Season's greetings

                               Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy,                                           Happy New Year.


Malvern Pudding

I was given a bag of apples and wanted to make something different. Browsing through my recipe folder I found this recipe. It's an egg custard over apples, but the custard is made with cream.
Lovely to have as a pudding in this miserable weather.

For the apples:  50g butter, 1 kg cooking apples, 50g sugar and the zest of 2 lemons
For the custard topping: 825ml double cream, 50g sugar, 4 eggs plus 2 yolks, 50g demerara sugar and 1/2 tspn cinnamon

Heat a frying pan and add the butter and apples, peeled cored and sliced.  Cook for 6-7 mins till soft but still keeping shape. Add the sugar and zest and cook for a further 2-3 mins.
Pour into an ovenproof dish.
Beat the eggs, yolks and sugar together; warm the cream over a gentle heat then add to the eggs and gently mix in. Pour over the apples. Mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.
Bake in preheated oven, 180C/gas 4 for about an hour, till set but still a bit wobbly.

It feeds about 8 people, and the next time I make it, will halve the recipe. It's really delicious, with the buttery cooked apples and the lovely creamy sauce. Love the 2 textures - the slightly tart apples and the creamy custard. I'll definitely make this again.


Toscakaka or Swedish Caramel Almond Cake

I love Scandinavian baking and have several Scandi baking books, but to honest, I've never baked from them. Reading an article recently on this type of baking, I thought I must use my books, so decided to make a caramel almond cake. I've adapted it from 'Scandilicious Baking'.

For the cake you need; 20ml milk, 1 tspn lemon juice [or 75ml buttermilk] 75g butter, 3 eggs, 150g caster sugar, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 150g plain flour, 1 tspn baking powder and a pinch of salt.

For the topping: 150g flaked almonds, 125g butter, 125g light brown sugar, 50ml milk and 1/2 tspn sea salt

 Preheat oven 160C/gas3                     Grease and base line a 23cm springform cake tin

Stir the lemon juice into the milk to sour it, or use 75ml buttermilk instead. Toast the almonds till they're a light golden colour [takes about 6 mins].
Melt the butter over a low heat then pour into a bowl and allow to cool. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until very thick and creamy - took about 5 mins in my stand mixer. 
Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together then gently fold 1/3rd into the batter with a metal spoon. Gently pour half the milk into this and fold in. Fold in another 1/3rd of flour, the rest of the milk and then the rest of the flour. Drizzle in half the butter, fold in, then the other half. Scrape the bottom of the bowl gently to get all the flour.
Scoop into the tin and bake for 25-30 mins till golden and firm.
While it's in the oven, make the topping. Put the butter, sugar, milk and salt into the pan and stir till butter melts. Keep over low heat for a few mins to thicken then stir in the almonds.
When the cake is cooked, turn the oven up to 200C/gas6.
Spread the almond mixture over the cake, then put back in the oven for 8-10 mins till bubbling and darkened. Cool in the tin for 5 mins then loosen sides with a knife and put onto a rack to cool.

It's delicious, and great contrast of texture between the soft cake and the crunchy topping. We ate it cold, but could be a dessert with some cream or ice cream. A bit of a faff to make the cake, but the result is worth it!


Tarte aux Noix or Walnut Tart

I love Autumn and its flavours, and one of my favourite is nuts. I know I've mentioned it before, but every Autumn in France we got given a bag of walnuts from my neighbour's tree. She used to make this tart with some of them.
I bought a large bag of shelled walnuts on offer at a local deli, so decided to make her tart. I know the taste won't be quite the same, not using fresh nuts, but it will be a lovely memory of Reneé.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6.            23cm tart tin

Pastry: 125g flour, 75g butter, 25g caster sugar, pinch salt, 1 egg and 25ml water.

Mix all the ingredients together into a firm ball of dough. Pop in fridge till needed.

Filling: 500g shelled walnuts, 150ml crème fraîche, 60g caster sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1 tspn vanilla extract and icing sugar for the top.

Keep enough walnuts back to have enough to cover the top. Put these on a baking tray and put into the oven for a few minutes till they have some colour.

Put the rest in a blender and blitz to powder. Add the cream, sugar, egg, salt and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Roll the pastry out to fit the tin, then pour in the mixture.

