Monday 16 November 2020

The Garden in November...

 In no particular order...

Peering past the grapefruit tree, heavy with ripening fruit, onto the agrumi terrace. That cyclamen will now sit there and happily flower right through Christmas and New Year, and possibly even through the whole of January.

Nerine Isabel (I's so long since I planted the bulbs that I've rather forgotten which is which)

Nerine Stephanie (probably.....see above...although equally, it could be Alba, except that I'm fairly certain those were planted in the crinum bed, and in fact the Alba bulbs have done nothing)

Hydrangea Q. Quercifolia  - one of the many Quercifolias around the garden, but the only one so far properly to have got into full autumn garb

Parthenocissus Quinquefolia, climbing over the trunk of the late-departed red plum, which turned up its toes last winter, and is due for a successor to be planted (elsewhere in the garden, though)

Pink and white ground-cover roses (tappezanti); in fact, they're called Pink Fairy and White Fairy. There should be a special circle of Hell reserved for people who give plants names like that....

The Technical Dept has christened these The Spice Girls...delivered recently by an antique-dealer from Piedmont, they're waiting to grace the new garden (when we get possession, next year, all-being-well), which will be  an extension to the existing garden, and is destined to be a labyrinth of walkways and gardens-within-gardens and vistas (half-viewed and full-on). Until then, they stand sentinel outside the sitting room window, and worry the four-footed.

Very late flowering hibiscus - they did nothing much, earlier in the year, and then began to flower energetically as soon as summer was over...still dripping with buds, as yet unopened

One of our two mature Cacci; it's perhaps a measure of how long we've now lived in Italy, that I begin to see the point of Cacci, and can by now even eat them with pleasure. These trees produce particularly excellent fruit.

One of the particularly excellent fruit...once cut open, the flesh is slightly gelatinous, and is eaten with a spoon.

Uve Fragola. The vine is out of control, and gets everywhere, with bunches of fruit appearing, like these, in the most unexpected of places. This outbreak is in the middle of a section of climbing roses. I grab handfuls of them and consume them as I do my rounds of the garden...

Tonight's Dinner:

Coddled Eggs, with Ham & Mushroom

Chicken, braised with garlic, sherry-vinegar, and dry Marsala; puree of Fennel and Cream

Vanilla Bavarois, with fresh Raspberries

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.

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Champignons à la grecque


Another splendid cold starter, for summer. I love the complicated, earthy flavours which this treatment gives to the mushrooms. 

For two servings.

 Ingredients: 500g field mushrooms; ¾ pint water; ¼ pint olive oil; 1 tsp celery salt; bouquet garni; ½ tsp fennel seed; ½ tsp crushed coriander seed; 1 shallot, finely minced; juice of 1 lemon; 6 black peppercorns. 


  1. Put everything apart from the mushrooms into a pan, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms to the pan, trimmed as necessary, and simmer, covered, for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl, raise the heat and reduce the liquid in the pan until only about 1/8 pint remains. Pour this over the mushrooms, allow to cool, and then refrigerate. (You can sieve the liquid before you add it to the mushrooms, but frankly I think this is a bit prissy and risks losing flavour.)

 Serve, and savour.

Saturday 15 August 2020

Rabbit, boned, rolled, and stuffed


Delicious on the day, and arguably even better, served cold a day later, when the flavour of the jelly in which the vegetables sit is intense and splendid! 

Serves four – six. 

Ingredients: 1 boned rabbit; 3 slices parma ham; 1 tsp chopped rosemary and thyme; seasoning; 3 large carrots;2 sticks celery; 1 medium onion; 2cups white wine. 2 tbs olive oil. 



  1. Peel one of the carrots, and slice it longitudinally into 4. Cut half of one of the celery sticks into pieces the same size as the carrot pieces. In a small pan of boiling, salted water, blanch the carrot and celery pieces until tender, about five minutes. Chop all of the remaining carrots and celery, along with the onion.
  2. Heat the oven to 160 degrees C.
  3. Lay the boned rabbit out, flat, and sprinkle it with the herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Lay the parma ham slices over the rabbit, and arrange the blanched carrot and celery so that the rabbit will be rolled up around them. Roll the rabbit, and secure it (either use trussing thread, or skewers….these days, I use a very useful powder which is called ‘meat glue’).
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole, and in this colour the rabbit on all sides. Remove the rabbit from the casserole and put into it the chopped onion, carrot, and celery. Over medium-high heat, cook the vegetables until they begin to collapse, and then return the rabbit to the casserole. Pour the wine over the top, and season the whole thing, quite generously.
  5. On the stove, bring the mixture to the boil, and then cover it, and transfer to the pre-heated oven, for an hour.
  6. Let it sit for five minutes or so before you slice the rabbit, as that way the slices are more likely to stay in one piece.
  7. Serve two slices per person, along with a spoonful of the vegetables. Good theatre on the plate, and absolutely delicious.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Pasta con Ragù


It’s High Summer – too hot to faff in the kitchen. Hence, pasta con ragu (simple Spag Bog, in plain-speak).

