Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year Nougatine

Happy New Year!  Are you looking to put a little crunch back into your life, or simply a good addition to your daily diet of ice cream?  How about these quick and easy nougatines?  I saw them being made on Professional Masterchef and was inspired...  to be honest, it was greatly helped by buying two silicone baking mats.  You have to work quickly, and be prepared for some heat in the kitchen!

This is a perfect dairy and gluten free treat to go with sorbet or ice cream.


6oz/150g caster sugar
3oz/75g flaked almonds

Have ready two silicone baking mats or two sheets of non-stick baking parchment and a rolling pin.  It also helps to use the baking tray the almonds were heated on. 

Toast the almonds in a hot oven (180 deg C) until lightly browned - only a few minutes, keep an eye on them!  Put the caster sugar into a pan and heat until it has dissolved, then keep heating until it has caramelised.  Don’t add any water, and stir it only lightly to get it all to dissolve, then, as it browns, whip it off the heat.  

This next bit is quite quick, and you have hot sugar in your hands, so read it through first! 

Add the almonds and stir to mix it all together, then pour it straight onto the parchment, immediately putting on the second layer.   Roll it all with the rolling pin until it is pretty flat and then, as soon as you can peel off the top layer, use a sharp knife or cutters to cut shapes before the nougatine becomes brittle and hard.

Allow it to set.

If you have any left, blitz it in a blender and it is praline.  

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Christmas Pudding Cheesecake

Do you have a left-over lump of Christmas pudding sheltering in your fridge?  Yes, of course you do! And the best way to use it up is to turn it into a very delicious cheesecake.   This is an adaptation of a BBC Good Food Recipe, which I tested on my family.  Result!  One more pudding to add to the repertoire!  not to mention several more pounds on the family's avoirdupois... This is not a gelatine cheesecake, but it is an idea to chill it overnight.  Failing that, an hour in the freezer does it the world of good.  Apparently, this will keep for 3 days - haven't tested that bit yet!  Try making it with gluten free biscuits, and then all your wheat-free friends will be happy too.

Christmas Pudding Cheesecake 

Christmas Pudding Cheesecake

8oz/225g ginger nut/hob nob biscuits, crushed to crumbs
4oz/110g butter

8oz/225g Christmas pudding (you don’t have to be too exact!)
Zest 1 orange
60ml brandy (or 30ml each brandy and stout)
1lb 6oz/600g cream cheese or soft cheese
10fl oz/300ml double cream (half a pint)
7oz/200g pale muscovado sugar
1 vanilla pod’s worth of seeds
(I added a tablespoon of chopped stem ginger and syrup)

2 clementines for decoration

Line a 9” spring clip tin with parchment.   Melt the butter in a bowl, add the biscuit crumbs, mix well and spread them over the base of the tin.  Chill in the fridge until set. 

Blend together the Christmas pudding, alcohol and orange zest until it is a lumpy purée.  Using a hand held whisk, beat together the cream cheese and sugar, adding the cream and vanilla seeds.   Now add the pudding purée (and ginger), and mix it all gently together.  Pour into the tin and level it up.  Chill for at least couple of hours until set (see above).

You are now supposed to cut the clementines into rounds, and put them on a baking tray, sprinkling with caster sugar and blow torching until they are caramelised.  As you can see from my photo, this didn’t quite happen!  Hope you do better than I did…    

Friday, 9 December 2016

Lemon Meringue Antarctic Cream

This is perhaps one of the easiest throw-together puddings in a long time, and also one of the most delicious!  One of my sons is currently trekking across Antarctica as part of a 6 man Reserve Forces team aiming to do a crossing of the continent.  They are currently battling cold and high winds, but also ice ridges known as sastrugi.  According to the team, it's like walking over lemon meringue pie. Bear in mind that the most walking any of us do over a lemon meringue pie is the post-lunch digestif!  
This pudding is a tribute to Alex and the SPEAR17 team, pulling their heavy pulks with all their food, bedding and fuel for .  If you want to follow their progress, go to

Lemon Meringue Cream 
Lemon Meringue Antarctic Cream

¾ pint/500ml double cream
½ pint/280ml Greek yoghurt (roughly half a carton)
1 small jar home made lemon curd
Mini meringues (2 egg whites, 2oz/50g caster sugar)
Lemon zest

Whip the cream until thick, add the Greek yoghurt.  Stir in the lemon curd.  Pour the cream into a large bowl and level the top.   Decorate with meringues and lemon zest.  This is best served not quite chilled. 

Meringues:   Whisk 2 egg whites until stiff, adding the caster sugar 1tsp at a time.  Pipe using a ½”/12mm pipe onto baking parchment.  Bake in a cool oven for approx. ½ to ¾ hr.   The oven should be at about 140-150 deg C, and the meringues should dry out but not get either too powdery or too coloured!   

This will make far too many, but they are delicious sandwiched together with a blob of whipped cream, or on the top of another pudding.  They keep for ages in a tin or plastic box. 

When you eat this, think yourself fortunate to be in a warm house and not outside in -25 deg C!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Orange and Stem Ginger Rock Cakes

If it's November, it must be a Christmas choir rehearsal:  that excitement of getting together to start practising this year's carols, learning new music, belting out the old favourites.   This recipe is an update on an old favourite - pretty much everybody who starts to bake learns to make rock buns, they are a staple!

