Apricot Tarte Tatin

Another super easy recipe for summer fruits. As everyone know, who knows this blog, I am not one to give a day over to making my own puff-pastry. I spent too many hot summers in boiling hot restaurant kitchens trying to do my umpteenth fold, butter melting and no matter how much flour I used, puff pastry sticking to warm stainless-steel counters, to undertake that again in a hurry.

Now a days I am all for “Ready Rolled All Butter Puff” and you can knock this whole, delicious desert up in about ¾ of an hour.

Apricot Tarte Tatin

75g/2¾oz caster sugar

40g/1½oz unsalted butter, cubed

10 fresh apricots, halved and stoned

375g/13oz sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry

Crème fraiche or ice cream, for serving

For caramelising the apricots, you need a large ovenproof frying pan with a base that measures about 20cm/8in in diameter. Put the sugar in the pan and set it over a medium heat. Cook until the sugar first melts and then caramelises and turns golden brown. Try not to stir the sugar but swirl it around the pan every now and then. When you get to a deep golden caramel, add the butter and

stir in the butter with a wooden spoon. The caramel will be extremely hot so watch out for splashes. When the caramel is smooth, carefully arrange the apricots on top, cut-side up. Leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Unroll the puff pastry sheet Place a dinner plate or 25cm/10in cake tin on the pastry and cut around it. Gently place the pastry on top of the apricots and tuck down the sides with your fingers.

Bake the tarte tatin for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is well risen and golden-brown. Remove the pan from the oven using an oven cloth to hold the handle of the pan – don’t forget – it will be very hot. Leave the tart to stand for a couple of minutes to allow it to settle, then loosen the edges and place a large serving plate or board on top of the frying pan. Very carefully, but quickly, turn it over, using a folded dry tea towel to help you hold it, and allow the tarte tatin to drop gently on to the serving plate.

Serve warm with crème fraiche or ice cream.

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Baked Blueberry and Vanilla Cheesecake

I like to have one or two definitive recipes for each seasonal fruit. Ones that I know will always work and when the season for that fruit comes around again I get excited and start salivating about making again. But up until now, I have never had one such recipe for blueberries. So, I set about rectifying the situation and the first thing that sprang to mind was Blueberry Cheesecake.

I am always a little apprehensive about making cheesecake. I think I have just had so many horrid ones, over sweet, gelatinous and gloopy! When I was a kid in the 70’s I even remember making one from a packet which was pretty disgusting. But then I went to New York and I will never forget the wondrous baked cheesecakes, topped with sour cream. Slightly grainy at the edges, totally wobbling creaminess in the middle. Mind-blowing. So, I was a little nervous of trying to recreate what I had reminisced. I scoured through hundreds of recipes to find one that sounded right, and never imagined that the first one I tried was going to turn out such perfection.

Baked Blueberry and Vanilla Cheesecake

150g digestive biscuits, smashed

20g caster sugar

70g butter, melted

Filling

800g Philadelphia cream cheese

150g creme fraiche

190g caster sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, or essence

4 eggs

30g flour

50ml milk

200g blueberries

100g creme fraiche

200g blueberries to decorate

Preheat oven to 170 C / Gas mark 4. Lightly oil a 25cm cake tin. I lined mine with grease-proof as I was frightened that otherwise it would leak.

Mix the biscuits, sugar and butter together and press evenly into the bottom of the tin to form a base. I used a potato masher.

Mix the creme fraiche, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla using an electric mixer. Add the eggs one after another and always mix well in between. Add the milk and flour and mix as well. Stir in the blueberries and pour into the tin. Bake for about 1 hour in the oven. The cake should be well risen, golden brown on top and just very slightly wobbly in the middle. Take out and allow to cool. After cooling spread the cake with 100g of creme fraiche and let it cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours. I couldn’t wait and ate mine after about an hour. Decorate with blueberries.

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Rhubarb, Rosewater and Pistachio Pavlova

I was sure I had come up with the perfect Easter dessert last week with my Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Trifle – that is until I thought up this Rhubarb, Rosewater and Pistachio Pavlova. Be careful when you use rosewater, it can vary massively in potency. I was used to a rather wishy washy version and was a little too liberal with the almost essence strength of the Nielsen-Massey brand I was sampling. The result was rather like eating a bar of soap. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend the brand, but just use it sparingly.

Rhubarb, Rosewater and Pistachio Pavlova

800g rhubarb stems, cut into small batons

200g golden caster sugar

2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways or vanilla bean paste

350mls double cream

1 tsp rosewater (try Nielsen-Massey)

2 tbsp. sugar

For the meringue

4 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature

250g golden caster sugar

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp white wine vinegar

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas. Using a pencil, mark out the circumference of a dinner plate on baking parchment. Whisk the egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks, then whisk in the sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time, until the meringue looks glossy. Whisk in the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla.

Spread the meringue inside the circle, creating a crater by making the sides a little higher than the middle. Bake for 1 hr, then turn off the heat and let the Pavlova cool completely inside the oven.

