Mango Cheesecake

I was looking for a dessert to serve on New Year’s Eve that could be made ahead, didn’t involve turning on the oven, used seasonal fruit, could be transported from Canberra to Sydney with ease and didn’t include raw eggs, making it suitable for a pregnant lady.

This recipe which meets all the criteria appeared in a recent advertisement for Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese.The only change I made was to increase the lemon rind from one teaspoon to one tablespoonful.

Mangoes are at their cheapest in Australia at this time of year. Choose ones which are not over-ripe as they’re easier to slice thinly and curve for the decoration. I made the cheesecake the day before and took it to Sydney in an Esky (Australian name for a cold box, for those who don’t know) on New Year’s Eve. All I had to do was arrange the mango slices on top and it was ready to serve.

The original recipe didn’t include passionfruit, but we ate the leftovers on New Year’s day with some pulp spooned over. It was a definite plus, enhancing the flavour of the mango and providing colour contrast.

Mango Cheesecake

200g fresh mango, puréed in food processor
¼ cup glucose syrup (also known as Corn Syrup)
1¼ cups sweet biscuit crumbs (e.g. Digestives, crushed in food processor)
75g butter, melted
500g cream cheese at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbs grated lemon rind
2 tsp gelatine dissolved in
¼ cup boiling water, cooled
220g white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup cream, softly whipped
2 mangoes extra, thinly sliced
Pulp from 2 passionfruit (optional)
Thick cream to serve

Place mango purée in a saucepan with glucose syrup. Cook, stirring over a medium heat for 15 minutes or until thickened and reduced by half. Set aside to cool.

Combine biscuits and butter and press evenly over the base of a 20-22 cm springform pan. In food processor or by hand beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon rind until smooth. Mix in gelatine mixture and melted chocolate, then fold in the whipped cream. Pour filling over biscuit base. Spoon over mango mixture and swirl through the white mixture using the tip of a knife, smoothing the top. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Serve decorated with fresh mango slices and, if liked, some passionfruit pulp. Serve thick pouring cream separately.

Serves 12

Variations: use peaches, apricots or strawberries instead of the mangoes – pulp in the filling and sliced fruit to decorate. For a Ginger Mango Cheesecake use ginger nut biscuits for the crust and mix 2-3 Tbs finely chopped crystallised ginger into the filling.

Note: if preferred, omit the white chocolate and use one and a half cups of cream, whipped. When whipped the cream will more than double in volume.

Joan’s Apple Crumble

JoanWe all know that children need good role models. But do we ever stop growing up? I think adults also need older friends to look up to and think “That’s how I want to be when I’m that age”. Such friends are a rare commodity and to be treasured.

When I married and moved to Canberra I left my friends and family in Europe. Fortunately a lovely lady called Joan Tyrrel, thirty years my senior, took me under her wing. She became my surrogate mother, friend and confidante.

As our family grew Joan and her husband John became an extra set of grandparents for our kids and godparents to our daughter. John had taught Matthew English at Canberra Grammar School where he was also the Chaplin for many years. The Tyrrels had three married children of their own and grandchildren. But they had enough love to go around and we were the fortunate beneficiaries.

When I rang and asked if it was okay to call in for coffee or lunch Joan never said sorry I’m busy, or it’s not convenient. She led a very full life – one of the secrets to longevity – but she always had time for me. Our shared love of cooking meant we often talked about food and swapped recipes, home grown vegetables, jars of home-made jam and chutney. People of all ages enjoyed Joan’s company because she was interested in what they were doing. With such a positive and vibrant personality, she never seemed old. I remember once asking John how he was. “I’m very well thank you” he replied, “Joan says I’m not allowed to say anything else”. We all laughed, but it was so like her.

Having grown up during the War Joan hated waste. When she switched on her dishwasher there wasn’t room for another spoon or fork. And she always cut the Finish tablets in half, swearing that half did just as good a job as a whole one.

