Rated: M&S’s Apple, Asparagus & Lemon Juice.

Lemparagapple? Anyone?

Lemparagapple? Anyone?

What? The bizarrest-sounding combo I have seen this year – and, strangely, one of the nicest.

I should explain: though a die-hard lover of vegetables, I’m not generally keen on the drinking variety (a revolting glass of Beetroot Smoothie saw to that one day in India). This creation from M&S, though, I can dig.

For starters, the colour is amazing – the kind of green you’d expect from a glass of juiced Braeburns, but would never get.

And while it doesn’t smell particularly appetising (neither on the way in or way out), I assure you the taste is quite superb.

Not one of the three main ingredients masks the others, creating an overall effect that is zingy – like sherbert – and thankfully not too sweet.

Collectively, it tastes like a whole new fruit – more citrussy than anything – and is so darn healthy it apparently counts as two of your five-a-day.

I call it the Lemparagapple.

And I suggest you try it forthwith

Where? Find this juice at an M&S Food near you

How Much? £2.39 for a 750ml bottle (or 3 for £5 if you’re really thirsty)

Rating?

9/10

That’s nine of your ten-a-day. ACE

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Rated: Exeter Street’s Pizza Dolce.

Pizza Dolce

Your jaw won’t know what hit it

What? One of my favourite concepts revisited: the Sweet Pizza.

Made with a thin Italian bread-style base, this particular variety lacks the exciting toppings of Custard and Fruit that I’ve sampled on other Dessert Pizzas here in London.

Nevertheless, the principle still floats my boat.

Artisinal bread impregnanted with Raisins and covered in a scattering of Sugar?

Perfection, no?

Er… No.

Alas, its simplicity didn’t quite work in its favour, despite the nice balance of flavours. The reason? The base itself.

You see, without the distraction of various toppings, the success of this dessert was almost entirely dependent on the bread, which was so tough and dry it actually hurt to eat it.

Never before has my mandible had such a work out: a few bites in and I was already feeling the pain of lactic acid in my jaw muscles.

Now don’t get me wrong, Ogglers. I’m all for burning off calories in order to justify seconds (or even firsts) of desserts and cakes.

Burning off facial tissue however?

No, thank you, Pizza Dolce

Where? Sold by the Exeter Street Bakery at various London Farmers’ Markets (including the one at Marylebone; occasional home to the Tuffet and Manor House Fruit Cake)

How Much? £1.30 for a pretty big slice (more than enough to get two jaws screeching)

Rating?

4/10

Filling me softly. Not.

Recipe: Sophie’s Dahl’s Spelt Banana Bread.

Be nice to your Bowel

Remember, Ogglers: always be nice to your Bowel

As body parts go, the bowel might not be the most fashionable of the lot, but let’s face it: we’ve all got one – and it’s integral to the process of ploughing through puddings. If only for that, it’s well worth paying attention to.

See, although this blog is usually more concerned with what enters the body, this month is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. And as someone who lost a close aunt to the disease a couple of years ago, this is one cause that the Pud-Hog can’t ignore.

Maybe you’re already clued up on the subject (as the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, it may well have affected somebody you know or you care about).

But for those of you who don’t know the score, the most important thing to note is that, if caught in time, bowel cancer is generally very treatable.

So, Ogglers. If you pay attention to NOTHING else on this blog, then at least pay attention to the following list from Bowel Cancer UK:

Early warning signs for bowel cancer are

  • Bleeding from the bottom, and/or blood in your poo
  • A change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

If you notice any of these things, then for crying out loud, don’t be embarrassed: GO AND TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.

As well as keeping an eye out for changes like this, you can also reduce your risk of bowel cancer with exercise and a healthy diet.

That means cutting down on red or processed meats, eating your 5-a-day, and generally upping your fibre intake.

Thankfully, this risk-reducing doesn’t need to mean abandoning your pudding, as eating – or baking – treats made with whole grains and fibre is one of the ways you can keep things hunky-dory.

You could make your Summer Pudding with brown bread, pack your Flapjacks with oats, nuts and seeds, or substitute normal flour with one of the wholemeal or Spelt varities (like that Ginger Cake I made for my first Bakeroo).

If you’re still short of ideas, you can also check out Sharpham Park’s new website – Great British Spelt Recipes – which was launched in conjuction with Bowel Cancer UK in order to get people more clued up on bowel cancer awareness.

I’ve tried out a few of the cakes on there already, and can whole-heartedly recommend the Rhubarb Tart (like a juicy, fruity Frangipane – but better). The Spelt Bran and Raspberry Muffins are pretty darn awesome too…

My stand-out favourite so far, however, has been a recipe donated by Sophie Dahl: an extremely easy – yet beautifully textured – rendition of Spelt Banana Bread.

A version of it is listed below and is well worth having a go at. Sweet, moist, and full of fibre, your bowel and your taste buds will love it.

