RSS Feed

May, 2015

  1. Paris Weekend

    May 26, 2015 by sarah

    We have just got back from a lovely long weekend in Paris. The weather was beautiful all weekend, the food was exquisite and we enjoyed walking around, soaking up the atmosphere. A very beautiful and relaxed city. Plenty more to see next time we go; we didn’t even get in the Louvre as the queue was too long!


    Jim and I outside Notre Dame


    Bridge with padlocks of love


    Macrons in the window of Laduree


    Having macarons and tea in Laduree


    Eiffel tower


    Patisserie take away, eaten the Luxemberg gardens – 2000 filles


    Patisserie take away, eaten the Luxemberg gardens – pistachio and wild strawberries


    Beer for lunch


    Notre dame at night


    Paris at night


    A famous patisserie shop.


    Us outside the Moulin Rouge – tourist honeytrap


    My sketch of the Eiffel tower


    We didn’t get to go up the tower – the queues were too long!



  2. Madeleines – a post from Paris

    May 24, 2015 by sarah

    When this post goes live, I will be enjoying a well earned break in little olde Paris! And probably eating these little cakes which are a Parisian specialty. A little something to have with afternoon tea.










    While drooling over guide books for Paris over the past few weeks, I felt inspired to make some madeleines. Just one problem; they require a specialist tin which seems rather wasteful for something to be made once in a while. But while surfing (the net, no water round here), I came across the Lakeland sale and there was the tin I needed, half price. Of course, I had to buy other tins to make it free postage but that really is not a hardship!

    The batter for these cakes does not take long to whip together and it can sit for several hours up to overnight but madeleines MUST be eaten fresh from the oven; they really don’t keep as they dry out quickly. Who needs a greater excuse to eat them up fast? This recipe is a hibrid of Rachel Koo’s from ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’ and David Lebovitz from his website, because as usual I couldn’t decide which recipe to follow. For this first attempt, I went with simple vanilla madeleines but next time I will try being more adventurous by adding fillings and glazes.

    Apparently the way to tell a good madeleine is the size of the hump. There seems to be all sorts of magic and witchcraft (freezing the molds, freezing the mixture, no baking powder) involved in getting it to form, but forget all that and just enjoy them for what they are; a nice lump of cake!

    madeleines-005 madeleines-003


    Makes 20-24 (so two trays worth)

    3 large eggs
    130g caster sugar
    175g plain flour
    1/8th teaspoon fine salt
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    finely grated zest of 1 lemon

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    170g butter, melted and cooled
    some milk
    extra melted butter and flour for the molds

    Prepare the molds by brushing with melted butter , dust with flour and tap off the excess. Place into the fridge or freezer.

    Beat the eggs and sugar until light and moussy. Sift over the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in with the lemon zest.Drizzle the cooled melted butter over this, folding it in as you go until it is all incorporated. Cover the bowl and sit in the fridge for at least an hour up to 12 hours.

    When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200 ºC/ 190 ºC fan. Plop a heaped teaspoon of batter into each indentation; do not spread it out. Bake for 8-10 minutes until just set. Turn out to cool on a wire rack. Wash and dry the tin and pop it in the freezer for as long as you can bare, then repeat with the second batch. Eat as soon as possible!


  3. Carrot cake and topping

    May 20, 2015 by sarah

    This recipe is one of those which turns out to be much greater than the sum of all its parts. It is ridiculously moist, homely yet in fashion, chewy but light. You can glam it up with decoration or leave it rustic and plain. Bake in a round tin or rectangular, this cake never fails me in the bake or others in the tasting.

