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Bakewell puddings…a real 80’s revival!

If you’ve ever visited the lovely little town of Bakewell in the Derbyshire Dales you’ll know all about the humble but delicious Bakewell Pudding! Not to be mistaken with their (somewhat better known) relative the Bakewell Tart. I grew up visiting the Peak District every Autumn half term and a visit to Bakewell was always in the itinerary. Bakewell puddings are basically a puff pastry shell with a dollop of raspberry jam at the bottom, topped with an egg, sugar and almond mixture and although they don’t sound anything special, are absolutely divine!…

Having sadly outgrown my family trips to the Peaks, I thought it was about time to revisit these gorgeous puddings. I had the perfect opportunity last month when my Book & Bake club decided an 80’s revival was in order. We read Jilly Cooper’s ‘Riders’ (which I hasten to say is a brilliant bit of summertime reading 😉 and baked a dish from the Good Housekeeping 80’s edition…

If you own this fantastic, classic cookbook then you are a very lucky person! If not, here’s the recipe…

I decided to make individual bakewell puddings in a cupcake tin. You don’y need to line the tin with greaseproof paper as long as it’s non-stick, I just thought it looked pretty.

Simply put a circle of puff pastry in each hole of the cupcake tin and put a dollop of raspberry jam in the bottom…

Then fill them with the almond and egg mixture before popping them in them in the oven…

and there you have them…

I freestyled a bit by topping them with a few flaked almonds but it’s totally up to you. They’re delicious eaten straight away or if you can resist, leave them to cool and eat them cold. I suggest serving them with some clotted cream and fresh raspberries…

So enamoured was I by these wonderful puddings that I made 130 of them for an event that Carri from Pavitt’s Pie’s had asked me to make desserts for…

I encourage you to don your ski pants and shoulder pads and relive the 80’s, Good Housekeeping style!

The other Book and Bake ladies had excelled with this amazing spread…

Avocado mousse…

viennese fingers…

summer pudding…

and my fave, the black forest gateaux…

with a very ‘80’s’ key ingredient… 

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Retro coconut cake with raspberry jam & coconut buttercream…

Today I made this little beauty…

I’ve been meaning to share this deliciously retro sounding recipe for ages. I found it in one of my Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes book and tried making it for the first time a couple of months ago. It’s so delicious that it’s found its way firmly into my repertoire of faves.

In making it, I also learnt an incredibly handy skill…how to make coconut cream! I discovered this, whilst scouring my local shops for coconut cream in a last minute panic, but to no avail! Every single shop, however, had boxes of creamed coconut (a solid white block made from pure coconut) so with the help of a bit of on the spot googling I learnt that all you need to do is dissolve 75g creamed coconut (grated) in 100ml of hot water and stir until smooth. Hey presto! These quantities also, luckily, make exactly the amount of coconut cream that you need for this recipe!

All you need is…

175g unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

175g self-raising flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

50g dessicated coconut

2 tbsp coconut cream (remember the handy hint above 🙂

For the coconut buttercream icing you need…

280g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

3 tbsp coconut cream

and finally half a jar or so of raspberry jam for sandwiching.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (180 degrees if it’s not a fan) and grease and line the bases of two 8 inch round cake tins. If you find lining cake tins a hassle you should read this handy ‘Kitchen How To’ from Miss Igs.

Mix the butter and sugar together with a handheld electric mixer for a few minutes before adding the eggs, flour and baking powder. Beat well for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Stir the dessicated coconut and coconut cream in gently.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and pop in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake to test it, if it comes out clean, it’s ready!

Leave to cool for a few minutes, then loosen the edges and remove the cakes gently from their tins and put them on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the buttercream you just need to sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and beat in the butter and coconut cream until smooth.

Spread half of the buttercream on top of one of your cakes, followed by a layer of raspberry jam on top of that, or if you fancy putting the jam on first followed by the buttercream it’s your call!. Either way, gently lower the second cake on top and finally dollop on the remaining buttercream and spread and swirl to you hearts content until you’re happy with the finished product…

Then cut yourself a huge slice and get stuck in…

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A very summery spiced tomato & red pepper chutney

Afternoon tea just wouldn’t be complete without a nice array of finger sandwiches. I make mine using bread from my local baker (Donaldsons on Mill Road), I make sure I’m not stingy with the salted butter and I most definitely cut off the crusts :). I like to keep the fillings simple and classic…ham & wholegrain mustard, cucumber & cream cheese, egg mayonnaise & cress and cheese & homemade chutney.

