Lemon Tart

A simple delicious lemon tart. A classic recipe that’s pretty easy to make. You could buy pastry but you will benefit from making your own sweet shortcrust pastry. And, you can feel a bit sanctimonious when your guests ask….
The pastry uses egg rather than water. This means the pastry shrinks less when baked blind.
You will need a tart dish, with a removable base, and about 22-24cm in diameter.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar to sweeten the pastry
  • 100g chilled butter in cubes
  • 1 beaten egg

Lemon Tart Filling

  • 3 eggs
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, which you can later juice below
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 3 medium lemons, juice only
  • 1 medium orange, juice only, For juicy larger oranges just add half the orange juice.

Pastry Method

  1. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl
  2. Cube the butter into 1cm cubes and add to the flour
  3. Either use a food processor or a Kitchenaid, or your fingers, to rub the butter into the flour till it is like sand.
  4. Gradually add the beaten egg till the pastry just begins to come together, you don’t want to make it too wet.
  5. Work it briefly with your hands into a ball, wrap it in cling film, squash it flat, and then refrigerate to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to about 170C fan.
  7. Remove from the fridge and roll to a thin sheet between two pieces of cling film. When it is big enough to cover the tart dish use the cling film to guide the pastry into the dish.
  8. Ease the pastry into the corners by lifting the edges and feeding down into the dish, Don’t stretch the base as it will tear or later shrink. Trim around the top of the tart dish. Keep the trimmings in the fridge in case you need to patch holes later.
  9. Put some baking paper in the dish and fill with baking beans or rice to keep the base flat.
  10. Bake for about 15 minutes before removing the baking paper and beans. Leave it cooking for another 5 minutes to cook the base properly. Watch it’s not getting too dark, and turn down or remove if it is.
  11. While the case is cooking make the filling.

Filling Method

  1. Adjust your oven to 150C fan
  2. Add the eggs, sugar and lemon zest to a bowl. Whisk them for a minute till well mixed.
  3. Add the cream and juice and stir to mix
  4. If the mix is frothy you can skim off the bubbles to make it look cleaner.
  5. Place the cooked case in the oven (still in its dish), pulling the tray forward so you can fill it.
  6. Pour the filling into the case taking care not to spill over.
  7. Bake until the filling just has a gentle wobble, which should take about 20-30 minutes. Check it from 20 minutes. It continues “cooking” when you take it out, so a soft wobble will firm up.
  8. Take it out to cool.
You can dust lemon tart with icing sugar when cooled. I think it’s best served at room temperature. Serve with whatever you fancy like vanilla ice cream, lightly whipped cream, or some creme fraiche.

Rhubarb Crumble

It’s peak rhubarb season and this one’s a simple classic, rhubarb crumble. Rhubarb varies a lot, by type and season. Some is thin, sweet, and pink (early Timperley, which I grow, for example). Others thick green and tart. I like the large greener stalks for crumble as the tart contrast with the sweet topping works best.
For the thinner rhubarb cut it into 3cm lengths. For the thicker rhubarb, I cut into 1.5cm chunks.
Getting the sugar in the rhubarb right is one of those wonderful guesses. I think the cooked rhubarb needs to be sweet enough but still have a background tartness. This gives a lovely contrast to the crumble topping.
Using the ground almond really helps the topping in my view. Also, chilling it for a bit helps it to form crunchy, crumbly, clumps. When cooked the clumps have an almost biscuity crumble to them. This topping gives the right balance of soggy under-bottom to crispy top.
I use a dish that is 23cm square, and about 6cm deep. The topping quantity just covers the dish but is thick enough.

Ingredients

  • 600g rhubarb sticks
  • 40-60g demerara sugar, more or less spending on your rhubarb

Topping

  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 170g chilled butter, in 1cm cubes
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • A pinch of salt (only needed if you’ve used unsalted butter)

Method

  1. Chop the rhubarb and put it in the bottom of your dish
  2. Sprinkle the sugar over and distribute it around the rhubarb
  3. To make the topping add all the topping ingredients to a mixing bowl
  4. Either blend with your fingers, or a food processor, or a KitchenAid until you have integrated the butter
  5. The topping will form clumps, or even consolidate to almost one lump (because of the butter content) and this is a good thing
  6. Chill the topping in the fridge for 30 minutes or about 15 minutes in the freezer
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C fan
  8. Add the chilled topping to the top of the crumble, breaking up any bigger clumps till it just covers the crumble. Clumps of 2-3cm are not a problem. Don’t worry about bits of rhubarb peeking through. Some bubbling up is welcome.
  9. Cook the crumble in the oven until the rhubarb and topping are cooked, this will be 30-40 minutes depending on the depth of the dish. The topping needs to be golden but not too dark.
Once the rhubarb crumble is ready take it out of the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes so it is warm but not too hot. Serve with your preferred accompaniment – custard (hot or cold), creme fraiche, cream.

