Tarty Seville Orange Tart

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My Brother’s birthday is at the end of January and mine is at the beginning. As a rule two things happen in between: if we are going to have snow, that’s when it will arrive and it duly has and my parents (yes that’s right both of them) make their annual supply of marmalade.

Currently I am not involved in this operation although at some point fairly soon I am going to have to acquire the Knowledge in that traditional hand me down sense. My better half has managed to end up on the distribution list and so will be looking to me to pick up the mantle eventually as he gets through his stock, more or less single-handed, long before the annual boiling comes round again. I have to say I haven’t even attempted to make the stuff at all, despite being a dab hand at jam, but the presence of Seville oranges in farm shops and occasionally in supermarkets does leave me feeling a little left out.

I need a distraction; Nigella makes the most delicious Seville Orange ice-cream, see :Nigella.com/No Churn bitter Orange Ice-cream, for some reason I cannot link this today, I think it’s absolutely wonderful being a bit of a tarty fan.

I have come up with a tart however as lemon tart is a favourite of mine and this I suspect would be a first cousin after all…

The recipe is basically Mary Berry’s but as the generic tart seem to be essentially the same list of ingredients whose-ever you make and as I have altered the prime ingredient I shall claim this as my own to some degree.

You will need:

For the sweet short crust pastry: 110g cold Butter, diced, 200g Plain Flour, 2 tbsp Icing Sugar, 1 Egg Yolk, cold Water

Just whizz the flour and the butter in a food processor until you have fine breadcrumb consistency, stir in the icing sugar and add the egg yolk and drizzle in enough cold water to form a ball of dough by whizzing again. You can always rub in by hand and then mix in the egg yolk and water by hand with a knife instead. Once you have a ball of dough, lightly roll out and line a greased 8 or 9″ loose bottomed tart tin and trim. Pop the pastry case in the fridge for 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes in the freezer, meanwhile….

For the filling you will need: 2 large Eggs, 90g Caster Sugar, 150g Ground Almonds, 85ml of whipping or double Cream, 2 Seville Oranges, zest and juice.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and beat together well.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C, once the pastry is chilled, remove from the freezer, add greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes without the paper and beans. Pour in the filling and bake again for 30-35 minutes. If you only have an 8″ tart tin there will be left overs, individual tarts (like jam tarts) can be made with a muffin tin.

Optionally you can make a glazed topping, you will need: 1 Seville Orange, 150g Caster Sugar, 135ml water.

In a frying pan, add the water and the sugar and gently heat to dissolve the sugar and then allow to boil for 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile slice the oranges thinly, discarding the pips, and then add them to the syrup and boil gently for another 5 minutes. If you have time transfer the whole lot to a bowl and allow the slices to soak for an hour or two.

Once the tart has cooled a little, arrange the orange slices and pour on the syrup, you may need to heat up the syrup to allow it to pour. Otherwise if you don’t fancy the glazed topping just sprinkle with icing sugar. Yummy.

What to do with the rest of the bag of Dill once you have made Nigella’s Sicilian Pasta: Cannellini Bean and Dill Stew

Sorry the title isn’t snappier but I felt like I needed an explanation in using dill at this time of year. As I have said before, to me dill conjures up Greek islands, lemons, salads with couscous and the like, not casseroles and crumbles and everything that goes with late Autumn.

The previous post revealed my delight with Nigellissima, the latest scrumptious series from Nigella Lawson. Here at Cutest Cakes HQ we have been having a bit of an Italian week ourselves what with one meal and another and the Sicilian Pasta featured, pieced together from the recipe bites on the iPlayer. It’s intensely fishy, with smoked mackerel the principle component and dill also featuring heavily. What shall I do with the rest of the packet? I think I have the answer and here it is:

So apart from the asparagus, which does give away the fact that I took this picture in the Summer, this is quite a hearty dish and can benefit from the addition of some premium sausages, either on the side or chop up into. It is also super speedy, taking no longer than the time to cook sausages should you be having some.

You will need (for 4):

1 can of Cannellini Beans in water, drained, 1 jar of Passata (or a tin and a half of chopped Tomatoes), 1 Onion, chopped, a little chopped Celery Leaves (optional), as much Dill as you can stand or what you have left over, chopped, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, grilled Sausages if you wish.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the onion over a medium heat until soft and transparent, add the celery leaves if using, stir round for another minute, and then add the passata or tins of tomatoes if using them instead…..

