Recipe: Kale linguini with pistachio pesto

Who said pasta couldn’t be nourishing? There’s nothing like a big bowl of steaming, satisfying carby goodness when the temperatures plummet. Green pasta is nothing new – the italians have been knocking up spinach pasta for centuries, but this version uses kale instead and pistachios in a classic pesto mix to up the vibrancy of the green. Plus, if you’re a mega forward planner, just consider that pasta this shade of Elphaba emerald wouldn’t look out of place at next year’s Halloween table.

WARNING: mixing this handmade pasta will make you look like you’ve murdered The Jolly Green Giant barehanded, so make sure you don’t knead your pasta dough on any stainable surfaces, like wood, and wear an apron!

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Ingredients

for the pasta

240g 00 strong pasta flour (you may need a bit extra for sprinkling on the dough as the kale paste makes the mix very wet)
50g kale, blanched and blitzed into a smooth paste with pinch of salt and pepper
3 eggs

for the pesto

100g parmesan, finely grated
100g pistachio nuts
200ml olive oil
bunch of basil
1 garlic clove

Method

    • Start by rinsing the kale, removing any tough stalks and boiling for 5 minutes until tender in salted water. Blitz in a food processor with a tablespoon of the cooking liquor until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.
    • Pour the pasta flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and, using a fork, gently begin to mix into the flour working from the middle out. When you’ve formed a rough dough, pour on your cold kale paste and prepare to get messy!
    • Mix the dough thoroughly by hand, kneading until the kale paste is distributed evenly and you have a lovely green colour throughout and the dough feels elastic and forms a soft ball. You may need to add an extra sprinkle of flour if it’s too sticky.
    • Wrap the pasta ball in cling film and refrigerate while you make the pesto. You can leave it in the fridge for a few hours if you want to make ahead of time.
    • Add all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blitz until combined – don’t blend too furiously as you want your pesto to retain a little bit of texture.
    • Set up your pasta machine and sprinkle the press with a liberal amount of flour. Set a plate with semolina scattered on it close by (this will stop the pasta from sticking together before you cook it).
    • Remove the pasta dough from the fridge and cut in half with a sharp knife. Halve again until you have four lumps of dough. Feed the first piece of dough through the pasta machine, starting on the widest setting. Always run the dough through the same setting twice, starting with the end that came out of the machine last. Repeat, adding more flour to ease the press until you’ve got to the finest setting on your machine and the dough is stretched smooth and thin.
    • When you’ve got your desired thin-ness of pasta, run the length through the linguini/tagliatelle setting to shred it into long noodles. Wrap these into loose spirals and place on the semolina-covered plate until you’re ready to cook.
    • Repeat with the three remaining dough pieces.
    • Set a large pan of water on to boil with a pinch of salt. When it’s bubbling, add your pasta and cook until just done- this should only take a matter of minutes as it’s so fresh. Always do a few tester noodles first to check timings!
    • Drain your cooked pasta, pop it back in the pan and gently stir through the pesto to coat. serve immediately with a dusting of parmesan and some crushed pistachios for crunch.

Created on request of fab, all-natural bath and beauty green gurus, Soaper Duper.

 

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Recipe: Isabelle’s blood orange cake

Birthdays mean one thing to me: cake. I like birthday cake. At the risk of sounding a bit like Marjorie Dawes, I like cake in general. I like eating it. I like making. l like making cakes especially for people even more. And this week it was a good friend’s birthday, so, unsurprisingly, I decided that there should be cake.

“I love you like a fat kid loves cake.” – 50 Cent

And Isabelle (or Nana, as we call her, not cause she’s old -trust me, she’s a smoking 30-something-year-old, but she’s wise) deserves cake. She’s someone who should always be swaddled in cashmere and fed buckets of good Sancerre while she plumbs her ocean-deep dreamy depths to draw from her seemingly infinite well of old-before-her-time wisdom. Basically, she’s a good pal who deserves a good cake.

And good cakes mean they mean something to the person who’s eating them, whether it’s a flavour profile that reminds them of a banging holiday or an ingredient that they find irresistible.

So I asked her the following:

Pick a flour: “I love a bit of polenta”

Pick a spice: “cardamom

Pick a fruit/aroma: “orange blossom or pears”

Pick a nut: “almonds”

Pick a country: “something with Middle East vibes”

This could, of course, have gone horribly wrong if she’d decided, for example, that she liked peanuts and pineapples with a taste of Mongolia flavoured with rose water using spelt. Luckily for me (and her, probably…maybe peanut and rose water pineapple is a thing) she picked something I could work with: an orange polenta and almond cake with cardamom syrup and blood orange mascarpone icing.

