Pudding club: smoked mackerel quiche and crème caramel

Having not seen our pudding club friends for ages, and what with me being on half term and them still working full time, we went to see them this evening taking both courses.

A couple of weeks ago, we gave away a dozen eggs after we had managed to build up a bit of a stock. Since then we have more or less been keeping on top of the girls’ production.

But every now and again it helps to have a meal that gets through quite a lot of them. So this evening, six of us ate 9 eggs in two custard-based dishes: a quiche and a crème caramel.

The quiche was essentially this recipe: Smoked Mackerel and Cheddar Quiche and was completely delicious. I substituted a leek fried in butter for the spring onions, made my own pastry with dried Italian herbs, used own label mature cheddar and slightly less cream, and it was very well received.

My other favourite thing to do with smoked mackerel is this warm mackerel potato salad.

The crème caramel was à la Dan Lepard.

Pudding Club: canapés

From time to time, Pudding Club extends and there are six of us rather than four (adults) and so we have a three course meal instead of a two course meal. This time I was on starters as our hosts – brave souls – were making Baked Alaska for pudding. And, for entirely understandable reasons, not practising beforehand. Doubly brave!

So for my starters, having plenty of time, I made small amounts of four different canapés.

Firstly, Delia’s Bloody Mary Tomatoes – made pretty much as per the recipe. These were interesting, but didn’t really live up to the description on the front page. Perhaps I am just inured to vodka?

Secondly, there were some pâté-stuffed dates. That is a pretty simple concept really: a pack of sticky sweet Deglet Nour dates and a little tub of Brussels pâté. Slice open the dates, remove the stone and pack the void with a teaspoon of pâté. If there’s a way of making it pretty, I didn’t find it – they ended up looking pretty odd, but tasting pretty good.

The idea came from our recent trip to visit friends in France – they had been very impressed with dried apricots stuffed with foie gras. I don’t like apricots much, and don’t know where you can buy foie gras as an ingredient (and it’s getting harder to find it in restaurants, too) so I improvised.

Finally, two types of tartelet. The idea for this – the bases in particular – came from a recipe on the internet that I forgot to bookmark and so I can’t link to it, but I read and remembered the technique and improvised the oven temperatures and other finer details. You use a small tartlet tin – mine has 15 hollows – and you match a round biscuit cutter slightly bigger. Take a standard sliced loaf of bread – actually, thinner slices might be better – and cut off the crusts and roll the slices thin with a rolling pin. Cut out circles of bread. In a pan, melt a big knob of butter with a crushed garlic clove in it and maybe some spices for interest. I used a few cloves. Use a pastry brush to paint the melted butter thickly on both sides of the circles, place into the pan and weigh down with baking beads to bake blind. After a bit of experimentation, try a 180 deg C oven for about 15 mins – although keep an eye on them as they can burn quite quickly. If your canapé filling does not need cooking, keep them in to a deep golden colour; if you are cooking the canapés take them out before they get that far.

I made 18 canapés in two varieties, although two testers never actually left my kitchen. I made goats cheese, apple chutney and walnut for half; and pesto mozzarella for the others.

All turned out rather well, but the highlight of the evening was definitely the Baked Alaska which turned out sensationally!

PS I have written about canapés before when I made up a recipe for individual canapé Beef Wellingtons, which were rather nice.

Pudding Club: poached pear trifle

This is something I made ages ago but, it appears, neglected to write up.

I have poached pears in red wine a fair few times in the last twelve months, and half the time ended up throwing away the sweetened, spicy red wine poaching liquid. That seems such a waste, and so recently it occurred to me, as it did with the strawberry / rosé wine combo, to turn the liquid into a jelly.

Then that thought led to the thought of making trifle, using the pears, their poaching liquid as the jelly, homemade custard and whipped cream.

Heart attack waiting to happen!

