Vive La Gooseberry

gooeberry 3

Its the beginning of August and there’s an abundance of delicious summer fruit available to us; strawberries and red currants are both at they’re peak although we’ll need to wait a couple more weeks for the best of the British raspberries. At the tea room we’ve taken full advantage of the fruits on offer with some delicious dishes such as summer pudding, baked cheesecake and raspberry and thyme custard tarts.

If there’s one native summer fruit that’s fallen from favour in recent years it’s the gooseberry. This much overlooked fruit was very popular in the early 1900’s but in the last hundred years demand for the humble gooseberry has greatly fallen. Compared to its more glamorous cousins the gooseberry has a rather dowdy and frumpy reputation; the baggy cardigan of the soft fruit world if you like. However I beg to differ, its both more versatile than the strawberry and far more flavoursome than the blueberry, the full flavour and sharp tang means the gooseberry has much to offer.

Gooseberries are delicious cooked alongside savoury dishes particularly oily fish such as mackerel or salmon and they also make excellent jams and chutney. However when a box landed in the kitchen earlier in the week they were only ever destined for dessert. After toying with the idea of either a crumble and a gooseberry meringue tart after a chat with May I finally settled on creating a lemon and lime syllabub with a gooseberry compote. Syllabub, an old English dessert, is simply a mix of lightly whipped sweetened cream and alcohol and its absolutely perfect to top a sharp fruit compote. If gooseberries aren’t your favourite you could make the compote with apricots or rhubarb and replace the lime and lemon juice with orange and the wine with mead. Later in the year for an autumnal twist apples and blackberries would be delicious teamed with a cider syllabub.

gooseberry2

Gooseberry Compote

250g gooseberries

4 tbsp caster sugar.

Zest of 1 lime or a tsp of elderflower cordial.

Syllabub

284ml whipping cream

50g caster sugar

50ml white wine

Zest and juice from half a lemon and lime.

  1. Place the gooseberries into a saucepan with the sugar and the zest or cordial and cook over a low heat until the fruit has softened and the sugar has melted. Stir gently and continue to cook for around 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled put into the fridge and leave for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

  2. Whip the cream and sugar until it reaches soft peaks then fold through the wine, zest and juice.

  3. Alternately layer the compote and the syllabub into glasses and place into the fridge for around an hour to set. Garnish with lime slices and mint leaves. 

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Baking: A passion shared

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They say that baking is a science, merely a chemical reaction between ingredients but to me it’s not that simple. The best bakers I know also have a gentle touch, an innate passion and a perfectionist streak.

In the tea room kitchen our whole team love baking which is probably just as well as that plays a very large part of our role.  May is queen of the scones, Charlotte’s pastries are delicious, Jen’s a dab hand at shortbread and Hylton makes a mean flapjack. For me its got to be cake; I love making, decorating and (obviously) eating cake, although I try not to do the latter too often!

I consider myself very fortunate that I do something I love everyday as a job and although some days are a little manic I never tire preparing food, cooking and baking. However the washing up on the other hand is a whole different matter!

My love of cooking and passion for food and flavours comes without doubt from my parents. Some of my earliest and clearest memories are making fairy cakes with my Mum and of the house filled with the delicious smell of aromatic spices toasting for Dad’s Saturday night curry feast. I loved to sit and flick my way through their many recipe books picking out ideas to try.

I’m extremely grateful that I was introduced to such varied tastes at a young age as its given me the desire to continue discovering new techniques, ingredients and flavours. Now years later I have my own family who I love cooking for and eating with and I’m chuffed that both of my children seem to have inherited my enthusiasm for food. In years to come I’d love to go travelling and sample a whole host of new dishes and tastes but for now I’m happy to be right here in the kitchen at Cragside whipping up another batch of bakes.

I’ve given it some thought and I’ve decided it’s just too difficult to pick my favourite of our cake recipes but here’s a moreish loaf that’s simple, delicious and a favourite among our customers.

cherry cake 2

Old Fashioned Cherry and Almond Loaf

8 oz/225g butter or baking margarine

8oz/225g caster sugar

4 eggs

9oz/225g plain flour, sifted

3oz/85g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

7oz/200g glace cherries

Zest of 1 lemon

35ml milk

A drop of almond essence

flaked almonds and Demerara sugar to sprinkle

  1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celcius then wash and dry the cherries (to help prevent them sinking to the bottom of the cake) and chop into quarters, then set to one side.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time adding a little flour after each egg.

