Summer Treats

Three glasses of lemonades

Refreshments from the 17th & 18th centuries
Back left: Cool Summer Drink, Back right: Mrs Yorke’s Lemonade, Front: Lemonada

Wotchers!

A bumper-fun pack of recipes for you as I bid a brief farewell for the summer – there’s too many weeds in the garden and the fruit bushes are burgeoning! I’d hate you to get bored while I’m away, so I’ve prepared a few things for you to play with in the interim.

I don’t think I’ve done drinks on the blog before, but I’ve got a trio of delicious variations on lemonade, originating in the 17th century manuscript books at the Wellcome Library. They are each wonderfully thirst-quenching and will make for a delicious treat to have in the fridge.

There’s also a sweet treat in the form of shortcake: made with the odd-looking but fantastically-flavoured flat peaches and nectarines, available just now in the supermarkets and in abundance in France where we spend summer holidays – can hardly wait! It is served with Standby Cream, made from evaporated milk and lemon juice. Obviously, cream would be first choice, but if you’re out or the cream you have has unexpectedly turned, then it’s handy to have up your sleeve – and in your cupboard. I found the recipe in an old Whitworth’s leaflet from the 1940s.

Sidebar: I cannot stress highly enough the wonderful recipes that are to be found in various vintage cooking and baking leaflets. Not all will be gems, I grant you – a prime example being Fanny Cradock’s Banana Candles – but it is worth browsing through them, however dull they appear from the cover, with the aim of spotting something delightful.

And finally, for the adventurous, an unusual dessert in the form of a gloriously vibrant beetroot tart: given an official Thumb’s Up™ by my daughter.

Mrs Yorke’s Lemonade – the best that can be made

From the recipe book of Mary Rooke, 1770s.

225g granulated sugar
225ml fresh lemon juice (from 4 juicy lemons – have 5, just in case)
Thin strips of peel from 4 lemons
900ml boiling water
450ml boiling milk

  • Put the sugar, lemon juice, thinly peeled lemon peel into a bowl.
  • Pour over the boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • Cover with plastic and allow to cool.
  • When cold, pour in the boiling milk. NB The lemon juice will cause the milk to curdle. DON’T PANIC – THIS IS FINE.
  • Cover with plastic and allow to cool, then chill overnight in the fridge.
  • Strain the solids out by passing the lemonade through a fine-mesh sieve.
  • Strain the lemonade finely by passing it through a jelly bag, or a double layer of muslin. Be sure to scald the muslin first by pouring boiling water over it, then squeeze out the excess moisture.
  • To have your lemonade especially clear, rinse the muslin thoroughly and double the layers to 4 and pass the lemonade through it again. This will take longer than the first time, due to the greater number of layers of material.
  • Taste and add more sugar if liked. For adults only, you can add 225ml of white wine. Choose one with light, citrus flavours.
  • Chill thoroughly.
  • Serve over ice.

Cool Summer Drink

Anon., 17th century

This is a very refreshing drink similar to an Indian lassi. The milk will tend to separate slightly, so blending the drink just before serving helps combat this.

450ml milk
400ml water
½ tsp rosewater – I use Nielsen Massey
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 nutmeg, grated
1 sprig rosemary
1 tbs granulated sugar

Slices of lemon and sprigs of rosemary to serve

  • Bruise the rosemary to release its flavour by gently tapping the leaves with a rolling-pin.
  • Put all of the ingredients into a jug.
  • Cover with plastic and allow to infuse for 2 hours in the fridge.
  • Remove the rosemary and strain the drink by passing it through a fine-mesh sieve, which will catch any rosemary leaves that might have fallen from the stem.
  • Using a stick blender or liquidiser, thoroughly mix the drink to an even consistency.
  • Serve at once.

Lemonada

Anon., 17th century

600ml light and fresh German white wine – Liebfraumilch or Reisling
450ml water
225g granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
juice of 1 orange
5cm stick of cinnamon
1/4 nutmeg in 1 piece
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced thinly

  • Put all of the ingredients into a pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Bring to the boil, cover and remove from the heat.
  • Allow to steep until cold.
  • Strain to remove solids and chill in the fridge until required.
  • Serve over ice.

