The other day I overheard a posh lady explaining to her crestfallen toddler why she wasn’t allowed a cupcake. Not because they’re sugary or calorific, but because they’re “just so very unfashionable now darling” as she towered over her in her Ugg boots. Of course, I immediately bought four and bloody gorgeous they were too.
Gran luchito is one of the finest chilli tapenades I’ve been lucky enough to receive a free jar of and this recipe for cupcakes is well worth a shot. I love the way they’ve gone completely left field with their recipe suggestions and the combination of caramelised pineapples and smoky chilli-laced cream topping is pretty sensational.
I got slightly sidetracked and didn’t manage to make the chilli buttercream pate a bombe topping in their recipe. Instead I combined 300g icing sugar, 50g butter and 125g cream cheese with a generous spoonful of the smoky joy. These were fallen upon and instantaneously devoured by the mums at my local under one’s club. Thank god for fellow sleep deprived sugar-addicts who have more important things to worry about than the format of their cakey fix.
makes 16 cupcakes
155g plain flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
110g oil (vegetable or extra light olive oil)
for the caramelised pineapple
6 tbsp. butter, cubed
200g light brown sugar
15-16 pineapple slices
maraschino cherries to garnish
for the chilli buttercream
400g granulated sugar
700g butter, room temperature
6 egg yolks
Gran Luchito chilli tapenade to taste
- preheat oven to 180C. Mix the flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.
- crack the eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for about 15 seconds. Add the sugar and continue beating on a medium speed for about half a minute. Add the vanilla and the oil.
- Reduce the speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour. Add half the buttermilk and the rest of the flour. Dribble in the remaining buttermilk and beat until just combined.
- Scrap down the side of the bowl. The batter will be thin.
- To make the caramel, melt the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan and stir in the brown sugar. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Spoon the caramel equally into 16 cupcake cases, top with a pineapple slice and a cherry.
- Pour in the batter until 2/3 full and bake in a pre heated oven for 12-14 minutes.
- Cool for 3-5 mins and then remove cupcakes from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.
- To make the chilli buttercream, mix the sugar and water to the consistency of wet sand in a small saucepan.
- With a wet pastry brush, clean all the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan to prevent the syrup from crystalising, and cook to the soft ball stage without stirring.
- Prepare a pate a bombe by whisking the egg yolks in the mixer. When the sugar reaches the soft ball stage, pour the hot syrup carefully into the bowl of eggs as they whisk. Continue to whisk until the mixing bowl is completely cold.
- Change the whisk attachment from a whisk to a paddle and add the butter. Once this is fully incorporated add the chilli tapenade to taste. Pipe over the cooled cupcakes with a star tip nozzle and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
aaah miso-cream cheese. My new addiction; this happy, happy accident has proved incredible on toast, in smoked fish sarnies, smeared over celery sticks and of course, straight from the spoon. It’s absolutely killer in this super-speedy tart. This has become the mid-week go-to dinner in our flat, when all I have to do is grab a pack of those ‘on-offer-due-to–massive-glut-season’ courgettes and some puff pastry. I find myself repeatedly turning to it on those afternoons when I have no idea what day it is let alone what the hell we’re going to eat. Such a lifesaver in pastry form, It ought to come with it’s own little fluorescent yellow security jacket. Although that would be a bit weird.
serves 2 with a salad
2 courgettes, sliced into thin discs
2-3 tbsp. grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp.olive oil
1 pack all butter puff pastry
100g full fat cream cheese.
1 dessertspoon miso paste (I like barley miso)
- preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/GM6
- in a large bowl mix the courgette slices, half the Parmesan, half the garlic, all the onion and the olive oil.
- roll out the pastry into a big rectangle. Score an inner-rectangle ‘crust’ around the margin.
- In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, the other half of the garlic and the miso paste really well. Resist the urge to eat this on its own.
- Spread the miso-fromage over the inner rectangle of pastry. Overlap the courgette slices in layers over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan (this shouldn’t be any more than a couple of layers deep, you don’t want soggy pastry or raw courgette).
- Stick in the oven for about 20 mins. Remember that it’s Thursday.
