Friday, 24 August 2012

Rob's Blackberry Tart

Here’s the blackberry tart recipe I promised to give you. It’s pretty simple as it only requires the pastry to be baked and after that it’s a case of simply whisking all the ingredients together and voila you have a delightful tart. Beware it’s very rich and indulgent but we all need a bit of that sometimes.

I made it with the leftover blackberries that I picked the other day and still have some left over, I’m tempted to make another recipe but then again I might just have more bourbon blackberry sours!



Pastry –
170g Plain Flour
100g Butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg

Filling –
400g Mascapone
200g Whipping Cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 punnet blackberries, (½ punnet squeezed into juice)
Zest of ½ lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract


Firstly make the pastry -
-       Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
-       Cut the butter into centimeter cubes and throw into a bowl with the flour.
-       Cut the butter into the flour with 2 knives and then further rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
-       At this point add the sugar and toss into the mixture with a metal spoon.
-       In a cup briefly whisk the egg with a spash of water (this is to avoid streaky pastry) and then add to the flour mix slowly until it starts to come together and away from the sides of the bowl.
-       At this point turn the pastry out onto a floured surface and kneed gently a few times, not enough kneeding and your pastry will fall apart, too much and it will be tough.
-       Put the pastry in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
-       After the pastry has rested bake blind for 20 minutes at 190 degrees.

For the filling –
-       Add all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until it forms soft peaks.

I was a bit frugal on the blackberries on the top, be sure to add loads so that every mouthful has a good few blackberries in it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Blackberry Bourbon Sours

I love blackberry season. It’s great to see the bushes alive with fruit and if you know where to pick them there’s an abundance of ripe fruit for everyone. Luckily for me I know an ‘off the beaten track’ nature reserve near to where I live that’s always flourishing with an huge array of blackberries. For some reason it always seems really quiet and remote but it’s literally just off the main street. 

Back in Preston there are loads of places where you can pick fruit but in London you’ve got to know about them as they’re usually slightly hidden away. I’m not going to tell you the exact spot as you’d probably get to them before me, sorry. I want to keep them all for myself (smug grin). So I headed out to pick as many beautiful berries as I could carry. Unfortunately I forgot about how thorny the plants are and so having worn shorts and a t-shirt came back with bleading legs and hurting fingers but all was well as my prize was 3 large punnets of ripe blackberries!

The plan was to make a glorious blackberry tart but I got distracted with work and so here’s the other thing I use them for – COCKTAILS! I used to be a bartender at Gaucho Grill in Manchester and so I like to think I know a thing or two about cocktails and relish the opportunity to have a few cheeky drinks in the sun whenever I can. 

This was a recipe that I often used to win over customers and it's a really great one to learn as you can adapt it to use any spirit and fruit. The thing to remember about cocktails is that they’re actually pretty easy to make as long as you know the basics. With this recipe you can’t go wrong, go and pick yourself some blackberries, buy some lemons and bourbon and then your night has begun!

The blackberry tart recipe will be up in the next few days so be sure to check back!



½ lemon (cut into quarters)
5 or 6 blackberries
2 large teaspoons sugar
50ml bourbon


-       Put the lemon pieces, blackberries and sugar in a glass and muddle together (You can use anything to muddle, I often use the end of a rolling pin)
-       Fill the glass with ice and then pour over the bourbon
-       Mix with a spoon making sure to mix all the ingredients together thoroughly
-       Garnish with a blackberry and a slice of lemon

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Rob's Top 5: Coffee Houses in London

The first thing I ever really wanted to put on my blog was top 5’s. I LOVE having top 5 lists, I don’t write them down but I like to know they’re there! I have top 5’s for everything, from wines I’ve drunk, beaches I’ve been on to top 5 meals ever…so here is the first – Robs Top 5 Coffee Houses in London. Before I start I’ll just say on behalf of the nation ‘who doesn’t love coffee’, It’s one of my favourite things in life and quite often makes me late. Now if you think I’m going to wtite about Starbucks and CafĂ© Nero then I’m afraid you’re wrong but you’ll find that they’re not hard to get to at all and often surprise you with menu changes. I urge everyone to support their local coffee shop! (Disclaimer: I’m sure I haven’t been to all the coffee houses in London but these are my top 5 ,I hope you enjoy)

5. Monmouth, Borough Market
The location of the coffee house is incredible, set at the end of Borough Market and with an open front it’s a great place to sit and soak in the atmosphere while sipping on your favourite brew. If you drink black coffee like me then you’ve a choice of about 15 varieties all freshly ground and brewed in front of you. There’s also a huge selection of pastries and breads to eat on the communal tables.  Just great. Sorry there're no pictures, I'll try and add soon.