Flat Peach & Nectarine Shortcake

Flat Peach & Nectarine Shortcake

Flat peaches and nectarines are, almost without fail, sweet and juicy, and their flattened shape makes them much easier to eat in public and still retain some dignity. Their shape also make for perfectly sized slices for these shortcakes. These quantities will make 2 shortcakes, each of which will serve 4-6 people. If this is too large for your needs, use just half the fruit and freeze the unfilled second shortcake until wanted. The cream will not hold it’s shape indefinitely, so it is very much a whisk and serve at once ingredient.

8 flat peaches or nectarines or a mixture of the two
2-3 tbs caster sugar
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
60g butter
30g caster sugar
milk to mix

Standby Cream
200ml chilled evaporated milk
3tbs icing sugar
strained juice of 1 lemon

  • Peel the fruit:
    • Fill a pan of water and bring it to the boil.
    • Gently drop the fruit into the hot water for 1 minute.
    • Remove the fruit and place immediately in cold, preferably iced, water for 1 minute.
    • Using a sharp knife, lift the skin away from the flesh and peel. The skin will come away easily.
  • Slice the fruit.  Discard the stones.
  • Put the fruit into a bowl and sprinkle with 2-3tbs of caster sugar.
  • Toss gently, and cover with plastic. Set aside for 1 hour while the shortcake is  made.
  • Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  • Put the flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Tip the mixture into a large bowl.
  • Using a round-ended knife, gradually stir in the milk until the mixture comes together into a soft dough.
  • Tip the dough on to a floured surface and divide roughly in half.
  • Pat each piece of dough into a circle about 15cm in diameter.
  • Place dough circles onto the prepared baking sheet and brush with milk.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Standby Cream

  • Put the evaporated milk and icing sugar into a bowl and whisk vigorously until light, frothy and doubled in size.
  • Still whisking, add the lemon juice.
  • The mixture will thicken immediately to a serving consistency.

To Serve

  • Cut each shortcake horizontally through the centre.
  • Spoon a layer of fruit over the shortcake together with 1-2 spoonfuls of juice that will have formed.
  • Top the fruit with the cream.
  • Lay the top of the shortcake onto the cream and dust all with icing sugar.

The Shrewsbury Pudding Tart

The Shrewsbury Pudding Tart

Georgiana Hill, 1862

I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly and baked it in a pastry case, for ease of serving. The original method was for a buttered-and-breadcrumbed bowl. The cooking times are roughly the same. The flavour is very light and delicate, the lemon counteracting a lot of the beetroot’s sweetness.

1 x 24cm blind-baked pastry shell

225g cooked beetroot
115g unsalted butter – melted
150g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
3 large eggs
60ml brandy
150-200g fresh white breadcrumbs

  • Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
  • Puree the beetroot until smooth.
  • Add the butter, sugar, lemon, eggs and brandy and whisk thoroughly.
  • Add in the breadcrumbs BUT not all at once. You want them to absorb a lot of the moisture in the filling, which will vary depending on the freshness of the eggs and the moisture in the beetroot. You might not need all of them. The texture should be similar to a sponge cake mix, but still pourable.
  • Add the filling to the pie shell and place the tin on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling has set. Turn the baking sheet around after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

 


Courgette Relish and Pickled Cherries

Courgette Relish

Wotchers!

I love vinegar. From the literal mouth-watering crunch of a cheese and pickled onion sandwich, splashed neat over hot chips, through tangy salad dressings to salt and vinegar favoured crisps.

It’s also an amazing anti-bacterial cleaning liquid and does wonders to make windows sparkle.

But I digress.

Pickling is a great way of preserving the plenty of summer to enjoy in winter. Usually this involves allowing the pickles to mature for a while, so that the harshness of the vinegar can mellow. But not always. Here are a couple of recipes that, whilst they CAN be kept to enjoy in the cooler months, you can also enjoy straight away.

