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Food And Drink : Cornish Classic Recipes : The humble Fairing

The humble Fairing

Carrying on in my quest to recreate classically Cornish recipes as well as their origins, its part 3, and time for a biscuit (A Cornish one of course). Scotland has its shortbread, America has the infamous cookie, and Cornwall has the Fairing.

The humble Fairing The humble Fairing - Picture 1 The humble Fairing - Picture 2 The humble Fairing - Picture 3

The humble fairing originated over a century ago, and the name happened as the biscuits themselves were sold at ‘fairs’ all across the county on special occasions such as Whitsun. Still much loved and eaten to this day, they are now primarily a tourist souvenir to take home, made in bulk by the historical and traditional Furniss Foods, based in Redruth. With a recipe dating back over a century, they must be doing something right, but let’s face it, you can’t beat home made can you?

So, we know they started at local fairs, to provide a gift for folks to take home for their loved ones, but what of the recipes? Well, it is rumoured to have been created at the ‘maid hiring’ fair which was held in Launceston the week after Christmas. The timing would make sense as the biscuits centred on Ginger, Cinnamon and Mixed Spice, all commonly Christmas themed ingredients.
After lots of variations and additions, it seems ginger was the theme that stuck. Crunchy and textured, the sweet, spiced Ginger Fairing has been popular in Cornwall ever since, and Devon even adopted it, but dropped the ‘Cornish’ name tag.
I have myself bought them from fairs and markets over the years, adoring their spice and bite, but have always kept the spoils for myself!
With my trusty recipe book in hand, I gather my simple ingredient list. With ground spices, syrup, butter and sugar, it’s pretty clear we’re onto a winner, so here goes.

So, the oven is on, the kitchen is getting hot, and I’m ready. With a baking tray already lined with baking paper, I begin mixing my spices with the lemon peel (I grated it on the finest side), and other baking essentials.  The spices are really easy to find, and not expensive at all. This recipe calls for ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and mixed spice. Next, I sieve the flour, add the sugar and get my hands dirty rubbing the butter in.
After warming my syrup slightly, it goes in too, bringing everything together into a nicely comforting, tangible paste.

I am now to pinch off a little of the mix, and roll it into a ball the size of a walnut. It completely escapes me how big a walnut is, so I just settle for a small lump (very technical I know). Giving them plenty of room to spread, I pop the lumps onto my tray and into the oven. I go for a few batches, so that the little beauties have all the room they need.

After only a couple of minutes the kitchen smells divine, and a little bit like Christmas (which given it’s a hot July day is odd, but not unpleasant). After 20 minutes, the first batch is ready, and they are looking great. The mix rises slightly whilst cooking, and then sinks again, giving it classic cracks across the top and a great finish. Apart from the frankly hap hazard sizing issue, they look straight out of a packet, and I feel quite pleased at how professional they look. (Although I secretly believe there is something lovely about home cooking looking a little shoddy, it shows that it’s not about presentation, but all about effort.)
So, how do they taste? Well, I know I’m slightly biased, but I’m sorry, eating warm biscuits straight from the tray is a pure joy, and I don’t stop at one. Damn, they’re meant to be a gift for a loved one……well he won’t miss one more will he?


4 oz Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Ginger 
1 tsp Mixed spice
1 oz Grated lemon peel
2 oz Brown sugar
2 oz Butter
2 tbsp warm golden syrup


1. Set oven to 180c, and grease a baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, mix the baking powder, bicarb, the spices and lemon peel. Then sieve in the flour and mix the sugar until all combined.
3. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the warmed syrup and use your fingers to combine into a smooth paste.
4. Roll the final mix, with floured hands into small balls, about the size of a walnut.
5. Place the balls on the baking sheet, leaving plenty of room between each one.
6. Cook for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 160c and finish cooking for a further 5/10 minutes so that the biscuits sink and rack into their familiar form.
7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.