Vegetarian food blog featuring delicious and nutritious whole food recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Rhubarb and Almond Cream Pasty Pie

With Easter fast approaching and any number of Easter bakes and posts to write, time was running out for this month’s Random Recipes. Now it just so happens that RR has joined forces with the new round of AlphaBakes and it has been decided to start at the very beginning this time, with the letter A. Using my usual Eat Your Books method of selection I came out with the book Pasties by Lindsey Bareham. I must confess at this point that I felt a bit jittery. I may well come from the Land of Pasties, but my pasty making skills lean towards the imperfect end of the spectrum. I was hoping the book would fail to provide me with a suitable recipe, but in this I was foiled. A recipe for plum pasties with almond cream leapt up from the index and my heart skipped a beat.

OK, no need to panic. In my usual style, I would adapt the recipe. My mother had made a recent delivery of some rhubarb from her garden (for some reason our plot seems incapable of growing any), so I would substitute that for the plums. I would add some grated white chocolate to the pastry, some orange zest to the almond cream and most importantly of all I was going to make one large pie, not six individual pasties – I really just didn’t have the time to faff around. My concession to the pasty would be to crimp the edges of the pie in true pasty style – hence the name pasty pie.

This is how I made:

Rhubarb and Almond Cream Pasty Pie

  • Cut 150g cold unsalted butter into 250g flour (half wholemeal, half white) with a knife then rubbed it between my fingers until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Grated in 20g white chocolate.
  • Mixed in 2 tbsp Greek yogurt and 1 tbsp water with a knife, then brought the mixture together with my hands to form a ball. Covered with a plastic bag and placed in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Creamed 100g unsalted butter with 100g cardamom (caster) sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in 1 tsp powdered orange rind (or zest of an orange).
  • Beat in a duck egg (or large hen’s egg).
  • Stirred in 100g ground almonds.
  • Washed, trimmed and chopped 350g of rhubarb into smallish pieces.
  • Divided the pastry into two portions, one slightly larger than the other.
  • Rolled the larger portion out into a round to cover a deep 20 cm pie dish.
  • Covered the pastry bottom with the rhubarb, then covered the rhubarb with the almond cream.
  • Rolled out the smaller piece of pastry to cover the top of the pie.
  • Crimped the edges together, brushed on a little beaten egg mixed with milk and sprinkled about a dessertspoon of cardamom (caster) sugar over the top.
  • Baked at 200C for 15 minutes, then turned the oven down to 180C for a further 20 minutes until the top was nicely browned.

So how did it all work out? It was pure heaven and although you couldn’t expect an angel to bring this down from on high during Lent, it sent CT and I into raptures. It was a truly indulgent dessert. I’ve not made pastry with white chocolate and yogurt before, but I will most certainly be doing it again. The rhubarb cut through the rich creamy filling and it all hung together very nicely.

It just so happened that I’d recently had delivery of a bag of Rodda’s goodies which I’d won in their #crownyourpuds competition for my Chocolate Pots. So to crown my rhubarb and almond cream pasty pie, sat a dollop of Cornish clotted cream. Show me a pudding that isn’t improved by clotted cream and I’ll eat it, quipped CT – a man after my own heart.

So this Rhubarb and Almond Cream Pasty Pie is my entry to the joint Random Recipes and Alphabakes challenge with A for Almond. Dom of Belleau Kitchen, Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes have put their heads together this month and come up with this fun and clever challenge.

As everything is made from scratch, I’m sending this off to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.

A Miscellany of Chocolates

Chocolate Reviews | 19th November 2012 | By

A 50g bar of Sicilian Dolceria Bonajuto 65% chocolate flavoured with cardamom winged its way to my house from London recently. I had heard that the chocolate was very good and I was looking forward to trying it. Founded in 1880 in Modica, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto is the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily. The chocolate was not at all what I had been expecting, which was something dense, rich and smooth.

Dense and rich it was, but it didn’t melt in your mouth at all; it had a surprising crunchy, sugary texture which was not too sweet despite the crystalline nature of it. The texture reminded CT of Kendal mint cake, only much nicer he thought and not nearly as sweet. Cardamom can be a tricky spice to use with chocolate, too much and it becomes overpowering and slightly bitter, but if done well, it is a great combination. This was just about right, giving an aromatic quality which lingered on the palate after being eaten. Fiona thought that this was more like raw chocolate than tempered and I can see what she meant, it’s certainly not like the artisan bars we are used to finding over here, but I have to say I thought it was delicious. Thanks very much to Fiona of London Unattached for sending me a bar to try from her Sicilian travels.

