Sunday, May 29, 2011

Raspberry and Physalis Pavlova with Passion Fruit Coulis

A light summer dessert, also makes an attractive centrepiece (if the meringue is not too cracked, unlike mine!).

Serves 8 - 10



-6 egg whites
-300g caster sugar
-1 tsp white wine vinegar
-3 tsp cornflour
-1tsp vanilla essence


-400g raspberries
-100g pack of physalis
-450ml double cream


-4 passion fruit
-4 tbsp icing sugar

1. To make the meringue preheat the oven to 150C and prepare a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper. I used a 23cm cake tin to draw a circle on the paper, as a size guide for the meringue. 
2. Beat the egg whites until very stiff, then gradually whisk in the sugar. It should stand in stiff peaks (for perfect meringue, they say you should be able to hold the bowl upside down over your head without any falling out, but this could be risky!)  Beat in the vinegar, vanilla, and cornflour. 

3. Using a spatula or palette knife spread the mixture onto the baking sheet, roughly forming a 20cm round. Use the spatula to make a slight well in the centre. 

4. Bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven to cool.
5. To make the coulis mix the icing sugar into the juice of the passion fruit over a low heat, until dissolved. Leave to cool. 
6. Whisk the cream until thick enough to spread over the meringue. Arrange the raspberries and physalis on the top and serve with the coulis. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Night Creamy Cheesy Pasta Treat

After some weeks at work, when it comes to Friday all I feel like doing is eating cheesy pasta in front of a film (served with a chilled glass of white wine, obviously). I don't do it every Friday, but it's just my way of relaxing. It has to be cheesy and it has to be quick and easy.

This recipe is inspired by the classic Italian pasta dish Cacio e Pepe, which is fat spaghetti mixed with grated pecorino and lots and lots of black pepper. I have used vegetarian parmesan in this recipe and added a dash of cream.

Serves 2


-200g spaghetti
-150ml double cream
-100g finely grated parmesan
-As much freshly ground black pepper as you dare, ideally around 2 tbsp (it needs to have a kick to it)

1. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions, then drain reserving some of the cooking water. 
2. In a large pan, heat the cream with the pepper and a pinch of salt. Tip in the cooked spaghetti with the reserved cooking water, add the cheese and gently heat and stir. 

3. Serve with some extra cheese on top.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Trio of Summer Canapés

Summer is almost upon us (so they say, I wish the weather would act accordingly). That means the BBQ and garden party season will soon be in full swing, and I think it is always nice to serve an apéritif with drinks ahead of the main event. Here are 3 ideas for canapés which I made for a birthday party recently. The first two are ridiculously easy to make, the third takes a little more time and effort but it is worth it.

Spicy Cannellini Bean and Coriander Pâté

-1 tin cannellini beans
-Handful fresh coriander
-1 clove garlic, chopped
-1 red chilli, chopped
-Squeeze of lime juice
-2 tbsp olive oil

1. Whizz everything up in a mini chopper or food processor.
2. Serve with crostini or crudités.

Sundried Tomato Palmiers

Makes 20 - 25

-2 rolls ready made shortcrust pastry
-1 jar sundried tomato pesto
-Handful of chopped Kalamata olives (or other black variety) 

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Lay a pastry sheet on a floured surface, spread it with the pesto, and scatter with the olives.
3. Take the longer sides of the pastry sheet and gently roll into the centre, meeting in the middle (Swiss roll style). Repeat with the other sheet.
4. Cut the rolls into 2 cm lengths and transfer to a baking sheet.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.

Butternut Squash and Olive Tartlets

Makes 12 tartlets



-75g butter, chopped
-175g plain flour
-50g mature cheddar, grated
-1/2 tsp mustard
-Good pinch of cayenne pepper


-Roughly 100g butternut squash, cubed and boiled until soft
-1 egg, beaten
-100ml double cream
-6 Kalamata Olives, sliced in half lengthways

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. To make the pastry, put all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mix turns to a breadcrumb texture. Add enough drops of water to be able to form a ball. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. Purée the butternut squash then stir in the cream and egg. Mix well.
4. Roll out the pastry and cut out 10cm rounds (roughly) and use to line a muffin tin. Spoon in the filling (about 2 tbsp per muffin hole) and top with an olive slice.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and the filling is cooked through. Enjoy hot or cold. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Restaurant Review: Spuntino, London

Spuntino opened recently in Rupert Street (a dodgy backstreet near Piccadilly Circus) and has become the latest ‘in’ place to eat. All the London based food blogs have been raving about it. I rarely venture into central London for dinner (I probably should), but as I was meeting a friend there anyway after work yesterday so we decided to check it out and see what all of the fuss is about.

