October 31, 2009

Flaky Pastry

This might sound complicated to make but once you get used to where to put the butter and the folding, it’s really very easy. I used this to top my Chicken Thigh Pie.

Ingredients for the Flaky Pastry:
  • 100g plain flour
  • 38g cold butter
  • 38g cold lard
  • 4-5 Tablespoons water

Directions for the Flaky Pastry:
  1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl, then add half the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add 4 Tablespoons of water to the mixture and blend lightly together with a palette knife. If the mixture isn’t coming together easily and there are dry bits in the bottom of the bowl then add more water a ½ Tablespoon at a time (there are many factors that affect pastry-making, so only use measurements as a guide).
  3. Once you can bring the mixture together with your hands into a soft but not sticky dough, then you can roll it out into a long rectangle, about 30cm long, onto a lightly floured board until it is about 5mm thick.
  4. Mark the rectangle of the dough into thirds, without cutting all the way through.
  5. Dot the top two thirds with half of the lard, then fold the bottom third up to cover the middle third.
  6. Fold the top third down to enclose all the fat. You should now have a small rectangle.
  7. Using your rolling pin, seal the edges by pressing down firmly. Give the pastry a quarter turn clockwise.
  8. Roll again to form a long rectangle and repeat steps 4 to 6 but this time use the remaining butter.
  9. Fold and roll again, but this time use the remaining lard.
  10. Fold and roll for the last time without any fat being added.
  11. Cover the pastry with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before using.

* I thought a diagram would be useful so here are my best efforts using Photoshop and Steve’s help! (click to enlarge):

Carrot and Lentil Soup

Carrot lentil soup




I really fancied a nice warming soup and bread rolls for lunch today, so I gathered a few soup recipes together and took the best bits of each one and came up with this one. The bread rolls were made from a packet mix that Steve’s Mum bought ages ago and has been hanging around the back of the cupboard for ages! It was actually a couple of months out of date, but it still worked fine. The packet mix was Parmesan and Sun Dried Tomato by Wrights and it smelt so delicious baking in the oven that even Steve’s Mum tried some (but then she promptly spat it out because it contains garlic and she’s a very fussy eater!).


I had good feedback on the soup though, however it was a little bit spicy even though I was so careful not to add too much chilli (these were homemade chilli flakes from my chilli plants a couple of years ago and they were HOT!).



  • 100g split red lentils
  • 2 pints chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 2 rashers bacon, chopped (omit to make this veggie friendly)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • small pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste



  1. Rinse the lentils and put into a saucepan with the stock. Simmer for 10 minutes until just tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in another saucepan and add the bacon and fry for a few minutes. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until soft.
  3. Add the garlic, cumin and chilli and fry for another minute until fragrant, then add the carrots and the lentils.
  4. Half cover with a lid and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then blend with a stick blender or liquidiser until smooth.



  • You can make croutons from any stale leftover bread/rolls. Just cut them into cubes and fry in a couple of Tablespoons of oil until they are golden brown and crispy. I made some from a leftover Parmesan and Sun Dried Tomato roll and they were the tastiest croutons ever!

October 29, 2009

Jam Roly Poly

Jam Roly Poly BGF




After my moderate success with Simon Rimmer’s Jam Roly Poly, I was determined to try a different recipe in the hope that it could be much better. As if by fate, a recipe for this pudding appeared in the November 2009 issue of my BBC Good Food Magazine, so I had to try it.


It is a completely different recipe. First of all, the cooking method is in the oven with a tray of hot water at the bottom to help create a moist environment, whereas Simon’s recipe called for a steamer. Secondly, this recipe has no sugar or eggs and uses milk instead of water.



I had every faith in the Good Food recipe so I followed it almost exactly the first time I used it. It was a good recipe as I found the texture was much nicer than the steamed version as it was slightly crispy on the outside, but still soft inside. But then I added my own tweaks as I found it wasn’t sweet enough, so I added sugar to the dough. It also wasn’t as golden brown as the Good Food one, so I unwrapped it to expose the top for the last 15 minutes to allow it to get more crunchy.


I used greaseproof paper the first couple of times I made this recipe and it sticks like mad, so I used non-stick baking/parchment paper instead which has a coating on it and therefore the roly poly doesn’t stick.


So below is my adapted recipe:

  • Serves: 6
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C



  • 50g salted butter, cold and cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g self-raising flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 50g vanilla sugar
  • 25g normal white sugar
  • 50g shredded suet (I used vegetable suet)
  • 150ml milk, plus a drop more if needed
  • 150g of strawberry jam
  • custard, to serve



  1. Put a deep roasting tin onto the bottom shelf of the oven, and make sure that there's another shelf directly above it. Pull the roasting tin out on its shelf, fill two-thirds with boiling water from the kettle, then carefully slide it back in.
  2. Heat oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  3. Tear off a large sheet of foil and non-stick baking paper (about 30 x 40cm). Sit the baking paper on top of the foil and butter it.
  4. Tip the butter and flour into a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the vanilla sugar and white sugar and the suet. Then pour in the milk and work together with a metal spoon until you get a sticky dough. You may need a drop more milk, depending on your flour.
  5. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, quickly pat together to smooth, then roll out to a square roughly 25 x 25cm. Spread the jam all over, leaving a gap along one edge, then roll up from the opposite edge. Pinch the jam-free edge into the dough where it meets, and pinch the ends roughly, too. Carefully lift onto the greased paper, join-side down (you might find a flat baking sheet helpful for this), loosely bring up the paper and foil around it, then scrunch together along the edges and ends to seal. The roly-poly will puff quite a bit during cooking so don't wrap it tightly. Lift the parcel directly onto the rack above the tin and cook for 1 hour, then unwrap to expose the top for the last 15 minutes.
  6. Let the pudding sit for 5 mins before unwrapping, then carefully open the foil and paper, and thickly slice to serve.

