Wild garlic and roasted hazelnut pesto

Is this really a pesto? I'm not sure. It doesn't have any cheese in it, but you could always add some, so let's stick with the term pesto. Wild garlic is one of those ingredients that everyone gets excited about when it comes into season as it hangs out in gloomy forests with the spring bluebells so feels incredibly English and romantic, but frankly, it's not all that versatile when it comes to cooking with it. It tends to bully the other ingredients it's used with so you need to allow it be the star of the dish or pair it with low-key characters. One of the easiest ways to harness its flavour is to bash it into a pesto and eat it with veg such as asparagus, broccoli or potatoes.

Wild garlic and roasted hazelnut pesto

A big handful of roasted hazelnuts
A big handful of wild garlic leaves
A squeeze of lemon
200ml olive oil

Place the hazelnuts in a pestle and mortar and bash until coarsely ground. Roughly chop the garlic leaves then add them gradually to the mortar, smashing and crushing them until you have a smoothish paste. Squeeze in the lemon, then very slowly stir in the oil in a slow and steady stream. Season with a little salt and pepper, then spoon over boiled, roast or grilled vegetables, white fish, pork chops or roast chicken. Add Parmesan to make into a pasta sauce. Beware as the garlic leaves only get punchier in the following days! 

Wild garlic and roasted hazelnut pesto
Wild garlic and roasted hazelnut pesto

Wild garlic and roasted hazelnut pesto

Rhubarb galette with blood orange syrup

This recipe has been adapted from Alice Water's great cookbook, Chez Panisse Fruit. If you ever find yourself with an excess of fruit on your hands, then this is the book you can rely on to have your solution. Not only that, but the level of detail in her recipes are wonderful - it's a bit like being taught to cook by the kind, patient, wise mother you wish you always had (sorry, Mum). And once you try this pastry, there's no going back to anyone else's: it's rich and buttery, yet mysteriously crunchy, and can be used for every tart under the sun. The amaretti powder is like magic dust, it soaks up the juices and gives this an almondy kick.

Serves 6-8
For the pastry
150g self-raising flour 
½ tsp caster sugar
A good pinch of salt
110g cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
3 tbsp ice-cold water

For the blood orange syrup
Juice of 2 blood, or regular, oranges

4 tbsp caster sugar
For the amaretti powder

1 ½ tbsp ground amaretti biscuits
½ tbsp caster sugar 
½ tbsp ground almonds
½ plain flour
For the galette
700g rhubarb, cut into 5cm lengths

165g golden granulated sugar, plus 1 tbsp
1 tbsp plain flour

2 tbsp melted butter

Make the pastry first. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and add a third of the butter; pulse until you have breadcrumbs. Add the remaining butter and pulse for only a few moments until the butter is the size of peas (these bits make the pastry flakey).

Transfer to a large bowl, then start dribbling in the water, tossing it and letting it fall through your fingers. Keeping going like this for at least 3 minutes - you want the dough to come together by itself. You will find that it starts to make ropey- bits, keep going until it begins to clump and you have more ropey-bits that dry bits (you may need to add another tablespoon of water. Be patient, you'll thank yourself later! Press into a ball, flatten slightly, then wrap and place in the fridge (or freezer) for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Place the blood orange juice and the sugar in a small pan and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes or so until you have a syrup; keep warm.

Mix the amaretti powder ingredients in a bowl and put to one side.

Roll into a 30cm circle and transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Sprinkle the dough with the amaretti powder leaving a 3cm un-sprinkled border. Place the rhubarb, sugar and flour in a bowl, toss well so the rhubarb is coated, then pile in a mound over the pastry. Bring up the sides, crimping them a little and folding them over the fruit to create a dam so that the juices don't breach the rim. Brush with the pastry with the melted butter and sprinkle it with the tablespoon of sugar. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating it every 10 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, brush with the blood orange syrup, and allow to cool slightly before serving.






 

Pear, Rosemary & Rye Upside Down Cake

Unlike its tinned pineapple and glacier cherry forerunner, this cake is neither too sickly nor too heavy, making it the perfect cake. The deep, earthy flavour of rye flour works beautifully alongside the sweetness of the pears. We've also thrown in a little rosemary, which gently infuses the cake with its savoury aromatics. Bay leaves or thyme would work well too, as would apples or quinces. 

