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I once bought a jar of caramelised onion chutney at a fayre and promised myself that one day I would hunt out a recipe and make some myself.   It is a really useful addition to the store cupboard: delicious with cheese or cold meat, so especially good around Christmas when there are plenty of cold cuts, but also good stirred into gravy to add extra flavour.  If you like hot dogs then you could substitute this chutney for the fried onions and if you like sausage rolls then why not try the recipe on this site for Sausagemeat Plait substituting Caramelised Red (or White if you prefer) Onion Chutney for the Fennel & Apple Chutney.

Finding nothing particularly useable in my recipe books, I turned to the web and discovered several helpful recipes, in particular one from Tesco called Caramelised Onion Chutney, but I consulted other recipes as well.  One of these Red Onion & Balsamic Chutney, a Lesley Waters recipe on the Good Food Channel site, added orange which I wanted to include in my recipe, having made some onion marmalade (a mixture of seville orange and onions) some years ago. The Tesco recipe used a pinch of chill, but I used Piment d’Espelette as an alternative.  The recipe did not specify the type of onion, so I assume that it should be white ones, however as I had plenty I used red onions instead.  The only comment I would make is that I would have preferred the chutney to be pinkish rather than brown, reflecting the rosy colour of the onions.  The darkening came both from the brown sugar, even though I used light brown, the dark balsamic vinegar and the red wine vinegar.  If I did this again I woudl certainly use white wine vinegar and white balsamic vinegar and possibly white granulated sugar as well.   Ideally this recipe should be kept to mature for 6 – 12 months, according to the Tesco recipe.  I made mine at the start of November so by Christmas it will have matured for almost 2 months: not quite long enough I know but I plan to keep one jar by for next Christmas to see if it really does improve with age.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney
(3 x 500g/1lb jars)

3tbsp olive oil
1·5kg/3lb onions – I used red onions
zest & juice of 1 orange
300g/10oz light muscovado sugar (or white granulated to help preserve colour)
200ml/7fl oz red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar to help preserve colour)
3tbsp balsamic vinegar (or white to help preserve colour)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
½tsp salt
large pinch paprika
large pinch crushed chillies or Piment d’Espelette (Espelette pepper)

1.  Peel and thinly slice the onions.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan and using a low heat gently fry them for 10 minutes until they have softened.  They must not brown.

2.  Stir in 3 tbsp sugar.  Turn up the heat and cook the chutney for 3-4 minutes and allow the onions to brown, although if you want to preserve the pink colour of the chutney try not to let them brown very much.  Stir in the rest of the sugar and then add the remaining ingredients.

3.  Simmer the mixture gently for 10-15 minutes.  The liquid should reduce, the mixture thicken and turn a dark caramel colour.  (This instruction comes from the original: using white vinegars and sugar should hopefully preserve the colour a little better although adding the sugar will make it darken a little.)

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

7.  If you can wait that long it is recommended that this chutney is stored for 6 – 12 months before use.

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There was a glut of fresh figs on our market during the autumn and I was able to buy a whole tray really inexpensively.  My family could eat a whole tray in one sitting and these were particularly sweet and soft, but I squirrelled a few away so I could try this wonderful sounding dish.  At the same time on the market there were the last of the years peaches and nectarines, a little hard and not easy to ripen, so not especially good for eating, but ideal for cooking which brings out their flavour beautifully.  A good reminder of the last of summer.

My starting point for this recipe came from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson and had the exotic sounding name: Figs for 1001 Nights.  I gently grilled the fruits in the spiced butter as in the original recipe but using peaches as well as figs.  An alternative would be to pop them briefly in a hot oven, but I would only do this if I already had the oven on to cook something else  – flash grilling is fine.  Nigella used a little rosewater and orange flower water in her basting mixture.  I used the orange flower but although I had the rose water in my cupboard I left it out as my daughter sadly dislikes the traditional rose turkish delight flavour.   I do have a bottle of rose syrup in the cupboard, however, so I used this as a pouring sauce for those of us who do like it.  (As an alternative she used a little honey, which proved equally as good as honey and figs are also a good match.)  Rose syrup is a lovely item to have in the cupboard and is delicious with rhubarb and yoghurt, or poured over ice cream, however it is very sweet so I suggest it is used sparingly at first as it can be quite overpowering.  I have some sachets of vanilla sugar, bought on holiday in France, with one being just about 1 tbsp.  If this is not available then substitute granulated sugar and a very small amount of vanilla extract, one or two drops maximum.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Grilled Figs & Peaches
(Serves 6 – 6 figs & 6 peaches/nectarines)

