Fig and goats cheese vol au vents

That’s right – vol au vents. We’ve done some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff and landed squarely in the ’70s.

Fig and goats cheese vol au ventsMaybe it’s because I wasn’t around for their orange-tinted heyday that I have a soft spot for a bite-size foods. Or it could be that they leave your other hand free for a drink. The actual reason I like canapés? There’s a lot of scope for using cheese, in more ways than you could with one of those cheese boards that only feature as many varieties as cheese knives in that long-abandoned box (four).

It’s the tooth-squeak of a grilled halloumi skewer. The tongue-tingle of a good quality cheddar paired with pineapple. The nutty quality of an aged Comté. The soft ooze of burrata. If it came to it, I could give up steak, or bread, or pasta. Just don’t torture me, alone(y) without torta mascarpone.*

The cheese of the hour is goats cheese. To some people, it tastes “like a farm”. (When and why and where have all these people been licking barnyards?) But truly, it delivers an unbeatable tang that sits so wonderfully alongside sweet fruits and honey. Here, a soft goats cheese nestles with lightly honeyed caramelised onions and jammy fig to make a vol au vent that’s very much for the modern age. Continue reading

Double chocolate raspberry tart

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ou know what’s a great idea in 30C summer heat? Laying around in the sun with a good supply of drinks. You know what’s not such a great idea? Making pastry.

So naturally, on Saturday afternoon/evening, the scene was me standing in my kitchen, swearing at an uncooperatively melty pastry case while I desperately tried to cool myself and it with a standing fan positioned next to us. Continue reading

Rum & pecan apple tart

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aaaaaaaaaaaand we’re in! We have an oven that works! That tart up there is one of the first things I’ve baked here, and it didn’t burn on the bottom or anything. It’s all about the little victories, right?

A week and a half in, the kitchen stuff still hasn’t been unpacked. If you employ tunnel vision, you’ll find corners that are almost Pinterest-worthy – I couldn’t rest until I found a big jar to keep pasta in – but if you stop squinting you might spot a few still-wrapped plates, or a book that’s not quite in the right place. We’ve got our priorities sorted, though. The first time we came to the flat, we brought the essentials with us: kettle; mugs; teabags; and Hobnobs, always pronounced without the H. We moved the tea supplies in before we’d even been given the keys.

RumPecanAppleTart2It feels right, finally. We – three of us, now – have grown as people considerably in the last year and a half, and this flats feels like it reflects us better than the flats we could never quite bring ourselves to call “home” ever did. The first few days, we’d nudge each other every now and then just to say, “Hey. Hey. We live here.” This is where we have a biscuit jar to dip into, and little bits of each of our personalities perched on every shelf and worktop.

Regardless of the boxes hastily shoved into corners, we’ve had friends over for dinner. Obviously I volunteered to make dessert, and obviously this ended with me botching together a recipe on that day that, thankfully, worked, so I didn’t have to pull my “sorry guys, here’s some ice cream” trick. You probably can’t go far wrong, though, with apples, cream, pecans, and rum.

Usually, I have a don’t-waste-drink-in-food policy. You know how recipes are often all, “add 250ml [semi-expensive] white wine”? When you don’t have spare twenties to throw around willy-nilly, you see that the same recipe with something else replacing the wine is almost as good. If you quantify the price of a bottle of wine by calculating how many weeks’ pasta, or cheese, or vegetables that’d be, you’re not as likely to throw a “glug” of the good stuff into a risotto. Food snobs, I’m sure, would be horrified. Continue reading

Pear & honey mini galettes

This time last week, I was waking up from a nap, with a pounding headache and a strange sense of home that contradicts everything I wrote about in my past post.

Pear & honey mini galettes // The Littlest BakehouseIf you’re expecting this to be a romantic story about friendship and discussing deep issues under the stars…you’re going to be disappointed. At a friend’s place, we were far enough out of London to actually see the stars, but bank holiday Friday was a night of tequila shots and pizza, cookies baked at 1am and so many ridiculous stories that will become part of the lore of our group. The weekend has been the subject of a number of flashbacks throughout the week that have left me burying my face in my hands, half in laughter and half in disbelief. In short, it was excellent. Continue reading

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta // The Dinner Bell

It’s April, and I sneeze at least five times every morning, right when I wake up. Pollen’s in the air. We’ve cracked out the light jackets. Summer is coming for us.

