Vaguely Viennese Whirls

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Vienesse Whirls are a British treat thought to be inspired by Austrian pastries.  The biscuit is normally piped in a pretty swirly shape (as seen on Mr Kipling packets) and then filled with buttercream and jam.  My piping went completely wrong, so I used a cookie cutter to make little shortbread biscuits with the mixture instead (hence renaming them Vaguely Viennese Whirls!)  This was much easier and the result was still absolutely delicious – sweet, creamy and crumbly.

If you have never made shortbread before it really is straightforward, and if you don’t have cookie cutters you can use the top of a glass to cut out the biscuit shape instead.  Try and eat the Vienesse Whirls when they are still slightly warm as not much beats that.  If there are any left then keep them at room temperature as the fridge ruins them!

Thank you to Mary Berry for the recipe.

Vaguely Vienesse Whirls (tricky to say how many this makes – around 16 small ones)

For the biscuits

250g unsalted butter, softened (I do this in 20 second spurts in the microwave)

50g icing sugar

250g plain flour

For the filling

100g unsalted butter, softened

200g icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract/essence

Raspberry or strawberry jam (1/2 a jar is more than enough – with pips in is best but not essential)

For the biscuit dough, preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas Mark 5. Line 3 baking sheets with baking/greaseproof paper.  Measure the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and fluffy ( a couple of minutes should do). Gradually add the flour and beat a little more, until thoroughly mixed.  Put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes until the mixture is still soft but firm enough to roll out.  With a rolling pin start to roll out the dough until it is about as thick as a £1 coin.  It helps to press lightly and ensure both the surface and rolling pin are floured to prevent sticking.  You can use your hands to help press it out too if you like.  Use a cookie cutter or top of a glass/cup to cut the dough in to circle shapes (any size you like as long as they are all the same size – but not too big).  Carefully place the biscuits on the lined baking trays, ensuring about 2 inches between them so they don’t expand in to each other.

Bake the biscuits in the oven for 10—15 minutes, until a pale golden-brown, very carefully turning over halfway through.  Leave to cool a little on the baking sheets (it’s okay if they are still a little warm but not too much or the buttercream filling will melt).
For the filling, measure the butter into a bowl and add the icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and beat with a fork or whisk until slightly lighter (about 1  minute). Spoon the buttercream on top of a cooled biscuit then spoon a little jam onto that, then sandwich it together with another biscuit.  Repeat this until all the biscuits have been used.  Eat alongside a cup of tea!

Mince pies of course!

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This was my first attempt at mince pies, and they turned out really well, in a chunky homemade sort of way! The recipe uses homemade pastry (which, if you have never made before, is surprisingly simple), shop-bought mincemeat and a sprinkle of orange zest. The pastry lids are finished off with a pinch of sugar, as suggested by my oldest son. He also suggested we use chopped pecan nuts as an alternative topping for a couple of them, which was a rather excellent idea.

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My oldest felt his sugar and pecan suggestions were enough input, so my youngest actually helped with the making. He rolled out some of the pastry, cut the lid shapes with cookie cutters and put them on top. Hence the interesting array of shapes! Don’t worry if you don’t have cookie cutters – use the rim of a glass or a bowl instead (make sure they are slightly bigger than the muffin tray holes to allow for covering the sides too).
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If you want more sophisticated mince pies then aim for thinner pastry, as since the pies are quite small it is easy to end up with more pastry than filling. Don’t worry if you have some leftover pastry, just make sure it is rolled out flat, put it in a freezer bag and freeze. You could use it to make something else another day (I made cornish pasties!)
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For the mince pies you will need a muffin tray, cookie cutters or glasses and a straw.

Mince pies (makes 12)

For the pastry

125g butter, melted (I do this in the microwave for 20 second bursts – takes about 1 min)
250g plain flour
2-3 tbsp water

For the filling

Approx 1/2 jar (220g) mincemeat
Zest of 1 orange
Optional – white/light brown sugar for sprinkling

To make the pastry, mix the butter and flour together with a spoon and your hands if necessary, add the water and squeeze in to a ball. It shouldn’t be too sticky. Flour a surface and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll the pastry out (in two lots if short on space) until it is about 5mm (1/4 inch thick). Don’t press too hard with the rolling pin as it may stick, and use more flour on the surface and rolling pin to avoid it sticking if necessary.

