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!

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Coconut and Lemongrass Panna Cotta

This panna cotta recipe can be adapted by substituting the coconut for flaked almonds, basil or other nuts and herbs. I love this tropical combination for summer though; paired with mango sorbet, sesame seeds and lime zest it makes for the perfect refreshing and light dessert to follow a late lunch or dinner.

Ingredients (makes 4):

  • 225ml whole milk
  • 225ml double cream
  • 200g coconut flakes (lightly toasted)
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 3 1/2 leaves gelatine (around 6g)

Method:

  1. Lightly grease four dariole moulds with a flavourless oil (such as sunflower).
  2. Place the milk, cream and lightly toasted coconut flakes in a saucepan. Bash the lemongrass with the back of a knife to release the flavour and add to the pan. Heat the mixture and bring gently to the boil. Boil for 1 minute then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour.
  3. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes (until soft). Sieve the panna cotta mixture to remove the coconut and lemongrass then place back on the heat. Reheat until just steaming then squeeze the water from the gelatine and add. Mix in until dissolved then pour into the moulds.
  4. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours then remove from the moulds and serve as desired (dip the moulds in boiling water for a few seconds to make turning them out easier!).

Enjoy!

Carrot, Apple and Walnut Loaf with Maple Icing

Looking at the photographs of this cake, you could be fooled into thinking it’s mid Autumn and the trees are turning. They’re not, but given the weather here in the UK (it’s pretty miserable; grey skies and that fluffy rain which get’s you far more wet than you’d think) it might as well be. With this in mind I thought I’d bake something spiced, nutty, simple and comforting to combat the bad weather blues: enter this moist carrot and apple loaf cake laced with cinnamon, ginger and walnuts topped with maple cream cheese frosting…

Ingredients:

  • 225ml vegetable oil
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 125g grated carrot
  • 125g grated apple
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • zest 1 lemon

For the icing;

  • 5tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese (full fat)
  • 100ml double cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a large loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Place the oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and, using electric beaters, beat together until voluminous and well combined. Now add the grated carrot and apple and briefly beat again to evenly distribute.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt over the wet ingredients and beat in until just combined. Lastly, fold in the walnuts and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
  4. While the cake is cooling, make the maple cream cheese icing. Simply whisk together all the ingredients until thick and spreadable.
  5. Once the cake is completely cool, top with the cream cheese icing and some walnuts, edible flowers or apple crisps, if you’re feeling fancy.

Enjoy!

Soured Cream Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Almond Brittle

This isn’t a sophisticated cake. There is nothing particularly fancy or groundbreaking about the flavours or decoration; however, sometimes (and by sometimes I mean far more often than is deemed acceptable) I just crave a proper, dense, delicious chocolate hit, and for that this delivers every time (whether smothered in salted caramel buttercream or chocolate ganache- I’ll take either).

Ingredients:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g soft butter
  • 225ml soured cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt

For the buttercream:

  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g salted caramel sauce
  • large pinch salt
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the brittle:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin.
  2. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. In a jug whisk the eggs, soured cream and vanilla. Add to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, beating well between each to ensure they are fully incorporated (add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
  3. Sift the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked leave to cool in the tin.
  4. Now make your brittle. Line a tray with lightly oiled baking paper. Place the sugar and almonds in a heavy bottomed pan and heat until the sugar melts. Tip the pan to coat the almonds in the caramel and leave it until it reaches a deep golden brown then pour onto the prepared baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to move the almonds around into a single layer, then leave to set hard.
  5. For the salted caramel buttercream (this is a bit of a guilty pleasure- it’s obviously very sweet so you could coat the cake in a dark chocolate ganache if you’re more grown up than me), simply beat the soft butter, caramel sauce and salt (I will be posting a recipe for salted caramel sauce soon if you’d like to make your own, otherwise just buy shop bought!) together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar until it reaches a light and thick consistency. Lastly, loosen up with a few drops of milk if necessary (do this by eye).
  6. To assemble, remove your cake from the tin and smother in buttercream. Break up the brittle and use as shards, or smash into a crumb and sprinkle over the top of your finished bake.

Enjoy!

Lime, Lemon and Basil Tart

This deliciously refreshing tart is simpler to bake than you’d think, and it rounds off a summer lunch perfectly. A classic lemon and lime filling encased in sweet short pastry is always a crowd pleaser, but the basil added to this one balances the sharp citrus with a sweet aromatic flavour; a great twist on a much loved warm weather dessert.

