Maple syrup is one of my quintessential autumn ingredients. It’s probably just the pictures of golden leaves on every bottle that’s created this connection, but when the leaves start to fall, I suddenly start drizzling maple syrup over fruit for breakfast, sloshing it into squash soups and adorning cakes with maple cream cheese icings.
Whilst I was in Vancouver earlier this year I duly stocked up on all things maple syrup. My suitcase arrived home with a stash of maple syrup crystals, maple butter and maples candies, all of which have been patiently sitting in my cupboard awaiting their moment in the limelight. I almost feel like I must apologise in advance for this recipe, I know how annoying it is to come across specialist ingredients in a recipe. But I think with a little substitution here and a little google there, you can probably get away without a trip to Canada.
This is a lovely moist apple cake topped with a crunchy pecan crumble. It’s a multi-tasking cake, one to serve up warm for pudding, with custard or ice cream, or as a stolen slice with a cup of tea in the afternoon. Read more
Lightly crushed hazelnuts
Summer is slowly slipping through my grasp. The leaves are starting to turn golden on the trees across the road and the nights are suddenly creeping in. As I came out of the tube at 8pm the other evening, I was surprised to find that it was already dark. It was a particularly cool evening, beset with thick drizzle and my flip flops suddenly felt rather foolish. So I trudged home with cold, damp toes and did the only sensible thing – made a crumble to cheer myself up.
I had a lovely, large punnet of English Victoria plums in the fridge and a packet of hazelnuts in the cupboard, perfect for an impromptu warm pudding. As I set about crushing the hazelnuts for the topping, I had the sudden inspiration that I could caramelise them first, thinking that a handful of hazelnut praline would add some extra crunch and a richer flavour to the finished dish. Read more
I’ve made two batches of this in the last week, that’s how much I like this recipe! I like a big tray-bake to feed a crowd, so it was the perfect choice for this weekend, when we had lots of friends over for a picnic and games on the common, now nicknamed “Tootfest!” I am lucky to have an increasing number of friends living in my local area, a wonderful little community which makes London seem less vast and makes having a gathering like this so much more achievable.
When I first moved to London I lived just a couple of streets from Borough market, so barely a weekend would go by without me passing through for one thing or another. I still love to go there, content to drift along with the tides of people surging through the place. Whilst there has been a proliferation of excellent markets across London, Borough remains the grande dame, unbeatable for quality and variety, even if the prices can be a little ambitious. My favourite place in all of London is probably the pavement opposite Monmouth coffee, sitting on the kerb with a cup of steaming coffee, listening to the rumble and creak of trains passing overhead, watching the world go by.
I cannot resist the abundance of fruit that appears during the brief summer months. My shopping basket is crammed with punnets of nectarines, apricots, raspberries, strawberries, cherries; mostly destined to be devoured by the handful, loitering by the open fridge door.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with apricots. I’ve always found dried apricots to be a total abomination, their flavour resembling that of shrivelled up cold teabags. And fresh apricots can seldom be caught at that perfect point of ripeness. I am often seduced by a blushing, fresh fruit only to discover that the pretty soft skin is disguising a dry and woolly interior. For me, the magic only truly happens when you cook an apricot. Suddenly they are gloriously transformed into everything you always hoped they would be – fragrant and juicy, with sweet, tender honey flavoured flesh.
Almonds are the perfect partner to so many summer fruits and apricots are no exception. The two combine beautifully in this nutty, moist tart; lovely after dinner with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or stashed in a cake tin for those mid-afternoon munchies. Read more
Never let it be said that I don’t appreciate a bit of kitsch in the kitchen. Easter is a great time to set about the kitchen on a sugar-fuelled high and make cutesy little creations like this. I have a little niece and so this was ostensibly made for her; in reality I’m the one who is totally overexcited about it.
It’s a very straightforward creation – a simple chocolate Easter egg meticulously covered with mini marshmallows. This might be a good project to do with children, although they would need to be fairly patient children, as it does need a little attention to detail and time to let it set now and then. Read more
Rhubarb and ginger – a food pairing made in heaven. My idea of heaven anyway! I get totally overexcited when my favourite foods are in season and rhubarb is no exception. Whilst you can get rhubarb pretty much all year round, forced English rhubarb is only around for a couple of months, so I like to cram in as many rhubarb puddings as possible with this extra special bright pink bundle of joy.
Since I discovered no-churn ice cream recipes I’ve never looked back, to the point where I very rarely bother making a traditional custard based ice cream at all. Despite the lackadaisical approach, the results are great and a relief from the tyranny of hourly stirring or filling my freezer with another seldom used piece of gadgetry. This recipe produces a creamy, smooth ice cream which you can pretty much spoon straight from the freezer. Read more
I’ve never made my own mincemeat. Whilst apparently super straight forward, it always feels like one step too far when you have a million and one other things to do in December. Yet that doesn’t stop me tinkering a little bit with the shop-bought stuff, which in my book makes it pretty much as good as home made. The combination of cranberry and orange flavours enhances any jar of mincemeat beautifully and I must say I feel pretty pleased with myself about this little invention.
I made two types of pie as I was feeling indecisive. The pies were for a work bake-off and couldn’t decide whether to go for a sweet, moist almond frangipane topping or an orange crumble topping, so in the end I made both. This recipe therefore makes 24 pies, but is easily halved. Read more
I do like to have a cake on hand when I have weekend guests. The moment invariably arrives where a cup of tea and a slice of something sweet will go down nicely. Given the time of year, I thought I’d make a Parkin. I grew up having Parkin as a Bonfire night treat and only latterly did I learn that this type of cake is indigenous to Lancashire and Yorkshire and rarely eaten in other parts of England. Even my Cheshire-bred husband never had Parkin. Now I’m not going to get started on the differences between Yorkshire and Lancashire versions, all I will say is that there is something appealing about celebrating and preserving my regional heritage, even if I am now mostly feeding suspicious southerners!
The best way I can describe a Parkin is a cross between a ginger cake and a flapjack. It’s imperative to make it about a week before you want to eat it, which gives the flavour time to mature and, most importantly, allows its texture to develop. It becomes denser and stickier the longer you leave it, evolving from an oaty ginger cake into something really special. I nearly always forget to bake it in time, but this year I had it in the oven a week in advance and then it sat, patiently wrapped in foil, ready for its weekend unveiling. Read more
Sometimes more is most definitely more. There is something about American food that seems to encourage outrageously over the top combinations and brownie is no exception. Just when you think you’ve done enough, added enough extras, pimped it up to the max, then you should just sling in one more thing. That’s what gives it the edge. Hence this possibly excessive but amazing combination of peanut butter cheesecake, peanut butter chips and butterscotch chips, swirled into a squidgy dark chocolate brownie. The alternative brownie is pretty much my default brownie – a fudgy dark brownie base studded with chunks of milk and white chocolate. Read more