Friday, 31 May 2013

Eton Mess - Summer in a glass

Eton Mess, the classic strawberry and meringue pudding, is summer in a glass!   This delicious traditional recipe from Eton College used to be served at their celebrations on 4th June, just when English strawberries are beginning to come into season.  

The word "mess" correctly identifies this pudding.  It's not a neat one, and, frankly, the messier the better!   The strawberries should keep their shape, but ooze delicious juice, the meringues not ground to a powder, and the harmonious whole literally flung together.   The recipe below does four goblets, and you could also scale it up and serve it in a large cut glass bowl.

Eton Mess
Eton Mess

8oz/250g strawberries, hulled
icing sugar to taste
½- ¾ pint of double cream
2 handfuls of little meringues (all the misshapen ones!)
mint sprigs to decorate

Keep a few of the best strawberries for the top plus some little meringues for decoration.    Gently pulse the remaining strawberries with icing sugar in a blender so they are still chunky but not so far that they are totally puréed.  The strawberries should be slightly sweetened by the icing sugar, but not too much!    In a large bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.  Break in the rest of the meringues (large chunks, not powder). 

Spoon a small quantity of the strawberry mix into the bottom of the serving glasses, then fold the rest of the strawberries lightly into the cream and meringue mix.   Again, the aim is to still be able to see the different parts of the mixture – this recipe is all about imperfection!   Spoon the mixture on top of the strawberries, top with the pretty strawberries and a meringue, and add a sprig of mint.  

If you like this recipe, why not let me know how you got on with it?  I'm also on Facebook "Kate's Puddings" and Twitter @katespuddings.  My cookbook is on sale via my website 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Never-fail Easy Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake has never been known to fail - it is a light, whisked sponge mix, with a little butter (which you can leave out for a dairy-free version).   The recipe is in cups, and I think it is Australian - it was given to my mother many years ago by an Australian Army wife, and is a family favourite.  I don't know how large Australian cups are, but I usually use a good-sized mug and it turns out perfectly!

It is also an ideal cake for children, as no weighing out is needed, and it is very quick to cook.   It doesn't work with gluten-free flour.   This is one I made for my niece, Sophie, for her birthday.

Quick Chocolate Cake
Never-fail Easy Chocolate Cake

3 large eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup self raising flour
pinch of salt
2 tbsp cocoa
½ cup milk with a teaspoon of butter melted into it

Butter Icing:
4oz/110g butter (preferably, though you could use a dairy-free alternative for a dairy-free cake)
6oz/170g sieved icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa, mixed with enough boiling water to make a stiff paste
decorations – chocolate preferably!

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line the base of two 8” sandwich tins with non-stick baking parchment. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy (longer the better).   Fold in the sifted flour, cocoa and salt, then add the hot milk and butter.    Pour the mixture into the tins and shake it slightly to level it.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes until it is well risen, brown and rises back when pressed with a gentle finger.    Turn out of the tins onto a rack, peel off the parchment and leave to cool.

In a food processor, blend the icing ingredients, and smooth over the cakes.  Sandwich together and decorate to taste – grated dark chocolate for adults, bright sweets for children. 

If you like this recipe, why not let me know how you got on with it?  I'm also on Facebook "Kate's Puddings" and Twitter @katespuddings.  My cookbook is on sale via my website  This recipe is featured in my cookbook, together with 75 others, many of which will not be appearing on the blog!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Easy Tarte Tatin - classic French Tarte

I adore Tarte Tatin, and have tried many different recipes.  This is an amalgamation of several, but using Raymond Blanc's presentation style.  Tarte Tatin is unusual in that it is made with eating apples, cooked in caramel with a lemony tang, with a pastry top that then becomes the base when you turn the tarte out.   Ready-rolled puff pastry makes everything so much quicker!  You can also use a rich shortcrust (add 1 egg and .5oz/15g icing sugar to the mix).   The picture below shows that I should have cooked it a bit longer, but it still tasted great.

Easy Tarte Tatin
Tarte Tatin

3oz/75g butter
3oz/75g light muscovado sugar
about 6 dessert apples (Braeburn or Cox)
rind of a lemon, finely grated, plus juice

Ready-rolled puff pastry, cut to about ½”/1cm wider than the diameter of the tin. 

