Although the shops rarely stock fresh currants, we now grow our own. These are fruit that seem to have fallen out of favour with shoppers but their sour sweetness is perfect for an end of summer meal pudding,-so if you are able to find any for sale in farm shops or high class greengrocers then grab them!
100g of puff pastry
4 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour
2 tsp cornflour
Four sweet apples cored and peeled
A 500g mix of red white and blackcurrants
Prepare the tart base
1. Roll out and blind bake with baking beans for 20 minutes
2. Bake for a further five without them.
3. Take out of oven and leave on side to cool
To create the creme patissiere filling
1. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and slightly thickened.
2. Whisk in the flours.
3. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it starts to boil
4. Whisk the milk into the egg mix.
5. Return the whole lot back into the pan, stirring all the time until thick and boiling.
6. Take the pan off the heat and pour into the base of the tart
1. Four sweet apples cored and chunked and boiled in a little water and 4 dsp of caster sugar
2. Leave to cool bait and then whiz in the blender.
3. Pour the apple glaze on the now set creme patissiere
Sprinkle the currants across the top.
Place in oven for half an hour at 200°C.
As the tart cooks the currants will sink into the glaze.
Leave to cool and shake some icing sugar over the top via a sieve.
We haven’t made any strawberry jam of late as we haven’t had spare strawberries for such activities! So what to do? Well we suggest buying the best of them as usual. But heavens! look at this: Bonne Maman gives us two strawberry jams to choose from in our local supermarché!
The wild strawberry conserve sounds very inviting but cost more than the standard strawberry conserve. We didn’t know what to do, so we bought both.
These jams are soft set and both are delicious. Equally delicious. We couldn’t actually discern any major flavour differences at all, but strangely the wild one had seeds! Now we’re not especially keen on seeds though we can tolerate them. However when one comes without as many seeds it seemed to us the more obvious choice particularly as it is less expensive.
Whichever one you choose, it will delight.
* Please note that these are own findings, we have not been sponsored by Bonne Maman or any associated companies and this is not a commercial posting in any way at all. (Yes we’ve missed a trick there!) Enjoy the jam.
This is one of those lusciously cooling and fresh dishes that also looks lovely and is very easy to make.
Dare I say it, this fabulous platter of salad will invariably elicit general enthusiasm, nods of approval and even a little ripple of excitement – why do you think I chose it, living with Brenda?!
INGREDIENTS (makes for an intimate two but will obviously double and double again very easily fi you have a larger party to cater)
250g multicoloured/heritage tomatoes, halved or quartered dependent on size, but small bite sizes is the overall effect
250g watermelon – in cubes about the same size as the tomato pieces
30g pitted black olives – torn into a couple of bits each
1/4 red onion – sliced as finely as possible with a mandolin
small bunch basil
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Gently tumble the watermelon and tomato together in a bowl, along with the finely sliced onion, olive pieces and a little salt and pepper. Tear most of the basil leaves into the bowl, stir once to combine.
At this point it can be left for a few hours or even till the next day to marinate and allow the flavours to meld. When ready to serve, turn out the salad onto a platter where it can be finished with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sherry vinegar and the last few basil leaves.
I was feeling a little faint from my recent little bit of calorie counting and it’s at that point I realised I was in danger of purchasing fast food. Now most of us live near at least one purveyor of such edibles but in south London, the choice is very wide, 24/7. This was an emergency – so I made what I thought was on balance a good decision; namely, I knew I was going to cave, but at least I thought if I made it myself, I could mitigate the harm both in terms of what I was swallowing (and who hasn’t done damage control there I ask you?) – and to my reputation in terms of being seen in curlers and Brenda’s stained bed jacket. Long story. Not a good week.
When you factor in the improved quality and taste – not to mention the cost advantage – it’s well worth a go, particularly once you’ve done it a few times and are “set up” for it. Be warned though, you may find it so addictively good that you regularly exceed the Government’s recommended limits on consumption of “the good stuff”……..
4 chicken breasts – each cut into two, 4 thighs, 4 drumsticks - I had this number as I’d just cut up 2 chickens to use the carcass for stock. This quantity should easily feed around six people.
600ml (around a pint) of buttermilk. I couldn’t get this on the day, so I used sour cream – or could have used creme fraiche or even yoghurt, let down with a bit of water to make it a bit more liquid.
1 onion – finely diced or sliced. You could easily cheat here and use a dessertspoon or so of onion powder. In fact it would probably be better.