Joan died in February 2011 aged 88, after a short battle with cancer and John followed about a year later of old age and because he was completely lost without Joan. They were very much a team and I miss them both, but mostly I miss my special friend and mentor. Her last words to me were “We had such fun together, didn’t we?”

Joan’s recipe for a quick and delicious apple crumble is different because she always left the skin on the apples and melted the butter for the topping.

Joan's Apple Crumble5 apples
1-2 Tbs sugar, to taste (Joan always used raw sugar)
125g butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 180°C. Core and slice apples and arrange in a buttered pie dish or in 6 individual ramekins. Sprinkle with sugar.

Melt butter, add sugar and cinnamon. Lastly add flour and crumble between fingers. Sprinkle over the apples, then bake at for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Once cooked the individual apple crumbles will keep in the fridge for 5-6 days, covered. Just zap in the microwave for a minute, top with some ice cream and serve for an instant mid-week dessert.

Serves 6

Apple Tart Rue de Vermont

When I worked for the British Mission to the UN in Geneva, located on the 5th floor of a large building on the Rue de Vermont, there was a patisserie at street level. By mid-morning irresistible smells came wafting up through the office window, so someone was dispatched to buy a few slices of apple tart, still warm from the oven, to keep us going till lunch time. Those were the days when I could do that on a regular basis, without it going straight to my hips!

Before I left Switzerland I asked the owner if she would part with the recipe and she was happy to do so. Puff pastry is a bit of a pain to make, so I usually buy it. That is until I discovered Nigella Lawson’s food processor version which is a cinch to make and of course much nicer. Actually any pastry will do and you may prefer to use shortcrust pastry, bought or home-made.

Apple Tart Rue de Vermont

Nigella’s Food Processor Puff Pastry

2 cups plain flour
Good pinch of salt
250g butter, cut into ½ cm slices
2 tsp lemon juice
4-5 Tbs cold water

1 kg eating apples, peeled and sliced
2 eggs
2 Tbs plain flour or almond meal
½ cup milk (or half milk and half cream)
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs unsalted butter
Extra sugar

Pastry: place flour, salt and butter in food processor. Pulse until butter has been cut into small pieces but is still visible. With the motor running add the lemon juice and enough water for the pastry to start to stick together, then stop immediately. Don’t process for long because you want to keep the pieces of butter intact.

Tip out the sticky crumbs and with floured hands form them into a neat rectangle about 15 cm long and about half as wide. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 mins. Remove from fridge and roll pastry until the long side is twice as long. Fold one end into the middle and the other end over it to the edge, like an envelope. Turn pastry so the open ends are at the bottom and top, then roll again into a long rectangle. Repeat the folding and rolling twice, but the last time don’t do the final rolling – leave it with the open ends. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or up to three days. Can be frozen.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Remove pastry from fridge and, unless you’re working on a hot summer’s day, let it stand for a short while, so it’s not rock hard. Roll out on a floured surface and use to line a rectangular metal Swiss roll or slice tin, trimming off any excess. Mine is 35x25cm. Arrange rows of overlapping apple slices over the base. Be generous – the pie should be very full with the apple slices standing almost upright.

In a small bowl with a fork or balloon whisk, mix egg with flour (or almond meal) and sugar, then gradually mix in milk/cream. Brush over the apples to moisten them, then pour the rest over. Tilt tin to ensure it reaches the corners, then dot the apples with very small pieces of butter and sprinkle lightly with extra sugar. Bake for about an hour or until well browned, almost burnt in places, to give it that authentic European patisserie look. If liked shake over some extra sugar and serve warm, just as it is, or with cream or ice cream, or both!

Serves 12

Dominique’s Lemon Tart with Rhubarb

When we were living in Paris I was a member of a Franco-Australian group which met once a month. We took it in turns to host the meeting which took the form of afternoon tea, with an hour speaking in English followed by an hour speaking in French. When it was her turn to host the group Dominique made this very unusual Lemon Tart. The crust is quite thick but it’s like a delicious shortbread that blends in with the filling, so it doesn’t seem to matter.

