Paul Flynn’s roasted spiced plums, oatcakes, apple compote and ginger ice cream

The recipe below is one I was walked through by Paul Flynn during our food bloggers’ weekend in Ireland. Paul has been called Ireland’s greatest living chef (“I don’t know who the dead ones are,” he says). As Nico Ladenis’ head chef back in London, he collected a positive galaxy of Michelin stars; and it was a surprise to everybody when he upped sticks and returned to Ireland, eventually settling back in his quiet hometown of Dungarvan to open his own restaurant with his wife Maire.

Spiced plums with apple compote, ginger ice cream and oatcakes
Roasted spiced plums, oatcakes, apple compote and ginger ice cream

That restaurant, the Tannery, has been running for ten years now, and these days also supports a cookery school bristling with technology (Paul says that shortly, you’ll be able to stream video of lessons you’ve participated in over the internet), a rambling kitchen garden, supplying all the restaurant’s vegetables and herbs, that overlooks Paul’s old primary school (coincidentally, also the primary school of Niamh from Eat Like a Girl – there must be something in the water), and the Tannery Townhouse, a pretty little boutique hotel around the corner from the restaurant. We visited the cookery school for a lunch demonstration – there’s nothing like watching a chef like Paul Flynn prepare your dinner to work up the old appetite – the fruits of which we later got to empty down our throats like starving baby birds.

Bloggers bolting bouillabaisse
Bloggers bolting bouillabaisse

I don’t usually get a lot out of cookery lessons; it is annoying to be taught not just how to suck eggs but also how to separate and whisk them when you’ve been doing it for years. Paul’s great, though, tailoring classes to the skills level of his students without an iota of condescension, and I really enjoyed our few hours in the kitchen. Classes vary in length from the five-day, hands-on courses to evening demonstrations where a group can watch as Paul talks them through a three-course meal.

Paul Flynn and bloggers
L-R Signe Johansen, Denise Medrano, me, Paul Flynn, Ailbhe Phelan, Niamh Shields, Aoife Finnegan

The recipe below is for oatcakes with spiced plums, and despite (or perhaps because of) the simplicity of its four elements, it absolutely blew me away on the day. You know those Prince Charles oatcakes from Dutchy Originals? The ones that taste a bit like salty cardboard? These are absolutely nothing like that. Creaming the butter and sugar together until the mixture is white and fluffy, then resting the dough (this is important – it needs to be very firmly chilled) in the fridge for several hours results in an almost shortbread-like texture, with a gloriously nutty flavour from the oats. These little oatcakes are very easy to put together, and the dough, uncooked, freezes very well, so it’s worth making a large batch and taking sticks of the dough out so you can cook some oatcakes fresh whenever you want some. As well as matching effortlessly with these plums, the oatcakes are beyond fabulous with a nice salty cheese. Over to Paul for the recipe (and thanks to Tourism Ireland for the two group photos):


225g butter
80g sugar
100g flour
200g jumbo oatflakes

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the flour and oatflakes. Roll into sausage shapes, wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge. Cut into 1cm thick discs and place on a baking tray. Bake in 150ºC oven for 15 minutes.

Stem ginger ice-cream

375ml milk
375ml cream
125g egg yolks
125g sugar
6 pieces of stem ginger, chopped

Mix the cream and milk.  Bring to the boil with the ginger.  Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together. Add the boiling milk and cream to the sugar and egg mixture.  Bring back up over a medium heat, stirring all the time until the custard starts to thicken.  Strain and allow to cool and when cold, churn in an ice cream machine.

Apple compote

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 heaped tablespoon golden caster sugar

Bring apples  to the boil with the sugar and stew gently until they start to break down and the juices start to flow. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Spiced roasted plums

Allow 2 per person, cut in half

To make the spiced butter:

100g soft butter
½ tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

Combine the butter with the allspice and sugar and roll into a sausage shape and chill.  To serve, cut a thin slice of butter and place on the plums, and place under a hot grill until bubbling.

To put the dish together, spoon some of the compote onto the oatcakes, and top with plum halves. Serve with a dollop of ginger ice cream.

Black Forest trifle

Black Forest trifleI was sent a lovely big jar full of Kirsch-soaked Griottine cherries to try a few weeks ago. The brand’s new in the UK, and they’re very good – big, boozy, stoned Balkan Morello cherries steeped in a heck of a lot of Kirsch for six months. These Griottines are available online in the UK; you can also use cherries you’ve steeped yourself in this recipe if you do a bit of forward planning in the summer.