October 28, 2009

Spider web Cupcakes

Spiderweb cupcakes


With Halloween this Saturday I thought I’d play around with some icing and decorate my remaining cupcakes with some spider webs. I had normal white icing and chocolate icing, but you can use food colouring to make your icing whatever colours you want. I did a white base with a brown web and a brown base with a white web and I think I prefer the latter is it’s a bit more striking.

To make the glace icing, just put a few tablespoons of icing into a bowl and add a few drops of water and mix until you have a fairly thick icing, but runny enough so that it will fall off your spoon in a stream.

I made the piping bags to pipe the spirals out of greaseproof paper. There is a good video on the BBC Good Food website on how to do this, but you won’t need a nozzle for these spirals, just snip off a tiny bit at the end to make a hole. The triangle doesn’t have to be massive either, the longest edge only needs to be about 2 hand-spans long.

Here’s my mini piping bag:

mini piping bag

Directions (click on the photo to enlarge):
  1. Spread your main colour icing over your cupcake - using a palette knife dipped in water is the best tool.
  2. Pipe a spiral of different coloured icing on top, starting from the centre. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect!
  3. Drag a toothpick from the centre through the spiral outwards, about 8 different times. You must do this when the icing is still wet, otherwise when you drag the toothpick you will get indentations in the icing and not the feathered effect.
Spiderweb cupcakes stages

October 27, 2009

Faringdon 10 Piece Piping Bag Set

Farington Piping bag set


I decided to buy a Piping Bag Set, not only for icing cakes, but also to pipe out choux pastry for when I finally get around to making profiteroles and éclairs.


I chose the Faringdon 10 Piece Piping Set because it was reasonably cheap at only £5.87 from Amazon (it has now gone up to £5.99 plus P&P and only available from 3rd party sellers). I didn’t intend to do much fancy piping work to begin with, so I thought this would be a good basic set to get me going.


In the set you get 8 different plastic nozzles, 1 bag and 1 coupler. There is a fairly good variety of different sized and shaped nozzles, so it is easy to find one fit for your purpose:

  • 6 8-pointed star nozzles (ranging from 10-20mm)
  • 1 writing nozzle (4mm)
  • 1 plain nozzle (13mm)


Unfortunately the packaging does not give any information about the nozzles, so if you’re looking for a specific sized star-shaped nozzle then you will have to get the measuring tape out! It would have been useful if the nozzles were numbered to a referenced list on the packaging.


It is easy to put together and I found the coupler fitted very well to the nozzle so there were no leaks. The nozzles are pretty well made and the edges of the openings are cleanly cut, so the icing can flow smoothly.


The bag is smooth on the inside so your icing slides easily through, but it has a nice texture to the outside so you can get a good grip.


The nozzles were easy to clean, especially the larger ones. The bag is slightly more difficult to clean properly, especially if you are using a heavily butter based icing, as it is difficult to remove the grease. I think I will buy some disposable icing bags for those situations. I did find that cleaning the bag after using it for cream cheese frosting was much easier.


Overall I think this is a good purchase for the price I paid for it. You can also buy the nozzles without the bag, which is good if you’re adverse to the hassle of washing up! I would recommend this set for beginners or for those who don’t want to do anything too fancy like leaves or petals as the set is very basic. I have to say that the nozzles are pretty big and chunky and if I was going to do more detailed icing then I would choose a different set of nozzles.


I used the piping bag to pipe out biscuit dough for my Melting Moments Biscuits and the nozzle and coupler fell out of the bag! The bag couldn’t cope with the dough, which I don’t think was that stiff, and it stretched so much that it couldn’t hold onto the nozzle and coupler. So now it doesn’t fit so I’ve had to throw the bag away. I can still use the nozzles with disposable bags I think!

So I wouldn’t recommend buying this set now!

Cupcakes with Fruity Cream Cheese Frosting

Cupcakes with fruity cream cheese frosting


I had quite a bit of frosting leftover from when I made my Mixed Berry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting so I thought I’d make some simple cupcakes to use it up. I got the recipe from a relatively new book I bought: Cupcakes by Sue McMahon. It is just a basic cupcake recipe, nothing fancy, but sometimes you should just stick to simple things. I have changed the method in her recipe because this is how I’ve always made fairy cakes and I know it works!
I only managed to ice 7 out of 12 cupcakes, but I did use a large star shaped nozzle and I only had about half of the original frosting recipe leftover.

  • Makes: 12 cupcakes
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C
  • You will need: 12 hole bun tray lined with paper cases

  • 125g butter, softened (I used Stork)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs (Sue’s book says to use medium but I used large)
  • 125g self raising flour, sifted
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (this is my addition to the recipe!)

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, with a Tablespoon of flour with each egg (to prevent curdling) and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Using a spatula or large metal spoon, fold in the rest of the flour, the milk and vanilla extract and gently mix  until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture between the paper cases and level off.
  5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cakes have risen and are just firm to the touch.
  6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing them. 

  • Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  • Once your flour is incorporated, don’t keep mixing for too long or you will stretch the gluten and your cakes will be tough.
  • I used a Gas oven and I turned my tray around after half the cooking time had elapsed so that they were evenly browned.
  • Mini cupcakes will take between 10-12 minutes.

