SIMNEL CAKE WITH CRYSTALLIZED SPRING FLOWERS

 

 

Traditional Simnel cake with crystallized flowers

 

This is a (fairly) traditional Simnel cake with the addition of pretty crystallized flowers. These cakes were traditionally made by girls working in service and they took them home to their mother’s on Mothers day. It was probably the one day in the year they could go and see their family so it must have been very special. The cakes were topped with 11 marzipan balls to represent the true disciples and I have added the pretty frosted flowers. I’ve managed to ‘convert’ many ‘marzipan haters’ to homemade marzipan so give it a go, it has a much more nutty taste without the chemical aftertaste of the marzipan flavourings used in bought varieties.  If you want to use it for an Easter Cake instead of a Simnel Cake just leave off the marzipan balls and decorate with the crystallised flowers, fresh flowers or little eggs and chicks and finish it off with a  ribbon.

NB re-reference to washing dried fruit -it used to be what you had to do years ago (and perhaps some ‘proper’ bakers still do). I remember seeing all the dirt & sludge that came off the fruit nowadays the fruit is of better quality….and then there were the trays of the fruit drying before it could be used (so it didn’t all sink to the bottom). The soaking did plump up the fruit, I suppose that the farthest I would go down this line, nowadays is to soak the fruit in brandy or whisky.  She would also cut up each sultana with scissors so that the fruit was also of equal size. Apologies for my shortcomings mum x

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SALMON, ASPARAGUS & DILL TARTLETS

 

 

Salmon, Asparagus & Dill Tartlet

My fresh Salmon, Asparagus tartlets use my favourite fresh herb has to be dill and my vegetable garden is full of it and I’m always looking for ways to use it (you can search for Marinated Courgette with Dill -another favourite recipe). Fresh herbs make such a fab difference to your cooking and I try to fresh herbs when they are in season. Dried herbs just don’t taste like the real thing and I’d much rather cook something different & seasonal. I know that you can get basil in a supermarket in December but it just isn’t the same. All is not lost however if you can’t do this, some fresh herbs freeze very well including dill (hoorah), parsley and coriander. Just chop them up and put in a plastic bag ( a zip lock bag is good as you are going to dip in and out of it). Pat it out so the herbs are just in a thin layer and freeze. After that, a  quick scrunch means that they aren’t frozen in a block and easy to use as you want.

I digress, these Salmon and Asparagus & Dill tartlets are delicious and look so pretty. They do take a bit of effort but you can’t always be a slouch and if you want to impress then give these a go. You can use all different sorts of fillings as long as it is previously cooked and bind it with the ‘basic tart mix’ and away you go. The cases can be made well ahead and frozen. If I have some leftover pastry I often use it for a tart or two (it’s surprising how little pastry they take), freeze it and then I can use them when I want. You can also do the same with sweet pastry (with fillings such as strawberries, raspberries or my favourite lemon tart). Lable them carefully, I have to admit that whilst testing this recipe I mixed them up and my son got a very strange tasting tart! It was a lucky dip 3 were with sweet pastry and three with ordinary pastry. Hmmm…

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SWISS ROLL WITH HOMEMADE LEMON CURD

 

As I speak it’s getting quite difficult to find flour in the shops anywhere! It’s good news that people are now turning to baking/cooking for the first time or have been meaning to do more but they never had the time. Now we are all isolated we have the time and I hope you have the inclination to give this lemon Swiss roll a go. 

I’ve searched my recipes for a cake that used the least amount of flour which, I’m hoping that you may still have in the cupboard from before ‘the situation’.  This fat-free sponge uses only 75g. Homemade lemon curd is just delicious and easy to make as long as you have a little patience to stir, stir and stir. A gentle touch is needed or you will end up with scrambled eggs. Of course,  I strongly advise you to have a go at making the lemon as it so, so, so delicious but If you don’t want to make the lemon curd then I’m certain that a jar of it could be an ‘essential’ ingredient on your next shopping outing. You can, of course, fill the roll with any other jam such as strawberry or raspberry.

I’m getting hysterically over-excited about my next supermarket trip out, it’s so lovely to be out of the house and even calls for lipstick and a bit of dressing up for the occasion. I’ve even turned to giddy chatting with anyone in the queues (at the required distance of course) just because I can, at last!

