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Raspberry marshmallow mousse

Every year, my mum would ask me what I wanted to have for my birthday dinner, and every year my answer was the same: raspberry soufflé! This was no tricksy baked number, but a fruity, creamy cold set soufflé from one of my mum’s delightfully retro cookbooks. One of these days I’m going to send my mum up into the loft to seek out that old book as I want the recipe!!

Raspberries remain my favourite fruit and this mousse evokes all of the flavours of my favourite childhood dessert, although I dare say it’s even simpler to make. I made this a few weeks ago for a family supper, with the idea being that everyone could adorn their own mousse with heaps of mini meringues, marshmallows, fresh fruit and whipped cream to make their pudding as OTT as possible!

I used frozen raspberries as they’re more economical when you need a lot and since you’re just pulping them it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit soggy when defrosted. Start by popping 400g frozen raspberries into a pan with a splash of water and 2 tbsp caster sugar. Bring to a simmer then take off the heat and thoroughly mash or blitz the fruit into a thick pulp. I must say I considered sieving it at this point to get rid of some of the pips but I didn’t bother in the end, but if you’re not a fan of pips you might prefer to.

Return to the heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in 225g mini marshmallows – they need to be the mini ones to melt properly. Take off the heat and allow to melt, stirring from time to time. Leave aside to cool. Meanwhile, whip 300ml double cream until thick, soft peaks have formed. Fold into the cooled raspberry mixture and then spoon into bowls or glasses for serving. This now needs to set for a few hours in the fridge.

I served mine with pink candy stripe meringues, more fruit, cream and more mini marshmallows. Some shortbread would probably also be nice. This made 6 decent sized portions, although if you have very hungry guests it might just do 4. I could easily have eaten 2 or 3.

Shopping list:

400g frozen raspberries

2tbsp caster sugar

225g mini marshmallows

300ml double cream

Serves 6. Takes about half an hour of prep plus a couple of hours to set. No special equipment needed except a whisk.

Tzatziki to have with everything 

It’s hot hot hot out there isn’t it? So hot, all I want to eat is cucumber and watermelon, cooking is barely on the agenda. So for days like this I want a bowl of cool tzatziki in the fridge, ready to have a flatbread dunked into it or to be dolloped over a salad. It somehow adds richness whilst still being refreshing, and turns odds and ends from the fridge into a little summer feast.

I remember the first time I went to Crete, we stopped for lunch in a little cafe one day and I ordered tzatziki and a Greek salad, not the most adventurous lunch, but I was amazed by how different the tzatziki there was to the slightly insipid pots you get in the supermarket in this country. It was so thick and creamy, fairly pungent with garlic, utterly delicious. Having eaten that, my main quest in making my own has been to replicate that thick creaminess. This involves dedicating a bit of time to straining everything thoroughly, nothing complicated, but it’s enough to make the difference to the end result.

Start by lining a sieve with muslin or some sturdy kitchen towels. Dollop in about 300g Greek yogurt, then wrap in the muslin, cover with a small plate or bowl and a heavy weight of some sort, so that it’s pressing down on the yogurt. Pop the sieve over a bowl and leave in the fridge for an hour or two for some of the liquid to drain out. 

Partly peel half a cucumber, cut into quarters lengthways and remove the seeds. Coarsely grate into another cloth and squeeze firmly to wring out excess water. I like a bit of peel for some colour, but not all of it.

Add the cucumber to the thick drained yogurt, along with half a clove of crushed garlic, a spritz of lemon juice, a tablespoon or two of good olive oil, a small handful of chopped mint and some salt and pepper. 

Serves two. I’d highly recommend making a big batch of this although note that the garlic flavour intensifies the longer that you keep it.

Shopping list:

300g Greek yogurt 

Half a cucumber

Small handful mint

Lemon

Half a clove of garlic

Olive oil

Roast tomato, sweet potato, ginger and coconut soup

It’s nearly the wrong time of year for soup, but with the cold snap this week, I thought I’d squeeze in another batch. We’re on the cusp of all the lovely spring veg now, so I’ll be leaving the root vegetables behind soon, but this is just the thing for a rainy spring afternoon. And oh I love this recipe! It’s so thick, rich, sweet and creamy, it feels satisfyingly filling and warm in your stomach, I could eat it all in one go. The first time I made this my mum ended up doing most of the making whilst I looked after the little one who has a knack for knowing when I’m in the middle of something! I remember tasting a spoonful in the blender and it had come out just perfectly, no additional seasoning needed or anything. I bought all the ingredients again the next weekend, it’s just the best soup I’ve had in a long time.