  4. Add the rest of the flour along with the ground almonds and baking powder.

  5. Finally stir through the milk, the ground almonds, the lemon zest and the cherries.

  6. Pour into a lined loaf tin and sprinkle with flaked almonds and demerara sugar.

  7. Place into the middle of the oven and bake for around 45mins – 1 hour or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

  8.  Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Easy Peezy Lemon Squeezy

rhodies 1
Gorgeous Rhododendrons off the beaten path 

As the end of May and beginning of June approaches there’s only one thing on everyones mind at Cragside. Every year at this time a blanket of stunning rhododendrons cover the estate in a vibrant floral display. Its an annual highlight for many which always means a huge influx of visitors by coach load and car full. Often first stop for the visitors is our tearoom to grab a bite to eat before their tour of the ‘rhodies’. The kitchen team has been extremely busy cooking and baking; beginning each morning with our ‘sconathon’ and moving on to sandwiches, quiches, cakes and more until the last hungry customers trickle through the doors at 5pm. Front of house the continual whir and the hiss of the coffee machine has been resonating through the tearoom to keep the customers supplied with their all important brew.

During Rhodie season since time is of the essence we’ve developed a number of recipes that are quick and simple to make but that still deliver on flavour. Amongst this list of effortless dishes are our recipes for Northumbrian cheese rarebit,  gooey chocolate brownie, spiced lentil soup and a deliciously zesty lemon posset.

Posset is an old fashioned pudding dating from medieval times. Its made a recent resurgence into foody fashion but ever the trend setters we’ve actually been making it at the Cragside for the last fifteen years. Tangy and melt in the mouth creamy, a posset can be eaten on its own, set over a refreshing fruit jelly or poured on top of a sponge and lemon curd base to make an alternative yet delicious trifle. Its a brilliant dinner party dish as it can be made the day ahead and left in the fridge to set and with only three ingredients it’s bound to please even the most frugal of cooks among us. What’s not to like!

lemon posset 1
Lemon Posset Trifle

Lemon Posset (Serves 4)

450ml Double Cream

125g Caster Sugar

Juice of 1 and a half lemons

  1. Put the double cream into a sauce pan and add the sugar, place over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has melted.
  2. Whilst the cream is heating juice the lemons and leave to one side.
  3. Give the cream an occasional stir and leave on the heat until it gets to simmering point. Then add the lemon juice and stir in thoroughly.
  4. Lift the pan from the heat, pour into a jug and leave the posset to cool a little for around 10 -15 mins until just warm. Once the posset has cooled, pour into glasses and put into the fridge to set.
  5. Leave to set for at least 4 hours, then decorate with cream, fruit and a sprig of mint to garnish.
  6. Serve with some buttery shortbread or a crunchy ginger biscuit to dunk or if you’d prefer to make the trifle, first pop a spoonful of lemon curd in the bottom of the glass followed by pieces of lemon sponge. Top with the posset mixture and pop into the fridge to set.

 

 

A Butler’s Tale

Cragside Oct12

Take a stroll around the decadent surroundings of the house at Cragside and its easy to get a sense of the lavish lifestyles of Lord and Lady Armstrong. Their love of entertaining is well documented, in particular the royal visit by the prince of Wales in 1884 when the visitors were wowed with a tour of the ornate gardens and vast estate before heading back to the house to dine in style in Armstrong’s impressive dining room.

Managing an estate of this size was an enormous task and required a large and varied workforce. One of the highest ranking positions among the staff was that of the butler whose principle duties included looking after the wine cellar and pantry, instructing the other male members of staff and serving food and drinks in the dining room.

After a long day tending to the needs of Lord and Lady Armstrong and their guests, the staff would sit down to dinner, with the butler taking his position at the head of the table. Only once he had carved the meat and given his permission to eat, would the meal commence. The teatime fayre of the staff was a far cry from the food served at the masters table, but it was always homely and flavoursome.

There were a number of butlers at Cragside during Armstrong’s time but the most celebrated among them was Andrew Crozier. In 1881 Andrew began his career as a page boy, at just eleven years old, and soon afterwards was given the high honour of switching on the first ever electric light in the house. He became a valued member of staff and over the years moved through the ranks, eventually rising to the coveted position of butler.

Despite a strict separation between the male and female members of staff a romance blossomed between Andrew Crozier and Elizabeth Tace Athey whom had also started her career at Cragside as a young girl  eventually becoming housekeeper. The couple were married in 1898 and spent the rest of their lives in service at Cragside. The pair, with 153 years of combined serviced, were honoured in 1950 when one of the estate drives was named after them. The name still remains today so make sure you have a wander up Crozier drive on your next visit, it may well be quite a climb but the views of the house, estate and valley beyond are breath-taking.

