Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream in chocolate bowls

Christmas isn't over until all the lovely mincemeat and home made goodies have been eaten!  This is a really easy to make, light, pudding, which my son decided would be even better in home made chocolate bowls.   William, you are always right....  Our top tip is to grease the balloons, also to be prepared to do a second dip if the first isn't strong enough (and do a test one just in case).  

Home made ice cream is a great way to use up left over cream, and the last of my own mincemeat was also sacrificed to the cause.   At this time of year, it is easy to cool down the ice cream mixture, so this is made with a warm custard mix which gives it a really unctuously smooth taste!

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

3 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod, or 1tsp good quality vanilla extract
4½oz/120g caster sugar
23floz/600ml mixed double cream and milk – normally 3/4 cream to 1/4 milk
1 jar mincemeat or 6tbsp home made mincemeat

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla in a jug.  In a non-stick pan (good gadget!), heat the cream and milk, stirring, to blood heat.  Pour this warmed mixture into the egg yolk mix and stir well, before pouring it back into the pan (off the heat, but using the residual warmth).  When it is completely combined, leave it to cool/chill. 

Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until it is thick – probably about 35-50 minutes.   Mix the mincemeat into it at the very last minute, or, if you are making it in advance, layer the mincemeat with the cream in a plastic box and put it into the freezer to firm up.   Serve in chocolate bowls - see below.  

Chocolate Bowls

8oz/220g dark chocolate 
6 or 7 balloons, half blown up (one test one)
light oil for greasing
baking parchment 

Blow up the balloons and tie off before wiping some oil over them to make it easier to release the bowls.   Spread baking parchment over a tray.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, and stir well.  Dip each balloon into the bowl, twisting it to give a good coating of chocolate, then sit it onto the tray.  Allow to cool and harden.   When the chocolate is set, prick a test balloon and see if you can peel the shreds off the chocolate bowl.  If you can't, and the chocolate implodes, melt some more chocolate and repeat the exercise!   (you can always eat the failures....)   This is not tempered chocolate, so will not be glossy, just delicious


Friday, 19 December 2014

Coconut and Pineapple Loaf Cake

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas.... and with this quick-to-make semi-iced loaf cake with coconut shavings, Christmas can come any time! If you haven't discovered the delights of Lidl's exotic dried fruit mixes, get yourself down there, as they are not only very good value, but make fabulous cake tops.

The particular bag I used (Exotic Fruit Mix) also contained date pieces and banana chips, but I picked them out, and just used the pineapple, mango and coconut shards.   The loaf cake had coconut substituting for some of the flour, and a lime or lemon drizzle icing (depending on what's in the fruit bowl).   It works very well gluten-free, and also dairy free!

Christmas Coconut and Pineapple Loaf Cake 

Christmas Coconut and Pineapple Loaf Cake

3 large fresh eggs
6oz/150g sieved self-raising flour (or GF blend) less two tablespoons
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
6oz/150g caster sugar
6oz/150g butter or spread at room temperature
¾ tsp baking powder
Grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 lime

Iced Topping:
2oz/50g icing sugar
Juice of half a lemon or 1 lime
½ bag of Lidl exotic fruit mix

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Shove into the oven and cook for 25-35 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake 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.

Mix together the icing sugar and lemon/lime juice and, as soon as the cake has come out of the oven, stab it with a cocktail stick to make some deep holes and pour the mixture all over it slowly.    Throw on the dried fruit topping.   Leave in the tin until cool.   If you want more of an iced texture, make up a second batch of thicker icing and pour it on after the first batch, then add the fruit. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Chocolate Biscuits with Soft Chocolate Centres

If you have ever refused a home made chocolate biscuit, this blog post is not for you!  If, however, you'll eat anything, plus you prefer home made biscuits to bought ones, read on....

Always on the look-out for new chocolate biscuit recipes, I thought I'd try this one from Jamie Oliver, where the chocolate biscuits have a soft, melty chocolate centre.  Billed as "super easy", it is a child-friendly recipe - maybe I should have had a child to help!   The result is pictured - ok, chocolate doesn't photograph well -  but I wasn't that convinced that the result was particularly adult-friendly....  The stated quantity was 30, but I made probably only about 22-24, and they were very thick.  My testers polished them off, but I felt they were quite industrial.....   Hopefully you will learn from my mistakes!

Jamie Oliver Chocolate Biscuits with soft chocolate centres

Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Biscuits with Soft Chocolate Centres

5oz/150g butter
5oz/150g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
9oz/260g self raising flour
1oz/30g cocoa powder
30 squares good quality chocolate (milk, white or plain)
2 biscuit cutters – 1 approx 4cm, the other 5cm.

