Friday, 9 March 2012

Sometimes all you need is an excuse.

The last weekend did not go entirely as planned. We had aimed for two days of gently sorting out the garden, of wading through the mountains of weeds that have sprung up, and of uprooting the debris from last years veg growing attempts.
However, it wasn't to be. A late night on Friday, perhaps accompanied by a few too many drinks ensured a late start to Saturday. This, coupled with the rain and the cold made us less than enthused, then there was the discovery that once again the kitchen appliances are ganging up on me. First the dishwasher (which hasn't been playing ball for months, tricksy little thing),  and now the fridge. I'm telling you, they're in leagues against me. So yes, we did not begin the weekend quite as expected, and even a batch of cinnamon pancakes couldn't boost the energy levels.

There was only one thing for it. A trip to the local farm shop in search of treats, fruit and cream. Yes, when life gives you a rainy weekend there is only one thing to do.

Make pie.

I used frozen cherries that I defrosted and then cooked slightly with a dash of brandy and a handful of dried tart cherries to take the edge off the sweetness. I then drained them (to avoid a soggy bottom on my pie). Then I discovered that we didn't have quite enough butter for a full pie, so Plan B was put into place. Small tart, topped with crumble, and not a smidgen of butter remained.
But I didn't stop there, oh no. On Sunday, when we actually ate the pie, it was no longer raining, it was sleeting. Drastic times call for drastic measures. We needed custard! Thank goodness I'd bought cream and then remembered that due to the lack of fridge it would need to be used immediately. Such a shame.

A couple of hours later, huddle in the warm embrace of the living room, with two very happy cats (they love it when we stay in and help them guard the sofa), we indulged completely in pie, and custard. And I'm not ashamed to say it, but we even opened some Prosecco. Why? because a Sunday that forces you to slow down and catch up sometimes deserves celebrating.
This pie/tart/crumble is super simple, and easily adaptable. I rolled the pastry, N whipped together the crumble and in went the fruit. The hardest bit was remembering to stir the custard, and not be distracted by the sight of the pie cooling slightly across the kitchen.

If you use frozen fruit I would defrost it and drain the juice, not only does this help stop your pie base being soggy, and eliminate the need for an initial blind bake of the pastry, but it also means you can reduce this down and use it as a posh "jus."

Pastry: - makes just enough for the base of an 8' fluted tart pan.
165g Plain flour
50g light muscovado sugar
90g cold butter
1/2 beaten egg
1 tbsp cold water

I make my pastry in a food processor as I find it quicker and easier and helps to keep it cool. However, I find this pastry to be very forgiving and will be light and crumbly even if overworked slightly. If you don't have a food processor, just bring the ingredients together as lightly and quickly as possible into a dough.

Then chill for 30mins/1 hr in the fridge before rolling out and file the tart pan. Once laid out in the tart pan chill for a further 30mins. I put mine in the freezer to get really cold.

Then you can turn the oven to 190C to preheat and make the crumble.

63g butter
75g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
38g ground almonds
20 rolled oats
25g demerara sugar

Bring all the ingredients together in a bowl until it looks like large piece of clumpy gravel! 

I used around 700g of frozen cherries, and 100g tart dried cherries

If using frozen fruit, make sure you defrost it and drain away most of the juice (not all you don't want a completely dry tart)

I'm afraid I don't have anything more accurate than this, But I think that if you were using fresh a good combination would be two or three bramley apples chopped with around 100g raisins soaked in brandy. Yes...I'm already getting ideas for what to do with this next!

When the base is chilled, pour in the fruit and then top liberally with crumble (the mix will give you more than you need to cover the fruit, but I like to leave slight gaps where the fruit juices can ooze through)

Bake for aprox. 20mins, until the both the pastry and the crumble are turning golden. Remove and cool for ten minutes before turning out and slicing. Best eating with lashings of cream or custard.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Crack out your marmalade!

 Last week in the UK it was National Marmalade Week. A fact that gave preserving enthusiasts and toast munchers alike cause to celebrate.
But wait! There's much more to marmalade than just smearing it on your toast in the morning. By all means smear away, but don't be too hasty to push that jar of marmalade back in the cupboard just yet. Why not give your marmalade a whole new lease of life by putting it in a cake?
That's exactly what I did at work last week in order to share National Marmalade Week with our customers. It helped that I'd just delivered my new stock and could display it proudly next to a cake that was filled with marmalady goodness.
Before I start, I should mention that the oven at work has been a little temperamental of late, and so I cooked this cake at a lower temperature for a long time in order to get the texture I wanted. This means that you might want to keep an eye on it whilst baking. Mine took around an hour and a half at 170C, but I think in a more conventional oven an hour would be enough. Best thing to do is bake it on a day when you can keep an eye on it, and test it before you think it's done. It's done when a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs on it, not batter.

Marmalade cake with cinnamon and marmalade glaze - serves 8, generously!


350g unsalted butter
350g light muscovado sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
350g self raising flour
150g thick cut marmalade (I used my malt whiskey marmalade, and cut the peel down into chunks)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Juice of one orange,
2 tbsp marmalade
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a 24" round cake tin with parchment.

cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, adding the cinnamon and marmalade towards the end. Slowly mix in the eggs, a little at a time alternating with a spoonful of flour to stop curdling. When all the eggs are combined gently mix in the flour.

Pour the batter into the tin and smooth the top.

Bake for aprox. 1 hr - 1,5hrs, depending on your oven. You can stop it browning too much with a layer of foil towards the end of the cooking period.

Meanwhile make the glaze:

place all the ingredients in a small pan over a medium heat. Stir until combined and then bring to a gentle boil. Allow to boil for around five minutes. Leave to cool.

Once the cake is done, leave to cool for ten minutes before removing gently from the tin, pricking gently all over with a toothpick and then spoon the glaze evenly all over the cake.

This cake is delicious still slightly warm with gently whipped cream, but lasts for at least three days if kept airtight.