ArchiveJuly 2024

Fruitful Cookbook

This is the title of a new cookbook penned by Sarah Johnson, a brilliant young pastry chef with an impeccable pedigree.

Fruitful is a very personal collection of sweet and savoury seasonal recipes inspired by farms, orchards and gardens. It’s packed with suggestions for ways to celebrate the bounty of summer fruits. There’s an irresistible collection of mouth-watering suppers, salads, elegant cakes and luxurious desserts…

Sarah is American born but now lives in London. She originally trained with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in California and currently splits her time between Skye Gyngell’s Spring Restaurant in Somerset House and Heckfield Place, the most gorgeous country house hotel in Hampshire.

On her recent visit, she cooked a Pop-Up dinner at Ballymaloe House and did a guest chef appearance at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Both the students and guests loved her, she cooked different dishes for both events using the freshest, most lovely, seasonal ingredients from the farm and gardens.

At the cookery school as well as the three recipes I’ve included with this column, she also cooked a frozen yoghurt and honey parfait with roasted blueberries and macerated strawberries and a sublime chocolate tart in a chocolate pastry shell, all of which are in the cookbook as well as a salad of nectarines, green beans, almonds and feta, pan-fried duck breast with blackcurrant, goat cheese soufflés with roasted cherries and a summer herb salad that charmed the guests at Ballymaloe House. 

The students particularly loved her clever tips and tricks and her expert advice for mastering key techniques. There were also thought provoking combinations from fruit growers around the world.

I too love blackcurrants and gooseberries, the latter are almost over but the blackcurrants have been ripening on the bushes for the past few weeks. We’ve had to cover the bushes with light netting otherwise the blackbirds and pigeons would strip every last plump blackcurrant off the branches. There are raspberries and strawberries from January to December, but blackcurrants and gooseberries rarely appear on supermarket shelves, best to plant a few bushes of your own. Make a note in your diary to order some from your garden centre to plant sometime between November and March depending on the weather.

My very favourite way to eat blackcurrants is to poach them in a simple syrup (equal quantities of sugar and water) until they burst (2-3 minutes). Spoon them into bowls immediately,

then pour a little icy cold Jersey cream – divine!

Make the most of the summer fruit while it is in season.

Sarah Johnson’s Fruitful will give you lots of exciting new ideas. Published by Kyle Books.

Savoury Lemon Chicken Piccata

Lemon, chicken and capers appear harmoniously together in a number of dishes, however Sarah’s favourite version is in this Italian-American classic. Serve it with orzo, or buttermilk mashed potatoes and garlicky green beans. 

Serves 4-6

4 skinless chicken breasts

salt and pepper

140g butter, separated

50ml oil

250g flour

1 clove of garlic

100ml white wine

100ml chicken stock

zest of 1 lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp capers

handful of parsley

Begin by cutting each chicken breast in half, slicing through horizontally to create two thinner pieces. Place the slices between two pieces of baking parchment and gently pound until they’re about 1.5cm thick. Season the chicken with salt, cover lightly and set aside for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat then add 40g of the butter and the oil. Put the flour into a shallow bowl, then dredge each chicken cutlet in the flour, shaking off the excess. When the pan is hot and the butter begins to sizzle, place the cutlets into the hot pan, ensuring you don’t overcrowd the pan (you may need to do this in two batches.) Allow the cutlets to cook for 3-5 minutes, waiting patiently before flipping them. Once they are crisp and golden-brown, and release easily from the bottom of the pan, flip them and quickly sear the other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken. 

Add the chopped garlic to the pan and let it sizzle briefly, but before it browns, add the white wine. Bring the liquid to a boil and let it reduce until it has nearly evaporated. Add the chicken stock and using a spatula, scrape and lift any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the lemon zest, juice, whisk in the remaining butter and then add the capers, swirling them around to form a glossy emulsion. Return the chicken cutlets to the pan, spooning the sauce over each piece until they are warmed through. Take the pan off the heat and let everything rest for 5 minutes.

Just before serving, garnish the dish with freshly chopped parsley and wedges of lemon. 

Serve with buttermilk mash or orzo.

Blackcurrant Jelly

In this recipe, the blackcurrant is set with gelatine rather than pectin, resulting in a bright, fresh-tasting jelly which can be served with a number of dishes both savoury and sweet. It is one of my favourite accompaniments to a number of cheeses, like a young moussey goat’s cheese, or a creamy blue. You may also consider serving small spoonfuls with a terrine or duck pâté on toast. For a sweeter alternative, serve with cold thick cream and sugared rose petals, or include as a layer in your favourite summer trifle. This jelly should be quivering when set, and barely held together by the gelatine. To achieve this, pay particular attention to your measurements.

Serves 6-8

570ml blackcurrant juice (see below)

150–200g caster sugar, plus extra to taste 

4 sheets of gelatine leaf

Measure 100ml of the blackcurrant juice into a small saucepan with the sugar. Place over a gentle heat, swirling occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the juice is hot to touch, then set aside. 

Meanwhile, submerge the gelatine sheets one by one into a bowl of ice-cold water and leave to soften for about 5 minutes. Remove the gelatine from the cold water and squeeze to remove the excess liquid, then add it to the warm currant juice and stir until the gelatine is completely dissolved. Slowly stir in the remaining juice, then strain through a fine-mesh plastic sieve into a serving bowl. Give the jelly a little taste and add a whisper of sugar if desired. Place into the refrigerated uncovered for 2-3 hours, then cover and continue to chill until set. 

Serve with softly whipped cream.

Variation: You may also set the jelly in ramekins, which can be turned out on a plate after a quick run under hot water. 

Cover the remaining pulp with vodka – strain after 7 or 8 days and enjoy.

Blackcurrant Juice

Makes about 600ml

700g topped and tailed blackcurrants

200ml water

Place the blackcurrants in a saucepan with the water, then cover the pan with a lid and bring it to a gentle boil. Lightly mash the currants and let them cook for an additional minute. Remove from the heat and carefully strain the juice through a fine-mesh plastic sieve into a heatproof container, use the back of a ladle to gently press the fruit, being cautious not to agitate it too much to avoid clouding the juice. Use immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Almond Cake with Roasted Apricots and Sugared Rose Petals

This almond cake is definitely one for your repertoire – it’s a keeper!

Serves 8-10

115g almond flour

80g icing sugar

220g caster sugar

195g unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into cubes plus extra for greasing

5 large eggs (290g)

¼ vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)

2 tsp almond liquor

140g plain flour

1 ¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Roasted Apricots with Muscat Beaumes de Venise (see recipe)

Sugared Rose Petals (see recipe)

Preheat the oven 160°C/Gas Mark 3.

Grease a 23cm cake tin with butter, dust it with flour and tap out the excess.

Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper

In the bowl of a food processor, grind the almond flour and two sugars until properly mixed. Scatter the cubes of butter over the top, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. (You may wish to open the machine and scrape the sides down to make sure the eggs are getting fully incorporated.) Add the vanilla and almond liquor.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt, then add half the dry ingredients to the processor. Pulse the machine a few times, then add the rest, pulsing until the dry ingredients are just barely incorporated. Scrape down the machine and the blade then pulse one or two more times. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 30 minutes. Rotate the cake 180 degrees, then bake for another 15 minutes or when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack to cool.  

Scatter sugared rose petals over the top of the cake and serve with Roasted Apricots with Muscat Beaumes de Venise.

Roasted Apricots with Muscat Beaumes de Venise 

Ripe apricots and Muscat Beaumes de Venise, at their best, share a beguiling scent of honey and sweet nectar. This quality makes them a perfect combination for this simple dish. If you have difficulty sourcing Muscat wine, particularly one that won’t strain your budget, feel free to experiment with other white dessert wines such as Sauternes or Vin Santo. 

Serves 4-6

1kg ripe, fragrant apricots

4 tbsp Muscat Beaumes de Venise

1 vanilla pod (optional)

2-4 tbsp sugar 

Preheat the oven 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Halve the apricots and remove the stones, saving them for another purpose.

Arrange the apricot halves closely together in a ceramic dish. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of Muscat Beaumes de Venise over the apricots and add just enough water to lightly coat the bottom of the dish. Place the dish in the preheated oven for 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds in a bowl along with the sugar. Using your fingertips, rub the vanilla into the sugar, and set it aside. Once the apricots are hot and gently sizzling around the edges, evenly distribute the sugar mixture over the top. Continue roasting for another 7-10 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved into the fruit and the edges start to darken. The fruit should be tender but still retain its shape. Remove from the oven and cut a small corner from one of the apricots to taste. Adjust the sweetness by adding the remaining sugar if desired. Scatter the remaining 2 tablespoons of Muscat Beaumes de Venise over the apricots and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Sugared Rose Petals

1 egg white

30 fragrant rose petals, unsprayed and dry

a small bowl of caster sugar

For the sugared rose petals, make sure your hands are clean and dry and keep a towel nearby. Place the egg whites into a small bowl and gently whisk them until frothy. Using one hand, drag your index and middle finger along with your thumb through the frothy whites, then pick up a rose petal and gently rub it between your fingers to moisten it. If the petal feels too heavy, dry your finger with the towel and brush away any excess whites. Drop the petal into the sugar, then use your other clean hand to toss and coat it. Place the sugared petal on a wire rack. Repeat this process with the remaining petals, using one hand to coat them in egg whites and the other hand to toss them in sugar. It’s best to keep the bowls of egg whites and sugar separate to avoid creating a sticky mess. However, if your hands become mixed, simply take a break to rinse your hands, wipe them dry and continue. Once you have candied all the petals, transfer the wire rack in a cool, moist-free place until the petals are brittle and completely dry. They can be stored in a well-sealed container, stacked between pieces of baking parchment for up to a day.

Wedge Salads

Wedge salads have been all the rage in the US for some time now. For these, the core ingredient is cut into a wedge and left whole rather than shredded then topped with all sorts of deliciousness.

The end result is crunchy and punchy with lots of little nooks and crannies to absorb a refreshing, zesty dressing.

Crisp Iceberg or baby Gem lettuces are favourite but cos or even loose leaves of Butterhead or speckled Castelfranco are delicious too.

I’ve even used baby cabbages and crisp fennel bulbs.

Roasting or grilling perks up the flavour deliciously and it’s fun to add Chinese, Vietnamese or Japanese flavours, Mediterranean, Mexican or traditional Irish.

Love the charred flavour of Radicchio Treviso which mellows the bitterness in an irresistible way.

I was first introduced to this in Venice where it was served on a bed of white polenta.

An Iceberg lettuce can be cut into eight generous wedges. We love it sprinkled with crispy bacon lardons, seasoned cherry tomato quarters, a drizzle of Caesar dressing and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan Cheese.

A few shaved radishes would be an extra embellishment. Blue cheese lovers will enjoy a Cashel, Bellingham or Boyne Valley Blue dressing and maybe some pickled red onions. Easy peasy to do, just slice the onion rings thinly.  They’ll keep for several days.

Just a few suggestions but the sky’s the limit….

Rory O’Connell’s Little Gem Lettuce with Caesar Dressing and Chorizo Crumbs

This is a lovely savoury combination. If you can manage to get tight little heads of lettuce, they can be cut into wedges which makes a lovely presentation. Omit the chorizo crumbs if you’re running short of time but they do add a certain je ne sais quoi!

Serves 12 as a bite

3 heads of baby Gem lettuce

6-8 tbsp of Caesar Dressing (see recipe)

3-4 tbsp Chorizo Crumbs (see recipe) or croutons

3-4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

6-12 anchovies (optional)

Cut each lettuce into four neat wedges yielding 12 pieces.

Carefully dress the lettuce wedges with Caesar dressing. Sprinkle each wedge with chorizo crumbs and grated Parmesan. Place an optional anchovy on top of each wedge for a particular savoury taste.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 50g tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

½ tsp salt

½ – 1 tbsp Worcester sauce

½ – 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce

175ml sunflower oil

50ml extra virgin olive oil

50ml cold water

I make it in a food processor, but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Chorizo Crumbs

Chorizo Crumbs are delicious and used in so many ways.  We like to scatter them over potato, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke or watercress soup.  They are particularly good sprinkled over cauliflower or macaroni cheese.  Keep in a box for several weeks and scatter when you fancy!

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

125g chorizo, peeled and cut into 5mm dice

100g white crust-less breadcrumbs

Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo.  Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to colour from the smoked paprika in the chorizo and the chorizo begins to crisp very slightly.  Be careful as it is easy to burn the chorizo. Drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

Increase the heat, add the breadcrumbs and toss continuously in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and add to the chorizo.

Watercress, Chicory, Apple, Pomegranate and Hazelnut Salad

A refreshing clean-tasting salad.  Just by reading this, one can visualise how delicious this salad will taste, with lots of peppery watercress.

Serves 8

a handful of whole unblanched hazelnuts

2 bunches watercress

2 heads of red or white chicory, cut into wedges

4 medium dessert apples, such as Worcester Pearmain, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Egremont Russet

seeds from 1 small or ½  large pomegranate

a small bunch of chives, cut into 2.5cm lengths

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dressing

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp cider vinegar

pinch of flaky sea salt

8 tbsp hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Arrange the hazelnuts on a baking tray in a single layer and toast the hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes in the oven.  Leave to cool. Rub off the skins and break the nuts into coarse pieces with a rolling pin or in a pestle and mortar.

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing in a large mixing bowl.

Remove the more fibrous stalks from the watercress. Separate the leaves of the chicory. Cut the apples into quarters, remove the core with a sharp knife and slice some into thin wedges and others into chunks.

Just before serving.

Gently toss the chicory wedges, watercress and apple in the dressing and season to taste. Transfer to a serving dish or individual serving plates. Sprinkle liberally with the crunchy toasted hazelnuts, a few pomegranate seeds and chives.  Scatter with chive flowers if available.

Chargrilled Fennel Wedges with Roast Red Peppers

Chargrilling sweetens the fennel deliciously. Add to Verdura Mista or this versatile combination. The fronds add a fresh liquorice taste and the flowers a touch of anise.

Serves 6

1-2 fennel bulbs

extra virgin olive oil

3 roast red peppers, peeled, deseeded and sliced

1 tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed and toasted

lots of fresh fennel fronds, coarsely chopped

fennel flowers, optional

12-18 black Kalamata or Nicoise olives

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a char-grill or grill pan over a high heat.

Trim the fennel bulbs and cut into 6 wedges. Alternatively, slice the fennel very thinly, 3mm, from top to bottom.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Cook the wedges or slices on the hot pan until golden and slightly caramelized on each side. Arrange on a platter interspersed with warm roasted red pepper slices.  Scatter some freshly roasted and slightly crushed fennel seeds over the top. Toss.  Sprinkle over the freshly chopped fennel fronds, a few fresh fennel flowers, if using, add some black olives, and serve as an accompaniment to a pan-grilled fish or pork chop, or just as a starter.

Pickled Red Onions

You’ll find yourself dipping into the jar of pickled onions regularly, to add to a salad, sandwich, or as an accompaniment to beef or fish burgers.

Makes 2 x 200g jars

225ml white wine vinegar

110g granulated sugar

pinch of salt

3 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick, broken

1 dried red chilli

450g red onions, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin

Put the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Put in one-third of the sliced onions and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until they turn pink and wilt. Lift out the cooked onions with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a sterilized jam jar with a non-reactive lid. Repeat with the rest of the onions, cooking them in two batches. Top up the jars with the hot vinegar, put on the lids and set aside to cool overnight. Once cold, store in the fridge.

A Rose Tea Party

One of the highlights of the summer season for me is the invitation to a friend’s Rose Tea Party. It’s a proper, deliciously old-fashioned afternoon tea in the dining room of a beautiful country house with starched linen tablecloths, lots of delicate China and an assortment of teapots. Flamboyant flower arrangements tumble out of family heirlooms and epergnes, and we all dress up in our summer frocks and linen blazers.
First, we gather in the drawing room for a glass of fizz laced with some super delicious elderflower cordial made by our host, it’s his summer specialty. We’re a motley assortment of eccentrics, me included, having fun catching up on each other’s lives. Eventually, we all amble through the charming old gardens admiring our hosts collection of roses, fastidiously gathered over many decades. Some are familiar like Albertine and Paul’s Himalayan Musk which romps with gay abandon over the wooden pergola. Each rose has its own story. Those that couldn’t be originally identified, now have a name connecting them to the place where they were discovered, perhaps rambling over an old ruin. Others are now rechristened with the name of the person who rescued it from an old ditch or a thicket of brambles.
There’s Derreen with Kerry connections and Patrica Cockburn named after the lovely lady who rescued it from obscurity.
There were cucumber sandwiches on generously buttered white bread with crusts removed, salad sandwiches too and egg mayo and chive, my absolute favourite. Scones of course, tiny little ones topped with softly whipped cream and jam. The pièce de résistance was an irresistible featherlight sponge cake, generously filled and topped with fresh summer strawberries and cream, scattered with deliciously scented rose petals.
Memories came flooding back of afternoon tea parties in the local rectory when we were children. We would dress in our Sunday best, me in one of my pretty smocked dresses with satin ribbons in my hair, the boys in their ‘long pants’ with freshly laundered shirts and tie and their tousled hair brushed into submission. We were warned to behave, to wait until seated at the big mahogany table and then there was a protocol. Only speak when you are spoken to, start with a slice or two of thinly sliced bread and butter from the plate nearest you, no grabbing or stretching, next a sandwich or two, then a scone or jam tartlet and eventually a slice of cake. I particularly remember a Victoria sponge sandwiched together with Granny Nicholson’s homemade raspberry jam and a moist and delicious coffee cake sandwiched together with coffee butter cream, then iced with a smooth glacé icing and decorated with walnut halves. When we couldn’t eat another bite, we were allowed to run out to play on the swing and see-saw, – is that even a thing anymore? We played tig, a chasing game, blind man’s buff, willie wag tail, 123 and giant steps…Oh my Goodness, I really am on a trip down memory lane!
An afternoon tea party is a wonderful way to entertain a few friends with or without their children even if you don’t have a collection of aromatic roses for them to admire.
Here are some of my favourite treats to enjoy.

Almond Tartlets with Raspberries or Loganberries and Cream

Save this recipe for these adorable little tartlets, they are a doddle to make. Raspberries are in season at present but other summer berries like loganberries, boysenberries, tayberries will be delicious or even a few slices of peach or nectarine.

Serves 12

Makes 24 tartlets

110g butter

110g caster sugar

110g ground almonds

Filling

fresh raspberries or loganberries

300ml whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Garnish

little sprigs of sweet cicely, mint or lemon balm

For this recipe, choose two trays of round bottomed, rather than deep tartlet tins.

Cream the butter well and then just stir in the sugar and ground almonds. (Don’t over beat or the oil will come out of the ground almonds as it cooks.) Put a teaspoon of the mixture into 24 small patty tins.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  The tartlets will be too soft to turn out immediately, so cool in tins for about 5 minutes before carefully sliding out of the tins.  Do not allow it to set hard before removing or the butter will solidify, and they will stick to the tins. Cool on a wire rack.  If this happens pop the tins back into the oven for a few minutes so the butter melts, then they will come out easily. 

Just before serving, arrange whole raspberries or loganberries on the base.  Glaze with redcurrant jelly. Decorate with tiny rosettes of cream. We love to garnish them with sweet cicely or tiny lemon balm or mint leaves.

Redcurrant Glaze (optional)

This shiny glaze gives a professional finish and a bittersweet flavour to the tartlets.

The quantities given above make a generous 300ml of glaze.

350g redcurrant jelly

1 tbsp water approx.

Melt the redcurrant jelly with the water in a small stainless-steel saucepan for 1-2 minutes, stirring gently. Do not whisk or it will become cloudy.  Store any leftover glaze in an airtight jar and reheat gently to melt it before use.

Éclairs with lots of riffs

It’s brilliant to be able to make a batch of choux pastry, one can do so many shapes and make sweet and savoury variations. I like to keep them small for afternoon tea, so one can enjoy several!

Makes 20/Serves 10

Choux Pastry

75g strong flour (Baker’s)

small pinch of salt

110ml water

50g butter, cut into 1cm cubes

2-3 eggs depending on size (free range if possible)

Chocolate or Coffee Glacé Icing

Crème Chantilly

300ml whipped cream

½ -1 tbsp icing sugar

2-3 drops pure vanilla extract

parchment paper

9mm round éclair piping nozzle

Make the choux pastry in the usual way.

Sieve the flour with the salt into a bowl.  Heat the water and butter in a high-sided saucepan until the butter is melted. Bring to a fast rolling boil, remove from the heat.  (Note: Prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough).  Immediately the pan is taken from the heat, add all the flour at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan to form a ball. Put the saucepan back on a low heat and stir for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the mixture starts to furr the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and cool for a few seconds.

Meanwhile, break one egg into a bowl, whisk and set aside.  Add the remaining eggs into the dough, one by one with a wooden spoon, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Make sure the dough returns to the same texture each time before you add another egg. When it will no longer form a ball in the centre of the saucepan, add the beaten egg little by little. Use just enough to make a mixture that is very shiny and just drops reluctantly from the spoon in a sheet. 

The choux pastry may be used immediately or kept covered and refrigerated for several hours.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 7.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with a few drops of cold water.  Fill the choux pastry into a piping bag with the round éclair nozzle.  Pipe the dough into strips of your choice (7.5-10cm), 3.5cm apart to allow for expansion. 

Bake immediately in the preheated oven, for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, for a further 15-20 minutes or until they are crisp and golden. Rest the tray on the opened oven door.  Make a little hole in the side of each éclair to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven and bake for approx. 5 minutes more – they should be very crisp. 

Remove to a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the chosen glacé icing or icings (see recipe). 

Sweeten the whipped cream to taste with icing sugar and a dash of vanilla extract, put into a piping bag with a small nozzle.  As soon as the éclairs are cold, fill with chantilly cream through the hole where the steam escaped, (alternatively, split lengthways and fill). 

Dip the tops in the icing and arrange on a wire rack over a tray to catch the drips.  Éclairs are best served within 1 or 2 hours of being made.

Note: If the icing is too thick, add a little warm water, it should be a thick coating consistency.

Delicious as they are but one can have fun with roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped pistachios, walnuts or pecans. I sometimes add a little crushed cardamom to the coffee icing, ¼ teaspoon is enough for once the recipe.

Dark Chocolate Glacé Icing

110g caster sugar

75g butter

4 tbsp water

175g icing sugar, sieved

50g cocoa powder, sieved

In a saucepan, stir the caster sugar, butter and water over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, and the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients in a bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools but thin with warm water as required.

Coffee Glacé Icing

scant 1 tbsp coffee essence

225g icing sugar, sieved

2 tbsp boiling water approx.

Add the coffee essence to the sieved icing sugar in a bowl and enough boiling water to make an icing the consistency of thick cream.

My favourite Coffee Cake

This is a splendid recipe for an old-fashioned coffee cake – the sort Mummy made – and we still make it regularly. Everyone loves it. I’m a real purist about using extract rather than essence in the case of vanilla, but in this cake, I prefer coffee essence (which is actually mostly chicory) to real coffee.

Serves 10-12

225g soft butter

225g caster sugar

4 organic eggs

scant 2 tbsp Camp coffee essence

225g plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 tsp baking powder

Coffee Butter Cream (enough for crumb coat, filling and decoration)

150g butter

330g icing sugar, sieved

3–6 tsp Camp coffee essence

Coffee Glacé Icing

450g icing sugar

scant 2 tbsp Camp coffee essence

about 3-4 tbsp boiling water

To Decorate

toasted hazelnuts, walnut halves or chocolate-covered coffee beans

2 x 20cm round sandwich tins

Line the base of the tins with circles of parchment paper. Brush the bottom and sides with melted butter and dust lightly with flour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer, add the caster sugar and beat until pale in colour and light in texture. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add to the mixture, bit by bit, beating well between each addition, finally add in the coffee essence and mix thoroughly.

Sieve the flour with the baking powder and fold (do not beat) gently into the cake mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared sandwich tins and bake for 30 minutes. When the cakes are cooked, the centre will be firm and springy, and the edges will have shrunk from the sides of the tins – a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake will come out clean. Leave to rest in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment paper from the base, then flip over so the top of the cakes doesn’t get marked by the wire rack. Leave the cakes to cool on the wire rack.

To make the coffee butter cream, beat the soft butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.

To make the coffee icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water, 3-4 tablespoons approx., to make the consistency of a thick cream.

When cold, sandwich the bases of the cakes together with the coffee butter cream. Spread a thin layer of buttercream around the sides and over the top of the cake. This is called crumb coating.

Pour the thickish glacé icing directly onto the centre of the cake and allow it to flow slowly over the top and sides of the cake. Use a palette knife dipped in boiling water if necessary. Decorate with the toasted hazelnuts, walnut halves or chocolate-covered coffee beans. 

Alternatively make extra coffee butter cream, ice the top with coffee icing then decorate with rosettes of coffee butter cream and toasted or caramelized hazelnuts, walnut halves or chocolate coffee beans. 

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