Chocolate cherry coconut squares

I am working my way through the ingredients in my baking cupboard, some quite a long way past their best-before dates – the glacé cherries ‘expired’ in 2012, according to the lid, but they are still absolutely fine. They’re preserved, for pete’s sake!

I found a recipe for Indian-spiced chocolate squares, a riff on the Rocky Road / fridge tart of my youth (the thing mom used to make when somthing sweet was needed in a hurry) and realised I had enough of the ingredients to get going and then add a few of my own.

There is no cooking here, unless you count boiling the kettle and zapping the chocolate in the microwave. Which I don’t.

They’re a winner from virtually every flavour perspective, sweet and chocolatey, fruity and chewy with enough textural interest and, crucially, a slightly bitter edge to the finish that balances the sweetness. The key to the bitter edge is black tea, and the cheat here is chai teabags – readily available in most corner shops and supermarkets. If you don’t have Chai tea bags then half a teaspoon of ground and mixed chair spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves can be added along with an ordinary black tea bag.

Extremely moreish, the chocoholic in the house (not me) was both relieved and saddened that he only got the off-cuts, as the box of squares were destined as a treat for local night shelter guests. He actually pleaded with me not to share the recipe with you.

So, the recipe that inspired me is from Thermomix, A Taste of India cookbook, and although I have a Thermomix, you don’t need one for this.

The essential ingredients to make a 20 x 20cm tray (I used my brownie tin) are:

3 vanilla chai tea bags, or 2 normal tea bags and half a teaspoon of ground mixed spices eg cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove with a splash of vanilla paste

200ml boiling water

150g glacé cherries, halved

50g dessicated coconut

50g stem ginger (or crystallised ginger,roughly chopped)

100g dried dates, halved (or you can use dried apricots or sultanas)

150g digestive biscuits or suitable substitute (I used milk chocolate Hobnobs), roughly broken up

50g nuts – you can use peanut, pecan, almond, walnut, cashews etc, roughly chopped

200g dark dark chocolate (I use Callebaut 70% callets)

50g golden syrup

A big pinch of sea salt


Line your square baking tin with parchment.

Place the cherries, coconut, ginger, dried fruit and tea bags in a medium-sized bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the teabags and discard.

Put the chocolate, golden syrup and salt in another bowl and micrwave on full power for 30 seconds. Stir and give it another 10-20 second blast, you want the chocoalte melted but not boiling.

Add the chocolate mix to the bowl with the fruit and tea, add the broken up biscuits and nuts, and stir really well to combine. Tip into your prepared tin and refrigerate for 20 minutes, until set.

Cut into squares and dust with cocoa powder. They won’t last long, and when you make them again there’s the option to vary the ingredients for a slightly different result.

© Linda Galloway 2020

Festive chocolate mince pies dusted with icing sugar

Chocolate mince pies

Festive chocolate mince pies dusted with icing sugar

I’ve been making these chocolate mince pies for years, as a nod to all those who hate mince pies. Chocolate pastry and dark chocolate mixed in to the fruit filling takes these to another place entirely – think indulgent fruit and nut chocolate but squidgier and more intense.

There’s nothing tricky here, just substitute some flour in the pastry for cocoa powder, and stir some plain dark chocolate drops through the mincemeat (I use these Callebaut drops) . Don’t be tempted to use milk chocolate, as the filling is already very sweet and the dark chocolate offsets that beautifully.

I buy good quality organic mincemeat (almost all of it is vegetarian or vegan, using vegetable fat instead of suet) and you can pimp that with a grating of orange zest and slug of brandy or rum to add more oomph.

Then make as you would normally. The cocoa powder makes the pastry quite fudgy and difficult to work with, so I roll it between two large sheets of baking parchment.

If you want to use less pastry, cut out star-shapes for the tops.

I make these quite small, canape-sized, because they are very rich. I often serve them as a petit four with coffee at Christmas parties and they always win hands down over the traditional variety.


Makes 12 small pies

150g plain flour

30g cocoa powder (not hot chocolate) I like the Wholefoods one

1 tbsp caster sugar (optional)

85g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and popped in the freezer for 10 minutes

1-2 tbsp fridge-cold water

For the filling:

200g good quality mincemeat (add orange zest and brandy if desired)

50g dark chocolate pistoles or drops (min 53% cocoa solids, you can also chop up a flavoured bar if you prefer)


Put the flour and cocoa in a blender, add the diced butter and pulse until combined.

