Vanilla crème brûlée by Tom Kerridge

creme brulee6363

Vanilla crème brûlée is one of those classic desserts that everyone knows about and loves. And it’s been on the menu at The Hand & Flowers right from the very start. As far as I’m concerned, the key to a properly perfect brûlée is to have three distinct flavours that you taste – vanilla, eggs and caramel – so that it’s not just a sweet, creamy dessert. And I’ve got Alex Bentley to thank for teaching me that. This is 100% the brûlée recipe I was cooking as a young chef at Monsieur Max, where he was head chef. I think Alex was given or inherited the recipe from Max Renzland, the restaurant’s chef-patron. Apparently, it was an old Elizabeth David recipe; she must have learnt it during her travels in France, so goodness knows how old it really is.

Until Alex taught this recipe to me, most crème brûlée recipes I’d come across were sweet and made only with egg yolks. This one uses whole eggs and just a small amount of sugar. It was a game changer for me. I suddenly knew how to make a magical crème brûlée. The technique that really brings the dessert to life is its caramelisation on top. Instead of just melting the sugar, Alex taught me to caramelise it really heavily. At Monsieur Max, customers sometimes complained that the sugar was burnt, but that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to be; the caramelisation makes it taste toasty and nutty. You end up with a smooth, vanilla dessert that’s creamy with a bittersweet crunchy topping.

We match it at The Hand & Flowers with an Innis & Gunn craft beer rather than a dessert wine. The beer’s aged in old whiskey barrels so it has this really rich toffee, creamy flavour, which harmonises beautifully with the
crème brûlée.

serves 6

750ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 medium free-range eggs
30g caster sugar

Put the cream and vanilla pod into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until smoothly blended. Bring the vanilla-infused cream back to the boil, then slowly pour onto the beaten egg mixture, whisking as you do so to combine.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over a medium-low heat until the custard thickens and reaches 88°C (check the temperature with a digital probe). Immediately remove from the heat and pass through a fine chinois into a clean bowl.

Press a layer of cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool for 20 minutes or until the custard is at room temperature. Pour the custard into a high-powered jug blender (Vitamix) and blitz for 30 seconds; this will lighten it slightly.

Now pour the custard into crème brûlée dishes or ramekins, dividing it equally (about 125ml per dish). Cover each dish with cling film, leaving a small gap on one side, to allow any moisture to evaporate. Stand the dishes on a tray and place in the fridge to set; this will take about 3 hours.

Caramel glaze
200g demerara sugar

When ready to serve, sprinkle a generous, even layer of demerara sugar over the surface of each set custard. Wipe the edge of the dish with a clean cloth.
Using a cook’s blowtorch, caramelise the sugar, starting from the edges and working towards the centre. Take the caramel to a dark brown – this dish is all about  balancing the rich creamy egg custard with the slightly bitter caramel flavour.
Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Cook more from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
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Pecan pie by Ben Crittenden

B27A8496

SWEET PASTRY
450g plain flour
150g icing sugar
Pinch salt
225g butter
1 egg
50g cream

Add everything except the egg and cream to a food processor and pulse to bring the ingredients together, Then add the egg and cream and pulse to create a stiff paste, being careful not to over work. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour then roll out to about 3mm thick and line 2.5” tart cases. Trim excess and line the inside of the cases with cling film. Fill with rice or baking beans and place in freezer for an hour. Set oven to 190c and bake the cases for 8 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160c and bake until the pastry is cooked through. Remove the baking beans and make sure the bottoms are cooked, which should take about 20 minutes in total.

PECAN PIE
250g golden syrup
50g treacle
85g fresh bread crumbs
80g ground pecans
1 egg
150g cream
1 lemon zest
100g toasted pecans

In a blender, blitz everything except the toasted pecans until smooth. Decant into a container and refrigerate overnight. Crumble the toasted pecans into the base of the cooked tart cases. Set oven to 170c. Give the batter mix a good stir and then spoon into the cases on top of the crumbled pecans. Bake for 10 minutes at 170c then turn the oven down and bake for a further 10 minutes at 150c. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

BANANA SORBET
5 ripe bananas
50g glucose
1/2 lemon juice
Blitz everything together and freeze in Pacojet canisters. You don’t need to heat anything just blitz and freeze.

