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Archive for the ‘British Traditional Style’ Category

Happy Easter 2012

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

Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter

See Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake for cake recipe and information on making a Simnel Cake.

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A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS

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

Dundee Style Christmas Cake 2011

Some years ago, instead of our usual marzipan and iced cake, I experimented by making a Dundee Style one with the traditional topping of cherries and nuts.  This year, having already made two marzipanned cakes with one iced as well (the Easter Simnel Cake and our Silver Wedding Anniversary Cake) I decided to make another Dundee Cake.  The basic cake was made using the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake recipe which I use for all family celebration cakes.  Before it was baked I selected enough nuts and fruits to put in concentric rings on top, which are added before the cake was baked.  Last time I used just blanched almonds and glace cherries but this time I topped it with circles of walnuts, pecan nuts and blanched almonds interspersed with red and green glace cherries.  When we were in Spain on holiday this year I discovered green cherries in little bottles and was very pleased as I have been searching for them for some years.  They are not quite the same as the red cherries we have in the UK, as the syrup is much lighter, but the flavour was the same.  The ribbon came from Primark and was a bargain at £1 a roll – a perfect match for the colours I had already used for the cake topping.

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

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We celebrated a very special anniversary recently – 25 years of marriage – and as I have my paternal grandmother’s wonderful recipe for Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake it seemed only right to make the cake myself.  As usual the recipe was moist and delicious and it was lovely to feel that my Nanna, who died many years ago when I was a teenager was, though her recipe, able to ‘share’ in our special occasion.

The cake was made and decorated in the week following our anniversary as it was made to share with the close friends and family who came to a special meal and party at home.  It seemed odd, however, to add this post on any day apart from the actual anniversary.  Here’s to many more and the next 25 at the very least!

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

The recipe for the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake which I use at Christmas and Easter, is versatile and can be made with or without alcohol.  Finish with or without traditional marzipan and icing as appropriate to the occasion for which it is to celebrate.

In this case, when deciding on decoration, I puzzled for a while as I am a total novice with a piping bag (and usually fairly short on time!)  In the end I decided to keep it simple, using more of the edible glitter and silver balls bought for the Starry Night Cake I made last Christmas.  I googled ‘Number 25’, chose one of the many images available, enlarged it to size and printed it, after which I carefully turned it into a stencil.  It was fairly easy, after slightly wetting the inside of the numbers, to thickly sprinkle on the glitter and push small balls into the outline of the numbers at regular intervals.  After carefully removing the stencil, the excess glitter was brushed away with a pastry brush.  The cake was finished with a ruched band of transparent wire edged ribbon with silver printing.  The finishing touch was a silver bow which I have had from ages – probably rescued from a gift (I often squirrel bits and pieces away in the hope they will come in useful one day!)  On reflection, perhaps a little more colour would have been good – a touch of pastel colouring to offset the greyness of the silver – however the jewel colours on the numbers glittered very prettily in the sunlight.  I was not really disappointed and most importantly the cake tasted just as good as I knew, from experience, it would – thanks again Nanna!

A note about cake glitter…
The edible glitter I used was bought from a local cake making suppliers (but is widely available).  Craft glitter, which is often made from crushed glass, should never be substituted.  For an unusual (non cake) idea of what to do with edible glitter look no further than here!  I wonder what other culinary uses this dust fine glitter can be put to (bearing in mind that it’s far too expensive for normal craftwork).

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A few weeks ago I made sweet scones as part of a special afternoon tea for Mum and Dad on Mothering Sunday and they were a great success.  So last weekend on Father’s Day, with Mum and Dad coming to tea again, I decided to make scones again, but this time Savoury ones: with cheese both in the mix and crusted on the top.  It is a lovely flavourful recipe with the strong cheese flavour enhanced by mustard and cayenne pepper giving a spicy bite, the strength of which of course can be adjusted to taste.  They would also be delicious with a little fried onion added to the mix or on top – or both.  These scones are perfect at tea time or in lunch boxes, at Summer picnics or served with a warming Winter soup in place of bread.