There’s a lovely light, floral nature to blood oranges that works so well with cakes. Plus, that rosy, just-pink blush it lends white icing is a thing of beauty. And cardamom, too, with its almost-medicinal, mouth numbing tingle is something that gives a rustic, poor man’s polenta cake edge. All in all, this was a genuine joy to make.

Happy birthday Nana.

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Orange polenta and almond cake with cardamom and blood orange icing

Ingredients

for the cake
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
4 large eggs
120g polenta
120g ground almonds
100g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
zest of 1 orange
zest and juice of 2 small blood oranges

for the cardamom syrup
handful of lightly crushed cardamom pods
200g caster sugar
100ml water

for the icing
150g mascarpone
300g icing sugar
zest and juice of 1 blood orange

Method

  • Preheat oven to 140 degrees centigrade in a fan oven (160 if it’s not fan) and grease and line a 9″ cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Cream the butter and sugar for the cake together before adding the eggs one at a time until combined.
  • Zest and juice the oranges for the cake and pour into the butter mix.
  • Add the dry ingredients and mix gently with a metal spoon. Pour into the cake pan and bake for around 45 mins-one hour. Check the cake after 45 mins by sticking a knife into the centre: if it comes out clean, it’s ready. If it’s still a little liquid in the middle, cover with foil and put back into the oven for the remaining time so the surface won’t get any browner.
  • While it’s cooking, make the syrup by putting all the ingredients into a pan and heating over a medium heat for around 15-20 minutes until the water has reduced and the mixture goes thick and sticky. Don’t be afraid to add a little more water if it burns down too quickly – you can’t muck up syrup as it’s basically just sugar. Pick out the cardamom pods, but leave the crunchy black seeds in and set to one side.
  • When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. While it’s still warm, pour over the cardamom syrup. It will soak in to the top layer and harden, giving a sugary, spicy crunch under the icing.
  • To make the icing, blend the ingredients together in a bowl – the blood orange will give it a delicate pink hue, while using mascarpone instead of butter keeps it a little lighter and easier to spread.
  • When the cake is completely cool, spread the icing over the top and sides and decorate with slices of fresh citrus.

NOTE: The canny-eyed among you will notice I used eucalyptus leaves to decorate with fresh citrus slices…don’t. I was going for a lush, forest, woodland creature concept and assumed that eucalyptus would be fine considering we use the oil medicinally. Turns out (after a cursory google search not the way to the pub), it isn’t. The tree sap is toxic to babies and the leaves poisonous to adults when consumed in large quantities. 

Awesome.

I did fall into paroxysms of fear-guilt-dread when I arrived, slyly sloping off to pick all the foliage and fruit off before it was served. And even then, even when I knew no sap had been anywhere near the cake, I was still imagining headlines like “Londoner massacres entire party with lethal polenta cake” or some sort of Game of Thrones Joffrey death scene on the floor of a Peckham Pub.

Happy to report, however, that no foaming of the mouth occurred and no party-goers where harmed in the eating of this cake.

Recipe: Three-ingredient, no-churn ice cream

“When I’m not longer rapping, I want to open up an ice cream parlor and call myself Scoop Dogg.” – Snoop Dogg.

You should always have ice cream in your freezer. Always.

I mean, can you imagine if you had an ice cream emergency only to discover you were lacking? What if, for example, you went through a stereotypical American sitcom heartbreak. How could you adequately console yourself without a tub of the stuff?

What about all those times you whip up bitter chocolate soufflés and fondants post-work and pre-bed and don’t have anything sweet to serve alongside them? Well, then my friend you’d have egg on your face wouldn’t you.

“Ice-cream is exquisite – what a pity it isn’t illegal.”  -Voltaire

And don’t even think about hosting a slumber party/girl’s night in/movie evening/Saturday night pity party for one without it. The thought is madness. MADNESS I tell you!

Ok, so, ice cream isn’t exactly one of life’s necessities, but it is one of life’s loveliest frivolities, and having a creamy slab of the homemade stuff on hand is a wonderful thing.

I don’t have an ice cream maker or the patience to stir my mix every few hours to prevent ice crystals forming, so this recipe, which is barely adapted from Mary Berry’s original no-churn offering, is a life saver.

With only three base ingredients, it’s so stupidly easy to make, you should try making a couple of batches at a time and adding a few different flavours and textures.

I’ve noted my two very favourite variations on classic vanilla: sticky, crunchy honeycomb and swirls or tangy lemon curd.

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INGREDIENTS

4 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
300ml double cream

METHOD

  • Line a metal loaf tin with greaseproof paper or dig out a plastic tub to store your ice cream.
  • Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric beater until they form stiff peaks.
  • Slowly whisk in the caster sugar until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.
  • Gently fold the cream and beaten egg yolks into the meringue mixture until combined.
  • Pour into your prepared container and freeze overnight before eating.

