Sunday, 31 May 2009

Stichelton & Potato Blinis with Purple Sprouting Broccoli (ITB)

It seems to have been a bit of a weekend for recipe inventions chez The Ginger Gourmand... I spotted Scott & Julia's monthly In The Bag challenge a few weeks ago and with two of my favourite foods - blue cheese and broccoli (I had in mind the purple sprouting kind...) - I decided to give it a go.

It's late (for me!) on Sunday night - tonight is the deadline and I have to be bright and bushy tailed ready for work in the morning so I'll make this brief.

I've been contemplating what I might make for a couple of weeks, but because I've been away for the last 2 weekends I've not had any real 'playing in the kitchen' time. So it wasn't until around 7pm this evening that I began rooting around the fridge for the ingredients to make my Stichelton & Potato Blinis with Purple Sprouting Broccoli...

The first blini was more the size of a small pancake and the flipping stage was a little hairy but the next few were much easier (with hindsight I could make them a touch smaller) and worked a treat. Rich blue cheese goodness in a super light blini topped with lightly steamed purple sprouting broccoli and slow roasted tomatoes. I'm not sure blini is the right word though... They're like a cross between a potato cake and a savoury ricotta cake - extremely light and fluffy but with the depth and substance of the starchy potato and the blue cheese kick every other mouthful.

The Stichelton was a good choice. I'd ummed and ahhed in the cheese shop on Saturday over my choice of blue cheese, but decided on this one because it had the sort of buttery texture I was after. I wanted the cheese to be firm enough to stay in little pockets in the blinis when cooked, but soft enough to melt a little into the blini mixture. I also think it's a lovely alternative to Stilton on a cheeseboard - our local deli stocks it and offered me some to try a few months ago when, as usual, I couldn't make my mind up which of the lovely cheeses I wanted to buy and I've been hooked ever since. I think a Stilton or maybe even a Blacksticks Blue would work quite well in this recipe too, although anything too soft, like a Gorgonzola would probably just melt into the blini mixture too much.

I like them. I'll be making them again!


250g (ish) potatoes
100ml milk
4 eggs separated
100g blue cheese (the stichelton worked brilliantly) cubed or crumbled
75g plain flour
salt & pepper

small vine tomatoes
olive oil
purple sprouting broccoli


Start by putting the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish with some salt, pepper and a glug of olive oil. Roast for at least 30 minutes in a low oven (I did mine at around 130C fan assisted).

Boil the potatoes in their skins until cooked. Drain well and leave to cool. Peel the potatoes and mash. Mix in the milk and then the egg yolks and seasoning. Then beat in the flour. Whisk the egg whites until firm and then fold into the potato mixture. Stir in the blue cheese.

Heat a little butter and olive oil in a frying pan and then put a couple of large serving spoonfuls of the potato blini mixture into the pan. Fry gently until set enough to flip. You'll need to be fairly confident when flipping the blinis otherwise they'll end up in a bit of a mess. Cook until golden brown on both sides and set in the middle.

In the meantime, lightly steam the broccoli and then pop into a frying pan with some olive oil and seasoning and cook over a low heat for a minute or so.

Serve the blinis topped with the broccoli and some roasted tomatoes. I also drizzled over some of the tomato cooking liqueur I had left over from my tomato tarte tatin last night.

A Taste of Summer - Tomato Tarte Tatin (WTSIM)

This month's Waiter, there's something in my... challenge from Johanna at the passionate cook is Bistro Food (see the round up here). I've had my eye on this monthly challenge for a while now, in fact since before The Ginger Gourmand was born, but I wasn't too sure about this particular challenge... Bistro food for me conjures up lots of hearty meaty dishes and very little in the way of veggie-friendly food, so I was a little lacking in inspiration at first. But just because something isn't a 'bistro classic' doesn't mean it can't be bistro food!

