First off, apologies for the brief recipe hiatus. I’ve recently moved house and have been trying to figure out the perfect temperature to bake with in my new (incredibly retro) gas oven. And no, it’s not been as simple as converting degrees to gas marks- this oven has its own special way of working (i.e. it’s lukewarm for the majority of settings until the last when it turns into Mordor and burns everything in sight). Anyway I think I’ve cracked it now, so here’s my first recipe a la 1980s oven; tahini and pistachio brownies. They’re really simple to make but deliver everything you’d expect from a really good brownie- a dense, moist texture with added crunch from the pistachios and a deep indulgent chocolate flavour, which is definitely enhanced by the slightly salty, nutty pockets of tahini and halva.
250g good quality dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
generous pinch sea salt
150g plain flour
100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
75g chopped pistachios
100g halva, crumbled
100g tahini, well stirred
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm brownie tray.
Place the dark chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the base of the bowl or the chocolate will burn). Melt gently, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) whisk together the golden caster sugar and eggs until pale and voluminous (about 3-5 minutes). Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture followed by the sea salt and flour. Add the milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunks and most of the pistachios (reserve a few for sprinkling on the top) then stir.
Tip half the brownie mix into the prepared tin then dollop over half the tahini and sprinkle on half the halva. Top with the rest of the brownie mix and repeat, then finish with the reserved pistachios.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the middle is almost set but retains a slight wobble. Set aside to cool completely in the tin.
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.
This is my first successful foray into the vegan cake world. It’s a space I’ve steered clear of for quite some time, half because I’m not vegan and have had a bit of an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude to baking, and half because I’ve tasted some very cardboard-esque vegan bakes in the past that have put me off.
This cake, however, contains aquafaba (that starchy water you get in a tin of chickpeas) and it’s a real game changer; just whisk it up in a stand mixer and it thickens like egg whites, bringing a great lightness to sponges. It’s worked particularly well in conjunction with banana in this recipe and the resulting sponge is moist, light and delicious- helped along with a few rum soaked raisins and a generous swirl of coconut icing for good measure. As a complete experiment this has worked really well and I hope some of you try it out over the next few weeks, vegan or not.
For the cake
150g mixed raisins and sultanas
4tbsp dark rum
350g self-raising flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice
100g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
75g pecans, roughly chopped
125ml aquafaba (i.e. the drained starchy water from a can of chickpeas)
250ml olive oil
4 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
For the icing
3-4 tins coconut cream (I used 160ml tins but if you are buying different sizes just make sure you’ve got roughly 600ml overall)
2-3tbsp icing sugar
juice 1/2 lemon
Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the raisins, sultanas and rum in a bowl and let them soak for 10 minutes (stir occasionally to make sure they’re all plump and well flavoured).
In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, both sugars and chopped pecans. Tip the aquafaba into the clean bowl of a stand mixer (alternatively use a handheld electric whisk) and whisk until frothy (about 5-10 minutes). Set aside.
In a large jug mix together the olive oil and mashed banana then add in the thickened aquafaba. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add in the wet. Carefully fold the ingredients together until you have a batter free of flour lumps then stir in the soaked raisins and sultanas along with the rum.
Split the batter evenly between the two prepared cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. At this point pop the coconut cream tins in the freezer (trust me, it makes the cream much easier to separate from the water and makes for a thicker icing).
Once the cakes are baked leave them to cool completely in the tins and move onto the icing. Retrieve the coconut tins from the freezer and scoop out the hardened cream from the tops. Place this in a stand mixer along with 3tbsp coconut liquid (from the bottom of the tin). Whisk with the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth, thick and lump free (add another tbsp of liquid to loosen if necessary but you shouldn’t need it) then place in the fridge to firm up a little.
Once the cakes are completely cool and the coconut cream has firmed up slightly you’re ready to assemble. To do this just even off the cakes if necessary then spread a generous layer of icing over the first, sandwich on the second and repeat, creating a swirl design on top, if you like.
Garnish with pumpkin seeds, pecans, banana chips and cinnamon.
This ode to the fruits of winter will brighten any grey day with it’s sticky layers of spiced sponge, fresh ginger mascarpone cream and smooth blood orange curd. Decorate with pomegranate seeds, candied blood orange slices and chopped pistachios for a welcome explosion of colour during these colder months.
For the cake
250g golden syrup
3 tbsp ginger syrup
3-4 lumps stem ginger, diced
175g dark brown soft sugar
zest 1 orange
375g self-raising flour
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
For the blood orange curd
juice and zest 2 blood oranges
juice and zest 1 lemon
2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cubed
For the ginger mascarpone cream
1tbsp icing sugar
1tbsp ginger syrup
300ml double cream
Garnish ideas (optional)
candied orange slices
shards of tuile or ginger biscuit
Start off with the ginger cake. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins and preheat the oven to 180c.
