Maître Choux Eclairs, South Kensington


Maitre Choux eclairs

I am a huge pastry fan and crème pâtissière/ custard/ clotted cream/ any type of cream fan. So éclairs are a pretty satisfying combination for me. I recently started seeing press about beautifully colourful and delicately designed éclairs that were reinventing this classic and had to find out more. My brief research showed that there was a new éclair joint in South Kensington and the website alone made my heart rate increase! It is almost like a fashion website with the éclairs photographed at every angle to make sure that you are fully informed about the height, width, depth, external and interior decoration of these scrumptious desserts. Maître Choux is a small new pâtisserie created by top pastry chef Joakim Prat.

The following Saturday we headed down on an éclair mission. The shop is a beautifully designed small space with panelling and Lee Broom lights suspended like jewellery. The window alone makes everyone stop in their stride as there is a bounty of colours and flavours on display with deliciously delicate decorations on top. This makes the simple decision of which éclair to try take at least ten minutes. Of course, the most sensible thing to do would be to buy ten to get a broad sense of the pastries!

A group of us went so we all tried different ones: pistachio, coffee, chocolate, and yuzu and lemon. All delicious! We had coffee (Monmouth) which came with chouquettes – delicious balls of choux pastry coated with chunky pieces of sugar. Some éclairs out there are too dense in general with heavy dough and an over generous filling of thick cream. I think they should be a puff of extravagance! Crisp pastry soothed with silky cream. These were perfect and the flavours were superb.

Maitre Choux, South Kensington

Maître Choux’s flavours vary from salted butter and caramel, dark multi-origin chocolate, Tahitian vanilla and pecan, to orange and saffron. Plus the flavours change so multiple trips are an absolute necessity. Every time I go to an exhibition in South Ken I will be sure to stop by to check on these deliciously indulgent éclairs. In fact, I’ll see if I even make it to any exhibitions!

Find Maître Choux at 15 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ES

Maitre Choux, South Kensington

Maitre Choux, South Kensington

Rhubarb Upside-Down Pudding

Rhubarb upside-down cake recipe

When a recipe’s first instruction is to pour 100ml golden syrup into the bottom of a cake tin my sweet-tooth’s knee-jerk reaction is “Do it! Make it! Do it! Make it!”. Naturally I did and it was delicious!! This is a recipe by Lucas Hollweg from the Waitrose magazine, February 2014. I often pull out his recipes from the seasonal section and finally a year a few months later I have made this pudding. It is really easy and only requires 20 minutes’ preparation and 35 minutes in the oven: perfect for a laid-back Sunday afternoon. I have altered the ingredients slightly from the original recipe as I didn’t quite have everything so instead of light brown sugar I used dark brown (my favourite!) and instead of ground ginger I used allspice.

What you need:

A cake tin at around 20cm diameter

100g unsalted butter (and a little more for greasing the cake tin)

125g golden syrup

450g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into pieces 1cm long

Zest of 1 orange

100g dark brown sugar

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 free-range eggs

50g ground almonds

50g self-raising flour

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C, 170C (fan).

2. Grease the cake tin with butter.

3. Pour 100g golden syrup into the cake tin and place the rhubarb pieces on top, packed tightly together.

4. Scatter half the orange zest over it.

5. Beat the butter, sugar, remaining syrup, remaining zest, ground allspice and cinnamon together.

6. Beat one egg in at a time with 25g of ground almonds.

7. Fold the flour in, then spoon the mixture onto the rhubarb pieces and smooth it so it is evenly spread.

8. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. It is ready when a fork comes out of the batter clean.

9. Remove it from the oven and leave it to stand for 15 minutes. Carefully turn it onto a plate and eat it with cream, ice-cream or crème fraîche. It is also delicious and very moist on its own.

I think I may even have some for breakfast! (It is good to start the day with fruit.)

Rhubarb and orange zest for rhubarb upside-down cake recipe

The rhubarb and zest on a sticky bed of golden syrup

Rhubarb upside-down puddingrecipe

Devouring has started!