My choir's first rehearsal is the "tea and cake" one, and the pressure is on to make something (or several somethings!) for the hungry singers.  Singers don't eat chocolate, but hoover up anything and everything else.    Rock cakes are like the choir - sweet orange zest for the soprano top notes, the warmth of the ginger for the altos, spice for the tenors and the basses... well, that's the rocky exterior!

Orange and Stem Ginger Rock Cakes 
Orange and Stem Ginger Rock Cakes

8oz/225g plain flour (or a gluten free blend)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger (or more for a real kick!)
4oz/100g butter cut into small pieces (or a spread)
4oz/100g Demerara sugar
zest of 1 orange
3oz/75g golden raisins/sultanas
3oz/chopped stem ginger 
1 egg, beaten plus a little milk

Preheat oven to 200 deg C, and line one large or two small baking trays with non-stick baking parchment (or grease the trays).   This will make about 12.

Sieve the flour, spices and baking powder.  Rub the butter/spread into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs (you could also do this in a mixer, pulsing at low speed).   Stir in the sugar, orange zest and fruit.  Pour in the beaten egg and mix it in gently (again, quick pulses).  You will probably need to add about a dessertspoon of milk, or slightly more (especially if you use gluten-free flour).   The mixture should be stiff and crumbly (the clue is in the name!).    Drop the mix in tablespoon sized lumps onto a baking sheet – you can shape it with a fork, but it should look craggy and rough.    Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack – when they are straight out of the oven, the cakes are quite soft and will spread a little, so use a fish slice to pick them or up or they will break.    

Friday, 28 October 2016

Chocolate Apricot Sandwich Biscuits

This recipe came from a Sunday magazine, which will have to remain nameless as there's no indication on the page I have torn out... also missing was the quantity of flour needed to complete the biscuits, but I got through that hurdle reasonably quickly, plus the second hurdle of the amazing amount of chocolate originally specified - enough to coat half of Belgium...

Here I present some delicious chocolate apricot sandwich biscuits, first tested on the Army in one of its traditional inter-warfare exercises known as "Afternoon Tea".   As you can see, the biscuits weren't entirely regular or, a we say in the Army, uniform, which could be considered to be a disadvantage.  I hope that you can do better than this!

Chocolate Apricot Sandwich Biscuits
Chocolate Apricot Sandwich Biscuits

8oz/225g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
8oz/225g butter, softened
8oz/225g icing sugar
3oz/70g cocoa powder
2 egg yolks (large)
1 tsp vanilla extract
8oz/225g dark chocolate
1tsp vegetable oil
Small jar of apricot jam

Sift together the dry ingredients and have ready.   Cream (on a low speed or you will decorate yourself!) the butter, sugar and cocoa powder until it is light and fluffy – this will take about 2-3 minutes.   Add the egg yolks and the vanilla essence, continuing to beat. Now tip in the flour mixture and beat it all together slowly until it becomes dough.  Chill the dough, roughly shaped into a flat disc, wrapped in plastic, for about half an hour.

Preheat oven to 190 deg C, and line two baking trays with non-stick parchment.   Cut the dough in two and roll each out to ½”/5mm thick.  This is best done between parchment, or you could use the old-fashioned method and have a lightly floured surface and rolling pin.   Use a 2”/4cm cutter and cut as many rounds as possible from the first rolling, then press all the scraps together and repeat.  Try not to over-work the dough (as Mary Berry would say).   Put the biscuits 1”/2cm apart on baking trays and bake for 7-9 minutes (watching carefully as the chocolate will start to burn before you notice).  Cool the biscuits on the trays and then put them onto a rack to finish. 

Melt the chocolate and oil to a glossy, smooth mixture.  Now coat half the biscuits with apricot jam and sandwich them with the other halves, pressing them together so the jam comes to the sides.  Dip each biscuit into the chocolate (I had to assist this process with a pastry brush).  Allow the finished biscuits to cool on more parchment until the chocolate has set.  You could also use the fridge.   The quantity was originally noted to be 32-36, but I reckon it only made 18 or so finished biscuits. 

Friday, 7 October 2016

Tarte aux Abricots

This recipe was originally published in the Daily Telegraph by one of my favourite food writers, Xanthe Clay.   I adore her recipes!   I've hung onto it, lusting gently over the lovely photo of the apricots peeping out of the tart, dusted thickly with icing sugar... and now, finally, I've made it.

As now seems usual in my house, I had the additional problem of a peckish husband to deal with, who snaffled a few of the apricots at just the wrong moment.  As you can see from the photo, this is more tart than abricot, but it still tasted great.   Xanthe comments that no one makes a better tart than the French.  Vive les tartes!

Xanthe's original recipe was for a 10" flan tin, and she suggested halving the quantities for a 7" tin. Just to be inconvenient, I used an 8" tin (somewhere between 8" and 9" to be accurate), and used 2/3 of the quantity, which I have reproduced below, as a 7" tin is too small.   The quantities divide up and down very easily.

