Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Sweet & Sharp Lime Tart...

I've had Nigel Slater's 'The Kitchen Diaries' hanging out on my bookshelf for a good few years now but recently Ciaran and I were looking to get ourselves out of a cooking rut and I picked it up again. It really is a lovely piece of food writing and the recipes are woven in amongst anecdotes about the weather, what's growing in the garden and lurking at the back of Nigel's fridge. There are some fancy recipes for special Sunday dinners but also more frugal meals involving leftovers. It's a handy recipe book for the overworked and time poor amongst us because instead of being confronted with a whole recipe book of possibilities, you can just turn to the relevant month and find a handful of recipes perfectly suited to that time of year.

This was the position I found myself in on Saturday when I decided to try Nigel's lime tart! I'm such a fiend for citrus flavours and this tart was absolutely mouthwatering. The pastry case burnt, but that's OK. I still wanted to share it with you because I expect, like me, your taste buds will welcome something so zingy and fresh at this time of year - when it feels like we're just teetering on the brink of Spring springing!

Also, there's no rolling with this pastry dough! You just roll the dough into a sausage, slice bits off and press it into place! Easy peasy lemon squeezy :)


5 - 7 limes
6 large eggs
250g caster sugar
175ml double cream

For the pastry:

175g plain flour
40g golden icing sugar
90g cold butter
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cold water

To make the pastry, put the flour and icing sugar into a food processor. Add the butter, cut into chunks and blitz for a few seconds. Stop when the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg yolks and water. Tip into a mixing bowl and bring the dough together into a thick log with your hands. Wrap it in greaseproof paper and refrigerate for a good half hour. Warning: skipping this step will cause the pastry to shrink!

Cut thin, round slices from the log of pastry, then press them into a loose bottomed 23-24cm tart tin with high sides (3.5cm), pressing the pastry gently up the sides and over the base (this pastry is too fragile to roll). Make certain that there are absolutely no holes, otherwise the filling will leak through. Prick lightly with a fork and refrigerate for half an hour.

Set the oven to 200c / Gas 6. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper in the tart case and fill it with baking beans (Nigel uses old haricot beans, I use some knackered out old black eye beans but you can buy specially made ceramic baking beans like these from John Lewis).

This is where my tart case went slightly awry - the recipe says to bake the tart case for 10 minutes then remove the greaseproof paper and beans and bake for a further five minutes until the pastry is dry to the touch. When I took my tart case out of the oven after 10 minutes everything looked fine but when I checked it again after the 5 minutes of naked baking it had caught around the edges. I had already adjusted my oven down to 180c as it's a rather ferocious fan oven so next time I might turn it down a little more for those last 5 minutes and keep a close watch on it - after all all that lovely icing sugar in the pastry will make it extra burnable!

Once the pastry case is done, turn the oven down to 150c / Gas 2. Finely grate the zest from two of the limes. Squeeze enough limes to give 180ml juice, this could be anything from five to seven limes, depending on their ripeness. Mix the eggs and sugar together, beating lightly for a few seconds - you don't want it to be frothy - then stir in the lime juice and cream. Pour the mixture through a sieve and stir in the lime zest. Pour into the baked tart tin and bake for forty-five to fifty minutes. Remove whilst the filling is still a little wobbly and leave to cool. Makes enough for eight (though my Mum and I happily polished off half of it in one sitting!).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

February according to Instagram...

Valentines Day tulips & blood orange porridge / Making Seville orange marmalade / Avocado on toast & home made juice / Knitting progress & early Spring flowers

Here's a little peek at what February has looked like so far for me! 

I can't be the only one that's craving fresh flavours and I'm especially enjoying blood oranges at the moment. Their marbled flesh is such an intense colour and taste like sunshine!

Avocado on toast with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime juice is fast becoming one of my favourite breakfasts! Perfect for a weekend morning when you want something light and refreshing. 

My knitting is coming along nicely - I bring it with me on the train to work each day and it's satisfying to see it growing slowly but surely.

What have you been up to this month? Are you eagerly awaiting the first signs of Spring too? Although it's still wet and freezing outside, the crocuses are out in the garden, fingers crossed the daffodils aren't far behind them!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Home Made Marmalade

If, like me, you're in desperate need of something to brighten up these dark Winter days I have good news, it's Seville Orange season! These nobbly bobbly balls of wonder have a beautiful, bitter flavour which makes them perfect for marmalade making. Their powerful citrus flavour can hold it's own against all that sugar and the finished marmalade is the perfect balance between bitter and sweet!

You'd best hurry though as the season is short!

