Category Archives: Pastry

Lime & Pineapple

Last November my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a very decadent trip to the Maldives, staying at the incredible Six Senses Laamu. During the week we met and made friends with Phil and Jenny Howard. Phil is head chef at the 2 Michelin starred restaurant, The Square in Mayfair, and was out in The Maldives as a guest chef. I attended his master class (amazing squid linguine) but Chris got a touch of heat stroke (over enthusiastic turtle-chasing) which prevented us from enjoying what was no doubt a sublime meal at the Leaf restaurant that night.

As compensation he bought me Phil’s two cookbooks for Christmas, and I have been dipping my toe slowly in. Under the banner of The Square, they are, as you would expect, very ‘fine dining’, with gorgeous, if intimidating photos, and I fear that many of these beautiful books will resentfully reside on London’s glass coffee tables without ever seeing a kitchen. This is a real shame, as Phil has painstakingly and intelligently written his recipes to be cooked by everyday cooks, giving explicit directions, with ‘make or break’ tips at the beginning of each. I really welcomed this, as I have often found that it is the tiniest of things which make a difference, and recipes rarely point them out, (which makes me wonder how often they really have been tried and tested).

So, which recipe of Phil’s can I recommend? For me, this one wins hands down, and actually, the recipe is fairly straightforward as long as you have the time, and Radio 4 / Carly Simon / No Kids to keep you company. The first time I made this, I followed it to the letter, and made individual tarte tatins, with sticky caramelised rings of pineapple, spiked with tiny shards of chilli (see this review for a pic of the real thing). For the purpose of this blog post, I was a little lazier as time was short, and adapted it to make one large tarte.

I am, I admit, in the middle of a crush on limes, and its ability to add sharp enhancement to Asian dishes, and fragrant sophistication to desserts. I don’t think however, that I have ever come across lime and pineapple together (let alone with the addition of chilli) before – except maybe in a cocktail? And I love it – and am planning to devise a lime and pineapple cake, with maybe a touch of coconut?  In fact, Phil asks that we present his individual tartes on a flurry of coconut powder, which alas, I did not have handy, but will endeavour to source (or make with coconut oil and Sosa maltrodextrine, as advised….) next time…

The lime ice-cream however, deserved more care, as it’s completely UNBELIEVABLE! (- the first time I have used capitals in this blog, as the trend annoys me, but necessary here to give you some idea of its fabulousness). Such a simple recipe, and delicious on its own, but with crisp butter pastry, and darkly toffeed pineapple, it is truly elevated to Michelin Star status.


Puff Pastry (all butter – Anchor’s is great) – 400g

For the ice-cream

4 limes

250ml whipping cream

250ml icing sugar

For the Pineapple

1 supersweet ripe pineapple (important that it’s sweet for caramelising)

150g unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

1 red chilli

30ml white rum


– Grate the zest from the limes as finely as possible and add to the cream and squeeze in 100ml of the juice, passed through a sieve.

– Add sugar and stir to dissolve, and if you can, leave for a few hours to infuse – preferably overnight.



– Churn in an ice-cream machine no more than two hours before serving

– Transfer to freezer

– Top and tail the pineapple

– Cut into small pieces, removing all the ‘eyes’

– Dry on kitchen roll for one hour

– Roll out the puff pastry into a round to fit a 20cm cast iron pan (2mm thick) and leave to rest

– Add butter and sugar to the pan and cook over a medium heat until you have a rich caramel


– Add the pineapple and cook until they are a rich hazlenut brown.

– Finely slice the chilli and add along with the rum and mix in.


– place the pastry over the pan and tuck in the sides


– put the whole pan in the oven on 180 degrees for 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.


– Turn out, slice up and serve with the lime ice-cream.



I only wish I had photographed the full Phil version, as it does look way more glamorous, with its flouncy skirt of crisp pastry accessorised with caramel swirls,  but it tastes just as good, I promise!







Sent from my iPad


Onion & Sherry

I am a little obsessed with the favours that alcohol can add to a dish. Being introduced by Jamie Oliver to white wine and vodka in risotto has started a lifelong fascination with the culinary art of ‘bunging in the booze’.  I rarely make a Bolognese without chucking in left over red wine (I know – an oxymoron if ever there was one…) and a bottle of Marsala rarely lasts more than a month by my hob. There are always a couple of cans of ale or stout waiting to be poured into a casserole. The only drink I actually rarely buy or cook with is cider – even though I always love it when I do drink it. Why does that happen? It might be something to do childhood associations with difficult Sunday lunches; my mother for some reason thought cider was nothing more than a fizzy apple juice, and served it to us from a fairly young age.  It may go some way to explaining the arguments over dessert and apathetic afternoons slumped in front of the box.

One aperitif, which has enjoyed resurgence in popularity amongst the cognoscenti, is Sherry, so obviously my thoughts have turned to what it can add to my cooking. As I’ve said, I use Marsala with reckless abandon, and being Sicily’s answer to sherry (will I be in trouble with purists here?) I’m guessing it could be replaced with a Spanish Fino.  However, I’m slightly ashamed to admit that the only way I am familiar with it is as an official ingredient is in Trifle and French Onion Soup, adding a dark nutty pungency to its rich caramelized flavour. A quick Google reveals an incredibly wide variety of dishes – including fabulous desserts with rhubarb and peaches. One I will try imminently however, is James Martin’s sherry roasted parsnips.