I do love a Black Forest cake, but it’s the non-cake bits I enjoy the most: the cherries, the chocolate, a creamy filling. So I decided to use them in a Black Forest trifle, which also gave me the excuse to make a chocolate custard, stick it in a bowl and call it art. There are several stages in making this trifle, and making everything from scratch will, of course, give you the best end results; but you can cheat a bit if you want by buying a chocolate cake rather than making one, or by using a pre-made custard as the base for the two custard layers before you add the chocolate, vanilla and marscapone. I promise not to tell anyone.

To serve eight or thereabouts – this is a party dish – you’ll need:

85g cocoa powder
170g plain flour
240g caster sugar
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 medium eggs
180ml milk
60g softened butter
1 teaspoon almond extract

Custard base
2 tablespoons Bird’s custard powder
1 vanilla pod
500ml milk
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

You will also need
75g good dark chocolate
750g marscapone
250ml whipping cream
About 400g (the contents of a Griottines jar) cherries and their very alcoholic soaking liquid. I say “about” because I found myself busily scoffing them as I put them into the trifle, so the resulting dish didn’t contain a whole jarful.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC while you prepare the cake mix. Grease a 25 cm loaf tin.

Sieve together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, add the eggs, milk, butter and almond extract, and beat with an electric mixer for about five minutes until you have a thick, smooth batter. Scrape the batter into your prepared tin  bake for 1 hour. When the cake is done, a toothpick poked into the middle should come out clean. Cool for a few minutes and invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Make up the custard base, which you will use for both the vanilla and chocolate custards, while the cake is cooking. Some purists abhor Bird’s custard. I love the stuff. If you can’t bring yourself to use it (or if you don’t live in the UK and can’t find any in your local shops), use 2 tablespoons of cornflour instead. Mix the sugar and custard powder/cornflour in a bowl with a little milk taken from the pint until you have a smooth paste. Bring the rest of the milk to a bare simmer (it should be giggling rather than chuckling) and pour it over the mixture in the bowl. Return the whole lot to the saucepan over a low heat and, whisking hard, add the egg yolks and the seeds from inside the vanilla pod to the mixture. Keep cooking until the custard thickens and remove from the heat. Transfer to a jug, lay a piece of cling film directly on top of the custard’s surface, and chill until cool.

When the custard is chilled and the cake is cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Pour half the custard into a separate bowl, and beat it with the chocolate and 250g marscapone with your electric whisk until smooth. Beat the other half of the custard with another 250g marscapone and set aside.

In a third bowl, beat the remaining 250g of marscapone with the whipping cream and sugar until the mixture is stiff.

To construct the trifle, cut the cake into slices and line a large glass bowl (mine broke a while ago, which is why the picture at the top of the page is of a single portion of trifle) with it. Sprinkle the liquid from the cherries all over the cake to soak it, and scatter over a quarter of the cherries. Smooth the plain custard layer over with a spatula, adding a few more cherries as you go. Make sure plenty of the cherries are pressed up against the glass sides of the bowl. Add the chocolate custard with some more cherries, and finish with the layer of cream and marscapone, scattering more cherries on top.

Rhubarb sorbet

Rhubarb sorbetLast winter, my friend Kate and her family moved into an enormous and ancient pile of a house in one of the nearby villages. You know the sort of house:  the street is named after it; it’s got medieval bits, Georgian bits and Victorian bits; there are wonderful corners all over the place for the kids to play hide-and-seek in; and there’s a huge, leafy garden I’d give my right arm for.

Part of Kate’s garden appears to have been looked after, a century or so ago, by a kitchen gardener with a fondness for rhubarb. Rhubarb crowns grow very slowly indeed, but Kate’s rhubarb patch, having been around for a good long while, is now about the size of a couple of transit vans. No one family can consume that amount of rhubarb in one year without severe intestinal upset, so a few months ago she gave me a few kilos of stalks. Since then, they’ve been sitting, chopped and cleaned, in the freezer, coming out occasionally to be stewed and consumed with custard. Time to ring the changes – here’s a non-custardy application of rhubarb which is grown-up enough to be wheeled out at your next dinner party. There’s a lovely balance of tart and sweet in this sorbet, and it’s a glorious colour. You’ll find it works well as an in-between-courses palate cleanser, or as a dessert. Leave any custard well alone; this stands up on its own.