Preheat the oven to 190 deg C.   Grease 2 large baking sheets, or use parchment.   Cream together the butter and sugar until pale, then beat in the egg yolks.  Add the flour and cocoa powder to form a dough (Jamie notes that this is quite a dry mixture).  Knead the dough lightly and then let it rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Roll 1/3 of the dough out on a floured surface (I prefer to roll between two sheets of parchment).  Cut out about 30 biscuits with the smaller cutter.  Spread them out on the baking sheet and put a square of chocolate in the middle of each one.   Roll out the rest of the dough including the leftovers, and cut out the same number of circles.  Put the larger biscuits onto the smaller ones and press around the edges to seal in the chocolate – don’t press too hard or the edges of the chocolate pierce the dough!

Cook for about 10 minutes, and eat hot or cold.  When they are hot, the chocolate is supposed to be runny. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Kates Puddings - Second Helpings Cookbook

It's cookbook time again!  My new book, "Kate's Puddings - Second Helpings" is now out.

Packed with even more scrumptiously delicious recipes, the book is in the same easy spiral bound format, with  lots of lovely new recipes that won't be on the blog, the rest my favourites from my past year's blogging.    There are labels identifying gluten and dairy free puddings and cakes.

As before, it is helping to raise money for two fabulous charities - my Volunteer Reserve Unit, the FANY, plus my local church, Petham, near Canterbury, where we are fundraising for a kitchen, appropriately enough!   My last book raised about  £1,000 for both worthy causes.

Kate's Puddings - Second Helpings is available via email on     UK price is £13.50, plus £ 3 postage.  Obviously the postage will be more for further afield, sorry.   The book is also available locally in Canterbury - message me for details.   My earlier book "Kate's Puddings, the Cookbook of the Blog" is also available via email above.  It costs £13.50, postage £3 to UK.   Both books together are £25 plus postage and packing.

Kate's Puddings - Second Helpings 

Update - September 2016

Since starting this blog, I have now logged over 191,000 hits (no, my mother isn't a computer user!), from 133 different countries.  Kate's Puddings is global!

I really do appreciate all the enthusiasm everybody shows for my cooking - what started as an idea has gone further than I could possibly have imagined.

The blog continues.... any suggestions for a title for volume 3?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Baked Caramel Custard

Baked custard, hmmm.... sounds like a really traditional English pudding!  And it is, as, for some reason, we do seem to have a multitude of milk-based puddings in the UK (no idea why!).   But actually, it is really just a hot crème caramel without the top.   Below is the classic recipe, tweaked with the addition of some delicious liquid caramel.   Vahiné's fabulous dark French caramel gives a really Gallic flavour to otherwise unremarkable puddings!  It's now available in the UK - I used to have to get it in France, and eke out the few bottles that had somehow slipped into the luggage....

Baked Caramel Custard

Baked Caramel Custard

1 pint/568ml full fat or semi-skimmed milk
3 large eggs, beaten, mixed with
2dsp sugar (if liked, you can omit the sugar)
2tbsp Vahiné Caramel Nature
Grated nutmeg
Single cream to serve

Preheat oven to 160 deg C and boil a kettle of water.    

Warm the milk to roughly blood heat, then pour onto the beaten eggs, sugar and caramel.    Stir the mixture thoroughly, and then strain it into 5-6 ramekins, depending on size (or a single, greased, dish).  Put the ramekins into a baking tin and pour in enough boiling water to go half way up the side.   Add a sprinkling of nutmeg.   Bake for approx 35-45 minutes, until the caramel is set, but still has a lovely little wobble. 

Remove from the water, add an artistic swoosh of caramel and serve with cream.  I have found that you can keep them in the water, out of the oven, for up to 20 minutes.  

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Delicious Magazine Black and White Brownies

Delicious Magazine has done it again - you simply have to try this fabulous Black and White Brownie recipe!   It looks a little complicated, but basically you make the dark brownie part first, reserving a bit of each of the main ingredients to make a pale creamy cheesecake part which you swirl in later.   This recipe was given its primary airing on a weekend abroad, so the brownies spent time travelling, first in a car, then on a coach.  They arrived in great condition, and were scoffed without hesitation!    The only thing to beware of is that the instruction not to cut until the brownie is totally cool is a good one - I tried a sneaky piece while it was still warm, and it didn't like being cut (which serves me right for being greedy....).  The brownies will never get marks for beauty, but they taste wonderful.  In the picture below, I had some white choc chips, which I scattered into the white mixture to add a little extra chocolate rush.

Black and White Brownies 

Black and White Brownies

8oz/250g butter, with extra for greasing
7oz/200g dark chocolate
2oz/50g white chocolate
13oz/375g golden caster sugar
5 eggs
2oz/50g plain flour, plus 1 tbsp
Pinch of salt
3oz/85g cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
7oz/200g tub cream cheese

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.   Line an 8 x 12” tray with baking parchment.    Chop 6oz/150g of the dark chocolate finely, then roughly chop the remaining dark chocolate and the white chocolate.   Cut up 5oz/150g of the dark chocolate and melt it in the microwave.  Set aside to cool a little.  Roughly chop the remaining dark chocolate (2oz/50g) and the white chocolate.

