Raspberry, Rose & Chocolate Pavlova

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So this is it guys, my party piece! This is my go to dessert for celebrations. I made it on Valentine’s day, I made it when I hosted Christmas (the follow up to an absolutely delicious slow roasted duck) and I made it when a couple of friends came to my teeny tiny flat for a sofa-based dinner party. And let me tell you, it never fails to put a smile on people’s faces.

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Maybe it’s the chunks of chocolate hiding in the meringue, maybe the lashings of rose scented cream or maybe just the fact that it looks pretty darned irresistible. For me the best thing about it is its simplicity. As long as you have access to an electric whisk of some description, the meringue is an absolute breeze and the cream will be whipped in moments, then it’s just an assembly job, where you can be as flamboyant as your heart desires. (continue reading…)

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Bakewell Tart

Bakewell Tart 5

 

Happy birthday to me! And I should add to my boyfriend Ben, well actually his was yesterday, but I reluctantly shared this birthday tart with him anyway.

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Bakewell tart, for the uninitiated, is a British classic. Flakey pastry, a thin layer of raspberry jam (always, always raspberry) and almond sponge, topped with toasty, flaked almonds (or sometimes icing, but for me its all about the almonds.) It has to be one of my all time favourites, hence its selection as this year’s birthday dessert.

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Despite its seeming simplicity, the flavours are just perfect and it can definitely compete with last year’s birthday special, even though that one was a bit of a showstopper. (continue reading…)

Gluten-Free Pomegranate Jewel Cake

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At 33 years old (for another week or so at least. If anyone says the words ‘mid-thirties’ there’s a good chance I’ll slap them) I’m extremely grateful to still be close friends with the fabulous group of girls I went to school with. I didn’t realise how unusual that is until fairly recently, I clearly chose my friends wisely. Last weekend all 8 of us got together for the first time in ages for a day full of chatting and a night full of cocktails & food here in good old London town. I was hosting so obviously I had to make a cake.

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Helen has major problems with gluten, so a gluten-free cake was the order of the day and I decided that rather than whipping up one of my go to gluten-free cakes (this one and this one) I wanted to try something new and a tad more flamboyant. I knew I had to consult the queen of gluten-free cakes (and flamboyantness!) Nigella Lawson.

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When I laid eyes on this cake it was love at first sight. I have a well documented obsession with pomegranates and a recipe that involves covering an entire cake with them is impossible for me to resist. Add to that the fact that this is almond based with tangy lemon and orange zest and I may have discovered my new go-to cake. (continue reading…)

Date, Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Energy Balls

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Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you that exercise isn’t really my thing. The closest I’ve come to organised sport is a rather inappropriate Saturday job at JJB Sports whilst I was in the sixth form, not sure what I was thinking there.

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If it wasn’t for the massive amount of cake involved in writing a food blog I doubt I would ever exercise at all. As it stands, there are only 2 things that get me through a painful gym session: an old episode of Downton Abbey on my iPad (new series starts tonight!!) and one (or maybe two) of these scrumptious energy balls.

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Pop a stock of these chocolatey, coconuty, almondy balls in your fridge (or freezer) and you’ve got yourself some bite sized bursts of energy at your finger tips, just the ticket for a post-work workout. They’re also perfect for that afternoon slump, when you just can’t go on without something sweet. Just keep in mind that they’re not chocolate truffles, they’re packed full of dates, and if you get too carried away you may be spending a little more time in the smallest room of the house than you’re used to! (apologies for lowering the tone!) (continue reading…)

Spiced Honey Roast Almonds

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A lovely weekend back home with my family, involving plenty of good food and a wonderful Christening, (Yes, I finally have my first Godchild, Harry, and he is utterly gorgeous!)  resulted in no daylight time in my own kitchen. Therefore, I was forced to invade the family kitchen and whip up something quick, simple, yet oh so good!