There are various ideas about where the term bistro came from... The online etymology dictionary says that it came from the French word of unknown origin which was originally Parisian slang for "little wineshop or restaurant". It is commonly said to be from Russian bee-stra (quickly) picked up during the Allied occupation of Paris in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon when troops were said to have shouted this at the French waiters to serve their food more quickly, but according the etymology experts this, however quaint, is unlikely. Another guess, they say, is that it is from bistraud (a little shepherd), a word of the Poitou dialect, from biste (goat). What do seem to be clear are the modern day culinary connotations of the word bistro - good, yet simple, moderately priced food served fairly swiftly in a relaxed informal setting (and in my view - with a nice glass of red!). By its very nature it's the sort of food which is either quick to prepare (steak et frites) or which can be prepared in advance in large quantities (cassoulet, onion soup) so that it can be served quickly when an order comes in.

After giving it some thought I finally settled on the idea of a tart or a savoury tarte tatin in some guise or another. A savoury twist on the classic French dessert. A dish that can be prepared in advance and then served cold, hot or simply at room temperature with a simple salad which fulfils the 'quick' element of the definition. The ideas which sprung to mind were a deep filled onion tart with slow cooked caramelised onions which almost melt in the mouth or a lighter, fresher shallot and thyme tart tatin, but both of these felt a bit too 'wintry' for a late Spring dish. I know the brief doesn't say that the dish needs to reflect the current season, but with the lovely sunny weather we've been having it's good the ring the changes in what we eat to reflect the approaching Summer!

Before going to Paris last weekend, I had pretty much decided on a simple tomato and mustard tart - similar to something I used to cook when I lived in France a few years ago. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend a lot of time living in the countryside on a small holding where pretty much everything we ate came from the land (vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat for those who ate it...). I learnt a great deal about basic French home cooking and this particular tomato tart is one Danièle and I made one day - it's basically pâte brisée, a thick layer of Dijon mustard, grated hard cheese and then a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes tucked under each other to form a seamless layer. I have several different recipes I like, including one inspired by a Delia Smith recipe which is basically a layer of puff pastry, a layer of garlic-y goat's cheese goodness and a thin layer of slow cooked tomatoes - perfect for picnics and parties.

I was all set to make my tomato tart when, last weekend whilst staying with family in Paris, we ate out in a little place in Le Marais which served a tomato tart tatin for which, I am told, this place is known. It was good and hit the spot, but the pastry, which was quite brioche-y, wasn't quite my thing. So there was born the idea for my first ever entry for 'Waiter, there's something in my...' and last night's dinner - Tomato, Gryuère & Mustard Tarte Tatin.

For me it fits the bill of being something that is simple, tasty, can be served quickly and goes wonderfully with a glass of red! Perfect for a quick lunch in the sun or a late supper with friends.


200g plain flour
75g butter
25g finely grated gruyère
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
fresh thyme
salt and pepper
3 - 4 tablespoons water

800g - 1kg large vine tomatoes
olive oil
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
dash of red wine vinegar
salt and pepper


Make the pastry by mixing together the flour, butter, cheese, thyme, mustard and seasoning in the food processor and then gradually add the water until the pastry binds together. It might not need all of the water so be careful not to add to it all at once. Form the pastry into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes or until you need it.

You will need enough tomatoes to fill your tarte tatin dish (mine is 7 1/2 inches in diameter across the base). Skin the tomatoes by scoring a cross on the bottom of each tomato and then plunging into boiling water until the skin starts to split. Pop the tomatoes into cold water and then peel the skins off and discard. Slice each tomato in half, remove the little green core and put the tomato halves into your dish, rounded sides down. Tuck them in quite tightly so that when they reduce down when cooked there will be no gaps.

Whisk together a couple of glugs of olive oil with the red wine vinegar, sugar, thyme leaves and season to taste. Pour this mixture over the tomatoes and pop them into the oven at around 160C (fan assisted) for around 30 - 40 minutes until they begin to reduce down. If there is a lot of juice place a sieve over the tomatoes to hold them in place and pour the juice into a little pan and put to one side.

Roll out your pastry so that it is an inch or two larger than your dish and place it over the tomatoes. Tuck the pastry in around the edges to make sure the tomatoes are sealed in. Bake in the oven at 190C (fan assisted) for 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked through at the edges where it is thickest. Leave to cool slightly.