With the blender running, drizzle in the cold water until the pastry comes together in a ball and pulls away from the sides. You may not need all of the water.

Tip the pastry onto your work surface and bring it together. Wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Mix the chocolate drops in with the mincemeat.

When rested, roll the pastry out between two sheets of baking parchment, to around 2-3mm. Cut out larger circles for the bottoms, and carefully line your moulds.

Spoon in the filling, and top with stars or a smaller circle of pastry.

Bake in the oven at 190C for 10-12 minutes depending on size. Allow to cool in the tins before tipping out (although if the filling has bubbled out you will need to act quickly as it will stick like glue!).

Dust with icing sugar and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

© Linda Galloway 2020

Going bananas

Two ripe banana recipes that aren’t bread!

I didn’t bake banana bread during lockdown but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have an oversupply of ripe bananas. As usual, they were peeled and frozen … intended for smoothies and other banana-related uses.
Today I went to get some bread out of the freezer and realised it was full of frozen bananas. I had planned to make buttermilk scones so I used the bananas instead, to add moisture and flavour, and made half with choc chips, for variety.

I ate the plain ones with butter and raspberry jam but now I’m thinking how good they would be with crisp streaky bacon and Maple syrup …

Still stuck with a surfeit of overripe fruit, today I made banana choc chip muffins, adding buttermilk and using soft dark brown sugar to intensify the chocolate flavour.

Now, instead of bananas, I have a freezer full of banana-flavoured treats for the week.

Banana scones


Makes 6-8

250g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp sea salt

15g caster sugar

75g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes (or substitute any dairy-free alternative or natural vegetable oil)

2 over-ripe bananas, squashed

1 medium free-range egg, beaten

2 tbsp milk for glazing (or any dairy-free alternative)

50g milk chocolate chips (optional)


Preheat the oven to 220C.
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together, then add the butter and use your hands or a hand-held pastry blender to rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. You can also use a blender for this – a few quick pulses will do it.

Now add the bananas and the egg, and mix quickly to bring the dough together. At this stage add the chocolate chips, if using (I split the mix and made half with chocolate).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, lightly dust the top with flour and use a pastry cutter to cut out circles, or simply cut into squares with a sharp knife.

Line a baking tray with parchment and transfer the scones. Use a pastry brush to lightly glaze the scones with milk.

Bake for 10 minutes – if you’ve made large ones they will take a bit longer. They will be brown and dry to the touch.

Give them 5 minutes on the cooling rack before tucking in – the plain ones are good with butter and jam (or bacon and syrup), the chocolate ones would (without doubt) benefit from a spoonful of Nutella.

Banana choc muffins


Makes 12 large or 18 small

225g self-raising flour

55g cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

225g soft dark brown sugar

200-400g over-ripe bananas (tbh you can add as many of you have, you will just end up with more muffins), mashed

30g unsalted butter, melted

1 medium free-range egg

225ml buttermilk (or milk with a squeeze of lemon juice)

60g dark chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a muffin tin with papers (or spray the tin liberally with non-stick baking spray)

Sift the flour and cocoa into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, bicarb and salt, give it a good stir and then make a well in the centre.

In a jug combine the butter, egg and buttermilk and give it a whisk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, add the bananas and choc chips and use a hand mixer, spatula or wooden spoon to mix together as quickly as you can.

You will see that as the buttermilk reacts with the bicarb the mixture starts to open up and develop bubbles.

Quickly fill the muffin tins and bake in the oven for 35 minutes (large) or 18 minutes (small). These are great for school lunchboxes or breakfast on the go.

© Linda Galloway 2020

Banana choc muffins

A slice of dark and white chocolate tart with hazelnut praline and fresh cherries

Showstopper chocolate ganache tart with hazelnut praline

A large chocolate tart with hazelnut praline and cherries

There are occasions in life that demand celebration and this chocolate ganache tart is the dessert for chocolate lovers everywhere – it will even satisfy the fence-sitters.

You need to make this in stages, none of which takes very long and it can be done over the course of a few hours. Leave the final decoration until shortly before serving, as the praline will start to soften once in contact with the ganache.

The most technical thing about this is the praline – make sure you have an oven glove close at hand and don’t let your fingers get anywhere near the boiling sugar syrup!