Put the butter and 12oz/350g of the sugar in a bowl, and beat until light and fluffy. Add 4 of the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition, then sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and a good pinch of salt. Lastly, stir in the melted chocolate and the chopped chocolate chunks.  Tip the mixture into the tray and smooth the surface.

Now tip the cream cheese into a bowl and beat with a spatula to soften it.  Add the remaining egg, flour and sugar, and mix until just combined.  Spoon blobs of the cream cheese mixture onto the brownie, then use the end of a flat bladed knife to swirl the mixtures together to give it a marbled effect.   Bake for 30 mins until just set – it should still have a little wobble when it comes out of the oven, and a knife or skewer stuck into the middle should come out with sticky crumbs.   Cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares to serve.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Hot Lemon Soufflé Custard

For my 200th blog post, I thought I'd share one of my all-time favourite puddings.  It's no coincidence that it is a lemon pudding, but this time it is a fabulously hot, spongy pudding with a delicious secret lemony custardy layer at the bottom.  Amazing on a cold winter's day, this pudding is not only fabulous, but very easy to make.  It disappears with surprising speed too!  In my last book, I cooked one with orange and rhubarb, but the original lemon version is still my family's most requested pudding.  Those who watch GBBO will know it as a "self saucing pudding" which elevates it to another plane entirely!

Hot Lemon Soufflé Custard

Hot Lemon Soufflé Custard

1oz/25g softened butter
8oz/225g caster sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 ½ lemons (3 if they are small)
4 eggs, separated
2oz/50g flour (or a blend)
16 floz/475ml milk

Boil a kettle of water, butter a 2.5 pint/1.4 litre ovenproof dish and preheat the oven to 200 deg C.    Put the butter, sugar, lemon rind and juice, egg yolks and flour into a food processor and blend thoroughly.  Add the milk slowly through the funnel.  

Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff (but not dry and powdery) and fold into the mixture (I usually do it the other way round as it is difficult to fold into a processor bowl!).   When it is reasonably well mixed, ie, not too many egg white islands, pour into the greased dish. 

Stand the dish in a large oven tin and pour the boiling water around it.    Cook for about 35 minutes until it is risen and browned (and the top is set and spongy to the touch).  If it is browning too quickly, put a piece of foil over the top.    Serve hot with cream (for the ultimate in decadence!). 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Deconstructed Plum Crumble with Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

This is a sneak preview of one of the recipes in my next book:  "Kate's Puddings - Second Helpings" which is due out later this month - something you've all been waiting for!  It is packed with lots more delicious puddings, plus new ones that haven't been on the blog at all (and won't be).   A donation is made to two charities from every book sold.

If, like me, you watch food programmes, you will know the latest trends, one of which is “deconstruction”, where the elements of the dish are served separately.    You will be bang on trend with this deconstructed crumble!  It turns a family pudding into a more exciting-looking creation, and the the top, cooked separately, has a great crunch– I hate claggy crumble.   The melting ice cream in the picture is one of my (many) favourites, Rum and Raisin, made using golden raisins.   This works with gluten-free flour.

Plum Crumble with Rum and Raisin Ice Cream
 Deconstructed Plum Crumble

1lb/450g plums or other fruit that will keep its shape
Sugar to taste – about 4oz/110g or so

6oz/150g plain flour (or a flour blend)
3oz/85g Demerara sugar 
3oz/85g butter (or spread)

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, mix together the crumble ingredients as though making pastry, and spread over a large, greased, baking tray.  Cook until they are just browning – about 10 minutes or less, depending on your oven.  Remove and leave to cool.   Store in an air-tight tin.

Put the sugar and ½ pint water into a pan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat.  Stone and halve the plums, simmer in the  syrup until they are soft and release their delicious juice. 

Unite the plum and the crumble on a plate, not forgetting the delicious ice cream!

Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

2 egg yolks
3oz/80g caster sugar
15floz/400ml mixed double cream and milk  
2oz raisins soaked in
2tbsp rum

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.  In a non-stick pan, heat the cream and milk, stirring, to blood heat.  Pour it into the egg yolk mix and stir well, before pouring it back into the pan (off the heat, but using the residual warmth) and stirring well.  When it is smooth, leave it to cool/chill.  Soak the raisins in the rum (20 secs in the microwave encourages the raisins to take up the liquid) then cool.  Pour the juice and ice cream mixture into an ice cream maker and churn until it is thick, adding the raisins just before the end. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Maple and Pecan Drizzle Cake

Loaf cakes are a largely unappreciated species.  Using the same amount of ingredients as a standard cake (something I still can't quite believe!), but generally slightly denser, they are perfect for cake addicts who don't want the added sugar of the icing.  Healthy cake!   Also, as they are in a more compact form, they cut up better and stand up to travel.  When does this become important?  When on a coach-based weekend, of course!  The Army marches on its stomach, and my TA unit is no exception - we have just spent a historic weekend re-visiting the places in France and Belgium where our forebears saw service in 1914.  The diaries and songs show that the diet was uninspiring and monotonous, but relieved by "ration biscuit" and good chocolate.  I like to think some cake crept in there too....