 Ragù has many uses (with pasta, in risotto, in lasagne or ravioli…), and so it’s worth making a batch, and keeping in the fridge or freezer and use it up over time. 

Ingredients: 3 tbs olive oil; ½ cup each of finely diced carrot, onion, and celery; 2 cups minced beef; 1 tsp salt; 1 cup red wine; 1 can tomatoes. 


1. Heat the oil in a pan, and add to it the carrot, celery and onion. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for about five minutes, until the contents have all collapsed.

2. Add the minced beef and salt. Continue cooking until the meat has lost its raw colour, and then add the wine.

3. Over high heat, reduce the wine by about half, and then add the tomatoes. As soon as the mixture comes to the boil, turn the heat down as far as it will go. Partially cover the pan, and leave to simmer for about an hour and      a half. Check it from time to time, to ensure nothing disastrous has happened – but basically you can just leave it to do its own thing.

And that’s it….

Monday 10 August 2020

Granita of Raspberries, Red Wine, & Mint...


This is ….SO…seriously …delicious!

For four servings.

Ingredients: 500ml red wine (the lighter the wine, the more the raspberry flavour will come through; with a stronger wine, I find that the end result is more like blackcurrant than raspberry – which is equally delicious, but a different thing…); 75g sugar; half a dozen sprigs of mint; 300g fresh raspberries.


  1. In a small pan, bring the wine, sugar, and mint sprigs to the boil, and then pour into a bowl.
  2. Liquidise the raspberries, and then sieve them, and ad this puree to the wine in the bowl.
  3. Allow to cool, then chill in the fridge, before churning to a soft, smooth texture (yes, I know a granita should traditionally be made in an ice tray in the freezer, breaking the crystals up from time to time; I just happen to prefer it this way, where it turns out more with the rich texture of a sorbet.)
  4. Serve, garnished with more mint, if you like. And then, taste it and swoon…

Sunday 9 August 2020

Tart of Tomato and red peppper


A re-working of something from Robuchon. A phyllo and almond tart shell, filled with a thick purée of tomato and herbs, flavoured with garlic and onion, and, beneath a topping of tomato slices, a layer of finely diced red pepper. An excellent first course, at any time of the year.

For two individual tarts.

Ingredients: 1 sheet phyllo; 1 tbs slivered almonds; three medium tomatoes; 1 small onion; 2 cloves garlic; 2 tbs olive oil; 1/4 medium red pepper; 1 tsp dried thyme; approx 40g butter.


1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Melt the butter, and use some of it to brush the phyllo; divide the phyllo in 4, and use it to make two individual tart shells of two layers of phyllo each. Divide the slivered almonds between the two shells, between the two layers of pastry. Bake for about ten minutes, until crisp and brown, and remove from the oven.

2. Slice two of the tomatoes into thin rounds, and chop the remainder. Put the sliced tomatoes in a bowl, salt them lightly and then spoon a little melted butter over the top. Set aside. In the remaining melted butter cook the onion, finely diced, along with the chopped garlic, until it has softened,  and then add to this the chopped tomato and half of the dried thyme.Stirring from time to time, cook over high heat, until the whole mixture has reduced to a dense mass. Taste and season.

3. Pile the tomato mass into the pastry shells, then cover with a layer of finely diced red eper, and finally arrange the tomato slices over the top. Sprinkle the remaining thyme on top, and bake for about 25 minutes, just until the tomato starts to colour. Remove from the oven and drizzle a little olive oil over the surface of each tart. Allow to sit for a few minutes before transferring the tarts from their tins to serving plates.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Funghi Trifolati

 The weather is sultry, and slightly heavy. We eat late, and to the background chorus of cicadas, and the gentle splashing of the fountain in the lily-pond. Those few people in town who stayed put through lockdown appear all to have disappeared to the coast or the mountains, and we have the city more or less to ourselves. Funghi trifolati is perfect as a cold first course to an undemanding summer dinner...

For two servings.

Ingredients: approx 500g mushrooms; 1/3 cup oil; 1 small onion; 2 garlic cloves; 4 tbs chopped parsley; salt and pepper.


1. Heat half of the oil in a large shallow pan (I use a paella pan for this). Chop the onion small, and saute it in the hot oil until it has wilted and is just starting to colour.

