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Welcome!

 

macarons
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Macarons – a topic to breach around a festive period

Welcome to my blog! I am a fourth year sciences student who loves to cook but if you wanted to know about me, you would have visited the about tag!

This blog is designed for students and those who are less comfortable in the kitchen. It will be linked to the British academic year of September through to July and will consist of weekly updates of recipes. The content will be split into two halves, there will be “Cooking From Basics” as well as a Baking section.

Cooking From Basics will follow the academic year and aims to teach skills in the kitchen. It will start off with simple meals requiring little effort and will progress to teaching new techniques as the year goes on. As it is aimed at students, I will be providing a cost estimate per portion (based on my local shop’s prices) and also, where possible, I will explain how to make the recipe both vegetarian and possibly vegan!

Bread
Herb fougasse inspired by the Great British Bake Off. These little loaves caused more trouble than expected when the oven went out of commission last minute and the dough had to be carried to a friend’s house to bake!

Baking has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I love the creativity and freedom that comes with it and I always spend far too much time baking than I really should. The baking section of this blog will follow the things that I have been making and will provide recipes and if possible, troubleshooting for them.

cake 2
Galaxy themed mirror glaze cake with devil’s food cake inside. Created for a Promenade concert and inspired by Mahler’s Seventh Symphony – Night music

I will aim to alternate between the Cooking From Basics and Baking posts but some recipes may just fall into both!

I hope you enjoy the blog and I will be back with your first instalment next week!

Victoria Sandwich Cake

The Victoria Sandwich is possibly the only time where I will promote putting jam on first and then cream. If one is using a buttercream filling, the jam goes on second but when using double cream, as you should for a traditional Victoria Sandwich, the filling is so soft that putting the jam on top of the cream would mean ending up with an awful mess.

The cake, as you may have guessed, is named after Queen Victoria and was created during her reign to celebrate the invention of baking powder. It differed from the pound cake, which was the standard cake at the time, because the Victoria Sandwich was a much lighter cake owing to the addition of a raising agent. A Victoria Sandwich should have cream, raspberry jam and be dusted with icing sugar. In the recipe below, like the recipe from the Women’s Institute, I use a little caster sugar instead.

The cake itself is created using equal quantities of flour, butter, sugar and eggs. It is a very quick and easy cake to bake and, if you are in a hurry, all the ingredients can be placed in a food processor and mixed until a homogenous batter is formed. The only problem with this type of sponge is how sensitive it is to oven times and temperatures. Their sensitivity is so high that they are often used to check ovens and every day before filming the Great British Bake Off, a Victoria sponge would be cooked in each oven to ensure the oven was working properly.

Owing to its simplicity, the Victoria sponge is a fantastic base for many other cakes. It is incredibly easy to adjust to create other cakes – replacement of the vanilla extract with espresso or lemon and orange zest leads to very different but no less delicious sponges. As it is very pale, colouring the batter is simple making Victoria sponge a classic base for rainbow cakes. If you are like me and don’t particularly like chocolate cake, Victoria sponge can be a great way to get your chocolate fix if you replace the traditional cream and jam with chocolate ganache. The cake is sturdy enough to withstand stacking and decorations can be placed on top to make themed cakes, I recently created a Harry Potter Cake!

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As it turns out, fondant wings are quite brittle and don’t always hold up under their own weight! The layers were each coloured with the house colours for Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin

It may be basic but the Victoria Sandwich cake is a classic for a reason.

 

 

Victoria Sandwich

Ingredients:

For a medium sized cake:

170g (6 oz.) butter

170g (6 oz.) oz sugar

170g (6 oz.) oz self-raising flour or plain flour with 1 ½ tsp baking powder added

3 eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

 

For a large cake:

225g (8 oz.) butter

225g (8 oz.) sugar

225g (8 oz.) self-raising flour or plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder added

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

To fill:

150 ml double cream

Raspberry jam

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (160oC).