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.   Grease a 8-9” solid based tin (otherwise the juices leak!).    Peel, core and quarter the apples, and arrange them tightly in the tin, standing up (you may need 1 more apple than you think).     Put the sugar, butter and lemon rind/juice into a pan and boil together until it has started to thicken.    Pour the delicious juice over the apples, then cover with the pastry, pressing the edges down tightly to seal it all in.  

Cook for at least 30 minutes, covering the pastry after about 20 minutes or it will get too brown before the inside has cooked.   When it is ready, the pastry should have shrunk slightly from the sides.   Timings aren’t exact here, as it will depend on your oven.

Turn the tart out onto a plate, so that the pastry is now on the bottom, and pour over any remaining juice.  If there is a lot of juice, put it into a small pan and reduce it by boiling it for a few minutes (if you have time!)  This is delicious with crème fraiche, cream, yoghurt or crème anglaise (English custard).

Monday, 20 May 2013

Puff Pastry Tartlets

These are the quickest mid-week puddings ever!   Individual tartlets of puff pastry with sliced fruit, sweetened with honey and just dusted with icing sugar so they are light and fruity, but not overpoweringly sugary.  The cheat factor is using bought ready-rolled puff pastry, as it is the perfect depth, and halves the (already short) preparation time.    I was experimenting with different fruits, and prefer the three below - apricot with pistachio, apple and cinnamon and pear with almond.   A whole packet of the pastry makes a lot, so keep the rest of the pastry to make the Tarte Tatin I'll be putting on the website for the weekend!

Puff Pastry Fruit  Tartlets
Puff Pastry Fruit Tartlets

1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg yolk, beaten
honey (approx ¼ jar), microwaved so it is runny

apricots, halved
a few pistachio nuts
dessert apple, cored and cut into slices, skin on
dusting of cinnamon
dessert pear, skin off, cut into slices
a few almonds

icing sugar to dust

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C.     Line a baking tin with non-stick parchment.
For single tartlets, cut the pastry into oblongs about 5” x 2/5”/12cm/7cm, marking a smaller oblong inside the larger one (about ½”/1.5cm), to make a border.  Brush the border with the beaten egg yolk.

Within the border of the tartlet, pour/brush some honey to act as a base for the fruit.  Arrange the fruit, with appropriate nuts, and pour some more honey over the top.  Bake until the border has risen and is golden brown, and the fruit cooked but not browned – about 10-15 minutes or so. 

Dredge with icing sugar and eat hot or cold, with custard/ice cream/yoghurt.  

Friday, 17 May 2013

Quick Swiss Roll - sponge heaven!

Swiss Roll is one of my favourite quick cakes - made and cooked in 20 minutes, it is the perfect last-minute standby!   With home made jam (and sometimes cream too!), it never fails to delight, and, if you can save some, makes a perfect base for sherry trifle.   I have successfully tested a gluten-free version using rice flour, and it is also dairy-free.   The instructions sound fiddly, but, once you get the hang of it, it is a very good-natured cake.

Swiss Roll
Quick Swiss Roll

3 eggs
4oz/110g caster sugar
4oz/110g plain flour
1tbsp hot water

caster sugar
jam – about half a jar, warmed in the microwave

Pre-heat oven to 220 deg C, and line a baking tray/swiss roll tin (approx the size of A4 paper or slightly larger) with baking parchment.  Snip the the baking parchment diagonally into the corners of the tin – this helps the parchment keep the mixture in the tin. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar, hard, for at least 5-8 minutes (preferably in a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer!).   The mixture should be light but stiff enough to keep the impression of the whisk for a few seconds when it has been removed.   

Sift half the flour over the mixture and fold it in, then add the remaining flour and the hot water.    Pour the mixture into the tray and bake for 7-9 minutes until it is well risen and pale gold.  

While it is baking, wring a tea towel out in hot water, put it onto the work surface and put a piece of baking parchment on top, sprinkling caster sugar over it. 

Turn the cake onto the paper, and peel off the baking parchment (if it doesn’t come off easily, tear a strip off at a time).    Cut the crusts off with a knife and spread the jam over the surface.  Roll up, using the paper to help you – I make a ¾ cut through the last inch of the narrower edge, then roll that part a bit tighter to get a good start, but then ease off the pressure so you have a large, light roll.   Cool before transferring (carefully!) to a plate and dredging with sugar.  

