Tart It Up! Damson Sauce wins a Great Taste * Gold Star 2013


We are thrilled that  Tart It Up! Damson Sauce won a coveted Gold Star in this year’s Guild of Fine Food “Great Taste Awards” (2013).

Here’s what the judges had to say about it:  “A rich deep burgundy colour.  A good balance of sweetness and acidity, a good combination of flavours working well. A very pleasing product.

Please check out our list of stockists here.


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Tarte au citron: Lemon tart recipe

For my annual festive lunch this year,  I made a large lemon tart.  Tarte au citron definitely ranks up there as one of my all time favourite desserts.  I adore lemons and use them prodigiously in my everyday cooking….thinly sliced in salads, lemon and oil as a salad dressed, squeezed liberally into smoked trout pate, hummous or baba ganoush.  As part of a tingling morning drink mixed with orange juice.   If you can get hold of Amalfi lemons they are wonderful – try  Natoora or a specialist greengrocers.  If not try and use unwaxed lemons from a supermarket – better flavour and the zest tastes amazing!

It’s fear of pastry that puts most people off making any kind of tart.  Pastry is really not that difficult – it takes some practice and you have to follow some basic rules such as using cold butter, resting the dough in the fridge for at least an hour before using, handling the pastry as little as possible and a very particular method of putting the pastry into the tart case which I learned when I was an apprentice cook at Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen.  This method of blind baking does not require the faff of baking beans or suchlike.  Over the past year my pastry skills have improved so much so that I was really quite proud of the edge of the pastry.

Serves 12-14 people


350g plain flour
a pinch of salt
175g unsalted butter (cold), cut into cubes
100g icing sugar
3 egg yolks


finely grated zest and juice of 7 lemons
350g caster sugar
6 whole eggs
9 egg yolks
300g unsalted butter, softened

Pre heat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/Gas 4

For the sweet pastry, pulse the flour, salt and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add the icing sugar followed by the eggs yolks and pulse.  The mixture will immediately leave the sides of the bowl and combine.  Spread out a 30 cm piece of cling film on a surface, remove the pastry, bringing it together with the help of the cling film and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

Coarsely grate (yes grate!) the pastry into a 30cm (12 inch) loose bottomed fluted tin, pressing it quickly, evenly and firmly onto the sides and base.  Try not to work the pastry too much.  Put the tart shell in the freezer for 15 minutes until hard, then bake in the oven for about 15 mins or until pale brown and firm to the touch.  (NB try not to over cook the shell as it will require further baking when filled).  Let the case cool off for 15 mins while you make the filling.

Put all the ingredients except the butter in a large saucepan over a very low heat, and whisk until the eggs have broken up and the sugar has dissolved. I recommend whisking the whole eggs in a little bowl with a fork before adding to the lemon juice, zest and sugar.  It will then be easier to amalgamate the 9 eggs yolks.

Add half the butter and continue to whisk.  At this point the eggs will start to cook and the mixture should coat the back of a metal spoon.  Add the remaining butter and continue stirring until the mixture becomes very thick.  It is important to continue whisking throughout the cooking process to prevent the mixture from curdling.  Remove from the heat, place on a cold surface (this stops the cooking process) and continue to whisk until the mixture is lukewarm.

Raise the oven temperature to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas 8

Spoon the lemon filling into the pastry case and bake until the top is brown.  This should take about 8-10 mins.  If like me, you like little brown spots on your lemon tart –  place the tart under an oven grill keeping a wary eye lest it should burn.  My grill is quite fierce so turning the tin helps an even browning. If you do find that your pastry edges are burning – cut a thin long length of foil and apply to the edge of the tart to protect it while it is under the grill.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool before slicing.
Serve with crème fraiche or solo with an artfully placed splash of fruit couli next to each slice.

photograph: Mad Dog TV Dinners

Note:  9 egg yolks means nine lots of egg whites.  You can make coconut chocolate macaroons (David Lebovitz has a great recipe!) or financiers with the leftover egg whites. Egg whites can be also be frozen very successfully in small freezer bags though make sure to label with the number of whites before freezing.

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Autumn fruit crumble

There’s nothing more comforting, as the nights draw in, than a crumble made with the last of the blackberries combined with Turkish figs and this season’s bramley apples.