Reduce the juice which you poured off the tomatoes by bringing it to the boil and simmering, then sieve out any seeds. Turn the tarte out onto a plate and brush the tomatoes with the reduced juice.

Serve hot, warm or cold with a crisp dressed salad (my dressing for this lettuce was 2 dessertspoons olive oil, 1 dessert spoon white wine vinegar, salt and half a clove of garlic finely chopped).

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Cooking with Mother (Blueberry & Almond Tart)

I spent last weekend at home in the beautiful county of Derbyshire to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday with him and some of my family. There is always lots of talk of food when I'm with my mum and plenty of cooking too and this weekend, given its celebratory nature (!), was no exception. But by late afternoon on Saturday, although we'd been shopping for fresh ingredients for our main course for dinner, we hadn't decided on a dessert. We'd toyed with the idea of a rhubarb and almond tart as there's plenty rhubarb growing in the garden but just hadn't really got around to starting anything...

We eventually gave ourselves a kick start by making a batch of sweet pastry in the food processor, which we stuck in the fridge whilst we waited for further inspiration... It came in the form of frozen blueberries from the depths of the freezer and a jar of Mum's delicious homemade Bramble Jelly - a Blueberry & Almond Tart!

Mum makes fantastic jams, chutneys and marmalade (I can't vouch for the marmalade as I am not a fan, but Andrew tells me it's divine), my favourite being her blackcurrant jam - the 2006 batch. I'd never had her bramble jelly before and I noticed that I wasn't offered a jar to take home from the depths of the jam cupboard in the guessing why - she's keeping this one all for herself and who can blame her! It's quite simply delicious.

When it came to rolling out the sweet pastry, it wasn't having any of it. So in the end we gave up and just squished and pushed the pastry into the tart tin, plugging the tears and holes as we went along, before popping it into the freezer to chill. After blind baking it for around 20 minutes in the aga and another 5 minutes or so without the baking beans, we left it to cool slightly before slathering bramble jelly in the base of the pastry case, pouring over a generous amount of frangipan mixture and then adding our now defrosted blueberries.

By this point I think we (or at least I) had consumed a couple of glasses of Leffe and a glass of champagne so there is no chance of me remembering how long we baked it for but I do remember eating it. It's up there with my pear and almond tart that's for sure. The pastry was light, buttery and crumbly, without disintegrating completely when trying to pick it up on a fork, and the almond-y frangipan goodness worked well with the sweet bramble jelly and the slightly sharp, juicy blueberries. I'll be stocking up on frozen berries and nice jam ready for any unexpected guests this summer!

1 quantity of sweet pastry (8oz plain flour, 4oz butter, 1oz icing sugar and 2 eggs)

4oz ground almonds
4oz butter
4oz caster sugar
1oz plain flour
2 eggs

Jam (we used Mum's bramble jelly, but any good quality jam, like Bonne Maman blueberry, would be fine)


Make the pastry and chill for at least half an hour, then roll out to line a tart tin (I used a 12 inch high sided fluted tin) and chill again. Blind bake for around 20 minutes (without the beans for the last 5 minutes or so) at 180 - 200 C (depending on your oven). Make the frangipan by mixing all of the ingredients (except the jam and blueberries) together.

Spread as much jam as you like over the base of the part cooked pastry case (you'll need a good layer), then pour over the frangipan mixture and dot blueberries all over the mixture, pushing them into the mixture a little. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the tart is golden brown and the frangipan is set.

Enjoy a large slice with good company (or alternatively hide yourself away with the whole tart and eat the lot).

