Gluten Free Tarte Tatin Bake off

Regular readers (all one of you) will know that we have an increasing interest in the making of our own pastry and the use of different flours. This week we have been experimenting with chestnut flour and almond flour in a tarte tatin bake off.

So which is the better?

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour

Recipe 1 Chestnut flour pastry

100g chestnut flour
70g cold butter- diced
15g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 table spoons of cold water or more if necessary.

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour

This is not the easiest flour to work with. It’s a very dry rustic smelling flour which has a gritty sensibility to it. As Niki Segnit says in her book  “The Flavour Thesaurus” (an excellent book about how flavours work together – I don’t agree with every single one but it’s a well written tome nonetheless)  “chestnut flour has a curious aroma, somewhere between cocoa and silage, which makes for a rustic flavour experience. I mean really rustic: it tastes like the floor of a shepherds refuge.” One can assume it’s not a favourite in the Segnit household then. That said; it is rustic and coarse and has a low fat content, but that is also its appeal. It is quite difficult to work with initially and needs to be coaxed a bit to get what you require- a nice flat pastry for the tarte tatin top.

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour

Recipe 2 Almond flour pastry

150g Almond flour
10g cold butter
15g icing sugar

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour

A very different flour – crumblier, less gritty, and much more oil content. I don’t always use butter but sometimes I add it for a little bit of luxury, because frankly living with Fanny’s long face is almost too much to bear. It is also much more moist which means that it binds more easily. Rolled out on a floured surface it is a sticky flour and will need some care as you lift it on to the apples. This feels like a luxuriant pastry and indeed it tastes like it – even before being cooked!

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour

To prepare the pastry:

Put the flour and butter into a mixing bowl and rub the flour and butter together till you get a crumbly texture. Once you have, add the icing sugar and bring it together in a ball. The chestnut flour will require the eggs and some water to help it bind.
Now leave it in the fridge to harden up.

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour

Ingredients for the caramel mixture

100g butter
100g demerara sugar

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour

Tart filling ingredients

1 kg Cox Orange Pippins (or similar eating apples)
Zest and juice from one lemon.

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour


Get yourself a flan pan for the tarte tatin.

First peel your apples, core them and slice them quite thinly.

Place the butter and sugar in a pan and on a low heat melt the sugar and butter and stir. You will need to cook it for about five minutes, stirring. When it starts to darken take it off the heat and pour it into the flan dish.

Then arrange your apples on top of the caramel

Turn on oven and preheat to 180°C

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour
Now take the pastry out of the fridge, flour your board and grab your rolling pin.

Roll out your ball carefully. Whichever flour you have used will take some care to roll out as neither of these binds with the flexibility of a normal processed plain flour. When it comes to lifting the pastry on to the apples, beware that the almond pastry could be quite sticky and may need to be helped off the floured board. If you are using the chestnut pastry, you may find it is more crumbly – do not worry this is standard.

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour
Place the pastry onto the apples and tuck it in at the sides.

Place the flan pan the oven on a flat baking tray for 30 minutes till brown.

When it is cooked you will need to turn it out of the flan base pretty quickly – and before the caramel sets. Place a plate or a board over the pan and turn upside down. Let gravity do its work.

Serve with a large bowl of chantilly cream.

tarte tatin bake off -chestnut flour -v- almond flour
Both of these tartes have distinctive qualities. The chestnut would be a lovely wintry recipe with its robust earthy tones. The almond pastry is much more luxuriant and presents a quite different flavour, and the almond one won the vote here. The choice is yours!

Thai Chicken Noodle Red Curry Soup

There’s nothing like a bit of spice to make Brenda react and indeed I like to get a reaction, which in this case was positive. Had it been anything other than that, she’d have been carted out feet first in a body bag I can tell you. This is a superlative red curry soup that uses Asian spices and plenty of inspiration from Thai cuisine. It’s easy to put together and with the help of some fantastic fresh red curry paste (available from some supermarkets and Asian food emporia), you can be eating in under an hour from initial preparation. It’s a good evening choice for a light bite after a hard day at work, and can be eaten as a starter or a main.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Ingredients: serves 3

• 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
• 200g red curry paste
• 750ml fresh chicken stock
• 1 tsp palm sugar
• 300 g chicken thigh fillets, thinly sliced 
• 18 raw king prawns, shelled, de-veined
• 400 ml coconut milk
• 200 g beansprouts
• 300 g fresh vermicelli rice noodles
• 8 medium size mushrooms quartered
• bunch of spring onions sliced,
• bunch of coriander
• 3 Lime wedges, and juice of a lime
• 2 red chillies

