Éclairs

Éclairs

 

For these éclairs the choux pastry is filled with a crème pâtissière and coated with a simple white icing.

 

Éclairs
Prepares: 8 éclairs
 
  • Preparation time: 45 minutes
  • Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the choux pastry
  • 140ml/5 fl oz cold water
  • 50g/2 oz butter, cut into small pieces
  • 
70g/2½ oz strong plain flour/all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp caster sugar/fine white flour
  • 2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), well beaten

  • For the crème pâtissière
  • 200ml/7fl oz full-fat milk/whole milk
  • 50g/2 oz caster sugar/fine white sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
  • 20g/¾ oz cornflour/cornstarch
  • 20g/¾ oz butter, cut into small pieces

  • For the icing
  • 225g/8 oz icing sugar
  • 5 tsp boiling water

  • Equipment
  • Two nylon piping bags, one fitted with a plain 1cm/½ inch nozzle for piping the choux pastry and the other with a long thin nozzle for filling the éclairs.
  • A large baking sheet


  1. Method
  2. For the choux pastry
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

  4. The ingredients need to be measured out first.

  5. Put the water in a pan together with the butter and put to one side.

  6. Next weigh out the flour and sieve onto a piece of parchment paper with the sugar. Set to one side. Using the parchment paper like a funnel will allow the flour to be tipped into the melted butter very quickly.

  7. Now, place the pan of water and butter over a moderate heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the mixture comes to the boil. The pan needs to be removed from the heat as soon as the mixture boils to prevent too much evaporation of the water. Holding the paper like a funnel, immediately tip in the flour and sugar. Beat vigorously with the wooden spoon or use a hand held electric whisk. Keep beating until the mixture has become a smooth ball of paste that has left the sides of the pan clean.

  8. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well between each addition until the paste has become smooth and glossy.

  9. Lightly grease a baking sheet and then sprinkle on a little cold water. This will create steam and will help the choux pastry rise.

  10. Spoon the pastry into the piping bag and pipe eight, 7.5cm/3 inch lengths, onto the baking sheet.

  11. Bake the éclairs on a high shelf for 10 minutes, then increase the temperature to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 and bake for a further 8–10 minutes until lightly golden.

  12. Remove to a wire rack and gently make a small hole with a skewer in the side of each éclair to allow any steam to escape. This will prevent them from becoming soggy. Leave to cool completely.

  13. For the crème pâtissière
  14. Pour the milk into a pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.

  15. Put the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour/cornstarch in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour a little of the hot milk onto the mixture, whisking continuously to loosen the mixture a little. Then gradually pour in the remaining hot milk and whisk until smooth. Return to the pan and, over a low heat, cook the mixture, stirring continuously, until it thickens.

  16. Remove from the heat and beat in the butter until it has melted. Leave to cool, covering the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming on the top. Refrigerate to chill.

  17. Once chilled, spoon into the piping bag fitted with the long thin nozzle. Using the hole that was made with the skewer, carefully fill the éclairs with the crème pâtissière. 


  18. For the icing
  19. Measure the boiling water into a small bowl and sift in the icing sugar. Beat well to mix. The icing should be stiff. More water or sifted icing sugar can be added to achieve the right consistency.

  20. Cover the top of the éclairs with the icing and smooth with a palette knife.

 

Spicy Oven Chicken

Spicy Oven Chicken

 

Succulent chicken pieces with a spicy flour and cheese coating, cooked in butter in the oven and served with sautéed diced tomatoes and a creamy spice sauce.

 

Spicy Oven Chicken
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes (oven 25, hob 5)

  • Ingredients
  • 140g (5 oz) butter (½ cup + 2 tbsp, or 1¼ sticks)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp curry powder or chilli powder
  • 4 chicken portions (breasts, legs or quarters, skins left on)
  • 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 150ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock* (⅔ cup)
  • 150ml (5 fl oz) single cream (table cream) (⅔ cup)
  • 4 tomatoes, diced

  • *The sauce is enhanced by using a good stock. In Canada I can recommend ‘Better Than Bouillon’. It really makes a tasty stock and doesn’t contain a lot of additives. In the U.K. I would choose the organic range.


