Category Archive: Recipes


  1. Berry Pie – The Taste of Summer

    Well here we are, it’s September. Late summer days are shortening already but I am hanging on for dear life to the still warm mornings and evenings, pretending that it will never turn cold again. It’s still boiling hot back home in Washington State in the beautiful Pacific Northwest after all! I have it in me to keep my head in the sand a little longer…

    This time of year in Washington, one of the top fruit growing states in the USA, you drive down a highway anywhere east of the Cascade Mountains and the road is lined with little stands selling summer fruits and berries. Buckets of bright red and blue line the fog line beckoning you in to spill juice down your front as you shovel in what you can’t wait to taste when you get home.

    I must say, I always recommend buying an extra punnet for the car. When I was a kid, I used to eat cherries and raspberries until my fingers turned pink and my tummy grumbled in protest. It was the absolute best!

    Now, what to do with those punnets you actually get home? Well don’t just turn it all to jam – make a pie of course!

    Berry pie is my absolute favourite summer dessert. Bursting with juicy flavour, natural sugars and a tang to balance every bite, I think it is the ticket to prolonged summer happiness.

    Serve it warm, just cooled from the oven, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have equal to the American dream on a plate. I made this back for the 4th of July, which I spent here in London yet again. Homesick? Yes!  But this sweet berry pie made me feel like I could smell the sparklers and hear the pop of fireworks all the way from home…

    cooling berry pie baking pastry homemade

    Berry Pie
    Serves 12

    Ingredients 

    1 quantity Double Rich Pie Crust

    1kg mix of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries

    50g caster sugar (if the berries are tart, add a bit extra)

    1 lemon, zested and juiced

    Pinch of salt

    50g plain flour

    1 tablespoon corn starch

    2 tablespoons butter, cubed

    Method 

    Preheat the oven to 190°c/375°f . You will need a 28cm/12inch fluted pie tin, preferably with a removable bottom.

    Start by making the pastry then form it into two flattened disks and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes to rest.

    In a large bowl, mix together the berries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, salt and the flours and allow to sit while you roll out the pie dough.

    Roll out one disk to line the bottom of the pie case. Press the dough neatly into the corners of the case so that you get neat bottom corners when you remove it for serving and roll off the over hanging dough with your rolling pin to neaten up the top edges. Please this in the fridge while you roll out the second disk.

    Roll the second disk out on a very well flour surface. Cut evenly sized strips out of the dough, making sure you can easily move them from the surface as any pulling will stretch the strips and make them irregular. Pour in the filling and begin the lattice. Starting from the center of the round and then use ever other strip going outwards. You should be following the same shape of the circle over the pie. and moving outwards on each side.

    lattice pie pastry berry summer baking

    If the pastry dough has warmed up a little too much, put the whole pie in the freezer for 5 minutes. You want the pastry to be cold as possible before baking so it comes out short and crisp.

    Bake the pie for a good 45 minutes on the middle shelf at 190°c/375°f for 30 minutes, check the top to make sure it doesn’t over brown and cook it for a further 15 minutes, turn the temperature down to 170°c/340°c if it’s getting a little too golden to keep it at a high temperature.  I find it useful to put a square of tin foil over the top of the pie during the remaining cooking time if it starts to go too brown to early. You want to cook it the whole way through to make sure the bottom crust is done.

    berry pie a la mode

    Allow the tart to cool down enough to handle and then carefully lift it out of the tin and slide it off the base onto a serving plate. This step is best done while the pastry is still quite warm, else it will stick to the case and break.

    Berry pie is the absolute best served a la mode with good vanilla ice cream and shared with friends. Just make sure to reserve a slice for tomorrow’s breakfast… you won’t regret it.

    (Thank you to my dear friend Sian Henley for the lovely photo at the beginning of this post. I was too busy pouring fourth of July punch and forgot to snap one before we sliced it!)

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  2. Pancakes for Two

    Saturday mornings are heaven when you stack them up with fluffy buttermilk pancakes, but with only two people it can sometimes be a struggle to make up a batch of batter just the right amount.

