Monday, 19 October 2015

Butternut Squash, Smoked Haddock & Kale Tart with Wholemeal Walnut Pastry

Autumn in a tart. Nutty, wholemeal pastry packed full of some of my favourite autumnal ingredients. 

I am slightly obsessed with Autumn. It's the one time of year when the seasonal fruit and vegetables really do match up to the gorgeous golden colours of the leaves. The exciting autumnal produce - sweetcorn, squash, leeks, plums, kale, figs, cabbage - has me running to my kitchen. 

To kick off my Autumn cooking fest this year, the lovely folk at Wholegood sent me a (quite frankly ginormous) box of uber fresh, organic fruit and veg. This was the first of many new recipes I've developed over the past four weeks (cooking is one thing, finding time to write about it in the chaos of family life is another...).

I'm a big fan of savoury tarts. They're perfect for family meals, portable for packed lunches and great for using up veg or making a small quantity of cheese or fish go a long way. They can also be easily grabbed by small hands, making them really practical for weaning. With this in mind, I didn't  add any salt to this tart, other than the small amount of smoked fish. If you're not feeding small people, then do add a good pinch of salt to the pastry and season the filling to taste. 

If you don't eat fish, then this tart works brilliantly with blue cheese too - omit the smoked haddock and black peppercorns, skip the fish poaching step, reduce the quantity of whole milk to 150ml (and whisk it directly  in with the cream and eggs) and add 100g crumbled blue cheese with the vegetables. 


For the pastry:

25g walnuts
100g plain flour
60g wholemeal flour
80g unsalted butter
50ml cold water

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash (approx 500g), peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
150g natural undyed smoked haddock, skin removed
175ml whole milk
5 whole peppercorns
3 or 4 big stalls of green curly kale
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
150ml double cream
2 medium eggs
freshly ground black pepper


Start by making the pastry. 

Preheat the oven to 170C. 

Put the walnuts on a small baking tray and roast for 8 minutes. Leave to cool completely then put them into a food processor or blender and pulse until finely ground. 

Put the flours, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Stir through the ground walnuts. Add the cold water, a little at a time, and bring together to form a ball (you may not need it all), handling the pastry lightly and as little as possible.  Flatten into a patty, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Grease a 23cm deep fluted loose bottomed tart tin. Roll the pastry out until it is about 3mm thick and line the tart tin, trimming the excess pastry around the edge of the tin. Using a fork, gently prick the pastry in the base of the tin all over, without piercing the pastry. Put the lined tart tin into the fridge to chill for 15 minutes (or longer). 

Preheat the oven to 200C. 

Put the cubed butternut squash and 1 tbsp of the olive oil into a roasting tin and mix well. Roast for 25-30 minutes until the squash is cooked and beginning to brown at the edges. 

Whilst the squash is roasting, blind bake your pastry.  Remove the lined tart tin from the fridge, line with a piece of non stick baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking parchment and baking beans and return to the oven for a further 6-8 minutes (or until the pastry is just cooked through and starting to turn  lightly golden). Remove from the oven ready to fill (see below). 

Whilst the squash and pastry are in the oven, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the whole milk and the peppercorns and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the smoked haddock and poach for 5 minutes, or until cooked through. 

Drain the milk into a jug, discard the peppercorns and put the smoked haddock to one side until it is cool enough to handle. Once cooled, check for bones and flake into small pieces. 

Remove the thick stalks from the kale and wash well. Bring a pan of water to the boil, blanch the kale leaves for 1-2 minutes, drain and cool under running cold water. Squeeze out any excess water and shred finely. 

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened. 

Mix the roasted squash, onion, kale, smoked haddock together with some grated nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper and spread out inside the blind baked pastry case. 

Beat the eggs, reserved poaching milk and double cream together and pour over the filling. 

Put the tart into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned and set. 

Remove from the oven and place the tart on a cooling rack. Leave for 15 minutes to cool before removing he tart from the tin to serve. 

