Monday, 21 September 2009

coconut cream pie

coconut cream pie, on windowsill

If there were such a thing as extreme cookery, I think I'd be a champion. You know, baking under dangerous conditions, high-speed frosting, using spatulas to fend off oncoming missiles... all hypothetical examples, obviously. Of course I don't live in a madhouse.

The thing is now, I don't know how to cook in normal conditions. I'm so used to stepping over brawling sisters on my way to the Kitchenaid that when the kitchen is quiet and empty I'm quite baffled, and keep checking behind doors and under tables in case someone's planning an ambush. Every recipe I make comes with mental breakdown as standard, and if there's no one else around to cause it, I find I've started sabotaging myself.

oh fuck.

There's no excuse. Perhaps I felt I was having too easy a time of it? Perhaps I was subconciously un-nerved by my serene and stress-free morning in the kitchen, and felt I should dump my pie crust out on the counter just to stop myself from getting too complacent? Perhaps I had been lulled into a false sense of security and totally disengaged my brain as a result, causing me to - I wish I was kidding - TURN MY PIE DISH UPSIDE DOWN to try and brush away the messy crumbs from the trimmed edges?

I'm getting hacked off again just thinking about it.

Usually I'd take this sort of thing as a sign that I'm not destined for culinary success on that particular day, and would either go back to it some other time or ditch the recipe - but I had a potluck dinner that evening, and had already made the pie filling, and didn't have a lot to lose by baking up another rush-job coconut crust. I mean, apart from my sanity, and other things I wouldn't really miss. As a result my pastry is a bit of a mess, but nothing that can't be fixed by a mound of sweetened, vanilla-scented whipped cream.

So, yes. Extreme baking: I'm pretty good at it. Regular baking?

Not so much.

whole & intact coconut pie crustbounty bar filling =]coconut cream pie 4coconut cream pie 2

Triple Coconut Cream Pie
Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen
(Makes one 9-inch pie)

The good news is that this pie is pretty simple to put together, provided you remember to switch your brain on beforehand, and is completely delicious - and apparently, rather famous at Tom Douglas' Dahlia Lounge restaurant in Seattle. I've never set foot in Seattle, but it went down equally well in a sleepy Northern English village at our potluck dinner. Of the coconut filling, my friend Leah declared happily, 'it tastes just like the filling of a Bounty bar!', and I had to explain that Bounty bars tasted of coconut, rather than coconut tasting of Bounty bars.

This was the only part of the dinner conversation that wasn't about religious theme parks or Alice's shorts, so you're lucky I have anything suitable to report at all.

For The Coconut Pastry Cream:
480ml (2 cups) milk
- don't know the weight, sorry (2 cups) dessicated coconut
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 large eggs
(1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp) sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
(1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

For The Pie:
One 9" Coconut Pie Shell (recipe below) pre-baked and cooled
(2 1/2 cups) heavy cream, chilled
(1/3 cup) sugar
1 tso pure vanilla extract

For Garnish
60g (2oz) toasted flaked coconut - or unsweetened "chip"/large-shred coconut (about 11/2 cups)
Chunks of white chocolate (60-100g/4 to 6oz, to make 60g/2oz of curls)

1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling) by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 Cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.

3. When the pastry cream is cold, fill the prebaked pie shell with it, smoothing the surface. In an electric mixer with the whisk, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe it all over the surface of the pie, or spoon it over.

4. For the garnish, if not using pre-toasted coconut, heat the oven to 180°C. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, watching carefully and stirring once or twice, since coconut burns easily, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls.

Decorate pie with white chocolate curls and the toasted coconut.

Coconut Pie Shell
180g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) plain flour
120ml - don't know weight
- (1/2 cup) dessicated coconut
(1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
(1/3 cup) ice water, or more as needed

In a food processor, combine the flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse to form course crumbs. Gradually add the water while pulsing. Use only as much water as needed for the dough to hold together when gently pressed between your fingers. You don’t want to work the dough with your hands; you just want to make sure the dough is holding. The dough will be quite loose.

Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough on top. Pull the edges of the wrap around the dough, forming a rough flat round. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.

Once chilled, unwrap the dough and place onto a lightly floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 1/8-inch thick circle. Add more flour if the round sticks to the surface. Trim to a 12- to 13-inch circle.

Transfer dough to a 9-inch pie plate. Ease the dough into the plate. Take care to not stretch the dough as it will shrink during baking. Trim any excess dough to a 1- to 1 1/2-inch overhang. Turn the dough under the edge of the pie plate and flute the edge with your finger. Chill at least one hour before baking (I put it in the freezer). This will help prevent shrinkage during baking.

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Place a sheet of foil or parchment paper in the pie shell and fill with pie weights (or dried beans) to prevent bubbling. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove the pie weights and foil and continue to bake another 10-12 minutes, or until the bottom of the crust has golden brown patches. Allow to cool before filling.

Note: The dough can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, or in the freezer for a few weeks.

coconut cream pie 3

Monday, 14 September 2009

triple-layer chocolate peanut butter cake

chocolate peanut butter cake 2

It took me a year to make this cake.

Not literally. I don't mean I started baking last August and have only just finished frosting the damn thing; I mean I
first saw this cake a year ago, and have been lusting after it ever since. You want to know how few excuses there are in everyday life to whip out a triple-layer chocolate peanut butter cake? You need a crowd of about five thousand people for a start, several hours of free time, a non-student budget, and possibly a home gym (I'm just sayin').

