Category Archives: Cake

Hot Not Cross Buns

Happy Easter everybody! Yesterday I made the traditional Easter treat: hot cross buns. I left the cross off. Secular Buns.
There is simply nothing more satisfying than making a tray of buns. I’m not so good at bread or cakes but buns, buns I can do. Straight out of the oven they are soft, spiced, covered with a sticky spicy glaze and in their neat little rows. Nothing quite like a bun. I’m about to have one (or two) for my breakfast…

This recipe is from Elizabeth David (the same book listed here with my post about Chelsea Buns). It’s lovely. I’m writing this quickly so you can all have a bash at them today or tomorrow… go on. You won’t regret it. Just remember to leave at least 4 hours. Both rising times are about 2 hours so if you want buns at tea time, start at 11ish… you’ve got an hour now to go and find the ingredients.

Hot Cross Buns

450-500g strong plain flour (I used the full amount. It will vary according to the flour you use, your local climate, just follow your fingers. I’ll describe how mine was as closely as I can)

30g fresh yeast (or dried equivalent)

125g currants

1 tablespoon salt (since first publishing this post my trusty recipe testers have queried this large sounding amount… I used Maldon sea salt flakes, a flat tablespoons worth. If you are using finely milled salt you should reduce this by half to avoid a savoury bun)

280ml milk, warmed to blood heat (put about 30ml aside. You might not need it all)

60g soft light brown sugar

60g butter

2 teaspoons mixed spice

2 eggs

Glaze:

25ml water

25g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

First cream your yeast. Use a little of the warmed milk from the 25oml to activate the yeast. Just pour it over and wait for it to go creamy or if you’re using dried, foamy.

While the yeast is creaming combine (in a warm bowl if you can manage it) the 450g flour, sugar salt and spice. Mix it together with your hands and make a well in the centre. If you need the further 50g flour, you’ll add it later.

Add your butter to the warmed milk so it completely softens. Now add the 2 eggs, beaten (I didn’t do this and it was hard to properly break them up once they were added to the flour)

Pour the yeast into the flour and then add the milk, eggs and butter.

Bring the dough together with a wooden spoon. It will be very sticky! Make sure to combine all the ingredients. This is not a dough you can really lift or touch easily. I used a spoon the whole time as it was just to sticky to handle.
Now add the currants and fold them through the dough thoroughly.

I used the full quantity of flour at this point as my dough wasn’t coming together properly but rather sticking in strands to the spoon and the side of the bowl. You want it to hold together. Look at this picture to see what it was like in the end after the remainder of the flour was added:

It’s still sticky, but happily sits together.

Now it needs to prove. Cover your bowl in cling film and put it in a very warm place. Elizabeth David recommends steam to help it along (not sure where you’d find this) and Dan Lepard even suggests a very low oven to kick start the process. Spices make yeast lazy so it’s not quick. Mine took around 2 hours to double in a very warm room wrapped in a tea towel next to the radiator.

Prepare your bun tin. Grease a large baking sheet and then coat it with flour. Tap the edges of the tin to fully and evenly distribute the flour all over it. You don’t want your buns to stick… you want to get them out quick so you can stuff them in your mouth!

Once the dough is double it’s size very generously dust a surface and your hands with flour. Sprinkle more flour onto the dough as you pull it away from the edges of the bowl. It won’t really want to come out but show it who’s boss.

Drop the dough onto your floury surface, flour your hands again and knead it briefly to bring it together. It feels so lovely at this point and it smells delicious.

Now divide your dough into 16. Elizabeth David says it makes 24.. but I don’t know how. I use a very sharp knife (which I also coat in flour) to slice the dough into equal sized pieces.

Shape your pieces into rounds. I improvised at this point, you just want a tight little ball.

This is where you would normally make the cross cut in the top, which is the traditional way to treat these buns. If you do this, they will not rise high but spread. If your dough is too soft and sticky they may not do much of either. If you’d rather do a pastry cross use Dan Lepard’s recipe here. In fact, his whole recipe looks pretty nice, I might try it next time…

Line the buns up in your bun tin evenly spaced apart and now it’s time for prove number 2. Lightly oil some cling film and place it over the buns. Leave them in your warm place again and let them double again

When they have risen, pre heat the oven to gas 5/6 and cook for 15-20 minutes.

While they are cooking heat the glaze ingredients in a pan and boil until it becomes syrupy.

