Every time I make this treacle tart, friends and family ask for the recipe.  I have waited a while to publish my first ‘pastry’ post because I am a bit obsessive about the stuff.  I just love a tart !  Savoury ones are great and you just cannot beat a very well made, authentic
Quiche Lorraine for a weekend lunch. Ultimately though, my first love is a sweet tart and I nearly always include one when entertaining.  A few top ten favourites are tart au citron, pear & frangipane and good old Bakewell tart but this treacle tart is the winner every time.

First of all the filling.  No breadcrumbs here. I take inspiration from Bruce Poole’s book of the same name. He has a wonderful restaurant in South London, Chez Bruce and apparantly this is one of their most popular puddings. It’s the combination of golden syrup, eggs, double cream and gound almonds that gives you the light texture and a richness which is not cloying but still a wonderful treat.

The pastry is a whole subject on it’s own.  I have tried lots of combinations of Trex (vegetable fat), butter, margarine with plain flour, eggs, water, ground almonds and caster sugar. This Christmas I was thrilled to be given Richard Bertinet’s brilliant book Pastry. I followed his technique and recipe to the enth degree. You can even go on U tube and watch his tutorial !  So, I am going to put my head on the block here and tell you that I will now not make any other type of sweet pastry. Follow his exact method, placing the pastry in greaseproof paper and allow it to relax properly in the fridge. I can assure you that you will be able to handle the pastry shell and the finished result will be elegant with a sublime, buttery taste.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry – makes 2 shells made in 20 cm rings (4 cm deep)
Ingredients –
350 g plain flour
125 g butter – cold
125 g caster sugar
2 eggs + 1 yolk
pinch of salt

Place the flour and salt in a Magimix or Kenwood. Cut the butter into small dice and add to the bowl. Being very cautious, pulse the contents until the butter is about the size of your little finger nail. Add the sugar, pulse briefly. Add the eggs and yolk and again pulse briefly.
The dough will come together. Stop.
On a floured surface, bring the dough together gently and press down with your thumbs. Turn clockwise and repeat the gentle pressing. Do this no more than four or five times. The dough will then be like plasticine. Turn it on it’s side and knock it against the work surface to give it a straight edge all round.  Do not use too much flour on the work surface as it will alter the texture and consistency of the finished pastry.
Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper as if you were wrapping a present and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably longer.  Don’t use cling film as it makes the pastry sweaty. If you are in a hurry, pop in the freezer for 15 – 30 minutes.

When you are ready to cook the pastry shell, pre-heat the oven to 170C. AGA owners, no suprise, will use the baking oven.
I run my hands under the cold tap, then dry then thoroughly. On a clean work surface scatter a thin sprinkling of plain flour. Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut it in half. You can, if you prefer, freeze the pastry you don’t use. Using a rolling pin, carefully press and roll, turning clock wise all the time. This will give you a round shape. You are aiming for a thickness of about 3 mm. You may need to scatter more flour on the work surface and also on the rolling pin. Work as quickly as you can but enjoy it ! It should not be a stressful process!
Grease the tart ring with soft butter and then lift the pastry over the ring. Carefully press it into the bottom of the tin but leave an overhang of about an inch. This will be trimmed off later. Prick the base of the pastry shell all over with a fork then line it with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes then carefully remove the paper and beans, return to the oven and bake for a further 4 minutes. Remove to a cool place until you are ready to fill the tart.

Treacle Tart – serves 8-10
A pastry shell that you will make from half of the quantity above.
680 g golden syrup
280 g ground almonds
280 ml double cream
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Method –
Pre-heat the oven to 150C. If you are an AGA owner, you will use the baking oven.
Mix the ground almonds and syrup together in a large bowl. Add the cream and then the beaten eggs. Avoid over mixing. Stir rather than whisk as you don’t want too much air in the mixture. Pour into the baked tart shell and cook for 35 minutes. If the pastry is cooking too much, gently cover the tart with a dome of foil. Rest for at least an hour then trim the excess pastry from the edge with a sharp knife. This will give you a professional finish. Serve with double cream or creme fraiche. This is the most fabulous pudding you will make again and again.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – JUGGED HARE




This post is for all of you that have not made a Christmas cake yet! It’s the week before Christmas and lots of cookery books are telling us we should have made the cake in October !  Actually, this delicious cake is popular with my family all year round. It travels really well and so is perfect for picnics and those holidays where you cater for yourselves.

So, if you feel inspired to make a Christmas cake, this one will be perfect for eating next week. All you will need to turn it into a Christmas cake is the ready to roll out marzipan and royal icing.

The secret to a delicious, moist cake is the amount of alcohol (brandy) you use and also, how long you soak the dried fruit in the brandy.  I cover the fruit with a clean tea towel and then place it in a cold pantry for up to 3 days.  Every now and again, stir the fruit.

Assemble all your ingredients and make sure you can be around for 2 – 2.1/2 hours. As ever, with baking, the correct tin size is crucial and this one requires a deep 20 cm tin.  Line the base and sides with bacoglide or baking parchment / greaseproof paper. You will need an extra circle of bacoglide / paper for the top of the cake to stop it getting too brown.