    Many people don’t like nuts so I use sultanas in my version which add texture and some sweetness. Feel free to change back to nuts; walnuts are traditional. It keeps well as it is an oil based cake, but the icing will only keep for a day or so at room temperature, depending on how hot it is!

    carrot cake-004

    Passion Cake

    For the cake:
    175ml vegetable oil, flavourless
    200g caster sugar
    3 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    100g sultanas
    200g carrots, grated coarsely
    150g plain flour
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and mixed spice
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    For the topping:
    75g cream cheese or ricotta or quark
    50g softened butter
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    finely grated zest of 1 orange
    100g icing sugar

    Prepare a tin by lining the bottom with parchment paper and greasing the sides. Either a 22cm round tin or a 20 x 30cm rectangular tin, or muffin cases (about 12). Preheat the oven to 180ºC/ 160ºC fan.

    Beat the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a jug.

    Put the dry ingredients into a large bowl, add the grated carrots and wet mixture. Beat well until mixed.

    Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour for the large tins, half an hour for individual muffins. Allow to cool in the tin for 10minutes before turning out to cool completely on a cooling rack.

    To make the topping, put the soft butter in a bowl and beat until smooth. Add the cream cheese (which should be cold from the fridge) and vanilla and orange zest and beat until smooth. Sift over the icing sugar and beat until all incorporated. This topping is soft and cannot be piped; look at my other recipes if you need a topping that can be pipped.

    carrot cake-003

  4. Aioli or mayonnaise and Spring vegetables

    May 17, 2015 by sarah

    I feel a bit of a cheat putting this recipe up; it takes all of 10 minutes to make. If you think mayonnaise is difficult or time consuming to make, then think again, as Mr Oliver would say. And this aioli recipe is like garlic mayonnaise turned up to 10. Just the way I like it and perfect for serving with some lightly steamed vegetables, or chips, or really anything. And like mayonnaise, you can make the recipe your own; try adding cayenne pepper, fresh herbs or lemon zest and juice.




    Recipe from Jamie Oliver.

    1 garlic clove (I used smoke garlic I brought back from the Isle of Wight)
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1 free-range egg yolk
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    about 500ml oil - do not use all olive oil as has too strong a flavour, try half olive oil and half rape-seed oil
    pepper and lemon juice to taste

    In a pestle and mortar, grind the salt and garlic until a fine paste is made. Scrape this paste into a large bowl that is sitting on a non-slip mat. Add the mustard and egg yolk and with a large balloon whisk or hand mixer, mix well together. Then slowly add the oil. Add the oil VERY slowly to start will, drip by drip, but you can be a bit freer when most of the oil has been added.

    Season to taste with pepper and lemon juice, using the lemon juice to slacken the mixture if you need it runnier.

    This will keep for a few days, covered in the fridge.



  5. Rhubarb and custard tart – recipe

    May 4, 2015 by sarah

    A couple of weeks ago, I made some individual sized custard tarts. But I had loads of pastry and filling left so I turned it into this patisserie style rhubarb and custard tart. I don’t think it would go down well in Paris (not finished well enough for a start) but I love the contrast of the silky egg interior and the tart juicy rhubarb on top. It looks so pretty with the regular rows of soft pink and green stems. One tip – measure and cut your rhubarb before it is cooked, otherwise it is too soft and will disintegrate to a mush when cut.













    You know it is Spring when you harvest your first crop of rhubarb from the garden. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable but is used most often as a fruit in cooking. Without a sweetener, rhubarb is bracingly sour. If you think about those unfolding leaves and growing stalks appearing after a long winter diet of meat and starch, rhubarb’s tartness could serve as a welcome tonic. But add some sugar and the fruit flavour is revealed in all its glory. The flavour of rhubarb is complemented by many things; vanilla, nutmeg, orange, ginger.


    Rhubarb and custard tart

    Custard tart made as here
    500-750g rhubarb
    50-100g caster sugar

    Clean the rhubarb and cut into lengths to fit on your tart, especially if making a rectangular tart like mine.

    Place the cut rhubarb into a shallow dish suitable for the oven. Sprinkle over the sugar and tightly seal with foil. Place in a preheated oven at 200 ºC/180 ºC fan for 20-25 minutes until the rhubarb is tender. Allow to cool completely before arranging on your tart. Serve immediately as the juice from the rhubarb will make the pastry soggy.