The results came in as follows:Noah loved it and had more, so I won the carrot halwa war that no one else was fighting.Maya spat hers out in the bin and asked for a yoghurt instead.Read More
It's now late May, nearly everything is fully laden with flowers and the leaves hang heavily from the trees and bushes looking like a 1950's film star in a fur coat.And now there is also a legitimate reason to lurk in the bushes in your local park. Here inLondon the elderflower is showing off at every turn. So grab a bag and some snippers and head out foraging.It's such an exciting part of the year and I wait for a day where the sun is blasting down, (not always an option, I know) before heading out. Let the morning dry the flowers a little with its light and warmth then carefully snip from the tree. Be gentle with them, try to keep as much pollen on them as you can, fill a bag and scamper home.You can make cordial too if you like, I reckon a carrier bag full is enough for both, you don't need that many for fritters. If you want these to be vegetarian, you'll have to make sure all the bugs are out first. Tap them over a white tray or plate until you've got rid of as many as you can.You can leave the spicing out if you prefer a subtle and pure elderflower taste, they're still delicious. Either way, it a lovely way to fritter away a morning.IngredientsA bagful of elderflowers on their stalks100g plain flour1tbsp baking powder2tsp ground cardamom4 cloves, ground1tbsp ground cinnamon1tsp fennel seeds, ground1 egg185ml fizzy waterIcing sugar to dust1l rapeseed oil to fryMethodHeat the oil to 180c in a deep-fat fryer or heavy-based deep saucepan making sure it doesn't go more than halfway up. It will expand when the battered flowers go in.Whisk together the batter ingredients and let it rest for five minutes.Dip a head of elderflowers in the batter and when the oil is hot enough gently drop them in. Cook for a minute or so, turning over every now and then until light golden and crisp. Drain on some kitchen paper then lay out on a tray while you repeat and finish the rest.Leave to cool a little then dust with icing sugar to serve.This weekRead:Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. I had no idea she wrote Babette's Feast, nor did I think this book would be as charming and readable as it was. I even laughed out loud at one story such is her gentle style. I thought it would be all Meryl Streep-y gnashing of teeth and wailing about 'My Africa'. Not that I've seen the film, but that's the impression I had.Listened:A R Rahman. Lots of his excellent film music, beautiful and uplifting and at times melancholy. Although most upsetting was hearing the Pussycat Dolls appear on one trackEat:Far too many slices of very bad supermarket pizza with sweetcorn and barbecue sauce on. I know. Don't judge me, it's all there was on the shoot and I was ravenous.Saw:Brooklyn 99. As the final series draws to a close (although apparently it's been taken up by another network) I remembered so much of what I love about it. The relentless positivity and the camaraderie is a refreshing change in a hard-hitting dark cop drama. (Err? - Ed.)