Use a large cookie cutter (around 10cm) or the rim of a similar sized glass or bowl to cut circles out, and gently place them in the muffin tray holes, ensuring they cover the sides too. Add around 1 tsp mincemeat and a sprinkle of orange zest to each pie (avoid overfilling or it might overflow in the oven). Cut smaller circles/cookie cutter shapes for the pie lids, pierce a hole in the middle with a straw and place on top of each pie. Sprinkle each pie with a pinch of sugar if you like.

Bake the pies on gas mark 5/190 degrees for 15-30 minutes (this will depend on your oven), until lightly browned. Check every few mins after 10 mins to avoid burning. Once cooked leave to cool a little – they are nicest when still warm! Will last a couple of days in a sealed container.

Afternoon Tea – at home

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A few weeks ago we were on our way to a very rare treat of ‘afternoon tea’ at a family cafe, when it all went wrong and we didn’t make it (I won’t go in to detail, but let’s just say that tensions were high).

Anyway, not to ruin the whole day, we decided to have afternoon tea at home, which turned out to be more fun than I reckon it would have been at the cafe.  The point of afternoon tea at home is to enjoy yourself and momentarily forget about having a balanced meal.  You don’t have to make anything from scratch as it is the experience that is most important.  You could get everything from the shop, make one thing yourself or go crazy if you feel like it.

Since we don’t have those fancy three layer cake stand thingies we constructed them out of an upside-down cup and two plates.  And my son helped me decorate kitchen roll sheets to use as napkins.

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The kids decorated the table with some bizarre things like an egg timer and a dice (!)  I made two sweet treats that I knew were pretty simple: a damp lemon and almond cake (the first cake I ever made a few years ago) and banoffee pie, plus we had some leftover digestive biscuits in the biscuit tin.  I also made some simple parmesan and poppy seed lollipops (see below for recipes) and got creative with the contents of the fridge – egg mayo sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and cheese and chorizo sandwiches.

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The kids had a carton of juice each and I used my gran’s dusty teapot to serve tea, but a jug of squash or even water with sliced fruit or cucumber is a great alternative.  If you have sweet lollipops handy you could put them in a cup for people to help themselves, or if you have fruit you could cut and thread them on to a straw or skewer.  Sausage rolls, cheese biscuits, cheese and pineapple, crisps, any sweet biscuits and scones and jam would work great too.  Absolutely anything goes!

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Here are the recipes I used:

Damp lemon and almond cake: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/damp-lemon-and-almond-cake-20-mins-prep1-hour-cooking/

Cheats banoffee pie: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/cheats-banoffee-pie-ready-in-30-mins/

Parmesan and poppy seed biscuits: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/snazzy-yet-simple-party-food/

And a few that would also work well:

Instant cheesecakes https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/instant-cheesecakes-for-the-party-season/

Veggie mince cups (feel free to fill with other ingredients as long as not too wet): https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/veggie-mince-cups/

Sausage rolls: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/stilton-crust-veggie-or-meat-sausage-rolls-20-mins-prep30-mins-cooking/

Choc peanut butter cups: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/chocolate-and-peanut-butter-cups-4-minutes-of-effort/

Anzac biscuits (an Australian classic!)

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Anzac biscuits are an Australian classic, believed to have been sent to the ANZAC’s (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) during World War I. Everyone seems to love this crunchy biscuit made from oats, desiccated coconut, flour, butter, sugar and syrup. They are super easy to make, taking about 8 mins prep plus 10-20 mins baking, and are great warm or cold. If you have kids they could help out – once mixed they are just dolloped on to a baking tray so don’t have to look perfect, as you can see!
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Recipe is from Annabel Karmel’s rather excellent ‘The Fussy Eaters Recipe Book’. The biscuits will keep for a few days in an airtight container and can be frozen.  Just look at my son tucking in…
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Anzac biscuits (makes approx 18)

85g porridge oats
85g desiccated coconut
100g caster or brown sugar
100g plain flour
Pinch of salt
100g butter/marge, melted
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Grease a couple of baking trays with butter or marge and preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.

Mix the oats, coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture. Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Put dessertspoons of the mixture on to the baking trays, flatten the tops slightly and place a fair bit apart to allow room for spreading – they can increase up to twice in size when baking.