As with the sweet scones the source for this recipe was Delia Smith’s recipe Cheese Crusted Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes. It is a straightforward fairly standard cheese scone recipe and I made it exactly as per the instructions, apart from slightly lessening the spices.  In particular I used less cayenne as the one I have from our local ethnic shop is rather fiery.  I didn’t want to spoil the scones by making them too hot!  The recipe below is a doubled version: somehow the eight smallish scones I made didn’t seem enough.  As with the sweet scones I have added a list of other savoury scones further down this page: recipes from books I own and from cookery sites online that I may well make at some point.  If I do make any and post them on this site I will add a link.

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

Cheese Crusted Scones
(Makes 12-16 scones)

12ozs/350g self raising flour
2ozs/60g butter
60zs/170g finely grated strong Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
4-6tbsp milk (and a little more if needed)
½tsp salt
1tsp English mustard powder (or less if you wish)
2-4 large pinches cayenne pepper
A little extra milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7 and thoroughly grease a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones).

2.  Sift the flour into a bowl along with the mustard powder, salt and half of the cayenne pepper and mix together.

3.  Rub in the butter with finger tips until well combined.  Mix in most of the grated cheese leaving the remainder (around a generous 2 tbsp) to use later as a topping.

4.  Beat the eggs with 4tbsp milk and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix together to form a soft dough that leaves the bowl clean, adding a little more milk as required if the mixture seems dry.  Try to avoid working the mixture too much as this will make the scones hard.

5.  On a well floured surface, to avoid sticking, gently roll the dough as evenly as possible to a thickness of ¾inch/2cm.  I like to cut savoury scones into square shapes (using rounds for sweet scones) and this can be done with a knife.  If the dough is formed into an oblong shape it can be cut into the required number of equally sized pieces which will avoid it having to be reworked.  Depending on size required, bearing in mind they will rise in the oven, aim for 12-16 pieces.

6.  Brush the tops with a little more milk, sprinkle equally with the reserved cheese and, if you wish, very lightly dush with some more cayenne pepper.

7.  Place evenly spaced on the baking sheets, allowing a little room for rising.  Bake for 12-15 minutes (or a little longer if necessary) until the cheese has started to crust and the scones are browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

8.  Serve warm or cold with or without butter but the scones are best eaten the day they are cooked.  Next day reheating a little is recommended.  Fillings such as ham, tuna, chutney or tomato are also suggested, as is topping with a fried, poached or scrambled egg.

Alternative recipes for savoury scones (untried):
Cheese & Fried onion Scones (see my note above)
Cheese & Sweetcorn Scones – The Omniverous Bear/Good Food
Potato Scones – Delia Smith – Book of Cakes (original version)
Tattie (Potato) Scones – London Eats
Cheese & Marmite Scones – For Forks Sake
Buttermilk Scones with Cheshire Cheese & Chives – Delia Smith online
Feta, Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Scones – Delia Smith online
Savoury Herb Scones – Cook it Simply
Peppadew & Chive Scones – The Complete Cookbook
Cheese & Chive Scones – Lavender & Lovage
Cheese Scones with a Chilli kick –  Searching for Spice
Ham & Cheese Muffins (not quite scones but almost) – Slightly Domesticated Dad

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A Cream Tea is a special treat, much anticipated and usually taken at a leisurely pace when on holiday in the UK.  Some cream teas have stayed long in my memory: a seaview cafe at Lyme Regis in Dorset, the Lee Abbey Tea Cottage in Somerset…   I particularly recall a sunny afternoon birthday Cream Tea we booked for my father taken on board the Pride of Lee, whilst leisurely drifting along the River Lea on the borders of Essex and Hertfordshire. What exactly is a Cream Tea?  Usually it comprises sweet scones with thick cream and strawberry (or another flavour) jam (sometimes butter too – choose all or some) plus tea to drink, apparently the idea could date back as far as the 11th Century.  I knew this was exactly what I wanted to include as part of the Mothering Sunday Afternoon Tea I prepared this year.  The cakes were made in advance, leaving enough time to finish the ‘baguette bite’ sandwiches and make the scones on the Sunday afternoon.