Bake for 30 mins then leave to cool in the tin. Arrange the saved walnuts on the top, making a pattern if you wish. Sprinkle over icing sugar.

You can use ready made shortcrust pastry or your own favourite recipe. My neighbour doesn't do anything with the walnuts she puts on the top, but I prefer to toast then to give them a nicer flavour and crunch. Good contrast of textures between the nut topping and the soft filling. I love the flavour of the blitzed walnuts. A nice Autumnal treat.


Pear Fondant

I love pears and I wanted to make something different with them. Happily my French friend came to my aid again and gave me this recipe. It's a dessert not a cake, but is easy to make.

4 medium pears [firmish but not too hard]
150g plain flour
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100ml milk
3 tbspn vegetable oil
2 tspn baking powder

For the topping:
80g melted butter
3tbspn caster sugar
1 egg
Flaked almonds

Oven 180C.                             Grease and flour  23cm cake tin

Put the sugar and eggs in a bowl and beat till light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder and oil and mix in. Pour half of this batter into the cake tin.
Peel the pears and cut into strips. Put on top of the batter in the tin and spoon the rest of the batter on top. Bake for 30 mins.
Topping- Beat the egg and sugar together then add the butter and mix together.
After the fondant has baked for 30 mins, take out of the oven and pour over this mixture. Sprinkle over some flaked almonds and bake for a further 20 mins. Leave to cool in the tin.

The fondant has a lovely mixture of textures - the soft pears, the smooth custardy filling and the       crunchy almonds.  You could use 50g of ground almonds instead of 50g of the flour, or you could       use 40g melted butter instead of the oil. You could also use other fruit like apples or plums. This is a great Autumn treat!                                                                                                                            


'Fondant au Chocolat' Cake

The small 'fondants au chocolat' were the puddings which caused the most problem when I used to watch Masterchef! My French friends recently came to visit, and knowing how I love to try new things, she brought me her recipe for a large cake version. The biggest problem was choosing the right tin, as G had used a French one and I wasn't sure which one of mine to use.

In the end, I used a tin I use to make quiches, 22cm. It has a loose base which was very useful.

The recipe:
 100g chocolate [my friend used cooking chocolate in her recipe. but I used supermarket's own dark]
 75g softish butter
 3 eggs
 100g caster sugar
 40g plain flour
 1 tspn baking powder

Oven 180C                        Grease and flour a 20/22cm tin

Break up chocolate and cut butter into pieces. Melt over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave. Mix together.
In another bowl beat eggs and sugar till white and fluffy. Add to the chocolate mixture carefully, then fold in the flour and baking powder.
Pour into the tin and bake for 20-30 mins. don't overbake. The centre should still be soft, like a brownie.
Leave to cool int eh tin for a few minutes. The cake can be served warm or cold.

I sprinkled some chocolate chips onto the baked cake, but I didn't really have enough! I also dusted it with sieved cocoa.
You can eat this cake as is, or serve it with fruit - raspberries go very well. It's also great as a dessert with ice cream, cream or to be French, Crème Chantilly. The texture was just like a brownie, soft and smooth, but not quite as ‘fondant’ as the smaller versions.


Chocolate Tartlets with Spiced Biscuit ( Speculoos) Spread

These came about because I found a jar of my favourite Biscoff spread in Sainsbury's. I've since noticed that Lidl sell the same kind of spread called Spiced Biscuit spread. I expect most of the supermarkets now have their own versions.
I bought a new tartlet tin so wanted to try it out, and chocolate and spice seemed to go well together.
I was very lazy and bought a pack of shortcrust pastry, but of course you can make your own from your favourite recipe, or even buy ready made tartlet shells, so then you'd have no cooking at all!

You need; 1 pack ready shortcrust pastry, 100g dark chocolate, 3 tbspn spiced biscuit spread, 100ml single cream, 60g butter and a few crumbled Biscoff biscuits [or supermarket equivalent] to sprinkle on top.

Preheat oven 200C                    Grease a tartlet tin.

Roll pastry out on a floured surface and cut out discs using a 71/2 cm /3" cutter. Line the tin with these then bake for 20 mins. Take out of the oven and leave cases to cool on a wire rack.

