Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones
When I think of Wensleydale cheese I think of Wallace and Gromit and it’s not long before I’m thinking of Wensleydale that my unique Yorkshire accent is produced for all and sundry to enjoy.  I love a good accent and take great pride in butchering every one I attempt.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

If you are not terribly familiar with Wensleydale it might be because you live in Stroud Green, it took me an absolute age to track down some of this wonderfully traditional British cheese that wasn’t contaminated with cranberries or apricots.  This is such a delicate summery cheese that it’s a shame it only comes into full force at Christmas as a novelty item on the cheeseboard.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

I was on the Wensleydale hunt particularly for this delicious scone recipe which I made for our last WI meeting.  We had thrown open our doors to the public for all and sundry to come and listen to author Gillian Tindall give a talk on our local historical building, Stapleton Hall, and we took pride in our WI reputation by providing homemade cakes and bakes for everyone to enjoy.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

I will often take a punnet of scones to a potluck or a picnic as they transport excellently and if you stuff enough cheese into them they will always be better received than a sweaty cheese sandwich.  However, I wanted to add a bit of something extra this time round and bake the jam into the scone, which would certainly save room in the picnic basket.  If you have any bacon jam in the fridge, as you absolutely must if you have learnt anything from food bloggers over the last few years, then do use that, or have a go at my new bacon jam recipe which I posted yesterday.  I will confess now that I made the bacon jam especially for these scones.  I wanted a very British scone where the ale in the jam could pair delightfully with the Wensleydale baked into the dough.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

The only way to eat a savoury scone is to crack it open at the middle, pulling the warmed dough apart and liberally spreading with whipped butter.  As I say, to eat at a picnic is an absolute joy but to eat at home is a luxury as then you can warm your scones up lightly in the oven so the steam rushes out when you break it open and the butter melts with abandon.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

Wensleydale, and Bacon Ale Jam Scones
Makes about 18 scones

550g strong bread flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g Wensleydale Cheese
Black Pepper
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125g Bacon Ale Jam
200ml milk
1 free-range egg, beaten, for the egg wash

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and line two large baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Tip 500g of the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the butter then rub them together with your fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs.
  3. Crumble up the Wensleydale into the bowl with the black pepper. Rub the larger lumps of cheese in a little bit into the flour.
  4. Then add the baking powder, mixing in well.
  5. Pour in the beaten eggs and turn it into the mixture with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.
  6. Then add in the bacon jam and the other 50g of the flour. Use the flour as a carrier for the fat in the bacon jam and rub into the other ingredients.
  7. Once the bacon jam is evenly dispersed, pour the milk in carefully, stirring in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will become quite wet.
  8. Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and pat the mixture together, if the dough is still too wet add in a little more flour, folding and turning the dough until the flour is incorporated. You want to work this dough as little as possible.
  9. Once the dough is dry enough to work with then roll out to 1 inch thickness and cut out circles using a 68mm round pastry cutter.
  10. Place the scones on the baking trays, then brush with the egg wash.
  11. Bake the scones in the oven for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden.
  12. Serve with plenty of whipped butter.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

If you are up for a bit of very easy foraging, now is the perfect time to hunt, gather and eat nettles.  That’s right, stinging nettles.  Granted the ‘stinging’ part of their name doesn’t make them sound the most appealing prospect but I urge you to give them a try.  Between March and early April nettles are plentiful and everywhere.  The freshly sprouted nettle leaf tops are what we are looking for, they are sweet and delicate and can be substituted in almost any recipe that calls for spinach.

stinging nettles

Nettles have the most protein of any green, including broccoli and spinach.  And now we’re all being ordered to eat 7-a-day, I think I need to bring something new to the table. I don’t think they even do 7 different types of fruit and veg at my Sainsbury’s Local, so gathering up a bit of free greenery crammed with nutrients seems like a good way to pack that veg into my diet.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

I’m so lucky that I live moments away from the Parkland Walk, the old railway line that used to run from Finsbury Park to Muswell Hill.  Since 1984 it has been maintained as a nature reserve, looked after by the local community.  As well as a lovely spot to walk the puppy or go for a pleasant run, it is a treat to be so close to nature whilst North London bustles around outside the tree lined enclosure.  You can barely hear the traffic so it’s easy to forget you are in the city.  It is also perfect for a bit of foraging if you know what you are looking for.  I don’t really but even I can spot stinging nettles a mile away.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

