March 30, 2020

RHUBARB BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING - more pandemic cooking.

I'm enjoying the challenge of using up what we have in rather than going out to shop.  Equally, going out to shop now results in a kind of ready, steady, cook selection of random ingredients at the moment, which also calls for a bit of culinary lateral thinking.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago my friend Gaynor recommended the rhubarb and custard hot cross buns from Aldi.  They were a good recommendation but I somehow managed to forget that I had bought two packs (they had loads of them at the time) and discovered the second pack last weekend, in a cupboard and several days past their sell-by date.  They were definitely stale but not mouldy so I instantly thought "bread and butter pudding".
I adapted a recipe for brioche pudding which I have adapted before as you can see here.  Essentially, it's a pack of hot cross buns (any type will work) soaked in the usual egg custard mixture with a few small bits of rhubarb tucked in between the buns. 
Luckily I also had a few eggs.  Only days ago there were none to be had anywhere.  I usually get half a dozen from the milkman (yes, we have milk delivered to the door - in real glass milk bottles, no less) but his supplier had sold out.  There were empty spaces on the shelves where the eggs used to be in all our local shops, big and small, even in the little kiosk at our local farm.  Anyway, the milkman had changed his supplier and come up trumps so I had a couple of eggs to spare.   
We also have rhubarb in our brand new rhubarb patch.  We planted a new plant last summer and it's taken really well to its new home.  There were several stalks ready for picking and I just used two skinny ones for this pudding.
The pudding was delicious.  Gorgeous warm with a slick of cream* or cold with extra custard. 
*I also happened to have some UHT cream in stock.  I always take a few boxes of Tesco "UHT double cream substitute" with us to France every time, but of course we're still in the UK.  So all the bits and pieces I had set aside to take have been unpacked and can be used up here.  A lucky stash as it turns out. 
1 pack of four hot cross buns, rhubarb and custard flavour or any other kind
butter for buttering the buns
2 thin sticks of rhubarb**
2 eggs, beaten
140ml double cream
250ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp caster sugar (I used golden caster sugar as that's all I had)
Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140° fan / gas mk3.  Butter a suitable baking dish.
Slice the buns in half and butter each half.  Cut each piece into two and arrange in the dish, flat edge down. 
Trim and wipe the rhubarb and cut into small pieces about 2 cm long.  Tuck them in between the pieces of bun.
Put the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla and sugar into a jug and whisk together.  Pour the mixture carefully over the pudding and press it all down slightly with the back of a spoon or fish slice. 
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the custard is set and the buns lightly browned at the tips.  Dust with icing sugar and serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.
Serves 6.
**My rhubarb was young and skinny so didn't need any pre-cooking.  If using larger sticks later in the season it would be a good idea to poach the pieces in a little water until just softened before adding to the dish.

March 29, 2020


The last time we had guests - remember those days? - this is what I made for dessert.
In the freezer I had some of the beautiful pink rhubarb from our trip to the Wakefield Rhubarb Festival last month.  I decided to make an easy upside down cake with it, using the recipe for the fresh pineapple cake which you can see here.
The cake was actually meant to be just a rhubarb upside down cake but when I arranged the fruit over the base of the tin it was obvious that there were too many gaps.  Consequently I filled in the gaps with some raspberries, about half a punnet that I already had in the fridge.  (We put raspberries or blueberries on our porridge most mornings so usually have some in.)  Rhubarb and strawberries are a match made in heaven so I imagined that rhubarb and raspberries might be equally good too.
It was in fact delicious and a combination I will definitely use again.  Apart from anything else, it was a fabulous colour!

March 28, 2020



Now that many of us seem to have more time on our hands, living in this slightly surreal existence, we, like most people, are having to make do or be a bit more inventive with our food.  Nipping out for a lettuce, because we have run out and fancy a salad for lunch, is not a sensible option so we're spending more time checking our cupboards to see what's lurking in there and - this part is by no means a hardship - checking my cookbooks for ideas.

It's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.  Should I find a recipe then look to see if I have the ingredients?  Or should I see what ingredients I have and look for a suitable recipe?  In this case it was the former.  A happy hour spent leafing through some cookbooks I don't often get out to play with turned up this recipe.  It comes from a book called "One Pot Wonders" by Lindsey Bareham.

