Thursday, 24 January 2013

On Your Marks, Get Set, BAKE OFF!

It is back; kneading its way on to TV screens near you every night this week, hold on tight for four hours worth of cakes, floral bomber jackets, burnt choux buns and soggy bottoms. Yes, the show that would be nothing without a shot of a passing (but hopefully not flashing) squirrel is back, my favourite contest of them all, The Great British Bake Off. In aid of Comic Relief, Queen Berry, the Silver Fox and the blonde half of Mel and Sue return, to guide, chastise and comfort a select group of celebrities as they burn their sponges, over-season their scones, puzzle over blind baking and drop around 80% of everything they produce from the oven.

It is entirely unsurprising, and utterly unfortunate for my waistline, that The Great British Bake Off (GBBO to its friends) is right up my biscuit-paved street. The combination of cake, Paul Hollywood wearing his favourite supply teacher outfit and best steel-eyed glower, some dodgy looking squirrels and a marquee is, for me, a match made in TV heaven- And I must admit that the Red nosed edition is my absolute favourite. With the same tension as the original show, Paul Hollywood’s glare immediately striking any pretender from their stool (bought in bulk when Westlife went their separate ways) if even a whiff of over-worked biscuit is detected, and the classic wistful gaze of the contestants as they try to figure out why on earth they decided to make a cake in the shape of a cliff as the ovens are finally turned off and we can all relax once again, 8 o’clock is complete once more. Even if the majority of what emerges from the celebrity ovens can be deemed a success if they resemble anything even vaguely safe for human consumption, let alone the Croc en Bouches and Sachertortes of the original series, watching Claudia Winkleman murder a lemon meringue is entirely worth its weight in gold plated cake slices.

The love of the Bake Off runs deep in the Gaffer-House. My Mum, who updated her Facebook status more during the first episode than during the whole of last year, has quite seriously declared on several occasions that she would vote for Mazza (Berry not MCcartney) as Prime Minister... But wouldn’t we all, the Cornish Pasty tax would be out quicker than you can say ‘custard slice’.
And it definitely runs in the family. I mean what could possibly be wrong with mixing the Mary Godmother, a dragon fresh from the den, and the frosty Queen of Newsnight with a metre high gateaux and a Madeira cake Soldier? Which, whilst sadly not the tagline for ‘Great British Bake Off the Pantomime’, sums up the real-life joys served up so far this week...Cue flaming puff pastry, flying biscuits, Jo Brand sitting on her butter, the wicked witch berating someone’s soggy bottom (Paul Hollywood of course) and a more than liberal scattering of innuendo.

It had to be done...
But behind all of the portrait cake making frivolity (I can honestly think of nothing more terrifying than being presented with a gateaux with my own face emblazoned upon it in glitter,) the show has been produced with a serious message running through its sweet, spongy centre. Comic Relief is a charity that pops up onto our screens every year in the chirpy form of Red Nose Day. Supporting projects across the UK and abroad all year round; helping victims of domestic abuse, to young carers, to people affected by HIV and AIDS; the charity is such an important and worthy cause.

And this year, using the Bake Off as inspiration, is the year to get cooking. Hold a bake sale in the school hall, take a tin of red nose emblazoned cupcakes to work; even if you make biscuits that could be used as anti-aircraft weapons, just think, if Jo Brand can do it, then so can you.

And if you are out of inspiration, maybe give these super-easy, super-scrummy raspberry and almond jammy-dodger style biscuits a go; their ruby red noses fit the bill just perfectly. Go on, Mary would want you to...

Red Nose Biscuits

165g butter
100g golden caster sugar
Pinch of salt
110g ground almonds
200g plain flour
Zest of 1 lemon
Raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 160oc.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, preferably using a hand mixer, unless you have extra large arm muscles.

Add the flour, almonds and zest and mix until just combined, before bringing the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth ball. Wrap in cling film and refridgerate for 30 minutes, or unilt ready to roll out.

On a floured surface, roll the dough until 0.5cm thick, and cut using a medium round cutter. To achieve the desired ‘red nose’ effect, cut a smaller hole in the middle of half of the biscuits.

Bake on a greased baking tray for 15 minutes, or until barely coloured. Leave to cool on the tray for at least 10 minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack using a palette knife.

Spread around a teaspoon of the jam (also delicious with lemon curd on less charitable days, or how about custard shortbreads with rhubarb jam?) on to the non-holey biscuit and sandwich with the holey one!