1 fresh fig per person (or 2 smaller ones)
1 fresh peach or nectarine per person
25 g unsalted butter
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
or
1 tbsp granulated sugar & 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
½tsp orange flower water
To serve:
50 g pistachio nuts, chopped
Crème fraîche
Rose syrup, to drizzle – to taste or honey

1. Preheat the grill on a high heat – alternatively use an oven set to a high heat, at least 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2. Carefully cut the figs with a cross shape as if quartering them but do not cut righ through to the bottom and then gently press each fig.  They should look like four petalled flowers.

3.  Cut the peaches or nectarines into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing the stones.

4.  Place the opened figs and peach/nectarine pieces in a snugly fitting single layer in a heatproof dish.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a glass microwave proof bowl or jug.  Stir in the cinnamon, sugar and orange flower water until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are using rose water rather than syrup, as in the original recipe, add it at this point (½tsp should be enough).  Stir well and baste the figs and peaches/nectarines.

6.  Place under the hot grill or into the oven for just a few minutes.  The fruit should warm through slightly and the skins should start to blister from the heat.  Beware leaving too long, especially if oven cooked, as the fruit can become over soft and could also burn.

7.  Serve immediately giving each person two figs and one peach or nectarine (either two or four pieces depending on how they have been cut.   Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and pour over the brown cooking juices  and a drizzle of rose syrup (if you have not used rose water in the cooking mixture) or honey.  Finally sprinkle over some chopped green pistachio nuts.

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The addition of orange and mint to the mixture makes this couscous recipe both colourful and refreshingly delicious.  It has a summery look and taste, although it originally appeared in a winter magazine and would be perfect served as part of a summer buffet or BBQ.  It was originally designed to be served with Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks which would be perfect cooked outdoors, although I grilled them in the kitchen.  There is already a recipe for the much less sweet Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad on this site, using preserved lemon and flavoured with fresh coriander.

The original recipe came from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of the Tesco free instore magazine and there is also a link to Moroccan Lamb Chops with Couscous online.  The couscous recipe below is my own variation with slightly adjusted quantities and the addition of a tin of chick peas to make it more substantial. The original recipe included halved red peppers which were grilled alongside the meat and then added to the couscous mixture, but I simply used a diced ungrilled red pepper.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Orange Couscous
(Serves 4)

3 oranges
250g/8oz couscous
handful mint leaves – reserve a little for final garnish
50g/2oz black olives
1tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 x 400g tin chick peas
150ml/¼ pt boiling water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.   Peel two oranges and remove all of the white pith.  Holding the oranges over a bowl to catch any juice, slice them between the membranes with a sharp knife and carefully divide into segments.  Once the segments have been removed squeeze any remaining juice from the orange membranes before discarding.

2.  Cut the remaining orange in half and squeeze out the juice, adding it to any already collected.

3.  Drain and rinse the chick peas.

4.  Halve, deseed and finely slice the red pepper and cut into small pieces of around 1 inch/2.5cm. Alternatively the pepper can be grilled alongside the meat, as in the original recipe, and then sliced and stirred into the couscous mixture at step 7.

5.  Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl along with the chick peas, red pepper pieces and the olive oil.  Pour over all the orange juice plus the boiling water.

6.  Cover and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed the liquids.

7.  Chop the mint and gently stir most of it into the couscous along with the orange segments and the black olives.  Be careful not to break up the orange pieces.  Season well to taste.

8.  Serve the meat on a bed of fruity couscous, scattered with a little extra chopped mint.

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This simple flavour rub for a lamb steak or chop is full of the summer warmth of North African spices: cumin, paprika and coriander. Perhaps then in November, once the nights start to draw in, it is a good way to bring back Mediterranean holiday flavour memories that are by now receding into the past.  It is almost too simple a recipe to add here but I have been exploring different marinade recipe ideas recently: for pork especially but also for chicken and lamb so wanted to add this as a stand alone item.  The original recipe was for marinaded chop with a delicious minty/fruity couscous but I have divided the recipe into two posts, with the couscous to follow next.  Both recipes stand alone, of course … but they were delicious together.

