Since my oven/kitchen woes won’t be resolved for a couple more months, and the headlong rush towards the festive season draws my attention in other directions, I thought I’d reveal a little project I’ve been working on for a while, to keep you all out of mischief for the next few weeks.
Most of you will know of my great enthusiasm for old recipes, many of which are listed amongst these pages. However they are scattered about and not always easy to find.
I decided I needed a site devoted solely to British food and have been working for the past few months to collate and transfer across all the British recipes from this blog to a new site.
In addition, I have included a lot of new recipes that had to be cut from my new book (out in May next year), mostly from the fish, game and pudding chapters.
Time To Cook – Online will remain very much a jumble of interests as different recipes from all over the world grab my attention. Deja Food will become, I hope, a showcase of the best of British food from the last 700 years.
I hope you will enjoy both.
Click the image to visit the new site.
In addition, don’t forget to tune in to BBC1 on Christmas Day, at 4.45pm for the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special starring me and three more Bake Off favourites!
A second GBBO Special, with four more favourite bakers, will go out on Boxing Day night.
This is a deliciously simple, autumnal dessert that, although it can be assembled from very few, ordinary ingredients, ends up tasting so much better than the sum of its parts – the crisp, golden outside, hot and sharp insides and cool cream or hot, rich custard make this a dish of delicious contrasts. It is one of the many British desserts that evolved to use up stale bread and cooked fruit. Whilst the filling can be almost any fruit purée you have to hand, the construction needs to observe a few rules if it is going to look as impressive when served as it tastes.
Firstly, the fruit purée needs to be relatively firm and ‘dry’, with little or no visible liquid. If your cooked fruit is especially moist, then just set it in a sieve to drain – the resultant liquid can be sweetened and served as a pouring syrup or saved for use in/on other desserts. Alternatively, set it over a low heat in a wide pan, to help evaporate the excess liquid. If you think your fruit is still too soft, you could consider whisking in an egg yolk or two to help thicken it during cooking, making it more of a fruit custard.
The bread should not be plastic-wrapped and pre-sliced. The best charlottes are made when the bread can absorb some moisture from the filling in much the same way as it does in Summer Pudding, and sliced bread just doesn’t have a suitable surface for this. Not that having your bread sliced by a machine is bad – it can make it wonderfully thin and regular – just buy a whole loaf and get the bakery to cut it for you on their machine. If it’s not stale, just leave the slices you intend to use out on the counter for an hour, they’ll dry just enough. During baking, the dry outside will, thanks to the coating of butter, crisp up and turn wonderfully golden, and the inside will draw moisture from the filling and pull everything together, so that you have a firm pudding to turn out.
The final important consideration is the shape of the bowl in which you construct your charlotte. It needs to be both oven-proof and domed/tapering. Straight-sided charlottes are usually cold desserts such as the Charlotte Russe, which uses sponge fingers and a firmly set cream and is also thoroughly chilled before being served, which helps greatly with presentation. A traditional, domed pudding bowl, or individual pudding bowls, are ideal. Their tapering form is most conducive to maintaining an impressive shape of your hot charlotte. The fluted tins commonly marketed as brioche tins are also the ideal shape, with the added detail of fluting giving the turned-out dish a very elegant appearance.
This is an adaptation of Mrs Rundell’s recipe from 1808. Her version calls for raw apples, sugar and butter and is baked slowly for 3 hours with a weight on top to help compress the apples as they shrink during cooking. This recipe is much shorter, just over one hour, but this length of time is necessary for the bread to crisp, turn golden and be sturdy enough to support the fruit filling until serving time. Higher heat and baking for a shorter time means that, when turned out, the pudding slowly sags and collapses, like a Victorian matron with her corset removed. The use of an already-cooked puree makes preparation that much quicker and the cooked pudding less prone to loss of volume.
I used some apples from a friend’s garden for this recipe, and added no sugar – the sharpness was a great contrast against the rich, buttery crust. I highly recommend this approach. If your fruit is especially sharp, consider using a sweet custard as an accompaniment.
