February 24, 2020


I first posted about these in 2013 which you can see here
This year I made them again, but with a change to the recipe.
This time I made my own pancakes but I confess - I used a packet of pancake mix. 
Totally unforgivable considering how easy pancakes are to make from scratch but there happened to be a packet of pancake mix in the cupboard so I used it.  As to why it was there.....I picked it up by mistake when I was in a hurry one time thinking it was crumble mix.  (Also unforgivable but hey ho.)
The other item you will notice is the little cartons of Béchamel sauce.  We get these in France because sometimes we need just a small quantity of it for something.  Making a small quantity from scratch is - well, more trouble - and they're very good for that.  We brought them back to the UK at the end of our stay in France last year and they needed using up.  We used two for this recipe.

The dish was the right size for six pancakes so I divided my filling mixture evenly using these little plastic bowls.  They come in a set of six from the children's section in Ikea and I find them ideal for measuring out ingredients when baking. 

I even weighed each one and although it might seem like a bit of a faff it was quicker than guessing how much to put into each pancake then teeming and ladling to make them all equal.  Each portion was about 100g. 

Having tipped half of the jar of sauce into the dish I arranged the pancakes snugly on top and covered with the rest of the jar of sauce.

On went the Béchamel sauce and a good sprinkling of grated Cheddar.  A totally yummy dinner made from scratch (but using cheat's ingredients) and yet again I wondered why I only make pancakes once a year!
250g bag spinach
250g tub ricotta cheese
1 pack of six unsweetened pancakes (or make six of your own!)
1 500g jar tomato sauce for pasta
about a pint of Béchamel or cheese sauce for topping (home made or shop bought)
cheddar cheese for grating on top
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.
Empty the bag of spinach into a large colander and stand it in the sink.  Pour boiling water over it straight from the kettle to wilt it then refresh under cold running water straight from the tap.  Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and put it in a medium bowl.  Add the ricotta and mix together.
Spread half of the jar of tomato sauce into the base of a lasagne dish and spread out evenly.
Take roughly a sixth of the spinach mixture and spread it over one pancake.  Roll up and place it, join underneath, on top of the tomato sauce.  Repeat with the remaining pancakes.
Pour the remaining sauce from the jar evenly over the pancakes.  Cover with the Béchamel or cheese sauce and sprinkle some grated cheese on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes.  Serve with salad and crusty bread.
Serves 4. 

February 23, 2020


The Bakewell tart I made the other week went down so well that another one was requested.
This time I decided to make the recipe in my Be-Ro book.
This recipe uses ground rice and ground almonds for the topping but no flour (except in the pastry).  It's a long time since I had any ground rice in the house and it proved hard to find.  Sainsbury's, Tesco and the Co-op didn't have any but I finally tracked some down in Morrison's. 
How times change.  Ground rice pudding was a quick and easy pudding to make and a favourite of mine as a child.  Even as an adult, when I could choose for myself what I wanted to cook, it was a real treat.  Now I can't remember the last time I used any.  It's likely that the remains of a packet was thrown out in one of my house moves over the last five years and until now I hadn't missed it.  Now I have some again I can't imagine how I lived without it.  I love ground rice pudding, along with regular rice pudding and - flaked rice pudding!  Does anyone remember that?  I feel compelled to buy a packet of flaked rice as soon as I see one.  Sainsbury's used to have it but as it was next to the ground rice on the shelf...…I'm not too hopeful about ever getting any.
I'm pretty sure the recipe my mum used would have been the one in the Be-Ro book.  However, it has changed.  Comparing the two recent editions, the latest (41st) has more butter and sugar than the previous (40th) edition and also two eggs instead of one.  I decided to go with it and see how it turned out.
I have a very small collection of Be-Ro books and the recipe has varied quite a bit over the years.  In my battered copy of the 32nd edition (which cost 1/6d so is probably late 60's) there are only 2oz each of margarine, sugar and ground almonds, plus 1 egg and 1oz round rice, which would hardly have made enough filling to fill the tart.
This Bakewell tart was very different to the one I made last time.
The texture was much more dense and sticky and, as you might expect, less cakey and more grainy than before.  That would be the ground rice in place of the flour.  It occurred to me that in days of yore ground rice with a drop of two of almond essence might well have been a cheaper alternative to ground almonds, which only made an occasional appearance in my mum's baking, mainly at Christmas.
I would be hard pressed to choose which one I preferred.  I quite liked the denser stickiness of the Be-Ro recipe but felt it could have done with longer in the oven.  I used the heated baking tray trick but in the centre of the tart the pastry was definitely soggy.  Barely cooked in fact.  So much so that I'm tempted to remake it to the previous edition's recipe, with less butter, sugar and only one egg, to see if it makes a difference.  I wonder what made them decide to change the recipe again.
Shortcrust or sweet pastry made with about 175g flour, homemade or shop bought
For the topping
2-3 tblsp raspberry jam
4oz butter or margarine (I used Stork baking spread)
4oz caster sugar
4oz ground almonds
2oz ground rice
2 eggs, beaten
a few drops almond essence
2-3 tblsp icing sugar to decorate
Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170° fan / gas mk5.  Roll out the pastry to fit a greased 20cm flan dish or tin.
Cream together the Stork and sugar.  Mix the ground rice and almonds together and beat into the mixture alternately with the eggs.  Beat in the almond essence.
Spread a generous layer of jam over the pastry and dollop on the almond mixture.  Spread out evenly and bake for 35-40 minutes.
To decorate, mix the icing sugar with enough water to make a creamy consistency and drizzle over the tart when completely cold.
Cuts into 8 slices.