I was given a very good tip regarding the difference between using tins of tomatoes or passata, which is passata will cook very quickly really only requiring a warm through and doesn’t require a period of cooking down and the excess liquid evaporating away, tins of tomatoes do require this lengthier simmer and benefit from a ½ teaspoon of sugar due to the bitterness of the seeds.

…….so depending on the state of your tomatoes proceed as discussed and add the drained beans and dill and allowing the whole lot to cook down for 5-10 minutes minimum. Season and if you are using passata you may need to add a little water from the kettle to prevent from drying out.

You can add the chopped sausages (if using) at the point of serving and serve with crusty bread, pasta, asparagus…. whatever takes your fancy.

Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast has replaced Nigella for now. It is a visual wonder and I shall post a recipe inspired by his foray into Morocco next week.

Autumnal Crumble and other Berrilicious Delights

So our gorgeous new puppy, Kenya, has been the catalyst for a serious increase in countryside walks and spin-off benefits include a freezer-full of blackberries. There is also a lot more mud to deal with, particularly as it has been so wet, but  I suppose there has to be some sort of cost to foraging….

I shall start with a plum and blackberry crumble, which was inspired by Nigella Lawson’s new series Nigellissima, to which I have been glued, naturally, but Amaretti biscuits are only just available in some supermarkets, so I have come up with a store cupboard alternative.

Autumnal Crumble (serves 6)

You will need for the fruit base: 2 punnets of Plums, (these are currently on offer in Sainsburys, the firm round variety), a punnet of Blackberries or 150g or so, 3 tbsp Marsala Wine, 2 tbsp of soft brown sugar.

You will need for the crumble: 150g Plain or Self Raising Flour, 75g Butter, fridge cold, 75g Rolled Oats, 75g Brown Sugar, 75g Chopped Hazelnuts or Chopped Almonds, pretoasted or not is fine.

So I expect this hardly needs directions but here we go:

  • Wash the plums, halve, remove the stone and halve again, pop in a saucepan with the Marsala, sugar and 3 tbsp of water.
  • Cook over a gentle heat until the plums are tender and the sugar dissolved, about 5 – 10 minutes. You want to retain some bite to the fruit.
  • Pop these in an ovenproof dish minus the liquid and add the blackberries and mix in.
  • To make the crumble topping, rub the butter into the flour either by hand or using a mixer until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs and then stir in all the other ingredients.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C
  • Just before you wish to cook your crumble sprinkle the topping over the fruit and then bake for around 30 minutes until any juice is bubbling and the topping is browned.
  • The cooking liquor from the plums can be reduced over a moderate heat to create a delicious syrup.

Another favourite round here, Orange Berry Salad (serves 4)

You will need: 4 or 5 Oranges, thin-skinned for preference, 4 tbsp of Maple Syrup, 2 tbsp of Orange juice, a large handful or more of Blackberries and a sprinkling of Toasted Flaked Almonds, (you can buy toasted flaked almonds or toast your own, but they toast quickly so don’t leave them to their own devices for a second).

  • Peel the oranges with a sharp knife so that you remove the pith too, and slice to give wheel-like slices.
  • Arrange on a shallow serving dish of appropriate size.
  • In a small saucepan heat together the syrup and orange juice, and pour over the oranges.
  • Scatter over some blackberries and chill.
  • Just before serving sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds

Goes well with cake or tarts like frangipan, something slightly dry on its own.

If you do not have maple syrup, you can make a sugar syrup with 50g of sugar and 50ml of water, heat gently in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and allow to boil gently for 2 minutes. To flavour, add a little honey or brandy! Cool a little and pour over the oranges.

What to do with a Pumpkin

Two for the price of one this week. Pumpkin season is upon us and apart from making lanterns, or perhaps as well as, a few recipes using up the flesh appear to be in order.

Pumpkins themselves do have a fairly bland flavour so the best tactic is to spice it up. Here are a couple of recipes to such an end.

Thai Red Vegetable Curry

This is heavily based on a Nigella recipe: Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry in her book Nigella Bites.

