Shropshire History




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Shropshire has a number of unique traditional recipes, although some of these are rarely made nowadays. The number of desserts far outweigh other courses so maybe our ancestors had a sweet tooth! Click on the links below for details.



Owl Soup



Fidget Pie



Aromatic Shropshire Pudding

Market Drayton Gingerbread

Shrewsbury Biscuits

Shrewsbury Simnel Cake

Shropshire Mint Cakes

Soul Cakes

Wine Jelly



Shropshire Blue Cheese




Owl Soup



The original Shropshire recipe called for "one plump, young barn owl, boiled for two hours". A modern alternative is chicken or pigeon if you're a bit more daring! 


•        1 chicken or 2 pigeon carcasses

•        1 carrot, sliced

•        1 onion, sliced

•        1 stick celery, chopped

•        bouquet garni

•        bunch of parsley

•        1 pint of beef stock

•        Port

•        Lemon juice


•        Roast the carcasses in a hot oven at 400° Celsius (Gas Mark 6) for 20 minutes.

•        Pour a little of the fat into a heavy saucepan and fry the vegetables to a golden brown. Put in the carcasses; add the boiling meat stock and the bouquet garni.

•        Simmer gently for 2 hours with the lid on. Then strain into a clean saucepan and remove the meat from the bones. Put this in the blender with the slightly reduced stock.

•        Return to the pan and season with port, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve with freshly-made croutons.


Fidget Pie



It is not known when the pie was invented but it has been made for at least 400 years. The name probably comes from ‘fitchett’ or ‘fitch’ which is the name locals used for a polecat, due to the fact that the pie smelled foul during baking. Traditional fidget pies are still made by the Ludlow Food Centre.



•        375g gammon steak

•        2 medium Bramley apples (peeled)

•        160ml cider

•        750g potatoes

•        1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard with honey

•        50g butter

•        80g double cream

•        100g cheddar cheese

•        75g plain flour

•        75g self-raising flour

•        75g butter

•        pinch salt

•        water


•        Preheat oven to 180° Celsius (Gas Mark 5).

•        Make pastry by sifting flours and salt into a bowl. Dice butter and rub into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in water until pastry forms a ball. Wrap pastry in cling-film and rest in fridge 20 minutes.

•        Peel potatoes, cut into chunks and cook in salted boiling water for around 20 minutes. Dice the gammon and sautι in a pan until sealed. Add the cider to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes until tender.

•        Dice the apples, add to the gammon and stir to coat the apples with the sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes then remove pan from the heat to cool.

•        Drain the potatoes and mash with the cream, butter and mustard until smooth.

•        Remove pastry from the fridge. Roll out and line a deep flan dish. Add gammon mix and top with grated cheese. Pipe or spoon the mustard mash on top to create topping.

•        Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.


Aromatic Shropshire Pudding


Aromatic Shropshire Pudding


This recipe is a good way of using up stale bread and is very much like a sponge steamed pudding.



•        225g breadcrumbs

•        100g butter

•        60g light brown sugar

•        1 tablespoon grated nutmeg

•        1 generous teaspoon brandy, dessert wine or liqueur of your choice

•        2 eggs, beaten with 1-2 tablespoons of water

•        150g jam


•        Place breadcrumbs and butter into a food processor and blend them

•        Add the sugar, nutmeg, brandy/dessert wine and the beaten egg mixture and blend briefly again.

•        Butter an ovenproof bowl that has a 500ml capacity and spoon the jam into the bottom of the bowl. Place the mixture on top of the jam.

•        Cut a large square of greaseproof paper and place over the top of the bowl. Tie securely with string, preferably making a handle with the string.

•        Place a trivet in the bottom of a large saucepan. Put the pudding in and carefully pour hot water in to cover the bowl by three-quarters. Cover the pan tightly with a lid and bring to the boil. Lower to a simmer and simmer for three hours.

•        Lift the bowl carefully out of the water and remove the paper.

•        Invert a serving plate onto the top of the bowl and turn the pudding out. Be careful as sometimes it can pop out and splash hot jam. Serve with cream, custard or brandy butter.


Market Drayton Gingerbread



The earliest known gingerbread recipe is thought to have been brought back from the Crusades, around 1390. According to local business records, gingerbread was sold by various confectioners along the High Street throughout the 16th Century but the first recorded individual was Roland Lateward, maltster, who was baking gingerbread in 1793. Richard Billington began production in 1817 and his recipe included copious amounts of rum, thus became popular as a snack dipped in port after dinner. In the early part of the 20th century, Market Drayton had four gingerbread bakers. Billington's continued to thrive until the outbreak of war forced the closure of the company. Billington's Celebrated Gingerbread was revived following the post-war sale of the business but today is produced in Yorkshire. In 1987, John and May Hayward Hughes of Cheswardine celebrated 60 years of their family making gingerbread to a secret recipe. In Market Drayton, Terry and Theresa McCarthy carry on the tradition with an original machine in The Cake Box. A Market Drayton firm called Image on Food was first set up in the 1980s by Tim and Sarah Hopcroft. It makes gingerbread at its factory and sells to a number of retail chains.