The recipe comes from a winter (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of the Tesco free instore magazine. In the original the spice rub marinade is simply rubbed onto the meat just prior to cooking, but to get a better depth of flavour it is much better if left throughout the day or overnight.  The recipe is delicious if served with Orange Couscous, its original accompaniment.  I quickly grilled the lamb steak on a George Foreman grill, but it could be grilled conventionally or pan fried as in the original recipe.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks
(Serves 4)

4 thick lamb chops or steaks (alternatively use chicken or pork)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
large pinch paprika
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   Wipe the lamb steaks and place in a dish.

2.  Sprinkle over the the spices, add a little salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil.

3.  Gently turn the chops around in the spicy mixture using fingers or a fork then cover and leave the flavours to develop.  Ideally this should be throughout the day or overnight.

4.  Using as much of the spicy marinade as possible, grill the chops or steaks under a preheated hot grill for about four minutes each side, or a little long if preferred, but until the lamb is cooked to your preference.  Alternatively they can be gently pan fried for a similar length of time in a hot frying pan with a little additional olive oil if needed.  A George Foreman grill can also be used.

5. When cooked, the meat can be covered with foil to keep warm while the couscous mixture is being finished.  The meat can either be served in one piece or cut into strips or chunks.

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Some time ago I added a recipe to this site for Cucumber Bread and Butter Pickle.  Put simply, this is a pickle to eat with bread and butter, perhaps alongside some cold meat or cheese.  (I actually enjoy it on its own in a sandwich.)  The original recipe was a fairly traditional one and shortly afterwards I added a second version with coriander seeds which gave a citrus flavour to the pickle. (Well at least I think coriander seed tastes a bit lemony!)  Here is a third version: different again, this time with a spicy bite from the chilli and mustard seeds and called American style, though I am not quite sure why.  I love this one, but next time will make sure I have washed off the salt a little more thoroughly.  The first batch was fine but the second needed either an extra wash or perhaps I should have used a little less salt – it was rather too salty for my taste. The salting is essential as without this step, which draws out the excess water in the cucumber, the pickle would go mouldy.  All of the cucumber based bread and butter pickles are worth making in the summer months when cucumbers are plentiful, but a smaller quantity can be made at any time of the year, especially if you can find a good offer on the market.  Adjust the chilli according to taste: I added a very small one the first time but find I am increasing the quantity with each batch I make.  Just a word about the vinegar: this version uses cider vinegar but another type such as wine or malt can be substituted, however it should be at least 5% proof in order for the recipe to be successful.  If you substitute malt vinegar the distilled clear type will better preserve the bright colours of the ingredients.

The recipe comes from Pam Corbin and the spin off series from River Cottage, River Cottage bites.  I scribbled down the ingredients from the television and am pretty sure they are right.  I expect the full recipe is in one of the two River Cottage volumes that Pam has written but I am not sure.  Now I just have to decide which recipe to make each time!

A note on how to dry the salted cucumber and onion: Tip rinsed items into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather the corners together and making sure there are no gaps for the cucumber and onion to fly out, take outdoors and shake by flicking your arm downwards, towards the ground.  This is Pam’s method demonstrated in the series but has been our family trick for drying lettuce years before the invention of salad spinners.  (Be sure to keep away from anything you could hit and try to avoid spraying the windows or the cat!)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Makes 2-3 x 1lb jars)

1kg cucumber
1 medium sized onion
3-4tbsp salt (sea salt recommended if available)
300ml cider vinegar (must be 5%proof – see note above)
200g granulated sugar
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp celery seeds
2tbsp white mustard seeds
1 chopped red chilli (size to taste – removing the seeds & membranes will make it milder)

1.  Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices.  Peel and chop the onion fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber).  Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.

2.  Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.

3.  Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty.  To dry see note above.

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.

6.   Heat gently so that the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

7.   Add the cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate. Any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.

