Viewing entries tagged
recipe

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

Comment

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

IMG_8392.jpg

This is the cinnamon apple crumble pie 2.0. Tried, tested, and enhanced...Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies Soft, crunchy, crumbly, fresh, sweet, and on the cusp of sour – the Gail’s Bakery apple crumble cake is what I crave.  It’s the ultimate winter treat, although I gaze longingly through the bakery window at them year-round.

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

 

 

Cinnamon Apple Crumble PiesI bought the Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook a few months ago in the hope that they had divulged the secret of their signature apple crumble cake. They hadn’t.

Cinnamon Apple Crumble PiesCinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

As a result I’ve just had to develop my own recipe – more wholesome, with more cinnamon and less sugar, I’ve heard they may even be superior…

IMG_8388

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

 

Ingredients

(Makes 15)

Pastry

320g (11.3 oz) wholegrain spelt flour

110g (3.9oz) icing sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

165g (5.8oz) butter, roughly chopped into cubes

1 large egg, beaten

Apple Filling

700 (1lb 5oz) grams of peeled, cored and coarsely grated Bramley apples (about 3 large apples)

70g (2.5oz) caster sugar

Crumble topping

80g (2.8oz) wholegrain spelt flour

45g (1.6oz) oats

45g (1.6oz) caster sugar

50g (1.7oz)  butter

2 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

15 hole muffin/cupcake tin, greased (usually they come in 12s, in which case you will need 2 x muffin trays

 

Method

Pastry

  1. In a blender, blitz together dry ingredients. Then add in the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand. Pour in the egg and continue to pulse until the mixture clumps together into a dough. Avoid mixing it more than necessary.
  2. Flatten the dough roughly into a disc and wrap in cling film or baking parchment. Chill in the freezer while you make the other elements.

Apple Filling

  • Place all ingredients in a pan and stir over a high heat for about 5 minutes until the apple turns soft but some texture still remains.  Strain the mixture using a sieve, pressing down to get rid of excess liquid (about 250ml, which incidentally tastes like a delicious mulled cider).  Set aside to cool.

Crumble

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand.

Assembly

  1. Preheat an oven to 180˚C.
  2. On a floured surface, roll out the chilled pasty to a thickness of 0.5cm. Cut the pastry into circles with an area similar to that of the muffin tin holes (about 8-10cm), and press each circle in the holes. You may need to patchwork the pieces together.
  3. Prick the pastry lining the muffin holes with a fork, and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or cooked through and beginning to golden slightly.
  4. Take the tin out of the oven and spoon 2tbsp of the cooked apple into each pastry shells. Top the cakes by spooning a few tablespoons of the crumb topping over each cake, patting it down and then sprinkling the rest of the mixture over.  I like to clump some of it together before scattering it over in order to add further texture and rustic appeal.
  5. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the crumble topping is golden and crisp. Serve hot or cold.

Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pies

Comment

Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

Comment

Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

Afternoon tea.  What do you think of when someone says those words? Tiers of fluffy isosceles sandwiches, miniature entremets layered with fruit, caramel, and chocolate, and maybe a scone glistening with strawberries.  Crisp napkins, high ceilings, the tinkling of fine bone china…

Near where I live there is an Austrian tea room.  The window is filled with garish glace cherry- adorned, deflated pastries, crusted squiggles of festering cream, and opera cake melding into a brown sludge. It opened 60 years ago, and the décor and pastries appear not to have been refreshed since.

Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

Inside, it is dark and cramped, and the airless atmosphere is thickened with hot breath and the oversweet smell of fat and sugar.

Their Linzer biscuits, however, remind me of Jammie Dodgers – those jam-filled, shortbread biscuits of my childhood that only other people’s mothers allowed – and inspired me to re- interpret them. 

These have a slight Moroccan edge: spiced, delicate with a slight chewiness, filled with the tangy conserve of your choice.

I like marmalade for the tart/bitter contrast against the sweetness of the pastry, but strawberry also works well.  Of course, you can go for any shape, but I am rather taken by the cog-like –quirky take on a Jammie Dodger look.

Ingredients

290g (10.125 ounces) white spelt flour (or plain flour if unavailable)

140g (5 ounces) ground almonds

100g (3.5 ounces) caster sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 ½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp almond extract

1 tsp grated lemon zest (about ½ lemon)

1 tsp grated orange zest (about ½ medium orange)

225g (8 ounces) unsalted butter

200g (7 ounces) marmalade or jam of choice (I used marmalade and strawberry)

30g (1 ounce) icing sugar

Large and small cookie cutters (I used 7cm and 3.5cm diameter rings)

2 large baking sheets, lined with baking parhcment

Method

  1. Pour flour, ground almonds, caster sugar, salt cinnoman, cloves,orange and lemons zest, and almond extract into a food processor and pulse until fully combined.  Add in the chopped butter and pulse again until the mixture forms a damp sand-like texture.  Keep pulsing until it clumps tighter to form a dough.
  2. Divide the dough into two rounds and flatten both onto sheets of baking parchment, wrap them and place them in the freezer for about 20 minutes or the fridge for an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 160˚C (325˚F). Remove the disks of dough from the freezer/fridge – if they are too firm to roll, let them sit for a few minutes.  Ona thoroughly floured board, roll one disk out to a 3mm (1/8 inch) thickness. Cut out as many cookies as possible and set aside the scraps.  Space the disks out on the baking trays as you go. Repeat with the second disk and use the smaller cutter to cut out small holes from the rounds.  Press together the accumulated scraps and roll out again.  Make sure there are an equal number of whole circles to circles with a cut out circle.  A tip to avoid the cutter sticking in the dough is to dip it in flour first.
  4. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 12- 15 minutes until the cookies are golden but still soft to the touch – they will continue to cook as they cool. When cool, for aesthetic effect, sieve the icing sugar onto the rounds with the circles cut out of them. Then spread a teaspoon of the jam/marmalade onto the complete circles, and lightly press the cut-out layer on top.  Devour, delicately, of course…
Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies
Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

Comment

Strawberry Crumble Bars

Comment

Strawberry Crumble Bars

IMG_4993.jpg

Strawberry Crumble Bars What’s your crumble-to-fruit ratio?  If you’re the kind who favours a preponderance of stewed fruit with an insubstantial fairy dusting of oaty-flour, turn away now.  If you lean towards the lavish when it comes to crumble proportion - good.  Read on…

Strawberry Crumble Bars

Strawberry Crumble Bars Strawberry Crumble Bars

I have experienced many a crumble: from damson to mulberry to cherry to apple, from autumn to winter to spring to summer. But regardless of the lusciousness of the interior, the crumbles that garner the most attention, that leave people scratching way at the remaining crumbs that have become forged to the side of the pan in yearning for more, are the ones with a superabundance of crumble topping.

Strawberry Crumble Bars

Crunchy, nutty, warming and eminently comforting – this is what a good crumble should be.  Enough so that you don’t worry about rationing the crumble in your bowl to suit the amount of fruit – enough so that every mouthful has a good proportion of both.

IMG_5024A good crumble, as with so many things, should leave you wanting more.

Strawberry Crumble Bars

But what if you don’t want to have to face the risk of eating the whole pot by mistake – or at least you if do want to be able to eat the whole lot, do so in a more measured way?

Strawberry Crumble Bars

What if you want to extend the experience beyond the comfort of your kitchen i.e. a portable crumble?

Strawberry Crumble Bars

Try these – fruity, nutty, fresh, and summery, with a subtle tang and not overly-sweet.  They are extremely quick and easy to make and, more importantly, the crumble–to-fruit ratio is verging on perfect…

Strawberry Crumble Bars

 

Ingredients

Base

115g sugar

½ tsp baking powder

210g white spelt flour (substitute any flour of your choice: plain, gluten-free or otherwise)

115g unsalted butter, roughly chopped

½ egg

¼ tsp salt

Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange

Juice of ½ orange

2 generous cups of strawberries, quartered

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (substitute with 1 tsp of vanilla bean extract if unavailable)

 

Crumble topping

20g unsalted butter

40g sugar

70g oats

30g finely chopped walnuts (remove if allergic)

50g white spelt flour (substitute with any flour of your choice, plain, gluten-free or otherwise)

Pinch of salt

20cm x 20cm tin lined with baking parchment (or a pan of similar area)

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190˚C. Pour sugar, baking powder, flour, salt, and zest in a blender and pulse to combine.  Add butter and egg, and pulse until fully combined and has reached a slightly clumpy, damp sand consistency.  Pour this into the lined baking pan, and press down to create an even base layer.
  2. In a bowl, stir together chopped strawberries, orange juice, orange zest and cornstarch. Sprinkle evenly over the base layer (including the fruit juices.)
  3. Make the topping by pulsing together the butter, sugar, oats, flour and salt until fully combined and sand-like in texture. Stir in the walnuts, then sprinkle the mixture over the strawberries.
  4. Bake in oven for 30 – 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the base is cooked through. Make sure to check after 20 minutes - you may need to cover the crumble with tin foil to prevent the top from catching (depending on your oven’s temperament). Once cooked, remove from the oven and slice into squares.  Eat immediately or later.

