Sunday, 6 December 2009

Festive Foods: Somerset Mulled Cider

by Charlotte x

Tis the season to warm the cider, throw in some spices and apples and get festive! Seeing as we're all from the West Country and live pretty close to other West Country folk it would be wrong not to include this in our festive repertoire.

OMG this recipe is brilliant. It will be loved by everyone, even non cider drinkers as you can tame down the amount of cider, up the juice and the brandy, whatever takes your fancy... it also makes the house smell amazing! Rach isn't isn't a big hot drinks girl but she cannot say no to this. Of course this doesn't replace mulled wine but goes nicely alongside.

So, I would advise that you make this on a cold day, or a dark day, or a wet day or a Sunday (other days will of course also work well). Sunday night has been a winner at our house - mug of hot spiced cider, newspaper, tv, music, it's great with most things really. Of course, the cider used is not Strongbow as this is a whole other level - quite classy in fact.

Rach and I initially tried it out and invited a couple of people over for a tasty. It was short notice and in the end nobody turned up so we had to consume several mugs each! oops. What's really ace is that it involves baking whole apples with sugar and cider and then throwing them in the pot so essentially you're getting a lot of fruit and goodness out of this recipe. Enjoy.

Makes 12-14 servings
1 litre premium English cider
250ml Somerset cider brandy or calvados
1.5 litres cloudy English apple juice
A thinly pared strip of lemon rind
2 sticks of cinnamon
8 cloves
For the roasted apples
10-12 small Cox’s apples
About 75g light muscovado sugar
100ml premium English cider

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Wash and core the apples and score them around their middles. Put them in a baking dish and stuff the centre of each with the sugar. (It’s easiest to do this with the handle of a spoon or fork). Splash over the cider and roast in the oven until soft and beginning to split (45-50 minutes).

Meanwhile put the cider, cider brandy or calvados, and apple juice in a large pan, together with the lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves. Heat through gently then leave over a very low heat until the apples are cooked without allowing the mixture to boil. When the apples are ready, tip them and their juices into the mulled cider. Taste, adding a little extra sugar if you think it needs it. Serve straight from the pan into heat resistant glasses or cups or transfer to a warmed bowl.


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Later with Jules: Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie

It was Charlotte's birthday - this called for extreme indulgence.  

One day I will post the full evening's menu, but let's just say it was not for the faint hearted: scallops, critical timings, TWO Ottelenghi dishes - I think it's one for the Kitchen's 'advanced' series.  Watch this space.

So, back to the midnight baking.  I have to begin by congratulating myself for my organisational skills.  Charl's birthday was on a Wednesday, I had to go to Brussels for work on the Monday and Tuesday- so I did  all the shopping the weekend before.  I know I usually advise diving out to the late night shops, but a Keston Lady's birthday isn't just any occasion - the stakes are high so you pull out the stops.
(Unfortunately this meant that a few of the raspberries went mouldy so there wasn't enough to decorate the top.  C'est la vie, eh?)

I decided to do a recipe from the very exciting baking book we bought Rachael for her birthday (a somewhat self-interested present, as is our want in the Kitchen): the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  This book has a very specific role in the Kitchen, it is what you reach for when you need indulgent girly cakes that are pretty as pie.  Now, I happen to know Charlotte has a penchant for brownies (she's not too big on the drier types of cake - the girl likes it moist), so when I saw the raspberry cheesecake brownie I couldn't resist.

This dessert is VERY GOOD because:
- it is three desserts in one
- it looks very pretty
- you will get gasps of admiration
- raspberry + cheesecake + brownie = genius.  

It is also EASIER THAN IT LOOKS and perfectly lends itself to midnight baking.  Make the brownie cheesecake base, then leave in the fridge overnight, then just before serving whip up the raspberry cream.  Delish.

(NB for reason I cant get the words 'similar recipes' to disappear).
For the brownie:
  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • Eggs
  • 110g plain flour

For the cheesecake

  • 400g cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Eggs

For the cream topping

  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 150g Raspberries, plus extra to decorate
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1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3 

 For the brownie melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (don't let the base of the bowl touch the water). 

3. Cream the butter and sugar in a food mixer or electric food mixer. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl after each addition. 

4. Gradually beat in the flour then turn the mixer up to high speed for a little longer until the mixture is smooth. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly. 

5. Pour the mixture into a 33cm x 23cm x 5cm baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and smooth over with a palatte knife. 

