Friday, 25 September 2020

Quince & Apple Pie


I like the idea of quince- and the blossom on the tree in spring is exquisite - but the reality of the fruit is often challenging. Rarely is it that I cut into a quince without finding I then have to dig out all the wormy sections, and the road-kill remnants that I then have to work with are not a noble sight. I can well-understand why it is that this fruit is no longer grown commercially! On occasion, though, I come across a recipe which restores my faith in the things.....and this is one such. The flavours are subtle and complicated, and the combination of spice and rich fruit is comfortingly reminiscent of Christmas. It has much to recommend it.

Ingredients: 3 medium quince, peeled, cored and quartered; 6 medium apples, cox or similar, peeled cored and thinly sliced; 3 oranges; 2 lemons; 3/4 cup sugar, + 2 tbs sugar; 2 tsp cinnamon; 16 prunes, quartered; 1/3 cup sweet white wine; 20 peeled, blanched almonds; shortcrust pastry, made with 10 oz flour and 8 oz butter (this will leave enough over for the base of a different tart on another day).


1. Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm diameter false-bottomed tart tin. Freeze the base for twenty minutes, and then blind bake it at 190°C  to biscuit crispness. Roll out the remaining pastry to a size and  shape large enough from which subsequently to cut the top for the pie, and refrigerate this pastry, to firm up.

2. Grate the jest from the oranges into a bowl and set aside. Into a saucepan of medium size squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemons; to this, add 1 tsp cinnamon and 3/4 cup of sugar, and the sweet wine; add the quince quarters, cover with water, bring to the boil  on the stove, and then cover and simmer until the quince pieces are properly soft (perhaps 15 minutes). Remove the quince pieces to a bowl, and over a low heat reduce their poaching liquid until it is a syrup, and allow this to cool.

3. Combine the apple slices with 2 tbs sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and the grated orange zest. Use half of this mixture to line the base of the baked pastry shell, and then place on top first the quince pieces, than the quartered prunes and the almonds; spread the remaining apple mixture over the top. 

4. Take the remaining pastry from the fridge, and cut out the top for the pie, using a lattice template if so inclined (I generally do). Put the top in place, pressing down with a rolling pin to attach it firmly to the top of the pastry shell, and to cut off the excess pastry around the side. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg-white, and then bake for forty minutes.

5. Allow to cool properly before you remove the pie from the the tin. Serve warm or cold, with a spoonful of the reduced poaching liquid as a sauce. Be warned: one slice is not enough!

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Stuffed Aubergine


The ingredient which makes this dish is, surprisingly, the 1/4 tsp of allspice, which gives it a whole additional dimension, as well as hinting at some elusive 'other'....which could be Athens or it could be Marrakech. Whichever it is, these are best served cold, with at least the suggestion of a hot summer's day in the background.

For two:

Ingredients: 1 large aubergine; salt & pepper; 30 ml olive oil; 1 medium onion, chopped; 1 large garlic clove, minced; 1/4 tsp ground allspice; 16g sultanas; 1 medium tomato, diced (or 1/2 tbs tomato puree...but a fresh tomato is preferable); 3/4 tbs red wine vinegar; 1 tsp sugar; scant handful of chopped parsley; 75 ml water.


1. Halve the aubergine; cut out as much as possible of the flesh, then salt the shells and leave them upside-down to drain of liquid for twenty minutes or so, before blanching them for 2-3 minutes in boiling water.

2. Heat the oven to 200° C.

3. Sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tbs oil, until soft, then add to this the chopped aubergine flesh, salt, pepper and allspice. Cook over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes, then add the sultanas and tomato, vinegar and sugar. Cook together for about five minutes, until it becomes a thick stew;stir in the chopped parsley.

4. Arrange the aubergine shells in a baking dish in which they fit snugly, and fill them with the mixture. Mix the remaining oil with the water and pour over the filled shells. Bak for about an hour, and then leave to go cold before you serve them.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Blackcurrant Mousse Gateau


This might seem like a complicated recipe, but as long as you're organised, in fact it is quite straightforward. Looks good, and tastes excellent!

