Cinnamon and Nutmeg shortcrust pastry mince tarts

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We all love a mince pie at Christmas, but what I don’t understand is why people would buy generic shop varieties when they are so simple to make. Homemade pastry has a reputation for being tricky, but really it’s not rocket science. I like to spike mine with cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg to  bolster the festive flavours.

You’ll need:
200g plain flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
100g cubed cold butter (I used salted)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 a grated nutmeg
Two or three tablespoons of iced water.

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Pulse all the dry ingredients together in a food processor until breadcrumbs are formed. Now while the processor is running dribble in a tablespoon of iced water at a time until the dough clumps together. This will only require 2-3 tablespoons of water (a tablespoon is 15ml).

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Tip it out into a piece of clingfilm, and quickly bring it together to form a disc without over working it or handling it too much.

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Refrigerate the disc of dough for at least half an hour.

After it has chilled roll it out to the thickness of a pound coin, cut out discs and line a muffin tin with them. Refrigerate again whilst you cut out some shapes to top your tarts.

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Fill your cases with a teaspoon of mincemeat. I used some which was homemade by a friend, but you could use shop bought too.

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Brush with an egg wash and bake at 160oC for about 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden. Pop them out of the tin and leave on a wire rack to cool.

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See, that was easy wasn’t it?! Enjoy!

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Chestnut & Pecorino "sausage" rolls

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Firstly, let me start by saying the only thing sausage about these sausage rolls is the shape. There is no pork in these bad boys! The usual cheese and onion roll substitute is undeniably delicious, however these are, well, a little more meaty and make good use of a couple of key seasonal ingredients.

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I used two 180g bags of cooked chestnuts, grinding one bag up with the grinding blade of my nutribullet and roughly chopping the other. I mixed these with wholemeal breadcrumbs made from two slices bread, two crushed garlic cloves, a wedge of pecorino cheese grated, salt (although be sparing as the cheese is quite salty), pepper and a handful of chopped parsley.

Mix the ingredients together and then bind them with a couple of beaten eggs. Tip the mixture onto a sheet of clingfilm and roughly shape into a a sausage.

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Wrap the clingfilm around it, rolling as you go until you get a long sausage shape.

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Chill in the freezer for half an hour. I had to chop mine in half to make it fit.

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In the meantime take one of two shop bought pack of puff pastry packs out of the fridge and roll out into a rectangle if it’s not pre-rolled. After half an hour take half of the mix out of the freezer and slice lengthways down the sausage to create two long half moon shapes. Lay them on top of the pastry as down on the pic below. Slice the pastry so each half of sausage as it’s own pastry rectangle.

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Spoon some cranberry sauce over the top.

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Egg wash around the side and fold the pastry over the top of the sausage crimping with a fork to seal.

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Trim the excess edges off to neaten, put on a tray and repeat with the other side. Chill in the fridge for another half an hour, then slice into inch wide pieces, score or prick the tops and brush on an egg wash.

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Bake at 200oC for about 20 minutes or until golden. Repeat with the second pack of puff, and the other half of the sausage which should still be in the freezer!

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Enjoy!

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Rhubarb and Custard Eclairs

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It’s the right season for rhubarb, but unfortunately my chickens have annihilated my plant. Apparently chickens love rhubarb leaves (and no, they’re not poisonous to them thankfully!). As a result I’ve only managed to harvest a couple of measly stalks. Not enough for a crumble, but just enough for rhubarb and custard eclairs for tomorrow’s Contact the Elderly tea party.

First you’ll need to make a batch of choux pastry, pipe it into short lines well spaced on a greased baking sheet, and bake until golden, puffed up and dried out in the middle. Remember to prick them with a skewer as soon as they come out of the oven to release the steam and avoid the dreaded collapse. Choux deflation equals sheer frustration. Trust me, I’m talking from experience! You can find a basic choux recipe on my ‘Choux-laa-laa A Paris Brest of Sorts’ post.

Once the eclair cases are baked, use a knife to open them out and set aside ready for piping.

Next, I took the miniscule amount of rhubarb I had, put it in a pan with a few tablespoons of sugar (roughly 4 I think) and added some water.

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Poach until the stalks are tender.

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Then remove from the pan and place on some kitchen roll to dry out.

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Allow the syrup left in the pan to reduce for a few minutes bearing in mind you’ll need about 190mls of it.

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Once reduced, measure out 160mls of the syrup and pour into a pan along with 100g of custard powder. Whisk over a medium heat until the powder is cooked out. You’ll be left with an incredibly thick custard with a hint of rhubarb coming through. Set aside to cool. You could of course make a creme pat (recipe on here), but it’ll lack the rhubarb taste which is why I opted for custard powder.

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Now beat 125g mascarpone with 100ml double cream until combined. Once the custard has cooled down a bit, beat it into the cream/cheese mixture. It will take some working in so persevere. Once combined add in the cooled rhubarb, giving it a rough chop first.

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You’ll end up with a rhubarb flecked custard creation like this:

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Transfer it into a piping bag with a wide nozzle. I used this one:

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Time to start filling the pastry cases.

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Pipe a continuous circle swirl into the opened out eclair case to achieve a pretty effect like so:

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Once they’re all filled, take the remaining rhubarb syrup (there should be around 30mls) and whisk it into icing sugar, adding more sugar until you have a thick consistency.

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Pipe it on top of the eclairs using whichever nozzle you fancy. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

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And there you have it. A twist on the classic cream and chocolate combo. Enjoy!

Bakewell Tart

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I love a good Bakewell Tart. Pastry, jam, sponge and icing all rolled into one delicious treat. 