I ordered these beautiful organic Seville oranges through Riverford as part of their marmalade making kit! The kit contains a whole load of oranges plus a couple of lemons which add their beautiful flavour (as well as much needed pectin in the form of pips!). You'll need a piece of muslin, 2kg granulated sugar and a whole load of jam jars. My marmalade filled 6 big preserving jars and one little jam jar which I expect will find its way into a Christmas hamper towards the end of this year!

You can see the original recipe over on the Riverford website here!

Ingredients & Equipment:

1.5kg Seville oranges
2 lemons
2.5 litres cold water
Around 2kg granulated sugar

A large pan (a preserving pan is well worth investing in - I have this one which is perfect)
Sterilised jars (with either screw top lids or cellophane covers and elastic bands)
Waxed discs


1.      With a sharp knife, peel the skin from the oranges and lemons, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible. Chop the peel into 3mm strips and put in a large pan.

2.       Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin, leaving plenty to overhang the sides of the bowl. Cut the oranges and lemons in half. With your hands, squeeze the juice from the fruit over the bowl, dropping the leftover squeezed fruit (pith, pips and flesh) into the muslin. Lift the muslin out of the bowl, gather the sides and squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl. Tie the muslin together with string to keep the fruit in and form a bag.

3.       Place the muslin bag in the saucepan with the peel. Add the squeezed fruit juice and 2.5 litres cold water to the pan. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, until the peel is tender. Put a few saucers in the fridge to chill.

4.       Remove the muslin bag and squeeze all the sticky juice from the bag into the pan. (An easy way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and use a spoon to press it out). Measure the contents of the pan in a jug (include the shreds and liquid). Return to the pan and add 450g sugar for every 500ml liquid. Gently heat for 15 mins, until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 mins.

5.       Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of the liquid on a cold saucer and gently pushing with the back of the spoon. If the liquid starts to wrinkle, setting point has been reached. If no wrinkling happens, keep boiling and re-test every 10 mins. Turn off the heat as soon as you reach setting point.

Chloë's Tip: I found it really tricky to tell when the marmalade had reached setting point. In the past when I've made jam it's been quite obvious as the surface of the jam really wrinkles and breaks up when you press it but this time the 'wrinkle' effect was much more subtle. In the end I gave the marmalade an extra 10 minutes or so of boiling time then called it a day and bottled it up as I was scared of burning it. Once the marmalade had cooled down I gently tipped a jar on it's end fully expecting the molten marmalade to fill the lid but to my complete and utter delight it had set perfectly! Have faith in the set.

6.       Skim any scum from the surface. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 mins. Stir gently, then carefully spoon into warmed sterilised jars (use a jam funnel if you have one). If using screw top lids, put the lids on while the marmalade is still hot and turn upside down for 5 mins to sterilise the lids (or boil the lids for a few mins and leave to dry before use). If using cellophane, put a wax disc on the marmalade while warm, then seal with cellophane and an elastic band.

Chloë's Tip: If you're new to preserving and are just about ready to invest in one or two bits of kit then I would recommend that you pick up a jam funnel, even before you buy a preserving pan if need be! No one has time to scrub set jam from the outside of all their jars once they've cooled and also when the rim of the jars inevitably also get covered, the lids will fuse with them and it will be a huge ball ache to get them open.

Handy tips from Riverford:

1.       To sterilise jars, place in a dishwasher cycle, boil in water or heat in the oven - put the jars on a baking tray and place in a cold oven. Heat to 140°C for at least 10 mins (jars can be left warm in the oven until needed).

2.       Make sure you have a large enough pan to hold all the liquid and peel with plenty of extra space.

3.       When peeling the skins, keep the pieces as large as possible to make chopping easier.

4.       Don’t over-boil the marmalade once set or the marmalade will be too solid.

5.       If you are not confident peeling the skin from the whole fruit with a knife, cut the fruit into quarters, squeeze out the juice (reserve the juice for the pan and add any pips that come out into the muslin bag). Scrape the inner flesh, pips, and white pith away from the skin with a knife or teaspoon and put in the muslin bag. Chop the peel for the pan as above.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

DIY Liberty Print Quilted Pouch

In this tutorial I'll show you how to make a quilted and lined Liberty print pouch with a zip! Perfect to hold your lip balm, nail file, phone and any other girly bits and pieces that have a tendency to gather fluff at the bottom of your hand bag. Mind you, once you've mastered the technique you needn't limit yourself to make up bags - pencil cases, washbags and anything else you can think of will be at your finger tips!