    Here is a recipe for perfect pancakes for two people. It makes two each – just enough to fill you up, but not enough to send you into a sleepy food trance. Unless you partied to hard last night of course….



    Ingredients

    100g plain flour

    1 heaping teaspoon double action baking powder

    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1 tablespoon caster sugar

    Pinch of salt

    1 egg

    100ml whole milk

    1 teaspoon lemon juice

    2 teaspoons vegetable oil

    Method

    Whisk the dry ingredients together in a spouted bowl, for easy pouring. Squeeze the lemon into the milk and stir.

    Crack the egg into a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in half the milk. Whisk until it comes together to form a paste, then pour in the rest of the milk only until you have a loose batter. It should be runny but not liquid – think about the thickness of room temperature honey. Don’t be tempted to beat out all the lumps, these will help make the pancakes light and fluffy.

    Leave to rest for 30 minutes to allow the starch to swell, which makes for smooth pancakes. Place a little oil in the bottom of a hot medium sized non-stick pan and pour a pancake roughly 6inches / 15cms wide. Cook until bubbles form through the bottom and start to pop, then flip until it steams and fluffs.

    Serve on warm plates with whipped butter and hot syrup.

    Happy Saturday!

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  3. Hot Cross Buns

    Easter is almost here and I carry on wishing that fabulously silly Easter hats a la Steel Magnolias might be deemed appropriate attire anywhere outside the deep south of the USA … but alas. I’ll just comfort myself with other things, like gargantuin chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, coloured eggs and everything Cadbury’s. I really do love this holiday because even for the non-religious it’s just pagan enough for everyone to enjoy.

    But to commemorate a bygone era in another way – there are Hot Cross Buns, which are another of those old fashioned baked goods that keep coming back year after year. They fill our grocery store shelves in all sorts of strange variations from the original, which are never quite as good as the real McCoy. I even saw a chocolate version this year and bought it. Mistake! It was a no-go, trust me. Sounded fantastic but really ended up being some kind of mildly bitter, all too dry bread. So I’m sticking to the classics – dried golden raisins, red currants and orange with warming spices.

    hot cross buns easter baking

    They are filled with spice and fruit and are delicious fresh with slabs of butter and drizzled honey.  I am not a huge fan of dried peel, so have omitted it in my recipe, replacing it with fresh orange zest. If you love peel, of course add it in, replacing some of the weight of the sultanas and currants.

    These hot cross buns are undoubtedly best on the first day, as with all breads, but toasted on the second and third with lashings of butter is also delicious. A few days on, make a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding! Yum. Now where is that bunny???

     

    HOT CROSS BUNS

    Makes 16-17 buns

    Ingredients

    30g fresh yeast

    80g caster sugar

    450g strong white flour (bread flour)

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    80g salted butter

    225-300g milk, warmed to blood temprature

    2 eggs, whisked

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

    2 teaspoons mixed spice

    50g dried currants

    75g golden raisins

    Zest of two oranges

    For the Egg Wash

    Mix together 1 egg yolk, 50g milk and 1 teaspoon caster sugar,and pass through a sieve.

    For the Flour Paste 

    Mix together 1oog flour and 1tsp sugar with enough water to make a paste the consistency of toothpaste.

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 220ºc/425°f.

    Mix the yeast together with a tablespoon of the sugar until it turns to liquid – quite a good science trick! It happens by osmosis. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl or stand mixing bowl and rub the butter in with your fingers until it resembles sand. Add in the spices and the rest of the sugar, make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast. Swirl a bit of the milk in the yeast pot and pour it in to get everything you can then pour in all but about 50mls of the milk. Don’t be tempted to add it all in at first, you might not need it and could end up with a sloppy dough. Mix everything together until combined, it should be quite a wet dough but not sloppy at all like batter – if there are any dry patches or bits of flour left in the bowl add in the milk in increments until you have a uniformly wet dough. Then leave it for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid fully.

    Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface or in a stand mixer for 5 minutes. The dough should look smooth and elastic and feel springy, which is a sign the gluten has developed nicely. Add in the fruits and the orange zest and knead together, then cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size. It should take about and hour to an hour and a half if its warm in your kitchen, longer if it’s cool.

    Hot Cross Bun Dough

    Knock back the dough and portion it out into 70g pieces. Shape into buns and place on a baking sheet.

    Hot Cross Buns Shaping Dough

    Lightly wash them with the egg wash and then pipe a cross on each using the flour paste.

     

    Hot Cross Buns Crosses

    Allow the buns to double in size, glaze them again carefully with the egg mixture on the dough only, avoiding the crosses, and then bake on the top shelf at 220ºc/425°f for 5 minutes. They should puff up beautifully. Turn down the heat to 200ºc/400°f and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Check regularly and if they start to go too brown too quickly, turn down the oven another 10º or so and continue baking. A little hint – if you have a conventional oven and your baking two sheets at once, like I did. Bake them for the first 5 minutes and then very carefully, without bumping them, switch their spots in the oven. Continue baking as normal.

    hot cross buns baking

    The buns are done when they are a dark golden colour and feel light for their size. Be careful not to get too much colour on them or they will be dry.

    Share among family and friends with lashings of butter and honey.

     

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  4. Peanut Butter Cup Cakes

    peanut butter ganache

    Peanut butter: the perfect combination of salty, sweet and that protein taste called umami. Leaving out the nostalgia for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, there’s nothing much better than a peanut butter cake in my book, which is why I keep re-visiting my recipe.

    This time I have added Greek yogurt to the mix, which I think has given it a creamier feel yet a lighter texture. The yogurt acts a bit like buttermilk, adding acid to the baking powder to create a nearly frothy reaction. You can see how the batter forms silky peaks.

    IMG_5388

    I’ve topped these ones with dark chocolate ganache and sea salt, so they’re a bit like a fancy peanut butter cup.

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  5. Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    Thanksgiving is a holiday that  swings open the arms of home to invite in everyone that can fit at the table. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey with all the trimmings until we can’t possibly fit anymore… but then comes the pie.

    pumpkin pie

    Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes. You have to have it on Thanksgiving, no ifs, ands or buts.

    The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far this meal. Never to be an afterthought, I have added a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie utterly deserving of centre stage. I think this Vanilla Pumpking Pie is just the ticket.

    VANILLA PUMPKIN PIE

    INGREDIENTS

    One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)

    425g Solid Pack Pumpkin Puree
    2 Large Eggs
    284ml Single Cream (or Evaporated Milk)
    180g Caster Sugar
    1/2 Teaspoon Table Salt
    1 Vanilla Pod, seeds stripped for use
    1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
    1 Teaspoon Fresh Grate Ginger
    1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

    METHOD

    First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f.

    Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case, by the way! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like – it’s great in pancakes, cakes, cookies and biscuits or a cup of strong coffee.

    Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pie crust.

    Roll out chilled pie crust and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Cover with cling film and pop it in the freezer for 5-10mins. Or if you, like me, have zero room for anything in your freezer (not even ice), pop it in the fridge for 20mins. It should be completely firm when it comes out. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.

    pie crust

    After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a parchment paper cartouche ( a round piece of paper used in cooking), crinkled so it can be pushed into the corners well, and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake (without filling) at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no gray patches of raw pastry left behind. You don’t want a soggy bottom! Lower the temprature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.

    Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising but it could souffle if cooked at too high a temperature or for too long. So leave about a half cm or a quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling wobbles only slightly or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream or for even more excitement, cinnamon ice cream.

    Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe.

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  6. Smooth Operator

    Smoothies remind me of my more energetic days in high school when I played every sport imaginable AND did dance after that for three hours each day. It was hard to get enough protein in my body because, well I’m tall and my metabolism was ridiculously high (please come back!) and for some crazy reason I decided to be vegetarian (copied my best friend). The joys and adventures of teenage life…

    Green Smoothies

    Anyway my sweet mother did indulge me and made me smoothies in the mornings, mainly consisting of fruit, frozen berries and some tofu or yogurt for protein. I never was allowed to go the route of the powdered stuff, not the kind of thing a teenage girl should be consuming, as my mama said, but then they were kind of awful! Now it’s all a trend again and the powders are back, but this time there are way better options. Not just for big muscle builders or the elderly, though hopefully theirs are improving too, there are actually some proteins out there that taste OK and aren’t so bad for the body or the planet.