Creme Brûlée

Creme Brulee is always a winner for a dessert.  It is also much easier to make using this technique then most people imagine.
Great for a dinner party because they can be made a day in advance and chilled in the fridge leaving just the sugar topping to do just before serving.
If you don’t own a blowtorch, you can try to caramelise them under the grill, but I think that rarely works as it takes too long and heats up the custard. My advice is – get a blowtorch.
This makes about 6-8 depending on the size of your ramekins.

Ingredients

  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100g caster sugar (you will need extra for the topping)
  • 6 free-range egg yolks

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  2. Pour the cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream. Then add the vanilla pod (halved if too long)
  3. Warm the cream to boiling point, then turn off the heat. It’s best if you can let it get quite cool.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until pale.
  5. Pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking continuously while you pour until well mixed. I find this makes enough for about 6-8 ramekins, the variation in quantity comes from the egg sizes and the ramekin sizes.
  6. Fill the ramekins leaving a few millimetres for it to expand slightly when cooking.
  7. Boil a kettle full of water.
  8. Place the filled ramekins into a large roasting tray and carefully put the tray into the opened oven. It’s easier if you don’t add the water till you set the tray in the oven.
  9. Before closing the oven pour in enough hot water from the kettle to come two-thirds of the way up their outsides. (This is called a bain-marie.)
  10. Close the oven door and the custards will cook in the warm bain marie. I find this takes about 15-25 minutes. It can depend on the shape and size of your ramekin.
  11. When they are ready they should still have a nice wobble if gently shaken, they will set further when they cool. If you cook them too long they become too firm and may crack on top. I find 15-20 minutes gives them a lovely soft texture when cooled. Take them out of the oven and out of the bain marie to cool. Once cooled they can go into the fridge to chill further. (I find a pair of tongs ideal for removing the ramekins from the hot water. Take care not to drop them. A fish lift might slide under them and be helpful too.)
  12. When ready to serve, sprinkle one level teaspoon of caster sugar evenly over the surface of each crème brûlée, then caramelise with a chefs’ blow-torch. Don’t add too much sugar to the top or you will create a thick layer that’s hard to eat. To be at their best this must be done in the 60 minutes before serving or the crisp sugar top will go soft. I find it only takes a few minutes.

Variants

Fruit

Creme Brulee is especially nice with a thin layer of fruit at the bottom of the ramekin. Ideally, you want to have a contrast, not too sweet. You can make it seasonal almost anything will work. My personal favourites are Rhubarb, and Raspberry. You want to just gently cook the fruit with a little water and sugar to make a very light fruit compote. For me, the fruit has to keep its general shape. Rhubarb must be cooked but still hold together as pieces of stalk. Otherwise, it’s just a mush. Raspberries are also very delicate. I find you can add a handful and cook till they dissolve to give a base, then add the whole fruits just warming and removing from heat before they dissolve. Spoon a small amount into the base of the ramekin before you add the custard. It brings a sharp balance to the dessert and is eaten up through the layers of creamy sweet custard.

Rose Water

I’ve made this with rose water before and it was faint but tasty. I’d increase the quantity if doing again. For the above quantities I’d suggest 2 tbsp rose water. You could do more but it can be a quite overpowering flavour if too strong. I tried 1 tbsp and it was barely discernible. I think some trial and error is required. Actually, rose water goes well with rhubarb. I will try that when the rhubarb is in season. Also, if doing just rose flavour I would reduce the vanilla, you could even omit it completely.

Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

Delicious rum and raisin ice cream which is best served “affogato” style with a shot of Pedro Ximez sherry on the side, which can be poured over, around, or drunk along with the ice cream.
Rum and raisin ice cream, with PX sherry, makes a great alternative Christmas dessert.
Two to three days in advance of making take as many raisins as you fancy and put them in a bowl. Cover them with as much nice dark rum (I try and use Dark Matter) as it takes. Allow them to soak at room temperature for about 48 hours. They should plump up and absorb the rum, an extra day soaking will do no harm.
Once the raisins are ready to use make a classic vanilla ice cream. Right at the end pour in the strained raisins and as much of the rummy liquid as you think it can stand. Put it in the freezer.
Fabulous. You can make this a week or two in advance.

