During the long Easter weekend, my friend Lisa made almond cake, using a Nigella Lawson recipe featuring marzipan as a key ingredient. How fabulous does that sound? She cunningly poured the batter into a muffin mould to make individual cakes instead of one large cake.

I loved both the sound of the recipe and Lisa’s idea for miniature cakes, so on Easter Sunday, Pete and I followed suit.

We decided to halve the amounts. I also took note of Lisa’s feedback that the recipe produces a really wet and sloppy batter and we reduced the eggs by a third. The batter was perfect.

The resulting cakes were utterly delicious, with a beautiful even texture. They were also very easy to make, since all the ingredients are simply combined using a food processor. They stored well in an airtight box for a few days so they would be a great choice when you need a quick make-ahead recipe for sweet treats.

IMG_20140420_121428 Individual Marzipan Cakes
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Individual Marzipan Cakes

Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe
Makes 4-6 depending on your moulds

Ingredients
125 grams unsalted butter
125 grams marzipan (almond paste)
75 grams caster sugar
2-3 drops teaspoon almond extract
2-3 drops of vanilla extract
2 large eggs
75 grams self-raising flour

Method

  • Preheat oven to 160°C (fan).
  • Liberally butter and flour the muffin mould and set to one side.
  • Cube the butter and marzipan, and either leave out of fridge for an hour or use the microwave to soften a little.
  • Place butter, marzipan and caster sugar into a food processor (with the blade attachment) and process until smooth.
  • Add the almond extract and vanilla bean paste and blitz again, briefly.
  • Add the eggs and process until properly combined.
  • Add the flour and process again until you have a smooth cake batter.
  • Pour batter into muffin mould. We have a bendy rubber spatula that is perfect for making sure no batter is wasted.
  • Bake for half an hour, but start checking after 25 minutes. When the cake looks golden and cooked, check using a fine skewer. If it comes out cleanish, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before turning out and cooling further on a wire rack.

The cakes are tasty served straight away, but develop an added moistness after a day and store well for up to a week.

Nigella suggests serving with raspberries, pureed or stewed apples or creme fraiche and toasted flaked almonds but we thought they were wonderful just as they were.

 

Also, please join me in wishing my lovely Pete and the gorgeous Lisa a very happy birthday, today!

 

Surely it’s impossible not to love soda bread! Not only is it soft and delicious, it’s ridiculously quick and easy to make.

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When I talk about soda bread, I am using the term to cover any bread where bicarbonate of soda is the rising agent, rather than yeast.

This type of bread making is thought to have originated in the Americas, where European settlers and indigenous peoples used potash to leaven quick breads. Recipes began to appear in American cookbooks from the last few years of the 18th century onwards. The technique didn’t really appear in Europe until the middle of the 19th century, when bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) first became available here.

Regardless of the origins, for me Ireland is the spiritual home of soda bread where it’s widely enjoyed, much loved and considered a classic, perhaps even a staple.

Soda bread can be made with wholemeal or white flour, or a combination of both. In Ireland, only versions made from white flour are commonly called soda bread. In Northern Ireland, wholemeal varieties are known as wheaten bread (and are often a little sweetened); in Éire, wholemeal versions are simply called brown bread.

With the exception of buttermilk, the ingredients are all long-life store cupboard essentials, so you can knock up a loaf at short notice. Even if you don’t have buttermilk, which is used in most traditional recipes, natural yoghurt or acidulated milk can be substituted in its place (see recipe). The key is to include an acidic element to activate the bicarbonate of soda.

Indeed, this recipe came about when Pete and I fancied some warm, freshly-baked home bread for lunch but weren’t prepared to wait the several hours a yeasted loaf would have taken.

I have a trusted recipe for soda bread but this time we decided to replace the whole meal flour with spelt – spelt flour is better suited to soda bread than yeasted recipes, as its gluten doesn’t readily form the elasticity required to stretch and trap the air bubbles created by yeast.

We also added malt extract, to give a little more flavour.

Some recipes use a higher proportion of oats to flour than ours, but we find this can make the texture a little too dense and heavy for our liking. Here, we used Mornflake medium oatmeal. Mornflake has been milling oats in South Chesire since 1675 and is still family-owned and managed by the descendants of the original miller, William Lea. The company contracts farms throughout the UK to supply it with grain and now sells both milled oats and a range of breakfast cereals.

We used Sharpham Park white spelt flour, grown on an organic farm in Somerset. We are also huge fans of their pearled spelt, which we use regularly in recipes like this chicken and pea farotto, a risotto-like dish in which spelt takes the place of rice.