Pear, Rosemary & Rye Upside Down Cake 

Pear, Rosemary & Rye Upside Down Cake 

Serves 10

100g light brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
Approx 2 pears, cored, peeled and cut into 8 slices
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked
125g golden caster sugar
225g softened butter
4 eggs beaten with 3 tablespoons milk
150g ground walnuts
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
150g wholemeal rye flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160/350F/gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm diameter cake tin. Scatter the base with the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, then arrange the pear slices in concentric circles, tucking each slice under the one next to it, until the base is completely covered. Scatter over the rosemary leaves and put to one side.

In a food processor or by hand, cream together the remaining soft brown sugar, caster sugar and  butter until pale and light. Start adding the eggs and milk mix, a little at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition. Fold in the walnuts, baking powder, salt and rye flour and mix well.

Pour over the pears, then sit on a baking tray and place in the oven for 60-70 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. You may want to protect the top from burning with a little baking paper after 45 minutes or so.

Rest the cake in the tin for 30 minutes before running a knife around the edge to loosen it. Place a large plate on top and carefully invert onto the plate. Remove the tin and replace any dislodged pieces of fruit. Leave to cool, then eat with crème fraiche. 

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder studded with anchovy, garlic and rosemary

Lamb shoulder is pretty much the most obliging of all the meat cuts. Add what you want to it, chuck it in the oven, and it'll come out delicious every time. It can even cope with slight over-cooking, which is brilliant if you have better things to do than check on how you meat's coming along. This is a really simple way of injecting a loads of flavour, in fact, you're literally injecting it by making small holes and stuffing the flavour in. But I won't ruin the surprise, read on...

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder studded with anchovy, garlic and rosemary

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder studded with anchovy, garlic and rosemary

Serves 6-8

1 lamb shoulder
½ bunch rosemary, leaves picked
8 anchovy fillets, ripped in half
3 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
Olive oil
3 onions, peeled and quartered
250ml white wine

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. With a sharp knife, pierce the skin of the lamb at an angle 16 times randomly all over the shoulder. Aim to make the slashes about 4cm deep, then enlarge them with your finger. In each hole, stuff a sprig of rosemary, a bit of anchovy and a slice of garlic.

Throw the onions into a large baking tin and sit the lamb on top. Rub with oil before seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Pour in the wine, then cover with foil, and place in the oven, roast for 3 1/4 hours, then remove the foil and cook for a further 45 minutes until the lamb is tender enough to pull apart with two forks and the juices are reduced.

 

 

Rhubarb, blood orange & pistachio cake

Sure, it's incredibly pretty, but rhubarb's sharp taste and tendency to soak everything it comes across with its juices makes it a potentially tricky ingredient to bake with. However, provide it with enough sugar, and make sure you harness those juices, and you've got one of the most thrilling flavours created by Mother Nature. This cake is a perfect example of this: vanilla, blood orange and pistachios co-operate beautifully together here, allowing the rhubarb to be the star of the show but not exactly hiding in the shadows themselves. If you're using unforced, green rhubarb, be sure to add extra sugar.

Rhubarb, orange zest & pistachio cake

Rhubarb, orange zest & pistachio cake

Serves 10-12

400g rhubarb, sliced into 4cm lengths
4 tbsp caster sugar
Zest of 2 blood oranges
150g pistachios
250g room temperature unsalted butter
250g soft brown sugar
150g ground almonds
4 medium eggs
50g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/325F and grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin. Place the rhubarb in a bowl and toss with the sugar and orange zest, and put to to one side to marinate for a moment.

Whiz 125g of pistachios in a food processor until finely ground and roughly chop the remaining 25g. Put both to one side for the moment.

Beat the butter and sugar together with a handheld electric hand whisk for 3-4 minutes until pale. Start adding the eggs, one by one, waiting for the previous one to be mixed in before adding the next. Fold in the ground pistachios, 125g ground almonds, flour, baking powder, vanilla seeds and a pinch of salt.

Toss the rhubarb in the remaining 25g ground almonds. Spoon half the cake mixture into the tin, spreading it right to the edges. Arrange just less than half the rhubarb on top, keeping it way from the edges of the tin. Spoon over the rest of the cake mixture, spreading it so it covers the rhubarb. Arrange the rest of the rhubarb on top, again keeping it away from the edges. Sprinkle over any remaining sugar and scatter with the chopped pistachios, lightly pressing everything in. Bake for 50-60 minutes, covering the top with a sheet of baking paper if it starts to darken too much, until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool, then serve with creme fraiche, cream or custard.

