With a light baked ricotta filling studded with fresh raspberries, crunchy almond-oat base and griddled peach topping, these cheesecake bars pay homage to 90s peach melba, and make for the perfect summer dessert.
Preheat the oven to 160c and grease and line a 22x22cm baking tin. Place the digestives, demerara sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and blitz into crumbs. Add in the melted butter, almonds and oats and very briefly blitz again to combine- don’t over mix here, you want a nice crunchy base. Tip this mixture into the prepared tin and pack down with the back of a spoon. Chill for 15 minutes then bake for 10 minutes to set. Once baked set aside for later.
Now make the filling. To do this simply whisk together the ricotta, golden caster sugar, corn flour and vanilla until very smooth, then add in the egg and egg yolk one at a time, whisking between each addition to bring the mixture together again. Lastly, whisk in the yoghurt. Roughly break up the raspberries with the back of a fork and tip them in. Ripple them through then scrape all the filling onto the base. Place the tin into another larger roasting tin and fill with water (about half way up the sides of your baking tin). Bake for 1 hour or until the cheesecake is set but still has a uniform wobble.
Once baked, leave the cheesecake to cool completely then chill for 4-6 hours to set.
While the cheesecake is chilling, lightly oil a griddle pan and slice the peaches into wedges. Heat the pan and char the slices on each side, then leave to cool.
When your cheesecake has set, just remove it from the tin, slice into 12 bars (use a hot knife for this and you will get a cleaner result) and top with the griddled peach slices, extra raspberries and nuts.
I know I’m getting a few months ahead of myself by posting a fig recipe (usually they come into season around late July), but when I saw some particularly plump, dark looking figs in my local fresh produce shop, I couldn’t help but cook them up with some delicious accompaniments. You could recreate this super simple recipe using any seasonal fruit- rhubarb, greengage or peach would work particularly well.
Ingredients (serves 6)
400ml Greek yoghurt
3tbsp runny honey
2tsp rose water
10-12 ripe figs
Few sprigs thyme
1 pomegranate, seeds only
Place the yoghurt, 1tbsp of the honey and the rose water in a bowl. Mix together then transfer to a muslin cloth and tie up the corners. Sit this in a sieve over a bowl for at least 24 hours (refrigerated).
After 24 hours the liquid will have drained from the yoghurt, leaving you with a thick, smooth labneh.
Once the labneh is ready, prepare the other elements of your dessert. Preheat the oven to 200c and line a high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper. Slice the figs into either halves or quarters (depending on your visual preference!) and spread out on the tray (cut side up). Drizzle with the remaining 2tbsp honey and sprinkle over the sumac. Roughly break the thyme into the tray too.
Roast the figs for 20-25 minutes until very tender and sticky. While the figs are cooking, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly coloured, then roughly chop.
To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the labneh onto your dessert plates and arrange some fig pieces on top. Sprinkle over the almonds and pomegranate seeds and lastly, garnish with some thyme, if you like.
I’m kicking it old school today with a seasonal take on a childhood classic; baked custard. Custard is something which, until a few years back, filled me with dread. I think it has something to do with enduring memories of school puddings accompanied by lukewarm, thick skinned, unsettlingly lumpy custard… That said, a good baked custard I had at cookery school a few years back converted me after years of avoiding the stuff; it was deliciously smooth, creamy and comforting and since then I can appreciate how the simple format can make for a really versatile dessert.
In this spring recipe I’ve flavoured the custard with cardamom and paired it with some orange blossom roast rhubarb and pistachios for added texture. Once you’ve made it once though you’ll definitely want to play with other flavours. Coffee, chocolate, citrus, rose and almond are just some flavours you might like to try, but the possibilities and accompaniment choices are endless.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together to combine. Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and ground cardamom seeds in a saucepan to just below boiling point then leave the flavours to infuse for 10 minutes.
Bring the cream mix back up to scalding point then pour it all over the eggs. Whisk to combine then strain through a sieve into a jug. Distribute the mixture between four individual oven proof serving dishes.
Place the dishes into a deep roasting pan and fill with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the custards are almost set but have a gentle, uniform wobble in the middle.
The custards can be served warm or cold, so depending on your preference you might like to prepare the rhubarb and pistachio topping before baking the custards. I personally like them cold so once they’re cooked just take them out of the water bath to cool completely. Once cooled you can refrigerate the custards until required.
Meanwhile, up the temperature of the oven to 180c. Place the rhubarb in a bowl along with the sugar, orange zest, orange blossom water and orange juice. Toss to evenly coat then tip everything onto a lined baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes.
When it’s done the rhubarb will be tender but hold its shape. Set aside to cool and make sure you reserve the delicious cooking syrup. Last of all, roughly chop the pistachios.
To serve, top the custards with a generous spoonful of roast rhubarb and some of the orange syrup. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and enjoy!
This granola is super easy to make and can be adapted with your choice of nuts and seeds; I particularly like this variety as the cacao nibs add a hint of chocolate which pairs really well with the coconut flavour. If you want to keep it vegan serve this with seasonal fresh fruit, nut butter and coconut yoghurt or enjoy as a sprinkling on top of an Acai bowl.
400g whole oats
75g pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
75g chia seeds (or poppy seeds)
75g hemp seeds (or flax seeds/ sesame seeds)
100g cacao nibs
100g pecans (or brazil nuts/walnuts/hazelnuts)
1tsp mixed spice
175g coconut oil
250g coconut nectar (or agave syrup/honey)
100g coconut shavings
Line a large high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160c.