The restaurant is very small with only bar seating, apart from one table at the back. The style is New York-esque with low lighting and simple, rustic décor. You are greeted by the friendly staff and a waft of popcorn (they have a popcorn machine and serve this as an appetizer). Spuntino don’t take reservations so you queue and have a drink while you wait for a seat. It is best to get there early; we arrived at 6.30pm and had to wait 30 minutes to be seated, and when we left at 8pm the queue was spilling out the door and the staff were advising a wait of over an hour (this on a Monday). Popular place!

So we had our chilli popcorn as an amuse-bouche then selected a few dishes to share- the menu is made up of fun tapas style dishes. We had: aubergine chips with fennel seed yoghurt dip, asparagus and spring onion pizzetta, chopped salad, and the acclaimed ‘truffle egg toast’ (which is basically a wedge of cheese on toast with an egg in the middle, and drizzled with truffle oil). It was all delicious. For dessert we chose the Wild Turkey Bourbon Brownie (I enquired about the Wild Turkey and was told it is a type of bourbon… I was a bit suspicious being a vegetarian!) which was suitably squidgy and boozy.

The food at Spuntino is tasty and fun, it is a great place for an after work snack with a friend. The staff are chilled out, efficient, and friendly even when it is busy. I will go again- and for next time I have my eye on the ‘Mac & Cheese’ (which is served in individual bubbling cast iron pots).

Spuntino on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Recipe: B's Flour-less Chocolate Cake/ Moelleux au Chocolat

Tonight I was treated to an early birthday meal, gnocchi with tomato sauce then chocolate cake for dessert. Yum. However this was not just any chocolate cake. This is my boyfriend's ('B') legendary flour-less chocolate cake. I remember him talking about this cake very early on in the relationship, when we first met. 'I make a great flour-less chocolate cake'. Yum, I thought- I will look forward to trying it! However, the cake has proved so special that nearly 3 years down the line I had yet to have the pleasure of trying it, until tonight. And I am happy to say it was worth the wait. The cake is light, moist and gooey with a crisp outer layer. To top it off, we decorated our slices with our first two strawberries from our garden!

B's Flour-less chocolate cake


-300g dark chocolate (70% at least), broken into pieces
-6 eggs, separated
-225g unsalted butter
-225g icing sugar

1. Grease a 23cm springform tin, preheat the oven 180C.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.
3. Stir the egg yolks and sugar into the melted chocolate, then gently fold this into the egg whites. 
4. Bake for 45 mins - 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pasta workshop

As a pasta lover I have always wanted to be able to make my own, especially ravioli. So I signed up to a pasta making workshop at La Cucina Caldesi cookery school in London. The 3 hour course takes place in an outbuilding behind their restaurant:

We started off by learning how to make a selection of sauces to go with the pasta we were going to make: pesto, salsa de pomodoro, butter and sage, ragu... the chef gave very useful tips along the way.  Then we got stuck in to making pasta from scratch, we made ravioli (stuffed with spinach and ricotta), pappardelle, and lasagne sheets. We used corn-fed chicken eggs which give the pasta dough a golden colour. It is really very simple to do, the only tricky thing is getting the knack of feeding the dough through the pasta machine. 

Basic Pasta Fresca recipe - Makes enough to serve 4 as a main

200g '00' flour
2 eggs

(You need one egg for every 100g of flour)

1. Put the flour on a flat surface or in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Crack in the eggs and gradually mix in using a fork, pulling in the flour from around the edges. Use your hands to bring the dough into a ball.
2. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10 minutes. If it is too sticky add a little flour. It is ready when it springs back when pressed ('earlobe texture'!)
3. Take a 3rd of the dough and flatten it. Wrap the rest in cling film until needed. Feed the dough through the pasta machine, starting at the widest setting and finishing on the finest. Use up the rest of the dough in this way.

You can then use this dough to make all sorts of pasta. More recipes to follow once I have mastered the art of fresh pasta making!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Adventures with bread: 1

I spent a weekend in Germany a few weeks ago and was reminded of how many different types of bread are available over there. Bread is almost always bought fresh, and each supermarket bakery has at least 10 types of bread, most of them using whole-wheat, rye or spelt- proper dense, crusty bread. I think it's a shame that it's so expensive to buy this sort of bread in the UK, especially when bread is simple and inexpensive to make. So I decided it was probably time to start making my own! I have bought a German bread cookery book especially. I have yet to make a sour-dough starter, which most of the recipes call for, so this first attempt is made from a simple yeast dough- with surprisingly good results.

