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Posts from the ‘Summer’ Category

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

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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Strawberry pistachio macaron mess

 

strawberry pistachio macaron mess

Inspiration is a funny thing. I sometimes think that I have all of my best ideas on a sunny day. The sunshine just makes me want to paint, write, create in a way that makes me wonder whether I’ve ever had a good idea when there are clouds in the sky. Perhaps it’s just the positive frame of mind that the blue sky brings. The other key thing for me is a bit of mental space, allowing your brain to go meandering into places that it never can when it is stuffed with to-do lists or mindless tv. No wonder we have our best ideas in the shower or on a jog around the park. So this dessert is the product of a sunny stroll, where the rhythm of my legs could drive the cogs of my brain to create an indulgent variation on this summer classic. Inspiration in a bowl, I guess.

I’m a total sucker for pistachio flavoured things. It’s virtually guaranteed that if there is a pistachio variant of something, I’ll be having it. So when I had the idea of swapping the meringues in a traditional mess for macarons, it had to be pistachio. Their nutty flavour is perfect with the sweet, fruity strawberries. You could make your own macarons if you have the time or inclination, but I just bought mine from a local patisserie. I think that part of the point of a mess is the speed and ease of it. Read more

Crab and ricotta gnudi with lemon butter and pea shoots

Hello summer! Despite the fact that it’s not exactly tropical here in London at the moment, the long light evenings are definitely making me feel like summer has arrived. There’s something about eating dinner whilst it’s still daylight that always feels a bit wrong somehow. I find myself eating later and later as the evenings get progressively longer, waiting for my appetite to finally kick in at dusk. Eventually it will get to the point where I can’t practically wait any longer, so I’ll compromise with something light to eat, like these little crab and ricotta gnudi.

These little dumplings somehow manage to meet the criteria for a light supper, despite their predominantly cheese based filling. I’ve made these before, but just the more usual ricotta and parmesan ones. This time I was feeling experimental, so I added crab in the place of parmesan and was pretty pleased with the result.

These really are a bit of kitchen magic. Little dollops of crab and ricotta, dropped unceremoniously into a sandpit of semolina, transform into dumplings overnight in the fridge. The semolina absorbs some of the moisture from the filling to form a delicate skin, like a thin layer of pasta, so they end up akin to a very well filled ravioli, although with much less work involved.

Apart from the overnight rest in the fridge, these are really very quick and easy – just 10 minutes prep the night before and another 10 minutes when you’re ready to eat.

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Coconut, lime and strawberry tart

coconut, lime and strawberry tart

A tropical twist on a summery strawberry tart. This looks and tastes like far more effort than it actually involves; no-one would ever believe that it was borne of series of compromises on a day where I wanted to make something, but everything seemed like too much trouble.

Sometimes I just find myself in the supermarket ambling around aimlessly, without a shopping list and without a clue what I want to cook. There were punnets of new season strawberries which made their way into my basket, but otherwise I was feeling hopelessly uninspired. Maybe I could put them in some sort of tart…no, not in the mood for making pastry…maybe with some victoria sponge and cream…no, a bit boring…. So as I drifted up and down the baking aisle, suddenly a bag of desiccated coconut caught my eye and it all fell into place.

I thought I’d experiment with using a coconut macaroon mixture instead of pastry to make a tart shell. It requires a fraction of the time and effort of making pastry, yet gives the impression of being a much more ambitious and  exotic endeavour. Combining the coconut with a zesty lime filling gives the whole thing a pleasingly tropical feel. Even the lime filling was a bit of a shortcut in the end. I had initially intended to make a lime curd with the leftover egg yolks, but again that felt like too much of an undertaking, so the egg yolks were abandoned in the fridge in favour of a simple creamy filling made from condensed milk and whipped cream instead.

Coconut shellStart by making the tart case. Preheat your oven to 150C (fan). Lightly but thoroughly grease a 20cm loose bottomed round tin. This mixture can be pretty sticky, so a good non-stick tin will help immensely. Mix together 1 1/2 cups of desiccated coconut, 2 egg whites and 1/4 cup of caster sugar. If you pick up a clump of the mixture and give it a squeeze it should clump together nicely. If it seems a bit wet add a little extra coconut. Press the coconut mixture firmly into the base and sides tin as evenly as you can. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden and set. Leave to cool then release the edges from the side of the tin.

Meanwhile decant a 400g can of condensed milk into a mixing bowl. Add the juice and zest of 4-5 limes until the mixture has a good balance of tangy yet sweet to suit your taste. It’s very hard to know how much juice will come out of each individual lime, they can so often be disappointingly dry. I ran out of limes before I’d obtained the requisite sweet-sour balance, so ended up adding the juice of a lemon too to get the balance right.

Lightly whip 200ml double cream until it is just thick and voluptuous, forming gentle sloppy peaks. It will thicken up further once added to the citrus juice, so don’t worry about it being too runny. Stir it into the lime mixture and its done. Pour it into the cooled coconut case and put it in the fridge to chill and set for an hour or so.

imageA little while before you are ready to eat it, macerate a punnet of strawberries in the juice of half a lime and a good spoonful of caster sugar. Leave to meld for half an hour or so before tumbling them on top of the tart. As any dedicated mojito drinker knows, mint is excellent paired with lime, so a few sprigs on top bring extra flavour as well as making the whole thing look pretty.

So there you have it, a chewy, sweet coconut macaroon tart, with no more than half an hour in the kitchen.

A word on storing this – as time passes the coconut will slowly absorb some moisture from the cream and soften a little, which can make for slightly messier slices after a day or so.

Shopping list:

1.5 cups desiccated coconut (about 150g)

2 egg whites

¼ cup caster sugar + 1 tbsp

400g can condensed milk

200ml double cream

5 or 6 limes (probably best to get a couple of spares, just in case)

1 large punnet of strawberries

mint to decorate

Raspberry cream cheese blondie

raspberry cream cheese blondie

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.

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A morning at Borough market, Turrón semifreddo with marinated cherries

Turron semifreddo with marinated cherries

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.

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Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

I’m not one to pick favourites, but if I had to, broad beans would definitely be on my list. Their delicate, fresh green flavour is the epitome of summer to me. They have a wonderful affinity with the fresh lemon zest, fragrant basil and rich creamy buffalo mozzarella in this recipe.

Preparing broad beans is a labour of love. I always, always double-pod mine. For both flavour and aesthetic reasons, I like the bright green inner bean to be completely disrobed. Broad beans lead such a cosseted life,  enveloped in the thick, soft wadding that forms their pod; the vegetable equivalent of a cashmere blanket. The beans inside have a tough white skin which also needs to be removed. I have read many times that if you catch the beans when they are young enough, this white skin is edible, but I’ve never found it to be anything other than slightly bitter and so I remove it as a matter of course. Read more