A friend of mine is having what can only be described as a royally crap time. There’s me, moaning about not having slept since April, as if it’s such a massive deal. And there she is left holding her 3 month old while her selfish ex has decided he can’t handle having a baby and would rather take Special K and try to pull 18 year olds instead. So he’s basically upped and left her. This is someone so spectacularly gutless he didn’t even have the decency to tell her to her face, so broke up via SMS.
There are times when nothing you say can make things better, but silently sharing a bit of cake can ease things a little. I decided to make her some comforting, fudgy banana bread and chocolate-peanut butter pudding made with thick slabs of said bread, soaked through with salted choc and nut butter sauce. It turned out to be more of a spread in the end (I had to deal with an ENS* so didn’t manage to add milk to make matters less viscous) but for a little while at least, made her forget about what a lucky escape she and her beautiful son have had from a total loser.
*Emergency Nappy Situation
For the banana bread
115g plain flour
115g wholemeal flour
150g brown sugar
90g roughly chopped walnuts
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 small ripe bananas- approx 480g (the blacker the better), roughly broken into chunks
2 large beaten eggs
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. syrup from a jar of stem ginger
For the sauce
200g milk chocolate, broken into chunks
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
100ml double cream
- Line a loaf tin with greased and floured baking paper and preheat the oven to GM 4/180C (fan)
- Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and walnuts in a bowl.
- If you have a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar for a good 5 minutes (otherwise a lot of elbow grease and about 15 minutes with a wooden spoon ought to do it). Gradually add the olive oil, eggs, banana, stem ginger syrup and vanilla, a little at a time.
- Gently fold in the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix and bake for 1 hr
- Cool and slice the banana bread up and layer in overlapping layers in a dish.
- Melt the chocolate in a bain marie. Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and mix well. Stir in the salt until it dissolves. Finally swirl in the double cream. If you’re able to, add enough milk to form a runny sauce.
- Pour this over the bread, so it’s nicely submerged.
- Bake for 40minutes. Serve with something hot, strong and possibly alcoholic depending on the circumstances.
Poor camera phone filming. Poor sound. Nice biscuits.
Our “ruby murray” stall – photo by Kerstin Rogers
Flaky, delicate pastry with a spicy thwack of chillified filling, my spicy sausage rolls were a bit of a hit on Saturday and turned out to be just the thing for bonfire night.
I literally had no idea what to expect from Ms Marmite Lover’s underground market. I’d never been to one, let alone run a stall there, but her latest was a fantastic, gloriously surreal festival-like shebang. Although I didn’t actually get a chance to see everything, as we were too busy serving food, I met an almost endless stream of genuinely lovely people. I particularly enjoyed the spirit of camaraderie amongst the stallholders, and was really touched by some of the comments about our food.
Quantities had been a bit of a question mark. I had absolutely no idea how much to make, despite having spent the previous few days frantically exchanging emails with Helen from Food Stories and Kerstin trying to work this out. So I was super chuffed and much-surprised at our popularity – we managed to sell out of pretty much everything in the few hours we were open. I’ve always relished the idea of feeding people the food I love to eat at home, you know, the stuff you never really come across in restaurants. Seeing the delighted look on people’s faces after taking an initial bite was an incredible buzz, and some of the nicest feedback came from people who seemed gobsmacked that I didn’t sell my food regularly and demanded that I immediately rectify this.
Huge thanks to Kerstin for inviting us and organising such a terrific event.
8 sausages, slit down the middle and liberated from their casings (I made half a batch with Quorn sausages and half with beef)
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 fresh green chillies
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch ginger, peeled
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
2-3 tsp mustard oil
All butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
- Blitz the onion, ginger, garlic and chillies in a spice grinder/coffee mill
- Heat the mustard oil and when it’s hot add the mustard seeds, which should sizzle immediately.
- Introduce the onion mixture and fry until golden.
- Once this has cooled, mix into the sausage meat, along with the curry powder and a pinch of salt.
- Roll out the pastry and fill with the sausage meat. Seal and brush liberally with the beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes at 200C/gas mark 6 or until golden brown and cooked through.
I’ve written a piece for BBC Good Food about the return of the retro cake. You can read it here
I’ve churned out so many quiches this year I actually started dreaming about the things at one point. The other day (IRL, not my dream) a woman stopped me outside one of the payday loans shops on Stoke Newington High Street and asked if I was “that quiche lady”. She then demanded to know “when would I be making more?” which was nice and also a little bit weird.
