Blackberry Tart with Mascarpone and Vanilla

It’s getting a little late now for foraging for blackberries, but if you are lucky enough to find some, or planned ahead and have a tub in the freezer, this is a simple and delicious dessert. it works just as well with raspberries, blueberries or plums.

I’m not one for desserts. You can probably guess that from the lack of sweet treats here, but this is irresistible. You may want to adjust the amount of caster sugar based on the sweetness and ripeness of your fruit.

1 x 375g pack of puff pastry
1 x 250 tub of mascarpone
4 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g or thereabouts of berries of your choice
2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Pop the oven onto 220C

Roll out the pastry to about 5mm thickness (or use ready rolled). Line a tin with parchment and lay the rolled pastry on top. You want the pastry to be rectangular and fit the size of your tin. Now take a sharp knife and score around the perimeter, about 2cm in from the outer edge. Now pp it into the oven for around 8-10 minutes until puffed up but not browned.

Take out the oven and gently press down the middle area. Allow to cool.

Mix the mascarpone with the caster sugar and vanilla extract, then blod or gently smear over the middle of your part-cooked pastry. Top with the berries, then scatter the demerara sugar over. Pop back in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the edges are browned and the berries are starting to release their juices.


A cake for late summer

I’m not one for cakes, but having had a bumper crop of raspberries this year I am running out of ideas. I’ve got jars and jars of jam, litres of raspberry vodka waiting patiently for Christmas to arrive and a freezer full of whole raspberries and coulis.

This is a very simple sponge recipe – the same one as in my apple cake – dolloped over late summer berries. In this version I used raspberries and blackberries, but you could use one or the other, or redcurrants, blueberries or even gooseberries.

Put the oven on to 180C and line the bottom of a 20″ – 24″ spring form cake tin with greaseproof paper or parchment. Scatter enough berries to cover the base of the tin. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of demerera sugar over and the tiniest of splashes of vanilla essence.

Blend together 130g caster sugar and softened butter until pale and fluffy. Now beat in two medium free range eggs, then add 130g self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder for extra lift. if the mix is a little dry add a tiny splash of milk.

Spread the cake mixture carefully over the berries, then bake for 45-55 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the tin then turn out upside down on a plate. Alternatively you could serve warm with custard.

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Apple Cake

This has become a favourite amongst work colleagues. A slim, moist, spicy apple cake that works well cold as a cake or warm with custard as a dessert and is a great way of using up unwanted eating apples. I can’t claim this to be mine as the recipe is from a magazine cutting kept in my recipe scrapbook, but I have no idea where it came from.

130g butter
130g caster sugar
130g plain flour
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
A little milk
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
3 eating apples

Set the oven to 180C and line the base of a 24cm spring form cake tin with parchment. Rub a little butter over the parchment and round the side of the tin.

This is easy if done in a food mixer, but you can do it by hand which helps burn up some of the calories you will be consuming when you eat a slice.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale, light a fluffy then add the eggs gradually and beat well. Now add the flour and baking powder and fold it all together. if the mixture is a little stiff, add a splash or two of milk. Scrape the cake mixture into the tin.

Peel and core the apples, then cut into small dice and place in a bowl along with the cinnamon and demerara sugar. Mix well then scatter the apple pieces over the cake mixture.

Bake for 55 – 60 minutes. The edges will be browned and the middle very moist from the apples.

Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out of the tin and eat warm with cream or custard. Or allow to cool completely and eat cold with a cup of tea.

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Pine Nut and Almond Biscotti

Summers aren’t what they used to be when I was a lad. However this constant rain is perfect weather for staying in and baking.

I fancied a little break from baking sourdough. Since attending one of Dan Lepard’s Sourdough Masterclasses last month I have become a little obsessed.

These are the first biscuits I have cooked that I actually do as the name suggests and cook them twice. First on a high heat to cook through the raw ingredients and add a little colour,then longer in a cool oven to dry them out and give them their crisp, crunchy texture that works so well with your morning coffee.

This recipe comes from Leith’s Baking Bible and makes about 24-30 biscotti depending on how thin you like them.

100g blanched almonds
100g pine nuts
225g plain white flour
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
85g caster sugar
2 eggs
55g melted butter
1 egg white for glazing
2-3 teaspoons icing sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 190C and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with greaseprrof paper.

Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat then add the almonds and pine nuts. Toast them, stiring gently and frequently until nicely browned. Allow to cool the roughly chop them.

Mix the buts, flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. then stir in the eggs and the meted butter (allow the butter to cool a little first to stop the eggs scrambling).

Roll the dough into two long sausage shapes approximately 2cm wide and 20cm long. Place these on the prepared baking sheet, brush with a little beaten egg white then bake for 20 minutes. Take them out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 80C.

