September 30, 2018


courgette and goat's cheese pots

Our courgette plants are still providing us with a few courgettes so when I was thinking about what to make for a starter when friends came round recently I felt compelled to use them.  My first thought was to make one of my roasted courgette tarts but pastry was also on the menu for a dessert so that was a no-no.

courgette and goat's cheese pots2

Then I remembered reading somewhere about a crustless quiche and an idea came into my head.  I put the roasted courgette slices along with some lardons and onion in the bottom of some ramekins, added a slice of goat’s cheese, poured in the quiche liquid filling, topped them with half a cherry tomato and there we have them. 

They puffed up in the oven like a quiche filling often does and looked very tempting.  I served them warm with some crusty bread and they went down a treat.  I didn’t quite know what to call them as “crustless quiche” sounded a bit clumsy and they weren’t exactly a soufflé.  So I called them “pots”.  Our guests said they were delicious and they would have been pleased to have eaten them in a restaurant.  I’ll take that as a compliment!


1 medium courgette, green or yellow, wiped and sliced thinly

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 pack of lardons

4 small slices or chunks of goat’s cheese

2 eggs

a spoonful of double cream (or crème fraîche)

about 100ml milk

2 cherry tomatoes


Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.  Scatter the courgette slices and chopped onion over a baking tray and scatter the lardons on top.  Roast for about 15 minutes until the lardons are cooked, shuffle them around about half way through.

While the veg are roasting, put the eggs into a jug with the cream or crème fraîche and make up to 250ml with the milk.  Add salt and pepper and beat with a fork until combined.

When the veg are cooked, divide between four ramekins and add a piece of cheese to each one.  Pour over the eggy liquid, being careful not to overfill.  Drop half a cherry tomato on top of each one and return to the oven for about 20-25 minutes until puffed up and set.

Serve warm.

Serves 4.

September 29, 2018


poached quince tarte tatin

Last week my friend Gaynor gave me some quince.  I have been intrigued by this fruit for a long time and was excited to get my hands on some and do something with them. 

poached quince tarte tatin2

I knew they could be challenging to cook with and the only home made dish I had tried so far was quince jelly – made by another friend, not me.  Occasionally they turn up on a restaurant menu and I have eaten them in both sweet and savoury dishes.

poached quince tarte tatin3poached quince tarte tatin4

This is how they grow.  This tree in the next village was positively dripping with fruit, not quite ripe yet.  I thought I would see how I got on with cooking them before I considered sneaking back to scrump some of the ones dangling outside the owner’s garden….

poached quince tarte tatin5

I have to say that they are the devil’s own job to prepare.  I decided to use two recipes by David Lebovitz and he warns about the dangers of grappling with them.  The peel comes off quite easily and the flesh is firm like an unripe pear.  The core however is very woody and puts up a hell of a fight.  It took me the best part of an hour to core this lot.  Consequently I have given the recipe a faff factor *** as it is not for the faint hearted!

First I poached the pears using the recipe that you can see here, although I changed the quantities to suit the number of pears I had.  To make the tarte tatin I reduced some of the poaching liquid in the tatin tin until it began to caramelise then arranged the pears on top.  You can see the recipe here.

poached quince tarte tatin6

I used a pack of ready made, ready rolled puff pastry for the crust rather than make my own – to save time, having already spent much longer than I expected on preparing the fruit!

poached quince tarte tatin7

The quince changed colour spectacularly when they were cooking in the oven and on turning out the tarte this fabulous pink creation emerged like a butterfly from its chrysalis. 

poached quince tarte tatin8

While it was baking in the oven I got on with making the ice cream.  I had spotted this recipe on Phil’s blog called As Strong as Soup and had a strong desire to make it immediately!  I had to wait until Nick and I had found all the various parts of our ice cream machine and then let the bowl chill in the freezer for twenty four hours before I could start.

The ice cream was utterly delicious.  I used a whole jar of Bon Maman “confiture du lait” and it made a good sized box of ice cream that continued to delight us long after the tarte tatin was finished.  The tarte was also delicious, a great hit and a very impressive dessert when both are served together.

For the poached pears

5 large quince, peeled, cored and quartered

1.5 litres of water

150g sugar

100g honey

1 lemon, halved

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 vanilla bean, split lengthways


Bring the water, sugar, honey, lemon and spices to a gentle boil and add the quince.  Cover with a circle of baking parchment with a walnut-sized hole in the middle and simmer gently until they are tender.  Mine took an hour.

Remove the fruit from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Strain and reserve all the liquid, discarding the lemon and spices.  The poached fruit will keep for about a week in their liquid in a sealed container in the fridge.

For the tarte tatin

Preheat the oven to 190C / 170 fan.

Put 300 ml of the strained poaching liquid into a tatin dish or ovenproof frying pan and cook on the hob until it is reduced and thickened.  Mine took quite a long time to reach this point and suddenly bubbled up like caramel.  At that point I quickly removed it from the heat.

Arrange the pears cut side up in the pan, packing tightly and filling any gaps with pieces of pear.

Carefully lay an unrolled circle of puff pastry over the pan, tucking in the edges, remembering that the tin will be hot so be very careful not to burn yourself.  Prick the pastry with a fork and bake for about 45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes before placing a serving plate upside down on top of the tarte and carefully turning out.  If any fruit is left behind in the pan it’s an easy job to replace it in the tart.  Spoon any syrup left behind in the pan over the tart as you don’t want to miss any of its deliciousness.