Tarte aux Abricots or French Apricot Tart 
Tarte aux Abricots/French Apricot Tart

Sweet shortcrust:
8oz/225g plain flour, sifted
4oz/110g butter, diced
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 large egg yolk and 2-3 tablespoons cold water

9 ripe apricots
3oz/75g ground almonds
6 fl oz/170ml crème fraiche (approx)
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar

Make the pastry by hand or in the processor (mix the flour with the sugar, add the fat and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Next add the egg.  Don’t add all the water until you are sure you need it.  Rest the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes.   Line an 8-8 ½ ” loose base flan tin with the pastry and prick the base with a fork before putting it back into the fridge for 20 minutes.    Heat the oven to 200 deg C and put in a baking tray to heat.  

Halve the apricots and remove the stones.  Put the stones into a plastic bag and hit them with a hammer so that you can remove the inner kernels.   Sprinkle the ground almonds over the base of the tart, then add the halved apricots, cut side down, packing them tightly (as I didn’t!).  

Put the tart onto the hot baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.  After 10 minutes, check that the tart isn’t getting too browned and, if so, cover the pastry edge with a strip of foil.  

Now chop up the apricot kernels and mix them with the crème fraiche, egg yolks and sugar.  Pour this mixture into the gaps between the apricots, so that the tops are just peeping out of the sea of custard. 

Return the tart to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the custard is just set.  Cool before serving (I didn’t manage that bit either!).  Dust with caster sugar.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Eton Mess Ice Cream

While we're enjoying this lovely summer weather, let's make ice cream instead of hay!  This is another one of those fabulous ice creams that is really so easy to make, but leaves you wondering why you didn't try it earlier...  Eton Mess is a classic pudding, but in ice cream form it's even more mouthwateringly delicious.   I made it using my own meringues, but you could use bought ones, especially ones you bought and forgot about and then discover have crumbled beyond redemption.  Blogging the original pudding, I described it as "Summer in a glass".  This one is definitely "Summer in a Scoop".

All these puddings are tested on my family, or my friends.  Sometimes, impatience sets in, and it's not possible to do a beautiful picture of the pudding before it's devoured. This is one of those times...

Eton Mess Ice Cream
Eton Mess Ice Cream  

3 egg yolks
1 pint/600ml double or single cream and milk mixed (more cream = richer ice cream)
4oz/120g caster sugar
6oz/170g strawberries, puréed in a blender
6oz/170g strawberries for decoration (or whatever’s left in the punnet)
Handful of crumbled meringues – approx. 2 home made ones
few springs of mint/basil

Warm the milk/cream in a pan until blood temperature.  Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl, add the milk and cream and then pour it all back into the pan.  Stir it gently until it thickens slightly, then allow it to cool.  Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until thick.   Add half of the strawberry purée.

Just before serving, add the rest of the strawberry purée and meringues and mix in roughly, so that you get a lovely swirl of curd and the meringues don’t entirely disappear.    Top with the remaining strawberries, quartered and the mint or basil (it's for decoration only, not meant to be eaten).   Makes approx. 1.5 litres.  

Friday, 16 September 2016

Peach and Pistachio Tart

The Daily Telegraph featured this amazing tart a year or so ago, and I see it has just been re-issued. Well, I beat them to it!  This is one I made earlier... and it features in my book "Kate's Puddings - Second Helpings".   It was a really easy and rewarding tart to make.  I used white flesh nectarines instead of peaches, as I prefer their smooth skin. The nectarines moved during cooking, so the perfect symmetry achieved by the original chef was not copied. The flavour was amazing!   You could use a spread instead of butter to make it dairy free.

One of those tarts you have to keep tidying up when you see it in the fridge… If you Serves 8

Peach and Pistachio Tart 

Peach and Pistachio Tart

7oz/200g plain flour
3 ½ oz/100g butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
4tbsp cold water

4.5oz/125g butter
4.5oz/125g  caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp extra
2oz/50g ground almonds
3.5oz/100g ground pistachios
2oz/50g plain flour
½ tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
3 ripe peaches/nectarines, quartered
½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped mixed with 1tbsp caster sugar

Make the dough by hand or in a food processor.  Wrap it in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.  Roll out the pastry into a 9”/23cm loose base tin. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, then bake for 10-15 minutes until golden (I didn’t do this, I baked it blind instead – see end of book). Leave to cool.

In a food processor, beat the butter and sugar together until light, then stir in the nuts, flour, salt and eggs. Mix well, then spoon over the cooled tart base and spread evenly.   Dip the peach slices in the vanilla seeds and a tbsp of sugar and arrange in concentric circles on top of the pistachio mix. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the peaches are just coloured and the pistachio frangipane is firm.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Pear and Chocolate Tarts

It's the time of year for garden fruit, in quantity, and some of it cannot be stored, like pears.   Pears in general are tricky - they seem to pass from rock to ripe at midnight, so it's good to have a quick and easy pudding up your sleeve that takes advantage of this precious moment!

Some lovely friends of mine were staying, and this was an idea that harnessed the fruit, some puff pastry and a good handful of chocolate pieces.    It also took incredibly little time and the resulting tarts tasted great.  You could do them without chocolate so they would be suitable for diabetics.