To make about a pint and a half of sorbet, depending on your rhubarb’s age and water content, you’ll need:

1kg rhubarb
200g caster sugar
30ml water

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer very gently with the lid on until all the rhubarb has collapsed into a greenish mush (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat. Strain through a jelly bag, a fine sieve or a muslin-lined colander for several hours or overnight and let gravity do its work, without poking at the mixture – you want the juice and only the juice. You’ll notice that the solid bits of rhubarb left in the jelly bag look a lot like wet hay; all the pinkness will be in your juice.

Eventually, you’ll have a bowl of pink, fragrant syrup. Chill the syrup in the fridge for at least six hours.

Follow the instructions on your ice-cream maker, or pour the syrup into a freezerproof box and put straight in the freezer, removing after an hour to attack with an electric whisk to break up the ice crystals. Freeze for another thirty minutes and whisk again, then keep repeating every thirty minutes until you have something that’s recognisably sorbet. This sorbet will keep in the freezer for months, but I doubt you’ll be able to leave it alone for that long.

Peach and mango meringue pie

Peach and mango meringue pie
Peach and mango meringue pie

This one’s for my friend Michael and his daughter, who are going in for a pie competition this weekend. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out – it really does taste as good as it looks. This pie is made with an all-butter pastry (none of your revolting shortening here, Californians) which is flavoured with lemon zest, and has a juicy filling that’s very easy to put together. I have been obsessing a bit about meringue recently, and the lovely puffy cloud that makes the lid of this pie is a beautiful and really delicious way to top things off.

Michael and Yael are cooking in the US, where weighing scales are not the norm – unfortunately, cup measures aren’t the norm here in the UK, and I have real trouble using them when I’m baking.  As a result, I’ve measured by weight, not volume, below. For those who don’t have a set of scales at home,  there is a decent conversion tool here.

You’ll need an 11 inch (28 cm) flan case with fluted edges and a loose base that you can push out, and some baking beans (some use ceramic beans – I just used half a pack of dried butter beans from the cupboard). If you plan on transporting your pie, you may prefer to use a foil dish.

To make one totally fabulous pie, you’ll need:

225g plain flour
25g icing (confectioners) sugar
100g salted butter
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons water (approx – see below)

4 large, ripe peaches (I used white peaches – choose the most fragrant fruit you can find)
3 ripe mangoes (I used Alphonse mangoes, which are my favourite)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
3 level tablespoons semolina (cornmeal for Americans)

6 egg whites
225g caster sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Peach and mango meringue pieStart by making the pastry. Sift the flour and sugar into a large bowl, and rub in the butter with your fingertips until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Try to keep things as cool as possible as you work; your pastry will be crisper and shorter if it stays cold. (My grandmother used to make pastry in a large bowl placed in the kitchen sink while she ran cold water around it – perhaps there’s a degree of overkill in this, but it does work well to help your pastry along in hot weather.)

Use a butter knife to stir the lemon zest, yolk and water into the mixture until you have a stiff pastry. You may need a little more water according to the weather; the behaviour of pastry varies horribly according to how much moisture there is in the air on any given day. Wrap the pastry in cling film (saran wrap for Michael and Yael) and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

While the pastry is resting, turn the oven to 200ºC (400ºF) and prepare the fruit. Quarter and peel the peaches, then cut each piece into three. Dice the mango in pieces the same size as the peach bits (I’m sure you all know the mango trick, but here’s a YouTube video of someone preparing a mango just in case you’ve not done it before). You can keep the fruit around the stone section to nibble off as a chef’s treat. Cover and set aside.

Roll the pastry out on a cool, lightly floured surface to fit your flan dish. (I have a marble slab for pastry that my Mum bought for me at a gravestone shop. Again, this is probably overkill. It’s also a bit sinister, now I think about it.) Line the dish with the pastry, use a fork to prick the base of the pie case all over, and cut a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom. Slip the parchment inside the pie and cover it with baking beans. Bake blind – that is to say, without any filling – for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove the beans and parchment and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the base is dry and golden too. Turn the oven down to 150ºC (300ºF).

