Easy apple tarts

Quick apple tart served with vanilla ice cream
This is a great little recipe if you need a dessert in a hurry. It’s basically a cheats apple tart, and isn’t much more than an assembly job, especially if you use ready-made puff pastry. It’s a great way to use up eating apples, of which there are many different British varieties in season at the moment. Don’t use cooking apples as they will become mush during the baking, but any eating apple will do – ours actually came from an overhanging tree in the Mitchell’s back garden (with neighbour permission of course!). Lemon juice stops the apple slices from browning and the brown sugar brings the sweetness back up and adds a caramelised toffee flavour. Then it’s just into the oven for a quick bake and a little glaze of jam at the end. Done and dusted in half an hour.

A special mention has to go to Natasha and Josh for their gift to me of a beautiful jar of homemade plum jam – with plums from the garden and all. The perfect topping for these fruity little tarts.
Ingredients for quick apple tarts
Ingredients (makes 6-8 small tarts)
400g puff pastry (or follow the quantities and method here)
4-5 eating apples
Half a lemon
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp plum or apricot jam

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Roll your pastry out to about half a centimetre thick. Using either a pastry cutter or a small bowl and a knife, cut out rounds of pastry and lay onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. You want the size of the pastry circles to be a little bigger than the height of the apples. Pop into the fridge while you prepare the apples.
Rolling the homemade puff pastry
Cutting rounds of puff pastry
2. Cut the apples into thin slices and toss in the brown sugar and the juice of half a lemon.
Thinly sliced apple sprinkled with lemon juice and soft brown sugar
3. Arrange the apple slices on top of the pastry circles, overlapping in the middle. Brush a little egg around the edges of the pastry and bake for 8-10 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and the apple has started to caramelise.
Arranging the apple slices on the puff pastry
Baked apple tarts before glazing
4. While the pastries bake, heat the jam gently. Use a pastry brush to dab the melted jam over the top of the baked tarts.
Homemade plum jam
Heating the plum jam for glazing the tarts
Quick apple tarts
Serve warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream, or leave to cool and have with a steaming hot mug of tea.
Quick apple tart served with vanilla ice cream

Strawberry Fool

Homemade strawberry fools
Today we’re talking about a quick, easy, straightforward dessert. The kind that you can rustle together in 20 minutes with just a few simple ingredients, and leave in the fridge until dinner time. This is the ideal dinner party pudding, especially during the summer months when you can get hold of perfectly ripe, juicy strawberries. I may be biased, but I think it’s hard to beat Scottish strawberries. Usually the smallest strawberries are actually the ones with the strongest, sweetest flavour, despite the enticing look of the larger, perfectly-strawberry-shaped fruits.

I loosely based this recipe on one from BBC Good Food (my go-to website for recipe guidance and inspiration). I finally got to use a splash of the delicious elderflower liquor that I was given for my birthday. We only added one shot of the liquor, and actually our strawberries had such an intense flavour that they overpowered the elderflower taste. If I was making this again I would definitely add another shot, but of course this will depend on what type of liquor you are using and how flavourful your strawberries are. My advice would be to taste the fool as you go along, to make sure you get the balance just right.
Ingredients for homemade strawberry fool
Ingredients (serves 6)
300g ripe strawberries, plus 100g extra chopped into small pieces
300g Greek yogurt
3 tbsp icing sugar
300ml double cream
1-2 shots of elderflower or fruit liquor

Method
1. Place 300g of your ripest strawberries into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Strawberries for blending to make strawberry coulis
Strawberry coulis
Homemade strawberry coulis
2. Beat together the yogurt and icing sugar.
Greek yogurt and icing sugar for a strawberry fool
3. Add the double cream and whip until thick. You want the mixture to form stiff peaks, but not have that over-whipped consistency.
Adding the double cream to the fool mixture
Whipping the cream and yogurt for a strawberry fool
4. Fold through the liquor and most of the chopped strawberries.
Folding the chopped strawberries through the strawberry fool mixture
5. Very gently fold through the strawberry coulis a little at time so that the mixture is rippled and not completely combined.
Folding strawberry coulis through the fool mixture
6. Spoon the fool into small tumblers or wine glasses, top with the remaining chopped strawberries and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
Spooning the homemade strawberry fool into cups
We had these little puddings after Sunday dinner, served with amoretti and ginger biscuits. They had a light, but rich consistency and a really intense sweet strawberry flavour. We didn’t actually use all of the strawberry coulis, but it kept in the fridge for the next couple of days and was amazing drizzled over vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt.
Homemade strawberry fools

Sausage and Bean Casserole

Roasting tray with sausages, peppers, tomatoes and beans
A girl can’t live off cakes and bakes. This may be controversial, but, sadly, it’s true. This week I have a few savoury recipes for you, and today’s one is the perfect weekday meal during the colder months of the year: few ingredients, quick and comforting. It really is just a case of bashing some ingredients into the oven and letting them work their magic. You can also adapt the recipe according to what you have in your cupboards – use whatever variety of tinned beans and tomatoes you have, add a red onion or sprinkle over some chilli flakes.

Ingredients for casserole laid out - sausages, peppers, mustard, tinned tomatoes, tinned butter beans and oregano
Ingredients (serves 4)
Olive oil
12 Cumberland sausages
2-3 tsp Dijon mustard
2 red peppers
1 tin cherry tomatoes
1 tin butter beans, drained
1-2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
2. Add a glug of olive oil (about 1 tbps) to a roasting tray and heat in the oven for 5 minutes.
3. Use scissors to cut your sausages apart and add to the roasting tray, moving the sausages around in the hot oil. Cook for 20 minutes, shaking half way through.
4. Add the mustard to the sausages and cook for another 10 minutes.
5. Chop the peppers into chunky strips and add to the roasting tray. Cook for 10 minutes.
6. Finally pour in the tomatoes and beans and season with the oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for a further 10-20 minutes until hot and bubbling.
Dinner plate of sausage and bean casserole, broccoli and buttered bread
Serve with fresh bread and steamed vegetables, as we did, or with a side of mashed or baked potatoes. We guzzled the lot between 4 people, but if you want to make the sausages go further (say 2 per person) then I would add an extra tin of both tomatoes and beans, so that there is enough to go round.