Sticky Fruit Flapjacks

Fruit FlapjacksSometimes that saying “life wasn’t meant to be easy” feels like it rings true more often than not. I don’t mean to depress you but it’s true, yes. Those are the times I feel like hibernating in my little flat surrounded by all the beautiful things that comfort and bring me joy. Lounging on the couch watching old movies, reading cookbooks and even polishing the silver could keep me content.

Although it’s probably when I should be getting out and about, not letting things get me down but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. This recipe arose out of one of those days.

Sticky Fruit Flapjacks

100g unsalted butter (sometimes I use half butter half sunflower oil)

100g golden caster sugar

100g honey

100g dried fruit ( I used a mixture of dates, figs, and cranberries)

100g of mixed nuts and seeds ( I used half walnuts and then sunflower, sesame and pepita seeds)

A large handful of shredded coconut

50g ground almonds

200g rolled oats (sometimes I mix in some barley or spelt flakes)

Preheat oven to 150°C. Gently heat the butter, honey and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat. While this is happening, chop the dried fruit and nuts into small pieces. Place them in a large bowl along with the rest of the dry ingredients. Once the butter, honey and sugar have melted and combined together, pour into dry ingredients and mix together well. Tip into a lined baking tray (approx. 26cmx18cm). Press down into the tray. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden brown. Remove and leave to cool completely cooled before cutting. They will be soft and sticky. Keep in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days.

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St John’s Eccles Cakes

Oh how I miss St John.

I miss those sneaky mid week lunches at Bread and Wine and buying my Eccles cake before I ate just in case they were all gone by the time I finished.

This year has been the year for conquering recipes. Finally having a kitchen to myself makes me feel much more free to hog it all day, make a huge mess and use every pan in the place. I can give time to those recipes I have put on the back burner.

Making rough puff pastry is one thing I’ve had a bit of a head block on. You think, it’s too hard, too time consuming and you decide won’t attempt it.

In reality, it’s not that hard and it’s not that time consuming. More than that, it’s very satisfying to realise you can do it. Although I did have to watch a youtube video to make sure I understood the pastry rolling and folding instructions correctly.

These cakes originate from a small town called Eccles which used to be in Lancashire but has since been enveloped as a suburb of growing Manchester. Purists would include lard in the pastry although St John have omitted it. Traditionally the three slits in the top represent the Holy Trinity. The recipe for these little flaky current filled pastries was shared here in The Guardian.

The Gourmet Traveller Challenge. March: 1.Milk Chocolate Biscuits 2.Brussel sprout leaves, mozzarella and white anchovy salad

These biscuits have a real old-fashioned style to them. Made from a mix of rolled oats, golden syrup and coconut, these are straight out of an early Women’s Weekly. I’m not saying that in a critical way, some of the best biscuits are from plain ole simple recipes.

As usual I wasn’t completely happy with the outcome. Maybe I made the biscuits too big as I didn’t get 40 out of the recipe, as noted, and I had twice as much melted chocolate leftover. I’m guessing that’s why they tasted a bit heavy to me. My work colleagues loved them thought and quite a few people came to tell me they had two. I’d like to give them another go just to see if I can improve the outcome by making them a bit smaller.

Milk Chocolate Biscuits

65g rolled oats

160g softened butter

160g raw caster sugar

55g golden syrup

150g plain flour

75g dessicated coconut

300-400g milk chocolate

Whiz oats in the food processor until fine. Cream butter and sugar, then add golden syrup and stir to combine. Add flour, coconut, oats and mix well. Take heaped teaspoons of the mix and roll into a ball, place on lined baking tray and press down slightly. Bake at 160°C until golden about 15-20 minutes, cool on a wire rack.

Melt chocolate in the microwave (be careful if you do it this way that you don’t over melt the chocolate and ruin it) or over a pan of simmering water, which I prefer. Once melted let it cool so you can spread it over one side of the biscuit an stick them together. Biscuits will only keep for 1-2 days.

The second dish I made from this months issue, was the feature from Matt Wilkinson’s new book, Favourite Vegetables. I thought it was an unusual salad so I decided to give it a go. I’ve had brussel sprouts in a similar way before with walnuts and pasta. Do you think I can find that recipe? I’ve kept all my old Vogue and Gourmet Traveller mags in an effort to find it and a few others that have lingered in my memory over the last few years.

