Shakespeare’s Pudding – or Rosemary Apricot Cobbler

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Apricots are fuzzy-skinned fraudsters; time and again I buy them only to be disappointed once they reveal themselves to be woolly and tasteless – despite their plump and inviting appearance. Worse still, are those that are, on closer inspection, pale and tinged with green; these stubbornly refuse to ripen, lingering reproachfully in the fruit bowl where they eventually wither and shrivel without ever passing through the stage of palatability.

Bathed in sunshine, fresh from the tree, Greek apricots are delightful – and as honeyed and succulent as ever you could wish. Sadly, this isn’t an experience often replicated in Britain and so we must make do with those little punnets of watery-fleshed bullets on sale in supermarkets around the country. Fortunately, poaching has the almost magical ability to transform even the meanest and most unyielding of fruits into glowing, golden orbs worthy of the pudding plate.

Akin to a Proustian madeleine, bottled apricots involuntarily evoke memories of summer’s past – of languorous bumblebees and velvety, heavily perfumed roses. Served atop ice cream or beneath billowing waves of brandied syllabub, these preserved fruits make an uncomplicated, yet luxurious, finish to any meal. No doubt it’s already occurred to you, but may I suggest some langues du chat or other thin, snap-able, biscuits – bought or homemade – to add a crispy contrast?

A refreshing apricot fool is always most welcome, as is, during colder months, a classic crumble or buttery buckle – with a jug of vanilla-flecked custard or generous dollops of clotted cream alongside. Today, however, we ate our apricots in cobbler form – very popular and there was even enough for second helpings.

Recipe adapted from Jamie’s America– Jamie Oliver (available here).

Ingredients

500g apricots

50g soft brown sugar

100ml white wine or water

Sprig of rosemary

Butter to dot

Topping

100g butter

100g self-raising flour

50g ground almonds

50g soft brown sugar

Few drops of almond extract

Method

Preheat oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7

Butter a medium sized baking dish (I use an old Pyrex oval).
Halve apricots and remove stones. Place, cut side uppermost, in the dish and sprinkle over the sugar, add the liquid and dot with butter. Tuck the rosemary amongst the fruit so that it is covered, as much as possible, by the wine/water. Roast for 5 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the cobbles. Whizz the butter, sugar, almonds, almond extract and flour in a food processor. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water to form a soft dough.

Remove the peaches from the oven and discard the rosemary. Place large spoonfuls of dough on top of the fruit. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cobbles are golden and cooked through.

Serve with cream, custard or ice cream – just be aware that the fruit filling gets extremely hot, and remains volcanic for an especially long time, so it’s advisable to let this cool a while if little people are going to be having any.

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Let them eat cake…

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A traditional Victoria sponge, what could be nicer? Well, this weekend I made the mistake of tinkering with my tried and true recipe and used the brilliant Dan Lepard’s suggestion of incorporating 1/3 of the flour into the creamed butter mix. Maybe I should just have gone with the Guardian’s recipe here in its entirety  as I found the resulting cake to have a denser, drier crumb than usual (though in the interest of fairness, the recent adjustments to my KitchenAid may also have played a role).

There’s something pleasingly wholesome about a fairly plain, old-fashioned cake – although good butter and eggs really are essential when there’s no distracting glitz and glamour. Of course, you can gussy up the basic recipe and really go to town with the fillings and frostings or add essences and extracts to the batter, it’s entirely up to you. Personally, I love the simplicity of this cake as a counterpoint to all the triple Oreo, peanut butter, chocolatey, cookie dough stuffed confections that are so wildly popular at the moment (although those are terrific too!)

Anyway, made with the following method, this is a charming, buttery, jammy delight; an absolute classic and perfect with a pot of tea.

Ingredients

225g softened butter

225g caster sugar

4 eggs

250g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Jam to fill

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 5
Grease a couple of 20cm sandwich tins, dust lightly with flour.
Cream butter and sugar until light and very fluffy. Add the eggs followed by the flour and vanilla. Mix lightly so as not to toughen the mixture. Alternatively, you could just bung it all in the food processor; in which case, add a teaspoon of baking powder. Spoon into tins and bake for around 20 minutes. You’ll know when they’re done as the cakes will shrink from the sides of the tins, they will feel springy to the touch and a toothpick will come out clean.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out.
Fill with jam and dust with icing – or caster – sugar.

In the beginning…there were brownies

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Hellooo…writing this feels somewhat akin to shouting into the ether – only to hear my own, mocking echo reverberating around my ears. Notwithstanding factors such as having a miniscule readership and being about half a decade too late, I have, after years, many years, of saying I’m going to start a blog finally taken the plunge.

Feeling slightly daunted, I will mainly be writing about the food I prepare for Mr Jolly Good Egg and the Hatchlings. I’ll be including both the successes and the failures and highlighting suspected reasons for the particularly outstanding flops (i.e. my own folly – or an inherent flaw in the recipe), plus suggestions for improvements and tweaks.

And now for the brownies, because they’re always welcome, right?

This is my go-to brownie recipe; undemanding and handy for when you only have a few basic ingredients in the cupboard, but still fancy something warm and chocolately in a hurry. It’s also effortlessly adaptable – you can, and I frequently do, add chopped walnuts, mini marshmallows, swirl peanut butter into the mix – the list goes on. You can also omit the coffee, but I rather love the smoky depth it lends to what is, essentially, an uber simple, basic brownie batter.

Ingredients

150g butter

250g caster sugar

150g brown sugar (dark or light depending on preference – or what you happen to have)

2 eggs

50g cocoa powder

250g plain flour

2 scant teaspoons baking powder

1 heaped teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in a splash of hot water (or, even better, the equivalent of freshly brewed coffee)

150-200g chopped chocolate

Method

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4/350F

Grease and line the tin with baking parchment – or use one of those teflon sheets. Don’t omit this step or your brownies will, frustratingly, be stuck in the pan.

In a saucepan, gradually heat the butter and the sugars until dissolved – add the coffee. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the eggs and mix in the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Add the chopped chocolate; stir briskly and pour batter into the awaiting tin. Bake for around 40 minutes (I say around 40 mins because it’ll vary quite a bit depending upon your own oven’s idiosyncrasies, etc. What you’re looking for is a crispy, crackly top that’s moist and fudgy beneath. Test by inserting a cocktail stick, skewer, etc into the brownie – you want to see slightly damp batter clinging to your implement of choice. Don’t take it out of the oven whilst it’s still a chocolate puddle, but do bear in mind that it will continue to cook as it cools).

Particularly nice eaten whilst it still has the lingering memory of the oven’s warmth, but they’re still lovely when cool.

This recipe also halves perfectly if your family is less gannet-like than mine.