My favourite recipe: Frangipane pie by Nicholas Balfe, Holm, Somerset

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

Once a tired old Somerset establishment, Holm has been lovingly crafted into a stylish but friendly restaurant with rooms. Its style is reminiscent of a Tuscan villa, with soothing earth tones and understated brushes of colour and the location, a quiet Somerset village where you can walk the hills and unwind. But the main draw is the food, at least, that’s how it seems from the outside. Sourcing is exactingly local and the menus spectacular, but Chef Director Nicholas Balfe told us that as much emphasis is placed on people, both guests and staff, as on produce. He spoke to us about the work that’s gone into Holm and his food philosophy, then gave us one of his favourite recipes, frangipane pie.

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What’s the ethos of Holm?  

I think Holm is striking, yet familiar, homely yet professional, minimalist yet comfortable and accessible. We try to convey values in the physical space, but really it’s the service that makes that shine.  

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What are you most proud of when you look back at the journey you’ve been on with Holm? 

It’s been a challenging period for many, especially in the hospitality sector. We’ve worked exceptionally hard to build a new part of our business (figuratively and literally), which is an incredibly exciting proposition. It sounds a bit cliché and corny, but I really feel as though our rooms complete the picture here. Having guests to stay and looking after them for 24 or 48 hours just feels so natural in the space.  

Tell us about your team lunches…

We sit down to eat together twice a day, every day. We are surrounded by food and spend our time cooking, serving and clearing it, I feel we owe it to ourselves to sit down and enjoy a proper meal. It’s great for morale and team bonding, as well as the rest and time out in what is an exceptionally busy job is an essential element of team wellbeing.  

What is your favourite thing to cook for family and friends?

Something like a slow cooked stew or ragu, particularly in the autumn / winter months. They’re practical in that they can be prepared in bulk ahead of time, cost effective in that they often use cheaper cuts, and are hearty, delicious and deeply nourishing. Great with a good bottle of wine, too!  

Where do you draw your biggest food inspiration from?

Lots of places really. Memories, experiences elsewhere, cookbooks and the ingredients themselves often the combination of things that are in season and growing together can be the most powerful. 

And lastly, the frangipane pie! What about this recipe do you feel drawn to?  

I love making a frangipane pie. It’s quite a timeless dessert in my eyes, not something that is prone to fashion or fads, just delicious. It’s quite nostalgic for me too, as I have fond memories of my grandma Dorothy making almond slices (the same elements frangipane, pastry and jam just arranged differently) when I was a kid. Plus, it’s a satisfying task in that there are a few elements, which when brought together are more than the sum of their parts! 

Rhubarb and frangipane pie recipe


For the pastry

250g plain flour 

125g butter 

60g caster sugar 

A pinch salt 

1 egg 

A teaspoonful very cold water 

1 egg yolk

For the frangipane

150g butter 

150g caster sugar 

150g ground almonds 

3 eggs 

A dash vanilla essence

For the rhubarb 

1kg rhubarb 

200g caster sugar 

Two spoonfuls of blood orange (or Seville orange) marmalade 



Step 1

First, make the pastry. Using a food processor, pulse together the flour, butter, sugar and salt to form a breadcrumb consistency. Add the egg and pulse again, then the water. Transfer to a bowl and bring together in your hands to form a dough ball. Wrap in clingfilm, press down to form a hockey puck shape, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour (it freezes well, too, and can be kept for a month or so). Grease the tart case with a little butter. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out into 30cm diameter disc. Lay the pastry over the tart case and push down into the corners. Chill in the fridge for another hour. 

Step 2

Next, make the frangipane. Using a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the ground almonds and eggs one by one alternately. Finally add the vanilla essence. Set aside until needed. 

Step 3 

Next, prepare the rhubarb. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cut the stems in half lengthways, then toss in the sugar. Leave to macerate for 20 minutes or so. Place in a baking tray, cover loosely with baking paper, then bake for 10 minutes. They should be soft but not falling apart. Allow to cool while covered by the paper. 

Step 4

Now, blind bake the pastry. Place a piece of baking paper over the pastry case and fill the tart with raw rice, dried beans or ceramic baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and baking beans, and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Glaze the pastry with the egg yolk using a pastry brush. 

Step 5 

Once cool, fill the tart case with the frangipane and bake again for a further 20 minutes or until the frangipane is springy and cooked through. Allow to cool slightly, and spread the top of the frangipane with marmalade. 

Step 6

Finally, decorate the tart. Lay the strips of cooked rhubarb over the top of the fragipan and trim to size so it fits the shape of the pie exactly – forming a circle made up of strips of rhubarb. Reduce any liquids from the rhubarb down to a thick syrup and glaze the tops of the rhubarb with it using a pastry brush. Serve with crème fraiche on the side. 

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

Chris is our in-house copywriter, with a flair for turning rough notes and travel tales into enticing articles. Raised in a tiny Wiltshire village, he was desperate to travel and has backpacked all over the world. Closer to home, he finds himself happiest in the most remote and rural places he can find, preferably with a host of animals to speak to, some waves to be smashed about in and the promise of a good pint somewhere in his future.
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