Bad Brownie – Kings Cross Real Food Market

Bad Brownie salted caramel

Salted caramel brownie – a really bad one, so so bad

Bad Brownie peanut brittle

The peanut butter brownie moments before complete demolition

Last Saturday, passing through Kings Cross on the way to St Albans for an outing, we came across the Real Food Market in the square outside the now amazing station (I love how it has been revamped, it is now a pleasure to walk around there!). It was a wonderful surprise and the most wonderful of all was the stall Bad Brownie. It is a stall with about 8 or so types of brownies with flavours varying from triple chocolate and Bakewell to bacon and maple syrup. We bought the salted caramel (anything with this name tag is impossible to resist) and the peanut butter which had a kind of peanut brittle on top – so so awfully bad.

They were amazing! I was passing through Kings Cross again today and ran up the stairs from the underground fuelled by the thought of these brownies only to find an empty square. Humph. The Real Food Market is not on every Saturday. No bad brownie today.

Bad Brownie is however to be found at various markets in London on various days. Find out more on their website by clicking here.

Bad Brownie


Walnut Shortbread with Chocolate Drizzles

Walnut shortbread

Walnut shortbread with chocolate drizzle recipe

Sometimes I have a deep strong urge to have biscuits. I don’t usually have packets in the flat so it inevitably leads to baking my own. Shortbread is one of my go-to recipes as it is easy and always delicious. You can alter the recipe too by adding bits like nuts, chocolate, seeds, and so on, as it is a good base. You can also use caster sugar or icing sugar to get a slightly crumblier texture with the former than the latter. However, this is if you aren’t staunchly conservative about how shortbread should be made, i.e. traditionally. I once made”disco ball shortbread” by adding silver sugar balls which was quite fun and silly (picture at the end) .

This recipe takes 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to bake so from urge to satisfaction can be as little as 30 minutes!

What you need:

75g walnut pieces

250g plain flour

175g unsalted butter, softened

85g icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C.

2. Roast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes, remove and set aside.

3. Beat the softened butter  with a wooden spoon until it is really soft and smooth.

4. Add the icing sugar, dessert spoon at a time, and mix it in until it is blended well with the butter.

5. Add the half teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix that in well.

6. Add the flour and blend it with the buttery mixture, adding the nuts as you mix.

7. Take pieces of the dough, around the size of a ping pong ball, and flatten them into circles at about a centimetre thickness.

8. Place them on a greaseproof lined baking tray, not too close together, and bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Turn the trays around half way through so the shortbreads bake evenly.

9. Once the shortbreads are lightly golden, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.

10. Melt the chocolate over a gentle heat and drizzle it over the shortbreads and voila, they are ready to satisfy the urge!

Disco ball shortbread

Disco ball shortbread!

Raspberry Ripple Custard Tarts – from Dan Lepard’s “Short and Sweet”

Raspberry Ripple Custard Tarts recipe

I was given Dan Lepard’s “Short and Sweet” for my birthday a couple of years ago and I love it. It is full of baking techniques from making breads to tarts to éclairs. I have been making Dan Lepard’s recipes for years as he writes baking columns for papers and every recipe always sounds and looks scrumptious!

I made his Raspberry Ripple Tart recipe for dessert when friends came over for dinner. Instead of serving little ones I made one large one with a huge swirl of raspberry through the custard. I also made several small ones (pictured) for dessert the next day – always necessary!

The recipe is relatively simple and definitely a crowd-pleaser. The raspberry ripple is simply raspberries crushed with sugar so if you don’t have time to make the pastry you could buy shortcrust pastry and just make the custard. If you do have time though it is worth the effort.

This is a good dessert to make in advance as the pastry needs to be chilled and the custard needs to cool as well so it will need about an hour and a half to make overall.

Here’s how to make it:

For the shortcrust pastry (once made it will require 30 minutes to chill) –

250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

150g unsalted butter (cold)

2 egg yolks

15ml ice cold water

A pinch of salt

For the custard –

325ml milk

Half a vanilla pod, split lengthways

75g caster sugar

3 tablespoons plain flour

2 egg whites (reserved from the eggs used for the pastry)

300ml double cream

For the ripple –

150g raspberries

75g caster sugar


1. First, make the pastry by putting the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.

2. Cut the butter into little pieces, put them in the bowl with the flour, sugar and salt and rub the butter into these ingredients until it has blended with them.

3. Stir the egg yolks with the water, pour this into the bowl with the flour mixture and combine it to form a soft and smooth paste.

