Archive for March, 2014

Maids of Honour


After a meal I like something sweet.  Usually there is a cake sitting in a tin or a packet of biscuits in the cupboard to fill the gap when I haven’t made a pudding.  It is rather a dire day when the cupboard is bereft of anything to satisfy my sweet addiction.  Today, to my despair, that dire day had reared its ugly head.  I checked all the usual places and some of the more unusual (I sometimes like to hide things from myself) for something to satisfy my sweet fix.  Nothing.  Every last crumb, square of chocolate and biscuit had been eaten.

As I stood in front of my pantry shelves looking for inspiration I realised I did have quite a collection of jams made the previous summer. So I started to wrack my brains for something jam based.  The idea of maids of honor came to mind, then dashed because of the puff pastry element – I didn’t have the inclination or more importantly the time to make any.  Then I thought of a recipe from Clarissa Dickson Wright where she had used shortcrust pastry instead.  A little bit of digging amongst the cookery books and the recipe was found.

These little maids of honour date back to Tudor times and get their name from Henry VIII – like the recipe there are many versions of their true history.  One such story is that Henry VIII saw Anne Boleyn, then a maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon (Henry’s first and present wife), eating these with a group of other maids of honour. Not only did Anne Boleyn catch his eye so did the desire for these little tarts.  Unfortunately for Anne Boleyn, Henry’s desire for the tarts lasted a little longer, but neither having a happy ending!

This recipe with its shortcrust pastry makes for a very buttery melt in the mouth treat.  The jam and almond filling give a slightly chewy almondy taste.

Maids of Honour

makes 12



225g plain flour

135g butter

2 tsp icing sugar

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp cold water



50g unsalted butter

75g caster sugar

1 heaped teaspoon self raising flour

2 egg yolks beaten

100g ground almonds

shredded rind of 1 lemon

1 tbs cream (I used milk)

6 tsp damson jam (or one of your choice even lemon curd)

Icing sugar for dusting

A tartlet/bun tin.


Put all the pastry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a dough is formed.  Wrap in cling film and set aside for 30 mins.

Turn oven onto Gas Mark 6/200C/400F.

Roll out pastry and cut 12 circles with a pastry cutter.  Place a circle of pastry into the tin and gently press them down to fill the space.

For the filling, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Stir into this the flour and beaten egg yolks. Stir and then add the almonds, lemon rind and finally the cream.

Add a teaspoon of jam into each little tart and then a spoonful of filling.  Divide any leftover filling between the tarts.  With the back of a teaspoon gently smooth over the filling so that no jam is showing.

Put into the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave in the tart tin to cool.

If you try and remove them when they are still hot the pastry, which is very fragile, will start to crumble and break.  As they cool the pastry firms up.

Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Store in an airtight tin.

I kept to Clarissa’s recipe but found there was quite a bit of excess pastry left.


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Scotch eggs are made for the perfect picnic but Scotch quail eggs lift any outdoor eating to a feast!  Unlike the Scotch eggs made with hens eggs these are much much smaller hence it is a lot easier to eat more than one, and even though quails eggs are a lot easier to come by now they still add that bit of luxury.

Gone are the days when a group of us would to go to three day equestrian events at Burleigh and Badminton.  They came round once a year and I would plan and look forward to them a good few months beforehand. The whole day was spent in the fresh air walking the course, usually trying not to fall over in the mud from the carpark to the course.  Then we would stand at the jumps watching and giving misguided calls on how the jump should be approached and then finally spending hours in the gift tents musing on items we didn’t need but felt we had to have.

In those days entry was paid per car so we would all meet up a mile or so away and then we would all cram into one car with the picnic packed into the boot and often on laps.  All the fresh air and exercise would work up an appetite and I would be the one to supply the picnic.  I would see this as an opportunity to have the best picnic basket in the car park and would go to town on the contents.    It never fitted into just one basket, it was always an array of boxes and baskets.  On top of all this, Oscar our black Labrador would also be squeezed in, usually between our feet and away from the food.

Early afternoon would see us back in the car park hungry from the fresh air and exercise and ready for our feast.  On  tartan rugs we would sit gorging on a wide selection of food that I had been planning for months, each year trying to outdo the previous year’s menu.  Two days in the kitchen was demolished in fifteen minutes.  Any crumbs or leftovers went to an eager awaiting Labrador.  As the last crumb was savoured we would glance around to see the other picnickers dotted around the car park, some with huge wicker hampers with the famous F & M on the side, others had come with the full set up of table and chairs.  As nice as it would have been to eat off a table that would of course that would have meant an extra car and we were all far too mean to shell out for another car fee!

In later years when my three day eventing days were over I continued to make these for my Christmas eve party.  They have now become a favourite and I continue to make them and love them.  They are small enough to slice in half and serve as a canapé.

Quail eggs take very little time to cook.  I prefer my egg to be hard boiled rather than soft for this recipe as I like to eat these cold.  The easier way to get a quality sausage meat is to buy your favourite sausage and slit them open. It is also a very labour saving way.


The beautiful blue on the inside of the quail eggs always amazes me, I always think it a shame to throw them away. They have to be the prettiest of eggs.


Scotch Quail Eggs

makes 6


6 quail eggs

1 hen egg beaten

plain flour for dusting

white bread crumbs

4-5 sausages

sunflower oil for frying


Boil the quail eggs in a pan for 2-3 minutes.  Run under cold water to stop them cooking further and making them easier to handle.

Peel.  Tap the bottom of the widest part of the egg on the counter and use the handle of a teaspoon to get under the shell for leverage.  This method makes the peeling a little easier.

Skin the sausages – at this point you can add extra herbs if you wish.

Take 3/4 of the sausage meat from one of the sausages and roll into a ball, flatten out with your hand.  Roll the egg in some flour before placing in the middle of the sausage meat and then fold meat around the egg, giving it a couple of rolls in the hand to make sure it is sealed.  Repeat until all the eggs are used up.

At this point you can put the eggs in the fridge to rest and chill.

In three separate bowls put flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs.  Take  a sausage wrapped egg and dunk into the flour bowl covering well, then into the beaten egg and finally into the bread crumbs.

Heat some sunflower oil in a saucepan.  The oil tends to get clogged up so perhaps best not to fill a large pan unless you are making a lot as afterwards the oil is not worth keeping.

Drop a small piece of bread into the oil to check for temperature, when it comes to the surface sizzling, the oil is ready. Drop 2 Scotch eggs into the oil at a time and turn them as they cook to achieve an all over golden brown colour.

Drain on kitchen paper.

Serve.  Can be eaten hot, warm or cold.  Preferably with a little Dijon Mayonnaise

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