Custard Tarts

Custard Tarts

Ready, set, BAKE! The Great British Bake Off is back and I am obsessed. Each week, the Bafta award winning show grips the nation as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood whittle out good crumbs from the soggy bottoms.

Baking is fun, but baking disasters are all part of the process. I once used cumin instead of cinnamon to flavour my baked apples in an FT lesson; safe to say I have now learned to read labels properly…  Watching other people’s baking disasters is also very nerve wracking, especially when your favourite contestant has just used salt instead of sugar, or has watched the middle fall out of their uncooked cake.

The technical challenge is one that is usually full of a few disasters. Contestants are given a recipe, but all technical aspects and methods are excluded from the instructions. Last week we watched in vain as bakers tried their hand at custard tarts. Removing the tarts from the tray proved difficult, and there was soggy bottoms and uncooked custard all over the bake-off kitchen. Things were tense!

Having never made a custard tart myself, I was intrigued. I took up the challenge under the safety that Mary and Paul’s harsh tongues wouldn’t judge me. The secret is making sure that the pastry is cooked but the egg custard isn’t over done. By following Paul Hollywood’s recipe below, everything went pretty much to plan, however if you are making smaller tarts, you will need to watch your cooking times.


For the sweet pastry

  • 165g/5¾oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g/1oz ground almonds
  • 120g/4¼oz chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar
  • 1 free-range egg

For the custard filling

  • 700ml/1¼ pint full-fat milk
  • 7 free-range egg yolks
  • 90g/3¼oz caster sugar
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Make the pastry:

1)   Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub it into the flour and almonds with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

2)   Break in the egg and use your fingers to mix it together to form soft sticky dough. Put the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball and flatten it into a disk with your fingers. Then pop this in the fridge in cling film to chill for 30 minutes.

3)   Now preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6.

4)   Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, then use an 11cm/4.5 inch fluted cutter to cut out 12 discs. Line the muffin tray with the circle ensuring that the pastry overlaps the top of the mould by a few millimetres.


For the egg custard:

1)   Warm the milk. In a separate bowl, beat in the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

2)   Pour the milk onto the egg yolks and stir well to create little bubbles. Now transfer this into a jug and fill each pastry case with custard.

3)   Sprinkle each tart with nutmeg and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 200C. Now turn the temperature down to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily
I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily

4)   Look for a golden pastry and a slight dome in the custard, which indicates it is baked. Too much dome means the custard is overcooked so watch out!

Custard Tarts

Spicy Prawn Creole

I write regularly for a local magazine called the Moulsham Times, and last month this was my recipe! I wanted to make something seafoody after our trip to cornwall. (It seems so long away now, sob!)

Spicey Prawn Creole

Some of the best prawns I ever ate were eaten on this holiday when we rewarded ourselves with fish and chips at Rick Steins fish shop after a big walk to Padstow. The chips were amazing, a perfect mix or squishy and crispy. I had king prawns with garlic mayonnaise instead of the usual battered cod and instantly knew I had made the right decision, they were juicy and the mayonnaise was AMAZING! Very garlicky…

This recipe is adapted from one of the Leon recipe books. The books are full of healthy, hearty and easy food so I highly recommend them to a cooking family!

  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 tin whole tomatoes
  • 1 bag prawns
  • 3 medium chillies, chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato puree
  • 1 tbs soft brown sugar
  • 400 ml fish stock
  • Corn on the cob, rice and a dollop of sour cream to serve.
  • Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
  • First fry off the onions, peppers, chillies and leek in a big glug of olive oil until partly soft. Adjust the type and amount of chilli pepper to suit your taste.

Spicey Veg

  • Add the tinned tomatoes, fish stock and sugar and mix together. Then leave on a medium heat for 25 minutes to simmer.

Bubbling Veg

  • Transfer the spicy vegetable mix into a heatproof dish and cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile cook your rice and corn on the cob so they are ready to serve with the creole.
  • Remove from the oven and leave the mix to settle while you serve up the rice and sweet corn. Dowse your sweet corn in butter, and spoon the prawns and sauce onto the rice. To cool the dish down a bit, use a spoonful of sour cream.

This dish is great all year round. You could BBQ the sweet corn and serve the prawns with light peach couscous while you eat alfresco in whatever remains of the summer, or warm up from a cold walk in the winter, by serving it with warm buttered fresh bread.


Spicy Prawn Creole

Zingy Lemon Curd Bars

If you are feeling a bit sour, and need a bit of zing in your life, these lemon curd bars are just waiting to make your tummy happy.