Start by roasting your tomatoes. It’s really worth doing this, especially if you’re using winter supermarket tomatoes which lack some of the sweetness of summer grown ones. Halve about 500g tomatoes, drizzle over a little olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. Roast in a hot 180C fan oven for 45mins to an hour, until blackened and starting to collapse.

Meanwhile, roughly dice half a red onion and gently fry in a spoonful of coconut oil if you have it, or olive oil. Peel and dice 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 300g, and add to the onions. Add about 3cm fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped and a couple of cloves of garlic. Cover with 500ml vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender.

Add your roasted tomatoes to the pan, make sure to scrape in all that lovely sweet tomato juice from the tray, although it’s also lovely to mop the tray with a slice of bread! Add 200ml coconut milk and cook for another 5 minutes. Blend until smooth. This is very thick, you might want to add more water or stock to get to a consistency you like, but I like it like this. Add extra seasoning as needed. Add a few chilli flakes on top or a drizzle of cream to serve. 

Would probably serve 3 or 4 people, but I normally enjoy two very large bowls of this.

Shopping list:

500g tomatoes

300g sweet potato

500ml vegetable stock (I just use powdered)

Half red onion

3cm root ginger

2 cloves garlic

200ml coconut milk

Coconut or olive oil

Allow an hour and 15 minutes for cooking before you want to serve.

Sweet potato, cauliflower and chickpea curry

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My food tastes always change with the seasons and it’s no different when I’m cooking with spices. In summer, I crave fresh citrus and herb flavours with plenty of chilli heat – Thai, Vietnamese or Mexican flavours really hit the spot when the sun is out. But at this time of year I want mellow, mild and warming dishes, something gently spiced and comforting to come home to at the end of a cold day. I want cumin, cinnamon, allspice, sweet tomatoes and coconut to make a warming Moroccan tagine or a thick, rich curry.

This is my basic winter curry recipe. I normally have all of the ingredients to hand in the cupboard although I change the veg depending on what I have in the fridge. The backbone of this is cauliflower and sweet potato or squash, but I might add red peppers, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, lentils….whatever needs using up. I always have tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk in the cupboard, so I can make this without any real planning ahead. Read more

Warm ginger figs for breakfast

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I’ve moved house recently, so it’s not exactly been gourmet rations of late. I started off trying to make practical meals to use up everything I’d got stashed in the freezer, although this quickly degenerated into plates of random things with no purpose other than satiating an appetite. You can identify a low point when mayonnaise becomes a pasta sauce…

So now I have a new kitchen for a new season. This is really a suggestion in a bowl, rather than a recipe, but I enjoyed it enough to take a couple of photos as I sat surrounded by boxes waiting to be unpacked. And it had to be a smartphone photo, since my camera is deep in the mire of boxes awaiting attention.

I took inspiration from a recent trip to Greece for this, where sweet, sun ripened figs adorned the daily breakfast table. Figs really benefit from being slightly warm, as if they have just dropped off a tree on a sunny Mediterranean afternoon and burst open on the ground. They’re much less exciting plucked from the fridge on a dreary, autumn day in the UK. So start by warming through a couple of quartered figs in a low oven for 10 minutes, generously drizzled with a spoonful of syrup from a jar of stem ginger.

Fill a bowl with thick and creamy greek yogurt, pop your figs on top, sprinkle with a handful of your favourite granola, another drizzle of ginger syrup, a little chopped stem ginger and a few thyme leaves. Serves 1. Read more

Wasabi crab and avocado on cucumber

imageThis is the sort of summer lunch that I want when I can’t be bothered to make lunch, when it’s hot outside and I’m not that hungry. These are the days when I want an instant treat, when a quick slice of toast would feel like a sorry option, but I don’t want to invest much more time.