On this occasion I chose to make plain scones, which are actually very slightly sweet, using Delia Smith’s recipe for Devonshire Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes.  It was a simple fairly standard recipe, as far as I could see, but without the added instructions to egg-wash the top of the scones for a golden brown shiny finish.  I am sure this could be done if wished, but it was an extra job on a busy afternoon I was glad not to have to do (especially as my guests were about to knock on the door).  Scones just have to be made fresh on the day they are eaten: they are not the same the following day. However, a tip from my grandmother, slightly sour milk can be used for scones. This does work, but I usually don’t have time to make them when the milk is off! Speed and a light touch are essential: a heavy handed approach leads to solid scones. Some cooks even recommend that the dough is cut with a knife rather than using cutters.  On this page there is first this basic recipe for a plain scone with just a little sugar for sweetness, but eventually other sweet variations will appear here, including scones with fruit (raisins/sultanas or cherries), treacle scones, for example.  There will eventually be a separate post – Basic Recipe: Savoury Scones for those containing cheese and other savoury ingredients.

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

Devonshire Scones
(Makes 10-12 scones)

8ozs/225g self-raising flour, sieved
1½ozs/40g butter, at room temperature
¼pint/150ml milk (slightly soured is fine)
1½level tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
To serve:
40zs/100ml clotted cream
or
¼pint/150ml whipped double
Jam – usually strawberry, raspberry or blackcurrant

1.  Preheat oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7.  Grease a baking tin.

2.  Sieve the flour into a bowl and quickly rub in the butter using fingertips.  Stir in the sugar and the pinch of salt.

3.  Using a knife mix in the milk a little at a time.  When combined gently bring the mixture together with floured hands into a soft dough.  If it is a little dry then add a drop more milk.

4.  Gently shape on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands until about ¾-1inch/2cm-2.5cm thick.  There are mixed views over whether using a rolling pin is a good idea: Delia Smith uses a lightly floured one but I was always taught to use my hands.

5.  Cut rounds with a 1½-2inch/4-5cm fluted pastry cutter (but without twisting to avoid misshapen scones).  Once as many as possible have been cut then gently bring the dough together and cut again.  Try to roll out as little as possible to avoid toughening the scones.  Alternatively, the squares can be cut with a sharp knife.

6.  Place the scones on the greased baking tin and dust each with a little flour.  Bake near the top of the oven for 12-15 minutes.  When done the will be risen and golden brown.

7.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat soon – slightly warm is lovely.  Serve spread with butter and/or cream and/or jam – all three if you wish.

Alternative recipes for sweet scones (untried):
Treacle Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Wheatmeal Date Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Scones with dried fruit: sultanas/raisins/cranberries/dates/apricots/figs …
Quick & Easy Fluffy Scones (like the idea of yoghurt in the mix) Normal in London (E17)
Fruited Scones – sozzled (fruit soaked in liqueur) – Good Food Channel
Fresh Strawberry (or other fruit) scones via Arugulove
Lavender Scones – All recipes
Rose Petal Scones (with Rosewater)  – Good Food Channel
Ginger Beer Scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Lemonade Scones – Fig Jam & Lime Cordial
Lemonade Scones – Good Food Channel
Oat and Maple Syrup Scones – Smitten Kitchen via Cake, Crumbs and Ccoking
Vanilla Almond scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Chocolate Scones via Chocolate Log Blog
Apple Scones via Lavender & Lovage
Cherry Scones – CWS Family Fare
Ginger Scones – CWS Family Fare
Honey Scones – CWS Family Fare

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Happy Easter!

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

Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter

See Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake for cake recipe and information on making a Simnel Cake.

A Simnel cake can be made with brandy or rum, as in the basic recipe above, or alternatively pre-soak the fruit in the juice of half a fresh orange.  Simnel Cakes were originally made for their mothers by working children as a gift for Mothering Sunday, the third Sunday in Lent, which falls three weeks before Easter.  Nowadays Simnel Cakes are mostly eaten at Easter.  See Afternoon Tea for Mothering Sunday for more information.  A Simnel Cake traditionally has 11 marzipan balls around the edge – one for each Disciple or Apostle of Jesus, except for Judas Iscariot!