You will need (serves 4): 400ml tin Coconut Milk (full or half fat), 1 heaped tbsp Red Curry paste, 300ml Vegetable Stock, 2 tbsp Fish Sauce, 1 tbsp Sugar, 1 heaped tsp Lemongrass paste, 2 Lime Leaves (if you can get them, dried will do), ½ tsp Turmeric, 350-400g Pumpkin, chunked, 300g waxy Potatoes, chunked a little smaller than the pumpkin, 1 Red Pepper, thickly sliced, a couple of handfuls of Spinach, shredded Swiss Chard or trimmed Green Beans, juice of ½ Lime, Coriander leaves to serve.

You should be able to buy the Thai ingredients in Tesco or Sainsburys; Barts make the lemongrass paste and Blue Dragon the fish sauce. Lime leaves will be with the spices or specialist ingredients of larger supermarkets.

So, open the tin of coconut milk, don’t shake the tin before opening, and scope out the coconut cream which collects at the top reserving the coconut water. Plop this in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over a moderate heat and add the curry paste, stir that around for a minute or two and then add most of the coconut water, the stock, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass paste, lime leaves, turmeric, pumpkin, potatoes and peppers and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Then add the greens and cook for another 5 minutes or so and finally add the lime juice. Serve on rice or with naan bread and sprinkle with the coriander.

You can add prawns with the greens if you want and cook until piping hot. This has that lovely sweet, hot tang to it. Yummy.

Easy Peasy Carrot and Pumpkin Curried Soup

This is quicker to make than say the title.

You will need: a small Leek, finely sliced, a splash of Sunflower Oil and an even smaller splash of Garlic Oil, 2 tsp Ginger, grated, 300g sliced Carrots, 300g Pumpkin,chunked, 1 litre Vegetable Stock, 1 tbsp medium Curry Powder, ½ lemon, juiced, Coriander leaves (optional)

In a large saucepan, gently fry the leek in the oils and after a minute or two add the ginger, stir that around and then add the pumpkin and carrot and sweat over a low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes or so. Stir in the curry powder and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or so until the veggies are tender. Blend. Season if required (but I doubt it) and add the lemon juice. Delish.

Now, I will tell you how to make the little pumpkin cakes above next time, I am still trying to refine a pumpkin cupcake as the Hummingbird one is frankly a disaster. Those above are plain cake with orange flavour butter icing, but more of that next week…….

Moussaka with Minimum Fuss

Finally.

We have the sort of glorious weather we have been anticipating for about two months. As luck would have it, this improvement coincided with a camping trip where a pre-prepared courgette cake courtesy of Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess was eaten along with barbecued fish, chicken fajitas, french toast and butter bean dip. All good stuff as the omnipresent camping food of burgers and sausages were for once kept to a minimum.

The speed of the arrival of the heat wave is reminiscent of the process of taking a plane ride to the southern Med and the sudden rise in temperature engulfing you as the cabin doors are opened and you descend the plane’s steps.

Greece, a classic destination for such as phenomenon has been a favourite haunt of ours over the years and I adore their fabulous food and drink. Meze, stews, spinach pies, retsina; I love it all.

The most famous dish of all must be moussaka and traditionally, in this country if Delia Smith is to be believed, preparing such a dish is a long drawn out process and although there is no getting round making a white sauce and a meat sauce, I dont’ believe one needs to fry endless slices of aubergine for hours on end. I would also say this is a good candidate for a few hidden veggies.

So you will need (serves 4):

  • 500g Lamb Mince, 1 medium Onion, chopped, 1 stick of Celery, chopped, 1 carrot, grated, 1 Aubergine, roughly chopped, Olive Oil, 1 tbsp Tomato Puree, ½-1 tsp Cinnamon, 250-300ml Red Wine, ½ tsp of chopped Flat Leaf Parsley, Salt and Pepper and a grating of Parmesan.
  • 500g Potatoes
  • ½ to ¾ pint of White Sauce made using 40g of butter, 40g of plain flour, ½ to ¾ pint of milk, a grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper

By way of preparation, cut potatoes into large chunks and boil until soft, drain and set aside meanwhile fry off the lamb mince in a frying pan and put the roughly chopped aubergine in a colander and sprinkle with a little salt and leave in the sink to catch any moisture released.

To make the meat sauce, fry the onion in a slug of olive oil and once transparent, add the celery and carrot and any other chopped veg you wish to add such as courgette and red pepper. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes and then add the drained lamb mince, the aubergine, tomato puree, wine, cinnamon, parsley and around 200ml of just boiled water so the consistency is not too dry. Stir around, bring to the boil and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, whilst you make the white sauce.

