Deliciousness in Dubrovnik

After all that hard slog, it was time for a break. I went away for a blissful few days, involving plenty of sunshine, glistening blue seas, and delicious seafood…may gratuitous shots of food commence!

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Evenings spent beside the Old Town Harbour, eating our bodyweight in seafood, and hungry stray cats lingering for nibbles.

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A trip to the Elaphite Islands brought even more beauty.

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And of course, even more deliciousness. There is such a wealth of fresh seafood in Croatia. It’s cooked and dressed simply, and tastes gorgeous.

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After all that eating, we did a little exercise too. A short hike up Mount Srd rewards you with stunning views across the whole city.

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Dubrovnik is used as a location for a lot of scenes in the Game of Thrones TV series, so some of the places look oddly familiar. I’m not a big fan of Game of Thrones myself, but it is always a novelty to see places on the screen in their reality.

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And then after all that, a little more food was needed. Seafood, naturally! I got a telling off by the restaurant proprietor – I think he thought I was trying to eat my meal with my hands instead of cutlery – but how else are you supposed to peel a prawn?

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By Day five, we were really craving meat, and this meat platter from Taj Mahal (which confusingly, is actually a restaurant serving Bosnian cuisine) ticked all the boxes.

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Some more hairy incidents involving a trip to hospital and my car losing some of its front parts happened along the way too, but I’ll try and focus less on the downers, which always inevitably happen when you least want them to. I can confidently say that should you need medical care in Dubrovnik, you won’t be waiting anywhere near as long as you would be in an A&E department here in the UK!

I never end up buying much in the way of souvenirs on holiday, but I did come back with many packets of hazelnut wafers. You can find them all over continental Europe, but rarely, Pink Wafers aside, in the UK. Anyone know why? I’d love to see more of them in the biscuit aisles.

And now, back home, I’ve got the travel bug again. I can’t wait to get planning my next trip away!

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Apricot and Pistachio Tartlets

I’ve not been keeping up so well with the running this week. It’s a combination of finishing late at work, being stuck in many long traffic jams, and simply finding the motivation after the long hours away from home. I just want to curl up into a comfy corner, and have a little bit of domesticated me-time.

I couldn’t help but find something to bake (and also to use up the leftover pastry from Bakewell Tart making), so here is the delighful-sounding combination that is apricot and pistachio. In tartlet form.

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They were pretty, and the colours were lovely, but I was disappointed with the way they tasted. I’m not really sure why. I’ve baked with pistachios before, and loved the results. This time the pistachio filling tasted – well, rather soapy. The apricots weren’t the best specimens either – being a little crunchy and rather flavourless raw. It’s hard to get the really succulent varieties I ate in France last year over here.

So despite appearances, these tarts were sadly not ones to bake again.

I cooked the remaining apricots down with two peaches into a really rather delicious compote, so I might try out another riff on this tartlet theme and see what I come up with instead!

The Perfect Bakewell Tart

Bakewell is a pretty little place way up north in Derbyshire. It’s not too far away from Chatsworth House, a mansion well-known as being Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley in her novel, Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I think Bakewell is mentioned in the book, if only in passing.

Anyway, Bakewell is a lot more famous for being the birthplace of the beloved British dessert – the Bakewell tart.

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This is not to be confused with Bakewell pudding, also invented in the same locality. Bakewell tart is a delicious relation to the frangipane tart: a rich shortcrust pastry encasing a layer of jam, followed by thin layer of almond-rich sponge, which is topped with flaked almonds and baked until golden.

For a classic recipe, there are hundreds of riffs on a standard theme. Felicity Cloake in her Guardian “How to cook the Perfect…” series adds a little lemon zest for her Perfect Bakewell Tart. The Hairy Bikers add ground almonds to their pastry. Nearly everybody, like James Martin, goes for raspberry jam, but you get a few recipes that go on a bender with apricots and blackcurrants.

I’ve tried all kinds of pastry. Plain pastry in a 2:1 ratio of flour to fat works really well. Then I discovered a wonderful keeper of a pastry recipe in the making of apple pies, and now it’s my firm favourite.

You can use all kinds of jam, but I think raspberry treads the balance between sweet and tart absolutely perfectly. Strawberry doesn’t quite achieve that element of sharpness. It doesn’t have to be a fancy jam – in Bakewell Tart I like ones with a pretty firm set.

 

Most Bakewell tart recipes use very little flour in the almond sponge. All the recipes use predominantly ground almonds. I prefer a higher ratio of flour, as the almond sponge bakes to a light, yet substantial finish, which is much better than the overly damp, heavy almond frangipanes I have disappointingly produced in the past.

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I’m not a fan of icing so no glacé for me, but I can’t resist a good sprinkling of flaked almonds. It adds extra flavour and crunch, and sets the whole tart off perfectly!

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Just wonderful with a good book!

The Perfect Bakewell Tart

  • 200g shortcrust pastry
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 120g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 60g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • milk
  • flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a tart tin with the shortcrust pastry, prick all over with a fork, and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 180˚C.

Make the almond sponge filling by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs and almond extract. Finally fold in the flour and ground almonds, and add a little milk to loosen the mixture to softly dropping consistency.

Spread the jam over the base of the tart. Top with the almond sponge and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with ground almonds and bake for around 25-30 minutes until golden. Leave to cool and then unmould from the tart tin. Cut into slices, and serve.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Am I the only person out there who just can’t get into Game of Thrones? It sounds pretty epic – dynasties, dragons, people rampantly doing the two-backed beast left, right and centre, but still…despite watching several episodes and dragging myself through books one, two and four (I missed three and didn’t notice), it’s still not really sparking my interest.

I wonder if it’s because they never eat cake in these books. Just think of Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings and they are full of evocative descriptions of gloriously sweet gluttony. That’s clearly what piques my interest!

So if Game of Thrones could just include a few delights of very moreish cakes, such as this Chocolate Fudge number down below, I’m sure that’d do the trick for sure!

This cake has featured on the blog before. I’ve made it multiple times since, it’s my go-to recipe for birthdays, Christmas, you name it. I baked it when I went to visit A over the bank holiday weekend (it was involved in the crusty/melty oven disaster I mentioned in my post here. But since then, I’ve baked it yet again.

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As I decided to make this cake during the working week, I divided up the work into three evenings. On the first, I weighed out my ingredients. The cake was baked on the second, and finally, the third day was a flurry of ganache whisking, pouring, and trying to create artful swirls with a spatula, and a heap of brown-looks-like-you-know-what.

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Ganache is so versatile, taking on all sorts of different forms depending on the stage you use it at. I waited until it had cooled to spreading consistency, then filled the cake, and jauntily swirling it on top. If you feel like being a bit more fancy, you can first fill and crumb coat the cake, then reheat the remaining ganache until liquid, and pouring over to form a smoooothly silky glaze.

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It was too late to take photos that evening, so I waited until the next morning. It was a grey, dark, drizzly day, so I didn’t get particularly good shots, but I did my best. And then of course, I had to try a teeny slice of cake. Just to make sure it tasted ok… y’know.

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The original recipe can be found on BBC Good Food.

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I’m getting a new camera soon, so keep your eyes peeled for some (hopefully) improved photography round this little blog to come!