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Honeycomb ice cream

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INGREDIENTS 

a little vegetable oil, for greasing
200g golden caster sugar
4 tbsp honey
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

METHOD

  • Lightly grease a big sheet of greaseproof paper and place it over a large wooden board or heat-proof surface.
  • Pour the golden caster sugar and honey into a heavy-based saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Once melted, turn up the heat and let it simmer until it’s turned into a deep, oozing caramel.
  • Take of the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarbonate of soda, mixing furiously. It will start to foam and froth up. Pour the marshmallowy mixture over the greased paper and leave to cool and harden for around 45 minutes.
  • When it’s cool, cover with another layer of paper and smash into shards with a rolling pin. Sprinkle on the base of your ice cream tin in layers, covering each layer with a thick slop of ice cream so it’s evenly spread. Finish with some larger shards on top before freezing.

Lemon curd ice cream

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INGREDIENTS

1 jar of homemade lemon curd

METHOD

  • Fill your ice cream container a quarter full of the ice cream mixture. Dollop over five or six teaspoons of the lemon curd, gently swirling with the tip of a knife.
  • Repeat until the container is full and finish with a final swirl on top before freezing.

Pays d’Oc IGP recipe challenge: Partridge in a pear tree pt.2

Earlier this week, I made a nutty, sweet pearl barley risotto with partridge and pear jus to eat alongside a plummy bottle of 2013 Les Boissières Merlot (£10.25). Usually when I make a decadent mid-week dinner, it’s because I’m being a pig. Standard.

But this time it was for a wine and recipe challenge set to show off the inherent quality of the wines from the Pay d’Oc, a territory caught between the land and the sea that produces some of the finest wines in France.

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It appears that I’ll never be a one-and-done sort of person. So, in the spirit of Christmas leftovers, I’ve created a second sweet and spicy raw salad recipe for the Pays d’Oc IGP wine challenge that uses similar ingredients to the first one, found here, but, as an added bonus, can be made from any leftover roasted partridge you might have.

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While this would work with turkey, too, there’s something about the gamey richness of partridge meat that works so well with the fruity, spiced flavours of this raw winter salad’s dressing and pairs so perfectly with a glass of indecently fruity, pillow-soft Les Boissières Merlot. Plus it involves my favourite festive vegetable: Brussels sprouts.

Roasted partridge salad with shaved sprouts, cauliflower and radish with a spiced fig dressing

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Serves 2

Ingredients

Leftover partridge breasts, sliced
1 ripe Comice pear
6 Brussels sprouts
1 head of red endive
1 cauliflower
6 radishes
4 figs
4/5 cloves

Kitchen cupboard:
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
brown sugar
ground ginger

Method

  • Wash all of your veg to remove any lingering bits of dirt and grit.
  • Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower head and, using a mandolin if you have one (or a large, sharp kitchen knife if your don’t), thinly slice pieces of the cauliflower.

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  • Thinly slice the sprouts, radish and pear and arrange on plates along with leaves of red endive and shaved cauliflower.
  • Slice up your left over partridge and scatter over the vegetables.
  • Cut the figs in half and put in a small pan with four teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, five tablespoons of water, a pinch of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and the cloves.

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  • Simmer the mixture on a low heat until it’s reduced down to a glossy, almost jammy liquid and the figs are a fudgey mess. Mix with a little olive oil to loosen and drizzle over your salad before serving.

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Find out more about the exceptional wines of the region here: http://www.paysdoc-wines.com and on their twitter account @paysdocigpwines

And buy the wine I was matching, Les Vignes de L’Arque, Les Boissières, Merlot, 2013 (£10.25) at Leon Stolarski here: http://www.lsfinewines.co.uk/acatalog/Les_Vignes_de_l_Arque.html

The French goats cheese challenge part 2: Beetroot, apple & French goats cheese tart with a cauliflower, walnut & cumin crust

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Wandering around the supermarket on Sunday, I was embarrassingly delighted to see the first harvest of cox apples had landed. When I was small, my mum used to take me and my brother to a little pick your own farm called Cuckoo’s Corner for the start of Autumn. We’d run wild there, through the orchards of gnarled, stubby apple trees, kicking up the newly-fallen leaves and sinking our milk teeth into the tawny skins of crispy fresh apples snatched straight from the low-hanging branches.

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So I didn’t take much convincing to use some of these red-tinged fruit in my second recipe for the Easy Cheesy Chèvre French goats cheese challenge; this time using the more punchy-flavoured Crottin de Chavignol, which is made from the raw milk of Alpine goats and is the most famous of all the Loire Valley goats cheeses.

