May 23, 2011


I follow a blog called Belleau Kitchen and the writer, Dom, currently has something called a Random Recipe challenge.  Basically, you take a favourite cookbook, allow it to fall open at random page and cook or bake whatever is on the open page – the recipe was meant to be for a cake or dessert.


I thought this looked like fun so I decided to have a go.  It didn’t quite work out as I intended.

I do have a lot of cookbooks so first I had to decide whether to choose an old favourite or a new one that I had hardly explored yet.  I decided on the latter but the first book I chose fell open at a savoury tart so that was no good – it was meant to be a sweet baking challenge.

Then I cheated.  The second book fell open at an incredibly gooey, fancy pudding that was very fiddly to make and, quite frankly, we would never eat.  So I rejected that one.

I was lucky with the third attempt.  A marmalade polenta cake, baked with orange and lemon slices around the top and sides.  It looked delicious but required quite a lot of work, cooking the fruit and making a syrup as well as baking the cake. 

Then I ran out of time to do it before the challenge ends and we go on holiday.  Shame.

popina book

I diligently took my library books back as they were due to expire whilst we are away, but couldn’t resist a sneaky look if they had anything new in the baking section.  I spotted the absolutely scrummy book you see above.  It was fairly new in the library but already well used with sticky finger marks on the pages.  Always a good sign.

popina 1

When I got it home I flipped through and it fell open at “rustic plum tart”.  Now there’s an idea I thought.  It looked delicious, yet simple and quick to make.  I could enter the challenge after all.

Except for one thing – I didn’t have any plums. 

The recipe said you could use any ripe fruit and suggested apples.  I didn’t have any apples either but did have some very ripe pears and an unopened punnet of strawberries so I used those.  It was WONDERFUL.

popina 2popina 3

Basically, you make a simple batter and pour it into a lined cake tin, scatter the fruit on top and bake.

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The finishing touch is to brush the tart with melted apricot jam.  I wouldn’t normally bother with this but as it was for a challenge I decided to do it – even had to make a special trip to the Spa shop to buy some jam, sliding in just before they closed at 4pm on Sunday.  (We had every other possible variety of jam in the house but no apricot.)  It gave the finished tart a “patisserie” appearance which was lovely.

popina 5

So there we are, rustic pear and strawberry tart.  It doesn’t look much like a tart to me, more like a cake, but who’s complaining?  Not me, it was delicious.

Here’s what you need.

90g caster sugar

1 egg

40ml vegetable oil

55ml milk

140g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

2-3 drops vanilla extract

3  pears

half a punnet or a handful of strawberries

2tblsp apricot jam to glaze

Here’s what you do.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan), gas mk 4.  Grease and line a 20cm cake tin, preferably springform.

Using an electric whisk, beat the egg and sugar until light and creamy.  Add the all the other ingredients except the fruit and jam and beat again until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface.

Peel and core the pears and cut into quarters.  Wash and hull the strawberries.  Arrange the fruit on top of the cake mixture.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown, remove and leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes.

To glaze the tart, put the jam in a small pan and heat gently until runny.  Remove the tart from the tin and brush the glaze over the top and sides.  Cool slightly more before serving.

*The original recipe used 6 large plums, stoned and halved and arranged cut side up on top of the mixture.  I will definitely do this again, when I have some plums.

Cuts into 6 slices and leftovers are nice cold, served as a cake.

May 14, 2011


I have only made friands once before and I was disappointed with how they turned out, because I left them in the oven for only a few minutes too long and some were scorched. 

friands 8

So I decided to have another go.  This time they were perfect !!

I also decided to buy a friand tin, which makes the nice little oval cakes.  I used a muffin tin last time which was perfectly fine but I fancied doing the job properly.  In any case, a girl can never have too many cake tins (or shoes).

friands 2 friands 1

This proved to be a challenge.  I looked in all the cookware shops locally and nobody had any or had even heard of them.  So I Googled it and sure enough the first names to come up were Amazon and Lakeland.

They didn’t have any either.  So I did a bit more digging and found one at  This company supplies silicone moulds in all shapes and sizes and Sarah-Jane, the manager, also writes a great baking blog, which  you can check out here.

friands 3 friands 4

Friands are made with ground almonds and icing sugar and hardly any flour.  You make a froth of egg white, stir it into the dry ingredients, pour into the greased moulds and sprinkle the fruit on top.

friands 5 friands 6

They are incredibly quick and easy to make.

