Many of us have been approached recently to help during the crisis in various ways, some of them relating to our careers. The Rose Theatre in London asked some of us who have worked there to video a reading of a favourite poem, and I chose ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by Keats. I’ve always loved it – thanks to an inspiring English teacher – and I really enjoyed looking at it again: surprised by how many echoes it has of our current situation. Then, this morning on the news, I heard that the chances of hearing that beautiful bird-song in the UK are considerably lessened due to global warming. Apparently the warmer temperatures are causing the birds to evolve smaller wings – the link is a bit complex, but the result is that fewer of them will survive their long migrations.
I’d rather hoped that my reading of the poem would help in some tiny way to cheer people up during this extraordinarily difficult time, but this morning’s news was a reminder of how everything has another side. Whether it’s caused by mankind, like global warming, or by a nasty molecular parasite, like a virus, we are never free of the lurking shadow of sadness and trouble.
But – I didn’t mean to get all philosophical in these blogs! Hopefully in a few months life will begin to return to some sort of normality, and in the meantime I can continue to give you recipes to enjoy, whether you bake them this month or simply read them and plan to use them another time if you like the sound of them. This month, of course, they are Easter-based, and when I planned and tested them some weeks ago I could never have foreseen that you’d be more or less locked in your flats and houses, some with only close relatives around you and some completely alone.
I’m also, as I’ve said before, putting on the site some simple recipes for more basic foods that you might like to make, alone or with the children, while you’re stuck at home. Breads, simple cakes and buns and so on. I’ll post them as I get round to making them (when I can get hold of the ingredients!).
Let me know if there are any other particular recipes you’d like me to give you: I love hearing from you on any subject.
My very best wishes as ever: and keep well.
Love Jane x
Fruity Easter Tart
This has echoes of a Bakewell Tart, in that I’ve included jam and marzipan in the filling and topped it with a little white icing. If you hate marzipan it still works well without it. I wrote the recipe when life was normal and you could stroll into Home Bargains and buy my mixes and fruit and so on… just substitute simple all-in-one recipes for the pastry and sponge and soak about 150g mixed fruit in brandy or orange juice if you can’t access them.
- 1 packet JA pastry mix + 50g caster sugar
- 1 heaped tbsp cherry jam
- 1 packet JA sponge mix + 3 eggs and 100ml vegetable oil
- 200g brandy soaked fruit
- 150g marzipan
- A few flaked almonds
- 100g icing sugar and a little water
Preheat the oven to 200C/180 Fan/Gas mark 6.
Stir the caster sugar into the pastry mix, then make up the pastry as directed on the packet and use it to line a lightly greased loose-bottomed 20cm flan tin.
Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork, line with a circle of non-stick baking paper and fill with baking beans (or use something else to weigh it down – I’ve used cutlery or coins on occasion!)
Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and cook for a further five minutes to dry out the base. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to firm up a little, keeping it in the tin.
Meanwhile, make up the sponge mix as directed on the packet and stir in the fruit. Spread the cherry jam over the base of the flan, then add slices of marzipan.
Scoop the fruity cake mix on top and bake for 30-35 minutes until firm to the touch and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If you have too much mix, use it for cupcakes - bake for 15-18 minutes in paper cases). Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Gently take the flan out of the tin.
Meanwhile, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Little by little stir in some cold water (start with tiny drops) until the icing is spreadable. Once the flan is completely cold, pour the icing on top and spread with a palette knife. Finish with a few flaked almonds.
I couldn’t resist using the cute little Easter Bunny cupcake cases and picks, so I simply used one of my sponge cake mixes, replacing a tablespoonful of the mix with a tablespoonful of cocoa powder and swirled some of my chocolate frosting on the top.