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Entries in flour (4)


Rhubarb crumble with vanilla custard

What is your ultimate comfort food? This is one of the questions I have asked all the people I have interviewed in the series I’m writing for Borough Market. My interviewees all come from different parts of the world, or have parents who do, so their answers differ a lot, but one thing they all share in common is that it tends to be something warming and filling.

“I don’t think you can get any better than a rhubarb crumble,” says Paul Wheeler, of Paul Wheeler’s Fresh Supplies. “If there was one comfort food, yeah that’d probably be it.” What is it that makes rhubarb crumble such a classic? Perhaps it is because the rhubarb is naturally very tart and contrasts perfectly with the sweet crumble topping and accompaniments, such as custard or vanilla ice cream.

I usually add nuts and oats to my crumble, but in this recipe I go for a shortbread topping. I think there is something elegant about rhubarb; perhaps it’s natural acidity and bright pink colour. A shortbread crumble seems to me to complement this, it seems more refined somehow.

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White sauces - bechamel and veloute - two of 'the mother sauces' of French cuisine

Two of my best friends from Sydney are arriving on Friday to stay for the weekend before we set off for a week of island hopping on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. They will be arriving very early at Heathrow and, although they are both well known for their stamina, I figured it would be best to plan activities for the daytime, rather than evening, so that we will be homeward bound by the time the jetlag starts to kick in. Since one of these activities is lunch at one of the world’s top restaurants, I have decided that the usual four course dinner with which I like to treat my guests will probably not be necessary or even desired that evening, and after a couple of bottles of wine I won’t really be in a fit state to make such a feast. As such, I have decided to make a moussaka tomorrow night or Friday morning, so that there is something to pop in the oven when we get home from our outing. And, just in case you were starting to wonder how this was ever going to get round to the topic of white sauces, every good moussaka needs a béchamel!

I was going to try and keep this brief, but believe or not, there is a surprising amount to say on the subject. I decided to turn once again to Mastering the Art of French Cooking to check whether my recipe stood up to its classical origins and was shocked to find not one or two, but six pages on béchamel sauce and veloute, and that is before they even get into the variations which use these as their base.

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Shortcrust pastry from The Book of Old Tarts

Updated on Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 9:11PM by Registered CommenterVix

A very dear family friend, Elizabeth Hodder, wrote a wonderful recipe book called ‘The Book of Old Tarts’. Lizzie has always treated me as if I were her daughter; she is kind, gentle and doting, always willing to listen and give me her worldly advice. She is also extremely knowledgeable and very well spoken. This motherly image I have of her means that I still to this day find myself shocked and pleasantly surprised when she shows her cheeky side. She once sent my Mum an apron which read:




I thought this was absolutely hilarious, not so much because of what it said, but because of who’d sent it. The name of her book is another great example of this.  

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Rough puff pastry

Updated on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 8:22PM by Registered CommenterVix

Calorie counters read this recipe with caution, it will almost certainly change your waistline.

I discovered rough puff pastry last year and it changed my life, well that part of it spent in the kitchen which is quite considerable. I had made puff pastry once before, but it was a lot of pain for a short lived gain and I never got round to doing it again. Then last year I was watching repeats of River Cottage Spring on more 4 when Hugh explained that the pastry he was using for a mushroom tart was a quick and easy version of puff pastry. Did I hear correctly? Could this be? It sounded too good to be true. I quickly Googled the term and sure enough there it was in black and white ...and blue ...and purple.

The highest ranked link was to Gordan Ramsay’s recipe on BBC good food, so that is the one I first tried, but I’m afraid to say it didn’t really work. This is because he is not specific enough about quite how ‘loosely’ the butter should be rubbed in and, in fact, I think ‘rubbed’ is perhaps a bad choice of words since it implies rather more force than is necessary. Ramsay does note that ‘you need to see bits of butter’, but it is not clear that these bits should be large chunks. So I ended up overworking the butter and didn’t get the layered effect; a somewhat fatal flaw in puff pastry.

After a moment’s doubt (maybe it was too good to be true after all) I did a search on You Tube to see if there were any demos and found this one by Kate Lamont. As I suspected, the problem was the butter. As Lamont demonstrates, the butter barely needs to be rubbed or worked at all. What you want is large chunks of butter held together by the paste made with the flour, water and lemon juice.

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