Bake for 10-20 mins, turning them over halfway through once the bottom is cooked. They should be golden brown on each side. The exact time will depend a bit on your oven. If your oven is not great like mine then swap the shelves around halfway through too. Leave 10 mins to firm up before eating!

Speedy Hot Chocolate

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This creamy, silky hot chocolate recipe is a big treat and takes the edge off the suddenly very cold weather!  It only takes a few minutes to make and can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

To make it extra special top with marshmallows or whipped cream; for an extra kick go Mexican and add a pinch of chilli powder; for a boozy drink add brandy; and for alternative flavours try substituting the cinnamon with ground nutmeg or ground cardamom.

Speedy hot chocolate (serves 2)

600ml semi-skimmed milk
142ml tub double cream
100g chocolate, broken up (use milk chocolate or dark chocolate, depending on your taste)
Optional – 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour the milk, double cream and broken chocolate into a pan. Bring gently to the boil, whisking or stirring until smooth. Pour in to a flask or mug and drink!

Bakewell Tart – a British classic!

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Bakewell tart is a British classic and consists of shortcrust pastry and a layer of jam topped with frangipane and flaked almonds.  This awesome recipe (based on one by Mary Berry) is surprisingly straightforward to make. If you have never made pastry before don’t worry as it is pretty simple here, and if the rolling out isn’t going great you can just cheat and press the pastry in to the tin with your hands. Or you can buy ready made shortcrust pastry instead.

The filling really is just a case of mixing everything up and leaving it to puff up and get crunchy during the baking.  Then feeling really snazzy when it comes out of the oven.

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The bakewell tart looks gorgeous and tastes authentic.  Eat with cream or ice cream!

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Bakewell tart

For the shortcrust pastry
175g plain flour
75g chilled butter
2-3 tbsp cold water

(or buy ready made shortcrust pastry from the shop)
For the filling
2 tbsp raspberry/strawberry jam
125g butter, soft (I soften mine in the microwave)
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
1  egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
50g flaked almonds

To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and mix in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.  Attempt to roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a 20cm flan tin or similar.  If the rolling out doesn’t go too well just use your hands to press the dough to the bottom and around the edges of the tin, covering up any cracks.  Leave in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan).  Line the pastry case with foil and fill to the top with baking beans.  If you don’t have baking beans use dried beans or rice instead (this is to stop the pastry puffing up).  Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and cook for a further five minutes to dry out the base.

For the filing, spread the pastry generously with jam.  Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the flan tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown on top. If the almonds seem to be browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them burning.  Eat with cream or ice cream.

David’s 1950’s Style Berry Sundae

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This tasty and fun 1950’s Berry Sundae recipe was passed on by David, my ‘pensioner cooking for one’ friend and fellow food enthusiast.  We often exchange recipes, and he has some great waste saving tips.  This is his version of a 1950’s favourite and it is an indulgent treat.  All of the ingredients here come from cans so if you stock up, then you can whip it up with no notice needed!

You could always make smaller portions if you wanted to.  And feel free to experiment with the ingredients, as detailed in the recipe below.  Some crushed meringues and a sprinkle of toasted flaked almonds on top would work well too.  You could even get the kids to choose what to put in and help make it.

Allow about 15 mins to make 3 Berry Sundaes, and use any glasses you like – wine glasses and tumblers work fine, as long as you can see the layers of deliciousness!   Check out the photo of my son below.  I think he liked it…

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David’s 1950’s Style Berry Sundae (serves 3)

8 ginger nut biscuits (or any biscuits you like – amaretti biscuits would be nice too)

Tin of mixed berries in syrup/juice (or fresh fruit is fine e.g. berries/chopped peach/chopped banana)

Vanilla ice cream (or any ice cream you like)

Tin of evaporated or condensed milk/custard

Jelly (either set or straight from the packet)

Roughly crush the biscuits in to small bits and divide them between the three glasses.  Divide the packet of jelly in to three portions, keeping the marked cube shapes, or put a heaped tbsp of set jelly in to each glass.  Drain the syrup/juice from the berries and put the berries to one side.  Pour 2 dessertspoons of syrup in to each glass over the biscuits and jelly.  Put 3 dessertspoons of ice cream in to each glass.  Then 2 dessert spoons of berries in to each and finally top with a tbsp of the evaporated or condensed milk.  Eat!

