If you have read the previous article – the one about the cacao, you probably remember that after the United Kingdom royals kept the chocolate all to themselves for 17 years, in 1847 Joseph Fry of Bristol finally made it available to the general public. Two years later, the loved by all British John Cadbury started its production in Birmingham. But the truth is that the place of birth of the chocolate in the UK is York. This is where Rowntree (otherwise known as Nestle), Tuke, Craven, and Terry’s (owned nowadays by Mondelēz International) originate from. Every day 5 million Kit Kats are produced in York. This also explains the museum of chocolate’s history, located behind the fortress walls of this unique city.
When I recently caught the train from Edinburgh to York, I did not know about the chocolate. I did not know about the ghosts either. It is claimed that York is the most haunted town in Europe – since Roman times to this day. If you are not afraid, you can visit the haunted Golden Fleece bar and keep company with the skeleton sitting at the bar. If, otherwise, for some reason you have a beef with a Scotsman, York is your place. Get a bow and an arrow, and you can shoot at any Scotsman who gets in your way, as long as it is not Sunday. It is legal and you will not be arrested.
When the train left me at the train station, I was partially prepared with just the long history of the town, which definitely made it one of the few on the island I wanted to explore. Although there is evidence of settlers dating back to 7000 – 8000 BC, it was the Romans who established York in 71 AD when they invaded Britain. They built a fortress, part of which is under the foundations of the York Minster Cathedral, but another large part has been preserved where you can take a walk. Here Constantine the Great was proclaimed Emperor, since his father died in York in 306, only a year after arriving to deal with the rebellious Picts to the north of Hadrian’s Wall. His successor Constantine could not return to Rome, and thus his proclamation as supreme leader happened in Eboracum – the Roman name of the city. The ever so popular in York horse races are said to be dating back to those times.
Following the departure of the Romans, the new conquerors to be of Britain were the Germanic Anglo-Saxon tribes, who built the predecessor of York Minster and turned the town in the educational center of the entire Northumbria region, establishing the first library and school. Gradually the city grew along the river Ouse, going beyond the borders of the former Roman fortress, and became an important trading center, maintaining connections with the rest of the island and Western Europe. In 735, York became the seat of the second most important archdiocese of the Church of England, second only to that of Canterbury.
And then, in 1066, the Normans came. These were the Danish Vikings, ruling from York the whole region known at that time as “The Kingdom of Jorvik”. There is an interesting Jorvik Viking Center where you enter a time capsule and walk underground past people doing their daily chores in their natural environment at that time. I did visit it and I can testify that the figures look so real that one can only wonder if they really are just dummies. They speak (in the language of that time), they grimace, they lean towards you. But beware! Some of the figures are actual actors. Try not to freak out! You can even smell the raw meat walking past the slaughterhouse.
This reminds me of perhaps the most attractive place in York – the Shambles. In the Middle Ages it was the street of the butchers, and today, although the shops are now mostly for souvenirs, you can still see the hooks on which the meat was hung. An absolutely authentic place with doll timber-framed houses with overhanging bay windows, as if out of a fairy tale.
From the Norman times dates also Clifford`s Tower, built by William the Conqueror and used as a prison for some time, and Henry VIII is said to have collected in it the bodies of the enemies he had defeated. It sounds somewhat grim, but from the top there is a breathtaking view of the city.
In the background you can see the York Minster Cathedral – a symbol of the city, built over 250 years from the 13th to the 15th centuries.
York fascinates me with its medieval atmosphere, with the traces of so many peoples who left their mark here, with its coziness and irresistible charm. Part of the experience was, of course, the cuisine, which, just like any place, has its local flavor.
Today I have prepared for you the recipe for the typical Yorkshire pastry Parkin.
– 200g butter, plus extra for the buttering of the baking pan
– 1 large egg
– 4 tbsp milk
– 200g golden syrup (could be maple syrup, molasses or honey)
– 85g treacle
– 85g light soft brown sugar
– 100g medium oatmeal
– 250g self-raising flour (with 1 tsp baking soda and ½ tsp salt)
– 1 tbsp ground ginger
Preheat oven to 160C. Butter a deep square pan, dust it with flour it and put baking paper on the edges. Beat the egg and milk with a fork.
Melt the syrup, the molasses, the sugar and the butter together in a large saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the oatmeal, the flour and the ginger and mix with the syrup portion, and then add the egg and milk.
Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the cake solidifies and has a crust on top. Leave it in the pan to cool down, after that, wrap it in paper and foil. Leave it for 5 days before slicing it and eating it, if you can – at least this is what the English say. I’m not quite sure if we can do that. Maybe try for 24 hours.
They eat it with the afternoon tea. But on the other hand, another one of the Yorkshire’s specialties is the ginger beer, which can be found in the various craft beer shops that have, recently, become popular in Sofia. So, I would try this combination as well.