Roquefort, fig and raspberry salad with honey dressing

Creamy, soft, crisp, crunchy… sweet, tart, earthy, sharp… this salad is an incredible combination of textures and flavours, all coming together in perfect contrast.
It’s a meal in itself for 2, or share it between 4 as an appetiser.

Roquefort, fig and raspberry salad with honey dressing

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter
Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients

100g (3 1/2 oz) mesclun (mixed young salad leaves)
100g (1 cup) raspberries
50g (1/2 cup) walnuts
100g (3 1/2 oz) roquefort
3 – 4 figs

Dressing

30ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil
30ml (2 Tbsp) honey
15ml (1 Tbsp) cider vinegar
small pinch salt

Directions

Break the walnuts into pieces and toast in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Wash and dry the meslcun and pile it onto serving plates. Scatter the raspberries and walnuts over the top, then crumble the roquefort over it. Quarter the figs and arrange them around the plate.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and drizzle over the salad.

Serve with some crusty bread, if desired.

Posted in appetizer, dressings&sauces, lunch, salad, starter | Leave a comment

Pear and gorgonzola tart

The approach of autumn means the approach of pears.
And any time is a good time for gorgonzola.

Pear and gorgonzola tart with sour cream and toasted walnuts

The medley of tastes in this tart – the sweetness of the pears, the bite of the gorgonzola, the tang of the sour cream and the earthiness of the walnuts – come together in a simply amazing flavour bomb! Yum!

Serves 8 as an appetiser or 4 as a main with salad
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 2 x 15 minutes
Note: Non-mushy pear is called for – you want a variety with a firm flesh, e.g. Concorde.

Ingredients

1 sheet puff pastry, approx. 42 x 26cm (17 x 10″) (thawed, if frozen)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water for egg wash
50g (1/2 cup) walnuts, broken
200g (7oz) gorgonzola
1 small-medium ripe pear
60g (4 Tbsp) sour cream
pinch sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 220°C / 425°F / Gas Mark 7 and line a baking sheet with parchment.

To blind bake the puff pastry, place it on the parchment-lined baking sheet and prick it all over with a fork, lightly score a 2.5cm (1″) border around the edge of the pastry and fold it over so you have a double-thickness border all the way round. Cover the whole thing with another sheet of parchment and spread a layer of dried beans or rice over the centre part of the pastry sheet inside the border. Bake in centre of oven for 10 minutes, remove from oven and remove the top parchment with the beans/rice. Brush the centre part of the pastry inside the border with egg wash and return to oven for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant.

Set the pastry aside to cool a little and allow the centre of the pastry to collapse if it has puffed up too much (use a spatula if you need to help it collapse down).

Use your fingers to dollop little pieces of the gorgonzola all over the pastry, inside the border.

Halve, core and slice the pear lengthwise, about 3mm (1/8″) thick, and arrange over the cheese.

Use a small teaspoon to spread the the sour cream over the pears, then sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and a little black pepper and sea salt.

Brush the border with the remaining egg wash.

Bake in centre of oven for 15 minutes, until the border of the pastry is deep golden brown and the filling is melty and lightly browned.

Serve immediately.

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Gateau Breton

Gateau Breton is a traditional butter cake from the Brittany region in north western France. It is uncomplicated and requires just a few pantry staples to make, but like all traditional recipes, benefits from high quality ingredients.

This basic version is unfilled and it just perfect as it is – like a shortbread but a little softer and more cake-like – but it can also be made with a layer of plum or raspberry jam, or salted caramel in the middle.

Because, you know, you can’t have too much sugar or butter, right?!

gateau breton - french butter cake from brittany

The traditional recipe calls for semi-salted butter, but I couldn’t find any so I did a spot of googling… according to the butter manufacturer’s website I stumbled on, to substitute unsalted butter for salted you should add 1/4 teaspoon of fine salt for every 115g /half cup/stick/1/4lb of unsalted butter. But I wanted semi-salted butter, so I added 1/4 teaspoon to 250g (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) butter and decided it was close enough. I’m satisfied with the very slight saltiness, which offsets the sugar and fat nicely, and I wouldn’t recommend normal salted butter for this recipe. But use semi-salted if you can find it.