Strawberry Crumble Bars

Comment

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

1 Comment

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

IMG_4523.jpg

 How to bake and stay (reasonably) in shape. Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

I am often asked how it is that I am not obese.  I am by no means super skinny, but people wonder how I avoid rolling around the place when I am seemingly baking the whole time and have little resistance to delicious things.  So, here’s my secret.  Have a go.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

 

What I need: a running machine; a radio; an oven; a timer

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

What I do:

Pour the batter into the cake tin, lovingly smooth the surface over with a spatula. One lick of the spatula before it goes in the sink (just a little indulgence). Carefully open the oven door, and bend down slowly so that the batter remains level.  Place the cake tin tenderly on the rack. Set the oven timer.  22 minutes.  Then GO.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

Run up the stairs, two at a time.  That’s one minute either side to rush back down.  Turn up the radio. Leap on to the treadmill, and run. 10 mph minimum. 20 mins to go.  Sweat, pound, sweat.  15 mins.  Beyoncé’s screaming.  Oven beeps.  Run back down (Beyoncé’s mumbling). Open oven door, skewer the cake.  Damn - not cooked. Rip out a sheet of tin foil. Cover the cake.  Burn hand.  Set timer: 7 mins more.  Repeat process until skewer comes out clean.  Place cake on rack and allow to cool.

Stretch and shower.

Hover over the cake with a knife.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

You can make the cake sans-icing by simply halving the recipe and, before serving, dusting with a little icing sugar.Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

 

Ingredients

Cake

200g butter, at room temperature

170g caster sugar

30g light brown muscovado sugar

2 tbsp ground coffee

¼ tsp salt

70g toasted walnuts, ground to a fine sand

4 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp instant coffee, dissolved in as little hot water as possible to make a smooth paste

240g self-rising flour, sieved

2 x 8 inch cake tins, greased and with bases lined with a circle of baking parchment

 

Coffee Syrup

40g golden syrup

50g caster sugar

2 tbsp instant coffee

100ml boiling water

 

Coffee Icing

300g butter, at room temperature

450g icing sugar

1 ½ tsp vanilla

2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in as little hot water as possible to make a smooth paste

¼ tsp salt

 

Caramelised walnuts

60g walnuts

2 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Using an electric mixer, or with a vigorous hand, in a large bowl beat together the butter, caster sugar, muscovado, ground coffee and salt until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla and dissolved instant coffee. Beat this into the butter-sugar-coffee-salt mix.  Once combined, stir in the ground walnuts.
  3. Finally, gently fold the sieved flour into the mixture, being careful not to overbeat. Divide the mixture between the two tins and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes (checking after 20) or until a skewer comes out clean.
  4. While the cakes are baking, make the coffee syrup. Dissolve the instant coffee in the water and pour into a small pan along with the syrup and sugar.  On a medium high heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly to the consistency of maple syrup.
  5. Remove cakes from oven. Stab them all over with a cake tester or skewer, and spoon the syrup equally over the two cakes.  Set aside on a rack and allow to cool.

Icing

  1. Beat together butter and icing sugar. Once combined, beat in the vanilla, coffee and salt.
  2. Remove the cakes from tins, place one on the serving plate and spread ¼ of the icing on its surface. Place the other cake on top and spread the icing evenly over the cake.

Caramelised Walnuts

  1. In a shallow pan, over a medium-high heat, stir together water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour in the walnuts, and continue to stir and coat them until all the water has evaporated.  Decant them on to a sheet of baking parchment, and allow them to cool.
  2. Once cool, chop roughly, and scatter as desired over the cake.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

1 Comment

Spiced Blueberry Tart

1 Comment

Spiced Blueberry Tart

IMG_4374i.jpg

Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of logging on to Facebook, innocently hoping to drain away half an hour of one’s day (minimum) by looking at pictures of people one may or may not have half met once trying to prove how much fun they are having by posting pictures of themselves with friends/family, strained smiles stretched across their faces, and who are clearly not that immersed in the fun as they have had to spend half an hour trying to get one decent picture out of the hundred they’ve taken to emblazon it across their Facebook wall and maybe, just maybe, turn it into a cover photo?

And then – BAM - your gaze is diverted,

and you are staring down into the depths of a garishly coloured plastic bowl filled with some unidentifiable artificial gunk, pink fleshy hands massaging some other substance into it to form some putty-like emulsion which is then mushed and squeezed and squidged into a plastic mould, whizzed up, and extruded through a bag and…… oh look, it’s that Gooey Oreo, Jellied Eel and Green Marshmallow Mini Coffee Cup that “you’ve always wanted to make for your slumber party with the gals”.

Here’s an antidote.  It is simple yet sophisticated, humble yet sumptuous, tangy but not cloyingly sweet, and light yet not so light when you’ve had 4+ pieces….

Ingredients

Pastry

200g white spelt flour (can be substituted with plain flour)

100g butter, roughly cubed

2 tbsp icing sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 small egg, beaten

12 x 36cm tart tin, greased and dusted with flour

Blueberry filling

800g frozen blueberries

250g caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp cornflour

Zest of ½ medium sized orange

Method

  1. Place flour, butter, icing sugar and salt in a food processor, and blitz until it resembles damp sand. Pour in the beaten egg, and pulse until the mixture combines to form a soft dough.  Remove from the processor, wrap in baking parchment and place in the fridge for half an hour (or freezer for 10-15 minutes) – this will prevent the dough from shrinking when it bakes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Lightly dust a surface with flour and roll out the dough in a rough rectangle to 0.5cm thickness. Roll the pastry around a rolling pin and transfer to the tin, pressing it into the fluting (if, indeed, your tin is fluted). Run a knife along the top edge of the tin to remove excess pastry. Prick the base of the pastry a few times with a fork, and place back in the fridge for 30 minutes (or freezer for 10 minutes).
  3. Prepare the pastry for blind baking by lining the inside with a sheet of tin foil and filling it with baking beads to weigh it down while it bakes and to prevent it from shrinking. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is dry and beginning to turn golden.  If it is cooking too slowly, you can remove the beads and tin foil after 15 minutes and continue to bake.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. To make the spiced blueberry filling, place a large pan over a high heat and pour in all the ingredients. Stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved in the juice that runs off the blueberries. When the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching, until the liquid is almost completely reduced and with the viscosity somewhere between a syrup and a jam. Allow to cool to room temperature, then pour into the pre-baked pastry case.
Spiced Blueberry Tart

1 Comment

Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

5 Comments

Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

IMG_3775.jpg

I never caught on to the Disney hype – I endured a few of the films when I was younger but was never enthralled by its saccharine princesses and unrealistic princes. I rejected the dressing up stage of childhood, and have none of the nostalgia that is awakened in many when hearing or singing the songs.  My only knowledge of Lion King is from Cindies (arguably the stickiest night club in Cambridge) which is played for 30 seconds without fail every Wednesday evening to excite the Disney addicts and to jolt inebriated students out of their drunken kisses.

What I did love was the sugar-glazed brutality of the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film.

I adored the Chocolate Room, and my six year old self spent a lot of time fantasising about edible wallpaper and edible TV adverts. However, the first scene, where Augustus Gloop falls into the ‘chocolate’ river, is almost too painful to watch.

It was concocted using 150,000 gallons of water, real chocolate and real ice cream, yet despite its authenticity, its watery thinness is more the stuff of sewers than of dreams.

If I were going to bathe in chocolate it would need to be velvety, glossy and thick… and after 15 years of dwelling on this I’ve come to terms with the fact that this tart is probably the closest I will get to doing that.

Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

Ingredients

Chocolate pastry

225g plain flour

30g cocoa

150g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes

110g white caster sugar

3 egg yolks

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp ice water

baking beads/uncooked rice/dry beans

4 fresh figs, halved (optional)

12 x 36cm tart tin, greased and dusted with flour

Salted caramel chocolate ganache

300g 70% good quality dark chocolate

300g white caster sugar

300ml double cream

20g light brown muscovado sugar

20g butter

1tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

Pastry Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C
  2. Blitz all the ingredients in a blender. Pulse until into turns into a damp sand texture. Tip out on to a surface and press it so that it clumps together into dough.   Wrap the dough in baking parchment and put it in the fridge for an hour, or in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  3. Dust a surface with flour and roll the pastry out in a rectangle to a thickness of 0.5cm. Any excess can be frozen and used within 2 months. Transfer the pastry to the greased and floured tin to line it. Don’t panic if it crumbles in the transition, just patchwork it together in the tin. Place a sheet of baking parchment or tin foil over the pastry, and fill it with the baking beads to weigh it down to prevent the pastry from shrinking as it cooks.
  4. Place it in the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the baking parchment and baking beads. Reduce the oven temperature to 150˚C, and place the pastry back in to bake for a further 10-15 minutes until it is fully cooked. Set aside to cool.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Method

  1. Chop the dark chocolate roughly, and set it aside in a heatproof mixing bowl.
  2. Place the caster sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat and, when it starts to melt, stir gently with a rubber spatula to avoid it burning around the edges. Push any unmelted sugar into the already caramelised sugar to aid the caramelising process.
  3. Once the sugar has turned a rich, dark gold colour, while still on the heat, pour in the cream whisking all the time. If clumps form, don’t panic: keep whisking over medium low heat, and they will eventually melt.
  4. Once the lumps have dissolved, whisk in the muscovado sugar, butter, vanilla and salt, and stir the bubbling mixture on a medium heat for another 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the mixture into the bowl of chopped dark chocolate and stir immediately until all the chocolate has melted and the caramel and chocolate are fully combined.
  6. Pour into the tart shell, smooth the surface over with a palate knife, and place this in the fridge for an hour (or freezer for half an hour) to set. Decorate with sliced figs to serve.
Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

5 Comments

Tarta de Santiago

3 Comments

Tarta de Santiago

IMG_2892.jpg

When life gives you … quinces Tarta de Santiago

 

The scent coming from the paper bag was soft and sweet, and old fashioned rose-like, and when I turned out its contents, eight yellow, somewhat misshapen apple-pears tumbled out.

Tarta de Santiago     These quinces were the unwanted fruit of an unappreciated tree in someone else’s garden.  Beguilingly biblical in appearance, their uncompromising hardness metamorphoses into something utterly different after cooking.

Tarta de Santiago

Tarta de Santiago Originally referred to as the Kydonian melon, and mentioned in 6th Century BCE Greek poetry, the quinces we recognise today are believed to have been indigenous to Kydonia on the island of Crete. The Ancient Greeks dedicated the quince to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, who was often represented with the golden apple of Hesperides in her right hand – that apple, in all likelihood, a quince.  Indeed, quinces symbolised love and fertility, and Plutarch refers to the ancient wedding ritual whereby a bride would take a bite from a quince before retiring to the bridal chamber with her husband – possibly to freshen her breath, too.

Tarta de Santiago The path of the wedding procession of Helen and Menelaus was said to have been strewn with quinces, myrtle leaves and crowns woven from violets and roses. The fruit was also said by Pliny to have warded off the malign influence of the evil eye, and its medicinal value as an aid to digestion was also noted.

Tarta de Santiago

The Byzantines made wine from quinces as well as kydonaton, a thick quince jelly, probably the ancestor of French cotignac or condoignac, a delicacy made with honey, wine and spices that was considered a worthy gift for kings.

Tarta de SantiagoApicius, the first extant Roman cookbook writer, of the first century CE, preserved quinces whole in honey diluted with a spiced wine reduction, and also combined them with leeks, honey, and broth in hot oil in a dish known as Patina de Cydoniis. In the 4th Century CE, Palladius, an agriculturist and writer, composed a recipe for baked quince strips, possibly the first stirrings of membrillo, the Spanish quince gel that we know today.

Tarta de Santiago

During the 16th and 17th centuries, cooks in England prepared many variations of quince preserves which they called quidoniac, quiddony or paste of Genoa.  Often the preserve paste was thick enough to be moulded into animal or flower shapes. Nowadays, many cultures use quinces in their cuisine: in India, a quince sambal is made by making a puree out of quinces, onions, chillies, orange juice and salt. In Iran, quinces are sometimes cored and stuffed with minced meat, and Moroccan tagines often include quince along with dried fruit and spices.

Tarta de Santiago

Despite its pertinence in history and mythology the quince has rather fallen out of fashion.  Now the prized aphrodisiac and breath-freshener has been reduced to an unloved (except by the cognoscenti), knobbly peculiarity.  I hereby am starting a quince appreciation campaign and when life gives you quinces, make membrillo, and with the membrillo make Tarta de Santiago.

Tarta de Santiago

Membrillo is the rose-tinted translucent and slightly grainy gel that miraculously results from boiling quinces with water, sugar and citrus.  Its perfumed exoticness makes one think of orange groves and balmy breezes, and when combined with the citrus infused almond cake and pastry layers, one is transported right to the Alhambra.

Tarta de Santiago

 

Recipe

Ingredients

Pastry

150g white spelt flour (substitutable with any flour of your choice including gluten-free to create a gluten-free dessert)

40g caster sugar

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

Grated zest of ½ unwaxed orange

100g butter, roughly chopped into small cubes

1 egg yolk

25cm x 25cm square tin (or round tin with similar dimensions) at least 8cm deep, lined with greaseproof paper

Filling

250g quince paste (membrillo)

2 tbsp lemon juice

Grated zest of ½ unwaxed orange

Grated zest of ½ unwaxed lemon

65g ground almonds

Cake layer

150 ground almonds

100g caster sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

Grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange

Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

150g butter, melted and allowed to cool slightly

100ml triple sec

3 eggs

Optional candied orange decoration

Follow instructions from my recipe for Citrus Syrup-Soaked Cake

Method

  1. In a blender, blitz together sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt and butter until the mixture resembles damp sand. Add in the egg yolk and blitz until the mixture comes together into dough.  Flatten into a disc, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill in a freezer for 15 minutes or refrigerate for ½ hour.
  2. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out to a 3mm thickness and transfer to the tin to line the base. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 180°C. To make the filling, place the quince paste (membrillo), lemon juice and zest in a small pan over a medium heat and stir until smooth and fully combined.  Remove from the heat and stir in the ground almonds.  Remove the tin from the fridge and spread the quince mixture evenly over the pastry.  Refrigerate once more.
  4. To make the cake layer, whisk together ground almonds, sugar, cinnamon, salt and zest in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, triple sec and eggs.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until combined in a loose paste.
  5. Remove the tin from the fridge and pour the cake layer mixture over the quince layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown, springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool before serving.

Tarta de Santiago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

2 Comments

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

IMG_2716.jpg

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad  

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladSuperfood

Line breaks: super|food

Pronunciation: /ˈsuːpəfuːd/

Culina definition: ‘superfoods’ – a marketing ploy term assigned to natural ingredients which have been neglected on shop shelves for a while and could do with a PR boost.  They have nutritional benefits similar to many other natural ingredients and have the potential to reduce the risk of disease if you consume at least your body weight in said superfood in under an hour.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, quinoa and walnuts have all ridden the calculated PR wave to health fame in the last few years, and indeed that is possibly why they have drifted on to my kitchen shelves.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Ignoring their “superfood” status, they are particularly delicious when combined.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladThis salad sits at the other end of the spectrum from the straggly, limp green leaf type.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladIt is crunchy, sweet, umami, nutty, juicy, and looks resplendent studded with glistening pomegranate jewels.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladCauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladIt’s also ridiculously quick to whizz up and can be prepared up to a day in advance (sans dressing, and refrigerated).

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

Recipe

Ingredients

100g quinoa

220g cauliflower

180g pomegranate seeds (1 pomegranate approx.)

200g feta, crumbled

100g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

50g fresh coriander, finely chopped

 

Dressing

10g garlic, crushed

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp tahini

8 tbsp natural yogurt

6 tbsp lemon juice

 

Method

  1. In a medium sized pan boil 1 litre of water over a high heat. Pour in the quinoa and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the grains are translucent but still slightly al dente.  Drain the quinoa in a sieve and set it aside to cool.
  2. Chop the cauliflower roughly, and blitz in a blender, pulsing until it resembles coarse couscous. If you don’t have a blender, you can grate the cauliflower by hand to achieve a similar effect.
  3. In a large serving bowl, mix together the quinoa, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, feta, walnuts and coriander.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients to combine. Pour as much as desired of the dressing over the salad just before serving and mix it through.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

2 Comments

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

2 Comments

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

IMG_2242.jpg

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza Pizza is in his DNA.  Five generations of golden, thin, crispiness. One recipe.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The pizza oven is raging, rapidly devouring its feed of dry wood and spitting out sweet nutty smoke.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

 

 

He comes every summer in his Ape brimming with plump mushrooms of dough.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

A light sprinkle of flour on a wooden board, and he gets to work.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

With wrist flicks and little rotations the round becomes a disc, airborne momentarily to ensure evenness.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

A careful spiral of passata with the back of a spoon,

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

a shower of mozzarella,

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

and a scattering of whatever’s in the garden: fiori di zucchini, melanzane, pepperoncini…

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The flurry of flour continues into the night.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The dinner table is a moderation-free zone.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

