Wednesday, 28 November 2012


This recipe takes inspiration from a lot of things I learnt/made on the food writing course I went on it September. First off, it’s basically a sweet version of a puff pastry quiche tart we made for the vegetarians on a night when my team made traditional steak and ale pie for tea. Back then I was taught to make proper puff pastry, here I’m opting for rough puff, mainly for time but also for the thickness of the pastry. I won’t judge if you’d prefer to buy puff though to make this recipe even quicker, or if you want to make proper puff, you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something massive if you do. When I was at Arvon, the lady who taught me to make puff pastry also introduced me to Barbados cream. It’s a mixture of lightly whipped double cream and Greek yogurt, which seems pretty normal, until it’s topped with Demerara sugar. Then something weird happens. Over a short period of time in the fridge, the sugar seems to melt almost and you get a marbled affect of a sweet liquid running through the cream. Don’t ask me how it happens, I haven’t got a clue. I just know it’s cool. You have to use a golden unrefined or brown sugar for it though, which I always use anyway. Funnily enough, the sugar I use is actually called ‘Barbados sugar’ and I buy it for 50p a bag at my local home bargains (seriously). Anyway, I put all of these things together, including the fact we also made poached pears on my cooking night, and created my Brandy Pear tart with Brandy spiked Barbados cream.

For the rough puff pastry
250g plain flour
Pinch of salt
250g cold butter 
100ml cold water
1 tsp icing sugar

For the filling 
Around 5-6 pears
4 eggs
2 tbsp sugar
A generous shot of Brandy

For the Barbados Cream 
150ml double cream
200g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp Brandy
2 tbsp unrefined golden sugar

Mix flour and salt in a bowl then add the butter in rough little chunks, nothing too precise because you want the odd larger piece in the pastry to give the puff. Roughly rub the butter into the flour, until a mixture which resembles part breadcrumbs part flour-coated butter chunks is formed. Make a well in the centre and add the water. Mix in with a cold knife until you get a dough. Transfer onto a piece of cling film then shape into a ball with this. Leave to cool in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Once cooled, leave the dough to warm for about 5 minutes then roll out on the cling-film (good, mess reducing tip), mainly lengthways until tripled in size. You’ll need lots of flour at the ready because the exposed butter in the pastry sticks a lot. Imagine the dough in thirds and fold the first one over the middle, and the remaining one over this. Do a quarter turn so that the layers are facing you (these are called book ends and you should always roll in this way) then roll out in one, long ways direction until tripled in size (mainly length) again. Fold as before, wrap in the cling film then leave to cool again for at least 30 minutes. I knocked this out the night before, with emphasis on rough, so it cooled over night.

Preheat oven 200fan/200c/7
Line a rectangle baking tray and roll out the pastry to fit this. Transfer onto tray and fold over then pinch the edges to makes the walls of the tart. Prick the base then dust all over with icing sugar. Bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up.

In the meantime peal the pears and slice in half. Remove the tougher flesh from the centre with a teaspoon and if possible, cut the halved pears in half again. You might want to poach the pears in some sugar and water for 5 minutes to soften, depending on whether you want a crunch or not. Beat the eggs and milk together with the sugar then add the generous slosh of brandy.

When the tart base has baked, arrange the pears on top and pour around with the egg mixture. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the egg-like custard is firmly set and the pears are just starting to brown.

Whilst the tart is baking, make the Barbados cream by whipping the double cream until it just begins to leave a ripple then add the Greek yoghurt and Brandy, mixing these in well. Sprinkle the unrefined sugar on top of the cream and leave in fridge until the magic happens, when the sugar seems to melts. When the tart is baked, leave to cool for 10 minutes or so before dusting with icing sugar and serving with the sugar mottled Barbados cream.

The sugar on the cream goes darker and melts more the longer you leave it, or if you use brown sugar because of the molasses in it. I'm highly impatient and couldn't wait to take the picture and that's why it looks quite light.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Churros are brilliant little things. They’re sort of like eating a doughnut without the fuss of the preparation and with the fun on dunking. Churros tend to come rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with a dark chocolate sauce, a winning combination, but you can get this recipe anywhere so I thought I’d give a new take on them, serving them with a vanilla fudge sauce (not a chocolaty fudge one) . You could say I’ve tried to make these Mexican/Spanish treats more English, I like to think I’ve made them more fitting for this time of the year. There something about the traditional churros which screams blazing sun and this is what makes them unbeatable. But let’s be honest, there’s only going to be about 10 days in the whole English year the sun blazes, so for the cold days here’s my vanilla fudge take.
Having said all this, I was asked to guest blog for my friend’s blog Having said all this, I was asked to guest blog for my friend’s blog Two Fat Vegetarians so I chose to swing completely the other way and add more heat to the churros by serving them with a chilli chocolate sauce (with real chilli seeds). The recipe is here.

