Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A Rhubard Curd Tart...that wasn't tart at all!

I'm a few years in to growing rhubarb in one of my raised veg the point where things are growing so well my freezer is stuffed to the rafters with rhubarb and I'm basically giving it away left right and centre to any neighbour, relative and friend who'll eat it. I'm also becoming obsessed with finding new and different ways to cook and eat it...from savoury to sweet you name it, I'm googling for it and slowly working my way through a list....with the help of Pinterest of course, and my vast collection of cookery books.

We English are rather fond of our puddings...and a rhubarb crumble is a staple in our house...but there's only so much crumble a gal can eat...and where as it makes a welcome comforting dish during cold winter days (and where the pieces carefully frozen and stored in the freezer come into play)...during the early summer, when it's warm and the rhubarb is fresh and tender you find yourself wanting to make the most of it at it's best and freshest...but need something summery and lighter perhaps...

(although not necessarily lighter calorie wise...sigh)

After previous years experimenting in various preserving recipes for chutneys (photo above), I was looking at perhaps making a jam....(any way to store and preserve it is good by me) but most websites and my books suggest that this really only works well when using early tender and forced rhubarb this being the beginning of August with my plants mature, fat and ready to start wilting back, that didn't bode well on the jam front...

...and then, during a evening 'Pinteresting' I came across Rhubarb curd!

Hmmmm? Rhubarb Curd? Now that was something new for me. I was keen to give it a go.

The problem however, when searching for recipes on places like Pinterest, is that you can quite literally get bogged down with so many variations you aren't sure which way to turn and which one to try out so I pinned a few and took a closer look into them at what to do. I'm quite familiar with making lemon and lime curds...but wasn't sure how to prep the rhubarb (turns out there is more than one way). Firstly I settled on using a recipe from the good old tried and tested website BBCGoodFood, with a nice easy safe recipe to follow with little outlay and effort and a small yield of just two jars (so no mass of stuff to dispose of if all goes horribly wrong...oh me of little faith lol!) here's the link -

but one thing however did bother me. Their instructions called for the raw rhubarb to be run in a blender to create a pulp/juice...and I was not willing to do this and then have to deal with cleaning my blender (yes I was being a tad lazy that day) PLUS my rhubarb was mature and probably tougher than the usual forced stems (that they use) so I wasn't sure my blender was up to the task. So another scan of the pin board and I noticed another recipe by American food page The Kitchn -

Here, the instructions said to stew the rhubarb in a little water...and suggested this makes it that got me thinking....

Stew the rhubarb, but keep to the BBCGF recipe ingredients....and despite the fact the stewing would in effect have extra water in it, this would be counterbalanced by the added cornflour (in fact if you read the comments and ratings below, someone even advises adding extra cornflour to make the curd even thicker).

(As it turned out, I think stewing the rhubarb then giving it a further going over with my Bamix hand blender, pulverised the rhubarb very well and I extracted far more juice than was needed. I'm not convinced my food Blender would have done the job as well).

So, that was sorted and I set about my curd making. Here's the combo of the two above recipes -

RHUBARB CURD - (makes two jars)

