High tea was always a feature of Sunday get-togethers at East Yarde Farm, in Devon, where my grandparents, Daniel and Alice Britton lived. Their grandson, my cousin, Colin Britton, recalls:

“I used to love visiting Yarde, the table was always laid up with lovely home-made food and plenty of thick cream. Grandma’s bread and soft homemade butter was cut so thinly that the butter came through the bread and it was hard to tell which was the buttered side”.

I used to stay for summer holidays with Auntie Elsie, when I was in my early teens, and I remember helping her prepare Harvest Tea for the men who had worked on the harvest that year. It was quite an institution and certainly expected. All the workers came in for a meal and the table was laden with cakes, pies, sandwiches, scones and cream. It was a major effort for Auntie Elsie to feed that many people all at once – and to a standard that might be discussed in the district! Few could surpass her.

What we eat is part of the fabric of family life that defines and nurtures us as we grow. So this part of the Britton website draw together narratives about the cuisine of the Britton family and, more broadly, some Devonshire recipes that might connect us all with our shared heritage.

Discussion of Devonshire cuisine can be dangerous territory because everyone has favourite recipes that they may not wish to share and memories of recipes that vary. I’ve tried to collate my culinary conversations with relatives by writing as if those who contributed recipes and ideas are having one conversation around a Britton meal table.

Lynne Hunt “So we’re not really speaking of Britton meals, are we? It’s really Devonshire cuisine. I live in Australia now and I remember that when I first arrived here, I attended a luncheon at work. The dessert was trifle. I looked askance at the base of the trifle which was mixed canned fruit. By chance, I was sitting next to a colleague who has North Devonshire family. She caught my look and said, “That’s not proper trifle is it? It should be made with raspberries.” I’d never really thought about raspberry trifle as particularly a Devonshire thing, but she seemed to think it was.

Mum always made trifle with raspberries and it remains my signature dessert. I make it her way. Layers of sponge fingers coated with raspberry jam and soaked in raspberry juice from the can as well as some sherry. Pour jelly over when it’s almost set, followed by a layer of custard that I keep stirring as it cools to prevent a skin forming. The whole thing is topped off by a layer of cream. Of course, in Devon, that would be a layer of Devonshire cream which would be a great improvement on the shop-bought stuff I have to use”.

Joyce Ford “Yes, I remember Grandma making cream. She’d bring the cream in from the separator, put it in a white enamel bowl and leave it sitting on low heat on an oil stove until a crust formed over the top. It was delicious!”

Lynne “As I recall, Auntie Elsie did it differently. She skimmed the top of milk from the churns and poured it into an enamel bowl and left it to stand in a cool place overnight. Then she placed the bowl over a very low heat and left it until the surface formed a crust. Even after that we had to wait because when she’d removed it from the heat it had to stand in a cool place for at least 12 hours until we could carefully skim cream from top of the milk.

“Do you remember Teddy Pie? Mum used to cook it on a dinner plate. It was a layer of potatoes (Teddies), with a layer of minced-up, left-over roast meat over that, then a layer of chopped raw onions, left over gravy and pastry over the top. I remember it as a left-over dish – using-up the potatoes and meat from the Sunday roast”.

Joyce “Well I’ve baked Teddy Pie myself over the years but I did it as a deep pan pie and the layer of potatoes were raw but thinly sliced to cook easily. It wasn’t a left-over dish for me”.

Gwen Britton “I call it Teddy Pastie. It was a stand-alone dish. We ate it hot out the oven in winter, maybe with some chutney or pickled onions but you could eat it cold for your supper in the summer, maybe with some lettuce leaves. To make it, I rolled the pastry and lined a shallow dish with it – about dinner plate size and half an inch deep. Then I’d chip potatoes thinly into the casing, season with salt and lots of pepper and add big dollops of cream before adding a pastry top. Then bake. Onion Pasty was another version. It was the same but with onions instead of teddies”.

Lynne “I used to like Devonshire Pudding. It was a savoury pudding that Mum baked along with the Sunday roast. It was served on the same plate as the roast and smothered in onion gravy. I tried it out once in Australia, but my Australian husband, Lyall, found it a bit strange to eat what he perceived as cake on the same plate as meat and three veg. The reality is it’s very close to what Australians call damper. Perhaps I should have called it that.

It was made from something like a lump of wet pastry dough. It was half-in-half self-raising flour and butter or margarine and a little baking soda. When that was all kneaded together, Mum placed it on a saucer as a lump of dough and it slow cooked along with the roast for about 20 minutes”.

Audrey Gunn “I liked eating the leftover Devonshire Pudding with jam and cream as dessert”.

Joyce “But these are all things that we liked. What about the things we didn’t like”.