As with all recipes, I strongly advise you to read through from start to finish before attempting the tart; you don’t want any surprises along the way.

The stages are:

  1. Make the pastry, rest and roll, blind bake and cool
  2. Make the dark chocolate ganache. Fill and set.
  3. Make the white chocolate ganache. Fill and set.
  4. Make the hazelnut praline. Cool and blitz half.
  5. Melt the dark chocolate for drizzling.
  6. Assemble and serve.

A fizzing fountain candle won’t go amiss with this one, its over-the-top indulgence needs a look-at-me moment. Anyone counting calories should look deep into their soul and then dive in, spoon flailing. Life is too short to miss out on treats like this.


For the pastry

145g plain flour

30g cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)

85g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and popped in the freezer for 15 minutes

1 generous pinch of sea salt

1.5 tablespoons fridge-cold water

Icing sugar for rolling

Dark chocolate ganache

300g good quality dark chocolate (I use Valrhona), broken into small pieces
300ml double cream

75g unsalted butter

75ml VSOP Cognac (optional)

White chocolate ganache

200g good quality white chocolate (I use Green & Blacks), broken into small pieces

200g double cream

50g unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

75ml dark rum (optional)

Hazlenut praline

150g hazelnuts, peeled

200g sugar, preferably granulated but caster will do

45ml water

To serve

80g dark chocolate

Fresh cherries, raspberries, figs or any other chocolate-friendly fruit in season.

You will need a 23cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tin like this


Make the pastry. Put the weighed-out flour, cocoa and salt in a blender. Add the frozen butter and blitz for 15-20 seconds until you have a coarse crumb. Add 1 tablespoon of water and blitz again to combine. Add a few more drops of water if needed, to bring the mixture together in a ball. Tip the pastry and use your hands to condense it in a ball. Wrap and place in the fridge to rest for 10 minutes.

Then dust your clean work surface liberally with icing sugar and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry to the desired size. Carefully line the tart case, gently pushing the pastry in to the folds and pressing out the bottom to an even thickness. Pinch off the excess at the edges.

Heat the oven to 200C, prick the pastry base with a fork, line with baking parchment and fill with beans or rice or coins. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and return the pastry to the oven for another 6-8 minutes until the base is cooked and has a sandy texture.  Leave to cool.

Make the dark chocolate ganache.
Put the cream and butter in a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Have a whisk or spatula ready and as the cream comes up to the boil, tip the chocolate in and stir like crazy.
When the chocolate has melted add the alcohol (if using) and keep whisking until the mixture is shiny and well combined. Pour it into the tart case. Make sure it spreads evenly and give the tart a gentle tap to settle the ganache. This needs to cool and set at room temperature –  two to four hours.

Make the white chocolate ganache.
Put the cream and butter in a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Have a whisk or spatula ready and as the cream comes up to the boil, tip the chocolate in and stir like crazy.
When the chocolate has melted add the alcohol (if using) and keep whisking until the mixture is shiny and well combined. Pour it into the tart case. Make sure it spreads evenly across the top and give the tart a gentle tap to settle the ganache.

This needs to cool and set at room temperature – two to three hours. At this stage you can remove the tart from the tin – loosen the sides push gently from underneath free the sides. Then use a palate knife to loosen the base. Have a display stand or cake plate ready for the tart to sit on.

Make the hazelnut praline.
Line a roasting tin with baking parchment.
Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Gently swirl the liquid around in the pan but DO NOT STIR while the sugar dissolves, as it will crystallise.

Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and give the pan an occasional swirl as the liquid comes to the boil. All the water will evaporate as the heat intensifies and you will be left with a foaming mix that will start to change at the edges, taking on a darker colour. Keep swirling every 15-20 seconds as the colour spreads from the outside to the middle. You will smell burning sugar, hold your nerve – you want something approaching a brick red colour. Tip the hazelnuts into the caramel and swirl the pan to coat the nuts. As soon as they are coated, take the pan off the heat and tip the boiling mix onto the baking parchment. It will spread fast, use a wooden spoon to quickly press down the nuts into the caramel in a single layer. Put the praline out of the way to cool – about an hour. Fill the saucepan with water and place any other sugar-coated implements in it. The water will dissolve the residual caramel and it will be easy to clean.

When the praline is cool and hard, break off a couple of triangular shards for decoration – as many as you want – and pulse the rest of the praline in a blender until you have a coarse crumb of caramelised nuts.

A slice of dark and white chocolate tart with hazelnut praline and fresh cherries

To assemble
Melt the chocolate (I give it 20-second blasts in a glass bowl in the microwave until it’s runny).

Place your fruit on top of the tart in whatever formation you desire. Sprinkle the praline over the middle of the tart, and arrange your praline triangles where you want them, like standing stones.

Use a fork to drizzle the melted chocolate across the tart in a zig-zag motion.

Fill the champagne flutes, turn off the lights, cue the music and ignite the fountain candle. Boom.

© Linda Galloway 2020

A slice of vanilla sponge cake with strawberry jam and fresh summer berries

Quick vanilla sponge cake

A slice of vanilla sponge cake with strawberry jam and fresh summer berries

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2020:  Because of big variations in self-raising flour performance, I have added a scant teaspoon of baking powder to this recipe. There is also now a companion video up on Youtube  which was great fun to make and I hope you like it. If you make this quick vanilla sponge cake, please tag me on social media and I will repost!

You wouldn’t think it would be necessary to have a cheat’s version of a Victoria sponge cake. After all, it’s such a simple cake to make … or is it? Everyone loves a good Vicky sponge – the simple buttery moistness, light crumb and vanilla scent preparing the way for a big hit of raspberry jam.
And on the face of it, a VS should be straightforward, with predictably good results: equal quantities of butter, sugar and flour, eggs and vanilla and you’re there … right? Wrong, it seems. Because when I teach baking classes, and I ask relatively confident cake makers what they most fear, they tell me it’s the VS. The mixture curdles; it won’t rise or it sinks in the middle; the crust separates and cracks; it’s as tough and chewy as an old brick.
One of my pupils astonished me by actually managing to turn out two flat pancakes when the rest of us – working with the same ingredients, measurements, tins and ovens – had done uniformly well. “You see,” she yelped. “I just can’t make a Victoria sponge!” Trying to help, I suggested she could always make two more and serve it as a multiple-layered confection. “In my household that’s called a disaster,” she sighed, clearly having tried that one already.
So where did we go wrong, and can we get the knack back?Or should we just move on to an easier, failsafe recipe? I think so.
This recipe is for a hot-milk vanilla sponge. It’s a family staple, tried and tested and tried again many times. It may feel counter-intuitive – and comes with an advisory that it’s a very liquid batter (scary for those used to a stiffer VS mix) but it gives a good rise and great results every time. It’s also versatile – see below for chocolate, lemon, orange and fruit variations.

You should also have a go at making my Quick Chocolate Loaf Cake – delicious for tea time, lunchboxes or as a dessert with toffee sauce and ice-cream!

30g unsalted butter
200ml milk
250g (2 cups) self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
340g (2 cups) caster sugar
Generous pinch of salt
4 large free-range eggs
1 tspn vanilla extract

Grease and flour two 23cm cake tins and preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4.
Put the milk and butter in a jug and microwave for 1 minute on full power, until just simmering, then stir to melt the butter.
Using a stand mixer, hand mixer or whisk, beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until light, creamy and frothy, then add the vanilla. Mix in the salt with the flour, turn down the speed to minimum and slowly add the flour to the egg and sugar mixture, about two tablespoons at a time. Alternate adding the flour with tablespoons of the hot milk mixture, until just combined.
Divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is brown and firm to the touch. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean. If not, turn the down oven to 160C and leave the cakes in for another 5 minutes.

Once out of the oven, leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tins before turning out.
Sandwich the cakes together with raspberry jam and fresh cream or, if you prefer, a buttercream filling:
125g unsalted butter
A few tablespoons of hot water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
250g icing sugar
In a bowl, beat the butter until it’s the consistency of mashed potato, then gradually add the icing sugar, tablespoon at a time, adding a few drops of hot water to soften the mixture when it gets too tight. Add the vanilla essence and keep adding icing sugar until you have a spreading consistency.


Make an orange sponge cake by add the zest of an orange and substitute half the milk for fresh orange juice. For the icing, use orange juice instead of hot water.
Use lemon zest and juice for a lemon version, sandwich together with lemon curd and dust with icing sugar.
For a chocolate sponge, substitute half a cup of the flour for two heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder (not hot chocolate), and add two tablespoons of cocoa to the buttercream icing.
Fruit version: Grate four small dessert apples or pears (excluding the core and pips), add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a teaspoon of mixed spice to the flour, and fold the fruit in to the mixture as the last step before baking. The mixture will be wetter and may take an extra 5-10 minutes to cook.