The first is a courgette relish. Wonderful on barbecued meats such as burgers and sausages and for using up a glut of produce. I have always found the relish you buy in the shops too gloopy, bordering on a jelly-like consistency and always much, much too sweet. This is a version made to my own, personal tastes; less sugar, more sharpness, bit of heat and the vegetables still crunchy.

Fair warning: it involves a LOT of chopping, because I feel the end result is much more pleasing to behold. You could just put everything through a mincer, but it tends to become a bit of a homogenous mush. Chopping everything by hand means the resulting relish is fine enough to spread and the separate ingredients retain their identity both visually and in terms of flavour. Make yourself comfortable, switch on the radio and before you know it, it will be done.

Courgette Relish

This makes about 4 x 500ml jars of relish. The amount will, of course, depend on the sizes of the vegetables you start with.

6 large courgettes
4 onions
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 red chillies
2 green chillies
100g salt
450g light brown sugar
400ml white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons celery seed
1.5 tsp turmeric powder

  • Cut the courgettes lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the soft, spongy centre and seeds. Discard.
  • Chop the courgettes into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
  • Peel the onions and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
  • De-seed and chop the peppers and the chillies and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces. Add the chilli seeds if you like your relish hot.
  • Put all of the vegetables into a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Set aside to drain for 1-2 hours.
  • Strain the liquid from the vegetables. Rinse the bowl and return the vegetables to it.
  • Fill the bowl with water and swish the vegetables around. Drain.
  • Rinse and drain the vegetables again. Thoroughly. Then once more for good measure. It is tempting to skip this thorough rinsing, but if you do, the result will be an excessively salty relish.  Do you really want to chop another mound of vegetables quite so soon?
  • Rinse your jars with hot water and place in the oven, with their lids. Turn the temperature to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Taste the sugar/vinegar mixture and decide if it needs adjusting either with a little more sugar or a little more vinegar. You can also add more after the vegetables have cooked, but better to get it close to what you like beforehand.
  • When you are happy with the flavour, add the drained, rinsed vegetables and simmer gently until the courgettes become translucent.
  • Taste again and adjust sugar/vinegar levels as necessary.
  • Spoon into hot jars and seal.
  • Can be enjoyed immediately

Pickled Cherries

Pickled Cherries

This recipe comes from the manuscript receipt book of Lady Ann Fanshawe at The Wellcome Library -page 292 by Lady Ann’s numbering. It is very quick and straightforward and not that different to the other pickled cherry recipes around, except for the seasonings.

Lady Ann favours mace and dill which were unusual enough to tempt me to try. The recipe also calls for the very best heart cherries, which are cherries that have a soft and rounded heart shape. A bit of research into old varieties reveals that heart cherries could be both dark or pale. I’ve gone with dark, and used a little red wine in place of the original water, in order to help preserve the colour of the fruit. If you can get pale dessert cherries, then swap the red wine for white.

The original recipe contained no sugar, which was a bit much even for a vinegar-lover like myself, so I have tweaked the recipe and added a little brown sugar to soften the flavour.

Pickled Cherries

2kg dark purple cherries
540ml light fruit vinegar – I used home-made gooseberry, but you could use whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the fruit. A white balsamic, for example
180ml red wine
6tbs dark muscovado sugar
3 blades of mace
1 tbs dried dill
½ tsp salt

  • Stone the cherries and arrange them neatly in concentric circles in the bottom of a preserving pan. There should be enough to make a full single layer covering the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the sugar, mace, dill and salt.
  • Gently pour in the vinegar and red wine. This should just cover the cherries.  If you need more liquid add it in the proportion of 3 parts vinegar, 1 part wine.
  • Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, until the cherries are just tender but still holding their shape.
  • Gently spoon the cherries into sterilised jars and seal.
  • Can be enjoyed immediately with ham and terrines, as well as fatty meats such as roast lamb, duck and pork.

Rum and Raisin Cake

Rum and Raisin Cake
Wotchers!

