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.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Wotchers!

If you’ve been lucky enough, as I have been, to go out and about in the great British countryside of late, you’ll have noticed the froth of elderflowers in the hedgerows. It is one of the earliest signs of summer and an excellent reminder that gooseberry season is imminent.

Gooseberries and elderflower are such a classic and delicious pairing, it can surely be no coincidence that they are both available at the same time. If you have the opportunity, I can thoroughly recommend making your own heady elderflower cordial, but commercially produced varieties are also readily available.

There’s a 200-year-old tradition in Oldbury-on-Severn of making shallow gooseberry pies with a sweetened hot water crust pastry as part of the Whitsun celebrations. Jane Grigson mentions them in several of her writings on English food. Due to the age of the recipe, it was a challenge to find any further details on their appearance and so for a long time I had to rely on my imagination. Eventually I found descriptions of the pies as being around 15cm in diameter, extremely shallow (just one gooseberry deep) and hand raised. The use of a hot water crust for a fruit pie is unusual, and can be a little troublesome to work with. Some recipes even recommend that once the tart shell has been formed, the pastry is chilled overnight in order to make a firm casing for the gooseberries, but this then makes it difficult to attach the lid firmly once the paste is cold.

My searching turned up two details that were consistent wherever the pies were mentioned: everyone seemed to like these tarts, even if they didn’t like gooseberries, and that they were extremely juicy when bitten into. This adaptation is slightly more consumer-friendly, producing a raised pie whose shape is more in the tradition of a game pie, with the juice set into a jelly, delicately flavoured with elderflower. This classic dessert pie will hold its shape when sliced, making it ideal to enjoy on picnics as well as relaxed summer lunches. The contrast between the sweet, flowery jelly and the sharp gooseberries is very refreshing. I prefer the tartness of green gooseberries, but if you have a sweet tooth you might prefer the delicately blushed dessert gooseberries. To make everything much easier, it is baked in a loaf tin.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Sweet Hot Water Crust
600g plain white flour
400ml water
100g butter
100g lard
60g caster sugar

  • Put the fats, sugar and water into a pan and warm over a low heat just until the fat has melted.
  • Put the flour into a bowl and pour on the warmed liquid. Stir well.
  • The paste will be very soft when it comes together, and you can roll it out if you like, but it can also just be flattened and pressed into the tin by hand.

For the filling
1kg fresh gooseberries
1kg caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial
beaten egg to glaze.
3-4 sheets of leaf gelatine

  • Use a sharp knife to top and tail the gooseberries, removing the stalk and the calyx.
  • Generously grease a large loaf tin. You can, of course, make this in any shaped tin, but a rectangular loaf tin does produce pretty and regular slices. In order to decide what size of tin to use just tip in your prepared gooseberries. The best fit will be from the tin the gooseberries only just fill.
  • If liked, line the tin with baking parchment in order to help with the removal of the pie once it has cooled.
  • Make the pastry and divide into two. Roll out one piece and cut a lid for your pie to size. Use the empty tin to mark out it’s shape, then cut the pastry 3cm larger all the way round. Set aside.
  • Gather the trimmings and the rest of the pastry together and roll out to about 1cm. Line your greased loaf tin and allow the excess pastry to drape over the sides for now. Make sure any cracks are well patched, so that the juice stays inside the pie.
  • Layer the gooseberries in the pastry-lined tin alternately with the sugar.
  • Moisten the edges of the pastry with water and place the pastry lid on top of the pie. Press the edges together and trim the excess. Crimp the edges in a decorative manner.
  • Cut three circular vent holes in the lid at least 2cm in diameter.
  • Use the pastry trimmings to make additional decorations if liked.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
  • Brush the lid of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is crisp and golden and the sides are well baked. It is better to cook the pie a little longer than for the pie to be under-baked, so if the top is becoming too dark, cover with some foil.
  • When you’re happy with the done-ness of the pastry, remove the pie from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Tricky Part: You need to drain the juice from the pie in order to mix in the elderflower cordial and the gelatine that will make it set. After much experimentation, I recommend the following method:
    • Put your pie onto a wire cooling rack.
    • Put a second rack upside-down on top of your pie.
    • Place a large bowl on your work surface. If you think it necessary, place a damp teatowel underneath to prevent slippage.
    • With your thumbs uppermost, pick up your pie tin, sandwiched between the wire racks.
    • Holding the pie tin over the bowl, flip it towards you in one swift movement and let all of the juice drain out of the pie through the vent holes and into the bowl.
    • Once the juice has topped dripping, turn your pie the right way up and set aside.
    • Taste the syrup and add sufficient elderflower cordial to flavour. Since the pie will be eaten cold, you can make the flavouring slightly stronger than usual, as the flavours will be somewhat muted when served.
    • When you’re happy with the taste, measure the volume of syrup. For every 150ml of syrup, you need to bloom (soak in water) 1 leaf (sheet) of gelatine. Once bloomed, add the gelatine to the syrup and warm gently until melted.
    • Carefully pour the gelatine/syrup mixture back into the pie through the vents. It might be easier to use a jug for this. You want enough syrup in the pie to make the cooked gooseberries float. Peeping through the vent holes you will be able to note when this occurs.
    • Leave your pie to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the fridge.
    • Allow to come to room temperature before removing form the tin and cutting in slices to serve. Serve with chilled double cream if liked.