8.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

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I made my own version of what we called ‘Cauli-mac’ some years ago but it wasn’t particularly exciting so we had it just once, twice at the most.  Cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese are both popular here but I was attracted to this version as it was just a bit different.  Finding a good recipe to make both at the same time was always going to be a hit and this is proving to be our favourite recipe from the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals series and book.  It is simple comfort food at its best and I have lost count of the number of times I have made this or a variation.  Although it is a fairly standard mixture of cauliflower, macaroni and cheese I have changed the ingredient proportions in the original recipe to give a less stodgy version: more cauli and slightly less mac.  There are two brilliant ideas that lift this Cauli-mac out of the ordinary.  The first is the addition of crème fraîche along with the cheese, saving the need to make a time consuming flour based white sauce: simple but brilliant.  (Of course part of the 30 minute meals brief is the need for speed.)  The second idea was to add a breadcrumb topping which included bacon and rosemary, both delicious flavourings.  There is very little bacon – just enough to add a slight flavour – but if you are vegetarian never fear as I have included some information below, giving my still tasty but meat free version.  Adding chopped parsley to the cauli-mac mixture gives a pretty green flecked sauce and I saved some to scatter one top as well.  Recently I have been making a new variation of my own, which includes tomatoes.  This is still being ‘tested’ by my guinea pig team (aka family) and needs photographing, however it will make an appearance in due course.

As I have already said, this recipe comes from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (by Jamie Oliver).  This is just one dish, part of a menu he suggests can be cooked within the half hour time limit and which also includes a mixed salad and a dessert.  I am afraid I have not cooked the complete menu and probably will not, but I have often served some salad on the side.

Vegetarian Variation: The bacon can, of course, simply be omitted but a similar smoked flavour can be obtained by using grated Applewood Smoked Cheese (or a similar variation – though possibly not the Bavarian Smoked log type cheese).  I replaced about half of the mature cheddar.  For a stronger flavour replace all the cheddar with smoked cheese.  A dusting of smoked paprika before cooking will also add to the smoky flavour and give a little heat as well.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

‘Cauli-mac’ – Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese
(Serves 4)

4-6 rashers of smoked bacon, or a similar quantity of bacon offcuts or leftover smoked ham
1 large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
Olive oil as required
150g mature Cheddar cheese
2/3 thick slices of bread
large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large clove of garlic
150g crème fraîche (about half a tub)
Parmesan cheese, to serve
2tbsp chopped parsley, to divide between mixture & to garnish
Salt & pepper

1.  Fill the kettle with water and bring to the boil. Preheat the oven on to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

2.  Lay the bacon in the dish you will eventually be using for the cauli-mac mixture and put on the top shelf of the oven to pre-cook.

3.  Trim off any very coarse or spoiled outer leaves from the cauliflower and remove the tough end of the stalk.  Quarter the head or break it up into large pieces. Place in a large saucepan, stalks downwards and add the pasta. Chop or crush the garlic well and add to the pan.

4.  Pour over the boiling water to cover the ingredients, season, add a little olive oil and place on a high heat. Stir well, and cook with the lid just askew.  I found it was worth stirring the mixture once or twice to help avoid the pasta sticking to the pan.

5.  Grate the cheddar cheese in the food processor and tip into a bowl.

6.  Remove the bacon from the oven.  Using a mini chopper or food processer, chop or process well with the bread and rosemary leaves.  Add a good drizzle of olive oil to bind the ingredients into a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

7.  When the cauliflower and the macaroni is just cooked (a knife inserted into the cauliflower stalk should slip in easily), reserving the cooking water, drain the cauli-mac through a colander into a large bowl.  Tip the cauli-mac into the dish the bacon was cooked in.

8.  Add about 300ml (about three quarters of a pint) of the reserved cooking water.  Stir in the crème fraîche, grated cheddar and most of the chopped parsley, breaking the cauliflower up with a fork or potato masher until you have bite size, but still recognisable, chunks.

9.  Taste the mixture and if required add more salt, plus a little ground pepper. The sauce should be loose and if necessary, add another splash of the reserved cooking water.

10. Spread the mixture out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumb topping. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for around 8-10 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the mixture bubbling.

11.  To serve grate over some Parmesan and scatter the top of the dish with the remaining parsley.  Serve with a simple side salad.  Crusty bread or garlic bread can be served alongside if required.

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Regular readers of this site will know by now that we love a good chutney!  My previous posts for Beetroot Chutney and Tomato Relish are two of the most visited and commented on recipes that I have posted – Spiced Damson Chutney has also proved popular (see comment below – thanks Sharon!).  Here, I suspect is another favourite.  Certainly, the half quantity I made  was eagerly received and left me wondering why I had not risked making the full amount.  However, I still have lots of apples to use up – what a bumper harvest (and generous friends) – we have had this year.