So poach 4 peeled, whole pears in 200mls red wine, 200mls water, 200 grams sugar, and flavour with everything your spice rack can throw at it. I used 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 4 cardamom pods, a few slices of ginger root, a bay leaf. Boil the pears gently until you can easily run a toothpick through them – time will depend on how ripe they are. Once they are there, turn off the heat until cool then refrigerate overnight.

The following day, core and slice the pears into individual serving bowls. Soak gelatine leaves in cold water, strain and reserve the poaching mix, and bring it back to the boil. Add the gelatine to the poaching mix, stir well, and pour the jelly over the pears. Allow to set.

Make custard – Delia’s quantities were not quite enough for four portions, in my experience. Allow custard to set.

Shortly before serving, whip cream and add to top with sprinkles as preferred.

Can’t quite believe it, but I didn’t take any pictures of this!

Pudding club: profiteroles with mocha filling

Inspired by Chris Noth’s Kitchen Secrets, this week I made a mini pièce montée / croquembouche – which is a French celebration cake made out of a pile of profiteroles.

To mix things up a bit, I used this profiterole recipe (I did need all the eggs, ignore the comments!) and this mocha custard filling.

I made the profiteroles, filled them, and then made a pile by sticking them to the plate with a caramel made of sugar and sherry.

The learning points from the cooking:

You can make profiteroles in advance, but best fill them on the day.

I need a lot more practice piping.

Profiterole filling needs to be completely lump free if you are to have a hope of getting it through a piping nozzle.

Don’t try and make caramel out of unbleached sugar. If you use white, bleached caster sugar, it’s much easier to see when it is turning into caramel. If you use unbleached sugar, it starts off caramel coloured and you have no idea when it is turning.

Here’s a picture:

Michael caramel profiteroles. Got eaten before I remembered to photograph them!

Pudding club: Lancashire hotpot

In a rare happening, I volunteered to make the main for this week’s outing, and so this week’s pudding is not a pudding at all.

What I actually wanted to was lamb shanks, as I have recently discovered these. Well, I ate them ten years ago, in Bistrot les sans culottes ((Nicholas Parsons shouldn’t climb trees)) and much more recently I discovered you can get them in the butchers, they are not particularly expensive, they are delicious, and they are easy to cook.

However, for once I was catering for 6 not 4, and I wasn’t sure I had a pot big enough to cook six lamb shanks, so I decided to do a Lancs hot pot instead.

A dish for that many would have entailed quite a lot of vegetable chopping, so I got the food processor out and fitted the slicing attachment. There is always the danger, when chopping veg for stews in the processor, of chopping too finely and ending up with an unrecognisable mush. I sought to avoid this by using the slicer instead. I used the fine slicer – and next time I will use the coarse slicer instead.

This nicely filled my 5 litre orange le Creuset wedding present pot, and it cooked on the oven floor. I was undermining my veggie Valentines menu by cooking this at the same time for the following day.

Lancs hotpot

In the end, only four of us were there to eat it, but the leftovers hotted up nicely the following day, so it did do six generous portions.

750 grams lamb chunks
olive oil and butter for
3 small onions
4 sticks celery
3 carrots
garlic to taste ((I am rapidly becoming one of those annoying people who ‘likes garlic but it doesn’t like me’))
handful mushrooms
1 large bottle, Manns Brown Ale
3 large potatoes (I had baking potatoes to hand)
Oxo cubes and Worcester sauce

In your stove-to-oven casserole, brown the meat and remove from the heat. Chop the veg and brown it bit by bit, caramelising the onions as much as possible, then return all the veg and meat to the pan.

Add the bottle of beer, two oxo cubes dissolved in a little hot water, and a good glug of Worcester sauce.

Slice the potatoes finely and layer on top of the stew.

Cook the lot for 90 minutes at 180. Or longer, or shorter. Or do what I somehow managed to do, which is actually whack the dial on the oven up to 250 and not notice for 40 minutes. This seems to be a pretty forgiving dish.