Makes 1 x 24cm (9″) cake
24 pieces of varying sizes, if cut in the traditional diamond pattern
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 35 – 40 minutes
Cooling: at least 2 hours
Keeps: a month in an airtight container in the pantry

Ingredients

6 large egg yolks
250g (1 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
360g (2 4/5 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
250g (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) semi-salted butter, softened
OR 250g (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter plus 1/4 tsp fine salt
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten, for glazing

Directions

Preheat oven to 170°C / 340°F / Gas Mark 4, and generously butter a 24cm (9″) springform cake pan.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder (and salt, if using) and add to the egg yolk mixture. Add the softened butter and mix well to combine. The mixture will have the consistency of cookie dough.

Press the dough gently into the cake pan and smooth the top.

Brush generously with the lightly beaten egg yolk, then use a fork to mark the top in a cross-hatch pattern.

Bake in centre of oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until golden.

Remove from oven, remove the side of the cake pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Remove the base of the cake pan with a fine offset spatula and cut into diamonds – first, cut across into six, then cut on a 45° angle to those slices.

Like so…
gateau breton cutting guide

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Hjónabandssæla – Icelandic Happy Marriage cake

This is one treat that I always make sure to get a slice of when I travel to Iceland, and on my last trip I picked up a couple of jars of homemade rhubarb jam so I can make my own. I like to think of old folks having this cake for afternoon tea, reflecting on their long, blissful lives together as they watch the sheep graze in the fields and the birds wheeling overhead.

Hmmmmm… perhaps I tend to romanticise Iceland a wee bit?😉

Hjónabandssæla - Icelandic Happy Marriage cake

It may not be particularly beautiful to the eye, but this cake is just delicious. Rich and moist, it goes wonderfully with a cup of tea.

If you can’t get (or don’t like) rhubarb jam, you can use blueberry, which would be in keeping the wild fruit that grows in the Icelandic countryside in summer.

Makes 1 x 30cm (12″) cake
Note: a smaller diameter baking dish will yield a taller cake, but will take an extra few minutes to cook through
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 25 minutes
Keeps for several days in an airtight container in the pantry

Ingredients

200g (2 cups) oatmeal
250g (2 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp baking (bicarb) soda
pinch salt
225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
230g (3/4 cup) rhubarb jam

Directions

Preheat oven to 200°C / 390°F / Gas Mark 6, and butter a 30cm (12″) pie dish.

Whisk together the oatmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Add the butter bit by bit and use your fingers to mix it into the flour until well combined.

Stir in the egg and vanilla extract. It’s easiest to just keep using your fingers.

Press 2/3 of the dough firmly into the pie dish.

Spread the jam over the dough in the pan.

Take the remaining 1/3 of the dough and drop it in lumps all over the jam.

Bake in centre of oven for about 25 minutes, until golden.

Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool.

Serve on its own or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Posted in cake, dessert, sweet, tart&pie | 2 Comments

Sourdough Indian flatbread

Stovetop sourdough Indian flatbreads – easy to make, flavour-packed, light and soft – so much better than store-bought!

Sourdough Indian flatbread

Typically, Indian naan bread is baked, but pan cooking it gives it a crisp exterior and a moist, fluffy interior without the need for a tandoor clay oven. So good with a curry and a beer!

Makes 4 breads
Preparation: 10 minutes
Rising: 2 – 3 hours
Cooking: 30 minutes

Ingredients

250g (2 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp baking (bicarb) soda
pinch garlic powder
100g (scant 1/2 cup) mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
150g (3/5 cup) natural (plain) yoghurt
1 Tbsp ghee
cumin seeds for sprinkling
additional ghee for cooking and brushing

Directions

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and garlic powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sourdough starter, yoghurt and ghee, and mix into the flour with a dough hook or wooden spoon until all of the flour is incorporated and you have a shaggy dough.

Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out. Knead until it is smooth and soft, about 8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 2 – 3 hours, until increased in size by at least half.

Cut dough into 4 pieces and roll into balls, place on a lightly floured surface and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Heat a (preferably cast iron) frying pan over medium heat and brush it with ghee.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the balls to ovals about 1/2cm (1/5″) thick.

