Archive for April, 2013


Camembert enrobed with puff pastry eaten warm from the oven is delicious, and worse still there is a compulsion to cut another slice until there is no more left.  Eaten plain or with chilli crab apple jelly it makes a good starter or a replacement to a cheese board.

The riper the Camembert the runnier the finished pie.  Try to avoid using a very soft Camembert because when you open the oven door you will find most of it has run out of the pie and flowed all over the baking tray.  I used a young  firm Camembert as I wanted to photograph it.  Photography is not my strong point, and photographing my recipes seem to take longer than actually making them.  I have little idea of what I am doing but have come to the conclusion that if I take enough pictures in an array of positions then there will have to be at least one reasonable picture.

Hence my choosing a firm cheese that would cope with sitting around.  The Camembert didn’t last long and even though it was slightly firmer than I would have liked it was just as delicious and was given a sweet note by the crab apple and chilli jelly.

This simple little recipe was the one that finally won me my father’s praise.  My father adored his food especially cheese.  He would come and stay with us for a week at a time.  Always keen to help with any outstanding projects.  The idea was that he would work away while I stayed in the kitchen cooking up a full English breakfast, mid morning snacks, a full scale lunch, afternoon tea with cake and then supper.  We loved his visits, but the kitchen was under a lot of pressure to produce and impress.

On one of my father’s visits I had been busy baking batches of fairy cakes for the expected afternoon tea slot.  I had left them to cool on wire racks on the kitchen table while I answered the phone, when I returned they had disappeared into thin air.  The wire racks were still there but no cakes.  I rushed out into the garden and asked my father if he had eaten them (it had been known).  No, so where had they gone?  I looked in all the cupboards, where could I have put them?  I couldn’t work out in my mind where I might have put them.  It wasn’t until out of the corner of my eye I saw a tiny piece of cake paper on the floor did I realise who the culprit was – Oscar our Labrador.  He had decided to wolf the lot, maybe in the faint hope that without any evidence he wouldn’t get the blame.  He was sent to his bed and my father’s response was that the dog couldn’t be blamed; I shouldn’t have left them there!

My father ate everything with gusto and enjoyed what he ate but to get a rapturous response was a little more difficult.  It was serving up the baked Camembert that really impressed him, he wolfed it down and was even raving about it on his way up to bed.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  That something so simple would be my crowning glory!    He even made a point of  mentioning it a couple of days later when I waved him off on the train platform.   I think he wanted to make sure it was on the menu for his return visit.  Little did he know it would be on every future menu!

The puff pastry can be shop bought or home made, but as always nothing really compares to home made.


Baked Camembert


A round of Camembert (slightly soft)

a little beaten egg

250g/9oz puff pastry


Oven Gas mark 7/220C/425F

Roll out two circles of puff pastry to the thickness of a 20p piece.  Making one of the circles larger by two inches.  Don’t be tempted to keep the pastry thick as it will cook on the outside but leave a soggy uncooked mess on the inside.

Place the Camembert on top of the small circle of pastry and brush the edge with beaten egg.

Place the larger circle of pastry over the top of the Camembert and seal around the base using a fork.  Trim to neaten.

Brush the whole pie with beaten egg and add decorations with any left over pastry if wanted, brush again with the egg and place on a baking tray.

Place in the oven for 20/25 minutes.

Ready when the pastry is golden brown.

Serve immediately on its own or with crab apple chilli jelly.

It is just as delicious cold but really needs to be eaten the same day.


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I am a little early in posting this recipe, as we are a long way away from crab apple season in England.  There is a reason. All will become clear in the next post.

A crab apple is a small apple that looks not unlike a large rosehip.  From the colour you might think they would be sweet, in fact they have a sour and tart taste and, are not known for their eating quality.  They are though, a wonderful producer of jellies mainly because of their high pectin content.  They also make delicious wine – but that’s another post.   If you don’t have enough for a jelly they can be roasted and served with meat.

crab apples

The crab apple has been around for many years, mentioned by William Shakespeare and attached to legend.  Throw their pips into the fire whilst saying the name of your true love and if the pips explode then your love is true.  Best done without your husband present – just in case!  The sport of gurning (extreme pulling of face) originates from when the Lord of the Manor gave crab apples to the poor of the village.  The faces they pulled when biting into the sharp little apple then turned into a competition on who could pull the ugliest of faces.  This tradition is still kept alive today at the Egremont Crab Fair which began in 1267 in Cumbria, England.

