Radnor Cranberry Tart

Cranberry Tart and cheese on a slate


Well, Christmas is fast approaching, and so I thought a festive recipe was in order, and this one is fantastic!

It’s an alternative to mince pie. *pauses for the gasps of shock and horror*

Now, I love mince pies (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B ), but I also don’t have a  very sweet tooth, and if you’ve had an extended social life in the run-up to the big day, and have sampled nothing but mince pies throughout December (sidebar: where do all the other bakes go in December? Are they on holiday? Sometimes it seems you can’t even turn around in December without bumping into a plate of mince pies!), by the time you get to the 25th, what with the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, you can be all mince-pied out.

Also, sometimes you find yourself fancying something a little savoury at the end of a meal, and this is why this recipe is perfect on so many levels. It’s simple and straightforward – just two main ingredients of fresh cranberries and juicy raisins. The raisins take the edge off the sometimes eye-popping sharpness of the cranberries and the little dash of vanilla also gives the aroma of sweetness, so only the merest sprinkle of sugar is required. It’s festively reminiscent enough of a mince pie to deserve a place on the table, its fresh-tasting, palate-cleansing, sweet but not too sweet, can be served hot or cold, but AlWAYS with a slice of cheese. I’m thinking some vintage cheddar, crumbly white Cheshire or even one of the fruited cheeses – white Stilton and apricot anyone? What’s not to love about this tart!?

It is a traditional (Welsh) border tart, ideal for Christmas – just look at that glorious colour! – and because the original recipe didn’t specify any particular pastry, I’m taking the opportunity to offer for your delectation and amusement, a new pastry recipe! Yes, I know I’ve been saying lately how much I love the cornflour pastry – and I really do, both sweet and savoury versions – but I can’t resist something that has the potential to add a new arrow to my quiver, as it were, and in this case, I’m really glad that I did.

It’s Eliza Acton’s cream pastry and it has my seal of approval for several reasons:

  • Simplicity – in its basic form, it can be whisked together with just two ingredients.
  • Taste – when baked, it is crisp and dry, without any hint of greasiness or stodginess.
  • It can be enriched with butter, but at a ratio of just 1/4 fat-to-flour, it is not as indulgent as it tastes. When enriched with butter, the texture is moving towards the flakiness of flaky pastry, yet with the ‘dryness’ and crispness of the cornflour pastry – Nom!
  • And on the practical side, it handles and rolls really nicely.

You can, of course, use your own favourite pastry instead.

Radnor Cranberry Tart

Eliza Acton’s Cream Pastry
This quantity makes enough for a 20cm pie.

225g plain flour
0.5tsp salt
300-450ml double cream
56g butter

  • Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
  • With the motor running, gradually add in the cream, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together.
  • Tip the mixture out and knead until smooth.
  • Roll out the pastry into a long rectangle.
  • Using the same method as for Flaky Pastry, dot over half the butter.
  • Fold the ends over, turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat.
  • Roll out one last time, and fold the ends inwards.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Make the filling (see below).
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into 2 pieces (2/3 + 1/3 is about right).
  • Roll out the large piece and use it to line a greased, 20cm loose bottomed tart tin. Ease the pastry into the sides, rather than just stretching it by pressing down too hard. Leave the excess hanging over the edge of the tin.
  • Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to make the lid, and lay it onto a cutting board.
  • Chill both pieces of pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will make sure it is relaxed and less prone to shrinkage in the oven.
  • By this time, the filling should be cool enough to use.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the two lots of pastry from the fridge.
  • Fill the lined tin with the cooled filling and smooth over.
  • Using a pastry brush, wet the edges of the pastry, then lay the lid across the top and press the edges together.
  • Trim off the excess using the back of a knife.
  • Crimp the edges to your liking – I used the tines of a fork to make for a good seal.
  • Brush the surface of the tart with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  • Cut a steam vent in the middle of the pastry lid using a sharp knife.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool, if not serving warm.
  • Serve with a nice wedge of cheese.

450g fresh cranberries
225g raisins
30g sugar
60ml cold water
0.5tsp vanilla extract

  • Rinse the cranberries and put them in a pan with the raisins, sugar and water.
  • Cover and warm on a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and you can hear the cranberries starting to pop.
  • Simmer for just five minutes, then turn off the heat.
  • Taste to make sure of the sweetness, but remember, this is not supposed to be a really sweet tart, however, it shouldn’t be too sour either. If you think it needs a little more sugar, add it by all means.
  • Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.

Picnic Pie


So here we are at last – Final Week on this year’s Great British Bake Off.

And the challenges this week are to be a Savoury Picnic Pie, Sweet Pretzels and a three-tier Wedding Cake.