You should pick nettles before they are waist high.  When you go nettle picking wear heavy-duty kitchen gloves – not the flimsy food grade gloves as the stingers are tricksy and somehow manage to wheedle into the thin plastic gloves.  Take a good long pair of scissors and a large carrier bag.  In order to garner the 200g of nettle leaves I needed for this recipe I filled a whole carrier bag with nettle tops. Not the hoary old timers that are the size of your palm but the fresh shoots from the top of the nettles.  And no I did not look like a weirdo decked out in my marigolds and wellies, knee deep in the bushes and surrounded by stinging nettles.  This is London, so odd behavior is expected.

stinging nettles stinging nettles

To prepare the nettles I filled up my kitchen sink with water, put on my rubber gloves and dunked the nettles in, swishing around to wash out the grit and bugs.  I then plucked each nettle from the water, snipped off the leaves using scissors and popped them onto the scales.  Once I had 200g of nettle leaves, I plunged them into a large saucepan filled with boiling salted water and, after bringing the water back to the boil, simmered for 2 mins.  The sting is subdued within the first 30 seconds of cooking so after this you can discard your rubber gloves and use your hands.  The first time you do this you do tend to think the whole world is playing a bit of a joke and you are just about to get your innocent little hands completely ravished.  But trust me, the nettles are perfectly placid by this point so feel free to naked up those paws.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

The resulting tart is lovely and mellow but with a gorgeously distinctive nettle flavour.  I used a very light cheddar which I don’t normally do but I didn’t want to overpower the nettles since I went to so much trouble in my foraging expedition. I’m all about the bacon salt this week so I seasoned the tart filling with a touch of the good stuff. If you haven’t yet succumbed to its delights then normal salt will do just fine.  Like any self-respecting British tart I served it warm with a handful of oven baked chips.  Utterly delicious.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart {gluten-free}

Pastry adapted from the Flaky Pie Dough recipe in Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s Alternative Baker
Serves 6

For the pastry:
80g rice flour
25g oat flour
45g buckwheat flour
30g cornflour
15g tapioca starch
15g ground chia seeds
½ teaspoon sea salt
115g cold unsalted butter, cut into very thin slices
1 egg, medium, lightly beaten
2-4 tablespoons iced water
A few tablespoons of a gluten-free flour blend for rolling

For the filling:
200g nettle leaves
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
200ml crème fraiche
1 tbsp chives
100g mellow cheddar, grated

Equipment: 20cm round tart tin with high sides

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the flours, chia seeds and salt.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour in between your fingertips so it resembles very rough breadcrumbs then stir in the beaten egg with a fork.
  3. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and start to bring the dough together with a pastry scraper. It should start to form quite quickly.
  4. Tip the dough onto the work surface and quickly bring the ball into a round ball with your hands. You don’t really need to work the pastry as there’s no gluten to activate. The pastry should still be a little sticky.
  5. Wrap the pastry ball in greaseproof paper and flatten it slightly.
  6. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  8. Dust the work surface with a gluten-free flour blend then roll the pastry out into a circle large enough to line a 20cm tart tin.
  9. Once you have lined the pastry in the tin and neatened the edges with a knife, place greaseproof paper over the pastry, so it comes up over the sides, then fill the tin with baking beans.
  10. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven then remove the baking beans and parchment and brush the surface of the pastry with the beaten egg.
  11. Place back in the oven for a final five minutes to seal the pastry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature before adding the filling.
  12. Place your nettle leaves in a large saucepan of salted boiling water. Bring back to the boil then simmer for 2 mins.
  13. Drain the nettle leaves and douse in cold water to stop them cooking any further. When cool enough to handle, ball up the nettle leaves and squeeze out the excess water. Chop finely then set aside.
  14. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and egg yolks with the crème fraiche.
  15. Add the chives, then the cheddar, then the nettle leaves. Season with plenty of salt and pepper or bacon salt if you have it.
  16. Pour the filling into the tart shell and place back in the oven for 25-30 mins.
  17. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature before trimming the edges off the pastry and taking it out of the tin. Serve warm.

NOTES: This recipe was updated in 2017 to be gluten-free, so the resulting pastry will not be as light in colour as those in the photos.

Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart

Mango Chutney

Mango Chutney
This is my first chutney of the year.  I managed to divest my laden larder with a good majority of pickles, jams and chutneys over the festive period but now it’s about the time where I start to build up my stores again.

If I am honest I made this chutney a few weeks ago when the calls of our local Fruit and Veg man hollering outside Finsbury Park asking us to ‘Taste the mango’ got the better of me.  I did want to taste the mango.  Then it reminded me how long it’s been since I had a good cheese and mango chutney sandwich.  Since I didn’t have any mangos in, I put the abundance of mangoes on the stall to good use and stirred up a very quick and fragrant chutney that afternoon.  I followed Diana Henry’s advice on mango chutney but did not carry through the hotness of her recipe, instead toning it down as I wanted to create something more subtle.