Pear and Chocolate Tarts

Pear and Chocolate Tarts

1 pack ready to roll puff pastry
1 egg yolk, beaten
4oz/110g chocolate chunks
2 large pears, each peeled and cut into 12 slices
1 tbsp caster sugar

2tbsp apricot jam, warmed
Handful of toasted flaked almonds
2oz/50g plain chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C.     Line a baking tin with non-stick parchment.

Unroll the pastry and cut it into six large oblongs, 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, divide up the chocolate chunks.   Arrange the pears over the top and dust lightly with caster sugar.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the border has risen and is golden brown, and the fruit cooked but not browned.    Remove from the oven and brush the pears with the warmed (semi-liquid) apricot jam.   Next, scatter the nuts on top.  Lastly, melt the plain chocolate and drizzle it over each tart. 

Eat hot or cold, with lashings of custard/ice cream or home made chocolate sauce. 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream

Don't we all love that combination of lemon, cream and meringues?  This really easy lemon meringue pie ice cream is all that, and more...  The quantities are variable - I used some left over meringue (confession time:  a failed pavlova) and the remains of a jar of home made curd.   You could even use bought ice cream, curd and meringues and just put them all together.  Would you sink that low?   If you do, let me know how you got on!  Apologies for the photo - the ice cream was so delicious, I wasn't given enough time to photograph it in pretty bowls!

Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream
Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream  

3 egg yolks
1 pint/600ml double or single cream and milk mixed (more cream = richer ice cream)
4oz/120g caster sugar
½ small jar of lemon curd (home made is best!)
Handful of crumbled meringue – approx. 2

Warm the milk/cream in a pan until blood temperature.  Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl, add the milk and cream and then pour it all back into the pan.  Stir it gently until it thickens slightly, then allow it to cool.  Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until thick. 

Just before serving, add the lemon curd and meringues and mix in roughly, so that you get a lovely swirl of curd and the meringues don’t entirely disappear.   Makes approx. 1.5 litres.  

Friday, 19 August 2016

Rhubarb and Amaretti Cake with Orange and Rosemary Glaze

This fabulous recipe was one I spotted in Delicious Magazine (my favourite!), and used at Stour as a gluten and dairy free option.  It tasted absolutely amazing, and is a worthy addition to the Stour Pudding canon.  The recipe below is as printed, but, to make it gluten free, I left out the Amaretti biscuits (annoyingly, because I had half a packet that could have benefited from being used!).   It keeps in an airtight tin for up to 3 days, which helps, and, if you are making the full-fat dairy version, you could serve it with lashings of real custard or whipped cream.

Rhubarb and Amaretti Cake with Orange and Rosemary Glaze
Rhubarb and Amaretti Cake with Orange and Rosemary Glaze

8oz/225g softened butter/buttery spread
7oz/200g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 medium free range eggs, beaten
Grated zest 2 oranges
7oz/200g ground almonds
2oz/50g plain flour (or gluten free substitute)
1 tsp baking powder
8 Amaretti biscuits, broken into small chunks
1-2 sticks of rhubarb, timed, cut into 3”/6cm pieces, then sliced lengthways to give 12-16 lengths
Granulated sugar to sprinkle

Juice of 1 orange
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1oz/20g granulated sugar
Optional squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, grease and base line a 9” loose bottomed tart or cake tin with parchment. 

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the vanilla and eggs, beating in one by one.  If it looks curdled, relax! Then fold in the zest, almonds, flour, baking powder and Amaretti.  Tip this mixture into the cake tin and arrange the rhubarb pieces in a spoke pattern, 2/3 uncovered.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the cake is cooked.  To test, put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, and it should come out clean – protect the cake with foil if it is going brown. 

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then lift out (still on its base) on a wire rack. 

Now make the glaze – put the juice, rosemary and sugar in a pan, simmer and then boil for 4-5 minutes to reduce it.  Add lemon if you want a kick!  Once the cake has cooled, pour the syrup over and allow it to sink in before saturating it with the rest of the syrup.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar and serve as lavishly as possible – Delicious Magazine recommends crème fraiche, or cream whipped with icing sugar and a splash of amaretto.  Wow!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Molasses Ice Cream

My beloved husband, bless him, has decided that sugar is a potential poison, so is happily guzzling on molasses instead...  oh, the innocence!    It's ok, it won't last long but, in the meantime, I was experimenting with molasses ice cream (apparently molasses is brilliant for arthritis.. me neither).   And, actually, it's pretty good!  It's got that really, really dark treacly flavour you'd expect, and isn't particularly sweet, but, when paired with gingerbread (ginger, also good for arthritis), it's a winning pudding!  You could use health food store molasses or Lyle's black treacle.   Serve with gingerbread (

Molasses Ice Cream with Gingerbread
Molasses Ice Cream

3 egg yolks
5 fl oz/120mg molasses
23floz/600ml mixed milk and cream – normally 2/3 cream to 1/3 milk

Quick method:

Separate the egg yolks into a bowl/food processor (putting the whites into a jar to make meringues later).  Add the molasses and beat the mixture together.  Slowly add the cream/milk mixture, and whisk until it is well combined.