Egg and Bacon Pies

bacon egg pie

Wotchers!

Sometimes the best-tasting food is also the simplest. This recipe was yet another from one of my many dusty W.I.pamphlets from the mid 20th century. It was so brief it barely qualified as a paragraph, let alone a recipe, so I’ve added some detail below to help things along. In essence, you can count the number of ingredients in this pie on one hand: pastry, egg, bacon, seasoning. The pie in the picture above also contains diced tomato, which I thought would add freshness; it did to a certain extent, but not to the degree I was hoping, and in fact, the ‘plain’ bacon and egg pie was tastier. Alas, my cross-section photo for this pie (see below) wasn’t as visually arresting as the one above, so I decided to lure you with the picture above, then set the record straight. You can choose whichever version appeals most.

Bacon & Egg Pie

Also, I’ve mentioned them before, but I just LOVE my small cake/tart tins I found at my local The Range (4 x 10cm diameter pans for £2.50). They have a small lip on the side, which makes them great for tarts or, in this case, for firmly attaching the pastry lids of pies. This is not a paid endorsement – I just think they are a bargain and am sharing.

You can be as pro-active or as lazy as you like with these pies – make everything from scratch or buy it in if you’re pressed for time. Personally, I like to hover, metaphorically, between the two: make the pastry for the base, but buy a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry for the top, onna count of life too short etc, etc. The cornflour shortcrust is dry and crisp, and the buttery, flaky, puff pastry is both delicious and a fantastic contrast. Once the pans are lined, sprinkle over a little cooked bacon, crack in a whole egg and add the lid and you’re done!

OK, yes, you should add a sprinkling of fresh parsley too.

And pepper. Of course pepper.

Well OBVIOUSLY crimping the edges is a good idea.

And yes, egg-yolk wash will give both colour and shine.

I’ll come in again.

Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as….

Oops! Wrong sketch.[1]

Once the pans are lined, sprinkle over a little cooked bacon and some fresh parsley, season with black pepper, crack in a whole egg, a little more parsley and pepper, add the lid, crimp the pastry edges, wash over with beaten egg and you’re DONE!

The quantities are up to you and however many you’re catering for. The suggestions below are for 4 individual pies. Any excess pastry, of either sort, can be frozen for later, as can the cooked pies, for up to a month.