750g fruit pulp
stale white bread slices
pouring cream or custard to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
- Butter the inside of your bowl(s) generously with softened butter.
- Cut the crusts from the bread. Cut a circle or flower shape for the bottom of your bowl and put it in first. It will make for a neat top once you turn out the pudding, and also hide the ends of all the side pieces of bread.
- Line your bowl(s) with the crustless bread. How you choose to do this is up to you. Personally, I keep the pieced of bread whole and patch where necessary. If your bread is fresh and springy, you can make things easier for yourself by using a rolling pin to flatten them slightly. If you are using individual pudding bowls, you might want to reduce this to a width of 1.5cm, as the smaller form will need thinner slices if it is still to look dainty when turned out. Place the slices inside the pudding at a slight angle and press into the butter. Leave the excess sticking out of the top of the bowl for now. Make sure there are no spaces or holes for fruit to leak through. You can see on the above photo that a little apple juice has squeezed out and been caramelised by the heat of the oven. Delicious, but a flaw if you’re after an unblemished exterior to your charlotte.
- Fill the lined mould with the fruit puree.
- Butter slices of crustless bread for the top of the mould. Fold the ends of the bread at the sides inward and place the final pieces of bread butter-side upward over the top.
- Spread a little butter onto a sheet of parchment and place this butter-side down over your filled bowl.
- Add a cake tin on top together with an oven-safe weight, such as a foil-wrapped metal weight or quarry tile.
- Bake for about an hour until the outside of the buttered bread is crisp and golden brown and the filling piping hot. For individual puddings, bake for 30-40minutes.
- Remove the weight/tin/parchment and bake for a further 10 minutes, to allow the lid to crisp up.
- Remove from the oven and turn out onto your serving dish.
Here’s another recipe that can, with an eye on the upcoming festive season, be part of a home-made Christmas, either for nibbling at home or prettily wrapped in cellophane as a gift.
It can also be customised in a number of ways, as I shall detail below, be it in the ingredients you choose or the finishing touches you employ.
Cinder toffee is a traditional UK sweetie recipe which has been around for centuries, and early recipes can be found in household manuscript books from the reign of Charles II. Recently, it has seen a return to popularity under the name Honeycomb Toffee. Whilst a more appetising name, perhaps, unless you actually make it with honey, it is, to my mind, a bit misleading, whereas you have only to glance at the Wikipedia page for cinder to see that the appropriateness is evident in both looks and definition.
The toffee is made by bringing a mixture of sugars to the Hard Crack stage and then quickly stirring in a small amount of bicarbonate of soda to produce effervescence. The mixture is then poured into a suitably prepared tin and as it cools, the air bubbles are trapped in the sugar, thus giving it its distinctive structure.
Having read numerous recipes online, it is fairly safe to say that the most popular combination of sugars is caster sugar and golden syrup. This gives a bright, golden toffee reminiscent of the insides of a modern Crunchie bar. Whilst delicious, the flavour is, however, very one-note, and extremely sweet, and I got to pondering how it might be improved.
I found a recipe in F.Marian McNeil’s The Scots Kitchen (1929) for Black Man, a version of cinder toffee made with treacle, and kin to the Yellow Man of Northern Ireland. Made solely with treacle and bicarbonate of soda, it would definitely have the dark, bubbled appearance of genuine cinders, however in experimentation, the treacle proved exceedingly bitter as well as being much too easy to burn.
I liked the idea of using more complex flavourings to make the toffee and so I have come up with a base recipe for cinder toffee, with suggestions of how to adjust it for variety and interest. By varying the sugars and syrups, the range of flavours can be quite extensive and with more time at my disposal, I believe similar subtleties could also be achieved using honey as the liquid sugar. Feel free to experiment yourself!
Base Recipe Components
Choose your main flavouring from either the solid sugars or the liquid sugars. For example, malt extract and caster sugar, Demerera sugar and golden syrup. Both together, e.g. treacle and dark muscovado, is too dark and will burn to bitterness.