You can be inventive with your fruit combinations.  I just happened to have some fresh figs.  The week before I used redcurrants in place of the figs but alas, they are not to be found.  I use ground almonds in the topping as they are readily available but if you can find ground hazelnuts (a rareity these days) or best of all, whole hazelnuts  –  grind them in a processor and mix in with the topping.  I buy my hazelnuts from Natoora who supply restaurants but are happy to take retail orders online.

This recipe serves 4 and I trebled the ingredients as I was making it for a 12 people.

a good knob of butter
3 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
75g caster sugar
150g blackberries or any other wild berries, blueberries or elder berries.
2 figs cut into pieces
zest of a lemon

40g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
30g ground almonds or hazelnuts
60g sugar
80 g plain flour
good handful of rolled oats

cream, creme fraiche, vanilla ice cream or plain yogourt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190 C/375 F/gas 5.  For the filling, melt the knob of butter in a wide pan, add the apples and sugar and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring ocassionally, until the apples begin to break down, but are not too soft.

Take off the heat and stir in the blackberries and figs, then add the lemon zest. Put all the filling into a medium size ovenproof pie dish or individual dishes if you prefer.

For the topping, mix the unsalted butter, almonds, sugar, plain flour in a food processor, or rub between your fingers – the purist way –  until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Finally mix in the rolled or porridge oats which give the topping some texture.

Sprinkle the crumble topping over the filling and bake in the middle of the oven for 3o – 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Serve it with cream, creme fraiche, vanilla ice cream or plain yogourt.  I served mine with Tim’s Dairy Greek style natural yogourt.  It’s lovely and thick and goes a treat with crumble.

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Gooseberry and Elderflower Syllabub

I love tart English fruit.  Rhubarb, Redcurrants, Damsons and through the summer when most of our summer berries are red – along come gooseberries. Lovely pale green, sometimes golden or red flecked,  hairy  goosegogs appear in our shops in from June to August. Evocative of 50s childhood puddings and making a comeback – gooseberry fool, crumble, pie, tart and not forgetting   gooseberry jam and jelly.  Gooseberry Sauce was traditionally eaten with mackerel and other oily fish.   There is still an annual Gooseberry Show at Egton Bridge in North Yorkshire on the first Tuesday in August where the grower with the largest gooseberry wins.

I found this delightful recipe on James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking site.  Guest posted by Evie of saffron-strands.blogspot.com. I’ve adapted it and reduced the amount of sugar as I prefer a slighter tarter tasting  syllabub.  Gooseberries are really easy to prepare and require very little cooking.  The base for most gooseberry dishes call for the fruit to be stewed and sweetened according to the sharpness of the fruit.

100ml Sauternes or Muscat wine
finely grated zest of a lime
35g caster sugar
300ml double cream
600g gooseberries
80-100g caster sugar, adjust according to taste
2 tbsp elderflower cordial, homemade or shop bought is fine
50g blanched almonds, lightly toasted in the oven

Mix the first three ingredients together in a small bowl and allow to stand for a couple of hours or overnight so that the flavours are well blended.

Wash and top and tail the gooseberries.  Slowly dissolve 80 -100g caster sugar together with the elderflower cordial in a heavy bottomed pan.  Add the gooseberries and cook gently until the fruit is soft but not collapsed – approx 10/15 mins.  Leave to cool completely then place in the fridge.

Whip the double cream until at very soft peak stage and then slowly mix in the sweet wine, lime zest and sugar mixture until it is all incorporated – take care not to over beat the cream mixture!  If it seems too loose don’t fret as it will stiffen once it is chilled.  Spoon the gooseberry mixture into individual serving glasses, half filling the glass and top with the syllabub.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours – it will keep in the fridge for at least 24 hrs and when ready to serve, finish off by sprinkling with the toasted almonds.  Watch it disappear!

Serves 4-6 depending on the size of glass used.

More gooseberry recipes and further reading for gooseberry fans:

Jane Grigson’s classic Fruit Book – (Penguin Cookery Library)  beautifully written section about the gooseberry with some traditional recipes.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Gooseberry Recipe’s from The Guardian’s Life&Style
RHS Grow your Own Gooseberries: Essential information for those wanting to grow their own gooseberries.

Posted in Desserts, Fruit, Pudding of the Month, Puddings, Tart | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Big Lunch Cake Baking Competition

Last weekend I was asked to judge a local cake competition in Kilburn at Charteris Road’s “The Big Lunch”.

About 60 or so community spirited souls braved the squally weather bringing a dish or two to share on the long table strategically placed under a long gazebo.