 For the cheesecake using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and thick. 

7. Add one egg at a time, scraping any unmixed ingredients form the side of the bowl after each addition. Be careful not to overmix as the mixture can split. 

8. Spoon on top of the brownie mixture and smooth over with a palatte knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the cheesecake is firm to the touch and light and golden around the edges. 

9. Leave to cool completely then cover and refridgerate for 2 hours or overnight if possible. 

For the cream topping beat the cream, sugar and raspberries until firm but not stiff. Turn the brownie out onto a board and turn the cheesecake side up. Spread the topping over evenly and decorate with more raspberries. 

The Hummingbird Cookbook, published by Ryland Peters & Small

Monday, 9 November 2009

I Heart Italia: Torta

Jamie Oliver’s Torta di More (Blackberry Tart)

 Claire Kelleher says (in her best American accent): ‘That fruit was REAL shiny!’


When Charlotte announced she was christening her birthday present – a fresh pasta making machine, I decided we needed a fittingly Italian desert to complete the meal. I headed straight for the Jamie’s Italy cookbook and this fruit tart jumped out at me.

I haven’t always been such a fan of baking, but nowadays producing pretty looking puddings on a Sunday is definitely one of my favourite things to do! It started back with Julia and I as kids icing rich tea biscuits different colours in my mums kitchen, I then progressed to chocolate cornflake Easter nests and now with an arsenal of recipe books at my disposal in the Keston kitchen, making cakes or desserts is pretty much a weekly event!

When I initially read this recipe - admittedly I over looked that you are supposed to refrigerate the pastry for an hour before you roll it and then freeze in for a further hour before baking but if you have the time to wait around for 2 hours, the actual making part is easy peasy. It is worth making your own pastry for the lemony twist Jamie adds.

As you will see below you can use any berries you like, it doesn’t have to be blackberries and any alcohol of your choice too!


RECIPE – serves about 10 people (or a lot more if you feed them a mountain of pasta before hand)



For the shortcrust pastry

• 125g/4.5 oz butter

• 100g/3.5 oz icing sugar

• a small pinch of salt

• 255g/9oz plain flour


• 1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways and seeds removed (I didn’t put this in)

• zest of 1/2 a lemon

• 2 large egg yolks, preferably organic

• 2 tablespoons cold milk or water


For the filling

• 1 vanilla pod (I bought the last one in East Dulwich so you might have to go further a field!)

• 500g/1lb 2oz mascarpone

• 100ml/3½fl oz single cream

• 3 tablespoons sugar

• 3 tablespoons grappa or vin santo (I used Brandy)

• 310g/11oz blackberries (I also added raspberries and blueberries)

• 2 tablespoons blackberry or raspberry jam (to make the fruit shiny)

• a small handful of fresh baby mint leaves (I didn’t put this on)



First you will need to grease a 28cm/11 inch loose-bottomed tart tin with a little butter. To make your pastry, cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt and rub in the flour, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and egg yolks – you can do all this by hand or in a food processor. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water. Pat and gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly. Don’t work the pastry too much, otherwise it will become elastic and chewy, not flaky and short as you want it to be. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour. Remove it from the fridge, roll it out and line your tart tin. Place in the freezer for an hour. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 and bake the pastry case for around 12 minutes or until lightly golden.

To make the filling, split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds by running a knife along the inside of each half. Put the mascarpone, cream, vanilla seeds, sugar and grappa into a large bowl and whip until shiny. Have a taste – you should have an intensely rich, fluffy and lightly sweetened cream with a fresh hint of grappa. If you can’t get grappa, you can do it without, or add a swig of vin santo instead.

Once the pastry has cooled, get yourself a spatula and add the sweetened cream to the pastry case. Smear it all round so it’s reasonably level, then cover it with the berries – place them lightly on the cream, no need to push them in. If you want to be a bit more generous than this, feel free, and if you want to mix your berries you can do this too. Next, in a small pan, melt down a couple of tablespoons of jam with 3 or 4 tablespoons of water. Stir until it becomes a light syrup, then, using a clean pastry brush, lightly dip and dab the fruit with the jam.

Sprinkle with the baby mint leaves before eating. Great served either as one large tart or as small individual ones. Lovely with your afternoon tea. Either serve straight away or place in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it.

Jules and Jake made it back just in time for a bit of sunday night tart (Jake's 4th pudding of the day!)

