Scandi Rye Bread with Fennel and Pumpkin Seeds

The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house is one of the best smells in the world, and this bread does not fail to deliver on that front. Roasted pumpkin seeds teamed with baked bread is an absolute winner, too. So that’s a win/win situation, right?

Mixed with plain flour, this rye bread isn’t too dense yet retains a sourdough quality. Perfect with smoked salmon, beetroot and dill – or just with a bit of butter. Yum.

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Fede’s Crostata

For a fair amount of time my Italian teacher Fede had been asking me to make her a crostata, using the same shortcrust pastry that I use for my mince pies. Then a couple of weeks ago she handed me a gorgeous jar of blueberry jam for the filling, prompting me to get to work in the kitchen (a sign of patience wearing thin perhaps after months of promises and no delivery!).

I’d never made a crostata before, although the concept was simple – pastry filled with jam, caged in with pastry in a lattice design on top. I could totally do that. Continue reading

Goats Cheese, Sun Dried Tomato and Thyme Cake

The other day I came across a wonderful show on the BBC called The Little Paris Kitchen, and it’s now a firm fave. This is possibly due to the tiled wall in Rachel Khoo’s minature kitchen, or possibly due to the fact she clearly likes to cook with goats cheese.Whatever the reason, I’m a fan. Continue reading

Honey and Lemon Mascarpone Tart

Honey and Lemon Mascarpone Tart

I’m going to call this tart the Raffaele, after my wonderful boyfriend. He loves tarts, and he adores berries. His favourite tart is made with a pâte sucrée, filled with a crème pâtissière, and is generously adorned with berries of different varieties. Of course I love making this for him on occasion, but it is a lengthy process I must admit.

So behold! A beautiful tart which takes a fraction of the time to make!

All you need to do is decide which kind of berries you’d like to smother this with.

Ingredients:

For the pâte sucrée (sweet pastry):

  • 180g all-purpose flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 160g unsalted butter, frozen and cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 2 heaped tbsp blackberry jam (or whichever kind of jam you prefer)
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
  • 140ml whipping cream
  • 2 tsp honey
  • Fresh blackberries (or any type of berry you choose)

Method:

To make the pâte sucrée, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until breadcrumbs have formed.  Then add the egg and pulse until the breadcrumbs come together as dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 205°c and place the rack on the middle shelf.

On a large piece of parchment paper, sprinkle over some flour and roll out the pastry on this to a couple of inches bigger than the size of your tart pan. Ideally you want the pastry to be around 4mm thick. Make sure you keep sprinkling some flour over the dough to prevent it sticking, rotating it ever couple of rolls and turning sides just a couple of times to make sure it doesn’t stick to the parchment paper! Roll it loosely around a floured rolling pin and carefully drape it over your tart pan. Lightly press down the bottom and sides, then fold over the excess pastry to form a thicker crust. Use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the pan to remove any excess pastry. Prick the bottom and sides of the pan, line with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the beans and parchment paper then bake for a further 10 minutes until a light golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool entirely in the tart pan.

Once cooled you can prepare your filling. In a bowl mix together the mascarpone, icing sugar, honey, lemon juice and zest and set aside. In another bowl beat the whipping cream until lightly whipped. Fold this into the mascarpone mixture and set aside.

In a small saucepan add your jam and 5 tablespoons of water and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Using a pastry brush, brush your loosened jam onto the base of the pastry. Place in the fridge for a couple of minutes to harden.

Next, spoon in the mascarpone filling and smooth over with a palette knife. Decorate with blackberries and chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Bon appétit!

Makes one 8-9 inch tart.

Take It Outside

Take It Outside

Where I’m from it’s not unusual to experience downpours during July – at the moment the weather could go from summer to winter in a matter of hours. I’ve concluded that the London skies are somewhat bipolar.

So naturally you can imagine how us Londoners react when the clouds eventually open up and allow us a glimmer of sunshine and warmth. Many strip off in the park in desperate hope of achieving a bronzed body. Others immediately set up the BBQ and proceed to deplete the local supermarket’s supply of rosé. Most people make meaningless, hypothetical bets on how long the sunshine will last before the rain returns.

