Tag Archives: salted caramel

Salted Caramel Tart with a Lankan twist

I’ve just returned from a very last minute week in Sri Lanka – aka the motherland. My dad’s family were the patrons of a temple in their home village (Kondavil in Jaffna) and the temple has recently been refurbished (in all of the colours) so my dad wanted to go for a pilgrimage. Now, I haven’t been to his (or mum’s) home towns since the mid-80s (you know, war) so I volunteered to go along with him. I know, I’m a saint, it was such a chore heading over to 31c, sunshine, beaches etc etc…

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It was a hugely emotional trip for many reasons – not least because of my current generally emotional state (see previous post). But rather than go into that, instead, I’m going to sing the praises of my new favourite ingredient that I brought home – palmyra jaggery.

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So as you probably know, jaggery is unrefined sugar made from plants with a considerable amount of sucrose – usually sugar cane. But palmyra jaggery is made from the sap of the palmyra tree which grows in abundance in Jaffna. Mum had asked me to bring some home and being a sucker for packaging, when I saw it, I decided to get some for myself too (see pic below – it’s in a case made from palmyra fronds). And what with it being mother’s day yesterday (in the UK, don’t panic, rest of world) I thought it’d be nice to make her something with it because she inspired me to buy it. In terms of flavour, the palmyra jaggery has a really rich deep taste, almost coffee like. Or cinder toffee.

And then I thought, god, this would make an amazing salted caramel which naturally took me to thinking about the lovely popcorn cheesecake recipe by Rosie Birkett. But given I’ve made that about 680 times in the last twelve months (because it’s AMAZING, go on, try it), I thought I’d try something different.

I found a recipe on Great British Chefs which I modified a little because life’s too short to weight out grams of eggs (and I wanted to incorporate the jaggery, obviously). But the original recipe is here if you fancy making it (it also gives you a great option for what to do with seven left over egg whites. Mine have just gone in the freezer). Also this is possibly the tastiest sweet pastry recipe I’ve ever tried – but don’t do what I did and trim it before you bake as it’ll collapse on itself and you’ll have to try and fix it in the oven with a spoon. Hence the slightly wonky base.

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Salted Caramel Tart with Palmyra jaggery – serves 10-12 (or 8, if you’re hungry buggers) 

For the pastry base:
NB this makes enough for two tarts but can be frozen so you’ve got the best pastry on hand all the time – honestly, it’s delicious.  

  • 400g plain flour
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 130g ground almonds
  • 4g salt
  • 240g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the filling:

  • 140g caster sugar
  • 500ml of double cream
  • 100g palmyra jaggery (or any jaggery or dark muscovado)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt

Method

Prepare the pastry first – this probably needs to chill for a minimum 5 hours so you don’t end up with a fat bottomed pie.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and then add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the ingredients together till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then pour in the beaten egg and stir till the mix comes together. If it’s a little wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time, till it comes together and away from the sides of the bowl. tip onto a clean surface and knead briefly then pat into a flatish disk, wrap in clingfilm and put it into the fridge.

For the caramel filling, melt the caster sugar over a low heat. You may need to swirl the pan to help things along but try not to stir it too much – it may seize. Once the sugar has melted, add the double cream and stir to bring together. Then add the salt, remove from the heat and set to one side to chill.

Meanwhile, grate the jaggery into a large bowl and beat in the egg yolks. Pour over the warm double cream mix whilst continually beating. Then add the pinch of salt. Using a fine meshed sieve, pour the mix through into a clean bowl and leave to cool. Once the mix is cool (30-40 mins), skim off any bubbles from the top of the surface, cover and put into the fridge.

You can do all of this up to three days in advance.

When you’re ready to prepare your tart, remove the pastry (well, half of it) and caramel mix from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 150c and prepare a pie tin (I did mine in a 20cm springform cake tin as I couldn’t find a pie tin – worked just as well…) Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin and roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm and then line the tin, taking care not to rip the pastry (if you do, simply patch it up with any excess). Make sure you’ve got enough to hang over the edges of the tin – this is where mine collapsed and created a wonky base.