It's always satisfying when what you cook looks exactly like the picture in the book.
I had seen several bags of four Cumberland sausages lurking in my dad's freezer when I had a clear out.  He used to treat himself to four each time he went to his preferred supermarket and if they didn't get eaten they were put in the freezer.  He's 91 now and since he gave up driving he's also given up shopping and cooking and only eats microwavable ready meals from the local Nisa shop, or ones that we supply him with. 
The unused sausages were all getting on a bit so we had taken them off his hands to make room for a stock of ready meals in preparation for the impending lockdown.  Nick also remembered a pack of Puy lentils hiding at the back of a cupboard.  So we had all the necessary ingredients for what promised to be a very tasty dinner.
We adjusted the quantities to serve just the two of us and cooked the sausages in the oven rather than frying them as per the recipe.  We omitted the chillies as I can no longer eat chillies and added some mushrooms because they were there.  You can see the original recipe here.
It was delicious and left us wondering why we don't cook with lentils more often.
1 tblsp olive oil
4 nice fat sausages (Cumberland, Lincolnshire or any you have available)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into small dice
a few mushrooms, thickly sliced
100g Puy lentils
500ml stock made with a stock cube of your choice (beef, veg, chicken but probably not fish)
salt and pepper
some chopped parsley if you have any
a lemon wedge if you have one and Dijon mustard to serve
Preheat the oven to 180° Fan.  Prick the sausages and lay on a baking tray lined with scrunched up baking paper.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes until nicely browned and cooked through, turning occasionally so they brown evenly.
While the sausages are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan or sauté pan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the carrot and mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add the lentils and stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  (By now the sausages will also be cooked.)
Cut the cooked sausages artistically in half on the slant and add to the pan with the chopped parsley.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and reheat as necessary.
Serve with a lemon wedge and Dijon mustard.
Serves 2.

March 24, 2020


Rhubarb and raspberry upside down cake.
So, here we are, in lockdown.  It was bound to happen sooner or later and too many people seemed to me to be not taking the social distancing part seriously.  Maybe it should have happened sooner.  Only time will tell.
I'm trying to stay positive.  As long as we can stay well we can find a way to make the most of the confinement.  There's always stuff to clean, other stuff to paint and, of course, recipes to try.  I now seem to have plenty of time for all of it.
Stay safe, keep well and hopefully we'll all be able to meet up on the other side of this.

March 15, 2020


Camembert baked with garlic, thyme and white wine, to the recipe that came with the pot.
We have got as far as we can with the first stage of getting my dad into sheltered housing.  The applications are in and now we just have to wait for visits from the housing people and social services for his "assessments".
Meanwhile, we are grounded.  We all know why.  We have tried gnashing teeth and spitting nails but in the end we just have to be sensible and delay our return to France for a while, for who knows how long.
There's allus summat.
(I might have the time to spend on the blog sooner than I thought.)

March 8, 2020


A cherry custard tart to an Ed Kimber recipe.
Just as we were gearing up for our return to France my father has decided that he would like to go into sheltered housing.  This is something we knew we would have to deal with sooner or later and although the timing could have been better we're all pleased that he's made the decision.
It is uncharted territory for us and we'll be feeling our way through the quagmire of process and paperwork.  Our return is likely to be delayed and we might have to do some toing and froing across the channel until he is settled.  The blog will be on hold until life returns to normal.  Not that I can actually remember what normal is.

March 1, 2020


Who can resist a lemon meringue pie?
It's one of those things that is less of a faff than I think it is, and I wonder why I don't make one more often.  This time I wanted one that would just serve four of us for pudding with a bit left over.  (Without resorting to a Green's packet mix!)  We were having visitors who were rumoured to be fussy eaters and I had sought reassurance that this pudding would go down well.  Luckily, as it turned out, my informant was correct - the main course was not so well received but the lemon meringue was a hit.  Phew!  Ending on a low point is never a happy outcome to any dinner party!
There are zillions of recipes for lemon meringue pie out there.  I must have a couple of dozen amongst my vast collection of cookery books.  This time I chose one from Mary Berry's book "Classic", mainly because it looked like it would be the right size.  In the past I have used another recipe of hers on the BBC Food website which is more voluminous and feeds a lot more people.
This one was just the job and very easy to make (it could be easier still if you were to use shop bought ready made pastry).  It turned out to be very lemony, with a lovely meringue topping - crisp on the outside and marshmallowy inside, and just the right size for six people - four of us on the day with two portions left over for the next day.
For the pastry
175g plain flour
75g cold butter, cubed
2 tblsp icing sugar
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
2 lemons, juice and finely grated zest
40g cornflour
300ml water
75g caster sugar
4 egg yolks, beaten
For the meringue topping
4 egg whites
125g caster sugar
Make the pastry in the usual way (I made mine in a food processor), roll out and line a 23cm loose bottomed flan tin.  Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Line the pastry case with baking paper and baking beans and blind bake for 15 mins.  Remove the paper and beans and bake for another 5 mins.
Reduce the oven temp to 150°C / 130° fan / gas mk 2.
Make the filling by mixing the lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan with the cornflour and 300ml water.  Whisk until smooth and heat gently over medium heat until thickened.  Add the sugar and egg yolks and whisk again until well blended.  Pour into the tart case and level the top.
To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add the sugar a teaspoon at a time and continue whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
Spoon the meringue on top of the lemon mixture, starting at the outside edge and working your way in so that it seals to the pastry shell.  Pile it all in and swirl the top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until pale gold and crisp.
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 15-30 minutes.  Then remove from the tin and serve warm or cold.
Serves 6 generous slices.