All of which put me in a right quandary over what to bake for this week’s Bake Off themed post. My Filo Picnic Pie was already savoury, as are my Cheese and Potato Pies with the lovely cornflour crust, but to be honest, neither the pretzels nor the wedding cake were ever really in contention (mostly due to the lack of sweet-loving people in this house), so here we go with a third option for a savoury picnic pie.

Of course, I’m not going to let you off that easy, so I’m first going make you sit through my Anatomy Of A Picnic Pie (Hints and Tips) so that you can all spread your wings and have fun creating your own versions. Because, to be honest, after a busy weekend, I opened my fridge door and chose the ingredients from what was inside. I knew vaguely the sort of pie that was required, and with a bit of this and a bit of that, it all came together. So here are some things to think about when making up your own versions.

  • Pastry: A lot of recipes ‘out there’ *waves hand vaguely in the direction of the interwebs* call for puff pastry, and it certainly is very speedy to grab a couple of ready-rolled sheets from the supermarket chillers and be done with it, but there are a couple of things that need mentioning.
    • Whilst there’s not much that can beat a beautiful, puff pastry topped pie, straight from the oven, all golden and crispy flakiness,  a picnic pie is meant to be eaten cold, and cold puff pastry, due to the high fat content, is very ordinary when cold. It is also not very sturdy, so doesn’t fare well as a large pie, being lugged around the countryside in box or basket. And so you should turn aside from the tempting richness of puff – and for that matter flaky – pastry and go with shortcrust.
    • That being said, shortcrust doesn’t have to be the boring choice. My current favourite shortcrust recipe is the cornflour pastry I adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book for the Cheese and Potato Pies. An all-butter shortcrust lacks the sturdiness that 50% lard/50% butter can afford, however, the addition of some cornflour into the mix gives it a fantastic crispness and dryness as well as a beautifully silky-smooth feel when rolling out. It also makes it suitable for vegetarians, although, with this pie, a little bit of lard in the pastry would be the very least of a vegetarian’s worries, as will be made clear later.
    • Speaking of rolling out, you should roll out your pastry for the sides/base a little thicker than normal – 5-7mm – to make sure the pie holds its shape when baked. The lid, especially if you’re going for the ‘double design’ lid as shown in the top photo, can be a little thinner.
    • I also chose to keep the rosemary flavouring, although other herbs such as sage/marjoram/oregano/winter savory could work just as well – whatever your preference.

Picnic Pie Slice

  • Filling: A good picnic pie needs to hold its shape in the slice, and not fall apart once cut. The filling should be dense enough to hold its shape both during cooking and after the pie has cooled down.
    • Fresh, raw ingredients, whilst delicious, WILL lose bulk during baking, as the moisture in them is released. In addition, too much moisture in the pie can lead to the dreaded soggy bottom and ruin the structural integrity of the pie. Fresh vegetables need to be steamed or parboiled. Spring onions you can getaway with raw, but shallots, onions and red onions should be softened in a oil in a pan first. Tinned chopped tomatoes should be thoroughly drained.
    • Meat also needs pre-cooking. This recipe contains sausage-meat, which I removed from the casings and then cooked in a pan. The same would apply to bacon or gammon.
    • Fresh chopped parsley can do wonders to lift the taste of a pie filling.
    • Whatever you choose for your filling, make sure it is chopped small enough. It will help the pie hold its shape if the knife doesn’t have to negotiate large pieces of meat or vegetables when slicing. The exception to this is potatoes, which cut easily when cooked, and so don’t need to be cut quite as small.
  • Glue: Whatever filling you choose, to help keep it firm when cold, you need some kind of ‘glue’ to hold it together. The usual choice is either egg or cheese. A well-flavoured white béchamel sauce or velouté (like white sauce but made with half stock, half milk) can also work, although it’s tricky judging the correct consistency for when the pie cools.
  • Seasoning. VITAL. You (almost) cannot season too highly. A well-seasoned, hot pie filling tastes very different when cold. Be heavy-handed with the pepper and spices, a little less so with salt, especially if your pie includes bacon. Top Tip: If you’ve got some scraps of pastry left over from lining your tin, bake a quick turnover using some of the filling, just to check the seasoning. If you can wait until it cools, so much the better, but if you have to try it hot, make sure the seasoning is bold and a little ‘in your face’, because it will lose intensity when cold.

And there you have it. As I said before, the contents of this pie came from what I had available in the fridge, and I’m going to be honest with you, some of it was Déjà Food. Most of the cheese was because it needed using up, as did the parsley and the spring onions. The cauliflower was from Saturday’s supper and still al-dente. Broccoli would have been my first choice, for the colour, but the cauliflower disappeared amongst the other ingredients really well and also lightened the texture of the, otherwise almost solid, slab of proteins. Pie was delicious!