For me, one of the nicest preserves to make is Chilli Crab Apple Jelly, mainly because of the beautiful clear golden elixir and delicate flavour that the crab apples produce.  The chillis adding a kick which brightens up the recipe.

A worthwhile quantity to use is 4lbs of crab apples, which is what I have used in the recipe below.  There is no reason why you can’t make less or more as again there is a mathematical formula to this recipe.  After simmering the apples and straining them it’s the amount of liquid produced that dictates the amount of sugar used.

This recipe is for chilli crab apple jelly but there is no reason why you can’t substitute that for other spices.  The heat of the jelly is again down to your personal taste.  The quantities I have given here are for a light kick of chilli.  I think the secret is to allow the delicate taste of the crab apple to come through without killing it off with too much chilli.

Chilli Crab Apple Jelly


4 lbs Crab apples

Sugar – granulated or caster

3 Chillies – seeds left in and chopped.

(How much heat you want is controlled by how many chillies you put in and the type of chilli).



Wash the crab apples and top and tail.  Cut each apple into four (no need to core) and put in a large pan along with the chopped chillies.

Crab apple and chilli pan

Add enough water to just cover the apples and cook gently for about 45mins/1 hour with the lid on. They are ready when the apples are at the mushy stage.  Strain, using a jelly bag or a piece of muslin placed over a sieve. Leave for a couple of hours or more so that all the liquid gets a chance to drip through.

Before placing the strained liquid into a clean pan measure the amount.  You will need 1 lb of sugar for each pint of liquid.

If there is a fair amount of apple mash left in the jelly bag, returned it to the preserving pan, adding a little water and reheated it for a further half hour.  Strain this again using either a jelly bag or muslin.  Then again measure the quantity of liquid adding the required addition of sugar to the main batch.

Gently heat the liquid with the sugar making sure to keep stirring the sugar until it dissolves in the pan.  When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up, to bring the jelly to a boil.

When the jelly has started to boil it will produce a scum on the surface, remove any that appears – there will be plenty!  Keep skimming, as the less scum there is the clearer the jelly.

At this point use a jam thermometer; you need the liquid to reach ‘ jam’ temperature. The thermometer is not essential but is very useful. Alternatively, when you think the jelly is reaching setting point take a small saucer and pop it in the freezer to cool.  Remove from the freezer and put a little of the jelly onto the plate and leave to cool (you can put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes) and then push your finger against the jam.  If there is a skin which forms a wrinkle when pushed then the jam is ready.

Set aside for ten minutes for the jelly to cool slightly and then pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.

Do not use a wax disc and a screw top lid.  The wax disc stops the twist top from forming a seal.  If using a wax seal then cover with cellophane and secure with a rubber band.

To sterilise the jars wash them in hot soapy water and rinse.  Place on a baking tray and put into a warm oven Gas mark 3/325F/160C and leave for 10/15 minutes.  Carefully take out and use.

Remember to label and date.  I have learned this to my cost.  You think you will remember but trust me you won’t.

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Lemon Curd

Lemon curd not only has the most beautiful delicate opaque colour of yellow, its texture is creamy and velvety, dissolving on the tongue with a kick of citrus zing.

Shop bought versions tend to have a metallic aftertaste to them whereas the homemade varieties are again in a league of their own.  Like so many recipes today, homemade cannot be beaten.  The depth of the yellow colour is determined by the brightness of the yolks.

There is not a lot to the recipe and using the microwave makes it much quicker and easier and as delicious as it would be if made in a double boiler.

This recipe also won me first prize in the lemon curd section at the local country summer show.

Lemon curd is so versatile, it can be spread on bread or toast, used to spread on cakes and can be used instead of jam in doughnuts.  Or just eaten by the spoonful.

Lemon curd


100g unsalted butter

350g caster sugar

Zest of 3 unwaxed lemons

150 ml lemon juice strained without pips

150 ml beaten eggs (about 3 large eggs)


Place butter, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice into a glass jug.  Place in the microwave.  Zap for 3 minutes.  Stir.  The butter should be just about melted and the sugar dissolved.  If not, continue to stir if after a little stirring the butter and sugar have not dissolved put back in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Add the beaten egg to the jug with the butter, sugar and lemon.   Stir well

Put back into the microwave for one minute and remove.   Stir.

Put back into the microwave again for a further 30 secs and stir. Repeat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  It takes about two minutes but don’t be tempted to over cook it.  When I know the mixture is starting to thicken I reduce the time to 15 second intervals.

