Salt-Flaked Dark Chocolate Tart

Thursday, 18 September 2014


Marks & Spencer make this amazing chocolate pot that you heat up and mix with cream, pour into a waiting pastry shell and leave to set.  

Yes, you read that right.  

I'm sure by now you're aware of how much of an unequivocal snob I am about box mixes and other things that make baking easier but I consider cheating.  I generally don't believe they taste anywhere near as nice as something you've made from scratch, and I like to know exactly what I've put in so that I know what I'm eating.  Also, it's so fun! Creaming the butter and sugar at the beginning of a cake is the best part, who wants to miss out on that?  (Who wants to miss out on tasting that, more importantly...)

But I understand that we don't always have the luxury of time when baking is required, and also, as with every rule, there are exceptions.  This Pot Au Chocolat from M&S is one of them, and manages to make a better chocolate tart filling than I've managed myself so far.  It really tastes delicious and I've been trying to recreate it from scratch ever since.  

This is one of those attempts.

As these photos make apparent, I still have some practise to put in before I make a photogenic shortcrust pastry shell, but trust me when I say the flavour was there.  I brought this round to my friend Claire's house for Sunday lunch with the girls, and Steph kindly called it "rustic, but in the good way".  

This is an amalgamation of recipes - the pastry is from Paul Hollywood, the filling from Jamie Oliver.  Claire, who was hosting, had mentioned that she had salted caramel ice cream, so I wanted to make something that would go well with that.  Chocolate, obviously, but I knew it had to be that decadent mix of salt and sweet to do justice to the combination.

I love the look of the salt flakes sprinkled across the top.  Just - trust me (ie. learn from my mistakes!) -  don't sprinkle the salt until you're about to serve it, as the chocolate filling will absorb them.  This will leave you wanting to add more just for aesthetics - and then it'll be too salty!

Whilst this may not yet be the chocolate tart of my dreams, I do feel as if I've taken an enormous step closer.  One day soon I can stand proudly on my high horse and declare that I succeeded in emulating a convenience food with something homemade.  Until then I'll be quiet.  ...Or quieter, anyway.

Yield: one 9-inch tart       Time: 4 hours, including chilling time (if making the pastry from scratch)


for the pastry

250g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 medium egg yolks
50ml cold water

for the chocolate filling

300ml double cream
2 teaspoons caster sugar
50g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken up
50ml whole milk
sea salt flakes to sprinkle


  1. To make the pastry, tip the flour into a bowl and add the butter cubes.  Rub the two together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the egg yolks and start to mix with your hands, before adding the water slowly.  It should form a paste, cleaning the sides of the bowl as you go.
  3. Tip your dough out onto a floured surface and shape gently into a ball.  Be careful not to over handle the dough.  Flatten it into a disc and wrap in cling film, before chilling in the fridge for at least three hours.
  4. Once the dough has chilled for the correct amount of time, heat your oven to 180C fan / 200C / 350F / Gas Mark 4 .
  5. Lightly butter your pie dish.  Roll out your dough and place in your waiting dish, covering with greaseproof paper and filling with baking beans.  Blind bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, lift off the baking beans in the paper and place them somewhere heatproof to cool down, and leave the pastry shell to cool.
  6. To make the filling, place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Once it begins bubbling, remove from the heat.
  7. Add the butter and chocolate, stirring until melted and fully incorporated.
  8. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute or two before adding the milk.  The mixture should be silky!
  9. Pour into the pastry case and leave to set for up to two hours.  Sprinkle with sea salt flakes just before serving (if done earlier, it absorbs them!).


Shortcrust pastry recipe from Paul's Hollywood's How to Bake.  If you don't have time to make your own pastry, you can use a store-bought one.  It'll drastically reduce the time it takes to make this dish.

Dark chocolate tart filling recipe from Jamie Oliver.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My friend, Zara, is a huge fan of chocolate chips in Banana Bread.  It was something I'd never considered doing.  Chocolate and banana?  Really?  Google swiftly put me right on the matter and made me realise that it was just me thinking it to be an odd combination.

This is the same wonderfully light recipe that I posted here, but with some chocolate chips thrown in.  It feels like a cheat posting it, but just in case there's anyone else out there who hasn't thought to put these two flavours together, I am posting it.  I stand corrected: it is delicious.


Yield: one 2lb loaf


100g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk

150g chocolate chips


+ Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / 350F / Gas mark 4 .
+ Lightly grease and line the bottom of a 2lb (900g) loaf tin.

  1. Mix all of the ingredients, apart from the chocolate chips, together in a mixing bowl for about two minutes, until well-blended.
  2. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Spoon into your prepared tin, and bake for 50-60 minutes, until well risen and golden brown.
  4. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Adapted from: Mary Berry's Banana Loaf.