October 25, 2009

Mixed Berry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Mixed berry cake with cream cheese frosting


I had some leftover sour cream from making Beef Stroganoff, so I found a cake recipe in my BBC Good Food 101 Cake Bakes book that had sour cream as one of the ingredients. The original recipe was Blueberry Soured Cream Cake, but I didn’t have any blueberries, so I used a pack of frozen Black Forest Fruits from Tesco. The pack contains 4 different fruits, but I only used the blackberries and blackcurrants and not the cherries and red grapes because I didn’t think they would work very well in the cake.

For the frosting I used a recipe by Leila Lindholm from her basic cupcake recipe. The frosting was yellow because of the butter and I didn’t like the way it looked. I didn’t want to add food colouring to change the colour. Then I remembered I’d left the unused cherries and grapes in the fridge and they’d defrosted and left a lovely pool of juice. So I added about a Tablespoon of the juice to the frosting and it turned it a lovely pink colour and added a great fruity flavour to it as well. The recipe for the frosting makes quite a lot, I only used about half of it and have kept the rest in the fridge. I guess I will just have to make some cupcakes to use it up!

I’m really pleased how the cake turned out as I’d never made it before and the frosting was a bit of a gamble (the last time I made a cream cheese frosting was for Rachel Allen’s Carrot Cake and it wasn’t all that well received!).

Unfortunately the fruit did sink to the bottom of the cake, even though I’d tossed it in some flour before mixing it in. I think it’s because the fruit was frozen and also because the cake batter is quite a runny consistency, so it didn’t have the body to suspend the fruit. It still tasted delicious though, as the cake is really moist from the sour cream. The fruit is lovely as it is slightly tangy and is offset by the sweet frosting.

It was lovely to come back from a walk down the park with Steve and eat this cake with a nice cup of tea!

  • Serves: 10
  • You will need: a 9 inch (22cm) round cake tin
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C

  • 175g soft butter
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons soured cream
  • Blackberries and Blackcurrants taken from a frozen 350g pack of Tesco Black Forest Fruits

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 100g cream cheese (I used Tesco Value)
  • 300g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • approx. 1 Tablespoon of juice from leftover defrosted fruits

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C and butter and line the base of your round cake tin with non-stick baking paper or reusable Magic Non-Stick Liner.
  2. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla extract into a food processor and whizz for 2-3 minutes until lighter in colour and well combined. Fold in the soured cream and the blackberries and blackcurrants.
  3. Tip the mixture into the tin and spread it level. Bake for 50-55 minutes until it is risen, feels firm to the touch and springs back when lightly pressed.
  4. Cool for 10 minutes, then take out of the tin and leave to finish cooling on a wire rack.
  5. To make the frosting: in a large bowl beat the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla sugar and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Add the fruit juice and mix in well. Spread over the top of the cooled cake (don't be impatient as the frosting will melt if the cake is too warm).

  • Can be frozen un-iced.
  • The cake will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Bring it to room temperature for about an hour before serving.

October 24, 2009

Magic Non-Stick Liner from Lakeland

Since I bake a lot, I thought I’d invest in a roll of Magic Non-Stick Liner, as it’s reusable and I thought it would save money in the long run. I bought the larger pack (30cm x 100cm) which costs £8.87, which is actually really good value when you consider an 8 metre roll of disposable non-stick paper costs over a £1.

The Magic Non-Stick Liner will apparently withstand 5 years or more of constant use, so I think it’s money well spent. Plus it’s better for the environment as I won’t be throwing away lots of the disposable non-stick paper.

But does it actually work? Well I used it to bake some macaroons and they didn’t stick at all, even when they were only half cooked. It was also an absolute dream to clean with just a sponge, although you can put it in the dishwasher.

I’m really glad I bought it and I can highly recommend it to anyone who bakes a lot, as once you’ve cut out all the different shapes for your cake tins, it will save you lots of time and frustration (I don’t know about you, but having to cut out circles of greaseproof paper every time drives me mad!). So I just need to spend an afternoon with some scissors cutting out shapes and I’ll be set for the next 5 years!

October 23, 2009

Chicken Tikka Shashlik

Chicken Shashlik


I first came across Shashlik when Steve had a Chicken Tikka Shashlik Masala Curry in a curry house a few years ago. It’s not a dish that I’ve seen on any other Indian restaurant menu. This is basically the same thing without the masala sauce.

Shashlik is essentially meat on a stick. Apparently it originally comes from central Asia, but there are versions from Russia, Turkey and Pakistan.
Pieces of lamb or chicken are marinated in spices and either oil and lemon juice or in this case yoghurt. The meat is then threaded onto skewers with pieces of onion, green pepper and tomato and traditionally cooked in a tandoor or over a charcoal grill. I had to settle for under the grill.

The chicken was really nicely cooked and the marinade gave it loads of flavour and kept it moist. The vegetables became quite nice and charred, but Steve said it wasn’t quite the same as in the restaurant. I think the grill struggled to get hot enough.

Overall, Shashlik is a healthier way to have curry as it’s not laden with lots of cream or ghee, plus it’s grilled. I served it with rice, but I think it would actually be much better stuffed into a soft naan bread and slathered with loads of mayonnaise. Hey, I never said I was on a diet!

  • Serves: 2
  • You will need: 8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water

  • 4 chicken thighs, deboned and cut into large chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons curry paste (I used Korma)
  • 2 Tablespoons natural yoghurt
  • ½ onion, cut into wedges and layers separated
  • ½ green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

  1. In a large bowl mix the chicken, curry paste and yoghurt. Cover tightly (unless you want to stink out your whole fridge) and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours to marinate.
  2. Preheat your grill to high.
  3. Thread pieces of chicken, onion, pepper and tomato onto your skewers, leaving a gap at the end so you can turn them.
  4. Cover a baking tray with foil (this will save on washing up) and place your kebabs on the tray and season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. Cook under the grill for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are nicely charred.