The first cookery book I ever bought was the 1982 paperback edition of Poor Cook by Susan Campbell and Caroline Conran.

Poor Cook 1982

It was on the recommendation of a friend who said she liked it because the recipes usually didn’t require a trip out to the shops with a list as long as your arm of ingredients. Since then, we’ve drifted away from that kind of cooking, so that now a trip out to buy ingredients is the norm, and cooking becomes a performance.

Whipping up a batch of scones or making a cut-and-come-again cake shouldn’t warrant any drama so recipes which you can make from the contents of your cupboards are always going to be a comfort. The Apple Cake recipe in Great British Bakes is another such recipe – also egg-free, and proportional, so you can scale it to however many apples you have to hand.

Which brings me to this week’s recipe.

Aside from being moist, tender and delicious, this cake is great to have in your repertoire because it is made from store-cupboard staples, doesn’t require eggs and can easily be made both gluten and dairy free. It’s simple and straightforward, basically a 2-bowl recipe: mix wet, mix dry, mix together, put in tin, bake.

If it has a down side, it’s the slow cooking time (1 hour), but if you’re anything like me, a 1 hour wait is a small price to pay for being able to avoid a trip out to the shops before you can treat yourself.

I’ve made this recipe with a number of different flours from stone-ground wholemeal bread, through barley to gluten-free. The gluten-free version was extremely tender, to the point of crumbling when sliced. Nice, but a bit tricky to eat politely as a slice – crumbled into a bowl with cream or ice-cream, glorious! The wholemeal bread flour was firmer, but still much more tender and moist that your average fruit cake. Switch out the butter for coconut butter to make it dairy-free.

You can vary the liquid and spices to suit your own personal tastes. The original recipe used all water and a mixture of cinnamon and cloves. I’ve substituted half of the liquid for rum and used mixed spice. Go with what you have/like.

Rum and Raisin Cake

The aroma of this cake is fantastic, especially when warm from the oven.

175g light or dark muscovado sugar
50g butter or cocoa butter
140ml water
140ml dark rum
280g raisins or sultanas
½ tsp salt
250g brown flour or mixture of flours, or gluten-free flour
2tsp mixed spice
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Put the first five ingredients into a small pan.
  • Slowly bring to the boil, then remove from heat, cover and leave to cool for at least one hour.
  • Mix the remaining four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Once the fruit mixture has cooled, heat the oven to 130°C, 110°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment.
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the cooled fruit mixture, then pour into the loaf tin. It should almost fill the tin, but there’s little rise during baking.
  • Bake for 1 hour, turning the tin around after 40 minutes to ensure even baking.
  • Allow to cool in the tin.
  • Store in your cake tin, wrapped in foil.

 


Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Gluten-free Dairy-free Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Wotchers!

These biscuits are delicious! Crunchy, chocolatey, rich and rounded caramel flavour, they are light and crisp and decidedly moreish.

They are, perhaps a little surprisingly, also free from gluten and dairy products.

I made these for a friend who has dietary restrictions and have such a wonderful texture and taste, I didn’t want to label them as “allergy only”, since this tag can be offputting.

These biscuits are everything you’d want in a biscuit, they just happen to be gluten and dairy free.

My own priority as regards recipes and food in general, is flavour; how a dish tastes. Which is probably why my presentation has a tendency to veer towards the C-minus-could-do-better grade. (I’m working on it!) If a dish tastes good, you can always improve the appearance to make it look attractive, but if it tastes mediocre or bland, then all the bells and whistles in the world aren’t going to make it a success.

Apart from being common sense, this attitude probably stems from an experience I had, back in the mists of time, whilst backpacking in Nepal. (Bit of a crunching of the gears, topic-wise there, but try to keep up.) Kathmandu used to be something of a culinary beacon in the old overland backpacking route, since after months of rice and dal, weary travellers were treated to shimmering visions of mile high cakes and gateaux and froths of pie confections to entice the palate. Whilst in Pokhara, I was tempted by a stunning display in a tea shop and opted for a slice of their magnificent layered cake. Alas, the analogy of a mirage proved all too accurate, since it turned out to be all style and no substance. Sawdust-textured cake and greasy buttercream, it was as if someone had made it from a picture, with no reference to how it was supposed to taste. Quite possibly, this is exactly what happened. It served to emphasise to me, the importance of taste. It’s food, not art. It all looks the same in your stomach. So make the effort with taste, not appearance.

