Monday, 31 May 2010

Yoghurt and Vanilla Pannacotta with Strawberries

Opinions can change. That’s my message today. For example, when Matt Smith started as Dr Who I was determined to hate him (long live Tennant). Now, half way through the series, I very much love him. When I was little, I hated pineapple. Not sure why, not sure how, but that hate is long gone. And until recently, I thought I hated pannacotta. But then I made this one…DSCF6931 When I imagined pannacotta, it was always firm and solid on the spoon like a peculiar white jelly. Probably tasting quite milky, perhaps a bit bland. Oh, was I wrong. This version of pannacotta was creamy and soft – set, yes, but to a gentle wobble rather than bounce-it-off-the-walls set. Definitely not bland either, but prettily speckled with vanilla. Also a great part of this dessert was the fact it feels good for you, due to the tiny amount of sugar. Of course, that’s only because its full of double cream but hey ho.DSCF6941
Normally, I’m a very strict recipe follower but this time I made a couple of changes. I used a couple of teaspoonfuls of vanilla paste to flavour, as shown below, because it offers a much richer flavour than vanilla extract but is much less expensive than vanilla pods! Also, I made this pannacotta in a slightly unorthodox way. Instead of boiling the cream mixture over the stove – I microwaved the mixture in a Pyrex jug! Although unusual, this makes the whole process SO much easier and also makes it a one DSCF6945pot pud, minimising washing up. In my hating days, I always visualised pannacotta turned out onto a big plate, but I served these in the glassed for a pretty effect. The glaze on the strawberries was simply done by tossing the sliced strawberries in quince jelly before placing them on the chilled pannacottas, making them shine and giving a bit of extra honey flavour. And after all of that, they were enjoyed happily by the family and we were left wishing we hadn’t halved the recipe! You can find it here and I hope you enjoy making something you once disliked this week!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Blueberry Lemon Loaf

When summer gets in full swing, and the sunshine comes out in full force, I find that the way people bake changes. There is more variety of delicious fruits calling to be eaten – strawberries, raspberries, passion-fruits, cherries – offering with them colour and vibrancy and juice. Then when it heats up outside, people want to have less hot ovens heating up the kitchen and more time outside soaking up the rays. Especially here in England, where its not rare to have one week of boiling heat-wave sun in the summer and then cooler grey days the rest. Me, I love baking too much to forget about it for the whole summer season. Sure, I want to start embracing more summery dishes on here soon (read – ice cream!) but today, its cake. Who doesn’t like a cake?DSCF6913  Especially this cake. Taking advantage of fresh summer blueberries, with a backdrop of lemon to add zing. Super sweet lemon icing drizzled over the top, the crackly sugar topping peaking through. Gorgeous! DSCF6918 Making this cake feels like making one huge blueberry muffin because its the same technique – mixing the wet ingredients (buttermilk, butter, eggs, lemon) into the dry (flour, sugar, berries) and then taking huge-nervous care not to over mix.  It was super easy to make and the only hard part is waiting whilst it cooks and cools. This cake ended up being a family effort: I mixed, my sister poured it into the tin, my Mum cut us all hearty slices and my Dad unknowingly ate the slice that had fallen on the floor… :)DSCF6928 A slice of this purple-studded beauty was just the ticket after spending too long in the sun and coming in just a tad too pink rather than the intended glowing tan… Find the recipe here, make one of the last big cakes for a while, and eat with pleasure!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Cheese, Onion and Potato Pies

As summer creeps back in, my thoughts inevitably turn to picnics. As soon as we have three consecutive days of strong sunshine, out come the summer dresses and meet-ups in the parks. Picnics vary from just sunbathing on the common with a friend, to a full blown Marks and Spencer’s feast…park with ellie 001A picnic from last summer…
So as you can easily tell, I love picnics. Relaxing, laughing, tanning, eating – what’s better? But nowadays my friends and I need our money spent elsewhere, so its time to make our own picnic food. Next time, I’ll be bringing these pies.
DSCF6865 Move over sandwiches, these are so much better. A tiny bit of a faff to make, but each step is extremely simple and the recipe works so that whilst something is chilling, something else needs grating, whilst something is cooking, something else needs chopping. Always busy! The potato filling for these pies (diced potato, spring onion and a myriad of different cheeses) is delicious and, happily, the recipe makes much more than you will be able to make pies from but is just as lovely on its own as simple potato filling. But back to the pies…DSCF6876 Sturdy and savoury (always a shocker around here!) the pies are perfect picnic food. Having said that, I ate a pie for three meals over two days just at home, as the weather proves itself not quite ready for picnics. I think these are best warm – melty cheese, hot pastry – but a treat anywhere. DSCF6882 I did really like Nigella’s recipe but if I made it again would make a few minor changes – more cheese, cut the potato smaller, few more herbs – basic stuff. Otherwise, enjoy the summer picnic goodness!DSCF6872