Clearing out the kitchen this week, before I put everything back in the new cupboards, I found some antique yeast, a vintage packet of baking powder and many other long expired historic foodstuffs.There were baking trays which had developed their own culture and civilisations and substances that NASA may well be interested in. I'm sure the black treacle stuck to the top of the shelf is really from a Tudor roof and certainly would have been something the children could have used in a science experiment.Now we are approaching the end of the year and December has its icy tentacles wrapped around my neck like a frozen octopus disguised as a scarf, we need to start getting into the spirit of things. The children are tired, as they always are by the end of term -- if their toast is a little too dark there are howling tears -- and I'm ready to wear a festive jumper and eat mince pies for supper.But before we go full steam(ed pudding) ahead into Christmas, and while a little of me is still mentally in Paris, I've made these Tartes Bordaloues. They are named after the bakery named after the Parisian street named after the Jesuit preacher where they were invented. It's a simple poached pear and frangipane in a short and sweet, buttery, crisp pastry. Easy to make and impressive looking, it's as if they've come straight from the patisserie. And with a strong, black coffee they make a perfect elevenses. Forget the partridge in the pear tree, just go for the tart rich in pear, see.IngredientsFor the pate sucrée200g plain flour130g butter40g icing sugar1 egg, beatenFor the frangipane115g ground almonds115g icing sugar115g melted butter1tsp vanilla pasteFor the pears4 small and firm rocha pears or similar. Soft ones will collapse to mush1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise800ml water (enough to cover the pears)300g sugarMethodPoach the pears in the vanilla, water and sugar until al dente then leave to cool.Make the pastry by mixing the flour and icing sugar together then stir in the ground almonds.Add the butter and mix well. Add the beaten egg and bring together to a dough. Lay in between two sheets of baking paper and roll flat. Put in the freezer for 15 minutes or in the fridge for half an hour.Make the frangipane by beating all the ingredients together until you have a paste, then put into a piping bag. Set aside.Heat the oven to 180c.Remove the pears from the syrup and slice.Line 4 small tart tins with the pastry. (With removable bases)Pipe in the frangipane then layer the pears into each.Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden.Leave to cool to room temperature and serve.This weekSaw:Glengarry Glen Ross. Christian Slater at the Playhouse Theatre. Excellent, and swearyBraquo on Netflix, gritty Parisian cops from about six years ago.Listened:Maya's Christmas carol concert at school. So, so sweet. She was very excited, saying it was "the BEST day ever."Johnny Hallyday. French radio playing nothing but his songs. Sounded the same as usual to be honest.Eat:Flatbreads with and Sicilian oregano and harissa slow-roast lamb leg . Piled with houmous, guacamole, olives and chilli oil. Sort of Moroccan tacos.Lahore Karahi fenugreek chicken as we sat surrounded by our house still in boxes.I made a sausage, pea and tomato risotto for the children which they hoovered up. As did I while I was dishing it up.Bratwurst hotter than the sun at Herman ze German on the way to the theatre. Thank God I made it through the whole play.Read:Fred Vargas' Quand Sort la recluse. Still enjoying this French thriller.Viz Christmas issue. Obviously a little levity is good for the soul.
With only a minute to spare, we burst through the doors of the seventeenth century formal rooms into the wedding of an old friend. Maya, freshly pressed in her brand new dress still smelled faintly of sick. She had parted company with her breakfast just as we entered Richmond park (its roads lined with wooden spikes –possibly for the heads of drivers who tried to stop ANYWHERE– and no laybys) in a queue of cars and what appeared to be a lost peloton from the Tour de France. Finding a children's clothes shop with ten minutes to go before the ceremony was like Challenge Anneka. (An eighties tv show, for those of you who didn't have my childhood).I was returning to an almost normal heart rate. The petrol situation in the car would have to be dealt with later. The light had come on just as we left the house. Every mile to the venue was like driving with the sword of Damocles swinging above us; but we were there at least.The last wedding we went to, two or three years ago involved me screeching up to the steps of Brighton town hall kicking Bee and Maya out of the car, wheel-spinning off to find somewhere to park with Noah having a meltdown in the back because he didn't get to go with mummy and was stuck with purple-faced daddy. I hope no-one else I know gets married again. It's too stressful.And this leads me to another marriage which is far easier to prepare, less stressful to get to and, with hope, doesn't involve being sick. Strawberries, white chocolate and basil go so well together, and this flan is so simple to make. It looks far more impressive than the amount of work it takes to make so is perfect for a summer weekend tea-time treat and the children loved it.Ingredients2 eggs55g golden caster sugar55g strong flourSeeds from a vanilla podStrawberries, as many as fit on the base, about a punnet's worth, depending on their sizeA fig or two, quartered1 plum, quarteredWhite chocolate shavings2tbsp pistachios, choppedSome basil leaves to finish1tbsp atomised strawberries (freeze-dried and optional)For the glaze2tbsp raspberry jam1tbsp honey2tsp waterMethodHeat the oven to 190c and butter a 18cm flan tinWhisk the eggs, vanilla and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until light and airy then remove from the heat and gently fold in the flour.Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden and springy.Leave to cool on a wire rack.Top with the fruit and nuts, cover with the glaze then add the basil, dried strawberries and chocolate leaves and serve.