Cheese loves a good mellow chutney or jam; please see my earlier obsession with cheese and peach jam.  Mango chutney is a perfect partner and I particularly like a softly spiced version so that the delicate mango flavour isn’t powered out, bedding down nicely a good crumbly cheese.

Mango Chutney

This classic sandwich combination always reminds me of my mother who at the mere mention of mango chutney will without fail wax lyrical about a good mango chutney and cheese sandwich.  And with good reason, a generous dollop of sticky chutney oozing out a toasted sandwich filled with gooey English cheddar is truly a magnificent lunch and reminds me a lot of my childhood.

I don’t eat as many sandwiches as I used to but this doesn’t mean my chutney consumption has calmed down.  My current favourite use is to add a delicate amount to a salad of nutty emmental, cucumber and iceberg lettuce.  All you need then is a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper to finish it off.  The mango chutney adds a lovely balance of sweet and sourness to this simple salad.

And of course, it would be remiss not to discuss how a lovely tablespoon of this chutney added to a homemade curry can provide its own dimension to the recipe, adding a mellowed sweetness to counteract your spicing.

Mango Chutney

Mango Chutney
Adapted from Diana Henry’s Very Hot Mango Chutney in ‘Salt Sugar Smoke’

6 mangos
¼ tsp cloves
8 cardamom pods, deshelled
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
4 black peppercorns
1 tsp black mustard seeds
500g onions, diced
500g granulated sugar
600ml cider vinegar
3 green chillies, deseeded
nutmeg
30g fresh ginger, diced finely
zest and juice of 2 limes

  • Peel the mangos and cut the flesh of the fruit from around the middle stone. Chop the fruit into cubes, there might not be much uniformity from the flesh cut close from the stone. Set aside.
  • In a large preserving pan toast the cloves, cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and mustard seeds over a low heat for a minute or so to release their fragrance.
  • Add the diced onions, sugar, vinegar and chillies to the pan, bring to a gentle simmer and cook through for about 10 mins.
  • Add the mango, nutmeg, ginger and lime zest. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 mins until the mixture is jam like.
  • Stir through the lime juice for the last couple of minutes of cooking, then decant into sterilised jars.
  • The chutney is best left for at least 4 weeks for the flavour to mature.

Pickled Purple Cauliflower Salad

Pickled Purple Cauliflower Salad

I lucked out in an obscene manner at the farmers market at the weekend. It’s as if all the produce had got together and artfully arranged themselves adjacent to each other so I didn’t have to use my imagination at all. The purple cauliflower sang out immediately. Of course it would – it was purple. Purple veg are actually the best, they make everything a lot more fancy. I am absolutely addicted to purple carrots at the moment. But then carrots are complete rock stars in my eyes anyway and can do no wrong, the purple is just an added bonus.

Bulls BloodSo, the purple cauliflower was in my bag and I immediately knew I wanted to pickle it which would keep the cauliflower as raw as possible so as not to lose any of its vital colour. Then, just as I was wondering how to incorporate it into a salad, what should be sitting next door to Ole Purple Brains, but bulls blood leaves. That’s right, an unassuming salad leaf handily named something gruesome – perfect for my Halloween week. I hadn’t heard of bulls blood leaves before but they are from the beetroot family and these ones had been organically groomed to take on the beetroot’s purple hue which makes them sweeter. So, in the bag they went.

Now what goes the bestest with cauliflower? If you said cheese then you are completely correct. My husband point blank refused to eat cauliflower at all when we first got together but once he had tried homemade cauliflower cheese suddenly it all made sense to him. In fact a lot of things can make sense with just a spoonful of cauliflower cheese, it really makes you think clearer.

Wilde's CheeseAnyhow, the farmers market. So next door… Next Door!..to the veggie man was the cheese stall. Wildes Cheese are a self proclaimed urban cheese makers who make the most wonderful artisan cheeses from their micro dairy in Tottenham. They recommended The Howard to go with my haul, a softer cheese but with a slight blue note to it which would lend its robust flavours to the sweetly pickled cauliflower and the strong slightly bitter bulls blood leaves. The final ingredient to this wonderful array of ingredients was the walnuts which I wish I could tell you I foraged on the way home along the Parkland Walk but no, I just stopped off at Sainsbury’s.

The thing is with this salad is that you might not be able to get hold of bulls blood leaves but you can easily substitute it with any salad leaves. Radicchio would go very nicely. The same with the cheese, if you live in North London then I would definitely recommend sourcing from Wildes Cheese but if not, then any soft light British blue would go just as well. The pickled cauliflower is just as lovely if you can only get white cauliflower. The purple one just makes it prettier.  The pickled cauliflower can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks and makes brilliant snacking if you are standing in front of the fridge at 10pm on a Tuesday night.

