We are starting preparations this week for a very special celebration, 100 years of the Durham County Federation of Women’s Institutes! As you can imagine, we take inspiration from the WI here at Beamish – we replicate the tastes of history that these ladies were pioneering! So much of the food that we create for our visitors has roots in the home-made and home-grown ethos, of the WI which we both hold dear!
The Women’s Institute was founded in Canada in 1897, as a way of uniting the more remote communities and giving these women guidance in home economics and farming. The first WI in Britain was established in 1915, and considering the Durham County Federation are celebrating their centenary this year, the ladies in the North East were quick off the mark! The First World War had a huge effect on the organisation; growing and preserving food became its primary aim. During the war the WI was in big demand; the increase in the number of groups was huge – from 137 in 1917 to 1,405 by 1919.
To celebrate the anniversary of our own County Durham Federation, we are pulling out all of the stops! We have lots of fun events over the whole weekend (Saturday, 19th to the Sunday, 20th August), and I thought I’d fill you in on the foodie ones; the ones that caught my attention! It’s no surprise that Miss Smith on Ravenworth Terrace is a WI Member; she will be making jam on her coal-fired range, presumably to enjoy with a cob loaf purchased from Joseph Herron’s Bakery up the road, let’s hope she shares some with her maid! Along the terrace there will also be a Beamish WI meeting held by the dentist’s wife in No. 3, I am sure they won’t be able to resist having to a few nibbles while they are discussing the important issues…
If you want to recreate the taste of the WI at home, there is no better place to start than the perfect Victoria Sandwich. Please try out the recipe below to enjoy with a cuppa, don’t be tempted to add buttercream to your cake, jam only with the Women’s Institute!
6oz Caster sugar
6oz Self raising flour
Enough Jam to sandwich together, preferably home-made for that true WI taste!
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4.
Cream together the butter and sugar until really light and fluffy.
Add eggs and flour in stages, a little at a time.
Once all the ingredients are combined gently spoon into a greased 8 inch tin, or divide in to two 8 inch tins, if you don’t feel confident cutting the sponges in half.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a wire tray.
Once cooled cut the sponge in half (if you used one tin rather than two).
Add a generous amount of jam to sandwich the two layers together.
Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!