I have none of these things, but after a year of chocolatey longing I'd kind of reached tipping point.

chocolate peanut butter cake  1

Just in case you're not there yet (and I know these photos aren't great, and I'm pretty bummed over it. Serves me right, holding photoshoots the-morning-after), let me make a few things clear.

This peanut butter frosting? I would sell my firstborn for it.

...I actually loathe children, so maybe that isn't the most persuasive argument.

I would trade my gold sparkly Kurt Geiger high heels for it. -No, I wouldn't. They're awesome. I've worn those shoes 13 hours straight (don't ask) without so much as a toe aching. That's your shoe recommendation for today, faithful readers.

I would eat the entire batch single handedly until I collapsed in a sugar-high stupor...?

That sounds more like it.

chocolate peanut butter cake 3

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes (via Smitten Kitchen)
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake

I had something of a battle with the cake part of this, which I found to have an uncommonly liquid-y batter which ran out of all my loose-bottomed cake tins. Quite aside from having to scrape cake mixture off the bottom of my oven, this meant my layers were quite thin. I also had to cook it for longer than the recipe said; I think I probably made a measuring mistake, to be honest, since none of the commenters on Smitten Kitchen seem to have had this problem. But bear this in mind and use a tin without a loose bottom, perhaps? It's wonderfully dark and moist and most importantly, doesn't overpower the frosting, but I'd still consider using a different chocolate cake recipe in future.

See, the real star here is the peanut butter frosting. Don't let the cream cheese freak you out, it is GODLY. Put it on cupcakes. Put it on toast. Rub it all over your face.

Now, go forth!

For the cake:
280g (2 cups)
plain flour
(2 1/2 cups) sugar - I think I was a little stingy with this
90g (3/4 cup)
unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
(1 cup)
neutral vegetable oil
(1 cup)
sour cream
(1 1/2 cups)
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

4. When ready to frost the cake, put in the freezer for about an hour first so it's manouverable, or else your layers will break up - trust me! Place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

For the Peanut Butter Frosting:
Makes about 5 cups

280g (10oz) cream cheese, at room temp
(1 stick)
butter, at room temp
500-600g (4-5 cups) icing sugar, sifted -
the original recipe uses 5c., I definitely used less but can't remember exactly how much. Add to taste.
160ml (2/3 cup) smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

OR: skip the cream cheese and use 1 1/2 c. peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

For the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze:
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

225g (8 oz) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped - I used half milk/dark as a rough equivalent to American 'semisweet'
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
(1/2 cup) single cream

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, beating until smooth. Use while still slightly warm.

chocolate peanut butter cake 4

Saturday, 5 September 2009

tomato & mozzarella tart with basil-garlic crust

tomato mozzarella tart 1

Food blogging is one of those things which starts off fairly rationally ('oh, I'll just take a quick picture and copy/paste this recipe up for future reference') and ends up taking over your life and sanity ('NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO EAT UNTIL I'VE PHOTO'D THIS, AND I DON'T CARE HOW COLD IT IS. AND NO, YOU CAN DAMN WELL HAVE THE CHIPPED PLATE, I NEED THE WHITE ONE. NOW SHUT THE HELL UP WHILE I TRY TO THINK OF SOMETHING WITTY TO SAY'). It's maybe not the best hobby to take up if you want to make friends, although you'd be amazed at what eccentricities people will forgive when a tray of brownies is in it for them.

There are a few things which are incredibly frustrating to a blogger. One is a great recipe which photographs appallingly, especially if it involves seasonal produce. You know you're going to have to make it again, and then you can't get the fruit or whatever it is you need, and it's going to be another year before it's back in season - ugh. (I have a stunning rhubarb & orange cake sitting on my hard-drive - not literally; the crumbs would get on my keyboard - which embodies this very problem)

tomato mozzarella tart 2

The other problem is similar, but less common. When you make something, and you photo it - and then you take it to a party and can't get pictures of the inside (oh cake, how you taunt me) before it's inhaled.

OR, when you make a kickass tomato and mozzarella tart in that tiny interval of time before the summer's tomatoes vanish forever, with a glut of tiny, perfect red-and-orange tomatoes donated by your charming and lovely friend Alex and her greenfingered father (who apparently has had great success with tomatoes and courgettes this season), and it's pretty much the cutest, most photogenic thing you've ever seen in your life. And then you go out for the night, and when you come back the next morning you find that the ENTIRE 10" TART has been ENGULFED by the THREE members of your family, IN ONE NIGHT.

Not that this has ever happened to me -- OH, WAIT.

But when am I ever going to see such adorable tomatoes again; in 2009, at least? I had to post it anyway. Because let's face it, I may not have personal feedback here - but the rate at which this tart vanished is, in itself, a pretty good review.

if the whole world was made of tomatoes it would look a bit like this.

Don't miss me too much: I'm spending the next week in a tent in Scotland (in September. Yes, I know. Wettest holiday ever), so won't be around until next Sunday. Assuming your comments give me the will to survive the drowning hazard this camping trip entails (hinting, much?) I will be back soon with the sugar high you've been waiting for. Three clues for you: Chocolate. Peanut butter. Cake.

Okay, so they weren't so much 'clues' as the recipe title. Don't wait up!