Taking a sharp knife or one with a serrated blade, slice the cooked dough on a 45 degree diagonal into 1cm slices (or thinner if you prefer). Place them cut side up on the baking sheet and return to the coller oven for 1 hour, turning half way through.

Cool on a wire rack then dust lightly with icing sugar.

As they are so well dried, these biscotti will keep for quite a long time in an airtight container.

Tahini Flapjack

Adapted (only very slightly) from master baker Dan Lepard’s brilliant Halva Flapjack recipe. The only changes I made were to add pine nuts and flax seeds and to use Agave Syrup in place of honey – mainly as I didn’t have any honey in the house at the time. The tahini gives the flapjack a wonderful fudge-like texture and nutty flavour.

100g butter
75g soft light brown sugar
1 can (197g it says on the tin!) condensed milk
4-5 tablespoons tahini
3-4 tablespoons of agave syrup or honey
100g dried figs – roughly chopped
100g shelled walnuts – roughly broken
50g pine nuts
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds/linseeds
approx 200g porridge oats

I tried this the first time with Greek tahini, but after my day with Yotam Ottolenghi, I have switched to using tahini from the middle eastern shops in and around Edgware Road. The Al Yaman one is great.

Heat the oven – 180C for a normal oven, reduced to 160C for a fan assisted one.

Now melt the butter, sugar and condensed milk either in a large pan over a low-medium heat or in a large mixing bowl in the microwave for a minute or two. Add the other ingredients except the oats and mix well. Now add the oats until the mixture holds its shape. The more you add the firmer the end result. I think a little over 200g works best.

Take a baking tray – somewhere around 25cm square or slightly bigger if you want the flapjack to be thinner. Line with parchment then spread the mixture into the tray pressing down firmly.

Bake for approx 20 minutes until starting to brown. Remove and cut into squares while still hot. Leave to cool in the tray then store in an airtight container. If you can resist eating it all it lasts a several days.

Mango and Cardamom Pound Cake

My colleagues are no doubt starting to get a little tired of eating banana bread every week or some form of apple cake so I thought I’d try something different. Thanks to The Singing Chef for this one. Went down a treat. The mango adds moisture and the cardamom has a fresh almost ginger like taste to it.

1½ cups self raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds – remove from the pods and crush slightly
½ softened Butter
¾ cup Caster Sugar
2 Eggs
100ml Buttermilk
1 teaspoon icing sugar
About half a ripe mango – peeled and finely diced

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F. Prepare a 10″ round tin with parchment and a little butter.

Cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the buttermilk, mango and cardamom and beat again. Now add the dry ingredients into the batter, adding a little at a time.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool a little and sieve the icing sugar over it.

Pimms Drenched Berry Trifle

I’m not a big fan of desserts. Anyone who has a copy of my book will have noticed that the treats section is a lot smaller than the savoury sections. Anyone who works with me may have noticed that I don’t often eat much if any of the cakes I bring in. I made this recently when a friend came over for dinner. I didn’t eat it so I can’t say whether it is tasty or not but my friend liked it. I saw a similar pudding being made when I was at the Vegetarian Cookery School recently using plums soaked in Grappa. But with Grappa being almost £40 a bottle I thought I would try it using blackberries I picked late summer and froze along with some Pimms left over from our rather cold and miserable summer.

A good few handfuls of raspberries and the same of blackberries. You could also use blueberries, redcurrants. You could gently heat this just to help the fruit to release the juices.
1 medium glass Pimms
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 pack of trifle sponge, Madeira cake or home made Victoria sponge
250g Mascarpone
250g half fat creme fraiche
1-2 tablespoons icing sugar
100g whole hazelnuts
2-3 more tablespoons caster sugar

Put the fruit in a bowl and add the caster sugar and Pimms. Leave for at least an hour.

Take another bowl and a seive and strain the fruit from the juice/Pimms.

Take a mixing bowl and mix the icing sugar with the mascarpone and creme fraiche.

Now caramelise the hazelnuts. Take a small non stick pan and place on a high heat. Add the hazelnuts and sugar and stir continuously until the sugar has melted. Keep stiring until the nuts are nicely coated in the caramelised sugar then lay out onto greaseproof paper to cool.

Now start building the trifle. Take a nice glass bowl. Soak pieces of sponge in the fruit juice and Pimms mixture and cover the bottom of the bowl. Put half the fruit over the sponge then cover with half the cream mixture. Now add another layer of the sponge, soaking it first in the juice and Pimms. Then the rest of the fruit and then the rest of the cream. Roughly chop the caramelised nuts and sprinkle over the top.