- Solid sugar: This can range from fine, white, caster sugar, granulated sugar, soft light brown, soft dark brown, Demerera, light muscovado, dark muscovado all the way through to molasses sugar. The varying degrees of colour have a bearing on the eventual flavour which becomes richer and more caramelised the darker you go.
- Liquid sugar: Any sweet syrup liquid at room temperature can be used including golden syrup, molasses, maple syrup, treacle, agave nectar, malt extract, honey.
- Butter – for richness
- water – to help dissolve the sugar
- cream of tartar/liquid glucose – to help prevent crystallisation
- bicarbonate of soda – for the bubbles! This recipe only uses a teaspoon, which, if properly stirred through, is more than enough to produce sufficient bubbles. Using more will produce more vigorous frothing, however, it will also become more noticeable in the flavour of the toffee, as well as being trickier to stir through without clumping.
- Plain: Cinder toffee is delicious in it’s basic state, but will absorb moisture from the air if left exposed. Once cooled, it should be stored in an airtight box or ziplock bag to keep from becoming sticky.
- Dipped in chocolate: To keep the toffee crisp without the need for airtight storage, you can dip pieces in melted chocolate and set aside to cool. Although this will serve admirably, it will have a tendency to melt in the hand. The solution is to temper the chocolate, instructions for which abound on the internet. Whilst milk chocolate is the most popular pairing, you can experiment with a whole range of flavours from white through to the extremely dark. The sweetness of the cinder toffee made with caster sugar and golden syrup can be offset to a certain extent by dipping in dark (at least 60% cocoa) chocolate, not to mention the very pleasing contrast of the golden toffee against the dark chocolate. Similarly, the bitterness of treacle cinder toffee can be lightened by the use of white chocolate flavoured with lemon zest.
- Made into cinder coal: This is the most fun. By tossing the chocolate-coated cinder toffee pieces into some black caster sugar, they immediately become, to all intents and purposes, little pieces of sweet coal, and thus the embodiment of their name.
How to make black sugar
The intense colour provided by modern gel food colouring is ideal for creating vibrant coloured sugar. Although we’ll only be using black the principal is the same for making any shade of coloured sugar.
1tsp black food gel colouring
200g caster sugar.
- Pour the sugar into a small zip-lock bag and add the food colouring gel.
- Seal the bag and gently massage the sugar against the gel. It will gradually take on an intense colour whilst still remaining separate grains.
- Continue massaging the sugar until it is evenly coloured throughout. If the shade is too light, add a little more gel and repeat the massaging motion.
- The coloured sugar will keep in the ziplock bag for weeks.
110g caster sugar
30g unsalted butter
2tbs cold water
1 pinch cream of tartar or 1/2tsp glucose
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Line a roasting tin with parchment paper.
- Put all of the ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda into a non-stick saucepan and warm gently until the sugar has dissolved.
- Increase the heat until the sugars boil. Continue heating without stirring until the syrup registers 150°C on a thermometer.
- Tip in the bicarbonate of soda and mix briskly for 5 seconds, ensuring the powder is well incorporated.
- Pour the frothing mixture onto the baking parchment in the tin and leave to cool. You can speed this up (and thereby trap more bubbles in the toffee) by putting it into the freezer for 15 minutes.
- When completely cold, tap gently to break into bite-sized pieces.
To cover with chocolate
- Melt or temper 200g of your chocolate of choice.
- Drop pieces of cinder toffee into the melted chocolate and use a fork to lift them out.
- Tap the fork briskly on the side of the chocolate bowl in order to shake off excess chocolate.
- Lay the coated pieces on parchment paper to set.
- Store in an airtight container.
To make cinder toffee coal
- Whilst still wet, drop the chocolate coated pieces into the black sugar and toss to coat.
- Lift out the coated pieces and lay onto a wire rack until set.
- When completely cold, toss the pieces of coal gently in a wire sieve to remove excess sugar.
- Store in a ziplock bag or wrap in cellophane bags for presents.
