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.
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.
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.
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.
Layers of zesty elderflower sponge sandwiched together with tart gooseberry compote and lightly whipped elderflower cream make up this delicious nod to the British countryside. Bake it for a special mid-summer occasion or round off a Sunday lunch with a generous slice.
275g soft butter
275g caster sugar
zest 1 lemon
275g self raising flour
3-4tbsp elderflower cordial
For the gooseberry compote:
500g fresh (or frozen and defrosted) gooseberries
75g caster sugar
For the elderflower cream:
600ml double cream
4-5tbsp elderflower cordial
1-2tbsp icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, sugar and zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy.
Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to ensure they are fully incorporated. Now tip in the elderflower cordial and briefly mix once more to distribute it evenly through the batter.
Sift over the flour and fold in with a large metal spoon. Split the mixture between the two prepared tins and level out. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the cakes are baking, make the gooseberry compote. Put the gooseberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruits are soft and a loose compote has formed (10-15 minutes).
When the cakes are ready, leave to cool completely in the tins. While they cool, make the elderflower cream. To do this simply whisk together the cream, cordial and sugar until soft peaks form.
Once all your elements are cool, assemble the cake. Spread a generous layer of compote and several dollops of elderflower cream between each sponge, then finish with a few sprigs of elderflower for a simple, effortless summer pudding.
These fudgy brownies incite frenzied eating in my house; they barely saw the light of day when I made them last and half my family were out… It’s hardly surprising they are so addictive though- white chocolate matches brilliantly with fresh cherry compote (particularly when accompanied by a very generous glug of slightly unseasonal brandy).
For the compote:
300g cherries (stones removed)
2tbsp caster sugar
large glug brandy (this amount is totally down to your taste)
For the brownies:
300g dark chocolate
225g plain flour
200g white chocolate chunks
Start by making the compote. Roughly chop the cherries. Place in a pan along with the sugar, water and brandy. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the cherries become soft and the syrupy liquid starts to thicken (about 10 minutes). Once the consistency is somewhat jam-like, taste and add more brandy if you like (you can leave out the brandy entirely if it’s not your jam- ha.). Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 22x22cm is perfect).
Place the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the water touch the base of the bowl). Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once melted together.
Place the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until well combined.
Add the chocolate mixture to the bowl and fold in followed by the flour and 2/3 of the white chocolate chunks. Tip into the lined baking tin and level out.
Dollop the compote all over the surface of the brownie and finish by sprinkling on the remaining white chocolate. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is set but the inside is moist and a little gooey.
Allow the brownie to cool completely in the tin then slice up and serve.
This dense, fudgy cake topped with a generous sweep of thick milk chocolate ganache is best enjoyed on the sofa with a good film, strong coffee and warm blanket (I’m fantasising about this right now as the fluke sunny day we enjoyed last week is a distant memory and it’s currently blowing a gale). Don’t be put off by the beetroot- the earthy flavour mellows through baking and brings moisture and richness to the cake.
For the cake:
325g dark chocolate (melted)
4 eggs, separated
275g grated raw beetroot
175g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
2tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder
For the ganache:
250g milk chocolate
150ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Place the melted dark chocolate, egg yolks, grated beetroot, caster sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir together until combined.
Put the egg whites in another bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk, together with the salt, until they have formed stiff (but not dry) peaks. Add a large spoonful of the whites into the beetroot mixture and stir in to loosen.
Add the remaining whites and carefully fold with a large metal spoon, ensuring you keep as much of the air in as possible. Once the mix is combined, carefully tip into the prepared cake tin (not from a height or you will lose some of the air you’ve worked in!).
Level out the mixture then bake for 45-55 minutes, until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Set the cake aside and make the ganache. To do this simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a bowl, then heat the cream to just below boiling and pour directly onto the chocolate. Leave to melt for a couple of minutes then stir together until smooth and glossy. Leave to cool.
Once everything is cool, cover the cake in the ganache and decorate as desired. I used some purple violas, handmade beetroot crisps, herbs and chocolate shards.