Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Tart

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without mincemeat, and mincemeat tends to get used only in mince pies.  What a waste!  This is a lovely mincemeat and apple tart, which, served with lashings of proper custard, would definitely keep out the cold and add a touch of festive cheer.   It freezes well, and is best served hot, as the brandy in the (home made) mincemeat smells simply amazing....   If you make it using spread instead of butter, and glaze it with egg yolk it becomes dairy free.   Happy Christmas!

Christmas Tart with Apple and Mincemeat

Christmas Tart

8oz/220g plain flour
2 tbsp icing sugar
4oz/110g butter/baking spread
1 egg
cold water

6oz/170g prepared cooking apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
brown sugar to taste
good slug of brandy
1tbsp lemon juice
a jar of home made mincemeat
milk to glaze

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and make up the pastry by hand or in a processor.   Roll it out thinly and line a 9” loose bottom flan tin.  Keep the trimmings.   Chill the pastry before baking it blind.  (If you don’t bake it blind, preheat a baking sheet and put the tart onto it to prevent a soggy bottom)  

Put the chopped apples into a pan, adding lemon juice and a good slug of brandy.  Then add sugar to taste.  Simmer gently until the apples have broken down, but not become a total purée.  

Pour the apple mix into the tart case, spreading evenly.  Top with an even layer of mincemeat (not too thick!).   Roll out the pastry trimmings and cut into lines to make a lattice (if you don’t have enough, cut the trimmings into little stars and shapes).    Decorate the tart.  Brush the pastry with milk to glaze it.   Bake until the top pastry is browning, and the mincemeat is bubbling.  

Serve hot or cold, dusted with icing sugar, plus real home made custard.   No cheating!

Egg Custard

This quantity makes half a pint (approx 300ml)

2 egg yolks
1oz/25g caster sugar
10floz/300ml  double cream mixed with milk (the richer, the richer the result)
½ tsp cornflour
vanilla – either a few drops of liquid, or some of the paste inside a pod

Mix the yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla, using a small whisk.   In a milk pan (preferably non-stick), warm the cream/milk to blood heat.  Pour this mixture onto the yolk mix, whisking gently until it is all incorporated.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and heat it.  Change over to a wooden spoon, and stir the custard lovingly until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon.  If it splits and goes grainy, pour instantly into a cold bowl, add more cream/milk, and whisk hard.   You may be lucky! 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Little Star-topped Mince Pies

Mince pies can be a disaster - from inhaling too much flaky pastry and coughing, to finding a soggy lump of bought mincemeat in a solid case.... I could go on!   Personally, I prefer to make tiny little bite-sized pies, with stars on the top, as it reduces the pastry/filling ratio and they look so pretty!    Top tip - to avoid oval ones, don't drag the cutter when you are cutting out the pastry.    Mince pies are always welcome at Christmas, and keep well in a tin - make a batch now, and they'll be gone before you know it, but remember to keep a few for Santa!

Mince Pies

Little Star-Topped Mince Pies

Sweet Shortcrust pastry:
4oz/150g plain flour
3oz/75g butter
1 egg (for richness, you can leave this out)
1 tbsp icing sugar
cold water to mix

home made mincemeat – 1 good sized jar (if you are using bought mincemeat, add a slug of alcohol and some grated lemon and orange rind)

milk to glaze
icing sugar to dust

2 or 3 mini tartlet tins, 12 in each. 

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.   Make the pastry either by hand or in a food processor.  Line the tartlet tins, re-rolling and cutting the scraps into little stars for the tops.   Allow the pastry to rest for about 5 minutes.  The tartlets are so small you don’t need to prick the bases. 

Fill each little tartlet so it has an attractive heap of mincemeat.  Top with a little star.  Brush with milk or beaten egg to glaze. 

Cook until the pastry is just browning and the mincemeat bubbling.    Serve hot or warm dusted with icing sugar.  Should make about 24 or so.   

My cookbook can still be ordered in time for Christmas via the website

Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas Pavlova

Pavlova any time is delicious, but Christmas Pavlova is extra-special!   This has sherry in the cream, and is topped with bright jewel-coloured fruits and caramelised walnuts - perfect for Christmas.  I've chosen to use brown sugar in the meringue, so it has a darker flavour, and is slightly more chewy than the usual crispness you associate with Pavlova.    Perfect for those left-over egg whites!   You can either do one large pudding, or several individual ones (pictured below), which look so pretty on the plate.

Christmas Pavlova

Christmas Pavlova

3 egg whites
6oz/150g light brown soft sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla 

At least half pint double cream, whipped with 2 tbsp sherry
2 or 3 clementines
1 pomegranate
1oz/25g walnut halves
1oz/25g butter
1oz/25g soft brown sugar

Oven - 150 deg C, turning down to 140 deg C when it goes in
Use a flat baking tray with a sheet of silicone parchment.   Whisk egg whites until thick, add sugar slowly, whisking all the while.  Finally add the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla.    Spread onto the baking sheet in a circle roughly the size of a plate, or small circles for individual Pavlovas.    Bake for about an hour, then turn off the oven and leave the Pavlova inside.    It should be dry.  Sometimes I turn it over and put it back in for a bit longer.  

Peel off the paper, put onto a large plate/individual plates, and then get decorating.  

Whip the cream with the sherry, and put a good layer on the top of the pavlova.   Fry the butter and sugar together for a moment or two so the butter is bubbling through and the sugar started to melt, and gently caramelise the walnuts.   Peel the clementines (tip – just do the side parts and cut away the skin where it meets the base) and put segments on the pavlova, together with pomegranate pieces, then finally the walnuts.