CHOCOLATE PURÉE
150g 70% Valrhona chocolate
50g cocoa powder
150g sugar
400g water
Ultratex to thicken

Bring the sugar and water to a simmer and pour over the chocolate and cocoa powder. Mix well and chill in the fridge overnight. Beat with a whisk to loosen and then add Ultratex a teaspoon at time. Mix well and leave 10 minutes between adding to allow time to absorb the moisture. When thickened pass through a fine sieve and decant into bottles.

CANDIED PECANS
100g pecans
225g sugar
125g water
Pinch salt
Bring 125g sugar, water, nuts and salt to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining 100g of sugar and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Drain off the syrup and bake the nuts on parchment paper for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 150c.

TO SERVE
Lemon balm

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Duck liver parfait
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Stark by Ben and Sophie Crittenden
£30, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon Stark

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Lemon meringue pie with English blackberries – star anise by Glynn Purnell

Lemon meringue pie
For the blackberry parfait
500ml blackberry purée
1 star anise
160g caster sugar
40ml cold water
75g egg whites
1.5g citric acid
375ml double cream
Packet of popping candy

Slowly bring the blackberry purée and star anise to a boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Remove the star anise and pass through a fine sieve.
Prepare some 3-4cm rubber dome moulds.

In a small saucepan, add the sugar and water. Stir gently and place on to a medium heat with a sugar thermometer in the pan.

Put the egg whites into an electric mixer bowl with the whisk attachment fitted.
When the sugar syrup reaches 100°c, begin whisking the egg whites slowly. As the syrup reaches 110°c, increase the whisking speed of the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 116°c, the egg whites should have formed soft peaks.

Remove the syrup from the heat and slowly add the syrup to the egg whites, whisking constantly. Once all the syrup has been added to the egg whites, turn the electric mixer speed up and continue whisking until the meringue is thick, glossy and cool.

In a large round bowl, semi-whip the double cream. Fold 350ml infused Blackberry purée and citric acid into the cooled Italian meringue, then fold into the semi-whipped cream in two stages. Add the popping candy to taste, then pipe into dome moulds, smoothing the tops with a palette knife. Freeze the parfait in the moulds for 24 hours.

For the sweet pastry
270g salted butter
180g caster sugar
2 large eggs
540g plain flour

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment fitted, cream the butter and sugar together, do not over-mix. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until the mixture is smooth.
Sift the flour and fold into the mix gently until it just starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and finish by hand to ensure the dough is not over worked.

Divide into two, flatten to 2 cm in thickness and cling film. Reserve in the fridge for up to ten days or freeze for up to four weeks.

Preheat oven to 160°c.

Roll the pastry to 2mm in thickness and line some 8cm tart cases with the pastry. Cover the pastry with cling film or silicon paper and fill with baking beans.
Blind bake for 12 minutes, then remove the baking beans. Return to the oven for a further five minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Once completely cool, remove from the tart rings and store in an airtight container lined with food safe silica gel. Keep in a cool, dry place.

For the lemon curd
12 large lemons
450g caster sugar
300g salted butter, diced
540g eggs
600g egg yolks

Zest the lemons and reserve the zest. Juice the lemons. You need 600ml of lemon juice. In a medium sized saucepan bring the juice up to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce the lemon juice to approximately 150ml. It should resemble a glaze and be a slightly deeper colour. Empty the reduced lemon into a clean saucepan and add the sugar and butter. Bring this to a boil, stirring often.

Once boiling and all the butter has melted, whisk in the eggs and egg yolks and cook out over a medium heat, until the curd is thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Cover in a clean bowl with cling filmed pressed down to touch the lemon curd. This prevents condensation and water dripping onto the curd. Leave to cool in the fridge. Once cool, place the curd in a jug blender and blend until smooth. Reserve in vacuum pac bags in the fridge until needed.

For the Italian meringue
250g caster sugar
250g water
15g SOSA Albumina powder (dried egg whites)

In a suitable sized saucepan, bring 200g of the sugar and 120g of the water up to 118°c over a medium heat. While the sugar syrup is coming up to temperature, place the Albumina powder, 50g caster sugar and 130g water into an electric mixer bowl. Using a hand whisk, gently mix the ingredients together, then place the bowl onto the electric mixer.

When the sugar syrup reaches 100°c, begin whisking the egg whites slowly. As the syrup reaches 110°c, increase the whisking speed of the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 118°c, the egg whites should have formed stiff peaks.

Remove the syrup from the heat and slowly add the syrup to the egg whites, whisking constantly. Once all the syrup has been added to the egg whites, turn the electric mixer speed up and continue whisking until the meringue is cool.
Decant the meringue into piping bags and store in the fridge or freezer for up to two days.

