Cooking

Seeded Granola with Cacao and Coconut

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.

Ingredients

  • 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 cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 175g coconut oil
  • 250g coconut nectar (or agave syrup/honey)
  • 100g coconut shavings
Method
  1. Line a large high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160c.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

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Spelt Banana Pancakes with Honeyed Pecans

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
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • knob of butter for frying

To serve

  • 100g pecans
  • 3-4tbsp honey
  • 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

Method

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, place the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Stir together and make a well in the centre.
  3. 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.
  4. Once the pecans are sticky and toasted set aside.
  5. 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.
  6. Serve with fresh banana, maple syrup and the honeyed pecans.

Enjoy!

Hazelnut, Blackberry, Bay and Pear Pavlova

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.

Ingredients

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)

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.

Enjoy!

Pistachio Meringues with Strawberry and Black Pepper Compote

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
  • pinch salt
  • 125g chopped pistachios
  • 400g strawberries
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • splash water
  • cracked black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 trays with greaseproof paper (you can secure this down with a little meringue once it’s made).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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).
  6. 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.

Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Meringues with Rum Caramel and Bananas

Meringue is a guaranteed crowd pleaser throughout the year, whether you enjoy it torched on top of lemon meringue pie or piled high with summer fruits as the base of a retro pavlova. Though these classic forms of meringue are delicious, I thought I’d try out a brown sugar variation for a richer flavour; they worked brilliantly and the brown sugar adds a deep molasses kick which pairs really well with rum caramel sauce, caramelised bananas, peanuts and creme fraiche.

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Ingredients (makes 6-8 large meringues):

For the meringues:

  • 225g dark brown soft sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the rum sauce:

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 40g butter
  • 75ml double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 tbsp dark rum

For the caramelised banana:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 2 bananas

For the toppings:

  • chopped peanuts
  • some creme fraiche

meringues2

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 120c. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and add the brown sugar and egg whites. Whisk with electric beaters until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is voluminous and hot to the touch.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and keep whisking. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and increase the speed on your beaters. Whisk until you have stiff peaks.
  4. Pile the meringue into nests on the prepared baking trays. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Switch the oven off when you can easily peel the meringues off the paper and they are crisp. Leave in the oven to cool for an hour.
  5. While the meringues are cooling make the caramel. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved bring to a boil and allow to turn into a deep caramel colour. Remove from the heat and add the cream, butter and salt. Whisk until smooth (it will spit). Allow the sauce to cool slightly then add the rum. Taste and add more if you feel it needs it (hardcore). Set aside.
  6. For the bananas, place the sugar in a heavy bottom pan. Heat, allowing the sugar to melt. Swirl occasionally but do not stir. Take the sugar to a golden colour and add the butter (it will spit). Stir together then add the banana pieces. Cook for a few minutes then turn over and remove from the pan.
  7. To assemble top the meringues with creme fraiche, followed by the bananas, sauce and peanuts.

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Enjoy!

5 Minutes with Bake Off Champion Nadiya Hussain

Since winning the Great British Bake Off last year, mother of three Nadiya Hussain has ran with her mantra of ‘I can and I will’ by taking on numerous projects; from documentary making and recipe book writing to royal baking and countless television appearances, it seems Nadiya’s future in the food industry is bright. Last month, the reigning Bake Off champ kindly took 5 minutes out of her hectic schedule to chat food, the Queen and instant fame with myself and fellow food blogger Hannah Bond (A Bond Girl’s Food Diary  ) …right after she humoured us with some fan girl photos.

So, it’s been a year since Bake Off- what’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on since? It’s a tough one but I think I would have to choose baking the Queen’s 90th birthday cake- that’s a moment in history and I can’t believe I got to do it – I still have to pinch myself!

How did you manage to get that commission? I was on a shoot and my agent called and told me- I was sure she’d got it wrong- as if they’d want me and not a professional… when I realised it was true I was a bit like, can I say no?! Of course I didn’t but it was a lot of pressure at first- it’s a big deal!

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(Photo Credit: Telegraph Online)

You’ve spoken about struggling with confidence- do you think winning Bake Off helped you overcome that? Not the winning, but the process. Doing things I was unsure of or uncomfortable with on my own without my children or husband made me realise I don’t have to be a nervous or anxious person.

Were you prepared for the instant fame Bake Off gave you? No, I honestly thought I would fly under the radar and go back to normal life… being in the spotlight is a new world and it’s not something I have ever experienced- I try to just take it in my stride and enjoy it because you never know when it’s going to end.

Did Mary Berry give you any long lasting advice after Bake Off? She just told me to look after my family- she is such a family orientated person and I think we had that in common… she’s a bit like that Grandma you want to adopt!

Some less serious questions now… what is your desert island dish? Marmite! Marmite crisps.. I can eat six packets in one go.

Dream dinner party guest? David Attenborough. Every time.

Favourite cuisine? Vietnamese- it’s so fresh.

Two kitchen essentials? The perfect spatula and my stand mixer.

Mary or Paul? I’m not answering that!

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( Just fan-girling…)

Many thanks to Nadiya for chatting with us and sharing her thoughts on a very exciting year- look out for her BBC documentary series The Chronicles of Nadiya which traces her Bangladeshi roots and food heritage and pick up her book Nadiya’s Kitchen now.

Fig, Goats Cheese and Caramelised Red Onion Pizza

Everyone loves pizza, and this one is a bit different and a little more refined than your regular tomato and pepperoni. Give it a try- it’s really moreish and the homemade dough is thin, crisp and delicious!

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For the dough (makes 2 large pizza bases), you will need: 10g fast action dried yeast, 1tsp caster sugar, 110ml warm water, 200g strong white flour, 1tbsp olive oil, 1tsp salt

Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a  bowl and quickly mix together. Add the olive oil and water in one go and mix together with a cutlery knife until it comes together. Form into a ball of soft but not sticky dough and knead for 10 minutes.

Oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

For the topping, you will need: 6 figs, 1 small goats cheese log, thyme leaves, honey, 2 red onions, 1tsp brown sugar, 2tbsp basil pesto, sea salt, black pepper

While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings. For the onions, slice finely and sweat with oil on a low heat in a saucepan until soft and translucent. Once soft, up the heat, add the brown sugar and allow to caramelise, stirring occasionally to prevent catching. Set aside to cool.

Slice the figs thinly, crumble or slice the goats cheese and pick the thyme leaves. If you’d like to make your pesto check out my wild garlic variety here.

Assembling your pizzas: you will need some semolina and extra flour

Preheat the oven to 220c or the highest setting. Place 2  flat trays in the oven sprinkled in semolina.

Take your risen dough (it should doubled in size), knock back (by quickly knocking excess air out) and split in two. Roll out on a floured surface to about 5mm thick (don’t worry too much about the shapes, just make them as circular as you can- or make rectangular pizzas like mine!). Make sure the bases are moveable and not stuck to the surface at this stage.

Spread the pesto thinly on each pizza then add the caramelised onion, figs and goats cheese. Sprinkle over the thyme and drizzle on some honey. Finish with a sprinkling of sea salt and a crack of pepper.

Now comes the tricky bit; take a third flat baking tray and sprinkle with semolina. Very quickly slide it under the first topped pizza in one movement then transfer it to the preheated baking tray in the oven in another quick jolt. Repeat with the second pizza and bake for 8-10 minutes (this movement takes time to perfect but it produces well cooked dough with crisp bases!).

When the pizza is ready dress in some good quality olive oil and top with rocket.

Enjoy!