Dust with icing sugar if you wish and voila, go make some money for Comic Relief!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sundays, Snow and Soup...

I’m going to start this post the only way appropriate at present- with a news flash, some hot off the press, brand new information that I am sure you will be very excited to hear about. Prepare yourself; here goes...IT IS SNOWING!! Phewee, so glad I've got that off my chest; as I’m sure those of you who have been living in a hole for the past few days and have somehow missed the onslaught of amber weather warnings and snow-themed facebook updates will be too...

Yes, Britain has gone snow-crazy. We are in the midst of the utterly brilliant pandemonium that grips the country as soon as the first flakes flutter from the heavy grey skies, and, lo-and-behold, panic stations please, actually settle on the pavements. All of a sudden local radio listening figures go up by 80%, carrots become snowman making gold dust, and the shelves of many a local shop are stripped of bread and milk as we come to the absolutely terrifying realisation that we may, perish the thought, run out of tea and toast. Could life get any worse? Well, yes, actually. The snow, in addition to magically surfacing the sledge from the forgotten depths of the garage, also never fails to encourage the moaners and pessimists out of the woodwork, primed and ready to complain about how ‘this wouldn’t happen if we lived in Canada’...Probably not, but we don’t, and I for one LOVE IT. 

Yup, snow Days, although slightly less exciting now than when getting a free day off school, are still right up there on my list of favourite things. And no matter how many winters pass in which I am not huddled around the radio waiting for that precious closure announcement, there is still something magical about looking out of the window and seeing the garden transformed by a big, fluffy duvet of the white stuff. Cue throwing on some mittens (the sole occasion for which a fingerless hand is entirely practical..) running around the garden in the erratic fashion only appropriate in the snow, making a huge snowman, and then warming up with a big bowl of something delicious.

So, this weekend, in between lovingly constructing the aforementioned snowman, and being pushed over multiple times by my supposedly caring boyfriend (it is an unfortunate truth that snow also makes rugby tackling people in public entirely acceptable) I made this warming roasted tomato, cannellini bean and rosemary soup; just what I needed after extracting a vast amount of snow from down the front of my jumper.

Great for days when you can’t possibly brave the arctic conditions to pop to the shop, adapt this recipe as you please; substitute fresh tomatoes for tinned, cannellini for butter beans. Soup is absolutely made for this kind of weather, the hot water bottle of the food world; just don’t take this one to bed with you...

Roasted Tomato, Cannellini Bean and Rosemary Soup.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
8 tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tin cannellini beans
500 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, or a couple of teaspoons of the dried stuff

Preheat the oven to 180oc.

Arrange the tomatoes, pepper and a sprig of rosemary in an ovenproof dish before tossing in a little olive oil and seasoning well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, fry the onion, garlic, celery and carrot gently in a little olive oil. Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes (with their juices), the tin of beans (you can drain if you like but I don’t usually bother!) and saut√© for a few minutes.

Add the stock, bay leaves and the rosemary (minus the woody stalks) and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Season well, remove from the heat and liquidise until smooth, adding more liquid if the soup is too thick. Souper! (Sorry...)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Let Them Eat Carrot Cake...

January. It is the dirtiest of all words used to portion our year. The month of dreary tasks; battling with inside out umbrellas as you run through freezing puddles for the bus, hoovering up pine needles that are still appearing long after the tree has fallen out of favour, finding space for the never-ending supply of Christmas bubble bath, drinking smoothies that resemble the results of a pond-dipping session but that are oh-so good for your wearisome post-Christmas bod, attempting to squeeze on a fifth jumper...

But, for me at least, January is also the month in which I allow myself to brush off the greyness with a little bit of well-earned indulgence. Well, it’s a good excuse anyway. Call it comfort eating, call it adding to your winter coat (I try to steer clear of the word blubber..) call it whatever you can muster through a big mouthful of shepherd’s pie or sticky toffee pudding; we all need something to take our minds off the sub-zero temperatures and freezing fog. Because, blimey, January would be dull without something to get our faces in to as we sit, wearing two full outfits at the same time (including hats and gloves) totally immersed in the latest crap on telly (I am indeed talking about Splash, a show made only marginally more bearable by a shirtless Tom Daley) and, as I seem to be at all times lately, absolutely starving.

