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Posts from the ‘Weekend project’ Category

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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Pulled pork brioche buns

So it’s nearly time to say goodbye to 2015. I’m not big on new year; I don’t make resolutions or feel the need to reinvent myself because the date is changing, although having a few quiet days at home over the Christmas holidays has given me chance to reflect a little as I mooch about the house. It’s nice to have a change of pace once in a while, to feel you have the time to do things properly and to enjoy the process, rather than rattling along getting things done, ticking off the list and dashing on to the next thing. It’s a feeling I’d like to have more often, so perhaps I’ll see if I can dedicate more of 2016 to taking my time over things.

This recipe is perhaps the definition of taking your time. There aren’t many recipes I’d recommend you start a day before you want to eat, but some things can’t be hurried. The inspiration for this came from a beef bun recipe I found online, but I was feeding non-beef eaters the day I made these and so the pork made a very successful substitute. It strikes me as I write this, that maybe these would have been an ideal new years party recipe, but they would certainly be a welcome addition to any weekend with friends or family. Read more

Malted chocolate ice cream cake aka Malteser Viennetta

I do love a good bit of kitchen dabbling. This is the result of one happy experiment, borne of some double cream without a home and half a jar of malt extract left over from the ale and cheddar bread I made a little while ago. Double cream never goes to waste in my house – I’ll happily whip up a couple of spoonfuls of cream, stir through dash of whatever I have in the cupboard (baileys is a particularly reliable option) before stashing it in the freezer, barely more than a couple of mouthfuls waiting for a moment in need of a little sweetness.


I was so very pleased with the little pot of cream I spiked with malt extract and milk chocolate that I knew a malteser-based ice cream pudding was in the making. I couldn’t quite settle the format in my head, until a conversation at work brought up the endless retro appeal of a viennetta, which inspired me to make this. If you’ve never had a viennetta, it’s a soft, fluffy ice cream bar with thin shards of chocolate traversing its length, bringing a welcome crisp to an otherwise soft and sweet dessert.

This isn’t a proper ice cream, no churning custard mixes here. Just some easily whipping and stirring, followed by enough patience to allow it to freeze. You’ll need a loaf tin approximately 20cm long x 10cm wide.

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Ale, cheddar and thyme bread

Beer, cheddar and thyme bread

Its been a while hasn’t it? I’m not sure where August disappeared to. A flurry of weekend trips and late nights in the office mean that I’ve barely cooked anything more than the occasional buttery corn on the cob in the last month. So here I am, staring at September, feeling distinctly unready for Autumn. Surely there should be a few more weeks of long evenings to light up the BBQ or take a stroll eating ice cream? And my goodness Autumn has begun in full force – the damp, grey days mean I’m actually pretty grateful to shut the curtains at 8pm. Anyway, if grey days are to have their consolation, it’s the excuse to bake. A sofa day needs carbs and fast, so this yeast-free loaf was the perfect thing to get me back in the kitchen. Read more

Tomato, rosemary and caramelised garlic bread

Tomato, rosemary and caramelised garlic bread

Bread and cheese. It pretty much speaks for itself. One of the simplest and most delicious meals you can make,  seemingly infinite in variety. All you need for a fantastic meal is just to be a bit selective about the component parts and thats about it – maybe a beautiful crisp baguette alongside some runny camembert or strong slivers of cheddar with a chunk of sourdough.

Bread is such an easy thing to make for lunch on one of those days where you are around and about at home. You just need to start about 3 hours before you will want to eat and then be available to attend to it for 5 minutes or so every hour. Read more

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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Apricot and almond tart

apricot and almond tartI 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

Parma ham breadsticks

Parma ham spiral breadsticksA long bank holiday weekend meant plenty of opportunity to get the oven on and do some baking. And what could a better start  than warm, fresh breadsticks interlaced with salty shards of parma ham?

These aren’t the dry, crunchy variety you can buy in the shops; they have a crisp exterior, but retain a tender crumb inside. The spirals of parma ham are alternately soft and melting then crisp and salty where they have been exposed to the heat of the oven. I can think of oodles of things to eat these with – maybe dunked into soup or a runny boiled egg, or maybe with a nice cold pre-dinner aperitif or perhaps as part of a tapas supper.

Breadsticks are a non-scary way to get into bread making, since I don’t think you really need technical perfection for them to taste and look great. The only thing needed is a bit of pre-planning and patience, as the dough needs a good hour or so to rise, but once the dough is made it can be left to its own devices whilst you get on with other things.

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A marshmallow sheep for Easter

Marshmallow sheepNever 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

Roasted rhubarb with ginger white chocolate crunch ice cream

Roasted rhubarb with ginger white chocolate crumble crunch ice creamRhubarb 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