Some time ago I was interviewing the latest Bright Young Chef to open a restaurant and asked how he came to start cooking. Journalists like a good sepia tinted back story such as a grandmother who ran a farmhouse kitchen or an uncle who picked wild mushrooms but they can’t all be Pierre Koffmans or Antonio Carluccios. He blushed and mumbled that when he was about seven his favourite reading was his mother’s Be-Ro baking book.
I knew just how he had felt although I came much later to Be-Ro and I have two books, or rather my wife has, handed down from her mother. Earlier editions reflected the economy of the times. Since acquiring a Mary Berry my wife has discovered an extra egg does not go amiss in the Be-Ro recipes.
But it remains my Baking Bible for shortcrust pastry (8oz self-raising with 2oz each of lard and margarine (which I usually replace with butter, naughty me), quiche Lorraine, scones of all kinds, Scotch pancakes (dropped scones) and rich biscuits although while sorely tempted I have yet to bake a Melting Moment.
We’ve got a copy of the 35th edition which is selling an Amazon for £49.95 although you can get the previous edition from Oxfam online for £19.99 with the warning that is a ‘much fingered’ booklet. This may be the other copy we have but we have lost the cover. I prefer this one as all the measurements are in avoirdupois.
I may be faithful to Be-Ro but not the flour, which seems difficult to get hold of. It was devised by grocer Thomas Bell in the 1920s, who combined plain flour with his proprietary Bell’s Royal baking powder. I add a dash of baking powder to self raising flour for extra oomph. The first cookery book appeared in 1923, the latest is the 41st published in 2011 and which costs £2.50 (no cash please) from the Be-Ro Kitchen, PO Box 100, Blackburn, Lancashire BB0 1GR.
And what happened to the blushing Be-Ro chef? His restaurant soon went bust.