I was mooching around my favourite spice stall at the market a couple of weeks ago, trying my best, as I always do, to limit my purchases to just three things, when wasabi powder caught my eye. I’ve only really used wasabi paste before and had visions of using it to add some zip to a summery seafood dish, so it made its debut appearance with this crab. A little wasabi adds a delicate, fresh heat to the rich crab and avocado mixture. I popped this mixture on top of some chunky slices of cucumber for a lovely cool crunch, although needless to say, this would also be lovely on the carb of your choice.

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Asparagus and iberico ham salad

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I can’t eat salad when it’s dark outside, so strong is my association of salad with sunshine. So suppers like this only really become an option at the height of summer, when it’s light until late and I’ve still got time to put this together after work.

I built this salad around the discovery of a jar of iberico pork fat in the supermarket and what a little jar of joy it turned out to be. I decided to showcase its rich, deep ham flavour by using lashings of it to make delicious crispy, meaty croutons out of some leftover bread.

Asparagus and ham are natural partners, and with the asparagus season still going in the UK it felt like the obvious choice. So just 10 minutes with a frying pan will make this substantial salad to enjoy whilst the sun goes down.

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Sunshine tortillas

A sunny light evening makes me crave something fresh and crunchy for supper and this fits the bill perfectly. I’ve been making this a lot recently. It’s one of those things that I just threw together to use up the things in my fridge one evening and, whilst the first version was so spicy I had a pot of yoghurt on the side, it was otherwise successful, even more so now I’ve toned the chilli down.

It’s really quick to make, so an ideal alternative to an after-work stir fry and would easily adapt to whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, although I love the combination of red and orange peppers and sweetcorn, it just looks like sunshine on a plate.

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Simnel swirls

 

imageIf there are two times of the year when you can be guaranteed to find a block of marzipan in my cupboard, it’s Easter and Christmas. I invariably buy a block with grand ideas of all the seasonal baking I’m going to do. Then the packet gets opened and little by little, chunks get torn off, to be nibbled on as a surreptitious snack until suddenly there is nowhere near enough left to consider baking and I shamelessly devour the rest.

So I feel very smug about the fact that I managed to get these buns into existence at all. I can’t say there was zero marzipan snaffling going on, but enough made it into these buns. These are a sort of cross between a cinnamon bun and a chelsea bun with a marzipan core. I considered using a laminated danish pastry recipe for these, but, even though we have a long bank holiday weekend ahead, I didn’t feel the need to spend the time doing book folds in pastry.  A simple enriched yeasted dough, fairly quick to rise, will mean that you can have these ready in a couple of hours, perfect with a mid-morning coffee.

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Hot tomatoes on toast

This is a sort of winter version of one of my summer favourites – pan con tomate. At this time of year I want something warm to eat and the tomatoes in the shops can be in need of a little help to bring out the best in them.

Normally I shy away from anything sweet and sour; too many dodgy takeaways making it synonymous with gloopy luminous red sauce covering unidentifiable fried things and random chunks of pineapple. But a splash of sherry vinegar and a spoonful of sugar over some squashed fried tomatoes creates a delicious sticky glaze that will seep satisfyingly into a chewy slice of thick toast.

Toast a nice chunky slice of sourdough or similar bread and keep warm.

Pop a good knob of butter into a small frying pan with a whole clove of garlic and bring to a sizzle. Chop around 100-150g tomatoes into chunks – I only had cherry tomatoes in so I just halved them. Add to the pan and fry over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. When they begin to soften, give them a good squish with a fork then add a couple of teaspoons of sherry or balsamic vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of soft brown sugar. Allow to bubble away until thick and reduced.

Fish out the clove of garlic and discard. Add a little salt and pepper then pour over the bread. Sprinkle over a little thyme and eat.

Serves 1 as a light lunch. A poached egg on top would turn this into an excellent brunch too. Takes 10 minutes.

Shopping list:

Around 150g tomatoes

A good chunky slice of bread

A knob of butter

1 clove garlic

2tsp sherry or balsamic vinegar

2tsp light brown sugar

a few thyme leaves