1 or 2 cloves garlic – crushed (or, as per the onion above, about a tsp of garlic powder)
Hot chilli sauce – like Tabasco or Encona
About 100g self raising flour – but you can get away with plain if that’s all you have – although half a tsp baking powder added in that case, would be nice.
2 medium eggs (or one extra large one)
splash of milk
good couple of big pinches of salt
around 1 1/2 litres cooking oil – veg, sunflower, peanut, canola etc – your choice.
(FOR THE SEASONING/SPICE MIX)
2 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 tsp paprika (I used half in half hot- and smoked-)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
Ideally, if you have time and the power to predict 24 hours in advance when you will have a craving, please do feel free to “brine” your chicken pieces overnight. The acid in the dairy tenderises the meat, helps keep it juicy after frying and really works the wondrous spicy flavourings well into the chicken. Because, also, the buttermilk both provides flavour itself to your crispy coating and a means by which your spice mix can stick to the chicken pieces, it’s absolutely fine to do this stage immediately before cooking. The chicken Brenda and I used for the video, had been marinating for 2 days. It’s up to you.
So, in a medium to large size bowl, pop in your chicken pieces, buttermilk, onion and garlic (slice, dice, or powder – up to you), salt and loads of hot pepper sauce – maybe a third or half a small bottle (I’d say around 50-75ml) It may seem excessive but don’t forget the vast majority will be drained off the chicken pieces. It’s messy, but massage in thoroughly with clean hands and leave while you carry out some of the next stages if you’re cooking immediately – otherwise cover with cling and refrigerate over night.
If expecting to accompany your chicken with some fries (or chips, to us Brits), now might be an idea to make them. By the way a good tip for those is keeping them in submerged in water (even better if it’s from a just-boiled kettle) with some salt and sugar added – stops them going brown before you’re ready to fry them, draws out some of the water which makes them fry to a crispier state – and if you’ve used boiling water, pre-softens them a bit before frying. Pat dry on kitchen paper before doing so. Or just use frozen bought ones.
The question of accompaniments aside, now is definitely the time to get your dish of flour ready and make your spicy seasoning mix. If you don’t mind cooking your own “fast food” and enjoy the results (at least more than the offerings from whichever vendors you have previously sourced), to streamline this stage in future, you can always make up a big batch so you have spare mix pre made.. Should last OK for up to 6 months if stored in a cool, dark place in a sealed jar. It’s Ok to simply mix up all the seasoning ingredients as they are and voila – but I wanted to make sure that the mix ingredients could incorporate thoroughly together/with the flour and stick super-well to the chicken pieces so I put the salt (Maldon sea salt crystals are quite big), cracked pepper, oregano and thyme into my spice grinder and whizzed to a fine powder. A mortar and pestle would do this too.The paprika, cayenne and garlic are already finely ground so even if, like me, you’re wanting a nice even powdery blend, these can be used as they are.
The quantities listed above are about right for the stated amount of chicken so just put the spice mix in a bowl or small oven tray ready for use and, in another dish, beat the egg(s) with a splash of milk, a few more dashes of hot chilli sauce and a few pinches more or garlic powder.
Now put the oil on to heat up on the hob, in a big spacious pot which should ideally allow the 1 1/2 litres of oil to come up to around a third – but definitely not more than half – full. While this is heating up,take the chicken pieces out of their creamy bath and allow to drain on a wire rack. Even on a high flame, it may take up to ten minutes to get to temperature but, depending on the size of your chicken pieces, you may need to fry cooler for longer or hotter for a shorter time – this is both to avoid over-cooking the coating while under-cooking the chicken. Generally, 160C seems to provide a fairly moderate simmer, you definitely don’t want the oil smoking hot and burning everything, If no thermometer to hand, test after about 8 mins with a cube of bread which should just sizzle nicely and go golden brown in about a minute.
So, to get that finger-licking coating, first lightly sprinkle some of the seasoning mix all over the chicken pieces, then add the rest of it to the flour. Now thoroughly dredge the chicken pieces in the (seasoned) flour, then through the egg mix and then once again back through the flour. This will give you a fabulously crispy carapace to bite through! At this point, all that remains between you and that crunchy, spicy satisfaction is to fry the chicken off. You’ve got this far so do be patient and do therefore fry in batches as there’s no way you’ll be able to fit this much into even a big (4 litre) pot – so have the oven on low (like 60C) and a tray lined with kitchen paper so you can keep the completed batches warm. Lower each piece in carefully using tongs or a slotted spoon – I reckon 3 big pieces or 4-5 smaller pieces max. When the chicken goes in, make sure the flame is turned down to medium low as any higher and it goes too fast. You’re looking for a core temperature of 75C or, in the absence of a food probe, for the juices to run clear – test cut a piece when you think it’s ready and return if there’s any pink juice which comes out. Another helpful hint is that the pieces float to the top when they’re done and the sizzling sounds of the frying has become quite quiet.