For the blackberry and star anise gel
1 litre blackberry purée
4 star anise
0.5g vanilla powder
10g agar-agar

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the blackberry purée, star anise and vanilla powder to a boil, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for ten minutes. Place the pan back onto the heat and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, remove the star anise and put to one side. Add the agar-agar and continuously whisk and cook for two minutes to activate the agar-agar. Pour the mix into a lightly greased, high sided tray and leave to set for two hours in the fridge.

Remove the set gel from the tray and roughly chop. Place into a Thermomix blender and blend on a medium-high speed for two minutes. Turn the blender off, scrape the sides of the jug down and blend again for two minutes on a medium-high speed, until you have a smooth and glossy gel.

Store in vacuum pac bags for freshness. Place into a squeezy bottle for service.
Wash the star anise to remove any purée, then dehydrate to completely dry out.
Once dry, blend the star anise in a spice grinder to a fine powder. Seal in a vacuum pac bag to reserve.

For the frozen blackberries
2 punnets of fresh blackberries
Liquid nitrogen

Wash the blackberries and dry them on kitchen towel. Put the blackberries into an insulated nitrogen container. Completely submerge the blackberries in liquid nitrogen and leave for three minutes. Once the blackberries have completely frozen, lift them out of the nitrogen with a slotted spoon and place into a large sous vide bag. Fold the ends of the bag over and lay the bag on a flat surface with one hand covering the folded end. Bash and roll the frozen blackberries with a rolling pin so the filaments separate. Empty the bag into a small metal Gastronorm container and half cover with liquid nitrogen. Reserve in the freezer until needed.

To serve
Lemon balm
Star anise powder

Pipe the lemon curd into a cooked pastry case and smooth the top with a palette knife. Place a dome of parfait in the centre of the tart on top of the lemon curd. Place the tart case onto a pastry turntable and start turning on a low speed. Fit the desired piping nozzle onto a piping bag with the Italian meringue and pipe your desired pattern onto of the tart, starting in the centre of the top of the parfait and working down as the tart spins on the turntable. Once the meringue is piped, lightly colour the meringue with a blowtorch. On a large flat white plate, sporadically pipe dots of differing sizes of the blackberry gel. Place the tart on top of one of the dots or around the centre of the plate. Refresh the frozen blackberries in liquid nitrogen and spoon liberally around the plate. Garnish with lemon balm and a pinch of star anise powder.

Cook more from this book
Monkfish masala with red lentil
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Buy this book
A Purnell’s Journey
£85, A Way With Media
Also available at Amazon: There And Back Again: A Purnell’s Journey

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Twice Baked Cheese Soufflé by Maura O’Connell Foley

Maura_Souffle_018

This recipe includes a soft and hard goat’s cheese. Instead of goat’s cheese, for the hard cheese a mature cheddar, pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano can be used and for the soft cheese a soft blue cheese would work well. These can be prepared several hours in advance with a first initial bake and then a second bake just before serving. Lovely served with a small organic green salad and a hazelnut dressing.

Ingredients
Makes 4
Ramekin Lining:
• 30g hazelnuts (about 20 hazelnuts)
• 60g soft white breadcrumbs
• 30g softened butter

Soufflé:
• 15g butter
• 15g plain white flour
• 100ml milk
• 60g hard goat’s cheese, grated
• 2 egg yolks, beaten
• 6 egg whites
• 60g soft goat’s cheese for centre filling, chopped
• ½ tsp lemon juice
• Sea salt

Hazelnut Dressing:
• 1. tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp hazelnut oil
• 1 tsp local honey (warmed to help it combine), plus extra to taste
• Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Method

To toast and skin the nuts, preheat the oven to fan 160°C / fan 325°F / gas mark 4. Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the skins crack and the nuts are light golden. Once roasted, rub the nuts in a dry cloth to remove the skins. Pulse in a processor for a few seconds to bring the nuts to a coarse crumb consistency. Combine the hazelnut crumbs and breadcrumbs.

To prepare the ramekins, generously brush the butter over the sides and bottoms of the ramekins. Coat with a generous layer of hazelnut breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to fan 170°C / fan 340°F / gas mark 5.

Make the base of the soufflé by melting the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, to a pale golden colour. Gradually add the milk,  continuing to stir, to a smooth consistency. Bring to the boil, then take off the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the hard goat’s cheese, egg yolks and season with sea salt.

