Sunday, 11 September 2016

Apple and Almond Cakes

Apple and almond cakes

My fruit trees are groaning with the weight of the apples and pears this year. Not only are there lots of them, they all seem bigger and better than ever before. And it's not as though I've lavished them with any special attention. The trees have been largely ignored as per usual. Whatever it is, I'm not complaining, I'm just thinking of all the delicious things I can make with them...

This recipe is based on my trusted apple cake recipe but with added almonds and a sticky glaze which gives them extra flavour. It also adds a beautiful shine to an otherwise quite plain-looking cake. Not that I mind plain-looking cakes; indeed, they are usually my favourite kind because it means that they are delicious enough on their own without having to add flavour and moisture with icings and fillings. Much like these...

I'm sending these to Treat Petite hosted alternately by Stuart from Cakeyboi  and Kat (this month's host) from the Baking Explorer.

RECIPE - makes 11

100g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125g self-raising flour
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50g flaked almonds

1 heaped tablespoon apricot jam

12-bun muffin tin lined with 11 cupcake or muffin papers

 Pre-heat the oven to 200°C

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sieve the flour and cinnamon and fold in, then add the apples and stir well to combine. 

Spoon the mixture in to the cases, filling each case as equally as possible. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top, trying to distribute them as evenly as possible.

Put in the oven and bake for about 20-25 mins or until the cakes are cooked and golden brown on top. They take slightly longer to cook than normal fairy cakes because of the addition of moist apple. 

Remove from the oven. Take the cakes out of the tin as soon as possible and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Warm the apricot jam with a splash of water. When the cakes are cool, brush the jam over so that it forms a lovely shiny glaze. 

Apple and almond cakes

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Monmouth Pudding

Monmouth Pudding

This year's St. David's day recipe is Monmouth Pudding. It's an old-fashioned kind of dessert, popular in Victorian times and similar to the English Queen of Puddings. This Welsh incarnation doesn't however have a meringue topping although a lot of the recipes you see for it do include the extra layer. 

Looking at the list of ingredients you might be fooled into thinking it's stodgy and heavy but it's really not. It's light, fruity and just sweet enough. You can serve it either with cream or, my preference, a fresh raspberry sauce to really enhance the fruit flavour. Monmouth pudding is at its best about 10 minutes after it's come out of the oven, still warm but not scaldingly hot. 

Traditionally, this pudding was one of those thrifty type of recipes that used up stale bread, milk and fruit from the garden to make something so much more than the sum of its parts. My version is not quite so austere; I've used cream and brioche crumbs to give an updated, more luxurious taste. I hope my Welsh ancestors would approve.

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus.

RECIPE - serves 4-6

225 ml milk
200 ml double cream
25g caster sugar
grated zest of one lemon
175g brioche crumbs
2 eggs
200g jam (strawberry, raspberry or any other kind)

You can make this as one large pudding or 6 individual ones, as in the photo.

For the large one, you need a 23x20cm ovenproof dish, buttered. For the individual ones, 6 buttered ramekins. 

Pre-heat oven to 150°C.

Pour the milk and cream into a pan, add the sugar and lemon zest and heat gently until just boiling. Remove from the heat, pour over the brioche crumbs and leave the mixture to cool for 15 mins. 

When cooled, separate the eggs, stirring the yolks into the crumb mixture.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then gently fold them into the crumb mixture with a metal spoon.

Heat the jam until it's runny, then drizzle half over the bottom of the prepared dish.

Spoon half the crumb mixture on top. 

Repeat the jam and crumb layers, making sure that the final layer of brioche mixture is level.

Bake in the oven for about 30-40 mins until the top is golden. The pudding should be set but still with a slight wobble.

Leave for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Pwdin Mynwy

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Witches Hats

Witches Hats

Now these are admittedly a little wonky and battered but I was basing them on the hats that a classic Disney witch or the Wicked Witch of the West would wear, or even the Harry Potter sorting hat, something that has seen a lot of action anyway. At least that's my excuse for the rather untidy chocolate exterior...

They would make an ideal addition to any Halloween party, whether for children or adults although if you are making them for children consider using milk chocolate instead of dark. Apart from anything else, they're really delicious with their chocolatey biscuit base and the rich ganache used to make the pointy part. Yes, they are slightly fiddly to make but there's nothing intrinsically difficult and children can help with all stages, from rolling out the biscuits to the very messy job of covering the whole hat with melted chocolate. 

Orange and/or Black is the theme for this month’s Treat Petite, so I am sending these to CakeyBoi who is this month's host and The Baking Explorer.

