Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

Wotchers!

Coffee and Walnut is one the best flavour combinations you can enjoy.

Of course, it helps if you’re a coffee fiend like myself. The tannins in, and astringency of, the walnut skins both help to balance out any sweetness and also complements the bitterness of the coffee. If, also like me, you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, it is a delicious step back from too much sweetness.

Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe is the best cake version of this classic combination. As part of the audition process for season two of The Great British Bake Off, groups of applicants were summoned to a test kitchen and asked to bake Mary’s Coffee and Walnut Cake under filming conditions, to determine both real-time cooking ability and whether you could whisk eggs and answer questions at the same time.

Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Cake is also the cake that I bake for others to enjoy: for the school summer fete, to thank a neighbour for removing a tree that was damaging our fence, for my dentist to apologise for missing an appointment, for the lads at the garage for going that extra mile. It’s the kind of cake that doesn’t sound very interesting, but when tasted, invites a wave of nostalgic memories of traditional tea-times.

coffeewalnuttart0

This recipe is a variation of this classic flavour combination, in the form of a tart: sweet walnut pastry, coffee and walnut frangipane, a layer of coffee caramel over walnut halves and decorated with candied walnuts.

The original recipe wasn’t such a coffee/walnut feast. In fact, it didn’t have any coffee in it at all. I played around with adding it here and there and eventually came up with this variation. The appearance also required attention, which isn’t exactly one of my strengths. In this year’s Bake Off, Mary Berry has found a word to describe bakes of less-than-ideal appearance: they are being referred to as ‘informal’. The first iteration of this recipe was definitely informal – see below. It didn’t help matters that I decided to cut it whilst still warm.

Informal Walnut & Coffee Caramel Tart

Informal Walnut & Coffee Caramel Tart

During the filming of the Bake Off, I’d apparently told Mary Berry that “I don’t do dainty”. Whilst I’ll be the first to admit that this tart still isn’t dainty, I’ve tried to make it a step up from ‘informal’, out of my desire never to earn reproach from the imaginary Mary Berry that will forever be looking over my shoulder, i.e. made an effort to make the pastry thinner, allowed the caramel to cool down before cutting into the tart, less icing sugar, more candied walnuts.

In a week where Mary Berry decided to leave the Bake Off, I’d like to acknowledge my very great affection and respect both for her and her gentle encouragement to always make an effort to finish things nicely.

Walnut and Coffee Caramel Tart

If you’re not a fan of coffee, you can leave it out altogether – it will still be delicious.

Walnut Sweet Shortcrust
150g unsalted butter
85g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
80g walnuts – ground fine in a food processor.
125g plain flour
1 large egg
1 large yolk

  • Grease and line a 20cm tart tin with baking parchment.
  • Blitz the butter, sugar, walnuts and flour in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk together the egg and the yolk.
  • With the food processor running, gradually add the egg, little by little, until the mixture comes together into a ball. NB There is moisture in the walnuts and the butter, so you might only need a little of the egg. Do NOT be heavy-handed adding the egg, as this pastry is rather a challenge to work with when made well – too wet and it verges on nightmarish.
  • Roll the pastry thinly (5mm) and use to line your tart tin. It is very fragile, so you’re unlikely to be able to drape it into your tin in a whole sheet. The good news is, it is very forgiving if you just want to patchwork it.
  • Put your pastry-lined tin in the fridge or freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Trim any excess pastry from your tin, line with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove parchment and bake for a further 5 minutes to firm up the inner surface  of the pastry.
  • Set aside until required.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan.

Filling
100g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
100g walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
60g warm, melted butter
2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder

  • Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and foamy.
  • Gently fold through the ground walnuts, coffee powder and the melted butter
  • Pour mixture into the blind-baked pastry shell and bake for 15-20 minutes until set and lightly browned.
  • Set aside to cool.

Topping

150g walnut halves

  • When the tart has cooled, arrange the walnut halves neatly over the top.