Butter two eight-inch tins and line the bases with parchment paper. Flour the sides.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add the vanilla extract and beat again.

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Add the eggs one at a time followed by a tablespoon of flour to prevent the mixture curdling.

Mix in the rest of the flour slowly until the mixture is fully combined.

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Divide between the two tins.

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For small cakes, bake for around 25 minutes.

For large cakes, bake for around 35 minutes until a skewer inserted in comes out cleanly and the cakes are beginning to pull away from the side of the pan.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the tine for five to ten minutes.

Take the cakes out of the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

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Once the cakes have cooled, whip the cream to soft peaks.

Remove the parchment paper from the base of the less domed cake and place it on the serving plate. If it is very domed on top, use a bread knife to level it.

Spread the jam over the top of the cake and then pipe the cream onto that. If you don’t have a piping bag, remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the top cake, spread the cream onto that and sandwich the two halves together.

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Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the top and serve.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe and if the sound of coffee or orange cake tickles your fancy, have a look at my Coffee & Walnut and Chocolate Orange cake recipes! If you are a fan of sweet food, check out my fool proof recipe for meringues of if you are looking for something more on the savoury side, why not make yourself some delicious salmon? Its pan-seared, crispy skin and served with a light and fresh lemon couscous.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with another classic batch cooked meal.

H

Pan-Seared Salmon

I am a recent convert to crispy fish skin. If cooked correctly, it can be delicious – great flavour, great texture, what isn’t to like? The one downside is that cooking fish in a pan to achieve crispy skin is a bit of an act of faith. Once the salmon is in the pan, you have to avoid moving it until you are ready to flip it for the best results. It took me a couple of tries to find the best temperature to cook the fish at to ensure both that the fish was cooked to perfection and the skin was no longer slimy. There are few things more disappointing than looking forward to getting a mouthful of delicate fish with crispy skin and discovering that it is still slippery and oily.

The beautiful thing about pan searing salmon is that the skin acts as an insulator for the fish. This means that the fish doesn’t end up being overcooked and rubbery. The layer of fat between the skin and the fish melts down and helps fry the skin while the flesh of the salmon is gently heated until it is cooked just how you like it. One thing to remember is that if you prefer your salmon on the rare side, you will want to use a higher temperature pan so you do not have to cook it for so long and the skin will still be nice and crispy while the inside is still translucent.

Couscous is an underrated food. It is made by rolling semolina into tiny pellets and sprinkling them with flour to keep them separate. It can be eaten both hot and cold and, owing to its absorbent nature, you can put all kinds of flavourings with it. The lemon and coriander in this recipe helps keep it nice and fresh and the almonds give a good crunch but you can add vegetables to it if you like. Finely chopped pepper, onion and spices can give your couscous a more Mediterranean taste and it isn’t uncommon for people to add small cubes of cooked meat to it. Leftovers can be made into salads or just eaten as a snack!

This recipe uses traditional instant couscous. It is very quick and simple to prepare and is ready in around the same amount of time as the salmon so everything can be served together. I have also used rice to replace the couscous. Personally I prefer the couscous version as rice takes longer to cook and also absorbs flavours differently. Using couscous results in a much lighter meal which is nice as it leaves you able to do things after eating instead of curling up into a ball and going to sleep. That being said, the recipe still works very well with rice which is great if you are gluten free.

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Cook the rice in stock with the juice of half a lemon (or more if you prefer).

Crispy skin brings another texture to the plate and is so wonderful to eat. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

 

 

Pan-Seared Salmon

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Cost per portion: £2.75

 

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets

30g fresh coriander

150g couscous

190ml weak vegetable stock

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

150g spinach

2 tbsp vegetable oil

salt

30g flaked almonds (optional)

 

Place the almonds in a dry frying pan and heat, stirring regularly.

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Once the almonds look golden, pour them into a bowl and set aside. Keep the pan for future steps, it doesn’t need to be washed up yet.