Standing time: Serve immediately

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Cook laksa paste in tbsp of vegetable oil and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add stock and sugar. Stir to combine, then bring to a simmer. Add chicken, return to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes. Add prawns and cook for 1 minute.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Add coconut milk and beansprouts. Stir gently to combine, then bring almost to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes or until prawns are just tender, beansprouts are wilted and are heated through. Add juice from a lime.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer
Meanwhile, place noodles in a large bowl. Microwave the noodles for a minute. Divide noodles, then ladle laksa mixture among the bowls. Add some chopped red chillies, coriander and spring onion and serve immediately with lime wedges.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Elderflower cordial taste test

elderflower cordial taste test
Ruby the cat showed a great deal of interest in the taste test as you can see

I am a fairly recent convert to elderflower cordial. I like its subtle and delicious fragrance and evidently quite a few other people do as a variety of brands have appeared in recent times. Fanny was sitting here this morning with a particularly glum face as yet another of her Brazilian masseurs had denied her advances and taken flight.

Bright as a button I said it was time for a taste test. She showed relatively little emotion as she stared listlessly through the French windows at Ruby the cat lying contendedly on the garden table.

I measured out two glasses of the competing brands – Belvoir (pronounced Beaver) and Blossom Cottage. I added identical levels of water to each identical measure and handed them to Fanny and asked which she preferred.

One of therm has a more colourless liquid and is milder, the other having a more pronounced colour and sweetness.

And one won the taste test by a considerable margin.

The winner was Blossom Cottage which was much much preferred for its milder subtlety and refreshing nature. The Belvoir is good but found sweet by comparison. The Belvoir is also more expensive so it’s a win win situation if you choose the one that we preferred here.

Breakdown of prices at the major supermarkets on 18th August 2014


Belvoir Elderfower Cordial £3.15

Blossom Cottage £1.76 until 19/8/14, thereafter £2.20 (Special offer)


Belvoir Elderfower Cordial £3.15

Blossom Cottage £2.00


Belvoir Elderfower Cordial £3.00

Blossom Cottage £2.15


This is a wonderful summery recipe which can be eaten on its own or as a side dish. Brenda likes it both ways and frankly none of us should be surprised by that.

simply ruddy gorgeous ratatouille recipe i don't mind telling you

Ingredients Serves 4

1 400g can of lovely plum tomatoes
4 smallish courgettes (don’t get the ones that are halfway to being marrows!)
1 green pepper de-seeded and cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper de-seeded and cut into chunks
1 aubergine cut into chunks
4 large cloves of garlic minced
2 medium size onions
Handful of fresh basil leaves
A packet of fresh thyme to distribute through the mix
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

simply ruddy gorgeous ratatouille recipe i don't mind telling you

Right dearies don’t mess about; first of all you will need to cut up the aubergine and the courgettes and lay them in a colander, sprinkled with sea salt and then allowed to drain. Leave them for as long as they are exuding the water- about an hour should be good, and then dab them dry with a piece of kitchen towel.

Now preheat the oven to 200°

Now get your frying pan and add the onions and a dash of olive oil. Allow them to fry on a low heat for about ten minutes and then add the peppers, aubergine, courgettes, herbs and garlic and fry until the vegetables are softening. Make sure that everything is well coated, (though not swimming) with olive oil.

simply ruddy gorgeous ratatouille recipe i don't mind telling you

At this stage add the vegetables to a baking dish and pour over the tomatoes and mix them up.

Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes and the vegetables should be browned and drippingly unctuous.

At this point it is now ready to serve and if you have guests they will want seconds believe me.

Roasted Vegetable Stock

Rule 1: Forget your cubes.

Rule 2: Make your own stock.

The stock cube taste is fine if you are happy with that chemical construct taste. It was Fanny who pointed this out to me quite recently and it was a bit of a revelation.

an excellent roast vegetable stock even though I say so myself

However I’ll be quite frank my darlings: I’ve been having issues. For a little while now I have been experimenting with different vegetable stock recipes and a lot of them are complete dribble. Tasteless, flavourless, bland and uninteresting.

There is a debate that says mild isn’t bland and I get that. But my experiences showed that unless some punch was added, there would not be a vegetable in the world that could usurp or even match a meat stock. And lets face it I’m pretty nice about vegetarians. One has to be compassionate that’s what I say.

So why would anyone possibly put up with such dullnesses? I can’t answer that but having thought about the meat stock process for a while I took it from first base.

So I roasted the vegetables first having cut them up into chunks.

I put them in a pan with lashings of olive oil and some herbs – thyme mainly.

The vegetables were cooked at 200°c for an hour – turning them every 20 minutes or so so each way they got hit with the heat.

an excellent roast vegetable stock even though I say so myself

In another stockpot I put the water and the bay leaves and some more thyme and started to heat it up, just as the hour was up for the roasted vegetables.

The vegetables went straight into the stockpot, though I loosened the garlic from its casing.