My next afternoon tea guests have requested cheese & chutney as one of their fillings and what with it also being the start of the British tomato season, I thought there was no better time to get chutney making!

I felt quite refined this morning as I hopped on my faithful old bicycle (Sally the Raleigh) and pedalled across town to peruse and select the perfect ingredients for my chutney from the market. I was spoilt for choice and came back with this bountiful crop of tomatoes still on the vine and huge red peppers…

I’d found this recipe for spiced tomato and red pepper chutney a while ago in an ancient copy of the Sainsburys magazine. It was very popular with my family and friends when I made it before so I thought I’d give it another go. I love how it retains the vibrant colours of the fresh ingredients…

and…it’s amazingly easy to make. As with most chutneys all you need is time and patience 🙂

To make about 1.5 litres (approx 5 jars) you’ll need…

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

4 tbsp olive oil

2 large onions, diced finely

4 red peppers, cut into approx 1 cm dice (I like my chutney chunky but if you like yours finer feel free to use a food processor to do the chopping)

1.4kg ripe tomatoes, cut into approx 1 cm dice

8 cloves garlic, crushed

4 tbsp ginger (a chunk of ginger the size of about 4 wine corks), grated

8 tbsp soft brown sugar or demerara sugar

8 tbsp red wine vinegar or cider vinegar

Grated zest and juice of 4 oranges

1 tsp dried crushed red chilli flakes (optional if you like your chutney with a kick)

Lightly crush the cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar and toast them in a dry frying pan until they start to release a gorgeous aroma, then remove them from the heat and set aside.

Pour the oil into a large pan and add the diced onions and toasted spices. Cook for a few minutes but try not to brown the onions, just soften them slightly.

Now add all of the remaining ingredients…

and bring to the boil. Once it’s bubbling away, turn it down and simmer until it thickens. Make sure you stir it frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. The test to see if your chutney is thick enough is to drag your spoon down the centre of the pan, if the divide in the chutney remains, you’re done! The recipe I was following said that it would take 30-45 minutes for it to reach this stage but mine took considerably longer, hence the need for time and patience 🙂

But eventually it’ll look a little something like this…

at which point it’s ready to decant into sterilised jars (Find out how to sterilise your jars here)…

Finally, pour a tablespoonful of olive oil on top of the chutney and screw the lids on tight. Once sealed, your chutney will keep for months. Once you crack into a jar just make sure you keep it in the fridge.

Here’s my motley batch of summery spiced tomato and red pepper chutney…

The perfect addition to a delicious mature cheddar sandwich!

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Veg box enlightenment…courgette, feta, & mint fritters…

I recently received my first organic veg box delivery from Riverford Organic. I’ve been wanting to try out a veg box scheme for a while and just haven’t seemed to be able to get organised enough to do it. I eat a hell of a lot of fruit and veg but seem to get stuck in a bit of a rut and cook the same things over and over. I thought that the mystery and pot luck aspect of a veg box delivery would encourage me to be more adventurous with my meals. 

It felt a lot like Christmas when this bountiful box of goodies arrived on my doorstep…

In amongst the veggies was this unidentified greenery…

I posted a photo on Twitter and was promptly informed that they were broad bean tops, which are usually pinched out at this time of year to minimise the risk of black fly infestation in broad bean plants. It was recommended that I pan fry them with some garlic and lemon juice, add them to a risotto or simply steam them and serve with a drizzle of olive oil. 

After using the powers of google for inspiration I came up with my first veg box meal idea…courgette, feta & mint fritters with steamed broad bean tops…

They were amazingly simple to make and in my mind there are no hard and fast rules…if you don’t have mint, don’t add it, if you have lemon but no lime use that instead. The recipe below can be used as a guide but feel free to freestyle according to your own tastes! 