I was first alerted to the recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney by Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen.  That was way back last year at the end of November when I did not have enough time (and had also just made a shipping order of different chutneys).  I made a note to have a go at making the original recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney which came from BBC Food  as it looked so good.  The amounts spice used looked rather a lot, especially the paprika, so I used scant quantities, but I think I need not have bothered.  Shaheen used Allspice rather than Mixed Spice but I am not sure why as they are not the same: it may of course be a personal tweak adding a flavour she really liked – not uncommon!  Allspice are berries from the Pimiento.  Mixed Spice is a blend of ground spices especially used in the UK which usually includes Cinnamon (or Cassia), Nutmeg, Cloves and Ginger (occasionally Allspice, Cayenne and/or Coriander as well).  It is similar to the French Quatre épices (literally four spices): pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger (sometimes substituting allspice for pepper and cinnamon for ginger), commonly used in meat dishes such as paté and terrines.   Additionally in the Netherlands (Belgium and Germany too) the Speculaas/Speculoos biscuits contain a spice mixture called (in the Netherlands) Speculaaskruiden, which is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamon and white pepper.  (I keep promising myself I will make some of these biscuits…)  Although this is rather going off on a tangent, there is an interesting post listing Spice mixtures worldwide on Wikipedia.  However, back to the chutney…  I’m thinking of putting in ginger another time in addition to what is already in the mixed spice to enhance that flavour.  The original recipe gave a choice between adding sultanas or raisins (which are similar) and as an alternative, dates.  There was never any contest for me as I would find dates just too much in what is already rather a sweet (though delicious) chutney: sultanas it was!  The only other tweak I made was to use my usual method of adding the sugar later once the other ingredients have reduced a little.  The sugar can be inclined to make the mixture burn before it has fully reduced and I find this helps to prevent this.  Overall I would recomment Spiced Apple Chutney as having a lovely mixture of sweet and spicy.  It is delicious eaten with pungent cheese, ham or pork (but I am sure it would be a good accompaniment for all meats.

Warning: Do not try to make a double batch in one pan.  Reducing the extra liquid will be difficult and leaving it to cook down for a long time could lead to the sugars burning.  I speak from experience!  I apply this rule to all home made jams and chutneys: nothing worse than a bitter burnt flavour lurking in the background.  I find using the widest saucepan I have gives the biggest surface area for the quick evaporation of liquid.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spiced Apple Chutney
(Makes 4-6 jars)

225g/8oz onions, chopped
900g/2lb apples, cored & chopped
110g/4oz sultanas, raisins or stoned chopped dates
15g/½oz ground coriander
15g/½oz paprika
15g/½oz mixed spice
15g/½oz salt
340g/12oz granulated sugar
425ml/15fl ozs/¾ pint malt vinegar

1.  Put all the ingredients apart from the sugar into a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 1 -1½ hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.

2.  Reduce the mixture until it has thickened.  You should be able to draw a channel across the bottom of the pan through the mixture that doesn’t close over too quickly.

3.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Continue to cook on a medium/high heat, stirring regularly to avoid burning.

4.  Continue to cook until the chutney is very thick and you can once more draw a channel across the base of the pan that does not immediately fill with liquid.

5.  Meanwhile wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

6.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

7.  Store in a cool, dark cupboard for two to three months before eating.  (Actually I opened one jar immediately to test it and it was fine: it will be interesting to try a more mature version around Christmas.)

8.  This is particularly good eaten with cheese, ham or pork.

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I have had mixed experiences with making cakes containing fresh fruit.  The first time I made an apple cake it was definitely delicious but the texture and look felt more like a pudding than a cake.  It seemed rather claggy and was great with custard but I did not feel it was particularly presentable for a tea-time treat.  It deteriorated quickly in the cake tin as it was so moist and was just about edible on the second day but definitely past it after that.  I was a little unsure about wanting to repeat the experience, but we have been snowed under with gifts of apples this year.  By all accounts it has been a bumper harvest.  I decided to take a risk using a different recipe and this time the results and especially the texture were very much better.  Actually, this recipe was so popular that I did not have to worry about it lasting as long as day three, however if it had I am sure it would have been edible.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