Caramel
150g caster sugar
50ml water
100g crème fraîche
20g butter
1 tsp instant espresso coffee powder, dissolved in 1tbs hot water

  • Put the sugar and water into a pan over medium heat. I prefer my non-stick frying pan for this task.
  • Allow the sugar to dissolve, then turn up the heat and allow to boil until a golden caramel colour is achieved.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, butter and coffee.
  • Pour the caramel over the walnut halves. I found it best to spoon a little over each nut, to ensure an even coating, then to drizzle the remainder into any gaps.
  • Allow to cool, then chill in the fridge until required.

Candied walnuts
8 walnut halves
100g caster sugar
2tbs water

  • Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil.
  • When the sugar begins to caramelise, add the walnut halves and stir over medium head until coated.
  • Lift the sugared nuts from the pan with a fork and set onto parchment to cool.

To Serve

Dust lightly with icing sugar and top with the candied walnuts.


Two Choux Tart

Brassica Tart

Wotchers!

Still on a French theme, but from a different source than the one I had planned.

This is an adaptation, albeit very slight, of a recipe by Madeleine Kamman in her gastronomic memoir, When French Women Cook. Aside from the originality of the recipes, each has a wine recommendation – how fab is that?

Wandering through the Fresh section of the supermarket, (the orange one, in case anyone’s curious) I was reminded of this recipe when I spotted some baby Brussels Sprouts – endearingly cute, grape-sized morsels. Now I know they’re not everyone’s favourite, but this recipe might turn even the most vehement opponent.

You don’t have to use mini ones at all, of course – full-sized are fine – but the mini ones have a charm ( much needed in certain circles, when Brussel Sprouts are mentioned). You could also make this with broccoli instead of sprouts, but I’d urge you to try it as is, just once.

I’ve made four, individually-sized tarts, but you can make a large one and bake for just 10 more minutes.

They make for a lovely light lunch, but can also serve as a side dish.

NB: Don’t eat these hot from the oven. The flavours are distinctive, but delicate. Allow the tart(s) to cool to just warm before serving.

Two Choux Tart

Pastry

225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
ice cold water

  • Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth.
  • Divide the pastry into 4 and roll out thinly (5mm). Grease and line four individual tart tins with the pastry. Alternatively, line one large (20-24cm) tart tin.
  • Leave the excess pastry overhanging the edges of the tin(s), cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until required.

Filling
1 small cauliflower
500g baby Brussels sprouts
50g butter
salt and pepper
30g plain flour
225ml vegetable blanching water
125ml milk
100ml low fat crème fraiche
freshly grated nutmeg
160g ham, diced small (8mm)

  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets.
  • Remove the outer leaves of the sprouts and trim the stalk.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil.
  • Cook the sprouts and cauliflower for 4 minutes.
  • Drain, retaining the cooking liquid.
  • Melt 20g butter in the pan and add the drained vegetables, salt and pepper.
  • Toss gently, cover and cook over medium heat for a further 5 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and allow any liquid to evaporate.
  • Remove the vegetables and set aside to cool.
  • In the same pan, melt the rest of the butter.
  • Add the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Gradually add 225ml of the vegetable cooking liquid and the milk.
  • Whisk until smooth and thickened. Adjust seasoning and add a good grating of nutmeg.

 

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the pastry-lined tin(s) from the fridge, trim the excess pastry and crimp the edges.
  • Arrange the cauliflower and sprouts in the pastry cases and scatter over the ham.
  • Pour over the white sauce and allow to settle into the gaps.
  • Spread a thin layer of crème fraiche over the top of the tart(s).
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is crisp. If the top seems to be browning too quickly, lightly cover with a sheet of baking parchment.
  • Allow to cool until just warm before serving.

Leek and Bacon Gratin

Leek and Bacon Gratin

Wotchers!

A French-themed post this week, but not a mountain of patisserie froth – instead I’ve gorn all savoury!

