Monday, 21 March 2011


Duncan Ackery chats food at the V&A

Lindsay (honorary Keston Kid) and I recently went to hear Duncan Ackery, chef and restauranteur, chat at the V&A Reading Rooms. They mentioned that space would be tight, and it was. There was just enough room for approximately twenty girls plus one token man cram in and listen to Duncan talk about cooking and entertaining. Not only was he talking but he was cutting things up, mixing ingredients, salting vegetables and handing them round for us to taste. Yes we were in for a good night.

Duncan had been to Borough Market that morning to pick up some seasonal items to discuss with us, the whole preface being that when entertaining, it is not just about the food but about having fun with your friends, so choose recipes well, get amazing fresh ingredients, make some stuff ahead and have a good time. In a fairly brief fashion here are some great things to make in spring:

  • Mackerel pate served with rhubarb and blood orange compote on top (cook the rhubarb for 3-4 minutes so that it holds its form)
  • Mackerel (raw) marinated in honey and mustard - this is good
  • Really good mozzarella torn up and served with olive oil, lemon zest and sea salt (fleur de sel is a great garnish salt)
  • Goats cheese and beetroot
  • Radishes halved and salted
  • Roasted fennel - roasted in a pan
  • Mussels cooked with smoked french garlic, leeks (pre blanched to take away a little of the strong flavour) and white wine
  • Asparagus - blanched for 2 minutes in just water, served with clarified butter (gently warmed butter which separates into two layers - use the top layer only) and salt
  • Radicchio salad - you need a fairly strong dressing, like blue cheese or something lemony

Chinese Pork Belly - recipe in full. Duncan is passionate about Asian food, this recipe in particular, and so was everyone else by the time he'd finished speaking:

- Take a piece of pork belly and take off the skin (leave the fat)

- Chop the pork into thumb size pieces

- Boil the pork in water for 3 minutes and drain

- Heat some nut oil in a wok until is is really hot (I used sesame oil)

- Add in a dessert spoon of sugar, let it caramelise (turn to liquid) and then add the pork

- Add about 3 cups of Shaohsing rice wine, soy sauce, 3-4 broken up star anise and a couple of cinnamon sticks

- If you want some liquid then add stock at this point

Serve with rice and seasonal veg - like purple sprouting, cooked separately in a wok with nut oil and garlic. Add a tiny bit of stock and cover to allow the greens to steam briefly.

This is easy and quick and really fresh tasting. I got all the ingredients from my local oriental supermarket, including fortune cookies!


  • Always have potted shrimp in the freezer - I've never used it so can't say much more. Needless to say I will buy some soon and give it a whirl...
  • Chicken thigh fillet is SO much better than breast - it has tons more flavour and is great for frying
  • Make use of good local beer, which is great for cooking - Fuller's Honey Dew was recommended

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Chocolate Guinness Cake

This very indulgent cake has been made a few times in the Keston Kitchen to mark special occasions and I have intended to post the recipe for ages. It being St Patrick's day and the key ingredient being Guinness, I thought it was appropriate that I finally got round to writing about it today.
We have tried out other Guinness cake recipes which have also worked well but this Nigella version is the easiest (and definitely the naughtiest - the amount of sugar in this recipe is outrageous!).
The creamy icing is delicious and when spread on top of the dark rich cake it completes the cake like the head on a pint of Guinness.

Most recently I made this cake last week, it was Pierre's birthday (Keston Kitchen calendar photographer). We arrived at the pub in Camberwell where the festivities were taking place to find that he already had one chocolate birthday cake (and a selection of novelty moustaches which his guests were sporting)! We lit the candles on both cakes and everyone tucked in.
I think the Guinness cake was well received as I returned home with an empty plate.
This recipe is great if you are looking for a rich, moist chocolate cake, I have to say you can't really taste the Guinness but we have never had any complaints from its recipients!

