It’s time for New Year’s resolutions and once again I’ve resolved to give nothing up at all. The short, dark, cold January days can be a bit depressing anyway without depriving myself of chocolate, alcohol or anything else I truly enjoy. No….. I’m resolving to swim more often, which is hardly a chore as the beautiful Clifton Lido is just a ten minute walk away. I’m going to attack my accounts once a week (now that’s a serious challenge). And, most importantly as far as Imi and this blog are concerned, I am going to continue with the Monday Night Cooking Club.
A few weeks ago I decided that I really needed to commit to cooking with Imi on a regular basis. It’s too easy to be in a hurry, to be feeling in need of a little “head time” (I have a daughter who’d sweep the board on “Just a Minute”) or just not to be in the mood to clean up a bomb site .. so much so that we hardly ever seemed to cook together. Bring on the “Cooking Club” as Imi has christened our Monday evening antics in the kitchen. Each week Imi invites a friend back from school and we make something. There’s really no getting out of it now, even if I wanted to, she already has a register with the next dozen participants lined up.
Last term we made:
-spinach and ricotta ravioli with her friend Avalon (great fun rolling the pasta, stuffing and cutting, and a fabulous way to get the girls eating spinach),
-pumpkin and coconut cake with Bea (plenty of spoon licking),
-meatballs and apple tarts with Lettie (a very good supper)
-and then Eleanor joined us baking Christmas cakes and then icing them a couple of weeks later. I’m loving it as much as they are, yes I have those moments on a Monday at 3pm when I question my sanity but it’s so satisfying.
Today Imi and her little friend Lettie made Eccles cakes for us to take out to Barcelona for New Year’s Eve tomorrow. The combination of Eccles cakes and Stilton was new to me until recently…….Was it a moment of Fergus Henderson magic to marry the two ( as he does at his restaurant St John)? Or, is this a long-held tradition? Perhaps you can tell me? Anyway it’s delicious. So, I’m going to reek of blue cheese at the rather glam’ party we’re going to with all our Catalan friends tomorrow night because I have half a Colston Bassett Stilton secreted in my suitcase (along with a 1/2 a kilo of clotted cream). I’ve used about 10 metres of cling film trying to hermetically seal the thing but it does seem that the waft will out. My hand luggage will be largely made up of tins of Eccles cakes, chocolate ginger thins and shortbread. There is some method in my madness as all this food will disappear very quickly leaving copious room for any small purchases that I might just make in Barcelona (ooh the shoe shops!)
Eccles Cakes with Stilton- Makes 12
225 g currants
25g chopped candied peel
75g muscovado / dark drown sugar
1/2 tsp orange/lemon zest or mix
1 tsp mixed spice (or mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)
pinch of salt
500 g All-Butter Puff Pastry
1 egg white, beaten
Golden granulated or Demerara sugar
For the Filling
Just melt the butter and then mix in all the other ingredients and leave to cool for a few minutes.
Roll out the pastry to under 1/2 cm thick and cut out into squares – you should get about 12. Most recipes ask for circles but it’s more of a faff and you waste pastry. However, if you’re worried about ending up with just slightly square cakes ( and I’m not) then go for the circles.
Pile up a spoonful of filling in the middle of each square and then brush around the edge with some egg white.
Now pull in the edges to cover the filling and press everything together to seal. Turn over and roll gently to flatten and help into a circle-ish shape.
Make about 3 slashes in the top of each cake, brush with the egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Chill on a baking tray for at least 20 minutes (or bake straight away if you’re an impatient child – slightly flatter pastry!).
Preheat the oven to 220 C and bake the cakes until really gold and and crispy.
Cool and store in a tin.
I’ll warm these a little tomorrow before serving with my amazingly creamy Stilton Cheese or with the clotted cream (that’s assuming that it hasn’t escaped all over the suitcase) .