On our menu at the tearoom we doff our caps to the many staff who served at Cragside and to celebrate them we created a delicious afternoon platter which would be sure to please any butler. The main element of the dish is a traditional pork pie made with hot water crust pastry which is served alongside chutney, a piece of fruit cake and a pot of steaming tea or coffee.

pork pie

Cragside Pork Pie (Makes 6 small individual pies)

Hot water crust pastry

450g Plain flour

165g lard

A pinch of salt

250ml water

Pie filling

250g Minced pork

200g pork sausage meat

3 rashers of smoky bacon, finely chopped

1 apple grated , or 25g of dried apricots finely chopped

3 spring onions, finely chopped

A handful of mixed herbs finely chopped (parsley, chives and sage are good choices)

1 egg

½ a teaspoon of salt and pepper.

  1. Make the filling for the pie by mixing the meats, fruit, herbs and seasoning together in a large bowl. Add in the egg to bind the mixture and set aside in the fridge while you make the pastry.

  2. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

  3. To make the hot water crust pour the water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, add the lard and reduce to a simmer.

  4. Once the lard has melted remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes.

  5. Add ¾ of the flour and stir until you have a smooth paste, add the remainder of the flour a little at a time until the dough is firm enough to handle and mould. The pastry needs to be kept warm so only take a little out of the pan at a time.

  6. Roll out handfuls of the pastry to line the individual mini pie tins or use a muffin tin.

  7. Divide the filling into 6 and press it into each pie (they may seem quite full but the mixture will shrink when cooked.)

  8. Brush the edges of the pies with water or egg and cut out some lids. Press down firmly at the edges to seal the pies. Put a small cross in the top to let out the steam while cooking and brush with egg wash. Place onto the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 30 – 40 minutes until the pastry is golden and firm.

  9. Once out of the oven allow the pies to cool slightly but remove from the tins whilst still warm.

    Allow to cool and serve with red onion marmalade or some spicy piccalilli on the side.

The ‘Root’ to Deliciousness

Cragside feb

After 6 quiet weeks the ovens, mixers and most importantly the chefs in the kitchen at Cragside have sprung into life. This week we’ve come back with a bang and welcomed the first visitors of 2016. Its been half term this week which has meant lots of families have wrapped up and braved the somewhat wintry weather that descended on us over the past week. We kept our menu simple this week with a whole host of warming dishes and treats such as carrot and coriander soup, cottage pie and apple crumble and custard.

On our list of cakes this week has been the slightly unusual addition of chocolate and beetroot cake. For the cynics amongst you I promise this is a cake worth trying; even if you don’t like beetroot. (Just ask our lovely chef Charlotte who avoids beetroot like the plague in its normal guise). The beetroot adds and extra dimension of moisture and richness, not to mention giving the sponge a lovely reddish/purpley hue. If you’d like to give the recipe a try you can either buy the beetroot fresh or you can use the ready cooked pre packed beetroot (but definitely avoid the pickled variety!!)

chocolate and beetroot cake

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

265g plain flour

55g cocoa powder

15g baking powder

375g caster sugar

300ml sunflower or vegetable oil

375g cooked beetroot

5 eggs

5ml vanilla essence

Butter Icing

200g icing sugar

50g cocoa

125g butter

a little water to mix

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celcius

2. Grate the cooked beetroot and set to one side.

3. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and thickened (this may take 5 – 10 minutes).

4. Gradually pour in the oil while still whisking until it is fully incorporated into the egg and sugar mixture

5. Mix together the flour, baking powder and cocoa and fold into the egg mixture.

6. Fold in the grated beetroot and add the vanilla essence

7. Grease and line a 23cm/9 inch tin and pour in the cake mixture, cook in the centre of the oven for between 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

8. To make the icing mix the icing sugar, cocoa and softened butter together until fully combined and soft. If the icing is still a little stiff add a few drops of water and mix again. 

9. Once the cake is cooked and cooled, spread the butter icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with a little grated chocolate.