I’ve had to slice production down to just one a week, but it’s really not that hard to whip up your own. It’s all about that all-butter and nigella seed crust. Sounds a bit out there I know, but those oniony black seeds compliment the fromage and sage so well, we’re talking borderline sycophancy. There are some gorgeously bulbous, pungent spring onions around at the moment which sop up the herbal vinegar like nobody’s business. I also like to add a shake or two of frozen peas for random bursts of sweetness. Add fragile pastry, juddering, smoky custard and the sharply savoury bite of the herb-roasted onions into the mix and you’ve got the makings of the most relentless quichey-bliss.
Once you’ve sorted your pastry (I’ve got this down to a 15 minute job) and roasted your onions (both of which you can do in advance) it’s just a simple case of whipping up your dairy products, filling up the pastry and sticking it in the oven for 30 minutes while you crack on with more important things.
(Serves 8 with salad or 4 very greedy people)
For the pastry
125g (room temperature) butter diced
250g plain flour
¾ tbsp nigella seeds
1 heaped tsp salt
Cold water to bind
For the onions
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tbsp finely chopped sage
1-2 cloves garlic
For the custard
150-200ml double cream
100g smoked cheese (I used Applewood)
- Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6 – for a good, crispy pastry base you can also stick a baking sheet in there to heat. Measure your flour into a large bowl. Add the nigella seeds and salt.
- Rub in the butter until crumb-like and slowly add the cold water until it all comes together in a nice pliant dough (if you accidentally add too much water, just sprinkle in a bit more flour to absorb).
- Drape a damp tea towel over the bowl and pop in the fridge to chill
- Line a shallow baking tray with some baking paper. Mix the balsamic, garlic and sage in a medium bowl, and stir in the onions until well coated with the mixture. Sprinkle in the sugar and salt and stir well.
- Pour the onion mixture into the tray and wrap the paper into a loose parcel.
- Roll the pastry onto some lightly greased baking paper and place in a quiche dish, pressing the pastry into the corners and up around the edges. Prick lightly all over with a fork. Pour in some lentils or dried chickpeas to stop it from rising.
- Place the quiche dish on the heated baking sheet for 15-20 minutes.
Place the onions on a separate shelf in the oven.
- Beat the eggs, cream and grated cheese together. Grind in some pepper.
- Line the pastry case with the onions and shake in some frozen peas.
- Pour over the egg mixture and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
For me there are few things more rewarding than cooking for others, so I was super chuffed when those nice people at farm:shop asked me to start regularly supplying the cafe with my treats. These past few weeks have been a blissful blur of baking chard, smoked cheddar and mushroom quiches with delicate walnut and chive or nigella seed and parmesan crusts, ultra crumbly lavender shortbread, mini keema pies, feta and spinach rolls, artisan popcorn, pretzels and vats of panch phoran chutney. There’s such a buzz about hearing the lovely feedback from the customers and it’s great fun dreaming up new and exciting ways in which to cook up the latest harvest.
When a request for a cake came in, I wanted to make something decadent and “money’s worth” so decided to fox up a classic Green & Blacks’s chocolate marquise recipe. I massively heart the ruthlessly aromatic camphor of cardamom, which like its protean brethren nutmeg; means it’s just as comfortable in a rice pudding as in a biryani and makes it the perfect partner to pretty much anything cocoa based. Crushing those resinous pods to add a subtle twist to sweet dishes is something the Bangladeshi cook has been onto for centuries. As kids we grew up squabbling over clotted bowls of my mother’s legendary Bengali cardamom-infused rice pudding or “payesh”, shandesh (a ricotta, cardamom and pistachio dessert) and rasgullas (which literally means “globes of juice” and takes the form of pistachio curd dumplings soaked in a rose and cardamom syrup).
In this obscenely rich cake (you only need the teeniest slice), the cardamom is a veritable plectrum to the fruity, almost bitter notes of the dark chocolate and lingers gorgeously on the tongue. The separate cakey base and mousse may seem like a total faff, and I won’t lie – they are. If you really can’t be bothered and you’re in the area, I would recommend getting down to 20 Dalston Lane and treating yourself to what’s left of mine.
