28 Feb 2013

Bakewell Tart

I have wanted to make a proper Bakewell tart for years ever since visiting Bakewell and tasting one from a bakery there.  Before this I had always believed them to be the sickly sweet confections from Mr Kipling which consist almost entirely of icing and I am sure that many others hold the same belief as I did.  I finally decided to make one this week because I discovered that, having made previous plans, I am going to miss out on my yearly trip to the Peak District where my family keeps a caravan and therefore miss out on a possibility of going to Bakewell again any time soon.  I thus decided that I would make my own tart just to ensure that I would at least not be missing out on the culinary delights of the trip.

  • 500g pack of sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry jam
  • a sprinkling of flaked almonds
  • icing sugar to dust
  1.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Roll out the pastry to about half a centimetre in thickness and place it into a 20cm tart tin (this can be quite difficult as sweet pastry likes to break into pieces, don't worry if this happens, just press it back together again in the tin)
  3. Place a piece of baking parchment in the case and fill with baking beans - rice or dried beans work just as well if you don't have any.  Then blind bake the pastry case in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  4. Take the parchment and beans out of the tin and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until golden brown
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl then beat in the eggs.
  6. Fold in the ground almonds
  7. Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the cooled pastry case
  8. Take the almond mixture and spoon it gently over the jam, if you tip it all out in one go it will squish out the jam so that it won't be evenly spread.
  9. Dust the tart with icing sugar and sprinkle over the flaked almonds
  10. Put back into the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

I decided to use ready made pastry for this Bakewell tart just to make it easier for myself but if you are feeling enthusiastic and want to make it entirely from scratch then just look up a recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry and good on you.  If you have never had a real Bakewell tart before then the outcome may surprise you a little bit, it is incredibly moist, almondy and sweet - though not in the Mr Kipling way.  I was very happy with the outcome of my tart, as was everybody else who tried a piece and thought that it tasted exactly like the ones I have eaten in Bakewell. Success.

9 Sep 2012


The recipe for this tiramisu has come straight off the top of my head and, having never made it before using a recipe, I apologize for it being slightly unconventional.  I made a first attempt at it a couple of weeks ago for a friend who came to stay with me but was not totally happy with the result as, in my opinion, it was a bit too mild and needed more booze to make it taste nicer.  I'm sure that not everybody would agree with me on this but it is my recipe and I will make it the way I like it (and just imagine me sticking my tongue out at the screen as I wrote that because that is what I felt like doing).  I was not planning to make another attempt at the recipe as soon as this but my manager caught me looking miserable at work on Friday after I had been having quite a rough week and made me promise that I would do something fun this weekend.  Making my own recipe for tiramisu may not be exactly what she had in mind for me to do but cooking and then blogging about it really makes me feel better, if I have the time to do it.

This is a very simple recipe, it doesn't even require any cooking so I would recommend it for anyone who is not too confident in the kitchen but wants to make a tasty dessert.  Or for anyone who is confident in the kitchen but just wants to make something simple, after all, just because you are good at cooking, doesn't mean you have to make the most complicated things all the time.

250g tub of mascarpone
300ml double cream
100g golden caster sugar (though normal caster sugar would be fine too)
100ml Baileys
1 packet of trifle sponges
1 cup strong black coffee (I brewed mine in a cafetiere but you could also use a coffee maker or instant coffee if you really have no other choice)
75ml coffee liqueur such as kahlua or tia maria
dark chocolate for decoration

  • Layer the bottom of a square dish with the trifle sponges and pour the coffee and coffee liqueur over them so that they soak up the liquid
  • Put the cream and mascarpone in a large mixing bowl with the sugar and Baileys and whisk with an electric whisk until it is thick, like the consistency of whipped cream.
  • Spread the cream mixture evenly over the trifle sponges
  • Grate the dark chocolate with the spiky side of the grater to make a sort of chocolate dust on the top of the tiramisu.  Then just stick it in the fridge to cool and it is ready to serve.  Told you it was easy.
I only made this tiramisu with one layer of trifle sponges because I was using quite a wide and shallow dish.  Traditionally they have two layers, the recipe for this would be the same except that you would keep half of the soaked trifle sponges to one side, then put half of the cream mixture on the first layer, then the rest of the sponges, then the other cream layer.

