14 September, 2014

How to Cask your Cordial

Please note that this is a parody post and not meant to be serious or informative. I didn't want to make another berry recipe and fall produce isn't quite ready yet here, so this is what I have for you this week instead of food instruction. A friend requested this post, so I decided to oblige.

It's always possible to drink your strawberry cordial directly after brewing (which is often very tempting!) but if you want to keep your cordial available and fresh to keep your spirits up in winter, casking is the best option. It ages the cordial nicely and keeps it from spoiling so you can open and enjoy the drink whenever you choose.

The best casks are made of solid oak wood, as they create a nice, deep flavor on their own. Regardless of your choice of wood, however, you must start by making it liquid tight. Fill the cask with water, topping off as necessary until the wood expands enough to stop leaking before emptying the water. At this point, you can either fill the cask directly or season it.

An additional layer of flavor can be added by seasoning the cask first. The most common choice of seasoning in Redwall is maple smoke. Fill the bottom of the cask with fist-sized chunks of smoldering maple. Cover a majority of the top of the cask to concentrate the fire -- don't cover the entire opening or you will smother the fire. After several minutes, carefully remove the cover. The fire will rapidly expand, charring the inside of the cask and leaving behind a strong, smoky flavor.

Once the cask is prepared, fill it with your cordial or other beverage, seal the cask, and place it horizontally into a holder. After a week, open the cask and top off the liquid, which will have absorbed slightly into the wood. It may be necessary to repeat this process once more, but after two weeks your cask of cordial should be ready for storage.

06 September, 2014

Raspberry Tarts

I don't know about other people, but generally when I think "tart," I think of something small more often than I think of a normal, nine-inch dessert. These are even smaller than what I usually think, more like tartlets, and are perfectly bite sized...which makes them a little dangerous to have in easy snacking reach. These could be made with any berry that's in season. As summer starts to turn to fall, you may find that the berries available in your grocery store are looking a little past their prime. If this is the case, try the recipe with frozen, thawed fruit -- just be sure to drain them before adding the sugar or you'll end up with syrup at the bottom of the bowl.

Raspberry Tart Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 dozen tartlets



  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Roll out the shortcrust pastry and use a cookie cutter or the top of a glass to make twenty-four 2-inch circles.
  3. Press the circles into greased mini muffin tins, patting any folds into a smoother cup shape.
  4. Toss together the berries and the sugar, then spoon into the crusts.

  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crusts are golden brown and berries are boiling.
  6. Remove from the oven and let the tarts cool enough that they are no longer spitting boiling berry juice at you.
  7. Use a knife to loosen the crusts from the tins and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. If desired, top with a small dollop of whipped cream.

Shortcrust Pastry

Puff pastry is good for pies and turnovers, but when I make tarts I don't want them to puff up and throw filling everywhere. Instead I use shortcrust pastry. This crust also works for the pies and turnovers and other things when you don't want to wait for the dough to chill overnight. When using this crust for sweet, fruit-filled tarts I add some sugar to the recipe.

Shortcrust Pastry Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: One crust


  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • (For sweet recipes only) 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Cold water 


  1. In a bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
  2. Add the oil, then carefully work it into the dough to form a mixture the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  3. Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together but isn't sticky.
  4. Roll the dough out for whatever recipe you are making. 

31 August, 2014

Stone Fruit Compote

This recipe isn't technically a Redwall recipe, since it was never mentioned in the series. In fact, nectarines weren't mentioned a single time and peaches were only mentioned twice in all twenty-two books. Plums and damsons, of course, were mentioned almost constantly. Anyway, this recipe seems so Redwallesque that I felt the need to make it.

I left the skins on my fruit to keep it feeling rustic, but if you prefer you can score your fruit, blanch it (boil for 30 seconds, then submerge in ice water), and peel it before beginning the recipe.

Stone Fruit Compote

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 1 cup


  • 2 cups chopped stone fruit (I used equal parts of peaches, satsuma plums ((the ones with purple flesh)), and nectarines that I had chopped and frozen previously -- about 1 plum, 1/2 peach, and 1/2 nectarine -- but use your preferred mix)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 solid shakes of ground cinnamon


  1. Throw all the ingredients into a small saucepan and put over medium-high heat.
  2. Cook fruit, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until fruit is soft. You'll notice that my plums pretty much broke down into juice that covered the other fruit chunks.
  3. Spoon compote into a jar and refrigerate until ready to eat or eat warm immediately after cooking.

23 August, 2014

Strawberry Cordial

Strawberry cordial is one of those recipes which is mentioned in basically every book in the Redwall series. Cordial, technically, contains alcohol. I would say that this should be an alcohol-free recipe because children in the series drink it regularly, but the high rate of alcoholism in the series makes me wonder if the dibbuns are actually drinking alcohol. Still, I decided to make this recipe non-alcoholic. I also didn't make it too sweet so it can be enjoyed straight (without mix-ins), but it is sweet enough that you probably don't want to drink too much at once. If you want to change that, just add a splash of vodka before drinking. I made a fairly small batch, but this would be easy to scale up.

