Showing posts from 2012

Crunchie Tuiles and The Kitchen Music of 2012

Last December I suggested making tuiles out of glacier mints. This year, in my seemingly endless and slightly pointless quest to make tuiles out of unlikely things, I've used Crunchie bars. (In case you've never heard of them, Crunchies are chocolate coated honeycomb bars). Honeycomb tuiles have turned up on the menus of many a fine restaurant but this is the downmarket version. It’s a quick and easy way to produce very tasty, very sweet tuiles that will make a simple dessert a bit more special.

Make sure that your Crunchie bar or bars are cold, break them up a little and place in a food processor or blender. Blitz them until they're reduced largely to powder, although a few slightly bigger bits can add a nice contrast. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Avoid using a fan setting if you can because it might spray the powder around the oven. Line a baking tray with a silicone sheet or some very non-stick paper. Spread a layer of the smashed up Crunchie bar onto the silicone sheet.…

Confit d’Oignon

What’s the difference between confit d’oignon and onion marmalade? The answer is: one of them is French.

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge Dom of Belleau Kitchen has asked us to select a recipe at random from ‘a book or books you received for Christmas last year’. Now this is a bit of a problem for me because I pretty much gave up the Christmas presents thing quite a few years ago. Looking through my cookery book shelves, though, I came across a book that I seem to remember buying at a charity Christmas fair a couple of years ago. I hope that will do.

‘The Paris Café Cookbook’ by Daniel Young, published back in the 1990s, is actually an American book. As far as I know, it was never published in the UK and it was probably donated by one of the many US expats who live around here.  The book is a guide to the French capital’s cafés and a selection of the recipes you might find there.

The randomly selected  page took me to the Café de l’Industrie and a recipe for confit d’dignon …

Kent Pudding Pie with Cobnut Pastry and Pear

Pudding pie is an ancient dish from Kent that is traditionally made during Lent but, believe me, it tastes lovely at any time of the year. In fact, what could be better than a pudding in a pie crust?

In case you’re not familiar with them, cobnuts are a form of hazelnut with a long and illustrious history in Kent. I once asked a cobnut grower what the difference was between Kent cobnuts and imported European hazelnuts. His answer was: ‘Hundreds of years of careful growing and the English Channel’. Most cobnuts are sold green and fresh these days and very lovely they are too, but at this time of year some stored nuts are available and can be shelled and ground for baking. Before grinding them you can enhance the flavour by lightly roasting the shelled nuts for around 30 minutes at 130°C (but be careful to avoid burning them). If you don’t have access to the glorious cobnuts of Kent, then you can, of course, use hazelnuts.  Either way, grind the nuts quite finely and ensure that there ar…

Pork with Apples and Mustard

Contrary to rumour I didn't spend the entire 1980s listening to the Psychedelic Furs and Immaculate Fools, wearing strange clothes and generally making a nuisance of myself - although that might account for most of it. In my spare time I also kept some notebooks full of recipes and various cooking adventures. I recently came across these carefully compiled archives at the back of a cupboard. Skimming through them, I quickly realised that they weren't as carefully compiled as I’d thought. Some of the recipes are precise but in other cases it can be difficult deciding what on earth I was on about.

One of the notes that caught my eye relates to a Michael Smith recipe for pork. Oddly enough, I've already posted a tomato and plum soup based on one of his recipes but I couldn't resist this one as well. I've adapted the recipe a fair bit – the original dish was essentially a stir-fry - but it’s still based on the taste combinations of the original. Michael Smith was a gr…

Madeira Cake – A Random Recipe

This month Dom of Belleau Kitchen has asked us to use our birthday as a way of selecting the book for his Random Recipe challenge. So that's the number eight. Strangely the eighth book on the first three shelves that I selected turned out to be a book that I'd already used in the Random Recipe challenge and so I tried the pile of books known as ‘the pile that I'm not quite sure what to do with for the moment’. Book number eight turned out to be ‘The Edmonds Cookery Book’.

It’s unlikely that I'll ever get to New Zealand to confirm it but I'm led to believe that this book is a bit of a national institution there. It was first published in 1907, has never been out of print (although it has been regularly updated) and at one time it was given away free to any couple announcing their engagement. My copy was printed in the 1990s (a fair bit after my engagement) and how I came to own it remains a mystery.

The book is bursting at the seams with straightforward, everyday r…

Chocolate Canelés

I posted my recipe for classic canelés (well, probably not that classic) a while ago but recently I saw some chocolate canelés for sale in an upmarket patisserie and I couldn't resist the challenge of trying to make some. I've stuck fairly closely to my old recipe but with the addition of chocolate, of course. I compared the originals to crème brûlée in cake form – well, the chocolate versions are more like portable chocolate fondants.