Slower Method:
Separate the egg yolks and add the molasses.  Warm the milk/cream mixture until blood heat, then pour it over the yolks/molasses.  Return the mixture to the pan and heat gently, stirring until it has thickened up and you’ve made a beautiful custard.  Allow it to cool, then…

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 1.5 pint, enough for 6-8 people (or one hungry husband).  

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Mixed Berry and Cheese Mousse

This is best described as a light cheesecake without the base...  The original in my ancient Good Housekeeping was a ring mould, with the jelly part crowning a cheese mousse.  However, as my ring mould wasn't large enough, and I wanted something a bit more 21st century, I opted for the striped effect.   It didn't take much longer to make, as I chilled the jelly part in a separate mould, dropping it into the bowl with the cheese bit before adding the final cheese mousse.  Top tip - make the jelly in a mould exactly the same size as the bowl!   (second top tip - use sheet gelatine, it's much easier)

Mixed Berry Cheese Mouse

Mixed Berry and Cheese Mousse

Berry jelly layer:
1lb/400g mixed fruit – red/black/white currants, raspberries added later
¼ pint/150ml water
1-2oz/25-50g caster sugar (to taste)
4 sheets gelatine  

Cheese mousse layers:
2oz/50g caster sugar
1 orange, zest and juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
7floz/200ml crème fraiche (1 tub)
9oz/250g cream cheese (1 tub)
2 eggs, separated
6 sheets gelatine plus 3 tbsp hot water in a small bowl
½ pint/142ml double cream

Put the mixed currants into a pan, add the water and sugar and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  I started with the smaller amount of sugar, and added a little bit more as the blackcurrants were especially tart!  Cook slowly, so that the berries keep their shape, then add the raspberries before letting it all cool down.  Soak the gelatine sheets in water until soft, then add to the fruit, stirring gently to distribute the gel.  Pour almost all of the mixture into a tin the same size as the serving bowl, and put it in the fridge to set.  Leave the remaining part for decoration.

Put the rind, juice, caster sugar, crème fraiche, cream cheese and egg yolks in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Again, soak the gelatine sheets in cold water, before squeezing them out and putting them into the hot water to disperse.   Add the liquid gelatine to the mix and blend again.  In a large bowl, whip the cream, then add to it all the cheese mixture and fold together (yes, I know you’re supposed to do it the other way round, but you can’t fold cream into a blender, and it means dirtying another bowl!).  Lastly, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks, folding in a tablespoon to break up the texture, then the rest. 

Pour half of the cheese mixture into your chosen dish, chill (keep the other half of the mixture in a warm place so it doesn’t set prematurely).   When it is pretty nearly set, turn the jelly layer over the top of the cheese layer (it helps to loosen the edge of the jelly layer with a knife and then give it a sharp jolt or two until it has shivered out onto the bottom layer).  Add the remaining cheese layer and chill again.  Lastly, warm up the remaining jelly section, just so that it comes loose and you can pour it onto the top.  Chill again, then serve. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Mocha Mousse Cake

The world's most fabulous chocolate mousse cake just grew up... and became a mocha mousse cake! The original, a wonderful recipe by Claire Macdonald, features in my second cookbook - Kate's Puddings Second Helpings (available from my website or via  Wanting to make something sophisticated, I sought to improve on her perfection and here's the result!  Another new Stour recipe, so I piped some liquid chocolate key signatures to go onto the top to denote the musical theme, but you could use whipped cream blobs or grated chocolate.   The picture below shows it in its travelling tin, as it wouldn't have survived the journey otherwise!  When taken out of the tin, you can see the delicious two layers of mousse over a light chocolate cake.  Heaven.

Warning:  You will find yourself in the kitchen “tidying up” this cake once it has been started….
Mocha Mousse Cake 
Mocha Mousse Cake

6oz/175g dark chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs, separated
5oz/150g caster sugar
30ml/1fl oz strong black coffee

1 tsp powdered gelatine (or 2 leaves, soaked)
6oz/175g dark chocolate, chopped
90ml strong black coffee
4 eggs, separated
¼ pint/150ml double cream, lightly whipped (preferably at room temperature)

Preheat the oven to 180 deg.  Butter a 25cm spring clip cake tin and line the base with parchment.   Melt the chocolate.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and caster sugar together, until it is thick and pale.  Fold in the coffee and stir in the cooled chocolate.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture.  Pour into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until you can stick a skewer or hot knife in and it comes out clean.   Leave the cake to cool in its tin.

For the mousse, pour the second lot of coffee into a bowl or saucepan and add the gelatine.  Heat through gently until the gelatine has dissolved. 

Melt the chocolate, then stir in the coffee.  Beat the egg yolks into the mixture.   Next you fold in the whipped cream, before whisking the egg whites until stiff and folding them into the mousse.

The cake will have puffed up in the oven and crusted, so you have to press it down in the tin with your fingers to make a more compact layer.   Pour over the mousse and leave it for 3-4 hours to set (actually it set quite quickly in the fridge).

To serve, dip a palette knife in hot water and run it round the inside of the tin before opening the spring clip and releasing the cake.  Plate it up and then you can decorate it.   

