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Archive for the ‘Hester’s Comfort Food Corner’ Category

Shortcrust pastry for the terrified

With her new book ‘The Garden of Forgotten Wishes’ about to emerge into the world, Sunday Times bestseller Trisha Ashey shares some of her best baking tips. You need never be terrified of shortcrust pastry again! 

It’s dead easy to make shortcrust pastry – all you need is flour, cooking fat and water. Plain flour is best, but you will still get an edible result with self-raising or wholemeal flour. Cooking fat or lard – you can use butter but it tends to disintegrate while rolling.

The rule is that you need half the weight of the flour in fat. So if you have eight ounces (sorry, I am not metric) of flour, you need four ounces of fat. Other than that, you need some water. You are not going to put sugar in your pastry, because if you are putting in a sweet filling, you don’t need it and if you are putting in a savoury filling, you certainly don’t need it. Thick, sweet, chalky white pasty in supermarkets is an abomination. Decide what you are going to make. Maybe you have a cake or tart baking tray and can make tarts, or a large flan dish, or an enamel plate or two. It just needs to be heatproof.

Grease whatever you are going to use. Turn the oven on to a medium heat to warm up.

In a large bowl put your flour (sieve it in if you have a sieve) and your fat, cut into chunks. Now, start to rub the fat and flour between your thumb and fingers and allow yourself to go into a trance for ten minutes. The fat will rub into the flour and it will end up like fine breadcrumbs. You have put air into it at the same time, to make your pastry lighter. When it is all rubbed in, add a little cold water, a little bit at a time until you can gently gather the pastry together into a ball. If you overdo the water, add more flour.

Dust a clean surface with flour, and your rolling pin (or clean bottle or whatever you can find to use instead) and roll out the pastry fairly thinly so you can cut circles out of it with your cutter, or a tumbler or cup, if improvising and making tarts. If using a dish or plate, drape pastry over it and cut off excess round the edges. Gather any leftover bits together.

Fill the tart or tarts, but be frugal with jam etc. because it will bubble over if you overfill. You can use: jam, lemon curd, treacle, that jar of leftover mincemeat, or for savoury ones, a little grated cheese and tomato puree or finely chopped onions.

Bake in the medium-low oven until the pastry is just pale gold – keep an eye on it.

The excess pastry can be wrapped in cling foil and will keep in the fridge for a day or two. You can use it to cover a casserole, or top a fruit filling in a pie dish. Or cover a potato, cheese and onion bake. Or cover your large treacle tart with a lattice of pastry strips before baking…improvise, have fun!

 

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes 

Purchase Links: You can get the UK edition HERE and the US edition HERE

All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.

With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.

Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.

Can a summer spent gardening help them heal and recapture the forgotten dreams they’ve let get away?

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Choco-Vanilla Birthday Cake

Guaranteed to chase those social isolating blues away!

Thank you to Ellie, who recently celebrated her 15th birthday under lockdown, for the recipe. And for the photos of this cake, as made for the birthday of her mum, Valerie-Anne Baglietto  

(Ellie made the gluten-free version for her mum, but it’s just as good with ordinary flour)

Lockdown birthday cake!

This is a simple basic recipe, easy for a beginner to follow, or a child (with appropriate adult supervision!)

Ellie and her mum

You will need:

  • 9 inch round cake tin (1 tin, or 2 if you have a second identical tin)
  • Cake board or large flat plate
  • Baking paper
  • Wooden spoon
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Saucepan
  • Metal spoon/offset spatula

 

Ingredients :

The sponge:

  • 225g of unsalted butter
  • 225g of caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • 225g of gluten-free self-raising flour (or normal self-raising flour, if you wish)

 

The icing:

  • 225g of unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 115g of icing sugar

Method:

For the batter:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Grease the cake tin and line with baking paper at the bottom.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon, until light and fluffy.
  4. Whisk in the eggs, one by one, then whisk in the vanilla.
  5. Next fold the flour, bit by bit, into the mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir until all the flour has disappeared into the cake batter.
  6. Bake half the mixture for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, and let cool for 20 minutes. Bake the other half of the batter and let it cool. (Unless you have two identical cake tins, in which case you can cook both at once.)

 

For the icing:

  1. Put the butter, golden syrup and cocoa powder into a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Stir until the butter is melted and it is all mixed together.
  3. Take it off the heat and let cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Once it is cool, whisk in the icing sugar until it is all incorporated.

