Dapo’s Rusk Recipe

My adventure in Lagos, Nigeria takes me back to the foundation of the meat industry. It is fair to say that there are generally three meat products sold in the country being mince, stewing meat without bones, and stewing meat with bones. The challenge is to migrate from this to properly defined primal cuts.

As far as the production of sausages is concerned, due to the infancy of the meat industry, meat fillers that became commonplace in other developed markets are not available in Nigeria. What I love about this is that it forces me to think about the origins of the industry. As far as sausage fillers are concerned, such a filler is rusk.

The question then comes up as to the comparison between the use of rusk and meat extenders such as TVP (Texturised Vegetable Protein) or texturized soy protein to be specific. Without getting too technical about the difference, it made me ask for the most basic recipe for rusk. One can get amazingly creative with this basic recipe. One can add emulsifiers, and protein from various sources, and use them as a carrier of spices and other functional ingredients.

Oladapo Adenekan, the previous production manager of the old UTC who dominated the food trade in Nigeria for many years shared this recipe with me after our discussion about making our own rusk. In the bakery department, Samy is working with us to create our own rusk for use in our meat recipes.

I share the recipe that Dapo gave me. This simple recipe set about an amazing journey of discovery leading right into the heart of the meat industry!

Rusk Formulation for Meat Filling

Wholesale Wheat Flour100.00
Cold Water5.00

Weight loss of 16%16.84



Spread over a tray

Set oven to 115o C and roast for 50 minutes.

The History of Rusk

Bisma Tirmizi does an excellent job chronikling the history of rusk. Her delightful story begins as she explains when she stumbled upon this information when her “six-year-old son came home from school saying that he wanted to have, ‘cake rusk and chai’.”

She writes, “I looked at him quizzically, to which he said, ‘If we don’t have them, can we make them?’ So I called up a friend of mine, who is a baker of sorts, and asked her if it was possible to make cake rusks at home. She laughed and said, ‘Of course, how do you think biscotti and cake rusk came to be, do you want my Italian nana’s recipe for biscotti or my Pakistani dad’s recipe for cake rusk?’

What do you think my answer was?

My research tells me that eating stale bread was a norm in ancient Europe. Ancient Roman soldiers are said to have carried a hard bread known as biscoctus, literally meaning ‘twice cooked’.

The sub-continental cake rusk may very well be a descendant of the ancient biscoctus. Food historians mention that recipes for foods named rusk began showing up during the reign of Elizabeth I.

The Oxford English Dictionary mentions that the word ‘rusk’ dates back to the year 1595 when referring to a twice-baked bread.

Alan Davidson says in The Oxford Companion to Food:

Rusk is a kind of bread dough incorporating sugar, eggs, and butter. It is shaped into a loaf or cylinder, baked, cooled, sliced, and then dried in low heat until hard. Rusks have a very low water content and keep well for extended periods. Sharing a common origin with the modern biscuit, medieval rusks were known as panis biscoctus, meaning twice-cooked bread, and were used as provision for armies and ships at sea.

In many countries there are breads that may resemble rusks, in that they are essentially oven-dried bread, whether plain like the Italian bruschetta or of a sweet kind [like the cake rusks of pre-Partition India]; but they may incorporate other ingredients such as spices [cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg] or nuts.

It is said that the earliest modern cookie cakes are from 7th century Persia, since it was one of the first few regions to cultivate sugar, second to the region we know as the sub-continent, our very own home.

Sugar spread to Persia and then to the Eastern Mediterranean and Arabia, and with the Muslim invasion of Spain, and the Crusades we saw the advent of the developing spice trade. The cooking techniques and ingredients of India, Arabia and Persia spread into Northern Europe. So we can safely assume that the modern day cakes traveled to Europe from Asia, and then back to Asia, as if it was an import from Europe.

In the article titled How Sweet It Was: Cane Sugar from the Ancient World to the Elizabethan Period, Brandy and Courtney Powers say:

In 510 BC, hungry soldiers of the Emperor Darius were near the river Indus, when they discovered some ‘reeds which produce honey without bees’. Evidently, this early contact with the Asian sources of sugar cane made no great impression, so it was left to be rediscovered in 327 BC by Alexander the Great, who spread it’s culture through Persia and introduced it in the Mediterranean. This was the beginning of one of the first documented sugar and [cake] products of the Middle Ages.

However, cake rusks are a legacy of Elizabethan naval provisions. These were smallish lumps of bread twice baked so as to be indestructible enough to last out a long voyage at sea. The earliest known reference to them comes in an account of Drake’s voyages, written in 1595: ‘The provision…was seven or eight cakes of biscuits or rusks for a man.’

The modern, more refined cake rusk is sliced cake; re-baked, crisped and dried, and it dates to the mid-18th century. These hardened delightful cakes were enjoyed at tea times and were perfect for dunking in evening time tea or milk. These were re-introduced (in their modern form) to the sub-continent from England, where they were popularly served as shipboard fare; dried, tinned or stored for long periods of time.

Some historians suggest that the creation of rusks was just a basic need for home-cooks to get away from everyday kneading and to make the bread last longer. It is said that the first rusk was made by a byzantine baker.

When the time arrived to make cake rusks, I turned to my Italian Pakistani friend. Needless to say, they turned out delicious, perfect for an evening, of cake rusk and chai. Here it is, from my kitchen to yours.”

