Monthly Archives: July 2011


So, it’s summer! It doesn’t always feel like it right now, but just by going to the supermarket or local markets we can tell it is by the fruit and yummy goodies on offer. I decided to celebrate this wondrous season by attending ‘Fruitcamp’ a few weeks ago. This was organised by the School of Food at Manor House Farm, a cherry farm in Kent.

Unfortunately I arrived a little late as I’d been a bit poorly all week and found getting up at the crack of dawn very hard, but I arrived in time to join in the tour of the farm and the picking of cherries, and we filled a rather large bag. More were picked, but were consumed before they made the bag – they were just too good!

We split into different groups – my group were shown how to make jam before lunch and were given lots of information about jam making. After lunch, we were shown how the Farm makes apple juice (which is an incredibly labour intensive process, but which produced delicious juice) and then we had a baking masterclass, where we made a clafoutis, a cherry and frangipan tart and finally a cherry cake.

The day was fabulous, demonstrating the versatility of the humble cherry. We all left very inspired and with lots of yummy goodies and I made some cherry brandy when I got home. It’s currently sitting in my cupboard and I’m looking forward to tucking in when the winter nights draw in!

If you have a few spare hours in the next few weeks, I suggest finding a pick your own farm, and turning your fruit into jams and chutneys to remind you of this wonderful season in mid-winter.

If you’re interested in attending another Fruitcamp day, or would like more information on the courses which Alistair offers at the School of Food, then check out his website

Bastille Day!

I thought I’d celebrate Bastille Day with some baking. I love French cakes and patisserie, so it seemed like a good excuse to get into my kitchen. I wanted to try something I haven’t done before, and after some thought (and my deciding that croissants were going to be a little tough on this occasion!) I alighted on madeleines.

I’ve never tried them before – either baking or eating and they have been on my ‘to-do’ list for ages. I had a madeleine pan, so off I went! (I should point out here that my madeleine pan is made from silicone. You can also make hearts, bears and circular cakes from this pan. It was the first time that I had baked with silicone and I wasn’t impressed. I’ll be buying a ‘proper’ madeleine tin for future batches…)

I was recommended David Lebovitz’s madeleines, so after a quick google search, I had my recipe. As I’d never made them before, I omitted the lemon and as my oven is very hot, I reduced the temperature a little (and therefore cooked the madeleines for a few minutes longer). It is the easiest recipe to follow and my only disappointment was my tin. I think having the right tin would make all the difference. (I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I want things to look pretty as well as taste good. My first batch failed on the pretty test!)

So, would I make these again? Absolutely. And as it’s Bastille Day on 14 July, I recommend that you all make these too!

Madeleines Adapted from The Sweet Life In Paris by David Lebovitz (this will make 24)

3 large eggs, at room temperature
130g granulated sugar
rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
175g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
120g unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds

1. Brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened.

3. Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sieve and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter.

4. Dribble the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.

5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)

6. To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 160 degrees.

7. Spoon the batter into the middle of each indentation with enough batter which you think will fill it by 3/4′s. Do not spread it.

8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cakes just feel set and they are a pale golden.

9. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack.

Storage: Madeleines are best left uncovered, or not tightly-wrapped; they’re best eaten the day they’re made. They can be kept in a container for up to three days after baking, though I doubt they’ll last that long!