Read more……

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However much you enjoy it, a traditional British Sunday lunch of roast meat, vegetables and accompaniments can become a bit predictable.  It is good sometimes to ring the changes with a slight twist, especially if that twist is a relatively simple one: essential in our very busy Sunday household.  It was the slightly unusual sauce recipe that attracted my attention, which proved easy to adapt.  Designed to accompany expensive beef fillet, I cooked it with a different cut of beef, which slowly roasted while we were out at church.  As I had thought, it was delicious!

The original recipe, Pepper-crusted Fillet of Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onions & Thyme, comes from Delia Smith’s How to Cook, Book 3.  The original recipe was for fillet of beef cooked quickly on the bed of onions which were then made into a sauce.  Using a different cut of beef, which needed a slower cooking time, I prepared and cooked it in my usual way.  (I usually give a silverside or topside joint a slow cooking for Sunday lunch while we are out for the morning.)  Instructions are given below for my version using the cheaper cut of silverside beef (topside beef could be cooked in the same way).  If entertaining and using a finer cut of meat it can, of course, be cooked for the shorter time (refer to the recipe via the link above).  Delia Smith recommends the onions are added right at the start of the cooking time, however if I had done this with the lengthy cooking they would have been cooked to a crisp and useless, hence my adapted version. I also use my own cornflour based method for making the sauce.  Delia suggests the recipe could be accompanied by Potatoes Boulangère with RosemaryIt is difficult though to get away without serving Roast Beef with Yorkshire Puddings plus any usual favourite side dishes and sauces. 

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

Roast Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onion & Thyme Sauce
(Serves 6)

1lb 8oz-2lb/680-900g silverside/topside beef (original: middle-cut beef fillet)
a knob of butter (orig: drizzle of oil)
1-3tsp ground black peppercorns (be generous for a hotter flavour)
2fl oz/55ml balsamic vinegar
1 level tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1lb/450g medium sized red onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
salt
For the sauce:
1 heaped tsp cornflour
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
½pt/275 ml red wine (can be the end of a bottle which has been frozen)

1.  To allow the flavours to develop start the recipe at least 2 hours before cooking, if possible.  Rub the meat with a little butter and grind the peppercorns over the surface of the beef, pressing in well – the more you add the hotter it will be. 

2.  To make the onion sauce mix the sugar and balsamic vinegar together thoroughly in a large bowl and leave it to rest while preparing the onions so the sugar dissolves.  Peel the onions and leaving the root intact cut each one into eight wedges.  Add the onion wedges and a tablespoon of oil to the bowl with the sugar and vinegar and gently toss to coat.  Cover and leave to one side while the meat is cooking.  (Doing this early in the day is a useful time saver for when time is short later in the morning but alternatively it can be done while the meat is cooking.)

3.  Preheat the oven 150oC/300oF/Gas 2. 

4.  Put about 1cm/½inch water in a roasting dish to keep the meat moist.  Place the meat on a rack in the dish, cover and cook for about 2 hours or even a little longer.  Check that the dish is not going dry when you can (if you are out then look as soon as you return).

5.  Remove the roasting tin from the oven, removing the meat and the rack.  Raise the oven temperature to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

6.  Pour off any excess meat juices and fat which can be used either to make gravy (there is usually someone who wants gravy as well as sauce) or to use in other dishes.   It is not necessary to wash the roasting tin, unless it has gone dry and burned.

7.  Spread the onion mixture out in the base of the roasting tin.  Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season well with salt.   Place the beef on top of the onion mixture.  Cover, return to the oven and continue cooking for 20 minutes.

8.  Remove the beef from the tin and transfer to a warm place to rest.  Return the tin with the onions to the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Depending on size of onion, carefully remove two to three whole wedges per diner from the dish and keep warm alongside the meat.  Finely chop the remaining onion along with any juices from the pan that the meat has been cooked in.  (If needed add some of the meat juice from earlier, but not the fat.)  In a small saucepan mix the cornflour with the Worcester Sauce and the balsamic vinegar to make a paste and then gradually add the wine and finally the chopped onion.  Bring to the boil until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent it from becoming lumpy.  Turn down the heat and simmer gently until the sauce has reduced by about a quarter.  Check and adjust seasoning as required.

