This weekend called for a belated blog birthday celebration and naturally a cake! Celebrating not only the last day of August which was blissfully sunny and spent wakeboarding on a glass-like lake in Wiltshire with some friends, but also the 2nd birthday of ‘forage in the pantry’ or FITP as its been recently named. Since my first ever blogged recipe and still one of my absolute favourites (see here) it has been two years of new experiments, flavours, combinations, styles, and ingredients which have flown by deliciously. A LOT has happened and changed in these past 2 years but the blog has been ticking over loyally and creatively in the background. Maintaining my sanity and satiety.
It pains me to say it but as Autumn approaches on the horizon in the form of darker nights and colder mornings, the apples are abundant and I felt it only natural to choose them as the star in my birthday cake. Taking inspiration from the controversial Starbucks ‘Duffin’ (muffin filled with jam) I have concocted a cinnamon cake filled wickedly with a slow roasted spiced apple puree and a tangy ginger lemon frosting. I refrained from rolling in sugar. Delicious served fresh on the day bitten into with no prior warning of the jammy filling.
Apple Puree - see here
- 1 apple
- 65g caster sugar
- 35ml water
- Preheat the oven to 130° C and line a baking tray with parchment.
- Slice the apple on the horizontal using a mandolin to very fine slithers.
- Heat the water and sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves and it bubbles into a lovely clear syrup.
- Lay the slices on the tray and brush with the glaze. Dust with a little cinnamon and sugar if you like and bake in a low oven for about 30 minutes until dry and crisp. Leave to cool.
Cinnamon Muffins - I actually found these too big and dense. I think they’d work much better as cupcake with a lighted spongy texture so I have included a recipe below but feel free to make them GIANT and muffin like as titled.
- 115g unsalted butter
- 115g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 115g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 35g chopped hazelnuts (optional)
- 2-3 tbsp milk
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 180° C and line a cupcake tin with cases.
- Cream the butter and sugar together very well until pale a fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs and vanilla a bit at a time.
- Now sieve in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold in gently until just incorporated.
- Fold in the nuts and loosen with a dash of milk if needed.
- Fill your cupcake cases and bake for about 15 minutes until golden and set in the middle. Leave to cool.
Ginger Lemon Buttercream
- 125g softened unsalted butter
- 100g icing sugar
- 1-2 tbsp ginger syrup (from a jar of stem ginger. You can also add some chopped stem ginger if you like)
- 1 lemon, zest only
- Combine all (in a food processor) until well mixed. Fill a piping bag and use to decorate the duffins.
- Take your cooled cupcake/muffin and slice the top off (usually easier if they have risen with a dome!)
- Cut out the middle to create a small whole keeping the removed cake.
- Fill with about 2tsp of apple puree.
- Top with a little bit of the filling to hide the puree, eat the excess.
- Pipe the buttercream over the top in any pattern you like
- Top with a wafer
- The best bit….serve to a greedy worthy friend.
A sticky ‘packs-a-punch’ glaze for some succulent chicken pieces courtesy of Bill Granger. I’ve managed to make it through my growing culinary life without (shamefully) having had Bill’s influence on any of my dishes? It could be his Australian roots that have kept his foodie inspiration at bay or perhaps (more likely) the Jamie Oliver shaped blinkers strapped to my head that had maintained my tunnel vision since discovering cooking? Who knows? However, with ‘Granger’s & Co’ round the corner from work and a growing love for Asian/Fusion cooking I have been sampling some of his culinary delights from Bills Asian Cookbook which is where this chicken marinade comes in. Baby courgettes courtesy of Portobello Market but normal ones work fine too!
- 6 baby courgettes
- 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
- Bunch coriander, finely chopped
- Juice 1/2 lime
- 4 chicken thighs/chicken pieces
- 30ml dark soy sauce
- 25ml Fish sauce
- 55g brown sugar
- 2 garlic cloves
- Light Olive oil
To Serve: Coconut rice (I made mine with red Camargue rice here)
- Preheat the oven to 190°C. Heat a frying pan until hot with a little oil and brown the chicken all over until golden. Transfer to a baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes until cooked through.