To make the chocolate decorations, melt some chocolate and pipe it onto parchment.  You can make a quick piping bag by taking a 9" square of parchment.  Hold both bottom corners, then take the left corner over to the top right, curling it under.  Curl it a little tighter, then you can stick a bit of tape on to keep the shape of the cone, or just pour in the chocolate, snip a bit off the end and get going.  Chill the piped decorations in the fridge, so they will peel off easily.  

Monday, 11 July 2016

Orange, Almond and Caramel Torte

Is one of your friends both gluten and dairy free?  If so, you'll know how difficult it is to make a pudding that is not just poached fruit.   This, to me, is a challenge, and this year's Stour Festival saw a new cake, this deliciously squidgy orange and almond torte, with caramelised oranges on the top.   It's ridiculously easy to make, and, with its lovely caramelled top, looks pretty and has an intense orange flavour.  Why?  Because the main ingredient is a whole orange!  This fabulous recipe was originally published in Good Housekeeping magazine,

Although I do have a blowtorch, the caramel on the cake was made by boiling sugar and water and pouring it over the orange pieces.  This is best served with something creamy, which at Stour means piling another three puddings beside it...

Orange, Almond and Caramel Torte 
Almond, Orange and Caramel Torte

1 medium orange
3 eggs
8oz/225g golden caster sugar
9oz/250g ground almonds
½ level tsp baking powder
Plus – flour to dust (use GF flour) and oil to grease the tin

2oz/50g white sugar
A little water (2tbsp)
2 oranges

Put the orange into a jug, cover it with 3 ½ floz/100ml water, and microwave it for 1-2 minutes (900w) until it is soft.   Remove it from the water and allow it to cool.   Then cut the orange in half, removing any pips and the little end piece (do I have to tell you this?), and blitz it in a processor until it has become a smooth purée. 

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and line an 8 or 9” 23cm spring clip cake tin with parchment, then grease it, sprinkling a little gluten free flour on afterwards (I now use Dr Oetker’s cake release spray, it’s magic!) - cornflour would work too.    

Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale – the longer the better.  Then fold in the almonds, baking powder and puréed orange.   Pour it into the tin and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a warm skewer comes out clean. 

Slow is best, so don't be afraid to cook it longer.  If it starts to brown on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of foil.  Leave it to cool in the tin, then gently remove the sides and base, putting the cake onto its serving plate.

Use a serrated knife to cut the pith and peel off the oranges (as you can see, I failed a little on this), then hold the orange in one hand and slice into each segment with the knife so you get neat little peel-less pieces.   Arrange the oranges over the torte.  Lastly, heat the sugar and water, stirring a little to dissolve the sugar, until it becomes a brown caramel – not too brown!!!   Pour it quickly over the oranges and cake.    Leave it to cool. 

Without the orange top, this cake will keep for about a week to ten days.   

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Blackcurrant and Mint Mousse

Blackcurrant season is coming up!  If, like me, your freezer is insulated with previous years' currants, put them to good use with this delicious and easy pudding.   I suspect it freezes well, too, but haven't tried.   It went down well at Stour Festival - in fact, it disappeared on the evening it was put out, which was gratifying but meant I had to think up another pudding for the following day!   Such a first world problem...   This recipe is one of the wonderful Claire MacDonald's recipes, which I have amended only in that I prefer to sieve the puree to get rid of most of the pips.  Doing so also means you don't have to pick the blackcurrants over particularity thoroughly when you cook them.

A note on gelatine - I have discovered that the standard leaf gelatine is pork based, and the powder gelatine is beef based.   Neither sounds particularly pleasant, but the leaf gelatine smells a lot nicer!   I've not tried the vegetarian version yet, sorry.

Blackcurrant and Mint Mousse
Blackcurrant and Mint Mousse

1lb/500g blackcurrants
a good handful of mint leaves
3 large eggs, separated
6oz/175g caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 sachet of gelatine (or four leaves)
½ pint/300ml double cream softly whipped

Put the blackcurrants in a saucepan, cover and simmer gently in their own juice until the currants are soft.  Cool before adding the mint leaves and puréeing them in a food processor or blender.   At this stage, I then sieve the purée before allowing it to cool completely.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, adding the caster sugar, and keep going until they are thick, pale and have increased in volume.  Soften the gelatine with the lemon juice in a saucepan and heat until the gelatine has dissolved (if you use leaf gelatine, soften the sheets in water, squeeze out and add to the heated lemon juice).  Leave it until it has started to set (ie, coats the back of a metal spoon) and then fold in the whipped cream.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the mousse using a metal spoon.   I always put a tablespoonful in first to loosen the texture of the mousse before adding the rest.  Pour into a serving bowl and chill until it is set. 

This can be made a day in advance, but is best eaten at room temperature.   

Monday, 20 June 2016

Quick Lemon Sorbet in an Ice Bowl

Regular readers of the blog know that I spend two weekends a year working in the Artistes' Tent at Stour Music Festival (a wonderful Baroque/Early Music Festival in a semi-disused church in Boughton Aluph, Kent).  Over that time, we feed hordes of hungry singers and musicians, plus all the volunteer helpers.   This was my first year on my own, and the stakes were high - the wonderful Jo has been Queen of Puddings for 55 years, so standards must not be allowed to slip!   This first weekend is a time for new puddings and experiments, as well as the classic Stour favourites (if you click on the "labels" section of the blog, there is a tag for "Stour Festival Puddings") - you can see some of the rest of them in the background of the photo.