Place the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger, dark brown sugar and orange zest in a saucepan and melt over a low/medium heat. Once the ingredients are melted bring to the boil and leave to bubble for about a minute, then set aside to cool a little.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Make a large well in the centre and tip in the melted butter mixture. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until smooth and flour lump free. In a jug whisk the eggs and milk together with a fork and add those into the mixing bowl. Whisk once more to combine then split the batter between the prepared cake tins.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the cakes are baking make the blood orange curd. To do this simply place the blood orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, eggs and egg yolks and caster sugar into a heatproof bowl. Whisk together to combine then set over a pan of simmering water (without the water touching the bowl). Add the butter cubes one at a time, constantly whisking. Once all the butter has been added and is melted, continue to whisk until the curd has thickened to a coating consistency (this will take between 5-10 minutes). Once the curd is ready, set aside to cool in a clean bowl with cling film flat across the surface (this will prevent a skin from forming).
When the cakes are ready leave them to cool completely in the tins. Once cool, even the tops off if necessary then slice each horizontally (so you are left with 4 even cake layers).
Now make the mascarpone cream; tip the double cream, icing sugar, ginger syrup and mascarpone into a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thickened and smooth.
Once all your components are cool it’s time to assemble the cake. Place one layer on your chosen serving plate and pipe dots of mascarpone cream around the edge then fill the centre with blood orange curd. Repeat until you’ve used up the cake layers and decorate the top as desired.
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.
It’s hardly surprising that a combination of some of my very favourite ingredients (brilliant pink forced rhubarb, fiery stem ginger and warming cardamom) have married together to form my perfect cake (aside from fudgy, rich chocolate cake- that space in my heart will never be replaced). The recipe is super easy and the result is a moist, fruity bake packed full of flavour. Serve up with pistachio praline and additional poached rhubarb to brighten up the miserable grey that is January…
Ingredients (serves 8-12)
For the cake
250g self-raising flour
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g golden syrup
3tbsp ginger syrup (from a stem ginger jar)
4 balls stem ginger, diced
125g dark soft brown sugar
200g forced rhubarb
For the cardamom creme fraiche
300ml creme fraiche
10 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground to a fine powder
1tbsp icing sugar
poached rhubarb pieces (just pop 125ml water and 125g caster sugar in a saucepan and heat to melt the sugar- once it’s dissolved, bring to the boil and add 200g sliced rhubarb. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but not mushy, then drain and use as desired)
pistachio praline (put 100g caster sugar in a heavy bottom pan and leave it to melt, swirling occasionally. Once completely melted add in 100g pistachios and swirl until the syrup has reached a deep golden colour. Scrape onto some greaseproof paper to set hard then break into a mixer, blitz and use as desired)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. In a saucepan melt together the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger and sugar. Bring to the boil for a minute then make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture. Stir together to eliminate any lumps then whisk the eggs and milk in a jug and add those in too and beat once more.
Slice the rhubarb into 2 inch lengths and stir through, then tip the batter into the prepared tin (the mix is quite loose but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully and the rhubarb levels out within the cake during baking and doesn’t end up sinking to the bottom!)
Bake for 1 hour- 1 hour 10 minutes or until the cake has reached a deep golden colour and a skewer comes out clean when inserted (it’s quite a long cooking time but this is necessary as there is a fair amount of liquid in the fruit- if the cake starts colouring a little too much before it’s cooked through, just cover it in foil for the remaining cooking time).
While the cake is baking make the cardamom creme fraiche topping. To do this simply whisk together the creme fraiche, ground cardamom and icing sugar.
Once your cake is baked, allow it to cool completely in the tin before removing it and presenting it on your chosen plate. Dollop on the creme fraiche just before serving and decorate with rhubarb and pistachios. I like to be quite free with this presentation but you can make yours more refined if you like.
Tahini, a thick sesame paste commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, is my go to ingredient for when I want to add a deep, nutty and slightly bitter flavour to a dish. I don’t usually think of incorporating tahini into my baking (for some unknown reason), and more often than not I’ll just pop it into baba ganoush, add it into a yoghurt dressing or drizzle it neat over slow cooked lamb and roasted roots to balance out a sweet date syrup glaze. This being said, yesterday I fancied making some cookies (someone put a stop to my wild and spontaneous lifestyle please…) and decided to bring tahini into the mix alongside sea salt and rich dark chocolate- the major players in my cookie game. The resulting cookies are absolutely delicious with a good balance of sweet, savoury, nutty and salty flavours; one hundred percent give the recipe a go, it’s a real winner.
110g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
150g dark brown soft sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp sea salt
300g plain flour
300g coarsely chopped dark chocolate, plus 50g extra for decoration (optional)
2tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Place the butter, tahini and both sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. If the mix curdles or you’re worried about curdling, add 2tbsp of the flour with each egg.
Once the eggs are well incorporated add the bicarbonate of soda, salt and flour then mix to combine. Finally, add in the coarsely chopped chocolate and very briefly mix once more just to distribute through the dough.
Pop the dough in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a little, then line even balls onto the prepared trays leaving room for spreading (I like to use an ice cream scoop for this). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are turning a light golden colour but the middles are still very soft (they will firm up during cooling).
To finish the cookies melt the additional dark chocolate and drizzle over the tops, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.