Thanks to Wholegood for sending me a big box of organic veg and fruit to cook with, including this butternut squash and kale. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Fig Frangipane Cake

Drop whatever you're doing and go and buy some figs. Quick. It's time to make the most of them before their season is done and dusted. You'll need the ripest, juiciest figs you can lay your hands on. And, if you're anything like me. you should probably buy more than you think you'll need as they have a habit of disappearing.

Sat atop creamy Greek yogurt with a sprinkling of granola for breakfast. Roasted with blue cheese and drizzled with honey and sherry vinegar for lunch. Baked in a tart with goat's cheese and thyme for tea. Eaten straight from the fruit bowl.

This little tart-cake hybrid came about last week when Milli Taylor posted something similar on her (frankly drool-worthy) instagram feed. One trip to the Magic Shop later and, with figs and ground almonds in hand, I set about baking, just in time for Great British Bake Off viewing. Well, because, as everyone knows, it is impossible to watch Bake Off without, at the very least, a massive slice of cake to hand. Since then, I've baked it for Band of Bakers, a visit from my mother in law and most recently for a friend who has just had a baby. She'll be needing all the cake she can get to see her through those long sleepless nights. 

It's kind of a fig frangipane tart which lost it's crust along the way. The flour means it is a little more cake like than my usual frangipane, but it does need to be substantial enough to make it from plate to mouth without it's pastry scaffolding. Sort of.


150g unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp amaretto
finely grated zest of 1 orange
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g ground almonds
2 ripe figs
1 tbsp apricot jam


Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan). 

Grease a 23cm round deep fluted loose bottomed tart tin with a little unsalted butter.

Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, beat the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy (this can easily take 5 minutes or longer, depending on your mixer).

Beat the eggs together with the orange zest and amaretto, then add this to the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time and continue mixing until incorporated. Don't worry if the batter looks a little like it has curdled, it will come together when you add the flour.

Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the batter along with the ground almonds. Mix until just combined.

Put the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top.

Cut each fig into eight equal pieces and arrange them on top of the batter, pushing them in lightly without submerging them in the batter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown on top and a skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Whilst the tart is cooling, heat the apricot jam and sieve to remove any large pieces of fruit. Stir 1 tsp boiling water into the sieved jam and, using a pastry brush, brush all over the top of the tart.

I think it tastes pretty good still slightly warm, served with a good dollop of clotted cream.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Plum & Cobnut Tart

There was a lot of baking going on in our house last weekend.  I was recipe testing choux pastry for a chocolate & salted caramel Paris-Brest. But even with a litre of chocolate custard in the fridge and a tin full of choux buns, all I wanted to eat was something else. A more homely bake. Fine patisserie is all well and good (and it has its place - it was the only thing I craved during my last pregnancy when I went on the hunt for the best mille-feuille I could find in London...) but there are times when I much prefer a simple, home baked tart.

This one is autumn in tart form. Plums. Cobnuts. Perhaps served with a big spoonful of clotted cream.

I can't quite believe that I had never tasted, let alone cooked with, a cobnut until a couple of weeks ago. All those years missing out on what is a very tasty nut. Still, I'm on the case now (just as the season starts to draw to a close...).  


For the pastry:

125g plain flour
25g icing sugar
75g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
5ml cold water

For the frangipan:

100g fresh cobnuts, shelled weight
25g ground almonds
125g unsalted butter
125g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs

For the plums:

300g sweet plums
2 tbsp golden caster sugar


Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and prepare a 23cm deep fluted tart tin.

Start by making the pastry.  Mix together the flour, sugar, butter and salt until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Whisk the egg yolk and cold water together and then add to the flour mixture to bring it together to form a ball of pastry.  Handle as little as possible.  Shape into patty, wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour.  (I usually make a double quantity of pastry and then put half in the freezer for next time).

Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin.  Prick the base of the pastry with a fork all over and put it back in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to chill.

Line the pastry case with baking parchment and baking beans and blind bake it for 15 minutes.  Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 6 or 7 minutes until the pastry has just begun to turn golden brown.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.