There weren’t a huge amount of entries but the standard of those who did enter was very high.  I was not allowed to submit a cake as I was judging but I did bring along a lovely cake made by Susan Broom of Babycakes  (weekly at Queens Park Farmers Market) – it was a Guinness and Chocolate Cake….and disappeared within half and hour of being put out on the cake table.

Jazzy Fruit Cake

Raspberry & Chocolate cake with butter frosting

I chose three winners –  an assortment of beautifully decorated biscuits made by two young local bakers, a chocolate & raspberry cake with butter frosting (made by local community activist Josie Warshaw) and Liza’s Jazzy  fruit cake which was really moist.  I don’t normally like fruit cakes but this one was really good.  All three winners got vouchers to spend at Gaza’s Hairdressers in Glengall Road.

Queen of Hearts

There was also a fancy dress competition for the children and several small stalls one of which was Alice Godridge’s Stitch Your Soul selling her lovely handmade bunting to which I succumbed.  It actually came in handy for the party I’d been invited to later that evening.  I wore two strands of Alice’s bunting criss crossed over my outfit and was complimented on the originality of my Jubilee fancy dress.

Many thanks to the organisers of this “Big Lunch” – it was great to catch up with some familiar faces as well as meeting lots of new folks.  I look forward to judging next year’s entries.

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Prodigious Strawberry Pavlova

Prodigous Strawberry Pavlova

In between a hectic round of street parties over the Jubilee weekend, I wanted to make a dessert for a gathering on Monday evening.  As I had several boxes of really good strawberries, eggs, home made caramel and a time limit …. strawberry pavlova was an obvious choice.  I pre-made the meringue base on Sunday night, pre-prepared the strawberries and chantilly cream on Monday morning and went to a lunch time street party knowing all would be well.

The recipe is adapted from one by Nigella Lawson, substituting strawberries for her raspberries and using chantilly cream for extra ooomph.  If you want to you could use strawberries and raspberries, adding passion fruit and lychees as Nigella does in hers. I find it all those different fruits too much for a pavlova! I much prefer the classic simplicity of strawberries, chantilly cream and meringue.

For the base

8 free-range egg whites
500g caster sugar
4 tsp cornflour
2 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract

For the topping

600ml double cream
45g icing sugar
2 boxes of strawberries (hulled, quarter larger ones & soak in bowl with caster sugar to taste).
Caramel to drizzle over.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and draw a 25cm/10inch diameter circle onto it with a pencil.
In a bowl or stand mixer whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.  Slowly whisk in the sugar one tablespoon at a time, until you get stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted out of the mixture.

Sprinkle in the sifted cornflour, adding the vinegar and vanilla extract to the egg whites and fold in gently with a metal spoon.  I use a stand mixer so just give it a few revolutions of the whisk attachment to make sure everything is mixed in.  It is the addition of the cornflour and vinegar which keeps inside of the pavlova soft and marshmallow like.

Spoon the meringue mixture on the baking parchment within your marked circle and using a spatula, flatten the top and smooth the sides.

Place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 120ºC/250ºF/Gas ½.  Cook for an hour, then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely.

Once cool, remove the meringue based from the oven (you can keep it in an airtight container for a couple of days or store in a freezer for up to one month).

As the base can be quite fragile, I tend to trim the excess baking parchment off with scissors and find a large flat dish on which to assemble the pavlova.

For the topping I make chantilly cream by whipping double cream in a stainless steel bowl (glass will do) which has been chilled beforehand in the freezer.  Wipe the bowl and pour in your cream and beat until cream forms soft peaks.  Then mix in your sieved icing sugar being careful not to over beat.  The cream should be firm but still light in texture.

Spoon the cream onto the meringue base, spreading it outwards to the edge of the base.  Then load on your strawberries and dribble on the juices (the addition of a little sugar to the cut strawberries encourages the juices out of the strawberries (masceration).

Finally take your caramel and if you need to soften it place the jar in a bowl of boiled water) and drizzle all over the top of the pavolva.  Indulge and enjoy.

I will post a recipe for making caramel very soon.  It really isnt difficult to make and can be stored in the fridge in a jars for several weeks.  If you don’t have any caramel to hand, you could make a fruit couli using fresh raspberries and icing sugar.  Whizz them in a food processor and blend into a smooth sauce and
ideally pass through a sieve to remove the pips. Drizzle liberally all over the strawberry & cream covered pavlova.

