Tag Archives: dessert

Simple Strawberry Tart (Finally, Something Good About the English Summer)

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I have been living in England for many years now, and I have enthusiastically adapted to most aspects of life here. I now queue diligently, I drink tea like it’s going out of fashion, I have learnt to bake scones and I even pop into Marks & Spencer every now and then. But try as I might, I still cannot get used to the English Summer.

It seems that for every glorious day where you can eat outdoors,  wear a sundress and do other lovely, summery things,  you have to endure weeks of barely mild temperatures, wind and rain.

Warm, sunny days, when they do happen, seem to arrive out of nowhere and there is this sense of urgency about them because you know that if you don’t cancel whatever your plans were for that day,  and quickly adapt to the unexpected appearance of the sun,  your barbecue may just remain in the garage for another year and your sundress will languish in the wardrobe until the next foreign holiday.

There is one pretty marvellous thing about English Summers though : berries. The mild, wet weather makes for juicy, sweet , delicious strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and all their berry cousins.

My local fruit and veg shop stocks local berries during the season and they are a real joy. Recently, I bought some delicious, plump strawberries. Not the shiny, identically shaped, designer strawberries you find in supermarkets; no, these were the real thing, all different shapes and sizes and some of them oddly misshapen, just like the ones I used to pick in my grandmother’s garden.

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Inspired by this bounty, I suddenly fancied a strawberry tart. A simple one, with just a buttery, sweet pastry (or pâte sablée in French) and strawberries on top. No crème pâtissière needed with strawberries this good. The only thing I added were some roughly chopped pistachios because I think they look nice and add a bit of crunch, but really you can leave them out and your tart would still be delicious.

The proportions for the pastry come from Michel Roux’s Pastry , which I highly recommend (and unfortunately no one pays me to say this).

You will need :

For a 26 cm Ø tart tin:
250 g plain flour
200 g butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
100 g icing sugar, sifted
A pinch of salt
2 egg yolks

600 g strawberries
20 g chopped pistachios (optional)
2 tbsp strawberry jam, to glaze

Method :

For the pastry, put the flour in a mound in a wide, shallow dish or directly on your worktop. Make a well in the middle and add in it the butter, sugar and salt.
Rub the butter and sugar together between your fingertips until combined. Add the egg yolks and combine, still with your fingertips. Gradually start drawing in the flour from the sides until it has all been added. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times then pat it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Flour the tart tin. Roll out the pastry carefully on a well-floured surface into a round 3 to 4 mm thick. Use the rolling pin to help you lift the pastry into the tin. This pastry is very fragile and will probably tear when you try and lift it. The trick is to start lining the tin with as large a piece of pastry as you can manage, then fill the gaps with offcuts and gently press the edges down with your fingers to get a smooth pastry case.

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Refrigerate the lined tin while you preheat the oven to 180ºC / Fan 160ºC /Gas 4.

Cover the pastry with foil, add baking beans and bake blind for about 20 min (check your pastry frequently towards the end) then remove the foil and beans and bake for a further 5 min if necessary. You want a fully cooked pastry case with just a slight golden tinge.

Prepare the strawberries: wash them gently in cold water then leave to drain. Hull the strawberries, then either cut them in half and arrange them on the cooled pastry case in overlapping circles, or if you don’t have a lot of time, just use them whole (warning: this is much quicker but the strawberries will be rolling about when you slice the tart later).

Warm the jam in a small pan set over a low heat until it is liquid, then brush all over the strawberries. Scatter the chopped pistachios. Now expect some ooohs and aaahs when you bring this to the table.

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Filed under Desserts, Sweet Tarts

No Oven? No Problem – Make an Orange Charlotte!

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Hi there. It’s been a while, I know. Since I last posted here I have changed jobs twice, and I now have quite a long commute and a lot less time for blogging. I have also become a bit lazy and keep forgetting to take pictures as I cook. I have missed my blog though, and I am ready to revive it and start posting again ; probably not every week but hopefully regularly enough.
So here goes : the return of the Greedy Frog!

I was cooking a bit of a special lunch for our family last weekend . When planning the menu I decided on a Carbonnade à la Flamande (aka Belgian Ale and Beef stew) because it is delicious and can be made ahead and then just reheated in the oven (Nigella’s recipe in case you were wondering). This solved one problem,  namely how to serve a slow-cooked casserole for lunch without needing to get up at dawn to prepare it. It however created another problem: the carbonnade left no room in the oven for a baked dessert. This is an issue for me because baked desserts are by far my favourites, both to eat and to make so I haven’t got many recipes for no – bake options.

I also have an irrational aversion for fridge cheesecakes (it is a cheeseCAKE for crying out loud, it needs to be baked!!!) so this was really not an option. 