Autumn Colours

autumn cragside
Beautiful Autumn colours at the visitors centre

As mid November approaches there’s no denying that Autumn is well and truly upon us. All around the estate at Cragside the deciduous trees have turned an array of strikingly beautiful jewel colours which look stunning in the late afternoon sun. The recent Indian Summer has meant the weather has been perfect for a meandering ramble around the estate. There are a number of fantastic walks around Cragside and when I’m not working, my dog and I love to explore the the paths that twist and turn through the Crags. The gun walk is my favourite, its has some challenging climbs and descents but the views are amazing! I always find the perfect end to a long walk is a steaming hot bowl of soup, and luckily soup is always on the menu at the tea room.

autumn cragside 2
Cragside House: A view from above

Warm,comforting and cosy, a bowl full of thick velvety soup with a chunk of crusty bread is an absolute pleasure. It’s also a quick, healthy and versatile meal which can be made with only a few ingredients. With endless combinations there’s a soup recipe to suit any occasion whether its a traditional blend like lentil and bacon, a spicy mulligatawny or a light refreshing Chinese broth.

As soup is a big seller in the tearoom we tend to change the recipes quite often but one of my favourites combines split peas and celeriac; an underrated and under used root vegetable packed with flavour. Celeriac is currently bang in season so should be available in green grocers and supermarkets everywhere.

Celeriac & split pea soup. Serves 4 – 6

200g yellow split peas, soaked overnight

1 Celeriac, peeled and chopped

1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 large or 2 small potatoes, peeled and chopped

1.5 litre of vegetable stock

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Salt & pepper to taste.

4 tbsp crème fraiche

A few chives

  1. Soak the split peas in enough water to cover them the night before you want to make the soup.

  2. Put most of the oil (reserving a little for garnish) into a heavy based large sauce pan and add the chopped onions, cooking for 3 – 4 mins on a medium heat until translucent in colour, add the crushed garlic, stir and continue to cook for a 2 more minutes.

  3. Add the celeriac and potato to the pan and stir thoroughly.

  4. Pour over 1 litre of the stock and add the split peas to the pan. Bring the stock to the boil and then reduce the heat until the soup is simmering. Continue to cook the soup for at least 2 and a half – 3 hours until the split peas are tender, you will need to add the rest of the stock during this time (and possibly a little more water as the split peas tend to soak up a little of the liquid.)

  5. Once the soup is cooked, blend to a smooth consistency and season to taste.

  6. Garnish with a tbsp of crème fraiche, a drizzle of the oil and a sprinkle of chopped chives.

  7. Serve with a huge hunk or crusty bread or a cheese scone.

Soup blog pic
Celeriac and split pea soup
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A lovely Autumn day at Nelly’s Moss

Hedgerow Heaven

Blackberry Curd

At this time of year hedgerows and trees begin to offer up an abundance of forageable delights. From rosehips to elderberries there is a large variety of fruits to create jams, jellies and wines with. One of the most versatile of these hedgerow treats has to be the blackberry. These plump and juicy berries are packed full of vitamin C and K and are a brilliant source of manganese which helps to promote healthy bone structure.

Also known as brambles, blackberries have been used in culinary and medicinal terms since Roman times and as a result have become surrounded by folklore and fable. In one myth it states that no fruit should be picked on or after the 11th October or Devil’s blackberry Day. This old English tale tells the story of Lucifer who was banished from heaven on 11th October. When he fell to earth it is said that he landed in a bramble bush, cursing the fruit and scorching them with his fiery breath for its sharp thorns. As his revenge each year on this date the legend suggests he spits on the fruit; spoiling them, however in reality by this date blackberries are usually past their best or have succumbed to insects.

With this in mind we best get our skates on and gather the last of the harvest to make something delicious. Blackberries are beautiful on their own but in my opinion they are best enjoyed coupled with apples. Everyone knows how delicious they are in a crumble however a few years ago I happened upon a fantastic recipe for blackberry curd in Sara Paston William’s book of Jams, Preserves and Edible Gifts. This week in the tea room we put a generous layer of our batch of blackberry curd into a vanilla swiss roll alongside freshly whipped double cream. I had planned on capturing a picture of the swiss roll for my blog however it proved so popular among the customers it was gone by the time I’d reached for my camera………….. 

Blackberry Curd

350g blackberries

225g cooking Apples

1 large lemon (juice and zest)

125g butter

350g caster sugar

4 large eggs

    1. Peel and core the apples and roughly chop. Pop into a saucepan alongside the rinsed blackberries and cook over a gentle heat for approximately 15 minutes or until soft and pulpy. 

  1. Rub through a sieve to create a smooth vivid purple purée.

  2. Place the purée into a double boiler with the lemon zest and juice and stir over a gentle heat until combined.

  3. Add the beaten eggs, sugar and melted butter and stir.

  4. Using a plastic or wooden spoon Keep stirring the mixture, to prevent it from sticking, until thickened, this can take up to 20 minutes.