Put it back in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up again, then line the base with greaseproof paper and baking beans, pop onto a baking sheet and put into the oven.

Once the sides are golden, remove the baking beans/paper and put back into the oven for the base to cook and colour (approx 5-10 mins). Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, reduce the heat to 100c.

Once the base is cooked, pour the salted caramel filling into the tart case and put the whole thing back into the oven. The tart is cooked when the filling barely wobbles when you shake the tin. It will take at least one hour depending on how accurate your oven is, but check it after 40 mins, and then every 15 mins after that.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Serve with a drizzle of cream or a random selection of macarons, praline and ice cream if you want to be all Great British Cheffy. Or just eat as is.

 

North London Sundays (and eating WAY too much)

Twice a year, my husband and a bunch of other middle aged, not at the peak of fitness, mates play cricket in Regents Park. They love it, it’s literally the highlight of my husband’s year – I reckon, given a choice he would take two afternoons of cricket over an all expenses paid trip to, oh, I don’t know, Costa Rica. (FYI, if anyone wants to send me to Costa Rica, I’m well up for it).

One year, early in our courtship, I drove Marcel to cricket, and stood in the drizzle for maybe six hours watching them play and then went to the pub with some of the cricketers and listened to them reliving their every move from the cricket match. Whist I was stone cold sober because I was driving. Have I mentioned I find cricket quite tedious? Even though I’m a good Sri Lankan gal.

I’ve since learned that life’s too short to spend hours pretending to care about cricket, so this year, with the first of the two matches this summer approaching, I realised that my dear friend Alex was also playing, which meant that his girlfriend Katie would be free. Now I’ve known Alex for a decade (ish) and whilst he’s great (mostly), Katie is one of those truly awesome, clever and beautiful women and as she’s relatively new in my life, I figured it’d be the perfect opportunity to get to know her better (and let our men folk do that cricket nonsense). And of course, because we love them, we’d turn up to watch, maybe one – definitely not 5 – hours of their “glory” on the field. Pitch? I literally don’t know or care.

So we booked a table at the York & Albany which is spitting distance from the Hub in Regents Park.And one of my favourite places in London (introduced to me by another gorgeous, clever, funny friend, Sarah who bloody moved to Bristol a few years ago and I miss her madly and often. I should really go to Bristol more often :-))

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Thankfully Katie likes a drink, so we started off by ordering a bottle of prosecco before we’d even contemplated the food. Now, I was still a little hanging from the Secret Cinema thingie (turns out you can drink a lot in Tattooine and the space booze makes your hangover last for two days), During those two days, I think everything I ate was either beige (toast, humous) or brown (chocolate). Not a green thing or a red thing or an fruity thing passed my lips. By Sunday however, I was feeling up to a breakfast smoothie (yup, those are still rearing their heads on occasion) and then headed out to meet Katie for lunch.

The reason I mention the hangover is because we had our prosecco and a bread basket (obvs – we’re not carb free fools) and I decided that I needed something light after two days of hangover eating, so ordered the cod. Despite there being what looked like an AMAZING Yorkshire pudding with the roast beef. And Katie’s roast chicken looked incredible. And to go with my cod, I ordered a rocket and tomato salad. Have I mentioned, I don’t really like tomatoes before? Well I don’t. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking other than I needed green things.

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York & Albany is a Gordon Ramsay venue so we knew the food would be good and it was. Not mind-blowing but good, honest food. One of the reasons I knew I was going to love Al’s girlfriend was the first time we met, she ignored starters because she knew she’d want pudding. My kinda gal. So we ordered two – a lemon posset with an earl grey granita and shortbread. And a chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream. Jesus wept, they were awesome. That salted caramel ice cream blew my mind.

We naturally had a cocktail with which to wash down our puddings and then we headed over to see the last bit of the cricket and drink more prosecco. Apparently Marcel’s team beat Alex’s team (I honestly have no idea what was going on).

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At some point, a few hours later, we found ourselves a little peckish. The incredible sportsmen we are married to/dating were also hungry so decided we’d head to Q-Grill in Camden, one of my favourite locations and home to some of the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever had.