I had never used a silicone baking “tin” before.  I always had the feeling that putting anything that thin and floppy in a hot oven just didn’t seem right, never mind entrusting  your precious cake mixture to it. 

In the recipe it said use a “generously buttered” tin so to make absolutely certain my friands were not going to stick, I melted some butter and brushed it into the moulds, giving a good coating.

The recipe also said it would make six cakes but the mould had eight holes so I buttered all of them, just in case.  I used my ice-cream scoop to fill the holes evenly and the mixture made seven exactly.  As the mould was floppy, my instinct told me to place it on a baking tray in the oven.

friands 7

When they were in the oven I watched them like a hawk – I was determined not to burn them this time.  They turned out beautifully – in all ways.  They looked great, tasted delicious and I was most impressed with the silicone mould.  They all came out clean as a whistle.

Next time I need a new baking tin (there must be some shapes and sizes I haven’t got already) I will definitely consider a silicone one.



100g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

125g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

25g plain flour

85g ground almonds

3 medium egg whites

1 unwaxed lemon, grated rind only

85g blueberries


Preheat the oven to 200ºC / 180ºfan.  Generously butter a six-hole friand or muffin tin.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool. 

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl.  Add the almonds and, using your fingers, mix everything together.

Whisk the egg whites until they make a light, floppy foam.  Make a well in the dry ingredients, tip in the egg whites and lemon rind.  Add the melted butter and lightly stir to make a soft batter.

Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and sprinkle the blueberries on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown and firm to the touch.

Cool in the tins for 5 minutes.  Then turn out and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 6-7

May 6, 2011


We have a good crop of rhubarb already this year and I picked quite a little pile of it recently.  I fancied doing something slightly different from the usual rhubarb crumble, but not too complicated as I didn’t have much time.

Then I remembered a recipe that a friend gave me years ago.  She got it from her sister-in-law, who lived in Canada for a while.  The implication being that it’s a Canadian recipe, which it may well be as it has cup measurements in it.

It’s called “legendary rhubarb pie”, which is a curious name for a pie and I have no idea what it is about it that’s legendary.  It’s very good, though.

You can actually use virtually any fruit you like.  I have made it with plums, apricots, gooseberries and apples in the past and all worked well.

rhubarb 3   rhubarb 2

As you can see, we had the old trouble with the free-range eggs.  I used the biggest and smallest in the box and it seemed to work ok.



rhubarb 1 rhubarb 4

I also put in a handful of leftover strawberries I had in the fridge that were looking slightly tired, as they usually make a nice combination with rhubarb.

Basically, you make or buy a pastry case, fill it with fruit, make a sugary sponge topping to pour over and bake.  On this occasion I used a pack of ready-rolled pastry that I found in the  freezer.  It was ok but it is better with home-made, I think.rhubarb 5 rhubarb 6 In any case, it was lovely and very quick and easy to make, most of the preparation time being in the preparation of the fruit.

Here’s the international recipe for the mysterious and legendary



One shortcrust pastry case, either home-made or bought

About 400g rhubarb

2 eggs

1 cup (180g) caster sugar

2 tablespoons (50g) butter or margarine

1 tablespoon (25g) plain flour

grated nutmeg (optional)

*weights give are my rough estimates for the cup measurements but they seem to work


Preheat the oven to 200ºC

Roll out the pastry to line a tart tin or pie dish

Prepare the fruit by washing and cutting into 2cm pieces

Arrange the fruit in the case.  Concentric circles look nice. 

(The pie looks just as good if you just tumble the fruit into the case and spread it out a bit.)

Combine the other ingredients in a medium bowl until a smooth, thick batter is formed.  Pour this evenly over the fruit.

Bake at 200ºC for 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180ºC and continue to bake for 30-40 minutes until nicely brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a while before serving to allow for more setting.

Serve warm or  cold with cream, ice cream, custard or just by itself.

Serves 6

*You can also use plums, peaches, nectarines or apricots or a combination, in which case wash the fruit, remove stones if possible and arrange cut side down in the pastry case.  Apples and pears should be peeled, cored and cut into thick wedges, which look nice arranged in overlapping circles.  Gooseberries should be top and tailed and washed so take a bit longer to prepare.  You could sprinkle a few sliced almonds on top before baking, or add a little cinnamon to the mixture.  Anything seems to work with this recipe so use your imagination !