Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A dessert of rosewater meringue, cardamomy yoghurt and pistachio praline

That's a photo of pistachio praline, on baking paper.  That praline was sprinkled over my gorgeous gooey meringue dessert oozing with berries and creamy filling.  But this is the only photo I've got.  The thing is, this dessert is so yummy, taking a photo of it comes second to eating it. 

This dessert is based on a recipe by Maria Elia (author of Full of Flavour).  Her recipe is a meringue roulade, stuffed with yoghurt (mixed with saffron and cardamom) and roasted rhubarb, sprinkled with pistachios.  I added rosewater to my meringue, and used berries instead of rhubarb.  I made pistachio praline to sprinkle over the top of the roulade. 

I love all these middle eastern flavours, and the contrast of textures makes this both a really fresh tasting and comforting dessert.

It's a good dessert to make in advance and then assemble just before serving. 

Here's the recipe:

Cardamom, saffron, roasted rhubarb and pistachio meringue roulade
(with a few twists and turns from me)

Serves 6-8

(OK, so Maria Elia begins with draining the yoghurt in muslin the night before.  No one will be surprised to hear that I skipped this step, not least because I first looked at the recipe 4 or 5 hours before I hoped to eat it ...)

500g Greek yoghurt (I used a mix of Greek yoghurt and marscapone cheese)
a pinch of saffron (I skipped the saffron)
8 cardamom pods
175g caster sugar
3T roughly chopped pistachio nuts, plus extra for garnishing (I used more nuts than this and used them to make a praline - check out this recipe if you want to do the same)

400g rhubarb cut into 4cm lengths (I couldn't find rhubarb when I needed it, so used a selection of red berries instead)
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
75g caster sugar

4 egg whites
190g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract (I added about 1-2 teaspoons of rosewater to my meringue mixture instead of vanilla)

1tsp white wine vinegar1tsp cornflour, sifted
icing sugar for dusting

For the rhubarb, heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.  Scatter the rhubarb in a single layer on a baking tray, drizzle with the orange juice, sprinkle over the zest and sugar, and roast for about 15 minutes, until just tender.  Set aside to cool.

Line a 23 x 33cm baking tray with parchment paper.  In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.  Gradually whisk in the sugar a little at a time, and continue whisking until thick and glossy.  Fold in the vanilla (or rosewater), vinegar and cornflour.  Spread the meringue evenly in the baking tray and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Dust a large sheet of parchment paper with icing sugar.  Remove the meringue from the oven and cool for 2-3 minutes, before turning out onto the paper.  Cool for a further 5 minutes, then gently peel off the paper.  Roll the meringue up lengthwise.

Place the saffron in a small bowl (if using).  Add 2tsp warm water and leave to infuse for 2 minutes.  Crush the cardamom pods using a pestle and mortar, pass through a sieve and discard the husks. Mix the yoghurt, sugar, saffron and its water in a bowl (I also added my berries to this mixture and combined).  Unroll the meringue, spread the yoghurt mix over the surface, top with rhubarb, sprinkle with pistachios and roll up, using the paper to help you. 

Serve dusted with icing sugar and pistachio nuts (or praline, go on, why not add a little extra sugar!).

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The gorgeous Dune House, Suffolk

If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to own a little weekend house out of London, in the countryside, then, I suppose, if really pushed, I would choose Dune House.

This is a beautifully designed and built house, on the Suffolk coast just outside of Aldeburgh; it’s no exaggeration to say it’s stunning, simply gorgeous – the kind of place in which you feel you must instantly be a better, more virtuous, fascinating fabulous person just for being in it. Attention has been paid to every detail of the house, down to the teaspoons – there are gorgeous polished concrete floors, throw rugs abound, each room has a gorgeous bath overlooking the ocean. Perfect in every way!

I spent 5 days here with friends – we ventured out occasionally to local farm shops to stock up our food supplies, but otherwise relaxed, cooked, made cocktails, ate and drank delicious food and drink. I love exploring this area (see previous Suffolk post here for some tips).
The down side is that Dune House is hugely popular, so if you fancy staying there in about 2016, you need to book now (and whilst you’re on the Living Architecture site, check out the other options for something to do in the meantime).

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Cavolo nero and quinoa with preserved lemon and feta

This is a really delicious salad, with gorgeous flavours.  The bitterness of the preserved lemons is balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the raisins, as are the different texutres of soft feta and crunchy parsley.  Not much more I can say than that really - just make it!

The recipe is one from Lucas Hollweg, appearing in the Sunday Times a little while ago.

Cavolo nero and quinoa with preserved lemon and feta
Serves 2-4

75ml extra virgin olive oil, plus a couple of splashes extra
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
125g quinoa
3T sultanas
salt and pepper
250g cavolo nero
1 small preserved lemon, the size of a ping-pong ball, pulp discarded, skin cut into fine slivers
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
juice of 1 lemon
a big handful of flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
a handful of mint leaves, torn
100g feta, broken into 1cm-2cm chunks

1. Heat a small splash of oil in a saucepan, add 2/3 of the crushed garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the quinoa and stir into the garlic and oil, then mix in the sultanas, 325ml water and 1/4 tsp salt.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer, cover with a lid and cook over a gently heat for 15 minutes without stirring, until the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove the lid, take the pan off the heat and leave to stand for another 10 minutes, then fluff the quinoa with a fork and put to one side to cool.

