Chocolate and Pear Tart

Wanted a quick and easy dessert, so used 3 ripe pears from the fruit bowl and made an easy tart. Chocolate and pears are a marriage made in heaven for me, but if you haven't got a bar of chocolate, you could use Nutella spread over the pastry. You don't have to make the pastry - use a ready made butter puff.

Preheat oven 220C/gas7                23cm tart tin

In a bowl, mix together 100g soft butter, 100g ground almonds and 125g caster sugar. Mix together then add 2 beaten eggs and beat together.
Roll out the puff pastry and line the tart tin. Prick with a fork.
Peel, de-pip [is there such a word?] and cut 3 ripe Conference pears each into 4 pieces.
Melt 100g chocolate [you can use cooking chocolate if you want] in the microwave or over simmering water, then pour over the pastry in the tin. Spoon in the batter then spread the pears on top.
Bake for about 30 mins - keep an eye on the tart at the end so it doesn't burn!

Nice combination of flavours and textures - crunchy pastry, soft chocolate, almond filling and soft fruit. You could use dessicated coconut instead of ground almonds - my friend does this and it's very successful. 


Banana Cake with Caramel Topping

 Needed to use up two very ripe looking bananas in the fruit bowl, so it would be a banana cake. I think banana goes well with caramel, so made a caramel icing for the top. The recipe uses sunflower oil and yoghurt, so definitely healthy [if you ignore the caramel!].

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                   Grease and base line a 23cm springform cake tin.

In a bowl mix together 250g plain flour with 2 tspn baking powder and 1/2 tspn bicarb. Mix in 250g caster sugar.

In another bowl beat together 150ml sunflower oil, 250g ripe bananas [ I used 2 large ones], 2 eggs, 50ml natural yoghurt and 1 tspn vanilla extract.

Pour the oil mixture into the flour and stir together till mixed.

Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 40 mins. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn onto a wire rack.

For the caramel topping:

Put 85g butter, 175ml double cream and 175g soft brown sugar in a pan over a medium heat and stir till the butter has melted. Turn up the heat and boil for 3-4 mins stirring occasionally - mixture looks like runny custard. Pour into a bowl and leave for 30 mins, then beat with an electric hand beater till thick.

When the cake is cool, spread the icing over the top. 

My son came over and took a large piece back with him, as you can see! The caramel topping was delicious but very sweet, as I expected, but it was a good contrast to the soft, moist textured cake.
I had some topping left over so put it in the fridge and used it with vanilla ice cream. It had firmed up, but was still delicious.


Rhubarb Meringue Tartlets

    I love rhubarb, and decided to make something different with it for my friends when they came for tea. I've recently bought a new 12 hole fluted tartlet tin, so decided to use this and to top the tartlets with meringue. I have a recipe with fruit, which has a creamy almond filling, so this would make them a bit different.

    250g shortcrust pastry [your own recipe or bought]
    400g rhubarb
    80g caster sugar
    125g ground almonds
    80g soft butter
    125g caster sugar
    2 eggs beaten
    For the meringue
    3 egg whites
    75g caster sugar
Preheat oven 180C
Peel the rhubarb and cut into pieces. Put it into a bowl covered with the 80g caster sugar and leave for an hour.
Roll the pastry out thinly and line the tartlet tin. Using baking beans, bake blind for 10 mins. Take the beans out and cook for a further 5 min.

Remove the pastry cases from the tin and put on a wire rack to cool.

Beat the butter with the caster sugar; add the eggs then the ground almonds and beat well to mix.

Share the almond cream between the pastry cases then put some rhubarb on each.

Bake for 20 mins then cool on a wire rack.

Lower the oven temperature to 120C

Using an electric beater, whisk half the egg whites and the caster sugar till stiff then add the rest of the sugar.

Pipe rosettes of the meringue onto the tartlets, or just spoon it on.

Bake for 15 mins till golden on top.

I'm very pleased with these; have been practising with my new piping bag and nozzles given to me by my daughter. I think she was ashamed of my old tatty cloth piping bag!
Nice crunchy pastry, creamy filling, soft rhubarb and sweet meringue - what's not to like?


Lemon Coconut Slices

I needed a simple recipe to use up some lemons, and found many versions of this uncooked tray bake [I suppose it's not really a tray bake as it's not baked, but it's made in my Delia tray bake tin!]. I played around with several recipes till I made exactly what I wanted - a good lemony flavoured slice, with a decent amount of coconut and a lemon icing. It was perfect to make for my daughter's recent visit.
We brought a lemon tree back from France and it now lives in the greenhouse. It was a gift from our neighbours, and has faithfully produced lemons every year. The lemons I used in this recipe were from this tree, and they are much juicier than the ones you buy.