This loaf is moist and buttery, if a little crumbly. 



Starter dough

-100 strong white bread flour
-1g fresh yeast (available in chilled section of supermarket or from bakery)
-100ml water


-100g butter, in cubes
-20g fresh yeast
-50g liquid malt extract
-200ml lukewarm water
-400g strong white bread flour
-15g salt

-Flour for dusting
-1 loaf tin
-Sunflower oil for greasing
-Clean garden spray bottle filled with water

1. The night before you wish to make the bread, mix the starter dough ingredients together, cover and put in the fridge overnight. Take the butter and starter dough out of the fridge one hour before starting to make the bread, to bring it to room temperature. 

2. Mix the yeast, malt extract, and water together until there are no lumps left. Then tip in the flour, salt, and butter and mix well. Mix in the starter dough mixture and knead for 10 minutes. As this is quite a wet dough it is best to this in a food processor (with the dough hook attachment), 5 minutes on a slow speed then 5 on a fast speed. 

3. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, dust with flour, cover, and leave for 30 minutes to rise. You will need quite a lo of flour for dusting as it is quite sticky. At 10 minute intervals, use your hands to punch flat the dough, stretch out and fold over the edges on themselves and turn over. 

4. Grease the loaf tin. Shaking off any excess flour, form a loaf shape then put the dough in the tin. Cover and leave to rise for a further 30 minutes. After 10 minutes rising, use a very sharp knife to score a 2 cm line down the centre of the dough. This helps create a nice crust. 

5. Preheat the oven to 230C. Put the bread on the middle shelf of the oven. Using the spray bottle, squirt on and around the bread to create steam. This keeps the bread moist and gives a nice crust. Bake for 45 minutes. After 15 minutes, spray again with water and turn the temperature down to 200C.

6. The bread is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre of the bread comes out clean. Difficult as it may be, leave the bread to cool completely on wire rack before slicing. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Recipe: Courgette Wellington

This is a great for a veggie option for a roast dinner. 


-1x block puff pastry (500g)
-1 egg, beaten (for pastry)
-2 x courgettes (as straight as possible!)
-1 tin chopped tomatoes
-10 chestnut mushrooms
-1 x 250 g block natural firm tofu, drained (the best way to do this is to wrap it in kitchen paper then put a heavy weight over it e.g. plate and books and leave it for at least 30 mins)
-Large handful of each of: walnuts, cashews, peanuts (unsalted). 
-1 onion, roughly chopped
-1 tbsp : tomato puree, marmite, balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme, soy sauce, chopped garlic

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Reduce the chopped tomatoes in a saucepan with some seasoning. Par-boil the courgettes (whole) for 3-4 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle chop off the ends and hollow out. I used a chopstick and a sharp knife to hollow out a 1cm hole. Then stuff them with the tomato sauce (I also used the chopstick for this to stuff the tomato sauce down into the courgette).

2. Put the onion and mushrooms into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Tip into a large frying pan with some oil and fry gently until softened.

3. Use the food processor to chop the nuts then add them to the pan. Do the same with the tofu (separately) then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season to taste, (and add more of the flavourings if desired) then put aside to cool slightly.

4. Grease a baking sheet. On a floured surface roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle roughly 50cm x 30 cm. Cut into 2 widthways.

5. Spread half of the tofu mix onto one of the puff pastry pieces, leaving a 2-3cm border. Place the courgettes in the middle then top with the rest of the mixture. Brush the edges with egg then place the second half of the pastry on top. Cut off any excess pastry and seal the edges. Score the surface of the Wellington and decorate with any remaining pastry, then brush all over with egg. Bake for 45 minutes-  1 hour or until golden.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Recipe: Blueberry Streusel Cake

This makes a light cake with a crunchy crumble topping. 



-115g butter, softened
-100g golden caster sugar
-100g icing sugar
-300g self-raising flour
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-75g cornflour
-300ml sourcream
-3 eggs
-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
-200g blueberries

Streusel topping

-150g chilled butter
-200g plain flour
-100g demerara sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a deep 23cm springform tin.
2. To make the streusel, mix the ingredients together in a food processor until clumps form (you may need to add a teaspoon of water). Tip into a bowl and put in the fridge to keep cool until needed. 
3. Mix the flour and baking powder together. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of the flour with each addition and mixing well inbetween.
4. Add the rest of the flour, sour cream, and lemon zest and beat well.
5. Fold 2/3 of the blueberries into the mixture and pour into the greased tin. Dot the remaining blueberries over the top and sprinkle over half of the streusel mix. If the clumps are too large, break them up with your fingers. 
6. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes. After 40 minutes, quickly remove the cake from the oven and sprinkle over the remainder of the streusel. The cake is ready when a skewer poked into the cake comes out clean.