“Creamy French goats cheese combined with beetroot, caramelised red onions and a hint of cumin is a warming ode to Autumn.”

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Recently I’ve been experimenting with using cauliflower instead of flour for things like pizza bases and pastry. It might not be as firm or crispy as ordinary shortcrust, but it’s gluten free, packed with nutrients and goes beautifully with an added edge of toasted nuts or spices.

Plus, fewer calories from butter means you can eat more or it, right?

Beetroot, apple & French goats cheese tart with a cauliflower, walnut & cumin crust

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Ingredients

2 rounds of Crottin de Chavignol
2 cox apples
4 bulbs of beetroot
3 dsp balsamic vinegar
2 large red onions
1 dsp caster sugar

for the base
1 large cauliflower
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp cumin
100g walnuts

Method
  • Start by baking the raw beetroot. Wrap each bulb in tin foil and put on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for around two hours until they are soft and their skin peels off easily. Leave to cool for a bit before you slide the skins off and wear gloves as they’ll stain your fingers pink for days.
  • Next, make the caramelised red onions by slicing thinly and putting into a saucepan with the sugar, three dessert spoons of balsamic vinegar and 150ml of water. Cook on a low heat until the water has dissolved and the onions are soft and sticky.
  • To make the base, remove the leaves and cut the core from the cauliflower and blitz in a food processor to a breadcrumb consistency. Cover and cook in the microwave on high for six minutes then carefully tip it out onto a clean tea towel to cool.
  • Put the walnuts and cumin in a saucepan and gently toast for five minutes before blitzing to crumbs in the food processor.
  • Cauliflower holds a lot of water, this quick trick from BBC Good Food helps to squeeze most of it out so you can avoid the dreaded soggy bottom on your tart: when the cauliflower has cooled, gather the corners of the tea towel together and twist over the sink to squeeze as much water from the veg as possible.
  • Mix the drained cauliflower with the nuts and cumin crush and beat in the eggs. Push the mixture over the base and unto the edges of a 12-inch tart tin with a palette knife and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes until it’s turned a golden, biscuitty shade.
  • Spoon over the cooked red onions and then slice your apple and beetroot into segments, arranging over the top with slices of Crottin de Chavignol.
  • Put the tart back into the oven for around 20 minutes until the apple is soft and the goats cheese is bubbling. You can spoon over a simple balsamic glaze to finish if you like – just heat balsamic vinegar with a spoonful of brown sugar in a pan until it turns thick and glossy like treacle. Serve with any leftover caramelised red onions.

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The French goats cheese challenge part 1: Honey-roasted pears & walnuts with French goats cheese ice cream & fig crisps

French goats cheese is one of those rare foods that has a strange, hypnotic sort of power over me. Whether I’m in a restaurant or wandering around the supermarket aisles, if my eyes happen to graze over even a mere mention of it, I’m overwhelmed by a sudden craving and have to have it there and then.

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I suppose I grew up with it really. My mother is a hardcore cheese fanatic and she used to give me slivers of the milk white stuff as a saturday afternoon snack, smushed onto salty crackers with a tall glass of milk.

Later, when I was a teenager, I remember eating huge wedges of it balanced on a bitter frisee salad in pubs when I was trying to order something sophisticated. The last time I had it, it had been transformed into a decadent dessert with olive oil cake and splodges of tomato and strawberry. It was sharp and rich and…interesting, but all I could think was how much nicer it would be with a hint of caramel from some warm honey, or with the buttery crunch of toasted nuts.

I’ve always wanted to try a dessert with, as Frances Quinn from The Great British Bake Off put it, “a hint of goat.” Something that shows off this punchy cheese in all it’s glory without hitting you around the face with it.

So I was rather pleased when Easy Cheesy Chèvre got in touch and asked me to create a recipe using their ridiculously good French goats cheese. Because it meant I had an excuse to experiment with turning one of my favourite lunchtime ingredients into a dinner-party worthy pudding.

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For this recipe, I plumped for the creamy, soft Valençay cheese. While the most pungent in odour (I was possibly the least popular person on the tube carting these badboys home mid-rush hour), and, with its greenish, zombie brain like exterior, the most unappetising to look at, it is actually one of the softly-flavoured goats cheeses that I’ve come across, which made it perfect for this pudding.

“Valençay cheese used to have a shape of perfect pyramid with a pointed top. But when Napoleon returned to the castle of Valencay after his unsuccessful expedition in Egypt, he saw the cheese, in a fit of rage drew his sword and cut of the top of cheese. Since then the cheese has always been made with a flattened top.”