If you like this recipe, why not let me know how you got on with it?  I'm also on Facebook "Kate's Puddings" and Twitter @katespuddings.  My cookbook is on sale via my website  This recipe is featured in my cookbook, together with 75 others, many of which will not be appearing on the blog!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Rhubarb Shortbread Trifle

Rhubarb is everywhere at this time of year, and looks so pretty in a trifle, against the yellow of custard and white whipped cream.   I've used thin shortbread biscuits instead of sponge cake, to give a bit of texture, plus slivers of ginger, which is one of the nicest accompaniments to rhubarb.   This is decorated with a gingernut biscuit, but next time I'll probably microwave some small rhubarb pieces and use them for decoration instead.   If you used gluten free biscuits, this would be another gluten-free pudding.   Serve in pretty little individual bowls/glasses.  This recipe makes approximately 4 large bowls, 5 small.

Rhubarb Shortbread Trifle

4 egg yolks
2 oz/50g caster sugar
1pt cream or half cream half milk
1/2tsp vanilla essence or half a scraped vanilla pod
1tsp cornflour (stops custard from curdling too quickly)

Mix yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla in bowl.  Heat cream until blood temperature, pour into yolks mix, stirring.   Strain back into the pan and heat gently, stirring well, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of the spoon.  If it starts to look grainy, get it straight out of the pan into a cold bowl and whisk like mad.   Leave to cool.

Trifle base:         
1lb/500g rhubarb, simmered slowly with approx 5oz/150g sugar
1 shortbread biscuit per glass
1 piece of stem ginger in syrup, per glass, chopped into pieces about fingernail size – more if you like ginger
a slup of Stones Ginger Wine

Put the biscuits into the glasses, add ginger pieces, and slosh the wine over it all.   Add the rhubarb.   Cover with the cold custard.

3/4 to 1pt double or whipping cream

Whip the cream and top the trifle.  Decorate with ginger biscuits or small pieces of microwaved rhubarb (which keeps its shape).    Leave for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to percolate.     

Friday, 10 May 2013

Best-ever easy Vanilla Ice Cream

Properly made, with real ingredients (no trans-fats and strange sugars here!) vanilla ice cream is one of the nicest pudding accompaniments.   It's also delicious on its own with a hot sauce - chocolate or butterscotch are nicest.    Good vanilla ice cream should have specks of vanilla, be thick and smooth, and, if you use free range eggs, a lovely warm yellow colour.  This recipe is made in an ice cream maker, as it stops crystals from forming while the mixture is freezing, a problem with cream-based ice-creams.   I use a mixture of cream and milk - the higher the cream quantity, the richer the ice cream.   Please note that the eggs are not cooked in this recipe.    The picture below shows that I cannot make professional quenelles, those beautiful scoops of ice cream, but it tastes just as good!   Home made ice cream doesn't keep its softness once re-frozen, which is just an excuse to finish it off straight away.

Easy Vanilla Ice Cream
Easy Vanilla Ice Cream

2 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod, or 1tsp good quality vanilla extract
3oz/80g caster sugar
15floz/400ml mixed milk and cream – normally 2/3 cream to 1/3 milk

Separate the egg yolks into a bowl/food processor (putting the whites into a jar to make meringues later), then open the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds onto the yolks.  Add the caster sugar and beat the mixture together.  Slowly add the cream/milk mixture, and whisk until it is well combined.

Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until it is thick – probably about 35-50 minutes, depending on the warmth of the day.   This quantity usually makes about 1 pint, enough for 4 or 5.   

If you like this recipe, why not let me know how you got on with it?  I'm also on Facebook "Kate's Puddings" and Twitter @katespuddings.  My cookbook is on sale via my website  This recipe is featured in my cookbook, together with 75 others, many of which will not be appearing on the blog!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Victoria Sponge - best tea-time cake ever!

The classic Victoria sponge is one of the nicest cakes ever invented.  It should be feather-light, filled with home made jam and whipped cream, topped with icing or caster sugar.  Utter simplicity, utter deliciousness!    I don't often make it, but was responding to a challenge... to produce cakes for 80 people for a TA weekend ... so here it is.  This is made with the "all-in-one" method, which works best with a buttery spread instead of pure butter.  If you wanted to make it dairy-free, try using a non-dairy spread, then omit the whipped cream and just have jam.