When you get the buns out of the oven brush them with the glaze and lift gently onto a cooling rack.

Some of them will have stuck together in satisfying little lines and you’ll have to prize them apart and get your fingers all sticky to split them open and spread them with butter. An absolutely wonderful indulgence. I highly recommend you take the time to make these as there really is nothing better than buns.

*****

Phil, I made these buns for your birthday but now you are ill. Get well soon and I’ll make them for you another year!

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Filed under Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Cake, Fruit, Recipes

Date Munchies

A mid morning snack for you all…

This is an adapted recipe from a great old cook book The Dairy Book of Family Cookery. You can still get it on amazon but that’s nowhere near as exciting as how you would originally buy it: you’d order it from your Milk Man and he would deliver it with your milk in the morning. How fantastic is that?!
The book’s only downfall is that every recipe contains rather inflated quantities of dairy product so some of them (as my sister found out with the recipe for walnut bread – 2 whole pots of creme fraiche) do not really work. The munchie recipe is one of the book’s great successes. It’s also worth it for the amazing 70’s pictures… That said, the Dairy Book series (yes there are more than just this one) do have excellent staple recipes for things like white sauce, cakes and biscuits. They have updated the books as recently as this year, but an oldie is a goodie, especially when the photographs are this good…

What is that in the front?! Meat doused with cream probably, with a cream sauce on the side and a creamy soup to start all washed down with a creamy syllabub (with a cream garnish)

In this book is the recipe for Date Munchies,  my sister’s favourite treat when we were little. I am not sure what they were called in the book, but I’m pretty sure my mum made up the brilliant name we give them now.

The original Date Munchies are a simple flapjack with a sticky date centre.  Admittedly they can’t really be improved upon but I thought I’d use them as a jumping off point for my version that should really be called Date and Nut and Fig Munchie Crumblies.

This quantity makes 24 bar shaped munchies. They freeze very well so I made this amount and froze half for impromptu tea time treats. If you don’t have a freezer just halve the recipe unless you have an army of children or very hungry friends close to hand.
I used a 30cm x 20cm tin. You could go a bit  smaller than this but I wouldn’t go bigger.

(The New) Date Munchies

500g dried dates and figs de-stoned and diced (it’s up to you how many of each you use but remember dates are stickier than figs so hold together better, I use about 2/3 dates and 1/3 figs)

1 tbsp caster sugar

125ml water

zest of 1 lemon

140g oats

220g flour

200g light brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

85g walnuts, chopped

40g flaked almonds, toasted (to toast put flaked almonds in a baking tray and pop in the oven while it’s pre-heating for about 5 mins. Keep an eye on them!)

340g butter, melted

Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees or gas 3 1/2

Grease and line your 30x20cm tin

In a saucepan, add the dates/figs, caster sugar, water and lemon zest. Bring to the boil and boil for 3 minutes stirring all the time. When the time is up the mixture should be rich and jammy. Set it aside and leave it to cool.

In a large bowl mix the oats, flour baking soda, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine, then add the nuts and melted butter. Mix thoroughly, it will be pretty crumbly but don’t worry, it just makes it more ‘fun’ (read ‘messy’) when you eat them.

Now press half the mixture down onto the base of your tin and cover with the date and fig mixture. You will not be able to spread it due to the crumbly nature of the base, so put teaspoon sized dollops on at regular intervals and just squash slightly. Now sprinkle over the rest of the crumbly mixture and press it down firmly. This will squish the fruit middle even more and make it even.

Now put it in the oven for 30-35 minutes. It is ready when the top is browned.

Leave them to cool slightly in the tin and then slide them out onto a cooling rack.  Slice them into bars while they are still warm.

Perfect with a cup of tea. Me and my sister (she is the true measure of whether a date munchie is up to scratch) ate them on a coach, with a thermos of tea. Much fun. And they passed the test!

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Filed under Baking, Biscuits, Cake, Fruit, Pudding, Recipes

Suet Pastry and Perfect Custard

A relatively short notice event came my way a couple of weeks ago to cook for 40 guests at the Hannah Barry Gallery in Peckham. 40 is the high end of what I can do easily due to the size of my little kitchen but with a little bit of experimentation and a lot of post-its and schedules I can make it work!

We decided on a traditional British theme which was essentially Pie ‘n’ Mash and Rhubarb ‘n’ Custard. I wanted it to have a cafeteria feel and give people the opportunity to share their food and meet each other over dinner so each pie was to share between 4.