The recipe fills a normal 20-25cm (8-10 inch) round pie dish. In the photo I have used a rectangular meat-roasting pan (26x33cm) and increased all the ingredients by about a quarter. I wanted something to cut into squares to serve a large crowd. I have put those quantities, for a bigger pie, in brackets. The original recipe was sprinkled with flaked almonds, but I used rhubarb instead because it needed using up!

Dominique's Lemon Tart with Rhubarb

200g marzipan (at room temp) (250g)
200g butter (at room temp) (250g)
2 cups plain flour (2½ cups)
100g ground almonds (125g)
3 large eggs (4)
1 cup sugar (1¼ cups)
1 large lemon (2 smaller ones)
pinch salt
1 Tbs flour (1 heaped Tbs)
1 cup cream or sour cream (1¼ cups)
50g flaked almonds (80g)

Pastry: Preheat oven to 170°C. Process marzipan and butter in the food processor until well combined, then add the flour and process till it starts to stick together. Tip the sticky crumbs into a tart tin or large quiche dish. Using fingertips, press pastry all over the bottom and up the sides to form the crust.

Filling: No need to wash the food processor to make the filling. If almonds are not already ground, put them in the food processor first and process till fine. Cut the lemon into quarters, remove the stalk and pips then add to the food processor with the sugar, eggs, cream, flour and salt.Mix until fairly smooth.Pour into the pastry case and sprinkle the flaked almonds all over the top. Bake for 40-60 minutes until deep golden brown. If the edges start to get too brown, cover them with a collar of foil. Serve with cream as a dessert or for afternoon tea, dusted with icing sugar.

Serves 8-10

Note: This tart is nicer if you let it get slightly over-cooked so the edges become crunchy.

Variation: omit flaked almonds and top pie with a bunch of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 6-cm lengths.

Italian Mince Pies with Panna Cotta & Berry Compote

When I’m looking for inspiration I browse through old cook books. I have quite a few, including some by Robert Carrier.

Born in the USA in 1923, Carrier’s success came in England, where he worked for most of his life as a chef, restaurateur and food writer. The Jamie Oliver of the 70s and 80s, Carrier tried to persuade the British public there was more to life than meat and three veg. He retired to France where he died in 2006.

Carrier said he acquired the recipe for Mezzorgiorno (which I have shortened to “Italian”) Mince Pies served with Panna Cotta and Berry Compote from The Don Camillo restaurant in Provence. It may seem like a complicated recipe, but most of the work is done by the food processor and you can spread it over three days. Make the pastry and filling for the pies on day one. Next day make the panna cottas, the compote and the pies. Refrigerate them covered, but uncooked. On the third day brush with egg and bake an hour or so before serving.

The pastry is not easy to roll out and you may find yourself using quite a bit of flour to stop it from sticking, especially on a hot day. Unfortunately too much flour makes pastry tough, so if you’re having difficulty try rolling it out between two sheets of baking paper. You could always substitute home-made or bought shortcrust or puff pastry.

Mr Carrier said to cut the pastry into 8cm squares, but I found this made the pies too big – 6 to 7cm is a better size. The original filling included brown sugar in addition to the honey, but the mixture is sweet enough with all that dried fruit and chocolate, so I left it out.

Panna cotta – which means cooked cream – is delicious served with just the compote. And the pies are nice served on their own as a change to traditional mince pies at Christmas. But all put together they make an unusual dessert.

