Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Plum & Cobnut Tart

There was a lot of baking going on in our house last weekend.  I was recipe testing choux pastry for a chocolate & salted caramel Paris-Brest. But even with a litre of chocolate custard in the fridge and a tin full of choux buns, all I wanted to eat was something else. A more homely bake. Fine patisserie is all well and good (and it has its place - it was the only thing I craved during my last pregnancy when I went on the hunt for the best mille-feuille I could find in London...) but there are times when I much prefer a simple, home baked tart.

This one is autumn in tart form. Plums. Cobnuts. Perhaps served with a big spoonful of clotted cream.

I can't quite believe that I had never tasted, let alone cooked with, a cobnut until a couple of weeks ago. All those years missing out on what is a very tasty nut. Still, I'm on the case now (just as the season starts to draw to a close...).  


For the pastry:

125g plain flour
25g icing sugar
75g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
5ml cold water

For the frangipan:

100g fresh cobnuts, shelled weight
25g ground almonds
125g unsalted butter
125g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs

For the plums:

300g sweet plums
2 tbsp golden caster sugar


Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and prepare a 23cm deep fluted tart tin.

Start by making the pastry.  Mix together the flour, sugar, butter and salt until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Whisk the egg yolk and cold water together and then add to the flour mixture to bring it together to form a ball of pastry.  Handle as little as possible.  Shape into patty, wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour.  (I usually make a double quantity of pastry and then put half in the freezer for next time).

Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin.  Prick the base of the pastry with a fork all over and put it back in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to chill.

Line the pastry case with baking parchment and baking beans and blind bake it for 15 minutes.  Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 6 or 7 minutes until the pastry has just begun to turn golden brown.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.

Whilst the pastry is cooking, prepare the plums and the frangipan.

For the plums, halve them all and remove the stones.  Sprinkle 1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar over the cut sides of 14 plum halves and put them to one side.  Put the remaining plums and 1 and 1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar in a small pan and cook over a medium heat until the plums have broken down to look like a chunky jam.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then remove the skins.

To make the frangipan, roast the shelled cobnuts for around 10 minutes.  Put them into a food processor and roughly grind.  Add the ground almonds, golden caster sugar, unsalted butter, plain flour and eggs to the food processor and mix to form a smooth paste.

Spread the plum 'jam' over the base of the pastry case, then spread the frangipan mixture over the top, taking care to cover all of the plum jam.  Gently press the plum halves into the frangipan cut side up.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the frangipan is a light golden colour and cooked through.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Spelt, Sprouted Bean & Tomato Salad

The glorious Isle of Wight tomatoes which have brightened my days all summer are still tasting pretty good, but my mind has already begun to wander to the the delights of autumn.  My favourite season, with its orange tones, majestic squash and gutsy fruit puddings.  But before I bid the summer farewell, there is that short period where my light lunchtime salads slowly become a little more robust and certain ingredients start to reappear like long lost friends.

I had dug out a box of Sharpham Park pearled spelt last week when the weather was damp and dismal with thoughts of a spelt risotto with squash, chestnuts, spinach and goat's cheese, but the summer has decided to grace us with one last hurrah.  So one short fridge forage later, the risotto was ditched in favour of a hearty salad.

The tahini gives the dressing a lovely creamy texture.  Go easy on the garlic - it really does only need one small clove or half a large clove. 


200g pearled spelt

125g sprouted beans
4 or 5 medium tomatoes
8 radishes
a small bunch flat leaf parsley

For the dressing:

1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt, ground
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp light tahini
1 & 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil


Cook the pearled spelt according the the packet instructions.  I usually wash mine well, put in a small pan, add 300ml water, put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.  If there is any moisture left, I remove the lid and stir over a low heat for a minute or two.  Spread out on a plate to cool.

In a medium sized bowl mix the ingredients for the dressing until emulsified (one of those little 'wonder whisks' does this job brilliantly).

Cut each of the tomatoes into quarters and chop or slice the radishes.  Roughly chop the parsley - leaves and stalks.

Add the spelt, sprouted beans and chopped parsley to the dressing and mix well.  Then add the tomatoes and radishes, stir lightly and serve.

Serves 4 for a light lunch.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pistachio, Raspberry & Rose Bundt - A Wedding Present

Once upon a time, there were two girls who lived in South East London and who both loved baking.  Over a glass or three of wine they plotted and planned and decided to share their passion for all things baked.  With more than a small dose of trepidation they organised the inaugural gathering of the Band of Bakers - a bake club for South East London - and have never looked back.

Sometime later, one of the girls married the man of her dreams.  The other girl, not content with just buying a wedding gift, decided to create a cake to mark this special, romantic occasion.  A beautiful cake which could be baked again and again as they all lived happily ever after.

For Gemma & Ollie Thomas.


For the cake:

150g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
120g plain full fat yogurt (unsweetened)
2 tsp rose water 
150g good quality shelled pistachios, roughly ground 
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g fresh raspberries

For the icing and decoration:

2 tbsp rose water
125g icing sugar, sifted
pistachios, roughly chopped
edible dried rose petals


Preheat the oven to 180C.

Prepare a small bundt tin - grease with butter and then coat with a little flour.

Beat the unsalted butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.  This will take about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk.

In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, plain yogurt and rose water.  Add to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until combined.  

Sift the plain flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix until just combined, then gently fold in the pistachios.

Put half of the cake batter into the bunt tin, then push half of the raspberries gently and evenly into the batter. Add the remaining cake batter and repeat the same process with the rest of the raspberries.  Smooth the top of the batter with the back of spoon until all of the raspberries are covered.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes until golden and risen.  Test with a cake tester - it should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs, but not wet batter.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for at least an hour, then turn out onto a cooling rack.  If you try to turn it out too soon, the cake could split.

Whilst the cake is cooling prepare the icing by mixing the rosewater and icing sugar together.  Once the cake has cooled decorate with the icing, chopped pistachios and rose petals.

*A little note about the ingredients for this cake: it will taste so much better if you use really good pistachios and rose water.  I buy both of mine from Persepolis in Peckham.  If you aren't lucky enough to live nearby like me, you can order online.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Clotted Cream & Stem Ginger Shortbread

My friend came back from Cornwall recently with a little gift of some clotted cream for me. Not one of those tubs you can buy in the supermarket (you know, the sort that doesn't even do a round of cream teas for one person let alone two). No, he brought me a kilo of the stuff. A whole kilo of Cornwall's finest Rodda's Clotted Cream.

That's a lot of a cream. 

So I baked a batch of scones and cracked open the only remaining jar of last summer's homemade strawberry jam. Then I baked another batch, but I was barely making an indent.

Next up was a Clotted Cream & Strawberry Semifreddo. I could have eaten that until the cows came home, but I could feel my arteries hardening with each spoonful, so I donated half of it to the kind bringer of the clotted cream.

Finally, inspired by biscuit week on the Great British Bake Off, I baked these little beauties - Clotted Cream & Stem Ginger Shortbread. 


100g plain flour
50g rice flour
75g Rodda's clotted cream
75g good quality unsalted butter
50g golden caster sugar
2 pieces of stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 160C.

Combine the plain flour, rice flour and unsalted butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Mix in the clotted cream, sugar and stem ginger, then form into a ball of dough, handling as lightly as possible.

Roll out to 1cm thick and cut into rounds using a 4cm straight sided cookie cutter.  You can use any size or shape of cutter you like, but you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly.

Carefully lift each biscuit and place on a prepared baking tray (I use the non stick liner from Lakeland so that I don't have to worry about greasing the baking tray).

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the shortbread are barely golden.  Leave to cool on the baking tray for at least 10 minutes and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack.