Blackcurrant Fool

Well, here is a blast of summer.   I’ve made no secret of my feeling that a weekend lunch isn’t complete without a pudding and we’ve tucked into no end of rib sticking treats appropriate to the colder months of the year.  Golden syrup sponge, plum galette, apple crisp, raspberry larder pudding and a whole host of crumbles have made an appearance recently.  Poking around in the freezer last weekend however I found a bag of blackcurrants which I’d picked last year and had been languishing in the icy depths since then.  Whilst my surprise clearly illustrates that I am not one of those with a list detailing the exact contents of the freezer, the weight and when it was frozen etc – I was jolly pleased with my find.

Thawed and simmered briefly with sugar I mixed them with cream and yogurt and we delighted in that mouth puckering, tangy, fragrant hit that is unmistakably blackcurrant. Should you have any berries in your freezer I highly recommend making this or simply buy a bag of frozen berries – I use them all the time in the winter for various recipes.

Blackcurrant Fool

Don’t worry if you have a few less (or more) blackcurrants – a fool is pretty forgiving and 20/30g either way won’t make much difference.  Equally if you need to use a bit less cream or yogurt the end result will still be fruity and delicious.

500g blackcurrants

100g caster sugar

200g double cream

200g Greek yogurt

Simmer the blackcurrants for about 10 minutes with the sugar until the fruit has broken down and the juices have become syrupy, cool.   Whisk the cream until soft peaks hold, add the yogurt, mix again briefly and then swirl in the blackcurrants.  Combine as much as you want – I like to seem some seams of pure blackcurrant but it is up to you.  This served 4 with a bit left over for someones breakfast.

 

Chicken with Flageolet Beans, Leeks and Rosemary

I am on a bit of a mission to increase our intake of pulses – they are cheap, filling and with a little magic can be quite delicious.  I love them (now) but one of my children isn’t mad about them so inevitably I have a bee in my bonnet to think of delicious ways to serve them up.  To be fair I didn’t really like pulses much when younger and would pick them out of a cassoulet or chilli and line them up around my plate.  It was always disappointing then to be asked to finish them, at this point cold and without anything more palatable to help them on their way.

This is a delicious combo then, leeks and beans to please me and crispy skinned chicken to please us all.  Don’t panic that four thighs aren’t enough, this is surprisingly filling and you can always serve another green veg or perhaps a crusty baguette and salad alongside.

The leeks, flageolet and rosemary work particularly well together and this makes a great side dish to roast lamb.  Pop it into an ovenproof dish, top with breadcrumbs and finish in the oven until crispy above and bubbling beneath.

Roast chicken with leeks, flageolet beans and rosemary

You can of course use dried flageolet, just remember to soak and cook them according to pack instructions prior to using them below.

4 chicken thighs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large or two medium leeks

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped to yield around 1 teaspoon

1 tin (400g) flageolet beans, drained and rinsed

250ml chicken stock

2-3 tablespoons double cream

Chopped chives or parsley (optional)

Heat the oven to 200, put half a tablespoon of the oil into a roasting tin, turn the chicken in the oil, season with salt and cook for half an hour.  Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and cook the leek gently, without colouring, until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for a minute or two then add the beans, stock and cream.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until a little reduced then check for seasoning.   After its 30 minutes remove the chicken from the oven, add the leek mixture to the pan without getting sauce on the now crispy skin and return to the oven for a final 5-10 minutes until gently bubbling and gold skinned. Scatter over the chives or parsley if you are using them.  Serves 4.

 

 

Meringues with Rhubarb and Ginger Cream

I adore rhubarb – its sprightly pinkness brings cheer to the sometimes dreary late winter and early spring table.  When there isn’t much in the way of home grown fruit around, robust rhubarb persists in growing regardless of the cold, its brave stalks standing proud whatever the weather.  Technically of course rhubarb is a vegetable and can be used in savoury applications but this recipe is unashamedly a pud, sweet and lip smacking.

Meringues with their crisp carapace and yielding chewy middles topped with poached rhubarb scented with a hint of orange and finished off with billowing clouds of whipped cream studded with preserved ginger.  Properly good.  I make this pudding a lot when rhubarb is around – it is a dream of a make ahead and as such I couldn’t recommend it more highly for entertaining.  The meringues can be made days if not weeks ahead as long as they are stored in an airtight container.  The rhubarb can be cooked a couple of days in advance and kept in the fridge and the cream whipped with the ginger a couple of hours before you need it.  You could omit the ginger if it is not your thing and add some vanilla to the cream instead.   Finally, baked plums are also delicious when rhubarb is not around and go very well with the ginger.