Lynne “I remember eating rabbit stew at Grandma’s. She died when I was eight and I didn’t eat rabbit again until I was in my late twenties, when I found it to be a strong, gamey taste. I was surprised that I’d liked it as a child”.

Joyce “Well you should have tried the lambs’ tail pie which we had to eat when we lived with Grandma and Granddad. I hated it.

Audrey “Yes, it was gristly. Fortunately, that came around only once a year when the lambs were having their tails docked”.

Gwen “Have you heard of fox pie? It was a last-resort dish when times were hard, but it tasted so horrible that no one ever really fancied it. ‘Hanging out like a fox pie’ is an old phrase meaning something that isn’t popular. People ate all sorts. Your Granddad, Daniel Britton, used to buy badger sandwiches at the Black Horse Inn in Torrington. It tasted a bit like pork – apparently”

Devonshire Recipes

The following recipes have been collected By Joyce Ford and Audrey Gunn. In selecting these recipes, they have focused only on those dishes they can remember eating when living among the Brittons in Devon. As these are traditional recipes some are in imperial measurement and the cooking temperatures may not translate across international borders. However, there are plenty of Devonshire cookbooks if you want to fact check.

As I was typing up the recipes to get them ready for this Hartland Britton website, I noticed how many of them included pastry, potatoes and onions as well as the ubiquitous Devonshire cream. It’s readily apparent that they don’t comply with contemporary healthy eating guidelines. I’m surprised that any of our ancestors survived past the age of 30 without a heart attack, but they probably survived because the hard physical labour on farms was better than a mere workout at the gym.

Raw Potato Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (900g) potatoes
  • 4oz (100g onions
  • 2oz dripping
  • 1tsp salt
  • Good pinch pepper
  • 1 ½ pints cold water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 bacon rashers

Method

  • Peel & thinly slice potatoes and onions
  • Melt dripping in the pan
  • Add potato, onion, salt & pepper & cold water
  • Place on heat and bring to the boil
  • Simmer until cooked
  • Fry bacon & eggs and keep hot
  • Transfer potato mixture to frying pan and crisp for a few minutes over medium heat to flavour in bacon fat
  • Serve with bacon & eggs
  • Serve with bacon and eggs

New Potato Pasty

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (225g) self raising flour

  • 20z (50g) butter
  • 2oz (50g) lard
  • 3 table spoons (45ml) cold water
  • 1lb new potatoes
  • 4 table spoons cream
  • Large pinch salt
  • Large pinch pepper
  • 1 egg

Method

  • Rub flour with salt butter & lard
  • Make into dough with the water, then rest in fridge for 10 minutes
  • Roll out half the pastry on a floured board and line an 8 inch (20cm) pie plate
  • Peel potatoes and slice thinly
  • Fill with half of the sliced potatoes
  • Spoon on cream
  • Sprinkle with salt & pepper
  • Top with remaining potatoes
  • Roll out the other pastry half for a lid
  • Damp pastry edge with water, place lid, press edges to seal
  • Brush top with beaten egg and prick with a fork
  • Bake until golden brown for 1 ¼ hours(350F, 180C, Gas mark 4)
  • Eat hot with gammon and home made chutney

Devonshire Pud or Plain Pudding

Ingredients

  • 6 oz self-raising flour
  • 2 oz margarine
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Sprinkle of nutmeg
  • Milk to mix

Method

  • Rub together flour, baking powder, margarine & nutmeg
  • Mix the milk to a fairly soft consistency (not too soft)
  • Place in a greased baking tin and cook for approximately 20 minutes at 190⁰

Chipple Pasty

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (225g) self raising flour
  • 20z (50g) butter
  • 2oz (50g) lard
  • 3 table spoons (45ml) cold water
  • 6oz (175grms) chipples (the young green tops from shallots or spring onions)
  • ¼ pint double cream
  • Large pinch salt
  • Large pinch pepper
  • Beaten egg for glaze

Method

  • Rub flour with salt butter & lard
  • Make into dough with the water, then rest in fridge for 10 minutes
  • Roll out half the pastry on a floured board and line an 8 inch (20cm) pie plate
  • Wash, drain and dry chipples
  • Cut into ½ inch (1cm) lengths
  • Place half the chipples in pie plate
  • Pour on cream
  • Sprinkle with salt & pepper
  • Put remaining chipples on top
  • Roll out the other pastry half for a lid
  • Damp pastry edge with water, place lid, press edges to seal
  • Brush top with beaten egg
  • Make 3 slits to allow steam to escape
  • Bake until golden brown for 1 ¼ hours(350F, 180C, Gas mark 4)

Potato Cakes

Ingredients

  • 5 oz (125g) plain flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 4oz (100g) butter
  • 1 lb mashed potato
  • 1 egg