The capabilities of cooking in a Gallery with no kitchen and no heating (!) meant I had to come up with something that could be cooked in an impromptu space, be served quickly and stay piping hot A tall order, but one to relish. Sharing is something I like to focus on in my catering as I think one of the main joys of food is to share it with others and to make an event of it.

The Capper Ripper Dinner

Chicory with Blue Cheese, Apple and Walnuts

*

Shin of Beef Pies with Suet Pastry

Parsley Mash

Greens

*

Rhubarb and Custard

The recipes I’d like to share with you are for the suet pastry which was unbelievably good and a perfect vanilla custard.

The pastry I made using vegetarian suet as I also had to whip up a few mushroom pies for the vegetarians and I only wanted to make one batch of pastry. It is a fantastic and versatile pastry that puffs up beautifully in the oven, is flaky and rich and resilient enough to last a car journey and not get soggy!

Suet Pastry

300g plain flour

100g atora suet (beef or vegatable)

100g butter

a large pinch of sea salt

125ml cold water

1 egg beaten to use as a glaze

Mix the flour, suet and salt in a bowl

Chop your butter into small cubes and add this to the mix. Slowly mix the butter into the flour with your fingers as you would when making a crumble. Lift it up and rub the butter between your fingers, you want to make flakes rather than a breadcrumb texture. When you have no large lumps left and the texture is even pour in the water a little at a time and shape the pastry into a rough ball. It takes a lot more water than a shortcrust pastry and should be sticky so don’t be afraid to add it all.

Refrigerate the pastry until you are ready to use it, it will benefit for at least half an hour in the fridge before use. This amount will cover 4, 24cm pies or one lovely large one. I use these enamel pie dishes by Falcon:

When you are ready to use the pastry dust a surface and your rolling pin with flour and roll your pastry to the size you need. Because it is quite sticky you will need a lot of flour to keep the pastry from sticking and keep turning it. It is pretty flexible because if the high liquid content and is easier to manouvre than regular short crust or rough puff pastry.
Now brush a little of the egg wash on the edge of your pie dish and lift the pastry onto the top. To stick and shape it nicely slice the the overhanging pastry off by angling your knife away from the edge so you have a bit more to play with. Now get a fork and gently press all around the edges then use your thumb and forefinger to make little pinches all around.  If you have any pastry left over, freeze it or make some decorations! The decor in the picture of my pies is meant to depict cogs.. I don’t know quite how successful that was, but they look nice! I also made a few little vegetarian pies with a mushroom ragout filling scented with red wine and thyme.

To finish them off brush the pastry with egg wash and bake at Gas 4 (180 degrees)  for around 1 hour.

Some pie filling suggestions:

Steak and ale 

Shin of beef and pearl barley

Mushroom Ragout

Butternut squash, goats cheese and spinach

Chicken and mushroom

And now for pudding. There really isn’t anything more delicate and beautiful than a real custard. It is a little time consuming but if you have the patience to stir and watch and sit and relax, then anyone can do it. Essentially custard is just milk eggs and sugar, stirred slowly over a very low heat until it thickens slightly to coat the back of a spoon. It is not gloopy like custard from a tin or a powder. Most online recipes I found seem to use cornflour to thicken it but this is almost certainly cheating and is definitely unnecessary. The result can not possibly be as smooth or as silky as a true labour of love custard.

Perfect Vanilla Custard

1 pint of whole milk (or 1/2pint of milk and 1/2 pint of double cream)

1 vanilla pod

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2tbs castor sugar plus extra for sprinkling.

Split your vanilla bean along it’s thin edge so the seeds can be released when it’s in the milk

Put the bean in a large pan with the milk (and cream if using) and scald it (this means to heat it to just before it boils) Keep an eye on it and make sure the heat is low so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan

Now turn the heat off, put a lid on and leave it to infuse for 20 minutes

In the meantime, put the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly until it foams.

When the 20 minutes is up remove the vanilla bean from the milk (give it shake and a squeeze to tease out all the seeds if they haven’t all released) and discard

Now turn the heat on under the milk infusion to it’s lowest setting and strain the eggs into it to make sure there are no lumps.

Now get a whisk or a wooden spoon, and stir slowly and constantly for anywhere up to 30 minutes until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Do not stop stirring otherwise you will get lumps.