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust
via Ezra Pound Cake
Adapted from Jack Bishop’s The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook

I know tomatoes are almost gone, but Alex had so many that I told myself it was okay to post this now - surely she can't be the only one with three giant ice cream tubs full of tomatoes at his time of year? Besides, that should just spur you all to hurry all the more to try this. If you're a Caprese salad fan, this is a much more fun and interesting way to get the same flavours; not to mention that the basil-garlic tart dough is charmingly green-hued before baking. Easily amused, moi?

1 recipe Basil-Garlic Tart Dough (recipe follows)
(8 oz)
sliced mozzarella
(1 pound) ripe tomatoes -
if fullsized, core and cut crosswise into thin slices. I used teeny ones, cut into halves.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Prepare the dough, and press it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

2. Preheat the oven to 190C. Line the bottom of the tart shell with mozzarella. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in a ring around the edge of the tart and a second ring in the center. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.

3. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to brown in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before slicing. (The tart may be covered and kept at room temperature for 6 hours.)

Basil-Garlic Tart Dough
hanful (1/3 cup)
fresh basil leaves
1 medium garlic clove
(1 1/4 cups)
plain flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
(1 stick)
unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 to 10 pieces
4-5 tablespoons ice water

1. Place the basil and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until finely chopped. Add flour and salt; pulse to combine.

2. Add butter. Pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.

3. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing several times after each addition. After 4 tablespoons water have been added, process the dough for several seconds to see if the mixture forms a ball. If not, add remaining water. Process until dough forms into a ball. Remove dough from processor.

4. Flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk. Wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be placed in a zipper-lock plastic bag and refrigerated for several days or frozen for 1 month. If frozen, defrost the dough in the refrigerator.)

5. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Lay the dough over the tart pan, and press it into the pan. Trim the dough, and proceed with the recipe as directed.

i like the orange ones.

Monday, 31 August 2009

stuffed focaccia with cheese & rocket

1. nom nom nom

I admit it. I have blogger's block. It's a little bit like writer's block, except hungrier.

Here I am, complete with photos the most delicious baked focaccia, stuffed with three varieties of cheese, sage and fresh rocket - and I'm at a total loss for anything to say about it. I mean, besides, 'it's delicious,' and, 'it's stuffed with three varieties of cheese, sage and fresh rocket'. I recognise this is rather a cop-out.

I think it's the pressure. You see, this focaccia is the most beautiful thing on earth (what? I'm not in a relationship, okay). Somehow it seems crucially important to me that you recognise the miracle of layered, homemade bread, and the pressure is so much that words have failed me.

You're just going to have to make it, I'm afraid.

2. stuffed cheese & rocket foccaccia

Now, don't be hatin', just because it's bread. I know, I know, bread. You have to pound it around, and let it rise, and keep an eye on it, and blah blah blah yeast, ugh. But trust me. Firstly, this is focaccia, which is the easiest bread around; you just have to steamroller it flat and leave it to it (Okay, 'steamroller' is not a recognised culinary term in this context, but you get the gist). And plus, it has a fancy name. We all like fancy names. Sounds better than 'sandwich bread', doesn't it?

Secondly, it honestly doesn't take that long - it's not one of your sixteen-hour shebangs - as I know for a fact, since I made this in a massive hurry (and simultaneously making a lemon & raspberry layer cake, which you've not seen as although the photos were great, I wasn't happy with the taste. Hate it when that happens) before a picnic; the half-hour rising times worked out pretty conveniently, giving me time to do such important things as brush my hair and whip up a quick swiss meringue buttercream.

Incidentally, swiss meringue buttercream? Yes it looks incredibly smooth and professional, but it tastes like bath foam. Ugh.

3. stuffed cheese & rocket foccaccia

And thirdly? Homemade bread more than makes up for a foamy cake (alright, no one else had a problem with the cake. I just really don't like SMB. I don't know what posessed me. This is where cake vanity gets you, grasshopper). Especially eaten still-warm (I said I was in a hurry) with the cheese slightly oozy, this went down a storm. So - eating it? No problem whatsoever. But writing about it?

'I don't have a damn thing to say about cheese & rocket focaccia,' I moaned on Twitter.

'I have several things to say about cheese & rocket focaccia,' my friend Sophie messaged back promptly (procrastinating uni work, I suspect), '1) OM 2) NOM 3) NOM 4) it's better than Morte d'Arthur'.

As a lit student, I feel I should disagree with the final point, but hell, cheese & rocket focaccia kicks the arse of Le Morte d'Arthur.

4. picnic

Cheese & Rocket Focaccia
adapted from 'Happy Days with the Naked Chef', by Jamie Oliver.

As the photos demonstrate, this is ideal picnic fare; how can the humble cheese sandwich possibly compete with an enormous golden sheet of still-warm bread, stuffed with a thick and melty layer of parmesan, cheddar and cheshire cheeses, drizzled with olive oil and scented with fresh sage?

Oh hey, turns out I have things to say about this focaccia after all.

By all means use cheese of your choice - Jamie used Gorgonzola but since this was for a crowd I thought I'd avoid blue cheeses, which are a matter of taste, and went for Cheshire since it has a similar texture (and it's my favourite). But mozzarella would be nice if you wanted that stringy, pizza-cheese effect, for example.