White sauce for anyone who needs reminding: over a moderate heat melt the butter and once completely liquid, add the flour and stir to form a paste. Cook for a minute or two and then away from the heat gradually add the milk, stirring well between each addition until you have a smooth sauce the consistency of single cream. Return to the heat and stirring all the time allow it to come up to boiling and simmer for a minute or two. Add the salt and pepper and the nutmeg, stir, and leave off the heat.

Meanwhile, roughly chop about a third of the now cooled potatoes and add to the meat mixture and check the seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste. Thickly slice the rest of the potato.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C. Into the bottom of a medium-sized oven to tableware dish, smear a spoonful of white sauce and then add a layer of potato slices. Pour in the meat sauce (don’t add all the liquid if it seems very liquidy, but you do want some), then another layer of potato and spread over the white sauce to cover the top. Grate a little parmesan cheese as a final flourish and then bake for 35-45 minutes until the top is crispy and brown and the filling is bubbling.

Delish, particularly, served with a greek salad.

Dillicious Pea Puree with Roasted Salmon

Yummy

Along with babies heads and bacon sandwiches, the smell of dill really does it for me. It seems to be impossible to grow it outdoors in the UK so when I open those packets of supermarket fresh dill, the pungent, aniseedy, aroma transports me back to Greek holidays: dry heat radiating from hot stone, Retsina and decaying vegetation. The Greeks in particular cook with dill a lot; it finds its way into stews, stuffings and salads rather like the way the Italians rely on basil.

This recipe has it’s roots in some Nigella recipe, and she called the following ‘mushy’ peas. I love mushy peas but this term seems a little harsh for such as delicious dish. Puree seems more onomatopoeic. It’s also a quick one. As usual serves 2.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C and prepare the required number of salmon fillets, for preference, skin on. Once up to temperature, place the salmon on an oiled baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice and put in the center of the oven for around 15 minutes.

Meanwhile peel a clove of garlic and place in a saucepan. Cover with 2 cm of just boiled water, return to and allow to boil for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove the clove from the water and pop ½ of it in a mini chopper or blender. (This gives flavour without all the bitterness of raw garlic). Pour away the water and then top up with fresh and cook around 200g of petit pois in the usual way. Drain and add the peas to the mini chopper along with plenty of dill sprigs. It’s hard to quantify exactly but keep going until you think you have enough for your own taste. You do need more to impart the flavour than you think. 4 tbsp minimum I would say. Also add about a tablespoon of lemon juice and a good dessertspoon of anything from 0% fat Greek yoghurt through to full fat soured cream. Blend to give a fairly smooth puree and then check the seasoning. Remove the fish from the oven and serve up on plates with a good dollop of the pureed peas. Scale up of course if required.

Great as a dip for new potatoes either with the salmon or without and genuinely helps use up a bag of dill. It seems to be sold in rather generous quantities. Other ‘using up’ ideas would be stuffed into sandwiches with smoked salmon, lemon juice and black pepper and Fabulously Fine Filo Fish Pie.

There will be more dillights to come…

Beach Hut Food (or almost half a dozen things to do with Tortilla Chips)

Despite the distinctly mediocre weather we have been experiencing this week, we have found our collective stiff upper lip and pressed on with our half term/Jubilee plans regardless. We like to book a beach hut on Studland beach for a week each year and this week has been the appointed one. The weather on the Isle of Purbeck can frequently render national forecasts useless and certainly for part of the time I think we have managed to suffer far less rain than some. Sunday tea time we returned from a very pleasant afternoon at the beach, switched on the TV, to find the National Anthem in full flow on the River Thames and a bedraggled choir trying to look cheerful notwithstanding the driving rain. Nightmare.

Kitchen for the week

So during a typical week, we like to cook at the beach as much as possible and over the years we have developed Beach Hut Food. This can easily be regarded as camping food and so with the camping/glamping/festival season upon us some might find the following useful. I’m not really suggesting anything very revelatory just jogging memories I suspect.

The return of the 5 layer dip; the original recipe is here but an easier or possibly more child friendly version would be as follows:

Small tin of refried beans spread on the bottom of  the bowl/saucepan/suitable receptacle.

