Monthly Archives: February 2013

Pork Pies

pork1 I love a pork pie, especially at Christmas, when they’re topped with cranberries. I’ve never made them though; I don’t know why, I just haven’t. I remember watching ‘the Great British Bake Off’ a couple of years ago and the contestants were making hot water crust pastry. I’ve never made that, or puff pastry. In fact, the only pastry I’ve ever made is shortcrust, both savoury and sweet. So, when I had the opportunity to go to Norfolk recently and make pork pies, it only seemed right that I should go.

Sarah Pettegree started ‘BraysCottage Pork Pies‘ in north Norfolk and now sells her pies in local  markets and in pubs and delis, all over the county and further afield too. Just occasionally, she opens the doors to pie hq and lets unsuspecting members of the public in and teaches them how to make the perfect pork pie. For one thing, it doesn’t contain jelly. This is something of a relief to me as I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted my pie to have.

Sarah was very welcoming and as soon as I had arrived, she put the kettle on and the hob for the bacon sandwiches. When we had all gathered in her kitchen (I still can’t believe it’s as small as it is!), we were shown how to make the pastry and we were then let loose. I tried a dolly as there were some on the side and I wanted to at least have one attempt. It actually took two for me to have something that resembled a pie case and I moved it to the fridge speedily, lest it should break!

The filling in the pies was a mixture of pork loin and shoulder, which her local butcher minced for her and we added some smoked bacon and assorted herbs and spices. Sarah kept her special mix a secret and I experimented with nutmeg, mustard powder and sage, which I had thought was thyme. When I was happy with the seasoning, it was time to fill the pies and then decorate them. This was something I could do! Leaves for my big pies, faces for my little ones; yes, I was making piggy pies!

As soon as they went in the oven, it was time to eat. Who knew that pie making could be such hungry work? After an hour, they were done, a quick blast in the cooler and it was time to take my pies and face the long drive home.

I spent such an enjoyable time in Norfolk and I now feel confident I could replicate my pies. I had some leftover pastry, which shamefully (though not unexpectedly!) is still sitting in my freezer. I intend doing some sort of vegetarian pie, possibly with spinach or butternut squash. One day… I will definitely be leaving the pie making to Sarah and her wonderful team however, and will gladly stick to cakes.

If you’re after an unusual gift, this is a great idea; in fact, the workshop was a Christmas present gift from generous spouses for most of the group.

The pie itself? Whilst I still have to taste one of Sarah’s, hand on heart, it’s probably the tastiest pork pie I’ve had. I knew exactly what went in it and it was made with love. Especially the little ears.



Kiwi Syllabub

kiwi_syllabubFor some reason I don’t quite know (I do know; I eat too much!) I’ve given up cakes for Lent. And biscuits. And chocolate. And alcohol. I have given myself a caveat though; if I’m recipe testing, I’m allowed to eat a cake I’ve made. Phew!

My sweet tooth has rather taken over of late and I’m already struggling to get through the day without anything. I’m very much a boredom eater and I’m trying to retrain myself to eat fruit, yoghurt or nuts rather than reach for the biscuit tin. I’m doing OK, but it’s puddings I’m now missing. That ‘something nice’ to finish a meal.

I’m thinking of ways to get round this by trying to define what a pudding is. I’ve so far had a baked apple, filled with mincemeat. I don’t view this as a cake. I’m going to get myself a pineapple the next time I do a shop and sauté it as that doesn’t seem to be a cake. And yesterday? I made myself a kiwi syllabub. I have lots of kiwi fruit (the retraining isn’t always successful!) and rather than use cream, I’ve used Greek yoghurt, so I’m not breaking any rules.

Over the next 5 weeks, I have rice pudding to look forward to (made by me!), stewed fruit, compotes, roasted rhubarb, the odd jelly (juice and gelatine can’t be cake, surely?!), and anything that takes my fancy, but is predominantly fruit.

And as for the kiwi syllabub? Yum. To finish it off, it would be great served with a nice shortbread biscuit, but I put that idea right out of my head! If you fancy trying it, here’s how:

Kiwi Syllabub

2 kiwi fruit

1 tbsp caster sugar

squeeze lemon juice

3 tbsp Greek yoghurt


Peel the kiwi fruit and blitz in a blender. Add the sugar and stir well. Add the yoghurt and lemon juice. Stir well, place into your serving dish of choice and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.

That’s it! It’s that simple! And the above is for one. Just increase quantities for more.

The Clandestine Cake Club Cook Book

cccThe Clandestine Cake Club Cook Book is out on 14 February 2013. It’s a lovely book, full of lots of cakes (as all cook books should be!).

For those of you who are unaware of the Clandestine Cake Club (and shame on you!), let me tell you a little about it. Just over 2 years ago, Lynn Hill, a lovely lady from Leeds, organised the first meeting of the ‘Clandestine Cake Club’. Her idea was simple, get people baking cakes again. Not cupcakes, not traybakes or biscuits, but cakes. The rules are simple, it has to be a cake and must be able to be cut into at least 8 slices. You are told where the venue is just before the meeting takes place and then you go along, with your cake, chat to other bakers and eat lots of cake. When you’ve all sampled each others’ goodies (and no doubt eaten far too much!), you then take any uneaten cake home that you fancy and gorge the following day! The whole experience is repeated monthly. It’s marvellous!

The Clandestine Cake Club has spread not just nationwide, but worldwide too. If there isn’t a club near you, it’s very easy to start one and it’s a great way to meet people, who already have the love of cake in common.

Not content with being the driving force of this phenomenon, Lynn has, along with Quercus Books compiled a cookery book from the recipes of the members of the clubs up and down the country. And the result? A beautifully presented 256 page book, full of the tastiest 120 cakes around.

I am, of course, more than slightly biased, because one of my cakes is in the book! I first made a ‘Fraisier’ a couple of years ago. I’d seen it in France and fancied making it, so I did! It wasn’t an easy cake to make, it is time-consuming, but it really is worth it.

fraisier_sIt’s a great ‘occasion’ cake; if you’re having a dinner party, or friends over for a special celebration, this is the perfect cake for you.

It really encapsulates the spirit of summer and is a perfect use for fresh strawberries. Of course, you could always use raspberries (and then you’d have a ‘Fromboisier’) and I had one in Toulouse with pears (which was just divine).

Well, I’m not going to review my cake, but rather the book which it’s in. There are chapters to tantalise even the most discerning of tastebuds; Classic Cakes, Fruity Cakes, Global Cakes and Chocolatey Cakes are just some of those on offer.

Today I made a Dorset Apple Cake, by Karen Burns-Booth I’ve been on the hunt for an apple cake for a while and this one is moist and appley. It’s delicious both just out of the oven and cold. It’s also great with fresh coffee and rose wine, should you wish to have either (or both!) with it!

If you wish to buy this wonderful book, I heartily recommend it (as I would!). It contains an assortment of cakes to take you through the seasons as well as any event when one could possibly want a cake, or just on those ‘just because’ days!

And as for the apple cake, here it is in its glory and just before I tucked in!