doesn't matter now. I much prefer this as a round cake - they always feel more generous and last longer. I also found some apricot jam at the back of the fridge (again mould free which was another happy surprise) so used that in the middle. 

As for the cake itself - well it's rich, but not to heavy, chocolatey, has a lovely moist crumb, and will probably be my chocolate cake of choice from now on. The persistence paid off.

Grease and flour a deep sided 20 cm ROUND baking tin. Stir 25g of cocoa with 50ml of cold water in a smallish bowl before adding 100ml of boiling water, 50 g of plain chocolate broken into chunks, and 1/2 a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Stir and leave to melt. Meanwhile get another bowl and mix 175g of muscovado sugar, 125g of condensed milk (you weigh it rather than measure it) and 100g of soft unsalted butter and whisk together until very smooth, then beat in 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons of glycerine. Stir together 200g of plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder and tip half into the eggs and sugar mix. Beat thoroughly then add the chocolate, and finally beat in the last of the flour. Bake at 180 degrees/ gas mark 5 for about 50 mins or until cooked. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford

The BBC's version of 'Parade's End' has made me feel that my licence fee was well spent this year. It's not just the quality of the adaptation (bearing in mind that I haven't read the books yet, I thought it was excellent bar the last 15 minutes or so when to much got crammed in and wrapped up) but that here was something new to me that has all the signs of being a watershed moment.

Based on an inability to finish anything by Joyce, or enjoy much of what Virginia Woolf wrote ('Orlando' is the exception) I've generally held anything labelled as Modernist with the deepest suspicion. I know I've picked up copies of 'The Good Soldier' in the past, and just as quickly put it down because of that one word. This time I was lucky, I fully intended to buy a copy when one came through the letter box courtesy of Oxford University Press, had I bought a copy it would probably have taken an age to get round to reading it, but as it fell into my hands as I was leaving for the train station and a longish journey I started straight away.

This is such a good book. It lures you in with the promise of gossip and scandal, and then absolutely delivers which is a suitable reward for having to think about it all as well. The story is narrated by John Dowell, he is reflecting on events that happened over nearly a decade of his life, and he takes some months to do it which allows for subtle shifts in his account as recollections are sifted over and re examined in light of what he has learnt. The back blurb on my copy describes Dowell as the archetypical unreliable narrator which I suppose is technically accurate but fails to convey how human that makes him. He declares that he's going to write his 'saddest story' as if talking to a sympathetic listener over the fire of an evening, as he progresses there is a sense of the tale getting away from him, which is of course how we tell our own stories; starting with little lies of omission and attempts to gloss over less flattering episodes, eventually, and despite what we intend, it all more or less comes out. 

So it is with Dowell, for nine years he and his wife Florence have spent the summer in Nauheim taking the waters on account of Florence's weak heart, for almost as long they have been friendly with the Ashburnham's - Edward and Leonora. Edward also had a 'heart'. To Dowell the friendship seemed to be just as it was on the surface, but after his wife's death he is forced to realise that she had been having an affair with Edward for some time, that Edward and Leonora only speak in company, and that Leonora was complicit in her husbands affairs.

Reading this my sympathies veered with Dowell's; the Edward he is angry with when the revelation of his affair with Florence is fresh seems a weak fool, but as his anger cools Edward is revealed to be a far more chivalrous and decent soul. So it is with Florence who degenerates from fragile and cherished wife into a manipulative whore. Leonora is as strong as her husband seems weak although she too finally loses Dowell's sympathy after he becomes jealous of her preference for another man. As for Dowell himself - how does one feel about a man who allows himself to be so effectively emasculated, and would have you believe he has been so blind to what's going on around him?

This is a book I'll need to read again. The narrative skips back and forth across the years dropping spoilers by the score and full of inconsistencies. This edition comes with a handy chronology that attempts to unravel events but even so a single reading could only scratch the surface of what Ford has done with this book. There are  lot of books I want to read a second, third, fourth time, there are some I feel I ought to read again, but very few like this one where I need and want to read it, not for it's escapist qualities but because it's I feel it's a rare and perfect thing that I am far from done with.    