The version I made which I photographed for this post used genoise sponge as a base; by preference I would use a biscuit crumb base, as in a cheesecake, not least because in this house something this size is never going to be consumed at one sitting, and so you really want a base which won't go soggy if left for more than several hours.

These ingredients make 1 x 23 cm gateau.

Biscuit crumb base, using ten digestive biscuits (approximately) and 50g butter- blitz the biscuits along with the melted butter in a food processor, and then press into the base of a lined 23 cm spring form mould, and bake for ten minutes in a 180 degree C oven.

Mousse: 6 tsp powdered gelatine; 400g blackcurrant puree; italian meringue, made using 190g sugar, 45 ml water and 100ml egg white; 150 ml whipping cream.

Glaze: 2 tsp powdered gelatine; 50g sugar; 150 ml creme de cassis; 1/4 cup fresh blackcurrants.


1. Grease a 23 cm spring form tin, and line the base with greaseproof paper. Make the biscuit base, and allow it to cool in the tin.

2. For the mousse, heat the puree and powdered gelatine together in the top of a double boiler; once you are sure the gelatine has all dissolved, take off the heat and allow it to cool.

3. Make the italian meringue: heat the sugar and water together over medium heat until they reach 122 degrees C; whisk the egg white until it begins to be dense, and then pour the sugar syrup into it, whilst whisking, and continue to whisk until it is properly stiff, and has significantly cooled (perhaps five minutes of whisking); fold into this the cooled blackcurrant puree, and then fold into this the cream, which has been beaten until it holds its shape. Pile this mixture into the tin, on top of the biscuit base. Smooth the top, and refrigerate for at least four hours, to allow the mousse to set.

4. To make the glaze, add the  sugar to the cassis and the blackcurrants in a small pan and heat gently, until the sugar has entirely dissolved; . Off the heat, stir in the gelatine, and gently pour the glaze over the top of the mousse, making sure that the blackcurrants are more-or-less evenly spaced. Return the tin to the fridge for a further hour or so, until the glaze has also set.

To un-mould, run a warm knife around the inside of the tin, to free the mousse before releasing the tin. 


Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Apricot Cheesecake


Pockets of apricot puree, waiting to be discovered within a delicious vanilla and citrus cream filling. I find this is best left for 24 hours after ithas been made and before you serve it -if you can! -  the texture becomes creamier over that time.

Ingredients: 600g cream cheese; 1 cup + 1/3 cup sugar; 100g dried apricots; 7 medium eggs, separated; juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 1 cup cream; 9" crust, made from 8 digestive biscuits and 50g butter, melted.


1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the biscuits along with the melted butter, in the food processor. Grease and line the base and sides of a 9" spring-clip pan (I find this cheesecake can be tricky to unmould,hence the advice to line the sides as well as the base of the pan). Press the biscuit mixture into the base of the tin, and bake for ten minutes. Allow to cool. 

Lower the oven temperature to 150 degrees C.

2. If the apricots you have are not soft, simmer them for ten minutes in 1/2 cup water to soften them. if already soft, omit this step. Add 1/3 cup sugar, and liquidise (add a little water if the puree seems too thick)

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff.

4. in a separate bowl, beat the cheese with the sugar, then add to it the lemon zest and juice, and the vanilla. Beat, to mix thoroughly, and then fold into this mixture the beaten egg white.

5. Pour a third of this mixture onto the biscuit base, and then dot half of the apricot puree over the top, in spoonfuls. repeat this process, and finish with a layer of cheesecake mixture. 

6. Bake for forty minutes, and then leave in the cooling oven for an hour with the heat off. Allow to cool thoroughly before you remove the cheesecake from the tin.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Timbale of Tarragon and Zucchini


Light, delicious, quick, and easy. For a dinner-party, or to snack on, from the fridge...

Serves Six.

Ingredients: 4tbs chopped parsley; 1 medium onion,chopped; 6 tbs olive oil; 500g zucchini (courgette), chopped, but not peeled; 3 medium eggs; 150ml cream;1 tbs grated parmesan; 2 tbs dried tarragon; 50g fresh white breadcrumbs; 1 tbs white wine vinegar; 1 tsp dijon mustard; salt and pepper. 