As I was leafing through cookbooks looking for inspiration, I remembered one of my Mum’s dinner-party staples from when I was a kid: the fabulous Orange Charlotte (yes I did grow up in the 80’s). It always looked stunning and drew a lot of oohs and aahs from the guests; and it tastes pretty good too. I remember thinking at the time that it was a rather decadent and terribly sophisticated dessert; nowadays I am not quite so awed by it anymore, but I still think it is rather special and a lovely centrepiece.   

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A word of warning: Us French people usually like to sneak quite a bit of alcohol in most recipes, and this one is no exception. Just remember that this Charlotte is not cooked (apart from the custard) so if you are catering for children or teetotallers make sure you omit the booze. Or put it in and just send the kids to bed early, your choice.

You will need (for an 18 cm Ø Charlotte mould):

3 oranges

500 ml milk

250 ml double cream

6 egg yolks (freeze the whites to make meringues another day)

220 g caster sugar

7 tbsp orange liqueur (optional, see intro. You can replace it with orange syrup)

1 tbsp. cognac (optional)

8 gelatine leaves (or enough to set 1 litre of liquids, check the packet instructions)

24/30 sponge fingers

Method:

Line the charlotte mould with cling film (if you can’t get hold of a charlotte mould, find a deep bowl or cake tin of the correct diameter with sides roughly the same height as your sponge fingers; a pudding basin works well too). Put your gelatine leaves to soak in a bowl of cold water.

Make the custard: Pour the milk into a large saucepan and grate the zest of 1 orange into it (reserve the orange to make the syrup). Bring to the boil then leave to cool a little. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 150 g of the sugar until pale. Add the milk gradually, whisking briskly (the milk should be warm rather than hot to avoid curdling the egg yolks). Pour the mix back into the saucepan and set on a low heat to thicken. This should take about 20 min, but make sure you stir constantly to stop it catching, and keep the heat low or the eggs will scramble. Patience is key here! When the custard coats the back of the spoon, take it off the heat. Drain the gelatine then add it to the custard, along with 2 tbsp. orange liqueur if using. Leave to cool.
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Meanwhile, make the syrup: Squeeze the juice of the reserved orange into a measuring jug; make it up to 200 ml with water, add 1 tbsp. sugar, and transfer to a small pan with the squeezed-out halves and simmer on a low heat until reduced and syrupy. Drain into a jug, pressing the skins well to get as much flavour into the syrup as possible.

In a large bowl, whisk the double cream to a stiff Chantilly. Add the cooled custard gradually, mixing delicately to avoid knocking the air out of the Chantilly.

In a shallow bowl, pour the orange syrup and add 3 tbsp. orange liqueur (if using). Quickly dip the sponge fingers into the syrup on both sides, and line the bottom and sides of the mould. Fill the mould with the custard / Chantilly mix almost to the top, and finish with another layer of sponge fingers dipped in syrup (you can break off bits of the sponge fingers to fill in any gaps).
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Refrigerate for at least 6 hrs or ideally overnight.

To decorate, peel the leftover oranges, separate into segments and remove all the peel and pith. If you have time, finely cut the peel and blanch it for a minute in boiling water with 2 tbsp of sugar mixed in. Drain.

To serve, simply invert the charlotte onto a serving plate, and arrange the orange segments around and on top of it, and the peel if using.

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The Best Strawberry Cheesecake

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This is the cheesecake recipe I turn to when time is in short supply but I still want to make something delicious for the following day.  I started making this at 8 pm tonight,  less than an hour later,  it was ready to come out of the oven!

You can vary the recipe depending on what is in season (or which tinned fruit is languishing at the back of your cupboard).  I used rosewater as a flavouring but natural vanilla extract or lemon zest would be lovely too.

You will need :

8 digestive biscuits
50g melted butter
600g cream cheese (I use 300g full-fat and 300g light)
2tbsp plain flour
175g caster sugar
2 tbsp rosewater
2 eggs +1 yolk
142 ml sour cream
400g strawberries
1 tbsp icing sugar

Method :

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/gas 4. Butter a 20 cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

In a food processor,  crush the biscuits into fine crumbs. Mix thoroughly with the melted butter and press into the base of the tin with your palm. Bake for 5 min.

Meanwhile, whisk the cream cheese, flour, sugar, rosewater, eggs, egg yolk and sour cream until well mixed and fluffy.

Wash half the strawberries,  hull and cut into quarters.

Pour the mixture delicately over the biscuit base, then scatter the strawberries over the top and push them down slightly. 

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Bake for 40 min until set but still wobbly in the middle.

Cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar, then carefully ease out of the tin when cool and transfer to a serving plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Keep 3 or 4 strawberries to one side, and wash, hull and quarter the rest. Put in a small pan with the icing sugar and cook on a low heat for a few min until soft. Blend to a smooth purée.

Before serving, thinly slice the remaining strawberries, and arrange on each plate with a slice of cheesecake and a drizzle of strawberry purée.