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)

  3. Mix the flour, seasoning and curry or chilli powder together and spread on a plate. Spread the Parmesan cheese on a second plate.

  4. In a small roasting pan, melt 115g (4 oz) (½ cup, or 1 stick) of the butter in the oven. This will only take about 1 minute. Then remove.

  5. Turn the chicken pieces in the butter, shaking them a little when lifting to remove any excess butter. Coat in the flour mixture and then the cheese. Reserve remaining flour.

  6. Return the chicken to the pan in a singe layer, skin side down. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.

  7. Remove the foil, turn the chicken and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes to crisp up.

  8. Melt the remaining 28g (1 oz) (2 tbsp) butter in a large frying pan/skillet. Add the tomatoes and cook over a medium heat while making the sauce. Shake the pan frequently to keep turning the tomatoes.

  9. Take the chicken out of the pan and keep warm while making the sauce.

  10. Mix the reserved flour into the buttery residue in the pan and stir well, scraping up any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. Over a low heat, cook for 1 minute. Slowly blend in the chicken stock and then add the cream. Stir well and bring to the boil to thicken. Remove from the heat.

  11. Serve the chicken with the tomatoes and sauce.

  12. Chunky home fries go well with this dish.

Updated April 24, 2017

Apple Strudel

Apple Strudel

 

Apple strudel is one of the most popular dishes in Austria, the oldest record being a handwritten recipe from 1696 housed in the Vienna City and State Library. However, it’s likely to have been adopted from other countries that made up the Habsburg Empire. Early recipes used a pastry made from unleavened dough and today it’s usual to use filo/phyllo pastry – a modern version. It is delicious served with ice cream, cream, or vanilla sauce.

 

Apple Strudel
Prepares: 8 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 35 minutes
  • Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 1kg/2 lb 2 oz tart dessert apples, Granny Smiths are good
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar/fine white sugar
  • 85g/3 oz walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 4 tbsp sultanas
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 85g/3 oz ground almonds*
  • 16 sheets filo/phyllo pastry**
  • 50g/2 oz butter, melted
  • icing sugar to dust

  • *The almonds will absorb any excess juices which will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy.

  • **Filo pastry dries out very quickly. Remove only the number of sheets from the packet that are required for the recipe and keep these covered with clingfilm until needed.

  • Equipment
  • 1 large baking sheet, oiled


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

  3. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples into small pieces. Put them in a mixing bowl and toss together with the lemon juice. Add the sugar, walnuts, sultanas, cinnamon and almonds and mix well. Set aside.

  4. Now to make the four parcels.

  5. Using four sheets of pastry, take one sheet and lay it on a clean tea towel then brush lightly with the melted butter. Place another sheet directly on top and brush this one with butter. Repeat with the other two sheets. Spread a quarter of the apple filling lengthways down the middle of the pastry, flattening it out and leaving a 2.5cm/1 inch border on the shorter edges.

  6. Brush a little butter along the long edge that is furthest away from you and both the shorter edges. Using the tea towel, lift the long edge nearest you over the filling and then continue rolling to form a sausage shape with the seam finishing up underneath. (The extra butter round the edges will seal the parcel.) Carefully transfer it to the baking sheet.

  7. Repeat with the remaining sheets of pastry until there are four parcels.

  8. Bake for 40 minutes until golden. Cover the pastry during the last 10 minutes if it is colouring too quickly.

  9. Just before serving, dust the parcels with icing sugar using a small sieve.

  10. Apple Strudel on tray

  11. Then cut the parcels into thick slices (a pizza slice does this brilliantly). It can be served warm or cold.

 

Ginger Snap Biscuits

Ginger Snap Biscuits

 

The ginger snap is the biscuit to dunk in your tea or coffee. There are many different recipes for this humble biscuit which originally dates back to the early 1800s in England. This is one of my recipes for this great little biscuit.