Meringues with rhubarb and ginger cream

Ideally I prefer to roast rhubarb but in this case your oven is busy with the meringues so I’ve given a stovetop method.  If you have done the meringues ahead of time or have two ovens heat the other to 190 and put the rhubarb in a shallow dish with the sugar, orange zest and juice and bake for 15 minutes (see photograph below).

2 egg whites

100g caster sugar

Drop of oil

400g rhubarb, chopped into short pieces

40g caster sugar

1 orange, zest and juice (remember to zest before you juice!)

300ml double cream

1 globe and 1 tablespoon syrup preserved ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 140 and very lightly brush a parchment lined baking sheet with oil.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff (like shaving foam) then add the sugar spoonful by spoonful until satiny.  Divide into four blobs on the parchment and fashion into rough nests.  Put in the oven, turn down to 120 and leave for 2 hours.  They should be spot on but if they are still a tiny bit soft leave in the turned off oven until its cool and they are dry.  Meanwhile cook the rhubarb very gently in a pan with the sugar, orange zest and juice until the sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb soft but hasn’t fallen apart.  When you are ready to serve whip the cream with the ginger syrup until just holding its shape then fold through the chopped ginger.  Put a meringue of a plate, pile on the rhubarb followed by the cream.  If you are keen on ginger you can trickle a little more ginger syrup over or grate some orange zest over for prettiness.  Serves 4.

 

Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 2

It feels as if autumn may be rapping her chilly fingers on the door.  There was a frost this morning and a proper mist coming up off the river.  Whilst I am not ready to immediately dive headlong into winter stews and duvets of syrup puddings I am certainly happy to wrap up a little and enjoy the cool air and changes in the landscape.  Leaves are turning bronze and starting to flutter down into crunchy piles demanding to be kicked, cobwebs in the hedges are highlighted by the frosty dew and birds are collecting, swooping and considering a winter in the sun.  Relish these September days, before you know it we will be hearing about Hallowe’en and Christmas.

So, this is  belter of a pudding, just the ticket for this time of year whilst there are heaps blackberries around.  It is also very straightforward, you can make the meringue discs days in advance and I  have used a good store bought lemon curd.  Do make your own if you have the time and the energy, I didn’t and was perfectly happy with a shop version on this occasion.  Crunchy and chewy meringue, dusky and toffeeish from the brown sugar, vibrant lemony curd marbled into whipped cream and the deepest dark purple berries.

Most of the year the brambles are a pest in the garden, catching and scratching you endlessly.  At the moment though, I am delighted to see their little berries almost as black and shiny as the jet buttons on a Victorian governess.  Take delight in them as like all other seasonal treats they will be gone in a flash.  You could make this with those big, blowsy blackberries you can buy in the shops but that misses the point of these autumn treasures.  I picked the ones you see here whilst the meringues were cooking.

So have a go at this, it really is as stunning as it is delicious and if you miss the boat with the blackberries try it with some late autumn raspberries.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 3

Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

The first time I marbled the lemon curd directly into the whipped cream and then spread it onto the meringue discs but I found it got a little lost.  I then blobbed the lemon curd onto the cream once this was already spread and then marbled it a little which I prefer as it is more distinct.  Obviously do as you choose.  Likewise use as much lemon curd as you like, I used just over half a jar.

3 egg whites

100g soft brown sugar

50g golden caster sugar

600g double cream

1/2 -3/4 jar good lemon curd

Blackberries, as many as you want

Zest of one lemon (optional)

A little icing sugar to dust

Draw two 20cm circles on baking parchment and put them onto baking sheets.  Preheat the oven to 140c.  Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and then add both sugars a spoonful at a time whisking well until you have a shiny, stiff mass.  Divide this between the two baking sheets creating two 20cm discs, smoothing the tops.  Bake for one hour swapping the tins half way and then turn off the heat but leave in the oven to cool with the door ajar.  When they are cool peel away the parchment and put one onto your serving plate, whisk the cream until just holding its shape and spread half onto the first meringue disc.  Dollop lemon curd over the cream and marble it slightly with a knife then scatter over some of your blackberries.  Place the second disc on top of this and repeat this time using up the rest of your blackberries.  Grate over a little lemon zest if you want and dust with icing sugar.  Serves 6.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 5

Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Gooseberry and strawberry fool 2

My Granny had a kitchen garden, a big old walled space which I thought was heaven.  I adored it and spent hours there as a child wandering between the rows of vegetables, marvelling at the artichokes taller than me, rubbing my fingers on the fennel fronds to release their aniseed scent.  Inspecting the asparagus, picking baskets of peas and snacking on apples and pears when the mood took me.   It has always been a deep held wish to have such a garden and we moved house last year we were lucky enough to find one tucked away.   Overgrown and wild it was but the bones were there nonetheless and I had visions of recreating my Grandmothers remarkable garden.  Ha!  After a mass of reading and learning, a weekend of rotavating and what feels like endless weeding I have planted and planted.  Seeds have been started off on the kitchen windowsill or in the green house or planted direct, seedlings bought where my own efforts have failed and donations of little vegetable plants and dahlias gratefully received.

I am delighted with it all and spend hours trying to keep up with the weeds (impossible) and planting various rows of salad leaves to follow on from the ones we are eating now (I believe that is what you do…).  My battle with the slugs is another story altogether.  It is considerably harder work than I anticipated but supremely rewarding.  The first spear of asparagus, eating the first herby green salad with a variety of leaves all grown by us.  There are three tiny plums on a new plum tree, pea pods, baby beetroots, courgettes and beans on their way.

The first fruit picked so far have been wild strawberries and some gooseberries which immediately went towards the fool in this pudding.   With local strawberries winking at me and last weeks elderflower cordial to hand I decided to combine these flavours, the very essence of summer.  The tang of the gooseberries along with the sweetness of the strawberries and floral hit of elderflower are a winning combination and a bit of scrunched up meringue adds texture.

Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Of course you can just make the gooseberry fool to have on its own in which case I would use 4 tablespoons of sugar as you won’t have any added sweetness from the meringue.  Taste the gooseberry puree before you add though and remember the later in the season the sweeter these berries will be.

400g gooseberries, topped and tailed

3 tablespoons golden caster sugar

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons elderflower cordial

1 punnet of strawberries halved or quartered depending on size

Meringue (as per the recipe for World Cup Meringue Cake, November 2013 but don’t bother with 3 layers, 1 will do or indeed individual meringues as you are going to break them up anyway).

Put the gooseberries in a pan with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and simmer gently until completely broken down.  Leave to cool and then add 1 tablespoon of elderflower cordial.  Put the cut strawberries into a bowl, add the other tablespoon of elderflower cordial, turn them gently and leave to macerate while you get on.  Whip the cream until it just holds its shape and then fold into the gooseberry puree.  Break up the meringues and then mix them with the gooseberry fool followed by the strawberries.  This would fill six glasses similar to the ones you see here but I just filled four and we had seconds…..

 

 

 

Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo with bacon and tomato

This is a winner.  A little girl (aged 3) recently came to stay and when it came to teatime she wasn’t in the mood for any nonsense.  I was fairly confident she would like this as my children adore it, even my son who is absolutely not the first to request pasta, ever.

When  the time came to serve though, I realised I had forgotten the vagaries of young children and must admit, felt a brief tremor of nerves.  Hurrah, it was a huge success and she polished off three helpings much to the panic of my daughter who was eyeing the reducing seconds in the pan with alarm.

So offer this with confidence and not only to children, I make no secret of loving it and am often to be caught sneaking a spoonful or two from the pan before it disappears.

Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo is a rice shaped pasta we have a particular fondness for but use any small shape you like. I keep those little rectangular packs of pancetta in the fridge and along with some small packs of passata in the larder this becomes an almost store cupboard supper.

125g orzo

1 teaspoon olive oil

100g pancetta, pack sizes vary and a little more won’t hurt if that is what you have

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

100g passata

2 tablespoons cream

A few sprigs of parsley, chopped

Parmesan

Cook the orzo according to the packet instructions, probably around 11 minutes.  Meanwhile put the pancetta into a large frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and cook until well coloured and crispy in places.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the passata, stir and cook for a few minutes before adding the cream.   Drain the pasta retaining a little of the cooking water.  Put the pasta into the sauce, stir until combined adding a little of the cooking water if you need it to loosen the sauce.  Grate over some parmesan, add the chopped parsley and serve with more parmesan to hand.  Serves two adults or three children.