Method

  • Sift flour with salt into bowl
  • Rub in butter
  • Stir in mashed potato with your hands
  • Roll out onto a floured board
  • Cut into rounds with a 3 inch cutter
  • Beat the egg and brush on top of each cake
  • Arrange on a baking tray
  • Bake for 20 minutes (450F230C or gas mark 8) until golden brown
  • Serve with butter

Meat, Potato & Onion Pasty

Ingredients

  • 1lb (450g) shortcrust pastry
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 12oz chuck (stewing) steak
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  • Roll out half the pastry on a floured board and line a pie plate
  • Peel & slice potatoes & onions
  • Cut steak into pieces
  • Line a pie plate with half the pastry
  • Fill with sliced potatoes, onions & meat in alternate layers sprinkled with salt& pepper
  • Roll out the other pastry half for a lid
  • Damp pastry edge with water, place lid, press edges to seal
  • Brush top with beaten egg
  • Make 3 slits to allow steam to escape
  • Bake at 350F (180C or gas mark 4) for 10 minutes, lower the heat and cook for a further 30 mins

Rabbit Pie

Ingredients

  • 8 oz shortcrust pastry
  • 1 young rabbit
  • 8 oz (225g) streaky bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 1 ½ pints stock
  • 1 ½ oz (40g) plain flour
  • 1 ½ oz butter
  • Large pinch pepper
  • 2 table spoons (30ml) single cream
  • 1 table spoon chopped parsley
  • 1 egg

Method

  • Cut rabbit into joints and soak in salted water for 2 ½ hours, drain and dry
  • Slice bacon into 1 inch (2.5cms) strips
  • Slice onions and put in pan with joints and stock
  • Simmer for 1 hour until tender
  • Remove rabbit, onion & bacon from pan and place in pie dish, with pie funnel in centre
  • Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour and cook gently for 2 minutes
  • Add ¾ pint (450mls) rabbit stock and bring to boil, stirring
  • Cook for 2 minutes
  • Stir in parsley, pepper and cream
  • Pour sauce over rabbit
  • Roll out pastry strip for edge of pie dish
  • Roll remaining pastry as a lid for the top of the dish
  • Trim and press edges together with a fork and seal
  • Brush with beaten egg and decorate with pastry leaves
  • Bake pie for 40 minutes at 425F (220C gas mark 7) until golden brown

Devonshire Junket

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pints (900 mls) new milk
  • 3oz (75g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons rennet
  • 4 oz clotted cream

Method

  • Gradually heat milk to lukewarm over a low heat
  • Stir in sugar until it dissolves
  • Pour mixture into a glass serving dish and stir in nutmeg
  • Quickly stir in rennet and immediately place junket in the fridge to set
  • Top with spoonfuls of clotted cream and serve

Gooseberry Tart

(Apple or Rhubarb can also be used)

Ingredients

  • 1lb (450g) gooseberries
  • 3 table spoons (45ml) granulated sugar
  • 1 table spoon (15 ml) cornflour
  • 6oz (175g) butter
  • 10z (25g) caster sugar
  • 1 egg

Method

  • Top and tail gooseberries, wash and drain
  • Mix granulated sugar with cornflour
  • Sift flour with salt in bowl, rub in butter with finger tips to form crumbs
  • Stir in caster sugar
  • Add beaten eggs to make into a dough
  • Roll out two thirds of the pastry on a floured surface
  • Line an 8 inch (20cm) pie plate
  • Fill with gooseberries
  • Sprinkle on the mixed sugar and cornflour
  • Roll out remaining pastry for lid, dampen edges and place pastry on top of gooseberries pressing edges together for a good seal
  • Cut two slits in the top to allow steam to escape
  • Sprinkle top with extra granulated sugar after brushing with beaten egg
  • Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 375F (190C or gas mark 5) until golden brown
  • Serve hot or cold with cream

Cutrounds

Ingredients

  • 1lb (450g) plain flour
  • 2oz (50g) lard
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) sugar
  • 5 fluid oz (150ml) milk
  • 5 fluid oz (150ml) water
  • 1oz (25g fresh yeast
  • 2 teaspoon (10 ml) salt
  • 20z (50g) melted butter

Method

  • Sift flour into mixing bowl
  • Rub in lard
  • Stir in sugar
  • Heat liquids gently until luke warm
  • Whisk yeast in half the liquid and dissolve salt in the other half
  • Add liquids to the flour and mix to a dough
  • Knead for a few minutes
  • Place bowl of dough in a polythene bag and prove in a warm place
  • When risen knead lightly on floured surface and roll out to
  • Cut rounds with a 2½ inch (7.5cm) cutter
  • Place on greased and floured baking tray
  • Brush tops with melted butter
  • Bake at 400F (200C gas mark 6) for 15-20 minutes or until cooked
  • To serve, slice in half and spread with jam and clotted cream