Historic Isle of Wight recipes saved from extinction

https://wightoriginals.com/

The recipe for the Island's apple stucklens can be found in James' latest book - Credit: James Rayner

From junket and doughnuts to stuklens and rosemary cakes, the Isle of Wight’s traditional forgotten food culture can be savoured once more thanks to local author, James Rayner 

Today, the Isle of Wight is renowned for exceptional food and drink. Its 150 square miles of land are home to dozens of skilled artisans, talented small producers, dedicated fishermen and passionate farmers. Locally grown products have become nationally recognised and prominent chefs and food writers frequently visit its shores. 

But whilst the Isle of Wight’s modern culinary industries are thriving, its traditional food culture has gradually become forgotten. 

Just like today, the Island was famous for all things food in centuries past. Local lamb and cockles were prized across the UK, large quantities of samphire were sent from Freshwater to London, and Isle of Wight shrimps were mentioned by Mrs. Beeton in her Book of Household Management. Even the American author James Fenimore Cooper had heard of the unbeatable quality of the Island’s butter and the fame of a local type of biscuit spread right across the world - being reproduced in bakeries as far afield as Calcutta! 

By 1900, the last traces of the county’s cuisine began to disappear, however clues still remain to help us rediscover it. Whilst researching my latest book - Historic Isle of Wight Food - I delved into old newspapers, botanical reference books and dialect dictionaries to start piecing the picture back together - and there were certainly a few surprises to be found! 

For example, the Island used to have its own breed of pig and its very own variety of apple. A delicious, spicy, plum-filled doughnut was made in homes and bakeries across the Island and the local Romani gypsy minority often used wild garlic in their campfire cooking. 

Without doubt, there’s still a lot to discover but it’s already becoming apparent - there’s much more to Isle of Wight food than anyone could have possibly imagined. 

Isle of Wight Junket is one recipe being remembered in James' book

Isle of Wight Junket is one recipe being remembered in James' book - Credit: James Rayner

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Junket  

An ancient milk-based dessert often flavoured with brandy or rosewater and served with clotted cream. A bit like a panna cotta, the Isle of Wight was supposedly renowned for them. 

Serves 4 - 5 

Ingredients

500ml of whole milk (preferably from Jersey or Guernsey cattle) 

Flavouring such as 1⁄2 tbsp brandy or 1⁄2 tsp orange flower / rosewater 

1 tbsp caster sugar 

1 tsp liquid vegetarian rennet 

Nutmeg or cinnamon to dust 

Clotted cream 

Method

1. Heat the milk, a generous pinch of nutmeg and any other flavouring in a saucepan to 37°C. 

2. Add the rennet and stir it quickly throughout the mixture before pouring it into a china bowl or individual portion-sized glasses. 

3. Allow to set for around 15 minutes at room temperature then chill in the fridge for an hour before serving. Dust with nutmeg or cinnamon and serve with clotted cream and fruit. 

Isle of Wight doughnuts seem to have developed completely separately from their American counterparts

Isle of Wight doughnuts seem to have developed completely separately from their American counterparts - Credit: James Rayner

Isle of Wight Doughnuts 

Based on a recipe of 1845. Isle of Wight doughnuts seem to have developed completely independently from the American doughnut, and traditionally contained a plum filling encased in a spiced dough. Also known as ‘nuts’, they were made on the Island for many hundreds of years. 

Makes 10 

Ingredients 

300g strong white bread flour 

175ml whole milk 

50g unsalted butter 

50g fine brown sugar 

7g sachet of yeast 

2 tsp allspice 

1⁄4 tsp cinnamon 

A pinch of ground cloves 

A pinch of ground mace 

1⁄2 tsp salt 

Vegetable oil for deep frying 

For the filling 

Small wild plums or plum jam 

Method 

  1. Sift the flour and spices into a bowl, adding salt and sugar on one side and the yeast on the other. Add the softened butter and 120ml of the milk. Combine by hand, gradually adding as much of the remaining milk as you need until the dough is soft and tacky. 

  1. Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Oil the bowl, return the dough to it and cover, leaving somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size. 

  1. Place the dough back on a floured surface and fold inwards until the air is knocked out and the dough is smooth. Divide into ten and roll into balls. 

  1. Make a hole in each ball with the thumb and push or pipe some of the filling inside. Stretch the dough over the hole to close it, twisting the join to seal. Once filled, place the balls on baking trays lined with parchment and cover for 45 minutes to double in size. 

  1. Deep fry the balls, a few at a time for around seven minutes, until cooked through and a fine brown in colour. Turn them over half way to ensure even colouring 

  1. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool. 

Apple Stuklens

Makes 6

Ingredients

375g shortcrust pastry

3 medium apples (sliced, peeled and cored)

75g of light brown sugar or golden caster sugar

25g of unsalted butter

The zest of a lemon

Cinnamon (to taste)

Whole milk for glazing

Method

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan before adding the sliced apple, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook for around 5 minutes, or until the apple has softened.

2. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until it’s half a centimetre in thickness. Using the rim of a glass or a circular pastry cutter, cut out as many circles as you can from the pastry.

3. Place about half a tablespoon of the apple mixture on one side of each pastry circle, leaving a border around the edge. Sprinkle the apple with 1⁄2 tsp of golden caster sugar or light brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.

4. Brush the border with milk then bring the empty side of the pastry over the filled side and press the edges together. Crimp the edge for a more decorative finish. Cut two small slits on the top of the stucklen for steam to escape and transfer them to a baking sheet or tin, lined with baking paper.

5. Brush each stucklen with whole milk to glaze and sprinkle over any remaining sugar.

6. Bake at 180°C until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.

James' latest book has a whole host of traditional Island recipes

James' latest book has a whole host of traditional Island recipes - Credit: James Rayner

To find out more about junket, doughnuts and other forgotten Isle of Wight specialities, see James Rayner’s latest book Historic Isle of Wight Food available from retailers across the Island and online at wightoriginals.com