2. While the quinoa is cooling, strip the cavolo nero leaves from their tough stems and tear into bite size bits.  When the quinoa is cool, mix in the dark leaves and put to one side.

3. Whisk together the remaining garlic, preserved lemon strips, chilli flakes, lemon juice and 75ml olive oil, adding salt to taste.  Tip onto the quinoa and cavolo nero mixture, add half the herbs and toss together until everything is well coated.  Gently mix in the feta, scatter with the remaining herbs and serve.  You could add another splash of olive oil if you feel like it.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A barn in Norfolk

A little while ago (longer than I care to admit, as it exposes me for the very slack blogger I am - if that were not already patently obvious) friends and I rented out a gorgeous barn in Norfolk for the weekend. The barn was in Haveringland, far enough out of Norwich to feel like the countryside but not too far to be hard to get to.

I was in charge of food for the weekend, so I was chuffed when I came across a brilliant website (Local Food Direct) from which we ordered all the meat, cheese, vegetables, cakes, olive oil (everything) from farm shops all over Suffolk and Norfolk and had it delivered – amazingly in our case, this meant when we let ourselves into the barn at 10pm on a Friday night, boxes of food were waiting for us in the kitchen.  Devastatingly, it looks as though Local Food Direct is shutting down, but there are loads of farm shops in both Norfolk and Suffolk from which you can source delicious, local food (check out my previous posts on Norfolk and Suffolk and this website has a good list of where to get local produce).

We had fruit, yoghurt, bacon, eggs, breads, pastries, juice and coffee for breakfast. For the odd snack (weekends away are hungry work) we had cheeses, anchovies, char-grilled vegetables, dips. After exploring nearby areas during the day (see my Norfolk post for some tips) I had the kitchen to myself to prepare a dinner for us all of a roasted leg of lamb, potatoes and cherry tomatoes with fresh asparagus. Ah, it was good; everything tastes better when it’s local and you’re in the countryside I think! For dessert I was lazy and let the bakers of Suffolk provide us with a lemony lemon tart and a treacle tart.

Catering for ourselves this way, split between 6 people was a super economical (and most importantly delicious) way to feed ourselves, plus we could support the local farmers and shops without necessarily visiting them all. I would happily go and shut myself up in this lovely barn, have gorgeous food to cook and eat, every weekend! I suggest you do too.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Spicy scrambled eggs

I came across some Rick Stein recipes in the Sunday Times last weekend, which are in his new (I think?) book "Rick Stein’s India". I arrived home from canoeing in the Lakes and wanted to cook myself an easy but delicious meal to finish a lovely weekend.  These eggs are a perfect supper for one (with leftovers for a few lunches) or brunch for friends. I was surprised how delicious they were to be honest because the recipe is so simple.  I served mine with a little avocado on the side, which may not be especially Indian, but worked nicely with the spice and eggs.

Make sure you cook the onions and tomatoes for a decent amount of time to make the tomatoey jam Mr Stein refers to in the recipe – the smell of onions, chilli and pepper cooking really helps build up your appetite (if lack of appetite was ever an issue for me!).


Spicy scrambled eggs

Serves 2-3

2T vegetable oil

2 large red onions, diced

2-3 fresh green chillies, chopped with seeds

½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper

3 tomatoes, diced

6 free range eggs (the recipe says lightly beaten with ½ tsp salt, but I just broke them directly into the frying pan and stirred them around)

1tsp toasted ground cumin seeds

2T chopped fresh coriander

(the recipe suggests serving with flatbreads but I added avocado)

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the onions for 10 minutes until golden brown. Add the chillies and black pepper and fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened and reduced to a jammy consistency. (I probably cooked mine for closer to 20-30 minutes all up)

2. Lower the heat slightly and add the beaten eggs to the pan (I broke the eggs directly into the pan and swirled them around a bit). Cook for 2-3 minutes, without stirring, then gently lift and turn them in the pan. Continue cooking, folding once or twice more, until almost set, then sprinkle over the cumin and fold through. Finish with the chopped coriander (and serve with warm flatbreads if you like).

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Lamb with eggs, yoghurt & mint

So many things to love with this recipe; lamb - tick; Greek yoghurt - tick; runny eggs - tick; fresh mint and coriander, roasted and ground cumin and coriander - tick, tick, tick.  It's delicious.
This is a yummy recipe from April Bloomfield, published in the Times a few weeks ago.  The recipe is below.  I didn't actually make the meatballs and used chunks of lamb shoulder instead; life's a little too short to mince my own lamb! I was going to just buy lamb mince to make the meatballs, but my local Little Waitrose has such ridiculous reductions some times a half shoulder of New Zealand lamb was cheaper than the mince.  I was too impatient to simmer the tomato sauce for as long as required and I also didn't blitz half the sauce. 