Sunday, 9 May 2010

Marmalade Ginger Cream Cookies

I love sandwich cookies. My sister states that they are useless but I strongly disagree. Instead of taking one cookie, you get two at once. It gives you a cheeky chance to eat far more cookies than it looks like plus you get the bonus of a silky sweet filling the middle. What’s not to love?DSCF6849I recently made some disappointing ginger cookies using a sub-standard recipe. They turned out strangely smooth and powdery, lacking in flavour. But I hate it when something goes wrong so was determined to improve on the situation. Thankfully, these cookies provided the perfect solution. DSCF6835They’re chewy and textured from the oats and chunky marmalade, softened only slightly from the creamy filling speckled with stem ginger. A proper mouthful, a proper cookie, properly delicious.DSCF6846 If I were to make these again, I would further enhance their chunky, chewy goodness – adding sultanas or coconut. However they were scrumptious as they were, and the absence of those other flavours let the ginger shine through. The buttercream was unusual to me, as it had cream added to the regular butter and icing sugar. This definitely showed in the end result and was good for added silky smoothness to finish off all that crunch of cookie. I love stem ginger, and the spiciness of the ginger chunks in the icing were perfect sparks of flavour. The final good thing about these cookies – a totally simple recipe. Enjoy!

Marmalade and Ginger Cream Cookies, from Sainsbury’s Magazine

Makes about 14

Ingredients: 50g soft unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
50g light brown soft sugar
finely grated zest of one orange
1 large egg yolk
50g thick-cut marmalade
50g plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g rolled oats
For the ginger cream filling: 250g icing sugar, sifted
75ml double cream
50g soft unsalted butter
75g stem ginger in syrup, drained and shredded

1. Preheat the oven to 170’C/fan 150’C, gas 3. Beat the butter, caster sugar, brown sugar, orange zest and egg yolk until smooth then beat in the marmalade. Mix in the flour and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the oats.

2. Place rounded teaspoon-sized balls of dough onto three lined baking sheets, spaced 5cm apart, then flatten slightly. Bake for 12-15minutes until just coloured at the edges. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack until cold.

3. Beat the icing sugar, cream and butter until smooth then stir in the stem ginger. With a knife, spread a generous amount on the base of a biscuit then stick the bottom half of another biscuit to form a sandwich. Repeat with all biscuits.DSCF6856

Monday, 3 May 2010

Lemon Cream Fruit Tarts

The English May Bank Holiday has just been and, true to form, it rained. Although the day is truly meant to symbolise the coming of summer, the day just caused cravings for the sticky winter food I was just beginning to leave behind. So with my Granny coming for the day the first idea was to make a simple cake. But having just made the carrot cake I really wanted to welcome summer by making something light, zingy, fresh and bright. Which is just what I got from these delectable little tarts. DSCF6809 These are so simple because they are basically just an assembly job. You take a little shortbread cup…DSCF6802Add a dollop of whipped cream…DSCF6805  Spoon on some lemon curd…DSCF6806 Swirl the two together with a thin cake skewer…DSCF6807Top with slices of fresh strawberry!DSCF6808A bit of a fiddle to eat but totally gorgeous. The pastry was crumbly, the cream silky soft, the lemon curd sharp and the strawberries sweet. Perfect combination and perfect eaten warm in the sun. I used a Mary Berry recipe, but there’s not much too it really! The only true baking is the shortbread…

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 50g semolina or cornflour

1. Set the oven to 160C/gas 2.
2. Place all the ingredients together in a food processor and whizz until the mixture forms a smooth dough (if preferred this can be done by hand in a bowl using soft butter).
3. Roll out the dough to 5mm thickness and cut circles out with a cutter. Place gently in a bun tin.
 DSCF68014. Prick gently over the bottom with a fork. Bake for 10-15 minutes until firm and golden. 
5. Set aside to cool a little and slide out of tin onto a wire rack to cool before filling. Only fill when you are ready to eat!