 

Malted Spelt Soda Bread Recipe

Ingredients
175g spelt flour (wholegrain or white)
75g strong white flour
25g medium oatmeal
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon malt extract
250-300ml buttermilk

Note: The spelt flour in this recipe can be replaced with regular wholemeal flour.
Note: If you don’t have any buttermilk, you can use plain (natural) yoghurt thinned down with a little milk or sour 250 ml of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
Note: This recipe can be doubled up to make a larger loaf, but you’ll need to increase baking time accordingly.

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 210 C (fan).
  • Combine flours, oatmeal, bicarbonate of soda, salt and malt extract together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add half the buttermilk and mix with the dry ingredients to start forming a dough, then add the remaining buttermilk a little at a time – you may not need the full 300 ml and adding too much results in a very stick dough that’s hard to handle. There’s is no need to knead the dough; simply mix quickly until everything is properly combined and avoid over-working.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place in the centre of a baking tray lined with baking parchment or a silicon liner.
  • Pat down to flatten into a disc, about an inch deep. For a traditionally shaped loaf, press the blunt edge of a knife down into the dough twice to form a cross-shaped indent.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes.
  • Check the bread at 20 minutes by tapping the bottom – the crust should be firm; the sound should be a dull thwack – if not, return to the oven for a few more minutes before checking again.
  • Once done, leave to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  • Break into pieces along the indentation lines and enjoy warm with salted butter and your favourite sweet or savoury topping.

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Kavey Eats received product samples from Mornflake Cereals. We have previously received samples from Sharpham Park.

 

Friends of mine have recommended Spanish brand Lékué to me before; they are fans of its innovative silicone cookware. The range includes steaming, baking and storage containers, including a large selection for microwave cooks and cake makers and decorators.

Bread Maker 4 Bread Maker 1
Bread Maker 2 Bread Maker 3
Lékué images

The item that intrigued me most was the Lékué Bread Maker, a flexible silicone bowl that can be used from start to finish of the bread making process – mix and knead the dough in the bowl, let it rise, knock it back, let it rise again and then pop the whole thing into the oven to bake.

Thus far, we’ve found it a little tricky to mix and knead the dough inside the bowl – its flexible and lightweight nature means that an attempt to lift the sticky dough before pushing it back down ends up lifting the bowl itself. We’ll experiment with different kneading techniques to see if we can overcome this.

However, where the Bread Maker comes into its own is for rising and baking wet, sticky doughs:

The dough needn’t be disturbed after its second rise, thus avoiding the risk of knocking out some of the air. Of course, this can equally well be mitigated by transferring dough from a regular mixing bowl into the final baking container ahead of the second rise.

For baking, the bowl has an ingenious design that allows it to be very easily fastened at the top, leaving it open at each side. The shape of the Bread Maker when fastened, provides both a pleasant rounded shaping of the final loaf as well as an environment in which the bread can create steam as it cooks, which makes for a lovely crisp crust.

The instructions also mention the option of baking the bread in a microwave (and finishing with a few minutes in a regular oven to provide crispness), though we’ve not tried that yet.

Lastly, the bowl is also dishwasher proof, which may be helpful for some, though its silicone nature means it’s a doddle to clean anyway, since nothing sticks to it.

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LekueBreadMaker-4906 LekueBreadMaker-4909
My images

COMPETITION

Lékué have offered a Bread Maker as a competition prize for Kavey Eats readers. The prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite memory of baking or eating freshly made bread.

Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow
@Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a @Lekue Bread Maker from
Kavey Eatshttp://goo.gl/LyjJ5x #KaveyEatsLekue
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 21st March 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a Lékué Bread Maker. The prize include free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Lékué.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a selection of sample products from Lékué.

 

Sometimes I fall behind in writing about cookery books I’ve accepted for review. There is always a stack of books waiting for my attention, and I often feel vaguely guilty that I have already covered books that came in more recently than books that have been waiting a while. So I was delighted when a new friend agreed to take one from the pile and write a guest review about how she got on cooking from it. She chose French Food Safari by Maeve O’Meara and Guillaume Brahimi. Over to Tara Dean and her friend Dawn.

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I met Kavey through a friend when we needed somewhere to crash for the weekend whilst we went to Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park. I had heard much about Kavey, it was a delight to eventually meet both Kavey who eats and Pete who drinks. I live in Bristol and keep myself very busy. I work for an international sexual health company, run my own sports massage business and am studying for my Masters in Occupational Psychology which I will complete early next year. In my spare time I do Bikram yoga, go to the gym and spend time with my amazing friends.