While flicking through this little Leon cookbook, these bars instantly took our fancy. I love lemon cake, lemon muffins, lemon on pancakes, and it seems now I love lemon curd bars! You cut them into squares so they’re good for taking on picnics. I took mine as a snack for work.

lemon bars

  • 280g plain flour plus an extra 35g for the lemon topping
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 225g butter, cold and cubed
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 350g sugar
  • 120ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Icing sugar to finish (I forgot this bit)

1) Set the oven to 170C. Put the flour, icing sugar and butter into a bowl, use a hand blender or food processer and mix it all together untill it creates a bowl. I didn’t think this was going to happen because the mix looks like sand! But persevere and it will work, once it starts to make big clumps of dough use your hands to push it together into a ball. Make sure the butter is cold!

Lemon bars

2) Press it into a baking tray and bake it for 20-25 mins, until golden and set.

3) Place the eggs into a bowl and whisk until fluffy. Then add the sugar, lemon zest and juice and continue to whisk. Finally add the flour and baking powder and stiiiiiir it up to combine it all.

4) Pour the mix onto the base, it will be sloppy. Then place it back in the oven at 170C to cook for 25-30 mins until set, however mine still wobbled in the middle!

5) Finally leave it to cool, and when it has dust it with icing sugar (as I said I forgot this part). This is probably because I also served it semi-hot before it had cooled, when the base and the topping was all squidgy so it was a little like a lemon sponge pudding, it was yum.

Lemon curd bars

Prawn Pomodoro Linguini with Creme Fraiche

I love vegetables but I also love prawns, especially in pasta with tonnes of garlic. This dish is light and perfect for summer dining on the deck!

Make sure you buy good, happy prawns, your tummy will benefit and so will the sea!

Prawn Linguini

You will need:

  • 450g tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 glug worcestershire
  • 1 clove garlic
  • linguini
  • bag of fresh or frozen prawns
  • 1 tsp creme fraiche
  • Fresh basil to garnish

1) Slice up the tomatoes and place them in a large pan with a glug of oil to start stewing. Add the sugar, the red chilli, the worcestershire sauce and the clove of garlic and simmer intill the skins start to come away from the tomatoes.

2) Boil a large pan of water and add your linguini. Boil for 12 mins.

3) Meanwhile, add your prawns to the tomatoes in the pan and cook until pink if they are frozen, if not cook for about 3-5 mins.

Prawn Linguini

Prawn Linguini

4) Drain your pasta and serve with a generous helping of prawns and tomatoes, stir though a teaspoon of creme fraiche and garnish with fresh basil.

Bon apetit mon petit pois!

Prawn Linguini

Day 5- The Final Leg

400 miles, 72 gel bars, 12 water bottles, 14 tires, 7 cyclists, 5 hotels, 1 support team, 1 trailer and 1 very much unappreciated skip-on-a-bike (see picture below) it took us to get from the city of Chelmsford to the coast of Cornwall. It was hard, there were tears, a few grazes, and a lot of bike grease! But it has been an amazing experience of which I am so glad I did and I am glad to have been a part of it. Go team!

Today we split into two teams. Me, mum and Ellie cycled down a long disused railway line, and then on the bumpy roads of Cornwall to Polzeath via Rock for a well deserved coffee stop. Whilst the boys took the slightly longer route all the way to lands end! Helmets off to them.

I guess in my mind the only way I can describe coming down the final hill into Polzeath, is by comparing it to when Marlin finds Nemo, after battling sharks and jelly fish. Yep. (I did originally make a Lord of the Rings reference…)

We have celebrated tonight with an understated Mexican in the garden, a few beers and Pimms, and a stroll on the beach; a perfect way to end 5 long days of a lot of peddling! Plus with no horrific hill climbs on our agenda tomorrow, I can assure you that I will be up ready for a Papa Smole style breakfast and a day of sun and surf!

I know a lot of you have been reading this every day, Polly Wicks especially! So thanks so much for taking an interest/ checking up to confirm we were actually insane. If anyone is off on a cycling holiday soon, I wish you the best of luck and recommend a lot of bum padding!

The boys at Landsend- not the skip on Matt's bike!
The boys at Landsend- not the skip on Matt’s bike!


Iced coffees at rock
Iced coffees at Rock
Route planner Susie
Route planner Susie
Next years travel option?
Next years travel option?

2013-07-19 12.26.06

Susie Q with a well earned beer- pints followed don't worry!
Susie Q with a well earned beer- pints followed don’t worry!


2013-07-19 21.00.19

photo (6)

Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

Fresh pesto is my new obsession. I can’t describe how much better it is than that stuff out a jar! It’s cheesier, garlicky-er, basily-er, errrrmazing.

You can buy it from most supermarkets in the bit where they sell fresh pasta and italian stuff. Me and my italian-food obsessed friend want to make pasta soon, and I can’t wait to pair mine with some of this pesto.

Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

We used Cod, but you can use any white fish. Make sure it’s from a sustainable source, and preferably has one of these symbols on it because fish are friends and the ocean is cool.