Rice Pudding – A School Dinner Classic

Rice pudding is one of the great classics of our childhood and school dinners. You might even remember the Ambrosia tinned rice pudding. Loved and loathed in equal measure. If like me, you loved it, or you fancy giving it another try this is the recipe for you. Based on a recipe by the wonderful Simon Hopkinson, his is by far the best I’ve come across, from his book “The Good Cook.”
Simple and easy, the ultimate comfort food. It’s relatively quick to assemble followed by a slow cook. It’s also best served lukewarm or about room temperature. So it’s good for doing in advance for that retro school dinner themed dinner party.
Raisins, a welcome fruity addition or an abomination of the devil? It’s up to you. Load ‘em up or leave ‘em out.
Ingredients
  • 40g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 100g pudding rice or Spanish paella rice (a short grain rice, not something like basmati.) It sounds too little and looks too little when you cook, but trust the recipe, it’s right.
  • ½ a vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 1 litre full cream milk (I usually have semi-skimmed in the fridge so I reduce this by 100ml and add an extra 100ml or double cream.)
  • 150ml double cream (add more if using semi-skimmed milk)
  • pinch of salt
  • generous freshly grated nutmeg, as much or as little as you like
  • Raisins (as many or as few as you prefer, even none, the pudding is great on its own.) Add them at the same time as the milk.
Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140C fan
  2. Melt the butter on the stove top in either a casserole you will cook the pudding in or a suitable pot
  3. Add the sugar and stir, heating gently, till the butter and sugar are soft and amalgamated
  4. Add the rice and the vanilla pod
  5. Stir the rice into the sugary mix. It will coat the rice and the rice will heat up.
  6. After a minute or two add the milk. The cold milk cools the rice mixture and some lumps may form, but don’t panic. Keep stirring and the lumps will dissolve as the milk warms.
  7. Add the cream and salt, and half the nutmeg, and bring it all to the simmering point
  8. Now it’s oven time. Grate over a good amount of nutmeg on the settled milk, don’t stir it in as this will become part of the lovely caramelised topping.
  9. Put it in the oven for 60-90 minutes.
  10. The pudding is ready when a light skin has formed and it is mostly set with a wobbly middle.
  11. Take it out to cool. Best served either lukewarm or at room temperature.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Delicious on its own or use this as a base for any custard-like ice cream (eg. Toasted Oatmeal). Omit or reduce the vanilla depending on your intended end product.
I have to confess I now use a temperature probe (they cost a few pounds and are invaluable.) The temperature for the custard must be no more than 80C. A minimum is 70C. So I aim for about 75C. You can do this by eye by observing how the custard thickens and runs off the back of a spoon. The temperature probe approach makes sure you cook the eggs enough for safety but not enough to scramble them.
Ingredients
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 300ml full-fat milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
Method
  1. Place a container in the freezer to chill (to hold the ice cream once it’s made). Split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape the seeds out with the point of the knife and tip into a pan with the milk, cream and pod. Bring to the boil, then remove heat and leave to infuse for at least 20 mins. For the best flavour, this can be done a couple of hours beforehand and left to go cold.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together for a few mins until they turn pale and fluffy.
  3. Put the vanilla cream back on the heat until it’s just about to boil, then carefully sieve the liquid onto the yolks, beating with the whisk until completely mixed.
  4. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook on the lowest heat, stirring slowly and continuously, making sure the spoon touches the bottom of the pan, for about 10 mins until it is about 75C.
  5. Allow the custard to cool in the fridge until completely chilled. You may want to stir occasionally or keep a lid on it to prevent it forming a skin
  6. Chill the container you intend to hold the finished ice cream in the freezer. A warm glass bowl, for example, will just melt the finished product, so pre-chilled is best. A plastic container shouldn’t need to be chilled.
  7. Put the chilled custard in your ice cream maker and churn.

Toasted Oatmeal Ice Cream

The basis for this ice cream is a classic vanilla ice cream, with a crumbled oatmeal praline added at the end.
Lovely served with a raspberry coulis or for luxury some red berry fruits preserved in an alcoholic liquor, the kind that’s often common in the shops around Christmas time.
Ingredients
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 50g pinhead oatmeal
  • One amount of the classic vanilla ice cream
Method
In summary, you make a crushed oatmeal praline, then make a simple vanilla ice cream, adding the crushed praline just before you put in the freezer.
  1. Read the vanilla ice cream recipe. There are preparatory stages that you may find useful to do first and then use the waiting time to make the praline.
  2. Make the oatmeal pralines: Toast the oatmeal in a dry pan until it has a nice toasted smell and colour. Critical that you avoid burning as this will have a dark bitter flavour. Once toasted tip the oatmeal onto a cool plate to stop it getting darker.
  3. Lightly oil a baking sheet to receive the praline.
  4. Make a caramel. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Turn the heat up and let it bubble until it becomes a dark golden colour like rich clear honey.
  5. Immediately stir in the oatmeal and quickly pour the mix onto the baking sheet. Spread it to be a layer about 5-6mm thick. (It’s very hot watch the surface below the sheet does not get burned.)
  6. Let it cool thoroughly. This should only take 30-40 minutes max.
  7. Break up pieces of praline and put a few at a time in a mortar and pestle. Grind and crush them till they are like biggish salt crystal size, bits of oatmeal are no bad thing as they give the finished ice cream some texture, you don’t want a fine dust. Do in batches and tip the ground praline into a bowl as you go. Once all is ground cover the bowl with cling film or a lid to prevent steam/moisture making it go sticky while you make the ice cream. Putting it in the freezer till the ice cream is ready for it might help.
  8. Make the vanilla ice cream. You may care to reduce or omit the vanilla according to taste.
  9. As the ice cream becomes ready, tip in the praline and let it mix through.
  10. Dispense it to the pre-chilled bowl.