Honey-roasted pears & walnuts with French goats cheese ice cream & fig crisps

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Ingredients

for the ice cream
1 tbs runny honey
3 egg yolks
100g soft goats cheese, scooped from its rind
500ml double cream
70g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt

for the dried fruit
4 figs, thinly sliced
1 ripe pear

for the roasted pears 
100g roughly chopped walnuts
4 tsp runny honey
30g softened butter
3/4 ripe pears

Method

Start by making your ice cream. This is the simplest recipe for ice cream I know. You can add the scraping from two fragrant vanilla pods if you want to make it vanilla-flavoured, too.

This simple recipe uses double cream, which means that the ice cream won’t form crystals as it freezes so you don’t have to keep stirring it – just whack it in the freezer until it’s set.

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  • Pour the cream and sugar into a saucepan and heat until the cream is boiling and the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, honey and crumbled goats cheese until you’ve made a smooth, butter-yellow paste.
  • Slowly add the hot cream, whipping as you do to avoid a scrambled egg texture and sprinkle over the pinch of sea salt – you’ll need that sharp edge here to counter the honeyed sweetness and bring out the tang of the goats cheese.
  • Pour the mixture into some tupperware and freeze until it’s set, which can take anything from two-four hours.
  • While the ice cream is freezing, thinly slice the figs and one of the pears (don’t worry about removing the core or the skin) into little slivers and lay them on a sheet of baking paper.
  • Let them dry out in an oven preheated to 100 degrees C. After about three hours you should have tender, slightly crispy little shards of fruit, which are perfect for decorating cakes or puddings.

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  • When you’ve made your dried fruit and the ice cream is set, make a start on the roasted pears. Halve some ripe varieties of pear such as conference or comice and scoop out the core with a spoon. Pop into an oven-proof dish and spoon over the butter, honey and sugar mixture. sprinkle over the chopped walnuts and cook in the oven at 180 degrees C for around 20-30 minutes.

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  • When the pears are bubbling and have turned a rich, golden-brown, take them out of the oven. Scoop out a generous dome of ice cream and set onto of a mound of cooked pears, leaving it to slowly melt over the hot fruit. Decorate with shards of fig and pear crisps and serve.

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Wine recommendation: with its sharp , cheesy tang and sweet, honey-rich finish, this beautifully juicy pudding needs a dessert wine tat’ll cut through that sugar yet compliment those savoury notes. I’ll be eating this with a glass of L’or du Ciron Sauternes, an oak-aged dessert wine with syrupy apricot notes and a fizzing, acidic edge.

Weekend bake: Pear, vanilla and thyme shortbread tartlets

In between spending an embarrassingly long amount of time on YouTube scratching my latest (and strangest to date) music itch and hauling myself out of bed at 4am to go to Billingsgate Fish Market (it involved wine, which’ll be explained later) I unearthed some mini tart tins that my friend gave to me an age ago and decided it was probably about time I made use of them.

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And, since they’re perfectly in season – and happen to go with the glut of leftover vanilla pods and bunches of thyme that I rescued (possible stole) from a recent food shoot – a pear tart just seemed like the right thing to do.

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Call it Sunday laziness, but after knocking up some crème pâtissière, the inclination to make puff or even short crust pastry deserted me. So, instead of all-butter pastry, I opted for and all-butter shortbread; a sweet, crumbly biscuit alternative that’s actually perfect for little tarts like this as it has a firm structure and moulds itself like pliant play dough into tins.

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Pear, vanilla & thyme shortbread tartlets

Makes Four mini tarts with enough shortbread left over to make around 12 extra biscuits for mid-weeks snacking

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Ingredients

for the base
250g salted butter
110g caster sugar
360g plain flour

for the filling
8 egg yolks
120g caster sugar
50g plain flour
4 tsp cornflour
560ml full cream milk

for the top
2 ripe pears
4 tsp lemon curd
caramelised pistachios to scatter (optional)

Method
  • Grease your mini tins with butter and heat the oven to 180 C
  • Make your shortbread by creaming the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy
  • Add the flour and mix until it becomes a thickish paste. if it’s a little crumbly, don’t panic, it’ll some together when you roll it out
  • Tip your mix into cling film and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to roll. Shortbread is a tricky thing sometimes as because it has a high butter content, it can start to melt and become oily if you don’t keep it in the fridge. Also, the more you work shortbread, the tougher it becomes, so try not to handle it too much
  • Make the crème pâtissière by whipping together your egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until pale and a little frothy
  • Add the cornflour and plain flour and beat until smooth
  • Put the milk, a split vanilla pod and a few sprigs of thyme into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. When it’s bubbling, pour through a strainer (to keep the thyme twigs and pod separate) over the egg and sugar, whipping all the time
  • Then, simply pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring it back to the boil, stirring all the time until it’s thick and cooked through. It’ll need to cool before it goes into the tarts, so just cover with cling film and leave in the fridge until you need it
  • Roll out your cooled shortbread between two sheets of baking parchment so the rolling pin doesn’t stick and gently fold over your tart tins, pushing it into the mould with your fingers. Don’t worry if the shortbread spills over the sides, you can neaten up the edges once they’re baked
  • Prick the bases with a fork to stop to them rising and put the tart cases into the preheated oven for around 10-15 mins until the shortbread is lightly burnished
  • Peel, core and slice your pears into thin slivers that you can layer as petals while the tart cases cook
  • Remove the tarts from the oven and leave to cool. They’ll need to be completely cold before you add in the crème pâtissière and decorate or they’ll melt the creme

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  • When they’re cool, fill them in the case as they’ll be less fragile. Just spoon in a generous amount of crème pât and top with sliced pears. For a little but of colour, heat a few teaspoons of lemon curd in the microwave and spoon over the pears. you can also scatter on caramelised pistachios for added crunch

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Carefully lever the tarts out of the cases and serve with a cup of tea and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if you’re feeling extra greedy.

Weekend bake: Pact Coffee meringues with coffee cream, chocolate & crushed pistachios

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It seems like everyone on Twitter and Instagram has been going mad for Pact Coffee, from yoga goddesses in printed lycra balancing steaming cups of the stuff on various twisted and contorted limbs to the mention that the brand is getting on an almost daily basis when it appears artfully arranged alongside Symmetry Breakfast’s latest creation.

So, when the inevitable email dropped into my inbox asking if I’d like to try some, I was intrigued.

Unless you’ve been brought up on babychinos by your yummy mummy, few people can say that they loved a cup of coffee when they were little. I first started appreciating it when I worked at an Italian restaurant and began knocking back creamy cappuccinos and jolts of espresso on the advice of my manager, who had a special sort of disregard for the average Englishman’s coffee making skills.

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Nowadays, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve turned into a bit of a closet coffee snob and have been lucky enough to guzzle some delicious mouthfuls of the black gold, from fruity almost floral beans in Ethiopia to rugged, rip your tastebuds off tar in Turkey and heavenly burnt butter-rich brews in Laos and Vietnam.

That being said, i’ve never considered shelling out monthly for a regular supply of curated coffee, which is what the ethos of Pact is: an on-demand, to-your-door delivery coffee subscription service.

“At Pact we are on a mission to get the UK drinking better coffee by making incredible, freshly roasted coffee accessible to everyone. Our world-class beans are bought from dedicated farmers, roasted in small batches at Pact HQ in Bermondsey and shipped within 7 days.”

Ed, who contacted me, was thorough to say the least, taking particular care to find out exactly how I made my coffee and what utensils I used to make sure he sent me exactly the right sort of blend for my tastes and coffee making capabilities – somewhat of a rarity when it comes to free samples!

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When it arrived, I could smell the blend before I’d even ripped open the envelope and, when I finally did, the whole kitchen was flooded with the luscious, almost acrid burnt sugar smell of freshly roasted coffee.

I’d been sent a fudge, figgy smokey blend called Farenda Lagoa from the Sul de Minas region in the heart of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where the beans are grown on the slopes of Serra do Pau D’Alho and the coffee is produced at altitudes of up to 1200 metres.

One of Pact’s head honchos had tasted this blend and decided that it reminded him of juicy raisins and buttery pastry, hence it’s moniker ‘Pain au Raison’, and, after trying, I can’t disagree. It’s a delicate flavour and takes a lot of coffee to produce a brew with enough punch to give a decent whack of flavour, but, when you do get enough into it, the result is delicious: nutty, sweet and incredibly mellow.

After making it for the first time all I could think was how well this coffee’s inherent dessert flavour would translate into a sweet recipe.

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So, after a few more tastings, I came up with the following: crispy, chewy meringues that combine this fruity coffee with rich, dark chocolate, crunchy nuts and lashing of freshly whipped, coffee-swirled cream.

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PACT coffee meringues with coffee cream, chocolate & crushed pistachios

This makes around six cream-filled bites. Double it if you’re having a bigger feast or more people over.