4. Shape the dough into a block, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes before using it.

5. Heat the oven to 160C/ 180C fan.

6. Once the pastry has chilled, take it out of the fridge and roll it out thinly. Sprinkle some flour on the surface and rolling pin to avoid it sticking.

7. If you are making a large tart, line a greased tart tin with the pastry and, if you are making small tarts, cut circles of pastry and line each pocket of a greased muffin tray with the pastry.

8. Put a large piece of baking paper on the pastry (if you’re using one large tin) or muffin cases on the pastry (if you’re using a muffin tray), and fill them half-way with baking beans or dry rice.

9. Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes until dry and golden. Remove from the oven, leave to cool and then remove the greaseproof paper or muffin cases with the baking beans or rice.

10.  Whilst the pastry is cooling, you can make the custard. Start by heating the milk with the vanilla pod on a medium heat.

11. In a bowl whisk the sugar, flour and egg whites until smooth. Beat the hot milk into this mixture in the bowl, then pour it all back into the pan and heat until boiling whisking the whole time.

12. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the vanilla pod and cover the pan with a plate (to stop a skin forming). Leave until the custard is cold.

13. Whilst the custard is cooling crush the raspberries with the caster sugar.

14. When the custard is cold, whip the cream until soft peaks form and fold it gently through the custard.

15. Put the pastry case/s on a plate or cake stand and spoon the custard into the pastry case/s and swirl the raspberries through it.

16. Devour!

Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard

Beautiful cover. Beautiful book.

Raspberry Ripple Tarts recipe

If that isn’t a tempting dessert photo, I don’t know what is!

Last weekend I attempted my first coffee Paris-Brest (a recipe from “Short and Sweet”) which are small choux pastries cut in half with coffee custard in the centre and flaked almonds and caramel on top. The choux pastry puffed up a lot (as it does in general due to the water content) which meant that they turned out nothing like the photo in the book! I need to attempt these again but I can certainly say that coffee custard and choux pastry are sublime together!


Not so Paris-Brest!

Ten Days in Provence Chapter 2

Aperitif tapenade from St Quentin


Local olives

Local olives

Tomato souffle tart

A cheesy souffle style tart

Tomato, mozzarella basil salad

Tomato, mozzarella and pesto salad

Delicous aperitif

Aperitif of tomato paste, black olive paste and an unusual curried melon paste

Wine with eau de vie

Wine fortified with eau de vie

Delicious peach tart

A peach tart from the boulangerie


Protecting the figs

Protecting the figs from birds; occasionally they got to one. Whilst picking figs you’d find a plump luscious one and go to pluck it only to find that the other side had a big chunk removed showing its pinky purple juicy flesh.

Rogue hand going for a fig

I love figs. I am a fig pig!

In August I spent another fabulous 10 days in Provence relaxing, eating and drinking extremely well, visiting markets and going to the city wide photography festival in Arles. Last year I blogged about my stay here. This is quite a retro blog post as I was in Provence in August and it is now December! Looking at these photos again is certainly warming me up during this crisp and chilly month.

We went to St Quentin la Poterie which is a beautiful small town famous for the potters whose studios are dotted about the winding streets. It also has a wonderful market. The market isn’t postcard pretty as it is set up in a car park but the produce is fantastic. We went there to pick up bread, cheese, pastes for aperitif, fresh vegetables and fruit and even handmade peppermint, geranium and verbena soaps. The potters’ studios are great and varied, with some allowing you to see the potters at work, so we started a little collection of crockery – to put the bread, cheese, fresh veg, etc on of course!

Every morning at the house we collected figs from the tree. One morning we collected an astonishing 41 figs! The ones that weren’t reserved for jam making only lasted until the next day’s breakfast. They were temptingly delicious!

I loved the routine during the holiday. It went something like this: wake-up, breakfast on the terrace, relax in a hammock, have aperitif by the pool then lunch in the garden, relax again, have aperitif then supper and then relax. Such a strenuous time! Eating outdoors was one of the things I loved so much. Working indoors (as most people do) means that the simple act of being outside is such a novelty (sadly) even though it is so normal. Everything is better when done outdoors in beautiful weather: drinking a glass of wine, cutting into a fresh baguette, eating a fig. It isn’t even necessary to follow any recipes there as the local produce is so good that all you need to do is eat it in different combinations. I think the photos say it all.

Always room for cheese

There is always room for cheese!