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Is it just me, or are almonds just the best thing ever? Not only do they taste amazing in their natural raw state (and apparently lower your cholesterol), but they’re also a dream cake ingredient, the perfect addition to granola, essential for a beautiful macaroon (I simply must master these soon!) and the key ingredient of my all time favourite, frangipane. But what’s more, roast them up, drizzle them with honey and spices, and you’ve got something seriously special on your hands.

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This was my first attempt at home roasted nuts, but I needn’t have worried, it really is simple. As long as you set your kitchen timer and don’t abandon them, there’s very little risk of them burning, they’ll just turn a slightly darker brown, their taste will be intensified and your kitchen will smell amazing! (continue reading…)

Nectarine Frangipane Tart

Nectarine Frangipane 1

Today is another day of combining things that I love. Namely nectarines, almonds and pastry. If you could show me a better way to bring them together than a frangipane tart, I’d be extremely surprised, and I’m sure it wouldn’t make my kitchen smell quite so amazing.

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Frangipane, that beautiful almondy, spongey stuff, reminds me of home. Back in my family home the frangipane tart is the ultimate treat. Concealing apricots, plums, raspberries or gooseberries, the whole lot of us would be overjoyed with any combination.

Nectarines

I think my own personal obsession comes from an over consumption of marzipan in my younger years. My mum always made fabulous fruit cakes for Christmas and Easter, meaning that there was always a block of marzipan in the ingredients cupboard.

Blind bake

I loved nothing better than sitting on the kitchen floor, fashioning the marzipan into little egg shapes for the tiny, chicken cake decorations to sit on and then scoffing the lot. Frangipane feels (and tastes) like a grown up version of those stolen marzipan moments.

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Here I’ve added nectarines, in an attempt to make the most of the glorious summer fruits that are everywhere at the moment. I eat nectarines almost every day anyway, with yoghurt and oats for breakfast, but sometimes it’s nice to make them feel a little more special. This tart definitely feels like a special treat.

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In searching for recipes I found that not everyone feels the need to blind bake their pastry. For the uninitiated, blind baking means partially cooking your pastry before adding the tart filling.

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I decided to blind bake my pastry as I have a major fear of the dreaded soggy-bottom. (Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would never stand for that sort of thing.) It did result in quite a crispy pastry case but I’m all for that.

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For the pastry element, I used a trusted Jamie Oliver sweet pastry recipe from his book Jamie’s America. This recipe has never failed me and tastes divine, whilst being open to adding other flavours like orange zest or vanilla. For a tin this size you’re also left with a little extra pastry for making the compulsory jam turnover. (At least it’s compulsory in my house!)

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One thing I would say about this recipe is that the cooking time for the frangipane will vary greatly according to your oven. Whilst the recipe I used for the filling suggested 30 minutes in the oven, I found that even after 45 minutes it wasn’t quite set. In the end it took a little over an hour, but it was definitely worth the wait. I would say, just pop a timer on for half an hour, then check it regularly after that, until the centre looks and feels set.

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Nectarine Frangipane Tart
Pastry from Jamie’s America
Frangipane from Simply Delicious

Ingredients:

For the pastry:
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar
125g cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
Splash of milk

For the filling:
150g unsalted butter at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1/2 tsp almond essence (sadly I had to use extract, but it still tasted good)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
150g ground almonds
50g plain flour
2 nectarines, cut into thin slices

Start by making your pastry, for this I used a food processor but I’ll give you the instructions for making it by hand just in case you don’t have one.

Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and milk and work the dough together with your hands until it forms a ball. Flatten the ball slightly, cover it in floured cling film and pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, grease a 25cm loose bottomed tart tin.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to about half a cm thick. Roll the pastry onto your rolling pin and carefully unroll it over your tin. Ease the pastry into the tin and push it gently into the corners. Cut off the excess and prick the base all over with a fork. Now pop the tin into the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180 C / 160 C fan oven / 350 F.

Scrunch up a large piece of baking or greaseproof paper, unwrap it and use it to line your frozen pastry case. Fill it with rice or baking beans and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Take the case out, remove the rice and the paper and pop it back in for a further 10 minutes. Leave the case to cool slightly whilst you make the filling.