- At the same time, roast the courgettes. Slice in half if using baby courgettes or into chunks if using large ones. Drizzle with oil and place in a roasting tray. Roast with the chicken for about 20 minutes. This can keep roasting until tender while you finish the chicken on the hob. (The courgettes also work amazingly grilled or charred on a griddle pan or BBQ)
- To finish the chicken, heat a little oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic lightly. Add the cooked chicken and the soy sauce and cover with a lid. Leave to simmer on a low heat for about 6-7 minutes making sure the pan doesn’t cook dry.
- Turn up the heat and add the sugar and fish sauce and stir to dissolve and combine. Heat for just a few minutes until the sauce goes syrupy and glazes the chicken.
- Remove the courgettes from the oven and toss with the chopped coriander and red chilli. Squeeze over a little lime juice.
- Serve the chicken on creamy coconut rice with the chilli courgettes and coated liberally in any excess glaze.
Here is a delicious new salmon recipe I’ve been meaning to attempt! Inspired and adapted from 'Moorish; cook book. Drying the lime zest here really intensifies the flavour and baking in a parchment parcel guarantees a beautifully moist salmon fillet. Serving suggestions are endless but I’m obsessed with my julienne peeler so not even my countlessly grated fingers (they are very sharp!) has stopped my experiments. Use here for a courgette ‘noodle’ salad. I literally think I’d choose these oven pasta in a blind tasting. Healthier and more delicious. Sorry Italy.
- 2 salmon fillets
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly roasted and crushed
- Zest of 1 lime
- Pinch Cayenne pepper/Chilli powder
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Courgette Noodle Salad
- 1 large courgette
- 1/2 small cucumber
- Bunch mint, finely chopped
- Bunch coriander, chopped
- Small green chilli, chopped finely
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Juice 1/2 lime
- Handful roasted salted peanuts
- Preheat the oven to 75°C. Place the lime zest on a piece of parchment on a baking tray and dry in the low oven for about 20 minutes to intensify the flavours. Alternatively you can leave it to dry overnight.
- Mix the dried zest with the fennel seed, chilli and cayenne.
Turn the oven up to 190°C. Rub the salmon in olive oil and coat with the spice mix. Place each fillet on an oiled piece of parchment and wrap into a parcel. If you fillets are the same thickness as mine, roast for 10minutes which will give you a lovely slightly pink centre.
- Meanwhile, using a julienne peeler (recommended purchase for any health food/raw food junkie. They are so quick to use) julienne the courgette and the cucumber into a bowl. Add the chopped herbs and chilli and scatter with the nuts. Mix with the sesame oil and the lime juice and toss all together,
- When the salmon is cooked, remove from the parchment and serve on top of the courgette noodles and rice if you like!
This can only be described as a super hearty salad. A man salad if you will. Bits and pieces foraged from both the allotment, the pantry and the dark saddened depths of the vegetable fridge draw. Not sure if its just me but does anyone else suffer from the wilting and unappetising reduced packet of dill sitting shyly in the bottom draw of the fridge? Often usually buried beneath the more popular and beautiful fresh non-reduced delights…
Put to good use here however:
- 4oz Puy lentils
- 2 raw beetroot, washed
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- Handful dill, chopped,
- Handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Handful chives, chopped
- 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Handful hazelnuts
- Olive oil
- Salt and fresh black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Chop the beetroot into wedges and place in a roasting tray. Season and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for about 20-30 minutes until tender and beginning to crisp.
- Meanwhile, simmer the lentils in water for about 18 minutes until tender but with a slight bite.
- Roast the whole hazelnuts in the hot oven for about 8 minutes. Remove and if skinned, wrap in a tea towel and rub them until the skins peal away easily then leave to cool before roughly chopping.
- After the beetroot is tender enough turn the oven down to 180°C. Add the garlic and coat the beetroot in the balsamic vinegar. Continue to roast for 5-10 minutes until the balsamic begins to glaze the beetroot slightly. Remove from the oven and set aside to keep warm.
- Drain the lentils when ready. Season well (it will need it) and add the roasted garlicy beetroot and any balsamic juices. Add the chopped herbs and the chopped hazelnuts.