  • 600g forced rhubarb, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped (yes it does call for forced rhubarb....but as it turned out my more mature stems were perfectly fine and I just chopped them up smaller so they'd break down quicker)
  •  a little water for stewing
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g butter, diced
  • 4 tsp cornflour
  • 175g caster sugar (I used vanilla pod infused unrefined golden castor sugar
    First prep/sterilise two regular sized jam jars.
    Place the rhubarb in a pan, barely cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer until the stems become soft and pulpy. This might take approx. 20mins but depends on the size and thickness of the pieces. Remove from heat. If possible, use a hand blender to break the rhubarb down further (to enable you to extract as much juice as possible...then strain through a sieve, keeping the juice to make the curd. I use a plastic fine sieve over a bowl for sieving fruits, and push it through with a wooden spoon....I think using a metal sieve and utensils can often taint the fruit with a metallic taste. Set juice aside to cool.
    You can use the left over pulp for something else (it's great stirred into some yoghurt). After hitting my stewed rhubarb with my Bamix hand blender I managed to sieve out much more juice than is probably usually expected and only had 2 tablespoons of pulp left.
    Place the eggs, butter, cornflour, sugar, and 250ml of the rhubarb juice into a pan over a very low heat and whisk continuously until the butter has all melted and the ingredients have all incorporated. Then switch to using a wooden spoon and stir, again continuously over the very low heat until the curd thickens to about the consistency of custard. This may take some not be tempted to turn up the heat, this will only curdle the eggs and turn it into a scrambled mess. Also keep an eye out to prevent it catching on the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
    Sieve a second time, into a clean bowl, to remove any lumps, stir in a further 100ml more of the reserved juice (optional)...and fill your prepped jam jars. Seal, cool and store in the fridge (for up to one week)
    So, here's my effort! Firstly, you can see the jug of left over juice in the background, over 100ml so that was jarred up to be used for a lemonade spritzer drink. But back to the you can see, the colour changed rather dramatically (and disappointingly) which I think is due to the lovely deep yellow free range eggs I used. So the deep salmon pink of the pulp dissipated into the egg sugar mix to became a rather insipid flesh colour...but hey ho...
    It was the taste that was important to me...
    Had to be good and patient to allow it to cool and with an overnighter in the fridge to thicken it up some more....then it was dive in with a spoon and give a verdict...
    ...and boy did it taste good!
    Not what I expected at all, the curd was creamy, smooth, velvety...not tart at all (real surprise considering it is rhubarb!) but not too sweet either and with a subtle buttery vanilla background. The consistency was soft, unlike the curds I'm used to making...and certainly no where near the gelatinous stuff they sell in the supermarkets. In my opinion, it's was very close to that of crème pat (only obviously rhubarb tasting)....
    divine...totally divine!
    If you like rhubarb, and you like making preserves and curds etc, then you really need to make some. Yes it has a short shelf life...but to be honest, once you taste it, that jar will empty quicker than you think lol!
    So, asides from just diving in and eating it straight of the spoon....I started to ponder over ways in which to use it. BBCGF page suggests slathering it on toast and crumpets...which I'm rather partial too with my lemon curds...
    ...but there was something about this one that seemed far too creamy and decadent to be partnered up with bread.
    It was crying out to be used in a dessert.
    So I thought, lets try a little pastry tart, filled with the curd, topped with some more rhubarb (roasted pieces this time) to put some of the bite and tang back in...
    First things - I made a shortcrust pastry. Very easy and quick to do...just a plain one. I don't bother with making sweet enriched pastry for sweet tarts because I like to balance the sweeter contents with a plain base. I use a good old tried and trusted recipe from BBC Food site -
    Just click on the link and follow their instructions...I'm not going to type it all out again because it's just straight up as it is written, no tweaking or alterations by me.
    I rolled out very thin (I like really thin crispy delicate bases to my dessert tarts) and blind baked in a small loose bottomed tartlet pan. soggy bottoms!
    While this was set aside to cool, I then went and got myself a nice young tender stem of rhubarb, fresh from the garden.
    Washed and trimmed into small pieces, I places the rhubarb onto a baking tray and roasted in the oven for a couple of minutes...a couple was all it took as it was quite a thin stem.
    Now roasting is an ideal way to cook rhubarb if you want to soften but retain it's shape (stewing obviously breaks down the fibres). Some cooks suggest you sprinkle with sugar and a spoonful of water, but I didn't bother...I wanted a bit of bite and to keep the rhubarb as tangy as possible.
    While the roasted rhubarb pieces cooled, I set about filling the tart pastry case with my rhubarb curd. Because I intended on eating straight away, I didn't bother with sealing the pastry case with an egg wash (and some people brush melted chocolate in) but if the tart had to sit around for awhile (say if I was making for a party or dinner) then I probably would because the liquid in the curd will probably soften and seep into the after all that hard work cooking to ensure no soggy don't want to go ruining it with the filling putting one right back in there do you!
    The tart got decorated with the roasted rhubarb....which I had a dilemma over - go all rustic and scatter or be more civilised and posh and make a symmetrical pattern....
    civilised and posh won!
    ...and then a dusting of icing's all pretty!
    Crispy pastry, soft creamy filling, tangy bites of rhubarb...
    Oh my did THAT taste good!
    I think we can safely say this curd recipe and tart will be made quite a few more times in this kitchen :)
    Hope you enjoyed reading this....and that it inspires you to have a go at making your own curd.
    xxx Ange xxx

    Wednesday, 26 March 2014

    Paper 'Faux FlowerSoft' Floral Embellishments

    Hi guys! remember me? ;) !!!!