Bacon and Egg Pies

1 batch cornflour shortcrust – scroll down on this page
1 roll puff pastry
100g lean bacon
4 large eggs
4-6 tablespoons of chopped, fresh parsley
coarse-ground black pepper
4 tomatoes – skinned, de-seeded and diced finely – optional

1 large yolk – for glazing

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.
  • Roll out the shortcrust pastry to a thickness of 5mm.
  • Grease and line your tart tins with the shortcrust pastry, making sure to ease the pastry into the bottom edge of the pan, not stretch it. Leave excess pastry hanging over the sides of the tin and chill in the fridge until required.
  • Chop the bacon into small dice and cook until just done. No browning. Drain on kitchen roll.
  • Remove pies from fridge.
  • Scatter the bacon in the bottom of the pies.
  • Add a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a little back pepper. No need for salt, as the bacon is salty enough. Add the tomatoes if using.
  • Crack an egg into each pie. If you want the yolk to be dead centre, you could clear a space amongst the bacon, but it’s not really necessary.
  • Add more parsley and black pepper.
  • Cut four squares of puff pastry, large enough to cover the pies.
  • Brush the rims of the pies with water then lay over the puff pastry squares.
  • Press firmly around the edges, then trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife.
  • Crimp the edges of the pies for a decorative effect.
  • Whisk the yolk with a tablespoon of water and brush the pie tops liberally.
  • Cut three or four small vent holes, NOT in the middle – you don’t want to break the yolk inside.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is puffed and golden and the underside crisp.
  • Enjoy warm.

[1] NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Least of all my husband who read all of the above with a blank expression then said “I don’t get it.” *sigh*


Sugarless Biscuits

Sugarless Biscuits

Wotchers!

I don’t mean to boast (which means I’m going to), but I’m very pleased with this recipe, which I found in a book from 1767 entitled “Primitive cookery; or the kitchen garden display’d”. In the curious attribution style of the day, the frontispiece declares the book “Printed for J.Williams at No. 38, Fleet Street”, which leaves the authorship somewhat undetermined – possibly J.Williams or he might have been the publisher, or even the printer himself.

That mystery aside, the frontispiece also contains some wonderful claims, viz “RECEIPTS for preparing a great Variety of cheap, healthful and palatable Dishes without Fish, Flesh or Fowl; WITH A BILL of FARE of Seventy Dishes that will not cost above Two-Pence each”. The low cost and the vegetarian nature of the dishes was doubly interesting, since vegetarianism didn’t really take off in Britain until the nineteenth century. Alas, it wasn’t quite the groundbreaking publication I thought, as I found meat and meat products scattered liberally throughout, and although the seventy tupenny dishes are meatless, they consist mostly of dishes along the lines of “[insert the name of a vegetable] boiled and bread and butter”. Still, it’s not all plain fare, as the following meal suggestion illustrates: “Bread and half a pint of canary, makes an excellent meal.” With half a pint of sherry (canary) inside you, you wouldn’t really care that you only had bread to eat. And for tuppence? Bargain!

ANYHOO…..

These biscuits are listed in the book as Parsnip Cakes – the word ‘cake’ having a much more versatile usage in the eighteenth century, and more inclined to refer to shape, rather than some delightful teatime confection. Parsnips provide both bulk and a very gentle sweetness. Sliced, dried in the oven and then ground in a spice grinder, the parsnip ‘flour’ is then mixed with an equal quantity of flour, a little spice, and formed into a dough by mixing with double cream. Rolled out to a thinness of 5mm and baked in a cool oven, the resultant biscuits are crisp, crunchy and similar to a close-textured digestive biscuit. The flavour of parsnip is detectable, especially if, in the drying they have also browned a little and the sugars caramelised, but it’s not overpowering.  More nutty than vegetable. In terms of sweetness, they sit bang on the fence between sweet and savoury – sweet enough to satisfy a sugar craving, savoury enough to eat with cheese.

It’s this versatility which got me thinking of ways in which it could be adapted, and after experimentation, came up with the following:

  • Spices. You can vary the spices and tip the biscuits more towards sweet or savoury as you prefer.
    • Sweet spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves.
    • Savoury spices: garam masala, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, curry powder.
    • Neutral spices that could go either way: aniseed, fennel, fenugreek, caraway, cardamom, Chinese five spice.
    • Herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic powder, onion powder, chives, etc.
  • Flours. This is where these biscuits are most versatile.The flour you match with the parsnip powder doesn’t have to be limited to plain white. The biscuits in the picture above have been made with stoneground wholemeal with aniseed (top) and medium oatmeal, with a little salt (bottom). Here are just a few further suggestions:
    • brown
    • wholemeal
    • medium oatmeal
    • barley
    • rice
    • plain white
    • white + cornflour
    • brown + rye
    • malted
  • Usage. The dough can also be used as a pastry, with different results coming from the different flours used. Mixing the parsnip flour with brown flour or oatmeal would make a fantastic crust for something like a cauliflower cheese tart. I haven’t tried it for turnovers/handpies, but I suspect you’d need to use bread flour and to work it quite well in order to prevent it cracking when trying to fold it.