Break the chocolate into pieces then melt 60 g with 1 tbspn water over a simmering bowl of water [or just melt in microwave].  Pour into the cooled tartlet cases and put in fridge for an hour.

Melt the rest of the chocolate with the cream and butter over simmering water.

Take tartlets out of fridge and spread a layer of the biscuit spread over the chocolate layer. Pour the rest of the melted chocolate mixture over and put in fridge for 2 hrs before serving. Sprinkle some broken Biscoff biscuits over the top.

I love the mixture of chocolate and spiced biscuit. The pastry gives a nice crunch as does the biscuit topping, which is a good contrast to the soft filling. They are quite rich, but a good treat.


Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Courgette Loaf Cake

I went to tea with a friend recently and she'd made this loaf cake. If you're on a diet, look away now! It involves chocolate, peanut butter and courgettes, but you wouldn't guess about the courgettes as they add moisture but no flavour. The negative bit is that you use several bowls, but the end result is well worth it!

So for the loaf you need: 
2 small courgettes grated [leave the skin on], 2 eggs, 80ml honey, 120ml vegetable oil, 100g soft brown sugar, 2 tspn vanilla extract, 1/2 tspn bicarb, 1 tspn baking powder, 200g plain flour, 75g smooth peanut butter, 1/2 tspn instant coffee, 25g cocoa, 50g chocolate cut into pieces and 25g chocolate melted with 25g smooth peanut butter.

Preheat oven 170C           Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper

In bowl A mix together the courgettes, eggs, honey, oil, sugar and vanilla extract.
In another bowl B sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarb together, then add to the batter.
In yet another bowl, C, pour half the batter and add the peanut butter to it. 
Add the cocoa, coffee and chocolate pieces to bowl B and mix well.
Put alternative spoonfuls of the batter into the loaf then swirl together using a knife.
Bake for about an hour then leave to cool on a wire rack in its tin.
When it's cool, take the loaf out of the tin and drizzle the chocolate and peanut butter mix on top.
It's delicious, and I love the texture of the mixture. It's moist with a soft crumb, and the different flavours mingle well. The topping sets like fudge. An indulgent treat, occasionally!


Blueberry Streusel Cake

There are lots of blueberries around at the moment and I love them.
I've been eating some every morning with my cereal, but decided I wanted to make a cake. This is one of our favourite loaf cakes, but with a streusel topping. The original recipe was from an American website so has been converted from cups - hence the odd amounts. I've tweaked the recipe because it had way too much sugar in the cake. I like making cakes with oil - makes me think they're healthier!

So, preheat oven 190C/gas5

Grease a 900g loaf tin.

Put 80g granulated sugar in a bowl with 60ml sunflower oil. Mix together with an electric mixer, then add 1 egg, 250ml milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat till smooth and creamy. Fold in 280g plain flour which has been sieved with 3 tspns baking powder. Mix to a batter without lumps. 
Put 220g blueberries in a bowl and add 1 tbspn flour and coat the berries with it. Then gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
Pour into the tin and smooth top [ batter should fill about 2/3 of the tin or it will overflow when baking]. Mix 60g granulated sugar with 50g flour and 50g butter and rub in to make the streusel. Sprinkle this over the batter and bake for about 50mins-1hr. After about 30 mins I covered the top with foil to stop the streusel burning. Cool on a wire rack.

It make a nice treat with a cuppa, and keeps for a few days in an airtight tin. I like the contrast in textures between the cake and the streusel and the softness of the fruit. If you like, you could add more topping, but for me, the ratio is just right. A nice easy cake to make.


Peanut Chocolate Bars

If you like Hershey's peanut butter cups, which I do, then these are for you. They aren't the healthiest of options, but as a treat they're very moreish. 

120g unsalted butter
175g icing sugar
260g smooth peanut butter
12 digestive biscuits made into crumbs
60g unsalted butter
90g chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

You don't need an oven to make these. Line a 20cm square cake tin with foil, leaving some hanging over the sides and butter the foil.

Melt the 120g butter in a saucepan over a low heat. When melted, take off the heat and add the icing sugar. Stir till smooth. Add the peanut butter and the crumbs and again stir till smooth.
Spread this mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.
Melt the 60g of butter in the same saucepan and add the chocolate.Stir till it's nearly melted, then take off the heat and stir till it has completely melted. Pour this over the layer in the tin and smooth.
When cool, put into a fridge for at least 30 mins to set.
Use the overhanging foil to take it out of the tin. A pizza cutter is useful for cutting into 16 bars.
Keep in an airtight box in the fridge.