It is for this reason that my darling mother and I can often be found roaming the kitchen of a January evening, staring blankly into the fridge, unsure of what we are hoping will jump out and straight into our open mouths. A little more fur and a couple fewer opposable thumbs and a David Attenborough commentary would not sound at all out of place as we open the cupboard, close it, open it again, pouncing desperately on anything to satisfy our perpetual hunger...Unfortunately, more often than not, we stumble across cake long before we reach the healthy heights of celery or anything even vaguely good for you; but hey-ho, bang goes the diet, who was I kidding anyway?

I, personally, blame my irrepressible appetite at this time of year on Christmas, the time during which we train ourselves, as though it is an Olympic event straight out of London 2012, to eat at any opportunity that happens to present itself. I mean do we really need turkey sandwiches and sausage rolls just a couple of hours after the most ridiculous sized roast dinner the world has ever seen? Of course we do, it’s Christmas; but January is not just for post-mince pie detoxing, so I for one will be throwing cake, shotput style, into my hungry mouth. 

And what better than Carrot Cake; rich, spicy, bursting with fruit and nuts, it is the sort of cake that these cold, grey (snowy) evenings are calling out for. This recipe is a bit of a mash-up of everything I have ever liked in the the many slices of cake shovelled into my mouth during my long, committed (and obviously very stressful) research for this post. It is sort of a carrot cake remix; with pieces of crushed pineapple giving bursts of sweetness and the essence of a Passion Cake, orange cream cheese icing, walnuts, and as many sunflower and pumpkin seeds as I can possibly cram in, reminding me slightly of one of those fat balls you hang in the garden to feed the birds, just rather more tasty.

I usually have a few decoration ideas up my sleeve, depending on my mood and the occasion; creamy, orange scented icing scattered with jet black poppy seeds or neon strands of orange zest. This time, as I had a few free hours (the joy of a snow day...) and the bountiful supply of coloured icing I found lurking in the cupboard, I made some adorable fondant carrots which, apart from looking just wonderful, make sure nobody is under any illusion as to what is hiding within the cake. Just roll a small ball of orange icing into a pointed sausage-type shape, score slightly with a cocktail stick, before attaching their green tops. So cute, exactly the right amount of tacky and it tastes even better than it looks...Maybe you can even get away with saying it is one of your five a day?

Carrot Cake

225g self raising flour
200g golden caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
200ml sunflower oil
4 eggs
1 tin pineapple chunks, drained
1 handful wanuts
2 handfuls grated carrot
1 handful sunflower seeds
2 handfuls pumpkin seeds
Pinch of salt

Cream cheese icing
200g full-fat cream cheese
100g butter, softened
325g icing sugar
Zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 180oc. 
Grease and line an 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin. 
In a large bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, crush the pineapple chunks and walnuts with the end of a rolling pin until sufficiently smashed (I like small chunks but feel free to have larger pieces if you fancy more of a crunch.)
In a jug, whisk together the oil and eggs before stirring into the dry ingredients until well combined. Add the finely grated carrot and pineapple mixture, as well as the seeds and fold until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Pour into the cake tins, level and bake in the preheated oven until evenly risen and golden, about 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack and start on the icing.
Using an electric whisk, beat together the butter and cream cheese, before gradually adding the sifted icing sugar. When the icing is thick but not too stiff, beat in the orange zest and chill until your cakes are properly cooled.
Sandwich the cakes together before artistically spreading the top with the icing. Decorate as you please and enjoy! I definitely will...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Shaken, Stirred and a little bit Crazy...

In the deep, dark recesses of the space under my bed, hides a few deep dark secrets. I am not talking about the entire back catalogue of Railway Lovers magazine, signed photographs of Gareth Malone (they would definitely be framed), or even, a sin to eclipse all others, a pair of bright green Crocs; but rather, about a habit that has been passed down from my mother, encouraged by my father and cemented firmly into place by Kirstie Allsopp and her Vintage Home.

I am talking, as will be no surprise to any of my friends, about my love for charity shops and collecting anything that might be useful (or just downright pretty) in the house that I do not yet even have a glimmer of owning. Still living at home with my parents, I currently own four ever expanding boxes of bowls, jugs and tea sets that I am seriously worried will continue gathering dust under the bed I have slept in since I was 7 for a long time to come. 