 If you leave it for a few hours, the cream makes the meringue soften in the most delicious way. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Almond and Ginger Thins

The recipe for these biscuits is very similar to almond tuiles, but they are cooked until they are golden brown, and have a real gingery snap to them.  I made a double batch for a recent birthday party, but they disappeared so quickly I never managed to try one!   If you don't like ginger, simply omit it from the recipe.  Not tested with gluten or dairy free, maybe next time.

Almond and Ginger Thins

Almond and Ginger Thins

1 large egg white
3oz oz/75g caster sugar
1oz/25g plain flour, sifted
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp vanilla
1oz/25g melted butter
flaked almonds (about 1oz/25g)

Oven:  preheat to 190deg C, and put baking parchment on three baking sheets – it is best to bake these in single tray batches

In a medium sized bowl, beat together the egg white and caster sugar until it is frothy, using either a hand whisk or a fork.  Next, add the flour and vanilla, then the melted butter.  Stir the mixture until it is smooth.    Put teaspoons of the mix onto baking sheets, well spaced (about 6 per tray), and, using the back of the spoon, push the mixture into a thin circle about 3” in diameter.     Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes until golden brown.   Remove from the oven, and then, when they have cooled slightly, lift off the sheet and curve them over a rolling pin (or jam jars when there’s no more space on the rolling pin!).   If they are too firm to do this, pop them back into the oven for a few seconds to soften up again.  They should dry very crisp.  When they have hardened, you can cool them on a wire rack. 

Makes about 15-18.   Store in an airtight tin. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Apple Charlotte with Passion Fruit Ice Cream

Why is a charlotte called a charlotte?   I wish I knew!   A charlotte is a delicious hot pudding of stewed fruit baked in a buttery, crispy bread case, perfect for these wintry days.   I made several little ones, and felt they were a definite improvement on the traditional larger one!  This is photographed with passion fruit ice cream, gently smothered with a passion fruit sauce.  What a fabulous combination...  My pudding-loving husband felt this was a winner.   I also experimented by using honey instead of sugar in the charlotte, especially for Francis, who loves puddings, but cannot eat sugar.  

Apple Charlotte with Passion Fruit Ice Cream

Apple Charlotte

6 pieces of thick white bread 
Up to 12 oz/350g peeled weight of cooking apples
(you can add other fruit – apricots, blackberries)
spices to add spice to life!  (I used star anise and cinnamon)
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Sugar (or honey) to taste
4oz/110g butter, melted

6 mini tins/moulds
Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.  Cut up and stew the fruit in a pan, together with the spices, lemon zest and juice, and the honey/sugar.   Cut the crusts off the bread and make breadcrumbs with the crusts (you will only need up to 2 tbsp of crumbs, so you can freeze the rest for a treacle tart).  Butter 6 mini pudding tins (or double the quantity of fruit and use a 6” cake tin/charlotte mould).   If you are making mini charlottes, take a serrated knife, slip the knife sideways between the thick slice and make two very thin slices.   Repeat with the rest of the bread.  Dip each crustless piece of bread into the melted butter and then line the tins.  Top tip - the first piece should be the same shape as the base of the little tins.  

When the fruit is nearly cooked, but hasn’t completely turned to mush, add the crumbs and mix it all together.  Remove any large pieces of spice before filling the little moulds with the mixture.  Shape the lid piece of bread before dipping it into the melted butter.   Put the little moulds on a baking tray, and cook until the bread on the top is golden brown.   Unmould and serve hot.

Passion Fruit Ice Cream and Passion Fruit Sauce
12 passion fruit
2 lemons
8oz/225g caster sugar
1 pint/450ml double cream
½ tsp salt

Use the lemon ice cream recipe on my blog:  substituting the juice from 4 passion fruits for 1 of the lemons and omitting the lemon zest.

To make the passion fruit sauce, take 8 passion fruit (they are tiny!) and scoop out the pips.  Sieve as much juice as you can from the unrewarding little things, add a little sugar and water, and gently simmer until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour over the ice cream.  

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Sarah's Chocolate Cake

Sarah's Chocolate Cake is legendary in our house.  Most beloved of my son, John, whose birthday it is today, it is what could be described as a "dump cake", in that everything goes in together.  Sometimes I've made it as a Polo cake - ie, one with a hole in the middle - but, however it turns out, it is always ABSOLUTELY delicious!   Sarah shared her recipe years ago, and this is from my handwritten scribbled notes.   Apologies for the terrible photograph, but it was the only piece I managed to save from the last one...    Happy 21st Birthday, John - when you come home, there'll be one waiting!  For best results, make a delicious chocolate ganache icing that pours sumptuously all over the cake - recipe below.

Sarah's Chocolate Cake

Sarah’s Chocolate Cake

5oz/140g soft brown sugar
6oz/170g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder

¼ pint/5 floz/140ml sunflower oil
¼ pint/5 floz/140ml milk
2 eggs, beaten into liquid ingredients
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 140 deg C.  Put a liner into an 8” spring clip cake tin that doesn’t leak. Mix together all dry ingredients, and pour in all the wet ingredients. 
Cook for 45 minutes and then check it using a heated skewer or sharp knife.  If it is still not done, and the knife/skewer comes out dirty, put the temperature up to 150 degrees for 10 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache Icing

8 floz/235ml double cream
4oz/110g dark chocolate

Warm the cream and add the chocolate, mix until smooth and glossy, cooling slightly so that it coats the back of the spoon and won’t leap off the cake. 

Stand the cake on a wire rack or a plate (depending how neat you want it to end up!), and pour the ganache over the cake.   If you want a neat finish, you will pour the ganache onto a rack, then chill the ganache to set it before transferring the cake to a plate.  If you like the more rustic touch, simply pour the chocolate over the cake and allow it to pool around the base before chilling.