Picnic Pie

225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

  • Put the flours, rosemary 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 then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds. Put the remaining third back into the fridge.
  • Roll this piece out to a thickness of 5-7mm and use it to line a greased 20cm pie tin, loose-bottomed for preference, making sure there is enough pastry overlapping the sides of the tin to allow for joining the lid.
  • Chill while you mix the filling.

400g sausage-meat [1]
15 slices chorizo – cut into small pieces
180g grated mozzarella
100g grated vintage cheddar
50g grated Grana Padano cheese
250g cottage cheese – drained well
250g cooked cauliflower
1 x 400g carton chopped tomatoes – drained well [2]
5 spring onions – chopped fine
large handful of parsley – chopped fine
1-2tsp smoked sweet paprika [3]
1 rounded tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 large eggs
1 cold, cooked potato – peeled (optional)

Beaten egg for glazing.

  • Remove the sausage meat from the skins and cook in a pan over medium heat, using a spatula to break up the meat.
  • Set aside on paper towels to allow the excess fat to drain off.
  • When cool, add to a mixing bowl.
  • Cut the chorizo into small pieces and add to the bowl.
  • Add the cheeses.
  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets and add to the bowl, together with the spring onions, tomatoes, parsley and seasoning.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, to moisten the mixture. You want it moist enough to hold together, but not so much as to make it sloppy.
  • Remove the chilled pastry-lined tin from the fridge.
  • Grate the cold potato into the bottom of the pie in an even layer. This will help absorb any excess moisture and help prevent your pastry becoming soggy. A cold, baked potato is ideal (discard the skin).
  • Add the filling. I decided to really mound it up in the middle, for a domed effect, but you could also just had a firmly-packed, flat pie.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid. You can make this pastry a little thinner than the sides if you’re going to make the lattice design shown above.
  • Moisten the pastry overlapping the sides of the tin with a little water.
  • Lay the pastry lid on top and press the two together to make a firm seal. Try not to trap any air under the pastry, as it will make a gap between the filling and the lid.
  • Trim the excess pastry from the edge of the tin using the back of a knife – using the cutting edge might damage the lining of your tin.
  • Using fingers and thumb, crimp the edges upwards.
  • Brush the top with beaten egg.
  • Optional fancy lattice finish.
    • Roll out the excess pastry and wash with beaten egg. It makes it a little trickier to cut the lattice, but so much easier than trying to paint the lattice when its on the pie and not get the sides of the pastry covered in glaze.
    • Cut a lattice using a lattice roller if you have it, or by hand if you don’t.
    • Lift and separate the pastry and drape it over the top of the pie.
    • Cut off the excess lattice at the edge with scissors. Make sure to press the ends firmly onto the lid.
    • Re-roll the remaining pastry and cut a strip to go around the edge of the pie, covering the ends of the lattice.
    • Brush this strip with beaten egg.
  • Cut a vent hole in the top to allow any steam to escape.
  • Return the  pie to the fridge to chill while the oven heats up. This will allow the pastry to firm up and hold its shape better in the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the pie on a baking sheet (in case of oozing) and bake for 40-45 minutes, turning the pie around 180° after 25 minutes, to even the colour.
  • Remove and let stand in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove from the tin if possible and cool fully on a wire rack. If, at this stage, the base of your pie is not cooked enough (lift the wire rack up and take a peek) for your liking, return the wire rack to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until suitably crisp. If you can direct the heat of your oven to come from the bottom, so much the better.
  • When cold, wrap in foil and chill thoroughly in the fridge.

[1] I use Sainsbury’s ultimate 97% pork sausages. Fantastic flavour and precious little worryingly-anonymous filler.
[2] If you’re concerned about adding too much moisture, use a couple of spoons of sundried tomato paste, or even pesto,  instead.
[3] This was to boost the flavour of the chorizo, but it would also work if you were using smoked bacon. Feel free to add more heat if you like things spicy.

Cheese and Potato Pies

Cheese and Potato Pies


I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it’s Deja Food, it’s comfort food, is simple, cheap, quick to put together and it’s deliciously tasty.

I’ve included a couple of twists in this seemingly simple recipe that elevates it into something really special.

The pastry is a new version of shortcrust that I have adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book. It includes cornflour, which makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry, and it has a really smooth, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle. I’ve thrown in some rosemary to pump up the flavour in the pastry, and the filling is simplicity itself – just diced, cooked potatoes and cheese – but with a secret ingredient that makes these pies completely awesome.

