“Blackberry Tart” from “Sirocco”

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Hastily taken photo in the middle of book club. Apologies for the quality. 

When we went to see Sabrina Ghayour demonstrate this book, she said she always struggled with making pastry until Raymond Blanc showed her the method she describes in this recipe. If only we could all have personal lessons from Raymond Blanc to learn how to make things. Sigh.

But the point is, the recipe and the instruction she has for the pastry are very clear and easy to understand. So if you struggle with pastry, you might want to read and make this one.

I’ve now made this tart twice: once for Sunday lunch and another for my book club. It was yet another Book Club triumph.

Using pistachios as the base was interesting and delicious. However, here’s a top tip: try to find and use pre-shelled pistachios. The second time I made this, I couldn’t find them, so I had to shell pistachios instead. It was fine– it was a beautiful day so I did the task sitting out in the sunshine– but it’s much, much quicker to use the pre-shelled ones.

Delicious. Would eat again.

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“Blackberry Tart” from “Sirocco”

“Blackberry and Plum Streusel Cake” from “Easy”

Peter: Soggy bottom. How did that happen?

Anna: Yes, it’s a bit of a wet bake. Paul Hollywood would not be pleased. It’s the fruit. I blame the fruit.

Peter: Is it the fault of the recipe? Or because you have large plums?

Anna: Who knows. I gave it an extra 10 minutes in the oven, cooked it with the fan on. And in the end the skewer came out clean. But the sponge is definitely a bit undercooked in places. It must be the plums, but I’m not sure how I would get around it next time.

Amanda: Well I think it’s delicious! I’m very impressed you brought me a cake.

Anna: It’s the least we can do when you are having us to stay for the weekend!

“Blackberry and Plum Streusel Cake” from “Easy”

“A hotpot of sausages and apples” and “A moist cake of apples, blackberries, ground hazelnuts and cinnamon” from “Tender Volume II”

Anna: What an appley feast!

Peter: We’re certainly getting our fill.  Are you working your way through this book chapter by chapter?

Anna: No, but a lot of the fruit Nigel has chapters on aren’t in season.  In fact most of them aren’t, so I’m stuck with apples.  And blackberries.  Plus, I needed dishes that I could cook in advance, over the weekend, to serve when your parents were here.

Peter: Well you know I like a good sausage.  This hotpot is all a bit beige though, isn’t it?  It looks like something out of Oliver Twist.

Anna: It’s not the most attractive dish to look at, no.  And the beans haven’t cooked through properly.  They’ve had two hours in total and they are still hard.  Which technically isn’t Nigel’s fault.

Peter: Think of the explosions we’re going to experience this week.

Anna: Indeed.  It tastes alright though.

Peter: Yes, it’s nice.  The apples were nicely assimilated.  I wouldn’t call it a hotpot. But I would eat it again.

Anna: It’s not the most exciting dish I have to say. It’s a bit like the goulash.  Ok, but it’s highly unlikely I’m going to make it again.  Sorry Nigel.

Peter: The cake is lovely and moist though.  I like this a lot.

Anna: Yes, it’s turned out ok. I was worried when I was making it, as my crumble-topping didn’t crumble properly.  I had to leave the bowl outside in the freezing temperatures for half an hour but to no avail.  So it all melted into a sugary pastry instead.  More like a cobbler.

Peter: Well if you didn’t know any better you would never notice.  I’m going to take it in my packed lunch this week.  I think it’s the sort of cake that will get better as the week goes by. It’s definitely better cold.

Anna: So I may make the cake again.  But then again, I just don’t know if I can be bothered…..

“A hotpot of sausages and apples” and “A moist cake of apples, blackberries, ground hazelnuts and cinnamon” from “Tender Volume II”

“Roast duck legs with squash and blackberry and apple sauce” from “Tender Volume II”

Anna: I was really looking forward to this.  It’s the perfect November meal isn’t it?

Peter: Yes, it’s certainly autumnal.  The richness of the duck and the butternut squash.

Anna: So I think that’s why I’m so disappointed.  And frustrated.

Peter: Nigel’s legs are certainly dry.

Anna: Dry and tough.  Difficult to eat.

Peter: Just like Nigel’s legs!

Anna: So an all-round annoyance really.  Because I had to hack away at the legs to get any meat off, there was no savouring of the flavour combinations.  I ate the duck leg.  Then the sauce and the squash.  Did you like the sauce?

Peter: It was like a pudding, very nice.  Particularly as it was made with our own blackberries and bramleys from the apple festival a couple of weeks ago.

Anna: I was a bit thrown as I hadn’t read the recipe first, and the apples had to go in the oven to bake, but it was very easy and tasted delicious.  Can’t tell you what it was like with the duck though.

Peter: It provided a degree of moisture.

Anna: I am very annoyed.  Really.  This was so simple to make and should have been much nicer.  I’d recommend cooking the legs in the oven for 2 hours, a la Nigella, and add the squash for the last 45 minutes.  Then the legs would be all moist and lovely, and the squash roasted and brown.  Much better.

“Roast duck legs with squash and blackberry and apple sauce” from “Tender Volume II”