Rhubarb, orange zest & pistachio cake

Rhubarb, orange zest & pistachio cake

Roasted Artichokes and Radicchio with Rosemary, Capers & Balsamic Vinegar

This is a brilliant dish to just throw in oven and forget about. It's the perfect accompaniment to beef, or you could serve it with baked ricotta to make it a lovely vegetarian meal.

Roasted artichokes and radicchio with rosemary, capers and balsamic vinegar

Roasted artichokes and radicchio with rosemary, capers and balsamic vinegar

Serves 6 as a side

2 lemons
12 small Violetta artichokes
1 head of radicchio
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp capers
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Fill a large bowl of cold water and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Snap off and discard the tough outer leaves of the artichoke until you see the leaves become pale and yellow. Lightly peel the stem, then trim off the top. Cut in half lengthways and use a small teaspoon to scoop out the hairy fibres of the choke. Place in the acidulated water while you prepare the other ones.

Place the prepared artichokes in a large baking tray. Slice the radicchio into eighths through the stem and the remaining lemons into quarters, then add to the tray along with the herbs, capers, vinegar and oil. Season generously with salt and pepper, mix well with your hands, then place the artichokes on the top. Place in the oven for 30-45 minutes until the artichokes are golden tender and the radicchio is a little crisp. Baste with the cooking juices, then serve.

 

Perfect poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Tell me you don't feel virtuous just looking at this? If you’re feeling under the weather, have over-indulged or simply looking for an alternative to roast chicken, then this is your dish. And you're guaranteed to leave the table feeling holier-than-thou and surprisingly full. This particular poaching technique creates the most satiny-textured chicken you've ever tasted so don’t be put off by the many stages. You can always poach the chicken in advance and assemble the rest of the dish later – this bit only takes 15 minutes or so. Depending on the season, you could also add other veg such as peas, broad beans or spinach.

Poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Serves 4-6

8 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
3 sticks of celery
1 white onion, peeled and halved
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
2 bay leaves
A sprig of rosemary
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
2 litres hot chicken stock
1 (previously happy) 1.5kg chicken, at room temp
4 leeks, trimmed and halved lengthways
For the dragoncello sauce
2 slices of stale white bread, ideally ciabatta, crusts removed
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 eggs
1 small clove of garlic
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 bunch of tarragon, roughly chopped
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
For the horseradish
An 8cm-piece of fresh horseradish, peeled
4 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Throw 2 of the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, salt and peppercorns in a deep pan that comfortably holds the bird. Pour in the stock along with another 1 litre of boiling water and return to the boil for 15 minutes. Have a taste and check that it tastes like delicious stock, if not, add a little more salt.

Remove any giblets from inside the chicken and give it a quick wash under cold water. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then add the bird, breast-side down and add a little more boiling water if it is not quite covered. Bring the stock back up to the boil, then immediately (don’t let the chicken boil) turn down a simmer and, cover with a lid and leave to gently bubble for 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid and leave the chicken to cool in the stock for 1 hour. After an hour, remove from the chicken from the stock and place in the fridge to cool (during this time, the still-pink flesh turns soft and silky).

Meanwhile, return the stock to the boil and reduce by half so that you get a lovely, intense broth.

While this is going on, make the sauces. To make the dragoncello, rip up the bread, pour over the vinegar and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the eggs for 9 minutes until completely hardboiled. Discard (or eat) the white.

Finely chop the garlic then crush with a pinch of salt. Transfer to a bowl, then mash in the yolks with a fork and stir in the anchovies and capers. Squeeze the excess vinegar from the bread, then stir that in too, followed by the tarragon and a little pepper. Slowly stir in the oil so that it’s nicely emulsified, then adjust the seasoning and the acidity. It should be really rather perky.

To make the horseradish, finely grate it, then run your knife through it a couple of times. Stir in the crème fraiche, vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper.

Strain the broth, discarding the old veg and herbs. Return to the pan, then bring to the boil and poach the remaining carrots and leeks for 10 minutes until just soft.

Carve the poached chicken with a knife and divide between bowls. Pour over some broth and a few carrots carrots and leeks. Allow to sit for a moment before serving to allow the chicken to warm through. Spoon over the sauces and serve.

 

Plum, walnut, olive oil & rye upside-down cake

There's no denying that upside downers give you soggy bottoms, and this tends to be in the extreme when it comes to the plum versions, but I quite like a juicy, syrupy cake so this is just to my liking.

I love the flavour and richness that baking with olive oil gives so I tend to swap it for butter at every opportunity - it works really well in this context along with the savoury nuttiness of the walnuts and rye flour. If you've never baked with oil, I'd definitely give it a go and see what you think.