Spelt Banana Bread (serves 6 for a hearty breakfast or tea)

Click here for the original recipe

Banana Bread

SPELTACULAR

Ingredients:

  • 170g Wholegrain or Bakers Blend Spelt Flour
  • 75g soft butter, plus extra for greasing and serving
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed up
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Grease a 30 x 23-cm/12 x 1- inch bread tin
  2. Pour the mashed bananas into a big mixing bowl. Mix in the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract
  3. Add the bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix in the flour last [as thoroughly as you can manage or the bicarb might sit in a lump]. Pour into the prepared tin
  4. Bake for 1 hour [approx – my oven did the job in 50 minutes], remove and cool, then serve in slices with a little butter. [You can also toast it for breakfast, and serve with Natural Yoghurt, Crème Fraîche, or Mascarpone]

Happy Hogging!

P-H x

With thanks to Sophie Dahl and Sharpham Park’s Great British Spelt Recipes campaign – in partnership with Bowel Cancer UK

Rated: Sunwheel Fruit Spread.

Sunwheel Fruit Spread

The Brown Fruit: everyone’s favourite

What? A rather gruesome-looking dark brown spread made entirely of concentrated fruit (imagine a liquid version of Fruit Leather).

Despite its texture and appearance – uncannily like Marmite, in both respects – it is surprisingly easy to love.

The version we tried was Pear and Apricot, with a very strong taste of the latter. More Pear would certainly not have gone amiss.

The overall strength of flavour makes it pretty economical, however: you really don’t need to use much to taste the fruit, and once in the fridge it seems to last for yonks.

Sweet, smooth, and deeply tangy, it brightened my toast no end, and made for an apparently guilt-free (or at least guilt-reduced) alternative to Honey and Jam

Where? From various health food shops and supermarkets (we got ours from Holme Grown in Jersey – the place with the Gâteau St Honoré)

How Much? £1.75 for 300g

Rating? 8/10

Move over, Jam!

Oh wait, you can’t. You’re a foodstuff.

Recipe: The Dark Chocolate, Berry & White Chocolate Cream Cheese Cake.

Putting the 'goo' in 'damn good'

Putting the ‘goo’ in ‘damn good’

I do not exaggerate, Ogglers, when I say that this is THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE I think I’ve ever had – and all thanks to my pal Mimi (she of the Cinnabon Substitute).

Adapted from a few different recipes that have been expertly fused together, it was made for me as a belated birthday present – and was extremely well received.

With a sponge not unlike a Chocolate Fudge Brownie (moist and slightly chewy at the edges), plus a filling so creamy and perfect it hurts (the berries! The cream cheese! The chocolate!) , I defy you to bake one and leave it alone.

Indeed, so bereft was I when I finished my first, I had to make me a second the very next day.

I kid you not.

Anyway, a million thanks to Mimi for curating the recipe – and for letting me share it with you lot via this blog.

Trust me, Ogglers: homemade cakes don’t get much better than this…

The Dark Chocolate, Berry & White Chocolate Cream Cheese Cake (makes a sponge big enough to feed 10 in one go – or 2 over several sittings)

Something to berry your face in

Something to berry your face in

Ingredients:

For the Dark Chocolate Sponge:

  • 125ml cold water
  • 200g broken dark chocolate (the best you can afford)
  • 200g butter
  • 1tbsp dried coffee
  • 85g self raising flour (or 85g plain with ¾ tsp baking powder)
  • 85g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g golden caster sugar (white caster sugar’s fine too, if that’s all you’ve got in your cupboard)
  • 200g brown muscovado sugar (light, preferably)
  • 25g cocoa (or drinking chocolate – though reduce the sugar content by 50g if using the latter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 75ml buttermilk (I used natural yoghurt in its absence – no probs)

For the Berry, White Chocolate & Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 150g softened butter
  • 100g white chocolate
  • A handful of berries for garnishing – if using fresh raspberries, this works out at about 20 or so. Alternatively, you can also use 3 to 4 tbsp of mixed berries (i.e. blackcurrants, blueberries, redcurrants, etc). Whatever you fancy for extra juice and tartness…

Method:

To Make the Sponge:

  1. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C (fan assisted) or Gas Mark 3
  2. Add the coffee to the cold water and stir well
  3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the buttermilk/natural yoghurt. Put aside for later
  4. Pop the dark chocolate, butter and coffee solution into a saucepan. Warm gently and on a low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to stop the bottom burning
  5. While the chocolate mixture is melting, put the flours, bicarb, sugars and cocoa together in a large bowl, using your hands to stir out the lumps (a spoon will do the same job if you’d rather not get messy)
  6. Add the egg mixture and the melted chocolate mixture to the flour mixture, then stir the whole lot until it’s smooth and runny
  7. Pour into the tin and bake for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes (until a knife comes out clean when poked through the top)
  8. Keep the cake inside the tin for a few minutes, then carefully turn it out on to a wire rack