A layer of sweetcorn from a small tin to cover the beans or a layer of guacamole from a ‘ready to eat’ tub

A layer of tomato salsa, strength to your taste

A layer of half fat soured cream

A layer of grated cheese

Arrange the tortilla chips around the bowl as illustrated. This is really good as an accompaniment to a barbecue. N.B. Doritos are not very strong and therefore not good for scooping. Sainsburys Basics Tortilla Chips are much much better in this regard.

Tortilla Soup; British summers being what they are, soup is still a must even in July at times. Cuppa soup Cream of Tomato or a tin of Heinz Tomato can be pepped up with a few drops of Tabasco sauce and tortilla chips to dip with.

Camp style Caesar Salad; this is adapted from a Nigella recipe so she deserves all the credit. Arrange some salad leaves (Little Gem are good here) in a bowl and dress with Caesar salad dressing (we like the Pizza Express Light variety). Add to that handfuls of tortilla chips and grated Parmesan or any grated cheese.

Tortilla chip sandwiches; if you are at the beach, the ‘do I have sand in my sandwich’ concern can be offset by adding tortilla chips to the filling. The crunchy sensation they provide will mask any actual sand. Again grated cheese, a drop of Tabasco and chips work well and should you have these ingredients around because you made the 5 layer dip, will help with using stuff up.

As it was Jubilee weekend, we really pushed the boat out however and had my favourite sandwich of all, baguette with smoked salmon, lots of dill, lemon juice and black pepper and whilst barbecuing constructed this user-friendly arrangement.

Frozen raw King Prawns can defrost throughout the day in a cool box. Thread onto the skewers as the barbecue is lit to finish defrosting if necessary. Fill a fish holder with the skewers and cherry tomatoes for ease of handling.

The fish holder is often filled with Bream stuffed with dill. If you have sea air up your nostrils, this barbecue dish has to be one of life’s great pleasures.

Warming up for Wimbledon

Hidden Vegetables Italian Style – Minestrone Soup with Meatballs

Following on from last week’s post, I definitely tried to keep the kids and food debate general but as I wrote I realised that I was actually rounding on the subject of kids and veg. That 5-a-day advice haunts me relentlessly and I can’t blog for much longer without addressing the issue head on.

I’m with everyone else who becomes more than a little frustrated with the food writers who claim that as long as the food looks appetizing and that you start as you mean to go on then there is no reason why your kids won’t enjoy vegetables. Yeah right! Perseverance, patience and pleading is more likely and so it has been with us.

I don’t share Annabel Karmel’s world view.

Nigella on the other hand does really talk some sense and not just on this subject. She, like me, believes in cooking vegetables hidden in cakes, casseroles and the like, suggests that if you are really going to be bold about it (and deal with the issue head on) serve fruit and veg up in pure form as part of the habilitation process and (rather randomly) the kid’s homework is far more troublesome than your own ever was! (It’s that last remark which totally won me over to her way of thinking.)

Marrying kids and vegetables is a long hard road with many pitched battles along the way; I keep adding cucumber to Child 1’s ham sandwiches and he keeps taking it out and leaving it in the box to taunt me. He is clearly defiant on this point as he doesn’t even pretend he’s eaten the stuff by disposing of it in school. Both of mine will not ever never eat a tomato (just like Lola, or maybe because of her!) cherry or otherwise despite that fact that I will pop the little ones like sweets.

So we really are driven to underhand means. For the record mine do eat a reasonably wide range of veg now but only after much work and the list of acceptable veg is random, still protest if asked to eat fruit however will do so if they can have something ‘nice’ afterwards (I don’t always comply) and, thankfully, can still be completely duped with hidden stuff. Tee Hee.

Mouli

The Continentals do have gadgetry for helping with this; the French have moulis, and the Italian’s, Nonna (Grandmother – hardly a gadget I know) to cook sauces and soups for hours and hours so that a rich, thick, delicious homogenous, usually tomato coloured goo is all you have to look at. Perfect.