Something simple and delicious for you this week which is also, my favourite detail, hugely adaptable. Confession: calling this a brownie is probably a bit of a liberty, especially if you’re a purist/expert like my sister. Nevertheless it is moist, richly in flavour, with the oats giving both texture and satisfaction. It can also be wheat free – gluten free if you like – containing just a tablespoon of regular flour. I’ve made it with white flour, gluten-free flour, barley flour, potato flour, more cornflour…honestly, the quantity is so small, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just there to soak up any excess moisture. Because it is so dry , adding an extra tablespoon of cocoa is probably the most delicious alternative.
The other unusual aspect is the dairy element. I’ve made it with cream cheese, fat-free quark, and curd cheese, just to see what effect each had on the texture. I was surprised to find that the curd cheese made it rather firm – too firm to be a brownie, but not hard enough to be a flapjack, but the texture of the brownie made with quark was almost as tender as the one made with cream cheese. If you’re not a fan of overly squidgy brownies, you can also firm up the end product by using a pan of larger dimensions, thereby spreading the mixture thinner. Totally your call.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t an all-singing, all-dancing, bells-and-whistles showstopper recipe. However, alongside another perennial favourite recipe – Jamjacks – it’s simple, quick, delicious, and can be made with ordinary ingredients you probably have in your cupboard/fridge.
And that’s a winning combination.
NB I don’t have an overly sweet tooth, so the quantity of sugar is on the low side. Add an extra 50g if you like. I’ve merely listed ‘flour’ below, so you can add whatever you have to hand/prefer. Same with the milk and butter.
150g steel-rolled oats
1tsp baking powder
200g soft cheese – cream cheese/quark/curd cheese
100g butter – melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
150g caster sugar
- Warm the milk until almost boiling, then add the oats and set aside to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a baking tin of dimensions 20cm x 20cm x 5cm (roughly, within 2-3cm is fine).
- Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.
- Mix in the cheese, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
- Lastly stir in the oats and milk.
- Pour into your prepared tin and smooth over.
- Bake for 1 hour. After 30 minutes, turn the tin around and cover lightly with either baking parchment or foil, to prevent the edges from getting scorched.
- Cool in the tin.
 Who still gave it a solid 7 on her scale of Brownie Excellence!
 Using gluten-free oats, obvs.
 Which is why, if you want to Chocolatize™ anything by adding cocoa, you then need to remove an equivalent quantity of flour, otherwise you’ll alter both the texture and taste of your bake.
 I made my own curd cheese (only because no shops nearby sell it), with vegetable rennet and rich Jersey milk, drained it exceedingly well, then pressed it under a weight, so it was very dry. Deli curd cheese might be less dry.
 If you like them squidgy, you could bake for a shorter time – I suggest 45-50mins.
As a complete contrast to the glitz and glamour of the New Lemon Meringue Pies, the enjoyment in this recipe is the simplicity.
As we rush headlong through autumn, the apple harvest is in full force and I thought it appropriate to celebrate the abundance with a twist on the classic apple pie.
In the UK we’re blessed with the Bramley Apple, a gloriously sharp cooking apple that cooks to a cloud of apple froth. Unfortunately, this quality means that pies baked with Bramleys invariably end up somewhat hollow: the glorious mound of sliced apple that entered the oven emerging having deflated into a small pile of apple froth. Still delicious! But also a bit of a disappointment.
This recipe sidesteps using the classic Bramley in favour of apples of the dessert, or eating, variety, which are sweeter and hold their shape better. There are so many different British eating apples, you can ring the changes with this recipe merely by changing the type of apple you choose. Russet apples have a golden skin dotted with rough patches, and a rich, almost nutty flavour that goes exceptionally well with cheese (and nuts, obvs.). My daughter’s favourite is Worcester Pearmain, glorious red skin that blushes into dazzling white, juicy flesh, and a flavour reminiscent of lemons and strawberries. Whichever variety you choose, remember to sugar accordingly. The quantity given below is more of a general guideline – use less if you prefer a sharper taste, or if the apples you have are rather sweet.