Whilst at Kavey’s I raided her sweet and chocolate box, as a blogger she gets sent lots of samples and so I had a great time, we inevitably got to talking about food and blogging. Kavey had been sent a recipe book to review and was finding her time limited, I was excited and up for the challenge so she asked me to take the book, cook, eat and review. So here we are, I hope you enjoy reading about my experience.

I have a wonderful friend called Dawn who writes the dessert part of this review, we met a few years ago as we both started out our studies in Psychology. As a fellow northerner, she’s from the east I’m from the west, we both love good homely food that fills your belly and makes you feel nice and warm inside. I take my food seriously and don’t like to eat too much junk food. I am known in the office for my interesting concoctions, when I work late on a Thursday my manager stops by the kitchen specifically to inspect what I’m eating. I’ve often been asked at work if I’m vegetarian even when there is meat in the dish because I am eating something homemade which contains vegetables. People are taken aback when I start work at 8am and I have managed to cook a curry or soup for my lunch before arriving. Life’s too short to eat food that does not taste good. I pride myself in making quick, inexpensive and healthy meals. Now that’s not quite how things happen when you cook from a French cooking book. My point is I can relate to people taking food seriously.

I cooked the main and thankfully Dawn did the dessert. We both thought we had picked a fairly easy none complicated dessert for her. One of the phrases I remember from the evening was from her husband Marc when she asked him to help her with the puff pastry. His reply was ‘No. I’ve made puff pastry once’. He meant you only ever made fresh puff pastry once, learn your lesson, and then buy pre-made ready to roll forever more. Knowing that, there are far more fun and less stressful ways you can spend your Saturday afternoon.

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Lamb Navarin

I chose the Lamb Navarin recipe which in our terms is a French Lamb Stew. First stop was the butchers. The recipe calls for 1kg boned lamb shoulder and 1kg forequarter lamb racks, cut between every second rib. After showing my butcher the recipe book we decided it would be half the price, more meat and much easier to have 2 kg of lamb shoulder which he boned and then I could dice. This was very simple to cut and led to a much less messy eating experience and left me with more money to spend on red wine which fits into my northern values. The recipe says to use chicken stock for which it provides a recipe for – ain’t no one got time for that – or water – I compromised and used stock cubes which I do not think took any flavour away. I had never heard of Kipfler potatoes and neither had the assistant at my local greengrocers. I did a quick internet search and up popped a picture of a long nobbly potato. We ended up with Anya potatoes which hopefully did not take anything away.

I found the recipe well written and easy to follow other than wrestling with Dawn for page viewing. There is a point in the recipe which instructs you to strain the sauce through a fine sieve. I really did not see the point of this and as I was cooking in a piping hot, very heavy, cast iron casserole dish I declined to follow. The result was a beautiful navarin with succulent meat and flavoursome sauce. The celeriac puree containing almost a full pack of butter was the perfect accompaniment. As much as the guests enjoyed the navarin the puree enjoyed the most praise. One guest commented that if I made it again he would like to be on the guest list.

Along with preparation you are looking at a good 3 hours to make this meal. That is without an dessert or starter. The recipe claims this dish can serve 8 – 10 people. We had 7 people to feed, no one behaved like a piglet and overfilled their plate and we had very little in the way of leftovers. I think the writer has been overly optimistic. Unless in France they have extremely small portions to allow for the many courses you would normally expect at a dinner party, which of course is entirely possible, however as a northerner I would like my main course to feel like a main. We did serve cheese between the main and the dessert. Although I have always experienced cheese to be served after dessert the author of French Food Safari says any French person knows that the cheese is served before dessert. Not wanting to appear as amateurs we stuck to tradition.

The book itself is well presented and inviting. There are sections on cheeses, meat, and very fancy desserts which you need specialist equipment to attempt. The recipes do look very inviting and I’m looking forward to trying some more…….. maybe for the next dinner party!

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Tarte Tatin by Dawn

A super friend of mine called Tara invited me to do a joint review of the new ‘French Food Safari’ and with the chitchat of good friends it was quickly decided: there would be a dinner party and it would be held in my kitchen. I offered to make dessert since this is a dish I always feel I do in a hurry when I have a dinner party. The idea of oodles of time without distraction from other dishes to prepare, felt like finally, without neglect, I was in a position to consider this dessert’s every need!

The dessert? Tarte Tatin…The perfect antidote to the autumn air. This is a dish I have enjoyed without fail on numerous occasions during my time spent living in France as a student in the 90′s. My husband is part French and always holds a certain nostalgia for this dessert since his French grandmother would often make it.