- Combine all well and serve. I served mine topped with some lovely pan fried sea bream and a raw shaved fennel and pea salad! Delicious…
Pesto is such a great addition to bland food - pearl barley, pasta, tossed on boiled vege of ripped through your favourite pizza dough base (personal favourite!) I’m not a regular to the jar of shop bought but sometimes a tablespoon of the punchy stuff is needed, homemade or not. Pesto is all about the basic ingredients (Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, nuts, lemon and oil) mixed until you get the right balance. Basil and pine nuts if you’re a traditionalist but its also delicious with other nuts or herbs. As usual, my lazy self can’t be bothered to weigh so the ‘handful’ measurement has come in again here….I have averaged-small sized hands so do as you please…
Pearl Barley with Walnut, Mint and Basil Pesto
- 120g pearl barely
- Handful walnuts
- Handful grated parmesan
- 1/2 lemon
- Large bunch basil and mint, leaves picked
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 x salmon fillets
- Slow roasted balsamic onions (see here)
- Toast the walnuts in a hot dry frying pan until fragrant or roast in a hot oven for about 6 minutes until warm and smelling delicious!
- Transfer to a pestle and mortar or a food processor. Pulse until you have fine crumbs with texture.
- Add the herbs, garlic and cheese and blend. Season and thin out with the lemon juice and enough oil to get the right consistency for your liking.
- Taste and adjust with more of the above.
- Cook your pearl barely until tender in a pan of simmering water. When ready, drain and toss liberally with the pesto. Stir through a few whole walnuts and chopped herbs too if you like. Set aside at room temperature
- Roast the salmon in a 200°C preheated oven or pan fry, skin side down until crisp and cooked.
- Serve the barely topped with salmon, a spoonful of roasted balsamic onions if you like (see here). Drizzle with a good oil and scatter with mint. Serve with greens beans or similar…
Summer has been here all week. I love it.
Roasted strawberries…..the fruity equivalent to a toasted marshmallow. Sturdy and non suspicious looking from the outside but deliciously sweet, gooey and almost molten in the middle. Roasting strawberries is such a great way to concentrate their summer flavours. Roast low and slow and serve with anything from yoghurt and granola for breakfast, scattered with cinnamon sugar with pancakes or decadently resting at the bottom of a flute of bubbly with some of their juicy sugary roasting syrup.
- Heat the oven to 120°C
- Hull the tops from your strawberries but leave whole.
- Line them up cut side down in a greased baking dish and scatter with a few teaspoons of sugar (cinnamon/vanilla sugar optional)
- Roast for about 1 hour or until tender and soft.
Serving suggestions; yoghurt and granola; mint; pancakes;cinnamon sugar;to top porridge/rice pudding;folded into cake batter (once cooled); crushed on toast; delicious Eton mess…….options are endless.
This recipe was thrown together after I caved as I frequently do to the delights of Portobello market at lunchtime yesterday. Sometimes I leave my purse in the office just to prevent myself buying anything I don’t need. What with that and an ‘All Saints’ up the road I could be in serious trouble. I saw some fresh peas crying out (literally…how could I leave them) to be stripped and podded from their padded overheated jackets now the sun is out and with some oily and spicy chorizo in the fridge at home they were immediately planned for supper.
Serves 2 (as with many of my recipes, this is done with the ‘handful’ measurement so scale up as appropriate. I usually allow 1 handful per person for things like peas etc)
- 2 cod fillets
- 2 Large handfuls of breadcrumbs (About 30-50g)
- Bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1-2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 4 oz Puy Lentils
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- About 500g fresh peas in their pods, 250g shelled (of two large handfuls of frozen peas)
- 50g chorizo, chopped into chunks
- Handful chopped mint
- Green beans to serve
- Begin by simmering the lentils for about 18-20 minutes until tender
- Meanwhile, whiz up the bread crumbs in a processor until fine and then add the parsley and some seasoning and blend until all chopped together. Add enough oil to bind the mixture together so it isn’t too dry.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking try with foil. Place the cod fillets skin side down on top and pat a large handful of the breadcrumb coating onto the top. (add more oil to the mixture if it looks a bit dry and won’t hold together).
- When the lentils are cooked, drain and set aside. Fry the crushed garlic in a little oil to soften on a low heat. Once soft, turn up the heat and add the balsamic and let it simmer for a few seconds before tipping in the lentils and seasoning to taste. Keep warm while you cook the fish.
- Bake the cod for about 6 minutes until just cooked and flaky and the breadcrumbs have started to brown and crisp on top.
- Lastly while the cod is cooking fry the diced chorizo in a hot pan until the oils begin to release. Add the peas (which you can par- boil first if you like but I love them raw and green) and coat in the lovely orange oil.
- When ready to serve, place the cod on top of the warm lentils and spoon the pea and chorizo around the edge. Drizzle with any remaining oil from the pan and scatter with mint.