I’m also sending these off to Karen at Lavender and Lovage for Tea Time Treats as I think they are suitably goulish and spooky for the Halloween theme! This is co-hosted by Janie at The Hedge Combers.

Tea Time Treats


For the biscuits

150g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
65g icing sugar
75g cold butter, diced
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

100ml double cream
125g dark chocolate
10g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

200g dark chocolate for covering

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Start by making the biscuit base. Sieve all the dry ingredients together and put in a food processor together with the diced butter. Pulse until the mixture looks like sand. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix on high speed until the mixture comes together to form a ball.

Tip out onto a work surface and bring it all together into a ball, wrap it in cling film and leave in the fridge for half an hour.

In the meantime, you can make the ganache. Heat the double cream and butter until just simmering, then remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until it has all melted and then whisk until it gets thicker. Leave to cool.

Remove the biscuit base from the fridge and roll out to about half a centimetre thick. Cut out about 8 large discs (about 6 or 7 cm diameter) and 8 smaller ones (about 3 cm diameter). Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. 

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Put the ganache into a piping bag with a large star nozzle. When the biscuits are cool, pipe the ganache onto the smaller biscuits, making a tall cone shape. Make sure that the ganache is anchored firmly to the biscuit base. Put into the fridge to cool.

Now for the fiddly bit. Melt the chocolate. Dip the large biscuits (one side only) into the melted chocolate, then repeat with the small biscuits with the pointy tops, making sure that they are completely covered with chocolate. Then place the small biscuits carefully onto the centre of the large ones and leave to cool on a wire rack, so that when the chocolate has solidified, the two parts are stuck firmly together. 

Decorate if you wish with star shapes, liquorice laces tied round like ribbon or anything else that takes your fancy. 

Witches Hat biscuits

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Vanilla Panna Cotta with fresh blueberry sauce

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is my go-to dessert for entertaining gluten-free friends. It doesn't require any tinkering because it's already naturally gluten-free and as it can all be prepared the day before, it makes for a very easy pudding. 

I've talked before about how I never choose panna cotta in restaurants because I find them all too solid and rubbery. This recipe is different however; I use just enough gelatine to allow it to set, but it still has a glorious wobble. I find the all-cream versions too heavy; the perfect ratio for me is half milk (full-fat of course) and half double cream. However, if you prefer a creamier version, just up the cream to 300 ml and reduce the milk to 200 ml. See the recipe for a note about the sugar too.

The crowning glory is the blueberry sauce. Heating the fruit with a little water, sugar and lemon juice so that it releases those wonderful, purple juices transforms what is quite a bland fruit into a beautifully flavoured sauce that complements the creamy panna cotta perfectly.


250ml double cream
250ml full-fat milk
60-70g caster sugar (I use 60g as I don't like it too sweet but you can increase the amount of sugar if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4g gelatine leaves

For the blueberry sauce
100g blueberries
2 teaspoons sugar
juice of half a lemon
grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon water

Put the gelatine sheets in cold water to soak.

Put the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. When it's just about to boil, remove from the heat and stir in the squeezed-out gelatine. 

Pour into small moulds and leave to set in the fridge overnight. 

The blueberry sauce can be made the day before too. Just put all the ingredients (blueberries, water, lemon juice and zest, sugar) in a saucepan and heat gently for about 10 minutes until the blueberries are soft. Strain through a sieve, squashing the fruit so the pulp goes into the sauce, leaving just the skins behind. 

To serve, run a knife around the panna cotta before inverting onto a plate. Serve with the sauce and a few fresh blueberries if you like.

panna cotta with blueberry sauce

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Pasta with Walnut Sauce

Pasta with walnut sauce

Autumn has arrived so I thought I'd mark the occasion with this wonderful pasta dish. Walnut sauce (salsa di noci) originates from Liguria and is traditionally prepared in autumn when the nuts are harvested. It has a delicate taste but is rich and filling at the same time, perfect for colder evenings, with the added benefit of being full of healthy omega-3.

Every village and town has a slightly different way of making the sauce but all recipes include bread and milk. I've used the sauce with penne here but you can use any pasta you want really; in Liguria, it's usually served with filled pasta. 

As it's a great way of using up leftover bread and milk, I'm sending this over to Foodie Quine, this month's host of No Waste Food Challenge, overseen by Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen.

Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary                         Credit Crunch Munch
I'm also entering it into Credit Crunch Munch, co-hosted by Camilla At Fab Food 4 All and Helen over at Fuss Free Flavours. 