The other twist in this recipe is the pastry, which I’ve crisped up with the addition of oats (my love of crunchy oats is well documented in the blog). I’ve also added a swirl effect by treating the pastry like cinnamon bun dough: brushing with butter, sprinkling with sugar and spices and then rolling up. Once chilled, the pastry roll is cut in half (one for the top, one for the bottom) and sliced into disks. The top and bottom pastry sheets are created with a patchwork of these swirls, placed close together and then rolled with a rolling pin until they form a continuous sheet of pastry. The pastry is fabulously crunchy and the swirl of sugar and spiced compliments the filling perfectly.
Simple. Autumnal. Perfick.
Apple Slice with Oat Swirl Pastry
300g plain flour
100g rolled oats
2tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large yolk
50ml-ish milk, creme fraiche, double or sour cream to mix
For the swirl
30g unsalted butter
100g sugar (any kind, I like demerera)
2tsp spice (a mixture of whatever takes your fancy: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc.)
2-3tbs apricot or plum jam, or marmalade
You can double the filling quantities for a positively towering appley slice. The quantities below give were used to make the bake in the picture above.
1kg dessert apples (6 or 7)
2 rounded tablespoons cornflour
lemon juice (optional)
- Put all the ingredients for the pastry except the milk/cream into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to crumbs. Gradually add the liquid and mix until the whole comes together.
- Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead smooth.
- Roll out thinly (3-5mm), keeping it in a neat rectangle (30cmx40cm-ish).
- Melt the butter and paint over the surface, using a pastry brush.
- Mix the spice with the sugar and sprinkle over the whole surface of the pastry.
- Starting from one of the long sides. roll yp the pastry into a long sausage shape.
- Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes. You might want to cut the roll in half now, for ease of storage.
- Remove half of the pastry and slice the roll into ‘coins’ 1cm thick.
- Line your traybake tin (Mine is a 25cmx35cm springform tin) with baking parchment, folding the sides to the exact size of the tin. Repeat with a second piece of parchment.
- Using the folds as a guide, arrange the swirls of pastry over the bottom of one of the pieces of parchment
- Cover with clingfilm and roll with a rolling pin, until the pastry spreads and joins together. Feel free to trim the sides and patch any holes with the trimmings.
- Lay the parchment and the pastry into the bottom of your traybake tin. Brush with the jam/marmalade.
- Repeat with the second half of the pastry, again, using the folded parchment as a guide. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Peel, core and grate the apples. A mandolin is perfect for achieving apple ‘matchsticks’. Toss in lemon juice if using.
- Mix the cornflour with the sugar, and stir into the apples.
- Once mixed, pour the apples into the traybake tin and press down firmly.
- Slide the top pastry onto the apple filling and press firmly. Trim off any excess.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, turning the tin around after 25 minutes to ensure even baking.
- Allow to cool completely in the tin. The apple filling WILL settle as it cools, so keeping it in the tin will allow it to hold its shape.
- When completely cold, cut into portions with a sharp knife.
- Serve warm with a little cream, or enjoy cold in your packed lunches next week.
I spent a lot of our holiday in France prowling around patisseries and artisan boulangeries with eyes like saucers, admiring the delicate and stylish combinations of cream and fruit and chocolate and truffle and glaze and, and, and…. More of which will, no doubt, surface later on the blog as I shamelessly appropriate their ideas and flavour combinations for my own.
However, in order to get there, it is rather a mammoth road trip, so I generally make sure I’ve got a handful of recipe books with me in the car to while away the hours – eyes on the road at all times is SO overrated….
Yes, I’m kidding. I’m actually in charge of sitting up front and paying the tolls at the end of various motorway stretches, because all the machines are on the left-hand side.
With no other reading matter to hand, I find it’s a good way to make sure I actually READ some of the hundreds of books on my shelves and I invariably discover something I’ve overlooked before. Sure enough, this year, yet again, I have re-discovered a recipe in a dusty housewives’ pamphlet from umpty-plonk years ago that reveals itself to be a real gem and, despite my hopeless and complete admiration for the exotic and awe-inspiring patisserie creations of France, I am enchanted all over again by British simplicity.
The recipe for these cakes was so brief I almost passed it by, yet curiosity caused me to pause and read it over, wondering what ‘trick’ there was; surely the small paragraph didn’t contain making, baking AND decorating instructions?