Shortly before the end of cooking time, remove from the oven and brush the potatoes with melted butter or dripping. Whack under the grill to get a nice brown finish on the spuds, and serve.


Pudding club: Tarte borguinione

The latest outing to Pudding Club was Eric Lanlard’s Tarte borguinione, a pastry shell filled with a chocolate frangipane and topped with red wine poached pears.

I first thought of making it back in March last year, when Lanlard’s Glamour Puds was on TV. I wrote about it on my blog and linked to the recipe so that I knew I could find it when I wanted it.

When it came to clicking it and finding the recipe, ach, horror of horrors, it was gone!

I found a copy here at Homemade Delights and made it according to those instructions. More or less.

Finally, I have also found the Lanlard version here on the C4 website.

It is a ramped up version of this tarte, which I made once a few years ago.

The night before: halve, core ((coring pears is difficult. Any tips?)) and poach three similar sized pears in 200mls of red wine, 250 grams of sugar and a cinnamon stick. Boil it up with the pears in and leave to steep until cold, then refrigerate overnight.

The following morning, blind bake a pastry case: 8oz of flour, 4oz of butter, 1oz sugar, enough milk to bring the dough together. Fridge for a bit then squidge it into the pastry case or roll out and press it in. Blind bake at 180 till golden.

Then make a chocolate frangipan out of 125g butter (it says use unsalted, but I never bother buying that specially), 95g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 125g ground almond, 55g cocoa powder. Mix together in the Kenwood and pour into the cooled pastry case.

Then slice the pears perpendicular to the stem and use a large knife to transfer the slices artistically onto the chocolate almond cream.

Bake at 180 deg C for 30 mins. If it’s going to be a while before eating, glaze it with heated seedless raspberry jelly.


Tarte borguinione

Rather helpfully, after I had made this last week, the Evening Post phoned, saying they wanted to do a full page spread about Come Dine With Me and could they take an action photo of me in the kitchen? I could helpfully pretend to have whipped up a tarte specially for their photo.

Here’s their story. Must buy a copy of the picture.

Pudding Club: Sussex Pond pudding

For the origins of Pudding Club, see here. For all the recipes in the series, click the tag.

Pudding club restarted in the new year, and I made a steamed pudding. I had planned to try and make my own Christmas pudding this year, and for much of the time I had all the right ingredients but no pudding basin. I toyed with the idea of re-using the plastic ones that supermarket Christmas puddings come in, but in the end, as with so many things Christmas this year, I prevaricated for too long and put it off till next year.

But with the idea in my mind that steamed puddings might be something I would like to tackle, I was thrilled to see a variety of pudding basins in Lakeland remaindered to sell. I plumped for a rather nice Mason & Cash affair with robins and snowflakes painted on it, at least partly because I couldn’t find the 2l metal with a sealing lid which I didn’t see until after I’d passed through the tills.

So to christen the basin, I decided to make a Sussex Pond pudding, following this BBC recipe, for once, almost entirely to the letter.

The one exception was the size of the basin. The recipe calls for a 1.5 litre basin; in the shop they told me the Mason & Cash affair was 600ml. When I measured it for myself, filled to the brim, it was more like 800. But it was definitely smaller than the recipe called for.

And yet, I made it to the measurements, and it all fit in perfectly.

Here’s the ingredients going in:

Sussex Pond pudding

A good thick layer of suet pastry, butter and dark sugar at the base, then skewered ((the recipe suggests using a larding needle or skewer. I wonder how many more people have skewers than larding needles)) lemons on top, then the rest of the butter and sugar.

Into the basin, covered with a foil and parchment lid with a pleat in it, and tied up with string. I was dead chuffed with how this looked when it was completed as so often my craft attempts look far from good when done.

Then steamed. I used my stock pot and a smaller pudding pot to hold the basin off the bottom. I then steamed for four hours, with a view to allowing the pudding to cool completely, transport it to our friends, and then boil again for about forty minutes to warm before serving.