Finely chop the coriander, place in a bowl and stir in one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

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Finely chop the garlic, zest the lemon and place it all into the frying pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

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Turn the heat on and the moment the garlic starts to brown, add in the vegetable stock and squeeze half the lemon into it.

Once the stock is boiling, pour it over the couscous. Stir to make sure none of the couscous is still dry, cover with a plate and set aside.

 

Remove the salmon from its packaging and pat down the skin side to remove excess liquid. Sprinkle with a little salt – if you have sea salt, this is even better than the regular stuff!

Put the vegetable oil into the frying pan. Once the oil is very hot and starts to look slightly shimmery place the salmon fillets in, skin side down. Lay them away from you so if the oil splashes at all, it will splash away from you, so you won’t get burned.

You now have to leave the salmon until it’s cooked about 80% of the way through, you can keep an eye on it by watching the line where the salmon goes from translucent to opaque move up the fish. Do not touch and move it as this will prevent the skin from crisping up.

Once the salmon is in the pan, boil the kettle and start to cook the spinach. If it is fresh, you only need to dunk it in boiling water for around 30 seconds, but if you are using frozen spinach you should place the spinach along with a tablespoon of water into a pan with a lid and cook until the spinach has all thawed, is hot and ready to eat.

Once the salmon is cooked around 80% through, flip it flesh side down in the pan.

Check on the couscous. It should have absorbed all of the liquid by now. If it is a little cool, place it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir through the almonds reserving a few for garnishing the meal.

Place the couscous onto a plate and add the spinach on top.

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Remove the salmon from the pan and lay it skin side up on top of the couscous. Drizzle with the coriander oil and scatter with the remaining flaked almonds.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy a light dessert, why not try making some meringues? They are super crisp, full of air and pair beautifully with cream and fruits. Why not make it a three-course meal and add a starter? My tomato and red pepper soup is wonderfully fresh and will set you up nicely for the rest of the food that’s coming – it can also be a great lunch if you don’t have time to do more than heat something up as it keeps very well in the freezer!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with another cake recipe.

H

Foolproof Meringues

Unlike most foods in baking, meringues are not cooked as much as dried out in the oven. A very low temperature should be used when making them to prevent the meringues from colouring in the oven – they should come out a brilliant white. They are also incredibly versatile as meringue can be used not only to decorate other desserts but also as the main base for pudding – for example pavlova and Eton mess. They can be either solid or marshmallowy inside but be careful, if they are undercooked a tasty snack can easily become the equivalent of eating something akin to superglue.

Owing to their minimal list of ingredients, colouring meringues can be a bit of a hassle. Ideally you want to use egg whites which you separate out from the yolk yourself. This is because the egg whites which come in a carton tend to be pasteurised and during this process, some of the proteins are affected so they do not whip up as well as fresh egg whites. If you do have to use egg whites from a carton, you will have to whip the meringue for far longer and should also use half a teaspoon of cream of tartar to help bind them. It is imperative that you use gel food colourings or even better, gel paste as normal water based food colouring can disrupt the balance between the sugar and egg white and lead to the meringues deflating. The same can be said of adding flavourings – if they are liquid based, add them right at the end and add as little as possible. Adding a teaspoon of cornflour can help offset this problem but won’t prevent it entirely.

There are several types of meringue – French, Swiss, and Italian – which are all made and used in different ways. The recipe below is a classic example of a French meringue. The egg whites and sugar are whipped together to form a thick, glossy mixture which holds it shape upon piping. It is then baked to set the proteins in the egg white and drive off excess water. Swiss meringue is similar however it is whipped in a bain marie (over a pan of simmering water) until it is thick. The mixture is then removed from the heat and beaten until cool – the meringue is again baked. The final type is Italian meringue. Unlike the other two, this used hot sugar syrup instead of solid sugar. When it is added, the mixture will go very runny. It is then whipped until cool resulting in a stiff meringue. As the sugar syrup was very hot when it was added, the egg whites are already cooked so Italian meringue does not need to be baked before using. As a result, it is common to put it on lemon meringue pie and baked Alaska before blowtorching the outside to give it a caramelised finish.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and that you end up loving meringue as much as I do!