  • If using lamb or chicken breast instead of thighs, then they should only take about 10-12 minutes to cook.

Mini Bakewell Tarts

Mini bakewell tarts


I had about half the frangipane filling from my French Apple Tarts leftover, so I thought I’d experiment a little bit and try making these Bakewell Tarts. I have no idea what the traditional recipe is as there seems to be no consensus, but this is my version and I think it works well. The almond flavour is very mild, which suits me as I don’t really like almonds all that much, especially slivered almonds! But you could add those on top or you could add some almond essence to the filling mixture.

They were really easy to make and tasted delicious! Steve asked me to put some icing on his ones, so I just made up a simple glace icing and spread it over the top. I prefer them without icing as it’s a bit too sweet for me.
Unfortunately as this was an experiment I don’t have exact quantities to give you.

Rough Directions (!):
  1. Roll out your Pâte Brisée/Sweet Shortcrust pastry to about 3mm thick, cut out circles and line shallow bun tins. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Blind bake for 10-15 minutes at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C until light golden brown.
  3. Spread about 1 teaspoon of strawberry or raspberry jam over the bottom of each tart.
  4. Spread about 2 teaspoons of the frangipane filling over the jam. I used mine straight from the fridge so it was quite solid, but it melts once it’s in the oven so don’t worry about spreading it too evenly.
  5. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the filling has set – it should feel spongy when you press it with your finger.
  6. Take them out of the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Pâte Brisée (Shortcrust Pastry)

This pastry is the French version of shortcrust pastry and it is suitable for both sweet and savoury dishes, such as French Apple Tarts or Quiche. It is a lovely flaky, crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth pastry and the egg yolk gives a lovely rich taste. Once you have made this pastry you will never buy shop-bought again!
It is incredibly easy to make and it is actually quite a forgiving pastry, so it is easy to patch up any tears when lining your tins.

You can make this in the food processor, but I prefer to make it by hand as you get a better feel for how much water you need to add. I have given directions for both methods though.

  • Makes: approx 345g of pastry
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C

  • 185g (6.5oz) plain flour
  • 15g (½ oz) sugar (omit for savoury dishes)
  • 90g (3.5oz) butter, cut roughly into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-3 Tablespoons of water

Directions By Hand:
  1. Sift the flour onto a board or into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  2. Put the sugar (if using), butter and egg yolk in the well and gently rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add about 1 Tablespoon of the water and bring the dough together gradually - don't try and force it together, just add a little more water. Knead very lightly until you have a smooth dough.
  4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board until it is about 3mm thick, then line your tins. Prick the bases with a fork to prevent any funny air pockets forming.
  5. CHILLING: it is important to chill your pastry before you bake it as it needs time to rest, because kneading the dough works the gluten in the flour and you want it to relax. I like to line my tins with the pastry first and then chill, but if you’re finding it difficult to roll your pastry then chill it for about 30 minutes in the fridge before rolling out. Your pastry will happily sit in the fridge overnight as long as it is well covered to prevent it from drying out. You can also freeze it.
  6. BLIND BAKING: You should first bake your pastry without any filling so that it is practically cooked. You want the pastry to be light golden brown and you should be able to remove the cases from the tin to check the bottoms are brown too (but don’t remove them as you need to cook the filling!).
    If you’re making a large tart: place some greaseproof paper over the pastry, then fill the tin with an even layer of baking beans (or uncooked rice or dried lentils, which you can re-use but not eat!). Bake at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for about 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes to dry out the base.
    If you’re making small tarts: then there isn’t any need to use baking beans, provided your pastry is well chilled first. Bake at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for about 15 minutes.
  7. You can now add your filling and continue baking as per the recipe.

Directions using Food Processor:
  1. Place flour, sugar (if using) and butter in the food processor bowl. Using the pulse action, pulse for 30 seconds or until mixture is like breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon of water; process a further 20 seconds until mixture forms a dough. Adding more water bit by bit if you need to.
  3. Follow on from Step 4 in the above directions.
  • The secret to good pastry is to handle it as little as possible, so don’t try to mix the ingredients or knead the dough too much. Having cold hands is also a bonus as you don’t want all the fat in the dough to melt whilst you’re handling it.

October 18, 2009

French Apple Tarts

TM Apple Tarts


These tarts look really pretty and elegant and are tasty to boot! The filling is frangipane, but it doesn’t taste too strongly of almonds which is what puts me off things like Bakewell Tart.

These taste great on their own, but would be even better with some custard or home-made ice cream.

  • Makes: 12 tarts
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C
  • You will need: a 12 cup shallow bun tray

Ingredients for the pastry:
  • 185g (6.5oz) plain flour
  • 15g (½oz) sugar
  • 90g (3.5oz) butter, cut roughly into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-3 Tablespoons of water

Ingredients for the filling:
  • 90g (3.5oz) butter, softened
  • 90g (3.5oz) sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 level Tablespoons flour
  • 90g (3.5oz) ground almonds
  • 2 small dessert/eating apples
  • hot apricot jam to glaze

Directions for the pastry:
  1. Sift the flour onto a board and make a well in the centre.
  2. Put the sugar, butter and egg yolk in the well and gently mix in with the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add about 1 Tablespoon of the water and bring the dough together gradually - don't try and force it together, just add a little more water. Knead very lightly until you have a smooth dough.
  4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board until it is about 3mm thick.
  5. Using a cutter that is a little bigger than the holes in your bun tray, cut out 12 discs of pastry. Line your bun tray, prick the bases with a fork and chill for about 30 minutes.
  6. Bake at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for about 15 minutes until light golden brown and the cases can be removed from the tin (but don’t remove them as you need to cook the filling!).