Now this minestrone recipe won’t take 3 hours to make, I promise, but can be made in advance/at the weekend/frozen in batches to make a fantastic mid-week meal and can also be assembled in about ½ hour having dashed in from swimming.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C. Into a reasonably sized saucepan add 2 tbsp olive oil and fry off a chopped onion gently for 5 minutes or so and towards the end of this time add a crushed clove of garlic, a grated carrot, ½ finely chopped red pepper and 1 finely chopped stick of celery! (Round our way this is the basis for practically anything that needs a tomato based sauce.) Cook that lot gently for another 5 minutes or so and then add 1 tin of tomatoes, chopped ultimately, 1 squirt of tomato puree, 1 pint of vegetable or chicken stock (you may need a bit more), 1 tsp of sugar and optionally 2 tsp pesto and the rind-y end-y bit of the parmesan. Stir all that round and bring to the boil and then add either a handful or so of rice or macaroni and let it simmer whilst you cook the meatballs.

Now then, you can make your own….. *hmmm* (quite), or buy some of those in packets of twelve on the fresh meat section, beef or sometimes you can get pork or turkey. Think mini here as we are having soup not spaghetti, so cut each one in half and reshape and place them in a small roasting tin or baking sheet and pop in the oven for 15 minutes or so to cook. Beef and pork will cook in their own fat, turkey may need a drop of oil in the bottom. Everything should then be ready together. Back to the soup: fish out the parmesan rind, check the seasoning and add a little more warm stock or water if necessary to provide the right consistency.

If you need to produce a smooth puree then the tomato sauce minus the pasta/rice can be blended with a hand-held blender and couscous can be added with 5 minutes to go instead.

Ladle into bowls and ‘sprinkle’ with the meatballs. Supply grated cheese, parmesan or otherwise if you wish. To bulk this up a little more, we often have cheese on toast as an accompaniment rather than cheese sprinkled on top.

N.B. Whilst you can freeze or hold the soup in advance I would cook the meatballs at the point you need them, not ahead of time.

I appreciate that the amount of veg here is minimal, but everyone has to start somewhere, we will aim higher when I return to this topic.

The Cutest Cakes Bakes Baklava for Charity

As I have previously mentioned ‘Running Buddy 1’ has a big birthday coming up this month and although she’s having a big party doesn’t want presents, she wants donations to Help for Heroes charity. That’s all very lovely and no problem. By coincidence Google Alerts had alerted me to a cake bake fortnight that Help the Heroes are currently promoting this month, and then, as if fate really is starting to take a hand, a member of my family has just been posted on active service as he belongs to the TA.

Well that’s it then.

The Cutest Cakes and friends presents :

As you can see I am lacking in the poster creation department. Eye-catching and informative is all I am going for. This is just the online blog/fb poster, the actual one courtesy of H4H is here but is a pdf file so a little bit faffy.

Running buddy 2 and I are pulling this together with the help of friends to supply the cakes to eat and a very talented cake maker who will bring delicious cakes to buy and take home. Another stall will be offering the most gorgeous digital printed découpage style cards and I’m supplying two decorated cakes to raffle. There could be more in fact, one friend has an online vintage clothing company and she may be free to attend and finally I am hoping a jewellery maker will be present. We thought we might promote a vintage theme as Spring will have definitely sprung, and we will receive bunting (always good for a vintage feel) in our fund-raising pack. So if you are in area, PLEASE drop by and bring your friends.

On the subject of cakes to eat, obviously cupcakes, sponges, muffins and tray bakes are staple choices at an event like this.

However as Easter will be round the corner I think I shall take along Baklava. If you were paying attention last week you will remember that I promised to reveal how to use up leftover filo pastry from the Filo Fish Pie. I spent some time on Crete during the Greek’s Easter celebrations about 20 years ago and subsequently Easter and Greek cooking seem to be entwined in my psyche. I may need to take along forks to eat these confections with as they drip with a rose-water perfumed nectar however the calorie count should be lower than normal as there is far less filo pastry involved. I must credit Nigella for the basics upon which the following is based:

So, you will need about 4 sheets of filo pastry for this, 200g shelled pistachio nuts, 60g butter, 150ml water, 250g sugar, ½ tsp rose-water, ½ tsp orange flower water (optional), squeeze of lemon juice and a 9″ square roasting/brownie tin. First off, and an hour or so before making the Baklava, make the syrup: put the sugar, water and a squeeze of lemon juice into a saucepan, bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the rosewater and orange flower water if using and cool in a jug.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 165°C. Pour the nuts into a minichopper and whizz up so you have a mixture of finely through to roughly chopped (or you could chop by hand). Melt the butter and dig out the pastry brush again. Brush the roasting tin with butter. Unroll the filo pastry sheets which will be rectangular and cut them in half, if you are using Jus Rol the sheets cut in half should line the tin perfectly. So, lay a half in the tin, brush with butter, lay the other half and brush with butter again, repeat twice more so that’s 4 layers all together. Pour the chopped nuts over and spread evenly over the pastry, and continue with the remaining 4 layers of pastry from 2 more sheets. You can cut the pastry into triangles at this point, but I did it once cooked. Bake for 20-25 minutes or so, golden brown pastry is what we are after. As soon as it’s out of the oven pour over half the syrup, let it soak in for a few minutes and pour over the rest.