On first sight, the recipe seemed fairly straightforward. I have, on several occasions baked a Tarte Tatin so thought it near impossible that I should find myself in troubled waters. Oh how I was wrong! The recipe required me to make puff pastry. Although I have experience of making shortcrust pastry I knew straightaway that to make puff pastry you need inherent qualities such as patience, determination and time. With a flick of my hair I decided I had time on my side and should not focus on the aforementioned qualities!

Some points regarding the recipe quantities: the pastry recipe required 500ml water, 250 ml of which needed to be ice-cold. After 250ml water I found my dough to be all pasty and did not even dare to add the next vat of water. I became a little disheartened at this and wondered how on earth I could possibly inject more water into it, considering all my quantities again-had I put too little flour in? All the quantities were right so with deep breath and without further ado I made a pledge to move on and get cracking with peeling the apples. With an eye on the time and my pastry in mind, I looked forward to what I thought had to be the more straightforward part of the recipe.

After peeling, de-seeding and coring the apples I made the caramel. On the previous occasions I’ve made Tarte Tatin I have added the sugar and butter to the fruit at the time of cooking so i was a little surprised that the caramel was made separately but appreciated trying out new methods! I know that you have to e very attentive to a caramel to stop it burning so I gave it my full attention despite the knowledge my pastry was going to be crying out for affection in the fridge before long. Unfortunately what I found is that there was not enough direction in the instructions. i was starting to feel concerned about the caramel bubbling away for 8 mins with apples and then being turned up to full heat until the apples became caramelised. I was also using a cast-iron pan which does, of course, retain a lot of heat in comparison to other materials.

The apples looked golden and caramelised and picture-perfect. Time to return to the pastry again…

I started to become aware of time: with guests arriving at 8pm I was not going to have this dessert done and dusted before their arrival even though I had started at around 5:15pm. I estimated that by 8:15pm the Tarte, pastry in tow, would be ready to put in the oven. One aspect which would have really helped in making this pastry… photos. There weren’t enough photos of the various contortions this pastry required during the rolls. A picture of all four corners folded in would have been welcomed with open arms.

Three hours and 15 minutes later saw the birth of my Tarte Tatin. It looked amazing.

The taste was disappointing. Everyone agreed it tasted a little burned. A slightly burned caramel sullied the whole dish and those melt in your mouth apples were suddenly left without a plan B. The pastry was ok but nothing special, not quite what I’d expect from having toiled and troubled over it for hours… I kicked myself for not buying ready-made pastry. At least I would have had an easier time coming to terms with a burnt caramel not to mention extra time to prepare for guests.

With more handholding I could have tackled this dessert. I cook and bake a great deal with 2 small children and a husband to feed but this recipe needed a chef (as well as more photos, directions and bags of time) and that, I hasten to add, I am definitely not.

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With thanks to Tara and Dean for their review, and to Hardie Grant for review copy of French Food Safari.

 

A few months ago, after yet another session of making jam (with cherries from the Brogdale National Fruit Collection) that added fifteen more jars to the already-full-to-groaning jam cupboard, Pete decided some simple and tasty scones were just the ticket to make an inroad into the jam lake I cooked into existence.

This recipe is by Isabella Beeton, a popular 19th century author of articles and books on cooking and household management. Mrs Beeton was one of the first cookery book writers in the UK, but died just short of her 29th birthday, just a few years after her collection of articles written for her publisher husband’s magazines were collated into a book called “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. The book was a complete guide to running a Victorian household, and included chapters on clothing, child care, managing servants, animal husbandry and much more. But the core subject of the book was about cooking, and hence it was often also referred to as Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook.

MrsBeetonScones-152426

We have a modern edition focusing on Mrs Beeton’s baking recipes, from which Pete chose this simple scone recipe.

 

Mrs Beeton’s Plain Scones

Ingredients
Fat for greasing
225 grams / 8 oz self-raising flour
2.5 ml / 0.5 teaspoon salt
25-50 grams / 1-2 oz butter
125-150 ml / 4-5 fluid oz milk
Flour for kneading
Milk or beaten egg for glazing (optional)

Method

  • Grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 200 C (fan).
  • Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter, then mix to a soft dough with the milk. Knead very lightly on a floured surface until smooth.
  • Roll or pat the dough out to about 1 cm thick and cut into rounds using a 6 cm cutter. Re-roll trimmings and cut, until all dough is used.
  • Place the scones onto the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with milk or beaten egg, if using.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm or cold.

MrsBeetonScones-144831 MrsBeetonScones-152021

We love ours with clotted cream and jam, though whipped double cream will do when clotted cream is unavailable. Or butter, in a pinch!