You will not be surprised to know that this is yet another recipe from my original paperback copy of Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes, which is well thumbed and in places loose leaf.  (I was looking for the recipe for Caraway Seed Cake, one of my favourites, which will follow another time … but I digress …!)  This page popped open and it sounded lovely – and conveniently there was a small lonely bottle of French cider sitting in the cupboard.  My only argument with the recipe is the instruction for placing slices of apple on the top.  I spent quite some time making an attractive decorative pattern in concentric rings only to find this was completely unnecessary as it was completely obliterated by the topping mixture.  Next time I will either scatter the slices evenly over the top before adding the topping or even try dicing the remaining apple (but into fairly small pieces), before mixing with most of the topping and evenly scattering it over.  It can then be finished off with the remainder of the topping mix and the split almonds certainly add a lovely nutty crunch, although they could be omitted.  As for the cider, we could really taste it in the cake.  I am sure that apple juice would make a good substitute but obviously would not be quite the same.  I served this as a warm dessert accompanied by vanilla ice cream with some cake left over to cut and eat cold later.  If it is going to be served as a pudding you could go the whole hog and serve it with Brandy Sauce, the type some people serve with Christmas pudding!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spiced Apple & Cider Cake

For the cake:
50zs/150g margerine or butter
5ozs/150g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
8ozs/225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp grated nutmeg
¼pt/150ml dry cider
3 smallish cooking apples (I used 1lb 40zs/600g)
For the topping:
1oz/25g butter
1oz/25g plain flour
2ozs/50g dark soft brown sugar
2tsp cinnamon
1oz/25g blanched & chopped or split almonds

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line and grease a 8inch/20cm loose bottomed cake tin.

First make the cake:
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy.

3.  Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, beating well each time a some egg is added.

4.  Sieve the flour, nutmeg and baking powder together.

5.  Fold half of this flour mix into the mixture using a metal spoon.  Add half of the cider.

6.  Fold in the remaining flour mix.  Add the remaining cider.

7.  Peel, core and chop one apple and fold into the cake mixture.

8.  Spoon the cake mixture evenly into the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon.

Prepare the topping:
9.  Measure the flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and rub together with fingertips until it has a coarse and crumbly texture similar to breadcrumbs.  Add the chopped or split almonds.

10. The remaining apples should be peeled, cored and sliced thinly before arranging the slices, overlapping slightly, on the top of the cake.  This can be done fairly roughly – these will be completely underneath the layer of topping mixture so it is not worth spending a lot of time making a highly decorative pattern with the apple!

11. Scatter the topping mixture evenly on top.

12. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 1¼-1½hrs or until the cake starts to shrink away from the sides of the tin.

13.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

14.  Remove carefully and transfer to a wire rack.

15.  Serve warm as a dessert with cream or ice cream. Alternatively cut when cool and serve at tea time.

16.  The liquid in the fruit will make this a moist cake and the moistness will make it start to go mouldy quickly so be aware that it needs to be eaten within a day or so.

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When faced with a choice at the French patisserie counter it’s always difficult.  I have already posted a recipe for Tarte au Citron so now, as promised some time ago, here is Tarte aux Poires.  Both are candidates for the title of our favourite, but the jury is still out…  It is a crisp pastry shell filled with cooked pear halves, a delicious soft almondy filling and a top scattered with toasted split almonds and is a relatively straightforward recipe.  Arranging the pears decoratively is not too difficult, just a bit fiddly, but it is worth it for both the positive comments of guests and being able to produce something to keep the family happy!  Another often seen title for Tarte aux Poires is Pear Frangipane Tart, the word frangipane relating to the addition of ground almonds. (More information about this can be found with the recipe for Mincemeat & Almond Delight).  The original recipe I used was called by another relatively common name, Pear Pie Bourdaloue, but the many variations of spelling make the meaning of the name difficult to trace.  Some sources credit a Parisien baker called Coquelin, owner of La Pâtisserie Bourdaloue named after the street in which it stands, who in 1909 baked the first Tarte Bourdaloue aux Poires.  Whatever its origins, however, the numerous recipes for this classic french pear and almond tart all agree with us: it is delicious!

