White chocolate, beetroot and cardamom mousse

white chocolate beetroot cardamom mousse 4 text

Look away now if you’re on a diet. While this mousse might contain a generous helping of roast beetroot, I can make no claims for it being at all healthy. It’s rich, indulgent and highly calorific. Which is why it tastes so darn good.

Isn’t it the most amazing colour? You can imagine the look on my girls’ faces when they first saw it. Continue reading

Spiced plum and apple compote

plums and apples

It’s that time of year when fresh fruit and vegetables are in glorious abundance. I really should be pickling and preserving, and I fully intend to soon, but for the moment most of our fruit seems to be making its way into compotes of one kind or another.

spiced plum and apple compote

Fruit compotes are such an easy way to transform a huge pile of fresh fruit into a luscious bowlful of sweet, saucy pleasure. Make lots, as it keeps in the fridge for a few days. Simply tuck into your compote just as it comes or serve with creme fraiche or yoghurt for a delicious and healthy desert. My family’s favourite way to eat it is layered with thick, creamy Greek yoghurt and homemade granola for a light yet satisfying breakfast.

We’re enjoying vast volumes of plum and apple compote, making the most of fruit from our own and friends’ trees. Plums and apples both work terribly well combined with strong spice flavours; in this recipe, I’ve used star anise, cinnamon and vanilla. It really is heavenly. You’ll frequently find me surreptitiously tucking into it straight from the bowl in the fridge when no-one else is looking.

spiced plum and apple compote2

Spiced plum and apple compote

400g plums, stoned and roughly chopped
2 or 3 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped
juice of 1 orange
½ tsp cinnamon
1 star anise
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
4 tbsp demerara sugar

Place the ingredients in a medium saucepan, give it all a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat. Cook for around 10 to 15 minutes until the fruit is soft and just beginning to break up. Leave to cool and remove the star anise before serving.

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This compote is my entry into the #AgaInspiredRecipes challenge hosted by Rix Petroleum. The theme this month is cooking with plums.

Strawberry & Rose Ice Cream Soda

strawberry and rose ice cream soda

Ever since my step-mum Sue took me for an ice cream soda in the restaurant at Peter Jones in London’s Sloane Square, I’ve been in love with this heavenly combination of fizzy pop (soda), ice cream and syrup. Something simply magical happens when the ice cream hits the fizz and I am instantly transported to seventh heaven. Throw in some of my current favourite ingredient, rose water, and wow – I am in ecstasy.

I have fantasies of one day opening my very own retro soda fountain with mini juke boxes on the counter playing Chantilly Lace and True Love Ways, and this Strawberry & Rose Ice Cream Soda will definitely be featuring on the menu.

It’s every so easy to make. I did use homemade strawberry ice cream (from a Ben & Jerry’s recipe), with gorgeous chunks of juicy strawberries, but of course you can always use shop-bought. But do please make your own strawberry and rose syrup. It takes hardly anytime at all and tastes incredible.

strawberry and rose ice cream soda

Strawberry & Rose Ice Cream Soda

Serves 6

1 litre bottle lemonade, chilled

For the strawberry ice cream

250g fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
330g caster sugar
Juice of half a lemon
2 large eggs
480ml double cream
240ml milk

Mix together the chopped strawberries, 100g of the caster sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the remaining 230g of sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Take the strawberries from the fridge and mash to create a chunky puree. Stir this into the egg/cream mixture.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, transfer to a plastic container and place in the freezer for around four hours, remembering to give it a good stir every hour to break up any ice crystals that are forming.

For the strawberry and rose syrup

200g fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
50g caster sugar
1 tsp rose water
150ml water

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer gently for around 5 minutes until the strawberries are soft and the sugar has melted. Puree with a hand blender. If you like you can strain the puree through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the seeds. I must admit, I couldn’t be bothered with this stage.

For the ice cream soda

Pour a little strawberry and rose syrup into a tall glass. Add a couple of scoops of strawberry ice cream to the glass, followed by cold lemonade. I love the way it froths up at this point!

Drizzle with a little more syrup to finish. Armed with a straw and a long spoon, you’re good to go. Enjoy!

Strawberry and Rose Ice Cream Soda 4

 

I am entering my Strawberry & Rose ice cream sodas into the following blog events: Let’s Cook With Strawberries (hosted by Simply Sensational Food); Family Foodies (hosted by Bangers & Mash and Eat Your Veg); and Simple and in Season (hosted by My Custard Pie and Ren Behan).

Lets cook with strawberries family-foodies simple

Raspberry, strawberry and rose millefeuille

strawberry raspberry rose millefeuille

I think I may have a new addiction. I simply can’t seem to get enough of it at the moment and I am obsessing over new ways to use it to enjoy another fix. Thankfully my new addiction isn’t harmful, although I’ve learnt it is wise to use it sparingly (a little goes a long way), and it won’t result in any lasting damage to my health or nasty side effects. Well, not as far as I’m aware anyway…

My latest foodie addiction is rosewater. Isn’t it the most heavenly ingredient? That heady, evocative perfume, mirrored so closely by that same wonderfully floral, fragrant flavour; it really is a magical and fantastical foodstuff that transports you instantly to star-swept scenes from the Arabian Nights.

raspberry strawberry rose millefeuille

Ever since my husband bought some to create Yotam Ottolenghi’s sublime Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts & Honey (inspired in turn by another culinary idol, Claudia Roden), I’ve been dreaming up different ways to feature rosewater in our cooking.