    It's been a while since my last blog post and I apologise, again! BUT I do seem to have more people following me on Facebook and reading my posts on there, than on here :( so I tend to post more there nowadays.....if you want to keep up to date with what I'm up to, then I do suggest you join me on Facebook.

    I've been very busy painting and doing commission work that I have not been able to post info about but yesterday I took a day out of that schedule to do some papercrafting....namely making some cards for an upcoming MIL birthday, plus we celebrate Mothers Day here in the UK on Sunday 30th March so I have made my mom a card, plus another one for  my other half's mom.

    I've decided to blog a little tutorial that came about while creating the above mentioned birthday card. I posted on facebook about it this morning and mentioned I'd made my own flower embellishments....and people have asked how I did it....

    so here it is -

    Paper Faux 'Flower Soft' inspired embellishments

    This tutorial makes a cluster like a stylised lavender or buddleija head.

    Firstly I'd like to point out that I don't think I can claim this technique to be totally my own and unique...I'm sure there's probably someone else out there who's already done this....I just think it is fun and wanted to share with you how I do it.

    Now, if you know me well, you'll know I'm not the greatest fan of Flower Soft...I do not have any in my studio because I generally do not make cards in a way that requires it. I think it probably does have a good place in cardmaking...but just not in my style of cardmaking,

    (if you have no idea what I'm on flowersoft and you'll find out)

    Yesterday, however, I was asked to make a specific style card...pretty and floral, lavender flower themed and in this case I really did feel it needed a floral embellishment of some sort. Die cut shapes didn't work, it needed something much more dimensional and even if I did have flowersoft, it wouldn't have been 'chunky' enough. I wanted something a bit bigger and more stylised so decided to create my own version...a faux flowersoft technique, but using cardstock, cut into micro sized bits so I could have more control over size...and perfectly co-ordinate the colour and card with the rest of the card.