Italian Mince Pies

Italian Mince Pies with Panna Cotta & Berry CompotePastry:
½ cup caster sugar
150g unsalted butter at room temp
1 Tbs cinnamon
grated rind (zest) 1 lemon
3 eggs
2¾ cups (350g) plain flour
125g good quality dark chocolate
150g dates, pitted
250g dried figs, stems removed (or substitute raisins)
3 Tbs honey
3 Tbs Marsala or port
100g pine nuts, toasted
Grated rind (zest) 1 lemon or orange
½ cup dried sour cherries (I substituted cranberries)
1 egg, beaten
Icing sugar for dusting

Pastry: Place sugar, butter, cinnamon and lemon rind in food processor and process until creamed. Add eggs and when mixed add flour. Process until dough comes together in a ball. Tip out, form into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 3 days. Can be frozen for several weeks.

Filling: Break chocolate into squares, then pulse in food processor until coarsely chopped. Tip into a bowl. Place dates, figs, honey and Marsala or port in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add to the bowl with remaining ingredients except egg and icing sugar and mix well. Store in a covered container in the fridge. Keeps several weeks.

Assembly: Preheat oven to 170°C. Roll pastry thinly on floured surface and cut into 6 or 7cm squares. You should have enough to make 35-40, but it’s best to make only as many as you can eat on the same day.  Also it’s easier to work with about a quarter of the dough at a time. Place one rounded teaspoon of filling on one side of each square, brush 2 sides with egg and fold over to form a triangle enclosing the filling, pinching well to seal.

Place pies in the cups of lightly oiled muffin trays, which is what gives them their interesting curved shape. If you don’t have muffin trays use flat baking trays.  Brush with egg and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Don’t overcook or they will be dry. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.

Pies are best eaten the day they are made, still warm from the oven, so it’s best to make just the right amount and store leftover pastry and filling for another time. While leftover cooked pies can be reheated next day, they are not as nice as on day one.

Vanilla Pana Cottas

4 Tbs water
3 tsp powdered gelatine
750ml cream
250ml milk
4-5 Tbs caster sugar, to taste
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla essence

Place water in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatine on top then zap in microwave to dissolve. Heat cream, milk, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan to boiling point, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add gelatine, mix well, cool a bit then divide among 10 half cup moulds. Refrigerate, covered, overnight. To serve, tip briefly in hot water, run a thin knife around the edge and tip out. Serve with Berry Compote and one or two Italian Mince Pies.

Serves 10

Berry Compote

750g – 1 kg fresh or frozen berries (one or more of the following: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, stoned cherries)
1 Tbs lemon juice
¼ cup cherry brandy, Kirsch or other liqueur (optional)
¼ cup sugar, or to taste

Slice or halve strawberries. Place all ingredients in a bowl and allow to macerate for several hours or overnight, stirring from time to time.

Serves 10

Sago Plum Pudding

Sago Plum Pudding, an old-fashioned dessert made from simple ingredients, is one of my all-time favourites. I think its origins must be Antipodean as I never came across it when I was growing up in England. Some in our family see it as an excuse to eat Brandy Butter when it’s not Christmas. I’ve never been a big fan of Brandy Butter and prefer it with thick, unsweetened cream.

I like to make individual half cup puddings rather than one large one. They keep in the fridge for several days and are quicker to cook than steaming one large pudding. I love being able to whip one out of the fridge, zap it in the microwave and demolish it whenever the mood takes me, which is quite often when I know they are there! This recipe came from my

Sago Plum Pudding¾ cup sago
2 cups milk
180g butter
½ cup sugar
2 cups sultanas or mixed dried fruit
2 cups breadcrumbs (made in food processor from day old bread)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
2 tsp mixed spice
To serve:
Brandy Butter, thick cream or custard

Soak sago in milk overnight. Place butter in a mixing bowl and zap in the microwave to melt. Mix in remaining ingredients then scrape into a one litre pudding bowl, lightly buttered. Cover with a piece of buttered foil, buttered side down and place in a large saucepan on something to lift the bowl slightly. A metal trivet, old saucer or a small brick will do. Add boiling water to come halfway up bowl. Cover with the saucepan lid, bring to the boil and steam steadily for 3-3½ hours, adding more water as necessary. The top of the pudding will have an even dark brown colour when ready – lift foil from time to time to check. Stand for 5 minutes then turn out, cut into slices and serve with thick cream, Brandy Butter or custard.