Dark chocolate loaf cake with summer berries

Quick chocolate loaf cake

Dark chocolate loaf cake with summer berries

This decadent and moist dark chocolate cake follows what I call ‘the American principle’ of using vegetable oil instead of butter, and encouraging the rise with a combination of Bicarbonate of soda and an acidic dairy component, most commonly buttermilk but Greek or natural yoghurt is a perfectly good substitute (full fat, of course). If you’re avoiding dairy there is an alternative offered below. Served with cream and berries it’s perfect for afternoon tea or dessert, with caramel sauce and ice-cream

This formula occurs a lot in traditional American baking (for example fruit muffins, red velvet cake etc), and produces a very moist and more dense crumb than our beloved sponge cakes that rely on a higher proportion of egg and raising agent for a dryer and more open texture.

While a Victoria sponge cake can be mixed at leisure and can even tolerate a few hours in the fridge or freezer before baking, this model relies on the acid and alkali combining to raise the batter and the reaction happens instantly when the two meet in the mixing bowl so speed is of the essence.

It’s also quick because there are only a few steps (weigh, mix, bake), there is no separating of eggs or creaming to stabilise, and all the ingredients are readily available.

The coffee reinforces the chocolate flavour but you could leave it out (just add the equivalent in water to make sure the consistency is correct).

In messing about with this recipe, I wanted to make it more dessert-like and started thinking about salted caramel sauce – the kind you have with sticky toffee pud (and ice-cream). It’s magic comes from three star ingredients that together are more than the sum of their parts and match so well with chocolate. I have yet to find a cake that isn’t improved by salted caramel and ice-cream.

I served it one way for tea and the other way for dinner. Both were winners.

You should also try my very popular Quick Vanilla Sponge cake – zero to cake in an hour!



Makes 1 900g loaf

110g plain flour (if you only have self-raising flour, omit the baking powder)

85g soft dark brown sugar

85g caster sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (proper, not drinking chocolate)

1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

75ml Greek yoghurt or buttermilk*

30ml neutral vegetable oil, eg sunflower

1 large free-range egg

1tsp vanilla paste or extract

90ml strong black coffee (warm)

Thick cream and berries, or salted caramel sauce and good quality dairy ice-cream to serve

Caramel sauce
120g soft dark brown or Muscovado sugar

120g unsalted butter

120ml double cream

Generous pinch sea salt flakes, eg Maldon



Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 1lb (900g) loaf tin with baking parchment.

Weigh out the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine. In a large jug combine the wet ingredients, except the coffee, and whisk together.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour the wet ingredients in and use a hand or stand mixer to combine. Add the coffee and give it another quick blast with the mixer.

Scrape the mixture into the loaf tin and give it a good tap on the work surface so it settles in to the corners and releases any trapped air.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before gently turning out onto a cooling rack.

To make the sauce, simply put all the ingredients in a saucepan, start over a gentle heat until the butter starts to melt and turn it up to a simmer. Give it a couple of good stirs and you’re done.

*if you’re avoiding dairy, do not add the Bicarb with the dry ingredients, put it in a ramekin and at the final stage of mixing add 1.5 teaspoons of cider vinegar and stir well. Add to the mix with the coffee (it will foam as the acid and alkali react with each other).

A slice of carrot cake with Creme fraiche and a rum and maple syrup glaze

Rum and carrot cake

A slice of carrot cake with Creme fraiche and a rum and maple syrup glaze

CARROT is the starter cake of the baking world, the gateway cake to Victoria sponge addiction. It’s the cake parents choose in the slim hope that it’s a vehicle for funnelling vegetables into their children – the ‘healthy option’, next to banana.

I’ve been making carrot cakes for decades, well into triple figures I’m sure, because I used to supply several London coffee shops with cakes, brownies and other baked goods. Carrot was never off the menu, a solid best seller.

It’s infinitely changeable too – you can make it as a muffin, a loaf or in the round, with cream-cheese frosting or just a maple syrup glaze. Add nuts, or leave them out. Add pineapple (like Pret does) for extra moisture, or keep it pure and simple.