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Rachael xx

Ingredients for the cake:
250ml Guinness
250g unsalted butter
75g cocoa powder
400g caster sugar
142ml sour cream
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
275g plain flour
2.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:
300g cream cheese
150g icing sugar
125ml double cream or whipping cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a 23cm round cake tin with baking parchment (grease the paper with a little butter).
Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter in pieces and heat until the butter has melted. Then, whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder.
In a separate bowl beat the eggs with the sour cream and vanilla extract and then add it to the rest of the mixture in the pan.
Finally mix in the flour and bicarbonate of soda, a bit at a time (you may need to decant the mixture into a bowl before adding the flour if you pan is not big enough).
Pour the cake batter into the lined and greased tin and bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes (mine took a good hour). Once cooked (a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake), leave it to cool in its tin. Because it is such a sticky, damp cake don't try and take it out of the tin too soon as it may not stay in one piece.
To make the icing, put the cream cheese in a bowl and stir in until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and mix them together. Then add the cream and beat until it thickens into a spreadable consistency. Once the cake is cool, cover the top with the icing.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fresh Berry Tarts

Last month the Keston Kitchen had its first catering engagement - Charlotte's Dad was getting married and we were delighted to be asked to help prepare the afternoon tea for the reception. With over 100 guests attending it was a daunting prospect but with the bride (Jackie) and her sisters and friends involved in the baking and taking care of all the decoration, we were confident that we were up to the challenge!
Charlotte made biscotti and beautiful chocolate macaroons, Julia was on scone duty and I made 120 mini fruit tarts. It took me most of the Friday to make the pastry and pre-bake the cases. Then on the Saturday morning, with plenty of help from my mum we filled the tarts and took them to the venue with minutes to spare.

Other people had spent the morning making sandwiches and the room looked wonderful with a cake stand on each table. It was a lovely idea for a reception and people were very complimentary as we circulated the room with pots of tea and coffee.
Later on a band took to the stage and everyone jumped and danced around to work off the afternoon tea and were then more than ready to tuck into a hog roast! We all really enjoyed being a part of the wedding and I think the food worked really well having sandwiches and cakes after the ceremony and then the roast pig to keep everyone going through the evening.

Congratulations Dave and Jackie!

Rachael xx

The recipe states that you will need 5-7cm diameter and 3cm deep tartlet tins, the quantities below should make about 12 tarts of that size. Instead I used a tray that i usually make mince pies or jams tarts in which the depressions are a lot smaller and it makes about 24 of those.

If you decide to use bought shortcrust pastry-skip to the pre-baked cases section

Sweet Pastry:
(I would suggest making double the pastry quantity below so you can use a whole egg yolk and then you can freeze what you don't need for a later date:
165g plain flour
50g icing sugar
grated zest of 1/4 lemon
generous pinch of salt
90g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 free range egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water

Put the flour, icing sugar, lemon zest and salt in a bowl and add the butter. Rub it in with your hands (or use a food processor) until the mixture reaches a course breadcrumb consistency and there are not any large lumps of butter left.
Add the egg yolk and water and mix just until the dough comes together, you might need a tiny bit more water to get it to form a ball of dough.
Shape the dough into a smooth disc ready for rolling, dust with flour and wrap in cling film and chill until you need it. It will keep for a week in the fridge or a month in the freezer.

Pre-Baked Cases:
Grease you tartlet tins with butter.
Once the dough has chilled for at least half an hour, place it on a work surface slightly dusted with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry out thinly, turning it as you go. Work quickly so it doesn't get warm. Once the pastry is 2-3 mm thick, cut out circles using a pastry cutter (i used a 3 inch cutter for my mini tarts) or cut round the rim of a bowl. Line the buttered tartlet tins by placing the pastry circles inside, then put back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 150C/Gas Mark 2. Line each pastry case with a circle of greaseproof paper (or if making little tarts like me a paper cup cake case works well), the paper should stick up slightly above the pastry. Fill them with rice or baking beans (rice is good for little tarts) and place in the oven to blind bake for 20-25 minutes. Then remove the paper and beans from the tarts and continue baking them for another 5-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from the oven. The paper and rice/beans can be re-used several times. Take the tarlets out of their tins and leave to cool.