OK, maybe make a little effort with appearance; we’re not completely uncivilised.

For the batch of biscuits in the photo I used dairy-free chocolate chips I found online, but I have also made these by chopping up the dairy-free chocolate bars (see pic below) I found in Morrisons (also available in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose).

Kinnerton's allergy-free chocolate bar

Kinnerton’s allergy-free chocolate bar

Chocolate Chip Biscuits

This recipe has been adapted from Alton Brown’s Good Eats recipe, to make it dairy-free and suitable for use with ingredients available in the UK. I like the dark, caramel flavour that the sugars bring, but if you prefer a more delicate flavour, change the dark brown sugar to soft, light brown.

115g coconut butter
160g Doves Farm wholemeal gluten-free bread flour
30g cornflour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
30g Demerera sugar
140g soft dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
170g dairy-free chocolate chips, or bars, chopped

  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Set aside.
  • Melt the coconut butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat. Once melted, pour into a bowl.
  • Add both of the sugars and whisk together for 1 minute.
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  • Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  • Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour until firm.
  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC Fan.
  • Shape the dough into 30g balls. An ice-cream scoop can help. Mine has a diameter of 4cm and makes a perfect 30g hemisphere of dough. If your scoop is large, just cut each ‘scoop’ in half and roll each piece into a ball.
  • Chill again in the fridge for 15 minutes of so, to firm up. This will help keep them from spreading too much.
  • Place on parchment-lined baking trays, 8 per pan. On a half-sheet (30cm x 45cm) pan, I set them out in a 3-2-3 formation. The cooked biscuits are approximately 10cm in diameter, so you want a decent 3cm space all around the ball of dough to allow for spreading during baking.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the trays after 5 minutes to ensure even baking. If you’re baking 2 trays at a time, be sure to swap the baking trays between shelves as well as rotate them. If you like your biscuits chewy, you should try a test bake with just once biscuit and a shorter cooking time. Remember to allow to cool before you taste as they do crisp up when cold.
  • Remove from the oven and allow the biscuits to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes to firm up.
  • Move the biscuits to a wire rack and cool completely.
  • Store biscuits in an airtight container.

No Bake Gooseberry Cheesecake

Gooseberry Cheesecake
Wotchers!

I love a good cheesecake. I don’t, however, love ALL cheesecakes.

*pauses dramatically for the compulsory gasps of horror*

No, to my mind, if you’re going to elaborate on the indulgent simplicity of flavours such as vanilla or maple syrup, cheesecake needs something sharp to act as a contrast to the richness of the filling.

So I say “Away, foul fiend!” to a whole slew of flavours that, to my mind, shouldn’t be paired with cheesecake, mostly in the chocolate, toffee, Banoffi, caramel, praline range, and “Come to Mama!” to all the tart and sharp fruity flavours. Lemon cheesecake was a long-term favourite, but anything that has a sharpness to it is delicious.

There are two main styles of cheesecake: baked and no-bake. I’ve got several recipes on the blog for various baked cheesecakes but haven’t done a no-bake cheesecake, so here we are.

After a little experimentation, I’ve come up with something that will work for any fruit puree you might have to hand. I’ve used gooseberries, but you could also use this recipe for poached rhubarb, plums, damsons as well as raw fruit purees such as strawberries, raspberries, cherries etc.

Another way you can customise this recipe is by swapping in ingredients that will give a texture that you like. A baked cheesecake is usually rich and dense, whereas no-bake cheesecakes tend to have a lighter texture as they rely on gelatine to hold their shape once set.