Prepare the meringue by whisking the eggs and vinegar for about five minutes until you have stiff peaks (the vinegar will not add a detectable flavour to your pie, but it will make the peaks of the meringue simultaneously crisp and chewy, like a baked marshmallow), adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time as you go. You should end up with a very stiff, glossy mixture.

Sprinkle the semolina into the base of the pie dish – this will soak up excess juices from the fruit. Fill the dish with the fruit mixture (depending on the size of your peaches and mangoes, you may find you have some left over to make a fruit salad with) and sprinkle over the sugar.

Spoon the meringue carefully all over the top of the pie in a dome, making sure there are no gaps, and use a spoon to tease it into lots of peaks on top. Put the pie in the oven at the cooler temperature (don’t worry if the temperature hasn’t quite settled down yet – a little bit of extra heat at the start of cooking won’t hurt it) and bake for 1 hour – 1 hour 10 minutes until the pie is an even gold colour all over and marshmallowy inside. Serve warm or cold, but do make it as close as possible to serving as you can manage to keep the meringue nice and high and puffy.

Rhubarb and custard cake

There’s one seasonal ingredient in the shops at the moment which puts a very jolly spin on February: forced rhubarb. I’ve been buying it at the market and the supermarket (for some reason, the market produce seems rather redder) to simmer with some sugar to go with yoghurt in the mornings, and with custard at suppertime. We also spooned it over pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – I’m sure I’ll be sick of it soon, but we’re not there yet, so I chucked some in a cake.

This recipe is based on one I found on Usenet in the mid-nineties. The original was very simple: a box of cake mix, a few handsful of rhubarb, some sugar, and some cream. This is my cake-mix-free version, which is just as quick to prepare. It’s lovely and moist, has a fantastic rhubarb and custard flavour, and disappears very quickly.

I don’t really understand why you’d spend the extra on a boxed mix, when it only takes a minute to measure out flour, butter, milk and sugar. This also gives your inner control-freak the ability to manage exactly what goes into your cake. A bit of googling revealed that the ingredients panel on a standard box of yellow cake mix reads:

Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono- and Diesters Of Fats, Monoand Diglycerides), Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphat E, Monocalcium Phosphate). Contains 2% Or Less Of: Wheat Starch, Salt, Dextrose, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Artificial Flavors, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin, Modified Cornstarch, Colored with (Yellow 5 Lake, Red 40 Lake).

Personally, I prefer an ingredients list that goes like this:

250g plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
125g softened butter
3 eggs
180ml milk
450g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 stalks rhubarb
1 pint double cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Sieve the flour into a large bowl with the baking powder and salt. Give it plenty of height, to get as much air into the flour as possible.

In a separate large bowl, use an electric whisk to cream the butter and 225g of the sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one, with the vanilla essence, at a high speed. Add the flour and milk a little at a time, beating as you go, until you have a velvety, light mixture.

Use a spatula to spread the cake mixture over the bottom of a metal baking tin – use a non-stick one, or line with greased parchment. Mine measured 30×35 cm; if yours is smaller, that’s fine, but be sure it has reasonably high sides and be aware that your cooking time may be a bit longer. Cut the rhubarb into small pieces and scatter it over the top of the mixture with the remaining sugar. Pour the cream over the whole arrangement and bake for 45 minutes.

Test with a skewer, which should come out nearly clean – if it’s still sticky or liquidy when you shake the tin, give the cake another ten minutes and test again. The top will be cracked and golden. This cake is good hot or cold.

Sticky orange and almond cake

This is just great for winter – a great blast of sunny orange flavour, but rather than coming from a delicious healthy glass of juice, it’s mediated through a sugary cake, made amazingly moist and dense with ground almonds. Stodge is a very important mood-lifter in the dark evenings of December.

If you have visitors this Christmas who don’t like Christmas pudding or Christmas cake, this is a very good alternative. It’s rich, heavy and very luxurious in mouth-feel, and while a spoonful of brandy butter or a slug of cream might feel like overkill, it’d be a pretty handsome variety of overkill. If you do plan on making this for Christmas and want to kick it up a level, add three tablespoons of Cointreau or another orange liqueur to the orange juice you pour over at the end, when the cake comes out of the oven. Do not use Blue Curaçao, for obvious reasons.

