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!
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 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.
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.
Don’t be put off by the inclusion of parsnips in this recipe; they’re deliciously sweet root vegetables which work in the same way as carrots when baked alongside nuts, sugar and spice. I’ve filled and topped this cake with refreshing ginger mascarpone which acts as the perfect contrast to the spiced walnut, parsnip and orange sponge.
For the cake:
200g caster sugar
50g light brown soft sugar
300ml sunflower oil
225g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
large pinch salt
2tsp ground ginger
1/2 grated nutmeg (fresh)
450g grated parsnip
zest 2 oranges
175g chopped walnuts
For the ginger mascarpone:
3tbsp ginger syrup
2-3tbsp icing sugar
100ml double cream
3 stem ginger balls, diced
50g chopped and toasted walnuts
a little caramel sauce (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the eggs, sugars and oil in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until pale and thick. Stir together the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in another bowl then add to the egg mixture and beat briefly to throughly combine. Stir in the grated parsnip, sultanas, orange zest and walnuts.
Split the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins and level off. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, leave the cakes to cool in the tins.
While the cakes are cooling, make the ginger mascarpone. To do this simply whisk together all the ingredients until smooth.
To assemble the cake spread a generous layer of ginger mascarpone over the first sponge, sandwich on the second then spread over the remaining mascarpone. Top with stem ginger pieces, chopped walnuts and caramel sauce, if you like.
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.