I like chutney. I’ve always liked the sharpness from the vinegar, the spiciness, the touch of sweetness – and I’ve made my fair share of them too. The secret to a good chutney is time – leaving it for two to three months after it’s made so that the flavours can develop and the throat-catching harshness of the vinegar can mellow. Taste it too soon and everything is much too strong. Which brings me to the secret ingredient: Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato Chutney. Now, you know I love you, Sainsbury’s, but you’re just not aging your Basics chutney, are you? Pop that jar open and whoosh! The whiff of vinegar and spice is mighty powerful. However, if you bake a little of this chutney into these pies something magic happens: all the harshness of the vinegar disappears and just add a piquancy that breaks up the pastry/cheese/potato combo. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Sainsbury’s – Basics Tomato Chutney seems to be a staple in most of the major supermarkets.

These pies are great for packed lunches and picnics or just a quick and comforting lunch at home.

Cheese and Potato Pies – makes 6-8 individual pies

225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

4-5 medium cold boiled potatoes
strong cheddar cheese – grated
Basics tomato chutney

1 large egg, whisked

Individual foil pie dishes

  • Put the flours, rosemary 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 then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the potatoes into centimetre  cubes and put into a bowl.
  • Add grated cheese to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds.
  • Roll this piece out thinly to a thickness of 3-4mm and line your greased pie dishes, making sure there is enough pastry over the sides of the dishes to allow for joining the lid.
  • Put a layer of cheese and potato into the bottom of each pie shell.
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of tomato chutney and spread into a thin layer.
  • Fill the pies with the remaining cheese and potato mixture
  • Roll out the pastry for the lids. Wet the undersides with a pastry brush dipped in waterand press them onto the tops of the pies firmly.
  • Trim off the excess pastry with the back of a knife.
  • Crimp the pastry edges by pressing into them with the tines of a fork.
  • Wash over the tops of the pies with beaten egg and cut a small hole in the pastry lids to let out steam.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pies, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie


As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get side-tracked a lot when browsing the internet, and the inspiration for this week’s recipe is the result of just such a wandering.

Apple and cheese is a classic combination, and together with some smoked ham is one of my favourite toasted sandwiches. But that’s another story. In Yorkshire, it is traditional for Wensleydale cheese to be served alongside slices of apple pie, and a saying dating back over 250 years tells us

‘An apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.’

An alternative to serving cheese alongside, is to bake it into the pastry, where it rounds out the flavour of the apple deliciously, without being obvious.

The recipe today pushes this a little bit further by adding green chillies to the apple mixture, and is an adaptation of one served at Chile Pies and Ice Cream, in San Francisco.

Although I found several versions of the pie online, after baking it as per the original, I decided that it needed tinkering with (sorry Chile Pies and Ice Cream!) and the results are below. I was unable to find the roasted chillies specified in the original recipe (Confession: I didn’t even look), so I went with fresh chillies and de-seeded them, which I found gave a real freshness and just enough of a hint of heat without swamping everything. Adding the zest of the lemon as well as the juice really brings out the apple flavour and I’ve reduced the amount of spices, which I found too strong in the original. Even with almost double the original amount of cheese in the pastry, the flavour is not too much, so if you want to go really cheesy, maybe add some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, and as always, the dry mustard powder really rounds out the flavour. The walnuts in the crumble tended to burn very easily, so I swapped them for oats which I love for their nutty crunchiness.

Bramley Apples are fabulous for this recipe. For anyone who is unlucky enough not to be familiar with them, they are a specialist cooking apple grown in the UK. When cooked, they hold their shape until touched, whereupon the apple pieces dissolve into a froth of apple snow, literally melting in the mouth (if that is possible with hot food). If you’re unable to find any Bramley Apples, use a sharp dessert apple such as Braeburn, which will hold its shape and not release too much juice – which means you might want to reduce/omit the cornflour in the filling. Also, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan and cook a little longer.

Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie

50g lard
50g unsalted butter
80g strong, tasty cheddar
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
ice water to mix

35g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
30g cornflour
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
zest & juice of ½ a lemon
2 Bramley Apples
2 green chillis

20g butter
20g lard
20g light Muscovado sugar
60g plain flour
Pinch of salt
40g steel rolled oats

  • Cheese Pastry
    • Put the lard, butter and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Roughly chop the cheese and add to the mixture.
    • Pulse 3 or 4 times to break up the cheese.
    • Slowly add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
    • Tip out the pastry and knead a few times until smooth.
    • Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
    • After 30 minutes, remove from the fridge and roll out to about 5mm.
    • Grease two 20cm loose-bottomed tart tins and line with the pastry. Alternatively, make individual tarts.
  • Filling
    • Mix the sugars, cornflour and spices in a bowl and set aside.
    • Grate in the lemon zest and stir.
    • Peel and de-seed the chillis and chop finely.
    • Peel, core and chop the apples into small slices.
    • Put the chopped apples into a bowl and toss in the lemon juice.
    • Scatter over the chillis.
    • Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture over the apples and chillis and stir gently to combine.
    • Divide the filling between the tarts.
  • Crumble
    • Put the butter, lard, sugar and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oats.
    • Sprinkle over the apple fillings.
  • To Bake
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
    • Put the tart tins onto a baking sheet, preferably one with a raised edge, as there might be some overflowing of juices.
    • Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around 180 degrees and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. For individual tarts, begin baking the same way, but cook for just 10 minutes after turning the baking sheet.
    • Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm with pouring cream

Trimmings Tart

Trimmings Tart


Right off the bat I’m going to admit that this is not an original recipe, but it IS one of my absolute favourite Christmas dishes. In fact, I like it so much, I make it even when it isn’t Christmas – it makes a fab meal all by itself, especially when served alongside some crunchy stuffing! My (English as opposed to Dutch) sister-in-law made it years ago and I managed to pry the recipe out of her clutches long enough to make a copy – The Precious! It’s from an old Prima magazine, and I’m sharing it today as a suggestion to making your Christmas that little bit easier and a whole lot tastier.

To my mind, one of the best things about the traditional Christmas turkey meal isn’t the bird itself, it’s all the trimmings that go with it: bacon rolls, chipolata sausages, stuffing, chestnuts, cranberries, etc. However, on probably the most stressful day of the year foodwise, you don’t really want to be juggling all these itty-bitty bits on top of everything else, so here’s a fabulous and delicious solution: Trimmings Tart. All the traditional Christmas trimmings gathered together in a kind of savoury Tarte Tatin, with a balsamic caramel glaze and topped with crumbly, buttery, walnut pastry.

Make it ahead of time and all it requires on the day is 20-25 minutes to cook the pastry and heat the filling – you could do that while the turkey was resting. Turn onto a plate to serve and cover any crumbly edges with rosemary sprigs – it’s what I did! When I turned the tart out this morning, I forgot to loosen the pastry from the edge of the pan (not that the original recipe tells you to do that!), and so it didn’t all come out smoothly. I’ve got to be honest, I actually toyed with the idea of dashing to the supermarket at 10am and buying more ingredients to make another one. But then I thought: No, hang on  – what it this was Christmas Day? No shops open to fall back on, so some improvisation would be in order. And let’s be honest here, it’s going to be on the table for all of five minutes before people are ripping into it like a monkey on a cupcake, so no need to agonise over presentation too much. The original serving suggestion does actually include sprigs of rosemary, admittedly not quite as many as I used, but I think they make it look very Christmas-wreathy.

The glaze is dark due to the balsamic vinegar, but I quite like that as it makes the red of the cranberries really pop. Feel free to use white balsamic if you can get it, or a mild wine vinegar to lighten things up. Use any mushrooms you like, but chestnut mushrooms won’t have lots of black juice oozing out, and will keep their texture. Fresh chestnuts are wonderful and give great texture to the forcemeat, but a little time-consuming to peel and cook. If you know you won’t be using them in anything else, you could buy them ready-prepared. Try and get good quality, lean bacon for the bacon rolls – otherwise there’s more faffing about trimming off the excess fat. Extra cranberries can be made into sauce with just a little sugar and water. Don’t roll your pastry too thin – there’s a hefty number of ingredients to support once the tart is turned out. This quantity makes just about a perfect amount of pastry for a 24cm tart.

Trimmings Tart

Walnut Pastry
225g plain flour
112g butter
60g walnuts
1 large egg yolk

30g butter
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
85g lean smoked bacon
85g chestnut mushrooms
85g smooth liver pate
60g fresh breadcrumbs
1tbs fresh thyme
1tbs snipped fresh chives
85g cooked, peeled chestnuts

To finish
16 round shallots
30g butter
1tbs vegetable oil
3tbs light muscovado sugar
2tbs balsamic vinegar
4tbs water
16 rashers of rindless smoked bacon
16 chipolata sausages
A handful of fresh cranberries
rosemary to garnish

