December 26, 2017


pumpkin pie

Not everyone likes Christmas pudding (something I find hard to understand myself) so I usually put on an alternative on Christmas Day.  This year it was pumpkin pie.

pumpkin pie2pumpkin pie3

Which brings me to a recent bargain purchase, the book “Bake it Great” by Luis Toryano.  He was a Great British Bake Off contestant a few years ago and, like so many of them, consolidated his success on the show by writing a book.

There are a lot of bread recipes in the book and I’m not into bread making, but for the £3 bargain price in the book shop I thought there was enough in it to make it worth buying.  Flipping through the pages I spotted a recipe for pumpkin pie which uses tinned pumpkin purée rather than fresh pumpkin. 

I have been a fan of tinned pumpkin, Libby’s being the only brand I have ever seen for sale in the shops and not many of the shops at that – Waitrose being the only reliable source of it – ever since I started making pumpkin spice cake which is always a hit at events and cake stalls.  You can read about that here. 

As we restocked our new kitchen cupboards with all the stuff that has been stored in boxes for months on end, a couple of tins of pumpkin purée turned up so I decided that pumpkin pie would be our alternative this year – along with the usual apple crumble.  Belt and braces, appealing to all tastes.  (In other words I could just imagine the look on my dad’s face when presented with pumpkin pie.)

The other bargain purchase was a Christmas cake stand found in a local charity shop.  Why anyone should give away something like that amazes me, but luckily for me they did and for £3 I am very pleased with it.

pumpkin pie4

The pie was delicious.  I have never made pumpkin pie before, although I have been tempted by the recipe on the back of the label on the Libby’s tin.  I haven’t actually eaten it too often either.  It was very quick and easy to make, especially as I used ready rolled, ready made pastry, which it needed to be as I was quite poorly on Christmas Day this year, with a stinker of a cold and although determined to get the pie made I doubt I could have managed a more challenging recipe.  There was slightly too much filling for my flan dish so rather than over-fill it I baked the excess separately to be enjoyed later.

The pastry was crisp and the filling light and almost mousse like, filling the house with the aroma of spices as it baked, just right for Christmas I thought.  Luis suggests using sweet shortcrust pastry but mine was plain as that’s what I had in the freezer.


1 pack of ready made shortcrust pastry

2 large eggs

1 tin of pumpkin purée (425g)

125g soft light brown sugar

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 large tin evaporated milk (410g)


Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200°fan / gas mk 7.  Use the pastry to line a suitable tart tin or flan dish (loose bottomed or ceramic) and blind bake for 15 minutes.

Beat the eggs very lightly in a large bowl.  Add the pumpkin purée and all the other ingredients and stir together to combine.

Pour carefully into the blind baked pastry case and bake for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C / 180° fan and bake for a further 35-40 minutes.  The filling should have a slight wobble to it when baked and will set as it cools.

Leave to cool completely before turning out (if using a metal tin) and serve cold.

Serves 6-8.

December 8, 2017


chocolate and chestnut fondant2

You would be entitled to wonder why I have reeled out this picture of a cake decorated with Easter eggs only a few weeks before Christmas.

The answer is simple.  This is most definitely a Christmassy recipe and I had it bookmarked to try for the festive season a couple of years ago.  But, as so often happens, I was overtaken by events and the idea to make the cake was put on the back burner and ultimately forgotten.  Then, I remembered it when I was hunting for a recipe for a chocolate dessert cake the following Easter.  Chocolate and Easter are best friends and as I already had the tin of chestnut cream – so why not!

chocolate and chestnut fondant1chocolate and chestnut fondant1aThe recipe comes from one of my favourite blogs called “Life’s a Feast” and you can see the original here.  It made one of those intensely rich, squidgy chocolate dessert cakes, extra delicious due to the inclusion of chestnut purée, a very traditional ingredient in France at this time of year.

chocolate and chestnut fondant

It tasted glorious.  Imagine it covered in a snowy blanket of icing sugar and decorated with a sprig of holly instead of Easter eggs and it would be perfect for a Christmas or New Year dinner!  As suggested in the original recipe, it might also be even more delicious if a little orange liqueur or even rum was added.

(And yes, those are Daisy’s little paws getting dangerously close to it in the picture!  She suddenly appeared on the table from nowhere and her paws landed just as I snapped.  In case you’re wondering about that as well….no, she didn’t!)


200g dark chocolate, I used Green and Black’s 70%

160g unsalted butter

3 large eggs

1 500g tin of chestnut spread or crème de marrons

1 heaped tbsp plain flour


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan.  Butter and line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and sugar together, either in a microwave or a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Set aside to cool.

Put the eggs in a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk.  Add the chestnut cream and whisk in. 

Next whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture until well blended, then the flour.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes.  The surface will be cracked and the cake puffed up and just set.

Cool in the tin and serve dusted liberally with icing sugar.  Decorate with seasonal decorations!  You can serve with cream or ice cream, red berries, or just as it is.

Serves 8.