Maple and Pecan Drizzle Cake

Maple and Pecan Drizzle Cake

3 large fresh eggs
6oz/150g sieved self-raising flour
5oz/125g light brown soft sugar 
1floz/25g maple syrup
6oz/150g butter or spread at room temperature
¾ tsp baking powder
2oz/50g chopped pecans

Crunchy Topping:
2oz/50g Demerara sugar
3 or 4 tbsp maple syrup
1oz/25g chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Shove into the oven and cook for 25-35 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake 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.

Mix together the sugar and syrup and, as soon as the cake has come out of the oven, stab it with a cocktail stick to make some deep holes and pour the mixture all over it slowly, adding more syrup if inclined.   Scatter with the remaining pecans.    Leave in the tin until cool

Friday, 17 October 2014

Plum and Cinnamon Sponge Pudding

The scent of plums cooking is amazing!   It reminds me of late summer, and this pudding also has a delicious hint of cinnamon in what must be one of the world's easiest bakes.   I like it because you can use less than beautiful older plums, or even those ones you buy that turn out to be bullets, and it still works well.  I'm sure you could make it with just ground almonds instead of the mix of almonds and flour, and it would be more squidgy (and if you tried it, you might need to add some milk to the basic mix), and it can be dairy free if you use a spread instead of butter.   Please don't forget to serve it with lots of custard - this is an update on a rib-sticking British pud, not an elegant Continental confection!

Plum and Cinnamon Sponge Pudding

Plum and Cinnamon Sponge Pudding

6 plums, stones removed
2 large fresh eggs
3oz/85g self raising flour
1oz/25g ground almonds
4oz/110g caster sugar
4oz/110g softened butter/buttery spread
1 level tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1oz flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and grease a 9” baking dish – the dish needs to be at least 2”/50mm high to allow for the pudding to rise (we can all hope!).   

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the eggs, flour, sugar, spread, baking powder and cinnamon together and then beat for about one minute.   Tip the mixture into the baking dish, then press in the plums, cut side up (it works best this way round).  Finally, sprinkle on the flaked almonds.     Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the sponge is cooked.  To test, put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, and it should come out clean.

Serve hot with lashings of real custard!  Custard is on my blog:

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Delia's Fallen Chocolate Soufflé

Delia’s recipes work.  Sometimes I find she complicates things, but the bottom line is that all of her recipes work, and they are all divine.   Please go and buy some of her books – you really won’t regret it – as there are many recipes you really won’t find anywhere else.   I tested this delicious soufflé at a TA weekend, and it disappeared, as anything chocolate will, but the photo didn’t do it justice.  That meant I was FORCED to make another one… so here it is!  (and here I am, a stone heavier)  It is naturally gluten free, could be dairy free, also absolutely delicious - go on, just tidy up that little edge... 

Delia's Fallen Chocolate Soufflé 
Delia’s Fallen Chocolate Soufflé with Prune and Armagnac Sauce

To soak the prunes:
12oz/350g ready-to-eat prunes
5fl oz/150ml water
5fl oz/150ml Armagnac

To make the soufflé:
7oz/200g dark continental chocolate, pref 75% cocoa solids
4oz/110g butter
1 tbsp Armagnac 
4 x large eggs, separated
4oz/110g caster sugar  
Cocoa powder or icing sugar for dusting

For the prune and crème fraiche sauce:
the remainder of the soaked prunes
5fl oz/150ml creme fraiche


Line an 8 inch/20cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.
Put the prunes, water and Armagnac into a bowl and microwave until it is hot but not boiling.  Remove from the heat and then allow the prunes to soak.  This speeds up the process, although Delia advises soaking overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 170 deg C.  Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, then  add the second dose of Armagnac and leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl for about 5 minutes – a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer is better at this than a hand whisk.  

Remove 18 of the soaked prunes, cutting each one in half.  Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the whisked egg, and add the prunes.   Whisk the egg whites in a dry bowl to the soft peak stage (Delia tells you to wash and dry your whisk thoroughly, and she’s right because otherwise the whites absorb the fats in the bowl and don’t whisk – I learned this through trial and error!).   Fold the whites into the mixture.  The easiest way is to fold a tablespoonful in first, then the rest of it.   You don’t want white islands.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 mins or until the centre feels springy to the touch.  Allow the soufflé to cool in the tin. When it's quite cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the paper, then cover and chill for several hours.   Dust with cocoa or icing sugar.  