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Real Food Festival 2009 (London)

The Real Food Festival is no gimmicky over-hyped food show teeming with sales people selling big name brands... It's sold as "the biggest producers market you've ever seen" and for the most part it is just that - a bit like a giant farmers' market. I have to admit that I was a little reticent about going to another food show at Earl's Court. The last couple of food shows I've been to there (as you can probably tell from my opening gambit) have been a letdown to say the least. Apart from the wine sampling of course! So it was with a little trepidation that I booked tickets for the Real Food Festival, wondering whether it would live up to my expectations... It pretty much does what it says on the tin - the producers are there en masse manning their own stalls and, in many cases, are more than happy to tell you everything there is to know about their particular cheese, vegetables, cider, bread, fish. For the most part these aren't smooth talking sales people looking for a quick sell. Certainly the people I chatted to reared or made their produce with their own fair hands, so not only were they knowledgeable about what they were selling, they were enthusiastic and looking to tell the world about what it is they produce. Good on 'em I say!

The idea behind the Real Food Festival is to showcase small producers who wouldn't normally be able to afford a stall at a food show. Graham of Connemara Smokehouse was telling us that with the cost of the big shows, plus the 'hidden extras' (£17 to hire a rubbish bin?!), transport and hotel accommodation it just wasn't worth their while as, not only would they not make any profit on sales at the show, they have to be away from the business for 3 or 4 days which also takes its toll on the smaller producers.

The other 'cost' element which Graham talked about was the cost of providing free samples to show visitors. I have to say that when we arrived we were really put off by the hoards of people crowding around the stalls, not all were there to talk to the producers or learn about their products, but some simply to take samples and walk away. Now I know the idea of a food show is to have the opportunity to taste what is on offer (particularly as people have paid an entrance fee) and I have no problem with that - of course I taste what interests me - but there surely there is a limit? Providing samples costs the producers a fair amount of money and it seemed that some people sampling had no intention of buying the produce and were just looking for a free feed.

Apart from the million and one cupcake and tea stalls (neither of which are to my liking!) that was the only downside to the whole lazy afternoon we spent wandering around stocking up on tasty morsels for the rest of the weekend. These are some of the highlights of the show for me:

Simon and Laura Thearle at Hunter House Farm produce artisan cheeses with raw unpasteurised sheep, goat and cow's milk. Laura was more than happy to spend a good 15 minutes telling us all about their cheeses and how they are produced. They rear and milk their own flocks of British Milksheep - a breed which were nearly wiped out during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2002 - and Polled Dorset Sheep, British Alpine and British Toggenburg Goats and Dexter Cows on their farm and then make their handcrafted cheeses in their own dairy. These distinctive cheeses are made to their own unique recipes and are named after some of their first animals - matching the character of the cheeses to the animals' personalities!

Our favourite was Kelsey (in the foreground of the picture) - a robust smooth textured cow's milk brie which only gets better with time. We have high hopes for the piece we brought home...!

I think my vote for the most passionate producer at the show goes to Graham Roberts who owns and runs the traditional family Connemara Smokehouse business, specialising in smoked wild salmon and tuna, with his wife Saoirse. The smokehouse, which is perched on the water's edge at Bunowen Pier in County Galway, was founded by Graham's parents in 1979 using a smoking kiln that was first commissioned in 1946. I remembered Graham from the very first BBC Christmas Good Food Show which I went to with my parents in 2005 when Mum had indulged us with a side of smoked wild salmon for Christmas Day breakfast and so, after starting to eat fish again recently, I was keen to try some of the other products that the Connemara Smokehouse has to offer. After a good 20 minutes chatting to Graham and Saorise and learning about the traditional methods of smoking which they use. Graham fillets all of the fresh fish himself after which the fillets are salted and left for 8 to 10 hours before being smoked over beech wood shavings for another 8 to 10 hours. The result is a product which is vastly superior in flavour and texture to much of the smoked fish I have tasted before. No wonder there's a chap in France who bulk orders 200 sides of smoked salmon with this colleagues every Christmas!

When we arrived at the Ashridge Sparkling Vintage Cider stand it was much later in the day and everyone was looking more than a little weary. We tasted the Vintage Sparkling Cider first which was dry and crisp with a long apple-y finish. Drier than we expected actually. We also tasted the Devon Blush which is essentially a posh 'cider and black' (!) but that lacked the flavour of the vintage. I like the Aspall Peronnelle Blush which is of the same ilk so it's not that it's not my kind of drink, it's just that after tasting the vintage it simply didn't compare.