 

Meringues

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 2 hr plus

 

Ingredients:

3 egg whites (room temperature works best)

6 oz caster sugar

½ tsp lemon juice/white vinegar/cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

 

Method One (with a stand mixer):

Preheat the oven to 85-90⁰C

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for around 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy.

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The meringue mostly holds its shape on the whisk – it could probably do with another few minutes at this point.

Take a tiny bit between your fingers and see if it feels gritty. If it does, continue to whisk the mixture for another minute or two until the sugar has dissolved completely.

Pipe or dollop shapes or piles of the mix onto a lined baking tray.

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Bake for around two hours until the meringues come away from the base of the baking tray without breaking.

 

 

Method Two (with an electric hand whisk):

Preheat the oven to 85-90C

Put the egg whites in a bowl and beat them until they reach stiff peaks.

Add the sugar in two tablespoons at a time and make sure to keep whisking in between additions so the sugar will dissolve properly.

Once all the sugar has been incorporated, add in the salt and lemon juice and continue to whisk for another five or so minutes until the mixture is very thick, glossy and smooth.

As with method one, use a piping bag or a spoon to make little mounds of meringue on the baking sheet and place into the oven for around two hours.

 

Serve with cream and fresh fruit.

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Deconstructed pavlova with rainbow meringues.
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Banana caramel with meringues? Yes please!

I hope you enjoyed the recipe; for another sweet treat check out my recipe for apple pie (it’s possible to make this one vegan) or if you fancy something a little more savoury, why not make yourself some red pepper and tomato soup?

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with an easy recipe for crispy skin salmon and lemon couscous – it’s super fast and utterly divine!

H

 

Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad” – Miles Kington

The same could be said of the bell pepper. The entire family of peppers (bell peppers, chillies etc.) are technically fruits but you would never see them on a dessert platter – except possibly in some ‘ground-breaking’, edgy restaurant. I guess potentially I could be marketing this recipe as a smoothie bowl but let’s be realistic, it’s just soup.

I have a very mixed relationship with peppers. I’m not a huge fan of the texture but I do quite like the taste so turning them into soup seemed like a perfect solution to my problem. Obviously as I was also using tomatoes, red peppers were the obvious choice for a bright, vibrant soup but if you don’t like tomatoes, pepper soup is also very tasty and can be made in a wide range of colours. Peppers come in more than the standard four varieties (red, orange, yellow and green); you can also find them in white and both light and dark shades of purple. Purple isn’t a colour that appears in many dishes as there isn’t a wealth of naturally purple food out there so a bowl of bright purple soup is really exciting!

Peppers differ from their spicy counterparts as they exhibit a recessive trait – they do not produce capsaicin. This is the molecule responsible for the burning sensation when eating chilli. It is a strong irritant and is very hydrophobic so is not affected by water at all. This means rinsing your mouth with water will do nothing to alleviate the heat from chillies but milk (which is an emulsion of fat in water) can help relieve the pain. For the same reason, washing your hands with just water after chopping chillies will not remove the capsaicin so it is still dangerous to rub your eyes but using soap – something designed to bond to both water and fats – will help clean the capsaicin off your skin. Interestingly for the same reason, even bleach will not remove capsaicin but oil will so swilling your mouth out with oil, whilst gross, will remove the heat. In the same vein, capsaicin is soluble in alcohol so rinsing with vodka or another spirit would also help alleviate the pain but do not swallow it as this just moves the capsaicin to an area which you can’t clean as easily. Of course you can then proceed to wash your mouth out with water which will remove the remaining vodka.

The difference between red/yellow/orange peppers and green peppers is time. All peppers start out green and as they ripen they change colour. As a result, red peppers are sweeter than their green counterparts although you can get some varieties which stay green even when fully ripe. This means you can make soups of all shades.