Fish guide

You will need:

  • 1 pot fresh pesto
  • 1 lemon
  • white fish fillets- one per person
  • green beans
  • Organic tomatos on the vine
  • British asparagus spears
  • New potatoes- boiled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

1) Set your oven at 180C. Prepare your green beans and asparagus. To get rid of the tough ends on the vegetable, bend the spear from the base and it should snap at the point where it is less woody. Then blanche the greens for 6 minutes until supple. Pop these to one side while you prepare your fish.

2) lay the fish fillets onto a large deep baking pan with a good glug of olive oil. Throw in the beans, asparagus and vine tomatos to the pan, then place in the oven to bake for 10 minutes. If you want you can add your new potatoes to the pan and squash them slightly with a fork to oven roast them.

3) After 10 minutes, remove the pan and spoon 1.5 tbsp of fresh pesto onto each fish fillet before returning to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

4) When the fish is baked, serve and enjoy al fresco or at a dinner party.

Pesto is also pretty easy to make, so you could try it with your own! Let me know if you have any great pesto recipes.

Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

My skydive experience

Yesterday I jumped out of a plane and fell towards the planet at 120mph in free fall. It was amazing.

For those of you tempted to do a skydive, do it. For those of you who don’t think you could do it, feel the fear and do it anyway. It is honestly the most exhilarating and majestic things you could ever do, and once you have done it you will want to do it again.

I will try to tell you about my experience as best I can but I warn you it will probably sound a bit like a story book because I don’t want to miss out any details! Scroll down for photos, and a video when I work out how..

I awoke yesterday morning slightly hungover. Piece of advice number 1, dont do this. Going out on wednesday night was a brilliant idea at the time, but skydiving on 3 hours sleep and a hungover belly wasn’t. On the other hand I have proved it is still doable!

I got to the airfield at 9:30am for check in, where we were briefed, told how position yourself as you fall, and genrally made to feel confident! The tandem parachute instructors must have carried out a minimum of 800 solo jumps, been rigorously tested mentally and physically, and carry out regular inspections every few years for them to be allowed to be an tandem dive instructor, so you are in safe hands!

It took about 20 minutes to get up to 12,000ft in the small aircraft. I don’t know if it was because my hangover had numbed my senses, or that I was genuinely too excited, but the nerves didn’t really hit me until I saw the other divers in the plane jump out the like rag dolls. And by this time it was too late, I too was falling out the door of the plane, 12,000 ft up in the sky, like a rag doll.

The first thing my instructor told me to do when I left the plane is yell. So that’s what I did, a lot. It is so so easy to forget to breathe as you leave, the temperature is -4 degrees up there, and you fall so fast it instantly takes your breath away so screaming stops this! As you fall, the wind literally tears past you. It does dry your mouth out a bit, but thats mostly because mine was open all the way, screaming…

You fall through the air for 40 seconds. If you were going at this speed when you jumped off the top of The Shard, it would take you 1 second to hit the ground! Then suddenly, the roar of the wind stops, and it goes silent. This is when the parachute goes up and you can really start to take in what is around you and were you are.

It is a really strange feeling to describe, but it is like you are weightless and floating in the air. After I had finished laughing, my instructor honnestly said to me “Lets go walking through the clouds” and we did, literally. It was like walking though steam. One of the highlights of the jump was coming out one cloud, to see a small fully circular rainbow on the cloud below us, with our shadow in the middle of it. But unfortunately there was not pot of gold.

I was given control of the parrachute and told to pull down as hard as I could on the left side, as I did so the parachute began to turn faster and faster until we dropped out the sky, before I spun it back by pulling the other handle. It was very fun.

We continued to float down in the parachute, doing various turns and looking at the view. I could see the coast, and apparently on a good day you can see london from higher up. Then we landed in the field below.

I really don’t even think my description has done the jump justice, you just have to do it for yourself. One of the best things is the adrenaline rush, once you hit the floor you cant stop smiling for hours. You laugh at everything, and words come out your mouth without even thinking about them.

While the skydive was one of the best experiences ever, I wasn’t just doing it for fun. I was raising money for the J’s hospice, a local charity which provides hospice and respite care to 18-40 year olds with life threatening conditions. It is a great charity who do so much, so far I have raised over £250 but I am still collecting so if anyone wishes to donate the website is here:

If not, then you should organise your own jump and raise some money for charity yourself! I know I keep saying it but it really is AMAZING.

For those of you who worry about the parachute not opening, the instructors jump with a 300 square ft parachute, and a back up parachute if the first one isn’t good enough or doesn’t open. There is also a computer in the kit which measures the pressure, height and speed which you are falling, if for some reason they are unable to release the parachute, the computer does it for them! So in my mind, the chances of continuing towards earth at 120mph were too slim to worry about!!

Skydiving for the Js Hospice!

Ready to go! I call this look The Crocodile
Shaking my green booty

Coming in to land!
Back on solid land!
I told you it’s impossible not to smile!