Mine took 45 minutes but I had double this quantity so yours should take around 20.

When it is done either serve immediately or if you have to serve it later, pour the custard into a bowl and sprinkle castor sugar over the surface. This will stop it developing a skin. To re-heat, put it back into the pan, and again, on a low heat and with constant stirring bring it back up to the required temperature.

I served the custard with a little square of almond cake, (recipe in earlier post just scroll down for a while) and rhubarb roasted with ginger syrup sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds.

The picture below is my own enormous portion! It was delicious. Everyone else had a far more elegant plate… honest.

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Catering, Pudding, Supper, Vegetarian

Elizabeth David’s Sugary, Spicy, Sticky and Square Chelsea Buns

‘There’s a charm in the sound, which nobody shuns
Of smoking hot, piping hot, Chelsea Buns’

                                           Eighteenth century song

Reading Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery is like visiting the most eclectic bakery you can imagine and being given a taste of every development in British baking from the middle ages to the modern day. As she rolls out the history of every bun, cake and bread,she puts them in context, describing where they came from  and  how they were  invented or discovered. The book I have was bought for me by my mum and for me, is the ultimate guide to bread and yeast cooking.

This book is amazing. Sometimes it takes a few goes to actually get a grip on a recipe and it always takes a couple of thorough readings, but because they are such a joy to read, this is no bad thing. That said, they are not always the easiest recipes to follow, for example the recipe for Chelsea Buns tells you to follow the method for Bath Buns on the previous page which is rather confusing when they contain different ingredients in different quantities! However, my first batch of Chelsea Buns turned out exactly as I remember them, therefore, exactly as they should be.

Before we begin, I’ll pay homage to the great Elizabeth David by filling you in on the history of the wonderful and decadent and apparently ‘friendly’ (according to my friend who assisted with the baking) Chelsea Bun, in her own words. Hopefully this excerpt will whet your appetite to go out and buy this lovely book and explore it for yourself. It certainly makes me want to open a cafe in the style of the wonderfully described Chelsea Bun House…

“The famous Bun House of Chelsea was probably build towards the end of the seventeenth century or in the early years of the eighteenth. It was a large establishment, situated near Sloane Square in what was then Jews Road, later the Pimlico Road, and within easy reach of the river. Evidently a bakery, pastry cooks’ and refreshment shop combined, the Bun House provided tables at which the customer could sit down and eat their cakes and buns fresh from the oven. In its early days the Bun House was renowned chiefly for its hot cross buns, sold in massive quantities on Good Fridays and during Easter celebrations, when great crowds flocked to Chelsea expressly to visit the Bun House. Caroline of Ansbach, Queen of George II, was a frequesnt visitor to Chelsea during the early years of the reign (he succeeded in 1727) going there by water –  tradition has it that she, her family and the King himself visited the Bun House on many occasions. Possibly, then, the popularity of the Chelsea bun , as distinct from the older and more famous Good Friday buns, dates from the days of Hanoverian royal patronage, although already in the days of Queen Anne, Swift, staying at Chelsea for a change of air, reported to Stella how ‘Rrrrrrrare Chelsea buns’ were cried in the streets, and how the one he bought for a penny was stale adding, not surprisingly, ‘I did not like it’ (1) [This exchange refers to Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels among many many other things, and ‘Stella’, real name Esther Johnson, who was his student, the daughter of a servant of a friend of Swift’s and they remained in rather ambiguous contact for the rest of Stella’s life.]
A century after Swift’s brief stay in Chelsea, the Bun House was still flourishing. For four generations it was in the ownershp of a family called Hand [see illustration below] and according to Chamber’s Book of Days ‘families of the middle classes’ would sill walk a considerable way to taste the delicacies of the Chelsea Bun House (2). Demolished in 1839, the original Pimlico Road Bun House was re-created in Sloane Square for a brief period in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations.

