An alternative: strawberry, blueberry and frangipane mini tarts

You might remember last weeks frangipane extravaganza. Well, I had some leftover frangipane in a jam jar in the fridge and I always keep some shortcrust pastry in the freezer, so I decided to whip up these little tarts. I got the tiny tins from TK Maxx a couple of months ago for £2.99! A total bargain. The home section in there is really under-rated. You can get loads of pretty home accessories as well as great baking/cooking supplies!
Anyway, the recipe is the same as last week. I have to say, if I was to make them again, I'd only use the tiniest bit of frangipane as it came right up and completely covered the pretty fruit decorations I had made. I used strawberries and blueberries but raspberries would also be delicious! I covered the pastry case in raspberry jam, the tartness goes really well with the almond in the frangipane. Enjoy!


Mama's fish pie...

Last weekend I went home to stay with my parents  and although I usually object to anything other than a roast on a Sunday, last week everyone was just too busy to faff about roasting a chicken and doing all the trimmings. So, my mum decided to make one of her fish pies. It's super quick and easy and it's so tasty.  Find the recipe below:

You will need:
- 5 potatoes
- A good tbsp butter
- 1 large onion
- A good chunk of chorizo
- 1tbsp plain flour
- 300ml milk
- Tbsp mustard
- A handful of frozen peas
- 2 packs of fish pie mix (we're complete cheats! It includes salmon, haddock and cod. Tesco's is great!)
- A pack of fresh uncooked prawns
- A good sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese (to top)
You could also add: muscles, capers, calamari, most other fish!

Start by peeling your potatoes and putting them on to boil for your mashed potato topping. When they're soft to poke with a knife. Strain them and mash them up with a big dollop of butter. 

In a medium saucepan, fry off an onion and add in chopped chorizo. Cook until the onions are starting to brown, then sift over the flour and continue to stir over the heat for a few minutes. 

Start to gradually add in the milk, making sure that the sauce is thickening as you do. When the milk is all stirred in, pop in a bit of mustard and add a handful of frozen peas. Simmer on a low heat whilst you prepare the fish. 

Either dice your fish to inch cubes, or take it out the pack and put it in a large oven proof dish. We always use a deep one, but it'd work just as well in a lasagna dish.

Pour the sauce over the fish and give it a good stir, before topping with the mashed potato and sprinkling with cheese. 

Pop it in the oven on gas mark 5 for around 40 minutes and enjoy!

Lemon meringue pie...

Sunday's are made for two things – baking and Sunday dinner. Today I decided to have a go at a family favourite, lemon meringue pie. The meringue was deliciously fluffy and light in the middle, just like marshmallow and the contrast with the really sharp lemon was to-die-for. I think I ate almost half of it! Find the recipe below, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

For the pastry you will need:
-225g plain flour
- 110g butter
- 110g caster sugar
-3 medium egg yolks
Use one 500g block of ready-made shortcrust pastry

For the filling you will need:
- 2 tbsp cornflour
-100g caster sugar
- Zest and juice of 3 lemons
- 100ml orange juice (with juicy bits)
- 90g butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg

For the meringue you will need:
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 tsp cornflour

To make the pastry, rub together the flour and the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Beat the eggs and add them to the well. Then, start to bring the dough together with your hands, kneading gently until it forms a ball. Roll out the pastry to about 0.5cm and put into a greased loose-bottom baking tin. Cover in tin foil and pop some baking beans in. Bake on gas 5 for 15 minutes.

In the mean time, heat the cornflour, caster sugar and lemon zest in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir for a few minutes. Add the orange juice and 100ml of water. Don't worry if the mixture starts to look a bit thin, it will soon thicken up! Heat until the mixture starts to bubble, then cut the butter into cubes and pop it in the pan. Stir until all the butter has melted, then add the beaten egg yolks and whole egg. Continue to heat and stir the mixture until it's thick enough to 'plop' off the spoon when dropped. Remove from the heat and set to one side. 

By now, your pastry should be cooked. Remove the foil and the baking beans and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and lightly browned. 