I like the texture of these bars, firm and with a great peanut butter taste, then the chocolate kicks in. They are so moreish!


Polish Honey Cake

On my friend Phil's lovely blog, As Strong as Soup, [http://asstrongassoup.blogspot.com]   he writes about Nonnettes and using honey. I haven't tried his recipe yet, but my Polish dil also gave me her  recipe for a Polish Honey cake. Every time I visit a farmer's market I always buy a jar of local honey, so have plenty to use in both recipes.

I decided that I needed a large cake to take to a meeting yesterday, so made the Polish honey cake. It's called Piernik in Polish. There seem to be many varying recipes for this cake, but they all contain a mixture of ground spices.

The recipe said to use a 22cm tin, but I don't have one this size, so used a 23 cm tin and it turned out fine.

500g plain flour, 2 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn ginger, 1/2 tspn cinnamon, 1/2 tspn cloves. 1/2 tspn allspice, grated zest of 1/2 orange, 25g chopped walnuts, 25g seedless raisins, 25g chopped figs, 300g honey, 90g caster sugar, 90g butter, 4 egg yolks, 2 tspn instant coffee dissolves in a tspn hot water and 4 egg whites, apricot preserve [opt], dark chocolate [opt]

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                        Grease and line a 22cm cake tin

In a big bowl, sift the flour, spices and baking powder together. add the orange zest, walnuts, raisins and figs and mix in.
Put the honey, butter and sugar into a pan and melt over a low heat. Cool slightly then add to the flour mixture together with the egg yolks and coffee. Whisk the egg whites till stiff then fold into the batter.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for about an hour. Cool on a wire rack.
You can eat the cake as is, or slice in half and sandwich together with apricot preserve and decorate the top with a thick layer of melted chocolate, or a ganache if you prefer [which is what I did].

I know it has quite a long list of ingredients, but it's well worth the effort. It's an unusual cake. It has a soft crumb, and I love the mixture of spices and the different textures - the crunchy walnuts, soft figs and raisins, the hint of orange and the lovely honey flavour which permeates the cake. Next time I'll leave this unadorned, as it's perfect with a cuppa or a coffee.


Pecan and Banana Loaf Cake

I love loaf cakes. They’re easy to make, easy to cut and so useful. A few very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl was my inspiration for this loaf cake. I added some pecans, and used the buttermilk left over in the fridge from making scones.

Cake : 3 ripe bananas, 100g pecan nuts broken into small pieces, 100g soft butter, 175g soft brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 250g plain flour, 1 tspn bicarb, 1 tspn mixed spice, 100 ml buttermilk

Topping: 1 small banana, sliced,

Preheat oven 180C/gas4.        Grease and line base of 200g loaf tin

Beat the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, a bit at a time.
Mash the bananas and add to the batter then add  flour, bicarbonate and mixed spice and fold in.
Stir in the buttermilk then most of the nuts, saving a few bits for the top.
Pour into the loaf tin, then put the sliced bananas on top and sprinkle over the rest of the nuts.
Bake for about 45-50 mins. If top is browning too quickly, cover with foil.
Cool on a wire rack.

The buttermilk makes this loaf nice and moist. It has a crumbly texture with nice crunchy nuts and soft bananas. A treat with a cuppa on a really miserable day like today!


Strawberry Meringue Cake

I made this last week for a friend’s birthday. It’s easy to make, but looks impressive. It’s a pavlova with a top!
For the cake you need : 4 egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 125g light Muscovado sugar, 100g caster sugar, 1teaspoon white wine vinegar
Filling: 200ml double cream, 250g strawberries

Preheat oven 150C/gas 2.     Grease and base line 2 x20 cm sandwich tins

Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl till stiff. Put the sugars together then add to the white a bit at a time. Whisk a few minutes more till nice and thick and shiny.
Divide equally between the sandwich tins and bake for 35 - 45 mins till light brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Whip the double cream to peaks. Save 8 strawberries and slice the rest up.
Put one meringue on a plate and cover with half of the cream Sprinkle the strawberry slices over the cream then put the second meringue on top. Cover this with the rest of the cream then slice the 8 remaining strawberries in half and arrange in top.
Use within 2 hours.