What recipe(s) do you use and how do you eat yours? And what’s your stance on the jam or cream first debate?

 

Camilla Stephens began her culinary career developing food for (UK-based) coffee chain, the Seattle Coffee Company. When it was bought out by Starbucks, she stayed on board creating tasty treats to be sold across the chain throughout the day. Somewhere along the way, she learned to make really tasty pies. Fast forward several years to 2003 when Camilla and husband James created Higgidy, selling beautiful handmade pies – even though the business has grown phenomenally in its first decade, every single pie is still shaped and filled by hand and the product range now includes a variety of quiches too. There are more traditional recipes such as beef, stilton and ale in a shortcrust pastry case and bacon and cheddar quiche, as well as more inventive recipes like sweet potato and feta pie with pumpkin seeds.

Pete and I aren’t averse to buying ready made meals so we’ve enjoyed Higgidy products at home a number of times. The key to their success is that they really do taste home made.

So we had high hopes for Camilla’s recently-released Higgidy Cookbook, promising “100 Recipes for Pies and More”. We were not disappointed and it didn’t take long for me to bookmark a slew of recipes that appealed: chicken and chorizo with spiced paprika crumble, chinese spiced beef pies, no-nonsense steak and ale pie, giant gruyere and ham sandwich, melt-in-the-middle pesto chicken (filo parcels), hot-smoked salmon gougère (scuppered, on the first attempt, by our inability to find hot-smoked salmon in our local shops), rösti-topped chicken and pancetta pie, wintry quiche with walnutty pastry, smoked haddock frying-pan pie, cheddar ploughman tartlets, cherry tomato tarte tatin, sticky ginger and apple tarte tatin, pear and whisky tart, oaty treacle tart, chocolate snowflake tart and sticky onions!

Of course, many of these recipes are wonderfully hearty and perfect winter warmers at this this cold, dark and wet time of year.

HiggidyPorkApplePie-4106 HiggidyLambHotPot-2219
Pork and apple stroganoff pie with cheddar crust; lamb hotpot

So far, Pete’s made two recipes from the book and we have been delighted with both. The hearty lamb hotpot was a classic; simple to make, tasty and warming to eat. The pork and apple stroganoff pie with cheddar crust was fantastic. Oddly enough, after making (and blogging) an apple pie with an almost identical design on top (which I made before having seen the Higgidy pie photograph) I had been chatting on twitter about trying apple pie with a cheddar crust, so finding this recipe soon afterwards was serendipitous! It didn’t disappoint.

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Higgidy Pork and Apple Stroganoff Pie with Cheddar Crust

Equipment
1 x 1.4 litre ovenproof pie dish

Ingredients
For the cheddar pastry

230 grams plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
0.5 teaspoon salt
125 grams butter, chilled and diced
40 grams mature cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons ice-cold water
For the filling
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
A good knob of butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, thinly slievd
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600 grams pork tenderloin, cut into 2-3 cm pieces
2 eating apples, such as Braeburn, peeled, cored and cut into small wedges
2 tablespoons plain flour
200 ml cider
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
150 ml full-fat soured cream
150 ml hot chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Note: We skipped the egg-wash, so our pie didn’t have the pretty glossy appearance of Camilla’s.

Method

  • To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a food processor. Add the chilled butter and pulse until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese, then add the ice-cold water, just enough to bring the pastry together. Shape into a round disc, wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat a tablespoon of oil with the butter in a large non-stick frying pan, add the onion and leek, and cook gently for 5 minutes to soften the vegetables. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Spoon into your pie dish.
  • Increase the heat, add a splash more oil, then fry the pork for a couple of minutes only, just enough to brown the meat. Spoon into the pie dish.

HiggidyPorkApplePie-4097

  • Keep the pan on a high heat and fry the apple pieces in the remaining fat, until lightly browned and Beginning to soften. Transfer to the pie dish. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir well, to evenly combine.

HiggidyPorkApplePie-4096 HiggidyPorkApplePie-4098

  • Pour the cider into the empty pan and bubble until reduced by half. Lower the heat, add the mustard, soured cream and stock and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and immediately pour over the meat in the pie dish. Give it all a good stir and set aside to cook completely.

HiggidyPorkApplePie-4099

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C / fan 180 C / gas mark 6. Brush the edges of the pie dish with beaten egg.
  • On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick and drape it over the top of the filling. Crimp the edges to seal. Cut a steam hole in the middle.
  • Decorate the top of the pastry with your pastry trimmings (cut into apple shapes or leaves) and brush the pie all over with beaten egg.