Directions for the filling:
  1. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, add the egg yolk and beat well.
  2. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating well after each addition. Mix in the flour and ground almonds.
  3. Put roughly a heaped teaspoon of the filling into each pastry case, but don’t overfill them.
  4. Peel the apples, cut them into quarters and remove the core. Cut them into very thin slices but keep them together. Press the apple slices down on the board to fan them out, but still keep them together. Carefully place a few slices of apple onto each tart and press down into the filling.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the apples are tender and the almond mixture has set.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  7. Brush the tops with hot apricot glaze.

  • Making individual tarts, you will have some pastry and filling leftover.
  • If you wanted to make one large tart: you would need to blind bake the pastry using baking beans for about 20 minutes. After adding the filling and apples, bake the tart at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
  • Choosing a cutter: my bun tins were 7cm in diameter, so I used a cutter that was 7.8cm in diameter, which was a perfect fit.
  • Preparing in advance: you can make the pastry and the filling the night before and store covered in the fridge. Follow the pastry directions up to Step 5 but cover with cling film to stop it drying out. It is actually better for the pastry to be cooked from chilled (prevents it from shrinking), so you can pop the whole tray straight in the oven when you’re ready to cook.

Vanilla Ice Cream – using a Philips Delizia Ice Cream Maker

Vanilla ice cream

This is going to be an ice cream recipe and an ice cream machine review blog post!

For Sunday Lunch dessert I made French Apple Tarts, but I wanted to serve them with some nice ice cream. Steve’s Mum got a Philips Delizia Ice Cream Maker last year, but I’m the only one that has used it since she got it! I think it’s a very good machine for the price, so I thought I’d better give it another outing in the kitchen.

It’s from Lakeland and I’ve just read on their website some people are having problems with their disc leaking. Steve’s sister has the same machine and she had problems with her disc too, in that it wouldn’t freeze properly. I think she got a replacement quite easily though.

Well we’ve not had any problems with our machine, touch wood. It’s a nice compact machine, that is really easy to put together and easy to clean. At Tante Marie I used a Magimix Gelato Ice Cream Maker and it was a nightmare to clean, plus it was about 4 times the price!

There are 3 main components to the Philips machine:
  1. The bowl
  2. The lid (contains the motor) plus mixing paddle
  3. The freezing disc
You keep the freezing disc wrapped in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you’ve made your ice cream mixture, then you unwrap the disc and place it into the bowl. Then you attach the mixing paddle onto the lid and then lock the lid into place on the bowl. Then you switch the machine on before pouring your ice cream mixture in through the hole in the lid. After about 30 minutes you have wonderfully churned ice cream that you can eat straight from the machine, or you can decant it into a container and chuck it in the freezer.

So using it is pretty straightforward and you don’t need to spend ages reading the well explained instructions. Cleaning the bowl, the freezing disc and the paddle is very easy in some hot soapy warm. Obviously you can’t do the same for the lid as it contains the motor, but this part doesn’t really get dirty if you’re careful when pouring in your ice cream mixture (use a jug). My only issue regarding cleaning, is the bowl is not made from one piece of plastic and there is a part at the bottom which traps water. I only really noticed it when I was packing it away and loads of water started dripping out. I have tried shaking it out but there is still some that remains, so I’ve stuck it next to the radiator to try and dry it out!

Overall, it is a good machine for the money as it is around £50, whereas a Magimix one will cost at least £200 and the results are just the same in my opinion. The quality of your ice cream will depend on the ingredients that you use. Steve’s sister makes her ice cream without eggs and it isn’t as good as when you make a proper custard based ice cream because there isn’t the necessary fat to stabilise it. The texture is therefore not as creamy and crystals form when it has been in the freezer.

So here is my recipe for ice cream:
  • Makes: 1 pint
  • You will need: a large bowl, a saucepan, a measuring jug

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 250ml milk (semi-skimmed is fine)
  • 250ml double cream
  • 100g white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and foamy.
  2. Pour the milk into the saucepan and place over a medium heat and scald the milk (this means to bring it nearly to a boil, until you can see bubbles around the edge of the pan and little wisps of steam) stirring to prevent a skin forming.
  3. Pour the milk onto the egg and sugar mixture, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves (if you’re a bit worried about scrambling the eggs, temper the mixture first).
  4. Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently until the custard thickens, stirring constantly. It is ready when it coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool (you can speed this up by placing in a bath of iced water).
  5. When the mixture is cold, stir in the cream and vanilla extract, then it is ready to put into your ice cream machine. If you’re not using the mixture straight away, cover it with cling film to prevent a skin from forming.

  • The custard mixture will taste quite sweet and strongly of vanilla, but remember that once it has been churned and is frozen it won’t taste as sweet/strong.

Cooking Glossary

Here are a few terms that might need explaining:

  • Refers to a method of cooking in which food is cooked in a warm water bath. The food is placed in a pan that is then placed in another pan containing warm, simmering water. This is a good method for melting chocolate, cooking custards, and similar dishes that may scorch or burn if placed over direct heat.
  • A paste made of equal parts butter and flour added to a sauce to thicken it.
  • To pre-bake a tart or pie dough until slightly dried prior to adding a wet filling to maintain crispiness of shell, usually done with a layer of baking beans.
  • A bundle of herbs including bay leaf, parsley stem, peppercorns and thyme used for seasoning.
  • To heat a liquid, generally referring to milk, to just below the boiling point. It should be heated just until tiny bubbles begin to form at the very edges.
  • To place fruits or vegetables into boiling water for a short period of time to aid in peeling the skin off.
  • Egg whites beaten until they are still fairly wet but can hold a peak.
  • Egg whites beaten past the soft peak point until they are drier in texture and the peak holds without falling.
  • A process where hot liquid is gradually added to eggs or other foods that needs to be incorporated into a hot sauce or soup without curdling. This slowly raises their temperature and then they can be added into the hot mixture.
  • A melting and cooling process used to stabilize the texture of chocolate.