The filling for the cheesecake in the photo has been made with equal parts of mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream mixed with the fruit puree, which makes for a creamy but still light texture. If you prefer a denser consistency, you can substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone or creme fraiche or even both. Quark is a fat-free dairy product, but might take the texture towards a mousse rather than a cheesecake. Nothing wrong with that at all, of course, as long as it’s what you were wanting.

A word or two about gelatine. At the risk of stating the obvious, gelatine renders your dessert off-limits to vegetarians. Whilst this might be your dastardly plan, you can still make this dessert so all can enjoy. Vegetarian gelatine is generally available, but not in the sheet form used in this recipe. You should follow the vege-gel guidelines for blooming and using it in your dessert.

The other thing to bear in mind, whichever form of gelatine you use, is that it’s not very fond of acidity. Using the quantity stated on the pack to set a very sharp, acidic liquid is not going to be as firm as if the liquid is neutral in flavour. You might like the texture, but as a general rule, I would advise using extra gelatine to ensure your dish sets as expected.

For example, the recipe below generated 300ml of gooseberry puree. Normally, 2 sheets of gelatine will set 300ml just fine. I used 4 sheets of gelatine a) because of the sharpness and b) because of the volume of filling into which it was to be mixed. The mixture of creams and cheese is quite stiff when whisked together, but adding the puree slackens the mixture off considerably. Having the extra gelatine in the puree meant that all of the filling set, once it had been folded through.

In contrast, for the gel on the top of the cheesecake, I only used a little extra gelatine, which resulted in a much softer final set.

For leaf gelatine, 1 leaf will set 150ml of liquid. Powdered gelatine and Vege-gel are sold in packets that usually set 1 pint (570ml) of liquid. Weigh the granules and divide by four for an equivalent guideline amount.

Last topic before we get on with the recipe – the biscuit base. You can make this from a range of commercially produced biscuits or make your own. Traditionally the biscuit has been Digestives, but other (British) types include HobNobs, Ginger Nuts, Butter Crinkles, Rich Tea – anything crisp. I’ve even used Doriano crackers (similar to Saltines), which give a deliciously unexpected saltiness as well as crunch.

For this recipe I have chosen to use a crumb of Spekulaas, the traditional Dutch Christmas biscuits. They are definitely crunchy and add a nicely spiced note which complements the gooseberries. Any favourite crisp biscuit can be used, merely bake the dough in its breadcrumb-like state and blitz in a food processor when cooled.

No-Bake Gooseberry Cheesecake

You can use either green or dessert gooseberries for this recipe. Green gooseberries (see photo at the bottom of this post) ripen earliest, and pair very well with elderflowers. You can substitute half the poaching water with elderflower cordial if liked. Dessert gooseberries are sweeter and with a rosy blush which makes for the beautifully coloured topping in the top photo. These quantities makes a large cheesecake, so if that doesn’t suit your needs, consider halving the recipe.

Serves 10-12.

For the base
200g self-raising flour
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbs speculaas spice mix – or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, as liked.
1 pinch salt
150g cold unsalted butter

50g unsalted butter – melted.

  • Heat oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment. A sheet with a lip will help keep the crumbs contained.
  • Put all the ingredients except the melted butter into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Tip the crumbs onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Stir the crumb, breaking up any large pieces and then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  • Set aside until cold.
  • Pour the cooked crumb into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is of an even and uniform crumb.
  • Tip the crumb into a bowl and pour over the melted butter.
  • Mix thoroughly until the crumb resembles damp sand.
  • Press firmly into your chosen tin. I used my rectangular springform tin (28cm x 10 cm) and pressed the crumb up the sides a little to give a little extra support to the filling, but if you’re confident in your gelatine levels, this isn’t necessary (see photo at the bottom of this post). You might like to line your tin with foil or parchment to help remove once set.
  • Chill in the fridge until needed.