Serves 8-10

Note: make individual puddings in 8-10 half cup ramekins, dariole moulds or Chinese teacups, lightly buttered, as shown in the second photo. Fill almost to the top as they don’t rise much. Place in a shallow ovenproof dish and add boiling water to come halfway up the cups. Cover the whole dish with a sheet of foil, buttered side down. Bake at 160°C for an hour to an hour and a half, or until evenly rich brown on top. Tip out and serve immediately or store covered in the fridge and reheat for about a minute in the microwave, covered in plastic wrap, then tip out.

Kien’s Dutch Apple Pie

I recently spent three days in hospital for a knee operation. Hospital food as a general rule is nothing to write home about, but I have to say that my stay in the Canberra Specialist Surgical Centre was a pleasant surprise in that regard. The food was well above average and to be honest everything else (apart from no wifi!) was also fantastic. Lovely staff who arrive within a minute of patients pressing the buzzer, great views, comfortable rooms.

One exception on the food front was the Dutch Apple Pie. When you’re incarcerated, bored and in pain food takes on a whole new meaning. Each day I was given a form to choose what I wanted to eat the next day, so when I saw Dutch Apple Pie I thought “yum” and ticked the box.  Unfortunately when it arrived it was very disappointing and not remotely related to the real thing.  Just a shortbread covered with apple puree and topped with pale crumbs.

Many years ago my Dutch friend Kien gave me her recipe for Dutch Apple Pie and here it is. The real McCoy.

250g plain flour
150g self-raising flour
200g sugar
300g butter at room temperature
125 sultanas
125g currants or raisins
750g peeled and sliced green apples
¾ cup rum
125g sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup apricot jam

Soak dried fruit in rum. Pre-heat oven to 160C.  Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy in food processor or with electric beaters. Mix in flour until well mixed and sticking together.  Tip out, form into a fat log and refrigerate for about 30 mins wrapped in plastic wrap. Cut log into three. Cut off slices and use to press all over the bottom of a buttered 30 cm spring-form pan. Bake for 20-30 mins till golden then cool.

Filling: Turn oven up to 170°C.  Mix apples with sugar and cinnamon. Line sides of cake tin with another third of the shortbread.  It’s difficult to roll out so the easiest way is to cut off thin slices and press them onto the sides of the tin like a jigsaw puzzle. Drain dried fruit (keep rum), mix with apples and put into tin. Use remaining shortbread to make strips and form a lattice to cover apples. Pinch edges of the lattice onto the sides of the pie so it all joins up.  Bake for 1¼ hours. Spoon rum through holes between the lattice. Paint lattice with heated and sieved apricot jam, using a pastry brush, which gives a nice glaze. Cool thoroughly before removing sides of tin. Serve with whipped cream or pouring cream.

Serves 12

Apple and Blackberry Pie

My paternal grandmother was born in Scotland, just outside Edinburgh.  When she met my grandfather she was running the dairy in a stately home.  As kids my Dad was always telling us that his mother could make butter into the shape of swans.  My mother would roll her eyes and say if he wanted swans made of butter he’d better go back!

Jessie was a wonderful cook but she died when I was 12, a year after I started to take an interest in cooking, so she didn’t have time to teach me many tricks.  She kept chickens and sold the eggs, so after my grandfather died I used to go and help her to clean them and put them in boxes.  She taught me to make pastry, fruit pies, Yorkshire puddings and gravy.  And a rule I have never forgotten – always put a good pinch of salt into anything sweet (such as cakes) and a good pinch of sugar into anything savoury (such as gravy) because it brings out the flavours.  Jessie insisted that the success of a good gravy or white sauce depended on the way you held your mouth, pronounced “mooth”, with her soft Scottish brogue.  She was what you would call a dour Scot, so I never really knew when she was joking.