Pickled Purple Cauliflower

Pickled Purple Cauliflower

Makes about 2 x 500ml jars

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ tsp celery seeds
1.5 tbsp salt
400ml cider vinegar
180g caster sugar
1kg cauliflower florets
1 large onion, halved then sliced thinly

  1. In a large saucepan toast all the spices for a minute or so.
  2. Add the salt, vinegar and sugar and boil for around 10 mins.
  3. Add the cauliflower florets and onion and bring back up to the boil, then boil for around 3 mins.
  4. Remove from the heat and bottle into jars.
  5. Leave for a day or so for the flavours to come together.

For the salad

A large handful of salad leaves
A chunk of cheese, crumbled
A handful of walnuts, toasted in the oven then cooled
A couple of spoonfuls of pickled cauliflower
Dressed with the dressing below

Salad dressing

1 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tsp honey mustard (I used Maille’s honey dijon)
1 tbsp olive oil

Whisk the vinegar, seasoning and mustard together, then drizzle in slowly the olive oil, whisking all the while until it emulsifies into a thick dressing.

Peach and Cheese Custard Pasties

No, my obsession with cheese and peach jam has not gone too far.  In fact, this creation is the ultimate symbiosis and uses a savoury cheese custard and the vanilla bourbon peach jam I made a couple of weeks ago.  Only after you have made this and eaten it and agreed with me then can we all put it to bed.  I’m not sure if you have looked out of the window but autumn has arrived so a little warm pasty with a sunny peach filling will allow you to say farewell to a successful summer.

These pasties bear a resemblance to what Americans helpfully call hand pies which denotes exactly how they should be eaten, on the go or standing in the kitchen a hot pie nestled in your hand.  I’m not sure if any of these made it past my kitchen door if I’m honest, but if you are more restrained than I then stash one in your pocket for when hunger strikes on a leafy October walk or arrange with a few salad leaves for a light lunch.

Cheese Custard

The custard can keep for a few days in the fridge so you can whip up a batch and it will last you the week.  Feel free to repurpose to a welsh rarebit if the mood takes.  Just add a splash of stout, spread it thickly on toast and pop under the grill for a few minutes under the cheese starts to bubble and brown.

Peach and Cheese custard Pies7
Peach and Cheese custard Pies4
Peach and Cheese custard Pies2

Also, if you can’t be bothered to make your own pastry then shop bought puff pastry also works wonderfully with this filling.  I used Delia’s flaky pastry here from her Complete Cookery Course that to my mind is very difficult to better.

Peach and Cheese custard Pies

Peach and Cheese Custard Pasties
Makes about 24

For the filling
30g butter
50g plain flour
400ml whole milk
150g double Gloucester cheese, grated
50g red Leicester cheese, grated
½ tsp Dijon mustard
3 egg yolks
150g peach jam

For the pastry
220g unsalted butter
350g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg, whisked for the egg wash

Cheese Custard

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat.  Once melted add the flour and stir in to make a thick paste.
  2. In a steady stream pour in the whole milk whisking all the while to disperse any lumps.  Once all the milk is in, bring to a boil but don’t stop whisking.
  3. Add the grated cheese.  Then once melted into the sauce stir in the Dijon mustard and season well.  Turn off the heat.
  4. Put the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk them together, then take a tablespoon of the cheese sauce and whisk into the eggs quickly but carefully so they don’t have a chance to scramble.  Add another spoon of the cheese sauce and carry on whisking.  Repeat this until you have added almost half the cheese sauce.  At this point it is safe to add the egg mixture back to the rest of the sauce in the saucepan.
  5. Bring to a low boil again then turn off and let the custard cool.  Refrigerate for a few hours before using as it will be much easier to handle.

Flaky Pastry

  1. Measure the butter then wrap in foil and place in freezer for 30 mins.
  2. Grate the butter into the flour, then mix together with a knife cutting through the butter.  Add the salt.
  3. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water then bring together with your hand into a dough, you can add a splash more water if needed but the dough should not be sticky.
  4. Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper and leave for 30 mins in the fridge before rolling out.

To assemble:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. You should be able to get 24 discs from this pastry using a 5” round cutter.
  3. Place 1 tbsp of cheese custard and 1 tsp peach jam into the centre of each disc.
  4. Moisten the edges with egg wash and then bring one side of the pastry over the filling and seal down to the other side.
  5. Make a couple of small slits in each pasty with a knife, brush with egg wash and place them on baking trays.
  6. Bake for around 15 mins.