In a large dry bowl (essential for whipping egg whites), beat the egg whites with the sea salt until slightly thickened. Add the lemon juice and whisk to stiff peaks. Take a quarter of the egg white mixture and mix this into the cooled soufflé base until well combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture until well combined.

Half fill the ramekins with the soufflé mixture, place the soft goat’s cheese in the centre then cover with the remaining soufflé mixture, filling the ramekin to the top.

Run your thumb around the ramekins to clean the top edge – this helps the soufflé to rise. Place each of the ramekins in a roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to a depth of two thirds around the ramekins.

Bake for 15 minutes for the first bake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. At this point, the soufflés can be set aside if preparing in advance and chilled in the fridge for up to 6 hours only.

For the second bake, heat the oven to fan 200°C / fan 400°F / gas mark 7. Loosen the soufflés in the ramekin with a palette knife or small knife. Return the soufflés to the oven, this time with no water in the roasting tray, and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly risen.

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients into a jar, tightly seal and shake vigorously. Add local honey and seasoning to taste, then shake again. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Serve the soufflés immediately with a green salad and hazelnut dressing.

Cook more from this book
Rum and Walnut Tart with Rum Butterscotch Sauce by Maura O’Connell Foley
Smoked Cod Cakes

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€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 

(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

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Rum & Walnut Tart with Rum Butterscotch Sauce by Maura O’Connell Foley

Maura_ Walnut_Rum_Tart_027
Ingredients
Serves 8

Pâté Sucrée:
• 125g plain white flour
• 55g butter, softened
• 55g icing sugar
• Pinch of sea salt
• 1 egg

Rum Butterscotch Sauce:
• 30g butter
• 70g light brown sugar
• 70g golden syrup
• 90ml cream
• 45ml dark Jamaican rum

Walnut Filling:
• 300g walnuts, roughly chopped
• 150g caster sugar
• 120g butter, melted
• 150g honey
• 5 egg yolks
• 100ml cream
• 50ml dark Jamaican rum

Equipment:
23cm / 9in flan tin

Method
For the pâté sucrée, add the flour, butter, sugar and salt to a food processor and blend to a fine crumb. Use a fork to lightly beat the egg and then add to the food processor and pulse to bring the pastry together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour in the fridge.

To  make the butterscotch sauce, place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook to a smooth and shiny syrup. Carefully add the cream (as it will splutter) and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle bubble then simmer for 3 minutes. Add the rum and remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to fan 160°C / fan 325°F / gas mark 4.

Roll out the pastry to 2-3mm / 0.1in thick and use to line a 23cm / 9in flan tin. Chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

To make the walnut filling, gently mix together the walnuts, sugar, butter, honey, egg yolks, cream and rum in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry and bake in oven for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and set with a slight wobble.

Allow to set for at least 1 hour before serving with the butterscotch sauce and if desired some vanilla ice-cream.

Cook more from this book
Twice baked cheese souffles
Smoked cod cakes

Buy this book
€35 Order from mywildatlantickitchen.com 

(The book is also available from Amazon
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections
£35, Maura O’Connell Foley)

Read the review
Coming soon

Molasses Bread in an Apple Juice Can by Matty Matheson

SERVES: 8
PREP TIME: 1 HOUR, PLUS 1 HOUR INACTIVE TIME

Apple juice in cans are gonna fly off the shelves from this day on, I swear. Every family in the Maritimes has made a version of this recipe. Making cylinder-shape bread using a large apple juice can is scrappy and great for recycling. You get to drink shitty apple juice, which is great as well. Please make the eff ort to find these cans; it’ll make this process way funnier and an instant family tradition that your kids will love forever.

240 ml warm water (46 to 53°C)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
160 ml molasses, such as Crosby’s Fancy, plus more for serving
90 g old-fashioned rolled oats
240 ml hot water
300 g whole-wheat flour
660 g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 (1.05 L) cans Allen’s Apple Juice, or other similar-size cans
Unsalted butter
Sea salt (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the warm water and sugar, then sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let sit for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes foamy and fragrant; this indicates the yeast is active and alive.

In another medium bowl, combine 160 ml of molasses and the oats; stir to incorporate. Pour the hot water into the molasses and oat mixture, stir with a whisk, then add the yeast mixture; whisk to fully incorporate. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. With the mixer running, add the whole-wheat flour slowly (so you don’t get flour all over yourself). Then add the all-purpose flour and kosher salt and let it come together. Raise the speed to medium and knead the dough for 2 minutes, or until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and cut in half.