PS, As well as making fries, I steamed and buttered a corn on the cob to serve!
Whilst we are, of course, normally far too busy being exceedingly fabulous hostesses to stop for afternoon tea, there are just occasionally times when the planets align and we are able to let our mascara run and our reinforced under cladding sag (well away from public view, obviously), kick off our court shoes and spark up a Capstan Full Strength while the kettle boils.
Seeing as though also we are trying to reintegrate into high society once again, this uniquely English institution is a remarkably civilised and uncomplicated step to take on that journey. One thing it does require, though, is cake – and this is a slightly exotic version of a Victoria Sandwich. I hope you enjoy its rich denseness and alluring pale green and amaranth colours, just not quite in the somewhat literal sense Brenda seems to have done by the look of the stretch marks in her Spanx and the jangling palette of her maquillage…..
for the cake
200g unsalted pistachios – shelled and skinned
275g butter – in approx 1-2cm cubes and at room temp
275g icing sugar
7 large eggs
375g ground almonds
2tsp baking powder
for the filling
stewed plums – we had these in the freezer. Don’t worry if you don’t, you can use a neighbour’s – or just use plum jam.
sugar to taste
Preheat the oven to 180°C while you shell and skin the pistachios – if you buy pre shelled, excellent. Rub most of the skins off but don’t overly fret if some get left on, making a cake should be a pleasure, not turned into an afternoon of purgatory.
Place the pistachios in a metal pan and roast for 5 mins, perhaps briefly taking out half way through to give the pan a small shake.
Once hot and fragrant, take out and blitz in the food processor until they’re forming a paste.
Now lower the oven temperature to 150°C while you grease with butter and line a 22cm cake tin.
Add the ground almonds, the butter, icing sugar and eggs (I popped a couple of extra yolks in too which I had in the fridge left over from making a meringue!). Whizz for up to 2 mins or so till well combined, add the cornflour and whizz on slowest speed for a few seconds till just combined.
Pour the mix into the cake tin and slot into the oven on the middle shelf for an hour or a tiny bit longer if not quite yet cooked. I also turned mine half way through to ensure very even cooking.
Meanwhile, take about 300ml of the stewed plums, pressed them through a sieve into a small pan and heated gently on the hob. Then add just enough sugar to take off the sour edge but not cause the fruit to get too sweet. Allow the puree to just simmer for about 15-20 mins so that you end up with something quite jammy in consistency. Set aside to cool.
Once the cake is done, turn out onto a wire rack to cool which may take a good couple of hours. With a long, thin blade, slice horizontally in two, and on the lower half, spread a fairly thin layer of the plum puree – as if to spread jam on toast. Replace the top half of the cake, dust with icing sugar and serve with cups of tea using your best china!
I was busy on the phone disapproving about something missing in the service from one of our feckless utilities, when I was rudely interrupted by a rather strident voice from the kitchen ordering my immediate presence to “enjoy Fanny’s Baba Ganoush”. For a minute I was lost for words, as the worst of all images came to mind in a flurry of hideous technicolor. I ended my call and pondered. Was it time to have Fanny sectioned? She had been taking her pills so I decided on a diplomatic response and tentatively entered her domain. Despite the awful possibilities that could have lain behind the invitation, the reality was much simpler. She had been busy making a dip, – which can also be a side dish or indeed part of a meze. This is really rather a pleasing number and accompanies bread or a main course with equal aplomb. It is of Middle Eastern origin and very flavoursome.
2tbsp tahini, plus more as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 lemons – juiced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
sea salt, to taste
extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
Preheat an oven to 200°C
Place the aubergine on a baking sheet, prick with a fork in several places, drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt and bake for about an hour till completely collapsed.
Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, slice open and scoop all the aubergine flesh out into a bowl – using a fork, mash to a paste.
Add the tahini, garlic, most of the lemon juice and the cumin and mix well.
Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.
Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl, form a shallow well with a spoon.