2. Add to the pan the mushrooms, sliced wafer thin, and the rest of the oil. Lower the heat, until the juices start to run out, and then raise it again, and cook the mushrooms for four or five minutes until all the liquid has gone.

Add seasoning to taste. transfer to a bowl, and thoroughly stir in the copped parsley. You can serve it warm or at room temperature, but my personal preference is for it to be good and cold, when I think the mineral arthiness of the favours comes properly through.

Friday 7 August 2020

St Clement's Cheesecake

Flavoured with the zest of orange and lemon, and on an almond shortcake base, this is rich, and dense, and dangerously more-ish...

For a ten-inch, deep cheesecake.

Ingredients: For the base: 0.75 cup flour; 0.75 cup ground almonds; 0.25 cup sugar; 1 egg, separated; 0.5 cup butter
For the filling: 1125g cream cheese; 1.75 cup sugar; 3 tbs flour; grated zest of one lemon and one orange; 2 egg yolks + 6 whole eggs; 0.25 cup cream.


1. Heat oven to 200 degrees C. Grease the inside and line the base of a 10 inch spring-form pan.

2. Process together all of the base ingredients - apart from the white of the egg - and press it into the base and up the sides of the pan. Bake for approx 18 minutes, until coloured and crisp. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and brush the base with the egg white, lightly beaten. Increase the oven temperature to 235 degrees C.

3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and, still beating, add to it the flour, sugar and zest. One by one, beat in the yolks and the whole eggs, and finally mix in the cream.  Pur the filling into the pan. Bake at 235 degrees C for fifteen minutes, and then lower the temperature to 100 degrees C and bake for an hour. At the end of this time, turn off the heat, and leave the cheesecake in the cooling oven for a further hour. Then, remove from the oven, and once properly cool, place in the fridge to chill before serving.

Monday 3 August 2020

Vanilla Bavarois

Served here with blackberries which have been macerated in orgeat. If you want to ring the changes on the flavour, then the vanilla specified here could most easily be replaced with either a tbs instant coffee or a tbs of powdered chocolate. And, of course, Other Flavours Are Available...

For six servings:

4 egg yolks, 4 tbs sugar, 2 tsp gelatine, 1/2 pint milk, 1/2 tbs vanilla, 1/2 pint cream.

1. Thoroughly grease the inside of the mould you intend to use (I always use baker's spray for this sort of thing).

2. Heat the milk in the top of a double boiler, while you beat the yolks with the sugar. Add the heated milk to the egg mixture, and stir to amalgamate; return the mixture to the double boiler, add the gelatine, and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, unil it has visibly thickened.

3. Allow the mixture to cool completely (an hour or so), and then whip the cream until dense, and fold the cooled custard into it.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared mould, and refrigerate until it has properly set - I normally allow at least six hours for this.

5. To un-mould, sit the base of the mould in hot water for half a minute or so, and then up-turn it over the serving plate.

Saturday 1 August 2020

Pear and Chocolate Clafouti

For two clafouti(s)


  • 2 pears
  • 40g flour
  • 30g sugar
  • 1 tbs powdered chocolate
  • 75 ml milk
  • 1egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbs brandy
  • 40g butter (melted and cooled)

1. Peel, slice and core the pears. Arrange in two dishes and then put in a hot oven (200 degrees C) for about ten minutes, to concentrate the flavour).

2. Make a batter with all of the remaining ingredients, pour over the pears and continue to bake for a further twenty minutes, until the clafouti has puffed beautifully and is obviously done.

Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Saturday 25 July 2020

New York Cheesecake

Effectively, sugarless - since this can be made using either sugar or sucralose, and the end result is identical. Light, creamy, and delicious, with a glorious vanilla flavour, and the option of having as many (more) slices as you feel like...

For a 9 inch cheesecake.

Ingredients: 800g cream cheese; 3/4 cup sugar (or sucralose); one and a half cups of digestive biscuits (graham crackers); 4 tbs butter; 3 medium eggs; 2 tsp vanilla essence; 2 tbs cornflour; 1 cup sour cream. Berries, for garnish (optional)


1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease a 9 inch springform pan and line the base with greaseproof paper. 

2. Melt the butter, and then blitz it in the food processor along with the biscuits. Press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan, and bake for ten minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 200 degrees C.

3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar (or sucralose) until properly mixed,then add the eggs, vanilla and cornflour and beat just to incorporate. Add to this the sour cream, and stir it in, using a spatula.

4. Pile the mixture onto the biscuit base, and bake for 45 minutes. At the end of this time, turn off the oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon, and leave to rest for three hours as the oven cools.

5. Serve garnished (or not) with berries of your choice. I used blackberries from the garden, which had been macerated in almond syrup.