Grease the inside of the cans with butter. Transfer the dough halves into the cans. Drape a kitchen towel over them and place in a warm area for 1 hour, or until the dough is double in size.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 175°C.

Place the cans on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until the bread has a crispy shell and you can puncture the centre with a wooden skewer and it comes out clean.

Set the cans on a wire rack and let the bread cool for 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the cans and let cool further. Once you’re ready to dig in, slice a thumb-wide piece and smother with cold butter, molasses, and a pinch of sea salt, if you like, for a real treat. Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to a week. After a week, the bread can be turned into bread pudding (see my first cookbook for the recipe).

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Buy this book
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery
£25, Abrams

Glazed apple tart by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room Book dishes

The slightly more elegant sibling of the classic apple pie, this tart is a stunning dessert. It has similar flavours to a tarte tatin as the sugar caramelises as it cooks. You could serve this tart with clotted cream to balance the sweetness of the apples.

Serves 6

300g classic puff pastry (or shop-bought)
200g frangipane (see below)
80g caster sugar
80g unsalted butter, softened
6–8 Pink Lady or Granny Smith apples
20g icing sugar
clotted cream, to serve

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a large circle about 5mm thick. Slide the rolled-out pastry onto the lined baking tray and rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the refrigerator or freezer. Trim the edges of the pastry into a neat circle that measures 24cm in diameter and return to the refrigerator or freezer.

Once chilled, remove the pastry from the refrigerator or freezer, and preheat the oven to 185°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6. With the pastry still on the lined baking tray, and leaving a border of 2cm around the edge, spread around 200g of the frangipane evenly across the pastry.

Using a pastry brush, mix the caster sugar and softened butter together to make a paste.

Peel and core the apples. Using a mandoline, slice the apples to 2mm thick. Take just over one-quarter of the slices and fan them out in a circle around the outer edge, keeping in line with the edge of the frangipane. Roughly brush the apples with some of the butter mixture.

Repeat with the remaining apple slices and butter mixture to create concentric circles until the pastry is covered. Make sure the top layer of apple slices is evenly coated with the butter mixture.

Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake the tart for 30 minutes or until the apples are starting to caramelise and the pastry is beginning to crisp up.

Remove the tray from the oven. Using a sieve, dust the tart with the icing sugar and then lay another sheet of parchment paper over the top of the apples. Take a second baking tray and lay it on top of that parchment paper. Using a dish towel or oven gloves to protect your hands, quickly flip the tart over so the apples are now facing downwards on the new tray. Lightly press down the top tray and then remove it and the original parchment paper. Return the tart to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven. This time place a serving plate or platter on top of the pastry, and then flip the tart again. Check the apples are evenly glazed and caramelised. If it needs a little longer, flip the tart back again and return it to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Serve warm with spoonfuls of clotted cream.

Frangipane

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, deseeded, seeds retained
5 medium-sized eggs
225g ground almonds

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds together until the butter has turned pale and creamy. Add one egg at a time, whisking until each is fully incorporated before adding another.  Once all the eggs are incorporated, use a large metal spoon to fold in the almonds until well mixed.

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Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

The Pie Room by Calum Franklin

The Pie Room by Calum Franklin

What’s the USP? ‘The book for pie lovers the world over’, The Pie Room is intended to be your first port of call for pie (and pie-adjacent) recipes.

Who wrote it? Calum Franklin, the executive head chef of Holborn Dining Room – a sort of eat-in altar to pies tucked in the Rosewood London Hotel. Since opening in 2014, Franklin’s pies have been winning plaudits from all corners, from food critics to Instagram, where over 100,000 users watch in awe as he shares his intricate, luxurious creations.

It’s through Instagram, in fact, that I first became aware of Franklin’s cooking. Though I am not a particularly big fan of the pie myself, there’s something irresistible about his posts. These are pies as sustenance, as delicacy, and as art – all at once.

Sorry. We skipped over something important there. Sorry?

You don’t like pies? Ah.