  5. Remove from the heat and once the curd has cooled a little pour into a warm jar and cover with a circle of waxed paper and leave to cool completely. Served immediately on thickly sliced bread, scones or sandwiched in a vanilla sponge or alternatively cover with a lid or some cellophane and keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

For more information about our tea room or the whole of Cragside please follow the link below.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside/

A Victorian Offering

brown bread ice cream

Being part of a Victorian property has meant that over the years I’ve dabbled with many authentic recipes from Lord Armstrong’s era. There’s something very satisfying about creating a dish today that may have been served up in a dining room 150 years ago, especially when it results in something delicious. A word of warning however sometimes historical recipes can be a little vague on quantities which when making a soup or a stew isn’t overly important, but when it comes to baking it can provide some interesting results. I’m sure if you asked my fellow kitchen colleagues they may remember a mild disaster with a recipe for Mrs Beeton’s coffee cake where the ambiguous measurements of bicarbonate of soda resulted in a volcano like effect in the oven, anyway moving on…………………..

Wealthy Victorian’s loved all things decadent and exotic and would often throw ostentatious dinner parties with many courses. Game, tropical fruits and elaborate moulded jellies and terrines were especially popular among the diners.

Ice cream was also extremely popular amongst the Victorian’s however it was strictly a dish for the wealthy as only they could afford to keep imported ice within ice houses in the ground of their estates. Alongside flavours that are still popular today such as vanilla, chocolate and raspberry they also enjoyed some more unusual flavours such as parmesan and brown bread. Now I’m not sure about parmesan flavoured ice cream but brown bread ice cream is extremely tasty. A yummy combination of creamy ice cream and sweet crunchy crumbs its relatively simple to make even without an ice cream maker.

Unfortunately these days we don’t have time to make our own brown bread ice cream at Cragside, luckily however the fantastic people at Doddington dairy make ours and we serve it topped with luscious butterscotch sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? If you’re tempted to try it for yourself pop into the tea rooms or alternatively here’s the recipe to have a go at, complete with the butterscotch sauce.

Brown Bread Ice cream with Butterscotch Sauce

For the Ice cream

110g wholemeal breadcrumbs

170g brown sugar

500ml double cream

100ml full fat milk

1 vanilla pod, slit in half lengthways/1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

1 egg

Mix together the bread crumbs and 100g of the brown sugar and transfer to a lined baking tray. Place the tray into an oven at 180 degrees for approx 10 mins or until golden, remembering to give the crumbs a stir half way through cooking. Then leave to cool.

While the crumbs are cooling put 200 ml of the cream and the milk into a small saucepan with the vanilla pod or extract and put onto medium heat until it boils, once boiling remove from the heat and set to one side.

Whisk the egg, egg yolk and the remaining sugar until it becomes pale and thickened then add the cooled cream to the egg mixture and stir. Once the cream and egg mix is combined transfer to a pan and place onto a low heat. Stir the custard until it thickens then remove from the heat to cool.

Whisk the remaining cream until it is just whipped and fold into the cooled custard, along with the breadcrumbs. Place the mix into a plastic container with a lid and put into the freezer, once the ice cream is beginning to freeze around the edges remove from the freezer and stir. Repeat this process 2 – 3 more times and then leave to freeze completely.

For the Sauce

120g light brown sugar

120g butter

100ml double cream

Place all the ingredients into a pan and place onto a medium heat. Keep stirring the mixture until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, turn down the heat and bring to a simmer. Stir for 5 – 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened a little and remove from the heat. You can either serve this sauce hot straight over the ice cream or let it cool a little and it will thicken up to a more fudgey consistency.

If you’re a fan of Victorian recipes then please take the time to visit the house at Cragside on a Wednesday afternoon where our lovely volunteers bring history to life by whipping up some treats in the original Cragside kitchen.

cragside kitchen

A Perfect Summer Treat

Over the last fortnight we’ve seen both beautiful sunshine and spectacular lightning at Cragside as British Summer time finally arrived with a bang. Its been nearing tropical temperatures in the tea room kitchen so we’ve all been taking turns at the stove and fighting over who gets to tidy the walk in freezer.

From the menu it was our salads, sandwiches, cold drinks and delicious Doddington ice cream that have all proven very popular with the visitors during the heat wave and the intermittent torrential showers.