A clear blue Saturday morning of the May bank holiday weekend. We are finally teaching Noah to cycle and in the park among Victorian trees on flat ground, I walked and he wobbled past the tennis courts, scattering people and their dogs into the undergrowth as they dived for cover and I pretended he wasn't my son.A tennis ball, served viciously by a chap who clearly didn't like his girlfriend shot past her and wedged itself in the chain-link fence. Half in and out, squeezed in the middle like a belt was trying to give it a waist. It reminded me of many panna cottas I've eaten in the past. Rubbery, chewy and solid lumps of sugary milk sickly with lavender or raspberry coulis as if it were still 1987.And like Noah on his bicycle, a good panna cotta is very wobbly. It needs to be soft and silky and have a milky creaminess to it. So you have to be careful with the gelatine. 3 leaves is more than enough for this recipe if you're using them. I used powdered, that's all I had in the cupboard, and you need about 3/4 of one of the small individual packets. A whole packet is enough to set 600ml of liquid as firmly as a Beverly Hills backside, and that's as unappealing there as this would be on your plate, so act carefully.This has sharp and sweet grapefruit, caramelised orange and a little fennel to go with the gingery spicing of the panna cotta. A few thyme leaves and pistachio give a little tickle and crunch here and there. It's perfect for when you have friends for supper as you make it well in advance and leave it to set in the fridge. Pudding is taken care of and you won't need to disappear for half an hour during the meal. Unless you hate your guests and want a break.Ingredients for four260ml milk260ml double cream8g powdered gelatine or 3 sheets2tbsp gingerbread spice mix (I used The Uncharted Spice Company's which is perfect)1tbsp golden caster sugar4 slices of orange (I use blood oranges when in season)1/2 ruby grapefruit1tbsp golden caster sugar2tbsp pistachio nuts, chopped1tsp fennel seedsA blowtorch and a sprinkle of sugar for each orange sliceMethodDissolve the gelatine in a little hot water until well mixed and there are no lumps. If you're using the sheets, follow the packet instructions.Bring the milk, cream and sugar to the boil and stir in the spices then mix well.Add the gelatine and stir until completely incorporated and smooth.Remove from the heat and pour into four dariole or panna cotta moulds and leave to set in the fridge for an hour and a half minimum.Make the sauce by putting the grapefruit in a pan with a tablespoon of sugar and a few tablespoons of water then bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer until soft and syrupy.Leave to cool.Release each panna cotta carefully from their moulds onto plates (you may need to warm the outside of the mould with your hands a little to help). Sprinkle the orange slices with sugar and some fennel seeds and caramelise the top of them with a blowtorch. Put one on top of each panna cotta, gently warm through the syrup to loosen it a little and pour over with a sprinkle of pistachio, a few more fennel seeds and a little thyme. Serve immediately.