Canelés have the reputation of being difficult. They aren't difficult to put together and they certainly aren't difficult to eat. I think the only tricky bit is judging when they’re baked to perfection. The chocolate version is darker in colour and that doesn't make things any easier. In my opinion, the best way of telling when they’re ready is to press them very lightly – if they feel soft but gently springy, then they should be fine.

I generally prefer to make small versions of canelés using silicone moulds, which are certainly no…

Curried Apple Soup and the Disappearing Tam

The other day, I happened to find a bag of apples being sold cheaply at the local supermarket and, for some reason, this soup was the first thing that came into my head. Strange, since I've not really thought about it for around 35 years.

Spiced apple soups have been around in English cooking for centuries but this particular version is a very 1970s dish. At that time curried soups seemed to be everywhere, at least in England. It was the 1970s when Jane Grigson launched the great classic that is curried parsnip soup on the unsuspecting world. Some of these soups were even served chilled, which was sort of cutting edge at the time. This is a recreation of one of those soups, although admittedly not a truly faithful reproduction. I'm sure that in the 1970s there would have been a lot more butter and there would certainly have been cream and not yogurt.

I thought about specifying the exact mixture of spices to use, but this was the 1970s and using anything other than curry powd…


I frequently overlook anniversaries and significant dates but for some reason I have noticed that this blog’s been wandering along with a puzzled expression on its face for three years now. I recently looked back at the first ever post, which was inspired by a visit to Collioure, and it made me nostalgic for anchovies, blue seas, sweet wines and biscuits.

There’s a fine selection of biscuits available in Collioure. Le Croquant à l'Ancienne, a delicious, crisp almond biscuit, is the true local speciality, but the rousquille was my personal favourite. It’s a Catalan treat that can take a number of forms. The biscuits can vary in size, some don’t have the hole in the middle and some are traditionally made using hard-boiled eggs in the mixture. My version is closer to the one that I enjoyed on the sea front at Collioure but I admit to tweaking the flavours for my personal taste. Many versions have stronger flavours in the biscuit and less lemon in the icing.  This little biscuit can b…

Lincolnshire Plum Bread – A Random Recipe

For this month’s Random Recipe Challenge Dom of Belleau Kitchen has asked us to delve into the store cupboard and find an ingredient that we've so thoughtlessly neglected and then select a recipe that finally gets round to using it. Well, I chose my worst kept shelf. It’s the shelf where I pile up general cake-related stuff – dried fruits, sugar strands, stem ginger and that sort of thing. So without looking, I reached to the back of the shelf and pulled out a large pack of Agen prunes. Now, I like prunes and I use them in a number of recipes but this was clearly an accidental over purchase and now was the perfect time to put them to good use.

Locating recipes containing prunes proved surprisingly difficult. I decided to try the pile of books that I've bought in the last year from charity shops. Roughly 23 books later I came to ‘The Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour Of Britain’ and in it was ‘Lincolnshire Plum Bread’. Since Dom is the master and commander of this challenge I felt a bit…

Damson and Sloe Vinegar

This is another quick autumnal idea. I've wittered on about flavoured and fruit vinegars before but they’re such useful things to have around, especially in the dark, dull days of winter, that I wanted to mention this particularly pleasing one made with damsons and sloes.

The method is much the same as for any fruit vinegar and can be scaled up or down for the amount of fruit you happen to have. This vinegar can be made with all damsons but the sloes add an extra sharpness that works very well. I reckon that two-thirds damsons to one-third sloes is ideal.

This is a traditional British style of sweetened fruit vinegar and it's probably better to treat it like a flavouring syrup rather than a conventional vinegar. It can be used in dressings, is particularly good in marinades and is excellent when added to slow cooked dishes such as braised red cabbage and winter casseroles, especially those made with game. I tend to make fruit vinegars in small batches and use them up fairly qu…

Slow-Cooked Courgettes

This can’t be called a full-scale recipe, it’s really just a useful alternative way to cook courgettes. I found it especially handy when my courgette plants suddenly decided to become surprisingly productive towards the end of the season. We’ve been told for years that vegetables should never be overcooked so this method sounds odd, but trust me, it really works. This healthy little dish can be used hot or warm alongside meat or fish (don’t overdo the mint and lemon if you’re serving it with subtly flavoured foods). It also works really well at room temperature as a part of a mezze – I think it’s a good alternative to the more common aubergine salad.

I grew yellow courgettes this year and I think the colour’s very pleasing, but green courgettes will work just fine too. If you’ve let a few courgettes get a bit larger than usual, then you can still use them very successfully in this dish, but it would be best to scrape out and discard the seeds.