•        350g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out

•        1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda

•        2 tablespoon ground ginger

•        1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

•        125g butter

•        175g light soft brown sugar

•        1 free-range egg

•        4 tablespoons golden syrup


•        Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and blend until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

•        Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture clumps together.

•        Tip the dough out, knead briefly until smooth, wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

•        Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius (Gas Mark 4).

•        Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

•        Roll the dough out to a 0.5cm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using cutters, cut out the gingerbread shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them.

•        Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling. When cooled decorate with the writing icing and cake decorations.


Shrewsbury Biscuits


The Shrewsbury Biscuit, also known as the Shrewsbury Cake, has many variations and a long history. The first recorded mention of the cakes was in 1561, when they were given to people of importance visiting the town. A recipe for it was included in The Compleat Cookery, printed in 1658, and the playwright William Congreve used the Shrewsbury Cake as a simile in his play, The Way of the World in 1700. Traditionally, Shrewsbury cakes were baked as thick, large biscuits, able to be kept for long periods of time. The cakes are renowned for their texture, being crisp and brittle. There is a significant variation in recipes and five variations of the biscuit are listed in Cassell’s Dictionary of Cooking, printed in the 19th century. Generally speaking, a Shrewsbury cake is a large, round shortbread with rose flavouring. It is said that they were first produced by a Mr Palin and a plaque on an old shop near to Shrewsbury Castle reads: “This shop occupies the site of a building where Palin first made the unique Shrewsbury cakes to his original recipe in the year 1760”.



•        150g plain flour

•        150g caster sugar

•        150g cold butter

•        Ό tablespoon caraway seed

•        pinch of grated nutmeg

•        1 egg

•        1 tablespoon rosewater

•        1 tablespoon Madeira or sherry


•        Tip the flour and cubed butter into a food processor and blend.

•        Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until it starts to come together as a dough.  

•        Shape into a flattened disc and wrap in cling film or a food bag and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

•        Dust the work surface with flour, as this is quite a sticky dough, and roll the dough until about 5mm thick. Stamp out rounds or any shape you like and place onto lightly greased baking sheets.

•        Place in the centre of a preheated oven at 160° Celsius (Gas Mark 3) for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden.  

•        Leave on the tray to cool for five minutes and then remove carefully onto wire racks.  


Shrewsbury Simnel Cake



Girls in service used to live in and often never saw their mother for six months until the next hiring fair. A Simnel Cake was taken home by the girls when they visited their mother on Mothering Sunday, although now it is eaten at Easter. The cake was made from whatever ingredients were available.



•        85g butter or margarine

•        85g sugar

•        85g plain flour

•        milk to mix

•        1 teaspoon baking powder

•        ½ teaspoon ground ginger

•        ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

•        pinch of nutmeg

•        pinch of salt

•        2 eggs, beaten

•        12oz mixed dried fruit

•        3oz glacι cherries

•        marzipan

•        apricot jam


•        Sieve the flour, spice and baking powder into a bowl.

•        Work the butter and sugar together.

•        Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar with just enough milk to make a smooth paste.

•        As you stir in the flour, add the beaten eggs a little at a time.

•        Mix in the fruit thoroughly.

•        Roll out the marzipan into two six inch circles but keep enough to make the decorations.

•        Spoon half the mixture into the baking tin, which should be lined.

•        Level the mixture, place one of the marzipan circles on top and smooth it.

•        Bake in a pre-heated oven at 150Ί Celsius (Gas Mark 2) for about two hours.

•        When the cake feels firm to the finger, it's done. Allow it to cool for a few minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack.

•        When it's cool, spread a thin layer of apricot jam on top and then place on the second circle of marzipan.

•        The traditional decoration for the Simnel Cake is eleven balls of marzipan arranged in a circle. These represent the disciples - omitting Judas.


Shropshire Mint Cakes


Not much is known about the origin of these but a recipe was published in an Australian newspaper in 1935.  



•        200g plain flour

•        100g butter, diced

•        1 tablespoon caster sugar

•        enough cold water to mix

•        2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

•        80g caster sugar

•        80g currants

•        50g softened butter

•        1 egg to glaze


•        Place the chopped mint into a bowl, add 40g of the caster sugar and mix well. Leave to sit for at least an hour until the mint juices start to run.

