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April, 2014

  1. French Chocolate Tart

    April 26, 2014 by sarah

    When you read this, we will be on our holidays in Iran. Isn’t modern technology great? I have been so looking forward to this trip; exotic and unknown. I am also looking forward to sharing with you when I get back, especially on the food.

    This recipe is a stand-by for dinner parties or get to togethers because it is thrown together with minimal fuss and made in advance. Despite the speed at which it is put together, the resulting tart is luscious and very chocolaty. The taste depends on the quality of the ingredients so do not skimp and buy the best chocolate and butter you can. Hope you have occasion to use it too; please invite me!

    chocolate tart (1 of 3)












    • 150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
    • 135g unsalted butter, chopped
    • 55g caster sugar
    • 1 tablespoon brandy or orange-flavour liqueur
    • 3 large eggs (total weight in shells 200-220g)
    • ¾ tablespoon plain flour

    chocolate tart (2 of 3)












    1. Preheat oven to 180 ⁰C/fan 160 ⁰C.
    2. Generously grease a 18cm diameter springform tin. Line the base with baking parchment and grease this too. Wrap the outside of the tin with tin foil so it will be water tight up to half its depth.
    3. In a saucepan over a low heat, melt the butter, chocolate and sugar, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove to heat and allow to cool to below body temperature and add the liqueur.
    4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly until a little foamy. Sift over the flour and then beat in. While whisking the eggs, pour over the chocolate mixture and beat until smooth.
    5. Pour into the prepared tin. Sit the tin in a deep roasting tray and pour boiling water around the edge to come 2cm up the sides of the tin.
    6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges are set but there is still wobble in the middle. Take the tin out of the water and cool the tin on a cooling rack until completely cool then remove the cake from the tin. Decorate with icing sugar if wished.

    chocolate tart (3 of 3)

  2. Rhubarb fool

    April 18, 2014 by sarah

    The first rhubarb of the Spring is a special thing and deserving of a kind of reverence. The first crop from the garden; the start of hopeful bounty from the earth. And then the pale pink to deep red stems that haven’t yet been turned green with age. So here is my homage to the first rhubarb of Spring. Yes, you can buy it at Christmas in the supermarkets but that is not the same as harvesting your own. But if time is pressing, rather than saying there is no time to make a real pudding, cheat and use the excellent ready made custard available to buy. I admit it. I did.

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    Rhubarb Fool

    • 180ml/ half pint of double cream, cold from the fridge
    • Half the amount of the custard from the recipe below or half of a pint/500ml tub of good quality vanilla custard (e.g. Waitrose Madagascan vanilla custard)
    • Medium bunch of fresh spring rhubarb
    1. Cook the rhubarb – I like to chop the rhubarb into short sections and put in a shallow baking dish with a good sprinkling of caster sugar and bake in a medium oven for 20-30 minutes until soft. Alternatively you could do the same in a pan on the hob. Allow the rhubarb to cool fully.
    2. Whip the cream until soft peak stage.
    3. Fold together the whipped cream, custard and rhubarb which should be in roughly equal proportions i.e. a third of each. Carefully spoon into pretty glasses and refrigerate until required.


    Proper English Custard


    • 570ml/1 pint milk (whole milk or add some cream to reduced fat milk to same volume)
    • 1 vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract
    • 4 eggs, yolks only
    • 30g/1oz caster sugar
    • 1 level tablespoon cornflour
    1. Bring the milk (with cream if adding) and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat.
    2. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the milk.
    3. Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until well blended.
    4. Pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk.
    5. Return to the pan, (add vanilla extract at this point if using) and over a low heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened. Take off the heat and cover with cling film so that the cling sits on the surface of the custard so that a skin does not form.

    rhubarb (4 of 5) rhubarb (2 of 5)

  3. Salted Caramel Popcorn

    April 12, 2014 by sarah

    It is Saturday night and to me that means movie night. These days it is most often an ‘at home’ movie on DVD rather than a cinema experience. Apart from a special trip to The Rex, I don’t like going to the odious Odeon or the cynical Cineworld; over priced tickets for a standard chair, sticky carpets covered in popcorn, noisy customers, and no bar! Not nearly as pleasant as our own sofa, glass of wine in hand and a bowl of this delicious popcorn. I guess this is why our DVD collection would rival that of a well stocked rental shop!

    By the way, if you haven’t been to The Rex, you really MUST!

    popcorn (1 of 2)

    Salted Caramel Popcorn

    100g butter
    100g soft brown sugar
    2 tablespoons golden syrup
    1-2 teaspoons sea salt, depending on taste
    Make a batch of popcorn, either old fashioned in a pan or a bag of plain microwave popcorn.
    Oil a large baking tray and tip over the popcorn, discarding any unpopped kernels. Preheat the oven to fan 160 ºC.
    Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a small pan, stir until melted and then boil for 4 minutes.
    Pour this sauce over the popcorn and toss with 2 spoons (it will be VERY hot and cause burns) until the popcorn is coated or the sauce goes stiff.
    Pu the tossed popcorn in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Take out and toss again, sprinkle over the salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Repeat again if the popcorn isn’t evenly coated.
    Leave to cool for 10 minutes before attempting to eat – otherwise you WILL burn your mouth!
    popcorn (2 of 2)

  4. Marmalade Loaf Cake and Crystallised Flowers

    April 6, 2014 by sarah

    OK folks, a brief posting for a cake I made last weekend as I am totally pooped! I would of thought I would have more energy now Spring has finally arrived, but as usual there is too much to do and too little time! I made some marmalade last Saturday so to make space for the fresh stuff, I went through the cupboards to find any of last years marmalade. There was only one jar left so a third went into this cake. I just need to find a recipe for the rest – any suggestions?

    This cake is lovely and zing and oh so spring like, especially with the crystallised flowers (ahh, pretty). I saw a recipe in a magazine using them recently and jotted it down as something to do. I was thinking of how to decorate this cake and these flowers were surprisingly easy. Take one egg white and add a dash of cold water and whisk to break up the white. Use a small clean paint brush to brush the egg white all over the flowers and then hold over a second bowl and sprinkle over caster sugar. Leave on a baking rack to dry for 24 hours. Make sure you use edible flowers (see this website for a good list of flowers). I used primroses, daisies and violets. I then used the left over egg and sugar in the recipe so nothing was wasted. I am happy when nothing is wasted!

    marmalade cake (1 of 3)

    Marmalade Loaf Cake


    • 225g self-raising flour
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 115g margarine
    • 85g caster sugar
    • 1 teaspoon orange rind, finely grated
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 2 good tablespoons thick cut orange marmalade
    • 2 tablespoons milk


    1. Preheat the oven to 170 C / fan 150 C. Grease a 1lb loaf tin (or a 6 inch/15cm round cake tin).
    2. Cream the margarine and sugar in a large bowl.
    3. Add all the other ingredients and use hand mixer to mix well but don’t over do it; it should look like thick batter.
    4. Don’t worry about the occasional wee lump, remember there’s orange rind in the mix! Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
    5. Bake in the center of the preheated oven until golden brown, about 1 hour. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then tip out onto a wire rack.
    6. While the cake is still warm, spread a thin layer of warmed marmalade over the top. Allow to cool, then slice and enjoy.
    7. Alternatively, when cool ice with glace icing and decorate with crystallised spring flowers.

    marmalade cake (3 of 3) marmalade cake (2 of 3)