For bread:
1kg (just over 2lb) strong bread flour
625ml (just over 1 pint) tepid water
30g (1oz) fresh yeast or 3 x 7g sachets dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
extra flour for dusting

1. Pile the flour onto a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.

2. Slowly but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well (without breaking the walls, or else water will go everywhere). Continue until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency, then add the remaining water. Mix until stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour and making it less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with remaiing flour.

3. Knead the dough (pushing, folding, slapping, rolling, and generally being abusive) for 4-5 minutes until silky and elastic.

4. Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap, Americans) and allow to prove for around half an hour until doubled in size (ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place).

For the filling:
extra virgin olive oil
170g (6oz) parmesan cheese, grated
200g (7oz) cheddar (or other good melting cheese), grated
140g (5oz) cheshire (or cheese of your choice) grated
2 large handfuls of rocket (argula)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage (or thyme) leaves

5. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 secs by bashing and squashing it. Roll into a large rectangle around 1 cm/ 1/2" thick. Drape half of it onto a medium-large floured baking sheet, with half hanging over the side. On the half that is on the tray, drizzle about 3 good lugs of extra virgin olive oil, rub it into the dough, then add all your cheeses, rocket and some seasoning. Using your fingers, push it all into the dough.

6. Fold the overhanging dough back on to the dough on the tray, and then push around the edges so that you seal them together, tucking it under a little so it fits nicely onto the tray. Rub the top with a little olive oil and rip over some fresh sage.

7. Heat your oven to 180C while you leave the dough to prove a second time for half an hour, and when doubled in size, bake for around 25 mins until lightly golden and cooked. Allow to sit for around 25 mins before eating, best slightly warm.

5. stuffed cheese & rocket foccaccia

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

quadruple chocolate cake

quadruple chocolate cake

I was thinking the other day, and I realised that maybe you don't know that much about me.

I mean, you know the basic stuff. You know I'm newly-nineteen, and English, and a student. You know sugar is my major energy source. You know that presentation is not always my strongest point, and I get too excited at the prospect of using a kitchen blowtorch.

Maybe you don't know that in real life, I can be pretty quiet (-I said 'can'. As in, it's not unheard of, if you'll excuse the terrible pun that somehow wandered into that sentence). I like musicals, and playing guitar, and Harry Potter. My favourite piece of punctuation is the semi-colon. I have a small and hairy dog that I miss a painful amount when I'm away at uni. I also have some small and hairy friends - and I have friends other than Sophie, too (sorry, sorry, couldn't resist).

I ate this bit, and have no regrets.

I have friends that I love so much, that sometimes I think that despite all the shit and misery and, I don't know, burnt toast (I hate burning toast. It's cause I love toasting things so much. When I burn something I feel like I've failed at my missive) in the world, everything will end up okay, because how I feel about them cancels out the bad stuff. Probably I don't deserve them - sometimes I look at them and wonder why on earth they're putting up with me - but they make it worth surviving, I think. I think this is probably how people in love feel, except in this case aimed at a wider group of very cool kids, rather than one specific person.

Whenever the world scares me, I remember that they are in it.

...Look at me, getting all serious. You know, toast aside. The toast was metaphorical, anyway.

quadruple chocolate cake

Forget toast, and let's talk about chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is a pretty good expression of love, by all accounts.

This was a gift, so although I've made this recipe in the past I can't talk about this particular cake too extensively. Butttt I did get to nibble the cut-offs, and as ever, this is the ultimate in squidgy, fudgy cake; drizzled, as the best cakes are, with a ribbon of dark and smoky chocolate syrup, until it is so moist that attempts to cut it result in happy collapse and streaks of chocolate on everything you touch for the next half hour. Not that I'm speaking from experience, or anything.

I can only hope that the rest of the cake was as good at the cut-offs I tried, and almost as good as the friend it was for.

with chocolate shavings

Quadruple Chocolate Cake
Slightly adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson

I know I've complained about Nigella 'in person', but I have no such grudge against her recipes; this is very simple, very moist and squidgy, and right up there with toasters and semi-colons in my scale of approval.

200g (1 2/3 c.)
plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
(1/2 c.)
cocoa powder
(1 1/3c.) sugar -
Nigella uses this weight of caster sugar but I went for 1c. (120g) of light brown and 1/3 (50g) of dark muscavado.
175g (1 1/2 sticks)
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
(1/3 c.)
sour cream
(1/2 c.)
boiling water
(1 c.) chocolate chips (I used chunks of milk chocolate)

For the syrup:
1 tsp cocoa
(1/2 c.)
(1/2 c.) caster sugar

(1 oz) chocolate, cut into splinters of varying thickness, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a loaf tin (9 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 3" deep - that's 21 x 11cm and 7.5cm deep).

1. Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into a food processor, and blitz until it’s a smooth, satiny brown batter. Process again while pouring the boiling water slowly into the mixture. Turn off the processor, and stir in the chocolate chips. (If you’re not using a food process, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs, followed by the dry ingredients, then the sour cream and vanilla, then beat in the water.)

2. Pour the fairly runny batter into the loaf tin, and bake for an hour. When ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle, and a skewer should come out fairly clean.

3. Just before the cake comes out of the oven, put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan, and boil for five minutes. What you want is a reduced liquid, a syrup.