- Serve with buttered and minty green beans if you like!
Mackerel isn’t everyone’s first choice when choosing fish from the supermarket counter. A brownish muddy coloured complexion doesn’t exactly win any beauty competitions and ball your over with a sense of freshness and health. Although popular these days as being cheap people often give it grief for being a ‘dirty fish’. However…its full of excellent healthy oils, is reasonably priced and can importantly handle bold flavours such as Thai marinades, soya sauce and curried spices. Crusted in dukka and served on some nutty lentils here made a satisfactory Friday night supper.
- 2 mackerel fillets, scored on the skin side
- 1 tbsp dukka (see here, leave out the mint)
- 4 oz Puy lentils
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
- Very large bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/2 lemon
- 25g hazelnuts
- Mint leaves for garnish
- Coconut/light olive oil
- If large, cut your fillets in half and season in a shallow bowl. Scatter over the dukka and add a slash of olive oil and massage the spices over the fish. Set aside until ready to cook.
- Simmer the lentils for about 18-20 minutes until tender but still with a bite/texture and the drain.
- Meanwhile, roast the hazelnuts in a very hot oven for about 8 minutes until toasted and the skins are beginning to peel off. When cool enough to handle rub off the skins and chop roughly into halves and set aside.
- Saute the crushed garlic in a little oil in the pan you cooked the lentils in until soft. Return the lentils to the pan and season generously. Add the parsley and lemon juice and mix to combine the flavours. Cover the pan to keep warm and set aside while you cook the fish.
- Heat a frying pan with a little coconut or olive oil until hot. Fry the fillets scored (to prevent them curling up) skin side for about 3 minutes until crisp. Turn for the final minute or so to finish the cooking and add the chopped hazelnuts to the pan at this stage also. (The mackerel will take a matter of minutes so don’t overcook of they will dry out)
- Serve the lentils topped with the mackerel fillets and scattered with the toasted hazelnuts and a few sprigs of mint. Could do with a dollop of lemony homemade mayo and some wilted greens.
Like many of my dishes this one came about from a fridge of leftovers and a willing pantry. With a craving for a side dish with a little extra added effort I knocked out this gratin. In an almost ‘mystery box’ Masterchef challenge, some simply simmered lentils, a dousing of deep creamy Dijon dressing, speckles of parsley liberally blanketed in some cheesy breadcrumbs and butter and baked could only taste delicious.
- 4oz Puy Lentils
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- Handful chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 large handfuls breadcrumbs
- 1 large handful grated parmesan
- Knob of butter
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Simmer the lentils in boiling water for about 20 minutes or until soft but with a slight bite and not mushy
- Drain and return to the pan. Stir in the parsley, creme fraiche, mustard and plenty of cracked black pepper and salt.
- Spoon into an oven proof dish.
- Mix the breadcrumbs and cheese in a bowl and season. Scatter over the lentils and top with a few knobs of butter.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden and crispy on top.
This is my go-to banana loaf recipe for when those bruising and sweetly turning bananas are slowing deteriorating in the fruit bowl, unaware of their potential. This loaf is easy to knock out and can be kept for a while in the cake tin. Here I’ve added the beautifully pungent ground cardamon but this can be left out or substituted.
I love banana loaf as its one of those ‘cakes’ that is less restricted by Paul and Mary’s dreaded ‘science’ of baking. This recipe for example only has one egg in the entire mixture but still manages to set with a lovely rich texture. The recipe is therefore hugely open to adaptation and I change mine practically every time. Try these little additions which I’ve done in the past:
- Ground cardamon, cinnamon or ginger
- Replace hazelnuts for your classic walnut
- Add chunks of chocolate chips
- Add a handful or desiccated coconut
- Add a decadent molten layer of peanut butter/salted caramel/Nutella inside
- Top the mixture with a crumble mixture before baking
- Soak the bananas in rum for a bit…
Makes 1 loaf (Taken from Delia Smith’s ‘All in one Banana Loaf’ with a few adaptations)
- 75g butter, softened
- 110g caster sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 225g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cardamon (or other spice of choice)
- 4 ripe bananas, mashed
- 70g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped roughly.
- Handful demerara sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a loaf tin with parchment.
- Place the butter, sugar and egg in a food processor and combine (or use an electric hand whisk)
- Sieve over the flour, spices and baking powder and combine (don’t worry if it looks dry!)