Sugarless Biscuits

The recipe for mixing the actual biscuits requires only a fraction of your parsnip flour, thereby allowing you to make several batches from this one quantity. That said, this made only about 200g of parsnip flour in total.

4 large parsnips
50g flour of choice
½-1tsp spice/herb/flavouring of choice
50-70ml double cream

¼ tsp salt (for savoury biscuits and/or when using oatmeal)

  • Peel the parsnips and slice thinly – a mandolin is ideal.
  • Arrange the slices on parchment-lined baking sheets and put into the oven.
  • Turn the oven on low, 120°C/100°C Fan.
  • Since the slices are so thin, they won’t take very long to dry at all. Check after 15 minutes. If they have curled into flower shapes, remove from the oven and allow to cool. If they aren’t completely crisp when cold, you can easily dry them a little longer. It’s better to dry them in two stages, than to let them go a little too long and allow them to take on colour – unless that’s what you’re after, of course.
  • When the parsnips slices are crisp and cold, grind them to powder in a spice grinder, or pound them in a pestle and mortar. If you’re using them for savoury biscuits, you can get away with having it a little coarser – like semolina or polenta. For sweet biscuits, you’ll probably need to sieve out the larger pieces and re-grind.
  • Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C Fan
  • To make the biscuits:
    • Put 50g parsnip flour in the bowl of a food processor.
    • Add 50g of your chosen flour.
    • Add your chosen spices and salt, if required.
    • Blitz for a few seconds to mix.
    • With the motor running, gradually pour in the double cream. Depending on the flour you are using, the quantity of cream required to bring the dough together will vary. Add just enough until the dough comes together in a ball, or at least resembles damp breadcrumbs.
    • Tip out and press together into a ball.
    • Roll out between sheets of cling film plastic (to avoid sticking) to about 5mm and cut into biscuits. I made rectangles of 2.5cm x 5cm, but any shape will do.
    • Lay the biscuits onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick the middles neatly with a fork.
    • Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around and bake for a further 10 minutes.
    • Transfer to a wire rack and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes in order to ensure the undersides are dried and crisp.
    • Allow to cool on the wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

Bonus Recipe – Labna

This has to be the world’s simplest soft cheese recipe. I enjoyed it regularly when I was working in the Middle East and its so easy to make. It’s the topping for the biscuits in the photograph and, like the biscuits, can be enjoyed equally with sweet flavours as well as savoury. I dabbed on some seedless blackcurrant jam and it was awesome.

500ml yogurt – any will do, but Greek yogurt is especially delicious
1tsp salt

  • Line a sieve with some clean, scalded muslin.
  • Mix the salt and the yogurt together and pour into the muslin.
  • Tie the corners of the muslin together and hang over a bowl to drain.
  • Leave for 10-12 hours, or overnight.
  • Transfer to a suitable container and store in the fridge.

And that’s it. It’s rich and creamy like cream cheese, but light and refreshing and with just a fraction of the fat content. As already mentioned, it’s delicious paired with a sharp jam or salad, but you can also embellish it as follows:

  • Combine with crushed garlic, freshly chopped mint or parsley, a little olive oil and black pepper and serve with flatbreads.
  • Spread labna on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper or paprika. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa.
  • Shape balls of labna by using a tablespoon as a measure, or a mini ice-cream scoop. Arrange on a tray and chill in the fridge for several hours until firm. Transfer to a jar and pour over olive oil to cover. As long as the labna balls are fully covered by the oil and the jar properly sealed, this will keep without need for refrigeration. Serve dusted with zatar, sumak or rolled in chopped, fresh thyme.