Blackcurrant and Basil Tart

Blackcurrant & Basil Tart

Wotchers!

In food, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s really difficult to be original. Whatever blinding flash of inspiration you think you’ve had, I promise you that it has been done before; usually better, sometimes worse. If it hasn’t been done before, then that’s usually a good indication that it’s not such a great idea (i.e. it was done before and discarded because it wasn’t fab at all). If it was fab, we’d have heard about it in the last 5000 years. This goes for top-level chefs as well as for the humblest baker.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with tweaking a recipe and putting your own spin on it. Tweak it enough and then you can claim it as your own (and acknowledge the inspirational recipe, but it’s surprising how many people seem to forget this bit).

Example: Ian Dowding and the invention of Banoffi Pie. Except, of course, he didn’t invent it, he readily admits that it evolved by adding bananas to a recipe for Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie brought back from the US by Russell the chef, with whom Dowding worked in a restaurant in Berkshire. Read all about it here.

And so to this week’s recipe. I recently watched an episode of a food show from the US and one of the items shown was a Goat’s Cheese and Blueberry Pie with fresh basil. I liked the unusual combination and re-watched the clip several times in order to jot down what looked like the quantities/ingredients. It took a couple of tries to get the sweetness and texture right, and my overall verdict was: No. The goats cheese was odd. The tart lacked zing. The fresh blueberries were OK, but had no pop of flavour, and so I set my notes aside.

Until I had a brain wave a couple of weeks ago with: blackcurrants! I resurrected my notes and swapped in blackcurrants for blueberries and it was amazing (she said modestly). The fresh basil is very reminiscent of the aroma of blackcurrant leaves and the amazingly tart pop of flavour from the berries was just what had been missing from the original. After guarded compliments from friends after the first attempt, I swapped the goats cheese for cream cheese and found I didn’t miss the lack of tang at all. – it was creamy, but not so dense as to push it into cheesecake territory (although it’s close!). Disliking unnecessary waste, the surplus egg-white from the filling ended  up in the topping, along with butter instead of margarine, which all made for a crunchy variation to the original. Finally, there was a need to balance out the basil: the boldness of the blackcurrant flavour meant a larger quantity was needed in order for it not to be lost in the background whilst avoiding being too heavy handed and tipping it over into a borderline savoury tart. Luckily, the perfect amount was almost exactly the quantity of leaves you get in a 28g pack of fresh basil in the supermarkets.

Interesting Fact: I read recently that blackcurrant is, for the most part, an unknown flavour in the US, due to a ban in the early 20th century when it was thought to harbour a disease harmful to the logging industry. All  can say is: you’re missing out, my friends across the water, and it’s high time you invested in blackcurrant bushes in order to enjoy all the wonderful things you can do with them. Exhibit A: this pie! If you’re lucky, you will be abe to find frozen berries in your supermarkets and farm shops until your bushes bear fruit themselves.

So yes, I did not conjure this fabulous tart up out of thin air, I evolved it from something else. That doesn’t mean it’s not fabulous and you should all rush out and get some blackcurrants immediately.  If nothing else, for the vitamin C, doncherknow.

“But  where!? It’s March!” I hear you wail. If you’re not lucky enough to have some in your own freezer from the bounty of last summer, then (in the UK) some supermarkets have them in the frozen fruit section. You can also find them in farm shops that have large chest freezers, alongside other berries and fruits in a kind of scoop-your-own setup.

I’ve opted for a pastry crust, but you could just as easily use a cheesecake-like, biscuit-and-butter crumb instead. Fresh basil is a must – don’t even think of trying to fudge it with dried.

It goes without saying – but I shall say it anyway – that, obviously, you can sub back in all the stuff I took out and try it for yourselves and make it YOUR own. 😀

Blackcurrant and Basil Tart

1 x 20cm shortcrust pastry case, blind baked (or biscuit base of your choice)

Filling
300g cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg
1 large yolk
60g caster sugar
2tbs cornflour
15g fresh basil leaves, shred finely (from a 28g bunch/pack)
300g blackcurrants – frozen is fine

Topping
50g caster sugar
1 large egg white
50g flaked almonds
50g melted butter – cooled

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Whisk the cheese until smooth, then add the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour and mix thoroughly.
  • Stir through the shredded basil and the blackcurrants. The blackcurrants can be used frozen, just make sure they’re not all stuck together in a big lump.
  • Pour the filling into the prepared tart case.
  • Whisk the sugar and egg-white together, until frothy, then stir through the almonds. Add the cooled butter and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the topping evenly over the filling.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until almost set, and the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool, then chill thoroughly before serving.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: A super quick, fruity Soda Cake from 1835


Carrot and Parsnip Tart

Golden Root Vegetable Tart

Wotchers!