I was challenged to produce frozen flowers in some form...  so I made an ice bowl with garden flowers, plus a lemon sorbet.   Can't think why I've not blogged a lemon sorbet before, but it's so easy!!!!   You don't really need an ice cream maker, just time.   The recipe below is the simplest going, but you could add egg white to give it a bit more smoothness.  I didn't - having used 18 egg whites already in several other guises, there were simply none left.

Lemon Sorbet in an Ice Bowl
Quick Lemon Sorbet

10 large lemons, zest and juice
Equal weights sugar and water - I used 20oz to 20floz/500g to 500ml 

First make the stock syrup by putting the water and sugar into a pan, stirring gently, heating until the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for 5 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat and leave it to cool entirely (you can put it in the freezer!).   This keeps for weeks, so you could make double quantity and put half in the fridge for another time.

Add the juice and zest to the mixture, stir well and churn the mixture in an ice cream maker (this quantity took two goes).   Alternatively, freeze in a shallow container in the freezer, breaking it up with a fork every half hour or so to stop large crystals from forming.   

This makes enough to fill a 2 litre tub.  It is best served slightly less than rock hard - easy in a hot tent!    

To make it more like a sherbet, add 2 egg whites to the ice cream maker, or whisk the whites and fold them into the mix if you are open freezing it.

Ice Bowl
2 bowls
parcel tape and a couple of heavy tins 
cooled boiled water/mineral water (this helps keep the ice clear)

Choose two bowls with a similar shape - do I have to tell you to have one smaller than the other?  Thought not!  Pick pretty flowers.  Pour some water into the larger bowl, add some of the flowers.  Place the smaller bowl on top.  Push the rest of the flowers in round the edges, adding more water.  The second bowl will rise, so put the tins into it before strapping the parcel tape across the top to keep the second bowl level with the first and in the centre.   Fill up with the water - you might need to check the tape - and add another food tin.    Freeze overnight until solid.

To use - allow the bowl to defrost just a little before unmoulding it and adding the sorbet.  It will be a wonderful centrepiece - some people commented on how pretty the flowers were as they appeared as the ice melted.   Just make sure that the ice bowl is in a container that can hold the inevitable meltwater!  


Monday, 13 June 2016

Elderflower and Strawberry Swiss Roll

Inspired by the wonderful Xanthe Clay's picnic feast in a recent Saturday Telegraph, I thought I'd bring a bit of the magic of elderflowers and fresh jam into a Swiss Roll.  At the same time, gluten free was also part of the brief, to see if the roll could stand up to such treatment.   Lacking strawberry jam, I poached some strawberries in elderflower cordial (home made, of course), and whipped the mixture through the fresh cream.    Success!   Yes, it did crack a little, which is not surprising, as gluten free flour gives a different crumb to standard white flour.  I did add a little Xanthan gum (Wow - two Xs in one paragraph!) to keep it all together.  

Here is the luscious result, together with one of my elderflower heads - yes, they are pink... Try to make this with real cordial, it is just so good!   Here's the recipe:

Elderflower and Strawberry Swiss Roll
Elderflower and Strawberry Swiss Roll

3 eggs
4oz/110g caster sugar
4oz/110g plain flour (or rice flour with ¼ tsp Xanthan Gum)
1tbsp hot water

caster sugar
1lb/350g strawberries, half for decoration
Elderflower cordial
½ pint (200ml) double cream

Pre-heat oven to 220 deg C, and line a baking tray/Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.   The tin should be approx the size of a piece of A4 paper or slightly larger.  Snip the the baking parchment diagonally into the corners of the tin – this helps the parchment mould into the tin better and gives a better shape to the roll. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar, hard, for at least 5-8 minutes (preferably in a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer to save your arms!).   The mixture should be really 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 tablespoon of hot water.    Pour the mixture into the prepared tin 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.    When it is cool, you can fill it as described below.   Roll up, using the paper to help you.   Transfer (carefully!) to a plate, dredge with sugar and decorate with strawberries and fresh elderflowers.

To make the “jam”, quarter half a 350g/1lb punnet of strawberries, and put into a small pan.  Nearly cover with neat elderflower cordial, add 2 tbsps water, bring to under the boil and simmer for a bit.  Take out the strawberries and put them onto a metal plate to cool as quickly as possible.  Boil the syrup for a minute or so to thicken/reduce it, then cool it too.   Whip the cream to soft peaks, add the syrup and strawberries and spread it all over the inside of the roll.   Roll up …. Roll up… eat!   

Friday, 3 June 2016

Triple Chocolate Brownies

I have yet to find someone who doesn’t like brownies!  I adore them, when properly made, not cakey, but chewy, with lots and lots of chocolate.   Seeking to improve on perfection, I tried adding even more chocolate (and this batch was also done with rice flour for a gluten-free treat), and tested the results, first on the Army, and then on my builder, who doesn’t eat sweet things.  Well…  it has to be said that my builder is now converted to Triple Chocolate Brownies – you see, I said I had yet to find someone who didn’t like them!

