seasonal food

Hazelnut, Blackberry, Bay and Pear Pavlova

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.

Ingredients

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)

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.

Enjoy!

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Apricot and Thyme Tart

Crisp pastry, apricot jam, almond thyme frangipane, fresh apricots and a honey glaze make up this seasonal take on a classic Bakewell tart. It works really well with a big spoonful of creme fraiche and can be enjoyed warm or cold, perfect for this unpredictable British ‘summer’.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp water

For the Filling:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tbsp thyme, chopped
  • 5 tbsp good quality apricot jam
  • 300g apricots, sliced

For the glaze:

  • 50g honey

Optional toppings:

  • few thyme sprigs
  • some toasted almonds
  • some creme fraiche

Method

  1. Start off with the pastry. Place the flour, butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a food processor and blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (you can also do this by hand by rubbing the ingredients lightly between your fingers). Lightly mix the egg yolks and water in a cup then, with the processor running, pour in through the funnel. Stop blitzing as soon as the mixture clumps together then tip onto a clean surface and quickly shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c (fan) and lightly grease your tart case ( I used a long rectangular tin but this recipe will also work with a 20-22cm traditional fluted tin). Take your pastry and roll out to about 3mm thick on a  lightly floured surface. Line the tin with your pastry, using a little extra to push it right into the corners. Trim any over hanging pastry from the edges and then cover with cling film and chill again for 10-15 minutes, until firm.
  3. Line your chilled pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes (or until the sides are set) then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for around 10 minutes (or until the bottom is sandy with no grey undercooked areas). Set aside while you make the frangipane filling and lower the oven temperature to 160c (fan).
  4. For the filling, cream together the butter and sugar (in a stand mixer with paddle attachment or with electric beaters) then add in the almonds and mix briefly until well incorporated. Crack in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, then finally stir in the chopped thyme.
  5. Take your cooled pastry case and dollop the jam all over the base. Spread out evenly then pile on the frangipane and level off. Top with the sliced apricots in a pattern of your choice then bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden.
  6. Heat the honey a little to loosen the consistency (either in a saucepan or in the microwave) then brush all over the top of the tart to add shine. Once cooled, decorate the tart with thyme sprigs, almonds and creme fraiche, if you like.

Enjoy!

Peach and Blueberry Hazelnut Crumble Cake

Peach puree and ground hazelnuts run through this cake batter, giving it a distinctly fruity flavour and very moist crumb. I love the added nuttiness wholemeal flour brings to the end result too and think it works really well served with a tangy creme fraiche and drizzle of local honey.

Ingredients (serves 10-12):

For the crumble topping:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 85g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 75g butter, melted

For the cake:

  • zest 1 lemon
  • 225g soft butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 400g ripe peaches, blitzed into a chunky puree
  • 200g wholemeal self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 100g finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 peach, finely sliced
  • large handful blueberries

To serve:

  • dollop creme fraiche or greek yoghurt
  • drizzle of honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c (325f/gas mark 3). Grease and line a 9inch spring form cake tin.
  2. Before you worry about the cake batter, make the crumble topping. To do this simply stir together the flour, sugar, hazelnuts and butter until you have a rough crumbly consistency. Set aside for later.
  3. Now it’s time for the cake. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Whisk the pureed peaches and eggs in a jug and add to the creamed mixture in three additions, beating well between each. The mixture may curdle so add a small amount of flour occasionally to bring it back (don’t worry too much about this, the batter comes together nicely in the end and the cake is always moist and delicious!).
  4. Once the eggs and peaches have been incorporated into the butter and sugar, fold in the remaining flour, blitzed hazelnuts, baking powder and salt. Scrape the mix into the prepared cake tin and level out. Arrange the peach slices on top in a pattern then sprinkle over the blueberries and hazelnut crumble.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached. Serve with creme fraiche.

Enjoy!

Rhubarb and Pistachio Tartlets

I’m a big fan of rhubarb (I’ve decided putting it in granita with lime zest is my favourite way to eat it- I’m sure that could be blitzed into a daiquiri of sorts as well… anyway I digress) and thought I’d take the last stems of the season to make some nutty frangipane tartlets. This recipe calls for pistachios and almonds in the frangipane to create an earthy flavour which I think pairs really well with the tart rhubarb.

Ingredients:

For the pastry: 125g plain flour, 70g butter, 1tbsp caster sugar, pinch salt, 1 egg yolk, 2tbsp cold water

For the rhubarb: 75g caster sugar, 100ml water, 2 stems rhubarb

For the frangipane: 50g butter, 50g caster sugar, 1 egg, 75g ground almonds, 75g shelled pistachios (blitzed until roughly ground), 1tbsp plain flour

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, place the cold butter and plain flour in a food processor along with the salt and sugar. Blitz until the mix resembles fine bread crumbs then whisk together the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Add half this liquid to the crumbs and pulse until they start clumping together. If it still seems a little dry, add another teaspoon of the egg and briefly pulse again. As soon as the dough forms little lumps stop the machine and tip out the contents. Press together and shape roughly into a disc (don’t overwork). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c.  Grease and flour four small (about 8cm) tart cases.
  3. Once the pastry has firmed up a little, roll out to about 2-3mm thick. Line the tart cases, carefully using a little ball of spare pastry to get it right into the corners. Trim away any excess and chill again for 10 minutes.
  4. For the rhubarb, dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat then bring to the boil. Remove from the hob and add in the chopped rhubarb. Leave it to soften in the hot syrup until required.
  5. Now it’s time to blind bake the tart cases. To do this just line the pastry cases with some baking paper and baking beans to ensure that the walls are supported. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes until a sandy consistency is achieved with no grey areas.
  6. While the cases are baking make the frangipane. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and blitz until light and fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients and pulse to fully combine (this should take a few minutes). The final consistency should be smooth and creamy (remember, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a stand mixer, electric beaters or a wooden spoon!).
  7. Now it’s time to assemble. Just place 1-2 heaped tablespoons of the frangipane into the tart cases, smooth out then top with some rhubarb pieces (don’t overfill, remember leave a little bit of room for expansion).
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the frangipane is golden. Top with some white icing if you like and enjoy warm or cold with a big dollop of creme fraiche.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Orange Halloween Cupcakes

These light zesty cupcakes topped with a swirl of jet black chocolate buttercream are great for ghoulish kids parties. They taste delicious, are ridiculously simple to make and look pretty dark and mysterious too- ideal for Halloween.

black-1

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 200g soft butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1tsp orange extract
  • zest 1 orange
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g self raising flour

For the chocolate buttercream:

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 300g soft butter
  • 600g icing sugar
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 1tsp black gel food colouring

black-2

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  2. Place your butter and caster sugar in a bowl. Whisk together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and adding a little flour to prevent a curdled mixture.
  3. After the eggs have been incorporated, add the orange extract and zest. Mix together thoroughly then sift in the flour. Fold with a large metal spoon until well incorporated.
  4. Distribute the mix between the cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and springy.
  5. Leave to cool on a wire rack and make the frosting.
  6. To make the black buttercream, whisk the butter and icing sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the melted dark chocolate and milk. Whisk again until non-streaky then add enough black food colouring to achieve a solid colour. I find gel colouring the most effective.
  7. Pipe or spread the buttercream over your cupcakes and enjoy!