4. When you’ve taken the cake out of the oven, pierce all over with a skewer, and pour the syrup as evenly as possible over the cake. Let the cake become completely cold, then slip it out of its tin, removing the paper, and place it on your serving plate. Get your chocolate, and slice thin slivers off the block with a heavy knife, until you’ve got enough to cover the top of the cake. If required, spoon a little extra syrup so that the chocolate will stick to the surface.

quadruple chocolate cake

Monday, 17 August 2009

strawberry & rhubarb cheesecake tart

strawberry & rhubarb cheesecake tart 1

Time is doing freaky things all over the place at the moment, and I don't like it. I keep intending to post a particular recipe that just-can't-wait, and then thinking, you know, 'shit, better post that asparagus tart before next year's asparagus turns up', or 'when is rhubarb season over'?

I don't know when rhubarb season is over, but I'm posting this in the hopes that the answer is Not Yet.

So that's annoying enough to keep track of, but you want to know what's really weird? My nineteenth birthday. The other day. Um, what? Nineteen is old. Nineteen is resolutely Not A Child. Nineteen sucks.

fruit picking 1strawberry & rhubarb cheesecake tart 5strawberry & rhubarb cheesecake tart 4fruit picking 2

Interesting fact for you: I was sixteen when I began Happy Love Strawberry. I mean, okay, it was like the day before my seventeenth birthday. But still! I was technically sixteen! And ever since, one thing I've heard a lot is 'I can't believe you're only 17/18/so young'. No longer!

I think I can feel my cells dying.

Anyway, since summer is going by crazyfast - does time do this as you get older? Oh my god, I'm having an age crisis here - I had to rethink the post I'd initially planned for today so I could share this with you before the last of the strawberries & rhubarb is lost to us. Lost, like my youth.

So: this recipe. You know when I fell in love with the brown sugar cinnamon pastry of my apricot galette, a few weeks ago? Well, I promised you'd see it again, and here it is; but this time, with a creamy layer of baked vanilla cheesecake between pastry and fruit - because everyone knows that anything is better with cheesecake involved. And yes, it's another big hit with my mother, especially warm from the oven and finished with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream. Oh my.

strawberry & rhubarb cheesecake tart 2

Strawberry & Rhubarb Cheesecake Tart

I had no idea if I even liked rhubarb before making this tart - but yum, apparently I do. If you're dubious over it, you can definitely use all strawberries, but you'd need to reduce the sugar a little (likewise, if you wanted to use all rhubarb (900g/2lb), I'd up the sugar back to 85g/3oz; these were the original proportions in the recipe I based this upon).

This is the perfect late-summer dessert: a little sweet, a little tart, kind of wholesome, and wrapped in brown sugar cinnamon pastry. Do you think I've said those words enough times yet?

For the pastry:
150g (5oz) plain flour
(2oz) wholemeal flour
2 tsp cinnamon
(1 stick + 2 tbsp) cold butter, cut into small chunks
(3oz) light muscavado sugar
1 egg, separated

1 tbsp demerara sugar

1. Put the flour & cinnamon in a food processor and add the butter, processing to make fine crumbs. Reserve 2tbsp of the muscavado sugar, then add the remainder and the lemon zest, and briefly mix. Add the egg yolk and 1 tbsp water, then pulse to make a firm dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and briefly knead. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 mins.

For the fruit:
juice of 1 whole lemon
strawberries, sliced
(2oz) caster sugar

2. Put the lemon juice in a pan with the rhubarb & caster sugar, and cook on a low heat til sugar is dissolved. Then cook for about 5 mins, tipping the strawberries in for the last minute or so (so they don't break up too much). It will be very juicy; tip it all into a sieve over a bowl and leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 200C.

For the cheesecake:
1 egg
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
full-fat soft cheese
g (2oz)
caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

3. Beat the egg in a bowl, then beat in soft cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.

4. Roll out pastry on a sheet of baking parchment to a roughly 12"/30cm round. Slide pastry & paper onto a large baking sheet. Spread cheesecake mixture over pastry to within 2"/5cm of the edges. Spread cooled fruit over top, then fold the pastry edges over the filling, leaving the centre exposed. Brush with reserved egg white & sprinkle with 1tbsp demerara sugar. Bake at 200C for 30mins.

5. Optional: While baking, heat the reserved juices with 50g sugar and boil for a few minutes until reduced to a thickish glaze (I left mine runny, for time reasons). Drizzle a little over the fruit to when out of the oven, and serve the rest warm, separately. Eat warm or hot with ice cream.

strawberry & rhubarb cheesecake tart 3

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

hazelnut white chocolate cake

hazelnut white chocolate cake wedge

Dear hazelnut white chocolate cake,

You have ruined my life.

There was a time when my family appreciated the baking I did for them. They 'ooh'ed and 'ahh'ed over Daring Baker challenges, and called things 'masterpieces', and stole sneaky squares out of cake tins in the middle of the night. They gave me actual useful feedback (well, some of them did: my little sister's idea of feedback is a scale of comparison to spaghetti carbonara). They suggested ideas for future baking, and so on. They said I didn't have to do the washing up, since I'd cooked. That was my favourite bit.

And then you came along.

hazelnut white chocolate cake

At first all seemed well. 'This is the best cake you've ever made!' my mother declared, cutting herself a second wedge. I thought ruefully of the hours of multiple-stage gateaux that have filled my life thus far, but did not complain. 'You have to make this cake every week from now on', my sister ordered me, with her mouth full.

I laughed. Oh, in my innocence, I laughed.