To make 4, which would be enough to serve two as a starter or one hungry person as a main meal you will need…

1 large courgette

1 clove of garlic, crushed

Approx 10 sprigs of mint, chopped

Zest of half a lime

100g feta cheese, chopped

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp plain flour

Lime juice to serve

Start by grating the courgette. Squeeze it between your hands to get rid of as much liquid as possible and put into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except the lime juice and mix together to make a sticky mixture…

Heat some oil in a frying pan. Add your mixture to the pan, making 4 fritters and flattening them down slightly. Cook for a few minutes on both sides until they have taken on some colour and are cooked through and there you have it…

The broad bean tops were a simple but tasty accompaniment and the whole dish was finished off perfectly with a squeeze of lime. Since discovering this dish I’ve already recreated it twice and will most definitely be making them again…I appear to be a creature of habit.

I’m already looking forward to my next veg box ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ experience! 🙂

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Banana loaf experiments & my social media embargo…

This weekend I’m doing something I haven’t done for a very long time…I’m going on holiday. I’m not going anywhere tropical, just an hour or so down the road to a country cottage near to where a good friend is getting married, but I intend to fully sign out from the (cyber) world and attempt to leave my email account(s) unchecked, my Twitter account(s) abandoned and my Facebook status un-updated 🙂 This may not sound like such a big thing, unless like me you are a social media/internet addict! Last year my boss bought me Grace Dent’s book ‘How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop’ it had me laughing out loud, not only at her wit and her insightful ponderings on others’ Twitter behaviour but at the depths of her Twitter addiction. A year on, I wonder what my reaction would be if I read it again and whether I would cringe at the similarities to my own social media tendencies 🙂 But hey ho, as a parting shot, I thought I’d post a blog about this week’s baking adventures. 

The monthly Book and Bake club I go to had rolled around again, this month we were meant to have read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin and have baked a Mary Berry recipe. I failed in a big way on the reading front and didn’t even get as far as buying the book, so to compensate, I baked 4 Mary Berry banana cakes! This may seem a bit excessive but I saw it as a great excuse to a) use up some bananas left over from my latest stint volunteering at FoodCycle Cambridge and b) trial some new recipes.

Here’s the line up… (left to right – banana & honey tealoaf, banana & chocolate chip loaf, gluten free banana, date & walnut loaf, banana & cherry tealoaf)

and again… (clockwise from top right – gluten free banana, date & walnut loaf, banana & cherry tealoaf, banana & honey tealoaf, banana & chocolate chip loaf)

I found all of the recipes online. First up was the banana & chocolate chip loaf 

My chocolate chips gravitated to the bottom of the cake, which however annoying, wasn’t detrimental to the taste. It was amazingly moist and great for the sweet toothed among us 🙂

Next up was the banana & honey teabread, which I discovered on The Goddess Kitchen’s blog…

Now for some reason, my banana & honey teabread didn’t turn out anything like Maria’s pictures. It was the squishiest cake/pudding I’ve ever made and even though I cooked it for 1 hour 30 minutes, longer than the recipe recommended, it showed no sign of setting so I gave in and took it out of the oven, turned my back for a second and when I looked round it had sunk! I was calling this one the failure cake, however, it turned out to be the favourite for a lot of the people who tasted all four! I have a feeling I was over generous with my honey measurements…here’s to happy accidents 🙂

The next one was a bit of an experiment for me as I’ve never ventured into gluten free baking. I stocked up on gluten free flour and baking powder…

and set about making a gluten free version of this banana, date & walnut loaf, which I found on this blog ‘Gardening for Lawyers’

It wasn’t as squidgy as some banana breads I’ve made and eaten in the past but it was absolutely delicious and definitely my favourite! I’ve since made another 2 loaves…

The last experiment was Mary’s banana, date & cherry loaf, which I found posted here on an online forum (see, the internet is a magical thing:)…

It was a classicly yummy banana bread but in my opinion would have benefited from more cherries. Bright red, glace cherries are a guilty pleasure of mine! 

The Book and Bake ladies soon forgave my book reading failure when they found out that they had 4 cakes to try instead of 1!…

So, that’s it from me for at least 4 days…if you see/hear anything from me, I have failed my social media embargo experiment!

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Argentinian alfajores biscuits…

My baking addiction makes me a pretty good person to live with…the kitchen’s always sparkling and there is never a shortage of cake around. The only downside for my long suffering housemates is that they have to wait until whatever I’ve baked has been sufficiently photographed before they can tuck into it and when I eventually let them, I ask them to provide me with comprehensive feedback…so I guess it works both ways! My housemate’s girlfriend, Dani, has an amazingly sweet tooth so is a prime target to try new recipes out on. She’s Argentinian and was telling me recently about a traditional Argentinian biscuit called alfajores, which are light shortbread biscuits, sandwiched together with lashings of dulce de leche and rolled in dessicated coconut. They had me intrigued and sounded a bit like a hybrid snowball/wagon wheel but classier. So, I set out, with the help of the world wide web, to find out more about alfajores and was determined to have a go at making them!