I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Tomato and Red Pepper Soup:

Serves 6

Time: 1 hour

Cost per portion: about 50p

Ingredients:

3 large red peppers

6 medium tomatoes

1 medium to large onion

2 cloves garlic

500ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp tomato paste

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

For cheese tuiles, grate 200g cheddar or parmesan.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Halve the tomatoes, remove the seeds and stalks from the peppers and place on a baking tray.

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Drizzle with olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper.

Roast the vegetables in the oven for half an hour. Give them a mix halfway through to ensure nothing burns and everything is roasted evenly.

Once the peppers and tomatoes have been cooking for 20 minutes, roughly chop the onion and the garlic.

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan and start to fry the onions and garlic.

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When the peppers and tomatoes have finished in the oven, add them to the pan with the onions.

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Add the stock and simmer for fifteen minutes.

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Using a stick or jug blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the cheese tuiles, decrease the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C).

Arrange circles of cheese on baking parchment or a silicone mat.

Bake for 5 minutes until the tuiles are pale gold and lacey looking. Make sure they do not turn too dark as this will make them taste bitter!

Serve the soup hot with a drizzle of cream, a few tuiles and a little fresh coriander.

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This soup is ideal as it freezes very well and can be kept in the fridge for several days. It makes a perfect lunch when you’re in a hurry and tastes delicious.

If you really love your soup, I have posted recipes for both butternut squash and curried parsnip soup so you should check those out. If you are looking for a more substantial meal, why not try out a beef stir-fry or for a delicious dessert (which is simple to make vegan), treat yourself to an apple tart!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with my foolproof meringue recipe.

H

Apple Tart

Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Bramley, Gala – the list of different types of apples has thousands of varieties (which you will be glad to know I have neither time, patience nor space to write out here). Apples are one of the most widely eaten fruits and have been cultivated and eaten for millennia. They appear as symbols in many religions in both good and bad settings but are nonetheless still there. Also, apples just taste plain amazing – my favourite type is Pink Lady apples, what’s yours?

In religion we find apples appearing over and over again. In Judaism, we eat apples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanna (the Jewish new year) but interestingly there is no actual command for this; in fact people used to eat whatever was the most readily available sweet fruit, which at times has included both figs and dates, dipped in honey. The apple appears in the Song of Songs and is also referenced in the Zohar (a mystical Jewish text from the 13th century). Within Christianity, the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden is often depicted as an apple although the bible never actually states this. This confusion dates back to Roman times when versions of the bible in Latin made a typo – an incredibly minute but critical mistake. The mistake came in Genesis 2:17 when referencing ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ when the word mălum (evil) was confused with mālum (apple). This is also where the term “Adam’s apple” comes from for the lump in men’s throats was believed to represent Adam’s inability to swallow the fruit.

In ancient Greek mythology, one of Heracles’ tasks was to collect the golden apples of immortality from the garden of the Hesperides. This tree was a wedding gift from Gaia to Hera when she accepted Zeus’ hand in marriage and was protected by a hundred headed dragon which never slept. The apple returns again in one of the most famous stories of ancient Greece: the Trojan War. The legend state that Eris – the goddess of strife and discord – tossed a golden apple into a wedding feast which the gods were attending with the inscription “for the fairest one”. Athena, Hera and Aphrodite all claimed it and eventually Zeus proclaimed the decision would fall to Paris. Paris chose Aphrodite as she had promised him the most beautiful woman in the word – Helen of Troy (at that time, Helen of Sparta) – resulting the one of the largest battles in Greek mythology and leading to the creation of Rome!

As you may have guessed, I am a fan of Greek mythology but these stories show how apples have permeated history.