You could use other fruit such as raspberries or blueberries. Am thinking about making another version adding a pinch of cinnamon to the cream and using apple purée in the middle and cream and caramel apple slices on top. Yet another  idea is to add 2 tbspn cocoa powder to the meringue mix, bake as in the above recipe then fill with 150ml of double cream mixed with a 220g can of sweetened chestnut purée. Make chocolate curls with a potato peeler to put on top. It’s not the easiest cake to cut - make sure you have a good sharp knife, but it’s delicious.


Blueberry Bars

I don't really do much baking now that I'm on my own, but sometimes I have a need to make a cake!
I bought some blueberries from our local market. They're one of my favourites fruits, and I used to have a bush in my garden. Sadly the winter before last killed it. I love them on porridge, but I had an urge to make a cake with them. I decided on a streusel cake - I love these cakes with the crumbly topping.

So you need:
For the topping
25g caster sugar, 2 tbspn flour and 55g soft butter
For the cake
3 eggs, 200g caster sugar, 220g melted butter, 1 tbspn vanilla extract, 250ml buttermilk, 320g flour, 1 tbspn baking powder, pinch salt,  400g blueberries [washed and dried]

Preheat oven 180C/gas4         Grease and flour a 9"x13"  [23x33cm] cake tin

For the topping - mix the sugar, butter and flour together till like crumbs.

For the cake - In a large bowl beat together the eggs then gradually whisk in the sugar till the batter is nice and thick and fluffy. Beat in the melted butter, then the vanilla and buttermilk.
In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add these to the batter and stir till everything is mixed together.
Spoon into the pan and sprinkle the blueberries over the top. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.
Bake for about 1 hour till golden.
Leave to cool in the tin then cut into squares.

The bars are nice and light, fruity and moreish. They'd be good for breakfast, as a pudd with cream or ice cream or with a cuppa. Will certainly make them again.


Chocolate Cappuccino Tart and Apple, Cinnamon and Caramel Cake

I made Mary Berry's Chocolate Cappuccino Tart as our Easter dessert from her recent Quick Cooking series. My son and family were due to arrive for Easter Sunday lunch, but he had to go into work for an emergency, so my daughter and I were left with a huge leg of lamb and Mary's dessert!
It took us all week to eat it!


I didn't finish the top in the same way as Mary, just added some Easter eggs. Thought enough cream had gone into it! It's extremely rich and a small slice is enough. Maybe I should have tried to freeze it rather than to eat it all! My neighbour was given several slices, as was a friend.

Yesterday my son and family did finally arrive to eat with us, so I decided to make a special cake. My son loves anything caramel, so this recipe seems just the thing. I found the recipe on an American site, but changed the recipe to suit us, and changed the cups into grams.

Cake: 150g soft brown sugar, 2 tspn cinnamon, 225g soft butter, 200g caster sugar, 4 eggs, 3 tspn vanilla extract, 375g plain flour with 31/2 tspn baking powder, 250ml milk, 2 medium apples and the juice of 1 lemon.
Filling :  4 tbspn Carnation caramel plus extra for pouring over the top
Topping: 60g soft butter, 1/4tspn vanilla extract,2 tspn cinnamon,125g icing sugar and 1 tbspn milk

Grease and line 2x20cm cake tins              Preheat oven 160C/gas3

Peel and chop the apples then add the lemon juice.
Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together.
Beat the butter and caster sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla extract.
Fold the flour mixture in gently, then add the milk and mix till smooth.
Put 1/4 of this batter into each tin, sprinkle over a layer of apple then top with another 1/4 of the mixture. Top with any remaining apple and the cinnamon/sugar mix.
Bake for 40-50 mins, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

When the cakes are cool, put one onto a cake plate and spread a layer of caramel over the cake.
Make the buttercream by beating all the ingredients together till smooth, then spread this over the caramel layer. Top with the second cake. Heat some caramel in the microwave and drizzle over the top of the cake.

It's a lovely mixture of flavours -  apple cake, cinnamon buttercream and caramel . It has a moist light crumb and a nice cinnamon flavour. We found if very moreish and quite rich, so small slices!