I found a plethora or recipes on the internet and after browsing a few decided to follow this one from Lori Lange (aka Recipe Girl). The biscuits are made using, amongst other things, egg yolks and corn flour which act to make them both rich and light. They also contain cognac and lemon zest, which gave them an awesome flavour! Here are the finished articles…

After chilling the prepared biscuit dough, I cut out and placed the pleasingly perfect circles on a baking tray…

The recipe said to bake them for 12-15 minutes and that they should be dry but not brown…

Dani’s feedback on my alfajores was very positive. She said that they were very authentic but she also told me that her Mum bakes them for literally 5 minutes until they are just set and still retain a slight ‘cookie dough’ texture. I think I’ll take that on board for next time, as they were delicious but slightly dry.

I think next time I could be a tad more generous with the dulce de leche too. I personally can’t get enough of the stuff and would love to have a go at making my own! I’ve added it to my ‘to bake/make’ list.

All in all, my alfajores were a success, they didn’t last long at all in my kitchen, which says it all 🙂

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Rosewater wedding cupcakes…a whopping 96 of them…

This weekend was a very proud time for me…not only was I a bridesmaid for the very first time, but my good friends Nic & Will had also given me the honour of asking me to make their wedding cakes for them! I’ve spent the last few months planning, list writing and doing taste tests in preparation but finally, after a whole week of nights spent tossing, turning and (eventually) dreaming about all manner of cake related disasters, the big day arrived! The bride and groom had decided on rosewater cupcakes, which I set about making on Friday. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what 96 freshly baked cupcakes look like…(I was sadly chuffed to be able to use my stackable wire racks 🙂

The next day, I was up early, I hired a car and made my way to Norfolk to Cliff Barns, the coolest wedding venue I’ve ever seen! It had it’s own dressing up room…

and ‘throne room’ dedicated to the Queen…

and the most awesome kitchen, equipped for every eventuality and made even better by the temporary addition of my KitchenAid…

I set to work making up industrial quantities of rosewater flavoured buttercream icing in white and pastel green to top my little army of wedding cupcakes…

Ansell, my very talented 3 year old helper kept me company (I was extremely jealous of his dinosaur apron!)…

The next day, the day of the wedding, it was time to set the scene. I’d brought along a vast array of cake stands, boxes, teapots, cups, saucers & plates to create the vision that I’d been planning. Here I am adding the finishing touches to it…

Before stepping back to admire the end result…

My friend, Reika, who lives in Japan sent over a hand-sewn bride and groom, which took pride of place…

and of course there was a bit of shameless self promotion 😉 …

The recipe I used was a very simple one, after a few trials I decided that to over complicate something that didn’t need over complicating was just plain silly.

So, to make a batch of 12 of my rosewater cupcakes with rosewater buttercream icing you need…

175g unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

175g self raising flour

30ml milk

1 tsp rosewater (I recommend Star Kay White Rosewater from Waitrose for flavour)

Preheat oven to 170 degrees and line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Beat in the eggs. Followed by the flour, milk and rosewater. Make sure everything is well combined.

Scoop the mixture into cupcake cases, I highly recommend using an ice cream scoop like this. It will change your cupcake making life for the better!

Pop them into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until light brown and springy when pressed on top.

To make the rosewater buttercream icing you need…

400g icing sugar

200g butter

A splash of milk

2 tbsp rosewater (now this time I chose to use this Rosewater from The English Provender as it had a much weaker but more delicate flavour, which balanced the stronger variety used in the sponge) 

Simply beat all of the ingredients except the milk together well until light and fluffy. Add a small splash of milk a a time until you have a good consistency for piping or spreading onto the top of your cupcakes.

Once your cupcakes are fully cooled you can use your artistic licence to decorate them any which way you like!

I think they make the perfect summer cupcake and it appears that the wedding guests approved as somehow 96 cupcakes were devoured extremely quickly with the last few making it until the next day and providing the perfect post-wedding hangover breakfast! 🙂 

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