Despite cutting corners, the end result looked gorgeous in the pan and when the gooey egg, tomato sauce, yoghurt and lamb are all mixed together, it's a fab combo of flavours.  A chunk of hot, crusty bread on the side would finish this off perfectly.




2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 1/2 tablespoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt

1/2 pound (about 2 cups) fine bread crumbs (see note)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt

2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground

2 Dutch or other spicy long red chilies, pierced with a sharp knife

One 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, drained trimmed and squished with your hands

About 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek-style yogurt

4 large eggs


A small handful of mint leaves

A small handful of small, delicate cilantro sprigs

Extra virgin olive oil


Meat grinder or meat grinder attachment of a stand mixer (see note)


Note: When I call for bread crumbs, I mean stale bread (two days or so old) pulsed in a food processor until it's coarse (about the size of lentils) or fine (slightly larger than grains of sand), depending on the recipe. It you don't have stale bread, you can replicate the texture by popping the bread into a low oven for a bit, until it's slightly dried out but hasn't colored.

Grinding your own meat: For meatballs, you want to use light, airy, delicate ground meat, which is why I like to grind it myself. Often the ground meat you see on supermarket shelves is already overmixed, paste like and sticky. You can use either a dedicated meat grinder or the attachment for your stand mixer. Before I form my meatballs, I like to roll a tester and fry it in a pan to check the seasoning (and because it makes a nice little snack).

Make the meatballs: Put the lamb in a large mixing bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and pop it into the freezer until the edges get crunchy, about 1 hour.

Toss the lamb well with the salt, then add the bread crumbs and toss again. Use a meat grinder (or the grinder attachment of a stand mixer) to grind the mixture through a medium die into a bowl. Put the mixture through the medium die once more.

Take a bit of the mixture in your hand, give it a few firm but still rather gentle squeezes, and roll it into a ball (you’re shooting for each one to be a little bigger than a golf ball). Overworking the mixture is bad and leads to tough meatballs, but this warning often makes cooks too timid when they form the balls: the outside of each ball should be smooth, with no big cracks or crags. Gently pinch any cracks closed so the ball doesn't fall apart in the pan. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Add the oil to a 8- to 9-quart Dutch oven with a lid, set the pan over high heat, and swirl the oil in the pan. When it just begins to smoke, cook the meatballs in batches to avoid crowding, turning them occasionally with tongs, so they develop a beautiful, shiny, deep-brown crust on all sides. You don’t want to cook them too fast. If you see any black spots, turn your heat down a little. Keep at it until you’re happy with the color of each one, transferring them to a plate when they finish browning. It’ll take 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Drain half the fat remaining in the pot.

Make the sauce: Lower the heat to medium-high, add the onion, garlic, and salt, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and lightly browned and the garlic smells toasty and is a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, and chilies and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.

Turn the heat to low, add the tomatoes, and simmer gently until the tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes.

Add 4 cups water and raise the heat to bring the sauce to a boil, then turn it down to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes more. Transfer 2 cups of the sauce to a blender, give it a whiz until it's smooth and airy, and stir it back into the sauce in the pot. (I always freak out at this point, because the sauce seems so bland, but don’t worry--it’ll taste amazing after you're done.)

Return the meatballs and their juices to the pot and stir gently to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pot, tweak the heat if need be to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes to let the flavors come together.

Finish the dish: Turn the heat to low, add blobs of the yogurt, and crack the eggs here and there into the sauce. Tear and sprinkle in the mint leaves and cilantro, and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the egg whites have just set (I like my yolks a little runny), 10 to 15 minutes.

Eat it from the pan, making sure everyone gets an egg and some yoghurt.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Pom Poms galore!

The world has gone crazy for pom poms! Everyone's banging on about how they're the next "big thing" - attached to beanies, shoes, bags, you name it.  This annoys me.  I was onto this at least six months ago - this isn't just a band wagon I've jumped on; I was there chopping down the trees to build the wagon.  (note, obviously I know that pom poms haven't just been invented - like most people, I made them with cardboard rings at school, but they do now seem to be "back").

In about October last year I bought a fabulous pom pom making device (see the photo above, and here on Amazon) - I was dubious this was necessary and thought I could rely on the cardboard method to create fluffly wool magic, but for £5 and swayed by rave Amazon reviews, I purchased the life changing pom pom maker! It means you can create pom poms in no time and in two sizes.  Most people's dream come true - surely? 

I made small red pom poms as little tails for some soft toys I made for my growing tribe of neices, nephews and god children.  Then I made a large grey pom pom and attached it to my beanie.  Then ... well ... then I was desperate to keep making them and ... ummm ... attached them all the way around the hem of this checked skirt I inherited from my grandma.  Yes, it's a tad crazy, but it's a bit of fun.  Everyone else will be wearing them in 6 months time.  Just wait.