Serves 15-20 decadent little slices
For the base
Melted butter for greasing
300g (10 ½ oz) dark chocolate minimum 60% cocoa solids (I used 200g/7oz dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids plus 100g Maya Gold) broken into chunks
165g (5 ½ oz) butter
1 tbsp ground almonds, plus extra for dusting the tin
275g (10oz) caster sugar
A pinch of sea salt
5 large eggs
3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed to powder
For the mousse
250g (9oz) dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
100g (3 ½ oz) icing sugar
175g (6oz) unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated
6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed to powder
150 ml (1/4 pint) double cream
Cocoa powder to dust
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- Brush a 23cm (9in) springform tin with high sides and removable base
- Make the cakey bit by placing the chocolate, cardamom, sugar, butter, and salt in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water until melted and amalgamated.
- Whisk the eggs and add the ground almonds and fold into the chocolate mixture off the heat. Continue to fold until the mixture thickens. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for about 2 hours before starting the mousse.
- To make the mousse, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over some barely simmering water. Remove from the heat and add half the icing sugar, stir and then whisk in the butter and cardamom. Whisk in the egg yolks on at a time. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites to the stiff peak stage and add the remaining icing sugar. Keep whisking until glossy. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form.
- Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the melted chocolate mix and carefully mix to blend. Gently fold in the remaining whites, alternating with the whipped cream. You don’t want to over mix or crush out the air bubbles, but you do want it to be well blended. Pour this mousse over the cooled cake base in the cake tine and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, remove the tin from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving. Dip a palette knife in boiling water, dry it and slide around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the tin and then remove the ring. Re-heat the knife in boiling water, dry it and gently smooth the sides of the mousse.
- Dust generously with cocoa powder and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche.
I’m still working my way through that final truckle of Red Leicester. As I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, these savoury scones are my cunning twist on the classic cream tea. I’ve already made a batch for @farmlondon and with not one but two tea parties coming up in the near future; these decadent little delights will most certainly be putting in an appearance.
There’s a fair amount of fromage in the mix so you only need a few teaspoons of oil. They swell up beautifully and the hint of truffle works a treat with the cheese, as does the suggestion of smoky pepper. Split them while they’re still warm from the oven and recklessly smother with the roasted garlic cream and a generous blob of tomato relish. Wash down with a large mug of lady grey. Splendid.
- 500g plain flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- 250g red leicester (or any other decent hard cheese), grated
- 2 spring onions, finely snipped
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- lots of black pepper
- pinch of smoked paprika
- 1 tsp truffle oil
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 250 ml whole milk
- 1 egg
for the garlic cream
- 250ml sour cream
- 1 bulb garlic, sliced in half
- a little oil
- a handful of chives
to serve – tomato relish or my personal favourite, some Branston’s pickle.
- weigh out the flour and mix in the baking powder, salt, thyme, cayenne, paprika, spring onions, black pepper and grated cheese.
- Combine the beaten egg, milk and oils in a jug and slowly trickle into the dry ingredients.
- Mix well until a dough is formed. Roll out to about just over an inch thick (make sure you don’t roll too thinly).
- If you want to create a natural “split” in the scone, fold the dough in half, back over itself and lightly roll out again.
- Using a cutter (or an inverted glass) cut out round shapes.
- Place on a well oiled baking tray and brush with milk. Sprinkle with a little more grated cheese.
- Put your garlic halves on a scrap of foil, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Wrap up into a loose parcel.
- Place the scones and the garlic parcel in the oven at 220C/450F/gas mark 8 for about 20 minutes or until the scones are well risen and golden and the garlic tender.
- Put the scones on a rack to cool slightly.
- Mash the roast garlic to a pulp, mix with the chives and stir into the cream.
- Split and smother the scones.
- Serve immediately.
Every so often I find myself really missing Japan. The gleaming row of vending machines opposite my tatami lined flat, selling everything from freshly pressed shirts to dodgy burgers. Or bumping into my students whilst perusing the fascinating aisles of assorted fish, tofu and vitamin drinks in our local supermarket. Hanging around with friends in Ueno park, scoffing Makudonurado in Harajuku and cycling around late at night with my front door unlocked and wads of yen in my pockets. After a couple of life-changing years teaching English out there, it’s the people I really miss. Like Takahiro my deaf student who was mercilessly bullied because, as another teacher explained to me “the nail that sticks out must be hammered down”, or Kasahara sensei, the kindly science teacher that taught me how to make the most delicious yakisoba; and of course Masa and Kei.