Whilst the pastry is cooking, prepare the plums and the frangipan.

For the plums, halve them all and remove the stones.  Sprinkle 1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar over the cut sides of 14 plum halves and put them to one side.  Put the remaining plums and 1 and 1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar in a small pan and cook over a medium heat until the plums have broken down to look like a chunky jam.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then remove the skins.

To make the frangipan, roast the shelled cobnuts for around 10 minutes.  Put them into a food processor and roughly grind.  Add the ground almonds, golden caster sugar, unsalted butter, plain flour and eggs to the food processor and mix to form a smooth paste.

Spread the plum 'jam' over the base of the pastry case, then spread the frangipan mixture over the top, taking care to cover all of the plum jam.  Gently press the plum halves into the frangipan cut side up.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the frangipan is a light golden colour and cooked through.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Spelt, Sprouted Bean & Tomato Salad

The glorious Isle of Wight tomatoes which have brightened my days all summer are still tasting pretty good, but my mind has already begun to wander to the the delights of autumn.  My favourite season, with its orange tones, majestic squash and gutsy fruit puddings.  But before I bid the summer farewell, there is that short period where my light lunchtime salads slowly become a little more robust and certain ingredients start to reappear like long lost friends.

I had dug out a box of Sharpham Park pearled spelt last week when the weather was damp and dismal with thoughts of a spelt risotto with squash, chestnuts, spinach and goat's cheese, but the summer has decided to grace us with one last hurrah.  So one short fridge forage later, the risotto was ditched in favour of a hearty salad.

The tahini gives the dressing a lovely creamy texture.  Go easy on the garlic - it really does only need one small clove or half a large clove. 


200g pearled spelt

125g sprouted beans
4 or 5 medium tomatoes
8 radishes
a small bunch flat leaf parsley

For the dressing:

1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt, ground
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp light tahini
1 & 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil


Cook the pearled spelt according the the packet instructions.  I usually wash mine well, put in a small pan, add 300ml water, put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.  If there is any moisture left, I remove the lid and stir over a low heat for a minute or two.  Spread out on a plate to cool.

In a medium sized bowl mix the ingredients for the dressing until emulsified (one of those little 'wonder whisks' does this job brilliantly).

Cut each of the tomatoes into quarters and chop or slice the radishes.  Roughly chop the parsley - leaves and stalks.

Add the spelt, sprouted beans and chopped parsley to the dressing and mix well.  Then add the tomatoes and radishes, stir lightly and serve.

Serves 4 for a light lunch.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pistachio, Raspberry & Rose Bundt - A Wedding Present

Once upon a time, there were two girls who lived in South East London and who both loved baking.  Over a glass or three of wine they plotted and planned and decided to share their passion for all things baked.  With more than a small dose of trepidation they organised the inaugural gathering of the Band of Bakers - a bake club for South East London - and have never looked back.

Sometime later, one of the girls married the man of her dreams.  The other girl, not content with just buying a wedding gift, decided to create a cake to mark this special, romantic occasion.  A beautiful cake which could be baked again and again as they all lived happily ever after.

For Gemma & Ollie Thomas.


For the cake:

150g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
120g plain full fat yogurt (unsweetened)
2 tsp rose water 
150g good quality shelled pistachios, roughly ground 
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g fresh raspberries

For the icing and decoration:

2 tbsp rose water
125g icing sugar, sifted
pistachios, roughly chopped
edible dried rose petals


Preheat the oven to 180C.

Prepare a small bundt tin - grease with butter and then coat with a little flour.

Beat the unsalted butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.  This will take about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk.

In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, plain yogurt and rose water.  Add to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until combined.  

Sift the plain flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix until just combined, then gently fold in the pistachios.