Recently, before Christmas and in the throes of trying to establish a new world record for sugar consumption, I bought a box of gulab jamun from the local supermarket. I've eaten a few Indian sweets before on the mean streets of Tooting: kulfi on a stick, jalebis and so on, each time suffering an immediate and swift ecstatic rush followed by an instant diabetic death., but these were in a league of their own. They came in a palatial bath of syrup, enough to upset even the most sweet toothed cake lover. Of course, I ate the whole box.So now, as life is slowly groaning back into gear and constantly attempting to violate our cosy January, I am as much as possible off the sugar. This, in part is an attempt to try and regain my Adonis-like figure*, which I seem to have misplaced somewhere in 1994, and also, because sugar is, really, the devil's work. However, we all need a little devil from time to time, so a little treat here and there is necessary to keep up morale.These are my version of the sugar soaked sponge, baked rather than fried and not as soaked in syrup as the original (they also don't have milk powder in them). You'll need a round mini cake sphere mould or a cake pop maker, both of which are pretty cheap and easy to find. If not, you could spoon the mix into mini fairy cake moulds. The children loved making and eating these, and it makes a nice change to the icing clad, mouth clagging fairy cakes they usually want and then give up on halfway through.I used a bought caramel sauce that I had leftover from a job, but feel free to make your own, it's not hard.*not even remotely Adonis-like, more just a lot slimmer than I am now.Ingredients100g butter100g golden caster sugar100g plain flour1tsp baking powder1 egg1tsp cinnamon powder1/2tsp ground cloves1/2tsp ground cardammonA small handful of chopped pistachio nutsSome dried rose petalsA little gold leaf and edible glitter if you fancyFor the syrup50g golden caster sugar1tbsp waterA few saffron strands2tsp ground cinnamonMethodHeat the oven to 180c or turn on the machine and preheat it.Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg until smooth.Mix together the flour, spices and baking powder and add a little at a time to the butter mix, beating until smooth.Fill the moulds and bake for about seven minutes, until golden. Leave to cool a little.Make the syrup by bringing the sugar, cinnamon powder and water gently to the boil and then reducing it until syrupy, about five minutes.Pile the cake balls onto a plate, pour over the syrup and caramel sauce then sprinkle over the nuts, petals and gold. Serve slightly warm with coffee, or Thums Up! coke if you want a real rush, uncontrollable children and no teeth left.
Garlic grilled lobster, 24 hour slow-roast pork, smoked salmon scrambled eggs, roast chicken. The list of snacks the children are asking me for each evening they get back from after school club is becoming a joke. And now, they are demanding I just whip them up a tarte Tatin.*They already have a strong attachment to certain dishes, and as they grow up these meals will be remembered and recreated with, I hope, the same comforting happiness I attach to my childhood meals from my mum and grandparents. Most people love their mum's roast chicken, or their Granny's apple crumble. Although in my case I've developed a love for frozen chocolate gateaux wafted with the aroma of Player's Navy Cut cigarettes. It's a funny thing, nostalgia.I don't think they will talk fondly of Daddy's lark's wing soufflé with basil foam, compressed finger lime and watermelon (Nb.) but will probably look fondly on the roasts, bolognese, crumbles, 'taco day', korma with fluffy rice and soothing dhal and the simple home cooking we all crave as adults.The classics are classic for a reason. And generally survive because of their simplicity. That doesn't necessarily mean they're all completely easy to make. A beurre blanc or Hollandaise can easily split, a risotto can become as thick and stodgy as Donald Trump and a salmon steak can be as tough as a shoe if you don't pay attention. But the pleasure these simple dishes give is as joyful as a walk on a misty autumn morning or reading a book by the fire on a cold night.And so to the tarte Tatin. Or, if you prefer, the tarte Solognote. Traditionally made with apples it's the French comfort food par excellence. I also love making it with pears, but may cast my net as wide as mirabelle plums, apricots and even banana for a laugh. It also works brilliantly with shallots for a savoury version. Make sure you use a good pan that is suitable for the hob and oven. I use the incomparable prospector pan from Netherton Foundry, a thing of great beauty.This time, I made my own puff pastry from scratch. It's a wonderful thing to do and the difference is sublime. It's very easy, really, it just takes a little time so do it on a weekend, make plenty and freeze it. I'm not going to give a recipe here for it, but be prepared to use a whole block of butter. You'll also need a dedicated spot in the kitchen, it needs rolling, folding and chilling about seven times.Failing that, buy some all butter ready-made puff pastry. You can't be as smug, but it will still give a very good result. I used a mix of Bramley and Braeburn apples this time, but fully Braeburned is usually how I roll. I also sprinkled a little thyme into the mix but that's up to you. Whatever you choose to do, this is a dish of most excellent comfort.Ingredients1 Braeburn apple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges3 Bramley apples, as aboveA good handful or two of unrefined golden caster sugarA splodge of butterEnough rolled out puff pastry to cover the top of the pan with an overhang to tuck inA pinch of thyme if you likeMethodGet the oven nice and hot. About gas mark 8 or 220c.Heat the sugar in the pan until it melts and starts to turn to a soft caramel. Add the butter and neatly layer in the apples. Cook for a minute or two then add the thyme if using and layer the pastry over the top, tucking it in around the apples edges.Transfer to the oven and cook for about twenty minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.Remove from the oven and carefully turn upside down onto a plate. Leave for a minute before removing the pan and serve hot or warm. Or eat it cold from the fridge just before bed when no-one's looking.*Not true. They normally ask for a yoghurt or banana or the occasional biscuit. We haven't raised Veruca Salt and her brother here.