- Add the bananas to the processor and combine until you have a smooth and creamy batter.
- Stir through the nuts (or any chocolate chips, coconuts additions etc)
- Pour into the loaf tin and sprinkle generously with the demerara sugar (or crumble) to create a nice crunchy topping. (If adding a layer of peanut butter/caramel etc, add half the batter to the tin, dot with the chosen filling and then spoon on the remaining batter to cover before baking)
- Bake for 50-55 minutes until cooked.
- Leave to cool in the tin before removing and slicing
Gorgeous sliced, toasted and layered with cinnamon butter
I can’t believe my birthday has come and gone yet again. With another year under my ageing belt it only seemed natural to add another cookbook to my ‘library’. It really is expanding at such a rate that I may have to develop some sort of filing system soon. I currently have them stored in a few tame and humble 6 bottle old wooden wine cases but with each eager book spilling out over the edge, oozing its glossy (some more oil splattered) pictures in front of me it may be time to move out to a magnum case…?
To cut a long story short, my birthday granted me with Bill Granger’s Everyday Asian cookbook. I love this quick and flavourful cooking but with more of a traditional palate I needed a helping hand and a point in the right direction or orientation should I say. East. And to help me along the way not only did I get this vibrant drool-worthy book that I literally want to cook every recipe of (rare I assure you) I also received a few of Bill’s Asian ‘Pantry staples’ to add to my other collection (again, yet to have its own filing system) and some beautiful serving bowls. After all presentation can be half the battle!
NOTE: for those into this style of food I really recommend Bill’s book. There may be some alien ingredients but nothing a quick trip down the ethnic aisle of Tesco can’t solve. A simply written, helpful book. And you really will want to cook everything…there just aren’t enough mealtimes in the day or days in the week unless I start replacing my morning tea with miso soup? Unlikely.
- 4 tbsp mirin
- 4tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp brown soft sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 salmon fillets
- Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow bowl with the salmon fillets and pop in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.
- Preheat your grill or BBQ. Grill for about 7minutes or so until charred on the outside but still pink and very most in the middle. Don’t be tempted to cook too long. The residual heat will carry on cooking it once removed from the grill and it is better served a little pink in the middle.
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp ride vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 cucumber
- Use a mandolin/speed peeler to peel thin strips of cucumber into a bowl.
- Combine the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the cucumber
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 red chilli, sliced finely
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, sliced finely
- Boil your broccoli for a matter of minutes until still al dente and bright green. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan until hot. Flash fry your chilli and shallots until crispy. Add the garlic slices at the end as they will burn easily and fry until golden and crispy. Scoop out from the oil and drain and allow to crisp.
- Serve the broccoli, warm and scattered with the crispy garnish and a little drizzle of the infused oil
Beautiful serving dish courtesy of my sister and the Portobello markets
Sometimes an English roast can be boring (shoot me now)…especially in summer. I’ve experimented with a Spanish roast (see here) but it was time for a Mexican Roast chicken over the weekend as my craving for dark creamy black beans took over. This chicken recipe is a great BBQ favourite of mine…and Jamie’s. You know a good marinade when you make it in the morning, refrain from eating there and then and think about it all day until that charcoal is ready! The sweetcorn puree adds a lovely sweetness to this to counteract the savoury beans and spicy chicken and greens.
Mexican Roast Chicken Feast - Serves 4
- Marinade the chicken the night before if you can. Massage over the chicken making sure you get it into all the cracks.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Line a roasting tray with foil and place the chicken on top with the excess marinade. Wrap in foil and roast for about 1hr and 20 minutes depending on the size. For the final 15 minutes or so, turn up the heat to 200°C and remove the foil to allow the skin to crisp up and brown. (This recipe is actually best cooked in the oven first to keep it moist and then finished on the BBQ so you get that charred outer crust and moist meat).
- When cooked remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes wrapped in foil while you finish the side dishes.
- When ready to serve, carve rustically, scatter with fresh mint and give everyone a wedge of lime for squeezing over.
- 2 x tins black beans, drained (retain the juice only if not salted)
- 2 large spring onions, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1/2 red chilli
- Bunch coriander chopped
- Lime juice
- Fry the spring onion in a little oil to soften for a few minutes then add the garlic and chilli and soften for a few minutes.
- Add the beans and top up with a little hot water or the bean can juice (as long as it is not salted). Add enough to cover them gently and allow to simmer.
- Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. The consistency you want will depend on how you like them so simmer longer for a thicker texture. I like mine to be quite loose but still sit on the plate.
- Use a masher to lightly crush and mash some of the beans. This will help thicken the mixture and add texture but leave most of the beans whole.
- Taste and season. Add the coriander and a squeeze of fresh lime before serving.
- 1 x tin sweetcorn, drained.
- Milk to cover
- 1 knob butter
- Salt and pepper
- Drain the sweetcorn and add to a saucepan. Add enough milk to just cover and bring to the simmer making sure the milk doesn’t boil over (not speaking from experience at all…..).
- Simmer for about 5 minutes then drain reserving the cooking milk.
- Add to a food processor with some salt and pepper and a large knob of butter. Puree for a good few minutes until really soft and creamy. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved milk as it blends to thin it out until you have the consistency you’re after.
- Sieve the mixture into the pan to remove the tough shells and produce a really creamy velvety puree (this is optional, just as good left non sieved). Set aside to keep warm.
- 1/2 red chilli, sliced thinly
- 2 large cloves garlic, sliced very thinly
- Sunflower oil for frying
- Heat a good glug of oil in a frying pan until hot. Fry the chilli and garlic for a few minutes until beginning to turn golden and crispy but make sure you don’t burn it. It can turn very quickly so remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish just before it looks ready, as it just turns golden as it will keep cooking a little after.
- Cook the broccoli al dente and drain well. While still warm, toss in the garlic-chilli infused oil and serve.
Aside from the fact that this cake tastes undeniably devine, one of the things I like about it the most is the subtle way you can pick off the sticky caramel almonds from the top when no one is looking with fairly unnoticeable consequences. Its not the done thing to swipe a greedy finger through the icing on a cake but you can get away with it here. Be warned, once you start you may end up with a topless and naked sponge cake and some unimpressed guests. If there was ever an award for moreish-ness (excuse the made up word) this cake would triump.
Its a super light sponge base which I decided to spike with cinnamon and vanilla, basted and topped with a crunchy caramel almond praline which is left to set and encase the pillowey cake. This recipe is from ‘Scandilicious Baking’ and is therefore (I’m told) a classic Scandi treat which quite frankly just makes me want to visit the region even more. I took the recipes advice and added a tsp of coffee to the praline topping which adds a really deep and intense flavour.
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- 150g plain flour
- Pinch cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 75g melted butter
- 75ml buttermilk (or add a tsp of lemon juice added to normal milk)
- 150g flaked almonds
- 125g soft light brown muscovado sugar
- 125g butter
- 50ml milk
- Pinch fine salt
- 1 tsp instant coffee
- Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a loose bottomed tin (8cm of so wide) with parchement. If making your buttermilk add the lemon juice to the milk now and set aside for a few minutes.
- Whisk the eggs, vanilla and caster sugar on a high speed for at least 5 minutes until really thick and creamy to get in as much air as possible. It really will pay to do this for a good length of time.
- Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Sieve over half this dry mixture into the eggs and extremely gently using a metal spoon fold in making sure retain the air.
- Add half the buttermilk and fold in. Add the remaining flour, fold in and finally the rest of the buttermilk.
- Finally fold in the melted butter.
- Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and set. It is important it is set so that it doesn’t collapse when you coat it in praline!
- While that bakes, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan or hot oven for a few minutes until golden and fragrant.
- Add to a saucepan with the butter, sugar, milk, salt and coffee.
- Heat until all melted together and then bubble for a few minutes until thick.
- When the cake is ready remove from the oven and increase the heat to 200°C. Pour the praline over the cake, smooth out and bake for 8-10 minutes at this higher temperature until the top is golden and gooey.
- Leave to cool before cutting to allow the caramel to set and encase the cake.
This can be enjoyed on its own or with healthy lashings of custard
I adore devouring big bowls of French and simply cooked mussels. Albeit shamefully with a dainty bowl (large bucket) of lightly salted (heavily salted) crispy French fires (never chips….its got to be fries. Like the ones McDonalds do). I have many happy memories of enjoying this meal with my best friend in our local Wiltshire gastro pub with a side order of gossip after a relaxing ride. Seeing as she’s embarked on an adventure to Abu Dhabi to conquer the world of financial advising and make us our millions I could only experiment with the classic moules mariniere and wish she was here to enjoy it with me.