October 15, 2009

Trout Kiev and Pilaf Rice

Trout Kiev and Pilaf Rice


I saw Simon Rimmer make a Salmon Kiev on Something for the Weekend last Saturday and I thought it looked quite good. We had a huge trout fillet in the freezer, so I thought that would be a good substitute. It did work quite well, however the trout was quite soft and flaky, so it was a bit difficult to cut pockets to stuff with the garlic butter. But it tasted really good, even though I didn’t follow Simon’s recipe at all and just did my own thing! Steve ate his with Salad Cream (which he puts on everything!) and I tried it and it was actually really nice. It gave the fried fish that acidity to cut through the grease, a bit like tartare sauce.

I served it with Pilaf Rice, using Alton Brown’s fool-proof method (I have tried Paul Merrett’s recipe for Emergency Biryani which uses a similar method and it was a disaster!) but I added some mushrooms, red pepper and roasted squash before adding the rice to the pan. The vegetables did release some moisture, so next time I would add a bit less stock, probably 25ml less.

I made the rice first, then whilst it was in the oven I prepared the trout. Then when the rice came out of the oven to rest, I cranked up the oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C and put the trout in for about 5 minutes.
  • Serves: 2

Rice Pilaf Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into 1cm pieces
  • handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • handful of roasted butternut squash chunks
  • 1 cup rice (I used long grain jasmine rice)
  • 1 1/2 cups (350-375ml) stock (use the lower amount if using watery vegetables like mushrooms)

Rice Pilaf Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. Heat the oil and sweat the onion and garlic until softened over a low heat, don't allow to brown.
  3. Add the mushrooms, peppers and squash and fry until softened.
  4. Add the rice and gently fry until it smells 'nutty', about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the stock, stir once and bring to a boil.
  6. Cover the saucepan with the damp tea-towel (it must be damp otherwise you might set it on fire!) and clamp on the lid. Fold up the corners of the tea-towel over the lid so that it's not hanging loose. You can also use greaseproof paper.
  7. Put the saucepan in the preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave for 10-15 minutes with the lid still on, as during this time the rice is still cooking and absorbing the liquid.

Trout Kiev Ingredients:
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, leaves picked (I used lemon thyme)
  • 2 large thick trout fillets
  • 2 Tbsps plain flour
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 4 big handfuls of panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Trout Kiev Directions:
  1. Put the butter, garlic, thyme leaves and some black pepper in a small bowl and mash together with a fork until well combined.
  2. Turn out the mixture onto a sheet of cling film and roll it into a cylinder. Chill in the freezer for five minutes.
  3. Using a sharp knife, make a deep slit into the side of each trout fillet to form a pocket (or lots of little pockets if one large pocket is not possible).
  4. When the butter mixture has chilled, slice it into 3mm discs and insert them into each of the pockets in the trout.
  5. Sprinkle the flour onto a plate and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Beat the egg in a shallow dish. Mix together the breadcrumbs on a separate plate. Dredge each stuffed fish fillet first in the flour, then dip it in the beaten egg, then roll it in the breadcrumbs mixture until completely coated.
  6. Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the coated trout fillets and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the breadcrumb coating is crisp and golden-brown.
  7. Transfer the trout to the oven now turned up to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until cooked through. (NB: The fish is cooked through when the flesh is opaque.)

October 14, 2009

Grow your own Tomatoes 2009

I got some free seeds from my BBC Good Food magazine and thought I might as well plant them, as I’d managed to make the free basil seeds I got to sprout!
These tomato seeds are called Gardener’s Delight and they’re cherry tomatoes, which I like to eat, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to enjoy them in some nice salads this summer!
Sowing the seeds:
Steve’s Mum had some peat pots lying around in the shed, so she suggested I use them to plant my seeds in. So I filled up the peat pots with multipurpose compost (should have used seed compost but didn’t have any) and then put about 3 tomato seeds into each peat pot. Then I put the peat pots into an empty mushroom tray (from when you buy mushrooms from the supermarket pre-packed) and they fit perfectly. I gave them some water, then covered loosely with cling film, then left them on a sunny (in England, yeah right!) windowsill.
It took a full 7 days before any of the seeds sprouted and out of the 30 seeds I planted, only 4 have sprouted, which is a bit disappointing. Hopefully more will come up if we get a bit of sunshine!

TomsWeek21I removed the cling film at the beginning of the week to give the seedlings room to grow. I’ve been watering only when the soil becomes dry to touch. Amazingly, a load more seeds sprouted and now I’ve nearly got a whole tray of seedlings! When they reach 12cm tall then I will need to re-pot them.

TomsWeek31I’m really pleased with how well the tomatoes are doing! The seeds I planted in 2 of the peat pots failed to start growing, so I dug out the soil and stuck it into some of the other peat pots. I packed it down a little bit and I think this helped the established seedlings.
In the 2 empty peat pots I decided to try and grow some chili seeds I got free from Wahaca (a Mexican restaurant in London – quite a disappointing eating experience!). We’ve successfully grown chilies from plants we’ve bought from the garden centre, so hopefully I’ll be able to get these seeds to sprout!
I’ve only been watering them every 2-3 days so that the soil is kept moist.
TomsWeek4I’m really impressed with how well the tomatoes are doing!

