Monday, 24 September 2012

The Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap: Miniature Plum Upside Down Cakes, Rhubarb and Vanilla Custard Biscuits and Autumnal Feast Jam


Possibly the most popular and versatile flavouring and fragrance there is. 

It is the classic ice cream. A staple in all baker's storecupboards. It adds depth to savoury dishes. It is widely used in all manner of great dishes. And it is the overwhelming scent of my teenage years (that'll be vanilla musk. Along with hormones and hairspray of course).

With this great demand, it probably isn't too surprising to hear that 97% of vanilla produced is synthetic.

One Sunday lunchtime last month on Radio 4's Food and Drink Programme Vanessa Kimbell explored vanilla farming in Uganda. The proper stuff. The real vanilla that makes all bakes taste, well, great. The stuff that is described as 'heady, lingering and narcotic' by Fairtrade grower Ndali. The stuff that, for some farmers, is sold at a price worth less than it costs to grow in the first place, that is sold to unscrupulous buyers to met demand, that is repeatedly stolen or damaged because of its worth.

Ndali works with Ugandan farmers to provide a fair price for their vanilla, ensuring price stability and, together with what they produce on their own estate, a great big lovely supply of delicious Fairtrade vanilla. 

Today Vanessa and Ndali have very kindly invited food bloggers to Fortnum and Mason to the Ndali Vanilla Fairtrade Gift Swap. An opportunity to discover some delicious Ndali Fairtrade Vanilla recipes created by fellow bloggers and raise vital knowledge and support for Fairtrade producers.

It is also the start of The Big Fair Bake fortnight, designed to promote the use of Fairtrade products in the nation's favourite hobby- baking. The logo for the fortnight is 'buy it, bake it, share it' and the campaign is designed to encourage home bakers to use Fairtrade ingredients. 

For today's Gift Swap Vanessa invited us to bring along preserves, sweets, cakes and biscuits all inspired by and baked with Ndali Vanilla. I'm delighted to be attending-  a big, huge thanks to Vanessa, Ndali and the Fairtrade Foundation.

Rolling pins at the ready and this is what I'll be bringing along:

Rhubarb and Vanilla Custard Biscuits


175g plain flour
3 tbsps custard powder
1 tsp baking powder

Half a tsp Ndali Organic Fairtrade Vanilla Powder
100g cold unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
3 tbsps Fairtrade caster sugar
1 free range egg
1 tbsp milk

For the biscuit filling:
1 tbsp custard powder
0.5 tsp ndali Organic Fairtrade Vanilla Powder
100g Fairtrade icing sugar
50g soft unsalted butter
1 tsp boiling water
6 tbsps of homemade Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam 

Makes 12-16 biscuits


Preheat the oven to 180c/170c fan/Gas Mark 4.

1. To make the biscuits, pop the flour, custard powder, vanilla powder and baking powder into a food processor and pulse to mix

2. Add the cubed butter and pulse to create a crumbly mixture

3. Add in the sugar and pulse again

4. Beat the egg and tablespoon of milk together. Slowly pour down the funnel of the processor with the engine running until the dough comes together in a ball. You may not require the entire egg and milk mixture before a ball is formed, alternatively you may need to add a little more milk

5. Remove the dough from the processor, press into a disc shape, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes

6. Once chilled, roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 4mm. Dip biscuit cutter of your choice into a little flour and cut out your shapes. Prick the outside edge of each biscuit all the way around on one side with a skewer or corn on the cob holder. Cook on a lined baking sheet for 12-15 minutes, and set aside to cool

7. To make the custard cream: pop the custard powder, vanilla powder and icing sugar into the food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and blitz together until a smooth cream forms, adding a little boiling water if required

8. Sandwich two biscuits together with about 1tbsp of custard cream and 1 tbsp of rhubarb and vanilla jam

Miniature Upside Down Plum Cakes


115g softened butter
210g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
200g Fairtrade caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Seeds from one ndali vanilla pod
120ml soured cream

For the topping
100g honey
2-3tsps rose water
5 plums, stoned and cut into small segments


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Lightly grease and line four 5cm diameter round cake tins. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside

2. Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until fully combined

3. Add half of the flour mixture followed by half the sour cream and beat until just combined. Repeat, until the all the flour and cream is added

4. Arrange segments of the plums in the bottom of each tin. Drizzle over the honey and rose water. Top with the cake batter, smoothing over evenly with the back of a metal spoon

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve with a dollop of fromage frais or clotted cream.