Plum, walnut, olive oil & rye upside-down cake

Plum, walnut, olive oil & rye upside-down cake

Serves 10-12

2 tbsp demerara sugar
10 Victoria plums, stoned, halved and cut into wedges
300ml olive oil
4 eggs beaten with 2 tbsp milk
200g soft brown sugar
150g freshly ground walnuts
150g rye flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Grease and lightly flour a 23cm diameter cake tin. If it's loose-bottomed, wrap the underside tightly in foil. Sprinkle the base of the tin with the demerara sugar, then arrange the plums in concentric circles until the base is completely covered. Put to one side.

With an electric whisk, beat together the oil and the beaten eggs, then whisk in the sugar until there are no lumps. Fold in the walnuts, rye flour, baking powder and salt and rye flour and mix well.

Pour over the plums, then sit on a baking tray and place in the oven for 60-70 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Depending on the juiciness of your plums, you may find it ends up in the oven for a bit longer even. You may want to protect the top from burning with a little baking paper after 45 minutes or so.

Rest the cake in the tin for 20 minutes before running a knife around the edge to loosen it. Place a large plate on top and carefully invert onto the plate. Remove the tin and replace any dislodged pieces of fruit. Leave to cool before eating. 

Plums.jpg

Cherry & almond polenta cake

Cherries are at their sweetest right now so they're a real pleasure to cook with, releasing their distinctive pop of juiciness when you bite into them. This almond and polenta cake is brilliant with any fruit, I often make it with raspberries and blackberries, but I think it works particularly well with cherries - as we all know, almonds and cherries are a food match made in heaven. It's also gluten-free so a great option if you have a dietary requirement to contend with.

If you're feeling particularly devil-may-care, splash some Kirsch, Amaretto or grappa over your slice of cake before eating, you won't regret it.

Cherry & almond polenta cake

Cherry & almond polenta cake

Serves 12

225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
225g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
125g ground almonds, plus 2 tbsp
125g polenta
1 tsp baking powder
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
350g yellow or red cherries, stones removed and halved, plus a few extra to decorate
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Crème fraîche, to serve

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3 and grease and line the base of a 23cm springform tin. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and pale, then beat in eggs one at a time. Fold in the almonds, polenta, baking powder, 1 tsp salt, and lemon juice and zest.

Toss the cherry halves with the 2 tbsp ground almonds (this should prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake). Pour half the cake mix into the tin, then arrange half the cherries on top. Spread over the rest of the cake mix, then sprinkle the remaining cherries on top. Bake for 50–60 minutes, sprinkling over the demerara after 30 minutes. When the cake is golden and just firm in the middle, remove from the oven and cool in the tin. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche, a few extra cherries and a splash of your favourite liqueur if you dare...

Cherry & almond polenta cake
Rainier cherries

Rainier cherries

Imam bayildi

Roughly translated as the imam swooned, this Turkish aubergine dish is said to have been so rich and swimming in oil, that the imam couldn't quite stay on his feet upon tasting it. I'm yet to have this reaction, but it's a great dish particularly if you seek something meaty and substantial that is actually meat-free (and gluten and dairy-free for that matter). Aubergines are wonderful carriers of flavour, in this instance, a warmly-spiced tomato sauce that sinks into the aubergine to create a dish with the silkiest texture an imam could ever ask for. There are many, many ways to make the dish, but this is mine. 

Imam bayildi

Imam bayildi

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

Olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turkish chilli flakes (or a pinch of regular chilli flakes)
3 x 400g tins plums tomatoes, drained and rinsed of their gunk
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
4 large aubergines
Olive oil
A small handful each of mint, parsley and dill leaves, roughly chopped

Make the tomato sauce first. Warm up a generous splash of oil in a deep pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and a pinch of salt and fry gently for 15 minutes until completely soft. Stir in the allspice, paprika and chilli, and fry for a further minute. 

Add rinsed tomatoes, crushing them with the back of your spoon. Throw in the bay leaves, cinnamon and a splash of water and leave the sauce to simmer gently for 45 minutes until reduced and deliciously sweet.

Meanwhile, slice the aubergines into eighths lengthways. This bit involves quite a lot of olive oil, so brace yourself....