Q-grill specialises in grilled meat so probably not the best place for a veggie – thankfully none of us are. I have a big love for fried chicken so ordered the buttermilk chicken with seasoned fries (which came with deep fried pickles – delish), Katie had the same but in a bun form, the boys had burgers and one of the other cricketers had pork cheeks with cheesy grits.

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I honestly don’t think I could have walked another step after eating that much that day, so thank the lords for Uber. Here’s to many more lovely ‘ladies wot lunch’ lunches. Possibly not with ‘stuff your face’ dinners on the same day though

Festive sweet treats round up

As much as I love the festive season, I do sigh with relief come January at the fact that I no longer have to make sure my fridge is stocked with just enough goodies to pull together a last minute treat for random drop ins. And let’s be honest, how often do you have random drop ins over the festive period? Modern life (and middle age) has made us all planners, dates are booked in months in advance and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have planned a menu weeks ahead of “impromptu” visits.

So yeah, it’s just an excuse to buy gigantic tubs of Quality Street or Celebrations. And cheese. A shit load (official collective noun) of cheese.

Last Christmas we hosted mine and the husband’s immediate families at our house. It was brilliant to host them all for the first time in our new home and we properly felt like grown ups. Given our 1970s monstrosity of a kitchen + the utterly awful oven, I decided against a traditional roast and instead went with a Moroccan spiced, slow roast lamb with bejewelled cous cous and a seasonal (read: root) vegetable tagine. And then I did a dessert table of random bits for people to choose from – chocolate brownies, meringues, raspberry coulis, hokey pokey. None of the desserts came out as well as I wanted it to, but looked pretty. Maybe a case of too much showing off?

This year, we decided to allow our families to feed us (generous to a fault, that’s us), which meant that we had three Christmases with my husband’s lot, and Christmas day with my sister.

However, we did entertain a few times over the break (with one meal mostly being a repeat of Christmas 2013) and I did make a lot of desserts to gift and help out the hostesses. Of course, I forgot to take pics, because I’m a fool and I’d eaten so much chocolate by Christmas day that I’m pretty sure my brain was 83% cocoa.

So here are some of my festive sweet treat highlights:

Cranberry spiced bundt cake

This was made in order to use up leftover fresh cranberries and show off a bit with a bundt cake taken to a party. However, I didn’t grease the pan properly so rather than being a ‘wow’ cake, I had to slice up the bit I managed to salvage (that wasn’t stuck in the tin as you can see from the photo below). I’ll do this again before cranberries are taken off shelves and share the recipe, totally worth it and probably easy enough to repeat with whatever fruit you have in the house (in berry form).

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Lemon Meringue Pie.

Liked this so much, I made it twice. In a week. The recipe is Dan Lepard’s from the Guardian and in my opinion, pretty much fool proof. It’s always been one of my favourite puddings and I reckon I’ll make this a few more times before 2015 is out.

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I used the same pie base for a chocolate mousse cake after being inspired by the chocolate tart at Newman Street Tavern. Man, that was amazing. I have no pictures for my version though, but I’d say that the NST chocolate tart is one of the best I’ve ever had. As was the pork crackling. In fact, if you’re in London, it’s a great place for a Sunday lunch.

On new year’s day, wanting to clear some space in my fridge, I made my first ever attempt at a berry clafoutis. Again to use up fruit that was about to go off. Whilst it was delicious hot out of the oven, I think my fruit to batter ratio was off, so a little bit bitterer than I would have liked (I blame the cranberries entirely). Custard sorted that right out though. However, it was even better when sliced and then pan fried in butter and brown sugar for brunch the next day. It’s basically pancakes and fruit, right?

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Finally, an amazing recipe from the lovely Edd Kimber (aka theboywhobakes) for salted caramel truffles that I gifted at a family new year party. So. Good. I’m surprised I managed to make any, the truffle mix is delicious and I definitely didn’t eat 14 spoonfuls out of the bowl before it had cooled. No sir. That’d be totally gluttonous, right?

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Thanks for a lovely time Christmas 2014, see you again next year.