For the pastry you’ll need:
200g plain flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
100g cubed cold unsalted butter
Two tablespoons of ice cold water.

In a processor pulse the butter, sugar and flour together and drizzle in the egg and water mixture very slowly until the dough just about starts to clump together.  Tip the dough out onto a sheet of clingfilm and gently bring it together into a disk shape. Wrap in the cling and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface to about 2-3mm in thickness and line a large flan tin with it. Prick the bottom with a fork, line with greaseproof paper and baking beans, and blind bake for about 20/25 minutes, removing the paper and beans after about 15 minutes.

While the pastry is baking make the filling by beating 200g unsalted butter with 200g caster sugar until fluffy, then beat in four eggs, one at a time, before adding 100g plain flour, 150g ground almonds, and a teaspoon of almond extract.

When baked, spread a generous helping of seedless raspberry jam over the base of the pastry case, then spread the frangipane filling over it. Bake for 30 minutes at 180oC or until the top is golden and the sponge in relatively firm to the touch. 

Allow to cool completely, ice with thick consistency icing and sprinkle over flaked almonds and the obligatory glace cherries if you have them (I’m not a fan of them though so ommited). Enjoy!

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Assyrian Baklava

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Baklava is widely associated with Greece, but believe it or not, us Assyrians were the first people to layer nuts with flat bread and honey back in the 8th century B.C. Greek sea merchants discovered this decadent treat as they were traveling to Mesopotamia, and took the recipe back to Athens.

There are as many regional recipes for this delight as there are ways to pronounce it, but this is my family’s version. Passed from my Granny to my mum, who has adapted it and actually worked out the measurements rather than adding a dash or this and pinch or that, this recipe is very close to my heart. So much so in fact that I’m almost reluctant to share it! It’s a taste of home, a taste of my childhood and a taste of my heritage.  Make it with passion and eat it with love.

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Four generations of the Assyrian side of the family. Granny, mum, me and my daughter a few years ago.

You’ll need:
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets)
4oz butter
8oz crushed pistachio nuts (walnuts or almonds work well too)
4oz brown sugar
1 level tsp green cardamom seeds crushed

For the sauce:
2oz dark sugar
2oz honey
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons rose water
1 level tsp crushed green cardamom seeds

Melt the butter. Brush an oblong cake tin with butter before laying one of the filo sheets on top folding any excess back on itself. Brush this with butter and add a second and third brushing each with the butter.

Mix the pistachio nuts, 4oz brown sugar and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom together and sprinkle over the filo sheets. Layer up the remaining filo sheets on top of the nut mixture brushing each with butter as you go, except the top one (brushing it with butter will make it brown too fast when baking).

Cut the baklava into diamonds before baking at 160oC for about 30 minutes.

Whilst it’s baking, make the sauce by heating all the other ingredients in a saucepan until it boils, stiring continuously. Allow it to cool before pouring over the baklava. Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

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Choux-laa-laa… A Paris-Brest of sorts.

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The iconic Paris-Brest dessert was created in honour of the Paris to Brest bike race which started in 1891. Circular in shape to represent a bicycle tyre, and typically filled with a praline cream, this choux pastry sensation can still be found in patisseries all over France. There’s an incredible garden centre near us which makes amazing cakes and pastries, my favourite of which is a Coffee Renoir, which they make in the same shape as a Paris-Brest. It’s filled with pastry cream and whipped cream, then doused in coffee icing and almonds. I’m a sucker for anything with creme pat in it, so thought I’d have a go at recreating it at home. Granted, my bike tyre looks like it has a puncture, but hey ho, looks aren’t everything!

For the choux pastry you’ll need:
130g plain flour
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
100g butter
4 free range eggs beaten
240ml water

Put the butter and water in a pan and heat until it starts to simmer. At this point dump in all the flour and sugar and beat hard with a wooden spoon. If your bingo wings aren’t flapping you’re not beating hard enough!

The dough will form a smooth ball. Leave to cool until it’s tepid then drizzle in the beaten eggs a bit at a time beating hard again until the egg is incorporated before adding more. You should end up with a glossy paste. Put it in a piping bag and pipe a circle on a well greased baking sheet. Pipe another circle touching the inside of the first one, then a third one on top of the first two.

Bake at 210oC for 15 minutes, then, without opening the oven door turn the temperature down to 180oC and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and immediately poke repeatedly with a skewer to let the hot air escape and avoid the dreading shrinking choux.

When cool enough to handle carefully slice into two halves and allow to cool completely.
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Now, as I mentioned earlier I’m filling this with creme pat which will need to chill in the fridge for at least three hours (preferably longer), so you may want to bake it the day before. You’ll need:
750ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out.
150g caster sugar
6 free range egg yolks
60g cornflour

Heat the milk in a pan with the vanilla pod and seeds gently until it comes to a simmer. Meanwhile whisk the eggs and sugar together until light in colour then whisk in the cornflour. Sieve the milk mixture into a jug and pour half of it back into the pan. Slowly pour the remaining milk into the egg, sugar and cornflour mixture whisking continuously. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan with the other half of the milk and whisk until it has thickened. Put into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate.

Once it has chilled and set pipe it onto the bottom half of the choux circle.
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Now whip some cream with icing sugar to sweeten and a teaspoon of vanilla. The cream needs to hold its form, but be careful not to over whip. Pipe it on top of the creme pat.
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Put the top on and drizzle with coffee icing. To make the icing dissolve a heaped teaspoon of instant coffee in a tiny amount of boiling water to make a bit of a paste. Once cooled pour the paste a bit at a time into some sieved icing sugar. Taste. Add more sugar or coffee to taste. Pipe over the top and sprinkle with almond slices.
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