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News on the Tart It Up! Damson Sauce front

I’d like to give you a brief up-date since I launched Tart It Up! my new damson sauce at the end of March 2012.  My business venture The Art of Puddings has taken an unexpected turn since the end of March, turning me overnight into food producer.  This was certainly not in the grand schema but came out of my passion for damsons awakened by a chance encounter via the web.  What a journey it’s been so far and still is….. Up until now I’ve had amazing support from a whole variety of people working in and around food –  consumer, producers,market stall holders, environmental health officers, buyer and sellers of food products – not to mention loyal friends and family members.  I’ve been humbled by the level of support  that so many of you have given me over these past weeks.   They all said the same thing – just go ahead and do it, you’ve got nothing to loose.  So here I am doing it and having a lot of fun at the same time….(well most of the time!).

Tart It Up! stall at Duckpond Market Ruislip

We sold 40 + bottles at Duckpond Market in Ruislip back in March and got a lot of very enthusiastic feedback from customers sampling at our stall which was brilliant.  Friends and supporters have also been buying bottles of sauce and getting the word out. My friend Chris used Tart it Up! as a main ingredient in his home-made “Super Damson Relish” hot dog topping which he entered for a ‘topping’ contest organised by @BigAppleHotDogs, one of London’s foremost hand-crafted hot dog producers.

Super Damson Relish using Tart It Up! as an ingredient (courtesy of Chris Green)

I’ve plunged straight into the deep end with Tart It Up!  Armed with wooden spills and bottles of my sauce I offered samples to a number of differnet butchers and delis around town (Central London)  – resulting in a win  with several wanting  to stock my damson sauce.  I’ve also started taking pre-orders while I build up more stock  which is also very encouraging.  All the shops I’ve been into to date like the name,  appreciate the look and feel of the bottle and most importantly they love the rich, tangy taste of Tart It Up!  There’s no doubt in my mind that the versatility of this sauce has to be one of it’s main selling points.

I won’t pretend that producing, marketing and selling my sauce hasn’t been a steep learning curve.  I’ve had to get to grips with the ins and outs of labelling requirements, weights and measures, food safety and shelf life testing.  Not to mention bottle sourcing, pricing gun research, tamper proof seals and most importantly profit margins.  I’ve also learned that a certain flexibility with pricing at this stage is helpful especially with a new product which is yet to prove itself in the big bad retail market.

Right now I’m making new stock and waiting for the 10th May when I’m due get my shelf life test result back from the food laboratory.  Then I will be able to put a good length best before date on my bottles and start selling in earnest.

Salusbury Winestore, Queens Park, NW6 6NN

If you know a stockist in your area (Greater London) who might like to stock Tart It Up! then please do get in touch with me at info@theartofpuddings.com or ask them to contact me direct if they are interested.

Up-to-date information on Tart It Up! can be found on my Facebook page

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Tart it Up! launches, Sunday 18th March


Art of Puddings is dead excited to be  launching our fantastic new damson sauce, Tart it Up!  on Sunday, 18th March from 10am – 3pm at Ruislip Artisan Food Market, The Great Barn, Manor Farm Site, Ruislip HA4 7QL.

Come along and be among the first to buy a bottle or two of Tart it Up!  and check out  the other food producers in fabulous spacious setting while you’re there.  We’ll be selling a seasonal selection of desserts shots and other sweet delights on the day.  Plenty of free on street parking!

For further information and details of how to get to the market click on Ruislip Artisan Food & Craft Market

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Apple pressing

mixed variety eating apples

apple washing

home confectioned apple pulveriser

This weekend, an hour before the snow arrived, I’d brought in a good supply of logs for the fire – I fancied a warming glass of  mulled apple juice.  My stash of Chiltern apple juice in the cupboard under the stairs would be just the ticket.  I glugged the contents of the bottle into a pan, added my chosen spices along with a nip of calvados,  warmed it all up slowly and sat down next to the fire, glass in hand, while the snow flakes danced.

