The Great Bakewell Tart Debate

This weekend was the Bakwell Food Festival. Yeah, yeah I know you all think it’s all about Glasto or Bestival or Wireless but, my friends, you are incorrect. Bakewell is where it is AT. No question about it. And if you don’t believe me, then just ask yourself why those places don’t have a dessert named after them. Exactly.

Anyone who’s spent more than six months in the UK or has as unhealthy an obsession with Northern baked goods as us will know that nothing, nowhere, no how beats a good old slice of mother’s best Bakewell. Rich, crumbly and almondy with a sharp smack of raspberry jam buttery, short, tender-as-the-night pastry…somebody please pass the cream.

But, by FAR the best thing about this cakey, tarty, quirky treat is it’s history. Similarly, depending how far north of Golders Green you are, you will probably have a very different imagining of what exactly constitutes this beloved tea time treat. For some – mostly those in the South – Mr Kipling quickly springs to mind, with little rectangles of silicone sponge and sweeter than saccharine icing. But ask the same question to a Yorkshireman and you will be presented with what looks like an egg custard tart with very….um…shall we say…freeefrom edges. No moulds in sight, this baking comes from the heart.

According to the story at the Old Bakewell Pudding Shop based in the heart of the town, around 1860, the local in called The White Horse was run by a Mrs Graves (I’m imagining a Victorian Bette Lynch, you?). Some customers asked for a strawberry tart and the cook spread the egg mixture on top of the jam, rather than mixing it all through. BOOM, Bakewell pudding was born and we were all much more joyful for it.

Anyone who loves baking though, just like we do, will go weak at the knees for Bakewell, mostly because it offers you infinite kitchen creativity. Don’t have strawberry jam? No matter, try marmalade, or quince jelly, or what about black cherry? Allergic to almonds? Switch them out for pistachios in the frangipane mix and make your Bakewell all Persian. The opportunities are endless (something we LOVE). But to kick start your journey of exploration, here’s one of our fave recipes.

Bakewell Tart from Peyton & Byrne

Sweet Crust Pastry
85g butter softened
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
200g plain flour
For the Frangipane filling
200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
200g ground almonds
50g self raising flour
100g raspberry jam
50g crushed raspberries
icing sugar to dust 
50g flaked almonds

For the pastry
1/ In a bowl cream the butter, then add the icing sugar, mix until light and fluffy. Then add in the beaten egg yolk and flour, and form a dough. Turn on to the surface and knead for 2 minutes and form into a ball.
2/ Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for an hour before lining a 24cm tart tin.

For the tart
1/ Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. In a bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, mixing well. Add in the ground almonds and flour and mix until well incorporated. 
2/ Remove the tart from the fridge. Spread the jam over the base, and then lay the crushed raspberries on top. Making sure they are spread out. Spoon the frangipane mixture on top and spread over. Do not over fill. 
3/ Scatter the flaked almonds on top and bake. Bake for 30 minutes, then I place a piece of foil over it and let it cook for a further 12-15 minutes, the foil prevents it from over browning. Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving. 


For the love of garlic...

Look away right now if you are a vampire and / or on a date because this post is all about everyone’s favourite kitchen helper, the friendly head of garlic. National Garlic Day was this week and what better excuse than to celebrate these little cloves of beauty. Papery and whispy on the outside, spicy, hardy and full of punch on the inside – just like our favourite people.

But this little crescent of sultry, rich, headiness can provide us with one too many cooking faux pas, which can be all too easy to come unstuck on. Don’t go running to that awful tube of unidentified garlic ‘flavoured’ paste on the supermarket shelves just yet though! We are here to help you with all you need to know on mastering the art of garlicism. And yes, that is a word.

No time to peel, all the time to eat
We’ve all been here. The recipe for spaghetti says ‘just finely dice one onion and crush two cloves of garlic’. No problem…right? By the time you’ve snipped the woody end off, managed to burst the skin under your ENTIRE human body weight and peeled the thinner-than-Yellow-Pages film off the outside, it’s ten to nine and Dominoes is on its way. NO MORE! All you need to do, from now on, is a little bit of kitchen wizardry. Take a whole head of the good stuff, and place it in a metal bowl (it doesn’t have to be metal, just light enough for you to pick up and shake). Then place another bowl of the same size on top, and shake for all you’ve got. After about 30 seconds, take a quick sneaky peek and you should see little golden nuggets of peeled cloves tucked away under a snowstorm of peelings. You’ll never have to wait longer than a minute for garlic again.

How do I keep all these cloves in my fridge without stinking the place out?
Easy – olive oil. Take a clean, empty (obviously) jam jar and tumble the cloves in. Fill up to the top with the satisfying glug of Italy’s favourite fat and fasten the lid on tightly. Just pop out a clove whenever you need one. They’ll last for weeks like this, although you might want to label the jar in case small hands mistake them for sweets. Nasty shock.