But I cannot escape you, hazelnut white chocolate cake! Not a day goes by without your squidgy, nutty memory haunting my every step. I write 'rhubarb' and 'flaked almonds' on the shopping list: my family crosses it out and writes 'hazelnuts' and 'white chocolate'! I mention my approaching birthday: they suggest a hazelnut white chocolate birthday cake! I point out that we are celebrating me here, not cake: they point out that they love the cake more than they love me. I retort, sulkily, that it is not THAT good a cake: they beat me with spatulas and locked me in my bedroom.

You see my predicament.

cross section

Oh, I too was charmed by you initially, hazelnut white chocolate cake. I too licked cream cheese frosting from my spatula and concluded, 'that's a pretty good cake'. Your dense, blondie-esque texture certainly appealed to me - but I swear this now, I am no longer taken in! I alone can resist your siren call!

If there is but one way to free myself from your power, my cake-y nemesis, I will seize it. And there is truly only one thing to do:

Bakers, Food-Bloggers, and Hungry Passerbys.

Take this recipe for hazelnut white chocolate cake! Take it to your kitchens, your hard-drive, your culinary-minded friends! Take it far from me, from my treacherous family: bake it, frost it, lick the batter from your KitchenAid paddle (oh, don't even try to pretend it's just me who does that). Our combined force is greater than the sway of this cake! We are stronger than it is!

...And, if it comes to it, we can eat it. Take THAT!

hazelnut white chocolate cake

Hazelnut White Chocolate Cake
Adapted from BBC Good Food magazine

It is true: this cake has thoroughly usurped my place in the family. In all honesty, I was a little taken aback at what a hit it was; while I did find it delicious, my family's reaction was something else. I have to warn you: this has got some very cross reviews on the Good Food website (people with their cakes tasting funny or not cooking properly), but, as always, I can only tell you that it was a big success for me.

The original recipe had 300g of sugar: this sounded a hell of a lot to me, especially with white chocolate in the mix, so I reduced it down to 200g. It certainly didn't need to be any higher (unless you have a chronically sweet tooth), but neither would I go any lower than 200g, I think. I wasn't sure if sugar affects the blondie-like texture of a cake like this; does anyone know if it makes a difference?

250g (1c. + 1tbsp) butter , plus a little extra for greasing
(5oz) white chocolate , broken into pieces
(1 c.) milk
1 tsp vanilla
(9oz) self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
(7oz) caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

for the frosting:
300g (10oz) full-fat cream cheese
(2/3 stick) butter , softened
(4oz) icing sugar , sifted
(2oz) hazelnuts, finely chopped

1. Heat oven to 160C. Grease a deep 9" cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

2. Place the butter, white chocolate, milk and vanilla extract in a small saucepan, then heat gently, stirring, until melted. Combine the flour, bicarb and sugar in a large bowl with a pinch of salt, then stir in the melted ingredients and eggs until smooth.

3. Pour the batter into the tin, then bake for 1 hr, or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. [Because of the sugar content, the original recipe may get quite a dark crust; let it cook fully. My version is less dark as I reduced the sugar]. Cool in the tin. Once cool, the cake can be wrapped in cling film and foil, then frozen for up to 1 month.

4. To make the frosting, beat together the creamy cheese, butter and icing sugar until smooth. Fold in most of the nuts, spread over the cake, then scatter over the remaining nuts to finish.

hazelnut white chocolate cake

Friday, 7 August 2009

potted sandwich savouries

potted sandwich savouries

For most of the world, picnic season has been and gone. You've had barbecues, you've eaten ice cream in little wafer cones (with flakes! Ooh, I really want a flake), you've replaced hot meals with salad and ice-pops.

But, this is Britain.

Cue me talking about the weather for a bit, not that it's been anything I can't summarise with the word 'RUBBISH' (-Look at me, being all family-friendly). Our holiday activities are less planning picnics and more building arks.

potted prawn

But say you woke up tomorrow and it was gloriously sunny, and you just knew you couldn't go one more moment without dragging your friends to the nearest park, and kicking back on a picnic blanket with little triangular sandwiches and a Victoria sponge and a big jug of Pimms & lemonade.

...Wait, let me rephrase that. Say you woke up tomorrow and it was the Edwardian era...

Alright, but I've found that sometimes if you make plans with enough determination, sometimes the world co-operates, which is maybe how come we had our first sunny day in weeks today, when we'd decided to go to the beach ('come hell or high water', in my mum's words: I pointed out that high water was fairly likely), and when I coincidentally had just the sandwiches we needed to hand.

potted prawn + soda bread

Okay, so most people are unlikely to get too excited over this post. I understand. You're really holding out for the cake. But see, I can give you cake any day of the week (and my next post is gonna feature the most deliciously squidgy white chocolate and hazelnut number, so hold out for that). And in the meantime, how about adorable little dishes of potted prawns or chicken; set with tarragon or parsley scented butter until they're almost like pate, and perfect for spreading onto soft squares of white or brown bread and cutting into triangles - and then you could dip one edge into some finely chopped chives, just in case this isn't cute enough for you yet, and then you could display them in a little tumbling pile on a cakestand, and - why am I getting this enthusiastic over what is essentially sandwich filling?

Turns out I can get excited over just about anything, hm.