You’ll need:

250g salted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
50g plain flour
200g ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond essence
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a springform tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy. (You really do need an electric mixer for this recipe, I’m afraid.) Beat the eggs and add them a tablespoon at a time to the butter and sugar mixture along with a tablespoon of flour, whisking as you go and adding more until the last batch is incorporated.

Fold the ground almonds into the batter and add the juice of 1 orange, the zest from both oranges and the almond essence. Stir the liquid ingredients gently and use a spatula to move the cake mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake for 1 hour, checking halfway through to make sure the cake isn’t browning too quickly (if it is, just put a tinfoil hat on it). The cake will leave a toothpick pushed into the centre clean when it’s ready. Remove from the heat, sprinkle over the icing sugar and poke little holes all over the top of the cake. Strain the juice from the remaining orange to get rid of any pulpy bits and spoon it evenly all over the surface of the cake. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes, remove to a rack and when completely cool, wrap carefully for a few hours before serving to allow the flavours to meld and the stickiness to reach a lovely peak.

Indian rice pudding

My elderly rice cooker died earlier this year, and my lovely Mum and Dad forbade me to buy another one in the UK, where rice cookers are usually expensive and primitive. They happened to be visiting family in Malaysia over the summer and came back with creation’s most technologically advanced rice cooker – it’s digital and has fuzzy logic (I’m not exactly sure what that means); it has settings for congee, sushi, nasi lemak, brown rice, white rice, reheating and quick cooking; it works as a steamer for meat or veg; it keeps the rice hot and perfectly textured for as much as a day; and you can use it as a slow cooker. (It’s the Panasonic SR-MPA18 – good luck finding one outside SE Asia. I believe Panasonic also makes one that you can bake cakes in.) I love it, use it several times a week…and yesterday discovered that the fridge contained two bowls of leftover rice.

Cold rice in this house usually gets turned into fried rice, with the addition of some Chinese sausage, an egg and so forth. This time I fancied something different, and remembered the Indian mother of a schoolfriend who used to turn their leftover basmati rice into a very sweet, sticky rice pudding with milk, coconut milk and Indian spices in a frying pan. Here’s my attempt at something similar – I’m pretty sure that this is a long way from being authentic, but it’s close to what I remember my friend’s mother making, and it tasted great.

You’ll need:

250g leftover cooked basmati rice
275ml milk
50g palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you can’t find palm sugar)
1 can coconut milk
5 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon, snapped in half
2 tablespoons sultanas
2 tablespoons mixed peel, plus extra to garnish

Put the rice in a frying pan with the sugar, spices, sultanas and peel, and pour the milk over. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring so the bottom doesn’t stick, until the mixture is thickening and the milk is being absorbed into the rice (5-10 minutes).

Spoon the coconut milk over the rice and continue to simmer over a very low heat, stirring now and then. The mixture will thicken as you go. When it reaches a dense, creamy consistency, take it off the heat and cover until cool. Divide into bowls and scatter each with a bit more mixed peel. This pudding is best eaten at room temperature, but you can also have it warm if you can’t wait!

Gooseberry fool

We English diners aren’t blessed with much, but we’re pretty blessed when it comes to summer fruits. We’ve been through rhubarb, strawberries, cherries and greengages already this summer: now it’s the turn of the gooseberry.

There are several different varieties of this lovely, fragrant berry, some very sharp and best used for cooking (they’re very good simmered down and served with rich meats like duck and goose), and some so sweet they can be eaten raw. Its flavour character and the texture it cooks down to means that it fits well into the sort of recipes you might cook with rhubarb – and if you don’t have any gooseberries, you can make this fool with rhubarb and emerge happy. I very much like the texture of the soft seeds and flesh of the fruit in the mouth, and don’t sieve the gooseberry puree in this recipe to remove them. Try it both ways, and see which you prefer.

Gooseberries have a fantastic affinity with elderflower. It’s just one of those happy coincidences, like strawberries and black pepper (try it some time). If you made the elderflower cordial I encourage you to make every June (or if you have some from the supermarket in the cupboard), use two tablespoons of it in place of the sugar in this recipe. To serve two, you’ll need:

450g dessert gooseberries
2 tablespoons sugar OR elderflower cordial
400ml whipping cream
400ml custard – make the custard using this recipe or buy some from the supermarket chiller cabinet

Top and tail the gooseberries with a sharp knife, and put them in a small saucepan. Add the sugar or elderflower cordial to them and put over a low heat. As they simmer, the berries will collapse into a thick sauce. Remove from the heat, taste for sweetness, adding a little more sugar or cordial if necessary, transfer to a bowl and put the gooseberries into the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. Make up the custard and put it in the fridge to chill with the berries.