Sure enough, it didn’t, because the recipe was for cakes MADE with cream. Specifically, substituting cream into the mix instead of butter.
So simple – flour, sugar, eggs, cream, baking powder. I just had to try them.
And they were delicious, and a complete breeze to make; no fretting over whether the butter is soft enough, or whether the sugar is dissolved sufficiently. They rose magnificently domed in the oven and are as light and tender of crumb as….. well, a very light and tender thing. Hey, I haven’t had any coffee yet today, gimme a break!
If I had just one niggle, it was that they were sweet. Tooth-achingly so. I couldn’t resist tweaking them a little. Even the sugar-pop posing as my daughter prefers this version. Of course she ate the sweet batch too, but she prefers these.
There’s no added flavouring – you could add some if you like, but I urge you to try the recipe just once, with farm-fresh eggs and rich double – or even clotted – cream.
The simplicity, lightness and flavour will be a delight.
The cakes in the photo are made in mini layer tins I bought in my local The Range, 4 x 10cm diameter pans for £2.50 (also fab for Yorkshire Puddings) and I put 100g of batter into each one, and made six. If you’re using large cupcake/muffin tins, I suggest just 50g of batter per ‘hole’, and thus twelve cakes. Cooking time is the same for both sizes.
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml cream – double or clotted
150g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat with a balloon whisk (or by hand or stand mixer) until the eggs are frothy and the sugar dissolved – about 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and whisk in.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the rest of the ingredients – the balloon whisk/attachment is best for this, less washing up too!
- Grease and line your tins, or use cupcake cases.
- Spoon your mixture into your tins. Spread the batter to the sides, leaving a hollow in the middle. They will still dome up during cooking, but this way it should be a little more controlled.
- Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- I think these are delicious served warm, lightly dusted with icing sugar and with a drizzle of cold cream poured over and a few fresh berries on the side. You can also split them and fill with whipped cream and berries or jam, or indeed any way that takes your fancy!
Back when I started this blog, one of the first posts I made was for Pulled Pork. Not saying I’m a trendsetter, but it would seem that the rest of the UK has now caught up and Pulled Pork is everywhere: in sandwiches, on burgers, in supermarket ready meals… This last would no doubt have the American devotees of barbecue staggering around clutching their chests at the heresy and I’m not really going to improve things by this post, because once again, I’m employing a slow-cooker rather than the traditional aromatically wood-fired barbecue.
I hadn’t actually planned this as a post at all, but in the true spirit of That’ll Do Cookery™ what I ended up throwing together was so simple and so delicious, I thought you might all enjoy. I recently bagged a couple of beef brisket joints at a bargain price, not remembering that the freezer was full, so when I got home, I had to do something with them immediately, and this is the result.
There’s a little bit of work once the meat is cooked if, like me, you prefer your pulled beef very lean, but it is so fall-apart tender, this is merely the work of moments. The 8 hour cooking time makes this a delicious meal to come home to, if you switch it on in the morning. Alternatively, cook it overnight and shred the meat in the morning, and portion it into freezer bags for fast meal solutions at short notice.
Barbecue Pulled Beef
Beef Brisket that will fit in your slow cooker – I used 2 x 1.5kg joints
300ml Barbecue Sauce
1 beef stock cube – I like the jelly-style ones
500ml tomato passata or chopped tomatoes, pureed
- Using a pastry brush, generously ‘paint’ your brisket all over with the barbecue sauce. Put the meat into the slow cooker.
- Add any remaining barbecue sauce, the stock cube and the pureed tomatoes.
- Add sufficient water to just cover the meat.
- Cook on ‘Low’ for 8 hours.
- Lift the joint(s) from the sauce and allow to cool a little. Shred the meat, either by hand or with two forks, removing all fat and connective tissue.
- [Optional] Chill the sauce and skim off the solidified fat.
- When ready to serve, warm the sauce and taste. Adjust the flavour to your own personal taste, if necessary, with pepper, salt, more barbecue sauce, Worcester sauce, hot sauce, etc.
- Return the meat to the sauce and heat thoroughly before serving.