Ashridge cider is made from 100% apple juice from well established Devon orchards where there are around 20 different varieties of cider apples. It's made using the traditional méthode champenoise - a process which takes around 3 years. So at £8 a bottle it's not bad really... One thing I've learnt from the Ashridge website since I got home from the show is that apparently there is evidence that secondary in-bottle fermentation began, not in Champagne, but with ciders in the Forest of Dean in the 17th century. This type of cider was held in high esteem in many quarters and was often the preferred alternative to French wines. I wonder...

La Mare Jersey Black Butter is something I've heard of before but had no idea what it was. Well, quite simply, it's Christmas in a jar!
It's has the consistency and texture of a jam or chutney with all the flavours of Christmas pudding and yet it tastes buttery. An unusual alternative to chutney with cheese.

There was a whole section of the show about produce from Jersey (Andrew also had oysters and said they were some of the best he's tasted - I'll take his word for that...) and La Mare Wine Estate was one stall.

There was also a Jersey Royal Potatoes stand. They seem to have had a bit of bad press over the last few years and I have to admit that I've been one of the first to not only mourn the demise of the Jersey Royal but to openly voice my criticisms. As I stood in line waiting for my solitary potato smothered in Jersey butter and some Cornish sea salt I wondered whether I was wasting my time...but no, for the first time in a few years I had a Jersey Royal that tasted just how they used to! From what I understand, the inferior Jerseys we've experienced recently have indeed been grown in poly tunnels as suspected and that, combined with the fact that the producers have not had control of the packaging and storing of the potatoes has meant that when we rush to buy our first Jerseys of the season, we're not getting what we hoped for and expected. The trick, apparently, is to wait a little into the season when the 'proper' Jerseys show their faces so maybe now would be a good time to give them another go? The producer we spoke to said that they are also taking control of the processing and packaging back off the supermarkets so maybe that will also make a difference? I'll certainly be buying some if I see them this weekend.

As I've mentioned before, I haven't eaten meet for 18 years and for long periods have been vegetarian. But from time to time I cease to be veggie and go through phases of eating fish and when I do, I like to know where my fish is coming from. Fish4Ever's strap line is "Good canned fish - now and in the future...". They are all about 'fair fish' - small boats that land fish straight from the catch, decent working conditions, fair trade, sustainability, supporting artisan fisheries, no added nasties....

Action Against Hunger is one stall that I hope everyone at the show went to and supported. Action Against Hunger is an international network committed to saving the lives of malnourished children and their families in over 40 countries worldwide. They asked producers to contribute food products which they then filled bags with and 'sold' for a minimum donation of £15. There were some decent things in the bag, but that's not what it's about. Thousands of people came through the doors of Earl's Court of the weekend looking for delicacies to tempt their tastebuds when nearly 1 billion people worldwide suffer from hunger. We shouldn't feel guilty about enjoying our food, but when we're spending so much on tasty tit bits at a show like this what's an extra £15 or more to help people who have nothing to eat?

One of the last stops of the day was at The Tomato Stall where we were beckoned over to try the delicious mini plum tomatoes from the Isle of White. They're not cheap these tomatoes but they are well worth every single penny we paid for them. Bursting with flavour just like I'd grown them in my own back garden.

All in all it was a good afternoon out. Would I go again? Probably not next year unless the line up of producers changed significantly because I've seen what they have to offer and have kept the details of the ones that interest me. But maybe in a couple of years when I've forgotten all about this year's Real Food Festival and I'm ready to rediscover it again!

Get to know your Neighbours!

The guys at the Eden Project have come up with a great idea to encourage people right across Britain to get to know their neighbours - The Big Lunch! The idea is that the people of Britain to stop what they're doing and sit down to lunch together on Sunday 19th July 2009 for no other reason than to join together in one great big street party.