Ingredients –
1lb currants
6 oz sultanas
6 oz raisins
2 oz glace cherries – chopped
5 fl. oz brandy
8 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
8 oz unsalted butter- softened
8 oz soft brown sugar
4 large free range eggs
3  oz chopped almonds
2 tblsp black treacle – Tip: Place the tin in a very low oven to make the treacle easier to extract.
Grated rinds of 1 lemon and 1 orange

Preparation –
Soak all the fruit in the brandy for at least one day – you’ll get a better result if you leave them longer than one day.

Method –
Pre-heat the oven to 140C.  Aga users will use the simmering oven for up to 3.1/2 hours. 

Sift the flour, salt and spices in a large bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together. I use a kitchenaid, an essential for any keen baker. This is the most important process and the mixture should be pale, light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs in a small bowl and then slowly add to the creamed butter and sugar.  Don’t panic if it curdles.  Add a little of the flour to stabilise the mixture. 
When the eggs have all been added, take a large spoon and fold in the flour/spices gently. Stir in the soaked fruit and then the nuts, treacle and grated orange and lemon zest. If you feel like it, add a little more brandy!
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and even it out with a spoon.  Place your disc of bacoglide/paper on top. Cut a small hole out of the centre of the paper so the top cooks
After 2 1/2 hours the cake should feel firm with a slight ‘give’ to the top when gently pressed. Let it go completely cold then wrap it in foil or store in a tin.  You can now eat it as a luxury fruit cake or use marzipan and icing to make it into a Christmas/Celebration cake.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – Turkey and Leek Pie


I spent this weekend baking for the Fillingham Trees Christmas Cafe which has now opened.  I wasn’t at all suprised that the chocolate brownies were very popular.  I make these nearly every week and they are a firm favourite.

Funny things, chocolate brownies.  We did not grow up with them and yet they are now on
every menu in some guise or other or sold at vast expense as a little chocolate square of
sugar in cellophane.

So, like Apple, a US import that is actually very versatile.  They work for me as a comforting, sugar fix when you need a boost with morning coffee or your afternoon mug of Earl Grey.  Or, slightly warmed, with caramelised oranges in the winter or raspberries in the summer, they make a delicious, smart pudding.  Use a small, pretty, rectangular white plate with a helping of double cream or creme fraiche.  I have even cut them into very small (inch) squares, dusted them with icing sugar and served them with coffee as an after dinner treat.  People just come back for more.

Stacked up on a beautiful plate, with a few candles, they make a very indulgent, grown up birthday cake.  Or, take them to a friend’s house in a nice tin if you need a hostess present.

But, you need the right recipe and a few tips (no rules, as I have banned them, tips are fine). Don’t worry about your baking skills. Creaming, whisking and folding techniques are not required.  Brownies are made from a batter mixture.  I use one spatula.

The consistency of the baked brownies is the key to success. Your brownies should be slightly crisp on the outside yielding to a deep, intense chocolate inner bite.  I add walnuts to the batter mix because I love the combination but please be creative as you like.  You may love pecans, cherries, dried cranberries.  Whatever you feel like at the time and how your brownies are going to work for you. So, creativity is fine but please not when it comes to the basic recipe.  Let’s face it, baking calls for you to be accurate. Weigh the ingredients preferably using electronic scales.  Don’t get hung up about cocoa %.  Use Bournville.

Lastly and probably most important.  You will achieve the right level of squidginess if you use the correct size tin.  Too big a tin and your brownies will be moist biscuits.  Too small a tin and your brownies will be a gooey mess in the centre.  I use a tin that is 18 cm x 28 cm.  The brownies are then 3 cm deep. Invest in this one tin and you will use it all the time.
I line mine with bacoglide which I then keep to use again but baking parchment is fine, cut to size.  I buy baking tins and bacoglide from Bigger of Bailgate in Lincoln – contact details

Makes 15 pieces

Ingredients –
250 g salted butter
250 g Bournville chocolate
4 large free-range eggs
330 g caster sugar
3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
150 g plain flour sieved
pinch of salt
150 g walnut pieces

Method –
Preheat the oven to 180C.  Using a heavy large pan, place the chocolate and butter on a very low heat and let them completely melt.  Stir and leave to cool a little.  In a large bowl, stir the eggs into the caster sugar until the mixture is completely combined and lump free.  Add the vanilla essence.
Add the egg/sugar mixture to the chocolate/butter and combine well.  Sieve the flour into
the mixture and then add the walnuts.  Pour into the prepared, lined tin.
Place in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes.
For you Aga owners, put the grid shelf on the floor of the baking oven and bake the brownies for 25 minutes.  Check after 20 mins and if the top is cooking too quickly, slip a cold plain shelf on the second set of runners for the last 5 minutes. If the mixture is too squidgey, transfer the tin to the simmering oven for up to 10 minutes.
The top of the brownie mixture, when cooked will be a pale golden, speckled colour.  Press the top gently and if it feels too wet, give the tin another few minutes.  The brownies will continue to cook in the tin so don’t be over cautious and give them too long.
Nothing worse than a dry brownie. If the very centre one is a bit too squidgy the first time you make them, just eat it yourself!

Useful Contacts –
Fillingham Christmas Trees –

Fillingham Trees, Albion House, Manor Farm, Fillingham, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire DN21 5BS   Tel – 01427 667 014

Bigger of Bailgate, 48 Bailgate, Lincoln LN1 3AP. Tel – 01522 525 536

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – Partridge