Spicy Chocolate Praline Cake

I love the little spicy biscuits you get with a coffee, and this cake is made using these and the spread you can now buy which is made with the same mixture - Lotus Biscoff biscuits and spread.
They're also called Speculoos biscuits, and my Dutch friend sends me the spice mixture every year. You can buy fantastic wooden moulds to make them.
I bought my jar of their version of the spread from Lidl at Christmas, but am not sure if they sell it all year round.

It's a loaf cake, which I love making, and it has a great mix of ingredients.

You need:

150g butter, 3 eggs, 100g caster sugar, 100g sr flour, 100g praline chocolate, 50g Lotus spread, 20g ground hazelnuts, 1 tspn vanilla extract and 5 Lotus biscuits.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                    Grease and line a 900g loaf tin

Break the chocolate into pieces and crush the biscuits into smallish lumps.

Beat the eggs and sugar together for 10 mins in a mixer or using an electric hand mixer.
Melt the butter then add to the mixture with the flour. Beat together then fold in the hazelnuts, vanilla extract and the spread.
Put half of this mixture into the tin then top with the crushed biscuits and chocolate pieces. Spoon the rest of the batter on top.
Bake for 35 mins.

My photo doesn't do justice to this cake. It has such great flavours and a soft texture. It's so spicy, and has the slightly nutty taste of the hazelnuts. Then you have the praline taste of the chocolate. I love it!


Date, Apricot and Brazil Loaf Cake

This cake is another result of a baking cupboard sort out. I had some brazils, apricots and dates to use up, but not enough of each to use on their own. I love loaf cakes, and just took out the mixed dried fruit from the recipe I usually use in this cake, and added my store cupboard finds.

140g soft margarine
2 large eggs
250g self raising flour
60ml milk
140g caster sugar – reserve 1-2tbspn for cake topping
125g each of dried apricots and pitted dates - each piece cut into 3
65g chopped brazil nuts
1 level tspn mixed spice 
  Preheat oven 150C/Gas 2  Grease and line a 900g loaf tin. 
 Cream margarine and sugar together until soft and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs to the mixture a little at a time and one by one, mixing well . 
Put the fruit and nuts into a bowl and add 2 or 3 tbspn of the flour to coat the fruit and nuts. Sieve the rest of the flour and the mixed spice into the cake mixture.  Fold the fruit and nuts into the mixture as well. Add the milk and gently mix in.
Spoon into the tin and smooth the top then sprinkle over the reserved sugar.

A good cake for afternoon tea with a cuppa. Nice chunks of fruit and nuts, and a soft texture to the cake.

Raspberry and Chocolate Cake

My daughter loves dark chocolate and raspberries, and as she was coming up for the weekend, I found this recipe in my scrapbook which was perfect for her.

I know raspberries aren't in season, and I know you could use frozen ones, but I found some at a reasonable price in my local market.

For the cake you need: 

250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
200g butter
1 tspn instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbspn hot water
5 eggs
100g caster sugar
75g plain flour
100g raspberries 

Preheat oven 170C/gas3                    Grease and line a 20cm springform tin

In a saucepan, put the chocolate, butter and coffee and heat over a low heat till melted and glossy.
In  a bowl beat the eggs till pale and fluffy.  Pour in the chocolate mixture, add the flour and fold together gently.
Pour this batter into the tin and sprinkle the raspberries over the top. Bake for about 40 mins till the cake is firm.

This cake is good with a cuppa, but also makes a nice dessert. It's very rich and 'chocolatey', so a small slice is enough! It's good hot or cold. I like the contrast between the squidgy cake and the soft raspberries.

Lovely eaten warm or cold!


Chicken and Leek Pie

As it's National Pie Week, I thought I'd post a pie recipe that's one of my family's favourites.

The leeks are a belated homage to St David's Day [I did make Welsh cakes and have daffodils!]. It's an easy pie to make as you use ready made puff pastry. 