You put 125ml of condensed milk in a pan with 125g butter and stir till the butter has melted. In a food processor or using a plastic bag and a rolling pin, break a 250g packet of Nice biscuits into crumbs and put into a bowl with 1 tspn of grated lemon zest, 1 tspn lemon extract and 85g dessicated coconut. Add the butter mixture and stir together till well mixed.
Line a baking tin 28x18cm with parchment paper and press the mixture in. Put in the fridge for about an hour.
Make the icing - 250g icing sugar, 3 tbspn lemon juice and 15g butter - beat together to make a smooth icing. When the slice is firm and cool, pour icing on top, spread evenly then sprinkle 2 tbspn dessicated coconut on top. Cut into squares when the icing has set.
Keep the squares in the fridge.

A nice zingy Summer treat - some crunch from the biscuits and a lovely soft filling with a good lemon flavour. Then a contrast with the sweet icing and coconut. Makes a good dessert too.


Hazelnut Cake

Have been on holiday for a week, but yesterday I went to a Polish supermarket with my son's partner and discovered bags of ground hazelnuts. It's not easy to find these, so I was tempted to buy several bags, but I've learnt from experience that they don't keep after the use by date!

This recipe makes a nice, light cake with a lovely praline chocolate topping, easy to make and delicious.

3 eggs - separated
80g caster sugar
70g melted butter
90g plain flour + 1 tspn baking powder
70g ground hazelnuts
90g praline chocolate
chopped hazelnuts to decorate

Preheat oven 150C/gas 2               Grease a 18cm cake tin

Mix the egg yolks and sugar together.
Add the butter, flour and baking powder and the ground hazelnuts and mix well.
Whisk the egg whites till stiffish then carefully fold into the batter.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 25mins.
Cool in tin for 5 mins then finish cooling on a wire rack.
Melt the chocolate over simmering water or in a microwave then pour over the cooled cake.
Decorate the topped with some chopped hazelnuts.

It's not a very big cake, but it's lovely with a cuppa or when you don't need a large cake to feed the family. It has a nice soft, light crumb and the topping adds another flavour layer; the chopped nuts give it a nice bit of crunch.
It's a French recipe from one of my neighbours.


Orange Polenta Cake

This is another cake that came about because I was having a sort out in my cupboard, seeing if anything was out of date.
 I found a packet of polenta that needed using up, and had saved this recipe ages ago from the side of a polenta packet. It's easy to make, and using the polenta makes a lovely light cake.

Preheat oven 160C/gas3              Grease a 23cm springform cake tin.

Grate the zest from 3 medium sized oranges and keep it to put in the batter. Put 1 lemon aside to use later.

In a bowl, mix together 210g plain flour, 2 tspn baking powder, 120g polenta and a tspn salt.

In another bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand beater, beat together 4 large eggs and 200g caster sugar till it's pale and fluffy and tripled in size. Beat in the orange zest.

You need 175ml olive oil, and you add this to the batter alternating with the flour mixture, scraping the bowl down occasionally; just beat gently until incorporated into batter.

Spoon or pour the batter into the cake tin, smoothing the top. Bake for 25-30 mins, turning the cake round halfway through.

Cool the cake in the tin for about 10 mins then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Sieve 250g icing sugar into a large bowl. Squeeze the oranges to get about 2 tbspn of juice and squeeze the lemon to get 1 tbspn juice. Add both juices to the icing sugar with a whisk or spoon till smooth.

Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake, and allow to set till it's dry.

This is a light cake with a lovely hint of orange.It has a soft crumb and the citrus icing gives it a nice burst of flavour. I like making cakes with olive oil as it gives an extra flavour to them. This is another plain everyday cake to keep for the times when you need something sweet and citrussy!



I have wanted to make a fraisier since I saw Mary Berry making one, but it looked rather complicated. It was a special birthday for my friend, so I decided to have a go and was very happy with the result. It's not as perfect as Mary B's, but tasted good and was a great hit.
I didn't use her recipe either, but one I found in a French magazine, which was giving recipes for using strawberries.
I made the Genoisse sponge the day before to make it a little more solid for the fruit and cream. I also used crème fraiche instead of double cream.

You need 500g strawberries, 500ml crème fraiche, 100g caster sugar

 For the Genoise, you need 125g caster sugar, 100g flour, 75g melted butter and 4 eggs

To make the sponge: preheat oven 180C/gas4     line a 28 cm springform cake tin, sides and bottom

Over a pan of simmering water beat together the eggs and the sugar till they've doubled in volume and become frothy, then take off the heat.
Carefully add the flour and melted butter and mix well. Pour into the tin and bake for 30 mins.
Wash the strawberries and hull them. Cut them into halves.
Whip the very cold cream with the sugar till thick.
Cut the sponge through the middle and put one half in the bottom of the tin. Put half of the cream on top then arrange strawberry slices round the inside of the tin cut side out to make a sort of crown of strawberries. Fill in the middle with the rest of the strawberries, and cover with the rest of the cream and top with the other sponge layer.
Put it in the fridge to set for at least an hour before you serve it.

I thought there was rather too much cream in the middle, so I kept some back and put it on top with a few slices of strawberries and some pistachios. It's certainly not as neat and tidy as some fraisiers, but the taste was good and it's much less complicated to make. The sponge layer, then the fruit and the cream, all give lovely layers of flavour and texture.A good way of using strawberries, rather than the usual tart or flan.