Apple and green tomato pie

When I first saw this recipe I was utterly intrigued. Is it sweet or savoury? My mind was boggled. It did make sense after all, tomato is a fruit! It was really quite hard to find green tomatoes though, unless you grow them in your backyard or know someone who does you have to hunt for them at specialist fruit and veggie market at the right time. Green tomatoes seem to be more commonly eaten in the US. I remember seeing that film back in the days Fried Green Tomatoes, where the main characters make battered fried green tomatoes. Being a kid who grew up in Dunedin where there were no such sightings of green tomatoes, I relished in the idea of biting into these delicious, almost exotic green tomatoes turned into fritter-like delights. Green tomatoes are simply unripened normal tomatoes but you hardly ever see them for sale. I lucked out and found them at Borough market—good old Borough market never lets me down.

Essentially, this is a sweet pie. It turned out a lot like apple and rhubarb pie but the green tomatoes give it a less stringy texture than the rhubarb. One of the best aspects of this recipe is the pastry. I used to make pastry in the food processor but having since then lost an important part to the food processor, I had to do this one the old fashioned way (by hand). It worked out great, I would highly recommend rubbing the butter into the flour by hand it it does lend a more authentic and finer feel to the pastry. It is slightly sweet, light and airy, flakey and rich all at once. It is truly a great sweet pastry recipe. My only slight contribution to the recipe was to make it that extra bit sweeter.

Apple and green tomato pie

Pastry

500g plain flour

pinch of salt

300g unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into 1cm cubes

25g caster sugar, and extra to sprinkle

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

2-3 tablespoons cold water

milk to brush

Filling

5 Cox’s apples

4 green tomatoes

150g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of a lemon

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon light muscovado sugar

1. To make the pastry, sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter evenly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in sugar and vanilla extract. Lightly beat the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl then pour this over the flour mixture.

2. Combine with your fingertips to incorporate and add a little more water if required. Form into a ball and knead lightly. Wrap in foil and chill for an hour.

3. Now to prepare the filling. Core the apples and slice them finely leaving the skin on. Slice the tomatoes into rounds and place into a bowl with the apples. Add caster sugar, lemon zest and juice.

4. When the pastry is ready, take out half from the fridge and roll this out into a 3mm thick round large enough to line the base and sides of a 20cm fluted pie tin. Press the pastry into the tin and prick the base of the pastry. Chill for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 180°C.

5. Line the pastry with grease proof paper and baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes to dry out the base. Set aside to cool.

6. Roll out the rest of the pastry thinly into a round 5mm thick for the pie lid.

7. Stir cinnamon and sugar into the filling and pour into the pie case. Top with the pastry lid and press the pastry edges to seal with your thumbs, fluting them as you go. Brush with a little milk. Mark small incisions into the lid of the pie to let it breathe when baking.

8. Place in the oven (middle shelf) for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

9. Sprinkle the pie with caster sugar and serve with cold pouring cream, cream friache or just a dollop of vanilla icecream.

Recipe from How I cook by Skye Gyngell (Quadrille).

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Chocolate cheesecake

Every year on the anniversary of my mother’s passing away, I make cheesecake. Mum’s favourite of all time desserts was cheesecake—especially New York style cheesecake and this was one of the last things she was able to properly taste and enjoy before she passed away. I make cheesecake every year on this day as my own personal rememberance, a kind of nuturing of the memory of her through the act of making cheesecake. After two kinds of New York cheesecake already accomplished, this year I decided to shake things up with a chocolate cheesecake. Nigella Lawson’s Feast features a whole section appropriately entitled ‘chocolate cake hall of fame’. The chocolate cheesecake I made was featured in this section in all its fatty-hardy glory. I love that in a cookbook titled Feast there is a whole section dedicated to chocolate! Feast is one of those cookbooks you take off the shelf and refer to when you have that special occasion or if you just feeling extravagant. Now that I think about it, all of Nigella’s books are kind of for when you are feeling indulgent (probably to do with the high butter and cream content of a lot of recipes). After I made the chocolate cheesecake, I realised it would be even more perfect with a touch of cardamom but on the other hand, the chocolate on its own is truly divine. It is rich, well, it should be considering all the chocolate and cream cheese in it. Even if most people say you don’t need to use a water bath, I think it is necessary to give the cheesecake that silky undeniably cheesecake texture. They should invent a press n’ seal version that is oven-friendly as my ten layers of tin foils still didn’t seem to stop all of the water from seeping into the inside of the tin which always makes me panic, thinking I will have a soggy cheesecake base. But once refridgerated it came right. Phew.

