Monday, 24 September 2012

Rustic Blackberry and Apple pies

With an abundance of blackberries in the garden and the apple trees laden with fruit. it seems to be that time of year again - time to start baking delicious, home-made, rustic fruit pies. These are a big family favourite and don't last long in this house - let me tell you!!

For the shortcrust pastry:

100g butter, cubed and at room temperature
175g plain flour
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp water


Rub the cubed butter and flour together until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.
Add the egg yolk, salt and water.
Mix all together until the ingredients form a ball.
Cover and place in the fridge until ready for use.

For the filling:

8-10 cooking apples
250gms of blackberries
2 tbsp of water
6 tbsp of sugar
1 egg white


Peel and slice apples. Add to a pan with sugar and water and immer until the sugar has disloved then add the blackberries. Cook for a further 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, roll the cold pasty on a floured surface (I like my pastry quite thin) and cut out large circles with a double sided cutter - the smaller ones form the top of the pie.

There is no need to be neat as the pies will have a more rustic effect when baked.

Place the cut out circles on a mini-pie baking tray, in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 170 and blind cook for 7 minutes

Remove from oven and let cool, the add the fruit mix and place the smaller pastry circles on top, sealing the edges with egg white,

Make a small insert with  the tip of a knife in each of the pie lids - this will let the hot steam escape from the cooking fruit. Sprinkle the sugar on the top of each pie and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with Devon clotted cream or homemade vanilla ice-cream.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Tapas are definitely made for sharing

A good friend of mine decided to have a tapas party and sent me a copy of his menu.
I, of course, was very impressed that firstly - a man would take on such an ambitious menu and secondly -that he could find all the ingredients, as he doesn't live in Spain. So I felt I needed to share his culinary skills on my blog and shall be pinching a few of his ideas myself.



a) Goats Cheese (all three ages in small bite size lumps) drizzled with honey which sticks the well crushed walnuts to the cheese quite nicely. Eaten by means of a personal crystal cocktail stick.

b) Lollipops of Confit of Duck Leg, really sweet warm Melon & herby Feta.


a) Albondigas my style. Don't ask cos there's no recipe - it's organically created as it goes along. Contains Oregano, Rosemary & Lemon Thyme (and whatever else it needs).
Aioli and Brava sauces to dip them in.

b) Raw Chorizo caramelised then gently finished in a reduction of Cider & White Port to glaze. Yummy.

c) Serrano strips & Smoked Salmon strips with multi-colour wafer thin Pepper rings, wafer thin Cucumber slices (seeds removed) & a bit of multi-coloured textured grass leaves all well doused in a decent Olive Oil/Lemon juice and hot/sweet/smokey Pimenton dressing.

d) Salad of Boquerones, Black Olives, Orange segments, Red Onion & multi-coloured grass leaves with dressing which includes a few wazzed up black olives, orange juice, Olive Oil and seasoning.

e) Sweet variety of new season red Patatas done very soft inside & out well crispy outside in Olive Oil (with the same Aioli & Brava sauces to dip).

f) Cold steamed French Beans (purple, yellow & green) in a tomato/garlic/buttery sauce (sauce added cos the beans themselves weren't that tasty).
The Goats Cheese thing, Lollipops, Albondigas and par fried Patatas are already made & in the fridge (That's FRIDAY).

As are the Brava and Aioli sauces


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

400 years of history and mystery: The Witches of Lancashire 1612 - 2012

I lived in Clitheroe, Lancashire in the early 1980's and I often visited Pendle Hill. Strangely fascinated by it's eerie and mystical ambiance, I found myself drawn there, time and time again. So it was to my delight, whilst in Lancaster this summer, I came across an exhibition all about Pendle Hill, it's famous witches and the trials. There were even some interesting magical charms and witch stones on display......even the preserved corpse of a witches cat !!! Spooky stuff indeed.

The story of the Witches of Pendle takes place in 1612. Nineteen men and women were imprisoned in the Lancashire in small cells below Lancaster Castle. They were tried at the Lancashire assizes, a travelling court, ten of them were found guilty and sentenced to death. The ten found guilty are famous in Lancashire history. Any child growing up in Lancashire knows the names of the ten, and fears them at night when the lights go out.

The ten were:
Ann Redfearn,
Elizabeth Device
Alice Nutter
Alison Device,
James Device,
Katherine Hewitt,
Jane Bulcock,
John Bulcock,
Isobel Robey
and Anne Whittle (also known as Old Chattox).
Elizabeth Southernes (famously known as Old Mother Demdike), would have also probably been found guilty, but she died in prison before this could happen.

Charms and witch stones

Four hundred years after the fact, children all over northern England are threatened with the Pendle Witches if they misbehave. The sad truth is though, the Pendle Witches were nothing more than old and poor men and women who were pulled before the magistrate because of a quarrel between two families.

Mystical  and superstitious items

Old Mother Demdike (Elizabeth Southernes) lived with her daughter, Elizabeth Device, and grandchildren Alison and James Device. Anne Whittle (Old Chattox), another elderly woman, lived with her daughters Ann Redfearn and Bessie Whittle. Bessie Whittle one day broke into Old Mother Demdike's house and stole some clothes and some food. So Old Mother Demdike reported her to the magistrate. Bessie Whittle then turned around and accused Old Mother Demdike and her family of witchcraft. Alison Device, Old Mother Demdike's daughter, returned the favour saying Anne Whittle's whole family also practised witchcraft and both families were arrested.

Children's shoes found hidden under floorboards and buried in walls

After a long imprisonment and then a trial, ten of the members of the two families were hanged as witches - being found guilty of the murders of 17 people. They weren't dropped though, which would have broken their necks and given them a quick death. Instead they were hung so they strangled slowly in front of a huge crowd who watched their deaths. Nine year old Jennet Device was the only one who was really giving evidence against them though, saying she had seen them flying around on broomsticks and turning people into frogs.

The Pendle witches

To this day, the Pendle Witches are famous all over England. Their names are used to attract tourists to the area, and are a big draw during Halloween, when every neighbourhood child is warned about Old Mother Demdike and Alice Nutter.