I think this is a great idea! It's not that some of us don't already know our neighbours or that we couldn't organise an event to get to know each other off our own backs, but in reality how many of us do that??? OK, we might wave hello, stop for a quick chat or even pop in for a cup of tea from time to time, but in some areas people don't even know who lives next door to them, let alone futher down the street. I'm sure it's not because we don't want to know our neighbours or that we don't care, simply that many of us lead busy lives, move house more frequently than people did in the past or maybe we're just shy...

What better way to overcome all of those barriers and spend some time with the people who live so close to us than to share the enjoyment of sitting down for lunch together. It might just be the impetus some of us need to do something with our community. As The Big Lunch puts it:

"Wouldn't it be great if for just one day we remind ourselves about all that is good about us and bring about a moment that ignites a spark?"

For me the idea behind The Big Lunch is all about everyone coming together to share in a day of fun and frolics and contributing what they can, be that homemade food, music, wine, homegrown vegetables, M&S ready made nibbles, entertainment or simply good company. Eating brings people together and I for one am planning on getting involved and hope that my neighbours will join me!

I live on a lovely little street in London which has 25 houses and I'm lucky enough to know quite a few of my neighbours already. But I don't know them all...YET! Come the 19th July I'm hoping to meet them all! So far I've had a great response to the little notes I put through everyone's doors over the weekend so the ball is rolling...

Watch this space for updates!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

New Ways with Sumac

A fair while back I was given some sumac by a friend who is a fellow food lover. It has (and I hope I'm not in trouble for admitting this...!) sat in the cupboard with my other spices pretty much unused apart from the off sniff to see if would go with some concoction or other. Basically, I'd never really found an inspiring use for it until I came across this recipe - Sumac Spiced Aubergine Schnitzel with Tabbouleh.

Sumac comes from the berries of a bush that grows wild in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. The berries are dried and crushed or ground to form a rich red powder which is used as a souring agent, in the same way that some cuisines use lemon. Sumac is often used to flavour grilled meats and fish, or mixed with yogurt and served as an accompaniment to kebabs. But, before this recipe, none of the recipes which use sumac which I've come across have been vegetarian and, not ever having cooked with sumac, I wasn't quite sure how to use it so it lingered at the back of the spice cupboard until now!

This is another really good recipe from The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia (which I've blogged about before) which, most importantly, works. Basically, it's a great big super tasty aubergine steak with a crisp crumb coating and I'm a huge fan of aubergines so it's great to find a new way of cooking them. It has all the flavours of the Middle East - parsley, mint, sumac - and works perfectly with the Puy Lentil and Feta Tabbouleh (shown in my photo above) which is also in The Modern Vegetarian. Here is my version of Maria's recipe (I changed some of her quantities to suit our tastes):


120g flat leaf parsley
20g mint leaves
4 tomatoes (finely diced)
1 small red onion (finely diced)
150g puy lentils (cooked)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
50g feta cheese

(the original recipe also included 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon)


Slice the parsley as thinly as possible starting at the leafy top and going all the way down to the stalks. Repeat with the mint leaves. Combine the tomatoes, onion, lentils, herbs and spices and season. Dress with the lemon juice and oil. Stir in the feta just before serving.

Having never followed a recipe for tabbouleh of any sort before (just making up my own versions) what Maria says about slicing the parsley made perfect sense! "It was Anissa Helou who first showed me the art of making tabbouleh. The secret of this beautiful dish lies in the way you chop your herbs - they should be lovingly sliced, very finely, to produce thin slivers with a minimum of bruising". The taste and texture of the parsley was exactly how I've tasted it in tabbouleh which I've eaten in restaurants but I'd never realised that the way in which you chop the parsley that makes the difference. It really is worth giving that parsley some loving attention because it does add to the dish in a big way!

It is slightly different to many of the main course vegetarian recipes I generally cook as it's made up of two distinct component parts, almost like you would have meat or fish with side of salad or vegetables. But I think that's a good thing because it may well inspire me to create similar veggie dishes where the side dish would go equally well with meat for Andrew.