Chocolate Cheesecake

Base

125g digestive biscuits

1 Tablespoon cocoa (Green and Black’s if possible)

60g butter

Filling

175g dark chocolate, cut up into small pieces

500g Philadelphia cream cheese

150g caster sugar

1 Tablespoon Bird’s custard powder

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

150g sour cream

1/2 teaspoon cocoa, dissolved in 1 Tablespoon hot water

Make the base: process the biscuits to make rough crumbs and add the butter and the cocoa (or you could crush the biscuits in a bag and stir through the butter and cocoa). Process/mix till you have a damp, crumbly consistency and tip into a 23cm springform tin. Press the mixture into the bottom of the tin to make an even base, transfer to the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool. Beat the cream cheese to soften it and then add sugar and custard powder, beating to combine. Add the whole eggs and then the yolks and finally the sour cram. Add the cocoa dissolved in water and the melted chocolate and mix to a smooth batter. Remove the tin from the freezer and line the outside with many layers of tin foil making sure it is covered tightly otherwise the base might not be protected from the water bath. Put the tin in a roasting pan and pour in the cheesecake filling. Fill the roasting pan just above half-way up with just-boiled water. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You will know the cheesecake is done when the top is set and smooth to the touch but the underside is still a tad wobbly.

This recipe is from Feast: food that celebrates life (Chatto and Windus).

Honey wholemeal cake

Although wholemeal in anything sweet-based makes me run a mile in fear that it will lack alll the best qualities—sweetness, buttery and richness—I was intrigued to try this recipe as it just looked so utterly tasty on TV. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had his usual River Cottage series on Channel 4. I made the honey wholemeal cake for a work do and it was a great success— little did everyone know it was so easy and didn’t require complicated ingredients at all. This cake has a really moist taste and it is sweet, but not overly so. The more honey on top of the cake the better if you ask me, as when the cake cools, the honey turns into a sticky outer coating that adds another dimension to the cake overall. This recipe was actually printed in the Observer Food Monthly (my favourite monthly foodie supplement) and since trying the recipes from this, I went and got myself a copy of Hugh’s River Cottage Everyday. The main concept of the book is simply what the title suggests: River Cottage style food everyday. It has a brilliant lunch section entitled ‘weekday lunch (box)’ – the recipes are so easy yet very tasty and as always you can rely on that River Cottage rustic feel. You couldn’t get sick of the recipes as they are also seasonal and family-kitchen favourites. I am sure I will have more to say on this book to come, the next one on my list is the roast plum and sticky chocolate brownies.

This recipe is from River Cottage Everyday (Bloomsbury).

Honey wholemeal cake

300g unsalted butter (softened)

250g golden caster sugar

4 medium eggs

150g wholemeal self-raising flour

150g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

50g flaked almonds

4 Tbsp runny honey

Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time and add 3 spoonfuls of flour as you go, then fold in the almonds. Sift the remaining flour into the mixture with the baking powder and fold in gently. Prepare a 23 cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Place the tin on a baking tray as some mixture may leak out during the baking process. Pour your cake mix into the cake tin and place in a preheated 170C° oven and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and while it is still hot, evenly trickle the honey over the top of the cake. Place on a wire rack and leave to cool completely before turning out.

This is excellent served with greek style honey yoghurt or creme friache. Hugh says to serve it with some runny cream.

Serves 10.