Bisma’s recipe, of course, goes well beyond the reason for Oladapo’s recipe which is for the meat curing establishment, but her story is engaging, and her recipe is worth sharing.


2 cups flour
6 eggs
225 grams butter
2 tsp. vanilla essence
3 tsp. baking powder (level)
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cup powder sugar
Orange food colouring


Preheat oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176o C). Cream butter and eggs in a cake mixer, add sugar and vanilla and mix, adding all dry ingredients and food colouring and mix. Once cake batter is ready, pour it into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan and bake for 55 minutes.

Once cake is ready let cool and slice, re-bake directly on the oven rack in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes. Let cool and harden completely and enjoy with a cup of tea, milk, or coffee. Store in an airtight cookie jar.

English Origins

The story then took on an unexpected twist. Suddenly, posting a short article motivated by Dapo’s rusk recipe lead me right into the heart of the meat industry. I discovered that like every meat ingredient, rusk had an evangelist who changed the ingredient to a legendary institution.

Robert Goodrick, the English Master Curer sent me the following clipping about a patented Rusk brand from the UK registered in the name of TB Finney & Co.

The listing in the 1914 Who’s Who in Business reads, “FINNEY, T. B., & CO., Ltd., Pepper, Seed, Spice and Rice Millers and Butchers’ Outfitters, Cornbrook Spice Mills, Trentham Street, Cornbrook, and Cornbrook Bakery, Rusholme Road, C.-on-M., Manchester. Hours of Business: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Established in 1894 by T. B. Finney. Incorporated as a Limited Company in 1911. Directors: T. B. Finney (Chairman), R. Finney, T. Bardsley, G. E. Cooper, C. Howard, and J. Pedder. Premises: Consist of five-storey Mill and outbuildings. Staff: Fifty. Specialities: “PAB ” for Sausage and Polony Making (Inventors and Sole Makers), Pepper, Seed, Spice and Rice, Peppers and Spices, warranted absolutely pure. Patents: PAB, Bergice Reekie, &c. Connection: United Kingdom, Foreign, Colonial. Telephone: No. 6632 City, Manchester. Telegraphic Address: ” Preservaline, Manchester.” Bankers: London City and Midland Bank, Ltd. (Chester Road).” (

The very early use of rusk in the production of Polony is fascinating as its modern equivalent in TVP is used extensively in the production of Polony in South Africa. (The Origins of Polony) What is even more interesting is that the wide-scale use of rusk in England can be traced back to a single man or company. I am not suggesting that TB Finney was the only man who should receive the honours of establishing the status of rusk in the English world (and worldwide) as a filler, but certainly, he can be credited as one of them.

Robert included a photo of TB Finney and the title page of his publication, Handy Guide.

Courtesy of Robert Goodrick.

Courtesy of Robert Goodrick.

Recipes with Rusk

There are two recipes from Finney that immediately catch my eyes

Hog’s Puddings

14 lbs (6.3 kg) Lean Pork (55%)
4lbs (1.8 kg)Fat Pork (16%)
3lbs (1.3 kg) PAB (Rusk) (11.5%)
2 quarts (1.89L)water (16%)

Total: 11.29kg

8lbs Salt
4lbs White pepper
1oz Ground Cayenne
1/2oz Ground Mace
1/2oz Ground Nutmeg
1oz Ground Thyme
Use at 1/2oz per pound (14g’s per 453mL water) of pudding mixture.

Mix well and chop fine, fill into wide hog or narrow bullock casings. Boil 1/2 hour and place into cold water ’till cold.


10 lbs Lean Pork
4lbs Fat Pork
2lbs PAB (Rusk)
2 quarts water

41/2lbs Salt
2lbs White pepper
1/2oz Rubbed Parsley
1oz Rubbed Thyme
ľoz Ground Mace
ľoz Ground Nutmeg
Use at 1/2oz per pound of pudding mixture.

Mix well and chop fine, fill into wide hog or narrow bullock casings. Boil 1/2 hour and place into cold water ’till cold.

These recipes have a striking resemblance to how we make Russians, Viennas, or Lunch Loaves in South Africa. With the dominating influence of the English in the history of South Africa, I am convinced that the meat curing traditions are as much English as they are German and Dutch! The original history of these recipes may be Russian Jewish immigrants, Germans, especially from German West Africa (present-day Namibia), and even Polish/ Hungarian in terms of its distant heritage, but what we produce today are equally, if not greater in its reliance on the English tradition. Of all the nations on earth, the English remain most closely associated with the use of rusk in their sausages which has been replaced by texturized soy in places like South Africa.


The baking of rusk brought me back again to the foundations of the meat industry. I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to be involved in the Nigerian project as it allows me a unique vantage point as an amateur food historian to witness the birth of our industry firsthand. Thank you to people like Oladapo Adenekan who freely share his memories and experiences and who allow people like me and Samy a glimpse into his world. Enormous gratitude to Robert Goodrick for sharing these images and background with me. It is people like Robert, Dapo, and Samy that bring history to life, even on a subject seemingly as mundane as rusk. It makes one realise that there are no accidents and legends are created through dedication, skill, and focus which means that they walk in the footsteps of people like Thomas Finney! In the meat industry, there is no such thing as a mundane ingredient or concept!

(c) eben van tonder


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2 thoughts on “Rusk

  1. Great to find your article and information, thanks for sharing. TB Finney was my Great Great Grandfather. I know a little of him and this has added some more, much appreciated!

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