Then I cooked it on a simmer for 3 hours, until the flavour developed satisfactorily

an excellent roast vegetable stock even though I say so myself

Several lugs of olive oil
4 bay leaves
A good sprinkling of thyme
1 whole garlic head
5 carrots cut up into chunks
5 celery stalks cut up into chunks
1 yellow pepper deseeded and cut into chunks
5 tomatoes, quartered
Salt and pepper for enhancement

Once cooled pour it through a sieve/mesh strainer and you will have a stock that will be several times better than any prefabricated stock cube.

vegetable stock recipe by fanny and brenda

Rich shortcrust pastry

It’s not often that I manage to get Fanny to ecstasy but she has been enthusiastic to the point of damp about my new found skills in pastry making. It takes a tart to know a tart that’s what I say. I have to admit that this is a whole new journey that I am enjoying. For years I’ve gone along with the bought stuff thinking that it was too complicated to make myself, but actually it’s not! This has only come about because we have both had mouthfuls of tasteless cardboardy pastry in recent times and knew there must be something better. In the time it would take to get in the car, go to the supermarket, park it, acquire the ready made stuff and return to the house you might as well have done it yourself. And believe me DIY is a lot less time consuming let me tell you! So this is the recipe for rich shortcrust pastry.

160g plain flour
100g butter
A large pinch of sea salt
1 tsp of caster sugar
Approx 2 tablespoons of water

I made my gorgeous pastry on a very warm day. Now; it is said that the best pastry is made with cold hands – mine weren’t! The butter was also reasonably soft. So immediately I broke two of the strict rules that seem to govern good shortcrust pastry making, and it was still dare I say it really quite fabulous. I  dare, because I am correct.

Take a mixing bowl and combine the sugar salt and flour.
Now take the butter in small lumps and add it to the flour mix.
Blend it till you get a crumbly texture.
Add enough water to the dough to get the mixture to combine.
Now: the odd part, which isn’t odd once you get used to it- the fraisage.

Take the bottom of the palm of your hand (the heel) and take a small amount of the pastry and literally smear it down a well floured pastry board. Put that smeared pastry to one side, and then add another and repeat. Wrap it all up into a ball and then repeat the process again. This process is ‘fraisage’.
Now take the ball of pastry, wrap it and refrigerate it for an hour. At this point it will be ready for using in your next recipe, and will keep in the fridge for a few days. It can also be frozen for a while.

Kir Royale Jelly

I am reading a lot at the moment. Since I returned to the UK I have been living at Fanny’s surrounded by Mrs Beeton cookbooks and spiders webs.The only thing to put me off stamping all over the arachnids has been to take up reading.

One excellent read is the Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal. He really is highly inspiring and in a quest to expand our own gastronomic vocabulary I have been reading it avidly and I highly recommend you get a copy if you want to expand your own viewpoints. He makes one think about the challenge of accepted ideas- eg crab ice cream – is it sweet or savoury… I won’t dwell on these preconceptions now – the book explains it all in much more detail and Heston makes it far more entertaining that I can.
kir royale fizzy jelly recipe

He does give a recipe for fizzy jelly however and I am always a sucker for bubbles and alcohol. I have adapted it slightly as I found my own method deemed to work more successfully, and I have added a bit of detail where it was missing in the original version. So give this a try, it will appeal to young and old alike.

Please bear in mind that it is critcal to be observant about temperatures with this recipe.

One 75cl bottle of sparkling white wine, cava, champers etc. Our wine was a cava at 12% alc.
7 gelatine leaves
150 g sugar
100ml creme de cassis


(Half an hour) In Advance:
Put 6 champagne glasses in the freezer
Place the bottle of wine in the freezer for half an hour. Don’t forget it’s there!

It is critical that the wine is very chilled.
Soften the gelatine leaves in a small pan of cold water
kir royale jelly - a lovely light summer's treat

Pour 75 ml of the wine into a small pan and reseal the bottle immediately to retain the fizz.
Add the sugar and the cassis to the pan and heat it gently

Now take your softened gelatine leaves and squeeze out the excess cold water.

Add the gelatine leaves to the cassis and stir until dissolved.
This will happen quite quickly and when it does take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool.

Now the next step requires some care:

Take the cooled mixture and add very carefully and slowly the rest of the cava. You do this not only to retain the fizz, but to prevent too much of a head forming. (The head looks nice at this stage but once it subsides as the jelly cools it will leave a residue that is less fabulous!) So be patient and pour it slowly.

Take the glasses out of the freezer

Then very carefully pour the combined jelly mix into the glasses and stir them.
Replace the glasses with the jelly in the freezer for an hour, then store in the fridge until ready to serve.

This is a delicious soft set jelly which is wonderful on a hot summer’s day in the garden.

quite wonderful kir royale fizzy jelly