Prowling round the French brocantes (posh car boot sales), I’ve always got an eye out for second-hand cookery books and this year I found a great little paperback entitled Vosges Grannies Recipes (I paraphrase) – regional recipes from the mountains in eastern France, near the German border.

The booklet has lots of simple and comforting dishes, including this one, which I decided to include not only as a delicious, make-ahead meal, but also as a blueprint recipe for having up your sleeve or – more usefully – in your freezer.

I especially like this recipe because it isn’t rich. Too often a gratin dish is swimming in oil from fistfuls of cheese or cream. This is altogether much lighter and can easily be adapted to a variety of fillings, including vegetarian. It also doesn’t require a trolleyload of expensive ingredients, yet it’s packed with flavour, and is very simple to bring together.

The Anatomy of a Gratin

Using this recipe as an example, there is a bottom layer of lightly steamed leeks, followed by a tangy tomato and bacon layer, topped with a white sauce sprinkled with cheese. The tomato layer is bright from the fresh tomatoes, bold with the favour of herbs and tangy with bacon. All of the component ingredients can be prepared beforehand, then either hauled out of the fridge and assembled and baked, or assembled and frozen until required.

Imagine the joy of getting home of an evening knowing you’re just 30 minutes away from a delicious home-made meal that requires – literally – one minute’s preparation: stick your defrosted gratin in the oven, turn it on, go have a shower or read the paper, open a bag of salad, cut a slice of crusty bread and Bam! Supper is served!

It doesn’t have to be leeks – other options for the base vegetable are diced swede, turnip, carrots, parsnips) or a mixture of all of these), potatoes, celeriac, cabbage (Savoy, white, red, mixture), broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts – you get the idea.

If you’re vegetarian, you can substitute blanched samphire (its deliciously salty) for the bacon in the tomato sauce – add it whilst assembling your dish to keep some of its crunch.

Top with white sauce or for a gluten-free option, use low-fat creme fraiche.

Sprinkle with a cheese of your choice. Choose Comté or Gruyere for melty goodness, Grana Padano or Parmesan for punchy flavour. Whichever you choose, you don’t need a lot. People think a gratin is all about the cheese, and it’s not. The gratin in the photo had just 30g of Comté on the top, which was more than enough. The cheese is a garnish, if that. A gratin is about a crunchy topping. You can substitute breadcrumbs for the cheese, or a mixture of half breadcrumbs, half grana padano.

If you don’t have a stack of gratin dishes – who does? That’s my one-and-only in the photo – the supermarkets sell packs of aluminium foil dishes with cardboard tops, perfect for freezing. No washing up, either! These can also be used to heat the defrosted dish up in the oven. You wouldn’t be able to defrost them in the microwave, but being in a solid block they would be easy to decant into something suitable.

This recipe will make 4 portions of gratin. You can easily double or treble the quantities and make a stash of meals for the freezer.

Enjoy!

Leek and Bacon Gratin

Leek and Bacon Gratin

4 large leeks

200g smoked bacon lardons, or dice a large piece of smoked bacon or samphire
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic – sliced thinly
4 tomatoes – cut into 1cm thick matchsticks
2 bay leaves
1tsp dried thyme or 2tsp fresh leaves stripped from the stalks
salt and pepper to taste

25g unsalted butter
25g plain flour
500ml milk
salt and pepper

120g grated cheese, or breadcrumbs, or a mixture of both

  • Bring a pan of water to the boil.
  • Wash and slice the leeks into 2cm slices.
  • Put the sliced leeks into a steamer pan and cook over the simmering water for 8 minutes. You can blanch them IN the water, but they do take on a lot of liquid this way, and you run the risk of your dish becoming waterlogged.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Put the bacon into a pan and heat gently. When the fat has begun to run, add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme.
  • Cover, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the lid for the last 5 minutes to allow most of the moisture to evaporate
  • Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Put the butter, flour and milk into a pan and whisk gently over a low heat until it comes to the boil.
  • Turn the heat down to a simmer and allow to bubble gently for 5 minutes to ‘cook out’ the flour.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • If not using immediately, cover with cling film so that it touches the surface of the sauce and set aside.