  • Put the flour, butter, walnuts and egg yolk into a food processor and blitz. Depending on the moisture in the flour and butter, the yolk might be enough to bind it together. If not, use 1-2 tbs cold water until it comes together in a ball.
  • Knead the dough smooth, then cover in plastic and chill in the fridge.
  • Peel the onion and garlic and chop them finely in a food processor.
  • Melt the butter in a pan and cook the onions and garlic until softened.
  • Chop the bacon in the food processor, then add to the pan and cook for a few minutes.
  • Chop the mushrooms in the food processor, then add to the pan and cook for a few minutes to release the moisture.
  • When the mixture seems dry, tip it into a mixing bowl
  • Add the breadcrumbs, pate, chopped chestnuts and herbs and mix thoroughly.
  • Make the mixture up into balls using a tablespoon or a small ice-cream scoop to measure.
  • Pour boiling water over the shallots and leave for 2 minutes. This makes them easier to peel.
  • Peel the shallots and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain. Dry.
  • Roll the bacon up and secure with cocktail sticks.
  • Grill the sausages and bacon rolls.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a pan and gently fry the shallots until golden. NB This should be the pan you will use to bake the tart, so make sure it has an oven-proof handle or one that can be removed. Alternatively, when the shallots are cooked, tip them and the glaze into a cake/tart tin.
  • Add the sugar, balsamic and water to make the glaze and cook for a further 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.
  • Arrange the forcemeat balls, bacon rolls and sausages in the pan with the shallots.
  • Add the cranberries to fill any gaps.  Allow the filling to cool.

NB If you’re making the tart ahead of time, then stop here. Cover the filling with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until required.

To bake and serve:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll out the chilled pastry until just large enough to cover the filling.
  • Lay the pastry over the filling and tuck round the sides.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.
  • Set the cooked tart aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
  • Run a knife round the edge of the pastry to make sure it isn’t stuck to the pan.
  • Place a plate over the pastry and carefully flip the pan over to turn out the tart.
  • Gently lift the pan off, checking that none of the filling has stuck. If it has, use a slice to ease it from the pan and place it neatly back into its place on the tart.
  • Cover up any pastry/filling disasters Garnish the tart with sprigs of rosemary.

Sweet Rose Buns

Sweet Rose Buns


There’s been a lot of traffic to the blog lately for Apple Rose Tarts – not sure whether it’s been the return to our screens of The Great British Bake Off or what, but it just goes to show that people like pretty things to bake.

So that got me thinking about how I could put a twist on the prettiness of the tarts but in another form and shamelessly cash in on their popularity.

I’m a big fan of buns – buns don’t get half as much press as they should, in my opinion: more robust than a cupcake, less sugary sweet and much more satisfying. However, they can all too easily tip over into heavy, claggy lumps of stodge, thick with stickiness – which becomes a logistical nightmare to try and eat.

Playing with food is always fun – partly, I’m convinced, because it is so frowned upon. Diving into Pullapart Loaves, Bubble Bread, Monkey Bread, Tear and Share, Cinnamon Buns or Chelsea Buns – to name but a few – and pulling out a handful of warm, pillowy dough is not only delicious fun, but carries that little frisson of excitement of doing something a little bit NORTY. Still not too pretty a sight, though.

Here, then, is my solution – buns with all the fun of a pullapart, but still delicate and pretty. Soft petals of sweet bun dough gently folded around each other, interleaved with a sprinkling of tangy, lemony sugar and butter.

If you’re prone to the Homer Simpson drools when it comes to fresh-baked carbohydrates, you can, of course, stuff them in your mouth whole. And with buns still warm from the oven this certainly would have strong ‘mitigating circumstances’.

Drooling Homer Simpson

Mmmmmm – buns

However, today we’re going for – or at least TRYING for – delicate, so picture yourself peeling off each delicious petal one by one and maybe dipping it into a little pot of creamy cream cheese lemon topping for a moment of decadent indulgence.

OK, before we start, there are a couple of Top Tips I’d like to bring up.

Top Tip 1: Using milk either wholly or in part, to mix your dough will make the resulting buns/rolls softer. The downside is that it also reduces their keeping qualities to a couple of days. Then again, who has home-made buns lying around after 2 days anyway?

Top Tip 2: To get even more of that pillowy softness, brush the hot just-baked buns/rolls with milk as soon as they come out of the oven and then cover with a clean cloth. The heat of the dough will turn the milk into steam and the cloth with keep the steam close, softening the rolls as they cool.

Top Tip 3: Dissolving sugar into warmed milk will give you a bun glaze that will dry with a nice sheen. NB The more sugar you add, the shinier (and therefore stickier) the finished effect will be.