 

Decorating:

  1. Place one of the sponges on a cake board or flat plate.
  2. Put half the icing on top and smooth it down with a metal spoon or offset spatula.
  3. Then, place the other sponge on top and gently press down until it is securely in position.
  4. Put the other half of the icing on top and smooth it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you can make swirly patterns if you wish.
  5. Now you can decorate the cake with sprinkles or chocolate flakes, or however you want! And don’t forget the candles!

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Grandmère’s Chocolate Cake

For my series of serious comfort food, the kind Hester would love to cook to help her customers through troubled times, thank you Sophie Claire for this stunningly and deliciously comforting family recipe!

 

Sophie says:

In the new edition of A FORGET-ME-NOT SUMMER I’ve included a collection of all the recipes mentioned in the story. From Ratatouille to Navarin of Lamb, most of them are recipes handed down to me from my French Grandmère who was an excellent cook, and I always think of her when I make them – especially this chocolate cake, because the tin I bake it in was originally hers.

This is such a special recipe to me. It’s been handed down through my mother’s side of the family and it’s the cake Grandmère always used to make for us when there was a birthday or other celebration. I’ve never tasted another chocolate cake quite like it (believe me, I’ve tried many). Whatever you do, don’t overcook it. Five minutes too long in the oven and the middle will dry out. Like American brownies, you want the centre to be sticky and squidgy and a little sunken. It will glue your mouth closed and taste heavenly.

200g dark chocolate (not too bitter – I use Bournville)

100g butter

5 eggs, separated

200g sugar

100g plain flour

Icing sugar, to dust

 

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line the base of a 20-cm round cake tin. Gently melt the chocolate and butter. Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks, sugar and flour. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. With a metal spoon, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the tin. Bake for 30‒35 minutes.

When cool, dust with icing sugar.

 

If you fancy a lovely escape to sunny France, along with more French recipes, the kindle edition of Sophie’s book is currently on offer.

You can get a copy for 99p HERE

Or for $1.22 HERE

A FORGET-ME-NOT SUMMER

Small-town florist Natasha is determined to leave the past far behind her. But when she learns her ex-husband never told his family about their divorce – and that he needs her to accompany him on a trip to the French countryside – could love bloom again between them?

 

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Hester’s Comfort Food Corner

Perfectly delicious Poppy Seed Cake

(from a First World War recipe)

 

Hester, the heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter, is a passionate cook, whose fledgling cake-making business is put in jeopardy by the panic buying and hording of sugar (no toilet paper in those days!) at the start of WW1. Instead, she spends the war cooking the best comfort food she can manage with limited ingredients for recuperating wounded soldiers and the volunteer nurses looking after them – many of them well-brought up young ladies faced with the shock of their lives in a world changed forever.

So, welcome to Hester’s Comfort Food Corner. Some are traditional recipes I came across in my research, others are simply favourites. The idea is that they are fun, easy to make – and above all comforting! And since sugar and flour are once again available in our modern changed world, I think it’s safe to dispense with exact historical accuracy (including the delights of potato flour) in exchange for good, solid, old-fashioned comfort …

 

To start off, it has to be my WW1 seed cake, my comfort cake for all occasions, including celebrations. It’s the one I’ll bake when I can finally hold a physical book launch for Hester and The Ferryman’s Daughter. It’s easy to make, fail-safe, and simply delicious!

 

WW1 Poppy Seed Cake

 (This is a scaled down version of the original, which, in true Edwardian fashion, demanded ten eggs. There are also modern oven settings, instead of the instructions to let the fierceness of the oven be over before putting the cake in to prevent scorching – unless anyone has an old-fashioned range handy, that is).

Ingredients

8 oz         227g         Butter

8 oz         227g         Sugar

2 ozs        57g          Caraway or poppy seeds

8 oz         227g         Self raising flour

2oz           57g          Candied peel

Rind and juice of one orange

Rind and juice of one lemon

3 eggs

Small cake tin (mine is 7″/18cm, which works really well)

 

Method:

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time with flour alternately, then add rind and juice of one orange, and the rind of one lemon, caraway/poppy seeds, and candied peel.

Cook at 170C Gas Mark 3 for forty-five minutes then down to 150C Gas Mark 2, and finally 140C Gas Mark 1 till cooked. (I find it usually takes just under an hour in total)

While still warm, pierce the cake with a skewer and drizzle in the juice of the lemon.

The original would probably have been served as it was, but I’ve found it goes really well with lemon butter icing with a few drops of vanilla added, for a really luxurious treat (edible butterflies optional!).

The fancy version …

 

 

 

 

 

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