He only stops when even the strictest of eaters has lost count of the number of pizzas (not slices) he/she has consumed, and physical incapacity is the only limitation.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

He doesn’t even really stop there: a couple more are sent to the table per domani.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

A pizza “hangover” ensues along with the inevitable promises of “never again” “not for another year”.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

But as soon as I hit London soil again I want to relieve that pizza-lover’s fantasy and so I make these.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

They’re crisp, thin, verdant, and fresh.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

I don’t believe in barren crusts or meanness so the ingredients are abundant and go right up to and beyond the edge of the base.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

I use spelt instead of plain flour (as usual) to reduce the GI level and add a nuttier more complex flavour to the dough.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The added bonus of this recipe is that it is ridiculously quick.  Kneading is kept to a minimum (5 minutes) and the rising time is the shortest you’ll ever find for pizza dough – ½ hour.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The balsamic-maple reduction is optional but I include it to add extra caramelised sweetness, extra tang and a touch of drama.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

 

Ingredients – makes 4 pizzas

Base

250ml warm water

3 tsp dried yeast (fast active yeast)

500g white spelt flour

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

 

Topping

750g asparagus

30g garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/4 tsp salt

Grated zest of ½ lemon

A few grinds of Pepper

400g mozzarella (4 balls), chopped finely into cubes

100g parmesan, grated

3 spring onions, thinly sliced

Small bunch of chives, finely chopped

2 red chillies (optional), finely sliced

 

2 large baking trays or 4 medium baking trays, greased and dusted with flour

 

Maple Balsamic Reduction (optional)

120ml balsamic vinegar

2 tsp maple syrup

 

Method

  1. Heat oven to 120˚C for 5 minutes then switch it off.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer (or large bowl if making by hand) pour in warm water and sprinkle yeast over it. Allow to stand for 5 minutes for the yeast to activate.
  3. Stir in flour, salt and oil. Knead by hand for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or in a machine fitted with a dough hook for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and when you press your thumb into it, it bounces back up.
  4. Divide dough into two and place each half in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and place in warmed oven.  Allow to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled, then remove from oven and preheat it to its highest temperature, usually 250˚C.
  5. While the dough is rising, use a vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus: place the asparagus flat on a surface, and holding it at the woody end, shave it from above the woody end to the top of the spear. I sometimes use the ends to make a stock for asparagus risotto.
  6. Place the ribbons in a bowl and mix with garlic, oil, salt, lemon zest and pepper.
  7. Once risen, divide each half into two and roll out each quarter into a 0.5cm thick disc. Place on tray and scatter each disc with mozzarella, parmesan, and shaved asparagus.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.
  8. Once baked, scatter with spring onions, chives, and chillies, if using. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, if desired, and serve immediately.

 

Maple Balsamic reduction

  1. Boil balsamic and maple syrup together over a high heat for about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly to consistency more like that of pure maple syrup. Allow to cool for 1 minute, and drizzle over pizzas.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

2 Comments

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

10 Comments

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

IMG_1559.jpg

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies Standing on a dining room chair to reach the kitchen counter top, swamped by my grandmother’s floral apron, and covered head to toe in drifts of white flour, at three years’ old I felt important and grown up. But first my grandparents and I would visit art galleries, going for afternoon tea (lemon cake for me, always), sitting on the top deck of the bus, drawing, painting, drinking more tea, and then, finally, at the end of the day, my grandmother would let me help her bake her oat and ginger cherry-bejewelled cookies – what I knew and still know as “Granny Biscuits”.  They are still in ready supply whenever I visit my grandmother’s house, and are as chewy, oaty and delicately sweet as they’ve ever been.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

 

 

My grandfather possessed a dangerously sweet tooth, and, as I’ve previously mentioned, was inclined to satisfy this without regard for moderation.  He would sneak into the larder and consume an entire box of glace cherries.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

This trait has wound its way down into my family. I name no names, but once the plastic seal has been broken, glace cherries mysteriously disappear at a rapid rate.  Although I admit I have, at several low points in my life, spooned jam without any justifying bread straight into my mouth, the general jam supply in my household is a more reliable presence.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint CookiesSo when recently I came to press the cherries into the Granny Biscuits (an essential step), and found there to be none, jam was a delicious substitute.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

This recipe is further adapted with coconut replacing oats to provide a more even coating and a beautiful golden crunch once baked.

You can use whatever jam or marmalade you desire – strawberry and apricot are two of my favourites.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients (Makes 25-35 approx.)

350g unsalted butter, at room temperature

200g caster sugar

2tsp vanilla extract

Zest of ½ lemon

½  tsp salt

350g white spelt flour

1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp water

200g desiccated coconut

100g strawberry jam

100g apricot jam

 

2 baking trays lined with baking parchment

 

Method

1.)    Preheat oven to 180˚C.

2.)    In a food mixer fitted with the paddle, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt together until fluffy and pale.

3.)    Sift in flour and mix together until fully combined and a soft dough is formed.  Flatten the dough into a roughly 2 cm thick disk, wrap in baking parchment, and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for ½ hour.

4.)    Roll the dough into 30g spheres (roughly 3 cm in diameter), dip each one in the beaten egg and then roll in the coconut.  Space the spheres at least 5 cm apart on the baking sheet.

5.)    Press your thumb in the middle of the spheres to create a teaspoon- sized indent.  Fill the indent with a teaspoonful  of the jam of your choice.

6.)    Place in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and the coconut turns golden.  Allow to cool and serve.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

10 Comments

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

5 Comments

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

IMG_1368-Copy.jpg

  Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake with Salty-Sweet Fudgy Biscuit Base & Blackcurrant Glaze

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

 

I’m at risk of sounding like one of those mindless click-bait buzzfeed articles when I say this, but I mean ever word: you’ve been eating white chocolate incorrectly your whole life.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

 

Would you believe me if I told you that the innocent Milky Bar Kid’s saccharine white cocoa butter chocolate has a deeper, darker, more seductive side?

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

The corruption process is simple.  All you need is:

- heat

- good quality white chocolate

-a tray

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

After about 20 minutes, the heat will begin to convert the pool of glossy molten cocoa butter into white chocolate’s luscious evil sister.  I dare you to try it.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

It’s pretty sublime on its own but, if you can resist eating it all, it works deliciously well in a cheesecake.  I pair it with a fudgy, salted, graham cracker-style base and an astringent blackcurrant glaze to cut through the sweetness.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

Often cheesecakes call for a base simply made out of crushed store-bought cookies.  I’m no stranger to doing this myself, but I’m always left with a pang of guilt for cheating.  Not only does homemade biscuit base taste better, it’s chemical-free and you have much more control over the flavour balance – this one’s especially fudgy.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

However, if you’re feeling lazy you can make the base using 400g digestive biscuits blitzed into crumbs with the 120g browned melted butter.  If you are a coeliac just use gluten-free digestive biscuits.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

You can also use non-caramelised white-chocolate.  It will still taste delicious, just not anywhere near as ambrosial.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

If you can’t get hold of any blackcurrants, feel free to use fresh or frozen raspberries or redcurrants instead.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

This is best made the day before serving and kept in the fridge overnight.  In fact, the fridge works wonders.

Caramelised White Chocolate CheesecakeCaramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

Salty-sweet, fudgy biscuit base

200g white spelt flour

60g light muscovado sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

60g unsalted butter, diced

70g clear honey

4 tsp vanilla extract

120g unsalted butter, for melting

Large baking tray, lined with baking parchment

20cm square tin (or round with similar capacity), lined with baking parchment

Caramelised white chocolate filling

300g good quality white chocolate, broken into pieces

180ml double cream

500g full fat cream cheese, at room temperature

100g caster sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste (or the seeds of 1 vanilla pod)

Bone dry baking tray (preferably non-stick)

Sour cream topping

220ml sour cream

40g icing sugar, sifted

Blackcurrant glaze

200g blackcurrants

80g caster sugar

3 tbsp water

100g fresh blackcurrants to decorate (optional)

Method

Salty-sweet fudgy biscuit base

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Pour flour, sugar, bicarb, salt and diced butter into a blender and blitz until the mixture resembles damp sand. Alternatively, use your fingers to rub the butter into the other ingredients.
  2. Whisk together the honey, vanilla and milk. Stir this into the dry mixture to combine and form a paste-like dough.
  3. Spread the dough on to the baking tray in an even 0.5cm thick layer. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.  If it doesn’t become dry and brittle after cooling, bake for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Brown the 120g of butter for melting by placing it in a pan over medium heat and allowing it to turn a golden brown before setting it aside to cool.  It should give off a wonderfully nutty aroma.
  5. Crumble the baked biscuit into a blender with the browned melted butter, and pulse until it turns to damp sand-like consistency. Tip this out into the lined cake tin and press down to form an even layer.  Place in freezer to set.