Sweet Rose Buns – makes 12

250g strong white bread flour
1 sachet fast acting easy blend yeast
25g caster sugar
40g butter
pinch of salt
1 large egg
60ml milk
60ml water
1 tsp vanilla extract

40g butter
grated zest of 1 lemon
4tbs caster sugar

  • Put the flour, yeast, sugar, butter, salt and egg into a food processor and blitz until well mixed. The mixture will resemble fine breadcrumbs.
  • Tip the mixture into a bowl and make a well in the middle. If you have a stand mixer and a dough hook, then use that.
  • Warm the milk.
  • Add in the water and the vanilla to cool it to blood temperature. To test: stick your finger in it – if you can’t feel it, then it’s at the correct temperature.
  • Add the liquid to the dry mix and bring together into a dough.NB It will be rather moist and soft, so if you’re kneading by hand, use a scraper on the surface to help you lift the dough as you knead it.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then set aside, covered, until doubled in size (about 45 minutes-1 hour).
  • Grease a 12 hole bun/cupcake tin.
  • Melt the butter. Have a pastry brush ready.
  • Grate the lemon zest.
  • Mix the lemon zest and sugar together.
  • Tip out the risen dough onto a floured surface and pat down to press out the air.
  • With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until very thin – just under 5mm. NB You will need to work quickly for the next part, because as soon as you stop rolling, the dough will start to rise again.
  • Brush the sheet of dough with melted butter.
  • Sprinkle the sugar/lemon mix evenly over the butter.
  • Using a 5cm plain round cutter, cut out rounds of dough.
  • Lay the dough out in rows of 7 circles, each circle of dough overlapping the previous one by half (see diagram).
  • Rose Rolls Assembly Instructions
  • Using a pizza wheel cutter[1] or sharp knife, cut along the mid-line of each row of dough as indicated. This will give you two sets of dough pieces, to make two rose shapes.
  • Roll up from the left hand side and drop into one of the holes in the bun tin.
  • Brush the finished rolls with beaten egg-white.
  • Cover and set to rise for 15-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Mix the bun wash by mixing 2tbs caster sugar with 4tbs milk. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved in the milk, otherwise your glaze will be grainy.
  • Bake the risen buns for 15 minutes, turning the tin 180° after 10 minutes, to help get an even colour.
  • Brush the hot buns with the bun wash and cool on a wire rack, covered with a clean cloth.

Lemon Cream Cheese Dip

100g cream cheese
Juice of 1 lemon – use the one from the recipe
40g icing sugar
1 tbs milk – Optional

  • Beat the cream cheese until smooth.
  • Sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
  • Add the lemon juice and beat again until smooth.
  • If the mixture seems a little stiff, add in 1tbs milk to loosen it.


Bonus Post – Flower Tarts

As you know, I’m not great with decorating with fondant or sugar paste or anything like that. I don’t have the steady hands for delicate piping or the patience for sugar-work. I actually much prefer the dish itself to be its own decoration. So these little tarts are right up my street – especially as they require practically no skill whatsoever – Bonus for me!

Flower Fruit Tarts

I’m not including a recipe, because the picture pretty much speaks for itself – this is more of a decoration suggestion.

I blind baked some pastry cases in a mini muffin tin [2] – filled them with a vanilla creme patissiere (thick custard is fine) and topped them with a single, perfect berry.

The surrounding petals are made out of two rings of sliced almonds poked into the custard – how simple is that? *she says, channelling Ina*

Anyhoo – thought you might enjoy – so enjoy! 😀


[1] I highly recommend getting a pizza wheel if you haven’t already got one – even if you don’t eat pizza! They’re extremely useful for cutting cleanly without dragging/tearing – perfect for this recipe.

[2] Top Tip 4 To blind bake the mini pastry cases, use mini muffin cases to line your pastry cases and fill them with rice. So much easier than trying to get parchment or foil in there.

Mini Salmon Quiches

Mini Salmon Quiches


Oooh – here we are on Tuesday and no blog post yet! I’m all behind like a cow’s tail, as the saying goes.

SO! Time for a quickie!

Steady now – family show….

Mini salmon quiches! Ideal for party nibbles, but in this house, they’re a firm favourite in the packed lunches. I make these so regularly, I think I could possibly do them in my sleep!

They’re real budget bites too – because they’re made with smoked salmon trimmings – a serious bargain at around £1 for 120g. The flavour is so deliciously distinctive, I can make either 12 muffin-size, or 24 mini-muffin sized quiches from just one 120g pack. If you think that’s a bit on the stingy side, why not blow the budget and splash another pound on doubling the amount of salmon. 😀

To keep for packed lunches etc: When cold, pack the quiches into re-sealable plastic bags and freeze. Add (frozen) to lunchboxes when making sandwiches. They will defrost by lunchtime. Wrap in paper towel if concerned about moisture.