To make the meringue, whisk up the egg whites until they stand in peaks. Then add the caster sugar slowly. Be careful not to over beat the meringue. Fold in the cornflour and then put together your pie. 

Fill the pastry case with the lemon mixture and put the meringue mixture on top, making sure to start from the sides and then go into the middle. 

Lower the oven to gas 4 and pop the pie back in for 20 minutes until the meringue is cooked on top. Leave to cool before removing the tin. Reheat for 5 minutes on a low heat in the oven before serving. 


Pear, frangipane and raspberry jam tart...

Being Father's day and all that, I decided to indulge my family in their favourite thing – frangipane. Now I've never made frangipane before but I was surprised by how easy and effective it is. Here's the recipe, slightly adapted from Delicious, I hope you enjoy it as much as we all did!

Shortcrust pastry:
  1. 225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  2. 110g butter
  3. 110g caster sugar
  4. 3 medium egg yolks
  5. *OR* Use one 500g block of ready-made shortcrust pastry

  6. Frangipane:
  7. 125g margarine or butter
  8. 125g caster sugar
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 100g ground almonds
  11. 1tsp almond extract
  12. 1 tbsp plain flour

  13. Poached pears:
  14. 250g caster sugar
  15. 4 pears
  16. 1 cinnamon stick

  17. And: a good raspberry conserve
To make the pastry, rub together the flour and the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Beat the eggs and add them to the well. Then, start to bring the dough together with your hands, kneading gently until it forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and pop it in the fridge. 

Now, on to the best part, the frangipane (it's even a nice word to say...) Cream the butter and the caster sugar until lights and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat. Fold in the ground almonds and the plain flour and pop into the fridge.

Peel the pears and cut them into small slices around 0.5cm thick. It depends if you want them to look fancy on your tart as to whether you should take time over this. I just chopped it up! To poach, bring 500ml of water to boil and add the caster sugar and a cinnamon stick. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved then add the pear slices. Simmer for around 10 minutes. You don't want them to be too soft. 

Place your pastry in a greased loose-bottom tin. I used a 15" but you can adjust this recipe to whatever you've got. Cover the pastry with greaseproof paper and pop some baking beans in, before blind-baking for around 15 minutes.

Then add the filling as pictured below. Don't go over the top on the frangipane! It rises and will completely cover your pears if you're not careful. It will come up around 1cm so be careful.

Bake on gas mark 5 for around an hour, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is just slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave to cool then carefully remove the base and enjoy!:



A variation: sun dried tomato, parmesan and chive bread...

I just wanted to share a variation on my olive and thyme bread. The basic dough recipe and technique is exactly the same, but 100g of parmesan cheese is mixed into the bread mixture. Instead of filling with olives and thyme, this bread is filled with sun dried tomatoes and chives. Delicious!

Green olive and oregano focaccia...

With the engagement party fast approaching and my first week at work coming to an end – things are getting pretty stressful in the Brown/McNeill households! I've been trying to prepare as much of the food that I can in the little time that I have (I volunteered myself to do a cupcake stand at our villages Jubilee street party!) and bread is so easily frozen and you can hardly tell the difference once it's been thawed. Last week I was making olive and thyme bread, and this week I've had a go at focaccia. 

I've never made focaccia before but I adore the stuff you get from the Italian restaurant Carluccios. I have to say, it's not as good as theirs but it's pretty darn good. After all my preparations, It didn't get frozen for the engagement party! We had family and friends round for drinks and dinner these evening for a pre-Jubilee get together and it ended up getting dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar over presecco with elderflower cordial.

Find the recipe below. I made it up from what little knowledge I have of making focaccia! Look out for a few more bread related posts this week as I try to frantically prepare for the party! 