I got impatient with the chili seeds I planted, so I stuck another seed into each empty peat pot and I think I’ve finally got 1 to sprout! I’ve also tried the method I saw on TV where you moisten a piece of kitchen towel, place the seeds on it and then fold it in half. Then you put this into a plastic bag and seal it with some air trapped inside. I haven’t managed to get anything to germinate with this method yet!
The tomatoes are doing really well and will be ready to move outdoors permanently soon (when I finally get my raised bed!). I’ve been putting all the plants outdoors during the day and bringing them back inside at night to acclimatise them to the weather.
The 2 pots where I planted the chili seeds (middle front row of the photo) have got quite big seedlings now, but I’m not sure if they’re tomatoes or chilies! We’ll just have to wait and see I guess – but even then I don’t know what kind of chilies they are! I have germinated some chili seeds separately though….
The photo below was taken on 10 May:
I forgot to say that I use a spray bottle to water all the plants as it gives me more control and should hopefully prevent me from overwatering them.

The photo below was taken 18 May:
Toms 18 May side
I thought it was better to take a photo from the side as it shows the difference in size much better. It’s quite weird how some of them are so much bigger than the others and yet I haven’t done anything different. I always turn the plants so they face the sun equally.

The photo below was taken 22 May:
I planted the 3 biggest tomato seedlings in the raised bed and I’ll put the next biggest 3 in the grow bag. They were bursting to be moved to a bigger place, as the roots were coming through the peat pots.

The photos below were taken 27 May:
Bad tom leaves 2 mm Bad tom leaves 1 mm

All the tomato plants have got white marks on some of the leaves, the worst ones are very dry and papery. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, so I joined a gardening forum and the lovely people on there confirmed my suspicions that it was wind/sun burn, as the weather has been very changeable lately. So I just removed the damaged leaves as they suggested. Other than that, the tomatoes and other plants seem to be doing OK.
The photos below were taken 1 June:
Tomsinpots1June1The tomatoes I put into the grow bag got totally saturated when it rained really heavily and I read that grow bags aren’t the best way to grow tomatoes. So I moved them into large pots (11 inch diameter) and the soil is only just starting to dry out after 3 days of full sun! The leaves on these plants are a much darker green than the ones in the raised bed and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not! I had quite a bit of soil leftover from the grow bag, so I’ve managed to put another butternut squash plant in a pot and I’ve got an extra pot ready for chilies too.

The tomatoes in the raised bed seem to be doing very well and I expect the first truss (A truss is the stem that carries the flowers, which turn into tomatoes) to form soon, which is when I will start feeding them.

The photo below was taken 5 June:
The plants in the raised beds are making good progress. The first truss hasn’t appeared yet, but sideshoots have been growing, so I have been pinching them out so that all the energy goes into growing the main stem and the flowers/fruits. I won’t tie them to the supporting canes until the first truss has set.

The photos below were taken on 13 June:
As well as the sideshoots, I’ve also removed the lowest branches that were growing on the stem. They were getting really big and creating too much shade over the other plants. Another reason for removing them was I was told that by removing them it would allow all the energy the plant makes to go into making the fruit. I’ve also tied them to the supporting cane even though the first truss hasn’t set, because they were getting blown over in the wind and rain we had recently!

The photos below were taken 25 June:
Toms 25 June flowerThe tomatoes are all doing really well. The stems are thick and strong and the plants are about 25 inches tall now.  I have been removing all the lower branches to concentrate growth in the top part of the plant. I think I have my first set of flowers/truss growing now too.


Toms in pots 25 June
And here are my tomatoes growing in pots, which are now 12 inches tall.

The photo below was taken 29 June:
Tomato flower 29 June
Wahey! My first tomato flower has opened! I thought it would never happen! With all the hot weather they’ve promised us this week I should get a lot more opening soon. I must remember to feed them some tomato feed!

The photo below was taken 3 July:
I’m quite surprised the tomatoes that I’m growing in pots have started to flower already. They’re only 17 inches tall, so they’re half as tall as the plants in the raised bed, which are now 38 inches tall. It’s perhaps they’re getting a lot more nutrients from the grow bag soil that they were planted in and they don’t have to compete with lots of other plants like the ones in the raised bed.
The ones in pots used to have much darker green leaves (see photo 1 June), which I’ve read means they have a lot of nitrogen. Too much nitrogen results in lots of lush green leaves and little fruit, so I’m glad the leaves have turned a lighter shade of green now.

The photo below was taken 11 July:
Tom fruit 12 July
The tomatoes are starting to bear fruit now which is good. I haven’t been at home to give them any tomato food, but it doesn’t seem to be hindering their growth!

Raised bed 12 July
In fact, the tomatoes in the raised bed are growing like crazy and have now reached the kitchen windows! I cut all the lower branches to let all the energy go into growing the fruit and also to allow the sun to reach the plants underneath.

All the plants in pots are still half the size, but they’re still doing quite well.

The photo below was taken 18 July:
The tomatoes are doing really well and I’ve got quite a few fruits growing, even though I haven’t given them any tomato feed for the last few weeks due to forgetting! I’m not at home during the week as I’ve been doing my cooking course, so when I come back at weekends I’m amazed at how much they’ve grown in a week.
Toms-18-JulyThe branches are really thick so I’ve cut a lot of the lower ones off and I’ve also cut the top of the plant now that 4 trusses have grown to stop the plant growing anymore, as I want all the energy to go into the fruit.

