April 22, 2019


These gorgeous little tarts came about as a result of reading a post on Dom’s blog, Bellau Kitchen, which you can see here.  He made them from scratch, making his own puff pastry, caramelising the onions and then adding the asparagus.  I cheated, using ready made, ready rolled pastry, a jar of caramelised onion chutney and some cheddar brought from the UK.  I got the asparagus on Loches market.

During the asparagus season in France you can find mountains of white asparagus everywhere.  Green asparagus is more our cup of tea but is less plentiful and more expensive.  Delicious though and well worth the money.
The tarts were of course dead easy to make and very tasty with a bit of salad as a starter or on their own with apéritifs.  You could also make much smaller versions for nibbles by cutting the pastry into more squares and using smaller bits of asparagus.


1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry
a few sticks of asparagus, trimmed to remove the woody ends
a few tblsp caramelised onion chutney
a couple of handfuls of grated cheddar cheese, or other suitable hard cheese
1 egg, beaten


Preheat the oven to 190C / 170 fan.  Place a sheet of baking paper on a baking sheet.  Remove the pastry from the fridge to bring up to room temperature (it will crack if you try to unroll it when it’s still cold).

Cook the asparagus in boiling water for about 5 minutes until tender and remove from the pan.
Unroll the pastry and cut into about 9 oblongs of roughly equal size.  With a sharp knife, score all around the edge of each oblong, about 1cm in from the edge, not cutting all the way through.

Spread a teaspoonful of chutney thinly over each oblong of pastry, within the scored margin.  Lay 3 pieces of asparagus, trimmed to the right length, over the chutney and sprinkle some grated cheese on top.

Brush the pastry with beaten egg and bake for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown, the cheese melted and the chutney bubbling.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4 as a starter (2 each) or 8 with apéritifs.  My maths tells me that that leaves one left over for the chef (or for a snack later).

April 6, 2019


I wrote about this cake not long ago but, having made it again (and again), at last with the drizzle on it, I think it deserves a post of its own.
Neither bananas nor coconut are everybody's cup of tea in a cake, I know.  Some dislike cooked banana in any shape or form, others hate coconut.  Banana cakes can be a bit dense and rubbery.  Coconut cakes can be a bit dry.  I know this because I have used recipes that produce both of those things.  This recipe is different.  The cake is light, moist and evenly textured.  Maybe the banana makes the coconut less dry and the coconut makes the banana less soggy, but in any case, it's a winner.
Previously I had not got around to putting the icing on top before cutting the cake but it does make a difference.  I deviated from the original recipe by adding it as a drizzle when the cake was warm, not just as a topping and that worked really well.
Unfortunately the recipe has been removed from the website that I found it but you can see my original post here.
For the cake
170g softened butter or baking spread
170g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
170g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 medium very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
100g desiccated coconut

For the drizzle
100g icing sugar
1-2 tblsp Malibu  (or fresh lime juice)

Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.  Butter and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin, or use a paper liner.

In a large bowl use an electric whisk to beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in.  Add the bananas and coconut and mix well to combine.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown, firm and springy.  Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the drizzle sift the icing sugar into a small bowl.  Add enough of the Malibu to make a runny icing.

Remove the cake carefully to a wire rack and poke holes in the top using a skewer.  Drizzle about half of the drizzle topping over the cake.  When the cake is almost cool, pour the rest of the icing over the whole of the cake and allow to run down the sides.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

April 4, 2019


We have returned to France for a while, and the other day I was looking lazily through some of the cook books that I keep here, each volume holding the promise of untried recipes and baking adventure.  One of them fell open at a recipe that had a lightly written note in pencil in the margin, in my own writing.  A light pencil note or carefully placed post-it is the limit of the vandalism I allow myself to do to my cook books and I recoil in horror at the way some people treat theirs, text crossed out or written over, page corners folded or stuck together with splatterings of cake mixture!
I looked at this recipe and it suddenly dawned on me that it was one of my "lost bakes".  In the past I would occasionally think to myself  "didn't I once make a golden syrup cake or did I dream it"?  Having found the proof that I probably did I then went hunting for the pictures and here they are, taken in March 2017.  I had made the cake and taken its picture but never got as far as writing about it, which is a shame because it was an excellent cake.  And with a few bananas ripening nicely in the fruit bowl I have a hankering to make it again, very soon.*
Apologies to all those who don't like cooked banana, but those who do should really make this cake.  The recipe was in one of my Rachel Allen books called "All things sweet" and sweet it certainly was.  Reminiscent of those Jamaican ginger and golden syrup cakes that you can buy in the shops, like a delicious combination of the two, but with banana as well.  What more could you want?!
Lately I have got into the habit of taking a photo of the recipe or the book at the same time as the cake, so that they can be paired up.  No more mystery photos and fewer forgotten posts from now on.  Well, probably!
*I made the cake again, one day after writing this post and it is truly yummy, very gingery, not overly bananary and a glorious golden colour.
110g softened butter
50g soft brown sugar
125g golden syrup
2 eggs
125g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tblsp ground ginger (6 tsp)
2 medium bananas, mashed
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk4.  Butter and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin, or use a paper liner.
Cream the butter and sugar until soft then beat in the golden syrup.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  It doesn't matter if the mixture looks curdled.  Sift in the flour, baking powder and ginger and fold in. 
Add the mashed bananas and mix well together.  Pour into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cuts into 8-10 slices