While everyone was making banana bread during lockdown, my thoughts turned to rum cake … that dreamy, treacly, dense and dark fruit cake that sings in the key of rum – deeply alcoholic but perfectly in tune. The problem with rum cake is that you need to start preparations at least 10 months before you make it, as the dried fruit needs to steep in dark rum for maximum effect.

I often switch out soft dark brown or muscovado sugar for the caster sugar specified in sweet baking, where I think the extra, treacle and molasses flavour will work – it’s especially good in chocolate or coffee cakes and brownies too.

Looking in the lockdown larder I found sultanas, dark rum and soft dark brown sugar, which led me to the vegetable drawer and onwards in a very delicious direction indeed: Caribbean-inspired carrot and rum cake.



Makes one 900g loaf (8 generous slices) or 8 muffins

170g vegetable oil

85g caster sugar

85g soft dark brown or Muscovado sugar

3 medium, free-range eggs

1 teaspoon Vanilla bean paste or essence

170g self-raising flour

2 heaped teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

80g sultanas or raisins, soaked in 20ml dark rum preferably overnight but for at least an hour (you can substitute water instead)

170g grated carrot

50g crushed walnuts

To serve 30ml dark rum, 45ml Maple syrup and crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt


In a mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, vanilla and sugars until well combined. Add the flour, salt, bicarb and cinnamon and stir in. Add the grated carrot, soaked sultanas (and rum) and walnuts, and mix well.

Pour into a lined 2lb (900g) loaf tin and bake at 170C for 45-50 minutes (a skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean).

If you’re making muffins, line the muffin tin with muffin papers and use a ladle to divide the mixture between them. Bake at 170C for 18-20 minutes.


To serve, combine the rum and maple syrup, warm the cake, drizzle  with the sauce and put  a dollop of crème fraiche on the side. If you want to be more fancy, caramelise some walnuts* for extra dazzle.

* Melt 3 tablespoons of caster sugar in a dry frying pan over medium heat when it starts to colour, add 50g walnuts and toss well to coat. Tip onto a lined baking sheet to cool.

Rhubarb and Almond Tart Daffodil Soup

Rhubarb and almond tart

Rhubarb and Almond Tart Daffodil Soup

I AM a feasting kinda gal, excess draws me like a moth to a flame and there’s nothing that excites me more than an 8-hour lunch that becomes supper (I call that lupper) and then goes on into the night as we open yet another bottle. My friend Andy, who is more English than I am, recognises it as a ‘Leo’ (Sayer = all-dayer in Cockney rhyming slang). It’s a well-established ritual but one that happens less often as we get older, and not at all under current lockdown restrictions. Sigh.

Tasting menus excite me. They allow smidgins of lots of different foods but never trigger the synapse that controls the Off button. I read menu like others novels. All the starters, please, then divvy up the mains so we can all have a taste. Someone at the table will always say ‘ooh, there’s a chocolate thing on, I must save room for that’ and I’ll think boo, how dull, I’ll have the CHEESE.

I am quite well known for desserts generally, have made and sold countless of them in various establishments over the years, including a Queen of Puddings that made a guest cry. I’m just not a huge fan of eating them, even though I come from a long line of sweet-toothed Scottish tablet eaters.

But there’s one dessert I can never refuse: a soft squidgy frangipane tart in crisp pastry is a heady happiness generator. I don’t mind which fruit – it can be pear, apple, raspberries, quince or, as in this case, rhubarb. So whatever is in season. The frangipane tart is a twist on the Galette des Rois, a traditional French pastry served on Twelfth Night, and the link is ground almonds or, more specifically, the almond-butter-sugar-egg combo that makes the filling. Definitely more than the sum of their parts.

This recipe will make a deep 23cm tart or a shallower 30cm flan tin (although you will need a third more pastry for the bigger version).