Start with the lemon curd

Gorgeously citrusy lemon curd

 

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SIMPLE PINK & CREAMY RHUBARB FOOL

 

 

This simple pink & creamy rhubarb fool is made with the first picking of the most tender and pink rhubarb. These beautiful stems are a fleeting delight and are just starting to appear around now in my vegetable garden. Later in the season the stems will be tougher & not so pinky (although still delicious to eat) so you only have a short window of opportunity to pick it. Remember to pull the stems away from the plant (gently) rather than cutting them off. Take care also when cooking it as it needs a gentle touch or you will end up with a mush and you will lose the lovely pink colour- you have been warned. I have used Greek yoghurt for a  lighter version of the pudding but you can use whipped double cream if you prefer.

Serve with some little homemade shortbread biscuits.  Search for my recipe for Lavender shortbread thins and instead of the lavender substitute a small amount of finely ground, edible rose petals to make the prettiest biscuits to serve with this pretty dessert -is that pretty enough for you?

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LIGHTLY SPICED MOROCCAN LENTIL PIE

Easy meet free dish
Moroccan Filo Pie

 

This lightly spiced Moroccan pie but it can easily be made spicier by adding something like mango chutney or a hotter sauce. Pulses can be bland & usually need more additional flavourings than you think. It’s a good dish to make for those that don’t like meat and you can freeze it ahead of time. Handling the filo can be tricky but don’t worry if it all goes pear-shaped you can just use it scrunched up as long as you try to brush the butter between the layers.

I like to serve it as part of a vaguely inspired ‘Moroccan’ meal with grated carrot & cumin salad, cooked beetroot in yoghurt, flatbreads (sweet with honey & fennel seeds or savoury with seas salt & rosemary) etc. Lovely, easily  prepared food to share.

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CREAMY GRUYERE & LEEK & WALNUT TARTLETS

 

 

These little tartlets look impressive with light puff pastry cases and a creamy filling and, take my word for it, they are quite delicious to eat.

Serve as a starter or light lunch with a crunchy salad and crusty bread.  If you are catering for vegetarian for your Christmas dinner these can be served with all the trimmings. The little cases could be used for all sorts of tartlets. Try other fillings such as roasted peppers & tomatoes or caramelized onions just remember that the filling must be cooked before you put it into the cases. Pair your filling with any sort of melting cheese such as Brie or Camembert Continue reading “CREAMY GRUYERE & LEEK & WALNUT TARTLETS”

SIMPLE SMOKED TROUT MOUSSE

Smoked Trout Mousse

 

This smoked trout mousse can be served as an elegant starter or it’s perfect for a light lunch.  It can be made with smoked mackerel which is much more economical (and has a stronger flavour) but for a special occasion, the trout is lovely. It’s a handy recipe to have as you can make it a few days ahead, indeed the flavour develops so this is preferable anyway or you can freeze it.  Serve with warm melba toasts. Splendid.

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HOMEMADE BASIL PESTO A TASTE OF SUMMER

 

 

Homemade Basil Pesto

 

When I started writing this post we were basking in sunny weather now it’s a tad cooler and damp…I’m not complaining we have had lots of sunshine in Cumbria this year. I’m planning to enjoy some summery food and this homemade basil pesto really is a taste of summer. 

It takes me back to sunny Italian holidays where beautiful food and eating together were really at the heart of family life. Here the homemade pasta itself was very important and was served with just a tiny amount of sauce rather than being flooded with sauce as is more the case here. Indeed it was often just served with oil and parmesan. The key was good quality pasta either fresh or a superior variety.  Here we can buy better quality ones such as Barilla or De Cecco made from the finest durum wheat. For some strange reason I’ve often found this in bargain shops such as Poundland, so if you see it you can stock up! 

Cook the pasta in lots of salty water in a big pan and don’t overcook it, it should be served ‘al dente’ -with a bit of bite when you test it. to You do need a lot of basil so, if you have a greenhouse,  you could make a mental note to grow your own next year.  Traditionally the pesto is made in a mortar and pestle but I am using a food processor for ease.

Give it a go and I promise that you too will be transported to sunnier climes.

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CHOCOLATE & MARASCHINO CHERRY GATEAU

 

This CHOCOLATE & MARASCHINO GATEAU is a party pudding, one to impress and it does take some time and dedication to make but, as they say,  it’s worth it. I’ve followed my mother’s own recipe (with a few tweaks of mine) which seemed appropriate with Mother’s day coming up soon.  It was her take on the famous Black Forest gateau and would always be an impressive ending to her dinner parties. We children were so disappointed if ‘they’ finished it all and there were no leftovers! I hope that she would have been impressed with my effort to reproduce it.

 

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