For four generations the Chelsea Bun House belonged to a family called Hand. One of them became an officer in the Staffordshire militia. Inevitably he was nicknamed Captain Bun. From a print dated 4 January 1773; Chelsea Public Library

‘It is singular’ wrote Sir Richard Phillips (1), an addict of the original Chelsea buns, ‘that their delicate flavour, lightnedd and richness, have never been successfully imitated… for above thirty years I have never passed the Bun House without filling my pockets’
Sugary, spicy, sticky, square and coiled like a Swiss roll, the Chelsea bun as we now know is a pretty hefty proposition. That it can be very usefully adapted to smaller scale needs was demonstrated to me in the letter quoted further on. So it worth knoing the principle on which Chelsea buns are made. Recipes vary considerably in details, the but the basic bun dough is fairly constant…”

1. Journal to Stella, 2 May 1711
2. Chamber’s Book of Days, Volume 1, 1869 *

So now we can proceed with the recipe, but in my own words…

Chelsea Buns

Dough

550g flour

2 eggs

225g butter, softened

150g milk

15g yeast (or  1 sachet of dried yeast)

Grated peel from 1 lemon

1tsp cinnamon

1tsp salt

2tbs sugar

Filling

85g currants

85g butter

85g soft brown sugar

85g castor sugar

1tsp cinnamon

Glaze

1tbs milk

2tbs castor sugar

First make the dough:

Warm the milk very slightly in a pan and then pour a little over your yeast in a bowl. This activates the yeast and should make it bubble a little and become smooth. If you are using dried yeast, it will dissolve and become silky.

Mix the salt and sugar into the flour then rub the softened butter into this mix until it resembles breadcrumbs (rather like when you make a crumble)

Add the creamed yeast, eggs,  milk, cinnamon and lemon peel and mix to a light dough. I would add the milk in increments until you have a stiff-ish dough that isn’t sticky. (If you are going by my mum’s description, it needs to look like a baby’s head! We always affectionately pat the ‘baby’ when it is ready…It makes a fat little sound: ‘plap plap’)

Now cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours until it has roughly doubled in size. It’s quite a slow process with this dough, especially if you’re making it in winter so don’t be afraid to leave it a little longer.

While it is rising mix together the currants, sugars, and butter (cut into little pieces) to make the filling you do not want to combine the sugar and butter, but have each thing separate (see picture below)

When the dough is risen well, punch the dough down and then knead it well for about 5 minutes. I do this in the bowl but you can do it on a surface, just try not to add any extra flour as this will stiffen the dough.

Now divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll each into a rectangle about 20cm x 30cm (it is important to try and keep them fairly square, I had trouble doing this but have a bash.

Sprinkle the filling over the rectangles, spreading it as close to the sides as you can

Now, fold the filled dough rectangles into 3 (as your would for puff pastry if you have ever made that) up from the bottom along the longest side so you have 2 short sausages. Seal the edge with a bit of milk or water and press together. Then give it one turn and roll the dough out again to roughly it’s original rectangle size

(can you see the smear of butter on my camera lens in these pics?!)

Now you make the final roll. Roll the dough up firmly along the shortest side (as you would a Swiss roll if you have ever made that) so you have 2 long sausages, seal the edge again and turn it over so the seal is on the bottom. (I forgot to seal mine so the square shape was a bit undone once they were baked, never mind, see pics below)

Now cut the sausages into your buns around 4cm thick (you can actually make them as small or big as you like but remember once they have proved and cooked they will be approximately double in size)

Arrange your buns in a greased dish or 2 (seven to a row used to be the rule of professional bakers) with about 4 cm between each bun. The spacing is important, for during the proving period the buns grow in size and move together assuming their characteristically square shape.. I didn’t leave quite enough space as I had so many (about 26 I think) and not enough tins! It didn’t seem to hinder them too much…

Now leave them to prove with cling film over the top in a warm place, until they are all but touching (probably around 45 mins but keep an eye on them)

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees or gas 7

When they have proven, sprinkle them with castor sugar and bake them for 15 minutes. during the baking, the merging process is completed. You want them to be golden brown and soft to the touch

Make the sugar and milk glaze by warming the milk and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved

 When they come out of the oven brush them with the glaze.

Leave them to cool for a couple of minutes then separate them with a knife and put on a wire rack. They are truly amazing eaten still warm, even hot. They are so soft, so sticky and fragrant you’ll probably eat them all in one sitting but make sure to invite some friends over and munch with a cup of tea while everyone goes silent. When there’s a warm Chelsea bun in the room, on your plate, in your mouth; nothing else matters.

They keep well in an air tight tin and can be quickly re-heated in a hot oven for a couple of minutes. They are perfect for breakfast.