What’s wrong with you? Look, look, I get it. Pies are one of the few quintessentially British food traditions that remain a part of our day to day lives, sold over the deli counter at Morrisons, or awash with gravy at the football. They’re also, frequently, not particularly interesting. We rest on our pie laurels, as a nation. Where elsewhere we innovate and reinvent our food to move with the times, pies often remain more or less the same as they always have – heavy on the stodge, uninventive in their flavours and…

They called you ‘Pie Muncher’ at school, didn’t they? Well, yes, that might come into it a little too. But here’s the thing – who better, then, to take this book on and see how functional it is as a manual to all things pie? After all, Franklin’s book takes in all sorts of pie forms, includes extensive information on pastry-making, and aims to show off the dish at its very best.

So how does the book fare when preaching to the unconverted? Pretty damn well. Franklin knows his audience, so has plenty of time to spare for all the big names in pastry. If you’re looking for a recipe for a massive bloody sausage roll, a suet pudding, or a classic gala pie, you won’t be disappointed. But Franklin also makes room for more unusual ideas – a Keema-Spice Cottage Pie with a cumulonimbus potato topping, or a Moroccan Chickpea & Feta Pie, hidden beneath filo pastry that has been scrunched up like torn wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

What’s the faff factor? Not nearly as bad as it could be. Franklin acknowledges the effort involved in making your own pastry from scratch, and is happy to accept that his dishes will work just as well with a shop-bought pastry. In fact, he doesn’t even give a recipe for filo pastry, claiming that ‘I don’t see a big enough difference in handmade and shop-bought filo that justifies the time needed to make it’.

I’ve taken on a couple of the recipes from the book so far – ‘Nduja Stuffed Brioche, and the Hot and Sour Curried Cod Pie. The former definitely took some time – I was making a brioche dough from scratch, and leaving it overnight to prove. The process itself was simple enough, though, and yielded beautiful results (as well as enough leftover dough for a brioche loaf the following morning).

The Hot & Sour Curried Cod Pie was a much quicker process. If, like me, you opt to use ready made puff pastry, it could just about work as a midweek dinner. Again, the end result was a delight – the tamarind, tomatoes and chillies all playing off one another perfectly. It’s likely to find its way back into my kitchen a few times this winter.

How often will I cook from the book? The nature of pie-making (and the potential mess you’ll need to clear up) might be enough to keep this book on the shelf much of the time. But for weekend treats and impressive dinner party dishes, this will be worth at least a few visits a year.

Killer recipes: Both the dishes I tried out proved to be worth more than the price of admission, to be honest – but there’s also the Red Onion, Carrot & Hazelnut Tatin, a ridiculously over-indulgent Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pie, a Honey & Five-Spiced Glazed Ham that looks set to liven up any Christmas lunch, and a Panettone & Gianduja Pudding that I suppose I could leave a little room for after, too. And, of course, the Beef Wellington recipe you’d expect.

Should I buy it? This isn’t going to be a cookbook everyone is going to find useful – but it’s a lot more accessible than I expected it to be, and has definitely converted this pie-skeptic. For those among us who really do aspire to eat all the pies, this is essential. For everyone else, it’s still a pretty excellent book.

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy the book
The Pie Room: 80 achievable and show-stopping pies and sides for pie lovers everywhere
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Cook from this book
Hot Pork Pie
The Ultimate Sausage Roll
Glazed Apple Tart
Classic Puff Pastry

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Brighton-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas.

Berry Cloud Cake by Skye McAlpine

summer berry cloudcake-1403

An ode to the fruits of British summer. If you are catering for friends with dairy intolerance, you can also make this with whipped chilled coconut cream, which is every bit as good.

HANDS ON TIME
25 minutes

HANDS OFF TIME
1 hour baking
1 hour cooling

FOR 8–10
Flavourless oil, for the trays
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar, plus 2 tbsp
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
850ml double cream
150g blackberries
300g raspberries
300g blueberries
30g flaked almonds
Thyme sprigs, redcurrants and flowers, for decoration (optional)

Heat the oven to 150 ̊C/fan 130 ̊C/Gas 2. Oil 3 baking trays and line with baking parchment. Draw a circle on each roughly 23cm in diameter (I trace around a cake tin).

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until they begin to peak, then add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking all the while.When all the sugar has been added and the mixture is glossy, gently fold in the cornflour and the vinegar. Spoon the meringue on to the baking trays, spreading it out to make 3 discs. Bake for 1 hour, then switch the oven off and leave the meringues in there to harden for another hour.You want the meringue to be crisp so that it can support the weight of the cream. You can make the meringue up to 3 days in advance and store it in an airtight container.