PLEASE NOTE: Yet again, this is a recipe which needs to be started the day before you want it. Be prepared.

Strawberry Cordial

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cool time: 24 hours
Total time: 24 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 24 ounces (Three glasses)


  • 24 ounces water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups strawberries (I used frozen, thawed strawberries that I bought and froze at the peak of strawberry season) (I have also successfully tried this with raspberries, but ot have not yet tried any other fruit)

  1. Place fresh or thawed strawberries into a large, heat-proof bowl.
  2. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan.
  3. Heat water to a low boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  4. Pour hot water over strawberries and allow to sit until cooled to room temperature (about 90 minutes).

  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for the rest of the 24 hour cool time.
  6. Remove bowl from refrigerator and use a slotted spoon to remove the strawberries (Keep these -- they are great smushed onto toast or added to a smoothie). The water should now be a bright, jewel red.
  7. Use a ladle to pour liquid into glasses or funnel into bottles for later.

16 August, 2014

Blackberry Pudding

I feel like I should start this post with an explanation of the word "pudding." Here in the US, "pudding" refers to a specific dessert that's like a thick custard, generally milk-based and thickened with cornstarch, eggs, or gelatin. In the UK, "pudding" can be used just to refer to desserts in general. It also can mean specifically a bread pudding, often steamed, such as your traditional Christmas-time plum pudding. For the most part, I believe Brian Jacques (who was English) was referring to these bread puddings when he used the word. I will follow this idea for the most part, except for a few recipes I think sound like they would be better as the American, custardy "pudding."

This blackberry pudding (really a mixed berry pudding here because I worried just blackberries would be a little boring. And a little expensive) was mentioned in the book Taggerung. I made a small one, suitable for about four people, but it would be easily scaled up to a bowl twice the size of what I used.

PLEASE NOTE: This is another recipe which needs to be started the day before you wish to serve it. Also, this recipe works best with bread which has been left out for a few hours to grow stale, as though you were making French toast, but fresh bread will work as well.

Blackberry Pudding

Prep time: 15 minutes
Rest time: 18 hours
Total time: 18 hours, 15 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings (One one-quart pudding)


  • Sliced bread (I used about ten slices of a low-calorie, whole-wheat bread)
  • 5 cups mixed berries (I used blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp water


  1. Cut the crusts off several slices of bread and use them to line the bottom and sides of a sturdy, one-quart bowl. Overlap the slices so you have as close to a gapless layer as possible. 

  2. Use a knife to cut off the bread at the lip of the bowl.
  3. Place the berries, sugar, and water into a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the berries become soft and begin to release their juices.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the berries into the bread bowl.
  5. Carefully pour the released juices over the berries.
  6. Cover the berries with more slices of crustless bread, again trimming any that hangs over.
  7. Place a plate or similar cover on top of the pudding and weigh it down with a can of beans or something similar.
  8. Refrigerate for about 12-18 hours.
  9. If necessary, use a butter knife to loosen the bread from the sides of the bowl, then invert the pudding onto a plate (or the cover of a tupperware if you're planning to transport it).
  10. Slice and serve the pudding, with a garnish of whipped cream, if desired.
If you happen to have extra juice at the end of step four, I highly recommend dipping your discarded bread crusts into it and eating them on the spot. :)

09 August, 2014

Strawberry Jam Turnovers

These turnovers were mentioned in Salamandastron. I made them small biscuits with homemade jam and puff pastry dough. They would be great to put on a saucer with your cup of tea if you're feeling fancy. Some unfortunate oven problems prevented my puff pastry dough from puffing properly, but they still tasted quite good. These are not very sweet, so if you want a more cookie-like treat you can dust them with powdered sugar after baking or sprinkle with granulated sugar before baking.

Please remember, if you're making your own puff pastry dough you should start it the day before.

Strawberry Jam Turnovers

Prep time: (Not including making the dough, if you're doing that) 30 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Total time: 40-45 minutes

Yield: 3 to 4 dozen micro-turnovers


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Take your dough from the fridge and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll it out to about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  3. Cut the dough into 2.5 inch rounds or squares (I used the rim of a wine glass to make circles because I don't have any cookie cutters...that aren't Star Wars shaped...)
  4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer your dough pieces. Place about a 1/2 teaspoon of jam in the center of each piece. 
  5. Fold the dough over to make a half-moon or triangle, covering the jam.
  6. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges of each turnover. (You can tell I overfilled some of these and they leaked during the crimping. Use a paper towel to wipe the worst of the leak so you don't end up with burned jam at the edges.)
  7. Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Slide the parchment paper with the turnovers onto racks to cool before storing in a sealed tupperware.