So for 6 people you need: 

2 tbspn oil - I used rapeseed
6 skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes
2 medium leeks - sliced
4 tbspn white wine [opt]
15g butter
1 tbspn plain flour
750ml milk
1 chicken stock cube
s & p
500g butter puff pastry
1 egg to brush top of pie

Preheat oven 200C/gas6           23 x30 cm pie dish

Heat 1 tbspn of the oil in a pan and add the chicken. Brown all over then take out.
Add the other tbspn of oil [and the wine if you're using it] and then cook the leeks till tender [and the wine has evaporated].
Melt the butter in another pan then stir in the flour to make a paste. Add the milk a bit at a time, stirring continuously till the sauce gets thicker.
Add the chicken and leeks to the sauce, crumble in the stock cube or add a Knorr chicken stock pot and season with the s& p. Cover and simmer for about 10 mins over a low heat.
Roll out the puff pastry and line a 23 x30 cm tin, keeping pastry back for the top.
Spoon the filling into the tin and cover with the rest of the pastry. 
Bake for about 15-20 mins till the pastry has risen and is golden.

I used my favourite enamel pie dish. You could add herbs to the chicken and leeks, or sliced mushrooms, but we like it as in the above recipe. It's tasty, and there's a good contrast between the creamy filling and the crunchy pastry.


Grapefruit and Lemon Tart

And now for something completely different! I fancied something a bit exotic and fresh, so found this recipe in an old cookery book I picked up in a jumble sale years ago. It has lots of recipes for using fruit, so as I had a grapefruit and some lemons, decided to try this tart.
It's fairly easy to make, but does need time chilling before you eat it.

You need:  150g caster sugar, 70g soft butter, 4 eggs, 2 lemons, 1/2 grapefruit, a pack of shortcrust pastry [or make your own] and 1 tspn cornflour

Preheat oven 200C.   You need a 23cm Tart tin

Roll out the pastry to fit the tart tin. Line base with piece parchment paper or foil and cover with baking beans or rice. Bake for 15 mins, remove beans and paper or foil and bake for another 19 mins.

Wash and dry the fruit then grate the zests. Put a pan of water on to simmer and in a bowl put the zests, the juice of the fruits, the beaten eggs, sugar and cornflour. Beat this over the pan of water till it thickens. Once it's thick, take it off the pan and continue beating till cool. Add the very soft butter and whisk until it's incorporated into the mixture.
Pour the mixture into the pastry case then chill in the fridge for 4 hours before serving.

It has a really lovely fresh and zingy taste. If you want it a bit more exotic, grate some ginger over the top or add some mint and grated chocolate. You can see that I just put a couple of lemon slices on top for a simple decoration. A hint of summer in winter!


Merveilleux au Chocolat

Thought I'd post something sumptuous for Valentine's Day. I'm cheating a bit because my daughter made this, with a little help from me. It's a lovely dessert with a meringue base, delicious chocolate cream layer, more meringue, then topped with a good layer of grated chocolate.
You could buy 2 large meringue discs to save making them. This is a recipe from my French friend, and she says it originates in the North of France.

Meringues:  2 egg whites, 60g caster sugar and 60g icing sugar
Ganache:     150g dark chocolate, 150ml single cream
Topping:      100g grated dark chocolate

It's best to make the meringues the day before, but it's up to you!

Heat oven 160C/gas3              Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone sheets

Beat egg whites till stiff and add half of the 2 sugars. Whisk again then add the other half and whisk till shiny.
Put into a piping bag and pipe into 2 large discs onto the papers. Bake for 1hr 30mins, then turn oven off and leave meringues to cool in the oven. 

Ganache - put the cream and chocolate in a pan over simmering water. Allow to melt slowly, stirring from time to time till melted and glossy. Take off the heat and pour into a cold container, cover with clingfilm and when cool put in fridge for 4 hours. Take out and beat with a hand mixer to get a sort of Chantilly cream [liked whipped cream].

Assemble the dessert - put one of the discs onto a serving plate then cover with half the cream. Put the second disc on top and cover with the rest of the cream. cover the top generously with grated chocolate and put in the fridge for an hour. Take out just before serving.

You could make 8 small discs instead of 2 large ones. Sorry, I didn't get to see it cut as J took it back with her. Ah well!
She says - 'It's very rich and moreish. The bottom layer of meringue seems to hold it texture better than the second one, which seemed almost to dissolve into the cream! Delicious all the same. A lovely treat for an occasion such as St Valentine's Day.'


