I’ve neglected this blog lately, partly because I’ve been finding it harder to fit in trying new recipes but also busy. I really felt this tart was worth writing up. It’s a rubbish photo but it gives the idea of how nice this tart looks. We’ve started doing a regular neighbours dinner party where different homes contribute different courses and it was my turn to make dessert. It needed to serve 10 people but not with huge portions and I didn’t have very much time to prepare it and my time was going to be 10mins snatched her or there during the day. I love the James Martin Desserts book. It was a present from my cousin Shanaz who also loves to bake and cook. This looked impressive, wasn’t difficult to make (although the chocolate step was a faff see below) tasted lovely and was perfect quantity for 10.
This would make a lovely dessert for a country themed dinner party as it would easily adapt to a variety of flag designs with appropriate fruit.
- 350 g puff pastry plus plain flour, for rolling out
- 1 egg, beaten
- 85 g white chocolate, broken into pieces
- 1/2 a vanilla pod, seeds only (optional)
- 200 ml double cream, half whipped
- 100 ml fresh custard
- small punnet of medium-sized strawberries, hulled and halved
- small punnet of blackberries and raspberries
- 1 large banana, sliced
- small bunch of seedless green and/or black grapes, halved
- 4 tablespoons smooth apricot jam (I used my own plum jam and sifted out the fruit pieces)
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and cut out a rectangle measuring 36 x 20 cm. Place on a baking tray. Using a table knife, score a 1 cm border around the edge, making sure you don’t cut the pastry all the way through.
- Brush the border with egg wash, taking care not to allow any to dribble down the sides because this will prevent the pastry rising evenly. Prick the base of the tart (not the border) with a fork and chill the pastry for 20 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Slide onto a wire rack to leave to cool. Once cooled, gently press the centre of the pastry down to leave the frame around the edge. [When I did this I had a lot of crumbs and flaky pieces, next time I’ll brush these off]
- Melt the chocolate and brush over the bottom of the pastry [this step was a bit of a nightmare because of all the flaky pastry crumbs. I used 200g white chocolate and had two attempts and as you can see below it looked a mess. I assume the chocolate is to seal the base so the custard mix doesn’t make it go soggy]. Leave to set.
- Add the vanilla seeds to the cream and fold in the custard. Spoon and spread the cream mixture over the pastry base.
- Draw shallow lines in the cream mixture to create even sections of the fruit, and arrange the fruit on top so that each section is a contrasting colour. [There was something terribly satisfying about arranging the fruit]
- Heat the jam and, using a pastry brush, glaze the fruit. Allow to set before serving.
My sister-in-law Rachel makes the best brownie I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know where she’d got the original recipe but I assume she’s adapted it over time as I can’t find any recipes with these relative quantities. It’s taken me a while to extract the recipe as Rachel has never written it down so I’ve had to follow and make notes. Hers look better than the photo above; she makes brownie at least once a week so they are as perfect as it’s possible to be.
- 180g good quality dark chocolate
- 180g butter
- 3 large eggs
- 200g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 130g plain flour
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 180C
- Break chocolate into pieces and place in a small saucepan with the butter
- Melt over a low heat and mix together
- Meanwhile whisk eggs and sugar together in a large bowl
- Pour melted chocolate and butter into eggs and sugar mixture mixing all the while (chocolate and butter mix does not need to cool first)
- Add vanilla essence and mix in
- Fold in the flour
- Pour into a 20cm x 20cm silicon tray
- Bake for 20 minutes (or until sides are coming away from side of tray)
- Remove tray from oven and place somewhere where it will cool (onto a granite surface is ideal. Inside of brownie should be squidgy and top slightly flaky
- After 10 minutes turn out onto a board and cut into pieces (this is very rich so small cubes work)
First week or so of January is use up Christmas leftovers time and somehow making mince pies after Christmas seems so wrong. Fortunately mincemeat muffins are an easy and less obviously Christmassy way of using up left over jars of mincemeat. The quantities below make 12 and use half a jar. I had a whole jar to use and these were destined for my husbands aunts freezer. She defrosts them with a 30s zap in the microwave which also makes them nicely warmed.
- 9oz/250g plain flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 3oz/85g granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 8fl oz/240ml milk
- 3fl oz/90ml olive or sunflower oil
- 1/2 jar mincemeat
- Preheat oven to 190 C gas mark 5
- Sift together dry ingredients
- Mix wet ingredients including the mincemeat together in a separate bowl
- Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined (about 30 secs)
- Put mix into 12 muffin cases and bake for 20-25mins
Shortbread has an easy way to remember the ingredients – a ‘1, 2, 3’ rule. One part sugar to two parts butter to three parts flour. For shortbread you really do need to use good quality ingredients. You can use either caster sugar, granulated sugar or brown sugar each changes the taste or texture a little, I prefer granulated sugar for my plain shortbread.
You can use a mix of flour together with ground rice or semolina, (my personal preference is for 1/3 ground rice, 2/3 flour), you can even substitute some ground almonds for flour. If you want chocolate shortbread you can substitute cocoa for some flour (instead of 300g flour, 260g flour and 40g).
You can add a wide variety of flavours:
- chopped nuts of your choice (pistachio, hazelnuts etc)
- citrus fruit zest
- chocolate chips
- dried fruit
- crystallised ginger
I’ve given basic quantities below for a a 20cm tin.
- 100g sugar
- 200g unsalted butter, cubed
- 300g flour
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Mix the flour and sugar, either by stirring in a bowl or by giving them a quick blitz in the food processor
- Rub in the butter, this is amazingly easy in a food processor! If you are using a food processor blitz until you get just past the breadcrumb stage and it is starting to clump together as a dough.