I’ve decided to go all autumnal this week with this comforting, root vegetable tart. It was inspired by a recipe from 1604 for parsnip pie.

It can make the basis of a light lunch or be served as an accompaniment to a main meal.

Its simple flavours are enriched by generous use of butter, with which both carrots and parsnips become glorious. And by generous, I mean about 50g, less than two ounces in old money, so hardly extravagent either budget or health-wise.

And yes, I’ve hopped onto the current ‘spiral tart’ craze to provide the impressive appearance, but I would argue that it is only a development of the apple rose tart, so neeners!

Like the apple rose tart, and unlike most of the current crop of spiral tarts, this tart also has a filling beneath the decorative vegetable ribbons – the remains of the vegetables carved up for the decoration are steamed and then mashed together with lashings of butter and pepper. They give the tart both substance and richness.

Equipment Recommendation
I don’t usually mention cooking equipment, mostly because my kitchen is too small to have much of anything, but I heartily recommend this kind of saucepan set:

steamer saucepan set

The top two tiers are steamer pans, over a regular saucepan. You can cook all the side dishes for a Sunday lunch in this – potatoes in the bottom and up to four vegetables in the steamer baskets – at the same time, on one burner/ring on the stove, removing the baskets from the stack as the contents are done. I use mine daily.

Other vegetables you might like to try with this recipe: beetroot, turnip, swede, butternut squash, courgette.

Carrot and Parsnip Tart

1 x 20cm partially blind-baked shortcrust pastry tart shell
5 large parsnips
5 large carrots
50g butter
salt & pepper

  • Peel the carrots and parsnips, then cut into ribbons. I find a Y-shaped peeler is best for this.
  • Cook the ribbons in a steamer basket over boiling water for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Chop the remains of the vegetables into cubes and steam over the boiling water until tender. The parsnips will probably require more cooking than the carrots, so have them in separate steamer baskets so you can remove them when done. Even though they will be mashed, you don’t want them mushy.
  • Mash the cooked vegetables together. Don’t be too thorough with your mashing – it’s nice to be able to see flecks of both vegetables in the mix, and it gives a mottled, almost marbling effect. Add 30g of the butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
  • When cold, spoon the mashed vegetables into the tart shell and smooth over.
  • Arrange the ribbons of vegetables in alternating circles on top. You can begin in the middle or on the edges of the tart.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Melt the remaining butter and brush lightly over the top of the vegetable ribbons.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then cover lightly with a foil tent to prevent the vegetable ribbons from burning, and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  • Cool in the tin for 10 mintes before removing and serving.

Chocolate Praline Tart

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Praline Tart

Wotchers!

A little bit of luxury for you this week. I’m still sticking with the French theme, but it’s a little less obvious than in previous weeks. This week’s recipe is inspired by a newly acquired book which demonstrates that food allergies or intolerances need not signal a lifetime of dull or dismal food.

Conticini GF DF book

This is the latest pubication by Philippe Conticini, creating mouthwatering desserts and treats that are both gluten free and dairy free. Although I purchased my copy from the French Amazon site a few months ago, it is now available with just UK shipping charges here, or order through your local bookshop. Alas, it is only available in the original French, but anyone with O-level/GCSE French and a working knowledge of baking will manage easily.

Sidebar: for the digitally inclined, there is a free Translate app that will allow you to photograph text with your phone, which it will then scan and translate on the go. Also, Chef Conticini has many of his recipes freely available on his website here, as well as numerous demonstration videos on his Facebook page here.

The first recipe in the book is for a kind of chocolate nut sponge, and it is filled with a ganache and glazed with a slightly thinned version of the ganache. It is delicious! It is also very hard to believe it is both gluten and lactose free.

I was so impressed with the ganache, I thought it deserved a starring role, so here it is in a very elegant and sophisticated tart. Gluten and dairy free chocolate is available in supermarkets – I found both milk and dark chocolate in Morrisons.