Rhubarb and Almond Tart Daffodil Soup
Rhubarb and Almond Tart Daffodil Soup

For the pastry

  • 170g plain flour
  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • A generous pinch of sea salt
  • 1.5-2 tbsp iced water

For the filling

  • 200g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 2 medium free-range egg yolks
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
  • 1tsp Vanilla paste, lemon or almond essence (optional)
  • 4 pears or apples, peeled, quartered and sliced in fans, or 400g rhubarb, cut in 4cm lengths
  • 2tbsp apricot jam to glaze (optional)

The method

  • Put the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz to a coarse crumb. Add a tablespoon of water and blitz again, adding the rest of the water if required for the pastry to come together in a ball. You don’t want wet and sticky, but not too crumbly either.
  • I usually roll and line straight away, and then rest and chill before baking. If you’ve worked quickly to get to this point the pastry won’t need resting before it’s rolled.
  • Heat the oven to 200C, gently prick the pastry with a fork, line with baking parchment and fill with beans or rice or coins. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and return the pastry to the oven for another 6-8 minutes until the base is cooked and has a sandy texture.
  • While the pastry is cooling, cream the butter and sugar in a mixer with a whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer) until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and the yolks one at a time, beating between each addition. Add any flavourings you have chosen at this time. Finally, gently fold in the ground almonds and pour the mixture into the tart case.
  • Arrange the fruit artfully on top and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes at 200C before turning the oven down to 180C for another 40-45 minutes. It should be puffy, golden brown and set in the middle, and the fruit should be cooked (you can test this with a toothpick).
  • If you’re glazing the tart, heat the apricot jam in a ramekin in the microwave for 20 seconds and use a pastry brush to gently wash the top – this gives the tart a lovely professional finish but a dusting of icing sugar would also be fine if you’re not bothered.

Serve warm or at room temperature with some double cream or creme fraiche.

Or don’t tell anyone you made it and retreat to the furthest corner of the house and eat it all yourself.

You can keep your chocolate thingamebob, the almond tart is all mine.

Rhubarb and Almond Tart Daffodil Soup

A sweet, tart made with sourdough crumbs and golden syrup

Sourdough treacle tart

A sweet, tart made with sourdough crumbs and golden syrup

THIS is a decadently delicious tart, and a fine example of how a few basic store-cupboard ingredients can quickly deliver on richness, flavour and visual impact.

Who doesn’t have a tin of golden syrup in the cupboard (probably out of date but as it’s made from inverted sugar it really does not go off)?

You might think using sourdough breadcrumbs in this is an affectation but I did it for two reasons. I make all my own sourdough at home, so I always have leftover crusts and I hate throwing them away. Plus, I was interested to see whether the slight sourness from the crumb would have any flavour impact on the extremely sweet filling. And it does. It adds a dimension that is subtle but noticeable, and improves the balance of flavours.

There is no blind baking involved so it’s quick to make. You could use shop-bought shortcrust pastry, or even a pre-baked pastry shell (I won’t judge. Or tell).  If you’re making your own pastry you can substitute dairy-free spread and make it vegan. You could do this as one large tart, or small individual ones, even as thimble-sized dainty canapes to eat one moutful at a time.

If you’d like to decorate it like mine, most of the supermarkets now sell edible flowers in small tubs with the herbs, or your local fruit and veg shop might have some. I serve mine with crème fraiche, again for the sour edge that cuts through the sweetness.

You will need a 20cm pie dish, loose-bottomed tart tin or flan ring.


(Serves 6-8)

For the pastry

180g plain flour

15g icing sugar

90g unsalted butter (cut in to tiny cubes and preferably frozen for 10 minutes)

5g fine sea salt

1 whole egg (can be omitted, just use more water)

Fridge-cold water to bind


80g sourdough bread, blitzed to a fine crumb

200ml golden syrup (use a spoon dipped in boiling water to make measuring easier)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

5g ground ginger (optional)

Crème fraiche, summer fruit and edible flowers to serve


In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, sugar and ice-cold butter and blitz to a coarse crumb. With the motor running, add the whole egg if using, and a splash of cold water to bind. Quickly tip the mix onto a work surface and bring together in a ball, clingfilm and refrigerate for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 190C with a baking sheet on the middle shelf.

Gently heat the golden syrup in a saucepan and add the lemon zest and juice, and the ginger if using.

On a floured surface roll out the pastry and line the tart tin or mould, making sure there are no cracks or gaps for filling to leak through.

Pour half the warm syrup in to the pastry case and sprinkle half the bread crumbs evenly over the top. Allow them to soak in to the syrup, then top with more syrup and a final layer of breadcrumb. Allow the breadcrumb to soak in to the syrup.

Place the tart tin on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the filling is almost set and the pastry edges are getting brown.  It will harden further as it cools.

Allow to cool and serve at room temperature or slightly warm.