Fo this week’s recipe however, I am returning to onions. As well as exploring innovative or lesser-known flavour pairings, I also want to investigate new ways of combining old favourites. My husband is a huge onion fan, and I never turn down savoury pastry so I decided to see how well onions and sherry could work by combining our two passions to create an Onion  & Sherry Tart. I made it as I would a Tart Tatin, and it was lovely with a simple rocket salad.

INGREDIENTS – serves 4

– 230g ready-rolled all butter pastry

– 50g unsalted butter

– 4-6 small onions, halved

– 100ml sweet oloroso sherry

– handful of fresh thyme


–  Melt the butter in a heavy-based ovenproof frying pan. I used a Le Creuset omelette pan – which is 20cm across the base, 25cm across the top and 5cm deep.

–        Add the onion halves, cut-side up, and fry gently for 20 minutes until soft and starting to caramelise, turning them over gently halfway through.


–         Heat oven to 200 degrees c.

–        Add the sherry and thyme sprigs, season well, then cover with damp greaseproof paper tucked in.


–        Transfer to the oven for 20 minutes until the onions are soft.

–        Roll out the pastry to size and drape it over the pan, tucking in the edges around the softened onions.

–        Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp.


–       Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out carefully.


–         Sprinkle with grated Gruyere or Parmesan if desired.

The sherry really created a delicious syrupy sauce – which was even more yummy cold. For ease of eating I think next time I may slice up the onions (although admittedly, it wouldn’t look so pretty).

What boozy recipes are your favourites?

Ginger & Salmon

Ginger is my most favourite of the spices – even more so than nutmeg. I love it in stir-fries, biscuits, gingerbread, drinks….the list is endless – as are the flavour pairings. I rarely now make a Key Lime Pie or Lemon Cheesecake without adding ginger to the buttery biscuit base, or a sprig of mint to Schweppes Ginger Ale in the summer (with a squeeze of lime!). I have also added orange zest to ginger biscuits and cake in order to impart an immediate exoticism to the flavour. I am not a fan of every combination however; I do not for example, particularly like chocolate with ginger (I realise I am pretty much alone on this) and I also agree with Niki Segnit’s opinion on ginger with rhubarb. I find the spice overpowers its aromatic berry notes and can think of many other pairings infinitely more suitable to imparting sweetness and flavour (maple syrup and vanilla is especially rewarding).

I have kept ginger in all its forms – fresh, in a jar, tube, powdered, but now my preferred and most convenient form is frozen – thank you Waitrose (although there is nothing stopping you from mincing fresh ginger and freezing it yourself). I also still keep powdered (Bart’s is definitely worth paying more for) and candied ginger for baking (always left over after Christmas, very handily).


One of ginger’s closest friends, in my opinion, is fish, and specifically, oily fish. My aunt first introduced me to this. She makes a sublime side of salmon, infused with ginger and enrobed in delicate buttery shortcrust pastry shaped and decorated to resemble the fish itself.  It sits proudly on the table, as if the centrepiece of a Regency feast, and is sublime with salad and jersey potatoes.

In homage to that dish (which I confess I am yet to have a crack at myself), and because I had four salmon steaks in need of eating, I decided to make a salmon en croute, which I often do, but this time flavoured with ginger. I also had some lemons which had seen better days, so used the zest to add some subtle citrus notes.

Normally, I would simply wrap the salmon in pastry, and bake, and they are fine, but to add an extra challenge, and because I was interested in whether it would make much of a difference, I decided to bake the bases first.

Ingredients – Serves 4

4 slim salmon steaks

750g butter puff pastry (I confess I last made puff pastry for my O’ level in 1985)

100g cream cheese

I heaped tsp minced ginger

Zest of one lemon

Salt & pepper

Egg for glazing


–       Mix the cream cheese, ginger and lemon together with a pinch of salt and black pepper


–       Roll out the pastry into a rectangle until 2mm thick

–       This bit is quite tricky: Cut four rectangles, which your salmon steaks will fit in the centre of with a 2cm all round.


–       Cut another four rectangles 1cm wider all round and put in fridge

–       Place a piece of baking parchment over the pastry and then a pan, or another heavy baking tray which will basically stop the pastry form rising (meille feuille are made this way)

–       Bake in the oven for 10 mins, but check that they are nicely crisp and browned before taking them out)


–       Cool slightly

–       Strip the skin from the salmon by sliding a knife under the fish and away from you.


Place a salmon steak in the centre of each strip of pastry and divide the cream cheese mix over the top of each one. Be careful not to put too much on – you don’t want it leaking out. You can always warm any spare cream cheese with a spot of cream and serve as a sauce on the side.


–       Place the larger pieces of pastry over the top and crimp.

–       Glaze with egg and grind some salt and pepper over the top.

–       Put two tiny slits at each end to allow some of the steam to escape.


–       Bake for 25 minutes


I served this with some Charlotte potatoes (sadly Jerseys are a few months away) and garden peas. The bases were incidentally, extra crispy and definitely worth doing for a special dinner (but perhaps wasted on the kids!)