Greengrocer’s in the UK sell two kinds of apples – eating apples and cooking apples.  Here in Australia I have never seen cooking apples for sale commercially, except at an orchard outside Canberra in Pialligo, where they sell them for about 3 weeks in the short picking season which starts late January.  For the rest of the year we have to make do with Granny Smiths, which are really not the same.  The most popular cooking apple in England is the Bramley – a large lumpy fruit which makes a deliciously fluffy apple sauce to go with pork or a tangy apple pie.   About two years ago Jonathan Banks at the apple farm in Pialligo grafted a Bramley for us to plant on our rural property near Braidwood.  I can’t wait for it to bear fruit.

My first apple and blackberry pie was made under the watchful eye of Jessie.  When her three sons were growing up she said they could eat one whole pie each.   I thought this was a bit of an exaggeration, but my Dad confirmed it was true.   I don’t make fruit pies very often these days, but whenever I do I’m transported back to that cozy kitchen with its wood-fired Aga stove and Nana standing watching me, holding herself up on wooden crutches.  She was very tall, had undergone two unsuccessful hip operations and had a lot of difficulty getting her large frame from A to B.

The pastry I use for fruit pies is the one Jessie taught me.  It uses self-raising instead of plain flour and a mixture of lard and butter.  It’s not sweet, but it’s the way I like it, contrasting nicely with the filling.

Apple and Blackberry Pie

1 kg cooking apples or Granny Smiths, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
1/4 cup water
2 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen, thawed)
250g self-raising flour
75g lard
75g butter
3-4 Tbs cold water
To glaze:
A little milk or a beaten egg
Grantulated sugar

Place apples, water and sugar in a large saucepan.  Cook for 10 minutes or so until softening.  As Granny Smiths tend to hold their shape more than cooking apples I usually break them up a bit at this stage with a potato masher.  Remove from heat and add the blackberries.

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Place flour, lard and butter in food processor.  Process to crumbs then add water gradually through the feed chute, with the motor running.  When mixture starts to form a ball stop adding water and stop the motor, tip out the pastry and form into a ball. Cut pastry in half.  Roll out one half on a floured surface into a circle slightly larger than a 25-30cm pie dish or dinner plate which is not too flat – mine is 28cm. Trim off excess. Fill with apple and blackberry mixture, leaving any excess juice behind.  Mop up any excess on the pastry edges with paper towels.  Roll out remaining pastry to cover the fruit, trim off excess then seal and crimp the edges.  Cut four holes in the pastry lid to allow steam to escape.  Brush surface with milk or beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake for 35-40 mins or until nicely browned.  Serve warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.  Keeps for several days in the fridge, then just reheat in the oven to serve.

Serves 12

Variation: use raspberries instead of blackberries or make the pie with just apples, in which case increase the quantity to about 1½ kg.

Note: It’s not a good idea to use your best dinner plates for fruit pies.  Use old ones or acquire a couple at a secondhand shop.

Little Crumblies

When we were living in Paris fruit crumbles, which originated in England, appeared on almost every bistro menu.  Selling British grub to the French is no mean feat, so I always regard it as one of the UK’s biggest culinary successes.

When we were living in Chile in the 1990s we had a Mapuche Indian chef called Jacinto who could make just about anything into what he called a Crumbly.  But he hadn’t quite grasped the need for a Crumbly to be sweet, not savoury.  He once proudly served an apple crumbly which looked fantastic but which the kids refused to eat.  I was abstaining as I sometimes do at dessert time – otherwise I’d be roly-poly – so James said “Mum, you try it, it’s disgusting.”  Turns out Jacinto had put the usual layer of apples underneath, but had made the crumbly topping from some savoury sage and onion stuffing, left over from the Christmas turkey.  It was interesting, but it really didn’t go with vanilla ice cream.