To make the filling, whip the cream with an electric whisk until peaks form, but take care not to over-whip it, or it will lose that silky quality.

Take the first meringue disc and spoon roughly one-third of the cream on top, then sprinkle with one-third of the berries, half the flaked almonds and 1 tbsp caster sugar. Top with the second layer of meringue and repeat. Top with the third meringue, spoon on the last one-third of the cream and decorate with berries, thyme sprigs and flowers (just make sure they’re not noxious), if you like.

SERVE WITH…
Everyone loves BUTTERY LEMON ROAST CHICKEN (see book for recipe), cooked so the skin is golden and crisp and the meat succulent, almost sweet. To go with it, THE SIMPLEST ROAST POTATOES (see book for recipe), A REALLY GOOD GREEN SALAD (see book for recipe) and plenty of good bread (I love WALNUT SODA BREAD, see book for recipe, but good bread from the bakery will do just as well). You literally can’t go wrong. Follow with this dreamy, creamy concoction and strong espresso or mint tea (just mint leaves in a pot of boiling water). If you’re cooking for a crowd, this works every bit as well: just scale up to two (or three) birds and perhaps make a second cake.

Cook more from this book
Spaghetti with creamy lemon sauce
Sicilian couscous salad

Buy the book

A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty
£26, Bloomsbury Publishing

Read the review
Coming soon

Courgette flatbreads with lots of herbs and goat’s cheese by Gill Meller

Courgette flatbreads Gill Meller

Cooking courgettes slowly with garlic and olive oil has to be one of my favourite ways to deal with this summer vegetable. Fistfuls of herbs go in at the end, then you could simply pile the courgettes on to warm bruschetta, but these flatbreads are infinitely better.

MAKES 3

FOR THE FLATBREADS
500G (1LB 2OZ) STRONG WHITE BREAD FLOUR,PLUS EXTRA FOR DUSTING
1 TSP FINE SEA SALT
1 TSP FAST-ACTION DRIED YEAST
2 TSP CRUSHED FENNEL SEEDS
FINELY GRATED ZEST OF 1 LEMON
2 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, PLUS EXTRA FOR GREASING
4 TBSP NATURAL YOGHURT

FOR THE TOPPING
4 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
2 GARLIC CLOVES, THINLY SLICED
1.2KG (2LB 10OZ)COURGETTES, SLICED INTO 5MM (¼IN) ROUNDS
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF DILL, CHOPPED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF MINT,LEAVES PICKED AND THINLY RIBBONED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF BASIL, CHOPPED
1 SMALL HANDFUL OF CHIVES, CHOPPED
150G (5½OZ) SOFT GOAT’S CHEESE
PINCH OF CHILLI FLAKES (OPTIONAL)
SEA SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Make the flatbreads. Place the flour, salt, yeast, fennel seeds and lemon est in a large bowl. Add the oil, yoghurt and 275ml (9½fl oz) of water and mix everything thoroughly until it forms a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until soft and smooth. (You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook for this part.) Shape the dough into a rough round and place in a lightly oiled bowl; cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to make the flatbreads, start the topping. Place a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add half the olive oil and when it’s hot add the garlic and sizzle for a few seconds, then add the courgettes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the courgettes slowly over a gentle heat,stirring regularly, for about 25 minutes or so, until they break down but still retain a little of their shape. They should be soft without colouring too much and almost spoonable in texture.

Take the pan off the heat, stir all but a handful of the herbs into the courgettes, then season again to taste with plenty of salt and pepper. Place 3 baking sheets in the oven (alternatively, bake one at a time if you have limited oven space) and heat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/475°F/ gas mark 8.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then cut it into 3 equal pieces. Form each piece into a nice neat round and leave to rest for 20 minutes or so. When you’re ready to bake the flatbreads, roll out the pieces of dough. They want to be quite thin, but don’t worry if they’re not especially round, that doesn’t matter.

Take the hot baking sheets out of the oven and place a rolled-out dough on each. Spread the courgette mixture evenly over the top of each. Dot the goat’s cheese over the top of the courgette mixture and trickle all over with some of the remaining olive oil. Add the chilli flakes, if using, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, too.

Place the trays in the oven for 12–14 minutes, or until the dough is puffed up and golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and slide onto a board. Sprinkle with a few reserved herbs and serve.

Cook more from this book
Raspberry and rhubarb crumble by Gill Meller

Buy this book
Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook with Vegetables and Other Plants
£27, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Read the review