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Pudding Lane Book Club - Rick Stein's Secret France

12 January 2020

Hello and happy new year! 2020 is here and I'm so excited to introduce a new series for Pudding Lane... say hello to the Pudding Lane Book Club! As those of you who follow me over on Instagram will know, I've spent a lot of time over the last couple months thinking about how I want this little space to grow and evolve.

I buy and read SO many cookbooks, and so this year, I'm really excited to be launching a dedicated series to recommend the books I'm reading, cooking from or - as tends to be the case - furiously folding down corners (I know, sorry, my Dad hates that I do this). In the past few years, I've cut down on clothes shopping and mindless coffees on the go, but cookbooks remain a consistent indulgence in my life. Yes, you can find infinite recipes online, but to me these books are so much more than a list of recipes. They are inspiration, escapism, and an education - and I read them in bed as often as I read them in the kitchen.

And so every month (and oh gosh, I really will try my best to stick to this), I'll be recommending a book from the pile on the floor by my bed, the stack on the side in our kitchen, or from our poor shelves which are audibly groaning under the weight of my growing collection. Some will be new releases, others age old classics. I'll share my thoughts on the book, and also a favourite recipe from its pages.

I'd LOVE to hear from you on what you think of the series, and also what you'd like to hear more of - of course there will be baking books, but it will also cover other cuisines and disciplines because, believe it or not, I do sometimes cook savoury food too!

And so, for the first post in this series, I've been reading Rick Stein's latest book, Rick Stein's Secret France, published by BBC Books. The book comes two decades after the renowned Rick Stein's French Odyssey (a book I'd wager is on most keen home cooks' bookshelves), and focuses on simple, authentic and rustic French cookery - sometime I love so so much. The person single-handedly responsible for my obsession with writing and reading about food - Anthony Boudain - wrote extensively about classical French cookery (and it's not all complimentary, incidentally, but the knowledge and respect is certainly there), so returning to these topics was comforting and welcome. Thanks to Elizabeth David and countless others, French technique has been covered extensively, but the crowded canon shouldn't put you off this book - it is simple and approachable where others sometimes aren't.

The book travels through numerous regions, focusing on traditional family recipes from Normandy, sleepy Provence and beyond. There's plenty of fish - obviously - but also a wealth of vegetarian recipes, and desserts - classic and simple in equal measure. It's not reinventing the wheel, but thanks to a sprinkling of anecdotes of most loved dishes eaten during Rick's 50-year love affair with French cookery, there is heart and story in this book - driving through fields of artichokes in Le Conquet near Brest, a breezy April day in a fishing village, rich with the smell of seaweed and the eating of the first plateau de fruits de mer of the year, a celebration of icy oysters, mussels and cockles.

The book is a joyful, celebratory and well-explained read which will make you want to pack up the car and whizz down the motorway to Dover to get your hands on some salty Brittany butter.

This recipe for Rick's fig and frangipane tarts originates from the sorter down of Uzés, and feels so quintessentially French in its spirit. This recipe makes six 10-12cm tartlets.
THE INGREDIENTS
Pastry
170g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1–2 tbsp ice-cold water
Filling
100g butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar 
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp almond extract 
100g ground almonds 
9 figs, quartered
1 tbsp flaked almonds
To serve
1 tsp icing sugar
6 tbsp crème fraiche

THE RECIPE
For the pastry, put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl and add the egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of cold water to make a smooth but not sticky dough. Add the extra water if required.

Put the dough on a floured work surface, roll it out and line 6 loose-bottomed 10–12cm tartlet tins. Chill for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C.

Line each tin with a circle of baking parchment or foil, add baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, then put the tins back in the oven for a further 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 190°C/Fan 170°C.

While the pastry cases are cooking make the frangipane. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until you have a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the eggs and almond extract, then stir in the ground almonds and mix well. Divide the mixture between the pastry cases and arrange 6 fig wedges on top of each tart. Scatter with some of the flaked almonds and bake for 20–25 minutes until golden. 

Dust with a little icing sugar and serve warm or at room temperature with some crème fraiche.

I was kindly gifted my copy of this book, but all views are - as always - my own. You can buy the book on Amazon and at all good book shops. 


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Milk chocolate passion fruit pots

18 November 2019

One of the things I love about baking in the winter is the plethora of tropical fruits that come to market. In late summer and early autumn we have a heady abundance of local fruits to chose from, but by mid-November, the gluts have finished and we must look further afield for brightness in the kitchen.

Imported from Asian and the Middle East, passion fruits rich, almost yolky fruit offers a pukka-worthy tang of the acidic alongside its signature tropicana flavour. I love to pair passion fruit with milk chocolate, as the velvety texture of the cocoa counter-balances the sharpness beautifully. 

The vast majority of the chocolate consumed in the UK is, of course, also made from imported produce. East London-based Cocoa Runners, who champion small batch chocolates, very kindly sent me some of their new cooking chocolate range to try out in this recipe. Working closely with producers who source beans directly from the farmers, for their first cooking chocolate Cocoa Runners has works with Madagascan chocolatiers Menakao, one of the few companies who make their bars at source using only local ingredients. Unfortunately, this is rare – it’s estimated that less than 5% of the world’s chocolate is produced in the same country the cocoa is grown. By making the chocolate in Madagascar in addition to growing the cacao on the island, Menakao generate about 4-5 times the benefit of Fair Trade for the local Madagascan economy.

Following the same bean-to-bar ethos, the small size of the pistoles means they’re perfect for baking, as they melting quickly and consistently when heated. This is perfect in this recipe, which is ganache-based. These are so quick to do and can be made ahead, and are the perfect winter dessert for parties large or small. 

THE INGREDIENTS
150g milk chocolate (I used Cocoa Runners 44% single origin cooking chocolate)
120g double cream
50g whole milk
3 passion fruits, ripe and wrinkled
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

THE RECIPE
Halve two of the passion fruit and scoop the seeds and pulp into a blender. Blitz, then strain the juice into a saucepan (discarding the seeds). Add the cream, milk and fine sea salt. Set over a medium heat and bring to the boil. While the cream is heating, weigh the chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl. If you are using a bar, you will need to finely chop it. 

Once the cream is bubbling, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for 5-10 minutes to allow the cream to fully melt the chocolate. Once the time has passed, stir the mixture to bring it into a smooth ganache. 

Cut into the final passion fruit, and use a tea spoon to dot some fresh pulp and seeds into the bottom of your glasses or ramekins. Fill with the milk chocolate ganache, then top with a little more fresh passion fruit and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt. 

Place in the fridge to set for at least an hour before serving. 

I was gifted the chocolate used in this recipe by Cocoa Runners, but all views are - as always - my own. 

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Dark chocolate and mandarin panettone bread and butter pudding

4 November 2019

British summertime is officially over, it's coat weather and my lips are constantly chapped. Hello November and, more to the point, hello pudding season! 

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