Triple Chocolate Brownies
Triple Chocolate Brownies

4oz/100g plain chocolate
5oz/150g butter
4 ½ oz/125g plain flour (or rice flour)
½ oz/15g cocoa powder
10 ½ oz/300g soft muscovado sugar 
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2oz/50g dark chocolate chunks
4oz/100g chopped pecans/walnuts

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a baking tin 9 x 12” with non-stick baking parchment. 

Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, stir the 4oz/100g chocolate into the butter so it all mixes together (it is better to under-heat the chocolate and stir out the lumps using the residual heat in the butter).  

Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder together.    In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, adding the sugar and vanilla.  Mix until just combined (this gives the best brownie texture – ie, not beaten to death).   Fold the melted chocolate into the beaten egg mix, then add the flour, chocolate chunks and nuts.  

Spread into the tin and cook for up to 25 minutes – the mixture will rise in the tin, but it is better that it is undercooked rather than solid.    Cut into bars or squares when cool, if you can wait that long! 

This is a fabulous easy pudding – just warm the brownies gently and then serve topped with a generous scoop of home made vanilla ice cream, and some fresh fruit or fruit compôte.  

Friday, 27 May 2016

Elderflower and Almond Cake

This cake by Lucas Hollweg (courtesy of the Sunday Times Magazine), has become an instant hit with my TA friends on its first outing!  Although I detest the word "moist", there is no other way properly to describe this fabulous cake.  I made it with a gluten-free flour blend, which worked brilliantly, plus my own elderflower cordial and home-laid eggs (how boastful is that!).   The concept of stopping armed conflict at 4pm for tea and cake is one we all felt should be encouraged, as it boosts morale and sugar levels, enabling that final surge of energy before the evening.   It is also quintessentially English, in fact, as English as afternoon tea..

Elderflower and Almond Cake 
Elderflower and Almond Cake

8oz/225g softened butter
2oz/50g self-raising flour (or a blend)
1 level tsp baking powder
7oz/200g ground almonds
8oz/225g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs, beaten
finely grated zest of a lemon

Syrup and Icing:
160ml undiluted elderflower cordial
juice of the lemon
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
5 ½ fl oz/150ml mascarpone
5 fl oz/150ml double cream
handful of chopped pistachios

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and line a 23cm springform cake tin with parchment, and grease with butter (I now use Dr Oetker’s cake release spray, it’s magic!) .   Mix together the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.  Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy.  Add the eggs slowly, beating well after each one (you can add 1 tbsp of the flour at the same time to stop the mix curdling).  Add the remaining flour, and beat it in quickly.

Pour the batter into the tin, and bake for approx 40-45 minutes until it is well risen and golden, or until a warm skewer comes out clean.  Slow is best, so don't be afraid to cook it longer.  If it starts to brown on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of foil.

While the cake is cooking, mix 3 ½ oz/100ml cordial with the lemon juice and 1tbsp sugar.   Remove the cake from the oven, leave it in the tin, then spike it all over and pour the syrup onto it, making sure it is evenly drenched.  You won’t believe how much liquid one cake can absorb!  Leave it to cool in the tin, then gently remove – it will be very moist.

To make the icing, whisk the mascarpone with the remaining cordial until smooth, before adding the cream and whisking it again to make a softly thick but spreadable icing.  Cover the top of the cake and scatter with chopped pistachios. 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Maple Pecan Biscuits

How fortunate that most people like biscuits, and are happy to test them!  There's nothing like the snap of a freshly made biscuit, and these are a great example of the species.   Light and crisp, with a bit of a crunch and a lovely smell of maple, these are relatively quick to make, although they do need two hours to chill in the fridge, so instant gratification is out...    The recipe came from the Sunday Times, just one of the many tear-outs I, like you, keep, just in case I feel inspired.  I haven't tested them either gluten or dairy free.

Top tip:  Watch them!  One batch browned quite quickly - they also spread out on the baking sheet.  As you can see from the photo, I'm incapable of rolling a perfect log - most of the biscuits are oval, but they taste great.

Maple Pecan Biscuits
Maple Pecan Biscuits

5oz/140g butter, softened
80g/3oz maple syrup
2oz/60g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
5oz/140g flour
1oz/30g cocoa powder
6.5oz/180g toasted pecans, coarsely blitzed

In a medium sized bowl, beat the butter until it is smooth, then add the maple syrup and sugar, beating again until the mixture is light and fluffy.  A hand held beater is good for this, but just don’t do the sugar on full power straight away!

Next, add the egg yolk, and beat again, this time for a couple of minutes.  The mixture should be pale and light.  Now stir in the flour and pecans. You will have some very soft dough.   Divide this in two, putting each half on a piece of cling film, using the film to help form two sausages about 2”/5cm in diameter.   Wrap the cling film securely round each sausage and chill for at least two hours. 

The oven should be at 180 deg C.  Line two or three baking sheets with parchment, then cut the chilled dough into slices about ¼”/5mm thick.  Arrange them on the sheet so there is space between each one, and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.   They will be soft, but will crisp up after they have been cooled on a wire rack. 

Best eaten warm.   Store in an airtight tin.  The original recipe suggested it would make 24 or so, but I made about 35 thinner ones – if you cut the dough into thicker slices, it will spread further, so you need more space on the tray otherwise the biscuits melt into each other.