    Scissors use good sharp quality ones, I use small Friskers variety which cut right to the point and are nice and small which is good for fine work and snipping little bits.
    Card stock in colour of your choice...a great way to use up the offcut and remnants from the card making.
    Pinflair Glue Gel adhesive This is clear, thick, gloppy and perfect for this job. It is slow drying so you have a lovely amount of time to fiddle about shaping your flower cluster.
    Paper wrapped floral wire stems most craft shops and flower shops will have this and I always have some in my stash that gets used for all manner of craft and art projects. In this project I'm using 'Hamilworth' # 22 which are 36cm in total length and come in packs of 25. I deliberately stock white paper ones so that I can colour them to perfectly match any projects, but you can get a nice green one if you're only ever going to use it to make floral embellishments. Paper wrapped wire is important because you need a paper base for the glue to key/hold onto....I've tried using just plain wire and the glue can slide and move out of shape.
    Cocktail Sticks or similar for moving the glue into shape.
    Small container for keeping your paper cuttings in flower soft, this stuff can flick everywhere.
    Wire Cutters/ tin snips (not pictured) for cutting your floral not use scissors or the blades will get nicked and ruined....use the right tools for the purpose!
    Square of polystyrene or sponge (not pictured) for sticking your wire stems into to allow the glue to dry.
    1)Cut your card - Cutting tiny micro snips of paper is tedious and boring...the only way I can think of making the process faster is to take a small section of card remnant and snip lengthwise like this....not completely going to the end...
    ...and then snipping crossways to get lots of little bits, or 'cuttings'. I snip at an angle to create rough diamond shapes...the pointy ends seem to stick into the glue better. The bits are around a couple of millimetres long...but I'm not too fussy about perfect regular size and shapes...infact the more uneven the better and you get a nice dimensional and texturised flower head.
    you will end up will a nice little pile like this. This is enough to make one small if you need to make'll need to cut more card.
    Keep these cuttings in a container, with a lid if you're storing it for future use. This stuff, like Flower Soft, flicks and flies everywhere so try to keep it in check! You'll need a container large enough to fit fingers'll need to be able to pick out pinchfulls of the cuttings when covering your glued wire stems.
    2)Prepare your wire I use white paper covered stems so that I can colour them exactly to match my project...Ink pads are good to use, paint is a bit fiddly to apply with a brush...and I find a good old colour Sharpie felt tip pen much easier to use to apply the colour. In this project I am keeping the stems white.
    3)Cut the wire but keep it a little longer in length than you'll eventually you've got something decent to hold onto while applying the glue and cuttings....and something to poke into the polystyrene while it dries. You can trim to the proper size after the glue has dried. Please use proper wire cutters to trim....use scissors and the wire will blunt the blade, make nicks in them...and ruin them.
    3)Apply glue Holding one end of the wire securely, apply blobs of glue until you get the size blob you need. I do not advise you make too big a flower cluster or the glue will take forever to dry and it might also distort under the weight of the glue...and fall off the wire. I swear by using Pinflair Glue Gel...nearly everything and anything can be adhered with's a nice thick gel so holds shape well, is clear so does not interfere with the card colour, plus it's quite slow drying so you even have a little time to play around and ease the final covered piece into shape, gently with your fingers.
    use a cocktail stick or similar to gently manoeuvre the glue blob all around the tip of the wire and into roughly the shape you need.
    4)Apply the cuttings - hold the glue blobbed wire over the container, take pinchfulls of the cuttings and scatter over the glue, turning the piece and dropping over more and more cuttings until you get a nice even coverage all over. Do not be tempted to dunk the glue into the container of cuttings or the glue blob will get squashed out of shape. You can, at this point then use your fingers to gently press the cuttings into the glue and reshaping the piece. Keep scattering over and pressing in more cuttings until you've achieved the shape and coverage you desire.
    5)Leave to dry poke the end of the wire into something like a block of polystyrene or floral sponge and allow to dry. The gel glue is slow drying so it will allow you to go back to it after an hour or so of curing, and be able to press and squeeze the shape further with your fingers. Depending on how thick the layer of glue it, it will take 24 hours to totally cure and set, but won't set entirely hard. Sorry but this isn't an instant will need some time to dry so be patient, and try to plan making these in advance.

    6)Your floral clusters are now ready to use - trim wire to size, and add to your card/papercrafting projects as required. You can gently brush over ink or glitters to add more depth in colour and dimension and sparkle, they look lovely set into bunches and tied with ribbon.
    I'm in the middle of making this Birthday card, haven't quite decided on the layout yet but as you can see, these stylised lavender clusters look lovely teamed up with the lavender print paper.

    Hope you find this tutorial fun and go make your own clusters!

    Friday, 16 August 2013


    I haven't been around here for a bit....mainly because all my news has been posted up on Facebook...but also because I've been busy organizing the launch of my new business, Facebook page and NEW BLOG....

    so, here it is folks.....


    I'm still going to run The Six Inch Square Blog....this place is where I do all my verbal 'rambling' and info on my various hobbies. Studio Forty is purely for the details on my artwork and services available to purchase. All new pieces made and ready to buy will be posted on there.

    I hope you will take a moment to pop by and start following the new blog....lots of things to come, all variety of artwork will be available to suit many tastes...

    ...and Tatty Button is BACK and making an appearance again after many months 'resting' - I have some printed cotton shopping bags in stock ready to buy now with four original Tatty Button designs to choose from.

    Hope to see you there!

    Oh, and you can also check out the new FACEBOOK: STUDIOFORTY-ANGE J LEE PAGE

    Please pop by, LIKE and share!

    XXXAnge XXX

    Sunday, 19 May 2013


    Did you know it is World Baking Day today?