When the gooseberries and custard are nice and cold, whip the cream into soft peaks. In glasses, layer the custard, gooseberries and cream to serve. Some like to swirl them in the glass, but I think this is far prettier served in distinct layers.

Mrs Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book – Baked apple pudding

I note that every year, all good intentions aside, I encounter a total failure to blog the moment I get on skis. Apologies – put it down to grotty resort food; the protein-hunger you get with after a day of exercise which kills off any ability to distinguish between the delicious and the simply calorific; and general exhaustion. (Honestly; you’re lucky I’m blogging now. I swear that jetlag only gets worse as you get older.)

I’ve a few more posts from my American odyssey to bring you, but I’ll intersperse them with some recipes and non-US reviews – like today’s. Just in time for the Darwin bicentennial, I was invited to the launch of a new edition of Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated in Cambridge. I cursed a bit about not being able to make it (I was at Disneyland that day – which although fabulous, doesn’t have any food worth writing about besides candy floss, popcorn and California’s greasiest wurst), and was delighted to find a copy of the book on the doorstep when I got back home.

When we consider the lives of the great and the good, it doesn’t usually occur to us to wonder what they ate. I mean – think of Darwin, and what comes to mind? I bet it’ll be a list along the lines of On The Origin of Species, Galapagos finches, the Beagle, beards – we dehumanise our icons and reduce them to a series of cyphers.

Emma Darwin’s little recipe notebook offers a fascinating and humanising glimpse into the family’s domestic life. They’re commonplace, simple Victorian recipes – it’s the notebook of a charmingly ordinary woman. This edition expands the little book into a good-sized, handsome cookbook by reproducing many of her handwritten pages, alongside some great food photography, some very pretty contemporary prints of ingredients like chickens and celery, and detailed notes by the editors on each recipe. There are fascinating peeps into the Darwins’ domestic life here – you may well be aware that Darwin sufferered for much of his life from a mysterious illness he is thought to have picked up in Brazil, but probably didn’t know that his doctors forbade him from eating pork (he ignored them in the case of bacon), or that he blamed rhubarb for some of his stomach problems.

Here’s Emma’s recipe for a baked apple pudding in batter. The editors suggest you use well-flavoured dessert apples, and serve with a sprinkling of sugar and plenty of cream. To serve six, you’ll need:

6 apples
2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces (75 g) flour
1 cup (250 ml) milk
2 eggs

Grease an ovenproof dish deep enough to hold the apples and batter. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Peel and core the apples. Place them in the prepared dish. In each hole, put a teaspoon of sugar, a little grated lemon peel, and top with a small piece of butter. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the apples from the oven and raise the temperature to 400°F (200°C).

While the apples are baking, sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the milk, a little at a time, and mix to a smooth batter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Pour the batter over the apples and bake for about 30 minutes, or until well risen and brown on top. Sprinkle with sugar and serve at once with cream.

Chocolate orange fairy cakes

I eat precisely one Terry’s Chocolate Orange every year, at Christmas. Here, for non-festive times of year, is the same thing in cake form.

There will be no post here on Monday; it’s a Bank Holiday, and I shall be spending the day on a boat.

To make 16 little cakes, you’ll need:

100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Grated zest of 1 oranges

75g dark chocolate (I used Hotel Chocolat’s amazing 100% cocoa solids bar from the Purist range)
50g butter
75ml double cream
Grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 200° C. Beat all the cake ingredients together with an electric whisk until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy. Divide it between 16 paper cake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are pale gold in colour, and a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean. Set the cakes to cool on a rack while you make the icing.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over some boiling water. Stir in the orange zest and a tablespoon of the cold cream, and begin to beat with the electric whisk on medium. Pour in the cream in a thin stream as you beat, and when all the cream is incorporated, continue to beat air into the chocolate until the mixture is pale, spreadable and light.

Spread the icing over the cooled cakes with a knife (or, if you don’t hate washing up, pipe it on). These cakes keep well in an airtight container for a few days.