This Raspberry, Strawberry and Rose Millefeuille was my first experiment and it was a brilliant success, even if I say so myself. Using ready-made puff pastry, it’s deceptively easy to make too, yet looks quite impressive when you serve it up for your eagerly awaiting guests.

raspberry, strawberry, rose millefeuille

Raspberry, strawberry and rose millefeuille

Serves 6

3 tbsp caster sugar
350g ready-made, pre-rolled puff pastry
300ml double cream
1 tsp rosewater
300g strawberries, hulled and quartered
300g raspberries
2 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment and sprinkle with caster sugar. Lay the pastry onto the baking parchment, scatter with more sugar and cover with more parchment. Place another baking sheet on top, and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown. Leave to cool.

For the filling, pour the cream and rosewater into a large bowl. Whisk until the cream forms soft peaks. Fold the strawberries and raspberries into the cream and then place in the fridge.

When the puff pastry is completely cool, use a sharp knife to trim the edges to form a tidy rectangle, and cut this into three equal rectangles. Place one rectangle of pastry on a plate and cover with half of the cream and fruit. Place the second layer of pastry on top and press down very gently. Top with the remaining cream mix and then place the final layer of pastry on top. Again press down gently squeeze the filling to the edges. Run a palette knife around the sides to level out the filling.

Chill until ready to serve. Liberally sprinkle the top with icing sugar and then very carefully cut the millefeuille into six elegant slices.

AlphaBakes Logo

As rosewater is the star ingredient in this millefeuille, I am entering it into July’s Alphabakes, hosted by The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, where the letter this month is R.

Lets cook with strawberries

For obvious reasons, I’m also entering my dessert into Let’s Cook With Strawberries, hosted by Simply Sensational Food.

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And last not least, I’m entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season challenge, which is this month being hosted by My Custard Pie.

Food Blog Diary

For all the latest food blogger challenges, events, giveaways and competitions, do make sure you head over to the Food Blog Diary, overseen by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes, Karen at Lavender & Lovage and Stuart at Cakeyboi. It’s a brilliant resource and a vital tool for all food bloggers everywhere!

 

Old fashioned vanilla ice cream

vanilla ice cream

When the sun is shining it’s hard to imagine the world any other way. When the sun is shining and you’re sat in the garden eating a big bowl of vanilla ice cream, life is good. Especially when it’s homemade vanilla ice cream made the old fashioned way with a proper custard.

I don’t know how long this warm weather is going to last. I don’t generally bother to watch the weather forecasts. But it was gorgeous yesterday and it’s gorgeous again this morning. So we shall make the most of it.

Yesterday we spent practically every minute, once we’d got the dance lessons out of the way in the morning, in our garden. Playing swing ball, cutting the grass, weeding, planting seedlings in the vegetable patch, having a barbecue, washing the car, running through the water sprinkler. Even the chores are enjoyable when the sun shines. Almost felt like we were on holiday in our own home. And when you are on  holiday you eat ice cream. At least I always do, anyway.

I was given my first ever ice cream maker a couple of months ago for my birthday. The children have been thinking up all kinds of weird and wonderful flavours for us to experiment with, but before we move onto those I was keen to master the classic vanilla.

Good  ice cream isn’t difficult to make yourself but it does require patience. I’d always assume that an ice cream maker would mean you simply put everything in a pot and it transforms it into ice cream for you, when actually it’s key function is the churning, the constant stirring while the ice cream freezes to prevent ice crystals forming.

Our first attempt was a disaster. The custard was rushed and it wasn’t lovely and thick before it went into the maker, and so the ice cream just didn’t thicken. So when it came out of the freezer, it was one large ice block that was practically impossible to get into. But the second attempt was just perfect and I spent much longer at the stove, stirring the custard until it was beautifully thick and glossy. The ice cream was softly sweet and creamy, with that oh so comfortingly familiar flavour of delicious vanilla, and I imagine I’ll be making many, many more batches of this particular recipe.

You can of course use vanilla extract for this recipe, but I prefer to use a vanilla pod. You see all those pretty little black seeds in the ice cream, and you can wash the pod afterwards and use it to flavour your sugar. Oh and don’t forget to put the canister from your ice cream machine into the freezer the day.

Vanilla just happens to be the theme this month for The Spice Trail challenge, which this month is being guest hosted by Solange over at Pebble Soup who is doing an incredible job attracting an eclectic collection of wonderful vanilla recipes. Do pop over there to take a look and of course, if you’re cooking with vanilla this month, why not add your recipe? There is a fabulous prize for the winner – a selection of Steenberg organic extracts and essences from Naturally Good Food, including vanilla of course.

vanilla ice cream

Old fashioned vanilla ice cream

Serves 6 to 8

300ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
3 large egg yolks
85g caster sugar
300ml double cream

Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan. Split the vanilla pod with sharp knife and scrape out the seeds into the milk. Pop in the pods too and give it a good mix.