Sour cream topping

  1.    Whisk together sour cream and icing sugar until smooth. Store in the fridge until ready to use

Caramelised white chocolate filling

  1. Preheat the oven to 130˚C. Pour broken white chocolate on to the tray and place in the oven. Every 10 minutes remove the chocolate from the oven, stir with a bone dry utensil, and place back in the oven.  After about 30-40 minutes it will have taken on a beautiful honeyed caramel tone.    As ovens vary in character and different chocolate brands vary in ingredient quality, it may take longer.  The chocolate may also seize.  Don’t panic if this happens: just keep going until it turns golden (I’ll explain how to proceed with this in the next step).
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 160˚C. Place the double cream in a small pan over a high heat. Once it begins to boil, remove from the heat and pour into it the caramelised white chocolate.  Stir to combine until smooth. If the chocolate did seize in the oven, it will be lumpy.  If this is the case, pour the lumpy cream and chocolate mixture in a blender and blitz until completely smooth.  If a few recalcitrant lumps remain, simple sieve them out.
  3. Either using a stand mixer fixed with the beater or a hand held whisk, beat the cream cheese together with the caster sugar until completely soft and smooth. Beat in the cream and white chocolate caramel.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.  Pour this into the cream cheese mixture and beat until completely smooth and glossy.
  4. Remove the cake tin with the biscuit base from the freezer, and pour into it the filling mixture. Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours, checking after 45 minutes.  If it begins to go brown, cover with tin foil and continue to bake for the full time.
  5. Keeping the oven on, remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Spread the sour cream topping in an even layer over the surface of the cake. Place the cheesecake back in the oven, switch off the oven and leave its door slightly ajar while the cheesecake sets inside for a further 1 ½ hours.
  6. When the cheesecake reaches room temperature, remove from the oven, cover the cake tin with cling film, and place it in the fridge to allow it to set over night, or place it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

Blackcurrant glaze

  1. Place 200g blackcurrants, caster sugar and water in a small pan over a high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. When it begins to boil, reduce heat slightly and allow it to simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it thickens to a viscosity like that of maple syrup.  Strain the mixture through a sieve and place the liquid back in the pan to simmer for a further 3 minutes.
  2. Allow the syrup to cool slightly then carefully pour it over the chilled cheesecake. Scatter with fresh blackcurrants and serve.

Caramelised White Chocolate Cheesecake

5 Comments

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

2 Comments

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

IMG_0348.jpg

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

When I was six I experienced peak cinnamon bun.  In the middle of a farmers’ market in Toronto I was handed a parcel wrapped in brown paper.  Inside was a glistening golden sticky buttery cinnamon swirl - a full face experience, and well worth it.  Ever since then I’ve been looking for one to mirror its spiced perfection, but my quest continues to this day.  To the untrained/inexperienced/non-cinnamon obsessed palate a cinnamon bun is just a cinnamon bun.  Wrong.

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

My gluttonous many-year quest has allowed me to sample the many different types:  there is the American gloopy, slightly under baked, doughy, cream cheese-coated type.  This can be found in a ubiquitous American chain (at particular low points during my degree I used to linger outside the Cambridge branch just to catch the cinnamon perfumed scent).

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

 

At the opposite end of the scale there’s the more refined flaky and French variety which is unsatisfyingly mild in terms of cinnamon flavour if you’re an obsessive like me.

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

 

Somewhere in between the two is the Nordic variety, cardamom and cinnamon infused, with a delicate dough (my trip to Norway this summer will be dedicated to experiencing as many of these as possible).

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns   My own recipe falls somewhere in the middle of the 3 varieties.  The brioche dough is soft and light on the inside and crisp on the outside, the browning of the butter in the filling adds a nutty richness, and the muscovado sugar makes the bun moister and adds greater depth of flavour than plain caster sugar.  As the buns cook, the sugar cinnamon filling caramelises slightly at the base adding a moreish stickiness.

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon BunsAlthough the brioche dough requires starting the evening before, don’t let it stop you from making these.  They are, in fact, incredibly easy and quick to make.  It’s also rather lovely going to bed knowing that a cinnamon bun awaits you the next day…

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

 

 

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

 

Ingredients

Brioche

1 ½ tsp active dried yeast

3 tbsp lukewarm water

285g strong white bread flour

¾ tsp salt

40g caster sugar

3 medium sized eggs + 1 to paint the buns

115g cold unsalted butter

Cinnamon Filling

90g butter

160g light brown muscovado sugar

3 tbsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

 

1 round 9 inch tin, greased and dusted with flour

 

Method

  1. In large bowl stir together yeast and water until the yeast has dissolved. Leave in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is activated and the mixture begins to go slightly frothy.
  2. Add in the flour, salt, sugar and eggs and mix until thoroughly combined and the dough is smooth and sticky. If you are using a Kitchen Aid, as I do, fit it with the paddle and mix.
  3. Stirring continuously (or with the machine on a medium-high speed) add in the butter bit by bit, waiting until it is fully combined before adding more. Once the butter is fully combined, keep mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny. This will take about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Placed dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film, and place in fridge overnight or for minimum 8 hours.
  5. The next day make the cinnamon filling by placing the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Once it has melted, leave it on the heat for another minute until it goes golden in colour and has a rich, nutty aroma. Mix the sugar, salt and cinnamon with the butter to form a paste and set aside to cool.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and, on a board dusted with flour, roll it out to a rectangle of roughly 30cm by 38cm and to a 3/4cm thickness. Spread the cinnamon filling evenly over the rectangle.
  7. With long side of the rectangle closest to you (i.e. landscape as opposed to portrait), roll the dough from the long side to the other long side tightly, like a scroll. With the seam side down, slice the roll into 12 even slices. Arrange the slices spiral side up in the prepared tin, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rise for an hour in a warm place.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. To give the buns a beautiful golden shine, beat the egg and brush a thin layer over them.
  9. Place the tin in the oven and allow to bake for about 20-30 minutes until the surface is a golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. If it looks a little too dark early on in the bake, cover with tin foil. Once cooked, place on a wire rack to cool (or eat immediately).

Brown Butter Brioche Cinnamon Buns

2 Comments

Sticky Glazed Carrot, Pomegranate, Orange, Lentil & Feta Salad

8 Comments

Sticky Glazed Carrot, Pomegranate, Orange, Lentil & Feta Salad

IMG_8334.jpg

I wandered into my favourite greengrocer yesterday in search of inspiration, and came out laden with half the store.  Amongst the wooden crates I found the most beautifully vibrant baby carrots and blushing, freckled pomegranate orb.

Sticky Glazed Carrot, Pomegranate, Orange, Lentil & Feta Salad - Recipe

Although lentils and carrots are usually associated with comfort and winter, I used fresh orange and pomegranate jewels to lift them to a lighter, more summery dish.

The carrots are poached in orange juice and maple syrup until juicy and softened and the liquid has reduced to a golden caramel.  They are then roasted until sticky, slightly charred and a little withered, but dense with succulence and depth of flavour. The caramel is turned into a citrusy dressing to drench the lentils, with the sweetness balanced with the salty kick of feta.

Sticky Glazed Carrot, Pomegranate, Orange, Lentil & Feta Salad - Recipe

Ingredients

200g puy lentils

2 tsp vegetable bouillon stock

1 litre boiling water

400g baby carrots

Juice of 3 oranges (15 tbsp)

5 tbsp maple syrup

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

¼ tsp salt

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

2 oranges supremed (i.e. segmented with skin and membrane removed)

100g feta

140g pomegranate seeds (half a pomegranate)

20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Place lentils, stock and boiling water in a pan over a high heat and allow to simmer with a lid on for 30-35 minutes until fully cooked. They should be soft and no longer chalky, but definitely not mushy.  Drain them, and set aside in a bowl to cool.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the carrots: pour the orange juice into a large frying pan over a medium high heat, add the maple syrup and salt, and stir to combine. Carefully arrange the carrots in the pan and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots have softened and the liquid has reduced by about two thirds and become viscous and syrupy.  Remove from the heat.
  3. Preheat the grill to 230˚C. Remove the carrots from the frying pan (while preserving the syrup), arrange them on a baking tray and grill for 5 minutes (checking after 3 minutes) or until they are slightly charred.
  4. Into the pan with the remaining syrup, pour in the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, crushed garlic cloves and salt to make the dressing. Stir the mixture over a low heat until fully combined. Pour the warmed dressing over the bowl of lentils.
  5. To serve, carefully spoon the lentils and any non-absorbed dressing on to a platter, and scatter with pomegranate seeds and crumbled feta. Arrange the orange segments and roasted carrots over the top, and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.
Sticky Glazed Carrot, Pomegranate, Orange, Lentil & Feta Salad - Recipe

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

8 Comments

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

10 Comments

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

IMG_6945.jpg

(Affectionately known as Froyo Yoyos) Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