I take my food outside.

I want you to take your food outside too.

How about inviting your beautiful friends over and cooking them a light summer lunch? Homemade lemonade you ask? Easy. What about a samphire and white bean salad with griddled squid and chorizo? Just saying. Fresh bread? Obviously..!

A chocolate pavlova definitely belongs in this scenario.

Homemade Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • 3 large lemons, roughly chopped
  • 1 litre of still or sparkling water
  • 150g caster sugar

Method:

In a food processor or blender add the chopped lemons, sugar and ½ litre of water. Blitz until the lemons have been chopped up into small pieces.

Using a seive, strain the lemon juice mixture into a jug and top up with the rest of your water. Serve with ice.

Makes around 1.5 litres of lemonade.

Samphire and White Bean Salad with Squid and Chorizo

  • 300g fresh samphire, washed
  • 6 medium to large squid, cleaned and cut into thin rings
  • 300g canned white cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 50g chorizo, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method:

To prepare the samphire, boil or steam for around 3-4minutes. Drain and combine in a large bowl with the white beans and minced garlic and set aside.

Toss the prepared squid in a little salt and pepper. In a large flat pan (I used a paella pan), heat a little olive oil and once your pan is very hot add the chorizo. Fry off for about a minute before adding the squid, continue to cook for another minute or so.

Remove from the pan and pat off the excess oil with some kitchen paper, then add to your samphire and white beans. Season well, squeeze over lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss well before serving.

Serves 3-4.

Wholemeal Horiatiko Psomi (Greek Village Bread)

Ingredients:

For the bread starter:

  • 14g fast-action yeast
  • 60g wholemeal flour
  • 120ml lukewarm water

For the dough:

  • 1kg wholemeal flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 480ml lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk (plus extra for brushing)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons clear, runny honey
  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds

Method:

Make your bread starter by combing the yeast, flour and water. Mix into a thick paste then cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl sift the flour and salt. Add the honey, milk, olive oil, bread starter and water and bring the mixture together with a spoon. Once a dough has formed, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Punch and knead the air out of the dough for around 5 minutes, then cut and form into two round loaves. Place on a baking sheet, cover with a clean dish cloth and leave for a further 30 minutes.

Score the top of each loaf in 3 places, brush with some milk and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Bake on the bottom shelf of a 220°c oven for 30 minutes until evenly browned.

Serve with butter! Mmm…

Chocolate Pavlova with Red Berries

To make this truly scrumptious dish, follow my recipe for pavlova here. Simply fold in 30g grated milk chocolate and 60g sifted cocoa powder into the egg whites after all the sugar has been incorporated.

Garnish with any berries or fruit you like.

So! After that colossal sized post you are more than ready to take your plate and bask in the sunshine. Enjoy!

Banana Yoghurt Bread

Banana Yoghurt Bread

Possibly the simplest recipe for bread ever.

Ok, so technically this isn’t ‘bread’, but it’s still completely and utterly simple. Want to know more great things about this recipe? Of course you do! There’s zero butter in it, and just a smidgen of sugar – you could even use fat free yoghurt if you wished. Totally one for the health conscious out there.

But don’t worry! You won’t be compromising on flavour at all. Plus it could taste even better (imagine!) if you teamed it with, let’s say, peanut butter…or vanilla ice cream…or chocolate ice cream…or nutella…

Check it!

Ingredients:

  • 200g all-purpose flour
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 100g loose Greek yoghurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed

Method:

Preheat oven to 190°c and place the rack on the middle shelf. Grease a loaf tin with butter and line with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the yoghurt, sugar and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated. Fold in the mashed bananas, followed by the flour mixture.

Pour into your loaf tin and simply bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until firm and golden on top.

Makes one loaf of banana bread.

Caramelised Fig and Goat’s Cheese Tartlets with Crushed Walnuts

Caramelised Fig and Goat’s Cheese Tartlets with Crushed Walnuts

Any dish that involves short crust pastry, something caramelised and goats cheese is a winner. Oh and nuts, I forgot nuts. There’s no dispute.