As for recipes for my blog there was only one choice this week and that had to be Strawberries (well it has just been Wimbledon fortnight after all!). British Strawberry season is short so we have to make the most of these delicious soft fruits while they are at their best. Strawberries are extremely versatile; perfect in everything from summer pudding to a cooling pitcher of fruity daiquiri.

Strawberry shortcake is both delicious and indulgent; yet its very simple to make. The shortbread base can be made in advance which means it’s the perfect dessert for a summer dinner party and lets face it who doesn’t love buttery shortbread, sweet strawberries and lashings of cream.

strawberry shortcake

For the Shortbread base:

340g/12oz Plain Flour

340g/12oz unsalted butter, softened

115g/4oz caster sugar

115g/4oz cornflour

To decorate:

1 punnet of fresh strawberries

240ml double cream

2.5ml vanilla extract

1 tsp icing sugar.

    1. Preheat the oven to 130 degrees Celsius.

    2. Put all the ingredients for the shortbread into a large mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer until a soft dough has formed. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 mins. Flour your bench then roll out the dough to approximately 1cm thick and cut into squares or rounds. Place onto a lined baking tray leaving room for the biscuits to spread.

    3. Cook for 20 – 25 mins or until firm to the touch.

    4. Lift the biscuits out of the oven and sprinkle with caster sugar and leave to cool completely.

    5. Just before serving whip up the double cream with the icing sugar and vanilla extract and place into a piping bag.

      Cut up the strawberries and assemble the dessert by layering first the shortcake then the cream and then strawberries. Repeat with a second layer and then finish with more cream and more strawberries. Yum!

A Buzz in the Air

This weekend was Bug Weekend at Cragside and we’ve certainly celebrated all things creepy crawly with lots of mini beast inspired activities for all the family. In the tea room we’ve been extremely busy but that hasn’t stopped the team getting inspired by all the fun….

No, don’t worry, I didn’t put chocolate covered ants in the scones or grasshoppers in the soup but with a visit from The Alnwick and District Bee keepers Association honey seemed to be the obvious ingredient crying out for a place on our menu this weekend. Honey is a hugely adaptable ingredient that can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes and is perfectly at home in anything from casseroles to cakes and puddings.

On Saturday afternoon I managed to take a few minutes out of the kitchen and have a look at the display the beekeepers association had set up in the courtyard. They were a lovely bunch and we chatted about the importance of protecting bees and the ways in which honey is collected. Of course as an avid foodie I couldn’t leave without sampling the offerings; my favourite being the delicious heather honey which has a beautiful subtle flavour.

Part of the Bee Keepers display
Part of the Bee Keepers display
Candle making in the courtyard
Candle making in the courtyard
Bee keepers protective clothing.
Bee keepers protective clothing.

Whilst honey cake is a regular on the tearoom menu, I wanted to try something a little different this week and decided to put a honey and lemon twist on one of my favourite recipes; the bakewell. The classic version of this tart is always extremely popular with our customers and is equally delicious eaten cold with pouring cream or gently warmed and served with custard.

Honey and Lemon Bakewell Tartlets (Makes 12)

Honey and lemon bakewell

For the Pastry

12oz/340g Plain Flour

8oz/225g Butter/margarine

4oz/115g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

For the filling

12 tsp Raspberry jam

6oz/170g Butter/margarine

6oz/170g caster sugar

3 eggs

3oz/85g Self Raising flour

3oz/85g Ground almonds

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp honey (1 for the mix and 1 to glaze the bakewells with)

1 oz/25g flaked almonds

  1. Make the sweet pastry by rubbing together the flour and the fat until it resembles breadcrumbs, incorporate in the sugar and then add the egg. Bring together with a palette knife or your hands until you have a soft dough. Pop the pastry into the fridge to rest for an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 150c

  3. Whisk together the butter and sugar in a bowl until it becomes light and fluffy, add the eggs and a little of the flour and mix. Add the rest of the flour and the ground almonds and fold through the mix. Lastly add the lemon zest and 1 tbsp of honey and fold through.

  4. Roll out the pastry to line each tartlet tin then spread a teaspoon of the jam in the base of each tart. Divide the almond mix between all of the tart cases and then sprinkle with the flaked almonds

  5. Place the tart cases onto a baking tray and put onto the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the tarts are golden and firm to the touch.

  6. Lift out of the oven and glaze with some melted honey. Set aside to cool slightly and serve warm with cream, custard or ice cream (I’m particularly partial to Doddington’s heather honey ice cream).