Cream together the butter and sugar until they’re fluffy and light coloured. Add the almond essence, eggs and egg yolk and stir thoroughly until combined. The mixture may appear lumpy and split to start with, but keep going and it will eventually become nice and smooth. Finally fold in the flour and almonds.

Spread the frangipane over the pre-baked tart case, smooth it over and then arrange the nectarine slices attractively over the top.

Bake the tart for 30mins to 1hr depending on your oven, as mentioned above check it regularly until the centre is set.

Leave to cool to room temperature and then serve with ice cream or a splodge of creme fraiche, and some raspberries.

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Summer Rolls with Spicy Almond Dipping Sauce

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What is one to do in an incredibly rare, English heatwave? Well not turning on your oven is a very good place to start. (And of course a nice cold glass of peach iced tea wouldn’t go amiss.)

So what to write about in a food blog when you can’t heat anything up? That’s where my latest obsession comes into play.

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This week I discovered sriracha and people, let me tell you, I’m never going back (and not just because it’s physically impossible). Two of the best flavours in the world, garlic and chilli, combined in one amazing sauce. I’m seriously considering putting it on everything I eat from this point on.

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Sriracha really comes into it’s own in Vietnamese food, so I thought I’d have a go at making some summer rolls. They are so fresh and light, perfect on a freakishly hot summer’s day. Just make sure you wrap them tight or they’ll fall apart as you eat them like mine did!

I found the recipe for these rolls on a blog called Sprouted Kitchen. This beautifully written blog is packed full of amazing, healthy recipes. Very inspiring. The photography is incredible too, I’m a little jealous of Hugh’s skills!

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I wanted to pair my rolls up with a spicy dipping sauce and Sara at Sprouted Kitchen suggests a peanut sauce. However, due to a slightly odd peanut phobia (don’t ask), I decided to attempt an almond version instead, adapting a recipe from another amazing blog, Minimalist Baker.

This blog has a special place in my heart, not just because of the simple, quick recipes, with minimal ingredients, and the beautiful pictures. But because I took their fantastic Food Photography E-course and I owe all the progress I’ve made in my photography so far to them! I still need a lot of practice but they definitely got me started in the right direction. Thanks guys!

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Summer Rolls with Spicy Almond Dipping Sauce
Rolls adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
Sauce adapted from Minimalist Baker

I haven’t given precise measurements for the rolls, as you can just pop in whatever balance of veggies you’d like. You can also swap in other vegetables, like grated beetroot, radishes or sliced cucumber

Ingredients:

For the rolls:
Rice paper wraps (available in Asian shops and larger supermarkets)
Coriander leaves
Grated carrots
Sliced yellow pepper
Sliced avocado
1 tin of cooked lentils (sadly I’m too lazy to soak and cook my own)
1 – 2 tbsp sriracha (depending on how spicy you like your food)
1 tbsp sesame oil
pinch of salt

For the sauce:
1 tbsp almond butter
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp sriracha
1/2 tbsp honey or agave

In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the dipping sauce and store in the fridge until needed.

Next, drain the lentils well (you want to get rid of as much moisture as possible), and thoroughly mix them with the sriracha, sesame oil and a pinch of salt.

Now it’s assembly time! Put a clean, damp tea towel on your work surface and fill a medium sized bowl with warm water. Take a sheet of the rice paper and soak it in the water until it’s soft (making sure it doesn’t curl up), this will take less than a minute.

Put the paper on your damp tea towel and pop a couple of coriander leaves up the centre of the sheet (this will make it look nice and pretty when it’s rolled). Then add a spoonful of lentils, some grated carrot, peppers and avocado, all down the centre of the sheet. Try not to go overboard with the amount of filling you use or you could end up with an exploded roll, like in the background of the picture below!

Roll up the rice paper like you would a burrito, i.e. fold in the top and bottom, then the right edge and then the left. If you’re struggling with this concept I’m sure some useful person will have put a video of it on youtube.

Serve straight away with the yummy dipping sauce. Any left over sauce is excellent with vermicelli noodles, veggies and tofu/chicken!

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