4. Tapped and Packed, Tottenham Court Road
Sat just outside Warren Street station this is one of the ‘busiest’ coffee shops I have on my list, it’s also the most recent addition! The inside is modern and stylish decked out with filament lightbulbs that seem to be everywhere at the moment. The coffee tastes how coffee should, there are notes of caramel that you rarely find and you can clearly taste their distinctive coffee finished by sweet milk (I think there are only a few ways to judge a coffee and their latte is one!) Great coffee and a great place to people watch. Definitely one to visit.

3. Fernandez and Wells, Beak Street
A lovely and clean clean interior decked out with wood and white washed walls and only a hop skip and a jump away from Oxford Street Fernandez and Wells quickly became one of my favourite haunts. If you ever visit central London go here. The main reason however is the coffee – I have never had a less than perfect coffee here! The waiters are always super friendly and the communal seating is a friendly setting for a perfect coffee. They usually have great pasteis de nata too.

2. Towpath, on the towpath between Kingsland Road and Angel
This is by far and away the best place to drink a coffee in London. Be it a little hard to get to it’s worth the effort. The coffee they serve is from a roastery in Italy, the only place in London to serve it. The cakes and biscuits are all made on site in their tiny kitchen and you can sit and drink your coffee with the quiet surroundings of the canal knowing that you’re actually in the centre of town but you’re hidden away from it! Bliss

1. Nude Espresso, Hanbury Street
I’ve visited Nude Espresso so many times and each one has been just as great as the first. It’s placed between Spitallfields market and Brick Lane and so is the ideal place to stop for a cheeky refreshment, they’re always playing great music and the staff are super friendly. Also, they tend not to advertise it but you get a free coffee for every bag of coffee beans you buy so I always tend to come away with a bag, guess it’s just an excuse…The coffee is consistently brilliant boasting the smokey flavour of a beautifully roasted coffee which is roasted only a stones throw away, not too much smoke as it still gives way to that caramely flavour that all well roasted and made coffe should have. Nude espresso also does what has to be the best cake I have eaten in London – their banana and black chocolate muffin! It seems bad to add this as a bonus when it should be about the coffee but it’s seriously amazing. This is heaven. Go. Now.

Worthy mentions that didn’t make the list; Fullstop bar, Brick Lane Coffee House, Prufrock Coffee, Kaffeine, Suzuki coffee shop (Kingsland Road), Tina, we salute you..

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Stuffed Tomatoes - A Veggie Dream!

I’d been wanting to do stuffed tomatoes for a while, there’s something pretty cool about stuffing things and tomatoes seems to one that always gets left off the list. I always end up putting them off thinking that they’re going to take ages but the other day I saw some dried out bread from a few days prior and was trying to use everything in the fridge so thought I’d give them a whirl. I’m so glad I did, that night of the Olympics was incredible for more than just the medals…It was an Olympic feast! We had grilled aubergine, homemade potato salad, stuffed tomatoes….

This is a great recipe for using things up – leftover cheese, spare meat, spare herbs etc. the recipe’s pretty loose so just use up what you’ve got! I made some the next day and used less breadcrumbs and threw in a handful of minced steak, definitely worth a try.



4 medium tomatoes
½ red onion, chopped finely
2 cupful breadcrumbs
100g feta cheese
1 handful coriander, chopped finely
1 lemon (zested)
rocket (to serve)


-      -  Slice a small amount of the base of each tomato so that they will stand up on a baking tray
-      - Slice the tops off the tomatoes about 1cm from the top, these will act as the lids
-      - Carefully scoop out the middle and reserve the liquid in a bowl, place these upside down on some kitchen towel for a few minutes
-      - Throw all the other ingredients in a bowl and combine together using the liquid of the tomatoes and a touch of olive oil if needed
-      - Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until tender