 

Ginger Snap Biscuits
Prepares: 16 biscuits
 
  • Preparation time: About 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 12 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 55g (2 oz) butter, cut into cubes (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
  • 85g (3 oz) golden syrup* (½ cup + 2 tbsp)
  • 115g (4 oz) self-raising flour/self-rising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp caster sugar/white sugar

  • *Golden syrup isn’t readily available in North America. There are some supermarkets that sell it in Canada. Otherwise I manage to get it in the small British stores that are around. The closest alternative would be runny honey. It is not quite as stiff as golden syrup but close, and it does have some flavour too.

  • Equipment
  • 2 x insulated baking sheets/insulated cookie sheets
  • (I first discovered these insulated cooking sheets when we first came to Canada and use them all the time now to cook biscuits and cookies. They produce a very even bake and I have no problem with the underside or edges crisping up before the centres are done. They aren’t as widely available in the U.K. but John Lewis and Amazon stock them.)


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

  3. Put the butter in a small pan and weigh in the golden syrup. Over a low heat, melt the butter stirring it into the golden syrup. When melted and well mixed in, remove from the heat and set aside.

  4. Sift the flour, soda, ginger and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar then stir in the golden syrup mixture until well blended. Leave to firm up for 10 minutes.

  5. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and, using floured hands, roll each into a ball. Space them apart on the baking sheets and flatten them a little.

  6. Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Updated: March 28, 2017

Basic Baked Sponge Puddings

Lemon Baked Sponge

 

Baked sponge puddings are similar to my steamed sponge puddings (click to view), but they take half the time to cook. The texture is that of a cake and so I tend to keep my steamed puddings for cold, winter days and use this basic recipe at other times. Again, there are a number of variations using the basic recipe, as shown below.

 

Baked Sponge Puddings
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: About 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30–40 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 85g (3 oz) butter (⅜ cup, or ¾ stick)
  • 85g (3 oz) caster sugar/superfine sugar (⅓ cup + 1½ tbsp)
  • 1 egg, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), beaten
  • 140g (5 oz) self raising flour/self-rising flour, sifted (1 cup)
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • milk to mix

  • To serve
  • Egg custard (recipe below)

  • Equipment
  • 600ml/1 pint pie dish, greased


  1. Method
  2. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Then fold in the flour with the vanilla essence.

  4. Or use a food mixer.

  5. Add enough milk until there is a dropping consistency (the mixture should drop freely from a spoon).

  6. Spoon into the prepared dish and bake for 30–40 minutes until well risen and golden.The top should spring back when lightly touched.



  7. Variations of the basic baked sponge pudding

  8. Lemon Baked Sponge Pudding
  9. Lemon Baked Sponge
  10. Add the zest of a lemon to the creamed mixture and replace the milk with lemon juice.

  11. Orange Baked Sponge Pudding
  12. Add the zest of an orange to the creamed mixture and replace the milk with orange juice.

Egg Custard
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation and cooking time: About 10 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar/superfine sugar
  • 300ml (10 fl oz) milk (1¼ cups)
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence


  1. Method
  2. Put the eggs, sugar and 45ml (3 tbsp) milk in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined.

  3. Pour the remaining milk into a pan with the vanilla essence and bring slowly to the boil.

  4. Gradually pour the milk onto the egg mixture stirring until smooth. Then strain and return to the pan. Stir over a medium heat until the mixture thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil.

Updated: March 29, 2017

Crêpes with Lemon and Sugar

Crêpes with Lemon and Sugar

 

A batch of crepes folded into quarters then drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar make a very light version of the traditional English pancake.

 

Crêpes with Lemon and Sugar
Prepares: 8–10 large crêpes
 
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Standing time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: About 20 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 110g/4 oz plain flour/cake and pastry flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs (U.K.)/extra large eggs (N.A.)
  • 200ml/7½ fl oz semi-skimmed milk mixed with 75 ml/2½ fl oz water
  • 50g/2 oz butter

  • To serve
  • Caster sugar/fine white sugar
  • 1 lemon, halved

  • Equipment
  • A 25.5cm/10 inch heavy gauge aluminium frying pan


  1. Method
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.

  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Using an electric whisk or a balloon whisk, whisk the eggs into the flour gradually adding the milk and incorporating the flour from around the edge of the bowl. Scrape any remaining flour down from around the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and whisk again until all the mixture is smooth. It should be the consistency of thin cream. Set aside for 20 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and place five plates in the oven to warm.

