Blueberry, apple and ginger crumble tart


Today’s my birthday. I was woken up at seven a.m. by a five-year-old carrying a homemade card (a family of badgers, how well he knows me) and whisper-singing Happy Birthday. He helped me open cards and some presents (a bag with a picture of an arctic fox on from him, how well he knows me), gave me some ‘save-for-later’ kisses and cuddles and went to school.

I picked him up from school and we lit candles on a cake I’d bought (he was a little concerned that I shouldn’t buy my own birthday cake and that he should have helped his dad make one – how little he knows him) and he sang Happy Birthday to me again. I can’t reveal what I wished for when I cut the cake of course, but seven, eight and possibly even nine years ago I wished for him.

Yesterday we ate nearly all of this tart between the three of us.

Makes one tart

1 pack of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry

1 small pack blueberries

3 teaspoons diced stem ginger in syrup

1-2 cooking apples, peeled, cored, chunked and cooked gently in a saucepan with 2-3 tablespoons of golden caster sugar till soft but still in recognisable chunks

175g plain flour

100g cubed butter

50g rolled oats

100g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Heat the oven to 180. Line a pie dish with the pastry, leaving some overhanging the edges. Put on a baking tray, cover with baking parchment (the one from the packet of pre-rolled pastry will do) and weigh down with something like baking beans (I use pebbles). Bake for 10 minutes, remove paper and baking beans, turn the oven down to 160 and bake for another 8 minutes, till golden.

Take it out of the oven and turn the oven back up to 180. Meanwhile put the butter and flour in a food processor till breadcrumbed, then stir through the sugar, oats and ginger.

When the pastry has cooled a bit, snap off any overhanging edges, but not too neatly, tip in the blueberries and dot with the ginger and some of its syrup. On top of that, the apples. Then the crumble. Bake for 25-30 minutes and serve with double cream.


Half moon chicken pasties


A bit more sun-like when they’re coated in egg wash, in fact.

There’s something very satisfying about this; using up leftovers and doing the sort of cooking that you watched your mum do when you were little – rolling out pastry, sealing pies, brushing on egg wash.

This is one of those dishes that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Makes 16 bite sized pasties

1 sheet puff pastry

Leftover chicken stew

1 egg, beaten

Flour for rolling

Roll the puff pastry out thinly and cut into small circles – I used a tea cup. Place on a lined baking sheet, floury side up (otherwise when you egg wash you get into a claggy mess of flour and egg), and put around a teaspoon of stew into the middle of each. You need to be relatively stingy with the stew to keep them neat. Brush egg in a circle round the outside rim and seal them into half moon shaped pasties. Brush the top with egg wash and pop them in a hot oven (200 degrees) for 15 minutes, till puffed up and golden.

I had mine with a leafy green salad. I showed Bert what a salad leaf looked like for future reference.

Puffed up chicken pies


Makes 3 small pies

1 sheet puff pastry

3 chicken thighs, diced

1 large carrot, grated

4 or 5 bok choi leaves, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 dessert spoon butter

Splash olive oil

1/2 dessert spoon flour

200 ml whole milk

1 teaspoon mustard

A little milk and a little flour

Fry the chicken in the butter and oil for about 5 minutes, until browned. Add the veg and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. (You could use any finely diced veg for this.) Meanwhile, stop the baby from throwing size 6 trainers at the dog while laughing his head off. Stir in the flour, add the milk bit by bit then stir the mustard through and cook for about another 5 minutes – the sauce should be thick and clinging to the veg and chicken. Throw the odd carrot top to the baby to distract him. Discover that a baby will happily eat a piece of carrot raw if it’s stolen from the floor.

I used a yorkshire pudding tin for this. Roll the pastry out a little.  You’ll need to cut out two sizes of circles; one a bit larger than the circumference of the holes if they were flattened out (this requires a certain amount of spatial awareness), one the size of the top of the hole. Cut out three of each and line the tins with the larger ones. Fill generously with chicken mixture. Brush milk around the edge of the pastry and place a smaller circle on top, bringing the edges of the larger one over the smaller one to seal it. It’s a bit like hemming a skirt. Make sure it’s tightly sealed, brush the top with milk and make a small hole in the top with a knife. Egg wash would make for a more golden top, but I wouldn’t crack an egg for a couple of small pies.

Cook at 180 degrees or in the middle of the Aga roasting oven for 12-15 minutes. They’ll puff up like footballs in the oven. We had ours with broccoli.

Apple lattice tarts


Two for me, one for you and one for me to share.

Makes 4 small tarts

About 1/4 sheet shortcrust pastry (the rest of the pastry I used for the pies)

4 teaspoons of apple puree or apple sauce

Sprinkle of cinnamon

A little flour

A little milk or beaten egg

A scant dessert spoon of crunchy brown sugar

Cut 8 small circles from the pastry – I used a tea cup. Put four on a baking tray and put a teaspoon of apple sauce in the middle of each, sprinkling with cinnamon. Brush the edge of the circle with milk or egg wash then press a second circle of pastry onto each. Brush the whole of the top with milk or egg, cut two or three slits across the appley mound and sprinkle with crunchy brown sugar. Bake at 180 degrees for about eight minutes.

Little meat pies


A better woman than I would make the pastry from scratch and chill in the fridge for half an hour, and make the filling fresh. But I keep Jus-Rol puff and shortcrust pastry in the freezer for when I feel a pie coming on, and I’ve used yesterday’s beef stew to fill them.

An ex once refered to my home made beef stew as ‘pie filling’ – needless to say the relationship didn’t last, but this is a good use of leftovers.

Makes 4 small pies

Leftover stew – I had about a third of last night’s stew or you could make it from scratch, thirding (is that a word?) the ingredients

1 sheet shortcrust pastry

A little flour

A little milk or a beaten egg

I use a muffin tin for this. Flour your surface and roll your pastry out a tiny bit, then cut four large circles – you’ll need about a centimetre overhang when you line each muffin, er, hole. I used a saucer. Line your holes, gathering up the overhang like the pleats of a skirt.

About two dessert spoons of cold stew goes into each – fill them generously. (It has to be cold as it goes into the pastry – another good reason to wait for leftovers if you make this.) Brush the rim of the pastry with milk or beaten egg, then cut out four smaller circles of pastry – I used a tea cup. Press the top onto the pie and pinch the sides together, cutting away the excess. If it looks a bit jagged, it will crisp up nicely in the oven. Brush the top with milk or egg, cut a small hole in the centre and bake at 180 degrees for 15 – 18 minutes. They’ll look like little pork pies when they come out of the moulds.

We had ours with buttered peas. A lot for me, about 10 for Bert since he picks up each one individually with finger and thumb.

One pie for him, two for me and one for my lunch tomorrow. There was enough filling and pastry for a fifth, so this could serve two humans and one baby, but I gave the dog the filling (he’d had a bad day) and used the pastry to make apple lattice tarts. They’ll be pudding tomorrow since a two pie tea is a bit decadent for a Monday.