 Autumnal Feast Jam
(aka Pear, Plum, Apple and Vanilla Jam)


250g peeled, cored and grated dessert apples
250g peeled, cored pear, roughly chopped
300g stoned plums, roughly chopped
1 ndali Fairtrade Vanilla pod
600g Fairtrade white sugar
Zest and juice 1 lemon
Small knob of butter

Sterlised jars; makes approximately 500g of jam


1. Place all the fruit in a conserving pan with just enough water to cover the base. Add the vanilla pod

 2. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the fruit is tender. Meanwhile warm the sugar in the oven on the lowest temperature

 3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the warmed sugar, stirring until dissolved.

 4. Add the zest and juice of the lemon. Return to the heat, bring to the boil and cook rapidly for 15 minutes

 5.  Test to see if has reached setting point (I use the plate in the freezer method)

 6. When ready, add the knob of butter which will remove the scum that may have collected on the top. Pour into sterilised jars and seal

Baker's notes

  • We bloggers have been asked to bring along up to three of the following: preserves, biscuits, cakes and sweets
  • I thought it best, hedging my bets and all, to create all four then choose today which to go for. So, after much deliberation, I'll be taking along the three bakes above. I also baked some Dark Chocolate Candied Almonds, aka the 'Gift Swap Rejects', which I'll post at a later date
  • I'll keep you posted as to how this wonderful event goes!


What a wonderful afternoon was had by all. Not only did we tuck into some glorious Fortnum and Mason tea time treats, I caught up with some lovely old blogging friends, made some lovely new blogging friends and also learnt so more about Ndali Vanilla and the importance and difference buying Fairtrade can make.

Ohhhhh, now where do I start?

Two minutes later

Hard at work judging

And announcing the results

And also, much to my shock to all those there witnessing it, my biscuits won in the biscuit category! Judged by the very kind Sunday Times food writer Lucas Hollweg the prize is a Kenwood K-Mix!! I literally couldn't stop shaking with excitement and disbelief and had to be gently guided to a chair to sit down!

A big ginormous thank you to everyone involved in today and here's a little collection of some of the brilliant fairtrade bakes:

Please let me know if one of the above is one of your bakes so I can attribute properly- thank you!


  1. great work Kate!!!
    alice x

  2. Those biscuits look amazing!! Would love to try them out... One to add to the recipe book for sure.

    Laura x

  3. Congratulations and well done and what a prize to win!!!

    Lovely bakes and makes and great to see some pics of the event, very sad to have missed it.

    Happy KMixing. x

  4. I'm not surprised you won, those biscuits look amazing - I'm definitely going to be making some of those for Xmas gifts, they look so pretty. Well done!

  5. I am so happy you won with your brilliant looking and sounding biscuits. This must be adding to your achievements for this year. So many good things for you to celebrate! I hope you enjoy your gift and I feel I need to try your award winning biscuits for myself now, well done :))xx

  6. Wasn't it a wonderful afternoon? Huge congratulations to you - I can't wait to use my K-Mix too! x

  7. Well done you and may I say totally justified as those biccies look a real picture. Fantastic.

  8. Many congratulations and well done. I must try those biscuits.

  9. Kate, what a great post and congratulations, I'm still buzzing with excitement myself, wasn't it amazing?
    Your biscuits look wonderful and given the competion must taste superb, I have them bookmarked for a future bake. Jude x

  10. Hi Kate,

    congratulation with your winner biscuits :-) Kiki

  11. Hi Kate, it was lovely to see you on Monday and huge well done on your win! Hope you enjoy your mixer, I am so looking forward to mine! Hope to see you again soon. Pascale x

  12. Well done again Kate and it was so lovely to see you again.....and those biscuits of yours are lush!!! Great write up and super photos......Karen xxxx

  13. Well done, but it does like you deserved to win, those biscuits look so beautiful. How is the K- Mix?

  14. Oh very well done you Kate. It all sounds fabulous as do your biscuits.

  15. Congratulations. They are stunning, you deserve it. The flavours sound delicious together.

  16. What lovely bakes - I love Ndali vanilla


Thank you very much for your comment- I appreciate every single one of them!