9.  To serve, carve the beef and stir any extra meat juices into the sauce.  Serve garnished with the onions and the sauce poured over, plus whatever accompaniments for roast beef you prefer.

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Inspired by the afternoon tea at Belgique I was treated to some weeks ago by a friend and mentioned previously, I thought I would try something similar for my mother as a Mothering Sunday treat.  Our tea at Belgique came on a tiered cakestand: little filled rolls on the bottom layer, cakes in the middle and chocolate-y nibbles on the top and with individual pots of tea.  (I have a cake stand hidden away somewhere, but was unable to track it down so instead tea was served at table on separate plates – I could have asked mum to bring hers, but it would have spoiled the surprise!)  What did we eat?  I knew that everyone would have had Sunday lunch so I decided not to serve anything too heavy.  I made two types of cake: a Boiled Fruit Cake (recipe to follow) and Whole Orange Cake, baked a batch of Delia Smith’s Devonshire Scones for a cream tea and alongside these cooked some part-baked half size French sticks from the supermarket.  When these were cooled I sliced each stick in half lengthways and added butter, then filled one with mashed tinned salmon and thin cucumber slices (one of mum’s favourites) and the other with sliced roast ham and tomato.  Each stick was cut into six pieces making a dozen large-bite sized ‘sandwiches’ (mini baguette bites) which nestled on a bed of lettuce and was scattered with a little mustard and cress.  For full menu details see further down…

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

A word about Mothering Sunday, which here in the UK we celebrate at a different time to the USA.  Its origins are actually not really about celebrating motherhood.  I am currently reading a very helpful Lent book (spiritual reading for the six and half weeks of Lent: Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday) called Giving it Up by Maggi Dawn.  Today she writes:

‘In 16th-century Britain, the fourth Sunday in Lent was called Refreshment Sunday.  All the Lent rules were relaxed and the church expected people to return to their ‘mother’ church or cathedral for that day’s service.  The day became known as Mothering Sunday, not through association with mothers but because of the journey made to the ‘mother’ church.  In an age when children as young as ten left home to take up work or apprenticeships elsewhere, this was often the only day in the year when whole families would be reunited.  By the 17th-century it had become a public holiday, when servants and apprentices were given the day off so that they could fulfil their duties to the church.  They often stopped to pick flowers along the way and some brought with them a special cake made from fine wheat flour called simila, which has evolved into the simnel cake…  The tradition of keeping Mothering Sunday was strengthened in the 19th-century when those in domestic service were allowed to return to their own communities, as they would not be home for Easter. … Over the past few decades, Mothering Sunday has been recast as Mother’s Day, a move that has grown out of consumerism rather than theology.  Turning Mothering Sunday into Mother’s Day has almost eclipsed the original meaning of the day …’

I do agree with her, but nonetheless it was good to treat my mum – and my dad – and the rest of the family!

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

Afternoon Tea for Mothering Sunday

Mini Baguette Bites: Salmon & Cucumber
Mini Baguette Bites: Ham & Tomato
(alternatives: egg mayonnaise & cress, tuna mayonnaise & cucumber – brie & cranberry sauce – cheese & pickle or chutney – cheese & tomato – bacon & tomato relish – avocado & bacon – Mexican Style Chicken & Pepper Salad – Coronation Chicken – mashed avocado & grated carrot …)
Garnish: Lettuce – Mustard & Cress

Cream Tea: Devonshire Scones
with butter, jam (blackcurrant) and whipped double cream

Whole Orange Cake
Boiled Fruit Cake (recipe to follow)
(and some chocolate biscuits …)