Place the rhubarb batons in a large pan along with the sugar, vanilla and about 200ml water. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cook very gently until just soft. Discard the vanilla. Remove the rhubarb from the pan, reserving the cooking liquid.  Reduce the rhubarb cooking liquid until thick and syrupy. Leave rhubarb and syrup to cool (can be made up to 2 days ahead and chilled until needed). To serve, whip the cream until it just forms peaks. Carefully ripple the rhubarb purée through the cream. Plate each meringue and spoon on some of the rhubarb rippled cream. Top with the remaining batons and spoon some of the rhubarb syrup on top and around the plate.

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Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Trifle

I love rhubarb. I was trying to think of the perfect Easter desert and Rhubarb trifle sprang to mind, and then I just could not stop thinking about it. Layers of stewed rhubarb, vanilla custard, rhubarb jelly, sponge, cream and of course sherry. I chose a light almond sponge and soaked it with Pedro Ximénez sherry, which if you haven’t tried before, it is time you did. It gives trifle a sophisticated edge and quashes any old-fashioned associations of sherry being just a drink for grannies.

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Trifle

Almond Cake

110g ground almonds

140g caster sugar

4 eggs

Stewed Rhubarb and Jelly

800g Trimmed rhubarb (top and tailed)

200g Unrefined golden granulated sugar

Vanilla bean paste

Gelatin leaves

Vanilla Custard

570ml/1 pint milk

55ml/2fl oz single cream

1 vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla bean paste

4 eggs, yolks only

30g/1oz caster sugar

2 level tsp cornflour

Pedro Ximénez

Toasted flaked almonds, dusted with icing sugar

½ litre double cream

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

First make the sponge. Beat eggs and sugar until light and frothy. Add almonds and beat for 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a greased and lined 7-8 inch low square baking tin.

Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes at 170c. Cut into cubes when cold.

Next, stew the rhubarb. Cut the rhubarb into 1 cm chunks. Put into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar and 200mls of water. Stir well. Cover and cook on a medium heat. The lid will help the rhubarb cook down. Once the rhubarb has released enough liquid to cover itself, remove the lid, reduce the heat and gently poach until all the rhubarb is cooked through. It is nice if there is still some texture though and not a puree. Check the sugar. Add vanilla and strain the cooked rhubarb through a fine sieve collecting the juice in a measuring jug.

Soak the number of gelatin leaves required for the amount of rhubarb liquid you have in the jug. Soak them in cold water until softened (check the packet instructions for the correct amount of gelatin to use for the volume of rhubarb juice.) Place the rhubarb juice into a clean pan over a low heat and warm through gently. Gently squeeze the excess moisture from the gelatin leaves and add them to the pan, whisking until dissolved.

Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat. Remove the vanilla pod (wash the vanilla pod, dry and store in jar with caster sugar to make vanilla sugar). Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until well blended. Pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk. Return to the pan, (add vanilla bean paste or extract if using) and over a low heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened. You can just bring it to the boil and it will not split because of the cornflour, but whisk well all the time.

Whisk the cream with the vanilla and sugar until soft peaks. Add half the diced sponge to the bottom of your serving bowl. A glass bowl is nice as it shows the layers. Drizzle the sponge with a generous dose of sherry and then top with stewed rhubarb. pour over half of the jelly and put in the fridge to set. When set, add half the custard and once again put in the fridge to set. Repeat the layers and then top with the whipped cream. Finally, finish with the toasted almonds.

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Parsnip, Carrot and Apple Juice

It suddenly occurred to me that parsnip juice might be nice. After all it has such a delicious sweet and nutty taste, I thought it might really add interest to my recent juicing craze, so I tried it out with a few carrots and some apples to see how it turned out, and I recon it is one of my favourite juices yet.

And would you believe it, parsnips are really good for you too. I seem to have had a cough that has lasted for ever, so I was pleased to hear that they contain phosphorus-chlorine elements which bring particular benefits to the lung and bronchial systems. They are also contain a high level of potassium, which gives the brain cells a boost, which is something else I can always do with. Parsnips are also packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and rich in phytonutrients that may prevent certain types of cancers. Finally, if that was not enough they contain Vitamin B, C, E, K and Folic Acid and high levels of Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Zinc, and Iron. So get juicing!

Parsnip, Carrot and Apple Juice

Makes one large glass

2 parsnips

2 carrots

2 apples

Chill the veg and fruit. No need to peel. Top and tail the carrots and parsnips and quarter the apples. Juice and drink.

Pear, Apple and Rosemary Juice

Riverford are running their juicing  box at the moment so it is time to make the most of it. I have been experimenting with herbs in my juices recently. I know it is a bit kooky but I believe that we all have a herb which we identify with.

Rosemary is my kind of herb – robust, assertive and gutsy. I also believe that when you instinctively crave something, it may be because it contains something that you might be deficient in. Rosemary is high in vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, a good source of antioxidant vitamin C and very high in iron. This Pear, Apple and Rosemary Juice was delicious. But try experimenting with your own choice of herbs and see how you get on.

Pear, Apple and Rosemary Juice

Makes one glass

3 pears

2 apples

Generous sprig of rosemary

Chill your fruit. Cut into suitable sized pieces. Put the rosemary into the juicer first. That way, when you add the fruit it will help extract the most from the herbs.