30g bread, without crusts (you can use white, wholemeal, or whatever you happen to have)
160ml whole milk
160g shelled walnuts
1 clove garlic
20g pine nuts
30g parmesan, grated
4g marjoram
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Start by roughly tearing up the bread and place in a bowl with the milk, leaving it to soak.

Put all the other ingredients (walnuts, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, marjoram and oil) in a food processor and whizz together until smooth. 

Remove the bread from the milk, squeezing out any excess and add to the food processor. Pulse to mix everything together. 

Add salt to taste and thin it down with the leftover milk if you think it's too thick.

Serve with any kind of cooked pasta. It's also nice spread on toasted bread.

Pasta con salsa di noci

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Ricotta and Chocolate Cake

Chocolate and Ricotta Cake

It may sound unusual to use ricotta in a cake batter in this way but it really works and goes so well with the chocolate. The texture of the cake is completely different from a normal sponge cake base; the ricotta makes it denser certainly but don't be alarmed - it's not at all heavy and stays beautifully moist. It cuts and travels well which makes it perfect for summer picnics or to take on a walk as a well-deserved snack. It also lasts for a couple of days so you can make it the day before without compromising flavour or freshness. 

This cake is my submission to Choclette’s long-running We Should Cocoa challenge, which is being hosted this month by Choclette herself. The theme is Anything Goes. You can find details of the challenge and past entries over at Choclette's fantastic, relatively new home Tin and Thyme where she blogs not only about chocolate but also Cornish life and food. 

Torta di Cioccolato e Ricotta

This also fits in neatly with Karen's Tea Time Treats challenge, over at Lavender and Lovage. The theme is Summer Holiday Baking and as I mentioned before, the portability of this cake makes it ideal for a picnic or indeed a camping trip, both staples of a summer holiday. You can read co-host Janie's wonderful July line-up over at Hedgecombers

Tea Time TreatsTea Time Treats August

Finally, I'm sending this over to Jibber Jabber's Love Cake challenge as the theme this month is Pack me a Picnic. 

Love Cake logo

250g ricotta
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
250g self raising flour
80g butter, melted and cooled slightly
120g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Grease and flour a round cake tin, 22cm diameter

Start by creaming together the ricotta and the sugar. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition.

Remove one tablespoon of flour and sieve the rest. Fold the sieved flour gently in to the ricotta mixture. Beat in the cooled, melted butter and the vanilla extract. Finally, add the reserved tablespoon of flour to the chopped chocolate (this stops it from sinking to the bottom of the cake) and mix roughly before folding into the batter.  

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top.

Put in the oven and bake for about 30-35 mins or until the cake is cooked and a cake tester comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 mins before carefully turning out and leaving to cool on a wire rack. 

Ricotta and Chocolate Cake

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Broad Bean, Mint and Ricotta Bruschetta

Broad bean bruschetta

Broad beans (sometimes known as fava beans) have only a short season (end of May to mid-July) so it makes sense to use these sweet, creamy beans whenever you can. The inspiration for this recipe came from a holiday in Puglia when we ate raw, just-picked broad beans with some ricotta that we had got freshly made from a local farmer, so fresh in fact that it was still warm when we got it home. It was a memorable lunch. 

These long summer days lend themselves to this kind of food, a simple bruschetta with gorgeously fresh broad beans, creamy ricotta, finished with mint and some sea salt. It's quick to prepare, satisfying, with flavours that sing of summer. Oh, and to do it full justice, it really needs to be eaten outdoors, in the garden, on a sunny afternoon. Summer perfection. 

I'm sending this over to Karen from the wonderful Lavender and Lovage for her Cooking with Herbs challenge, which consistently showcases delicious recipes featuring a whole array of herbs. 

Cooking with Herbs for July: BBQ Herbs - Rosemary and Thyme


I'm not giving weights and quantities here as they're very much up to you but what you need are:

fresh broad beans
fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil

First, prepare the broad beans. Remove the beans from their pods and boil in non-salted water (the salt makes them tough) for about 2 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl of cold water. I double pod the beans for this bruschetta but it's up to you. I quite enjoy doing it, using my nail to slit the skin and then squeezing out the bright green bean inside. 

Lightly toast whatever bread you are using under the grill and leave to cool slightly before spreading with some ricotta. Tumble over the broad beans and scatter with roughly chopped mint. Add a drizzle of olive oil and finish with some sea salt.

Broad bean, mint and ricotta bruschetta