Can be served warm with cream/ ice cream, or cold with a cup of tea.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Recipe: Bircher Muesli

Bircher muesli was invented by Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner (August 22, 1867 – January 24, 1939), a Swiss physician and pioneering nutritionist. It makes a nice heathly, filling breakfast and is delicious served with any kind of fruit.

Serves 2


-100g rolled oats
-250ml apple juice
-100g natural yoghurt
-Your choice of jam

1. Tip the rolled oats into a bowl and cover with the apple juice. Leave in the fridge overnight.
2. The next morning mix in the yoghurt and 2 or 3 teaspoons of your preferred jam. I used blackcurrant.

Serve as it is, or with fruit or nuts. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recipe: Crispy Gherkin Bites with Zesty Coriander Yoghurt Dip

I made these fun little bites to go with a 'chilli sin carne' this evening. I believe they originate from the southern states of America, where they are often served as an appetizer or side dish. Tip: they go well with beer :-)

Serves 2 (quantities can be easily increased to cater for more people)


Crispy Gherkin Bites

-4 gherkins, sliced into 5-10 mm rounds
-3 tbsp flour
-1 egg, beaten
-1 tbsp natural yoghurt
-1 tsp cayenne pepper
-1 tsp dried basil
-100g breadcrumbs
Oil for frying (e.g. sunflower oil)

Yoghurt dip

-Handful chopped fresh coriander
-1/2 tsp lemon zest
-100ml natural yoghurt

1. Mix all the ingredients for the dip together in a bowl and put in the fridge until ready to serve(this is best done a few hours before in order to let the flavours develop). 
2. Put the flour and seasoning in a plastic sandwich bag with the gherkin slices and shake until the slices are well coated. 
3. Take two shallow bowls. In one, mix together the egg and yoghurt. Put the breadcrumbs in the other bowl. Start heating the oil in a saucepan on a low heat.
4. Take the gherkin slices out of the bag a few at a time and dip first in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs so that they are well coated. You will need a plate to put the coated gherkin slices on whilst you finish the rest.
5. When the oil is hot, fry the slices a few at a time until golden and crispy (about 1 to 2 minutes).
6. Serve whilst hot, with the dip.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Marble Cake

I didn't have enough butter to make a traditional sponge so I made this using a French Gateau au Yaourt base. The result is a light, moist, chocolatey cake. It didn't turn out as marbled as I had expected (more swirling was needed me thinks) but tasted nice all the same.

For this recipe take a standard yoghurt pot and use it to dose the rest of the ingredients- simples!


-1 natural yoghurt
-1 pot cornflour
-2 pots self-raising flour
-150g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70% cocoa)
-3 eggs
-2 pots golden caster sugar
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 pot sunflower oil
-seeds of 1/2 a vanilla pod 

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a loaf tin.
2. Gently melt the chocolate in a bain marie (in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water, not allowing the bowl to touch the water).
3. In a large bowl or mixer beat together the yoghurt, eggs, vanilla seeds and baking powder. Then gradually add the flours, oil and sugar and beat well.
4. Divide this mixture into two bowls. When the chocolate has cooled down, stir it into one of the bowls.
5. Pour the mixtures into the tin in alternate layers. To create a marbled effect, use a skewer to swirl through the mixture.
6. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Borough Market and the Ultimate Cheese Toastie

I can't believe I've been living in London for over a year now without having been to Borough Market! Having heard about Kappacasein's famous toasted cheese sandwich and having some free time over the weekend I took a trip yesterday, and it didn't disappoint. More about the cheese toastie below.

Located under and around London Bridge station, the market stalls offer quality produce, all beautifully laid out. You can find great breads, cheeses, meat, fish, spices, French/ Italian/Spanish specialities... anything you need really. It was nice to see a stall selling fish from Sussex, caught with their own boat that night. 

Back to the cheese toastie. I don't know why I get excited about toasted cheese, but I do. This humble cheese toastie has believe it or not had rave reviews from the likes of the Daily Telegraph and Gourmet Magazine. 

The stall is run by Kappacasein and they also do raclette. The toastie is made with Montgomery cheddar and five types of chopped onion, piled onto Poilane bread and toasted. The result is a very fine crispy cheese toastie, I can see why people queue up from 11 am for these. The simplicity of the ingredients makes the dish, and the nice thing is that with a bit of practice I'm sure the toastie could be re-created at home...