5 a day Delicious Green juice – Kale, Courgette and Apple

I always find around this time of year, that Winter really begins to take its toll. I long for some sunshine. Any hint of a tan from last summer is gone and my skin is dry from all the central heating and returned to a blueish shade of white. I seem to have had a cold for weeks and I am permanently tired. Now is the time to really look at your diet and make sure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Up until last week I was concerned enough about getting my 5 a day, and now they have only gone and upped the ante and announced that we should now really be looking at getting 10 a day if we want to see the health results in terms of decreased chance of getting heart decease, stroke and cancer.   Well panic not – a green juice that not only probably provides half of your 10 a day but tastes really nice to!

However, this requires a proper juicer. Not a Nutribullet. Nutribullets are nothing more than small, upside down liquidisers and although the juices they produce are undoubtedly better for you, being much higher is fiber, they are all disgusting. Green sludge that would put anyone of juicing for life. Get a proper juicer and you won’t look back!

5 a day Delicious Green juice – Kale, Courgette and Apple

Feel free to play around with the recipe – substitute apples for pears, add a celery stick or a squeeze of lime. If you keep your veg and fruit in the fridge before making, your juice will be cold when you drink it, which is always nicer I think.

Large handful Kale

3 apples, quartered

1 large courgette, cut into chunks

Juice the kale first followed by the courgette and apple. Drink straight away.

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Blood Orange Sorbet

I know it is hardly the weather for sorbet but when I see blood oranges, I just can’t think of anything else. This is super delicious and super easy to make but you will need some sort of ice-cream machine. Mine is just a cheap one and cost under £20 at the time. You freeze the bowl first and it can’t cope with large quantities but worked brilliantly for this recipe.  Blood oranges are not around for long so make the most of them and get them whilst you can!

Blood Orange Sorbet

If using an ice-cream maker like mine, be sure to freeze your bowl overnight. (Serves 4)

7-10 blood oranges (400ml strained juice)

125g white sugar

Roll each orange on the work surface to release the juice, then squeeze. Pass through a sieve and you have about 400ml juice.

Heat 75ml of the juice gently in a pan with the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Allow to cool slightly, then add the remaining juice. Chill well.

Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to instructions. Eat as soon as possible for the best texture.

Fig and Almond Tart

Back raving about figs again this week. They are just such a beautiful fruit. I love their dusty, deep purple colour and their contrasting, vibrant jammy red centres. And they taste no better ever, than in this most delicious Fig and Almond Tart. Serve with a large dollop of crème fraiche.

fig-and-almond-tart-1

Fig and Almond Tart

Flan tin 10” / 25cm

Pastry

175g plain flour

90g butter

50g icing sugar

2 egg yolks

Frangipane

175g butter

175g ground almonds

175g golden caster sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon flour

Glug of amaretto

6 ripe figs

Put the flour, butter and sugar for the pastry in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. In the same food processor bowl add the butter and sugar for the frangipane. Mix until smooth. Add the almonds and the egg and whiz again until smooth. Add the amaretto and the flour. Mix once more. Remove the pasty form the fridge when ready. Preheat the oven to 170C. Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Get a round piece of greaseproof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the greaseproof and add the frangipane filling. Cut the figs in half and press into the frangipane in even spacing. Bake in the oven until the farangipan is risen all over and golden brown.

6-figs

Juice

Salad Box 

With promises of a heatwave coming this week, I opted for a Salad box this week, which contained a bag of mixed salad leaves, some bunched radishes, vine tomatoes, a cucumber, several Ramiro peppers and a head of celery.

I noticed that there was lots of juicing fruit available at the moment at Riverford. It’s funny that everyone gets out there juicers in January with great intentions of fulfilling New Year’s resolutions of eating healthier, getting fitter and losing weight but by the time there is an abundance of seasonal vegetables around, the juicer has long been put away. I decided to get mine out again and it give it another try.

I have experimented quite extensively with my recipes but rather conservatively I have decided that there is only one concoction that I like. It is a blend of apples, carrots, celery and beetroot – the quantities of each may vary greatly depending on what I have to hand but the ingredients never alter – because it is just perfect as it is! With this in mind I added beetroot and apples to my order this week and here is the result. Beetroot is super good for you, excellent at lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and especially at good at detoxing your liver, which is always a good thing.

Beetroot in a Bag

When it comes to juicers, you do have to invest. I have got a basic Magimix one which I have had for about 15 years and it is still going strong and is vastly superior, in my mind to a Nutribullet which was the fad this year and about the same price. I know that Nutribullet keeps in fibre but it is due to this, that practically every drink I have been served from one, is virtually undrinkable. You may strongly disagree and I would love to hear your recipes for your favourite juices.

juice with veg

Beetroot, Carrot, Apple and Celery Juice

1 beetroot

2 sticks celery

2 apples

3 carrots

Wash the vegetables and fruit well. Peel if you like, depending on your juicer. Cut up any veg that will not fit into the shoot. Stir all the juices together well. Drink immediately. (I like to keep my veg in the fridge for a couple of hours before juicing so that you get a really cold drink.)

Juice

 

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