In your largest frying pan, pour in enough oil to generously coat the bottom. Add as many pieces of aubergine as you can without crowding them and fry on all sides until golden brown, adding more oil when you can see that the pan is drying up. The aubergine will absorb the oil like a sponge, but rest assured this only makes the dish taste more luxurious. Keep going  with the aubergine until all pieces are golden and softened, but still holding their shape. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Taste the tomato sauce and add salt and pepper to taste, and add a little more chilli or paprika if you feel it needs in, then stir in the molasses and discard the bay leaves and cinnamon.

Layer up the sauce and aubergines in a deep oven dish. Finish with a layer of tomato, then cover with foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes, removing the foil for the final 10 minutes. Check that it's done by inserting a table knife - it should slip right through the layers. You want the aubergine to be completely soft and falling apart. Serve immediately sprinkled with the herbs, or leave to cool to room temperature if you prefer. If you don't have to be dairy free, try serving it with garlic yoghurt or with feta crumbled over while still warm. Is even better the day after,

 

Mussel linguine with parsley, chilli & saffron

There are many great things about this dish, but the greatest must be its swiftness. The sauce takes the same amount of time to cook as the pasta, so it can be ready in under 15 minutes. And yet it absolutely doesn't taste or look like something you just casually whipped up in the time it takes most people to lay the table. Its ingredients are also available year-round so this is a brilliant number to have in your recipe arsenal.

Mussel linguine with parsley, chilli & saffron

Mussel linguine with parsley, chilli & saffron

Serves 2

3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 head of fennel, tough outer layer discarded and the rest finely sliced
1 tsp fennel seeds
A good pinch of dried chilli
A pinch of saffron, soaked in a dash of warm water
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed, or 300g cherry tomatoes, quartered
100ml dry white wine
200g linguine or spaghetti
400g-500g mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed
A handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus extra, to serve
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Place a wide, heavy-based pan (with a lid) over a medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and add the garlic, fennel, fennel seeds, and chilli. Add a pinch of salt, then fry gently for about 5 minutes until the fennel is softened and garlic begins to colour on the edges.

Tip in the tomatoes, wine and saffron and its water. Season well, then leave to simmer for 10 -12 minutes (5 minutes if using fresh tomatoes) until the wine has cooked off and the sauce has reduced.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the linguine according to the packet instructions.

Just before the pasta is ready, stir the mussels into the tomato sauce, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with the lid. Steam for about 3 minutes until the mussels are open. Stir well and discard any empty shells. You can always take all the mussels out their shells if you want.

Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of cooking liquid, then stir the pasta and the parsley through tomatoey mussels. Add a dash of cooking liquid and a splash of oil so that you have a nice, wet sauce. Discard any empty mussel shells, then transfer to bowls. Scatter over a little extra parsley and drizzle with a little more oil before serving.

Mussel linguine with parsley, chilli & saffron

Mussel linguine with parsley, chilli & saffron

Pistachio, fennel & lemon zest biscotti

These nutty, fragrant, crunchy little numbers are brilliant to have in your biscuit armoury as they're great for keeping creamy desserts such as pannacotta or posset company, but are equally happy in a more low-key role, served with a cup of coffee or tea. Their most distinctive feature, however, is their longevity. These will keep their flavour and crunch for at least a month so are perfect for giving away as gifts - or keeping all to yourself, of course.

Pistachio, fennel & lemon zest biscotti

Pistachio, fennel & lemon zest biscotti

150g shelled pistachios
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
250g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
250g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
Icing sugar, to dust

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6 and line baking tray with greaseproof paper. Scatter out the pistachios and roast in the oven for 5-7 minutes until beginning to darken slightly, then remove and leave to cool.

Roughly chop the nuts, then transfer to a mixing bowl. In a pestle and mortar, lightly crush the fennel seeds, then add to the bowl along with the sugar, zest, baking powder and salt. Mix well, then stir in the eggs, combining with your hands until it just comes together.

Divide the mix in half, then on an icing sugar-dusted surface, roll into thick, 5cm diameter sausages. Sit on the lined baking tray with plenty of space between them and place in the oven for 25 minutes until golden.

Remove and leave to cool for approximately 15 minutes until slightly hardened but still warm. Turn the oven down to 150C/ 300F/gas 2. With a very sharp knife, slice diagonally into 15mm-wide pieces. Sit on the lined tray and bake at a lower temperature for a further 15-20 minutes until firmed up but not too coloured, then turn over and cook the other side for 10-15 minutes.

Serve warm or leave to cool completely before eating and store in an airtight container. Will last for at least a month.