Apple crumble is one of my favourite dishes at home as it’s one of those comfort foods that is just never as good when someone other than your mum makes it. I have never managed to make it as well as her but what I can have a pretty good go at is an apple tart. This recipe is more of a flan/tart than a pie as there is no pastry lid but you are welcome to add one if you like – just be warned, you may have to play around with the cooking time to make sure all the pastry is cooked through (but at least you wouldn’t have to worry about the filling burning). These apple tarts look stunning and are sure to wow any guests you serve them too! No only that but they are vegan (just use the non-egg/non-dairy alternatives given – you can’t even tell the difference).

Enjoy the recipe and happy baking!

 

 

Apple Tart

 

For the pastry:

250g plain flour

125g cold margarine or butter. The margarine should be the block version, not the spreadable one from a tub.

2 tbsp sugar

1 pinch salt

Two tablespoons of water (or one egg)

 

For the apple compote:

4 apples – I like to use Granny Smiths as they are very tart and help offset the sweetness of the rest of the recipe

20g brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp water

1 tbsp lemon juice

 

To finish:

3 large apples – I like Pink Ladys as they have a wonderful taste but are also crisp and easy to cut

10-20g margarine or butter

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp apricot jam or 2 tbsp syrup made with 2 parts sugar to 1 part water

 

To make the pastry cube the fat and rub into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

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Stir in the sugar and the salt.

Make a well in the centre, add the water or egg and mix with the flat of a blunt knife until the mix starts coming together (I use just a normal table knife).

Pour out onto a surface and knead until the pastry forms a single ball. If it seems too dry, add a little bit of water as its better to knead the pastry a little more than necessary than have it fall apart when cooking.

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Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge to cool.

 

For the compote, peel, core and chop the apples.

Place them in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes until the apple is soft.

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Don’t forget to peel one of the apples like I did here!

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Using either a potato masher or a blender/stick blender, puree the compote (it’s ok if it is a little bit lumpy).

Set this aside to cool.

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6.

Once the compote has cooled, roll out the pastry to about the thickness of a £1 coin and line a nine inch tart case or alternatively, the base of nine inch cake tin and about one inch up the side.

Spread the compote over the base of the pastry being careful not to damage the pastry as it is still uncooked.

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Peel two of the remaining apples.

Use an apple corer to remove the cores and cut the apples in half from top to bottom.

Place the apples on the side and use a sharp knife to cut them 1mm slices.

Arrange the slices in concentric circles overlapping each inner circle with the one it lies within. In the central portion of each layer, add a couple of end piece of apple to fill in the height difference.

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Fill the central area with more apple to fill in the dip!

The final tart should rise slightly in the centre.

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Cut up the margarine or butter and place little pieces of it all over the tart.

Sprinkle over the sugar.

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Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the apple starts browning round the edges.

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Attempt number one. The apples weren’t thin enough so there are noticeable gaps.

 

Melt the apricot jam or if using syrup, add a quarter cup of sugar and two tablespoons water to a pan and bring to a boil as the sugar dissolves. Boil for two minutes and then remove from the heat.

Remove the tart from the oven and while it is still hot, use a pastry brush to gently brush the hot syrup or jam over the apples to give them a beautiful shiny finish.

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Attempt number two.

Serve the tart warm or cold with ice cream/cream/custard – whichever you prefer!

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Check out last week’s recipe for beef stir fry or if you want another sweet treat, have a look at my recipe for choux buns.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for Tomato and Pepper soup!

H

Basic Beef Stir Fry

The most important things when making a stir fry are heat and speed. The oil must be hot enough to cook the ingredients quickly so that nothing turns mushy and any meat you put in doesn’t become rubbery. Woks are ideal for something like this as they concentrate the heat in one area but also make sure that you can move the contents around the pan so everything can be cooked evenly.

Everyone uses different ingredients when they make a stir fry, but for me long strips of carrot and spring onion are essential when noodles are involved. Once they soften, you can twirl them up with the noodles into a delicious ball and eat! If you use rice instead of noodles, I would recommend cutting everything a little smaller – for example cutting spring onions into circles rather than lengthwise into strips. You can also add things like beansprouts for added crunch; peanuts are also a common addition at the end. It should be noted that beansprouts scorch easily at the high temperatures required to make a good stir fry but a way to avoid this is adding them just after the sauce and place them on top of the other ingredients which allows them to steam so they are cooked but still retain their crunchy texture.