•        Make the pastry by placing the flour and the diced butter in a bowl and rubbing the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers, lifting your hands up high over the bowl to incorporate air.

•        When it looks like fine breadcrumbs, stir in the tablespoon of sugar and add enough water to make a smooth dough.

•        Flatten the dough slightly into a disc, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.

•        Place the currants, mint mixture, remaining sugar and the butter into a bowl and using a fork combine well.

•        Roll the pastry quite thinly and cut out discs using a cookie cutter.  Place half of these discs onto two baking sheets.

•        Place teaspoonfuls of the currant mixture in the middle of the discs.

•        Beat the egg with a fork and then brush a little of the egg all around the edge of the discs of pastry and place another disc on top, sealing well around the edge by pressing with your finger.  

•        Brush the egg all over the tops and then place the baking trays in a preheated oven at 200° Celsius (Gas Mark 6) for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

•        Remove carefully onto a wire rack and leave to cool.


Soul Cakes

All Souls Day is a Christian festival and in the olden days it was a tradition that the poor would go a-souling and offer up prayers of remembrance for the relatives of their wealthier neighbours in return for money or food.  In more recent years, it was the children who would sing “A soul-cake, a soul-cake, please good missus, a soul-cake.  One for Peter, one for Paul, three for Him who saved us all” and would receive a Soul Cake (also called a Harcake) in return. Before baking, they were topped with the mark of a cross and each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern trick-or-treating. In many households, it was customary to leave out a selection of Soul Cakes on All Hallow's Eve for departed loved ones and present them to neighbours the following day. Mrs Mary Ward is known to be the last person to keep up the tradition of giving out Soul Cakes at her home in Pulverbatch until she died in 1853.  



•        750g plain flour

•        100g butter

•        1 teaspoon yeast

•        1 egg

•        350ml milk

•        100g caster sugar

•        1½ tablespoon allspice


•        Preheat the oven to 220° Celsius (Gas Mark 7).

•        Place the flour and yeast into a large bowl.  

•        Melt the butter and warm the milk.  

•        Beat the egg in a mug or small bowl.  Add the butter, milk and egg to the flour. Mix together well until smooth.

•        Make into a ball and cover with a large plastic bag or oiled cling film. Place in a warm spot and leave to rise for half an hour.

•        Add the sugar and allspice to the dough and knead until well combined.  Place onto a lightly floured board and roll to a thickness of about 4 cm.

•        Place in the hot oven and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

•        They taste good warm with butter and strawberry jam.


Wine Jelly



Wine jelly was a popular pudding in the 18th and 19th Centuries. 



•        6 champagne flutes

•        300ml dry sherry

•        4 tablespoons orange juice

•        3 tablespoons lemon juice

•        150g sugar dissolved in 450ml boiling water

•        gelatine


•        Measure liquid, including the sugar, and place in a bowl.

•        Dissolve 30g of gelatine in 4 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Do not boil.

•        Stir into the rest of the liquid and put into the glasses and allow to set.


 Shropshire Blue Cheese


The name Shropshire Blue is actually a fraud since it was first made in the 1970s at the Castle Stuart dairy in Inverness by Andy Williamson, a cheesemaker who had trained in the making of Stilton cheese in Nottinghamshire. The cheese was first known as Inverness-shire Blue or Blue Stuart but was eventually marketed as Shropshire Blue, a name chosen to help increase its popularity, despite it having no link to the county of Shropshire. After the Castle Stuart dairy was closed down in 1980, the cheese was revived by Elliot Hulme and Harry Hanlin of Cheshire but once again the manufacture soon ceased. The cheese is now mostly made by the Long Clawson dairy in Leicestershire and the Cropwell Bishop and Colston Bassett dairies in Nottinghamshire. It is a blue cheese made from pasteurized cows' milk and uses vegetable rennet. The orange colour comes from the addition of annatto, a natural food colouring. The blue veining is produced by introducing Penicillium roqueforti. It matures for a period of 10–12 weeks and has a fat content of about 48 per cent. Made in a similar way to Stilton, it is a soft cheese with a sharp, strong flavour and a slightly tangy aroma. It is slightly sour but sharper than Stilton and generally creamier.


The Shropshire Cheese Company of Llanyblodwel is a new business that produces Shropshire Blue and has also invented two new local cheeses called Abertanat Cheddar and Marches Blue. The Ludlow Food Centre produce a variety of Shropshire Blue called Ludlow Blue, which uses carotene as a colouring agent rather than annatto, which makes the colour more yellow. They have also invented other local cheeses called Bromfield Priory, Croft Gold, Lady Halton Smoked, Oakly Park Cheddar and Remembered Hills Blue. The Belton Cheese Company of Whitchurch produces a wide range of cheeses but unfortunately not Shropshire Blue.