The Borough Belles, Borough Market’s neighbourhood branch of the Women’s Institute, is packed with keen cooks, happy to share their ideas and insights. This month: Thea Hoskin
Borough Belles had been on my radar for a few years, but it wasn’t until I made a new year’s resolution to do more and meet new people—which can be quite hard in London—that I decided to actually do something about it. I popped along to the first meeting of 2017, which was a craft swap. I really liked it—and the people I met. I signed up as a full member at the end of that first session.
I am on the committee and I run the running club. We’re called the belles of fire and we’re very inclusive and welcoming—there’s no need to be scared or intimidated, you can just come along and we will decide how far and fast we run based on who’s turned up. We generally just have a bit of a potter around, but we’ve started doing Park Run tourism, trying out different Park Runs around south London. It’s a free 5k run in the park, organised by volunteers. My dad is very much involved with the Bristol Park Run, so I like introducing people to it.
Baking wasn’t necessarily part of the appeal of joining, but I have been baking for a long time and I really do enjoy it. Baking and cooking is a way of showing love and friendliness for me, so I love hosting dinner parties. I’d say I prefer baking to cooking, though: it’s decadent, it’s something special, it’s a treat.
I don’t bake all the time: I have some tried and tested recipes and recipe books that are fairly fool-proof, so coming up with something new was quite difficult. This was the first time I’d baked this particular recipe, but it was a good challenge and I had positive feedback! It’s based loosely on a recipe for pecan, maple and cinnamon swirls from a book called In the Mood for Entertaining, by Jo Pratt. I changed the fillings to make it a bit more festive—I thought of all the things I like and tried to put them together. I’ll definitely be baking them again. I really like almonds, so being able to fill something with marzipan is a definite winner for me. It’s my favourite thing.
Thea’s festive pastry twirls
I am slightly scared of making pastry so buy mine ready-rolled—if you’re happy to use ready-made pastry, these can be made in about 40 mins, including cooking time. Preheat your oven to 200C and line a muffin tin with 10 paper cases. Roll out 350g puff pastry.
Now make the filling. You can make either a cherry and pistachio filling, or almond, cranberry and marzipan. For the cherry and pistachio, beat together 100g softened butter and 100g light brown soft sugar and spread over the pastry. Slice the pastry along the short side to make 10 strips, each around 3cm wide. Combine 120g chopped glace cherries and 120g roughly chopped pistachios, then spread it evenly over the pastry strips.
For the almond, cranberry and marzipan filling, beat together 50g softened butter and 50g light brown soft sugar and spread it over the pastry, then slice the pastry along the short side to make 10 strips, each around 3cm wide. Combine 100g roughly chopped almonds, 100g cubed marzipan, 100g dried cranberries and spread evenly over the pastry strips. If you fancy a more traditional Christmas filling, try using 300g mincemeat with 2 tbsp brandy mixed in—no need for the butter and sugar mix.
Roll each strip into a whirl and place them into the paper cases. Brush the tops and any accessible sides with egg wash (1 egg, beaten), and sprinkle with some extra demerara sugar. Pop them into the oven for 20-25 mins, until golden brown and bubbling. If you have any nuts left over, you can sprinkle some over the top of the pastries for added crunch. Eat them warm–though they’re still tasty once cooled.