Won’t somebody think of the politicians?: Fat Rascals, 19th century

What a bad week it’s been for Boris. Who would have thought that a man who built an entire career out of appearing to be nothing more than a benign buffoon would be so cruelly brought down by some party hats and the arse-end of a Colin the caterpillar cake.

The poor man claimed he didn’t know he was attending a work party during the lockdown. That plate of cake in his hands? He was just holding it for a mate. The assembled crowd of friends and colleagues with the rictus grins on their faces listening to his speech? Never met any of them before in his life.

Then: fine, so maybe it was a party, alright? But he only stayed for 0.3 seconds and he thought he was following the rules the whole time he was there. The rules that said you couldn’t congregate with other people indoors? Yeah, those ones. Look, he’s a smart man, he went to a £46,000 a year school and he’s got a degree from Oxford in professional clownery, okay? For God’s sake, he was the bloody PM during all this time, he was on the telly every night with those apocalyptic rhymes telling us all to keep our distance. Fuck, he was in a Whatsapp group with all the boffins who were texting him all the time saying “you mustn’t meet indoors with other people, Boris, please” so I think he, of all people, would know what the rules were, thank you very much.

And now this innocent man is the victim of a witch-hunt. Afforded no true opportunity to defend himself except for a 1000-word tantrum letter published across every major news organisation in the country and the inevitable parade of key-note speeches at political dinners and addresses. And thank God for these engagements, I say, because at least they’ll be financially lucrative for the poor man after he was forced to speak out about his paltry £160,000 a year salary as PM during the pandemic while the rest of us got to stay at home, isolated, away from our loved ones, unable to visit each other for months on end – no, not even for a fucking Colin the caterpillar cake whether it was at a work do or our gran’s funeral – because we were following the actual rules, properly.

It’s been a bad week for Boris, that’s true. Sadly satire waits for no man, be he benign buffoon or malignant moron. So without further ado I present this week’s experiment: fat rascals.

“Time to celebrate” indeed. I hope he’s proud of himself.
Credit: Marks and Spencer.


These are round scone like cakes with dried fruit baked into them. A Yorkshire delicacy, the Foods of England website states that the origins for the recipe are obscure, but the earliest recorded version appears in 1855.

The ‘fat’ part of the name is obvious: these treats are made with lard, butter and cream. What seemed less obvious to me was the ‘rascal’ part.

Nowadays, a rascal might refer to someone who is a bit cheeky but ultimately still likeable. This meaning is relatively modern, however, and it used to be that to call someone a rascal was to render them utterly base and worthless. The earliest mentions of the word in English survive from the 14th century and seem to originate from the Old French term rascaile

Today, fat rascals are most commonly known as being a popular treat at Betty’s Tea Room. Apparently they make millions from the almost 400,000 of them they sell every year and Betty’s owns the trademark name. I think we’re okay to make them ourselves, though…

The method

I began by mixing flour, butter and lard together until it was like sand. Unfortunately, while satire waits for no man, it also waits for no experimental food historian either (a lesser known version of the already misquoted phrase…) and in order for my introductory paragraphs to stay relevant, I had to make these rascals today. In 30 degree heat. By the time I was done mixing my fats and flour I already had a pretty cohesive paste rather than the dry sandy texture I think I was after. Oh well.

To the fatty paste I added dried fruit, sugar and baking powder. And then, just to really amplify the richness, a good glug of double cream. The dough was rolled out into a very sticky sheet about 3/4 inch thick and cut into circles. Each one was decorated with a glace cherry and some almonds and then baked at a high temperature, rendering the kitchen hotter than all of Dante’s circles of hell combined.

A party of fat rascals

These weren’t too bad. They were actually quite light and flaky, probably because of the addition of lard to the dough. I’m not a huge dried fruit fan, but if you like fruit scones and want something a little bit more indulgent, these could be a great alternative.

And Boris, if you’re reading: chin(s) up, love. It might be you that’s the butt of the joke now, but by next week I’ll have got bored of politics and will probably go back to focussing on Great British food classics instead, like Eton mess and spotted dick.

E x

Fat rascals (credit to Foods of England website)

Makes 12-16

56g butter
56g lard
280g plain flour
85g currants
56g mixed candied peel
85g sugar
170g double cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
glace cherries and almonds to decorate

  1. Rub the fats and flour together until sand like.
  2. Add the dried fruit, sugar, and baking powder to the mix and combine.
  3. Add the cream and mix together to form a wet paste.
  4. Roll out to about 3/4 inch thick and cut into circles.
  5. Decorate each one with the cherries and almonds.
  6. Brush with milk.
  7. Place in an oven at gas mark 7/425 F for 12-15 minutes.