Drizzle some olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the chilli flakes and parsley.
It is a lovely time of year for enjoying a small slice of cake with a cup of tea in the late afternoon sun. Well, some of us show some restraint. Unfortunately Fanny always helps herself to gargantuan slices and drinks our home made Plum Vodka with hers!!!
225g butter – softened
225g caster sugar
4 egg plus a yolk if you’re feeling decadent
2 lemons – zest finely grated ( I recommend doing this directly into the mix at the time)
225g self-raising flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
For the drizzle topping
juice of 2 lemons
100g caster sugar
. Heat oven to 150°C fan.
. Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing through after each one.
. Now sift in the flour - I like to put half in first, mix, then the other half (it helps avoid flour storms…) and the baking powder – next zest the lemon directly into the bowl, which ensures all the lemon oil (and therefore flavour) gets into the mix – and combine well.
. Line a loaf tin (8 x 21cm) with buttered greaseproof paper, spoon in the mixture and level out the top.
. Bake for 50-55 mins until a skewer inserted right into the cake comes out clean. While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the lemon juice and the caster sugar to make the drizzle. Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pour over the drizzle – the juice will sink in and the sugar will form a crisp sweet-tangy topping.
. Once the cake is completely cool, turn it out of the tin, slice and serve…
I thought this would be a great moment to introduce a light, but rich and tasty lunch or supper dish.
With just a few ingredients, most of which will likely be on standby in the fridge anyway, you can prepare this from start to finish in less than 45 minutes. It’s probably only the asparagus you’ll need to pop out for – and speaking of which, this makes a change from serving this wonderful vegetable as a starter with hollandaise or just butter.
Asides from anything else, we’re currently right in the middle of the English asparagus season so whatever you do, whether it’s part of this recipe or one of your own, do make the most of it. You can get it all year round of course, but I wouldn’t recommend it…… plus I try to do my bit in offsetting Brenda’s vast carbon footprint by avoiding out-of-season pale imitations of the real thing, flown in from Peru.
Ingredients – serves 3-4
1 medium onion or shallot – finely diced
1 small glass vermouth/ dry white wine
150g cream cheese/creme fraiche (or mix)
juice ½ lemon
300g asparagus - each spear cut into 3
300g spirali or spaghetti
80g smoked salmon – cut into strips
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
3 tsp lumpfish roe/caviar (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill
Do all your prep first, including snapping the slightly woody end off the asparagus spears. If, like me, you had some quite fat ones, I also gently peel the skin at that end but use a light touch. The “spear” end should always be left as is. Cut each into about 3 pieces.
Melt the butter in a pan, then fry the onion/shallot for around 5 mins until softened. Then add the wine or vermouth and and boil to reduce to by half – another few mins.
Meanwhile, pop the kettle on and get a pot ready for the pasta and once the water’s boiled, add to the pot and switch on, making sure it’s well-salted and with a good glug of olive oil. Put the pasta in to cook.
Going back to the onion pan, now stir in the crème fraîche and/or cream cheese season and stir through to get a smooth sauce the consistency of custard. Leave to simmer very gently.
When the pasta is three minutes from being cooked, add the asparagus chunks to the boiling pasta. Mine was quite thin linguine which took 6 minutes, therefore I added the veg only three mins after starting to cook it.
While the pasta and asparagus finish cooking, squeeze in the lemon juice to the creamy wine sauce and toss through the strips of smoked salmon. The hob should now be switched off completely, with the residual heat being more than enough to warm through the salmon and only very slightly cook it.
Drain the pasta/asparagus through a colander, ensuring about 100ml of the pasta water is retained. Now tong the pasta/asparagus through the sauce, ensuring everything is gently, but thoroughly combined. Add enough pasta water to ensure it stays smooth, glossy and loose – it’s meant to be a delicate Spring eat, plus no-one likes claggy pasta!
Serve a few twirls onto warmed bowls garnished with a teaspoon of caviar, if using, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill.
For all salad dodgers – of which Brenda is definitely one – this is one you can make and enjoy with confidence…… the name “salad” is something of a misnomer as really, you can consider it more of a chilled beef noodle dish, with a few leaves in.
Having said that, it does also fit the bill for those tireless (and fabulous!) housewives looking to serve something reasonably light – but still filling enough to genuinely constitute a proper meal. It also uses steak in a slightly different way than the usual fried in butter and garlic and served with potato in some form.
