"Now here's the thing," he said. "Here's the first big secret. Ah, but it's more than a secret Danny. It's the most important secret in the whole history of poaching."
He edged a shade closer to me. His face was pale in the pale yellow glow from the lamp in the ceiling, but his eyes were shining like stars. "So here it is," he said, and now suddenly his voice became soft and whispery and very private.
"Pheasants," he whispered, "are crazy about raisins."
"Is that the big secret?"
"That's it," he said. "It may not sound very much when I say it like that, but believe me it is."
"Raisins?" I said.
"Just ordinary raisins."
Danny, the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl, The Secret Methods
I've been trying to ration my posts on Dahl on this blog - to be honest, I could have easily spent the past six months exploring the food in just a couple of his books (and for those who have been asking, there will indeed be a bit of a focus on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory later this year). I have, thus far, managed to restrict myself to just Matilda andJames and the Giant Peach, and am now happy to add one of my other favourites, Danny, the Champion of the World, to this list. If you haven't read it, do! It's a brilliant story about nine-year-old Danny, his wonderful father William, some pheasants, some very dangerous poaching and autumn nights spent in a caravan.
These Welsh Cakes are not dissimilar in cooking method to the griddle cakes I made a few months back - though they're more akin in texture to scones than pancakes. They'd be perfect for Danny and William, cooked on a cast iron pan over the small stove in their caravan, using the bare minimum of equipment (a fork, glass and pan) and the raisins left over from Danny's "Sleeping Beauty" poaching plot. I can imagine father and son quietly approaching Victor Hazell's estate in early autumn, with a couple of these Welsh Cakes warm in their pockets. And, as a Welsh man himself, Roald Dahl would probably enjoy some too.
Makes around 16
2.5tsp baking powder
2tbsp golden caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
Mixing bowl (optional - you can mix on your bench)
Biscuit cutter or glass (a 4cm wide glass would be perfect, but don't worry too much about the size)
Heavy based frying pan or cast iron pan
1. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and rub through the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the raisins and stir through.
2. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the egg and milk. Beat them together slightly with the fork, then slowly start bringing the flour mixture into the liquid. Continue until all flour is incorporated and you have a rich dough. Don't over mix - stop when the mixture has just come together.
3. Lightly flour a bench and flatten the dough with your hands (there's no need to be too neat) until it is a regular height - about 3cm thick. Flour the rim of the glass and cut out rounds of the dough. Bring the dough together when you can't cut any more cakes out of it, and repeat until the dough is used up. You can form the final cake by hand.
4. Heat the pan over a low-medium heat until it's too warm to hold your hand over. Place the Welsh cakes in the pan, giving them a 1cm berth to ensure that you can easily flip them. When they have browned underneath (around 4 minutes), flip them over (using the fork) and cook for a further 4 mins. Remove from the pan, sprinkle with sugar and set aside while you cook the rest. Ideally, they should be eaten while still warm, though they weren't too bad cold, smeared with homemade plum jam, the next day either!