Last month, I won six Geert chocolates from Mostly About Chocolate. I haven’t had high quality artisan filled chocolates for a while so I relished these. They came in a cute little transparent box too. Thank you Judith.

Daintree Estates – smooth slightly caramel flavoured truffle.
Spotty green – praline with something I couldn’t quite decipher.
Madre – dark and bitter truffle with an unusual but exciting citrus like flavour I couldn’t identify.
Golf – praline with crunchy feuilletine and crystaline texture that tasted slightly peanutbuttery.
Ceibo – dark chocolate truffle – tasted of rum & raisin with a hint of orange, but far more sophisticated than the bars of Old Jamaica I used to love as a child.
Beans Original – a truffle with an odd flavour which again I couldn’t identify.

I was sent two bars of Niederegger marzipan to review a few months ago, a 40g milk chocolate stick and a 100g bar covered in plain chocolate. Niederegger is a German company whose pedigree goes back to 1806 and is still run by the same family in Lübeck where it all started. Famed for its marzipan which is substantially higher in almonds and lower in sugar than many brands, it continues to sell a range of marzipan products. Rather stupidly, I disposed of the wrappers before writing down the ingredients, so I am unable to give them here.

The milk chocolate marzipan didn’t really do it for me. Marzipan is one of the things where I infinitely prefer plain chocolate as my accompaniment. The milk chocolate in this case was just too sweet and also rather chunky. I found that the ratio of marzipan to chocolate was too low and detracted from the glory of the obviously excellent marzipan.

The plain chocolate version was much more to my taste. The marzipan was very much the main event and just a thin covering of plain chocolate gave it a welcome edge. The marzipan had a good texture and a nice almond flavour without being overpowered by excessive amounts of almond extract. It wasn’t particularly sweet either which I find is often the case with bought marzipan. All in all, I’d say, with Christmas just around the corner now, that this would be an excellent stocking filler for the marzipan lover in your life. I know I’d be very happy with a bar or two.

Following on from my review of Ohso last month, I was sent some orange Ohso to try. CT and I sat down to savour our daily dose of probiotics. These little 35g bars contain masses of good for your gut bacteria. CT is very fussy about orange chocolate, which often tastes artificial and makes him feel ill. He liked this one though and thought it tasted like real oranges. Combined with the 53% plain chocolate, they had a sufficient complexity of flavour to make them interesting and pleasant to eat. As with the plain Ohso though, we both found them a little too sweet for our palates. Like their plainer cousins, they are available to buy online and at many health food shops.

Chocolate Macarons, but not as we know them, Jim

Awards Plus | 13th October 2012 | By

Now who would have thought the perfect chocolate macarons would ever feature on my blog? Not me for sure, Gallic sophistication is hardly my style. I can and have made some very tasty chocolate macaroons, but not something that looks as elegant and polished as these French macarons.

I knew I couldn’t fool you for long. I must have done something right recently as I have just won these chocolate macaron earrings from Jill of Mad About Macarons. From across the Channel, these have travelled all the way from that well known capital of haute cuisine, Paris. They arrived beautifully packaged and were well protected, wrapped in the pretty floral cloth shown above. Made by Patricia Bourdell of the French Bakery, these charming earrings are not only fantastic replicas of chocolate macarons, but are also made with 14 carat gold. The French Bakery specialises in necklaces, earrings, rings and other jewellery inspired by French bakes.

Lady luck has been on my side in the past few months as evinced by the following wins:

Gorgeous Puddings by Annie Bell from Food Magazine


Hamper Tower packed with preserves from Homemade by Fleur


Russell Hobs food processor and blender from Fabulicious Food


Green Seasons Cookbook – A Win & A Giveway #9

Giveaways | 26th June 2012 | By

As some of you will know, I am a vegetarian and have been so for about twenty years. I have to confess that this is not a hardship as I’m not particularly keen on meat and never liked fish. One not so fine day at the village primary school, I sat for an hour chewing on a piece of gristle which I just could not bring myself to swallow; those were the days when you were not allowed to leave the dining room until you had cleared your plate. I had packed lunches from then on and although I always ate my mother’s meat dishes, that was the day meat fell from favour.