Date and Banana Cake

I found some dates in the cupboard and looked for a recipe to use them up that wasn't sticky toffee!
I found this one which was perfect as I also had some ripe bananas to use. I think it's from an old free supermarket magazine.
150g dried stoned dates
4tbspn orange juice or dark rum
200g very ripe banana (peeled weight)
125g butter, softened
125g sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
2 large free-range eggs (or 2 smaller ones and a yolk)
175g sr flour
 Preheat oven  180oC/Gas 4. Line a 2lb loaf tin . 
Make sure that each date has been stoned and cut each into four using kitchen scissors.  Put the date pieces in a small pan, cover with the orange juice (or dark rum) and gently bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool. 
Mash the banana in a bowl with a fork.
Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest together until light and creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, along with a tbspn flour with each one.
Sift in the rest of the flour, along with the mashed banana, the dates and their cooking liquid.
Pour the mixture in the lined cake tin, making sure it goes into the corners and the top is level.  Bake for 45-50 minutes.  When it is cooked the top will spring back when it is lightly pressed.
7.  Turn out of the tin, removing the paper and cool on a wire tray.

I love the combination of flavours, the toffee like chewy dates and the soft banana, and cake has a soft texture.The recipe said to soak the dates in rum, but I'm not keen on it so used orange juice. You could use other dried fruit instead of dates, or add chopped nuts. I'll certainly make this again.


Quiche Provençale

Thought I'd post something savoury for a change. We love quiches and this one has the flavours of Provence. Good for using up odd veg in the fridge. 
Using ready made butter puff pastry makes quiche making so easy; only the veg to prepare.

You need: 1 pack puff pastry, 3 eggs, 1 small pot of crême fraiche, 100g grated Gruyère cheese, 2 onions, 1 pepper, 3 tomatoes, 1 small tin tuna, drained, 10 olives, stoned and cut into slivers, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper, green leaves to decorate

preheat oven 180C/gas4                           23 cm tart tin

Roll pastry out and line the tin. Slice tomatoes and put into base of the tin. Put into the fridge.
Chop the onions into dice and the pepper into thin strips, then put into a large bowl. Add the tuna, beaten eggs, cream, cheese, olives, herbs, salt and pepper and mix together well.
Remove tart tin from the fridge and pour in the mixture. Bake for about 45 mins till golden.

This was delicious. We ate it warm and there was a bit left over for the next day, which I ate cold. Think it's nicer warm. Lovely combination of flavours and textures. Crunch from the pastry, good cheese flavour, nice salty hit from the olives. I'll certainly make it again.
You could use any veg you have, though I suppose then you'd have to change its name!


Galette de Rois with Lemon

Sorry about the big white blank on my last post. My computer went a bit haywire that day, and even my son couldn't sort it out, so we left it!

It's a tradition in our family that I make a Galette de Rois for Epiphany. They sell them in all the pâtisseries and supermarkets in France in January, with golden cardboard crowns for the person who finds the fève or china figure in the galette.
I wanted to try something different, having made chocolate ones in the past as well as the usual almond ones. I decided to add one of my lemons from my tree in the greenhouse.
Am amazed at how well this tree does in its big pot. It still has 8 large lemons ripening and many small ones, as well as some flowers. Not bad in Northants!

Back to the Galette! It's easy to make - you need:

2 packs puff pastry [butter puff if possible]
125g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
80g butter
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3 drops vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven 180C/gas4             A tart tin about 23 cm

Roll out the first pack of pastry and line the tin.
In a bowl cream the butter till white then add the ground almonds and sugar and mix together well.
Beat the 2 eggs and add to the bowl, and finally add the vanilla and lemon juice. Beat together.
Spread the mixture onto the pastry in the tin hiding a bean [or fève] then roll out the second pack on top. Use a fork to join the edges together and brush the top with the beaten egg yolk. Mark the top of the galette with a knife.
Bake for 35 mins and cool before eating.

The almond cream filling smelt delicious with a lemon perfume, and it had a lovely fondant texture, contrasting well with the pastry. Not sure the lemon added anything much to the galette, so prefer the original version.

Gratin de choux-fleur

 I was given a medium sized cauliflower and as it's not my favourite vegetable, struggled to know what to do with it. Have kept a few Fr...