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hotel Du Lac - Anita Brookner

'Hotel Du Lac' is the latest read from a postal book group I belong to (it's a brilliant idea - not mine - there are 15 of us in the current round, you send a book out along with a notebook, and get it back a couple of years later with everybody's comments attached, it'a a remarkably pressure free set up and I've discovered some great books this way) it's also the first Anita Brookner I've tried.

Reading through the comments that others left in the notebook has in this instance proved an exceptionally helpful way of clarifying my own thoughts on the book - curiously, because this is by no means common, most of us seem to have had similar reactions to it. 'Hotel Du Lac' won the booker in 1984, but in many ways it feels like a much earlier sort of book. The central character, Edith, works for a living - but as a lady novelist writing harmless romances which feels very 1930's. Her need to escape a scandal she's caused, and the method she chooses to escape is positively Edwardian - discreet retirement to a Swiss hotel to see out the end of the season. Did people really behave like this in the 1980's? Especially people living in mildly intellectual and literary circles in London - it seems somehow unlikely.

Edith, who has a certain measure of success as a novelist hankers after the comfort and companionship of married life, unfortunately she has chosen a married lover instead - one who obviously won't leave his wife. Along comes another man who seems to think she'll fill his mothers shoes, in this case the allure of marriage is all in the status it will confer; instead of being a troubling single woman Edith will be safely married off and far more welcome at dinner parties. She changes her mind at the last possible moment - hence the exile, and whilst in Switzerland she meets another wealthy, presentable, man who puts forward a case for marriage in even starker terms - it's all about position, and a woman without a husband apparently has a very precarious one.

Edith's ability to attract men, despite her habit for long cardigans, and albeit men with some fairly serious shortcomings gives the book the feel of a standard romance - dowdy woman gets the men over her glossier, blonder, sisters because they see through to her innate qualities beneath - but Edith is both too passive and too well off for this reader to care much about.

I know people rate Anita Brookner's books - I'm inclined to think with this one that it's reached a difficult age where to many things about it feel awkward and contrived. Despite that feeling the writing is often beautiful, and occasionally strikes a real chord, as when Edith feels she may have had enough of having to earn her own living; that writing is no longer a creative pursuit, but is instead likely to become a never ending chore that must be done to make ends meet. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


In honour of getting to watch The Great British Bake Off all the way through for the first time here's another baking post... 

Shortbread was something that we baked all the time when we were children. I remember it being something that was quick and simple to throw together with an almost impossible to forget recipe - 3 ingredients flour, butter, sugar - 2/3rd's as much butter as flour, and 1/3rd the amount of sugar. That's how we were taught at school (in Scotland where shortbread is a bit of a thing) and that's how I've always made it, but I hadn't made it for a long time.

Last week I saw a bit of Fiona Cairns Home of Fabulous Cakes though, and the shortbread she was making was definitely different. Apparently there have been developments in the last 30 years on the biscuit front which when it comes to shortbread feels almost like the reinvention of the wheel. Investigation in half a dozen baking books confirmed my suspicions; things have changed. I was having people round for whisky which is obviously an excuse for shortbread and after due consideration decided on the Fortnum and Mason version - where better to look for a classic? It seemed the simplest too. 

Not the best picture but they were eaten to quickly to take another.
The secret here is rice flour of which I've happily had a bag in the cupboard for some time just waiting for a biscuit project. The recipe calls for 150g of plain flour, 60g of rice flour, 150g of butter, and 60g of golden caster sugar. It's a lot of butter and that along with the rice flour gives a very short dough and a very crisp biscuit.

I'm very grateful to have a food mixer these days, it allows for some short-cuts and is particularly helpful when you don't want to overwork a dough/get your hands dirty. I over softened the butter so opted to chuck everything in together and mix it up quickly. Ideally the butter and sugar would be creamed first and then the flours quickly worked in before the whole lot was pressed into a tin and scored into 14 fingers then baked for 30 mins, removed from the oven, re-scored into fingers and baked again for another 30 mins. I decided to cut my shortbread into hearts instead and as it was thinner it only needed about half an hour in a low oven ( 150 degrees C/ Gas mark 2). The recipe didn't mention resting the dough, but I did for a bit anyway, mostly because I had to go out and buy milk.

The resulting shortbread was definitely better than the slightly tough sort I vaguely remember from times past. These particular biscuits also taste incredibly like the sort you buy - in a good way, and are destined to make many reappearances whenever I can think of an excuse to bake them.