We’re on countdown to our trip back home to Turkey early next week. It feels as though we should have loads of things to do, but we left most of our summer clothes there when we came back here in December (not a lot of call for shorts round here over the last couple of snowy months), so packing will take about five minutes.
We’ve been up in Warwickshire looking after a couple of dogs and a cat while their owners were away, taking the opportunity to catch up with our family and friends in the area, including introducing ourselves to Robin’s newest grandson, who put in an appearance a few hours after we’d left Warwickshire on our previous visit!
One of the dogs was a Pyrenean Mountain Dog – absolutely beautiful, but very tall, which meant having to remember not to leave things on the kitchen worktop which might be edible and/or otherwise attractive to a large canine (before I got the hang of this, I had to watch while the bread for our sandwiches was stolen from the chopping board and hauled off up to the end of the garden for snacking). It was also quite off-putting opening the door of the fridge and having a large hairy head peering into it alongside me. Here he is looking in through the kitchen window:
In an idle moment last week when we got back here, I decided to build a light fitting for the living room that we had ordered before we went away. I hadn’t realised at the time of ordering that it would need assembly, but how hard could it be? The answer to that, taking into account that I have something a bit like dyslexia, but with shapes, was that it could be very hard indeed. And, now I remember, screwdrivers and their friends are not normally left within my reach for good reason. After several initial attempts, I kind of got the hang of it, then realised I’d screwed in all the parts without separating the tiny rubber washers on each ‘prong’ so had to start the entire project again. Here’s the ensuing chaos on the kitchen table, but I think I got there in the end – and without having to call for backup. Now it just needs Noisy-Jack-the-electrician to introduce it to the ceiling without it falling apart…
Despite managing the assembly without serious injury to person or equipment, it was gently suggested by the guys that perhaps I should stick to the day job and leave it to them to build things. I am allowed to build cakes though. And tarts. And biscuits. And muffins. That is quite a responsibility.
Last week was Geoff-the-Chippy’s birthday. I had been promising him a traditional Bakewell Tart for ages, but hadn’t quite got around to it. I even had some ready-made pastry in the fridge (yes, the supermarket stuff – it happens), left over from another project, so it seemed an ideal way to use it up.
Bakewell Tart normally calls for strawberry jam, but I used blackcurrant, because that is what I had in the cupboard (and it gives a nice sharp edge to proceedings, as the filling is quite sweet). It should also have flaked almonds, but I had to use nibbed ones, because, irritatingly, Asda in Penryn only sells pre-toasted flaked almonds, which would be burned to glory before the tart was cooked. Use whichever you prefer – I actually thought it looked rather nice with the knobbly nibs – or you could even leave it plain, especially if you plan to decorate it with icing. Bakewell Tart is not to be confused with Bakewell Pudding, which is made with puff pastry, then filled with a layer of jam and a thick layer of almond custard – absolutely delicious, but different altogether.
I am afraid my icing technique needs work – I nearly came to grief because a huge blob of icing managed to slide out of the top of my hastily-manufactured-and-not-quite-big-enough paper icing bag, so the design came over all a bit wobbly. It’s the thought that counts and Geoffrey certainly looked pleased with his birthday treat:
Geoffrey and team have been hard at work while we were in Warwickshire, transforming the utility room from its rather sad state into a lovely clean and airy space for laundry, linen storage and coats and boots. We now only have two rooms to go, which should be largely completed while we are in Turkey – not sure what we will do with ourselves when it is all finished, but I am sure we will think of something.
Here’s the recipe:
You will need a loose-bottom tart tin, approx 25cm in diameter
Shortcrust pastry to line the tin – I used half of a 320g Jus-roll pack. (If you prefer to make your own pastry, this recipe will make enough for three tarts).
2 – 3 tablespoons good quality jam
100g very soft butter or margarine
75g self-raising flour
75g ground almonds
A good splash of natural almond extract
Nibbed or flaked almonds for scattering
For the glacé icing:
4 tablespoons icing sugar
A few spots of hot water from the kettle
A few spots of natural almond extract
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C and put a baking tray or shallow roasting tin (large enough to accommodate the tart tin) into the oven to pre-heat.
Brush your tart tin lightly with a little oil, making sure you get the brush into all of the crevices.
Roll out the pastry as thinly as you can and use it to line the tin, trimming any excess from the top. Set aside in the fridge while you make the filling (you can do this a few hours ahead or even the day before if you prefer – the pastry likes a good rest, though it is not essental here, as the tart will be cooked already filled, so the pastry won’t shrink down below the filling).
For the filling, put the (very soft – if it’s hard, give it a few seconds in the microwave) margarine or butter into a mixing bowl with the sugar and eggs. Give it a good whisk until it is smooth. Add the ground almonds, flour and about half of a teaspoon of almond extract and mix again.
Remove the tart case from the fridge and spread thinly with jam.
Scrape the almond sponge filling on top of the jam layer and use a spatula or back of a spoon to spread it evenly across the pastry case, then scatter with the nibbed or flaked almonds.
Stand the tart on the pre-heated baking tray or roasting tin and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180°C and bake for a further 20 minutes. If the sponge is ready, it will be a deep golden brown and should have started to just slightly pull away from the sides of the tin, and feel firm to the touch in the centre. If not, give it another five minutes and then check again. Allow to cool before icing the top.
For the icing, put the icing sugar into a small bowl and add a few spots of hot water. Stir until smooth – you are looking for a consistency of thick yoghurt – soft enough to drop off a fork but not running all over the place. If you have added too much water, just beat in a little extra icing sugar. Add a couple of spots of almond extract.
You can either drizzle the icing over from a spoon or from a paper icing bag, made from greaseproof paper or baking parchment – here’s how.