Salmon on the barbecue with red onion and lemon

Salmon, lemon and red onion cooked on the barbecue

St Quentin la Poterie

St Quentin la Poterie with the beautiful tiled detail running down the centre of the lanes.


Nature, food and walks on the Penwith Peninsula, Cornwall

Walking away from Kynaston Cove

A view along the walk from Kynance Cove to Lizard Point

Lifeboat House

Approaching Lizard Point and its lifeboat house

Beautiful Cornish water

Beautiful clear water

Cornish geology

Pink and green in the rugged granite

Dry stone wall and Lizard Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Lizard Point in the distance

Penwith Peninsula

Looking down towards Kynance Cove

Venton Vean, Penzance

Venton Vean – a fantastic b&b in Penzance

Lush garden at Venton Vean

The view from our bedroom in Venton Vean

Georgian Penzance

Palm trees in front of Georgian terraces – exotic England!

We recently enjoyed a fantastic trip to Penzance for four days of fresh air, walks, good food (including scones and clotted cream, naturally!) and being able to look into the distance. It might sound silly but when you live in a dense city, when do you look into the distance? Perhaps if you work in a skyscraper you can, but generally you have so much cluttering your sightline that you don’t focus on anything in the distance. One of the great things about Cornwall is that you are surrounded by coast line and the blue of the vast Atlantic stretching to the horizon. The rugged rocks and soil of the coast are covered in grasses, flowers and succulents. Some of the beaches are even dark and grey. It feels exotic yet familiar. Having a scone on the most southerly point of Cornwall at Lizard Point was quaintly British yet beautifully exotic with the sun overhead and the deep blue of the ocean endlessly before us. This was, indeed, a good spot for looking into the distance!

We stayed at Venton Vean and could not have been more thrilled with our choice. Venton Vean means “Little Spring” in Cornish and we felt very warmly welcomed from the moment we stepped in. It is run by a couple who moved from London and restored this Victorian home into a beautiful b&b. We were greeted with an offer of homemade honey cake and tea and coffee and, needless to say, we wolfed it down. The honey cake was amazing! The house itself is decorated beautifully with light blue painted woodwork on the exterior doors and windows sparking up the varying shades of grey and beige stone. There are various artworks, prints, objects and curiosities dotted about the house with a casually stylish feel. There is a blanket box full of DVDs and tons of books to borrow if you want to relax. Our spotless bedroom was beautiful and bright with a large very comfortable floating bed and a view of the lush front garden. The bathroom had natural products (tested on humans, not animals) made locally.  Now to breakfast! Oh my goodness, it was seriously scrumptious. Every morning there was a spread of homemade jams and yoghurt, fresh bread from a local bakery and cereals. There was also a special menu of huevos rancheros, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, fluffy berry pancakes and grilled halloumi with wilted spinach. We ordered these and each was delicious. Sometimes there were also freshly baked scones in the breakfast room in the afternoon. The whole house felt so welcoming and everything from the food to the decoration was tip top. So much so, we wanted to move in! It’s always a good sign when you go somewhere and can imagine yourself living there!

Every day we went for long walks along the coast,  to St Ives and around Penzance and the Tremenheere Sculpture Garden. After our long days outside, literally a breath of fresh air from mainly sitting in the office/ studio during the week,  we longed for a satisfying meal. We ate so well. We had researched restaurants and pubs before our trip and made some bookings. It was hard to decide which to book as there are so many highly recommended restaurants in Cornwall. On our first night we had dinner at The Victoria Inn in Perranuthnoe. The chef trained with Raymond Blanc and Michael Caines and everything was delicious. The drinks menu had several local beers and ales so we had to try them. I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos of the food as I was too busy eating it. We also ate at The Alba along the waterfront in St Ives. A few photos of our dishes are below: mackerel three ways and scallops. Again, this was a great place. You are wonderfully spoiled for choice for good places to eat in Cornwall and the fresh fish is definitely a big pull. We had a super time and I would shoot back tomorrow.

Homemade jam at Venton Vean

A rainbow of homemade jam at Venton Vean. So so good.

Halloumi and wilted spinach

Grilled halloumi, tomatoes and wilted spinach

Fluffy pancakes

Fluffy berry pancakes for breakfast


Scallops in Cornwall

Scallops at The Alba

Mackerel Three Ways

Mackerel Three Ways at The Alba