The amounts given here will give you ar…

Pamplemousse Financiers

It’s the second birthday of the We Should Cocoa Challenge sent forth into the world by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot. To celebrate this milestone Choclette has asked us to create something chocolaty inspired by a cocktail. I'm not really known for my consumption of cocktails. (Well, except maybe in the Epsom Bar in Dieppe – but let’s not go there. No wait, on second thoughts, let’s….). On the other hand, I’m deeply fond of an aperitif and the aperitif for me is the kir. Fortunately, when I looked at a very official looking web site on cocktails, I found the kir listed.

Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves made lovely kir macarons for We Should Cocoa back in July using the classic crème de cassis and so I thought I’d create something inspired by my favourite alternative ‘kir’: crème de pamplemousse rose (pink grapefruit) with a dry rosé wine. (I'm eternally grateful to Catherine at l’Ombre Bleue chambres d'hôtes for introducing me to this little aperit…

Bolton Flat Cakes

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge Dom of Belleau Kitchen has teamed up with the Tea Time Treats Challenge hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked. So from quite a small pile of suitable teatime books I randomly grabbed ‘The Sainsbury Book of Teatime Favourites’ written by Brian Binns and published in 1983.

This was one of a series of little hardback books sold in the supermarket for the massive sum of 99p each. The books covered a wide range of different styles of cooking and the recipes were mostly sensible and straightforward but with a few slightly odd things thrown in now and then. (Anyone else remember eating the tinned soup, tuna and sweet corn bake topped with potato crisps?) The books sold by the shedful. Personally, I think this particular book was one of the best of the series.

On opening the book at random, I found myself faced with Bolton Flat Cakes. The first thing to say about the flat cake is that it isn’t really a cake in the usu…

Yellow Courgette Cake with Rapeseed Oil

My little veg plot has suffered a bit from neglect this year but in early summer I planted a couple of courgette plants (a variety called ‘Yellow Taxi’) and left them to get on with it. For many, many weeks it seemed to rain solidly every day and the courgette plants sulked. Then, around the end of July, they suddenly decided to produce very large numbers of lovely yellow courgettes.

When I get a lot of courgettes, I start thinking about courgette cake. Savoury courgette cakes are nice but I really enjoy the sweet versions. The cakes can have a slightly off-putting green colour unless you remove the peel, but use yellow courgettes and that’s not an issue.

There are plenty of courgette cake recipes around but this one from the Farrington Oils website is my current favourite. The use of cold pressed rapeseed oil together with grated courgettes gives the finished cake a nutty and herbaceous or almost grassy flavour which may not be to everyone’s taste but I think is a little different a…

The Curious Pineberry

I don't often talk about the goings-on in my garden, largely because I think that there are many bloggers who are much better informed than I am on matters horticultural. However, I can't resist a short digression on the very curious soft fruit known as the pineberry.

Just a few short years ago articles started appearing on gardening sites about strange berries that looked like white strawberries with red seeds and that tasted a bit like pineapple. They were frequently believed to be April Fool jokes. The wildly different opinions on how good they tasted didn’t help. Some said they tasted of nothing at all, while others said that they were the best berries that they’d ever eaten.

Last year I got hold of a few plants and grew some for myself and, for what it’s worth, here are my very unscientific and highly personal conclusions.
They can be treated like any strawberry plant but they seem to be more sensitive to the cold and wet. So keep them sheltered in the winter, unless you …

Tarta de Santiago

This is a really well known traditional cake that you’ve probably seen many times before in books and blogs but I can’t resist bringing you my own version. It’s such a useful and versatile little treat. There are many variations around, including some which are more like a classic almond tart and some which are closer to the sort of substantial cake served with afternoon tea.

For my first attempts at baking this cake many, many years ago I used a recipe that included butter and very pleasant it was too. Then someone from Spain told me that I should try it without the butter and that’s the way I prefer to make it now. This version is light, moist, simple, flourless and, admittedly, a little fragile.

Although you can serve it very successfully with tea or coffee, this cake comes into its own as an excellent and easy dessert at any time of the year and after pretty much any sort of main course. You can serve it with cream, custard, yogurt or ice cream. You can also serve it with either f…

Honey and Brandy Ice Cream

For this month’s Random Recipe challenge hosted as usual by Dom at Belleau Kitchen I’m going back to the 1980s for a dessert that’s strictly for grown-ups. It’s a remarkably simple and quick ice cream that doesn’t need an ice cream machine and that stays soft enough to be eaten straight from the freezer.

From one of my less-used shelves I randomly picked a slim volume called ‘The London Restaurant Recipe Book’ published in 1983, which features a number of the best-known restaurants of that time. It’s like a window onto a lost age. Alistair Little was still at 192, Stephen Bull was at Lichfield’s, Pierre Koffman was at La Tante Claire and David Bowie had just released ‘Let’s Dance’. French fine cuisine was still the predominant style, although I rather doubt the Frenchness of some of the recipes in this book.