If I have any left over stewed fruit, or a few apples which are looking a bit tired and need using, I make individual crumblies in small souffle dishes.  To make the stewed apples go further you can mix in a few frozen raspberries or blackberries.   I buy both by the kilo and always have them in the freezer. The crumblies in the photo are made from rhubarb from the garden, cooked briefly with a dash of water and sugar to taste.  Once cooked crumblies will keep in the fridge for several days, ready to be whipped out, zapped for a minute in the microwave and eaten with a dollop of cream, or just as they are.  They just hit the spot and are not large enough to be overly filling. People with larger appetites might prefer to use larger dishes.  If you haven’t got a kilo of fruit, just use what you have and adjust the topping accordingly – it’s basically 2 parts flour to 1 part each of butter and sugar.  Any leftover crumble topping can be stored in a jar with a lid in the fridge and used another time.

Fruit Crumbles
800g -1 kg sweetened stewed fruit
250g plain flour
125g butter
3-4 Tbs brown or white sugar, to taste
2 Tbs porridge oats or macadamia nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Cook peeled and sliced apples (rhubarb, peaches or whatever you are using) with a little water and sugar to taste until half cooked, but looking like a compote.  They will continue to cook in the oven.  If using raspberries or blackberries add them now and don’t cook them.  Grease 10-12 small dishes and fill them about two thirds full with the fruit filling.  Place flour, butter and sugar in food processor.  Process until it forms crumbs, then continue to process for a few seconds until the mixture starts to stick together a bit.  If using oats or nuts add them now and process very briefly.  Cover fruit with crumble, place dishes on a baking tray and bake for about 25 minutes or until browned and bubbling.  Serve now or cool and refrigerate, covered, then reheat in microwave for about a minute each.  Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.  If preferred make crumble in one large dish.

Serves 10-12 if made in small dishes

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

Someone gave my daughter Catherine a Panettone for Christmas.  As they don’t like Panettone very much, she gave it to me.  I have to admit I’m not mad about the Italian answer to Christmas cake either, but my “war mentality” doesn’t allow me to throw good food away.  So I stuck it in the freezer.  Catherine laughed when she saw me do this and admitted she had inherited my “waste not want not” approach to food and if she hadn’t been travelling she would have frozen it too.

This weekend I used just over half the Panettone to make a delicious chocolate bread and butter pudding, adapted from a recipe by Delia Smith.  She uses ordinary white bread with the crusts cut off.  You could use bread, panettone, croissants, brioche – anything which needs using up – which is how this traditional British dessert was first invented – to use up stale bread.

9 slices of day old white bread – or the equivalent in panettone, brioche or croissants
150g dark chocolate (I used more like 175g to make it really chocolatey)
75g butter
425ml cream
4 Tbs dark rum
pinch ground cinnamon
4 Tbs caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
To serve:
Icing sugar
Thick pouring cream

Butter a rectangular lasagne-type dish.  In a large bowl place chocolate, broken into squares, butter, cream, sugar, cinnamon and rum.  Microwave until melted which will take 2-3 minutes.  Stop every 30 seconds or so to stir the mixture and stop as soon as it’s melted.  Delia does hers the traditional way over simmering water which is safer.  Using the microwave is quicker, but you need to keep an eye on it.  Whisk in the eggs with a hand whisk, until well-combined.

Pour about 2cm of the chocolate cream over the base of the dish, then arrange about half the panettone slices or bread slices, overlapping if necessary to cover the base of the dish.  Panettone slices are large so you need to cut them into about three and use them like a jigsaw puzzle.  Pour in half the remaining chocolate cream and push all over with the back of a fork so the panettone soaks it up.  Arrange the rest of the panettone or bread over the top, pour in the remaining chocolate cream, push with a fork so there are no dry bits left.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap, leave for a couple of hours at room temperature then refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

Remove cling film and bake at 180°C for 35 minutes or until the top is brown and crunchy and the bottom is cooked but still soft.  Remove from the oven, allow to stand for a few minutes then serve dusted with icing sugar.  Pass a jug of thick pouring cream separately.

Serves 6-8