If something becomes a fad, I usually try to avoid it.  Cupcakes were once things of joy, their light, sweet, spongeyness perfuming the house with the scent of birthdays.  And there was always the hope of left over icing, not to mention the ease with which one could convince oneself that the perfectly domed surface was in need of decapitation, just to preview the crunchy golden coated delicate sponge, just in case the cupcakes weren’t guest-worthy.  But now those simple pleasures have been crushed for me as the once-a -year treat has lost its golden hued novelty.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The single-concept shops dedicated to cupcakes are now a graveyard for the dying fad.  I walked past a well-known purveyor of cupcakes in the middle of an airless department store only last week, and watched as the woman behind the counter shuffled the gaudy treats into reverse rainbow order in an attempt to look busy.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Frozen yoghurt is no longer a novelty, but for me at least it has not yet lost its appeal.  Some people (including me) are able to delude themselves that even with the marshmallow, cookie dough, caramel topping it’s a healthier version of their favourite ice cream.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

When the clouds deigned to expose a sliver of sunlight for a short while on Saturday, I decided to indulge in a little frozen yoghurt.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

 

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The cherries at my favourite fruit monger were so glossy and irresistibly crimson they were begging to be involved in my hoping-for-summer recipe.  I combined them with yuzu juice for a touch of astringency to cut through the sweet creaminess of the yoghurt. Then, to add a childlike allure, I sandwiched the frozen yoghurt between two discs of biscuit which I’d infused with almond extract to bring out the cherry flavour further.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The yuzu juice provides a wonderfully tart citrusy note to the frozen yoghurt.  If you can't find it, substitute it with lemon or lime.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

I used an ice cream churner to make the frozen yoghurt smoother and the ice crystals finer, but if you don’t have one this stage can be skipped and the result will still be delicious.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Of course, the cherry and yuzu frozen yoghurt can be enjoyed sans biscuit.  The biscuit is however, rather useful if you wish to turn it into a hand held treat, whether or not the sunshine lingers.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

 

 

Ingredients  (makes 8-10)

Cherry and Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt

375g cherries, halved and pitted

125g caster sugar

250g full fat natural yoghurt (don’t use Greek)

1 tsp yuzu juice

6 drops of almond extract

1 medium sized (18cm x 28cm approx.) loaf tin, lined with cling film

 

Almond Biscuit

160g butter, at room temperature

2 egg yolks

10 drops almond extract

210g plain flour

50g sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment

4.5/5cm circular cookie cutter or wine glass

 

Method

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt

  1. Place cherries and sugar in a small pan over a high heat. Stir occasionally to prevent sugar from burning.  When enough liquid has run out from the cherries to coat the base of the pan and it begins to boil, reduce heat to medium.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the liquid from the cherries has reduced and is just slightly thicker than maple syrup.
  2. Allow the cherries and syrup to cool then blitz them together with the yuzu, almond extract and yoghurt until smooth. If you are using an ice cream maker, chill the mixture and then churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Otherwise, proceed to step 3.
  3. Pour the mixture into the cling film-lined loaf tin, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Place in freezer for 1-2 hours until solid.

Almond Cookies

  1. Beat the butter in a mixer (or by hand) until light and fluffy. Into this, beat the almond extract, vanilla extract and egg yolks.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar and salt. Stir this into the butter mixture until a dough forms.
  3. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in baking parchment and place in freezer for 15 minutes (or fridge for 30 minutes).
  4. Preheat oven to 160˚C.
  5. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 7mm thickness. Using the cookie cutter, cut the dough into the discs and place on lined tray.
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes until cooked all the way through but still pale. Allow to cool.

Assembly

Remove the loaf tin containing the frozen yoghurt from the freezer. Using the cookie cutter, cut the frozen yoghurt into discs and sandwich each disc between two almond biscuits.  Store these in an airtight container and return to the freezer until ready to serve.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

10 Comments

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake - Recipe

21 Comments

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake - Recipe

IMG_5587.jpg

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake This stripy lemon and raspberry cake speaks for itself: elegant and refined on the outside, yet quirky on the inside - great if you feel like a change from the usual, and you’re in the mood for something fun.

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake

 

 

 

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake

Unlike most layer cakes, the stripes are vertical.  This makes it both superficially pleasing and more delicious - more stripes = more sumptuous raspberry compote...

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake

 

Please don’t be intimidated by the lists of ingredients and the recipe.  It really is a lot easier  and quicker than you may think: the stripes are formed by baking the sponge in a baking sheet, spreading the cooked surface with the raspberry compote, cutting it into strips, and rolling them, one strip after the other, swiss roll-like, into a ‘log’.

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake

The sponge is light and lemony, the raspberry compote is tart and moreish, and the icing is infused with berries to provide a little summery freshness.

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry CakeStripy Lemon & Raspberry CakeStripy Lemon & Raspberry CakeStripy Lemon & Raspberry CakeStripy Lemon & Raspberry CakeStripy Lemon & Raspberry CakeStripy Lemon & Raspberry CakeStripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake

Ingredients

Cake

120g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

3 large eggs

140g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

½ tbsp. water

 

Baking sheet 38x25x2.5 cm, lined with baking parchment and covering both the base and shallow sides.

Additional baking parchment

 

Raspberry compote

200g raspberries fresh or frozen, but if using frozen, defrost before use

40g caster sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp water

150g raspberry jam

2 tbsp corn flour

½ tsp lemon juice

 

Crumb coating (optional – but makes icing easier and adds extra tanginess and interest to the cake)

75g icing sugar, sieved

50g butter at room temperature

2 tsp lemon juice

 

Berry-infused cream cheese icing

25g red berries (raspberries and redcurrants work well, and you can use frozen), blitzed until smooth to make a puree

½ tsp lemon juice

75 g cream cheese, at room temperature (essential)

50g unsalted butter, softened to the point that it is threatening to turn into liquid

300g icing sugar, sieved

 

Method

Raspberry compote

  1. Place frozen/fresh raspberries, sugar, vanilla extract, and water in a saucepan over high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the texture is slightly syrupy.
  2. Stir in the raspberry jam and corn flour, and boil for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Blitz the mixture together with the lemon juice in a blender until smooth.

Lemon Sponge Cake

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 220˚C.
  2. Beat together eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes until pale and custard-like (I find it easier to use an electric mixer).
  3. Fold into the wet mixture the sifted flour and baking powder, lemon zest, salt and water. Stir as little as possible and with a light hand so as to keep the mixture airy.
  4. Pour the mixture into the lined baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer right up to the edges of the tray. Place in the centre of the oven, and bake for 4-5 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
  5. While the cake is still warm from the oven, flip it upside down on to a large sheet of baking parchment. Carefully peel off the parchment layer on which it was baked.
  6. Spread the compote evenly over the lemon sponge, and slice lengthways (i.e. from short side to short side) into 4 equal strips of cake.
  7. Begin with one strip and roll into a coil. Place the edge of the roll next to the edge of the second strip and continue to roll.  Continue with the remaining strips until a large spiral is formed.  Place the ‘log’ spiral side up on a plate or cake stand.

Lemon crumb coating (optional, but makes icing the cake easier, and adds extra tanginess and interest)

  1. Beat together icing sugar, lemon and butter until creamy and spread in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake. Place in the fridge for half an hour, or the freezer for 10 minutes.

Berry-infused cream cheese icing

  1. Beat the butter until completely smooth, then beat in the cream cheese. Stir in the berry puree and lemon juice, before beating in the icing sugar.
  2. Spread evenly over the cake using a spatula. Decorate with berries, or as desired.

 

Stripy Lemon & Raspberry Cake

 

21 Comments

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

Comment

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

IMG_4390.jpg

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe I often spend summers in Italy.  In the evenings, when the vine- ripening summer sun begins to soften and the incessant squeak and rattle of the plough eventually dies, I usually clamber up the nearby hill, meandering across the crest.   On one of my walks, I headed towards the nearby palazzo, along the path bordered by Cyprus spears.

 

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

Lizards basking in the heat still held by the pale ochre walls scuttled away at my footsteps, and a green shutter creaked in the mild breeze.

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

The knobbed tree in front stood with its arms filled with waxy green dewdrop-like figs, nodding gently like a recently metamorphosed Ovidian nymph.   I reached to tug at a branch, and a cluster melted softly off it.  The pink juices dripping down my fingers, I gathered two handfuls and made my companion fill his pockets with the good intention of bringing some back for others to try.

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

As so often happens, the thoughtful food gift didn’t reach its destination (I ate it), but I went back the next day, and the next.  I was converted from someone with a slight aversion to figs to an obsessive.