The layer of cotton batting adds just enough structure to the main fabric and will help to protect whatever's inside but still leaves the pouch pleasingly squishy. You could use a double later of batting if you wanted even more structure.

I chose Bourton F for the main fabric as I had some left over from my Liberty print dress but you could choose any print or pattern you fancy. I'm already dreaming of a version in Forget-Me-Nots!

I love it when cosmetic bags have a 'suprise' fun coloured lining so decided to double up on the Liberty print here and use a pretty, micro floral print for the lining fabric. This also has the advantage of helping to hide the inevitable smudges and marks that make up pouches tend to gather (in my hands at least!).

Materials & Equipment:

2 x pieces of main fabric 28cm by 17cm
2 x pieces of cotton batting 28cm by 17cm
2 x pieces of lining fabric 28cm by 17cm
2 x pieces of main fabric 6cm by 3cm
22 cm metal general purpose zipper
Thread to match main fabric
Contrasting thread for quilting (or you can use the matching thread again if you prefer)
Stitch marker / tailors chalk
Fabric scissors
Sewing machine
Zipper presser foot

Step 1: Pin the cotton batting onto the wrong side (WS) of your two main fabric pieces. Tack all the way around the outside and across the middle in two horizontal lines (this will help secure the fabric when it comes to quilting). Remove the pins.

Step 2: With WS facing, mark your quilting lines across both pieces of batting fabric (I wanted my stitches to be fairly close together so I made my lines 2cm apart). I found that a water soluble colouring pencil did a great job of marking up the batting nice and clearly and the marks won't be seen once the pouch is assembled!

Step 3: Machine stitch over the top of your quilting lines, changing direction with each row of stitching to help stop the layers of fabric slipping. I like to backstitch at the beginning and end of each row to help keep things more secure.

Step 4: Take one of your small fabric tabs and fold in half so WS are together, press. Open out the fabric and re fold the edges in so that they come to meet the crease you just made, press. With the ends still folded over, re-fold the original crease you made and press once more. Repeat for both pieces of fabric.

Step 5: Trim the ends of the zip so that 1cm of fabric remains at either end. Sandwich each end of the zipper in between the fabric tabs, making sure both ends of the zipper are just hidden. Pin in place.

Step 6: Machine sew across each fabric tab & zipper sandwich using a zipper presser foot. Feel for the end of the zip and try to get as close as possible but don't let the needle hit those gnarly zipper teeth! I like to finish the ends here by leaving a long tail of thread and tying it off in a double knot on the WS of the zipper rather than backstitching as I think it leaves a neater finish for such a small area.

Step 7: Place one of your pieces of lining fabric in front of you RS facing. Lay the zip along the top edge, RS facing. Place one of your quilted fabric pieces on top of the stack, WS facing. Make sure all the edges line up - especially along the top edge where you're about to sew. Pin all layers of fabric in place.

Step 8: Stitch along the top edge, parallel to the zipper teeth. Backstitch at the beginning and end to secure the thread. Fold back the main fabric and lining fabric so that WS are together and press. Stitch a neat row of topstitching onto the main fabric, parallel to the zipper teeth.

Step 9: Repeat steps 7 and 8 for the other side. You should now have something which looks a bit like this...

Step 10: Unzip your zipper half way (this will enable you to turn the finished pouch the right way round later on). Fold both pieces of main fabric to one side, RS together. Fold both pieces of lining fabric to the other side, RS together, making sure the zip is folded towards the lining.

Step 11: Pin the fabric in place and then carefully feel for the covered zipper ends. You'll want to mark a line just slightly in from where the fabric zipper tabs end - use a ruler and do this for both sides. Connect these two lines up with a nice straight line top and bottom - these will be your guidelines for sewing up the pouch! Machine stitch all the way around the outside of the pouch along the lines you've just drawn, leaving a gap in the lining of about 7cm (this is what you'll use to turn the pouch the right way round in a second). Backstitch at the beginning and end to secure the thread.

Step 12: Before you turn the pouch the right way round it's time to square off the bottom! Trim the seam allowance on the two short sides to around 1cm. You can use pinking shears for this if you have them! Next take the main fabric, grab a corner and squash it flat so that both seams line up and you have a neat little triangle. Pin the fabric in place and then mark a horizontal line 4cm down from the tip of the triangle. Repeat on the other side and on both ends of the lining fabric. Machine stitch across the four horizontal lines and trim away the excess!

Step 13: Hand sew the lining closed and you're all done!

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, if you decide to give it a go do let me know how you get on - I would love to see a picture of your creation!