-500g strong white bread flour
-1 teaspoon salt
-1½ teaspoons dried yeast
-3 liberal tablespoons of olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
-300ml warm water
-A handful of green olives (more or less as you please)
-Fresh oregano leaves
-Coarse sea salt 
Start by putting the flour, salt and yeast in to a large mixing bowl and combine. Then, stir in the olives. 
Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil and water. Now, remember that focaccia is a really sticky dough to begin with. It's not going to be pleasant. Take off your rings, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty! Form the dough into a ball. 
Turn out on to a floured work surface and knead for around 10 minutes or until the dough becomes soft and manageable. Once it's been kneaded enough it should no longer stick to your hands. 
Oil a large bowl and pop the dough in. Cover with a snap on lid or cling film and leave in a warm place for around an hour or until doubled in size. 
Now to my favourite part. Your dough should be all big and soft and pillowy. Punch it, or 'knock it back' as they call it in the books. 
Shape your focaccia in a shallow baking tray (I used a roasting tin for my focaccia, but yours can be round, square, rectangular, whatever you've got!) and spread out using your hands. You want your dough to be around an inch thick.  
Put your dough back in to that warm place where it spends so much time and leave to rise again until doubled in size. 
Dimple the dough using your finger tips and push oregano into the dimples. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and coarse sea salt and pop in the oven on gas mark 7 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden on top and cooked through.  
Serve straight out the oven with dips and antipasti, mmm! 


Jubilee: Cupcakes by Sophie...

Yesterday I joined in with the Jubilee celebrations in my home village Great Glen. We were so lucky that the rain held off all day despite the forecasted storms! It was a beautiful day from start to finish. It was so lovely to see all the people in the village come together as a community and put together such a big event! 

I headed down first thing with my mum and gran to set up. It wasn't until we arrived that we realised that we have no idea how to put up a gazebo, so after standing around for half an hour looking pretty and helpless, the lovely men from the Great Glen Scouts came and put it up for us! Definitive proof that if you look pretty and act helpless, men will come to your rescue, sorry feminists! 

The event opened at 2pm and by 4pm my cakes were completely sold out, all 200 of them! I got a couple of bookings for birthday parties so all in all it was a very successful day! My mum even won a bottle of Lambrini on the scouts tombola! Lambrina girls just want to have fun...

My cakes sold out just in time for me to catch the dog show! My gran has a British bulldog called Budda who we entered into the 'most handsome' competition! He came second! We were all so proud of him when the judges pinned on his badge! I just wish I could have got some closer photos!

All in all it was a lovely day. It's so lovely when everyone comes together to celebrate being British and our Queen. Happy Jubilee Elizabeth! Thanks for 60 years of hope and glory.

The cakes I made for this event were all vanilla with vanilla frosting. When I'm making a lot of cakes, it's so much easier to do one flavour, and you also sell a lot more when people don't need to faff about picking flavours! The only choice they had was vanilla or chocolate muffins! You can find the recipe I used for the vanilla cupcakes here and the chocolate muffins here.
For the frosting, I used unsalted butter and icing sugar, using one part butter to 3 parts icing sugar. Make sure the butter is softened before you use it, or pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds. I wouldn't advise making butter icing with a hand whisk... In fact, I don't actually think you could do it. So pop it in a mixer or use a hand whisk. It will seem at first like it's never going to come together, but persevere, it could take around 10 minutes for the butter cream to come together. The butter and the icing sugar will combine to form bread-crumb size pieces, these pieces will keep getting bigger until it finally creams and forms this delicious frosting! Add a splash of vanilla to flavour.
 These cases were £1 for 75 from Sainsburys. They were absolutely brilliant as they didn't lose their colour when baked like so many other cheaper cases.
The cupcake toppers came in a Jubilee set from The Happy Cupcake Company. They were £4.50 for 100 cases and 50 toppers.


The Happy Cupcake Company: Bath

Last week when I posted about my move to Bath and The Makery Emporium, I mentioned how important it is for me to find a haberdashery and somewhere to get my baking supplies when I move to a new area. This week I found The Happy Cupcake Company shop and instantly fell in love. Cupcake supplies galore- from mini cupcake boxes to cake toppers, cake stands to sugar craft goodies. They even sell their own cupcakes, which I obviously had to sample and I can tell you that they were delicious
You can buy most of their wonderful and unique cupcake supplies online here and it's also well worth checking out their cupcake decorating workshops which would be brilliant for beginners! Be sure to check it out either in person or online, it's definitely worth a visit!  

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