No-bake booster bars

 

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These booster bars are simple to make, packed full of goodness and energy and are also sugar free.   The honey and dates provide the sweet hit, the nuts add crunch and the lemon/orange zest give extra flavour.  They are great for trips out and as an after-school snack for ‘starving’ children (their words, not mine).  You can also be flexible with what dried fruit/nuts/seeds you use – see the recipe for more info!

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Allow 15 mins prep plus an hour max to set in the fridge.  The bars will last a few days in a sealed container.

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No-bake booster bars (makes 15 bars)

200g dates, roughly chopped or 200g raisins/dried cranberries
170g roughly chopped nuts (any is fine – I used mixed nuts)
30g seeds e.g. linseeds/pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds
100g oats
100g honey
85g peanut butter
Grated zest of 1 lemon/orange

Melt the peanut butter and honey in a saucepan on a low heat, then add the other ingredients and mix well.

Line a smallish baking tray with greaseproof paper and spoon the mixture in, patting it down so it is evenly spread and tightly packed. Once cooled put in the fridge for an hour or so to harden, then cut in to bars. Will last a few days in a sealed container.

 

Summer berry and almond clafoutis (10mins prep/40 mins baking)

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Clafoutis is a delicious French dessert, made by arranging fruit in a dish, covering it with a sweet batter and baking until puffed up and golden brown.  It is traditionally made with cherries but you can make it with any fresh or frozen berries e.g. blueberries/raspberries/strawberries/blackberries, and halved and stoned plums also work great.  I used the cheapest frozen mixed summer berries I could find plus 1/2 can of pitted cherries, and added ground almonds to the batter.

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Clafoutis is laughably simple to prepare – just 10 minutes using a food processor, plus approx 40 mins baking in the oven.  And it looks pretty!  Eat it with cream, ice cream or custard.

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Ingredients

Oil or butter, for greasing

350g frozen or fresh fruit e.g. cherries/blueberries/strawberries/raspberries/blackberries/plums.

For the batter

50g ground almonds

2 tbsp plain flour

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

250ml double cream

1/2 tsp almond or vanilla essence

Heat oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5. Oil or butter an oven proof dish (not loose bottomed) and scatter the fruit over the bottom.
Whizz all the batter ingredients in a food processor/blender until smooth, pour it over the fruit and bake for 35-45 mins until slightly puffed and golden brown. Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.

 

Lilla’s Raspberry Mousse

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Lilla’s Raspberry Mousse is a rather special recipe.  It was shared with me by David, who I have enjoyed delightful food chat with over email for several months now.  David’s late wife, Lilla (a wonderful cook), used to make this mousse as a treat for Sunday lunch, and he describes it as ‘a taste of heaven’.  It uses just three ingredients – jelly, evaporated milk and raspberries, but you could vary what flavour jelly and what fruit you use (blackcurrant jelly with prunes is lovely too apparently).  It tastes great, especially with the tart raspberries dolloped in to the light and sweet mixture.  You could make it ahead if need be.

On top of this, David and I have been swapping other recipes, and he has shared with me stories of growing up in post-war Britain during rationing, when his aunt would be creative with what they had and fry bread in butter before sprinkling it with sugar.  He has never forgotten the donuty taste of it. My kids love this too!

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When making the mousse, if you blitz the evaporated milk in a food processor for 7 minutes it will aerate and give it a light, consistent texture.  If not the jelly and milk will separate a bit when setting – still delicious but not faithful to the original recipe!  Thanks David for sharing Lilla’s recipe.

Lilla’s Raspberry Mousse (makes around 7 small mousses)

One packet raspberry jelly

Small tin evaporated milk

Small tub fresh raspberries or a tin of raspberries

Put tin of milk in fridge for 2 hours.  Put the broken up jelly in to a saucepan with 1/2 pint of hot water (or if using tinned raspberries, mix water with the drained syrup up to 1/2 pint and use this).   Dissolve the jelly on a low heat, stirring well, then put aside to cool.

Take the tin of evaporated milk from the fridge, put in a food processor and run for 7 minutes – it won’t get thicker but will get aerated to give the mousse a lightness.  Then pour the cooled jelly liquid in and blitz further until the colour runs deep.  Pour into either a large dish or individual dishes (recycled ramekins or small glasses are perfect), then just drop the raspberries in (we put six in each ramekin).  Put the mousses in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

You can substitute the raspberries with either strawberries or oranges, with the appropriate jelly. Or blackcurrant jelly with prunes.