HiggidyPorkApplePie-4103

  • Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the filling is piping hot and the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with wilted kale.

HiggidyPorkApplePie-4105 HiggidyPorkApplePie-4107

 

The Higgidy Cookbook published by Quercus, is currently available (at time of posting) on Amazon for a very bargainous £7 (RRP £16.99).

Kavey Eats was sent a review copy of the book by Higgidy.

Oct 292013
 

I love autumn – the early half, when the leaves on the trees create a riot of my favourite colours and there is still a good chance of sunny days that are chilly but not freezing cold. And it’s apple season too. As I discovered recently, the apple isn’t a native fruit, but it’s become so much a part of our agricultural and gardening landscape that it’s hard not to think of it as a quintessentially British fruit.

Last year, we had such an outrageously enormous harvest from just two trees on our allotment that I spent several days preserving apples in chutneys, jellies and apple pie filling.

This year’s harvest wasn’t quite as overwhelming but I’ve still been enjoying a little more preserving, not to mention apple (and foraged blackberry) crumbles and more apple pies.

ApplePie-172823

When we’re making a pie fresh, rather than using canned apple pie filling, the recipe we use for the filling is a very simple one taken from Angela Nilsen’s Ultimate Apple Pie. Rather than using her pastry recipe, we usually buy ready-made shortcrust pastry from the supermarket. Pete preps the apples, rolls the pastry and lays the base and lid. I make the filling mix and do the pie decorations. A team effort though I have the easier tasks!

I like to use a mix of cooking and eating apples so that there are differences in the texture and flavour of the fruit, once cooked. This pie was made with four different types of apples; most were from our allotment and garden with an additional one from the shops.

ApplePie-2021 ApplePie-2023
ApplePie-2 ApplePie-1
Last 2 images by Jason Ng, thanks Jason!

Classic Apple Pie Recipe

Ingredients
500 grams shortcrust pastry, chilled
1 kg mixed apples, peeled and cored weight
Optional: large bowl of cold water and squirt of lemon juice
150g caster sugar + extra for sprinkling
0.5 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 egg white, very loosely beaten

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170 C (fan).
  • Peel, core and slice the apples. You can keep the prepped apples fresh in a bowl of cold water with a squirt of lemon juice added but do drain them well and quickly pat them dry before continuing with recipe.
  • Toss the apples in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix with your hands to make sure the coating is evenly distributed.
  • Divide the pastry, setting aside two thirds for the base and one third for the lid. Roll out the base and lay into a reasonably deep pie dish.
  • Pile the apples inside, heaping them towards the centre.
  • Roll the pastry for the lid, brush a little water over the edges of the base and position the lid on top. Use a sharp knife to trim away excess pastry and then press down with fingers or a fork to ensure a good seal and make a pretty edge.
  • Roll out the leftover pastry and use a small round pastry cutter to cut out three circles. Use your finger to make a dent in each one, so they look more apple-like. Use the same pastry cutter to cut three simple leaf shapes. Roll or cut tiny fragments to use as stems. Use water to moisten and stick the pieces onto the pie lid.
  • Loosely beat the egg white and brush over the entire pie and then sprinkle with a little caster sugar.
  • Cut a  few slashes or crosses to allow steam to escape during cooking.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the pastry is beautifully golden.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to sit and rest for 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle a little more caster sugar over the top.
  • Serve with custard, vanilla ice cream, clotted cream, double cream or a delicious clotted cream ice cream my friend found in Waitrose.

 

Apple pie is such a classic and yet there are many variations. What recipe or style of apple pie do you prefer and what do you like to serve it with?

 

I adore flat peaches.

As I’ve written before, they’re also known as doughnut peaches, saturn peaches and even UFO peaches, because of their flattened disc-like shape. Usually they’re superbly sweet and impossible to eat without dribbling copious sticky juice down chin and arms. In recent years, I’ve found them easier than ever to find; my local grocery shops usually sell them very cheaply throughout their season. I also buy flat nectarines, which are the same fruit but with smooth rather than furry skins.

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I’ve been wanting to make a Tarte Tatin for years. Traditionally made with apples, this French sweet is an upside down caramelised fruit tart made by making caramel in a heavy based pan, adding the fruit over the caramel, covering with pastry and then transferring to the oven to bake. It’s flipped back over to serve.

I finally decided to give the technique a go after buying a large bowl of giant flat nectarines that were so ripe I knew they wouldn’t last long. As is my usual won’t, I read a frankly ridiculous number of recipes on the web, decided on the general approach I liked best and then winged it to make my own version. Even traditionalists seem undecided between shortcrust and flaky pastry. I went for the latter.