This tart is made up of bits and pieces from different recipes, tweaked to fit in with my overall idea: I like to think of it as the Lego™ approach. The praline paste is Philippe Conticinis, as well as the ganache – I’ve not messed with either. I’ve tweaked the sweet pastry recipe by adding cocoa (reducing one of the flours) to make it chocolate.

I’ve used a long, rectangular tart tin, but any shape will do. Since everything tastes so rich, the tart doesn’t have to be very deep and you could probably stretch the pastry to a 24cm flan tin. Otherwise, use a 20cm flan tin and, exercising your will of iron, cut the slices very thin.

Chocolate Praline Tart

For the praline

NB Because it is a bit of a Faff™, this deliberately makes a LOT of praline. However, it will keep for months in the fridge if necessary. If you really don’t think you’ll use it – I mean, it’s not like it tastes AWESOME or anything – consider making a half batch.

300g of whole raw hazelnuts (with skin)
300g of whole raw almonds (with skin)
400g caster sugar
100g water

  • Put the sugar and the water in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring the syrup to a boil and when the temperature reaches 118°C, add the hazelnuts and almonds.
  • Stir the nuts in the sugar, making sure that they are thoroughly coated. This movement will also cause the sugar to crystallise. This is fine. Continue stirring to keep the nuts from burning.
  • Eventually, the sugar will melt again and turn a deep and warm caramel colour.
  • At this point, pour the whole mixture onto baking parchment. Before it cools, pull the nuts apart using a couple of forks, so that they don’t set in a solid lump. This will make processing them easier.
  • When the caramelised nuts are cold, break them up either by hand or by battering them with a rolling pin and transfer to a food processor fitted with the cutting blade.
  • If you want to use some of the nuts as decoration, as in the photo, set some aside before the mixture becomes paste.
  • Process the nuts into a smooth paste using a series of short bursts with the blade. If you keep the blade moving for too long, it will heat up the paste, so short stints are best. For a long time it will seem like you’re just making a racket with the machine, but it will eventually break down into smaller pieces.
  • When the mixture is smooth, transfer to an airtight box and store in the fridge.

For the pastry

This recipe uses clarified butter. Before everyone starts shrieking dairy, let me remind you that clarified butter is pure fat, WITHOUT any of the dairy solids. If you’re not convinced, as an alternative you can use Indian ghee or coconut butter.

50g clarified butter
30g icing sugar
30g ground almonds
25g chestnut flour
25g Green & Black’s cocoa powder
25g cornflour
50g rice flour
pinch of sea salt

1 large yolk
½ large egg – whisked

  • Use a little clarified butter to grease your tin and shake over some cornflour (to help keep the pastry from sticking).
  • Put the butter and the dry ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk the yolk into the beaten egg and add gradually to the dry ingredients until the mixture comes together. It might not come together in the bowl, only resemble damp crumbs, but it will hold once tipped out and pressed firmly.
  • Roll out thinly and use to line your prepared tin. Alternatively, just use the damp crumbs into your tin and press into the sides and base until covered. I opted to roll the pastry and got it impressively thin, but then I found I couldn’t move it across into the tin in one piece, so I just patchworked it together.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Line your pastry with baking parchment and add cooking beads/rice.
  • Bake until the pastry is fully cooked (20-30 minutes).
  • Set aside to cool. NB Your pastry might crack as it cools. Fear not. Just melt some GF DF chocolate and literally paint over the cracks. And everywhere else if you like. Put the tart shell in the fridge to set. The layer of chocolate will help keep the pastry crisp underneath the rich filling.

For the ganache

170g GF DF dark chocolate
55g GF DF milk chocolate
150ml Soya milk

  • Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over warm water.
  • Heat the milk and slowly add to the melted chocolate, stirring constantly until fully combined.
  • Set aside until required.

To assemble

  • Add a layer of praline to the cooled tart shell. How much is entirely up to you. I am a big fan of its rich taste, but then again, a little does go a long way. I spread a 5mm layer which is enough to give the flavour, but doesn’t overpower. If the praline is cold and too stiff to spread, zap it for a few seconds in the microwave to soften.
  • Pour the warm ganache over the praline paste and smooth. You can also tap the tin lightly on the work surface to get the ganache to level out.
  • Put into the fridge to set. Once set, sprinkle over the finely chopped praline if using.
  • If not eating immediately, cover lightly with cling film – try and keep it from touching the ganache – and store in the fridge.
  • Allow the tart to come to room temperature before serving.

 


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.

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.

 


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.