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 1 litre loaf pan, and line the base and short sides with a long strip of baking foil, for ease of removal of the finished timbale. Use 2 of the tbs of parsley to stick to the greased sides of the loaf tin.

2. In half of the oil, cook the onion and zucchini until tender, with half of the dried tarragon and a further tbs of parsley; in a covered pan, over low heat, this should take ten minutes or so. Allow the softened vegetables to cool a little, once done.

3. Process in a processor the cooled vegetables, eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan, and cream. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin, place in a bain marie, and bake for fifty minutes. Once cooked, allow to cool completely, and then refrigerate.

5. Make a dressing, using the remaining oil and tarragon, along with the vinegar and mustard; add salt to taste.

Slice the un-moulded timbale, and plate, before dressing with the tarragon dressing, and garnish with the remaining parsley. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Chocolate-Hazelnut Torte, with mirror glaze

This recipe is based on a post by the excellent La Pâte de Dom which he calls 'Cracahuète', being a bit of word play between croquant(crunchy) and cacahuète(peanut).  Not being fond of peanuts in cooking, I have switched the nuts to hazelnuts of which there are plenty on the trees. The recipe serves 10 to 12 since it is very rich. 

Like much modern pastry cookery, the tart filling is a sort of 'club sandwich' of several ingredients.  These would be on hand in a professional pastry kitchen and therefore the tart is little more than an assembly job.  In the domestic kitchen making each element from scratch for a single tart is possibly more trouble than it is worth: frankly one can use as many layers as one likes.

The basics elements are a sweet pastry case into which are layered in turn, salted butter caramel, chocolate custard, chocolate and hazelnut crunch, and hazelnut-flavoured white chocolate ganache.  The tart is iced with shiny chocolate icing.

As this is the second time of making the tart, I already had some frozen sweet pastry and a pot of salted butter caramel in the fridge, so the things needed were custard, ganache and hazelnut crunch.

The recipes for the main ingredients are below.  The main technical issue is that since three of the fillings are soft, these need to be frozen or very cold during assembly or the result will be just a mess.  This means that it is easier make the tart over several days, leaving time for each ingredient to become very cold. 
The assembly comprises:

i. Blind bake a 20 cm round tart shell in the standard way.
ii. Spread salted butter caramel on this base.  Freeze until the caramel is hard.
iii. Spread or pipe on the very cold chocolate custard.  You can easily level the surface by pressing a cling film wrapped disc of the correct diameter onto the surface.  Refrigerate until firm or for up to 24 hours..
iv. Ice the frozen ganache disc.  Place the frozen crunchy layer on the custard and top with the still frozen iced ganache.  Hold in a cool spot not more than 15°C colder than your room temperature.  If it is colder than that, condensation will form on the icing and spoil the finish.  So if you need to refrigerate the cake, put it a closed box.  Take the box out of the refrigerator an hour or so before it is to be eaten to allow it to warm up slowly.  Decorate as you like.


Salted Butter Caramel

Milk                  50grams
Vanilla powder    2grams
Cream             200grams
Glucose Syrup   50grams

Glucose Syrup 100grams
Sugar                95grams

Salted butter      70grams
Salt                     2grams

Bring the liquids and 50 grams of glucose to a boil, caramelise the remaining glucose and sugar, pour on the nearly boiling liquid and stir well to dissolve.  Stir in the room temperature butter and salt while the mix is still slightly warm so the butter blends but does not melt.  Store refrigerated in a jam jar.  These quantities are enough for two tarts.  The mixture will need warming a little in the microwave to soften it enough to spread or pipe.

Dark Chocolate Custard

Milk                     72grams
Cream                145grams
Glucose syrup       20grams
Egg yolk               26grams
Dark Chocolate  112grams

Mix together all the ingredients except the chocolate, heat gently to make a custard.  The mixture shouldn't boil so a double boiler or a Simmertopf are handy.  Let the mixture cool a bit and chop the chocolate into bits and stir in to dissolve.  You can sieve it to be sure there are no lumps and store in the refrigerator for a day or two with the surfaced covered with plastic wrap so a skin cannot form.

Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Crunch

Milk Chocolate       15garms
Praline Paste           60grams
Toasted hazelnuts   10grams
Ice cream wafers    40grams

Praline paste and crunchy ice cream wafers are available commercially.  The latter are sometimes called Crêpes dentelles or Wafer rolls.  There are recipes for hazelnut praline paste on the web if you can't buy it.
Melt the chocolate and praline paste in the microwave until liquid and stir in the lightly broken ice cream wafers and the coarsely chopped toasted nuts.  Spread into a thin18cm disc on a cake base or plastic container lid.  Wrap in cling film and freeze until needed.

White Chocolate and Hazelnut Ganache

Gelatine powder        3grams
Water                     18grams

Toasted  hazelnuts   40grams
Milk                      150grams

White chocolate      50grams
Cream                  215grams
Praline Paste           80grams 

Heat the milk and infuse with chopped hazelnuts for at least an hour.  Soak the gelatine in water for 20 minutes or more. Strain the milk and reheat it, if necessary, to about 60°C and add the gelatine mix.  Gelatine doesn't like to be heated too much because it will lose its gelling power.  Melt the chocolate in the cream with the praline paste in a microwave, stirring from time to time, until dissolved and mix into the gelatine milk.  Mix well, sieve if you like, and store over night in the refrigerator with the surface covered in cling film to prevent a skin forming.  A day or two later whip the mixture until light and pipe or spread into a suitable 18 cm circular mould.  I used the bottom half of this rather expensive one.
It gives an attractive dome shape, but the world wont end if it is a flat disc.  It just has to fit inside the pastry case.  Freeze the filled and wrapped mould until needed. 

Shiny Chocolate Icing.

Gelatine powder    6grams 
Water                 36grams
Sugar                105grams
Glucose syrup     38grams
Water                 52grams

Cocoa powder   38grams
Cream                98grams
The icing is prepared ideally on the day the tart is to be served.  Soak the gelatine in water for at least 20 minutes.  Heat the glucose sugar and water to 103°C and stir in the sifted cocoa or chocolate powder.  Stir thoroughly to produce a smooth mix.  Heat the cream briefly in the microwave and add to the chocolate mixture.  When the mix has cooled to 60°C stir in the gelatine mix.

The next step is to try to remove any air in the mixture so no bubbles form later.  The ideal equipment for this is a small stick blender.  In a tall narrow container blend the mixture for 5-10 minutes with the blender head always under the surface.  After a while the bubbles on the surface will disappear and the mixture will look shiny.  Sieve the mixture into a plastic jug and cover with cling film.  At this point the mixture will still be quite warm.  It needs to cool to 34°C so it is thick enough to pour as icing onto the frozen ganache.  When the mixture is at 34°C, place the frozen ganache on a support on a plate, a 10cm pastry ring is ideal, and gently pour the icing onto the ganache until it is entirely coated.  The excess will run off onto the plate. The icing should be completely flawless like glass.
Finish the assembly by placing the frozen crunchy disc onto the custard in the tart shell, and gently lowering the iced ganache in place.  Two forks are best for the job, with the tines under each side one can gently lift the ganache off its support and lower it onto the filled tart shell.  Or, less successfully, onto the floor and into the dog.
The Pâte de Dom 'You Tube' video shows each step in exact detail.


Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Ricotta cheesecake


Ricotta cheesecake. Lighter than the usual version, due to the addition of beaten egg-white just before baking. 

Ingredients 500g ricotta; 5eggs (4 of them separated); 90g sugar; 40g flour; 80g candied peel, chopped; 40g sultanas; 4 tbs rum.


1. Heat oven to 190 degrees C.

2. Beat together the whole egg plus the egg yolks, along with the sugar and ricotta. Once it is uniformly smooth, beat in the rum, and then fold in the peel and the sultanas.

3. Separately, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then fold them into the mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into a 22cm spring-form tin (greased, and with the base lined) and bake for thirty five minutes.

5. Allow to cool for twenty minutes or so, before removing from the tin. Serve either warm or cold.