    We've all been encouraged to step in those kitchens...and step outside the comfort zone and be a little braver with our baking by creating a cake, biscuits, just something sweet and delicious that we've never done or attempted before....'s a link to the website that has been set up...and for people a little stuck for ideas, they've teamed up with 100 different chefs, from tv fame, restaurants and home bakers etc to supply recipes....suited for all ages and abilities...PLUS an Ultimate Challenge Cream Puff Cake from Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss fame...gone on...dare you make it!

    For all you Facebookers, they also have an FB page for you to join in chat and upload pics in order to share your creations of the day.

    So...what have I done?

    Well...Baking isn't a hardship for me - give me any excuse to get in the kitchen and get those baking utensils out...and I'm there.....but, deciding what to do has been a little bit tricky. Today I'm a little stretched for time....I have commitments today so much as I was really tempted to try the Buddy Challenge, I sadly cannot, and so I picked a couple of things that could be all completed by mid morning before I head off out (after posting this too, of course). What to do that was 'out of my comfort zone' was also a poser...because aside from cooking something I truly hate (no point in that, if I can't enjoy sampling my creations) I'm not easily fazed by baking and will give anything a what to do...what to do....

    On searching the WBD website for inspiration, my OH pointed out this recipe

    Barbara Richards - 5 Cup Health Crunchies

    ...on the basis that it's a sort of healthy thing...and since basically none of my baking creations come under the 'healthy' would be something different for me to try.

    There was one problem, contained coconut!

    I HATE coconut!...

    almost as much as I hate raisins, currants and sultanas!

    "Well, since when has something in a recipe ever stopped you....change it...put in something you DO like"...was his reply!

    So I did...

    and here's the result

    The recipe calls for 5 equal cup measures of ingredients (hence the name of course) but I tweaked it slightly and the coconut was substituted by a third a cup each of chopped hazelnuts and walnuts, plus the oats were increased by one third of a cup still maintaining a 5 cup measure in total. I also used dark brown sugar to give more depth in colour and flavour. The recipe instructions and baking times were all the same.
    If I may say so, they are stunningly delicious! We've just sampled some fresh baked and warm from the oven and they're slight soft and gooey, and cakey....but I also think once they've cooled and crisped up a bit, they'll be even more moreish!

    I have a feeling these are going to become a regular bake in this household and make a lovely change from flapjacks. They are also ripe for even more adaptation - we think adding dried fruit...and even grated apple would work...and maybe some chocolate to create a slightly more sinful version!

    Can't wait to experiment!

    There will be no waiting for another World Baking Day to come along though...I think next week is more like it!

    Aside from that I also baked bread...

    nothing new there...but it was Soda Bread, and made with buttermilk (the proper traditional way) and is a little out of my comfort zone because I'm so used to bread made with yeast and kneaded, left to prove etc - this stuff uses Bicarbonate of Soda for the raising agent...and no kneading or proving's a case of mix it, shape it, cut it, bake it...and 30 mins later you're done!

    I used a Paul Hollywood (bread god!) recipe from his book 'How to Bake'.
    Now, don't laugh!...but Whoops, this is what happened! It sort of exploded out a little too much. Tradition has it that you shape the dough into a ball, and then deeply slash through in a cross shape before baking....this is to let the bread devil out. Paul, in his book tells you to cut almost to the base, but I didn't...and even so it still expanded and opened out to this extent. I think the Devil...AND all his mates have quite comfortably been let out of this one lol!

    Oh might look a little misshapen...but as long as it tastes good I'm happy!

    Once more...A Happy World Baking Day to you...

    now get in those kitchens...and bake!


    Monday, 1 April 2013

    MUFFIN MONDAY - Marbled Vanilla & Chocolate AND Oaty Fruity Muffins

    It's Monday....and it's Muffins! I baked up a couple of batches of new recipes to try over the weekend and as promised (to my FB friends), after being sampled and some bits slightly tweaked, the results and ingredients are now here for you to try.