 

 

 

Cinnamon Pannacotta with Maple Syrup Apples

Cinnamon Pannacotta

To me this has a faintly Autumnal air about it and I had been saving it until the end of the Summer but then someone asked me for the recipe.  In truth it is good any day of year and as apples are around all the time a good one to have up your sleeve.

I adore Pannacotta, there is something about the creamy wobbliness that is irresistible.  Usually I make a vanilla version which I can then serve with any fruit that happens to be in season, pureed gooseberries, rhubarb and blackcurrants all being favourites.  Should the fruit bowl be bare however, then a good chocolate sauce (one without cream) makes them a pudding of dreams.  You can find my Vanilla Pannacotta here (July 2014).

This one came about because I’d made a note ages ago to combine cinnamon with apples and maple syrup and eventually got around to having a go.  A favourite North American combination I suspect and a possible Jelly Bean one too if that is your thing.  I tried pie and crumble and whilst a good combo the individual flavours got a little muddled.  An ice cream was a nice idea but try getting apples to make themselves heard against cinnamon in an ice cream.  This pannacotta really works though.  Gently bosky sweetness from the cinnamon goes so well with the creaminess of the pannacotta which is kept the right side of too rich with the addition of yogurt.  The apples and maple syrup compliment each other politely, allowing both to show themselves off.

Cinnamon Pannacotta with Maple Syrup Apples

On another occasion just make a panful of these sweet, soft apples and serve over vanilla ice cream.

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

60g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

2 eating apples such as Braeburn, peeled, cored and finely sliced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, cinnamon and sugar until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the yogurt and divide between 4 ramekins or small metal moulds.  Put into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.  About 20 minutes before serving prepare the apples,  melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the apples gently in this for about 10 minutes until turning golden brown and becoming floppy.  At this point add the maple syrup and cook for a further 5 minutes until the apples are well coated and the syrup reduced.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serve with the apples.  Serves 4.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

Vanilla pannacotta 2

I have been so lucky with piles of fabulous, fresh local fruit recently.  Blackcurrants, loganberries, strawberries, gooseberries and red currants.  We have had many of the classics such as gooseberry fool and some new ideas such as blackcurrant shortbread cake.  I made redcurrant jelly for the first time, pretty straightforward apart from my slightly Heath Robinson jelly bag of muslin suspended via a wooden spoon over a deep jug – it worked!  Blackcurrant jam and loganberry jam sit in my larder, a comforting site if ever I saw one.

After making the jam I had a few blackcurrants left over, maybe 100g, and this is what came to mind as a way of using them up.   They have such a huge and tangy flavour that only a little is required and I thought this gentle, creamy vanilla pannacotta the perfect way to show off the blackcurrant sauce.  Sweet and fruity, sharp and vanilla – these two flavours work so well together.

I have to admit to having avoided recipes containing gelatine for years.  I remember my mother once spilling a gelatine mixture on the floor and as she was in a rush, quickly put down some newspaper to soak it up.  The result was sheets of newspaper glued firmly to the flagstones which took some elaborate and extensive chipping away to remove.  To be fair this was powdered gelatine and I still rarely use that.  My preferred type is the clear almost glass like sheets which work a treat.   These little puddings are so easy and quick to prepare and always go down a storm.  I’ve finished the blackcurrants but we had the pannacottas again yesterday this time with chopped strawberries macerated in a little sugar until they were deep crimson and juicy – fabulous.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

60g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

100g blackcurrants

20-40g caster sugar

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the yogurt and divide between 4 ramekins or small metal moulds.  Put into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.  Meanwhile put the blackcurrants into a pan with a splash of water and 20g sugar.  Heat gently until just falling apart and forming a syrupy sauce.  Carefully taste, you may need more sugar, it depends very much on their sweetness.  When you are happy with the balance leave the sauce to cool.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serve with the blackcurrants.  Serves 4.