As my boyfriend will pay testament to, having watched with bewilderment on the many occasions that I go through these boxes, channelling the ‘Gollum seeking ‘his preccciousss’ look slightly more than I usually aim for, I cannot resist a bargain. Whether it is a set of tumblers decorated with the cutest pixies perched on toadstools, jugs crowned with porcelain strawberries,  or, as is turning out to be quite a collection, vintage cocktail shakers, I am like a magpie with a hoarding problem.

The shakers, unlike the 50s floral handkerchiefs (unused, don’t worry) that I am struggling to find a role for in my parents house, are things that I can actually drag from under the bed, dust off and use now. And use with glee, because cocktails, as I may have mentioned a few times in my last blog, are one of my very favourite things. Partly because of how creative you can be with flavour combinations and mostly because they are so wickedly easy to drink, cocktails are definitely my tipple of choice.

Perfectly at home in both the flawlessly manicured, bejewelled hands of movie stars, and the slightly less adorned mitts of students making the absolute most of happy hour, there is something about a long stemmed cocktail glass, or a tall ice filled creation crowned with a glistening maraschino cherry that is universally and perpetually classy. Although, boys, a word of warning, beware the menace of the accidentally ordered girly cocktail; there is nothing worse than brandishing a pretty pink glass garnished with a floating pansy on a date, as my boyfriend will tell you.

And the really fabulous thing about cocktails is that, with a reasonably stocked drinks cupboard and a bit of imagination, they are so easy to make at home. Just choose your base spirit; be it gin, spiced rum, vanilla vodka, and weave in flavours using juices, cordials, herbs and fresh fruit until you have a drink fit to be supped all night long, whether you are slobbing out in front of Strictly, hobnobbing in a posh frock, or, as in my case, sifting through a box of milk jugs.

Let your imagination go wild, think pear and ginger mojitos, bitter orange and cardamom martinis made with marmalade and fresh spices, blackberry and amaretto sours or, perfect for a party or BBQ when the weather is slightly less brisk, a big, jewel coloured jug of perfectly refreshing sangria.  Imagine of your favourite flavour combinations and go for it; if you love apple pie, maybe a spiced apple martini will fit the bill, if custard tarts are your thing how about some half and half mixed with a dash of amaretto, some vanilla vodka and a sprinkling of nutmeg?

My favourite ever cocktail hour, overlooking the bright lights of NYC with the girls. SATC eat your heart out.
.So whether you are preparing for a big night on the town, or simply fancy something slightly more special than a glass of squash to go with your bangers and mash, step away from that cocktail menu and have a go at making your own.

You may just be converted, even if your New Year’s resolution was to go to the gym more, drink less, eat wheatgerm. Blah, blah, maybe a few martinis will cheer you up as you hide your trainers in the dark recesses of your wardrobe, or put the juicer firmly back in to the box. Not that I am a cynic, if you are a stronger person than myself, and commit to your resolutions past the 3rd of January, I salute you, and suggest you have a few cocktails to reward yourself...

Pear and ginger mojito.

To really ramp up the flavour of this delicious cocktail I usually try to use a delicious, and wonderfully simple, homemade pear puree. While you can buy this at the shops, I reckon that the minimal effort involved in cooking and then blending the pears is totally worth it. Not only do you get the satisfaction of throwing yourself completely into your new bartender persona (don’t forget the white apron but do try to avoid throwing glass bottles around unless you have been given some prior instruction,) but you can also add as many different flavours to this puree as you please. Try adding rosemary or vanilla for a slightly different take on the martini, or adapt the recipe to use any fruit you happen to find in the house. Easy.

Pear and ginger puree.

This will make enough puree for about 6-8 cocktails, so adapt as you please!
4 pears, skinned and chopped.
150g sugar
200ml water
1 piece plus 3 tbsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger.

To mix.
25 fresh mint leaves (or a large bunch if, like me, you think life is too short for counting.)
1 lime, chopped
1tbsp sugar
65ml spiced rum
Ginger beer, to top up.

First, make the sugar syrup, an essential cocktail ingredient that can be used in a wealth of bevies.
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. The syrup can be kept in the fridge in an airtight bottle for around 6 months, perfect!

Add the pears to the syrup and cook gently until the pears are softened.
Add the ginger and syrup and blend until you have a very smooth puree (you can sieve it to make sure there are no lumps)

Now the fun begins. In a large glass, preferably made from thick glass, muddle the lime, sugar and mint together (I usually use the end of a rolling pin) until the sugar is mixed with the juice from the lime and the mint leaves are sufficiently battered.