Put half of the cake batter into the bunt tin, then push half of the raspberries gently and evenly into the batter. Add the remaining cake batter and repeat the same process with the rest of the raspberries.  Smooth the top of the batter with the back of spoon until all of the raspberries are covered.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes until golden and risen.  Test with a cake tester - it should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs, but not wet batter.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for at least an hour, then turn out onto a cooling rack.  If you try to turn it out too soon, the cake could split.

Whilst the cake is cooling prepare the icing by mixing the rosewater and icing sugar together.  Once the cake has cooled decorate with the icing, chopped pistachios and rose petals.

*A little note about the ingredients for this cake: it will taste so much better if you use really good pistachios and rose water.  I buy both of mine from Persepolis in Peckham.  If you aren't lucky enough to live nearby like me, you can order online.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Clotted Cream & Stem Ginger Shortbread

My friend came back from Cornwall recently with a little gift of some clotted cream for me. Not one of those tubs you can buy in the supermarket (you know, the sort that doesn't even do a round of cream teas for one person let alone two). No, he brought me a kilo of the stuff. A whole kilo of Cornwall's finest Rodda's Clotted Cream.

That's a lot of a cream. 

So I baked a batch of scones and cracked open the only remaining jar of last summer's homemade strawberry jam. Then I baked another batch, but I was barely making an indent.

Next up was a Clotted Cream & Strawberry Semifreddo. I could have eaten that until the cows came home, but I could feel my arteries hardening with each spoonful, so I donated half of it to the kind bringer of the clotted cream.

Finally, inspired by biscuit week on the Great British Bake Off, I baked these little beauties - Clotted Cream & Stem Ginger Shortbread. 


100g plain flour
50g rice flour
75g Rodda's clotted cream
75g good quality unsalted butter
50g golden caster sugar
2 pieces of stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 160C.

Combine the plain flour, rice flour and unsalted butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Mix in the clotted cream, sugar and stem ginger, then form into a ball of dough, handling as lightly as possible.

Roll out to 1cm thick and cut into rounds using a 4cm straight sided cookie cutter.  You can use any size or shape of cutter you like, but you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly.

Carefully lift each biscuit and place on a prepared baking tray (I use the non stick liner from Lakeland so that I don't have to worry about greasing the baking tray).

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the shortbread are barely golden.  Leave to cool on the baking tray for at least 10 minutes and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Stilton, Potato & Caramelised Onion Tart

Whenever we go into a cheese shop the first thing my 2 year old son will do is ask for stilton.  Usually at the top of his voice, much to the amusement of anyone in earshot.  He's well known at both of our local cheese haunts - The Cheese Block and Mootown (whose Bermondsey Spa he is also quite partial too, especially when eaten straight off the knife) - for his adventures in strong, mature and stinky cheese.

It's hardly surprising though given the quantities of blue cheese I used to demolish as my parents pushed me around the market on a Saturday morning in my pushchair whilst they did their weekly shop.  My personal favourite was Danish Blue at that time, or so my Dad tells me.

Back in February we spent a week holed up in a converted barn in the foothills of the Black Mountains.  It was the sort of holiday where we sheltered from the freezing temperatures outside, ate copious amounts of cheese and pottered around the kitchen baking focaccia, coconut breakfast cake, cinnamon buns and savoury tarts. 

This tart, packed with new potatoes, caramelised onions and stilton, is what I'd refer to as a substantial tart.  The sort you only need a simple salad with in summer.  I'd had the idea for it in mind for quite a while, so baked it for the first time that week in Wales and more recently for my Tea Room at the Sunday Art Salon in Brockley.

I like it best when it's served cold for lunch or a picnic the next day.


For the pastry:

225g plain flour
110g unsalted butter
pinch salt
125ml cold water

For the filling:

5 medium onions
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp sherry vinegar
100g-150g good stilton, broken into pieces
6 medium new potatoes, cooked and sliced
300ml double cream
2 medium eggs
salt & black pepper


Start by making the pastry.  Put the flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Add the cold water, a little at a time, and bring together to form a ball (you may not need it all), handling the pastry lightly and as little as possible.  Flatten into a patty, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Peel and halve the onions, then slice into 'half rings' about 5mm thick.  Heat a heavy based frying pan over a low heat, add the rapeseed oil and fry the onions for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden brown.  Don't try to rush this, they need to cook slowly to develop the flavour.  Add the sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the sherry vinegar and cook for another minute.

Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick and line a greased 23cm fluted, loose based tart tin.  Prick the surface of the pastry on the base of the tin gently all over with a fork, taking care not to push through to the tin.  Chill again for 10 minutes.  Line with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans.  Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil / parchment and bake for another 5 minutes until the pastry has dried out and the base is cooked.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.

Spread the caramelised onions over the base of the cooked pastry case.  Top with the cooked potato slices and then the stilton.  Whisk the eggs and cream together and season with a little salt and plenty black pepper.  Pour over the onions, potatoes and stilton until it nearly reaches the top of the pastry.

Cook the tart in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until set and the pastry cooked through.  If the pastry around the edge is cooking too quickly you can cover it with foil.  

Leave to cool in the tin before removing to serve.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Spicy Prawn Noodle Soup

Who knew there are calories in ground cumin?

I watched Michael Mosley's Horizon documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer, on BBC2 last year with interest.  Michael Mosley set himself the challenge to live longer, stay younger and lose weight. Goals that many of us can identify with.  His research concluded that intermittent fasting could help achieve those goals and settled upon the 5:2 way of eating.  That is 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of fasting (when you limit the calories you eat to 500 calories for women or 600 calories for men) each week.  I'm no scientist, but the potential (not yet proven in humans) health benefits seem to make sense and, for that reason, I decided I was willing to take a punt and give it a go for a little while.

I have never counted calories before in my life.  A little naive maybe, but I had no idea that foods like cucumbers actually contained much in the way of calories. Aren't cucumbers about 90% water?  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I've never had to reign it in to lose the pounds that have crept on, but I've done that by reducing portion sizes, cutting out snacks, limiting my monstrous cheese intake and laying off the booze (...well, just a little).  Never has the way I've eaten been so scientific.  And believe me, for someone who abhors maths, all the calculating and counting had my head in a bit of a spin at the beginning.

I love food. I love cooking. I love creating new recipes. So I saw this as a challenge. Making nutritious food that is both delicious and low in calories.  After eating the 5:2 way on and off since Christmas (with a big break thanks to pneumonia) I've found that the best way of approaching fast days (for me) is to abstain from food all day and then have a decent sized main meal in the evening, which means that sometimes I can even have carbs.

This is one of the tastiest, most satisfying fast day dinners I've had so far.  A huge bowl of comforting, spicy soup.

Serves: 1
Prep time: 15 minutes (excluding making the stock)
Cook time: 10 minutes
Calories per portion (approx): 360


100g king prawns (peeled weight - approx 4 large unpeeled prawns), peeled & deveined
100g pak choi, sliced
50g mange tout
50g beansprouts
30g oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
1-2 bird's eye chillies, finely sliced
2-3cm piece fresh ginger, finely sliced
300ml good vegetarian stock (see more below)
1/2 tsp brown miso paste
1 tsp fish sauce (or soy sauce)
fresh coriander
50g glass noodles (cooked according to packet instructions)


Put the stock in a pan with the miso paste and fish sauce and heat through.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.  Blanch the pak choi, mange tout and oyster mushrooms for 1-2 minutes, remove from the water and set aside.  Then cook the prawns in the same water until pink and cooked through and set aside (again 1-2 minutes depending on the size of your prawns).

Put the glass noodles, vegetables, prawns, spring onions, chillies and ginger in a big bowl and pour over the stock.  Add some roughly chopped coriander to serve.

Good vegetarian stock:

I use this recipe from Kellie's blog Food to Glow to make vast quantities of vegetarian stock which I then freeze in 1 person portions so that I have some to hand whenever I fancy noodle soup.  I then add in whatever other flavours  and seasoning I want before I use it.