Raspberry, Rose & Chocolate Pavlova

Raspberry Chocolate Pavlova 2

 

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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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…)

Overnight Oats #1 – The Basics

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Welcome to my new series, may I present my latest obsession, overnight oats!

Okay, as usual I’m hugely behind the food curve, (see Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding about 6 months too late!) but now I’m seriously making up for lost time.

I am a great believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but the best days for me start with something oaty and yoghurty. So when I discovered overnight oats I got myself into a happy food rut.

Like a perfect bowl of porridge, with the added advantage of not having to get up early in the morning to cook, you mix them up before bed and the next morning you top them with whatever you like.

In this series I’m going to show you a few of my favourite toppings and attempt to persuade you to share in my obsession!

So let’s start with the basic recipe (only 3 ingredients!!) and maybe throw on some pomegranate seeds and maple syrup.

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Basic Overnight Oats
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cold water
1/2 natural yoghurt

Before bed, stir the ingredients together in a cereal bowl, cover the bowl with a plate and pop it in the fridge until morning. You’re done!

If you like your oats a little runnier throw in some more water next time.

Stay tuned for toppings!

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Roasted Vegetable & Feta Quinoa

Veg Quinoa

Oh quinoa, how I love you! Quinoa is always the answer when you’re after an easy to make, healthy dinner after a hard day’s work. In fact, for me, it’s always the answer even when I’ve had a lazy day. It’s the perfect base to salads or side dishes and barely a week goes by without me boiling up a batch.

Veg Quinoa

For the uninitiated, quinoa is kind of like couscous, but it’s much more nutritious, gluten free and its texture is much less dry and sandy. (Can you tell I’m not a couscous fan?) It’ll soak up the flavour of your dressing and sits happily with almost any flavour. Apparently you can even use it in baking, although I haven’t tested this theory yet! If you haven’t tried quinoa yet, you really have to! Promise me you will, okay? (Pushy? Me? Never)

Veg Quinoa

Now that autumn has enveloped us, it’s time to fall back on some trusty and comforting roasted veg. It’s squash season right now and I beg you to make the most of it. Sure you can go with a boring old butternut squash, but why not hunt out something a little more exciting. Crown Prince, or in this case Onion squashes are simply incredible and a decent sized supermarket should stock them or something similar. They both have a slight hint of chestnut to their flavour and are frankly gorgeous simply sprinkled with dried thyme and rapeseed oil and roasted as a side dish, but here they work wonderfully in an autumnal salad. (continue reading…)

Honey Creme Brûlée with Rosemary Shortbread (and Slow Cooked Lamb!)

Creme brûlée

My flatmate and I love playing the grown up and hosting mock-sophisticated dinner parties. On the rare occasion that we both have a weekend at home we’ll invite a few friends round (not too many, owing to our tiny dining table) and the deal is, Jess takes charge of savoury and sweet is my territory. This bank holiday was just such an occasion.

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Jess whipped up her party piece of slow roasted lamb with (as Nigella always says) jewel-like pomegranate seeds and fresh mint, taken from the marvellous book, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson.

Here she is, beating the crap out of a pomegranate, before dropping it on the floor and showering the kitchen in pips. This flat is no stranger to pomegranate mishaps. Last time we made this dish I somehow managed to get pomegranate juice roughly 7 feet up the kitchen wall. Skills.

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With the lamb, we feasted on a simple, yet effective quinoa and broad bean salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and some chargrilled baby courgettes with feta. Absolutely perfect for an unusually sunny summer bank holiday.

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So then it was my turn. This time I opted to try my hand at a honey creme brûlée and some rosemary shortbread.

Rosemary

The inspiration for the rosemary shortbread came from my friend Emily of Lady Cycle, who recently thrashed me in a bake off with just such a buttery treat. I would claim that I was robbed, but her shortbread was utterly gorgeous!

Rosemary shortbread

Using a food processor to whip up these biscuits results in a ridiculously crumbly texture, which, most likely, can be credited to the butter staying nice and cool. This shortbread is the very definition of ‘short’.

The rosemary is pretty subtle, more of a fragrance really and it will make your kitchen smell so good!

Rosemary shortbread 2

This wasn’t my first foray into the world of the blow torch, but I’m pretty sure mine has been gathering dust in a cupboard for the best part of 10 years. (Man, I feel old!) But after watching a recent episode of Celebrity Masterchef, which featured a scrambled egg like disaster of a creme brûlée, I was a little worried about overcooking mine.

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I needn’t have worried, it turns out that it’s incredibly easy! I don’t know if it’s the fact that the custard was made using honey instead of sugar, but the resulting dish was soooooo smooth! I was super proud of it, I don’t think I’ve ever made a dish this nice before! Please, please, please give it a go next time you want to pretend to be a grown up!

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Honey Creme Brûlée with Rosemary Shortbread
Serves 6 with a few biscuits to spare

The shortbread
Adapted slightly from Chrissy Carter

Apologies for the mixture of old school and American measurements, I just can’t get my head around tablespoons of butter!

Ingredients:
4 oz cold, unsalted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar, plus a little extra for topping
1/2 tsp of finely chopped fresh rosemary
pinch of salt
1 cup of plain flour

In a food processor blitz together the butter, sugar, rosemary and salt until nicely combined. Add the flour a little at a time, turning on the processor between each addition, until you have a sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of cling film, roll it into a fairly smooth log and pop it into the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 190 C / 170 C Fan / 375 F and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Unwrap the dough and slice it into 1/4 inch rounds. Put the rounds onto the baking tray and sprinkle each one with a little sugar.

Pop the tray into the oven for 20 minutes, until the shortbread is lightly browned.

The creme brûlée
Adapted slightly from Romancing the Bee

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups double cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup of good quality set honey (none of that cheap squeezy bottle stuff that tastes of nothing!)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar

Put the cream and vanilla paste into a saucepan over a medium heat and bring them to the boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, pop a lid on and leave it to cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150 C / 130 C Fan / 300 F.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the honey and egg yolks until they start to lighten in colour. Add the cream a little at a time, whisking the whole time.

Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins (I had a little left over for a tiny additional one as my ramekins were pretty small). Put the ramekins into a high sided roasting or cake tin and pour enough boiling water into the tin, around the ramekins, to come halfway up their sides.

Bake until the custard is just set and still a little wobbly in the middle. For me this took just under 40 minutes, but it could take as much as 50 minutes, depending on the size of your ramekins.

Remove the ramekins from the tin, leave to cool to room temperature and then pop them in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days, covered in a little cling film.

Now for the brûléeing! Remove the custards from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you want to brûlée them. Divide the sugar between the ramekins, sprinkling it nice and evenly over the top. You may not need all of the sugar, I only felt I needed a large teaspoon full per ramekin. Use a kitchen blow torch to melt the sugar and create a crispy top. You can do this under the grill if you don’t have a blow torch, just keep an eye on them!

Leave the creme brûlée to sit for 5 minutes before scoffing with the shortbread biscuits!

Best served with good company.

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