For me peaches are the fruit that means summer. There's nothing quite like the taste and soft texture, and the juice which invariably runs down your chin is sticky, sweet and delicious.You may ask why, in that case, is there any need to do anything to this fruit other than eat it as it comes? And while I'd be inclined to agree, sometimes pairing ingredients makes them more than the sum of their parts and can elevate them to something sublime.This recipe is a delicious way to end those long lunches outside in the sun. The syrup is sweet and slightly exotic tasting and the vanilla and cloves in it are a classic match with the peach. A quick poaching of the fruit somehow mellows and intensifies the flavour at the same time and using jasmine tea gives a delicate floral taste. This is best served cool, so make it early and leave it to rest while you tuck in to lunch.Ingredients100g coconut sugar (or unrefined brown sugar)150ml brewed jasmine green tea1 vanilla pod, split open3 cloves2 black cardamom pods, seeds only4 flat peachesA few sprigs of thymeMethodPut everything except the peaches and thyme in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring every now and then. Boil for about two minutes, then turn off and leave to infuse for about half an hour.After it's been cooling for about ten minutes, stab the bottom of the peaches a few times then sit them in the syrup for twenty minutes.Bring back to the boil and simmer the peaches for about three minutes each side. Serve the peaches with some thyme leaves and plenty of the syrup.It's too late now, but Bee has suggested sprinkling crumble topping all over these. That sounds amazing. It would also probably be nice to have a glass of iced tea with it. Maybe I'll try that next time.
When I was a little girl I used to dream of being a brownie. Sadly that never came true, and anyway, being a boy I was sent to The Scouts. I hated it and thought it a complete waste of an evening. That may have been down to the fact that every time I tried to contort my fingers into the three-fingered salute I looked like my arthritic and ancient aunt. So, I gave it and all hopes of a woggle in the woods a two-fingered salute, never to return.So now, all grown up, I find myself in the kitchen (not wearing a fetching brown dress or green jumper) melting chocolate to make these delicious and fudgy brownies. A whole tray of them may well be too much to eat in one sitting, but when I put them down on the table yesterday, they pretty much vanished.
There is no competition for me when it comes to tarts. If I had to choose one, even over tart au citron, tart tatin, tarte aux poires and chocolate tart, it would be the little glazed strawberry tarts with creme patissiere you get in Parisian bakeries. Unbeatable. However, I'm not in Paris as often as I'd like so they remain an occasional piece of heaven.Most tarts take a little effort though, and that's fine. But not this one. Today's recipe is a really quick shortbread tart with a simple chocolate ganache topped with fruit, herbs, chia seeds, honey and strawberry powder (you can use cocoa if you prefer).The base is the standard shortbread 1:2:3 recipe (sugar, butter, flour) but I've used coconut sugar and coconut flour instead. You can use caster and wheat if you prefer, the recipe is the same. This way gives a lovely coconutiness to the base which goes very well with the chocolate and is also gluten free for those of you who are gluten intolerant.You'll have some shortbread mix left over as well for bonus biscuits which you could use for this recipe or just plain with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Use your favourite soft fruits and plenty of honey. Pretend it's one of your 'five a day'.IngredientsFor the shortbread100g cold butter200g coconut sugar300g coconut flourFor the filling250ml double cream250g dark chocolate (70% cacao), smashed upBlueberries, raspberries, strawberries and kiwiA sprinkle of chia seeds1 tbsp raw honeyA few basil and thyme leaves1tbsp strawberry powderMethodMix together the butter flour and sugar in a bowl by hand until well combined and breadcrumb-like.Press evenly into a fluted 20cm (9") tart tin and bake at 170c for about ten minutes, or until golden brown. Make sure it's evenly cooked.Leave to cool while you make the filling.Bring the cream to just below the boil then pour onto the chocolate and stir well until melted, glossy and smooth. Pour into the tart case then top with the fruit, chia seeds and herbs and leave somewhere cool to set.Drizzle with honey, add the herbs and dust the strawberry powder over to serve.