The random page took me to recipes by Patrick Gwynn-Jones of Pomegranates. Mr Gwynn-Jones opened this basement restaurant in Pimlico back in 1974 and it finally closed its doors …

Devon Flats and the Olympic Time Trials

You may have noticed that London is hosting the 2012 Olympics. I have the greatest respect for Olympians and sports people everywhere but sport tends to baffle and bemuse me in a similar way to calculus. I accept that it’s my loss. The only real exception for me  is cricket and even then I only enjoy the game when nothing much is happening.

On the other hand, since the Olympic Cycling Time Trials took place in Surrey and actually passed by about a 1 minute walk from my front door, I would have to be a serious curmudgeon not to take a look. Well, I may be a curmudgeon but I’m rarely serious.

I reckoned that I’d need sustenance to keep me going throughout the event. As I understood it (which is not very well), the cyclists in the time trial would set off at 90 second intervals, so I’d have to make something that I could eat in less than 90 seconds. That seemed to call for biscuits. Of course, it had to be British biscuits for patriotic reasons and so I baked some very traditional Devon…

Gooseberry Pudding for the Best of British

The Best of British blogging challenge, which is sponsored by New World Appliances, has been running for a few months but I haven’t managed to enter before now. This month it features the beautiful county of Yorkshire and I can’t resist that. The details of the challenge can be found on The Face of New World Appliances and this month it’s hosted by Karen from Lavender & Lovage

Now Yorkshire could mean rhubarb, Yorkshire pudding, Old Peculier, curd tart or a slice of fruit cake with a piece of Wensleydale cheese amongst many other fine things. On the other hand, you might not immediately associate gooseberries with Yorkshire. In fact, there’s a long and very proud tradition of growing gooseberries in that county. The finest symbol of that tradition is the Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show, which is now over 200 years old and can boast that one of its competitors broke the world record for the heaviest gooseberry back in 2009 with a 62 g berry.

This recipe doesn’t require world record…

Cake Meringue Pie

This is a really easy and quick dessert to put together but it’s also seriously addictive.It's an odd and very old recipe. It must be old because I remember eating a version of it as a kid.

I often hear TV chefs telling us that, although they were poor as kids, the mothers and grandmothers would always conjure up wonderful meals out of next to nothing. That wasn’t my experience. Most mothers and grandmothers were just too busy or too tired from working every day to cook anything very much at all. But I do remember one or two dishes and this is my attempt to recreate a pudding that the mother of one of my friends made. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s a very accurate recreation (it was a very long time ago) but I’m pretty sure that cake and marshmallowy meringue were involved somewhere.

My friend’s mother was from Scotland and so I always assumed that this odd little dish was from the same country. I’ve only fairly recently realised that it’s actually very like the venerable Americ…

The Unbearable Randomness of Cookbooks

For the Random Recipe challenge this month Dom of Belleau Kitchen has asked us to do something a little different. Instead of cooking something from our books, he wants us to photograph the books instead.

Well, here is my main collection of cookery books arranged in no real order at all in an oak cabinet in the kitchen. The cabinet was built by a previous owner of the house, probably as far back as the 1930s. The oral history is that he was a carpenter who worked on local churches and made bits and pieces for his house with (hopefully) surplus oak. He also made the brass fittings by cutting them out of disused name plaques. Some of the brass in the kitchen is cut from the nameplate that was once displayed outside the door of an elocution teacher.

Despite mislaying and giving away quite a few books over the years, there are still too many for the church carpenter’s cabinet. So upstairs there are also a number of books that sit on much more modern shelves, although I don't think th…

Devilled Gooseberry Sauce and Tarragon Vinegar

Around five or six years ago I got a little carried away (well, actually very carried away) at the Pick Your Own farm and came home with far too many gooseberries for the classic sauces and jams that I wanted to make. Looking through some of my cookery books for inspiration I found a recipe for a ‘Spicy Gooseberry Sauce’ in a Sainsbury’s Fish Cooking book published back in the 1980s. This was a little different to the classic, simple gooseberry sauces for fish. Essentially, it’s a good old-fashioned devilled sauce with a mix of ingredients more reminiscent of chutney than a smooth sauce. The British tradition of devilled sauces often seems to be on its last gasps and I think that’s a great shame. I made a version of the classic Gubbins Sauce a little while ago but this fruitier sauce is at least as useful.

I’ve developed and complicated the recipe since then but, despite a long list of ingredients, it’s really easy to make and very versatile. It’s good with oily fish such as mackerel…