So you have all the elements of Baklava but not all the pastry. Yummy. See you on the 30th. ♥

Perfect Pancakes and no Palaver

At Last! My perfect pancake.

As it’s Shrove Tuesday tomorrow I feel I should blog about Pancakes. However these delicious creations feature large in our house as Child 2 is a creature of habit and campaigns weekly, without fail, to have them for breakfast on Sunday mornings. Seeing as this is the least busy day of the week from the point of view of cooking something up first thing, I have generally been happy to indulge him.

Of course I’m talking about the American variety and therefore Delia just won’t do. I have been through several versions over the years and I have always been left wanting in some way. Typically I’ve used a recipe of Nigella’s but this involves melting butter which then has to be cooled to some degree before being added to the various other ingredients, which I could not commit to memory, basically a bit of a faff. At that time of the week, let alone morning, I want to be able to bang these out in a family-tradition-I’ve-been-doing-it-all-my-life kind of way, with a minimum of brain power, equipment and little opportunity to forget some vital ingredient. I have learnt this the hard way and after 5 years have finally come up with the ideal recipe, and here it is.

Adapted from the inspirational Rachel Allen, and the result of a happy accident, her Drop Scones recipe has been morphed into our American Pancake one, and because it is all about stateside in this post, I use my anglicised version of american measures:

a generous ½ cup self-raising flour, pinch of salt, 1 tbsp (15g) caster sugar, 1 egg, ½ cup milk, a drop of sunflower oil. That’s all you need apart from a bowl, a balloon whisk and a frying pan. (I do appreciate you can buy pancake mix (type in pancake mix at the link) which would be far simpler but that’s not what this blog’s about).

So put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the middle and add the egg and milk. Whisk until you have a smooth batter and that’s it. Heat 1 tsp oil over a moderate heat and after a minute, wipe the non stick frying pan with some kitchen paper, to remove the liquid oil or use that oil spray. Depending on the size of your frying pan dot single dessert spoonfuls of mixture around the pan. It will spread out, so to a say 22cm (9″) pan add about 3 dollops. Allow the mixture to cook on that side until you can see bubbles popping on the surface of the cooking batter, then get a little palette knife or fish slice under the pancake and flip it over, give it another 30 seconds to a minute and remove to a plate and a slightly warm oven whilst you carry on with the next batch, wiping the frying pan carefully with the oily kitchen paper between each batch. Keep going ’til you have used up all the batter, you will probably end up with around 12 or so depending on how big you decide to make them. There is no right size but you know what they should look like. We don’t go massive.

Delicious with the following:  honey, jam, eggs and bacon, any fruit, sliced to go with, and of course Maple Syrup.

Maple Syrup – Canada – Thinking Day (c.1982). What can the Girl Guides Thinking Day Celebrations have to do with all this I hear you asking? Thinking Day is also this week (22nd) and is celebrated by Guides world-wide as it’s their founder’s birth date. Back in 1982 we were duly celebrating this with other Guides from our town in a school hall somewhere. Each Guide Company providing a display from another one of the Guiding Nations. This was to include food from the relevant country for us to eat ourselves as a snack.

Our Company had picked Canada and so someone had kindly prepared a kind of Maple Syrup Tart (a bit like Treacle Tart) for us all. Maple syrup for the uninitiated has a distinctive, intense flavour in such a dish. I should like to point out that I adore maple syrup but as we all sat there that evening, hungry and picking miserably at this confection, we were all absolutely bright green with envy as we looked across to the Company who had chosen Italy……

Previous Older Entries

The Cutest Cakes: Classic Cakes

Lilies and Pearls

The Cutest Cakes: Cupcakes

Rosebud Vanilla Cupcake

The Cutest Cakes: Individual Iced Cakes

Miniature Fruit Cake

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