Cook the breads one at a time for about 6 minutes each, turning halfway, until deep golden brown.

Brush with a little ghee, and sprinkle with cumin seeds. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining breads.

Posted in asian, bread, indian, side | Leave a comment

Apricots poached in vanilla-orange syrup

These vanilla and orange poached apricots are a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Try them served just on their own with Greek yoghurt and perhaps a sprinkling of chopped nuts, spoon them over granola, or, better still, on a thick slice of pound cake with a big dollop of whipped cream.

Apricots poached in vanilla-orange syrup

Makes enough to fill a 1 litre (1 quart) jar
Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week

Ingredients

1kg (about 2 pounds) firm, ripe apricots
100g (1/2 cup, packed) brown (demerara) sugar
50g (2 1/2 Tbsp) honey
250ml (1 cup) water
freshly squeezed juice of a large orange
1 x 5cm (2″) long strip orange zest
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Directions

Halve and pit the apricots and set aside.

Combine the sugar, water, honey, orange juice and zest and the vanilla bean in a wide, heavy based saucepan, and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the apricots, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 3 minutes, just until the apricots start to soften.

Remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and place carefully in a clean jar.

Bring the syrup to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened and reduced by about half. Remove the zest and vanilla bean and pour it into the jar over the apricots.

Seal the jar and allow to cool before serving or refrigerating for up to a week.

Posted in breakfast, dessert, preserves, sweet | Leave a comment

Red berry parfait

A coulis of strawberries, raspberries and red currants is layered with creamy no-churn vanilla ice cream which is studded with chunks of chewy meringue in this gorgeous summer dessert.

red berry parfait

As this recipe makes 2 ice cream cakes, I decorated one for the family with additional coulis and candied mint leaves, and the second for guests with chocolate sauce and fresh red currants. Yummy!!!

And now I’m going on vacation for a couple of weeks… see you on the other side!

Makes: 2 x approx.  1 litre (2 pint) ice cream cakes, each serves 8 – 12
Active: 45 minutes
Chilling coulis: at least 1 hour (can be made a couple of days ahead)
Freezing: 8 hours or overnight
Keeps: 3 months in the freezer

Ingredients

700g (about 1 1/2 pounds) red berries of choice
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
500ml (2 cups) whole cream
1 x 397g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
about 10 small meringues – about 2 cups when crumbled

Directions

Remove stalks/stems from berries and combine them along with the sugar and lemon juice in a heavy based saucepan and heat on low until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for about 10 minutes until the berries break down. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Strain the berry mixture through a mesh strainer into a glass or ceramic bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill.

Prepare 2 medium loaf pans or 1.2 litre (2 1/2 pint) plastic containers by lining completely with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, but not quite to the texture of whipped cream, 3 – 4 minutes on medium. Be careful not to overbeat, otherwise your ice cream will have a buttery mouthfeel.

Add the condensed milk and vanilla paste or extract and beat just until very soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted – it should have a thick, mousse-like consistency.

Crumble the meringues roughly and fold the meringue pieces into the cream mixture.

Pour mixture into the lined loaf pans or containers, layering it with the red berry coulis (reserving a few tablespoons of coulis for serving, if desired), finishing with a layer of the cream mixture. Cover with the overhanging plastic and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, uncover the top of the parfait, turn out onto a serving plate, remove plastic wrap and decorate as desired.

Candied mint leaves

1 sprig mint
1 egg white
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Carefully wash and dry the mint leaves. Moisten on both sides with egg white, then dip in sugar to coat. Place on a sheet of parchment to dry completely, at least 3 hours.

Chocolate sauce

75g (2 1/2 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
75g (2 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp powdered (confectioners’) sugar
80ml (1/3 cup) whole cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan containing a couple of centimetres (about an inch) of simmering water on low heat, or in a double boiler. Stir gently until the chocolate has completely melted and everything is well combined and smooth. Add a little additional cream if required, to make it thinner.

Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Keeps well in the fridge and reheats easily (just add extra cream to thin it, if necessary).

Posted in cake, dessert, ice cream, sweet | 2 Comments