Mini Salmon Quiches

Makes 12 muffin-sized, or 24 mini-muffin sized quiches

50g lard
50g butter
200g plain flour
ice water

1 or 2 packs of smoked salmon trimmings
4 large eggs
1-4 tbs milk
salt and pepper

Shortcrust Pastry

  • Tip the flour into the bowl of the food processor fitted with the chopping blade.
  • Cut the fats into cubes and add to the flour.
  • Blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs (30 seconds – 1 minute)
  • Bring it together with water.
    • Pour some ice water into a cup and put it next to the food processor.
    • Get a tablespoon measure and put it next to the cup of water.
    • Turn the food processor on to medium speed.
    • Use the tablespoon to add water to the mixture. DO NOT pick up the cup and hold it next to the pouring funnel. Keep adding water one spoonful at a time until the pastry comes together in a lump. Why? – the delay between each spoonful of water allows time for the flour to absorb it properly, and reduces the risk of ending up with overly wet pastry. When sufficient water has been added, the mixture will come together into a solid mass. When this happens, stop the machine.
    • Tip out the pastry and press it together into a ball.
  • Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour.
  • When the pastry is chilled, make the quiches
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan
    • Roll out pastry. Because we’re working in miniature, the pastry needs to be thinner than usual -no more than 5mm, and prefably less. For this reason, it’s easier to work with small amounts of pastry at a time, so cut theball of  pastry into thirds, keep one piece out and return the remainder to the fridge until required.
    • Cut out circles of pastry to fit the tins you’re working with. This can be surprisingly large if you’re trying this for the first time. For example, I use the lid of my sugar jar to cut pastry for muffin-sized quiches – which is a generous 10cm diameter – and for mini-muffin-sized quiches, a 7cm pastry cutter.
    • Important Note – I mentioned in the previous Mince Pies post some of the troubles I’d had in the past of pastry getting stuck to tins. I also mentioned that using pure fats (lard/butter) has pretty much eliminated the problem. Now even though we’re using pure fats in this recipe too, it also involves egg in the filling, and egg, as we all know, is the Dark Lord of Making Pastry Stick To Tins. Seriously. It’s right up there with Sauron himself. Baked-on egg also requires serious elbow grease to get off your tins too. What to do??? I hear you wail. Well, fear not. My (non-Hobbit-based) solution will have your mini-quiches practically LEAPING from the tins![1] The answer is to use baking parchment as a barrier between pastry and tin, thereby saving your delicious crumbly pastry from the ravages of egg. That being said, I did bake the batches in the photo without baking parchment, to re-test my theory that the pastry wouldn’t stick. They all turned out fine, but then I was also VERY careful not to overfill them, so no eggy glue spilled over.
    • Cut out generous squares of parchment for each muffin cup and stack the circles of pastry on top. Put each base circle of pastry on a square of parchment and stack in a pile.
    • Grease your tins. Just because we’re using parchmen, doesn’t mean a little extra ‘insurance’ isn’t worth it.
    • Keeping the pastry circles on the parchment, line each cupcake hole with pastry. The parchment will keep the pastry from tearing as you press it into the sides and will make it much easier to lift out the cooked quiches. The pastry will fold a little on the sides, but I think it looks nice and reinforces the ‘hand-made’ aspect. You could probably ease out the creases using your fingers if they really bother you.
    • Add the salmon trimmings. If you’re using 1 pack of salmon, it’s just 10g of trimmings per quiche for the larger size, and 5g for the smaller. If you’ve splashed out on 2 packs, then its double these quantities.
    • Whisk the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add some or all of the milk if liked. This will have the double effect of ensuring that the mix stretches that bit further, and will also ‘lighten’ the cooked pie filling and keep it from becoming stodgy.
    • Add the egg mix to the pastry cases. Important: don’t over-fill the pastry cases. The mix WILL puff up as it cooks, so make sure the pastry is still visible around the edges. Start with 1 tablespoon of egg mix per quiche, and then go back and top up.
    • Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the tray 180° and bake for another 4-8 minutes. This applies to both sizes of quiche, the smaller ones will be cooked closer to 14 minutes, the larger size towards the upper end of the time.
    • Use the baking parchment to lift the quiches from the tins and cool on wire racks.

Cost: £1.80 (using 1 pack of salmon trimmings, December 2011)

[1] Notice I said ‘tins’? In my experience, silicon isn’t a friend to pastry. It’s fine for cakes – LOVE baking cakes in silicon, but pastry? Not so much. Pastry needs a hot oven to melt the fat quickly and then crisp it up. Silicon never gets hot enough for the crisping, so use tins wherever possible.