  5. Melt the butter in the pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the butter into the batter and whisk it in. Pour the remainder into a small bowl and reserve it to smear the pan between cooking each crêpe using a wodge of kitchen paper.

  6. Get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to a medium setting.

  7. Use about 3 tablespoons of batter for each pancake. It is easier to measure this into a ladle or measuring cup first and use this to tip the batter into the pan in one go. Using the ladle or cup, pour the batter quickly into the centre of the pan at the same time tipping it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated. If there are any holes, just fill them in with the batter using a teaspoon. It should take less than a minute to for the underside to turn golden. Check by lifting the edge with a palette knife.

  8. Flip the pancake over with the palette knife and cook the other side until golden. This side will need less time to cook. Then slide it out of the pan onto a warmed plate.

  9. Continue until all the batter is used. Overlap the pancakes on the warmed plate as you go, keeping them warm in the oven covered loosely with foil.

  10. Serve with some juice of the lemon squeezed over the pancake and a generous sprinkling of sugar. They can then be rolled or folded into quarters.

 

Quick Mediterranean Chicken

Quick Mediterranean Chicken

 

Quick Mediterranean chicken combines strips of chicken fillets with peppers and penne cooked in a herb flavoured soup. This is a really quick dish to prepare and cook. Great for those nights when time is short.

 

Quick Mediterranean Chicken
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: about 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken breast fillets, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 10 fl oz can tomato, basil and oregano soup (Campbells)
  • 300ml/10 fl oz water
  • salt and pepper
  • 170g/6 oz penne (De Cecco is my favourite)
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

  • To serve
  • Serve with sautéed courgettes/zucchini and broccoli florets.

  • Equipment
  • Large frying pan/skillet or saute pan


  1. Method
  2. Heat oil in the pan over a medium heat. Add the chicken, pepper and garlic and stir fry for 5 minutes.

  3. Stir in the soup and water. Season to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and peppers are soft.

  4. Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Add the pasta to the pan and cook according to the directions on the packet. Drain. Stir the pasta through the chicken and peppers.

  5. Sprinkle over the basil and serve.

 

Shepherd’s Pie Napoletana

Shepherd's Pie Napoletana

 

The traditional shepherd’s pie can be quite bland and my basic Shepherd’s Pie recipe has extra seasonings to liven it up. This one brings a touch of Italian using a Napoletana sauce and with grated Parmesan on the top.

 

Shepherd's Pie Napoletana
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 450g/1 lb minced lamb/ground lamb
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig (or a large pinch of dried)
  • 225ml/8 fl oz red wine
  • 500g/17 fl oz Napoletana pasta sauce (or similar)
  • 900g/2 lb potatoes (floury)
  • 50g/2 oz butter
  • 50g/2 oz Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated


  1. Method
  2. Brown the lamb in a large pan over a medium heat, stirring frequently to break up any lumps, about 7 minutes. It should be really well browned. Then remove from the pan and set aside.

  3. Add the onion to the pan with the rosemary and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. There should be enough fat left from browning the meat not to require adding any oil.

  4. Return the lamb to the pan and stir in the wine. Loosen any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan, then leave the wine to bubble gently until roughly half of it has evaporated. Stir in the pasta sauce, then simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into large chunks. Put in a pan of water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the hot pan to dry off any excess moisture. Mash with the butter and half the Parmesan.

  6. Preheat the grill to high.

  7. Spoon the meat sauce into a medium-sized ovenproof dish. Top with the potatoes, no need to smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

  8. Brown under the grill for about 3 minutes.

  9. Serve with seasonal vegetables.

  10. Tip
  11. The dish can be prepared ahead of time up to the grill stage. Cover the dish then refrigerate for up to two days. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and cook the pie for 25–30 minutes until heated through and golden on top.