Mix in your rum (essential) and a few tablespoons of the puree, and fill the glass to the brim with crushed ice.

Top up with the ginger beer, garnish with a sprig of mint and, as a reward for your hard work, drink.

Plum and almond sours.

Stepping away from tradition, I make my sours sans egg white. More than anything I usually can’t be bothered to separate eggs for the sake of a drink, but also, in my opinion it tastes just as good without. Add in half an egg white before you shake if you disagree, make it your own!

25 ml amaretto
25ml sloe gin
Juice of ½ lime
1tbsp sugar syrup
A dash of Angostura Bitters
1 marachino cherry and a lime wedge, to serve.

In a cocktail shaker (be careful when using glass bottomed ones, I once had a very bad experience that the floor drank more mojito than we did..) mix the good stuff (alcohol of course), the lime and sugar syrup, with a vigorous shake. Be sure to taste and add more lime, syrup or alcohol as your taste buds see fit.

Pour into a short glass, filled with ice, add a splash of bitters, and garnish with a cherry and lime wedge.


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Size Matters...

Before I start any kind of waffling on about cupcakes or cookies, or indeed waffles, I feel that an apology is in order. I fear (less fear, more utter disgust at my own neglect, the last time I logged on being more than a year ago) that I have left the Kitchen Hour rather out in the cold. So much so that it has grown up and changed its name...Welcome to Relish, a (kind-of) new and (hopefully) improved blog, hopefully I have missed the awkward teenage years...

I do, however, have a few excuses that might get you back reading, and me actually filling the oven instead of using it as a radiator to defrost my frozen fingers, still struggling to adjust to the bleak winter temperatures of Suffolk in January.
As most of your probably know from the bombardment of sunny photos and annoying status updates throughout the past year, I have been on a little 6 month holiday. Yes, yes I was finding myself; wearing hessian jumpsuits, taking on sunrise yoga, reciting Eat, Pray, Love on deserted beaches, you know the drill.
Well no, me neither. The closest I got to yoga was some rather enthusiastic dance moves in dingy clubs, and I think it is entirely fair to say that my trip involved less barefoot trekking and more eating anything in sight, consuming copious amounts of cocktails and alternative I hear you say, well, as someone who was obviously more successful at finding their inner ying or yang than I was once told me, 'its all about the journey.' And I returned from mine a whole lot fatter.

So as I was enduring a slow and painful cardiac arrest as I climbed the 2000 steps to Machu Pichu,  the blog took rather a back seat. But now I am home, not altogether found but, as proved by the sheer number of travelling photos involving some kind of food, still seriously committed to the art of eating. And, to boot, I now have a wealth of stories (some hopefully mildly amusing, I will leave the mystery underwear thief story for another time) and new recipe ideas that will be spilling out of my brain and onto the long left blank pages of this blog. 

And what better to start the year, and a new blog, with than a flashback to the festive season, a glimmer of what once was as we stare the most dreary month of all in the face from our overflowing desks.

This Christmas, as ever, I came over all Stepford wife. As soon as the advent calender becomes short of doors to open I go absolutely crazy for all things miniature and mixed. And although I was rather taken with my Auntie's adorable mongrel puppy in a Santa costume, it was cocktails and canapes in particular with which I was obsessed.

Whilst Christmas and the New Year are the perfect time to crack out the canapes, with more mingling and hanging around the drinks table than is ever tolerated at any other time of the year without vicious and unwelcome rumours beginning to circulate, food in miniature is surely a good idea at any time. A huge tray of varied and delicious canapes is guaranteed to inspire a gasp at any occasion, although if you, as I did, select a random Tuesday afternoon as your chosen occasion, be prepared for a few of those gasps to be followed with hushed murmurings of 'is she, you know, OK??'

But, if the time is right, try any of these sure to impress canapes and get your modest face ready to revel in the delight of your guests. Fail-safe, and universally loved Yorkshire puddings with roast beef and horseradish cream, the lightest, melt in the mouth parmesan shortbreads with roasted tomatoes and red pepper jam, smoked salmon and dill tartlets with quick pickled cucumber, corn cakes with ginger chilli prawns and mango salsa, or even, a Christmas classic, bubble and squeak with turkey and cranberry sauce. The possibilities are endless. Just think of your favourite dish and shrink it to a bitesize morsel. It is like being Willy Wonka for the day, Charlotte and the Canape Factory,I can't help thinking that making canapes is what I was born to do.