Sussex Pond pudding

At this point it was a little nerve-wracking. The pudding was sealed in its basin and I had no idea whether it would turn out, whether it was properly cooked and how it would taste when it turned out.

It turned out just fine.

Sussex Pond pudding

Then the question was clearly how would it taste? And would the lemons actually be edible, after all that cooking?

What happens is the lemon juice leaks out of the skewer holes, muddles with the melted butter and sugar and forms a dense syrup. With the pith from the lemons still there, this certainly ends up a very adult taste, sweet, lemony but with also a fairly strong marmalady bitterness as an edge to the flavour.

Sussex Pond pudding

The lemons were not edible.

Some of us had it with custard; others with cream. Our toddler friends preferred the custard to the pudding.

(Not) Pudding club: coffee cake

Tonight was to have been pudding club, but with a large amount of snow on our road, our cars are effectively stranded, and the journey out to Long Eaton by public transport, nursing a cake tin, unfortunately didn’t quite appeal so much.

I had been toying with making three things: Nigel Slater’s orange jelly (which was on his TV show a few weeks ago but in the Guardian nearly 10 years back!) (although I made grapefruit jelly recently, so… too soon?); Gordon Ramsay’s Mocha Mousses or some sort of coffee cake / gateau.

The desire to make a coffee flavoured dessert stems from a realisation that has come years too late. My husband P does not drink coffee, so I had assumed he also didn’t like coffee flavoured things. Thinking back on it, I’ve seen him eat tiramisù enough times in restaurants to know this wasn’t true. And discussing it, whilst he still doesn’t want to drink coffee, it turns out he is more than happy with coffee flavoured desserts. Which makes me very happy as coffee is perhaps my most favourite dessert flavouring in all the world. (A similar amount of happiness comes from the almost simultaneous discover that he DOES like blue cheese – for some reason it’s been in my head that he didn’t for about seven years!)

I experimented making mocha mousses before by just adding a shot of moka pot espresso to a chocolate mousse. It didn’t work. For one, I got the chocolate quantities wrong, and so the resulting foam never actually set.

The Gordon Ramsay recipe does not somehow seem to me to be a chocolate mousse, which is a very simple recipe with but two ingredients: chocolate and egg. Is it possible to make a mocha mousse with so few ingredients, without resorting to cream and cream cheeses?

The other Big Question in coffee flavour desserts is how to get the coffee flavour in? I’m a huge coffee snob, and I don’t give house room to instant coffee. But a blog post from Dan Lepard and a paper article from Nigel Slater both suggest that there is a place for instant coffee in cake making. Slater puts it:

About the coffee. I have flavoured cake and frosting with both strong home-made espresso and instant coffee granules, and I have come to the conclusion that the latter gives a richer, more rounded flavour.

The only bore is having to go out and buy the stuff. And if anyone looks as if they are about to get snooty with you, just remind them that Elizabeth David apparently drank instant coffee by the mugful.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to buy it. Somehow I am on Starbucks’s mailing list ((I know, I know, says he’s a coffee snob in one paragraph and mentions Starbucks in the next.)) and they are currently hawking a new brand of instant coffee, and they keep posting me samples of sachets of their instant coffee, so I used that.

I toyed with various different coffee cake recipes: Dan Lepard’s Waitrose recipe; Nigel Slater’s again. At one point I even looked a bit at “Delia’s Austrian“.

The cake I eventually made used Dan Lepard’s cake recipe, but with a different filling and syrup. I liked the idea of using veggie oil as the sponge fat because I have a bottle of the stuff that P bought that I almost never use. (I’m an oil snob as well as a coffee snob). Another thing that attracted me to Lepard’s recipe was this exhaustive photoblog on his website forum responding to a comment that suggested his recipe was unusable.

Unsurprisingly, my cake did not look as good as Dan’s.

Coffee mocha cake

His recipe has an awful lot of raising agents – self-raising flour AND baking powder, and on top of that, separating the eggs and beating the whites to fluffy peaks – and despite that, my cakes did not rise like his.

