A combination of Blackburn cakes, which contain cooked apple, and the classic Eccles cakes, which are filled with currants, these delicious pastry cakes are a must on a cheese board. Other similar cakes from around the country are Chorley cakes, which are less sweet with a shortcrust pastry and Banbury cakes, which are a larger oval version of a classic Eccles.
First make the filling. Put the diced apple into a small pan with ½ tablespoon water, cover with a lid, and cook gently over a low heat until they start to break down. Spoon into a shallow bowl, spread out thinly (so it cools quicker) and chill.
Melt the butter in a separate pan and add the currants and both types of sugar. Stir together and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes.
Spoon into a bowl and chill. Now make the pastry. Tip the flour into a bowl and stir in the butter and salt. Drizzle the water over the top and mix with a roundbladed table knife to bring the mixture together to make a rough dough. Use your hands to gently and quickly knead the mixture until smooth. Form the pastry into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/400°F/gas 6.
Dust a clean work surface with flour. Divide the dough into 4 even pieces. Roll out one piece until it’s around 3–4mm thick. Use a 10-cm round cutter to stamp out 3 rounds. Divide the apple mixture roughly into 12 and put a spoonful into the middle of each round of pastry.
Do the same with the currant mixture. Fold the pastry over the filling and seal together tightly. Flip over, shape into a round, and pop onto a large baking sheet. Do the same with the rest of the pastry and filling until you’ve shaped 12 cakes.
Brush each pastry cake with egg white and sprinkle with a little caster sugar, then cut 2 or 3 slits in the top of each with a knife. Bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden and the pastry is crisp. Cool on a wire rack until warm and serve with the cheese.
Extracted from James Martin’s Great British Adventure by James Martin (Quadrille, £25) Photography © Peter Cassidy
For more traditional cooking ideas visit our British recipes section