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

This salad combines the earthy lusciousness of figs with caramel to add depth and sticky sweetness to the dish.  This contrasts with the fresh tanginess of oranges – blood oranges are currently in season so are fantastic to use – and the saltiness of the feta and peppery rocket leaves.

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

The dressing is fresh, sweet, salty and savoury, tying all the elements together.

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

 

Ingredients  Serves 2 (or 4, as a side)

8 figs, halved

50g caster sugar

juice of 1 orange

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (substitute with balsamic vinegar, if necessary)

¼ tsp salt

2 oranges, peeled and sliced into 1/2 cm discs

100g rocket

100g feta, sliced into ½ cm cubes

 

Method

  1. Place a shallow frying pan over a medium/high heat, pour in sugar and allow to melt, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  2. Place halved figs face down in the molten sugar and cook in the caramel for 2 minutes. Turn them over to cook for a further 1 minute.  Remove from pan and place on serving plate.
  3. For the dressing, pour the orange juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pomegranate molasses into the caramelised sugar pan and stir until the caramelised sugar has dissolved into the liquid. Remove from stove and stir in lemon juice.
  4. Scatter rocket, orange slices and feta on the serving plate with the figs and drizzle with the dressing.

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

Inspired by Ottolenghi

Caramelised Fig, Feta, Orange & Rocket Salad - Recipe

Comment

Smoky Tomato & Garlic Spelt Risotto with Crumbled Feta - Recipe

Comment

Smoky Tomato & Garlic Spelt Risotto with Crumbled Feta - Recipe

IMG_4134.jpg

Smoky tomato and garlic spelt risotto with crumbled feta and pine nuts In MasterChef Australia (I’m not a fan of the British version) risotto is known as the “death dish”.  The judges groan whenever a contestant confesses that he/she will be serving it.  And quite rightly so, as the results are invariably sludgy, glutinous, crunchy, solid, watery, bland, or resembling something a woman in Ancient Rome might have used as a face pack.

Smoky tomato and garlic spelt risotto with crumbled feta and pine nuts

 

It is often also the go-to dish for restaurants under pressure to include a vegetarian dish in their repertoire, and this is often disappointing, too, for two reasons:

1.) All too often it becomes a stodgy double cream and rice porridge. In a traditional risotto recipe there is no cream – the creaminess is achieved through breaking down the starch by stirring the grains with a good quality stock.  And no, this isn’t difficult at all.  Don’t believe the hype surrounding the pitfalls; it is really a very simple dish to perfect.

Smoky tomato and garlic spelt risotto with crumbled feta and pine nuts

2.) In some unwritten chef rulebook there exists the heinous concept that risotto can only be married to butternut squash or mushrooms. It’s not that I dislike either of these, but that I’m just crying out for some more original combination.

Smoky tomato and garlic spelt risotto with crumbled feta and pine nuts

Risotto doesn’t have to be made with rice either.  I use spelt (or farro) instead for numerous reasons: it has a lower GI, has a nuttier flavour, and has a more interesting texture.  It’s also a hundred times easier to cook well. Obviously, it isn’t strictly ‘risotto’, but the idea is similar.

Smoky tomato and garlic spelt risotto with crumbled feta and pine nuts

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter (15g)

2 medium onions, finely chopped

25g (about 8 cloves) garlic, crushed

2 tbsp sundried tomato paste

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)

½ tsp chilli flakes

Grated zest of ½ lemon

¾ tsp smoked paprika

500g passata

250g pearled spelt (or farro)

750ml boiling water

3 tsp vegetable stock

80g toasted pine nuts

1 tsp lemon juice

100g feta

Handful of coriander, to serve

(Serves 4)

 

Method

  1. In a large pot, melt together the butter and oil. Add in the finely chopped onions and garlic, and cook over medium/high heat until the onions are soft and translucent.
  2. Stir in the sundried tomato paste, sugar, balsamic vinegar, thyme, chilli flakes, lemon zest, smoked paprika and a pinch of salt. Cook ingredients together for a couple of minutes.
  3. In a bowl, dissolve the stock in the boiling water, then pour roughly 250ml of this, together with the passata and spelt into the pot, and stir together on a medium heat.
  4. Stir every now then to prevent the spelt from sticking, and add the rest of the water, a ladleful at a time, at roughly 10 minute intervals.
  5. After 40-50 minutes, remove from the heat, stir in toasted pine nuts and lemon juice and season according to taste. The spelt grains should be soft all the way through with no chalkiness, and with some texture remaining.  Most of the water should have been absorbed or evaporated so the consistency is thicker than that of a soup, without being solid, and not thin enough to pour.
  6. To serve, crumble the feta over the top and scatter with coriander.

Smoky tomato and garlic spelt risotto with crumbled feta and pine nuts

 

Comment

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

2 Comments

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

IMG_3148.jpg

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2) After donning chef’s whites for the second time, proudly hooking my tea towel into the tie in what I thought was a professional way, I spent Day Two in the cold section i.e. meat and fish.  Valentina took me under her wing, overseeing my making of duck beignet – duck sausage sliced and dipped in flour, then egg yolk, and then in panko crumbs.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

 

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

This was done again for the golden nuggets of molten goat’s cheese for the beetroot salad.  It was at this point that I realised one of the reasons why everything in Le Caprice kitchens run so smoothly: Tupperware. Tubs upon tubs upon tubs, gallons, half gallons and smaller take out ones all stacked ceiling high. Everything goes into Tupperware, and not in any haphazard order, but only after it has been perfectly portioned.  The beignets were laid out flat, no overlapping, tortellini were five to a container, and duck for the crispy duck salad (my favourite) was carefully weighed out to the last gram.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

After wrapping halved lemons in gauze, I went off to 11 o’clock lunch: fluorescent Thai green curry. I chatted more to some of the chefs and waiters, finding out how long they’d been there, whether they’d always loved food, enjoyed cooking etc.  Some dreamed of opening their own restaurant, their own bakeries.  One chef said he prefers the food at KFC…

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I met Valentina upstairs preparing for service in the cold section (to my relief, no fires of Hell that day). Mike came over, took a bowl, filled it with a handful of Mooli (white radish), julienned carrot, beansprouts, and finely chopped spring onion, and drizzled it with a sweet chilli dressing and swirled it all around.  Then he took a punnet of perfectly portioned boiled duck breast, sprinkled it with some sort of starch, and dropped it with nonchalant cool into a pool of sizzling oil.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

A couple of minutes later, he dropped the duck portions into a stainless steel bowl to drain.  Crisped to perfection, they rattled around as he drenched them with the stick soy-honey –hoisin sauce.  This was poured onto the salad, scattered with torn pomelo and chilli cashews and topped with the watercress.   “You’ll be making this today, try it first,” he said.  I began to gorge myself: sticky, sweet, crunchy, acidic, salty, spicy.  So good.  Three quarters of the way through, I noticed that he had handed me two sets of cutlery.  Pretending that I hadn’t seen them, I continued feasting.

IMG_3189

Service began. The crispy duck salad was the most popular dish.  Pressure was on.  Receipts rolled in, along with pressure and excitement.  Every now and then Mike would ask: “How many minutes Sophia?”  I whipped up the dish, pestering Valentina with questions to make sure it was perfect, and then I’d transport it over the pass to be inspected by Mike.  “Good work,” he said.  Though it was probably the simplest dish on the menu, I cannot describe the thrill of the satisfaction.

IMG_3013

Service continued until receipts began to peter out, and Valentina and I chatted the whole time.  She’s from Romania.  None of the meat here tastes like home, she told me, where her family keeps, raises and kills their own animals.  We discussed art, her love of drawing, and how she never had the time when she was working in the kitchen.  She adores baking (chocolate and pistachio are her weaknesses), and yet lamented her lack of time for experimenting.   We discussed our favourite blogs and recipes and desserts, and she described a recipe for a delicious lemon pudding that she promised she would let me have (if you’re reading this, Valentina, please send it to me - I’m desperate to try it!). Although she enjoyed working in the kitchen, it seemed that some of her creativity was held back.   The hours are long – five shifts a week, including one double shift.  Hours are from seven until four, and then some evenings, when the shift ends, later than one a.m., depending on last orders.  The adrenaline from service sometimes prevents her from sleeping for at least two hours – something I can completely understand as I was buzzing from only a couple of days in the kitchens.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I spent the next three days in what can only be described as the Elysian field of the Underworld kitchen: pastry.  Nicky is head pastry chef, and she couldn’t have been lovelier. She told me that I could make anything that I liked from the menu.  This is the kind of thing I fantasize about.  So, I made plum tarte tatin,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

apple and blackberry tartlets,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

 

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

rhubarb crumble pies,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

lime parfait, white chocolate ice cream, mint chocolate chip ice-cream, focaccia, brioche, carta di musica, orange and cinnamon palmiers,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

pistachio macarons,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

and the truffles that I lust over in the time between visits to the Caprice.  For the latter, she handed me the recipes and set me free.  I boiled the sugars and cream together for the ganache, and whisked in the passion fruit puree, before pouring it over the chocolate to melt it – luscious and glossy, it would have been a sin not to steal a spoonful, and another.  I piped this into chocolate shells where it set.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