The original version of this recipe Tarte aux Poires comes from the French recipe website Meilleur du chef which is also available translated into English where it is called Cuisine French.  The recipe translation is not perfect – for example it suggests the dish is finished with ‘blond coating’ (nappage blond). This appears to be a product commercially available containing sugar, water and a little apricot flavouring, which gives a slightly sticky finish to the tart.  I substituted a sugar and water glaze, which as far as I can see gives a similar result but is not absolutely necessary.  On many occasions have forgotten to add it or have simply run out of time.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Tarte aux Poires Bourdaloue (Pear Frangipane Tart/Pear Pie Bourdaloue)

Shortcrust Pastry – enough to line a 20cm/8inch flan case
100g butter
100g sugar
100g ground almonds
20g flour
40g whipping cream – single if whipping not available
2 eggs
1 or 2 tins pears (enough to give six halves of roughly equal size)
or
Gently poach three whole sweet pears and cut into six halves, removing the cores.
Split almonds to decorate
Granulated sugar dissolved in a little water to make a light syrup (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

2.  Line the flan tin with shortcrust pastry, prick with a fork, fill with dried beans and bake blind for about 10 minutes until the pastry starts to set and colour.  Remove beans and set to one side.

3.  Reduce the oven heat to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2

4.  To make the almond cream filling cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale and thick.

5.  Stir in the ground almonds.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Beat well.

6.  Mix in the cream and flour and then beat well to fully combine.

7.  Spoon this almond cream mixture into the blind baked shell, making sure it is level as possible.

8.  Taking each pear half, carefully cut splits lengthways down each piece leaving each slice joined at the top.  Gently ease each half into a fan shape.

9.  Arrange each piece of pear evenly around the dish, carefully easing out the fan shapes.  Some dishes would allow the six pieces in a circle with the points towards the centre.  If the pears are fat and round in shape there may only be space for five pears in the circle in which case the sixth piece can go in the centre.  Gently fan out the pear pieces before you place them on top of the almond cream mixture taking care not to separate them at the point.

10. If not using the sweet coating: Scatter a small handful of split almonds over the tart.  The quantity is up to you – I like to be reasonably generous.  If you intend to add the sugar coating the split almonds are added at the end just before serving and should have been carefully toasted in the oven or under a hot grill.  They burn very quickly and need to be watched as they toast.  Once toasted remove from the tin onto a cold plate to cool.

11.  Bake the tart in a warm oven for 40 to 50 minutes and remove when the top of the tart is golden. The split almonds should be starting to colour but not burn. The low heat will allow the tart to colour slowly whilst the shortcrust pastry bakes thoroughly. The almond cream will rise a little and gradually brown.

12.  Allow the tart to cool.

13.  Optional coating: Dissolve about 2tsp sugar in a very little boiling water.  Alternatively this can be done in a microwave oven.  Brush over the surface of the finished pie for a slightly sticky finish.

14.  Finish the tart by sprinkling over the roasted split almonds.

15.  Serve with cream, ice cream or crème fraîche – or alternatively just as it is.  It makes a delicious dessert, cooled but not long from the oven and can also be served at tea time.  A really good dessert when entertaining, especially as it can be made a little in advance.

Alternatives:
Can be made as individual tarts containing one pear fan each.
Other fruits are often substituted for the pears: especially apricot, apple, plums and blueberries – near Christmas I often make Mincemeat & Almond Delight which is similar but with a sweet mincemeat based filling
Other ground nuts can be substituted for the almonds. Pistachio is particularly delicious and pale green in colour even when baked.

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Once we have got across the channel we buy a lovely fresh stick ‘pain’ for our first picnic and then spend time poring over the wonderful offerings on the delicatessen counter.  Which cheese?  Can’t choose: OK let’s get two types …and we mustn’t forget the pâté!  Mostly we buy this from a supermarket but sometimes, if we are in a town, we buy from a Charcuterie or Pork Butcher, where it is likely to be the butcher’s shop own recipe.  Pâté, of course, comes in many different local and regional guises.  My husband loves Pâté Provençale, often slightly spicy with pieces of red and green pepper and there are no prizes for guessing what my duck loving daughter chooses … I’m just happy to try as many different ones as I can!  We all have a bit of a weakness for a good meaty (and garlicky!) French pâté.  The French seem to have a penchant for adding pistachio nuts to cooked meats and pâtés so I was very pleased to come across this recipe which made a very pretty addition to our Christmas afternoon tea (and several subsequent meals) last year.  I have been intending to share it for some time and as there is a French theme this month, here it is at last … and as promised.  Be warned, though, this is not a particularly quick recipe to make as the pressing and cooling takes at least 2 hours in addition to the making and cooking time, but it is worth it.