For the sauce, liquidize the left over prunes and their liquid and stir in the crème fraiche.   Delia suggests stirring it to give a marbled effect.  Serve separately.  It doesn’t look glamorous, to be honest, but tastes amazing!  (also can be eaten on its own with ice cream…)   

Monday, 29 September 2014

Anzac Biscuits

Have you ever tried these deliciously classic Australian biscuits?  Apparently, they were originally named for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, being sent out by wives and mothers to serving soldiers overseas.   I imagine they would keep quite well, and they are made of everyday household ingredients, but no eggs.

I've just come back from a holiday to Australia, where these iconic biscuits are widely available.  I'm sure that the original recipe has mutated slightly, and I made these ones with rice flour, so they are gluten free, and soft brown sugar as it seemed to be more suitable for rugged Australian biscuits!

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuits

3oz/85g desiccated coconut
3oz/85g rolled oats
3.5oz/100g plain flour (or rice flour)
3.5oz100g sugar (I used soft brown sugar)
3.5oz100g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C and put baking parchment on two to three baking trays.    In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, oats, flour and sugar.   Melt the butter and syrup together in the microwave.   Put the boiling water into a cup and drop in the bicarbonate of soda.  Pour this fizzing mixture into the butter/syrup mix and stir.

Stir the butter and syrup mixture into the dry ingredients, and keep stirring until it is all mixed in.   Allowing space to spread, put gently heaped dessertspoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking trays (I worked on about 6 per tray).   Bake for 8 minutes or so until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave the biscuits on the parchment for a few minutes so that they stiffen before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.  It is easier to put them in in batches, but don't forget the last one...

This makes about 26 biscuits, by no means identical! 

Friday, 12 September 2014

One-Crust Blackberry and Apple Pie

Rustic pies are a gift to the rushed cook!  The idea of simply wrapping your chosen fruit in some pastry and slinging it into the oven works for me, every time (and sometimes I don't bother to chill the pastry either!).   Inspired by Delia Smith's gooseberry version, this is made from home grown apples and hedgerow blackberries.   The photo below isn't particularly brilliant, because the pie was so hot it steamed the lens of the camera, but husbands and sons have a very short fuse when it comes to waiting for a hot pud!   This pudding is perfect for windfall fruit, as it doesn't have to be perfect....

One Crust Blackberry and Apple Pie

One Crust Blackberry and Apple Pie

6oz/175g plain flour
Pinch of salt
3oz/75g butter, chilled (or spread, so it becomes dairy free)

1 ½ lb/700g fruit – approx. 4 cooking apples plus 4oz/110g blackberries
3oz/75g soft light brown sugar

2 tablespoons semolina (not absolutely necessary!)
1 egg, separated
Demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C and preheat a baking sheet. 

Make the pastry either by hand (rubbing the fat into the flour, then adding the egg), or in a processor .   If it is too dry, add a little more water.  Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes (the recipe says 30-40).  

Prepare the fruit – peel, core and chop the apples, wash the blackberries.   Toss in the light brown sugar to give an even coat.   Roll out the pastry on a sheet of non-stick parchment to give a large circle about 5mm/1/4” thick.   Brush the base with the egg yolk and sprinkle with the semolina.  Arrange the fruits in the middle of the circle, leaving a border of about 8cm/3 inches.   Use the sides of the paper to help lift the pastry over the fruit, folding the sides up and around so the juice doesn’t leak out.   If it gets the odd hole, just patch it up.   Brush the pastry with the egg white and sprinkle the Demerara sugar over.  Lift the parchment and the pie onto the sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden – check after 30, and if the pastry is still not quite cooked and the top brown, put some foil over the top and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so. 

Serve hot, sprinkled with Demerara sugar and lashings of custard or ice cream! 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Buttermilk Cheese Scones

If you've never used buttermilk in scones, think again!  It gives a fabulous flavour to savoury scones, and helps make them rise into the bargain.  I made this batch for a coffee morning and they were a definite success.   I adore cheese scones, especially when they are straight from the oven, so it was fortunate that I did a double batch, or there wouldn't have been enough for more than two people!   Buttermilk seems to keep for ages, and you can ignore the "best before" date (sorry, everybody) with impunity.   As you can see from the photo, I'm not the greatest expert on perfect scones, but as long as they taste good, it really doesn't matter what they look like.  This recipe has extra cheese, which, with the buttermilk, added to the lightness.   You can make them with gluten-free flour.  Although they don't rise as well, they taste great.

