May is the time of the annual Pinner Fair (May 28 this year). This historic event dates back to the 14th century, when a royal charter was granted for two fairs a year in Pinner by Henry III.

The opportunity was there for people from the surrounding area to come into Pinner to buy and sell their goods.

The terms of the charter stated that the stalls should be on the exact same sites every year (which is why bus shelters and other street furniture are removed), and that remains the case even today, although there tend to be more rides and amusements now.

Oh, and there is only one fair now, and that is the first Wednesday after Whitsun.

The fair lasts for one day, and you would hardly know the next day that about 50,000 people had been in Pinner during the previous day.

The fair was immortalised by the former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in his TV documentary about Metroland.

For this week's recipe, we go back in time to another well-known cook, who lived not far from here.

Mrs Beeton was ,and remains, famous for her books, which were more than cookery books, and more like home management manuals.

In her 28 short years, she must have visited Pinner Fair. She could even have sold some of her almond shortcakes there if she had wished to.

Mrs Beeton's Almond Shortcake


4oz butter (125g)

2oz Barbados sugar (75g demerara)

1 egg yolk

8oz wholemeal flour (250g)

pinch of salt

1oz ground almonds (30g)

Method 1) Cream the fat and sugar and add the egg yolk, sifted flour and salt. 2) Add the almonds and knead into a stiff dough. 3) Roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes, then allow to rest for 30 minutes. 4) Bake in a low oven, gas mark 3, for about 45-50 minutes.

(Weights are in line with a recipe which is over 150 years old).