You can’t get much healthier food than dishes you’ve made yourself, using fresh home-grown ingredients. It’s how family cooking used to be – and every family had their own culinary secrets. The Bettys family, owners of England’s most famous group of tea-rooms, was no exception – and they still cook that way today. The first Bettys Café Tea Room was founded in Harrogate, North Yorkshire in 1919 by a Swiss confectioner. There are six today, all over Yorkshire. Now, for the first time, a member of the Bettys family has produced a recipe book, celebrating their distinctive European/English tradition. It’s a gorgeously glossy and informative book – and an ideal present.
Wheat Free Chocolate Cake
A Year of Family Recipes (pub. Bettys and Taylors, RRP £25, available direct from Bettys if you’re in the UK) is a personal collection of recipes by Lesley Wild. A member of the Bettys family, Lesley opened Bettys Cookery School in Harrogate a few years ago, and grows her own organic fruit and vegetables. The hardback book, which is divided into seasons, contains over 100 recipes (with mouth-watering photographs) for everything from a simple Fig Salad to a hearty Chestnut and Mushroom Roulade. Best of all are the delicious cakes and puddings – including a lovely Chestnut and Hazelnut Cake; a wheat/gluten free Swiss Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake and a fat free Swiss Carrot Cake.
Switzerland meets Yorkshire
Bettys is a Yorkshire institution – with bustling waitresses, a huge choice of teas and elegant china. People queue up at the tea rooms to sample simple snacks, like Welsh Rarebit, or treat themselves to a fresh scone, a Fat Rascal ( a fabulous fruited bun) or indulgent slice of hand made cake. The company was founded by Frederick Belmont, a confectioner who came to the UK from Switzerland at the turn of the 20th-century. He had planned to start a business on the coast, but got on the wrong train and ended up in Yorkshire. He loved the glorious countryside and decided to stay. The county already had a great tradition of baking and that, together with his expertise with fine chocolate, made a winning combination.
Swiss cuisine, of course, has strong French, German and Italian influences. The recipes in Lesley Wild’s book reflect this legacy, and there are plenty of Italian dishes such as Asparagus with Proscuitto and Parmesan, Pumpkin and Rosemary Risotto and Trofie with Pesto – a dish from Liguria. Swiss specialities include Grilled Raclette (a melted cheese); a wholemeal Swiss Fitness Loaf; Spatzli (miniature dumplings) and a wonderfully warming Swiss Pearl Barley Soup. Traditional English recipes feature too, including Walnut Tart – similar to Pecan Pie, fruity Summer Pudding ,and Simnel Cake.
When you use high quality, fresh ingredients you can afford to indulge in the odd treat. Just have a small portion.