Place the oats, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs and spices in a large bowl and stir to combine. Put a saucepan over a medium heat and add the coconut nectar and coconut oil- melt these together and once you have a lump-free liquid remove from the heat.
Pour the melted liquid into the dry ingredients and stir together until everything is evenly coated. Tip this into the prepared tray and spread out then bake for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure the edges don’t catch.
When the granola is almost ready add the coconut shavings and bake for a further 10 minutes- it’s important you add these near the end as they don’t need too long to colour.
Once the granola is golden and has dried out a little, set aside to crisp up and cool then tip into jars and use as required.
With Pancake Day looming I thought I’d share my recipe for the best fluffy banana pancakes (even if I say so myself). The combination of spelt flour and banana makes for a nutty but naturally sweet flavour and they work really well with nut butters, maple syrup and winter produce such as forced rhubarb and pear.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
For the pancakes
175g spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 ripe bananas
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
knob of butter for frying
1tsp sea salt
maple syrup or honey
either fresh banana, winter berries, finely sliced apple or pear, orange segments or poached rhubarb
either almond, peanut or cashew butter
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Toss the pecans in the honey and salt and evenly distribute on the prepared tray then bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Stir together and make a well in the centre.
In a jug whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla extract then mash the bananas and add them in. Tip the contents of the jug into the dry ingredients and whisk together until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
Once the pecans are sticky and toasted set aside.
Now you’re ready to cook the pancakes. Heat a large frying pan and add a knob of butter. Once the butter is gently foaming add 3 or 4 mounds of the pancake batter and cook on the first side until bubbles start to appear on the top, then turn over and cook for a couple more minutes. Continue cooking the pancakes in batches until you’ve used all the batter up.
Serve with fresh banana, maple syrup and the honeyed pecans.
This pavlova screams Autumn; each element contains a seasonal hero and I definitely (big statement) prefer the combination of hazelnut meringue, blackberry cream and bay poached pears over the classic summer berry meringue we all know and love here in England. Make it for an Autumn gathering (or dare I say it- Christmas) and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
For the pavlova:
5 egg whites
300g caster sugar
1tsp corn flour
1tsp white wine vinegar
200g chopped hazelnuts
For the poached pears:
4 pears, peeled
200ml blackberry rum (or sloe gin)
1 vanilla pod, split
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
75g caster sugar
For the blackberry cream:
400ml double cream
2-3tbsp icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
250g lightly crushed defrosted frozen blackberries (these work really well for rippling as they are usually soft and juicy)
Preheat the oven to 130c and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. To start, make the pavlova. To do this place the egg whites in a large clean bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff (but not dry) peaks. Once you reach this stage add the caster sugar 1tbsp at a time and keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy, grain free meringue. Now tip in the cornflour and white wine vinegar and briefly whisk once more to thoroughly combine. Finally, pour 150g of the chopped hazelnuts into the bowl and fold gently with a large metal spoon.
Spoon the meringue onto your prepared tray and shape into a rough circle with a dip in the middle. Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours until the pavlova is crisp to the touch and peels away from the paper with ease, then switch off the oven and allow it to cool with the door ajar to avoid any major cracks.
While the meringue is cooking and cooling, poach the pears. Pop the peeled pears in a saucepan along with the blackberry rum, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and caster sugar then top up with water so that the pears are just covered. Simmer for around 25-30 minutes until the pears are tender but not mushy. Once ready, pick out the pears and leave to cool, then return the liquid to the hob, turn up the heat and boil until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Set aside to use later.
For the blackberry cream, whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla to soft peaks then fold through the defrosted blackberries with a little juice (reserve a few whole ones for decoration).
Now you are ready to assemble your pavlova. Put the meringue on a plate or serving platter and fill the dip with the blackberry cream. Pile up the pears on top, sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over your syrup. Decorate with bay leaves or gold leaf, if you like.
Shake up the classic British pavlova by combining seasonal strawberries with black pepper, tangy creme fraiche and pistachio meringues; the combination of sweet, spicy and savoury balances beautifully and is a great dessert option for casual summer evenings.
Ingredients (makes 12):
300g caster sugar
6 egg whites
125g chopped pistachios
2tbsp caster sugar
cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 trays with greaseproof paper (you can secure this down with a little meringue once it’s made).
Put the sugar on a baking tray and heat for 10 minutes in the oven until hot to the touch (not melting), then set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until you reach medium peak. Add one third of the hot sugar and increase the whisking speed until well incorporated. Add the remaining sugar in 2 additions, whisking well between each. You should eventually have a thick glossy meringue with no grains of sugar. Tip the chopped pistachios onto the meringue and fold in gently. Spoon the meringue into piles on the prepared trays and smooth into your desired shapes.
Bake for 1-1/2 hours until the meringues can be peeled from the paper with ease. Once baked, turn the oven off and leave to cool with the door closed (to prevent cracking).
Now make the strawberry compote; place the strawberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the strawberries release some juices. Now just cook until your desired consistency is achieved (I like to keep the fruit whole where possible but you can break down the strawberries by cooking for longer if a smoother result is what you’re after).
Cool the compote and serve up with a generous spoonful of creme fraiche (or lightly whipped chantilly cream) and a crisp but chewy pistachio meringue.