The result was so good I made it again the weekend after, using smaller flat peaches the second time around. On the second occasion, I decided to see what happened if I made more caramel but found the result too liquidy – I think it essentially poached the peaches rather than baking them and didn’t allow the butter and sugar to thicken further during baking. So I’m giving you the recipe with the amounts I used the first time, which created a thicker, stickier caramel.

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Upside Down Caramelised Flat Peach Tart aka Flat Peach Tarte Tatin

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
3-6 ripe flat peaches or nectarines, depending on size
60 grams salted butter
100 grams sugar
1 roll ready made puff pastry
Optional: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 C (fan).
  • Wash the peaches, half them horizontally and carefully scoop or cut out the stone.

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  • If you’re adding the cinnamon, mix it thoroughly into the sugar.
  • In a large, heavy-based, oven-proof frying pan melt the butter, then sprinkle the sugar evenly across the pan.

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  • Once the sugar has melted and the mixture starts to brown a little, add the flat peaches, cut-side down.

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  • If your peaches are a little hard, you may want to cook them in the caramel for a few minutes; I bought mine soft and ripe, so they cooked only as long as it took me to get the pastry out of the fridge and cut it.
  • Cut a square from the puff pastry sheet and lay it over the peaches. Use a knife to cut the pastry corners away and tuck the edges down around the fruit.

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  • Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

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  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Shake the pan to see if the tart will come away from the base. If not, heat the pan for 10 seconds on the hob to melt the surface of the caramel and try again.
  • Place a large plate over the pan, grasp both together and flip over. My tarts (and all the fruit pieces) came away cleanly from the pan both times.

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  • Serve hot or cold with vanilla ice cream, custard or cream.

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I also want to tell you about a new business that got in touch with me recently to ask if I’d like to try their products. Cinnamon Hill import fresh cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam; true cinnamon from the former and cassia bark from the latter. They also sell a cinnamon grater with a specially designed metal grate and gorgeous oak handle; it comes with a pretty hand-made ceramic cup in which to store it. The grater worked very well indeed and the cinnamon was certainly intensely fragrant and had a lovely flavour. It does come at a price though, at £12 and £8 respectively for just 5 sticks of Sri Lankan or Vietnamese cinnamon and £50 for the grater (which includes £20 of cinnamon).

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Kavey Eats received product samples from Cinnamon Hill.

 

This Easter I ran a competition to win a Bettys chocolate badger and was overwhelmed by the popularity of the giveaway! I loved reading the responses to my entry question of which woodland animal people wanted to see similarly immortalised in chocolate. Following the competition, I arranged with Kelly Young (Engagement Manager for Bettys) for Pete and I to pay them a visit on the way back from our holiday in Islay.

After overnighting with friends in beautiful Kirby Malham (and visiting their newly acquired farm shop in Airton) we made our way through beautiful countryside to Bettys attractive HQ near central Harrogate.

As I explained in that previous post, Bettys is a family business founded back in 1919 by a young Swiss man, Frederick Belmont. Today, the business is still run by his descendants and they have kept alive strong links to the country of his birth. Indeed current chairman Lesley Wild ensures that several Swiss-inspired recipes are offered on the menus in the Cafe Tea Rooms as well as a selection of Swiss wines. These sit comfortably side by side with the many local Yorkshire specialities that Bettys is also known for.

HQ is situated in a spacious, purpose-built estate in Plumpton Park with several Swiss-chalet inspired low-rise buildings. Even the parking areas impressed me, with pretty trees giving shade to most spaces and gardeners busily tending the green spaces when we arrived.

Signed in, we quickly donned our white coats and attractive hair nets (see below) before setting off on a genuinely fascinating tour of the bakery; it’s here that they make the baked goods sold in Bettys’ six Cafe Tea Rooms and online shop.

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To my surprise, virtually everything is made just like it would be in a home kitchen (but on a bigger scale). Aside from a couple of larger-than-usual stand mixers, cakes are iced and decorated, biscuit dough is rolled and cut, pastries are filled and assembled, bread is shaped into loaves, macarons are piped … by hand. Indeed, the two machines they use to cut shortbread biscuits into even flat circles and mille feuille pastry into perfect rectangles, are a rare contrast to the rest of the bakery’s old school methods.

Mostly we just watched, listening to Peter Hartley – one of the bakery managers – explain the various sections and methods used, but I was delighted to have a go at foil-wrapping a large chocolate coin wearing the special gloves used to achieve a smooth and lustrous finish.

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The bakery isn’t averse to modern technology where it’s useful and doesn’t compromise the product, such as their vast ovens with rotating racks inside, but I couldn’t help but fall for the modern-build old-design wood-fired oven in which they bake traditional breads.