The cake cannot be iced until it has cooled, so take a break and then get to work on the cream cheese frosting…

To Make the Filling:

  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl until the whole thing is fully blended
  2. Using either a microwave or a saucepan, gently melt the white chocolate.
  3. Stir the melted chocolate into the butter and cream cheese
  4. Sift the icing sugar and beat this in with rest
  5. Try to refrain from eating the lot until the cake is cool (tempting though it might be)

To Assemble:

Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

  1. Using a long, sharp knife, carefully cut the sponge in two, then smear half of the frosting in the middle
  2. Dot this with about three-quarters of your berry rations, scattering them evenly throughout
  3. Pop the upper sponge on top, then cover it with the rest of your icing and berries, hiding any cracks that might have appeared while the sponge was baking
  4. Hey presto: bring out the cake forks!

NB: This is one of those sweet treats that improves after 24 hours or so. However, if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat the lot within a few days, slice up the surplus and freeze it in airtight containers.

When you’re ready to eat, allow at least four hours for your slices to defrost (leaving them out overnight works for me…).

Happy Hogging!

P-H x

Rated: The Rhubarb and Hazelnut Tuffet.

NOT to be sat on

It’s a Tuffet, Jim – but not as we know it

What? Never tasted a Tuffet before?

That’s hardly surprising, given that Tuffet is usually a word for a low seat (of the type perched on by Little Miss Muffet).

Recently, however, Tuffet has started to mean something else; reclaimed by Jacqui of Saucy Puds, in order to name her tasty homemade creations.

These Tuffets are a lot like Muffins, but covered in baked sugar and flat on the top (all the better for sitting on, I suppose).

Made using seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, the Tuffet I went for was flavoured with Rhubarb and Hazelnuts.

Despite its humble appearence it was truly delicious: moist with Rhubarb strands (but not bitter), and crunchy with chopped and whole Nuts.

A pleasure from start to finish, it tasted like a real Cake of the Earth: golden, light and wonderfully wholesome

Where? The Man and I saw Saucy Puds at Marylebone Farmers Market (not far from the stall with that mutant Manor House Fruit Cake). They’re there on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month

How Much? £1.75 each

Rating?

9/10

Not even the scariest spider could tear me away

Rated, Y’all: The IHOP Deep-Fried Cheesecake.

Deep-Fried Cheesecake

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

What? The most ludicrous thing I’ve conceived of – let alone seen on a menu.

For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you too can get yourself a square of Pastry, filled with Caramel and Banana ‘Cheesecake‘ (read ‘biscuitless mush’), which has been deep-fried and covered with Whipped Cream, Banana slices, and sticky Strawberry Sauce.

At 660 calories, 34g of fat, and 36g of sugar, it has to be one of the naughtiest things you can buy without breaking the law (and the most ridiculous breakfast I’ve ever had).

Surprisingly, despite being a deep-fried, Cheese-and-Sugar-filled Pastry, it didn’t taste that extreme.

Indeed, the chopped Banana and (admittedly syrup-soaked) Strawberry pieces kept things fairly fresh, providing some much-needed tempering.

It certainly had a good mixture of textures too.

But would I recommend it as anything other than a novelty item?

Well…

The Whipped Cream was not much more than froth, the filling tasted neither of Banana nor Caramel (only of something generically sweet), and, in general, it looked like a car crash.

The innards, in particular, resembled a cross between Gruel and congealed wallpaper paste.

By far the worst thing about it, however, was the lingering flavour of oil – something that lasted long after I put down my spoon (though not quite as long as the headache the whole thing triggered).

That said, as puddings go it wasn’t terrible – it just wasn’t terribly tasty

Where? Available at IHOP in the U.S. of A

How Much? $3.99, excluding tax

Rating? 4/10

Sugar and fat, fried in oil? Once in a lifetime could well be one time too many…

Rated: The St John Eccles Cake.

St John Eccles Cake

Currantly one of the best in the biz

What? A Currant-stuffed pocket of sugared Puff Pastry – almost as good as ol’ Granny Hog’s version (not that I’m biased… ahem).

On a serious note, rarely do shop-bought Eccles Cakes taste this decent: the filling was so thick with fruit it had practically turned into Fudge (with very nice nutmeggy notes to spice things up).

The Pastry was super crisp too – just as it should be with Eccles

Where? This proud specimen came from the St John Bakery cubbyhole at Maltby Street (same place I got that outrageous Doughnut)

How Much? £2.50

Rating? 7/10

Ain’t got a granny to make one for you? Then this is the next best thing…

A New Turn… and Rated: Kastner & Ovens’ Lemon Slice.

Today marks the start of something a little bit different – a new turn for the Pud-Hog, if you will.