There are so many delicious herbs and sweet, salty, sour and hot Far Easten flavours going on so just cooking off and slicing the steak, as is, would be more than sufficient, although you can also marinate it beforehand if you wish. Below however, is my version exactly as I had it this evening ….
NB For those with allergies to peanuts or peanut oil, any light, flavourless vegetable oil can happily be substituted for the peanut oil
INGREDIENTS – serves 2
350g ribeye steak – I pushed the boat out and used 28-day aged.
100g dried rice vermicelli noodles
100g snow peas, trimmed – most halved, the smaller ones just left whole
1 medium cucumber peeled lengthways into ribbons with the veg peeler
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves
1/3 bunch fresh mint leaves – cut into thin strips
4 shallots – thinly sliced
thumb size piece of fresh ginger – peeled and finely grated
2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely grated (possibly only need this if marinating – reduce to 1 clove if using in salad dressing)
1 carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
50g bean sprouts
60g Asian leafy salad mix – can be a bit specialist so I used lambs lettuce but great if you like to include tatsoi/mizuno etc
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
juice of 1 1/2 fresh limes
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
If you’re going to marinate the steak, just use a dribble of rice wine vinegar, peanut oil, a grate of fresh ginger and garlic, a little lime juice and a dash of soy. Leave to infuse for an hour, covered, but out of the fridge to allow the meat to come fully to room temperature.
Put whichever salad leaves you’re using into a large bowl, along with the beansprouts, carrot matchsticks, a quarter only of the sliced raw shallots, strips of cucumber, coriander and mint.
For the rice vermicelli noodles, follow the packet advice on preparation which will inevitably involve merely boiling the kettle and pouring on hot water to cover and then leaving for 3-4 mins. However, don’t let them just sit there swimming in their hot bath – as soon as they have soaked to the required degree of doneness – perhaps one notch more tender than al dente – they should be tipped into a colander or sieve and run under the cold tap for half a minute or so, then left to drain with a tablespoon of sesame oil tossed through to stop them going claggy.
Fry the remaining 3/4 of your shallot slices in a little more peanut oil till crisp and set aside.
I even toasted my sesame seeds in the oven but this could probably be done quicker in a small dry frying pan over a medium low heat and watched like a hawk to avoid burning – which they will do extremely quickly. Set aside.
When ready to fry off the steak – just the usual instructions i.e. get the pan nice and hot, if you’ve marinated, gently pat dry – or if you haven’t, dab a tiny bit of oil on both sides. Bit of seasoning might be good too. Sear quickly for 2-3 mins each side and set aside, covered and in a warm place, to rest.
Now quickly conjure up your dressing by combining the peanut oil, sesame oil, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, chopped chilli, soy sauce, sugar and grated ginger – this will be so fragrant you’ll swoon! By the way I didn’t use any garlic in this dressing, having marinated the steak in some earlier and anyway, i don’t think raw garlic works that well in this!
Simply now add to the awaiting salad, the cold noodles, the dressing and the sesame seeds (or they can be sprinkled on top) and toss together.
Finally, slice your rested steak into thin strips and dot decoratively – or toss through – and garnish with the crispy fried shallots (and sesame seeds if you haven’t already combined them in the salad)
I have worked my way through our plum vodka which we made last year. The recipe is on the blog but having now enjoyed the plum vodka I was left with the plums which had been sitting in the base of the jar. As I had emptied the jar of alcohol it seemed obvious that the plums could now be thrown. Then I ate one. Oooohh! I quite liked its addled steeped lusciousness. Now I could have eaten them on their own and been quite happy but I thought “why not turn it into a pud?”. And do you know this one is quite decadently delicious, – but economic too. Try it with a splash of cream it really will give you a smile! And let’s face facts I have to face Fanny Klunge every morning so I need something to smile about.
1 dst spoon of vanilla paste
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs separated
50g self raising flour
Decanted and de-stoned plums from the plum vodka kilner jar
Preheat oven to 180°C/340°F
Place the sugar, butter, vanilla, and yolks into a mixing bowl and whisk up
Add the flour with the milk
Butter up a baking dish
Place the plums in the base
Whisk up the egg whites till stiff and add to the yolk mixture
Pour the whisked up mixture over the plums
Cook for 40 minutes until it has a light brown topping
Leave to cool for half an hour and then serve with a small drop of cream!
We don't do "slumming it", which is awfully bad English but there we go. Exquisite food for people who appreciate the better things in life.