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Ingredients
for the meringues

3 egg whites
100g caster sugar
2tbs strong black coffee

for the filling and topping

2-4tbs strong black coffee
300ml whipping cream
1tbs icing sugar
a handful of pistachios
100g dark chocolate

DSC_5669I was using my favourite new toy for this: The Kenwood Multione and my Lakeland piping bags

Method
  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and pre-heat your oven to 100 degrees.
  • Make a small cafetiere of strong coffee and pour it into a bowl once brewed to get cold.
  • Make sure your bowl is utterly dry and grease free otherwise you’ll end up with soggy, split egg whites that won’t whip well. Separate your eggs (I always keep my egg yolks to make mayonnaise or lemon curd with them later on) and whisk the  three egg whites with the whisk attachment on your mixer.
  • When the eggs begin to puff up and become frothy, start to add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and whip until the mixture has become glossy, smooth and forms stiff peaks.
  • Gently drizzle through most of the 2tbs of coffee and turn with a spatula before scooping the mix up and pushing it into a piping bag.

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  • Pipe fat blobs into your baking sheet and drizzle over with drops of the remaining coffee – this mixes with the sugary meringues to make a sort of sticky coffee toffee that adds a wonderful chew to the cooked meringues. If you don’t have a piping bag you can just spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet.

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  • Bake in your preheated oven for between 2-3 hours. After two hours your meringues will be soft and chewy on the inside, after three they’ll be crisp and crunchy so it entirely depends on how you like them!
  • Leave the meringues to cool while you whip your cream and icing sugar into stiff peaks. Swirl through the cold coffee you’ve set aside for the cream. You can always add more icing sugar or a drop more coffee if you’d like it a little sweeter or stronger.
  • Set aside your whipped cream in the fridge until you’re ready to pipe it onto the meringues. Meanwhile, melt your dark chocolate in a bowl above a saucepan of simmering water before dipping the bottom of your cooled meringue halves into the rich chocolate goo.
  • Leave these to set and let the chocolate harden before piping one half with cream and sandwiching your meringues together.
  • Crush or chop your handful of pistachios and drizzle the meringues with the remaining chocolate before chucking over the nuts.

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You can keep these in the fridge for 24 hours before the meringues start to go soggy…but to be honest I doubt that they’ll last that long!

Weekend bake: Hot cross bun bread & butter pudding

This ridiculously quick and easy bread and butter pudding makes the perfect afternoon tea treat for Easter Sunday.

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It’s ideal for that no man’s land stretch of time on a Sunday when you’ve already reached peak chocolate intake and that roast lunch seems like a distant memory.

I used to hate bread and butter pudding. They served it on fridays at my secondary school in a soggy, glutenous mass and the only thing I used to eat was the burnt piece of crunchy, sugar-covered toast on the top … the gloopy, suspiciously yellow stuff underneath would only ever get a cursory poke with my spoon.

I changed my mind about bread and butter pudding a year or so ago when I ordered it on a whim at Ginger & White. When it arrived, glimpses of golden brown croissant just poking their edges above the wobbly, creamy eggy custard beneath, it was a revelation and I was determined to discover a super-easy way of recreating it at home.

This is the easiest pudding I’ve made in a long, LONG time and it uses one of my favourite Easter treats — delicious hot cross buns. I’m afraid I didn’t make my own buns for this recipe, I shamefully cheated with hot cross buns from Marks & Spencer … although, to be fair, these chubby beauties are so delicious with their chunks of juicy berries and cherries that I’m really not that sorry at all.

This recipe makes just enough for two hungry people, just double or triple the recipe (and the size of your dish) if you have more mouths to feed.

Hot cross bun bread & butter pudding

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Ingredients

2 Berries & Cherries hot cross buns from Marks & Spencer sliced into three slim rounds
175ml double cream and milk mixed together
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
20g salted butter
dusting ground nutmeg
pinch of brown sugar

Method
  • Gently toast your rounds of bun and butter them before layering into an oven proof dish or bowl.
  • Mix the egg, cream and milk mixture, vanilla and caster sugar in a jug and pour over the buns.
  • Dust with nutmeg and sprinkle with the brown sugar before popping into a preheated oven at 175 degrees centigrade for about 25-30 minutes until the pudding has a seductive little wobble and has puffed up to a golden, toasted brown.

Serve with lashings of cream if you’re feeling extra indulgent and try not to count the calories too much — the diet can start after Easter!

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Saint & Sinner: Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge and Comté & rosemary gnocchi with pine nut garlic butter

There have been far too many weekends that have sailed by without me being able to get down to some proper cooking in my little Clapham kitchen.

I woke up famished on Friday and, after sticking my nose in the fridge and spotting a mango that was heading inexorably towards overripedom and a lump of 18-month aged Comté  from a recent (and unutterably delicious press evening), I decided to roll my sleeves up and knock up a terribly healthy breakfast and a decadent, butter-rich, carb-loaded lunch.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

I first encountered quinoa porridge when I subjected myself to a week of eating like Gwyneth Paltrow for a feature with Huffington Post. After a week of sugar/dairy/wheat/caffeine/alcohol/soy/fun-free eating I was ready to savage the next person who dared to wander past me holding a bar of chocolate or a cocktail, but I did get a taste for a couple of her breakfast ideas. NOT the squishy, kale-fuelled smoothies mind you, but her ingenious use for leftover quinoa.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

There’s always left over quinoa.

Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that’s a natural protein, is naturally gluten-free and is packed with iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fibre. When cooked, it lasts at least four days sealed in tupperware in the fridge or for a disturbingly long time when frozen.

This fruity, fibre-rich and crunchy alternative to oat porridge is doused in creamy almond milk and finished with a scattering of sliced strawberries, juicy mango and a splodge of runny honey.

All you need to do is cook the funny little grains beforehand until they explode into nutty spirals. I use about half a cup of uncooked grains per person fora single portion of porridge, but of course you can cook up lots and store it for the week ahead in the fridge.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

for the quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water

for the porridge

1 ripe mango sliced into thin slivers
5 ripe strawberries washed, hulled and sliced
3/4 – 1 cup of cooked quinoa (the 1/2 cup raw grain will expand into about this)
1/2 almond milk
a handful of almonds
1 tsp honey (you can leave this out if you like your food to be ultra healthy)

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

Method
  • Always start by rinsing your quinoa in a sieve as the husks have a strange, milky coating on them. Pop the quinoa into a saucepan with the water on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer until the water is absorbed and the grains have opened up. This should take about 15 minutes.
  • Fluff the grains up with a fork as you would cous cous and then add in the almond milk.
  • Gently heat this through until it’s piping hot and transfer to your breakfast bowl before decorating with the fruit and nuts and dribbling on the honey.

Blueberries also work really well with this, as does banana and a spoonful of almond butter. You can also add a spoonful of chia seeds into the mix for an extra protein boost.

Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge - the edible woman

Comté and rosemary gnocchi with pine nut garlic butter

I’ve always loved gnocchi and can’t resist these fluffy potato pillows if I see them on a menu; although I must confess I’ve never attempted to make them before and was shocked at how simple they were.

Comte and rosemary gnocchi - the edible woman

The key to perfectly light gnocchi is using dry, fluffy potatoes. Always dry roast your potatoes in the oven and avoid boiling them to reduce their moisture content.

Plain gnocchi are simply delicious served with a dash of homemade tomato sauce or baked with a cheese topping, but they also absorb flavour very well, which is why I decided to include some grated, full-flavoured Comté and chopped rosemary in mine.

Comte - the edible woman

for the gnocchi

100g grated Comté (any hard, strong cheese would do just as well, like parmesan or gruyere, if that’s what you have in your fridge)
2 large baking potatoes (there’s a simple rule for measuring gnocchi portions that goes one potato per person per portion to about 75g flour)
150g plain flour
1 egg
a few large sprigs of rosemary, chopped very finely

for the coating

1 bag of fresh rocket
30g pine nuts
50g butter
1 large garlic clove, crushed

Method
  • Put the potatoes into a preheated oven at 200 degrees centigrade to bake until they’re completely soft. The best gnocchi are made with hot potatoes so you’ll have to test your pain threshold a bit with these!
  • When the potatoes are cooked, peel off their skins and push them through a potato ricer; the smoother and fluffier they are, the lighter your gnocchi will be. The best gnocchi melt in the mouth.
  • Gently mix in the cheese and chopped rosemary with a good pinch of salt and tip the flour out onto a flat surface. Pour the potato mix on to the flour and make a shallow well in the middle of your potato and flour mound.
  • Pour in the egg and bring the mixture together with your hands, kneading it into a soft dough (you don’t have to use all the egg – just if it feels too dry and refuses to come together without flaking)

Comte and rosemary gnocchi - the edible woman

  • Shape your mix – trying not to work it too hard as this makes the gnocchi tough – into a fat sausage and half it with a knife or pastry card.
  • Roll each dough sausage out into a thin snake. Cut 1-inch pieces off the snake and pop onto a lightly floured tray. You can try to give them the distinctive gnocchi ridges by rolling them over the back of a fork…as you can see from my little monstrosities, I wasn’t very adept at this!
  • Set a pan of water on to boil and put the crushed garlic, butter and pine nuts into a pan over a medium heat. Let the butter melt and caramelise the pine nuts but try not to burn it.
  • Drop the gnocchi into the boiling pan of water. They cook in under a minute and you’ll know they’re done when they pop up to the surface and bob around.
  • Remove them with a slatted spoon and drop them into the hot pan of garlic and pine nut butter, coating them in the sauce. Add in the rocket and let it wilt before serving straight away with a twist of black pepper and a few shavings of leftover cheese.

Comte and rosemary gnocchi - the edible woman