- Press into a greased 20cm loose bottomed tin and score the top into pieces
- Bake for about 25mins. If you’re making chocolate shortbread watch it a little more carefully as it burns more easily.
- if you can see the scored lines mark them again as soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, then sprinkle with caster sugar whilst still in the tin.
- Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.
- Carefully cut along the scored lines with large sharp knife
These are the best ginger biscuits I’ve every tasted! my boys agree with me. The relative quantities of ingredients with other ginger biscuit recipes is not major but it obviously is significant. The size of walnuts used in the The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pastiesis rather larger than in Mary Berry’s books as well. This recipe made 24 large biscuits. The biscuits were slightly cookie like with a bend rather than a snap. I will be baking these again soon. I’ve used all my stem ginger but I have a jar of crystallised ginger in the cupboard to use up. They stack well and look pretty in cellophane bags with ribbon so would make good presents.
- 350g self raising flour (or 350g plain & 3 tsps baking powder)
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp bicarb of soda
- 200g caster sugar
- 115g unsalted butter
- 85g golden syrup
- 1 free range egg
- 35g (2 pieces) stem ginger drained and finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3
- Grease 3 baking trays
- Gently melt butter and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat and set aside until barely warm.
- Sift flour, ground ginger, bicarb of soda and sugar in a large mixing bowl
- Pour cooled and syrup mix, beaten egg and chopped ginger into the bowl with the flour mix and mix with a wooden spoon and combine thoroughly.
- Roll mixture into 24 (large) walnut sized balls and place on prepared baking trays well apart to allow for spreading.
- Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until a good golden brown.
- Leave biscuits to cool on trays for a couple of minutes then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
I’ve been away for a weeks holiday and found I really missed cooking. Having baked lots from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible I’m trying to use some of the other baking books I have on my shelf and found a recipe for Sticky nutty flapjacks in The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties. These flapjacks were delicious! Slightly chewy, sweet but not too sweet. Held together well and the nuts gave a nice contrast of texture and taste. The quantities were perfect for the tin size. I’ll definitely be making these again.
- 125g unsalted butter
- 125g light brown muscavado sugar
- 2 tablespoon of golden syrup
- 200g porridge oats
- a good pinch of salt (optional)
- 75g unsalted mixed nuts (I used hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios)
- Grease and base line 20cm square tin
- Heat the oven to 150 C/ 300 F/ Gas 2
- Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients. Heat gently, stirring from time to time, until the butter has melted
- Remove from pan from the heat and stir in the oats and salt (if using). Then stir in the roughly chopped nuts.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and spread it out evenly. Use the back of a spoon to gently press the mixture.
- Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
- Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the flapjack, then score into 12 or 16. Leave to cool before cutting the flapjacks.
These are the best rock cakes I’ve tasted. I was sent away with some that were left over at the end of a charity book event my skiffing buddy Maria was doing with a friend of hers Carol. The rock cakes were made by Carol’s friend Wendy that she goes dog walking with. I’d probably recognise Wendy if someone pointed her out and she must have been at the book event when I was, but at the moment I could walk past her and not know she is the lady with the perfect rock cake recipe. I had to get Carol to find out the recipe. I always use butter if fat is called for when baking, a part of my Irish cooking heritage, why would you ever use anything other than good butter ? but here I stuck to Stork – after all why mess with a winning recipe. These would be great to make with children, very simple instructions and quick results.
- 200g/8 oz self raising flour
- 1/4 tsp Mixed spice
- 100g/4 oz Stork soft margarine
- 75g/3 oz caster sugar
- 100g/4 oz mixed fruit & peel
- 1 egg
- Grease baking sheet.
- Sieve flour into a bowl, add mixed spice & sugar. Stir
- Preheat oven – Gas 6, 400 F, 200 C
- Rub in Stork to make breadcrumbs
- Stir in mixed fruit
- Beat egg and add to mixture, mixing until stiff, crumbly mix (I use a knife and it takes a while to mix well)
- Place rough heaps onto tray (I use a fork for this) – recipe makes 9 – 12
- Sprinkle with caster sugar
- Bake in preheated oven for 15 – 20 mins, cool on on wire rack (Wendy’s tip – I find these are best just cooked. Remove before overcooked!)
It used to be that every halfway decent cook in Ireland had their own closely guarded teabread recipe. Mine comes from Irish Traditional Food by Theodora FitzGibbon and is a failsafe recipe I come back to again and again (sadly this book is out of print, if you’re interested in traditional Irish food you should try and track down a copy). The teabread is really simple to make. This quantity makes 3 loaves, you can scale down but since it keeps three always seems a a good amount (I often give away the third to a friend or neighbour). Whenever I’m going to see my Aunty Josie I know I need to make sure I have a loaf of teabread with me.
This should be served sliced and spread with butter, ideally with a cup of tea but also works well in lunch boxes.
- 450g (1lb) Sultanas
- 450g (1lb) raisins
- 450g (1lb) soft brown sugar
- 3 cups (1/2 litre) milkless tea & whiskey mixed (I usually replace about 150ml of the tea with whiskey so 350ml tea, 150 ml whiskey but you could do anything up to half and half) *
- 450g (1lb) plain (soft baking) flour
- 3 level teaspoons baking powder
- 3 level teaspoons mixed spice
- 3 beaten free range eggs
*Adding the whiskey helps the teabread to keep better and subtely improves the flavour
- Soak the fruit and sugar in the tea (& Whiskey) overnight. If pushed for time can soak fruit/sugar in the morning and bake in the evening.
- Cover bowl with teatowel.
- Sift plain flour with baking powder and mixed spice
- Add flour and beaten eggs alternately to the fruit and tea mixture
- Turn into 3 greased & lined loaf tins and bake for 1 1/4 hrs at 160 degrees C.