So what’s this got to do with chocolate you may well ask? Well, one of my go to vegetarian cookbooks is Rachel Demuth’s Green Seasons. Rachel is a fantastic vegetarian cook and not only, in my humble opinion, has the best restaurant in Bath – Demuths, but also runs a vegetarian cookery school. I did a day’s course there on Middle Eastern cookery a couple of years ago and it was fantastic.

The book is divided into the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter for ease of using seasonal produce; it is also conveniently colour coded to help keep you on track. Each season is divided into seasonal vegetables, small eats, large eats and sweet eats and includes such delights as: sorrel fritata, beetroot tzatsiki, courgette filo pie and leek and potato hash. The book does of course have some chocolate recipes as can be seen by these very delicious breakfast muffins I made. Mexican chocolate pudding has been on my list since I first got the book, but for some reason I still haven’t made it. Nor have I yet made the white chocolate cheesecake, the chocolate pistachio roulade and the chocolate cheesecake brownies.

Anyway, the real point of this post is that I was surprised and thrilled to be picked as a finalist in the recent Vegetarian Cookery School’s veggie breakfast competition for my frumenty recipe. Although, sadly, I didn’t win the grand prize of a cookery school place, the ten finalists won a copy of Green Seasons. Now as I already have a copy of the book, I asked if it would be OK to use it as a giveaway on my blog instead. So you are now in the lucky position of having a chance to win your very own copy. You will need to leave a comment answering the question in the Rafflecopter below. This will then give you additional chances to enter.

Apologies once again to overseas readers, but this is only open to those with a UK mailing address.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Double Chocolate Buns – Quick, Easy & Delicious

Double Chocolate Buns

Small Cakes | 6th October 2011 | By

When is a bun not a bun? Who knows, it all gets rather confusing. Some might call these double chocolate buns American muffins, some cupcakes or maybe even fairy cakes. Whatever you call them, they are easy to make and really delicious.


Not So Jammy Dodgers and a Win

Biscuits | 2nd June 2011 | By

An embarrassingly long time ago now, I was delighted to find I’d won four copies of Baked and Delicious (#2-#5) along with accompanying silicone bakeware from Baking Addict’s blog The More Than Occasional Baker. Thank you Baking Addict and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to post about it. As I’ve said on more than one occasion, silicone has revolutionised my baking life. No more wasted paper and no more faffing around trying to line tins with little patience and lots of frustration. So, I was very happy to welcome a few additions to my small, but growing collection: a loaf pan, a quiche case, two small heart shape moulds and a spatula. Not to sound too greedy, a ring mould is next on my wish list, although I’d quite like some Madeleine moulds too 😉

Times must be hard for the food publishing industry; along with issue #5 was a note saying that this was to be the last Baked & Delicious issue for the time being. Read into that what you will. Rather sad for those who were keen to build up a collection though. Confusingly, their website seems to suggest otherwise.

For an alternative take on Baked and Delicious, see Maison Cupcake’s review. You may also want to check out Kitchen Butterfly’s guide to silicone bakeware.

There are several things I’m keen to bake from Baked and Delicious, but the first picture to catch my eye was a lovely Jammy Dodger, otherwise known as Anglesey Cakes. For those not in the know, these are shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with jam – raspberry jam in this case with a little window in the top to view the shiny red stuff. On Anglesey, apparently, the children used to sing their way around the local houses giving new year good wishes and would be rewarded (if they were lucky) with these biscuits. I so wanted to make these, but where was the chocolate? Well of course it wasn’t that difficult to get some chocolate in there. My first thought was to use nutella, but I generally find this rather too sweet. Ha, no problem, with my new found enthusiasm for mascarpone, I would mix the two together to make a yummy chocolatey, hazelnutty creamy filling. So this is what I did:

  • Creamed 8oz unsalted butter with 4oz caster sugar until light and creamy.
  • Beat in 1/4 tsp rock salt.
  • Worked in 12oz plain flour – later realised this should have been self-raising, but I didn’t notice that at the time.
  • Brought the dough together with my hands to form a ball.
  • Rolled this out on a floured surface to thickness of about 1/4 cm.
  • Cut out circles with a 5cm pastry cutter.
  • Cut a circle in the middle of half of them using a small ring cutter.
  • Re-rolled the offcuts and continued until there was no pastry left – I made about 38 circles, (although the recipe stated about 48).
  • Placed on two tins lined with baking paper and baked for 10 mins at 180C
  • Mixed a couple of spoonfuls of Nutella with a couple of spoonfuls of mascarpone and beat until well combined.
  • Spread some of the whole biscuits with strawberry jam ( I didn’t have any raspberry) and some with the Nutella mixture, leaving a small gap around the edges so the filling wouldn’t spill out.
  • Sandwiched the window biscuits on top and pressed down gently.
  • The instructions were to sprinkle icing sugar on top, but I didn’t do this as I wanted the window kept clear.

As you may have noticed, I did make a few jammy ones to give to a friend who I thought might appreciate them and very nice they were too. If truth be told, I think I preferred the jammy dodgers to the non jammy ones, but they were both delicious. I don’t know what these would have been like with a raising agent, but I don’t think they needed it. The nutella mascarpone spread was delicious, though still rather sweet and I very much enjoyed finishing off the leftovers 😉

Giveaways Galore

Awards Plus | 9th February 2011 | By

The season of goodwill on the lead up to Christmas, produced a plethora of giveaways and competitions. Desperate to get my hands on the new Green & Black’s cookbook and even more desperate to get on the Green & Black’s tasting panel, I entered a fair number of them. Sadly, Green & Black’s didn’t understand this and I was disappointed.

I did have some consolation though and very nice consolation prizes they were too.

Golden Ticket – I was really excited to receive this amazing chocolate mould, which came all the way from Australia – from Celia of Fig & Lime Cordial. Celia makes all sorts of interesting and delicious looking chocolates as well as baking many tempting chocolate cakes – as you can imagine, I’m a frequent visitor.  Receiving this has really made me want to crack the art of tempering and I’ve resolved I will do it by one means or another this year! Despite my lack of tempered chocolate, I have managed to use the mould once so far when I made raw chocolate recently.

River Cottage Diary – only two of us went in for this one and Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen, finding it difficult to let one of us down very kindly gave us both a copy. I was really pleased with this as it not only has three seasonal recipes to make each month, but also includes details of various Landshare projects.

I decided to use it as this year’s luck journal. Before going to bed, to help keep my spirits up, especially on work days, I try and write 4-6 things down that have gone well during the day. I’d let this practice lapse for rather longer than I’d realised – since May last year, so it’s definitely time to resurrect it. On the worst of days, it really helps to look back and remind oneself of all the good things that have happened.

I also decided I should set myself a mini challenge and try to make at least one of the monthly recipes during said month. In reality I only have a choice of two recipes as one of the three is usually a meat or fish one, but it’s another good way of expanding my repertoire. In January, I made Kale rarebit and jolly delicious it was too. That one will now be making regular appearances on our table during the kale season. For the following months, I’m planning on making:

February – herb dumplings
March – nettle risotto
April – rhubarb and meringue parfait
May – cousinette
June – strawberry scones
July – pea & lettuce tart OR runner bean pickle OR Genoese sponge with raspberries OR all three 😉
August – tortilla
September- beetroot & walnut hummus OR lemony courgettes on toast OR blackberry, apple and almond cobber OR all three 😉
October – warm roast squash and mushroom salad OR cornbread
November – quince & apple sauce
December – dauphinoise potatoes

Slow Food Cooker – this is a 6 litre Morphy Richards model from Helen of Fuss Free Flavours. This was a bit of a double edged sword, because although we thought it would be really useful (which it is), we don’t have a great deal of space in the kitchen and it is quite large. The base stores away inside the pot, but the lid is more awkward to stash. Luckily, with a bit of reshuffling, I’ve managed to fit it in to one of my cupboards. We used it to make a squash curry with one of our gigantic squashes. The curry tasted extra good for being slow cooked and as there was so much of it, we didn’t have to cook all that week when we got home from work – wonderful.

I confess to having undergone an evolution in my thinking about giveaways, awards and the like. I started off blogging as a real purist. My aim was to get a great collection of chocolate recipes and try making new things. But as I’ve got to interact with other bloggers more and more, I’m loosening up all the time and now think these are a fun way of passing a bit of pleasure around.  I really like getting gifts and receiving parcels in the post, so why should I expect others to be any different?

What do you think about Giveaways and awards?