And don't let your imagination stop at the savoury, sweet things are perfectly suited to being canapized (yes, I made that word up) too. How about moist almond and orange sponges, adorned with greek yoghurt and pomegranate, dark chocolate and orange tarts with hazelnut praline, or white chocolate, orange and  rasperry profiteroles, scattered with beautiful green shards of pistachio?

Be creative, as long as you have a base to adorn with your favourite toppings (small rounds of fried bread for stilton mushrooms, pastry cases, shortbreads, bilinis for smoked salmon and crème fraiche...) the world is your oyster. In fact , if you are feeling really fancy, why not use a couple of oysters in their shells for canape vessels too? The kitchen is your playground, go fourth and miniaturise...

PS. I will be following this post with a guide to my favourite homemade (let's call them 'in-house' to sound slightly more professional..) cocktails to complete your soiree; spiced pear mojitos, sloe gin sours and elderflower gin fizz to name but a few. I will await my invite!

PPS. These are my favourite savory canape recipes, but if you are planning an evening of bite-size treats and want some more ideas and recipes, please feel free to ask..My brain is almost overflowing with all things canape! X

Yorkshire Puddings with Horseradish Cream and Roast Beef.

These get a great reaction without fail. The Yorkshire recipe (adapted from Leith's Cookery Bible) is the best I have come across, always producing perfectly risen puds with the ever desirable hole for gravy, or in this case, filling, at their centre. Try to use the smallest muffin tin you can find, mine has adorable, inch wide indentations, the prefect bitesize treat! This recipe makes around 30 canapes, but feel free to double, triple or quadruple up as you please,  or to use this recipe for full sized puddings.This one is always a winner, they will fly off the tray, I promise!

Yorkshire Puddings
110g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
290ml milk

Horseradish Cream
1tbsp Horseradish sauce
2 tbsp Creme fraiche
juice 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

To Serve
Roast beef slices (rare, home roasted beef is the ultimate but any good quality slices from your butcher will be delicious)
A few sprigs of watercress
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200oc

To make the puddings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg. Using a whisk mix in the egg, gradually adding flour from the edge of the well. Slowly whisk in the milk until the batter is smooth.
Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until needed.
When you are ready (these will keep in an airtight container for a of days), preheat a small muffin tin filled with a small amount of oil until very hot.
Cafefully pour in a small amount of the batter (only fill the tins about half full, or the puds will be massive!) and quickly return to the oven.
Cook for about 15 minutes or until well risen and golden. Leave to cool and admire your handiwork!

To assemble, mix all the ingredients for the cream in a bowl, seasoning to taste.
Spoon a little of this mixture into each pudding and arrange a small sliver of beef and a sprig of watercress on top. Add a twist of pepper and add to your canape tray!

My Favourite Parmesan Shortbreads with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Pepper Jam.

These are my go-to canape. Delicious and easy to make, the shortbreads can be adapted to carry any topping. Try adding black olives to the dough and crowning with feta, roasted red onions and basil, or topping with pesto, creamy goats cheese and pinenuts. This recipe makes 40, mix up the toppings and you can guarantee no-one will get bored or hungry.

60g plain flour
45g cold butter, diced
60g parmesan, grated
Pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder

Pepper Jam
I/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 jar fire roasted peppers, sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
Small bunch of basil, chopped
Salt and pepper

20 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Basil leaves
Parmesan shavings

Firstly, and this can be done a couple of days in advance, or at least on the morning of your party, arrange the tomato halves and garlic in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season.
Bake the tomatoes on a low heat (around 150oc) for a couple of hours or until resembling something beautifully sunblushed.
Store in an airtight container until needed.

Preheat the oven to 180oc.
Place all the ingredients for the shortbreads in a food processor and pulse to form a smooth dough.
Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/2 cm thick. Cut out with a small round cutter and place on a tray lined with greaseproof. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool completely before adding your toppings.

To make the jam, fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until softened. Add the sliced peppers and cook for a few minutes.
Add the vinegar and sugar and simmer until the jam is thickened and glistening. Add a little more sugar or vinegar according to your taste, before stirring in the seasoning and basil. Leave to cool.

To arrange, top the biscuits with the jam and a tomato half. Adorn with a shred of basil and a parmesan shaving, serve.