Watch this space for more puddings and our new favourite cakey cookbook will feature I'm sure - The Hummingbird Bakery recipe book.

Rachael xx


I Heart Italia: Pasta

The Keston guide to perfect pasta and good guests by Charlotte

For my birthday I received a rather shiny pasta maker from the girls, Jules and Rach. Not that surprising as my penchant for Italian food and my love of time spent in the kitchen is well known. So, this weekend was a seriously indulgent one, of pure relaxation and a spot of pasta making. Pizza oven enthusiast (boyfriend) was up for it, I was up for it and so was Ceri when she arrived back from two weeks in India. She had time to fit in a bowl of the good stuff before getting some seriously needed sleep - beauty sleep in fact, in time for a date on Sunday...

I cannot stress enough how good the end result of home-made pasta making is; it is the easiest recipe of all time and it's a lot of fun AND it can be a group activity - who doesn't want to roll out dough so that it's so long you need someone else to help you manoeuvre it?

The recipe for 4 (from The Silver Spoon) is:
200g plain flour, type 00 (incredibly fine)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
A pinch of salt

What you need to do:
Put the flour and salt on the work top and create a well. Mix in the beaten eggs with your fingers and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for 15 minutes and then split into manageable pieces to roll out and put through the pasta maker.

Matt and I tried out the dough on Saturday and Ceri arrived in time to taste test. We chose taglietelle (there is a choice of taglietelle, spaghetti, wide taglietelle and another skinny pasta that looks suspiciously similar to spaghetti). For the topping we roasted cherry tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and a pinch of brown sugar. If you roast them on low for about an hour they are succulent and super juicy! Towards the end I cut up and threw in some artichoke hearts which was a very good idea. A couple of glasses of sparkling wine (the drink of 2009) are a great accompaniment to this dish. You can either save the wine to go with dinner or you can consume it all during the making of the pasta (we may have opted for the latter).

Day 1 was a big success, so on Sunday we decided to make more pasta and invite people. I decided to invite the cousin, Louise, always a good guest. She is enthusiastic to say the least and I knew she would be well up for handling a nice bit of fresh dough. I must admit I had a brief strop (about 2 minutes) when Louise showed off her natural skills in the dough sector - her sheets were far superior to mine! End strop, the next guests arrive, Kate and Claire who have been in town watching some drag queen cabaret. They've had a couple of drinks and so arrive in an excitable manner, full of praise, quite loud and possible a little tipsy? Definitely tipsy, this is confirmed as Claire pulls out a nice can of Carlsberg from her coat pocket - the last can!

Everyone sits down. Rach gets the toppings out of the oven; whole roasted peppers that have been skinned and chopped up, more roasted cherry tomatoes and cold chopped olives. I also have some special pesto (a present from the girls to go with the pasta maker) which is so good, really tasty and contains cashews as an added bonus. The pasta is amazingly light and not really comparable to supermarket bought, it is pale and translucent. You don't need lots of toppings, just fresh stuff and a good glug of olive oil. Overall conclusion - home-made pasta is top dollar - an activity that should maybe occur once every two weeks.

Preferably this should be followed by a sweet Italian treat, perhaps a delicious tart - Rachael? Tart?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

I Heart Italia: Pizza

I Heart Italia by Charlotte. A serious fan of Italian cuisine (and food in general)

The Italians are super passionate about their food; they have a lot of time and love for the kitchen and the end result is always fresh, full of flavour and pretty simple to do! I went to Italy this summer to stay in the countryside in a little place called Cossano Belbo, just outside of Asti. Stereotypes were jumping out from behind every corner; rolling hills, olive groves, fiat 500s, little signori sitting outside their houses drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and a pizza oven. The pizza oven was located outside the backdoor at the place we were staying with a view of the Piedmontese hills. Instant excitement occurred.

Before the age of 19 I didn't like pizza. The only pizza that I would occasionally eat were mini margheritas for kids from Sainsbury's. I later realised that these were not good. Then I went to Australia and worked in a Greek run pizza place and learnt how to consume a whole pizza, usually chicken with sweetcorn and sweet chilli sauce. Then I lived in Italy for a year and finally realised what all the fuss was about! I am now a pizza snob.