Tea to drink

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So, here we are in a New Year with Christmas over and just a few remnants of festive foods lurking in the fridge and cupboard.  This recipe is one of the best I know for using up the last of the mincemeat, but actually I would happily open a new jar to make this.  There are two recipes for sweet mincemeat on this site.  Most recently I have added a delicious Suet Free Mincemeat which is ideal for this recipe.  There is also Last Minute Mincemeat, a method for augmenting a standard shop bought jar and very helpful if you have just small amount left over from Christmas.  (For a small quantity for each 4tbsp mincemeat add around 3tbsp dried mixed fruit, 1tbsp brandy, 2tbsp orange juice and 4 chopped glace cherries.)  About half a jar full is needed for the recipe, but if it is slightly less don’t worry.  If you are just slightly short of the quantity required, a third and very quick method would be to simply add a scattering of mixed dried fruit.  For the record, another good way of using up leftover sweet mincemeat is in a Candlemas Crumble, which is good at any time, not just on 2nd February!  I served a large (double sized) version of Mincemeat & Almond Delight at this year’s New Year’s Day meal for our extended family as an alternative to a Sherry Berry Jelly Trifle.  Most people ate seconds, coming back for the pudding they had not tried first time round! 

The recipe for Mincemeat & Almond Delight comes from The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook.  It is a shortcrust pastry flan case filled with Mincemeat and sliced banana and covered with an almond mixture similar to that in Bakewell Tart, known as crème d’amande (almond cream).  French Style Pear Tart/Pear Pie Bordalue (Tarte aux Poires), also with crème d’amande, uses a similar method and a recipe will eventually also be posted here.  I am indebted to Clothilde at Chocolate & Zucchini (one of my favourite blogs) in her post  about Galette des Rois (something else I fully intend to make one day!)  She helpfully writes:

“There is a lot of confusion between crème d’amande, and frangipane, so here’s the difference: crème d’amande (almond cream) is a simple mix of butter, sugar, ground almonds, and eggs, more or less in equal parts. Frangipane, on the other hand, is a blend of crème d’amande and crème pâtissière (pastry cream), which is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and flour or cornstarch.” 

So now you – and I – know the difference.  Having written that the filling for this recipe and the Pear Pie Bordalue was Frangipane I now stand corrected and I have amended my words accordingly.  Thanks Clothilde!  The original recipe used a butter rich pastry crust, but I opted for a standard Shortcrust Pastry using my usual method.  I also finished the tart with a sprinkling of split almonds, toasted as the tart baked, which gave a Bakewell Tart appearance.  This recipe can also be made as individual sized tarts for tea time. 

Mincemeat & Almond Delight
(Serves 6)

Shortcrust Pastry to line a 20cm/8inch flan case
50g/2ozs butter
50g/2ozs caster or soft brown sugar
50g/2ozs ground almonds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
a few drops almond essence, extract if you can get it
225g/8ozs mincemeat (about half a jar – see details above)
2 bananas, thinly sliced 
25g/1oz split almonds to finish (optional)

1.  Make the shortcrust pastry (I used 6ozs flour and 3ozs fat). Wrap in plastic and leave in the fridge to chill for at least 30minutes.

2.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.   Roll out the pastry and line the greased and floured flan case.   Fill with beans and bake blind for 10minutes.  When cool enough, remove the beans and when cool store for another use.

3.  Reduce the oven heat to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

4.  Make the almond cream. Cream the butter and sugar together.  Gradually beat in the egg.  Add the ground almonds and almond essence and mix together well.

5.  Spread the mincemeat evenly into the pastry case and cover with the slices of banana.

6.  Pile the almond cream on top of the banana and spread evenly to the edges of the case.

7.  Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 35-40minutes until golden brown. 

8.  Best served hot or warm, but also good cold.  Serve with custard and/or cream, crème fraîche or soured cream.  If you have leftover brandy butter it can be served with this tart.

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I am the person who avoids the sausage rolls at parties, at least the cold mass produced variety.  I have never been able to work up much enthusiasm for them.  However, a freshly home baked sausage roll – or plait, which is just a larger version of the same item – can be delicious.  There are some rules which I feel must be obeyed for the best results.  First, buy good quality sausagemeat.  If your butcher or supermarket sells the type that they put in their best quality sausages, all the better.   I never buy the value brand and skimp on meat products.  They usually contain a lesser quality product.  I would rather have a small amount of good quality meat than lots of a lesser grade.  Around Christmas, at least one supermarket makes a type which is a combination of pork sausagement with chestnut, which would be delicious, although I would be careful not to mask the flavour of the nuts with a strong flavoured chutney, in fact would probably leave it out altogether.  My second rule is simpler:  unless you really must make it yourself, please go ahead and cheat by buying a pack of ready made puff pastry from the supermarket.  It’s one little thing that makes life so much easier, especially if you are mass catering for an occasion.  Part packs of pastry can easily be frozen, but need to be fully defrosted before use.