These coconut flour shortbreads with blackberries and orange cream take less than 20 minutes and make a delicious afternoon treat. Or morning one. Or middle of the night one.Read More
No matter how worthy your diet, how well one can live on hemp and lentils, even hippies want a sweet snack every now and then.We've got a few 'nakd' bars in the cupboard for snacks but of late these have been relegated to the back for emergency use only. I've started to make my own in the Nutribullet and they're easy as well as being customisable to whatever ingredients, shape and size you can reasonably buy and make.These are quite addictive and it's easy to demolish the whole thing in one go, but while they're pure and healthy, it's probably not a good idea to do so. I have no idea what that many dates will do to your system in one go.If you don't have a Nutribullet, use a food processor or blender. Failing that, chop everything by hand. It's probably better to use a knife though.Ingredients (for one large bar)Equal amounts of:whole skin-on almondspitted datesraisinsapricots (the dark, sun-dried type, not the bright orange ones if possible)2tbsp raw cacao nibs1tbsp sunflower seeds1tbsp supergreens powder (I use Bioglan)1tbsp bee pollenA handful of dessicated coconutMethodBlitz half the almonds to a powder then add half of the remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined. You may need to stop and shake it up a bit.Empty the container into a large bowl and repeat with the remaining ingredients.Tip this into the same bowl and mix everything well by hand. Shape into one or two bars, squares or balls as you prefer and wrap well in clingfilm or put in an airtight container.Put in the fridge to firm. I keep them in there anyway, I like them better slightly chilled.You can vary the ingredients as you like, cashew nuts work well as does adding orange zest, vanilla seeds, fennel seeds for suprise and even chilli flakes. I'm tempted by the thought of covering them in melted chocolate, but that will have to wait a while.
As a supposed grown-up, I feel I can eat whatever I want, whenever. Cold pizza for breakfast and such.While I try and promote a healthy diet to the children, that doesn't mean we can't have fun. And while I wouldn't really condone ice-cream for breakfast, I don’t see the harm in it every now and then. Say once a year.This recipe, however, is the best of both worlds. Healthy fruit and yoghurt, but disguised as a seemingly illicit ice-lolly. It’s a great way to get some fruit into the children if they’re not that keen, and it’s something they can enjoy making with you. Of course, you don’t have to serve them at breakfast, but they’re pretty exciting to wake up to when you’re five years old…Ingredients4 ice-lolly moulds and sticks4 tbsp ‘Coyo’ coconut yoghurtA handful of: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants (feel free to add or replace as you like)1 kiwi, peeled and slicedWater to fill the moulds (you can add a little fruit juice if you like, but I prefer to avoid it)MethodLine up your moulds and distribute the berries between them. Slide a few kiwi slices down the side of each and half fill with water. Use the end of a spoon to slightly squidge some of the berries to release a little juice.Mix the coconut yoghurt with a little water to loosen it and top up the moulds. You can just top them up with water if preferred. Stand them securely upright in the freezer and after an hour or so, push in the sticks so they’re nice and central. Freeze for another 3-4 hours, or overnight because I imagine you wouldn’t be getting up at 3am to make these…
I bore my wife every year with constant updates on the elder state, and my excitement and her relief peaks when the buds start to open into flowers. Pick them first thing on a sunny morning, they’ll have more flavour then.It’s such a symbol of the beginning of summer and homemade elderflower cordial makes a great addition to prosecco or just as a drink on its own. You can also lightly coat the flowers in a thin batter and make fritters or use them to decorate a pudding.I wouldn’t say it’s good for you (but what cake is?) however, using xylitol means it’s sugar free and spelt flour is so much better for you than refined white wheat flour. The low fat yoghurt works really well too, so you can pretty much enjoy this with a clear conscience. After all, a little of what you fancy is good for you.Serves: 8Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 45 minutesIngredients125g unsalted butter125g truvia or xylitol1tsp vanilla extract1 egg250g spelt flour1tsp baking powder1tsp bicarbonate of soda2 tsp elderflower cordialSeeds from 8 cardamom pods250ml low fat natural yoghurt2tbsp orange flower waterIcing sugar and elderflowers to decorate.Method:
- Heat the oven to 180c and grease a bundt tin.