Allow me to explain.

Since the end of last year, while the number of puddings I’ve tried has been steadily growing, the time I have left to write about them has become quite sadly reduced.

Thankfully, Ogglers, a solution is at hand.

Rather than thin out my coverage (or even – shock horror – cut down my consumption of cake), I’ve decided to try out a new little system.

Whenever I’m feeling low on time I am simply going to rate things: put up a picture, pass on the relevant knowledge, and give it a mark out of ten.

In no time, I’ll build up a list of To-Chews – and you’ll have the facts you need to find out what’s what.

Look on it as your trusty Encyclopudia

I’ll still put up my recipes, and longer features will surface from time to time – but now I’ll be able to share much more of my info.

Enough of the spiel for now though, methinks – let’s put this thing to the test!

Rated: Kastner & Ovens’ Lemon Slice.

A little piece of Lemon Heaven

A little piece of Lemon Heaven

What? A three-tiered square of lemony goodness: firm (yet doughy) Pastry-type base, sharp (almost Curd-like) Lemon syrup, and a slightly crisp layer of sticky and sweet Lemon Icing.

Tastes rather like a flat Lemon Meringue Pie, though infinitely softer and more gooey – so much so that it barely keeps itself together (just look at that rupturing finish!)

Where? From Kastner & Ovens in Spitalfields, London

How Much? £2

Rating? 8/10

Delicious, obscene, but perhaps a bit too sweet – even with the comforting plainness of the Pastry

Recipe: Man-Pa’s Christmas Pudding Ice Cream.

What with the New Year’s bank holiday out of the way, it feels like the Christmas period is well and truly over.

What a very sad time it is, when the days of legitimate Hoggery are finally at an end.

There are plenty of things I’ll miss from the festivities: Ma Hog’s homemade Mince Pies; steaming glasses of Hot Buttered Rum; the crunchy chew of a light-toasted Pudding; pots of cold Custard, lining the worktop.

It pains me to think that I won’t see most of these goodies again until next December, though I suppose that’s partly what makes them so special.

Then again, there are some treats I’m not sure can wait…

One of this Christmas’s more major (and moreish) highlights was a bowl of Christmas Pudding Ice Cream, made by the fair hands of Man-Pa (he of Summer Pudding fame).

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

O, Holy Pud!

The die-hard Ogglers among you will remember me mentioning this particular treat way back in 2011. In fact, you could argue it was what got the Pud-Hog Blog going in the first place: so enamoured was I with this Ice Cream, that I felt compelled to tell the world about it.

Anyway, just a fortnight ago, I was thrilled to be served it again – and this time it tasted even better.

Apparently the formula had changed: out had gone the Breadcrumbs, to be replaced by Meringue and luxury jellied Fruit Pastilles, of the type you can find in the fancier delicatessens.

The resulting taste and texture were extraordinary: sharp bursts of sugared Fruit; boozy Raisins, Dates and Peel; crunchy fragments of Meringue, and the softest, creamiest base you could wish for.

My delight secured me the recipe – so, thanks to the Man-Pa, you too can enjoy this magnificent medley at home.

It’s easy and fairly quick – and, I swear, yule never have better.

I defy you to wait until next December…

Man-Pa’s Christmas Pudding Ice Cream (serves 4)

Ingredients:

Fruit Stuff…

  • 80g raisins and/or sultanas
  • 80g dates
  • 80g candied peel
  • Some brandy or rum to soak the fruit
  • Finely-chopped fruit pastilles (preferably upmarket ones; gelatin-free)

… and for the Ice Cream:

  • A few nutmeg shavings
  • Generous half tsp ground ginger
  • 1 to 2 tsp vanilla essence (depending on your tastes)
  • 1 tsp coffee essence (make your own with half a tsp instant coffee granules and same amount of boiling water)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks OR 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 2-4 cloves (again, your taste dictates)
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 medium/large crushed meringue

Method:

  1. Mix the Fruit Stuff together and set to soak in the brandy or rum
  2. Heat ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon in a small saucepan for a few minutes…
  3. Then in with the cream, vanilla essence and coffee essence. Bring gently to the boil
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a medium-sized bowl
  5. Strain the cream to remove the spices. Tip cream into the sugar and egg mix and whisk together before heating again – slowly – in a clean pan for no more than 10 minutes until it thickens slightly
  6. Take off the heat and chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight, if you have the time)
  7. Strain the cream mix into a freezable container and freeze for an hour or two until it starts to thicken. Stir every half hour to break up the ice crystals (NB: clingfilm on top of the ice cream will prevent it turning brown if it’s going to be in the freezer for a week or more)
  8. Defrost for about half an hour before serving so it’s nice and soft to eat
  9. ENJOY

Happy Hogging – and thank you to Man-Pa for sharing!

P-H x