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Rhubarb and Orange Cake

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You will need:

500 g rhubarb
4 eggs
200 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest 1 orange (thinly sliced or grated)
160 g self-raising flour
30 g chopped almonds
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
30 g butter (for the tin)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220ºC /fan 200ºC /Gas 7.

Butter a 20 cm Ø  springform tin, then line the base with buttered greaseproof paper.

Trim and peel the rhubarb, then cut into 1 cm cubes.
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Find a heatproof bowl that fits snugly over one of your medium-sized saucepans.

Bring some water to simmering point in the pan. Break the eggs into the bowl and add the sugar and the vanilla. Place the bowl on top of the pan of simmering water, and beat with an electric whisk for a few minutes until light and foamy.
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Take off the heat.

Sift the flour over the mix in batches, mixing gently in between. Whisk to a smooth consistency, then stir through the orange zest.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and tip the rhubarb over it. Press gently down on the rhubarb cubes to help them sink. Scatter the almonds over the top, then the golden caster sugar.

Bake for 30 to 35 min.

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The Post I Never Thought I Would Write: Christmas Pudding

Having grown up in France, Christmas pudding was an alien concept to me until a few years ago. I had heard tales of steamed puddings made months in advance, and containing some sort of animal fat, but I  just assumed it was one of those popular stories that have very little to do with reality. After all, us Frenchies are always ready to believe that our British friends would eat all sorts of weird concoctions… (Which is a bit ironic when you consider that we eat snails and frogs’ legs).

As it turns out though, the legend was true. I started coming across Christmas pudding recipes in all the food magazines I was buying during the run-up to my first Christmas in England. And there it was, among the numerous ingredients listed: shredded beef suet.  I won’t lie to you: my first reaction was made up of equal parts of disbelief and disgust. There was no way I was ever eating that!

hen one day, someone offered me a mince pie (another recipe I had never heard of before, more on this in a future post). I ate it, liked it, then discovered I had just consumed suet. And I had enjoyed it. This was when I decided that I would give Christmas pudding a go. But I wasn’t going to buy it; oh no, not I! I was going to make it. So off I went to the shops, I purchased a pudding basin, the dreaded shredded suet, and some brandy and set to work.

What I produced looked and smelt ok, but I had to wait a few weeks for Christmas to come round before I could taste it. In the meantime, I dutifully “fed” my pudding with more brandy at regular intervals, reasoning that even if it turned out to be revolting, it might at least get me a little bit tipsy…

The long-awaited day finally arrived, I reheated my pudding, and served it (not flambé, as I couldn’t find any matches). I took my first bite, and was instantly hooked. It was warm, rich, moist, had a lovely flavour, and yes, you could definitely taste the brandy. I did not tire of the leftovers either, in fact I was rather disappointed when we eventually finished it. Which is why I would encourage anyone to have a go at making this, especially if like me, you have a pre-conceived idea that it will be revolting.

 This is a James Martin recipe which I copied out from somewhere a few years ago (very, very vague credits, but credits nonetheless); I like it because of the ginger, which gives it a lovely, warm flavour. Enjoy!

Post-Christmas edit: I just thought I would let you all know that my family loved this pudding. Even my very sceptical Dad grudgingly admitted that it was “rather nice”. Not bad…

You will need (for 1×1.5l pudding):

175 g sultanas
175 g currants
70 g dried figs, chopped
50 g mixed peel
45 g glacé cherries, halved
50 g dried apricots, chopped
100 ml brandy
50 g stem ginger, chopped + 2 tbsp of their syrup
1 apple, grated
Juice + zest 1 orange
3 large eggs, beaten
125 g shredded suet
125 g fresh, white breadcrumbs
175 g light muscovado sugar
90 g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
Butter, for greasing

Method:

In a bowl, soak the sultanas, currants, figs, mixed peel, cherries and apricots with the brandy overnight.image

The following day, mix in a large bowl the ginger, syrup, apple, orange juice and zest, eggs, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar, flour and mixed spice. Mix in the soaked fruit.

Butter the pudding basin, fill with the mixture. Smooth the top and cover with a circle of greaseproof paper. Cover with a sheet of foil with a folded pleat down the centre, and secure it by tying it tightly with some string. Tie a loop of string on either side of the basin to act as handles.
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Stand the basin on top of an upturned saucer placed in a deep, large pan. Pour boiling water in the pan so it comes about a 1/3 of the way up. Cover and steam over a gentle heat for 5h, topping up with more water if necessary.

Cool the pudding in the pan, then remove foil and paper. Cover with cling film and store in a cool, dry place. Every so often, prick the surface with a skewer and drizzle a bit more brandy.

To reheat, steam for an hour or so.

To serve, heat up about 50 ml of brandy, pour over the pudding and light straight away with a match. Let the flames die down, then serve.

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Filed under Cakes, Christmas, Desserts