- Grind the cardamom seeds to a powder.
- In a food mixer, beat the butter, xylitol, cardamom, vanilla and orange water until fluffy.
- Beat in the egg and cordial until smooth, add the baking powder and soda, then fold in the flour and yoghurt in alternate spoonfuls.
- Pour into the cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean.
- Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
- When cool, sprinkle with icing sugar, petals and elderflowers if available. If you fancy, you can also serve this with an orange or elderflower syrup.
The first time I had fresh doughnuts straight from the fryer was a revelation. There was a small stall between Covent Garden tube station and the market, basically a fryer on wheels. When some friends and I used to come up to London for whatever reason and found ourselves there, we would stuff our faces. They were hot and soft, sugary and delicious and felt like such a treat. Completely unlike the stodgy, cold shop-bought ones. Now, whenever possible I make my own.Cooking with the children is always good fun and baking is a really easy way to involve them. Rather than starting off with complicated savoury dishes, things like biscuits, cakes and doughnuts are great hands on recipes.Makes: 12 Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 5-6 minutesIngredients7g dry yeast5tbsp golden caster sugar230g plain flour160ml milk65g melted butter1 egg, beatenPinch of salt500ml rapeseed oil for fryingFillings of your choiceGolden caster sugar to coatMethod1. Warm the milk and add the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Leave to stand for about ten minutes until slightly foamy.2. Add the flour and sugar to a large bowl or food mixer and add the milk mixture and remaining sugar along with themelted butter and egg.3. Knead for about five minutes then cover the bowl and leave to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.4. Knead again for a couple of minutes then on a floured surface shape into balls and doughnuts and leave to rise for another twenty minutes or so.5. Heat the oil to 175c in a deep pan or preferably a deep-fat fryer and gently cook the doughnuts in small batches for a couple of minutes or so on each side. Don’t let the oil get too hot or they will remain uncooked on the inside and burn on the outside.6. Drain on kitchen paper and roll in sugar. When cool enough to handle, fill the centre of the balls using a pipette with your choice of filling. I think you can’t beat raspberry jam, but you could also use caramel or Nutella or whatever you fancy. I also like to drizzle them with caramel or melted chocolate and chopped hazlenuts.
Madame Suzy Ghirlando, my Great Aunt, is 95. She lives in a 1960s Paris apartment that she bought new, in which the furniture and wallpaper has probably never changed. I love sitting with her in the narrow galley kitchen drinking red wine, eating cheese, and talking.Contrary to the idea that all French people eat amazingly all of the time, Auntie Suzy’s ‘signature dish’ is spaghetti with butter and cheese. However, she did introduce me to this really easy yet delicious dessert. I’ve added thyme and black pepper to this recipe, but apart from that, it remains unchanged. Serves: 4 peoplePrep time: 10 mins, plus marinatingIngredients1 punnet strawberries150ml fresh orange juice150ml red wineA few thyme sprigsA pinch of mustard cress4 tbsp caster sugarA twist of black pepperMethod
- Hull and slice the strawberries in half and put in a bowl.