When you are happy with the thickness strain through a sieve into another jug.  This will remove any egg bits and the unwanted lemon zest.  Now pour the strained curd into cooled sterilised jars.  Store in the refrigerator.

How to sterilise your jars is explained here at the bottom section of this earlier post on marmalade.

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DuckeggVicSponge MDDuck egg blue is a beautiful colour, one of my favourites.  I think it stems from years ago when on the May Bank holiday my elder brother would take me to the Surrey County Show.  It was always a fantastic day out and there would be something for everyone.  We particular liked seeing the agricultural side of the event, especially the different show tents that featured poultry, rabbits, flowers, crafts and cooking and we would work our way around all of them.

We gave the poultry section special attention.  Looking back I can’t imagine why he would have had any interest in poultry but it was always on the top of our list.  Inside the canvas tent would sit row upon row of uniformly stacked cages in which sat their feathered occupants showing off their beautiful plumage.  We would walk past silently glancing in and choosing our own winner.  What will always stick in my mind was that one year a small boy was allowed to trouble the birds by tapping their cages and shouting at them. When he got no reaction from a large cockerel he stuck his nose right between the bars of the cage and for his troubles he got a sharp peck.  The last we saw of him was fleeing from the tent.  ‘Just desserts’ come to mind.

At the end of the feathered section would be a stretch of tables filled with plates of exhibition eggs.  They were all arranged beautifully with a small accompanying card describing the breed of bird that had laid the eggs. Their different colours and speckly marks fascinated me.  The ones that really sang to me were the Indian Runner duck eggs.  Their size and shade of blue fed my imagination and I would wonder how they would taste, and longed for one to be soft boiled and served with buttered soldiers.  I then silently vowed to myself that when I grew up I would own my own team of Indian Runner ducks.

I am now all grown up and to date have yet to own a single Indian Runner duck but the desire to own one is still very much there.

This week when I went off to the little small-holding where I buy my chicken eggs I noticed a single box marked ‘duck eggs’.  When I opened the box there sat six beautiful blue eggs.  The chap who looks after the animals came over to me, keen to tell me about the ducks; Indian Runners and that the eggs in my hand where ones no one wanted because they were all odd sizes.  I happily handed over my money, I knew exactly what I was going to use them for.

Duck eggs make beautiful cakes; the sponge is lighter and richer in taste.  Using the duck eggs in a Victoria sponge couldn’t be easier either.  The weight of the butter, flour and sugar is determined by the total weight of the combined eggs.  So you could make a one-egg sponge mixture or a four-egg mixture.  Once the total of the egg (weighed in their shells) is determined then you have the mathematical formula.

Duck Egg Victoria Sponge Cake with Vanilla Butter icing


3 duck eggs weighed with their shells 180g

180g butter softened

180g self raising flour

180g caster sugar


Turn oven to Gas mark 4/180C/350F

In a bowl whip the butter and sugar until pale and light and fluffy.

This is an important step.  This is where you will get the air into the sponge.

Lightly beat the eggs with a fork or similar.

Add the eggs a little at a time to the butter and sugar mixing in between.

You want to make sure you have beaten in all the egg mixture before adding more.

At this stage you also don’t want to over beat the eggs or you will be taking out the air you put in with the previous stage.

If the mixture begins to curdle add a couple of tablespoons of the measured flour and beat until smooth.

When the eggs have all been used up fold in the flour carefully.

Divide into two cake tins.  I used 18cm loose based sandwich tin.

Place in the middle top of the oven not touching the sides or each other and bake for 30 minutes.

N.B.  The baking time is completely determined by your oven.  My way of testing if the sponges are nearly done is smell.   When I can smell the sweet aroma of sponge cake I know they are nearly done.  After 30 minutes I check to see if they are done by pressing with my finger the top of the sponge if it bounces back its done.

Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack.

While they are cooling make the butter icing.

Vanilla butter cream


225g icing sugar

115g softened butter

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl beat the butter until pale and fluffy add the icing sugar a bit at a time beating on low with an electric mixer.

Add the milk and vanilla extract and beat for a couple of minutes until smooth and cream like.

Spread onto one layer of the cake and then sandwich together with the other layer.

To finish off sprinkle some icing sugar over the top.

N.B.  It is always best to sieve your icing sugar, as little lumps don’t always break up leaving a rather gritty texture to the butter cream.

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