It’s always the simple things.
There’s something so impressive, so comforting and so magical about the transformative alchemy that takes place when the basics of flour, water, yeast and salt are confronted with fire. The olfactory effect of this particular Maillard reaction is also big business. Nowadays, it mugs us in both the super and the property markets. They spritz the canned scent of baguettes in the aisles and use freshly browning loaves to lasso us into buying when we attempt to climb that greasy old property pole.
The season of endless gluttony is finally over. I don’t know about you, but I managed to load on half a stone. Instead of feasting on wasabi cream cheese, spring onion and hot smoked salmon croissants for breakfast, I’m now forcing myself to box around in my living room like an utter buffoon to Davina “Manimal” McCall’s workout .
Charlie Brooker once described Davina as a raven “…the makings of a beak are clearly visible, rudimentary black plumage seems to be emerging from her scalp and most damning of all, her voice patterns are starting to closely imitate an insistent, grating caw”. Nonetheless, it seems appropriate somehow, to subject myself to her caustic nailgun of a voice. I mean, if I’m going to do something I absolutely hate I might as well go the whole hog.
This is Incredible.
Make it for someone you love kind of incredible. Can’t wait to make it again and again kind of incredible. Make it in the afternoon and watch it cease to exist by the evening kind of incredible. Thyme scented garlic, slick with balsamic syrup, glossier than Cheryl Cole’s barnet kind of incredible. Clods of butternut roasted to coax out the sugar, cosseted in a duvet of delicately shuddering dairy kind of incredible. There are no words kind of incredible.
Mr Ottolenghi – I salute you.
I’m rubbish at making bread. Cakes, quiches, pies, I can happily churn out these things with varying degrees of confidence, but bread? Forget it. I can’t even do it using a machine (my crust is inevitably anaemic and the texture all dense and doughy). As for the “longhand method”, I can’t be done with all that kneading and proving and knocking back – life’s too short. So I was dead chuffed to find this recipe from Dan Lepard. Involving no kneading whatsoever and just a few ingredients I’ve made it about five times now, each time with great success. And I just adore the fact that you bake it in a saucepan.
I’ve done one or two exciting things in my time, but one of the very bestest things I’ve ever done was to work for the late and legendary John Peel.
John was amazing. For a brief and splendid period I was his humble Broadcast Assistant, and was given the honour of compiling the festive fifty and helping out with the phones during his programme. He once heard me rowing down the phone to payroll about the late payment of a freelance colleague, and without giving the matter a second thought, immediately gave him a huge wad of cash to tide him over until payday.
I found this recipe on the Waitrose site. It’s pretty basic so I added some pumpkin seeds and sage. I found I needed extra time for my rubbish old electric oven, as it was still a little raw in the middle after the stipulated time. After an extra 15 minutes, it was perfect, nutty and crumbly needing nothing more than a smear of butter.Read the rest of this entry »
I wanted to use up a surfeit of those cheap bags of “basics” carrots I found hiding in the bottom of my salad box. It seemed like such a good idea in the supermarket, what with everyone fighting over the reduced cabbages, the ubiquitous recession mentality rife in the fruit and veg aisles. Then you get home and all you really want is steak and chips.
There’s a great recipe in Delia’s Vegetarian Collection, but after a bit of research I found that the best “tried and tested” recipes seem to rate vegetable oil over butter and definitely golden syrup as well as sugar. I also added a drop of vanilla essence and a touch of nutmeg. I had some pecans that needed using up so threw those in too. It was perfect eaten straight from the oven with slices of cheddar. This will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days (if you can resist it for that long). Even a couple of days later it was still moist and crumbly.
I once had a version of these in the Konditor and Cook cafe section of the Curzon Cinema in Soho. These are simultaneously healthier (wholemeal flour) and more indulgent (more cheese). You can of course use whatever kind of cheese you like. These are good cold and can be frozen for up to a month. They are especially delicious hot from the oven, the steaming fluffy spinach bread giving way to oozing molten cheese centres.
I don’t really like bananas, but I hate wasting food even more. I had to make this after I found myself unable to part with a glut of slowly blackening bananas. The walnuts and rum-soaked raisins really bring out the sweetness of the ripe fruit. This goes beautifully with chunks of cheddar.