Individual Almond Treacle Tarts

treacle tart

Flaky pastry, sweet, smooth filling & cool, creamy ice cream

For the last few days we’ve been eating our way around a small portion of the North of England. Our helping sizes, on the hand, have been rather large.

It all kicked off with a family wedding in Yorkshire on Thursday. In the unexpected (but wonderful) warm weather we feasted on three courses of stomach filling stuff – think greedy servings of soufflé, rare roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and thick lemon tart – before retiring for an afternoon of champagne and sunshine followed by an evening of even more food (in the form of dainty canapés, think crispy bacon scallops, miniature meringues and everything in between. Continue reading

Dark Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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A thin slice of this dark chocolate tart is all you need (though you might want more)

This Saturday morning, the sun shining bright despite patches of cloud hanging heavy in the sky, I rolled myself out of bed and headed down to the farmer’s market. Although I love a lazy Saturday morning as much as the next person, there’s something so invigorating about the bustle of an early morning market and so satisfying about bringing home the freshest food to be eaten on the day it was bought that I just couldn’t resist.

Bourke Street Bakery Croissants

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A pile of beautiful, buttery homemade croissants

How far would you go to find the perfect croissant?

With so many wonderful bakeries in the city, Londoners like me are lucky enough to have some pretty amazing options on our doorstep. Fancy venturing a little further afield? France is your obvious answer, synonymous with the very best croissants in the world and only a couple of hours away. Doable in a day, definitely, and not so completely crazy if you’re really on a mission to find that perfect pastry.

I’m going to throw another option into the mix. How about we travel for twenty two hours, averaging around 500 miles per hour, covering nearly 11,000 miles and ending up in Surry Hills, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, Australia? We’ll head for Bourke Street, number 633 to be precise, and before you can even begin to feast your eyes on the incredible array of bread, cakes and pastries displayed in the window, you’ll detect the irresistible smell of butter and baking that draws Sydney-siders to Bourke Street Bakery like moths to an irresistible, edible flame. Continue reading

Lemon Curd & Mascarpone Cream Tart

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Crisp pastry, a sharp layer of lemon & pillows of light mascarpone cream

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better – Samuel Beckett

I think that awful moment when a recipe goes wrong is one that we can all relate to. While some people may have many more of these moments than others, whether you’re working in a Michelin starred restaurant or a Bridget Jones-type sheepishly scooping string from a blue soup, you’ll have experienced the horror of a major recipe fail in one way or another. Be it an overflowing tart tin, a sunken cake, a loaf left in the oven too long or mistakenly substituting sugar with salt, everyone is subject to these kitchen mishaps once in a while. Not everyone admits to them, of course, but they definitely do happen.

While no-one wants their cooking to be a catalogue of complete disasters, failure isn’t always such a bad thing. Experimentation – whether planned or otherwise – leads to innovation, and some of the world’s favourite foods can be attributed to the fortuitous mistakes of their creators – just think of Ruth Wakefield’s discovery of the chocolate chip cookie when pieces of chocolate in her Butter Drop Dos failed to melt properly. A world without the chocolate chip cookie would be a very sad place indeed. Continue reading

Treacle Tart Ice Cream with Rosemary Sea-Salt Pastry

Smooth, sweet ice cream with chewy chunks of treacle tart filling & crunchy buttered pecans

In between school and university I took a year out. I’d originally intended to head straight on to my next level of studies, but as friends around me started to plan their various adventures abroad, it dawned on me that this kind of opportunity is pretty much once in a lifetime. When again, until you’re of retirement age, do you get the chance to take a whole year to yourself, to see the world, try new things, do what you want and go where you please?

I spent the first half of the year working in this restaurant to save money for my trip. Working long hours on London wages and living at home with no rent, I managed to save up enough to spend the next three months in South America and another two in Thailand and Australia. The year was unforgettable and –  as with most of my memories – could easily be measured in experiences with food; from clearing tables and calling checks to drinking pisco sours and eating ceviche, discovering pad thai and tom yum, picking beetroot out of sandwiches (the downside of Australia . . .) and enjoying BBQs on the beach (. . . the definite up-side). Surprising then, that with all the unusual sights, sounds and smells on offer, one of my most enduring memories of food from our travels is that of the ice cream. Continue reading

Pear, Pecan & Brown Butter Tart with the Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream

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Crisp pastry, nutty caramelized custard & soft sweet pears – the perfect dessert

With Christmas just a distant memory and Spring still a fair way off (despite the bizarrely unseasonal arrival of  daffodil or two), it feels like comfort food should be firmly on the foodie agenda. I was therefore excited to discover that over the coming weeks The Guardian will be giving away a series of 36 collectable recipe cards tackling this very subject. With contributions from seven stellar chefs including Yottam Ottolenghi, Angela Hartnett and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the recipes on offer look set to be a little more exciting than your standard soups and stews, promising to inject some serious flavour into the dark, cold evenings ahead. Continue reading

Baked Alaska Mince Pies

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The perfect alternative festive pud? 

There’s something about Christmas that can bring out a militant side in the most relaxed of people. Those who at other times of the year will happily go with the flow suddenly become sticklers for tradition, asserting their right to enjoy the season’s festivities exactly as they’re used to them. This differs from family to family, but the same Christmas conversation seems to take place on an annual basis amongst my friends; we list the dishes we always eat, the smoked salmon starters or lack thereof, the bubbly opened at breakfast, turkeys basted, potatoes roasted and enforced enjoyment (or not) of the dreaded brussels sprout. While dishes might vary from household to household (turkey is traditional, others go for goose, etc) there seems to be one constant; people stick to what they know at Christmas. With a few exciting elements thrown in perhaps, but generally speaking, if Mum’s mince pies or Granny’s incredible gravy don’t feature, there’s going to be trouble.

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Marmite Croissants

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Can you guess the secret ingredient?

You’ll either love this recipe, or you’ll hate it. Such is the divisive power of Marmite.

Or so their ad men would have you believe. In reality, the lines of this savoury stand-off are slightly more blurred. Of course you get the obsessives who buy into the brand at every level – from crisps and cheddar bites to Marmite-flavoured chocolate – and the haters, who recoil at the mere mention of the word. But there are also a small percentage of people who fall into a murky middle ground, who’d never choose to spread it on their toast, but would nibble on a Twiglet or stir the occasional spoon into gravy. Continue reading

Treacle tart with rosemary salt & clotted cream ice cream

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Traditional treacle tart with a salty-sweet twist

Treacle tart is something of a British classic. Frugal and filling, it also has a delicious decadence, its humble ingredients coming together in a dessert with much greater elegance than the sum of its parts. Loved by generations of Brits, this syrupy tart achieved global recognition a few years back when chosen as the favourite pudding of a certain bespectacled wizard – for Harry Potter to choose treacle tart over Fizzing Whizzbees, Cauldron Cakes and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, it must be something pretty special.

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Homemade croissants: buttery, flaky breakfast pastry

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Can you beat a homemade croissant?

‘It’s a labour of love’. ‘You’ll pile on the pounds’. ‘It’ll change the way you think about them forever’ . . . 

You might be forgiven for thinking such comments are in some way related to pregnancy and children. They’re not. Despite being an avid baker, at only just the wrong side of twenty-five, I’m not quite ready for that kind of bun in the oven. Nope, I’m talking croissants.

Search for ‘homemade croissant’ online and you’ll find thousands of recipes, often accompanied by a caveat. Yes they are wonderful, and yes you’ll love the end product, but getting there is a tricky, time-consuming process and everyone seems to have a horror story to share (back to that pregnancy comparison, I think there might be some mileage in this . . .)

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