After following the ever dramatic and addictive Masterchef final this week, one of my favourite chefs Tom Kerridge showcased one of his signature dishes. His take on the classic moules served with a creamy topped stoat foam. Whilst I love mussels I often finish the meal still feeling hungry, dissatisfied and with sticky garlicky fingers. So, picked from the protective homes of their shells and tossed in a creamy sauce Tom’s method seemed like a much more relaxing eat. This is certainly a cheap eat (£1.50 for a bag of mussels!) that boasts rich expensive flavour that looks and tastes luxurious. My take on moules mariniere with crushed new potatoes and crispy skinned seabass.
(By the way, the reason I always use seabass is I LOVE IT! But feel free to use another white fish here such as bream, cod of haddock.)
- 2 seabass fillets
- 1kg mussels,
- About 8 small new potatoes
- Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely diced
- 1 glass dry white wine
- Large knob butter (about 30g)
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- To serve - lemon, green beans/samphire
- Start by cleaning and de-bearding the mussels. Chuck away any with cracked shells or that are open and don’t shut quickly when tamped sharply on the kitchen surface (Only cook closed mussels; only eat open ones).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. For the potatoes, par-boil until soft but make sure they are not waterlogged and falling apart and drain. Crush lightly with the back of a fork, season well and toss with olive oil.
- Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until crispy.
- For the mussels and sauce heat the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat until it beings to foam adding a little oil to stop it burning. Add the garlic, carrot and shallot and gently soften for about ten minutes.
- Turn up the heat and add the wine. Reduce slightly. Add the mussels to the pan, place the lid on and allow to simmer for about 3-4 minutes. The mussels are ready as soon as they open.
- Once open remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pick the mussel meat from the shells (discard these) and return the meat to the wine sauce. Place back on the heat and simmer gently to reduce slightly. Add the creme fraiche and season to taste. Finally stir in the parsley and a little lemon juice and keep warm while you fry the fish.
- Get a pan on a medium high heat. Season the fish and score the skin to prevent it curling in the pan.
- Fry skin side down for about 3 minutes, finishing for the finish minute on the flesh side.
- Serve the creamy sauce with the potatoes and fish. Serve with green beans or samphire and a squeeze of lemon juice.
There’s something about slow cooking which quickly prepared meals (regardless if wholesome and homemade) just cannot replace. Depth of flavour, love and attention and a melt in the mouth texture. Slow cooking allows so much time for the flavours to develop and infuse. I was skeptical at the extent to which just a small star of wooden star anise and a cigar coil of cinnamon could impart but it really is amazing at the subtle but very evident punch a pinwheel of spice can offer. Don’t worry, the chocolate cannot be tasted in an offensive way just a rich silky background to a beautiful sauce. Although I will warn you….don’t think about adding your favourite Cadburys bar. Keep it dark.
- 1kg beef shin (allow a little more if feeding hungry chaps or leftovers)
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 pint red wine
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pint beef stock
- 25g dark chocolate (85%+)
- Flat leaf parsley
- To serve - roasted cumin carrots, savoy cabbage, creamy mash
- If you can, soak the cuts of beef in the red wine with the cinnamon and star anise over night.
- When ready to cook preheat the oven to 120°C. Heat a large heavy bottomed casserole dish with a splash of light oil, pat dry the beef and season well. Brown in the oil on all sides until golden and then set aside.
- Add the chopped onion and gently cook until soft for about 15 minutes making sure they don’t catch on the bottom.
- Add the beef back to the pan and turn up the heat. Add the wine, the cinnamon, star anise, pepper and bay leaf.
- Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for a few minutes until the wine has reduced a little. Top up the pan with enough beef stock to cover the meat and prevent it from drying out on cooking.
- Place in the oven and cook for 3 hours with the lid on by which time it should be deliciously tender and falling apart.
- After 3 hours, remove from the oven and take out the beef and as many onions as you can and set aside.
- Drain the sauce (adding a little more stock if it has reduced too much) and discard the spices. Place the sauce in a saucepan and simmer gently to thicken slightly spooning off any fat. Season to taste.
- Add the chocolate and stir in until melted.
- Return the beef to the pan and heat through.
Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley with some deliciously creamy mash potato. Soften some chopped garlic in a knob of butter before adding some shredded savoy cabbage and braising until soft. Cumin roasted carrots with a charred edge are also a delicious pairing.