For the Churros 
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
a generous knob of melted butter
around 500ml boiling water
1tbsp vanilla extract
Around 1-2 litres oil for frying (I use sunflower)

For the Fudge Sauce
125g light muscavado sugar
50g butter
4 tbsp golden syrup
200ml double cream
1tsp vanilla extract

Begin by making the sauce. Heat the sugar, butter and golden syrup in a pan until melted together and glossy. Stir in the double cream and vanilla extract until and leave to heat for about 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the sauce thickens a little. Set to one side.

To make the churros mix together the flour and baking powder then stir in the melted butter, make a well in the centre and mix in the boiling water until a thick dough forms. Add the vanilla extract and stir well.

Leave the mixture to one side and either fill a large pan one third of the way up with the oil or preheat a mini deep fat fryer (I recently purchased one, but I have to use it in the garage because my mum hates the smell of frying in the house- I’m dedicated to this recipe). To test the oil drop in a tiny piece of bread, it should brown within about 20-30 seconds if the oil is at the right temperature. When you reach this stage, transfer the churros mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star-like nozzle. Pipe the mixture straight into the hot oil, pulling the bag upwards to let the mixture fall into the oil. Be careful not to splash here, hot oil is lethal. I’d like to keep the churros in long, chunky and dunkable strips, put my limited piping bag and nozzle equipment (world’s worst piper) mean that I can only get bite size ones so I let the mixture fall quicker. Fry for about 1-2 minutes, or until floating and golden brown.

Let the churros rest on a paper towel to remove the excess oil, before dusting with icing sugar and serving with the fudge sauce. This recipe is great for having mates round because everyone can just tuck in and get a messy, which is always good.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Everyone loves a good ginger biscuit, and it’s one of those recipes that can’t really be improved so I looked to tradition and found one of my grandma’s old recipes and here it is. I like to make these larger than normal ginger biscuits, into chunks, which obviously makes them more satisfying. Less isn’t always more. Plus, I used to be a ginger chunk when I was a baby, so these are, in a way, the confection version of me.

90g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
280g self raising flour
200g sugar
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tbsp boiling water

Preheat oven to fan170/190c/5
Grease 2 medium baking trays. Melt together butter and golden syrup in a small pan then set to one side. Mix the flour, sugar, ginger and bicarb together, making sure the ginger is well dispersed through the dry ingredients. Pour in the melted sugar and butter and mix until a thick, dry dough forms. Loosen with the boiling water.

Divide the mixture into oval, almost rugby ball shapes, pressing down a little on the tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until firm but maintain a little softness if pressed hard. Bake for a few minutes longer if you like your ginger biscuits really crunchy and highly dunk proof.


Monday, 5 November 2012


Another bonfire night recipe, but it is the best time of the year and this one is inspired by the 5th of November staple; toffee apples. It’s really just a new take on a sticky toffee pudding, expect it has the sweetness of apples running through the sponge as well as the dark toffee flavour of dates. To enhance the stickiness, I like to serve this with a toffee sauce which is poured over the pudding. It firms to a sticky toffee when set, but melts to a rich sauce when heated and when poured onto the apple slices which are baked on top of the pudding, you almost get a toffee apple, just with a pudding sitting underneath.

150g dates, pitted 
3-4 cooking apples, 150g of these cubed 
300ml boiling water 
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 
50g butter 
150g light brown sugar 
1 tbsp golden syrup 
2 eggs 
225g flour 

For the Sauce 
100g butter 
100g light brown sugar 
1 tbsp golden syrup 

Preheat oven at fan180/200c/6 
Grease a relatively large baking dish. Soak the dates and cubed apples in the boiling water with the bicarb for around 5 minutes. Once softened blitz the dates and apples, with half of the water, into a purée and set to one side. 

Tip- It’s always handy to have a wedge of lemon when working with apples to squeeze over when cutting, they brown in no time. 

Cream together the butter and sugar then add the golden syrup. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, before adding the flour. Once a thick batter forms, mix in the pureed date and apple. Pour this into baking dish. 

Slice the remaining apples from one side to another in order to keep each slice in a full circle. Arrange the slices across the top the mixture in the dish. The idea is for each portion of the cake, you can a full, circular slice of the apple. Sprinkle the apples with sugar and bake for 30-35 minutes. 

In the meantime make the toffee sauce by melting all the ingredients together in a saucepan. Once melted, leave on a low flame for 2-3 minutes to thicken, but don’t worry if the sauce looks a little thin, it will thicken whilst it cools. 

To serve either take a slice of the cake and drizzle over the rich toffee sauce. Or you can pour the whole of the sauce over the pudding once it’s come out of the oven. The sauce will almost turn into sticky toffee because of the lack of cream, but that way you not only get toffee apple inside the cake, but one on top as well.