The photos below were taken on 1 August:
The tomatoes have grown a huge amount over the last week and I had to add a few more canes to give them support. I’ve got loads of fruit growing so I had to cut back a few branches.

Whilst I was tending to my plants a lovely bumblebee came to collect pollen and I managed to take this photo of him hard at work. I’m pleased that my plants are helping the dwindling bee population!

The photo below was taken on 9 August:
This is just a small example of the amount of tomatoes I have growing! All the plants have got fruit on them, like big bunches of grapes, and I’m just waiting for them to get bigger and turn red before picking. I think I’ll be making a lot of tomato sauce…

The photos below were taken on 15 August:
I had a bit of a disaster occur with the tomatoes today! It was really windy and one of the branches which had loads of fruit on it snapped.

So I lost quite a few tomatoes on this branch, but I’m not too worried as the other plants are bearing loads!

Luckily there is some trellis attached to the wall next to the plant that has the most fruit on it, so I’ve been tying the plant to it for support.

A couple have started changing colour, so hopefully I’ve be able to start harvesting soon and relieve the plants of some weight!

The photos below were taken on 23 August:
Red toms 23 Aug
Well a load of tomatoes have started turning red on all my tomato plants so I’ve been busy picking them this week! They taste really good, not amazingly sweet but I didn’t really expect them to as I don’t think they’re a particularly sweet variety. I’ll be using them in a tomato sauce tomorrow to go with some pasta and I’ll probably chuck in some basil too as that’s doing quite well now!

Not all the tomatoes have been perfect. I’ve found a couple that have split and according to ‘The Vegetable & Herb Expert’ book by Dr. D. G. Hessayon, this is caused by heavy watering or rain after the soil has become dry around the roots. The sudden increase in size causes the skin to split. So to prevent this you have to keep the roots moist. I admit I’m not very confident when it comes to watering my plants as I’m always scared of overwatering them. Sometimes Steve’s Mum waters my plants but forgets to tell me, so I go out and water them as well! I think that is what caused my squash to rot. Ah well, I’m pretty chuffed with how well the tomatoes are doing and I’m really pleased (and quite shocked) that they haven’t suffered from more serious problems like Blossom End Rot or Blight.
The photo below was taken 29 August:
Well I’m beginning to harvest quite a few ripe tomatoes at the same time, so I’ve made tomato sauces for pasta and curries. I also had them in a ham and salad roll which was really nice and I’ve even converted Steve to liking cherry tomatoes! He usually hates them because they’re not very sweet and he thinks the skins are tough, but he really likes my home-grown tomatoes so I’m really pleased.

The photos below were taken 5 September:
TomsandherbsWell the tomatoes are pretty much the only things that I’ve planted that have successfully grown and allowed me to enjoy the fruits of my labour! Here they are just about to be cooked with some sausages for the Cherry Tomato and Sausage Bake recipe I did, along with some rosemary and thyme fresh from the herb pot!

The plants in the raised bed went absolutely mental and grew into huge plants, so I had to be quite ruthless and cut loads of branches to allow sunlight to reach the other plants. But this didn’t seem to do them any harm and I’ve still got loads of tomatoes growing. The plants grew so tall that I had to use lots of canes and the trellis on the wall to support them. They grew very long horizontal branches too, so I now have quite a strange framework of tomato plants!
Tomsinpots5Sept The plants growing in the pots are much smaller and more conventional in shape. I moved these two plants to be next to the wall because it has been very windy here recently and I didn’t want them to fall over.

The photos below were taken on 11 September:Blackstemtomatoes11Sept9
Today I’ve just noticed one of my tomato plants has a problem on the stem. It’s turning all black! The actual fruits don’t seem to be affected and are still ripening, but if this is a disease that can spread then I will move the plant away from the others.

Blackstemtomatoes11Septclose6 It’s really difficult to find out for sure what the cause is. None of my research in books or the Internet has come up with an answer!
OK I think I’ve just found out what the problem is with the tomatoes, I think it’s Late Blight. This website has lots of pictures of how the leaves and stems are affected. The leaves on my plant don’t actually look bad, which is why it took me so long to notice that something was wrong with the stem. Apparently late blight will spread like wildfire, so tomorrow I will have to dispose of the plant!

The photo below was taken 19 September:
I did end up binning the plant that I suspected had become a victim of Late Blight. I didn’t feel too bad because I’ve still got loads of fruits growing on the other plants.
Toms 19 Sept
So far none of my other plants have been affected and are still providing me with lots of lovely tomatoes. I’ve been reading about the different varieties of tomatoes and apparently Gardener’s Delight are an “exceptionally sweet and delicious cherry tomato” (well this is according to the Marshalls Seed Catalogue!). I’ve been really pleased with how they’ve grown and I will grow them again next year because I haven’t had too many problems and more importantly I still have loads of seeds! I’m definitely going to grow them just in pots and not in the raised bed again, because they just grew far too big and completely overshadowed everything else. In their place I will try peas or sweetcorn.
The photo below was taken 13 October:
This is the last of all my lovely tomatoes. I decided to cut them all off the plant, leaving them on the vine, and bring them indoors to finishing ripening as it’s too cold and wet outside.
I’m really impressed with my crop of tomatoes and I would have had even more if I’d let the fruits grow on the plants that I planted near the garage. But after I planted them, I found out that the garage roof is made from asbestos and I was scared that the rain water that ran off the roof and onto the soil might be contaminated, so I didn’t want to risk it!
But I really recommend the variety Gardeners Delight as they were really easy to grow and a great cropper!
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