Fruity Filling:

220g mascarpone cheese
220ml creme fraiche
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
50g icing sugar
100g strawberries
100g raspberries
100g icing sugar
strawberry or raspberry jam for glazing and/or icing sugar for dusting

Don't fill the tarts until a few hours before they are going to be eaten as the creamy filling will make the pastry go soggy by the next day.
Start by putting the mascarpone in a mixing bowl and loosen it up with a whisk or fork. Add the creme fraiche, vanilla essence and icing sugar and continue mixing until the cream thickens up again. Chill until ready to use.
Using a piping bag or spoon to fill the tart cases three-quarters full with the mascarpone cream.
Then be creative as you top them with the berries! I spent ages meticulously making each tart look the same and cut the strawberries into little triangles. You can just as effectively throw them on, particularly if you are making slightly bigger tartlets. Then you can paint the fruit with a glaze of jam to make them shine or dust them with a little icing sugar. Serve within 6 hours.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes - for St David's Day (or ANY other day of the year)
by Charlotte, fan of the biscuit house

Two things happened last week; I realised it was St. David's Day (1st March), and I got given an unexpected gift - a small china cottage to keep biscuits in. The said biscuit house has caused a divide as two members of the kitchen (they shall remain nameless) do not like it. So, Welsh cakes were made and the biscuit house was filled much to the delight of everyone.

Try this recipe out for size - it is easy and quick and the fact that you cook them on a griddle really made the whole experience rather exotic.


225g/8oz self-raising flour, sieved

110g/4oz (preferably Welsh) salted butter

1 egg

Handful of sultanas

Milk if needed

85g/3oz caster sugar

Extra butter, for greasing

Preparation method:

Rub the fat into the sieved flour to make breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, dried fruit and then the egg. Mix to combine, form a ball of dough, and use a splash of milk if needed.

Roll out the pastry until it is a 5mm thick and cut into rounds with a 7.5-10cm fluted cutter.

You ideally need a griddle but a frying pan will do the job. Rub it with butter and wipe the excess away. Put it on to a direct heat and wait until it heats up, place the Welsh cakes on the griddle, turning once. They need about 2-3 minutes each side. Each side needs to be caramel brown before turning although some people I know like them almost burnt. They cook quick keep your eyes on the pan!

Remove from the pan and dust with caster sugar while still warm. Some people leave out the dried fruit, some people use cherries instead of sultanas, and some people split them when cool and sandwich them together with jam!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Goats cheese, tomato, olive and ROCKET tart.

Tart: Easy
Shhhhhh. Don't tell Rachael - this recipe involves ready-made pastry.

Looking at the delicious recipes on the blog, you could be forgiven for thinking that elaborate cooking is a constant in the Keston Kitchen, but let me reassure you, this doesn't happen every night. Cheating can occur; sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day.....

My birthday party was one such occasion. There were two criteria for the starter for my birthday supper:

1. It must befit the theme: the sky's the limit.
2. As there were 20 people coming, and I would be spending the entire day slaving over a vat of coq au vin, it had to be easy.

So, I turned to a fail safe favourite that I whip out on many a social occasion: the savoury tart. With ROCKET.

This tart is always met with gasps of approval from the hungry hoards when you effortlessly throw it together and, 20 minutes later, present the melting, buttery delight for their delectation.

More like assembling than cooking, it can be made in three easy steps:

1. On a baking sheet, place ready made, ready rolled puff pastry sheet (slyly).
2. Put on topping.*
3. Put in pre-heated oven (180C) for 20 minutes.

* In this instance, crumbled goats cheese, sliced tomatoes and olives. When it came out of the oven I scattered the rocket and drizzled with olive oil.

Other possibilities include:

Caramelised red onion and goats cheese (just slice the red onion and fry on low heat with some olive oil and a wee bit of brown sugar for 20 mins until it goes sticky and delicious, the spread over the tart and crumble the goats cheese on top).

Parmesan and cherry tomato (you know what to do).

Is that the end of the post? It just seems TOO EASY.