    Marbled Vanilla & Chocolate Muffins

    I recently found a little book  '1 mix, 50 muffins' with some very interesting variations in, but have really only just got around to trying out some of it's contents. I wanted to make basic chocolate muffins and could have used my normal tried and tested recipes, but found in this book one for a marbled effect - ie the mix is split into half chocolate, half vanilla then randomly spooned into the cases to create a marbled swirled sponge. I decided to give this variation a go...but mainly because the instructions got me a little curious. It called for the whole batter mix to be mixed up as vanilla, then halved into two bowls, and an amount of cocoa powder added to one batch. On reading this I immediately thought...hmmmm surely adding the cocoa to this batch would alter the consistency, compared to the vanilla...

    I went ahead with the recipe...and sure enough, the addition of the extra 'dry ingredient' cocoa powder did indeed make the chocolate batch much thicker in consistency to the vanilla half. My concern then, was whether this would affect the baking. I think it did. The batch of muffins came out very uneven and lopsided...and on pulling apart and tasting one, found the chocolate sections much drier and heavier....and maybe even a tad overcooked. The vanilla parts were much nicer in I wasn't happy...a tweak of the recipe was called for.

    Convinced that the dry powder ingredients (ie flour and cocoa) needed to be equal in weights for both batches I took a look at the book again and took the details for a basic vanilla mix and then compared it to the details for a basic chocolate mix. The vanilla one called for 10oz of plain flour, the chocolate one called for 8oz of flour with the remaining 2oz substituted with cocoa powder.....(all the rest of the ingredients were identical) so the obvious thing was to use both of these recipes instead, halve the quantities and just follow the same instructions as to spooning these batches into the cases as before, to create the marble.

    The result was a much more evenly baked and risen muffin...and so here is my amended version -

    Marbled Vanilla & Chocolate Muffins (makes approx 10-12 standard sized)

    for the Vanilla batch -
    5oz Plain flour
    half tbsp baking powder
    quarter tsp salt
    2oz caster sugar
    4 1/2 floz milk
    3 tbsp vegetable oil
    1tsp vanilla extract

    for the Chocolate batch -
    4oz Plain flour
    1oz Cocoa powder
    half tbsp baking powder
    quarter tsp salt
    2oz caster sugar
    1 egg
    4 1/2 floz milk
    3 tbsp vegetable oil

    Pre heat oven to 200oC/400oF/gas mark 6 (if using fan assisted oven, reduce temperature according to manufacturers instructions)

    Prepare a muffin tin, grease and line or use paper cases.

    Make up each batch in separate bowls in the order as follows - Sift together dry ingredients, mix together wet ingredients in another bowl or jug, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir quickly but gently until just combined (it will look lumpy but no dry flour should be visible).

    Using teaspoons, spoon batter into the muffin tins, alternating the chocolate and vanilla mix.

    Bake in oven for approx 20mins until well risen, and tops spring back when touched or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

    These muffins look pretty cool with the swirled two tone sponge but as it was Easter, I tarted mine up a little bit more for an extra sweet treat -
    The tops were smothered in chocolate frosting and little chocolate mini eggs placed on as couldn't see the marbling and only once the case was peeled back and the sponge bitten into, did the multicoloured mix reveal itself!

    Oaty & Fruity Breakfast Muffins (makes 10-12 standard size)
    This is from a tried and trusted Susan Reimer recipe for Oatmeal and chocolate chip muffins that has been tweaked and the chocolate replaced with dried fruit....for a slightly more healthier version. I call then 'Breakfast' muffins because I use porridge oats.

    2oz rolled oats
    9 floz milk
    8oz plain flour
    3 tsp baking powder
    half tsp salt
    4oz mixed dried fruit
    1 egg (beaten)
    4oz light brown soft sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3floz vegetable oil

    Preheat oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas Mark6 (if using fan assisted oven, reduce temperature according to makers instructions)

    Prepare muffin tins.

    In bowl combine the oats and milk and set aside to soak while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

    In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt...then stir in the dried mixed fruit.

    To the oat/milk mixture, stir in the beaten egg, sugar, vanilla extract, and oil...then pour into the dry ingredients and stir quickly but gently until just combined. Do not over should be a lumpy batter but with no dry flour visible.

    Pour into muffin tin/cups (about  three quarters full), bake for 20-25mins until light brown and firm to the touch. Transfer to wire rack to cool.