The ‘letter’ Elizabeth David refers to in the excerpt above is a lovely thing, taken from correspondence she had with her lifelong friend, the painter Arthur Lett Haines with some incredible sounded alterations to the Chelsea bun which I really want to try:

” [He] always had interesting and beautifully imaginative ideas about food. He writes “I like Chelsea buns. But find them rather large and bucolic [Surely not?!]. So make them very small, exaggerate the quantitiy of fruit, chopped small, and serve them no larger than big petit fours, coated with Royal icing.
1. lemon-flavoured and peppered with a crushed pistachio
2. Royal icing flavoured with angostura and sprinkled with poppy seeds’
Now that seems to me a most admirable approach to the problem of re-creating a speciality which would otherwise have little place in our lives today” *

Now Elizabeth David, that is one thing we disagree on, I cannot imagine a world where the Chelsea bun would take a little place in my life today and I encourage everyone to disprove her theory.

*Excerpts from Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Penguin Books, 1977, pg474-484

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Filed under Baking, Bread, Cake, Christmas, Pudding, Recipes

Party Party!

There’s nothing I  relish more than a good birthday party. So many opportunities to cook!  On Saturday we held  our birthday Ping Pong Picnic Party in the Park with mulled cider on a camping stove and lots of delicious cheeses. And birthday cake of course.

Below are several of my favourite party food recipes from a few past birthday celebrations…

Mulled Cider

Lemon Polenta Cake with Pistachio Cream

Spinach and Feta Filo Parcels

Party Biscuits

‘Caspars’

Chicory Leaves with Gorgonzola, Pear and Walnuts

Don’t f0rget to decorate the kitchen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mulled Cider

For 2l good dry cider use 100ml cloudy or freshly squeezed apple juice

1 apple studded with cloves

1/2 an orange, sliced thinly

1 cinnamon stick

Put all the ingredients into a pan and warm gently.

Drink, preferably outside, under a tree, in Autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apple, orange and cinnamon will last for at least 4 rounds (that is 4 lots of 2l of cider) but after that the spiciness will have weakened, so make sure to have spare, this goes down a bit quickly especially at a big party!

Lemon Polenta Cake with Pistachio Cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cake

330g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

130g fine polenta, plus extra for dusting

300g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs, beaten

300g ground almonds

1½ tsp baking powder

4 tsp plain flour

Grated zest of 4 large lemons and juice of 2

Syrup

100g caster sugar

Juice of a large lemon

Icing

150g mascarpone

100g ricotta

150ml double cream

2 tbsp icing sugar

4-5 tbsp lemon curd

Handful of chopped pistachios to decorate

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees, gas 3

Butter a 23cm springform cake tin, line the base with baking paper, butter again and dust all over with a little polenta.

In a big bowl or your food mixer beat the softened butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the beaten eggs

Fold in the polenta, almonds, baking powder and plain flour with a metal spoon.

Add the lemon zest and juice, combine.

Spoon into the cake tin and smooth the top.

Bake for 1¼ hours until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean

Meanwhile, make the syrup by heating the sugar and lemon juice in a pan until the sugar has dissolved

When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and poke holes into the cake with a skewer. pour over the warm syrup and let the cake cool in the tin for 20-30 minutes, then remove from the tin and completely cool on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool, make the icing. In a bowl or your mixer, beat together mascarpone, ricotta and cream until smooth and thick. Sift in the icing sugar and mix well in. Spread the icing over the top of the cake and then drizzle over the lemon curd, you can swirl the curd into the icing with a skewer. Finely chop your pistachios (or you could use almonds) and sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Watch it disappear in milliseconds.

Spinach and Feta Filo Parcels

6 sheets of filo pastry

6 shallots

2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

500g cooked drained and chopped spinach (squeeze all the juice out so you have a sort of spinach paste or use frozen which is pre-chopped, you’ll still need to squeeze it)

200g feta cheese

50g butter, melted

salt and pepper

Nutmeg

Cook or prepare your spinach (if using frozen, thaw out, drain and squeeze then use. If using fresh, wash it, then put it in a pan over a low heat with the lid on, you will need no more water than this, then drain, squeeze and chop finely)

Pre-heat the oven to gas 4 / 180 degrees

Chop the shallots finely and sautee in a little olive oil for 5 minutes or so.

Chop the feta into 1cm squares

Mix the spinach with the shallots until heated through, add the parsley feta and a good grating of fresh nutmeg to taste. Season.

Slice each of the filo sheets in half length ways, you want strips about 10cm wide and 30cm long (or you can make little hors d’oeuvre sized parcels by slicing each sheet into 3)

Brush a little butter along the edges of the pastry and put about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture into the right hand corner.