February 15, 2020

BAKEWELL TART and the Bakewell pudding conundrum.

There is a good deal of confusion around the Bakewell tart.
Living within a few miles of Bakewell for most of my adult life, a Bakewell tart is something that I grew up with.  My mum used to make one for Sunday tea occasionally and another real treat was to have one from the baker's van when he came to the village two or three times a week when I was a little girl.
I remember the baker - or at least the van driver - standing at the back doorstep of the house, wearing a white coat covered in flour and carrying a large wicker basket laden with all kinds of goodies.  With me being only knee high the basket was at just the right height for me to peer round my mum's apron and reach in to pick something for tea.  The Bakewell tarts were delicious, filled with raspberry jam and almond sponge and with a thick blanket of white icing, topped with a glacé cherry.  I remember biting the cherry off first, then licking off the icing, then scoffing the rest.  (Just like nowadays - only joking !!)
The confusion however, is between the Bakewell tart and the Bakewell pudding.  They are two entirely different things but a lot of people think they are the same.  They are often confused by food writers and bloggers and if you really want to know the difference, see this article by Bloomers, the baker's in Bakewell.
Essentially, the pudding is a flaky pastry case filled with something which is almost an almond custard.  It looks and tastes completely different from the Bakewell tart, which is a shortcrust pastry case filled with a layer of jam and topped with a kind of frangipane cake mixture.  The pudding is usually unadorned and can look relatively unappealing, whereas the tart is a thing of pure beauty, often topped with flaked almonds and/or iced in one way or another.
The legend goes that the pudding was invented by a cook at the Rutland Arms (although it was called the White Horse at the time), a Mrs Greaves, who got the recipe wrong when making a dessert.  Like all legends, historians doubt its validity as recipes can be found for a kind of Bakewell pudding dating to well before Mrs Greaves' time.
A previous Bakewell tart.
The confusion is understandable as it seems that both versions of the Bakewell delicacy have evolved from the same original recipe.  Food historian Ivan Day, who makes regular appearances on TV, has a good article about it here which is well worth reading.
Modern recipes for both desserts vary hugely.  I'm fairly sure my mum would have used the recipe for Bakewell tart that's in the BeRo book which contains ground almonds and ground rice in the topping.  Some, like Mary Berry's Easy Bakewell Tart here contain only ground almonds but I prefer it to be slightly cakey, with a little flour in it.  The one in the picture above that I made earlier (2013 apparently) is to a different Mary Berry recipe that makes a large tart to feed a crowd, with flour in the almond topping.  When looking at recipes the other day I also came across one that had breadcrumbs in the topping. 
To the best of my knowledge I never had the pleasure of sampling a Bakewell pudding until well into adulthood.  This is probably due to the availability - the tarts were on the baker's van and the puddings weren't, being only available in Bakewell itself and a few other shops locally.  I also wonder if it's something to do with the appearance.....
We have just had the pleasure of our American friends (who now live in France) staying with us for a week.  Derbyshire in February is challenging from a tourist point of view but they thoroughly enjoyed it and loved Bakewell, it being all they thought a quaint little English country town should be.  Peering into the window of the Pudding shop at the basket of puddings, they were not tempted to rush in and sample one.  I think Paul Hollywood sums it up perfectly in his excellent book "British Baking" where he says that the pudding is not as elegant as the tart and has even been unkindly compared to a cowpat.  That is, I think, what put me off it for years.
In any case, I thought it would be good to make a Bakewell tart for our American friends. I used a recipe which was easy and straightforward from "The Great British Book of Baking".  It was delicious and a hit with them. 
Paul Hollywood has a recipe for both Bakewell tart and Bakewell pudding in his book that look lovely so one day I shall make both of them to compare.  Watch this space!
Shortcrust or sweet pastry made with about 175g flour, homemade or shop bought
For the topping
2-3 tblsp raspberry jam
60g softened butter (I used Stork baking spread)
60g caster sugar
30g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
¼ tsp baking powder
1 medium egg
a few drops of vanilla essence

a handful of flaked almonds to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Put a baking tray in the oven to heat up.*