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 185g plain flour
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 90g cold, cubed butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 4 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150ml lime juice
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • zest 3 limes
  • zest 3 lemons
  • 125ml double cream
  • large bunch basil

Decoration (optional):

  • basil leaves
  • edible flowers
  • lemon and lime zest (fresh or candied)

 

Method:

  1. First off, make the pastry (you could buy shortcrust pastry instead of making this special sweet variety yourself- if you do, just follow from step 2). The easiest way to do this is to place the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz together until a breadcrumb-like consistency is achieved (or rub together with your fingertips, handling as little as possible). Once you reach this stage, add in the egg yolks and blitz again, very briefly, until the mix just comes together to form large lumps. Tip the pastry out onto a clean surface and shape (again handling as little as possible) into a thin disc. Now wrap this pastry disc in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c. Very lightly grease a 22-24cm tart tin with butter. Take your pastry and roll out on a floured surface to a little under 3mm thick. Line your tart case, using a ball of spare pastry to push right down into the corners. Run a knife around the top of the case to neaten the edges. Chill for 20 minutes.
  3. Fill your pastry-lined tart case with non-stick baking paper and baking beans then blind bake for 10-15 minutes (until the walls are set). Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and the base is sandy and dry but not overly golden.
  4. Now it’s time to make your filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 150c. Place your eggs, sugar, zest, juice, cream and whole bunch of basil in a saucepan and leave off the heat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes some scum will have formed on the surface; skim this off with a spoon then place the saucepan on a gentle heat. Warm until hot to the touch (not boiling), then sieve to remove the basil leaves and zest. Pour this filling into the prepared pastry case and bake for 15-25 minutes until the middle has a uniform and slight wobble when gently shaken.
  5. Cool completely in the tin to allow the filling to fully set (this will take an hour or so) then remove carefully, slice up and serve. Decorate as desired and keep refrigerated once cool.

Enjoy!

Orange, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies

This recipe takes the classic chewy chocolate cookie and turns it into something altogether more grown up with a little help from crushed pistachios, orange zest, dark chocolate chunks and ground cardamom. Stash them away from kids (and other adults- let’s be honest) and enjoy when you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, preferably with a strong coffee.

Ingredients (makes 20-24 large cookies)

  • 225g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1tsp ground cardamom (or 8-10 cardamom pods, crushed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the butter, sugars, zest and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light and fluffy using electric beaters (or a wooden spoon if you’re slightly mad/ less lazy than me).
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, tip in the pistachios and stir. Now sift the bicarbonate of soda, flour and salt into the batter and beat briefly to form a soft dough.
  3. Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute. The dough won’t be firm and to make cooking easier I like to freeze it before baking. To do this simply lay a long rectangle of cling film across your work surface, spoon on the dough in a long line and roll up, shaping into a log. Chill for half an hour and at this stage preheat the oven to 180c and line some baking trays.
  4. Once your cookie dough logs have firmed up a bit, unwrap them and cut into slices (about 1.5 cm thick). Place the slices on the prepared baking trays with generous spaces between them for spreading (I usually put about 4 on each tray).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Lemon, Thyme and Honey Cake

I’ve been back in my winter coat and even wore a scarf yesterday due to the fact that the weather here in the UK has been akin to a small child throwing a tantrum… that said, when I made this cake (and naturally spent the day inside) it was gloriously sunny and something light and zesty was in order. This is essentially a lemon drizzle with a couple of welcome extras; a subtle hum of thyme and a honey spiked tangy cream cheese icing- the perfect understated but delicious cake for a casual summer get together.

Ingredients:

  • 225g soft butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • zest 4 lemons
  • 1tbsp chopped thyme
  • 4 eggs (free range)
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the lemon drizzle:

  • 3tbsp runny honey (local where possible)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 125ml lemon juice

For the lemon cream cheese frosting:

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 50ml double cream
  • zest 2 lemons
  • 3tbsp runny honey (plus extra for a final drizzle, if you like)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a square baking tin.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and thyme in a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are thoroughly incorporated, sift in the flour and pour in the milk. Fold gently until well combined then scrape into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  3. While the lemon and thyme sponge is cooking, make the lemon and honey drizzle. To do this simply put the honey, lemon juice and caster sugar together in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved and formed a syrup. Set aside.
  4. When the cake is ready, skewer holes all across the surface and pour the drizzle evenly over the top, allowing it to soak in. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese, double cream, honey, lemon zest and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick. Spread a generous layer over the completely cooled cake and drizzle with any extra honey.

Enjoy!