Now for folding:

Take the pastry by the bottom right hand corner and and bring it to the opposite corner above the mixture.

Brush the edges with a little melted butter then take the bottom left hand corner and lift it straight up and over. Continue until you reach the end (it should take about 5 folds.) Make sure to press the edges together so the filling can’t leak out.

Brush a baking tray with melted butter and the top and sides of each parcel too and bake for 35 minutes until pastry is browned and crisp.

Party Biscuits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe is from the bbc website. They are VERY sweet, but that’s what you want at a party. Classier biscuits to follow…

250g plain white flour

85g golden caster sugar

175g unsalted butter , at room temperature, cubed

2 tbsp lemon juice

250g white icing sugar

1 tbsp raspberry jam

Heat oven to 180 degrees / gas 4. Put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor. Whizz until the mixture forms crumbs, then pulse a little more until it forms a ball.

Put in the fridge for at least an hour

Dust a clean surface with a little flour, then roll out the dough to about the thickness of a £1 coin. Stamp out rounds using any biscuit cutter or a water glass, then if you want them ina ring shape cut out the middles with the end of a piping nozzle. Lift onto baking sheets and bake for 10 mins until pale golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Put the lemon juice into a bowl  and sieve in 175g of the icing sugar; stir together to make a smooth icing add a DROP of water if it’s not liquid enough).

Into another bowl sieve the raspberry jam (or you’ll block up your nozzle!) and add 2 tsp boiling water, mix, then sieve in the remaining icing sugar.

Spoon the lemon icing over the biscuits, then drizzle or pipe the pink icing over. I piped people’s initials on the biscuits but you can just drizzle with a teaspoon to make splotchy wobbly lines or dots or anything else you fancy!

Leave to set for at least 20 mins. Will keep for up to 2 days in an airtight tin, longer if left un-iced.

 

 

 

Caspars

I invented these biscuits for a brand new perfect baby boy, Caspar or Mr C as he is known to his friends. Obviously he couldn’t eat them but his parents were happy to have something to give to visiting friends and family. I think they make a perfect gift, very pretty, delicate and light. And they taste delicious!

Almond, Lemon and Honey ‘Caspars’

4oz butter

2oz castor sugar

1oz muscovado sugar

4oz plain flour

2oz ground almonds

2tbs honey

zest of 1 lemon

handful of flaked almonds

1 tbsp poppy seeds

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees or gas 3

Beat butter and sugars together, add honey and combine

Add flour almonds and lemon zest and mix until a rough dough

Form into a ball and chill in the fridge for at least an hour (this dough freezes very well too)

Dust a clean surface with a little flour and roll the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin.

Cut out with a water glass (or biscuit cutter) and sprinkle over a couple of flaked almonds, a few poppy seeds and a scattering of castor sugar

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place the biscuits on

Bake for 15 mins but keep a close eye on them. They are done when they are golden brown but they’re very delicate so be careful when lifting them onto a wire rack to cool

Chicory Leaves with Gorgonzola, Pears and Walnuts

A very simple pretty snack to serve at a party, we had these at my mum’s birthday and they went down very well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 heads of red chicory and 3 of green

200g gorgonzola

2 tbs yoghurt

3 pears quartered and sliced very finely (put the slices into ice cold water with the juice of a lemon to stop them browning)

100g walnuts, chopped and toasted for 10 mins in the oven (gas 4 / 180 degrees)

You want to make small batches of these as chicory browns quite quickly, have about 8 on a plate and 8 in the fridge at all times

Mix gorgonzola and  yoghurt together to form a soft loose consistency (add more yoghurt if needed)

Slice the end off the chicory and separate the leaves. You probably can’t use the first 3 leaves as they will be too thin and floppy

Put around 2 teaspoons of the cheese mix into a leaf, tuck a pear slice in next to it and sprinkle with walnuts.

We also had excellent parma ham from the fabulous deli with finely sliced melon, home-made hummus, mini goats cheese and red onion tarts (recipe later) and my sister’s amazing bulgur wheat salad (recipe please R!)

Eat, drink and be merry…Have a great party! Remember to invite me and I promise to bring edible gifts.

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Filed under Baking, Biscuits, Cake, Cheese, Drinks, Fruit, hors d'oeuvre, Kitchen Tips, Pudding, Recipes, vegetables