Pistachio, fennel & lemon zest biscotti

Pistachio, fennel & lemon zest biscotti

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Rich, dark, dense...this is the ultimate Easter cake for committed chocolate consumers. It's one of my favourites as it isn't too sweet, so the flavours of the chocolate are able to assert themselves. The technique for making it is quite unusual: you fold in beaten egg whites as you would for a soufflé in order to make it rise up as high as possible in the oven, then you sit plates on top  of it while it cools in order to compress the air so the middle becomes delicious and fudgy. Much like a grown-up brownie. It's pretty fool-proof and if you happen to undercook it, the middle just becomes a bit moussey (see pic, below), which is arguably no bad thing. This cake is also perfect for anyone avoiding gluten.

Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate cake

Serves 10-12

225g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
300g high-quality 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces
8 eggs, separated
150g golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra to decorate
Icing sugar, to decorate

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 and grease and line a 23cm cake tin. 

Place the butter and chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl) and gently heat until melted, stirring only occasionally. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with sugar until thickened and pale, then stir into the cooled melted chocolate along with the salt and cocoa.

In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks. Stir two tablespoons of the whites into the rest of the mix to lighten, then fold half the remaining whites into the chocolate and once incorporated, fold in the remaining half, trying not to overmix in order to keep it fluffy. Pour into the prepare cake tin, then place in the middle of the oven for 35-45 minutes until risen and cracked on top, but with a very slight wobble in the middle. Take out the oven and place a piece of greaseproof paper on top, followed by a stack of small plates (or 1 plate and something to weigh it down) that just fit within the edges of the tin. Leave to cool completely.

Once cool, take out the tin and dust the top with a little icing sugar followed by a little cocoa. Slice up and serve with crème fraîche. Will stay delicious for up to 5 days.

Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate cake

Bergamot Madeleines

We've been consuming bergamot for years in our Earl Grey tea, but it's only recently that we've actually been able to get our hands on this enigmatic fruit. The wonderful Natoora started importing them from Calabria a while back and now Waitrose are in on the act and getting a slightly sweeter variety from France. Officially an orange, but actually closer in nature to a lemon, they have a distinctive, floral fragrance and a super-tart, bitter kick. If you're lucky enough to spot them, scoop them all up and rush them home to make sorbets, syrups, meringues, marmalades, home-cured fish (our recipe here) or anything where you'd usually add lemon peel. You can also grate the zest into black tea to make your own Earl Grey. I decided to capture their intriguing flavour in my favourite madeleine recipe. These are a brilliant for tea or as dessert if you've had a big meal as you only need one or two to feel completely satisfied. The mix will keep in the fridge for 3 days. Use a mix of lemon and orange if you can't find them.
 

Bergamot Madeleines

Bergamot Madeleines

Makes 12

100g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the mould
3 tablespoons floral honey
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
100g self-raising flour (or 100g plain with ¾ tsp baking powder)
Zest of 2 bergamots, juice of 1

Prepare your 12-hole madeleine tray first. A brilliant trick is to brush it generously with butter, dust in flour, then place in the freezer for 5 minutes before repeating once more. This will ensure there is no sticking and no wasting of these precious things.

To make the batter, melt the butter over a low heat and stir in the honey. Allow to cool slightly.

Using a handheld electric whisk or an electric stand-mixer, whisk together the sugar and eggs for 5 minutes or so, or until the mix triples in size. Whisk in the melted butter and honey, zest, juice, flour and a pinch of salt. Leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour and up to 12 hours.

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.  Spoon into the prepared holes so that they're two-thirds full and place in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes until golden brown and the middle springs back to the touch. Immediately pry away from the tray and leave to cool slightly before serving for dessert or with a cup of tea.

 

Bergamot Madeleines

Bergamot Madeleines

Amalfi lemon ricciarelli

These are our go-to biscuit for accompanying creamy desserts such as pannacotta, posset or ice cream. They're a cinch to make but do all sorts of wonderful things to your tastebuds. Amalfi lemon is the classic addition, but we've found bergamot is pretty sensational and we like orange zest too. 

Amalfi lemon ricciarelli

Amalfi lemon ricciarelli

Makes approx. 25 biscuits

300g blanched almonds
200g white caster sugar
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
Zest of ½ lemon or bergamot, plus a good squeeze of juice
1 large egg white
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. Tip the almonds onto a baking tray in a single layer and put in the oven for about 10 minutes, shaking them occasionally, until they’re just beginning to turn golden. Remove and transfer to a plate to cool. Prepare the baking tray by lining it with greaseproof paper.