Vanilla pannacotta

 

 

Lemon Posset

Lemon Posset

Out for a walk one morning last week there were signs of Spring everywhere.  Catkins and pussy willow, primroses, tiny wobbly lambs, the first shoots heralding the wild garlic and even some weeny tadpoles.  There is still a nip in the air, the sort that whilst fresh and invigorating to breathe in still makes you wish you’d worn a hat.  Anyway, it was glorious to be out and about and it got me thinking about lemons.  Of course, lemons.

Now I know that however good the Spring weather here we are unlikely to be surrounded by lemon groves anytime soon but there is something about their zesty, fresh sharpness than is perfect for Spring.  Awakening tired tastebuds which have been spoilt with rich stews and hearty puddings and paving the way for the abundance of crisp, green salad leaves that is Summer.

I must confess to always having lemons in the larder, I know we don’t grow them here but they are an essential in my kitchen and barely a day goes by without the squeezing of a lemon.

Lemon Posset 2

This pudding then is the very essence of Spring.  Retaining a little richness to bolster against the cold but with enough zip and zing to put a spring in your step.  Unbelievably easy, simply a combination of three ingredients which, through some culinary alchemy produce this creamy treat.  I like to serve it with some little crisp biscuits, perhaps the vanilla ones in Biscuits du Jour (November 2012).  These possets would make a great pud after last weeks’ Chicken with Peppers and Onions, and what an easy supper that would be.

Lemon Possets

450ml double cream

100g golden caster sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Put the cream and sugar into a pan.  Heat to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil, simmer gently for 3 minutes, add the lemon juice stir well, then pour into 6 x 100ml ramekins or glasses and leave to set.  Serve with crunchy little biscuits.

Lemon Posset 3

 

By the way these are neither too rich nor too sharp for children, my two hovered around whilst I was taking these pictures and happily scoffed one each.

 

Golden Syrup Sponge Puddings

Golden Syrup Sponge

I have avoided making steam puddings because despite finding them irresistible, the whole steaming for hours thing makes me nervous.  Recipes that implore me to keep the water in the pan at a certain level throughout or the pudding may explode make me want to turn the page.  Anything, other than a small child, that requires such focused and constant attention is not for me.  As such I have felt a whole range of  rib sticking treats out of reach unless I want to consider immediate redecoration due to wallpaper peeling from walls because of the steam (no I don’t have wallpaper in my kitchen but it is an image I am unable to shake from my mind) or the afore mentioned explosion and subsequent plastering of sticky dough to the ceiling and walls.

Somewhere along the line though I had heard or read of steaming puddings in the oven and had been meaning to try this for ages.   I regularly tear recipes from magazines and have stacks of these torn out pages waiting to be tried.  Of course, when I tried to find the bit of paper I wanted it was nowhere to be found (nor the beetroot, chocolate and yogurt cake which had been on my to do list for some months but more of that another time) so I had to experiment.

This is the result and I can’t convey to you how utterly delighted I am with it.  These puddings are a doddle to make, happily transform themselves in the oven and require no attention or subsequent redecoration.  They are unbelievably light and fluffy whilst still delivering that lip smacking golden syrup heavenly hit.    We had these for lunch on Sunday and were all literally a second away from licking the plates.

If there was ever a recipe to cheer up a cold, dreary and rain sodden January this is it.

Golden Syrup Sponge 2

Golden Syrup Sponge Puddings

I used 150ml metal pudding moulds and ramekins and they both worked very well.  Incidentally I reheated the two that were left in a pan of simmering water for five minutes the next day and they were still perfect.   Serve with cold cream or ice cream (or both).

120g soft butter

100g caster sugar

120g self-raising flour

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

2 tablespoons milk

Pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 180 and butter 6 moulds or ramekins then put a tablespoon of golden syrup in the bottom of each one.  You will also need 6 pieces of tin foil big enough to loosely cover the puddings.   Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, add the eggs one at a time with a little flour and mix well followed by the remaining flour and salt.  Add the vanilla and milk and incorporate it.  Divide the mixture between the moulds and then cover with the prepared tin foil, fix it loosely so they have room to rise a little.  Put into a baking tray, pour in boiling water to half way up the ramekins or moulds and bake for 40 minutes.  When done, run a knife around the edge of the puddings and turn out onto a plate being careful not to spill any of the hot runny syrup or burn yourself with it.  Serves 6.

Golden Syrup Sponge 3