For the filling
600g fresh or frozen gooseberries, or other sharp fruit
120ml water
250g mascarpone cheese
250g creme fraiche
250ml double cream
5-6 tbs icing sugar
4 leaves gelatine

  • Put the gooseberries and the water into a pan over a very low heat.
  • Cover and allow to gently simmer until the fruit is soft. Stir gently from time to time to prevent the fruit from burning (10-15 minutes).
  • Pour the fruit mixture through a sieve. Leave to drain. Keep both the liquid and fruit pulp.
  • Bloom the gelatine in cold water.
  • Sieve the drained fruit to remove the seeds. You will get about 300ml of puree. If you have extra, set it aside and serve as sauce with the cheesecake.
  • Put the puree and bloomed gelatine into a saucepan and warm gently until the gelatine is melted. Taste and stir through just enough icing sugar to make it slightly sweet.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Put the mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream into a bowl. Add 3 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar and whip until the mixture is firm. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, but it should only be slightly sweet.
  • When the fruit puree has cooled, but is still liquid, fold it into the whipped cheese/cream mixture.
  • Taste the mixture to check the sweetness levels and adjust as needed.
  • Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared tin. I lined the edges of the tin with acetate which allowed the filling to come up higher than the level of the crust, but this isn’t compulsory.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and allow to set in the fridge (2-3 hours).

For the jelly topping
retained juice from cooking the fruit
gelatine leaves

  • Measure the retained juice from cooking the fruit and calculate how much gelatine is required to set it. I set 400ml of sharply-flavoured juice with 3 leaves of sheet gelatine. I like the soft set, but you might prefer something a bit firmer in which case add another gelatine leaf. Stir in enough sugar to sweeten slightly. I prefer to keep the topping quite sharp as it provides a great contrast with the sweet biscuit base and the creamy filling.
  • Bloom the required quantity of leaf gelatine in cold water.
  • When the cheesecake filling has firmed up, add the gelatine to the juice and warm until the gelatine has melted. Cool slightly, then gently spoon over the cheesecake. Be careful not to pour from a great hight, as you might disturb the surface of the cheese filling and this would make for a cloudy jelly layer.
  • Return to the fridge and chill until set, preferably overnight.
Green Gooseberry Cheesecake

Green Gooseberry Cheesecake – an earlier version with base-only crumb.


Oyster Tarts

Oyster Tarts
Wotchers!

A great little recipe from that classic baking institution: Be-Ro.

Thomas Bell founded his grocery company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1875. Amongst other items, he manufactured and sold baking powder and the world’s first self-raising flour under the brand name Bell’s Royal.

After the death of King Edward VII the use of the word ‘Royal’ in business was prohibited, so Thomas shortened each word to just two letters, and the Be-Ro brand was born.

To encourage the use of self-raising flour, the company staged exhibitions where visitors could taste freshly-baked scones, pastries and cakes. This proved so popular, and requests for the recipes so numerous, the Be-Ro Home Recipes book was created. Now in it’s 40th edition, the company claims that, at over 38 million copies, its recipe booklet “is arguably one of the best-selling cookery books ever.”

I’m not sure which edition my Be-Ro booklet is, as it’s undated, but from the appearance of the smiling lady on the front it definitely has a 1930s feeling; it’s pictured on the Be-Ro website, with a deep red cover.

These little tarts are a beautiful example of how the simplest ingredients can be given a subtle twist and appeal by both their appearance and the ease with which they are whipped up. In essence, these are a Bakewell Tart with cream, but a little tweak turns them into sweet ‘oysters’.

I’m not a fan of almond flavouring, so I’ve used lemon zest to brighten the almond sponge and used a seedless blackcurrant jam inside. Adding the jam after baking (unlike the method for Bakewell Tarts) circumvents cooking the jam for a second time, and so it retains its brightness of flavour as well as colour. The pastry is crisp and dry and a perfect contrast against the moist filling. I’ve opted for an unsweetened pastry, but feel free to use a sweetened one if you prefer.

You could customise these tarts by swapping the ground almonds for almost any other nut, and matching the jam accordingly. Here are a few that occurred to me.