I’d been invited to join in a communal apple pressing party at some friends Karen and John along with other local apple juice lovers .  The Venue: A back garden in Wendover, in the heart of the Chilterns.  Apple pressing is most definitely a communal activity with several stages to get stuck into before the actual pressing begins.  Sorting and combining different varieties to get the right balance of flavour.  Then there’s the washing, the chopping and the pulping.   When we arrived the back yard was awash with plastic bags, boxes and crates crammed with apples of all sizes and varities – many left there by locals with more apples in their gardens than they could use. Friends and neighbours, happy in the knowledge that they’ll be able to turn up a day or so later to collect a bottle or three of lovingly pressed apple juice.

pulping apples ready for pressing

chopping apples prior to pulping

Not only do Karen and John provide their local community with a first rate apple pressing service, using local apples brought along by neighbours and friends  but they also grow fruit and vegetables in their well stocked garden,  keep a small herd goats on 5 acres of land at the top of the hill.  Then there’s the bees housed in another garden close to fruit trees with their spring blossom.  Karen and John sell the honey at their local farmer’s market. On top of working full time – Karen is president and John the Membership Secretary of the Mid Bucks Beekeepers Association which offers beginners courses in beekeeping alongside a full programme of yearly events and educational activities.

Best of all, I love the fact that John and Karen have been clever and resourceful building their own apple press using recyled materials.  Cannabising an old bedside table in which sits houses an old waste disposal unit, with a plastic bowl above it as a hopper for the apples to fall down inside the unit and get pulped.  The wooden plunger is made out of plywood with plastic green fork handle for easy use. The pourous material lining the wooden trays which contain the apples – is simply net curtains picked up at a car boot sale.  Why net curtains and not muslin?  Karen explained that muslin absorbs too much liquid whereas the net curtains are nylon so don’t absorb liquid – making them perfect for the job.  I’m impressed by this sheer inventiveness of it all. The uprights of the press itself  are made using solid beams of wood once part of a wooden climbing frame you would find in an old style school gym.  Even the dried, spent apple pulp (rather beautful with its flecks of green and red)  is recycled! – it’s bagged up and fed to the goats who apparently love it.  Well…. goats will eat everything and anything!!

pouring apple pulp into net curtain lined tray

adjusting pressure to the press

last minute adjustments before final pressing

foaming apple juice being squeezed out

much needed cuppa with Karen's homemade Victoria sponge

spent, pressed apple pulp after pressing

bagging up the pressed apples for the goats

Once all the apples for the day had been pressed, we moved on to the bottling and pasteurising stage.  John had adapted a large boiling unit which he picked up at Lidl to pasteurise the apple juice.  This stage is necessary if you are not going to freeze your juice.  We decanted the juice into glass bottles and brought the temperature of the water up to 72 degrees centigrade for approx 20 mins.  You can replicate this process using a large stock pot or jam preserving pan, placing a round, metal cake stand on the bottom of the pan so that the water can circulate freely underneath the bottles and stops the bottles rattling or even cracking. I do this when I’m bottling my damson ketchup which needs to be pasteurised after bottling.

pasteurising our bottled apple juice at 72 degrees C

apple juice ready to drink

We worked hard all afternoon, enjoying the convivial company and the crack.  By the end of the day  we’d pressed well over  100 litres of apple juice!!  It was great fun meeting and working with new people – processing kilos of  apples and transforming them into fantastic tasting amber apple juice.  I returned to London that evening,  shattered but happy – with my four large bottles of apple juice and the idea of joining in with another apple pressing afternoon the following year.

Here’s the recipe I used for my mulled apple juice.

1 Litre of apple juice
whole cloves (8 or more)
whole allspice (6or so)
2 star anise
2  sticks of cinammon
pieces of peel of one orange (no pith)
shot glass of calvados (omit if you prefer a non-acoholic version)

John recommends vigopresses.co.uk for lots of useful information on pressing, crushing apples, fruit as well as cider making.  Some great recipes too.

Anybody who fancies making their own press or cider making should visit the UK Cider pages at uk.cider.co.uk/wiki/ where there is loads of useful info.

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Black Forest Gateau Cocktail

Flying back on Christmas Day from New York, we grabbed a couple of hours shut eye and got ourselves over to N London to join good friends for our annual blow out Christmas lunch. On the menu – Craig’s chicken liver paté, Scottish rib of beef with all the trimmings, Su’s tiramisu and mini St John’s Christmas puds. Our talented mixologist Sam produced a host of cocktails throughout the day but my favourite by far was his Black Forest Gateau cocktail.

Here’s Sam’s recipe: (makes one martini glass)

10 ml Tia Maria
15  ml Chambord berry liqueur
20 ml Amaretto
15  ml Blackberry Purée
20 ml double cream
20 ml full fat milk

Pre prepare a martini glass by wiping the rim with the berry liqueur and dipping it into cocoa powder. Shake the first four ingredients with ice, strain and  pour into the glass.
Mix the cream and milk and float on top. Consume!!  Warning – extremely moreish.

Posted in Non-pudding | 3 Comments