Place the almonds, half the sugar and the vanilla seeds in a food processor and whizz until not quite fine – you want a bit of texture. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the zest, juice and a good pinch of salt.

In a dry, clean bowl, whisk the egg white with an electric whisk until you have stiff peaks. Slowly start whisking in the remaining sugar and once incorporated, continue whisking for another couple of minutes until it’s stiff and glossy.

Fold the egg whites through the almonds – you want the mixture to be pretty stiff. Shape heaped teaspoons of the mix into balls (you may want to dampen you hands occasionally to prevent the mix from sticking to them) and place on the lined tray, leaving 2cm between each one.

Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden on top, but with a little give when you touch them – they’ll harden as they cool. Remove and leave to cool on the tray, before dusting with icing sugar. Delicious with dessert wine or a cup of coffee. Will last for 1 week in an airtight container.

Whipped smoked cod's roe

This dish suddenly seems to be on every London restaurant menu at the moment (it's having a roe-surgence, if you will) and I couldn't be happier about. Rich, smokey, salty - it's got it all going on. It makes regular appearances on our canapé menu too, as we've found that a dollop on a rye cracker with a blob of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of dill is possibly one of the finest mouthfuls you could ask for. The most exciting part of this all, however, is that it's so easy to make, a five year-old could do it. You'll need to go to a fishmonger to buy the roes and unfortunately/fortunately you usually have to buy the entire roe, but panic not, just chuck what you don't need in the freezer - they love it in there and de-frost extraordinarily quickly. My recipe doesn't go down the typical taramsalata route of adding bread as I find it slightly takes away from the the fishy kick, but it's a good way of bulking it out if you need to make large quantities. 

Whipped smoked cod's roe

Makes one big bowl

300g smoked cod's roe
A big squeeze of lemon juice
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp crème fraîche

Peel away the skin from the roe or if this is tricky, use a spoon to scoop out the roe. Transfer to a food processor or blender (or use a fork if you're happy with a slightly rougher texture).

Squeeze in the lemon juice, blitz briefly and with the motor running, slowly start pouring in the oil, drop by drop as if you're making a mayonnaise. As soon as you've used half the oil, you can start adding it in a steady stream. Once it's all been incorporated, add the crème fraîche, whizz again and add a little more lemon if you feel it needs it. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately with rye crackers, radishes or my favourite, salty crisps. Will keep beautifully in the fridge for 5 days.

Whipped cod's roe, crème fraîche and dill on rye crackers

Whipped cod's roe, crème fraîche and dill on rye crackers

Cinnamon, cardamom & pecan buns

This recipe, inspired by the wonderful Claire Ptak of Violet Bakery fame, will transform your breakfasts. Most yeast-based breakfast bun recipes involve endless kneading, rising, waiting, kneading, rising, waiting, by which time the morning has long gone and you've lost the will to live. The difference with this recipe is that it uses baking powder instead of yeast so you can have them on the table, your kitchen filled with buttery cinnamon smells, within 45 minutes. Perfect for a special weekend breakfast and probably only takes a little longer than popping out to your local bakery. They have a delicious texture which is more like a pastry than the traditional yeasty-bread style that is typical, but they work briiliantly. I've added pecans for a little texture, but you can leave them out if you wish.

Cinnamon, cardamom & pecan buns

Cinnamon, cardamom & pecan buns

Makes 12

Filling
50g unsalted butter
200g light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
A few gratings of nutmeg
100g pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts, finely chopped
Dough
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom (seeds from approx 15 pods)
240g unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
275ml milk
Caster sugar, for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and butter a 12-hole muffin tin. Prepare the filling by melting the butter and combining the sugar, spices and pecans. Put to one side for a moment.

Place the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom in an electric mixer (or use  a food processor but be as gentle and brief as possible) and whizz until coarse. With the motor running, slowly start pouring in the milk until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides.

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and bring the dough together, kneading it a couple of times until you have a nice smooth dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. When you return to it, roll out into a rectangle, about 5mm thick. Brush with the melted butter and evenly sprinkle with the sugar and nut mix. 

Pick up one of the long sides and gently start rolling, making sure you're doing it as tightly as possible. Once you're done, squeeze the roll to make sure it's an even thickness. Don't worry about sealing the loose end of the pastry as you will be dealing with this in a moment. Cut into 12 pieces, then with each one, pull the loose end under the roll so that it covers the bottom, (this prevents the middle sinking) then place fold-side down in the muffin tray. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden on top. Immediately remove from the tray, turn upside down and leave to cool slightly on a wire rack. Sprinkle with a little extra caster sugar before serving warm or try heating up. 