I made a quick loaf of
sodabread to spread these onto (mostly for photographic purposes, I admit) but sliced bread is probably best for sandwiches. Incidentally, don't mind the photos in which it isn't fully set and it seems to be swimming with butter; it's perfectly spreadable when left in the fridge.

soda bread

Potted Sandwich Savouries

These are adapted from 'You' magazine, a supplement with the Mail on Sunday (don't judge me; I like the sudoku), and even though I wasn't really sure what they, you know, were, they looked cute enough to try. Personally, I loved the prawn (which tasted more buttery) but my mum leaned towards the chicken (in which the tarragon flavour was more pronounced). They're definitely simple enough to try both, though.

For the chicken:
200g (7oz) cold skinless roast chicken (ideally dark meat, such as thighs)
1 tsp finely chopped tarragon
75g (2.5 oz) butter
salt & cayenne pepper, to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

1. Finely chop the chicken. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a lowish heat and stir in the chicken and tarragon. Season well with salt & cayenne pepper, then remove from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

2. Pack the mixture into a small serving bowl or pot, cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to cool and chill for several hours until fully set (like I absolutely haven't in the photographs). Use either as a sandwich filling or serve in the pot at the table, as a pate.

For the prawns:
Replace chicken with 200g shelled king prawns, rinsed and patted dry.
Replace tarragon with 1 tsp rinsed small capers & 1/4 tsp ground mace (I had neither, so used chopped flat leaf parsley)
75g (2.5 oz)
salt & cayenne pepper, to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

(Follow the same instructions as for the chicken, but using a food processor to finely chop the prawns)

potted prawn + soda bread

Friday, 31 July 2009

french lemon meringue tart

lemon meringue tart 1

What did you always want to be when you grew up?

Not that I'm, er, looking for ideas, or anything. Various friends have proposed to me that I could work in a bakery, or open my own cake-and-teashop, or generally pipe buttercream for a living... but I've always thought I'd probably get bored (and/or obese) too easily. The truth is, I not-so-secretly want to be a pirate, or possibly a hired assassin.

I also want to be several inches taller and married to Johnny Depp, but it turns out we don't always get what we want. Sigh.

lemon meringue tart 3

This lemon meringue tart got me thinking, for several reasons. Firstly; I'm not going to pretend that I'm all experienced with patisserie, because I'm not, but though I know this is by no means perfect and I would probably be laughed out of cookery school -- hooboy, was I proud of it. I've never made a French-style lemon meringue tart before (LM tarts have a lemon cream filling, with a texture which reminded me of swiss meringue buttercream; whereas the more common (to me) LM pies have a lemon filling made with egg yolks and cornflour), and the several components of this are rather intimidating - not to mention all the 'chill overnight' and 'let rest for two hours' type instructions (all of which I entirely disregarded), and the demand for a sugar thermometer (which I similarly ignored, on account of not having one).

Yeah, I really wasn't qualified to make this tart, on reflection.

lemon meringue tart 4

But I'm so glad I did, because as I piped swirls of Italian meringue over the lemon filling (piped being a term used loosely, since I left my piping bags at uni and had to use a plastic sandwich bag from my mother's kitchen drawer... which inevitably burst midway through and forced me to blob the rest of the meringue onto the tart with a teaspoon. But I digress) I really thought that I wouldn't mind a future in this sort of thing. When I realised it had all actually worked, and come together, and I didn't even have to call it 'rustic' for a change... I saw the appeal of a little shop of cakes and patisserie; all neat and pretty and professional.

And then?



lemon meringue tart 5


Maybe I'll be one of those pirates who attack people with blowtorches... and then make creme brulee afterwards. I'm pretty sure there's a job market there.

Lemon Meringue Tart
Adapted from Pierre Herme, via
Tart crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Makes enough for one 9-inch tart

I was so proud of how pretty this looked that I've barely even talked about the taste - but for the record, this kicks the arse of any lemon meringue 'pie' I've eaten previously; turns out the french-style lemon cream is absolutely the way to go. This is impossibly light, crisp and delicate, and was devoured (at a family gathering; I'm a show-off) to rave reviews. For all the effort, this is definitely my go-to recipe; it's just the best there is.

For pastry:
210g (1 1/2c.)
plain flour
icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
(1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for (ideally) about 2 hours before rolling.

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch removable bottom tart tin. Roll out chilled dough on floured surface to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Turn dough into case and aeal any cracks . Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 190C. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.

for the lemon cream:
200 (1c. + 2 tbsp )
finely grated zest of 3 lemons - I used a microplane zester for this, because apparently I'm a total idiot. I lost hours of my life straining big pieces of zest from my cream; don't be like me. Use a fine zester.
4 large eggs
130ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
(from 4-5 lemons)
300g (10 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks

(This amount of filling is enough for 1 8" tart + 4 3" tartlets; I just made one 9" tart and had a little filling leftover - which worked for me cause I lost some when straining, sigh.)

1. First thing: fill the sink with 3-4cm of cold water. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl (I use the bowl of my kitchenaid stand mixer) that can be set over a pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

2. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 85°C (ahem), stirring constantly – be prepared, as it can take quite a lot of time. As soon as it reaches 85°C, remove the cream from the heat and place the bowl into the sink and allow to cool down to 60°C. Gradually incorporate the butter, whisking after each addition (at this point, I used my kitchenaid fitted with the whisk, hence the use of the kitchenaid bowl…).

3. When all the butter as been used, blend the cream with a hand-held blender for 8 minutes. It might sound long, but will ensure a too-smooth-to-be-true lemon cream. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of cling film against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate overnight. And again I say, ahem.