So, during our stay in the hills of Piedmonte we made pizza 3 times. On arrival, Matt (pizza oven enthusiast and boyfriend) decided to climb into the oven to give it the once over - as any Italian might. He gave it the all clear and we made the dough, which is the easiest thing you could want, need to make. I guarantee you will not be able to go back to bought pizza bases. I love
The Silver Spoon - an Italian food bible, now in English. It says to make dough like this:

Serves 4 250g plain flour (preferably Italian type 00)
3/4 teaspoon salt

15g fresh yeast (or 7g dried yeast)

120ml lukewarm water
Olive oil, for brushing (optional)

Sift the flour and salt into a mound on the worktop and make a well in the middle. Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until smooth and pour in the well. Use your fingers to incorporate the flour and make a soft dough. Knead well until it's smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, put a cross in the top, put it in a bowl and cover. Leave it to rise somewhere warm for around 3 hours until it's almost doubled in size. Flatten the dough with your hands and roll out on a floured surface, to a round about 5mm thick. Brush a baking sheet with oil or line it with parchment paper.

You can then go wild and add your toppings. For me the key is thin bases with crispy edges and not too many toppings! A fine layer of passata, a sprinkling of mozzarella, a few pre roasted cherry tomatoes and a handful of capers make a mouthful of joy. Back to the pizza oven - besides being satisfying this is immense fun. To get the temperature of the fire in the oven hot enough we used a laser temperature gun to keep tabs, at one point the oven was 400 degrees! Many minutes were then wasted testing the temperature of anything you could possibly think of that was within eye sight. These pizzas cooked in approximately 2 minutes but doing them at home will take about 10 - just turn up the oven to the hottest setting and keep an eye on them.

Pizza facts (according to me):

Best pizza I ever had: On a hill on the island of Ischia
Best pizza in London:
The Gowlett, Peckham Rye SE15

Monday, 2 November 2009

Later with Jules: Fig and Almond Tart

 Honey Roasted Fig and Almond Tart

Charlotte says (in a forest accent): 'this is the best tarrrrt I ever 'ad' 

And she may well be right.  This delicious, sweet pie is a refreshing alternative to the traditional common all garden apple variety - and luckily for me, fresh figs were common as muck when I went to stay with the Lovely Lucy in France - she had hundreds in her garden.

So, for the following pie, I used fresh, slightly squished figs from the South of France (ooh er). And, to top it all I MADE MY OWN PASTRY.  Now, we're not ones to cheat in the Keston Kitchen, but ready made pastry has  always been an acceptable cheating (because our mums do it).  However, one of the perils of midnight baking is that you have a limited selection of late night shops, and the sad truth is, they just aren't geared up to cater for midnight bakers.  So, I found myself at 11.45 making my own goddamn shortcrust.

And what a discovery!  It's actually quite easy - and very tasty.  Perhaps not as pleasing on the eye as the smooth shop bought variety, but that all adds to the rustic look (I tell myself).

The tart was in honour of a girly evening at Charm's.  I precooked the tart and assembled the pastry and filling in the midnight hours, then simply popped it in the oven when I got to Charm's so it was nice and fresh after dinner.  And what a dinner it was.  Myself and the girls are really hoping Charm will make a guest appearance soon on the blog, as her homemade curry is unrivalled.

I hope you will enjoy this recipe - courtesy of Good Food Magazine (see our 'Food Heroes' section - Charl has a monthly subscription).  Let me know if you make it and what you think.

Figs are so sweet, delicious and juicy,
I am so glad I visited Lucy
Gathering fruit without a care
That I managed to get back on Ryan Air
Without paying any extra dough
Oh the wonderful fig, I love you so.


  • 500g pack shortcrust pastry at room temperature, thawed if frozen
  • 8 ripe figs , stalks trimmed
  • finely grated zest of one large juicy orange
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 200g packet ground almonds
  • 2 medium egg yolks


  1. Preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a shallow loose-bottomed 25cm flan tin (watch our video to see how to do this. Make sure the pastry comes above the rim - it may shrink in baking and the filling could spill. Chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the figs in half lengthways and sit them cut side up on a roasting tray. Mix the orange juice and honey in a bowl, pour over the figs and roast for 10-12 minutes until just soft. Drain off any juice into a saucepan and reserve.
  3. Prick the base of the chilled pastry case all over with a fork, then line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to fan 130C/conventional 150C/ gas 2. Leave the pastry case to cool slightly before filling.
  4. Cream butter and sugar in a food processor or with an electric beater until smooth and pale. Tip in the ground almonds and zest and whizz briefly to combine. Add egg yolks and 1 tbsp of the reserved fig juice and whizz again until smooth. Spread evenly over the pastry case.
  5. Gently press the figs cut side up into the almond mixture. Bake for 11⁄4 hours or until it's golden all over (don't worry if the centre still seems soft - a little gooeyness is good). Leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove sides and transfer on its base to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Before serving, take the tart off its base and transfer to a flat platter or board. If you have juice left from roasting the figs, bring it to the boil and simmer for 1-2 minutes until sticky and syrupy. Brush this over the figs and serve as soon as possible, while the syrup is still glossy on the figs (it will start to seep through into the filling if you leave it too long).