Cinnamon, cardamom & pecan buns

Rhubarb, pistachio and almond frangipane tart

This is a really useful recipe to have up your sleeve as not only is it impervious to human error, but you can make it throughout the year with whatever fruit's around. Pears, apples and quinces work in the colder months, or try plums, peaches, apricots or cherries when it's warmer. This is traditionally made with just almonds, but we mixed in some pistachios for colour and flavour, hazelnuts or walnuts also work well too. Either way, be prepared for a standing ovation.

Rhubarb, pistachio & almond frangipane tart

Rhubarb, pistachio & almond frangipane tart

Serves 10-16

For the pastry
350g plain flour
100g icing sugar
225g cold unsalted butter, cubed
3 egg yolks
For the rhubarb
2 sturdy sticks of forced rhubarb
3 tbsp caster sugar
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
Zest of 1/2 orange
For the frangipane
75g shelled pistachios
150g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
3 eggs


To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar, a pinch of salt and the butter in a food processor (or mix with your fingers tips) and blitz until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks, pulse it again a couple of times to mix them in, then check that the pastry sticks together when you grab a handful. If not, add a few drops of cold water and pulse a little more. Empty the crumbly mix into a bowl and push into a ball before flattening slightly and putting in the freezer to firm up.

Meanwhile, get the rhubarb ready for its big moment. Wash, then cut it into 4cm lengths. Place in a heat-proof bowl and toss with the sugar, vanilla seeds and orange zest. Add a splash of water, then cover tightly in clingfilm and place on top of a simmering pan of water. Leave it to tick away for the 30 minutes, occasionally giving it a gentle shake. This is a great way of cooking rhubarb as it gets poached in its own juice and doesn't fall apart on you. Have a check and if you can just stick a knife through it, it's ready - you don't want to over-cook it as it will continue to cook in its juices. Remove the clingfilm and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Take the dough out the freezer, and using the coarse side of a grater, grate the pastry into a 28-cm loose-bottomed tart tin - you probably won't need all the pastry so perhaps only grate a quarter of the piece at the time. Working quickly, push the pastry against the sides of the tin with your finger tips - it doesn't need to be neat as you'll be tidying it up later. Do the base as well making sure it's about 1/2cm thick. Return to the freezer for a further 10-15 minutes until completely frozen. Once frozen, run a knife around the edge to trim off any excess pastry, prick in a few places with a fork, then place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the frangipane. Place the pistachios in a food processor and grind until coarse (or chop). Put to one side, then chuck the butter and sugar into the processor (or use a wooden spoon, bowl and elbow grease) and cream together until pale, then add the nuts and a good pinch of salt. As soon as they're mixed in, add the eggs, one at a time. Spoon the frangipane into the cooled tart base and spread evenly. Arrange the rhubarb prettily on top, then place in the middle of the oven for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and just set. Leave to cool, then serve with cream.

 

Pear, maple and peanut butter pies

Sometimes you want something naughty. You only want one, but you want something with your afternoon tea or coffee that will sate your desire for a very badly behaved treat. Here, the crumbly layers of buttery pastry, cosseting the dangerously addictive pear, maple and peanut butter compote in its bosom, is all you can ask for and more. Once you have made and enjoyed one of these, you’ll realise that any fruit, jam or compote would work well in these little individual pies. So make and enjoy one of these first, before getting creative to your heart's content.

Pear, maple and peanut butter pies

Makes 8-10 individual pies

4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
4 tbsp maple syrup
4 pears, cored, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 x 500g pack, all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Place a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Melt together the peanut butter and maple syrup before adding the chopped pear. Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes until the pear is just on the verge of breaking down. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, and put to one side to cool. 

Whilst the pear compote cools, take your puff pastry and, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out to the thickness of a 2 pence coin. Find a 15cm plate or bowl and cut out as many puff pastry discs as you can from the pastry, you should get 8-10 discs. 

Place a tablespoon of the pear compote just off centre of each disc, brush the edge with a beaten egg, and fold the disc in half to create a half moon. Use a fork to press around the edge to create a good seal and to make the pies look pretty. Finally, with a sharp knife, put a small hole or two in the top of the pie to allow the steam to escape. 

Place on the baking tray and put in the centre of the oven for 20-30 minutes until the pies are golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool for as long as you can bear to wait.