Victoria Sponge Cake
Traditional Victoria Sponge Cake

4 large fresh eggs
8oz/225g  sieved self raising flour
8oz/225g  caster sugar
8oz/225g buttery spread
1 heaped tsp baking powder

½ pint double cream, whipped to soft peaks
approx half a jar of raspberry or strawberry jam (preferably home made!)

icing or caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line two 8” loose bottom sandwich tins with parchment (or spray with a “cake release” agent), and grease the sides.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat for a couple of minutes until pale and fluffy.   Divide between the tins and cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, they should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.

Tip the cakes out of the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, spread the jam thickly over one of the cakes, then whip the cream and carefully spread it over the jam.  I allow it to come slightly over the edges - the rustic look is more appealing.  Sandwich the cakes together and dredge the top with icing sugar or caster sugar.  

If you like this recipe, why not let me know how you got on with it?  I'm also on Facebook "Kate's Puddings" and Twitter @katespuddings.  My cookbook is on sale via my website  This recipe is featured in my cookbook, together with 75 others, many of which will not be appearing on the blog!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Easy Banana and Meringue Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of the world's greatest puddings... and so easy to make!   I adore  ice cream (almost as much as chocolate), and have lots of different recipes to share.   My top tip is to buy an ice cream maker.  They come in a whole range of prices, and you will get a lot of value out of it over the years.  I have a very simple one where you freeze the bowl before making the ice cream.  The bowl sits in my freezer, at the ready!

This is one of my favourite recipes for those times when you have overripe bananas.... and, if you don't add the meringues, it is made without eggs.   The lemon juice gives it a bit of a kick and offsets the sweet bananas.  It makes enough for 4.

Banana and Meringue Ice Cream
Easy Banana and Meringue Ice Cream

7oz/200g  ripe bananas (rough total weight), peeled
3oz/75g caster sugar
juice of ½ lemon
½ pint/280ml of milk and cream mixed
handful of meringues, broken up

Puree the bananas with the sugar and lemon juice (quickest in a food processor).  Mix the puree with the milk and cream and churn in an ice cream maker for about 30-40 minutes until frozen.    Add broken meringues just before the end (if you put them in at the beginning, they disappear).      

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Classic Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel is a lighter dish than Crème Brulee, as it is made with milk instead of cream.   This one is made with the most amazing unpasteurised milk from Hook and Son, a family business at Borough Market, the artisan food market in London.   The milk was thick, creamy and, frankly, how milk should taste!   If you have ever eaten a supermarket crème caramel, this is in a different league, and you'll never go back. I don't know why this one cracked on the top, but it tastes just as good!

Crème Caramel

4 oz sugar
¼ pint water

1 pint full fat or semi-skimmed milk
4 eggs, beaten, mixed with
2tbsp sugar (if liked, you can omit the sugar)
1 tsp vanilla, or scrape half a split vanilla pod

Preheat oven to 150 deg C and boil a kettle of water.   Get a 14cm or larger soufflé dish ready.

In a small strong pan, boil the sugar and water until it forms a caramel – it goes bubbly and brown.  Take off the heat and gently pour it into the soufflé dish, using a heat-proof spatula to get the last delicious scrapings off the pan.   Swirl the dish around slowly while the caramel is setting to get an even coat, with some caramel up the sides.  Leave to get cold and hard.

Warm the milk with the vanilla to roughly blood heat, then pour onto the beaten eggs (and sugar).    Stir the mixture thoroughly, and then strain it into the soufflé dish.  Put the dish into a baking tin and pour in enough boiling water to go half way up the side.   Bake for approx 1hr, until the caramel is set. 

Remove from the water, then put cling film on the top and refrigerate.  This is best left for at least 24hrs before unmoulding, as the caramel top gently merges into the cooked crème.  

To get it out of the dish successfully (!), run a palette knife round the edge, then put the receiving dish (one with at least 1” sides) on top of the soufflé dish.  Lift both dishes together and then turn them over in one movement.  There should be a gentle flop when the (hopefully undamaged) crème caramel slides onto the serving dish.    Microwave the original dish to loosen up some of the delicious caramel and pour it over the crème.    Serves 6.