Buttermilk Cheese Scones

Cheese Scones

8oz/225g plain flour  
2 ½ level tsps baking powder
½ level tsp salt
2oz/50g butter or margarine at room temperature
4oz/110g strong Cheddar cheese, grated, (use 1oz/25g for the tops)
¼ pint/5floz buttermilk, 
small quantity milk for the tops

Preheat the oven to 230 deg C. 

In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour until they look like breadcrumbs.  The best way to do this is to use only your fingertips, as lightly as possible, lifting the mixture as you rub it in to keep it airy.   Add 3oz/80g of the cheese and mix it in lightly.   Add the buttermilk and mix the dough together quickly until it makes a single lump.  

Turn it out onto a floured board and knead it very lightly before rolling it gently to about ½”/1.5cm thick - it helps if it is even, as otherwise you get lopsided scones (see photo!).   Before you start cutting out the scones, warm the baking tray in the oven.  Cut small scones using a plain cutter, then re-roll the remainder gently to use all the mixture.  The last scone is generally less appealing, but that's the cook's perk.   If you dip the cutter in flour, the scones won’t get stuck when you release them.   Also, try not to drag the cutter when cutting out, or the scones will be oval.   

Put the scones on the warm baking tray, brush with milk and sprinkle on the extra cheese.   Makes approx 12.

Bake for about 8 minutes until well risen and golden.  Eat with butter.   They are good cold, but you won’t ever have any left…

Friday, 22 August 2014

Strawberry Snow

This is a real 1970s retro treat - a chilled glass of VERY sweet strawberry snow (and I mean very sweet!).  It looks very pretty, and is very quick to make.  If you have a savoury tooth, it might be a little too much...
I always wanted to try this recipe, but somehow never got round to it, nor to its companion, Apple Snow.  Maybe I'll have to test that one next!   The trick is to keep the strawberries as dry as possible, otherwise the whole edifice sinks in a wet heap.

Strawberry Snow

Strawberry Snow

8oz/225g ripe strawberries
1 egg white
3oz/75g sifted icing sugar

Hull the strawberries, but do not wash them (wipe if necessary!).    Crush them in a large bowl, add the egg white and sugar and whisk with an electric whisk for approximately 10 minutes until it is very thick and frothy.   Tip it into approximately four to six glasses – it will sink slightly, so over-fill each one.   Chill for at least six hours before serving with cream.   

Monday, 18 August 2014

Fresh Kiwi Sorbet

Continuing the ice cream theme, I thought I'd try something new!  Kiwis are the kind of fruit which lurk in the fruit bowl, as you tend to buy them rock hard, and then discover that they have passed through the spectrum to inedible without stopping at "ripe".  My children called them "Dinosaur's Eyes", and I continue to buy them in the mistaken belief that I will eat them myself....  so when I saw a pack of 8 reduced for quick sale, I couldn't resist.   Sorbet is basically a sugar syrup, plus fruit.  You can make the syrup any time and keep it in the fridge for ages.  

This sorbet is a little soft, which I understand is as a result of too much sugar, but the sorbet was a great hit nonetheless with my oldest son, who found it while I was away... .

Fresh Kiwi Sorbet

Fresh Kiwi Sorbet

8 kiwis, preferably ripe!
8oz/225g sugar
½ pint of water
juice of ½ lemon

First make a sugar syrup by putting the water and sugar into a pan and heating until the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for 5 -10 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat and leave it to cool entirely (you can put it in the freezer!).  

Peel the kiwis and purée in a blender.   You could use it like this, but I prefer to sieve out the black pips, as it had more than a passing resemblance to frog spawn.

Mix together the syrup, lemon and purée and churn the mixture in an ice cream maker.   Alternatively, freeze in a shallow container in the freezer, breaking it up with a fork every hour or so to stop large crystals from forming.  This sorbet doesn’t set rock solid.

This makes enough for about 4, depending on greed. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lime and Coconut Drizzle Cake

Why is lime and coconut such a delicious combination?  It's one of those made-in-heaven ones like chocolate and... well, chocolate and anything!  I tested this recipe on my TA friends the other day, and they rose to the challenge to demonstrate that the Army does, indeed, march on its stomach.

My TA pals and I had the privilege of taking part in the World War 1 Commemoration at Folkestone yesterday (with the added delight of meeting HRH Prince Harry!), and were marched down the route that more than ten million soldiers took to embark for France/Flanders.   There's a very steep hill, and the order is given to "step short" so you don't slip.  Going down the hill, we all felt a feeling of kinship with the millions of apprehensive young men who had made this journey before us, and I like to think that so many of them were carrying, in a small corner of their knapsacks, a cake as a reminder of home.   We will remember them.