Place the milk onto a medium heat and bring to the boil. Quickly remove it from the heat, cover and leave to stand for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks well with the sugar and then stir in the milk and vanilla. Remove the vanilla pod and then pour the mixture into the saucepan again.

Cook over a low heat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens and covers the back of the spoon. This will take around 10 minutes or so. Don’t let the mixture boil or it will split, and do wait until it has thickened or your ice cream won’t set properly.

Once the custard has thickened, pour it into a clean bowl and leave it to cool. Then whisk the cream into the custard. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge until is completely chilled. I left mine in the fridge overnight.

You then tip the mixture into your ice cream machine and freeze following the instructions provided. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze until required – if you can resist plunging straight in.

Alternatively, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can freeze once you’ve whisked in the double cream for around four hours, remembering to give it a good stir once an hour to break up any ice crystals that are forming.

Serve in bowls or in wafer cones. Enjoy!

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I am entering my vanilla ice cream into The Spice Trail’s  Wow Vanilla! challenge hosted by Solange Berchemin over at Pebble Soup.

Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

banana ginger chocolate cake

I realise there’s been a rather manic, end-of-month flurry of activity on the blog but here’s another last minute recipe, which I just had to squeeze in just in time to make the deadline for this month’s Spice Trail challenge.

The theme for March has been ginger and I’ve received a brilliant selection of ginger goodies; the round-up promises to be a real treat.

This last entry from me is a very easy-to-make banana sponge, featuring delightful chunks of chewy, crystallised ginger and dark chocolate chips, lavishly topped with a gorgeously decadent chocolate buttercream. It’s certainly not one for the weight-watchers I’m afraid, but my family made light work of getting through it, and as the cake does contain three bananas there is a little goodness in there as well as the naughty stuff. Life is all about balance, after all.

banana ginger chocolate

Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

Serves 12

120g soft butter, plus a little more for the tins
250g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
160g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
3 ripe bananas, mashed
75g dark chocolate chips
30 crystallised ginger, chopped into small chunks

For the chocolate buttercream

150g good quality chocolate (dark or milk, you decide)
225g butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

I also used Dr Oetker chocolate hearts to decorate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, vanilla and milk. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and then fold in the mashed banana, chocolate chips and crystallised ginger.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate in a microwave on a low setting or in a bowl over a pan of just-simmering water. Leave to cool a little. Beat the butter in another bowl until pale, and then beat in the icing sugar and vanilla. Add the chocolate and mix well.

Spread the chocolate buttercream generously over the cake and, if you like, decorate with chocolate hearts or something similar.

Enjoy!

banana ginger chocolate cake

 

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Sticky toffee pudding

sticky toffee pudding

When I was little, I really enjoyed school dinners. Strange I know, as most people seem to have terrible memories of the stuff dished up in the school canteen. In particular, I enjoyed the puddings, with the exception of school rice pudding which was truly ghastly and has succeeded in putting me off for life. But I did love the old fashioned sponge puddings, served up with thick custard, especially when it was the pink variety.

My children go to a small village school where they only have hot school dinners twice a week as they have to be brought in from a neighbouring school. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I find myself interrogating the kids to find out what they ate that day and am always very jealous when I hear they had a hot pudding with custard.

We didn’t really eat those kinds of puddings at home when I was a child, although occasionally I’d be treated to one of those sponge puddings that came in a large tin. That’s why I really appreciated visits to my grandparents in Lancashire, as my Nana Barbara makes the best puddings ever.

When Nana came down to visit at Christmas, she brought some of her wonderful sticky toffee pudding with her, and I was in seventh heaven. Nana presented me with a large tray of the dark brown sponge cake to go in the freezer, with a jar full of toffee sauce. It’s been such a treat to be able to warm some up in the microwave at the end of a busy day at work and enjoy a bowl of blissful, homemade sticky stodginess.

Nana was kind enough to let me have her recipe, and because I’m a generous soul, I’d like to share it with you too. Enjoy!

sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding

Feeds 8

200g dried dates, stoned and chopped
300ml water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g dark brown sugar
80g butter, softened
2 large eggs
vanilla extract
175g self raising flour

For the toffee sauce

150g butter
220ml double cream
150g dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Put the chopped dates and water into a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until gorgeously thick and sticky. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to cool.

Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs and add a few drops of vanilla extract, and beat it all together well. Carefully fold in the flour, followed by the gooey dates.

Grease a baking tin (20cm square) and line with greaseproof paper. Spoon in the mixture and bake for around 40 minutes until the sponge is firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a board and slice into 8 portions.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and then stir in the cream and sugar. Cook gently until the sauce has thickened and turned a glossy, dark caramel colour.

Serve the warm sponge cake in bowls and pour over the toffee sauce. It’s very good as it is but, if you want to push the boat out, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or perhaps a drizzle of cream.

This article was first published in the Wells Journal on 20 March 2014.