4. The next day (or later, as the cream can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days), whisk the cream to loosen it and pipe it into the tart shell and refrigerate for at least an hour before starting with the meringue. Oh, I actually did this one!

for the Italian meringue:
2 egg whites
(2 tbsp)
caster sugar
(2 oz)
(5 1/2 oz) sugar

Make the meringue just a little before you serve to avoid weeping. I mean the meringue weeping, not you. Well, maybe you.

1. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt at slow speed until the foam throughout, add the sugar, gradually increase the speed to fast, and beat to soft peaks. Turn the machine to slow as you complete the sugar syrup.Bring the sugar and water to 115°C. Beating the egg whites at moderate speed, pour the boiling syrup into them. Increase the speed to high, and beat until the bowl is no longer hot (it should still feel slightly warm).

2. Pipe the meringue onto the lemon cream and caramelise using a blow torch.

lemon meringue tart 6

Friday, 24 July 2009

asparagus & potato tart

asparagus & potato tart 1

I'm not a big watcher of food programmes on TV. I'm not sure why this is - I suppose a contributing factor is having Not Had A Telly for the past year at uni, but I was baking last night when Nigella Express came on BBC2, and I definitely wasn't a fan ... if by 'not a fan' you mean 'kind of wanted to give her a good shake', which I do. It was a bit of a crushing blow, considering I love all of her recipes and the way she writes - maybe I just don't like seeing people for real? Maybe it's a little too close to actual human contact for comfort? Maybe I should be locked up; but let's move on.

I was as surprised as anyone to find myself really enjoying Jamie At Home, then - you know; Jamie Oliver grows courgettes and potatoes and things, pours copious amounts of olive oil over everything, gets nice and grubby, and then serves an amazingly fresh, simple dish at the end of it. I'm good at maybe two of those things (read: consuming olive oil and getting dirty fingernails) so I feel a bit of an affinity for him.

asparagus & potato tart 2

However, Jamie At Home was something I could only watch on internet catch-up while I was at uni, which meant more often than not I'd be watching Jamie grilling seafood and tossing it with chopped red chilli and lemon juice on a bed of courgette ribbons, while I'd be sat at my desk eating cuppasoup, or - at best - 'insert food item here' on toast. (Under such depressing circumstances, you can see why I wasn't blogging.)

To come home and be allowed all the chopped red chilli and lemon juice I could get my hands on was a revelation (specifically; not to eat red chilli and lemon juice on their own), but it was this asparagus & potato tart that was the biggest success with my family; something I'd seen Jamie make on the programme weeks before that had made me sigh dramatically -'WILL I EVER SEE ASPARAGUS AGAIN?', type thing.

The fun irony of this story is that, since I made this, asparagus season has kind of ended.

asparagus & potato tart 3

I could say I'm doing this to you because I care, but that would be a lie. I'm doing this to you because I want you to feel my pain.

And also because this tart is delicious.

And also because I'm well brought up and am going to give you other options to use this base for. As long as you tell my mum what a nice girl I am.

asparagus & potato tart 4

Asparagus & Potato Tart

Adapted from Jamie At Home

Jamie's version of this used filo pastry and double cream, but since it's the eggs that set tarts like this, I used milk as it's what we had in. Obviously both work, but cream is richer if you're serving this for a particular occassion. I also used a fair bit less butter and cheese than he suggested; not consciously, just because I didn't feel we needed quite so much - use your own judgement.

British asparagus season is shorter than my tolerance for most TV chefs, but it's the mashed potato base of this that's so different, and almost anything could replace the aspargus. My little sister's optimistic suggestion (I don't know why I even asked) was 'SAUSAGES': I rolled my eyes, but on reflection a 'bangers & mash' tart is quite a cute idea.

500g (1lb 2oz) potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
sea salt
& freshly ground black pepper
500g asparagus spears, woody ends removed
about 400g
(8oz) shortcrust pastry (or 2oog filo, Jamie's way, but he uses an extra ton of butter for this)
100g (3oz)
freshly grated Lancashire cheese
(3 oz)
freshly grated Cheddar cheese
3 large eggs
1 x 284ml pot
(1 1/4c.)
double cream (I used milk)
1/4 of a nutmeg
a good blob of melted butter

1. Put the potatoes in a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 mins. Meanwhile blanch the asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 mins, and drain in a colander.

2. Preheat oven to 190C (375F) and prepare an ovenproof dish (Jamie helpfully says, 'I've used many different shapes and sizes' - men. I think a 9x13" halfroaster would be the perfect size; I made one 8x11" tart and one individual one with this quantity). Roll out shortcrust pastry into a large rectangle on a floured surface and line your tart dish with it.

-- Have you ever used the trick of rolling out pastry between floured sheets of clingfilm (plastic wrap)? I would explain further, but that's basically all there is to it. I did it for the first time making this tart, and it's changed my life, to exaggerate but a little. Yet I digress --

Prick the bottom of your pastry case a few times with a fork, and if your life is empty and you don't have an Aga, cover it with a layer of baking parchment and parbake it for five minutes or so.

3. When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream/milk and stir into the cheesy mashed potato. Grate in the nutmeg, season well with pepper (seasoning is key in this tart) and mixed together. Spread the mash over the pastry, then take the blanched asparagus and line it up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the melted butter and put in the oven for about 20 mins, or until golden. Allow to rest 10 mins before serving alongside some fresh salad.

asparagus & potato tart 6