Serve warm or at room temperature with the dulce de leche ice cream.  Or of course any ice cream of your choice but you really should try this one.

Serves 8.

For the ice cream

See Phil’s recipe here.

September 11, 2018

A TALE OF TWO COCONUT CAKES and a reminder that you should never judge a cake by its icing.

coconut cake2coconut cake
I am a fan of coconut in cakes and for our July Cake Club meeting where the theme was “flowers” I decided to make a coconut and rose cake.  Decorated with fresh roses and sitting on one of my favourite cake stands on the table, it looked very pretty but when I took a bite of the first slice it turned out to be an embarrassing disappointment.  There was rose water in the cake and the icing but you could hardly taste it and the cake itself was very dry.
Goodness only knows what I did wrong but you can see the recipe here.**  I was so miffed that it turned out so badly that I’m half tempted to revisit the recipe and try again, maybe with a little tweak or two but in reality it will probably never happen.  Unless of course I just take a simple, reliable, coconut cake recipe and add some rose water…..hmmmm………

coconut cake3
Anyway, in sharp contrast this rather ordinary looking cake turned out to be absolutely gorgeous!  It’s a coconut and banana cake and I found the recipe on the Guardian website here.**

coconut cake5
Included in the recipe are instructions for a Malibu drizzle and/or a Malibu and coconut buttercream filling.  The first time I made the cake unexpected guests turned up and the cake got cut without its drizzle.  It was delicious.
The second time I made the cake was for a charity event and I gave it away, complete with the drizzle, so didn’t get the chance to taste the difference.  I imagine it would have been lovely but I’ll have to make it a third time to confirm!  That will be no hardship of course, although there are very few cakes that I make more than once…….so many cakes, so little time.  I’m not sure I would bother with the buttercream but you never know – I might even have to make the cake a fourth time to decide if it really needs it or not!
Which just goes to show that a gorgeous looking cake can disappoint but an ordinary one can be delightful.  Never judge a cake by its icing!

*Having made the cake again, this time with its Malibu drizzle icing, I can confirm that it does make a difference.  I found the quantity of icing in the original a bit too much so have amended it in the ingredients given here.
I'm not sure that I could be tempted to add the Malibu buttercream as well - maybe if I made it as a round cake……..

**Both of these recipes have now been removed from the internet.

Banana and coconut cake
170g caster sugar
170g softened butter or baking spread
170g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 medium ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
100g desiccated coconut
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the drizzle
1-2 tblsp Malibu (or you could use fresh lime juice)
100g icing sugar
Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin (I used a paper liner).  Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk3.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time with a spoonful of the flour and a spoonful of banana.
Sift in the remaining flour, add the coconut and banana and mix well to combine.
Pour into the prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until done.  Leave in the tin for ten minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool.
While the cake is cooling, make the drizzle by mixing together the Malibu and sifted icing sugar.  Make holes in the cake with a skewer and while it is still warm pour the icing over the cake so that some sinks in and some dribbles down the sides.
(Refer to the recipe in the link if you wish to fill the cake with the coconut buttercream.)

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

September 1, 2018


honey and apple cake

Yes, you did read that correctly, not toffee but coffee.  I spotted this recipe in the second CCC book, “A Year of Cake” and wanted to give it a try because of what I thought was an unusual ingredient.  I have been on a mission, on and off, to find a recipe for the perfect apple cake so have read a lot of apple cake recipes.  This is the first time I have encountered one that included coffee amongst the ingredients.  In the book it is called a honey apple cake but it’s the coffee that makes this cake different.

honey and apple cake3

With the garden work now finished we were expecting visitors who were keen to inspect the result and with the sun shining it seemed only right to serve tea and cake outdoors to mark the occasion.  That was the excuse I used to bake the cake but as so often happens I was a bit late in getting started and it was still in the oven when they arrived.

honey and apple cake2

Fortunately they were not the kind of people to judge me because the cake was still on its cooling rack when I served it, instead of being presented on a pretty cake stand and dusted daintily with icing sugar. 

I served it warm and it was delicious, as apple cakes usually are when warm. The problem comes when you try to serve them cold and they are often so full of fruit that they fall apart, being more like a pudding than a cake.  As well as being delicious, this one also served very well when cold. The spices, apple and coffee flavours were all there and very subtle, adding up to a very pleasant, not overpowering in anything, kind of cake.  Perfect for the late summer, mists and mellow fruitfulness just around the corner, season.


300g self raising flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 eggs

100g light muscovado sugar

100g dark soft brown sugar

125ml vegetable oil

200g honey (either runny or set)

125ml warm strong fresh coffee

2 medium eating apples, peeled, cored and grated

30g raisins (or sultanas)

25g flaked almonds


Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Butter and line the base of a 23cm round springform tin.

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and spices into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar using an electric whisk until light and creamy.  Set aside.

In a jug mix together the oil, honey and coffee.  Add to the egg mixture and mix well to combine.

Pour the liquid into the flour mixture and mix well, making sure there are no lumps.  Add the apple, raisins and almonds and stir well to combine. 

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until done.  Check for browning after 20 minutes and cover loosely with foil if necessary.

Cool for 10 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.