In this recipe, I use glass noodles (sometimes called cellophane noodles). These appear transparent when cooked (unlike rice vermicelli which are opaque white) and take on the colour of whatever sauce they are in, so your dish will look beautiful. I am also a fan of standard rice noodles or even stick noodles in stir fry but you have to bear in mind that these are all cooked differently so you have to adjust your timings for the rest of the dish accordingly.

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The glass noodles have taken on all the colour from the sauce but are still shiny and inviting.

The final things which should be mentioned are the meat and the sauce that you decide to use. The high heat means you can seal the meat to prevent all the juices from leaking out but leave the inside relatively uncooked so that when the sauce is added, the meat can cook as the sauce reduces and coats all of the ingredients. Make sure the sauce isn’t too sweet as the sugar can burn, so if you see the sauce getting a bit thick and starting to caramelise, add a tablespoon of water to make sure everything cooks properly.

To give your stir fry a restaurant finish, add some raw beansprouts to one side, sprinkle over some fresh herbs and thinly sliced spring onions. You can also add some crushed peanuts when making dishes like pad thai. As with most dishes, a little garnish goes a long way so I would always recommend experimenting until you find the method of plating up that looks best to you!

 

 

Stir Fry

Prep time: 10 minutes (optional extra 20 minutes if leaving the beef to marinade)

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 2

Cost per portion: around £1.80

 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sherry (optional)

2 tsp honey

2 cloves garlic

1 inch ginger

1 bunch of spring onions

1 large carrot

170g frying steak or thinly sliced beef

2 portions of glass noodles

Vegetable oil

 

 

Peel the garlic and ginger and finely chop both.

Stir in the soy sauce, sherry and honey.

Thinly slice the beef and add to the sauce and leave for about 20 minutes (if you have time).

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Peel the carrot and then use the peeler to thinly slice the carrot lengthwise into long strips.

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Slice the spring onions lengthwise into quarters.

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Soak the noodles according to the instructions on the packet but take one minute off the soaking time as the noodles will soften more later – drain the noodles.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the carrot and spring onion.

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Once they start to soften, move the carrots and onion to the side of the pan, lift the beef out of the marinade (reserving the liquid for later) and place it into the centre of the pan.

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Turn the beef until all of it is sealed on the outside (and it all looks an opaque brown).

The moment the beef is sealed, add the noodles and reserved marinade and stir to mix everything together.

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Keep cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed into the noodles.

Serve piping hot and enjoy!

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This stir fry also keeps very well in the fridge and can be reheated easily in the microwave.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe and if you fancy a very different dinner, check out my recipe for spinach and ricotta lasagne or if you want to try your hand at a posh dessert, why not make some choux pastry and finish your meal with profiteroles?

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an exciting, fancy apple tart.

H

Choux Pastry

A common misconception in baking is that it is difficult to make profiteroles or éclairs. This stems from the use of choux pastry as the base of these delicious goodies. Choux is famously finickity and problematic to bake but this is just not true. As long as you follow the recipe, it should work every time!

Unlike most other baked goods, no specific raising agent is used in choux pastry, rather the high moisture content results in a lot of steam being created in the oven which inflates the pastry as it cooks. The reason the flour is added to boiling water when creating the paste is that it starts to cook and the bursting of the starch granules traps even more water which helps the paste to rise in the oven. This leads to a very light shell which is hollow inside and ready to be filled with all the yummy things that we love to eat – cream, chocolate, caramel.

Once cooked, choux buns are surprisingly sturdy and can be stacked up leading to desserts like the stunning croquembouche. These are giant towers of choux filled with crème anglaise or Chantilly cream and held together by melted sugar. They are adorned with webs of spun sugar, glazed almonds and edible flowers and are really something to behold. Much as they are fun to make, I would recommend becoming more familiar with baking choux before you attempt one!