  • Almond with orange zest, and orange curd as the filling.
  • Coconut and lime curd, with a little lime zest in the filling.
  • Hazelnuts or pecans, with a praline paste or Nutella in the filling.
  • Walnut and a little coffee icing

Have fun with them!

Oyster Tarts

Pastry
60g cornflour
225g plain flour
140g butter
ice-cold water

Filling
70g unsalted butter, softened
70g caster sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 small lemon
85g ground almonds

To serve
200g cream cheese
200ml whipping cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1-2tbs icing sugar, plus more to sprinkle
120g sharp jam

  • Put all the pastry ingredients except for the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Knead smooth, then roll out thinly. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge to relax.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Beat the butter and sugar for the filling until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes to get as much air into the mix as possible.
  • Add the egg and whisk in thoroughly.
  • Fold in the lemon zest and ground almonds.
  • Grease a 12-hole shallow tart tin.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut out 12 circles. Line the prepared tin with the pastry.Add about a tablespoon of filling to each tart. I use a small ice-cream scoop but 2 spoons will also work.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the tin around after 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
  • Transfer the cooked tarts onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
  • Whisk the cream cheese, vanilla and cream together until firm. Gently stir through a little icing sugar to slightly sweeten.
  • When the tarts have cooled, slice off the top of the filling with a sharp knife and set aside.
  • Add a teaspoon of jam and either spoon or pipe a little of the cream mixture into each tart.
  • Set the ‘lids’ back on the tarts at a jaunty angle, so as to appear like a half-opened oyster.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Nectar Rice Pudding

Nectar Rice Pudding

Wotchers!

I received an email from a friend this week, being very complimentary about this rice pudding recipe I’d given her. She wrote “This is so yummy on a chilly winter day in Melbourne!” I made a mental note to put it on the blog in the autumn, but then I got up this morning and looked out the window at the clouds and the cold and the rain and decided that you all needed this recipe today.

Adapted from May Byron’s wartime Pudding Book (1917) it is an absolute delight in a number of ways. It’s a variation of the traditional, some would say nursery, pudding, but these variations elevate it much higher than its list of ingredients might at first imply. For a start, the method is markedly different from the traditional, first boiling the rice in water  followed by a slow simmer on the stove top, then just a brief 20 minutes in the oven. Cooking time is practically halved, compared to the traditional method requiring 2 hours baking and the result is astonishingly soft and creamy. The best part of this recipe, however, is the flavourings. Against just a suspicion of vanilla, the mandarin peel imparts a light and fragrant note, which is in turn enhanced by the aromatic honey and flakes of coconut. The whole dish is lifted out of the nursery and into something altogether more elegant and refined, whilst still retaining it’s simplicity.

Very definitely a grown-up treat for a gloomy, rainy Sunday in June.

Nectar Rice Pudding

120g pudding rice
580ml whole milk
75g granulated sugar
1 large or 2 medium mandarin oranges
½ tsp vanilla extract
280ml double cream
4 large yolks
70ml aromatic honey – acacia, orange blossom, heather, etc
2tbs unsweetened dessicated coconut

  • Bring some water to the boil and add the rice.
  • Cook for five minutes, then drain well in a sieve.
  • Put the rice, milk, and sugar in a thick-bottomed, lidded pan.
  • Peel the mandarins.
  • Eat the mandarins.
  • Put the peel into the pan with the rice.
  • Add the vanilla.
  • Cover the pan and put over the lowest heat available.
  • Simmer softly for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  • Mix the cream, yolks and honey together.
  • Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C Fan.
  • After the 40 minutes is up, remove the mandarin peel and discard.
  • Pour in the cream and honey mixture. Stir briskly whilst pouring to ensure the eggs don’t cook immediately and curdle.
  • Stir the mixture over the heat until the mixture almost simmers, then pour into a deep oven-proof bowl. To achieve the perfect consistency after baking, the mixture should be about 5cm deep in the dish.
  • Sprinkle the coconut over the surface.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until just wobbling in the middle, and golden brown and bubbling on top.
  • Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  • Serve warm.

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