19 Jun 2012

Almond and Raspberry Roulade (gluten free)

This is the first post I have been able to write for a while and there are two main reasons for this; one of them is that I started my first full-time job a few months ago and have found myself either too tired or too busy to blog.  The other reason is a pretty bad illness which I had for most of March during which time I couldn't even eat food, let alone cook it.  Even now, several months on, I am still having effects from this illness and have started eating a wheat free diet.  It was not until I gave up eating wheat that I realised quite how wheat-focused my diet really was and how much of the British diet revolves around wheat.  I really admire people who keep a totally gluten free diet in this country, and especially parents of gluten intolerant children because I have found it so difficult to think of meals, particularly to take to work for lunch; when you have been raised entirely on sandwiches for lunch you really struggle to think of what you could eat other than sandwiches.  Even when I asked my mother, who is a dietitian, what I could eat she just said "Well I always just eat sandwiches".  Very helpful, thanks Mum.

Anyway, what with being busy and tired from work and not being able to eat wheat or very much food at all really since my illness, I lost some of my passion for baking for a while (very sad times).  It was an old friend of mine who inspired me again recently.  I bumped into him when I was visiting another friend and he told me that he had had an inspired idea to make pork and apple doughnuts and was going to be doing it later that day.  I thought this sounded like a strange and fairly horrible thing to cook but was intrigued enough to go round and watch him do it.  In the very first step of the recipe I fell into my accustomed role of kitchen control freak and completely took over the entire operation, I don't think he really minded though, at any rate it got me back into my love of cooking so thank you Ben for letting me cook your doughnuts.  They did actually turn out really well, slow cooked pork with apple sauce and a cider glaze, I tried a little bit and they were actually delicious so any time you are feeling bored and a little bit crazy, pork doughnuts may be the way to go.

So since I am not eating wheat I have decided that I will start baking wheat free cakes, makes sense doesn't it.  I made this Almond and Raspberry Roulade for my Dad on father's day on Sunday as a cake which is not meant to have wheat in it rather than one which is replacing wheat with something else, in an attempt to convince him that wheat is not necessary for a cake to be nice, something which he is finding difficult to accept.  I think I have started to persuade him though since this cake was absolutely delicious.  I got the recipe for it from the Waitrose website but I will summarise it below.

Cooking time: 12 minutes

100g ground almonds
pinch of salt
5 medium eggs
100g caster sugar
3tbs icing sugar
300ml carton of double cream
250g raspberries
4tbs flaked almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or gas mark 4.  Grease and line a swiss roll tin and oil slightly.
  2. Separate the eggs into two large bowls.  Mix the ground almonds with the salt.  Take 2tbs from the caster sugar and put to one side, add the rest to the egg yolks and mix with an electric whisk until thick enough to leave a trail when you lift the whisk.
  3. Wash the whisk, add the 2tbs of caster sugar to the egg whites and whisk until they are thick and glossy.  Quickly fold the almond mixture into the egg yolks and gently fold that into the egg whites.  Pour it all into the tin and smooth it so it is flat and reaches all the edges.  Bake it for 12 minutes in the oven or until it starts to shrink away from the edges.
  4. Lay a clean tea towel on a flat surface with a sheet of greaseproof paper on top of it.  Sprinkle with caster sugar and turn out the roulade onto the paper once it is cool enough to handle.  Peel off the paper, trim the edges off the sponge and leave until it is completely cool.
  5. Sift the icing sugar into the cream and whisk it until it forms soft peaks.  Stir in half of the raspberries into the cream and spread the mixture over the roulade.  Place some more of the raspberries on, especially along the edges to improve the appearance of the finished roulade, making sure to leave some for decoration at the end.  Finally toast the flaked almonds until they are brown and crisp and sprinkle on the top of the roulade, followed by a sprinkle of icing sugar.
I actually question the last step of the recipe because, when you just sprinkle flaked almonds on top of a roulade, as soon as you cut it into pieces or even just move the plate it is on, all of the almonds fall off.  There must be a way to make them stay on there, I am thinking a thin icing sugar glaze or something, if you have any ideas please do leave a comment.  Apart from that I think this is a great recipe and like the way it is gluten free but without really meaning to be.