A two egg sponge has often felt a bit mean to me for two 20cm sponge tins, and indeed when I was pouring the batter in, there was barely enough to fill the bottom. I think I could possibly have got away with even more liquid, but there certainly wasn’t enough to depress the centre bits, which is what you are supposed to do to ensure the sides of the cake rise as much as the middle. And when it came out, short of the time allotted, it was a little crisp and biscuity.

No matter, I intended to moisten the cake using a coffee syrup, making a sort of kind of coffee drizzle cake. So I made a shot of espresso using a moka pot, sweetened it with the last of the Madeira wine we brought back from honeymoon, and drizzled that over both halves of the cake. Next time I will make the syrup an awful lot sweeter.

For the filling, I used some ambient chocolate crème patissière I found in the supermarket last week. It is not great, I have to say. I can taste the UHT-ness of the cream it is made with, and it has a bit of a synthetic taste to it.

All in all, not a huge success. We’re still doing our best to eat the cake, however.

225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
225g caster sugar
225ml vegetable oil
2 medium eggs, separated
2 heaped tsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 2 tsp boiling water
75ml whole milk

(method for using Kenwood food processor)

Heat oven (I used non fan, 170 deg, this prob too hot) and grease and line two round 20cm sponge tins.

Separate the eggs and beat the whites to soft peaks. Remove from the bowl and reserve.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, and, still using the whisk attachment, mix the yolks, oil, sugar, coffee and milk into a batter. Add back a third of the egg white and whisk until mixed. Fold in the remaining egg white and divide between the tins. Bake until cooked, about half an hour until the middles of the cake are spongey to the touch.

Allow tins to cool slightly on rack then remove cakes from tins before cold.

Allow cakes to cool fully before moving on to filling and syrup.

Make a syrup out of espresso, sherry and sugar and drizzle over the cake.

Make a filling out of whatever you like – buttercream? Coffee flavoured buttercream? A simple flavoured icing of icing sugar and coffee? Just stay away from shop bought chocolate crème patissière.

Pudding club: blueberry meringues and pink grapefruit jelly

Flying visit to say this week’s food was based on these two recipes: blueberry cream filled meringues and pink grapefruit jellies.

Some thoughts: meringues. I need more practice. I can get them to soft peak stage no problem, but don’t think I’ve ever actually got to stiff peaks. The problem used to be not reading recipes and tipping the sugar into the egg whites from the start, rather than whipping them and then gradually adding sugar. But even doing that, and beating the life out of them, I can’t get them to firm peaks.

I “lurided up” the meringues with green food colouring rather than the pink in the recipe (to go with raspberries) or blue (to go with blueberries) because I went shopping late in the day and the co-op only had red or green.

We have a blueberry bush in a pot in the garden, and this recipe used up what will likely be the last of the crop this year. Our friends have not had any blueberries off their’s as they got chickens this year, and watching the chickens climb into the pot and flap around to steal blueberries off the bush proved so hilarious they’d rather do that than get enough chicken wire to safeguard the harvest.

This recipe is a fantastically effective way of using the limited amount of blueberries you get off one bush – less than three ounces, probably 10 blueberries per person, whizzed up to a purée was definitely enough to get a good taste of blueberries in meringues for all four-point-five of us eating tonight.

The pink grapefruit jellies – slightly less successful. They didn’t set properly. I made a pint of grapefruit juice into jelly with a one-pint sachet, chilled for two days, but it was nearly liquid when served. Did the gelatine not stir in properly? Does it actually matter that the ground cow-hoof is actually, ahem ahem, a number of years beyond its BBE?

The vanilla cream really made it – even if made with cheapskate flavouring rather than real pods or essence. One 300ml pot of whipping cream, whipped, did the blueberry cream fillings for four pairs of meringues, and splodges of vanilla flavoured cream for the jelly.

The pudding club posts can now all be found on the pudding club tag.