pistachios

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!

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!

Spring Cake Decorating

Naked or ‘semi-naked’ cakes are by no means a new trend, but they are simple, pretty and ideal for spring and summer. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with the style recently so thought I’d share some tips and tricks I use to make fresh looking layer cakes for gatherings and special birthdays (I made this orange and passion fruit cake last week for an Easter get together!).

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TIP ONE : WHERE TO BUY EDIBLE FLOWERS

Pinterest is flooded with beautiful cakes smothered in edible flowers, and up to now I have been at a loss as to where I can buy them; scour the shops and you are unlikely to find any and look online and you are faced with tiny boxes of pre-cut flower heads for upwards of £4.99 plus shipping (well out of my budget for a perishable cake decoration!).

I’d almost given up on looking for affordable edible flowers when I stumbled upon a section of violas in my local garden centre. They had a huge range on offer with pots for only £1.50 each. I bought a selection and now have a steady supply of  flowers when I need them, as when I cut the heads off, they re-bud!

Next time you’re in the market for some edible flowers, take a trip to a garden centre and see if you can find a better value option than the online boxes- just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals before you buy them!

(Note: the white flowers on this cake (gypsophila) are not edible, I just love their bohemian look).

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TIP TWO: THE IMPORTANCE OF FROSTING

When you frost your cake, make sure your icing has a slightly loose but still spreadable consistency so you can make the edges as smooth as possible. I find that cream cheese frosting works a little better than buttercream for this.

My basic cream cheese frosting consists of: 200g cream cheese, 100g butter, 600g icing sugar and a few drops of milk 

When I frosted this cake, I used a palette knife to spread a very thin layer around the edges to seal off the crumbs (a ‘crumb layer’), then chilled for 10 minutes until firm before spreading one more thin layer over the top to finish.

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TIP THREE: GREAT COLOUR POP INGREDIENTS

I like to keep fruity spring cakes as natural as possible when it comes to the toppers and there are two particular ingredients I find really useful in giving a pop of colour without resorting to sprinkles etc.

Pistachios- I like to chop up pistachios roughly and sprinkle them in a half moon shape around the surface of cakes as a base on which to place flowers and other decorations. Vibrant green looks great on white and gives a really summery feel.

Pomegranate seeds- A classic middle eastern ingredient, ruby red pomegranate seeds are brilliant for bringing a fairly dull looking cake to life (or main courses and beige dips too!). When paired with pistachios they look bold and eye catching.

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TIP FOUR: PINEAPPLE CRISP DECORATIONS

If you look at the above photo you will see the orange flower-like crisps I have angled to give some height to the decoration. I made these crisps using pineapple and think they make for really pretty and quite impressive cake toppers.

All you need to make them is a pineapple. Simply heat your oven to 100c and slice a pineapple with a mandolin (or very sharp knife) as thinly as possible.

Dry out thoroughly on kitchen paper then place the pineapple rounds in a muffin tray and leave to harden in the oven for 2 hours. After that time just turn the pineapple over and return to the oven for another half an hour to fully dry the bottoms, then leave out to cool and harden fully. Use as required!

I hope these little tips help in your cake decorating endeavours and that you like the look of my orange and passionfruit creation!

Fluffy Lemon Pancakes with Cherries and Pistachios

Shrove Tuesday is fast approaching, so if you’re after something a little different to crepes with lemon and sugar, why not try my zesty American style pancakes topped with yogurt, hot cherries, honey and pistachios!

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To make this delicious stack (makes 12-15 pancakes) you will need: 150g plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, pinch salt, pinch cinnamon, 2tbsp caster sugar, 150ml milk, 1 egg, 3tbsp melted butter (plus extra for cooking), zest 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 120c and place a plate on the middle shelf.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.

Whisk the milk, egg, butter and lemon zest in a  jug and pour a little into the well. Start stirring, gradually incorporating the flour as you go. Add more of the milk mixture in small amounts and stir between each addition until a lump free batter is achieved.

Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat until gently foaming. Spoon batter into the pan in little mounds (about 3 at a time) and wait for bubbles to form on the surface; when this happens flip them over with a spatula. They should be golden and well risen when ready.

Store the pancakes on the plate in the preheated oven to keep them warm while you prepare the toppings.

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For the toppings, you will need: half a bag frozen cherries, 200g shelled pistachios, a tub greek yogurt and a few squirts runny honey

Place the cherries in a saucepan and warm through over a high heat (or blast in the microwave for 2 minutes).

Roughly crush the pistachios.

Take your pancakes from the oven and stack into portions. Dollop on some yogurt and cherries then drizzle over some honey and finish with a sprinkling of pistachios.

Enjoy!