The same was done for the caramel truffles, but these required hand rolling in dark chocolate – a lengthy process, but well worth it.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

The effort of rolling the several hundred truffles was reduced slightly by a simple reduction in the number of caramel truffles i.e. I, together with my partner- in- crime, Blair (see below), gorged myself sick.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I was then asked to place the Caprice brioche burger buns in plastic bags to freeze them.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Peta (senior pastry chef at The Ivy) took me over to the seal wrap machine.  “Put the edge of the bag here and press the lid down for a couple of seconds.  Don’t let it suck the air out,” she instructed me.  It seemed simple enough.  She left, entrusting the hundreds of fluffy, burnished, seeded buns to me.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

It worked perfectly the first time, and the second.  I became arrogant, and was distracted by the bustling of chefs behind me.  I turned back to the buns - but they were no longer buns.  Six wrinkled and deflated solid misshapen things stared back at me.  Panic stricken, I hid them behind the back of the machine.  Thinking better of this, I pulled them out, but if I threw them away someone would notice.  I considered telling Peta, but shame prevented me.  So I prised the layers of shrink-wrapped plastic apart in an attempt at bun CPR.  I almost convinced myself that they appeared slightly rejuvenated.  Wracked by embarrassment, I even considered rushing to the office, squeezing past Mike and hiding them in my bag.  In the end, I placed them down the side of the freezer hoping to give the impression that they’d been crushed by something else.  Those buns continue to haunt me.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I accompanied Nicky upstairs for service.  Pastry service is much calmer than savoury.  The dessert menu at Le Caprice is also decadently extensive, so it was rather like watching a piece of art work being created as Nicky worked her way through the receipts.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

This beauty, a yuzu and cherry mousse with pistachio macarons, was invented by Nicky herself only a couple of weeks before.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Part of the thrill of being a pastry chef, she said, was the injection of creativity.  Every two weeks, she has to present a new dish to the board of tasters who are apparently very blunt when voicing their opinions.  The dish cannot be similar to anything else on the menu, nor any of the other menus of The Caprice Holdings Group.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

It happened that Judi Dench was in the house that day, and one of her party ordered sugar brioche doughnuts with chocolate sauce and strawberry jam.   I had made the dough, stamped into little rounds and portioned it into Tupperware earlier.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I poured these out into the oil, and under Nicky’s direction, flipped them continuously.  They puffed up gloriously into golden brown globes.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

I drained them and rolled them in white sugar until they glistened.  Nicky arranged them on a plate and I shouted ‘Service!’

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Each of the waiters was friendly, each with a strong personality, one more so than the others.  He waltzed into the kitchen, chest puffed, flicking his slicked and coiffed hair, and as he whisked away my dish to transport it to the realm of the diners, he burst into rather monotonous and very loud song “All of me loves all of you, la la laaa la laa la la laaaaaaa”.

IMG_3121

Le Caprice has no dearth of famous diners, but what I found more interesting were the eccentric ones.  “No shortage of those,” Nicky said.  One man apparently had come the week before for the pre-theatre menu.  He pored over the menu studiously and ordered three courses.  He didn’t touch one of the dishes, and made himself a sandwich from the bread basket instead.  There is also a regular whose reasons for coming to the restaurant are somewhat particular: he comes in once a week, sits down at the table, reaches into his bag, and pulls out his own packed lunch.

Friday came almost too quickly.  I spent the morning slicing brownies (and eating the off cuts, obviously),

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

learning how to segment oranges, painting carta di musica,

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

and trying absolutely everything from chocolate delice to caramel popcorn ice cream.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Nicky had whipped up a batch of popping candy mint ice cream and was handing it out to all the chefs.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

It was also the last day for three of the chefs: Mike was moving on to become head chef of his own restaurant, Lauren, after four years in Le Caprice was moving to its sister restaurant, Daphne’s, and Valentina was taking a break to explore.  Champagne was cracked open, toasts were made.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

The vibe was convivial.  “We’re all like brothers and sisters,” Nicky had said to me, and I saw this for myself.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

Mike kindly invited me to join them for drinks afterwards.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

At 5 o’clock, I untied the bow of the striped blue apron, unpoppered the floppy white shirt, and changed out of the elasticated black trousers.  I ascended the stairs for definitely, hopefully, not the last time – like Persephone, I had had more than my fair share of the pomegranate, and the Underworld had me in its warm, savoury, sweet clutches, or rather tongs.

Other side of the door: inside the kitchens of Le Caprice (Part 2)

2 Comments

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

Comment

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

IMG_3475.jpg
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

Every year the bile-inducing  pink and fluffy over-commercialised day of dictated love comes about. And unsurprisingly, due to their arguable aphrodisiac qualities, sales of oysters peak.  Well as you or your date slurp these down on your Valentine’s date, think of this: oysters are related to slugs.  Why not grab a few from your garden, douse them with some Tabasco with buttered bread on the side and gulp these instead – cheaper and more plentiful (this is not actually a recipe).

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

Something a little more acceptable as an anti-Valentine’s day recipe might be this: soft & chewy hot spiced double ginger nut cookies.  They’re not red, not cloying-sweet and they’re not heart shaped.  They even have a little rebellious kick to them if you choose to add the cayenne pepper, which as a spice addict, I love.  But if you prefer something a little milder, leave it out.  If you want to shake off a stalker add more (roughly 5x stated quantity) and deliver gift wrapped.

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

Makes about 35 cookies

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter, softened

440g self-raising flour

125g caster sugar

3 tbsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

100g stem ginger (;preserved in syrup), finely chopped

2 tbsp ginger syrup (from the preserved ginger)

180g golden syrup

30g treacle

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 baking tray lined with baking parchment

Method

1.)Preheat oven to 160°C.

2.)Place butter, flour, sugar, ground ginger, bicarbonate of soda, cayenne pepper (if using) and salt in a blender and blitz until thoroughly mixed and is like damp sand.

3.) Warm chopped ginger, ginger syrup, golden syrup, treacle and vanilla extract in a pan over a low heat for a couple of minutes until the mixture becomes less viscose.  Pour this into the dry ingredients and pulse until combined into a dough.

4.) Roll the dough into 3cm wide spheres and space them out on the baking trays  as they will spread whilst baking.

5.) Place in preheated oven and bake for 7-10 minutes until golden and slightly crisp on outside and very soft on the inside.  They should seem slightly under-baked as they will continue to cook as they cool and this will make them deliciously soft and chewy.

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Ginger Cookies - Recipe
Anti-Valentine's Day Ginger Cookies - Recipe

Comment

Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes (Dairy-free) - Recipe

3 Comments

Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes (Dairy-free) - Recipe

Khanom krok, crepes, blinis, dosas, tortillas, msemmen, ingera, beghrir, and both pandan and rice  pancakes - dense, spongy, fluffy, light,...  I've devoured them all.  But when it gets to Sunday, and brunch is obligatory, I always revert to American-style pancakes.   I want to whisk up something quick, easy and delicious.

The internet is currently riddled with recipes for "sugarless, 2-ingredient protein pancakes".  Warning: two ingredients = egg and banana, and there are many things I'd rather eat than a banana omelette.  So I came up with my own healthier version of American-style pancakes using wholegrain spelt and coconut oil.

They're fluffy, light and filling, and the wholemeal spelt flour adds a warming nuttiness as well as lowering the overall GI level.  They're also really  addictive - the photos are of the fourth batch I made on the day (as the first batch were consumed as a solo act, and the second and third were inhaled by my brothers).

I paired them with a very simple mixed berry compote, the recipe for which is below.

Ingredients

Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes

340g wholemeal spelt flour (can be substituted with plain flour, wholemeal wheat or white spelt)

4 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs

450ml unsweetened almond milk (can be substituted with any other kind)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

45g coconut oil, melted + extra to coat frying pan (can be substituted with butter)

Berry Compote

500g mixed frozen berries

3 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

1tbsp vanilla extract

Method

Pancakes

1.) In a blender, blitz together all the ingredients until smooth.

2.) Place shallow frying pan over a medium-high heat and melt 1tbsp of coconut butter (or butter, if using), swirling it around to coat the pan.

3) Pour batter into pan to desired pancake size and cook for a couple of minutes until bubbles begin to break through the surface.  Flip, and cook for a further couple of minutes until golden.

Mixed Berry Compote

1.) Place pan over high heat, pour in all ingredients, and stir to mix through.

2.) When the berries have melted and the mixture begins to simmer, reduce to a low heat and cook until berries are completely cooked through.

3.) Drench pancakes.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

3 Comments