Lime and Coconut Drizzle Cake

Lime and Coconut Drizzle Cake

3 large fresh eggs
6oz/150g sieved self-raising flour, less 1 tbsp
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
6oz/150g caster sugar
6oz/150g butter or spread at room temperature
¾ tsp baking powder
Grated zest of 2 limes

2oz/50g granulated sugar
Juice of 2 limes
1oz/25g desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Shove into the oven and cook for 25-35 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake 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.

Mix together the sugar, lime juice and coconut and, as soon as the cake has come out of the oven, stab it with a cocktail stick to make some deep holes and pour the mixture all over it slowly.  Rescue the coconut from tipping over the edges!  Leave in the tin until cool. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Classic Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie must be one of the nicest American imports!  A sweet, nutty pie with a hint of muscovado and golden syrup.  In the States it is made with corn syrup, but in the UK golden syrup makes a delicious substitute.   I made this one for my young Kenyan cousins, who were all but licking the plates – either they liked it very much, or we should have given them spoons and forks!   A lot of the recipes call for the tart base to be baked first.  I didn’t have time to do that, so just put the tart into the oven on a pre-heated baking sheet.  This avoids a soggy bottom, and the pastry is then not over-cooked.

Classic Pecan Pie
Pecan Pie

Pastry made with 8oz/220g flour, 4oz/110g butter, 1 egg, small amount of water
4oz/110g pale muscovado sugar
6floz/175g maple syrup
6floz/175g golden syrup
3oz/75g butter
3 eggs, beaten
1tbsp whisky or bourbon
5oz/150g pecans

Make the pastry in a food processor or by hand (mix the flour with a pinch of salt, add the butter in small pieces, rubbing it in until it looks like breadcrumbs, then add the egg and water to mix).   Chill the pastry for 15 minutes, then roll it out and fill a 9”/23cm loose base flan tin, prick the base with a fork and put the tin in the fridge while you assemble the other ingredients (it is best if you leave it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, but sometimes life’s too short!).

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and put a baking sheet in to heat.
In a medium size pan, put the sugar, syrups and butter and stir over a gentle heat until everything melts.   Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then gradually add some of the sugar/syrup mixture, whisking as you go.   Continue adding the sugar/syrup mix, then finally add the whisky/bourbon. 

Tip most of the nuts into the pastry case, keeping a good handful of the more perfect ones.  Put the case onto the pre-heated baking sheet and pour the mixture in before arranging the last pecans on the top. 

Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes until the mixture is still a bit wobbly in the middle, but has browned nicely.    It will puff up when it is cooking, and sink down later.  Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice cream and heaps of whipped cream.   

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Nigella's Lemon Polenta Cake

I love Nigella's recipes, and this Lemon Polenta Cake is not only fabulously moreish and delicious, but gluten free.  It tastes of sunshine, and was just perfect for a day spent singing Telemann cantatas with two friends - gluten-free Helen on the violin/recorder and Matthew playing the spinet.  Bringing really old music to life without hearing it first is an art, just like bringing a recipe to life!  The photo doesn't really do it justice, and I am surprised that it looks a little brown, too, as it wasn't when it left the oven.  Maybe it had a dose of fake bake....  As soon as the the cake comes out of the oven it has an astonishing amount of syrup poured over it, which soaks it in lusciousness.   I'm sure you could also make it dairy-free by using a spread instead of butter, but no guarantees as I haven't tried it!

Nigella's Lemon Polenta Cake

Nigella’s Lemon Polenta Cake

7oz/200g soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
7oz/200g caster sugar
7oz/200g ground almonds
3.5oz/100g fine polenta (I used medium)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
3 large eggs
zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

juice of 2 lemons
4.5oz/125 grams icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line the base of a 23cm/9inch spring clip cake tin with baking parchment.  Grease its sides lightly with butter.

Beat the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, either with a hand held whisk or
a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer.  Mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.  This stops the eggs from curdling the sugar/butter mix.

Lastly, add the lemon zest and tip the mixture into your prepared tin.  Nigella suggests you bake it for about 40 minutes, but I found it was ready far sooner – check after 30 (if it looks brown on top but isn’t cooked, protect the top with some foil).    The cake is ready when a skewer or hot knife comes out clean and the edge of the cake begins to shrink away from the tin.    Take the cake out of the oven, leaving in the tin.

Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small saucepan until the icing sugar has dissolved.  Pierce the top of the cake with a cake tester (Nigella’s suggestion, she says a skewer is too wide, but that’s all I had!).  Pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.

I served it with an orange mascarpone cream – mix the juice of half an orange with a tablespoon of icing sugar and an 8oz/220g tub of mascarpone.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Little Coffee Éclairs

Stour Puddings isn't complete without some mini éclairs, both coffee and chocolate - just the length of a finger, they are eaten in two delicious bites!   Choux pastry is really not difficult to make - frankly, if I can make it, so can you.  The most important thing when making it is not to use too much liquid - the roux (uncooked mixture) should be stiff, not floppy.  Please note that the recipe quantities below are precise, and need to be followed.   Don’t allow the water to boil much, but, equally, it does need to boil as the heat causes the starch in the flour to expand. 