Summer Greek Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Hello!  I inadvertently took a summer break there, my apologies.  I will never cease to be impressed by bloggers who manage to work full time, blog regularly, and live their lives all at the same time.  I constantly feel as if I'm dropping a ball somewhere, and my little corner here has been that ball of late.

But!  Isn't summer wonderful.  We had a few glorious weeks of weather here so I made sure to enjoy as much of it as I could.  I played Bowls for the first time, ate ice cream, wished Jo a happy birthday, and survived a two-week bootcamp - 6.30am every day for an hour!  Oh, and made this salad.  Many times!

This is a perfect salad for on-the-go summer days, when you don't want to have to turn on the oven, or miss any of the precious sunshine outside.  The vinaigrette comes together quickly in a jam jar and will easily keep for a week in the fridge so you can mix and match it with other dishes, too.  I haven't specified amounts for the salad ingredients because it's very adaptable to what you have on hand and which ingredients you love the most, but I have put in italicised brackets the rough amounts I used as a guideline should you need it.

I'm in love with summer.  I'm in love with this salad.  I hope you will be, too!

Feeds: 4 people        Time: 20 minutes


for the dressing
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
a pinch of sea salt
some freshly cracked black pepper

for the salad
100g orzo pasta, cooked and cooled
(1/4) cucumber, cut into small chunks
(12) cherry tomatoes, halved
(100g) feta cheese, crumbled
(1/2) red onion, thinly chopped
(two handfuls) pitted (Kalamata) olives
fresh basil, torn
freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Place all the dressing ingredients together in a clean jam jar, close the lid tightly and shake vigorously until combined.  It'll make more than you need, but it can be stored for up to a week in the fridge so you can use it with other salads!
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the salad ingredients.  Season with pepper.  Add the dressing as you serve.  Eat!


Adapted from Joy the Baker.

Devonshire Scones

Thursday, 31 July 2014

It's summer here and it's so beautiful.  London is quieter, warmer, friendlier, and it's almost hard to imagine that we regularly spend our summer days under grey skies, shielding ourselves from the rain.  This summer has actually been a summer so far, and almost everyone's loving it.  Just this morning I was fifteen minutes early to work and spent ten of them just standing outside, face turned up to the sky.

Last weekend saw my Mum, our eighteen-year old cat Catkin, and I take a little expedition to visit family.  It was a palaver and an adventure, not helped by the fact that I'd decided to get my very first spray tan done that morning and so had to sit in suspended animation for the entire journey.  Catkin howled, I looked like a patchily-bronzed statue, and my Mum was left wondering how she ended up in a car of such misfits.  

Nevertheless, we arrived safe and well, had a wonderful weekend, and now it's already Thursday and I can't believe another week has flown by.  The weekend was book-ended by Olivia being home, so Friday and Monday were a delightful whirlwind of bridal shops, bridesmaid dresses, a naughty Big Easy dinner with Flynn, and delicious coffee at Poilane.

As you may know if you follow my Instagram feed, these scones have been in the making for a little while.  I was first introduced to the recipe by my neighbour, Pauline.  We've had a few afternoon teas at hers over the years and more often than not she'll pull these scones out of the oven.  Eventually I just had to ask her for the recipe.  Not long later, a photocopy floated through my letterbox, and now I can pass this brilliant recipe on to you.  I like to serve them with either butter or whipped vanilla cream, along with Homemade Raspberry Jam.  A cat who wants to steal your cream is optional, but highly recommended.

Yield: 18 scones       Time: 30 minutes


for the scones

450g self-raising flour
2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
75g unsalted butter, at room temperature
50g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
225ml milk (approximately)

for the cream
200ml cream, whipped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder

for the jam
see Homemade Raspberry Jam recipe here


Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Heat your oven to 200C / 425F / Gas Mark 7.

  1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub it between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Pour the eggs into a measuring jug and add in enough milk to make it up to a generous 300ml.  Put a tablespoon's worth of the mixture to one side to use for glazing the scones later.
  4. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until you have a soft dough.  The mixture will stick to your hands.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it out with your hand (or a rolling pin) to a thickness of 1-2cm (1/2 - 1in).
  6. Using a 5cm (2in) fluted cutter, stamp out the scones by pressing firmly down and lifting.  Gently push the remaining dough together, knead very lightly and then re-roll and repeat until you've used up all the dough.
  7. Place the scones on the lined baking trays and brush the tops with the reserved beaten egg mixture.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes or so until well-risen and golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool, covering with a tea towel to ensure their freshness.  Serve as fresh as possible with jam and cream (or butter!).


It's much better to have a wet mixture than a dry mixture as it will rise better!

Try not to twist the cutter whilst stamping the scones out of the dough, as the smooth edges you get by simply pressing straight down help them to rise evenly and keep their shape.

Scones are always best eaten fresh and really don't last long.  All the more reason to eat and share them all at once!

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