Friday 24 July 2020

Classic French Apple Tart

The apple harvest will soon be upon us, and already the trees are heavy with fruit. Arguably, one of the best ways of dealing with it, this recipe is for a dense puree of apples,with butter,lemon, cinnamon, and a dash of hooch, topped with thin slices of fruit, all in a crisp shortcrust pastry shell.

For two individual tarts.

Ingredients: 2 shortcrust pastry shells, approx 10 cm (4 inches) diameter; 4 medium apples (Gala, or Pink Lady, or Reinette, by preference, but really anything will do,as long as it isn't Bramleys or Golden Delicious); 1/4 cup sugar, + 1 tbs sugar; 2 tbs butter; grated zest and juice of half a lemon; 1 tsp ground cinnamon; 3 tbs apricot jam; 1 tbs brandy. 


1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Peel core and dice 3 of the apples; cook slowly in a small covered pan for about twenty minutes, until the fruit has more or less collapsed. Add all the remaining ingredients apart from the last apple, the tbs sugar, and 1 tbs of jam; raise the heat and cook, stirring, until you have a dense puree - this might take a further ten minutes; have a care, as the mixture can easily catch and burn!

3. Divide the puree between the pastry shells. Peel and core the remaining apple, and slice very thinly. Arrange the slices in a circle on top of each tart, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar before placing the tarts in the oven. Bake for about fifteen minutes, just until the edges of the slices start to colour. 

4. Once cooled, use the remaining apricot jam to make a glaze, and carefully glaze the surface of each tart.

Serve, along with Mascarpone which has been whipped with a slug of marsala.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Ravioli Gnudi...

This is a dish I could happily eat every day! Nutmeg, spinach, and ricotta, all held together in a light ricotta ball, and poached just until they will hold together on the plate.

For two servings: 100g chopped, cooked spinach; 2 tbs chopped parsley; 1 generous pinch nutmeg; 1 garlic clove; 70g ricotta; 45g plain flour; 1 egg; 50g grated parmesan (plus extra, to serve); seasoning, to aste.


1. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients.

2. With wet hands, form the mixture into walnut-sized balls - some people at this stage flour the outside; I find this makes the gnudi heavier than I like. Place the balls, separated, on a large plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

3. Bring a large shallow pan ( a large saute pan works well) of water to the boil, and into it drop the gnudi. The temperature of the water will anyway drop, but stop it from coming back to the boil, as this risks damaging the gnudi. After a minute, the gnudi will rise to the surface; cook for a minute longer and then remove from the water with the use of a slotted spoon.

4. Serve, sprinkled with more grated parmesan.

Monday 20 July 2020

Bouché a la Reine

Mushrooms and chicken in a delicious sauce, piled into a deep phyllo-and-almond pastry shell, and garnished with parsley. 

For two servings.

Ingredients: 1 sheet phyllo; 3 tbs butter; 1tbs slivered almonds; 1 shallot, finely diced; 1 cup sliced mushrooms; 1 cup diced cooked chicken (leftovers, normally, in this house); 1.5 tbs flour; chicken stock, approx 2 cups; seasoning; parsley, to garnish.


1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C. 

2. Melt 1 tbs butter, and use it to brush the phyllo. Divide the phyllo into 4, and use two each of the parts to line 2 deep ramekins, sprinkling the slivered almonds between the two layers of phyllo. Bake for five minutes or so until a golden brown. Set aside.

3. In the remaining butter, in a double boiler, soften the shallot, and then add to it the mushrooms. After ten minutes, sprinkle with flour and mix in, and then add the chicken and sufficient stock just to cover. Leave to cook gently, stirring from time to time, until the mixture has visibly thickened. Taste and season as needed.

4. Place each pastry shell on a serving plate and spoon into them the mushroom-chicken mixture. Garnish and serve. 

Saturday 18 July 2020

Shrewsbury Biscuits

A.k.a: Lemon-flavoured shortbread. Crisp, and buttery, and generally perfect. They only develop a particular crunch after they've been out of the oven for several hours...but there's a very real challenge in actually waiting that long!

For about twenty biscuits.

Ingredients: 100g butter; 125g sugar; 2 egg yolks; 200g plain flour; grated zest of 1 large lemon.


1. Heat oven to 175 degrees C. Grease a baking tray (or in fact, probably, two).

2. Process together the butter and sugar; add to this the two egg yolks, and then the flour and the lemon zest. Continue to process until the mixture adheres together in one lump.

3. On a floured surface, roll out the biscuit dough to a thickness of about 3 millimeters. Using a fluted cutter,cut out as many biscuits as you can, and then roll together the trimmings and repeat the process until all the dough has been used up.

4. Bake in the pre-heated oven for twenty minutes. Once out of the oven, leave to cool on a rack for at least an hour, and preferably longer.