The dressing for this salad is inspired. Honey, red wine vinegar, currants, olive oil, and roasted walnuts. I will be using it for other salads, definitely. My white anchovies were heavily marinated and I tried to kind of squeeze off the oil and vinegar but it infiltrated the dish too much. The strength of that combined with the vinegar in the dressing over powered the dish for me. Saying that, it could all be just me and if you give it a try, keeping in mind my mistakes, I’m sure it will turn out fabulous. It would certainly make an interesting dinner party entree. I loved using brussel sprouts this way. They tasted fantastic and the petite green cups across the salad looked beautiful.

I nearly missed the deadline again! Lets see what next month brings…..The Italian Issue!

Alice’s Cook Book and Passionfruit Slice

As you know, I don’t usually do brunches, but when there is something special to entice me, I can make the exception.

Brunch with Alice Hart at La Fromagerie is that sort of exception.

Alice seemed a little nervous, in front of this small group, but was sweet, warm, friendly and seemed driven by the thoughts of an environmental, food enthusiast.

Alice’s Cook Book is really not any old ordinary cookbook, but a part of the New Voice In Food series from Quadrille Publishing, supporting new talent in the food world.

I wasn’t sure about the format of the book when I first saw it but the titles of the recipes drew me in. I soon began to enjoy the arrangement of the recipes into picnics, camper vans, seasonal Sunday lunches etc. It began to be a story and I could see that Alice had put alot of herself into this book.

Alice demonstrated a few recipes from the book, discussed her inspiration and enthusiasm for her first cookbook.

The first offering was Blueberry and Granola Muffins. A light muffin made on a wholemeal/plain flour mix, yoghurt, granola and berries. Easy enough and tasty too.

Alice then demonstrated her Roast Courgette and Butternut Agrodolce with Stuffed Courgette Flowers. She really made each dish look easy to do. The courgette and butternut mix was brought together by the agrodolce (sour/sweet), beautifully balanced flavours of sugar and red wine vinegar . La Fromagerie had, of course, supplied an amazing fresh goats cheese with a distinctive citrus flavour. This balanced the dish very well.
Our next brunch treat was something which had caught my eye in her book too. Beetroot-Cured Side of Salmon with Aioli and Shaved Fennel Salad. It is a really beautiful dish. Curing the salmon is an incredibly easy preparation. Aioli, sounds difficult but only requires one strong hand and one gently pouring one (or a food processor!). La Fromagerie had added some borage flowers which had a delicate cucumber taste. A great dish for a party of friends on a summers day.
Our final taste from Alice’s Cook Book was a Mocha Affogato. A complete hit of chocolate icecream, from The Ivy House, with the signature La Fromagerie coffee, Le Piantagioni,  poured hot over the top.

We have a much loved family recipe from my late paternal grandmother for Passionfruit slice. She kept it a secret and all the women were trying to coax it out of my Aunt after her passing. I think my sister now has a copy.

So I was curious to try this version to see how it stands up.

Passionfruit Slice

For the Base:

200g digestive biscuits

60g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

600g cream cheese

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

2 free-range egg yolks

1tbsp cornflour, sifted

250g caster sugar

200ml fresh passionfruit juice (the sieved pulp from about 12 fruits, depending on size)

seeds scraped from a vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Topping:

3 gelatine leaves

200ml freshly squeezed orange juice

25g caster sugar

50ml passionfruit pulp or juice

mango or pineapple to serve.

Method:

Preheat oven to 160*C. Line 20x30cm, 6mm deep, tin or dish, with parchment paper.

Place the biscuits in a food processor until finely crushed. Add the melted butter and pulse briefly, then press into the tin. Bake for 10mins and set aside.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. beat in eggs, yolks and cornflour, then the sugar and passionfruit juice and vanilla. Don’t over mix, as too much air will cause the cooked cheesecake to crack.

Pour over biscuit base and smooth the top. bake for about 30 mins, until wobbly in the centre but not brown on top. Turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door open for 15 mins ( to minimise cracking). remove from oven and set aside to cool completely before chilling in the fridge for at least an hr.

To make the topping, soak gelatine in cold water to soften. Heat 4 tblp of the orange juice with the sugar until simmering. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatine sheets. Add the remaining orange juice and passionfruit pulp or juice.

Chill for 20mins, then pour over cheesecake and return to fridge for at least 4 hrs, preferably overnight.

Beautifully creamy and delicate passionfruit, it’s as kitsch as you can get but, of course, it didn’t have a scratch on my Nan’s. 🙂

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for providing Alice’s Cook Book.