After the bakery tour, we thought our agenda had us taking a quick peek around the Bettys Cookery School, located on the same site. With no courses scheduled on a Monday, we knew there wouldn’t be much going on.

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But to our surprise and delight, Kelly had secretly arranged for senior tutor Lisa Bennison to run a private class just for us, to give us a taster of the cookery school in action.

Lisa taught us two dishes during our class: Zuri-Geschnetzeltes and Spätzle (often written as spaetzle in languages without the umlaut). The first is thinly sliced veal in a sauce of mushrooms, cream, white and onions and the second is little egg noodles shaped by pushing a thick batter into boiling water through small holes – Bettys use a specialist pan. In this recipe, the freshly boiled spaetzle were fried in butter before serving.

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We loved Lisa’s enthusiastic, humorous but tip-packed teaching style and there were plenty of giggles to go round as Pete mixed batter, boiled and fried his spaetzle under Lisa’s watchful eye. The proof was in the tasting and the whole dish tasted very good indeed.

You can find the Bettys cookery school recipes for Zuri-Geschnetzeltes and Spätzle here.

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image courtesy of Bettys

After our wonderful class in the cookery school, Kelly had one more treat in store for us – lunch at the nearest Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms in central Harrogate. The interior is spacious and beautiful, full of gorgeous original features. There’s a cafe on the ground floor and the slightly more formal Montpellier downstairs.

Although many fellow diners were enjoying an early afternoon tea, we all chose from the delicious menu of savoury dishes, many with a strong Swiss influence.

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Pete’s Original Yorkshire Rarebit was made with mature Cheddar, Worcestershire sauce and Yorkshire ale. Swimming in cheese, it was a rich and heavy dish, but tasty.

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My Swiss Rosti was topped with chicken and cheese. It was a delicious combination of caramelised potatoes on the surface and soft, almost steamed potatoes in the centre.

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Kelly went for a beautifully summery pea and spinach ravioli which looked very attractive on the plate and certainly earned smiles of appreciation as she ate.

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Afterwards, we enjoyed desserts from the cake trolley. Beautiful!

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Last, a quick dash around the shop for me to buy some sweet treats to bring home and we finally made our way back to London, regretful that Bettys local ethos makes it unlikely that we’ll see a branch open near us anytime soon.

Coming next, a competition to win some Bettys deliciousness for yourself…

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Bettys bakery, cookery school and cafe tea room.

Jul 052013
 

When we headed up to Islay for a week’s holiday recently, I took along a jar of my home-made apple pie filling, canned a few months ago using apples from our allotment trees. The plan was to make a pie for dessert one evening. A fruitless supermarket search for ready-made short crust pastry (and a realistic acknowledgement that none of us were in the mood to make some from scratch) lead to the decision to switch to a crumble instead.

But earlier in the day, we’d made cookies (magnificent 3D safari cookies, as it happens) and had a generous portion of cookie dough leftover.

In a eureka moment I decided that cookie dough would be an even quicker option and set Pete to work on grating it. It’s best to grate the dough when it’s cold and hard out of the fridge. In fact, frozen would probably be even better, as the dough gets warm the longer you hold it, and consequently harder to grate.

Spread in a thick even layer over the pie filling and baked until the filling was piping hot and the topping golden brown, we discovered that the cookie dough made a wonderful, crunchy-chewy lid which worked very well indeed.

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The recipe we used for the cookie dough is given below, but I can’t provide exact quantities as I’m not sure exactly how much we used for the cookies… at least half, perhaps two thirds or even more? So you probably only need somewhere between a quarter to a half of the recipe below if you’re using it as pie topping, assuming a similarly sized pie dish.

Or why not make the full amount and make some cookies too? Rolled about half a centimetre thick they take about 10 minutes at 180 C (check after 8 and bake until golden brown) and last well in an airtight book. They make slightly chewy cookies which hold their shape well and are very tasty.

 

Sugar Cookie Dough for Cookie Dough Crumble

Ingredients
225 grams unsalted butter (at room temperature)
225 grams sugar
2 large eggs
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean, 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
600 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon salt

Method

  • Cream butter and sugar. If using to make shaped cookies, don’t over beat – too much air incorporated will cause the dough to spread more during baking.
  • Add eggs and vanilla and mix in.
  • Mix in dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Mix into smooth dough. Again, don’t over work.
  • Refrigerate for at least half an hour before using.

 

Have you had any wonderful eureka moments when adapting cooking plans to ingredients at hand and laziness levels? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

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