Roll out the pastry thinly and use to line a greased 20-22cm tart tin or flan dish.  Spoon enough jam into the pastry case to cover the bottom thinly and spread out evenly. 

Put all the other topping ingredients into a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or electric whisk until well combined.  Spoon the mixture over the jam.  It's best to put spoonfuls around the edge of the tart to make a seal between the mixture and the pastry case, then spoon the rest into the middle and spread out evenly.  Scatter the flaked almonds over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool before turning out. 

Dust with icing sugar or drizzle with a water icing if you like before serving.

Serves 6.

*This method of placing the tart in the oven on a heated baking tray seemed to work really well and the base was nice and crisp.  Maybe this is the answer to the "soggy bottom" instead of baking blind.

February 3, 2020

CRANBERRY AND MARZIPAN CAKE and old Crich pottery.

About this time last year I made an apple, orange and cranberry cake using some forgotten cranberries from Christmas, and it was delicious.  You can read about it here.  Finding an unused box of fresh cranberries in the fridge again this year, along with a ball of marzipan leftover from icing the Christmas cake, a little bell was ringing in my head and I went in search of a recipe.  I found it in the book "Great British Bake Off Everyday".
The recipe was a bit odd.  I read it to myself a couple of times and decided that you are supposed to cream the butter and sugar and then crumble in the marzipan and beat it in until smooth, i.e. cream in the marzipan as well.  Try as I might, the marzipan would not blend in.  At this point I did wonder if I should transfer it all to my food processor to blend it but rejected the idea almost as quickly as I thought of it. 
You can see the recipe word for word where it makes an appearance on the internet here and see if you agree with me.  Anyway, instead I chopped the remainder of the marzipan and stirred it in with the flour, remembering how nice it was to find whole little chunks of it in other cakes and puddings.
Having made the mixture I then dropped another clanger by deciding to bake it in a Bundt tin.  I completely forgot one of my own house rules and that is not to have bits of sticky stuff, like marzipan, in a Bundt cake as they stick like glue to the tin.  The last time I made this mistake it was with a fudge and raspberry cake where the bits of fudge adhered completely to the tin and required a long soaking to get them off.  It wasn't until this cake had been in the oven for a good ten minutes that I remembered my mistake and it was too late by then.
And so, as you can see from the photos, the cake did stick a bit in places, but not so horribly that I had to use major surgery to rescue it.

It was delicious, had a nice, even crumb and the little bursts of sharpness from the cranberries contrasted well with the sweet chunks of marzipan.  Definitely a winning combination and a cake I will make again.  In an ordinary tin though!

 Now I come to the bit about Crich pottery.
When I spotted this cake stand for sale on Ebay it brought memories flooding back and I couldn't resist it. 
I lived near Crich in Derbyshire for most of my childhood.  It's a nice little olde worlde kind of village with a mixture of very old stone built houses and mid century brick ones.
The pottery was set up by a lady called Diana Worthy in the 70's and closed in the 90's when she moved abroad.  You can read more about it here.  I had only three pieces of it, a plate which I use as a cheese serving plate, a small jug and a small vase which you see in the picture which is just the right size for a few daffodils or tulips.  All of these have been in regular use since the 80's.  There's something about the rustic design which appeals to me.  The cake stand is a very nice addition to the collection of Crich pottery and I am enjoying using it.
100g unsalted butter, softened
65g caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
120g ground almonds
200g marzipan, chopped into small dice (or crumbled)
120g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
115g cranberries, fresh or thawed if frozen
25g flaked almonds (a handful/sprinkling)
Method (my way)
Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and line a 20-21cm springform cake tin.  (Avoid using a Bundt tin!)
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar using a hand held electric whisk.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Stir in the ground almonds and marzipan.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and fold in gently, followed by the cranberries, stirring just until they are evenly distributed.  Scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until done.
Remove from the oven, run a knife round the edge of the cake and leave to cool in the tin.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Cuts into 8-10 slices.