Although associated with French cuisine, the man who allegedly invented choux pastry came from Florence. He worked for Catherine de Medici and left Florence with her when she travelled to France to marry the Duke of Orleans (who later became King Henry II of France). Originally called pâte à Panterelli after its creator, the pastry had several incarnations before arriving at the pâte à Choux we know today. It is called this because of the resemblance of the cooked buns to cabbages (and choux is the French word for cabbage).

I am a massive fan of choux pastry. I first made it a seven or eight years ago and in 2011 (when I was fifteen) made my first croquembouche. Looking back, it was quite an achievement that I came out of that with only a minor burn from the melted sugar so if you do try this yourself, please be very, very careful. Having said that, I made one three years ago in a house where the power failed and I was assembling it by torch light as the sun set because I’m stubborn and don’t learn from my mistakes. Luckily I survived that one unscathed but hopefully when you try making choux pastry, it will be a little less eventful!

 

 

Choux Pastry

 

Ingredients:

100g strong white flour

75g butter

3 eggs

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (2100C).

 

Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.

Sift the flour onto a piece of baking parchment.

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Heat 150ml water in a pan with the butter, sugar and salt until the butter is melted and the mixture is boiling.

Once the mix comes to the boil, pour in the flour and beat the mixture over the heat until it starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the pan – it will look very lumpy and curdled at the start but I promise it will come together.

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Once the paste starts to come away from the sides of the pan, continue to cook it – still beating it – for another minute.

Pour the mix into the flour bowl from earlier (so fewer things are made dirty) and leave the ball to cool for five or ten minutes. You can speed this up by spreading it up the sides of the bowl.

Although you can do the next stage by hand, its far faster to use an electric beater. Add the eggs one at a time – it is fine if the flour mix is still a little warm at this point.

After you have added the eggs, you should have a smooth, glossy, sticky paste.

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Choux paste before the addition of eggs (top left) and after each of the eggs has been added

 

For profiteroles, pipe into circles an inch and a half across (or just dollop it onto the tray if you can’t be bothered with all the posh stuff. If any of the profiteroles have a tip on top from the piping bag, use a damp finger to flatten it out to prevent the tips from burning.

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For éclairs, pipe lines of paste four inches long onto the paper. Remember that they will expand a lot in the oven so space them out by an inch or so!

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For gougères, add some grated cheese to the mix and then treat as you would for profiteroles.

 

Sprinkle the tray with water (not the pastry) and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Try not to open the oven until this time as it will result in the choux deflating before it is finished cooking.

Check that the choux has puffed up, is golden and hard when you take them out of the oven. If not all the puffs are cooked, rotate the tray and give them another few minutes.

Once you remove the pastry from the oven, use a sharp knife to make a small hole in the bottom of each one and place them upside down to let the steam escape.

You can also place them hole side up in the oven for another minute to help dry them out (this is particularly useful when making a croquembouche as the choux buns have to be sturdy.)

 

Gougères are served plain or can be filled with mushroom duxelle (see my beef wellington recipe), or meats like beef, ham or pate.

 

For éclairs and profiteroles,

Filling:

400ml double cream

4 tbsp icing sugar

Vanilla (½ tsp vanilla paste or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)

 

For the ganache:

200ml double cream

250g dark chocolate (chopped)

 

For the filling, whip up the double cream with the sugar and vanilla to just lest than stiff peaks.

Pipe a generous amount through the hole in the bottom of each profiterole/éclair until they feel heavier and start to bulge.

 

For the ganache, heat the rest of the cream until just before boiling and pour it over the chocolate.

Leave for two minutes and then stir until the chocolate has melted and combines to make a glossy ganache.

Dip the top of each profiterole or éclair into the ganache and place onto a tray to set.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy a nice comforting main, check out my recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne or for another chocolatey dessert, why not make yourself some melt in the middle chocolate fondants?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious stir fry recipe.

H