- Sprinkle them with sugar and leave to marinate for 20-25 minutes.
- Add the orange juice and red wine, stir gently and taste. Add a little sugar if necessary.
- Leave for a further five minutes and serve with the pepper, cress and thyme.
A ripe peach is a thing of beauty; soft and juicy, slightly messy and best eaten over the sink. Peaches also go really well with rich meats, but in this instance I roasted them in spices and a little wine to serve as a simple pudding. They respond really well to spices, and especially the aniseed and floral flavours of Szechuan pepper. The Amaretti biscuits complement the natural almondy flavour found in peach stones. Serves: 4Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 35-40 minsIngredients8 peaches, on the firm side of ripe4 star anise1 cinammon stick1 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns2 vanilla pods1 tsp ground allspice2 tbsp caster sugar1 small glass white wine (Sancerre or Gewürtztraminer are good)4-6 Amaretti biscuits, crushedA few lavender leaves and toasted almonds to garnishFor the syrup:60g caster sugar100ml water8 sage leavesMethod
- Heat the oven to 180°C.
- Slice and stone the peaches, lay them on a roasting tray and scatter over the remaining ingredients and pour in the wine.
- Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until nice and soft but still holding their shape.
- Meanwhile, make the syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil, then stirring until the sugar disolves. Simmer hard for another five minutes or so, until you have a nice syrup. Add the sage leaves and leave to infuse while the peaches finish cooking. Remove the sage leaves before serving.
- Leave the peaches to cool for a while, and serve with the crushed Amaretti sprinkled over and some of the syrup. If you like, you could also serve with ice cream or very cold Eiswein.
How to food style it
- The colour of these peaches is wonderful, so be sure to choose a plate that brings that out. I normally prefer white but in this case a grey would work well.
- Place one half, cut side up on the plate, slightly off centre then rest the other one at an angle against it, again, cut side up.
- Sprinkle the crumbs over the peaches, put one of the star anise on the plate along with the almonds and lavender leaves. Pour over a little syrup.
Most people love strawberries, meringues and cream, but not me. I just don’t get on well with the cream, yet I love the idea and the ‘Englishness’ of the Mess. My version uses natural yoghurt with a little vanilla added, but you could use lightly whipped cream if you prefer. If you can get some wild strawberries, they make an excellent addition, while the balsamic, cress, thyme and pepper add a flavour punch, as well as being visually exciting.Talking of which, my aim here was to make the whole thing to look like a Jackson Pollock painting.Serves: 4 peopleCooking time: 1 hr (or 10 mins if you buy meringues)Ingredients2 punnets of strawberries, 1 halved, 1 puréed with a little sugar100ml natural yoghurt, with a little vanilla extract added4 fist-sized meringues, bought or home-madeA few thyme sprigs1 small bunch of salad cressA small bottle of balsamic syrup (or make your own by reducing 100ml of balsamic until you have a syrup)2 tbsp olive oilA pinch of freshly ground black pepperMethod
- Hull one punnet of strawberries and put in a blender with a pinch of sugar. Blitz until smooth and put in the fridge while you assemble the rest.
- Crush half the meringues and lightly break the other half. Scatter on a plate or board and add the strawberries. Give it a twist of pepper, and sprinkle over the thyme and cress. Spoon over the yoghurt and purée, then pour over the balsamic syrup and serve immediately.
How to food style it
- This one is great fun to do and is just like being back at school with some paints. A dark, rectangular surface really helps the reds and whites stand out; I used slate here.
- This is a question of balance on the plate, keep everything well defined by not piling it up or putting it too close together.
- Be really free and loose with the sauces, don’t be scared to make a mess and make bold, sweeping strokes with them.