Summer is the time for falling in love: with cities, with food, with freezing cold showers. It’s suncream, hot tarmac, and that unmistakable smell of strawberries, an aroma that hit me unexpectedly a few weekends ago, giving just a hint of things to come, before the UK was once again blanketed in grey.

London has never been my home – I never yearned for the big city like other teenagers did, and for too long after I moved here I lived in a bubble, terrified that I just couldn’t do it and yet too stubborn to give in. At no point has it been love. London and I are like the married couple that stays together for the sake of the kids.

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta // The Dinner BellPeople still say, Ooh, London eh? Good place to live while you’re young. You must have so much fun. And every time, I smile and nod and think, Well, sort of. The economy is harsh, meeting people is difficult and honestly I would rather cook for my friends and pack them off, giggly and stumbling, with a fist full of cookies, than hit the nightlife. 

But just when I think it’s too much – the isolation, and the cost – something good happens. A gaggle of strangers offers to help a women with a buggy, or a museum visit turns out to be particularly good. In this case, it was a trip to a local grocery stall – the one that’s not part of a market, and where you get called “babe” as standard – that saw me laden with almost more fruit and vegetables than I could carry.

I’m still not in love, but it helps. It’s more bearable when you can go home and say, Okay, so a pint might bankrupt me but damn it, I can buy 750g of strawberries for a quid and I dare you to beat that. These are small pleasures, and it’s almost worth it. Summer is a little slice of sunshine breaking up the unrelenting grey, and I suppose this posh jam tart is my sunshine. Continue reading

Strawberry & coconut rugelach

Every now and then I get really, really obsessed with a  particular flavour or ingredient. I’ve been in danger of switching the target of my fickle foodie love to speculoos – I mean really, who doesn’t love biscuits smushed together with syrup? –  but the sun’s shining and I’ve truly fallen for strawberry and coconut and oh my god I cannot stop jamming these tiny pastries into my pie hole.

Strawberry & Coconut Rugelach | The Littlest BakehouseWith a little bit of oh-so-British sweetness teamed with the more exotic freshness of coconut, they’re the summertime cousin to the warmer months’ cinnamon rugelach. And as a bitesize morsel that can be prepared a few days ahead and doesn’t wilt in the sun, they’d also be superb for picnics and barbecues. I guarantee that despite their unassuming exterior, this little bite of summer will not disappoint.

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes 32 pastries

Notes
Using a sharp knife to cut the dough into slices (step 8) will work, but for less drag use a pizza cutter.
For the cream cheese, low fat works absolutely fine and helps to balance out all that butter guilt!

Ingredients

150g butter
150g low fat cream cheese
160g plain flour
1tbsp icing sugar
4 tbsp jam
6 tbsp desiccated coconut
Icing sugar, to decorate

Method

1) To make the dough, using an electric whisk, beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
2) In a small bowl, combine the flour and icing sugar, and add to the cream cheese and butter mixture, beating on the lowest speed until just combined. If your whisk’s lowest speed is still pretty fast (mine is) do this by hand with a metal spoon – you might need to get your fingers in there to fully bring the dough together. 
3) Scrap the dough into a large piece of clingfilm, wrap well and chill in the fridge for two hours.
4) When the dough has chilled, divide it into to halves and pop one back into the fridge while you prepare the other.
5) On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle (or squircle, we’re easy-going around here) about 30cm in diameter.
6) Quickly heat the jam in a small saucepan to thin it out a little, then spread it over the dough using the back of a teaspoon or a pastry brush.
7) Sprinkle the coconut liberally over the top.
8) Cut the dough into 16 slices (like a pizza!). Starting from the outside edge, roll each slice tightly inwards and transfer to the baking tray, spacing them about 1 inch apart, taking care to tuck the point underneath.
9) When all the slices have been rolled, pop the tray into the freezer for 15 minutes, or fridge for 30, and repeat using the second piece of dough. Preheat the oven to 160C.
10) When all the pastries are rolled and chilled, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and puffed up. When baked, transfer the pastries to a wire rack immediately to prevent the jam acting like superglue as it cools. Sprinkle with icing sugar when cool.