The recipe comes from one of my Christmas presents (a request!) last year: The French Market by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde.  I already own a copy of the companion book by the same authors: The French Kitchen.  The pâté had favourable comments from our Christmas and New Year visitors but if I was being critical I think it needs a few little tweaks when I make it again, and I will.  Firstly, I felt that the recipe needed a little more seasoning (I was probably being careful so underseasoned) and the addition of garlic for a stronger flavour.  This is down to personal preference and is a comment rather than an instruction: you will have to make up your own mind and alter as you think fit.  I used the exact amount of pistachio nuts but felt it was rather a lot and could be reduced a little next time, perhaps by a quarter or even more.  You can see from the photo just how generous the quantity is.  Other recipes include peppercorns which give a lovely spicy hit in the mouth: the quantity to add would be trial and error of course and certainly not the same in quantity as the pistachios.  I have a tub of mixed coloured peppercorns bought in France – a mixture of black, white, green and pink which I will try sometime.  Another adaptation could be a version of Pâté Provençale, adding chopped mixed peppers and Herbes de Provence.  I chose to make the mixture in two smaller loaf tins, which meant that I needed almost double the number of bacon rashers and then froze one block to extend the use by date, defrosting it overnight before cooking, though I could easily have cooked both and simply frozen one afterwards, perhaps ready sliced.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

French Style Country Terrine/Pâté (Terrine/Pâté de Campagne)
(Serves 6-8 as a lunch dish – more as part of a buffet)

450g streaky bacon, thinly sliced & rind free (extra for more than one block of pâté)
200g chicken livers, trimmed
500g lean pork, diced
4 shallots, finely diced
or
2 small white onions, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/crushed (optional addition to original recipe)
2 eggs, beaten
bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 sprigs of thyme, just the leaves
or
1tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves, chopped
Sea salt & ground black pepper
100g pistachio nuts, or less (whole or chopped – reserved some whole to garnish) optional

1. The original recipe specified heating the oven to 160oC/Gas 3.  No Farenheit temperature was given but I think this is about 312oF.

2. Chop the chicken livers and 250g of the bacon and place together in a bowl.

3. Stir in both the chopped and the minced pork, chopped shallots or onion, chopped or crushed garlic, herbs and seasoning. Add most of the pistachio (or other nuts, peppercorns or similar) at this point, reserving a few as a garnish.  Mix well.

4. Line a 22cm x 11cm terrine dish or loaf tin with most of the remaining slices of bacon, reserving a few to go on top once it is filled. Alternatively use two (or more) smaller ovenproof containers, but as mentioned previously you will need extra bacon. The bacon can be gently stretched with a knife so it covers a larger area of the tin and should be laid side by side with no gaps. The pâté will have an attractive striped appearance.

5. Fill the dish(es) or tin(s) with the meat mixture.

6. Fold the ends of the lining bacon over the top of the meat mixture and lay the remaining slices on the top side by side.

7. Bake in the oven for 1½ hours – two separate containers should need slightly less time. Watch the surface and if the meat starts to brown too much, cover with a layer of tin foil, shiny side up to reflect away the heat.

8. Remove and leave to cool for 30 minutes before carefully draining off the collected juices. These can be kept as stock and added to another meat recipe.

9. Place sheet of tin foil and then a snug fitting weight on the top of the terrine or tin for at least 1½ hours in order to compress it. (I used some tins with some heavy bags of salt on top, but use whatever is to hand.)

10. For ease the finished terrine should be turned out while still slightly warm. It can then be eaten immediately or chilled in the refrigerator until ready to slice and serve. Scatter with the remaining pistachios or other nuts, if using, to preserve their crunchiness for as long as possible. (If adding peppercorns you do not need to reserve any.)

11. The book recommends that this will keep for up to 7 days in the refrigerator. If making more than one container or loaf the second one can be wrapped well in tin foil and frozen. It should be thoroughly defrosted (overnight in the refrigerator) before eating.

12. This can also be cut into portions or individual slices to be taken in advance from the freezer and defrosted.

13.  Serve with crusty French style or Wholegrain bread and salad.  Good for buffets and summer picnics and excellent to serve as a starter, especially as it can be made in advance.

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