Some time ago I was watching chef Peter Sidwell in a cooking programe based in the English Lake District: Lakes on a Plate.  One particular recipe, for Sausage Rolls, used home made Fennel & Apple Chutney which I made some time ago.  I opted for a sausage plait, as a quickly made weekday meal, but I like the idea of making larger individual portion rolls or even bite sized ones for a buffet, as in the original instructions.  Simply roll the pastry into long thin rectangles before filling and cutting into the size required.  I am sure that this plait – or the rolls – would be equally good made with other chutneys.  Try Tomato Relish, Beetroot Chutney or, for a spicy version, Indian Lime Pickle or around Christmas try spicy Christmas Chutney.  Leftover plait is delicious eaten cold the next day and ideal in a packed lunch, in place of the usual boring sandwich.  On New Year’s Day I am feeding the extended family (there will be ten of us) and I am planning to serve slices of Sausagemeat & Fennel Chutney Plait as an ‘extra’ alongside the Roast Pork we will be eating.  Any leftovers can be eaten at tea time on the cold buffet.

Readers might also be interested in the sausage roll ideas at The Evening Hérault. Fennel seeds are suggested there too as a flavouring plus using marmalade in place of chutney.  Another good use for that home made chunky Seville Marmalade: I expect Ginger Marmalade would be good too!

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

Sausagemeat Plait
(Serves 4)

250g packet puff pastry
a little flour (plain or self-raising) for rolling out – just a few tbsp
500g good quality sausagemeat, Cumberland if possible (original recipe)
1 egg, cracked & lightly whisked
or
1tbsp milk
1 tbsp fennel seeds (choose another topping for a different chutney if you wish)
2tbsp Fennel & Apple Chutney (or another chutney/relish of your choice)

1.  Preheat oven to 190oC/370oF/Gas 5.

2.  Roll the puff pastry into a long rectangle on a floured surface.  Spoon the chutney evenly in a line lengthways along the centre third of the pastry, but do not take right to each end.

3.  The sausagement should be almost the same length as the pastry – about 2cm/1inch shorter lengthwise to allow for tucking in.  It will help to roll the sausagement into a sausage shape, if it has not been bought like this.  If it needs to be shaped or made longer use a little flour on the surface and on your hands to stop it from sticking, though try to keep this extra flour to a minimum.  Place on top of the chutney, lengthways along the central third of the pastry.

4. For a plait, score 2cm/1inch lines from the centre to the outside edges of the pastry at right angles to the sausagement, giving an equal number of strips on each side.

5.  Start the plait by folding one end of the pastry over the sausagemeat.  Lift the first pastry strip on the left side.  Gently place it slightly diagonally across the filling making sure it also overlaps the end fold.  Take a strip from the right side and cross the meat from the other direction, overlapping slightly the previous strip from the left.  Continue like this, alternating sides and making sure each strip slightly overlaps the one that has gone before, until all but the final two strips are folded over.  Either tuck up the end pastry before overlapping the final two strips or, if you prefer, when all the strips are folded tuck the end of the pastry neatly underneath.  There should be as few gaps in the pastry as possible but there will be some which will act as vents for the steam.   (If this all seems too complicated then fold up both ends of the pastry as a seal.  Then draw up the sides of the pastry and fold over, or pinch together to make a decorative finish along the length of the sausage.  Add few diagonal slits as vents if using this second method.)

6.  Flour a sufficiently long tin for the plait or roll and gently lift it on.  Carefully paint the entire roll with either beaten egg or milk.  Sprinkle generously with fennel seeds.  If fennel seeds are not available, or an alternative chutney is used then another seed could be substituted: for example sesame, linseed, black or white poppy.   The flavour of kalonji seed (nigella), available from ethnic grocery stores, whilst not spicy in itself, would complement a spicy or Indian style chutney.

7.  Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.  A thicker shorter sausage plait will take longer to cook than a longer thinner one, and it is very important that pork sausagement is thoroughly cooked before eating.

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