Update: I remembered that after friying the aubergines in the crumb coating I put them in the oven for a short time (maybe 5 minutes) to finish cooking and crisp up some more. Whilst you can't prepare the aubergines too far in advance and leave them uncooked (the bread crumbs would go soggy!), you could probably prepare them to the stage of having fried them and then reheat in the oven when you need them which makes them perfect for entertaining.

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Best Pudding in the World Ever!

This pudding was inspired by a recipe in a Spanish cookbook which I read in the bookshop recently... We are great fans of anything containing almonds, marzipan and amaretto (liquid marzipan as it's known in our house!). So a dessert which combines all 3...well, we couldn't contain ourselves!!! It's rich, sweet and simply delicious. It really doesn't need anything to accompany it but Andrew isn't his mother's son for nothing and he chose a good glug or three of cream to go with his dishful.

I'd suggest eating this pud on an evening when you're having a salad for dinner. Whatever you do, leave plenty room because you'll need it...


6 dried figs
50ml amaretto liqueur
unsalted butter
250g brioche (thickly sliced)
4 egg yolks
250ml double cream
200ml milk
50g caster sugar
100g marzipan
flaked almonds

(I'm afraid my measurements might not be 100% exact as I didn't write them down as I went along...but it's not really the sort of pudding that needs the measurements to be precise...if you like more figs for example, just add more!)


Roughly chop the dried figs and put them into a pan with the amaretto liqueur and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the amaretto has evaporated and the figs have plumped up (you can use more if you like or, for a non-alcoholic version try apple juice in place of the amaretto).

Butter both sides of the slices of brioche and tear or cut into large cubes. Mix the brioche, figs and cubes of marzipan and put into a buttered ovenproof dish (my dish was approximately 6 x 8 inches). Mix the liquid ingredients (eggs, milk, cream) with the sugar and pour over the bread mixture. Cover and leave to one side until you are ready to bake.

Bake at around 160C for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle a handful of flaked almonds over the top and bake for another 10 minutes.
Serve warm.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Not Mr Kipling's Cherry Bakewells...

My husband has an odd (in my view) obssession with Mr Kipling's Cherry Bakewells...those full-of-transfats-sweet-sickly tarts topped with thick icing and half a glace cherry (which he picks off and doesn't even eat!). Only when he's ill though. Which I guess makes them some sort of comfort food for when he's feeling under the weather. As you may have guessed from my tone, I'm not a fan... Even worse despite the name association, these little tarts are such a far cry from the traditional 'tart' which originates in Bakewell (Derbyshire) - Bakewell Pudding.

Usually I will humour him and buy him a pack, but last weekend when he was stuck indoors recovering from an operation and uttered those little words "cherry bakewells" I decided enough was enough. Instead I put my mind to baking some little homemade almond and raspberry tarts. I couldn't find a specific recipe in the books I had to hand so set about making some sweet pastry whilst I figured out the quantities I needed to make an almondy filling for the tarts.

They turned out just lovely...
I'm even thinking that this weekend might see a variation on this recipe to include some lemon zest and juice in the filling and lemon curd in the bottom of the tarts instead of raspberry jam!

Ingredients (for 18 tartlets)

Sweet Pastry
4 oz butter
8 oz plain flour
2 oz caster sugar
4 egg yolks

jam (I used raspberry)
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4 oz ground almonds
1 oz plain flour
flaked almonds


Make the pastry by combining all of the ingredients - I do this in my food processor but the 'traditional way' is to rub the butter and flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs and then add the sugar followed by the eggs and mix until the pastry comes together. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge.

Roll out the pastry and cut into rounds to fit your bun tin (I used my deepest bun tin which is probably half way between a normal bun tin and a muffin tin). Be careful not to tear the pastry like I did or you'll end up with sticky jam welding your little tarts to the bun tin! Fridge them for at least 20 minutes.

To make the filling, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, then the ground almonds and flour. Put a teaspoon of jam in the bottom of each pastry case and then top with a big spoonfull of the filling mixture (the pastry might shrink a little and the filling will rise so don't fill too full).

Bake for around 10 minutes at 180C, sprinkle some flaked almonds on top of each tart and then bake for another 5 minutes or until set and golden brown.