Coffee Éclairs
Coffee Éclairs

3 ¾ oz/105g plain flour sieved twice with a pinch of salt
3oz/85g butter, cut into cubes
7 ½ fl oz/210ml water
3 small eggs

½ pint/10fl oz double cream
2oz/55g (approx., possibly more) icing sugar
Coffee essence

Put the sieved flour into a small bowl and have ready.  In a medium saucepan put the water and butter.  When the butter has melted, bring the water to the boil, take the pan off the heat and immediately pour in all the flour.  Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it leaves the sides of the pan and is smooth.   This is the roux. 

Let the roux cool slightly, then tip it into a Kenwood or Kitchen-Aid mixer.  Beat up the eggs and add in small quantities, beating on a low speed.  (No mixer? use a strong arm!).   The roux should be smooth and shiny, and hold its shape.  It isn’t necessary to use all the eggs if you think that the last drop will make the roux too soft. 

Heat the oven to 180 deg C and cover two baking sheets with parchment.  Using a ½” pipe, pipe mini éclairs, about the length of your little finger, not putting them too close together on the baking sheet.  With a damp finger, push in the ends (or you get little tails). 

Bake for about 15-20 minutes until they are well risen and starting to go brown.  Slit each one at the side, and then put back into a cooler oven for another 5 minutes so that they can dry out.  Cool on a baking rack.   This makes about 30, depending on size.

Cream and Coffee Icing 

Whip approx ½ pint cream and pipe it into each éclair through the opening at the side.   Put the icing sugar into a small bowl, add a tsp of water, and then enough coffee essence (or a dessertspoon of very strong coffee) and mix until the icing is stiff enough to be plastered on each little éclair.   This is a bit imprecise, sorry!  To get a shiny finish, use a round bladed knife or small palette knife, and dip it in a mug of very hot water every now and again.  

Friday, 4 July 2014

Lavender Crème Caramel

No apologies for continuing with the lavender theme - lavender is at its best in July!  This lavender-infused crème caramel was eaten so quickly at Stour Festival that I had trouble taking a photo.... as you can see...

The lavender is steeped in the milk, and then squeezed out, so that the lovely essence infuses the milk before it is baked into a caramel.  An interesting top tip emerged from this - I made a very unsuccessful crème caramel that flopped completely (diagnosis: oven too cold, insufficient cooking).   Seeking not to waste the delicious baked custard, I sieved it to remove the thicker top part, and then poured it into an ice cream maker.  Lo and behold...  Crème Caramel Ice Cream!  In the book of Pudding Rescues (one of my next features, perhaps?) this one was a winner.   As I have said before, failure tastes as good as success - it just has to be presented differently.

Lavender-infused Crème Caramel
Lavender-infused Crème Caramel

4 oz/110g sugar
¼ pint/5floz/145ml water

1 small bunch lavender in flower
1 pint/600ml full fat or semi-skimmed milk
4 eggs, beaten

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.

Pour the milk into a non-stick pan.  Tie the lavender bunch so that it doesn’t fall apart, and add it to the milk.  Warm the milk to roughly blood heat, then pour onto the beaten eggs (and sugar).    Squeeze out the lavender into the mixture – it will go a little blue at this point!   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 caramel and pour it over the crème.   Add a sprinkling of lavender flowers.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Lavender Shortbread

Have you ever tried using lavender in cooking?   Whilst lavender is more commonly used in beauty products, or for scenting drawers, it is absolutely delicious when used in biscuits, or as an an infusion.   I've been experimenting with various recipes, and this shortbread is not only easy, but really delicious.   Inhaling the scent of the lavender when you open the oven door must be like standing a field in Provence on a hot sunny day....  For best results, make the biscuits very thin, so they snap crisply when eaten.

Lavender Shortbread Biscuits

Lavender Shortbread

5oz/150g plain flour
3 level tbsps rice flour – if no rice flour, substitute plain flour
2oz/50g caster sugar
4oz/100g butter at just above room temperature
handful of lavender - pick the flowers off individually

Preheat oven to 170deg C/325 deg F.    Line a large baking sheet with parchment.   Mix together all the ingredients, including the lavender to make a dryish dough, which you knead a little before rolling (this stretches the gluten and makes the biscuit stick together better).  

Roll out the dough between two pieces of greaseproof parchment, about .5cm thick, or thinner if possible.   Cut out the shapes and transfer using a fish slice to the baking sheet.   Bake until golden – the butter in the mixture will brown while your back is turned, so check it frequently after 10-15 minutes.   When they are done, lift them carefully onto a rack and then dredge them with caster sugar.  

This quantity of ingredients made a whole tray of rounds.