These little beauts are what I imagine heaven might taste like – you should make these and see if you agree. I’m pretty sure you will.

If for some reason you dislike figs, you can easily make this recipe with red onions instead. Simple as that.

Delicious.

Ingredients:

For the short crust pastry:

  • 125g all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 55g cold unsalted butter, in cubes
  • 3-4 tablespoons of cold water
For the filling:
  • 5 figs, cut into 8ths
  • 150ml good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
  • 200g goat’s cheese, rind removed
  • 50g walnuts, crushed or roughly chopped
  • Pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°c

To make the short crust pastry rub the butter into the flour and salt until bread crumbs have formed. Don’t over work the mixture as you don’t want the butter to become greasy. Add the water using a knife to bind until the dough comes together. Form into a ball, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for around 25 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, tip it out onto a floured surface and roll to about a ¼ of an inch in thickness. Cut the pastry into four and drape each section over your tartlet cases, press in at the sides and trim the edges with a rolling pin.

Prick the base and line each tartlet with parchment paper, then fill with baking beans before blind baking in the oven for 18 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. In a frying pan on a medium heat, pour in the vinegar and sugar and cook until slightly bubbling. Add the figs and a generous amount of black pepper. Turn the heat down and cook gently for about 15 minutes, being careful not to break the figs up when stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Break the goats cheese up into rough pieces, set aside.

Once your tartlets have blind baked and cooled slightly, remove the baking beans and parchment paper before layering the figs on the base. Cover with the crumbled goat’s cheese, a segment of fig for garnish and a sprinkle of pepper before baking in the oven for 10 minutes.

Add the crushed walnuts and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Yum.

Makes 4 little tartlets

Roasted Red Pepper Houmous with Moroccan Flatbreads

Roasted Red Pepper Houmous with Moroccan Flatbreads

I’ve got a double whammy for you guys!

So the other day I was casually relaxing at home and realised, as you do, that I had a massive red pepper in the fridge. Imagine 2 medium to large sized red peppers merged into one. I’m talking beast-like quality.

So, what do I do with a giant red pepper and a store cupboard containing tahini and chickpeas? I make houmous, that’s what I do. You should make houmous too. It’s good for the environment.

Roasting the ingredients is pretty much the best idea ever, the garlic tastes amazing, the chickpeas taste amazing, the pepper tastes amazing. Need I go on? Thought not.

And because I’m just feeling so full of love today, here’s a simple, scrummy Moroccan inspired flatbread recipe. It goes really well with the houmous, I know this because…I ate the majority.

Roasted Red Pepper Houmous

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red pepper (or 2 medium), kept whole
  • 300g pre-cooked chickpeas
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, kept whole
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Paprika, to garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 200°c

In a roasting dish, bake the chickpeas, garlic and red pepper for 30 minutes. Once cooled slightly, peel the skin off the pepper and roughly chop, discarding the seeds inside. Set aside a few chickpeas for garnish, then throw the rest into a blender along with the pepper and garlic then purée for around 30 seconds until thick and creamy.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper, blend again.

Add half of the tahini and half of the lemon juice, blend, then repeat. The final result should be a thick and creamy consistency. If you find the mixture is a little thick, or you’d prefer it lighter, just add a bit of water, a tablespoon as a time and mix in.

Garnish with paprika, scattered chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil.

Get your houmous on!

Makes a big tub of the good stuff.

Moroccan Flatbreads

Ingredients:

  • 300g all-purpose flour
  • 1 sachet fast-action yeast (7g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 175ml warm water
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pepper
  • Sesame seeds
  • Milk, for brushing

Method:

In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and spices and mix well. Then, slowly pour in the water, bringing it together first with a spoon, then with your hands.

Once dough has formed, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film then leave to rise in a warm place for around an hour. By a radiator perhaps.

Preheat the oven to 220°c

After the dough has proved, split it into two balls then roughly roll each out flat, about half an inch thick.

Transfer each piece of dough onto a prepared baking sheet, press in dents with your fingers and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Brush with milk, cover and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until a golden brown, brushing with milk every 5 minutes or so.

Dip that in your houmous and eat it.

Makes two flatbread loaves.