To Assemble

  • Divide your components equally into the number of dishes you plan on using.
  • In each dish, put a layer of steamed leeks – or cooked vegetable of your choice – in the bottom.
  • Spoon over a layer of the tomato bacon sauce. Sprinkle your blanched samphire if using.
  • Pour over a thin layer of white sauce to cover and sprinkle with your topping.

To Bake

  • Put your cold/defrosted dish into the oven.
  • Turn the heat to 180°C/160°C Fan.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes if the portion-size is a single serving, 25-30 minutes if larger.
  • When done, the cheese will have melted and browned and the sauce bubbling.
  • Serve with a salad and crusty bread for mopping.

Fruitbowl Tea Bread

Fruitbowl Tea Loaf

Wotchers!

I’m back from holidays  and summer is over. Two completely unrelated events, I hasten to add – I am NOT responsible for the damp, muggy, drizzly weather mumbling around lately.

But the weather might have something to do with my choice of recipe this week.

As always, I return from France inspired and enthused by the food and produce and having snapped up a few books on patisserie and regional food, I was all prepared for a mammoth, cream-filled bake-a-thon. I even brought back some glorious Normandy butter to use in artery-hardening quantities.

But instead of all the frills and froth of French patisserie, it turned out that what I actually wanted was a teatime treat in the form of this fruity loaf, faithfully retrieved from a yellowing farmhouse baking book of Yore™. Mostly.

Because when I decamped to the kitchen I found that I was the proud possessor of just a single egg and the recipe called for two. I didn’t feel incined to make a trip out just for eggs, so I turned to the web to refresh my memory on apples and egg substitutes.Sure enough, about 60ml of apple puree works a treat, and one eating apple makes almost exactly 60ml of puree.

This recipe has dates and walnuts, which make for a delicious tea loaf, but can also make it a little dry, almost dusty, especially if the walnuts arent in their first flush of youth. Deliciously, the inclusion of mashed bananas helps with the moistness and the apple sauce really brightens the flavour with its freshness. Neither flavour dominates, making the loaf wonderfully flavoursome. Finally, it is brought to a rich, batter consistency by a splash-ette of lager – and indeed, Lager Loaf was the original recipe title – but that sounds too much like Lager Lout to my ears – which is far from tasty – so I feel justified in renaming it.

And it is a distinct improvement to eat spread with butter, with a cup of something hot.

Fruitbowl Tea Bread

You don’t HAVE to make this with the apple – if you have the eggs, just use two and no apple.

85g unsalted butter
1tbs golden syrup
85g soft brown or light muscovado sugar
1 sharp eating apple, e.g. Jazz or Braeburn
1 large egg
280g self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
150ml lager
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
125g chopped dates
50g walnuts, roughly chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin with parchment paper. Tear off a second piece of parchment and make a fold down the middle. This piece will be used during the baking.
  • Peel and core the apple, then grate finely into a small saucepan. Cover with a lid and heat gently until the apple has broken down into a puree. Sieve to remove any lumps. If you’re impatient, whizz it in a small food processor.
  • Gently warm the butter, syrup and sugar either in a pan or using the microwave, until melted.
  • Add the lager and apple puree, then whisk in the egg.
  • Mash the bananas. Make sure your dates and walnuts are also chopped and ready.
  • Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a bowl.
  • Add the liquid mixture and stir thoroughly.
  • Quickly fold through the bananas, dates and nuts and pour into the prepared tin.
  • Place into the oven and prop the second piece of parchment over the tin with the fold at the top, rather like a tent. This will prevent the top of the loaf from becoming too dark during baking.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the ‘tent’ and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
  • Be sure to test the cake for done-ness using a cocktail stick/skewer/cake tester before removing from the oven – the moisture in the bananas and apple will make it very moist, so be sure it’s baked all the way through, especially towards the bottom.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Serve sliced and buttered, and store in an airtight container.

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.