Food is my drug: Holyhead heroin and a ginger nut biscuit recipe.
My travel adventures started a little later than my cooking adventures. This was mainly because, as mentioned in my previous post, we were poor and could not afford to go anywhere. We very rarely went away apart from a day trip or two to Mosney (Butlins on crack). Whenever we did get away it was usually in a big gang; my aunts, uncles, and billions of cousins. Therefore, my early travel memories always involve my family.
Here, my parents lied to me and told me we were in Hawaii. They then made me wear a seaweed skirt and told me to hula dance. I am sure this is some form of child abuse.
In this photo, I am enjoying the infant paddling pool in the Costa del Backyard.
And in this one I am freezing my arse off in Co. Clare aged seven (wish you were here?).
Here is my aunt, uncle, mam, brother, cousins, and me freezing our arses off in Co. Kerry.
This is the whole motley crew of extended family members enjoying an al fresco feeding frenzy in Tralee.
I was twelve years old when I first left the country
This was when I first experienced the glamourous world of cruise liners. OK it was a car ferry to Wales but I am trying to make this sound good. This first jaunt across the Irish Sea to Holyhead was very significant in shaping my food story.
It was on this ferry when I first dipped a hot salty French fry into a cold sweet creamy milkshake. I have no idea why I did this. I have no idea why I do most things. But it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
My taste buds fell into a state of shock as they grasped with the mixed bag of sensations and tastes. My mouth had just experienced its first proper food ‘hit’. It was nervous and excited at the same time and its curiosity had been aroused.
Puzzled looks fell across my cousins’ faces but I urged them to do the same with their fries and shakes, but they shunned my experimentation. I was already a culinary outcast with my family; I still am.
Later that day, I wandered up and down the one and, seemingly, only street in Holyhead in search of my next hit. The one that would be bigger than my first.
I discovered cinnamon flavoured chewing gum. It was good, but only because it was different, as in, it wasn’t mint, and I like different. So, I popped some of these exotic flavoured pellets in my mouth and chewed the shit out of them. The hit didn’t last long. There was only one thing for it. I ventured into the depths of Woolworths to see what else I could score.
Woolworths was like Valhalla to this uncouth rough new foodie warrior.
There was no Woolworths in Ireland so this was uncharted territory. I navigated my way across the neon-lit linoleum and landed at the paradise that is pick ‘n’ mix. Pick ‘n’ mix was something I had never had before. It was for rich folk who went to play centres or the cinema, things us poor folk dreamed of doing. I remember the sweets I chose, as they are still the ones I choose today. Into the colourful bag I siphoned white mice, strawberry bonbons, red liquorice laces, and fizzy cola bottles. I remember opening the bag and inhaling the intoxicating heady mix of sugar and diabetes. I sniffed that fucker like glue. The initial sugar high hit me hard but again it didn’t last long. Once the bag of sweets had vaporised into my mouth, I was left wanting more, wanting different, wanting better. I didn’t have to wait long.
Back on the ferry I was at it again, eating that is.
You see the only type of travel sickness I get is on these long slow ferry rides and handy enough the only thing that eases my queasiness is eating. Noticing my poor parents’ faces, as they had to put their hard-working hands into their rapidly emptying pockets again literally to feed my habit, I went chasing a cheap hit of pleasure. I spent my parents’ old money on a screwball ice cream (the one with a tooth destroying frozen blue chewing gum at the bottom) and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps.
Feeling a little embarrassed after my last culinary experiment, I went off to find a secluded corner where I could cook up in secret and enjoy the buzz it brought me in peace. I opened the bag of salty tangy crisps and crushed the packet in my fist. Gingerly, I peeled back the cardboard lid on the screwball and I proceeded gingerly to add the crushed crisp shards on top of the slowly melting ice cream. A quick look around made sure nobody was looking at my anti-social behaviour. Then I stuck that plastic spoon deep into the concoction and shot it fast into my mouth. I think I groaned out load. This was the good stuff; this was the hit, the high, the Holyhead heroin. I had caught the food dragon. This was eating.
The cold melting sweet ice cream churned around the sharp salty crisps in my mouth. My taste buds zinged, my tongue leaped, my mouth danced, my lips smacked. I finished off that dirty delight in no time and slumped back in my chair to enjoy my first ever food coma. I thought that I had just invented the greatest food combination in the world, but as usual, the French got there before me. Turns out sweet and salty combinations have been used in food forever and the French had already perfected salted caramel, which I had yet to discover. Anyways, never mind the French; they don’t feature in my food story yet. I was drifting away into foodie bliss somewhere across the Irish Sea and I was happy.
So, this is my first memory of food making me feel better and of my experimentation with flavours and ‘weird’ combinations. From here on in my abuse of food as therapy would get stronger, my food experimentation would just get weirder and my cravings would never subside. My travelling would take me further afield, but my family would always be close by, for the next few years at least.
Right, on to the recipe that goes with this blog.
Well, during this period in my life I was slightly bat shit crazy about crushing crunchy consumables and sprinkling them on just about everything. One of my favourite things to destroy into delectable dust was ginger nut biscuits and I used to love these on top of ice cream with segments of mandarin orange on top too. I only have one photo for this recipe, taken with my phone, as I wasn’t going to blog about them but I have been asked for the recipe (what a huge compliment, thank you very much) so I don’t want to disappoint my fan (hi mum).
This ginger nut biscuits recipe makes a big batch of cookies that look exactly like shop bought ones but they taste way better. They are crunchy, and bit chewy in the middle and they have a great depth of flavour and spicy kick to them. They are perfect for dunking, too!
Ginger Nut Biscuit Recipe
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook time:20 minutes
Yield: 20 biscuits
- 75 grams of salted butter
- 50 grams of light muscovado sugar
- 25 grams of dark muscovado sugar
- 30 grams of black treacle
- 30 grams of golden syrup
- 1 teaspoon / 5 grams of fresh ginger, grated
- 180 grams of plain flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons of ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or greaseproof paper.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C for fan assisted ovens / 400°F / gas mark 4.
Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat.
When melted, remove from the heat and stir in the sugars, black treacle, golden syrup, and fresh ginger.
Once this mixture melts, sift in the flour, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda and stir until smooth.
The mixture should resemble a thick paste or oily dough.
Spoon tablespoon sized balls of the mixture onto the lined sheet.
Bake the biscuits on the middle shelf for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they are cracked on top and dark brown.
Once cooked leave them to sit on the sheet for 5 minutes to harden before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely (or not, as who can wait for biscuits to cool?).
You can then start making the second batch and re-use the same parchment paper.
So, what do you think of my ginger nut biscuit recipe? Did you try it out? Did you like it? What improvements would you make? Share a photo of your own attempt at this recipe or leave any feedback and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
If you like this recipe, please share with others.