1 Mar 2012

Welsh Cakes

I have been planning for a while to make some Welsh cakes, ever since I went on a date a couple of months back with a very nice Welshman (we now no longer speak but that is a different story).  He told me that Wales only have three national foodstuffs; rarebit which is basically just cheese on toast, lava bread which is definitely an acquired taste (i.e. not very nice) and Welsh cakes and that, of these, only the latter was something he was proud of.  With such a recommendation as this how could I help wanting to make some of my own?  And what better day to make them on than St David's day, the national day of Wales?  I am not actually Welsh and therefore don't really have much right to be celebrating St David's day, though I did live there for a while as a child and I remember every year having to put on a little frilly bonnet and a daffodil to go to school - that at least gives me a reason for remembering the day.  Plus I just love recognising days with food; if someone told me that in an obscure religious cult the worshipers celebrated the 9th of August as a holy day by making lemon meringue pie then I would probably do it, even if I had never heard of them (though I may look it up first just for curiosity's sake.)

I had never actually eaten Welsh cakes before I made them today.  I always imagined them to be somewhere between a scone and a scotch pancake and this was not far off, though they don't have the texture of a scotch pancake, they are made in a similar way in a griddle rather than baked like scones.  They are very similar to scones in terms of taste and texture, though I think that I actually may prefer them because they are a bit sweeter and have spices in them.  The recipe I used for these is from Mary Berry's baking bible which I was given as a Christmas present but haven't actually cooked anything from until now.  Here is an abbreviated version of the recipe:

350g Self raising flour
2 tsps baking powder
175g butter
115g caster sugar
100g currants
3/4 tsp ground mixed spice
1 large egg
2 tbs milk
extra caster sugar for sprinkling


  1. Lightly grease and heat a frying pan or griddle
  2. Measure out the flour and baking powder into a large bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar, currants and spice.
  3. Beat the egg with the milk and add it to the mixture and mix to form a firm dough, add more milk if necessary.
  4. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick and cut into rounds with a 7.5 cm round cutter
  5. Cook the Welsh cakes on the pre-heated pan on a low heat for about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown (don't cook them too fast or the centres will not be fully cooked)
  6. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with caster sugar.
They are really quite quick and easy to make if you can put in the effort and I would definitely recommend them.  Happy St David's day everyone.

2 Feb 2012

Vegetarian Chili

This mostly vegetarian diet that I am on is starting to grow on me.  I could never be fully vegetarian because I love meat and food in general far too much to cut it out completely but I can see that healthwise and in terms of our carbon footprint that it is a good thing to limit the amount of meat we eat, perhaps only having it once or twice a week.  None of my vegetarian recipes use meat substitutes since I don't approve of meat substitutes like quorn because I think that, if you are going to eat something that looks and tastes like meat then just eat meat.  Therefore, in this meal, to make up for the lack of meat I have added extra beans and mushrooms.

1tbs vegetable oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
150g mushrooms
1 bell pepper
1 tin kidney beans
1 tin borlotti beans
1 stick celery
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1tbs tomato puree
2tsp chili flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
1tsp cumin
1tsp paprika
salt and pepper


  1. Finely chop the onion, mushroom, pepper and celery and crush the garlic
  2. Put a large frying pan on a medium-high heat with the oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft
  3. Add the mushrooms, pepper and celery and fry for another few minutes
  4. Add all of the beans, the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and all of the seasoning
  5. Turn the heat down low and simmer until most of the liquid is gone
I served it with rice and sour cream but you could also do it with nachos or in tortilla wraps.  If you don't like mushrooms then you don't have to put them in, I just love them and put them in everything