I want to crush you! (With minimal struggle)
BY FAR the best way of preparing garlic to cook with is to crush it. It’s spreads beautifully through the dish without the unpleasant shock of being punched in the face by a huge lump of the stuff. So, if you want smooth paste and a means of releasing tension, halve a clove, sprinkle liberally with salt and smash several times with the base of a heavy saucepan. Smooshed and ready to go in 10 seconds. You tell me that’s not exciting stuff!

If you’re not inspired by now then, I hate to break it to you, but Twilight was probably more a documentary for you and you are a lost cause to us. For those of you itching to get cooking, here’s my recipe for 20 Garlic Clove Stew, as featured in my latest book ‘Take One Veg’. Enjoy!


Serves 4 – Prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 40 minutes

Inspired by the Spanish Caldo Gallego stew, this is a beautiful recipe with simple
ingredients. Garlic is the star of the show, but don’t be alarmed; the cloves soften in
lengthy cooking and provide a gentle backdrop to the white beans. I suggest to serve with
a fresh gremolata, but try natural yogurt or pesto, if you prefer.

20 garlic cloves (about 2 bulbs)
25g salted butter
2 celery sticks, finely sliced into crescents
2 thyme sprigs
200ml white wine
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained
1 x 400g can butter beans, drained
2 bay leaves
250ml vegetable stock
75g young leaf spinach
3 tablespoons creme  fraiche

For the gremolata
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

1)     Put the garlic cloves in a medium bowl with their papery jackets still on. Pour over boiling hot water, about 300ml, and leave for 2 minutes. Remove the garlic from the water, keeping the water for later and, as soon as the garlic is cool enough, remove the skins and cut each clove in half lengthways.
2)     Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the garlic cloves, celery and thyme and cook slowly for 3–4 minutes, being careful not to colour the mix. Pour over the wine and increase the heat, allowing it to bubble and reduce by half.
3)     Stir the beans, bay leaves, vegetable stock and garlic water into your pan. Reduce the heat to low and allow the pot to bubble at a languorous pace for 30 minutes, until the sauce has both thickened and reduced in quantity. Use a potato masher to gently mash some of the mixture at this stage, making the sauce a little thicker. Stir through the young leaf spinach just before serving and allow the leaves to wilt in the warmth of the stew.
4)     Meanwhile, make the gremolata by combining the parsley, crushed garlic and lemon zest and juice.
5)      Once the beans are beautifully tender remove the pan from the heat. Stir through the crème fraîche and season well. Serve in bowls with a spoonful of gremolata over the top.


Le Coq C’est Magnifique!

Londoners are the biggest area snobs in the world. If you ask a Camden-phile to even consider stepping further South than the edge of Regent Street, you are looking at some pretty serious words being exchanged. Same goes for someone who looks at South East as the centre of the universe – push them to edge a little upwards of Moorgate and you might as well be asking them to re-locate to South Shields. It ain’t gonna happen.

But what if the carrot dangling tantalisingly from the end of this stick we all call TFL was a huge, tender, juicy pile of rotisserie chicken? Well then, sir, you are looking at a dinner date! Or lunch, as the case may be…

Step up Le Coq – the love child of sisters Ana and Sanja Morris. Apparently, one night, a little worse for wear after several cocktails in Manhattan, Ana and Sanja thought ‘Hey! We love chicken, the PEOPLE love chicken, you love to cook and I love to set up restaurants! There must be a concept in here, lurking about somewhere’ and BOOM. Welcome Le Coq to the arena.

Highbury & Islington may be a second home for some of you, or the ends of the Earth for others. But whatever your feelings on this little chunk of the Capital, Le Coq could not be easier to get to. Just a wish bone’s throw away from the station is super delectable chicken and potatoes so what are you waiting for? 

The menu concept is a breeze. Three starters, one main, three desserts. All simple. All straight forward. All for £22. The whole menu has a real modern European feel – and I say that because although the name is French, and the main star of the poultry show is French, the rest of the menu ranges from touching on Italian, to English and Spanish. It’s like a Eurovision of food, but minus weird dancers, violinists and Graham Norton. So, for instance, the starters included fennel salami with mostado (a kind of mustardy, spicy, glace cherry mix…much tastier than this description lends you to think), sautéed chard with smoky anchovy dressing and crispy shallots or grilled squid and inky polenta. Somewhat Italiano, I think you’d agree. Whereas the desserts – classic custard tart, Gruyere with crackers and a Hot Cross bun ice cream sandwich (Yes. Just, yes.) – are much more a celebration of our own shores. The most important thing, though, is that it works. And it works brilliantly.

Le Coq is cozy. It’s bright, and airy and manages to feel like it’s always been there, as well as young, brand new and raring to go. If you want to bring a date here, with three courses at a set price of £22, you can take the cheque without breaking the bank. Or if the in laws are in town, and you don’t feel like negotiating a roast dinner for 4 adults, 2 infants and an animal, head on down for the most relaxed Sunday you could imagine. Le Coq is, what I like to call, a box ticker, and it’s doing a mighty fine job of it.