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Later with Jules: an introduction to Midnight Baking

Later With Jules.... 
Midnight Baking for the Modern Woman

Ever long to get your hands dirty whipping up a tart? Then sigh, and think to yourself, "ah, there just aren't enough hours in the day"?  Never fear, ma cherie, I am here to help.  If there's anything the Keston Kitchen has taught me it's YES WE CAN hold down full time jobs and bake fabulous cakes.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I will tell you about the delights of midnight baking.

How did it all begin?
Shortly after moving into Keston Road, I developed a reputation as a midnight baker.  It all stemmed from my student years: with plenty of unstructured time, I discovered the delights of creating culinary treats for my friends and became a poplar woman as a result.  I learnt from the best - a combination of Delia and my mum, and soon realised what a joy it was to present friends or family with freshly baked cakes or puddings.  Baking is a labour of love, and I fell in love with baking.

I was in for a shock.  I graduated, hit the big smoke and tumbled headlong into the world of full time employment.  Suddenly, my life was not my own.  The trouble was, I still wanted to surprise a friend on their birthday with a delicious cake and, as all true cake lovers know, a bought one just isn't the same.  What's more, I had new colleagues to befriend, and what better way than through baked goods bribes? However, as any of the Keston ladies will tell you, life is pretty hectic in London town.  With our new jobs came new pals to play with... and there seemed to be a steady migration of old pals from the shire flocking to Peckham's bright lights...and what with the never-ending sources of entertainment to be found in London.....  there just didn't seem enough hours in the day. 
Or so I thought...

Until I discovered the magical, heretofore wasted weeknight hours of 11pm-1am. 

Yes, In my desperation to keep up with the baking I would often be found  in the kitchen, apron over my work clothes, whipping up a storm in honour of a friend's birthday the following day.  I'd have returned home from the pub/theatre/dinner and suddenly remembered the forthcoming occasion, dived out to the late night shops, and started the creation.  The Keston ladies found it amusing, if slightly annoying (the smell of fresh baking wafting up the stairs while your trying to get to sleep is somewhat distracting).  Over the years I have decided to embrace it, and have found my midnight baking a revelation

So if you would like to be a midnight baker, you have come to the right place.  Here are some top tips to make the whole experience even more delicious.

Midnight Baking: the essentials

1. Music: you have to create the appropriate atmosphere for the occasion EG. for power baking (maybe you've had a bad day at work, or you've just been to gig, or it's already gone midnight and you need to act fast): I recommend Florence and the Machine.  Other occasions will call for a more chilled out vibe  (you've returned from a relaxed evening with friends, or the theatre, and it's still the right side of midnight): perhaps a bit of Nina Simone or a dash of Fleetwood Mac would do the trick  (Beware - nothing too slow or you will get sleepy).

2. Wine: Midnight baking is an event to be enjoyed.  As with most cooking, a glass of wine is the essential accompaniment to your late night toils. 

3. Dress:  you should invest in an apron.  BUT - you do not need to change your clothes.  Baking in sequins and stilettos adds the necessary touch of glamour to the proceedings.

4.  A word of caution: From experience, I would advise against starting baking after 00.30 - things generally take longer than you think and you will be knackered for work tomorrow.  The optimal time to start baking is 11.15pm (and should mean you do not have to leave your mid-week social engagements early).

5. And finally: Always, ALWAYS, save some of the fruits of your labour for your housemates.  Baking can make you very popular, but beware: hell hath no fury like a Keston woman who doesn't get a slice of the pie.

Most importantly, enjoy.  Put on your favourite tunes, have a sip of wine, and relax into the delightful world of midnight baking.

Your muffins and pies will open their eyes,
Your cake fills an empty hole
Biscuits and brownies will wipe away frownies,
Because baking is good for the soul.  

Jules xx