    We’ve been testing smoothies at work to possibly have in one of our restaurants, which is really near a pilates studio, and I thought I’d share what I loved about it (mainly cashew butter!) and what I didn’t.

    Pea Protein is the most interesting to me because it’s vegetarian, vegan, allergen-friendly and it’s better for the environment than milk or egg based proteins because it requires less space and minimal resources. If you’ve grown peas you’ll know they need little tending to or space!

    Pea protein is great when you use it with something thick and still nice when you have something that covers up the slightly grainy effect of a powder in liquid, an issue you can’t really get away from (this I don’t like). It’s without a strong colour, so works with red and green based smoothies both.

    So here is what I recommend:

    Put these ingredients in the size glass you want to use

    A handful of green veg – spinach or kale, a scoop of cashew butter, a tiny bit of honey, a half banana, two tablespoons of oats and a tablespoon of pea protein.

    Top this with almond milk filling the glass and then pour the lot into your super duper speedy blender.

    Blend it until totally smooth and allow it to sit for five minutes. If you need to top up the almond milk to make it more liquid, go for it. Top it with a few flax seeds and then drink up.

    But please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t give up bacon if you really don’t want to. It’s just too good.

     

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  7. Roasted Pumpkin and St Agur Salad

     The end of summer is here. We are feeling the cold seep into London, which in unfortunate because my relationship with Gelato was just getting exciting, but with the cold comes changing leaves, crisp aired walks, that feeling of excitement like school is starting (yes I know I’m in my 30’s, but I still love stationary shopping). This salad makes me think of summer but uses delicious pumpkin ripe and ready for autumn. Add in a rich blue cheese, toasted nuts and cranberries and you have something really simple but special.

    The sweet roasted pumpkin is matched up against the savoury, salty tang of the blue cheese, the bitter toasted walnuts and the sour dried cranberries and pomegranate  molasses. The serving size is perfect  as dinner for two and to be enjoyed with a glass of lightly sweet Riesling or a rich Sauternes. For best results, use a soft shelled pumpkin, which can still be found at good green grocers. Alternatively peel a culinary pumpkin before roasting or use butternut squash.

    Roasted Pumpkin and St Agur Salad

    IMG_9185

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  8. Lazy Almond Cake

    This is a ‘well I really want cake but I refuse to go to the shop for anything’ kind of cake. And I don’t have any baking powder… I am always running out of something. What the heck, let’s give it a go!

    It turns out it’s amazing what you can do with what is lying around in your cupboard. Phew! I don’t have to go outside… The result of this laziness is a dense, moist almond cake that works perfectly with tea and even better with coffee and a book. Tah dah!

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  9. Carrot soup with sour cream, dill and pine nuts

    This carrot soup has a certain farm-like decadence to it. It is rich while nourishing and looks beautiful. You can make it vegetarian if you wish, but the chicken stock does add another layer of flavour. Punchy caraway and mustard seed add depth of flavour to the sweetness of the carrot while the garnishes – sour cream, dill and pine nuts – add a creamy richness.

    Carrot Soup

    I imagined myself eating this dish at an outdoor table on a warm summer evening, watching the stars begin to glimmer. However, as it is made from a lasting root vegetable it is also seasonally versatile – it just happens to taste the best when the carrots have been pulled straight out of the ground. Serve with a cool glass of California chardonnay.

    CARROT SOUP WITH SOUR CREAM, DILL AND PINE NUTS

    Serves 3-4

    INGREDIENTS

    1kg carrots, peeled and cut into 1inch rounds

    2 sticks celery, cut into chunks

    3 banana shallots, sliced

    2tbs olive oil

    Splash of white wine

    500ml chicken or vegetable stock

    1tsp dried dill

    1tbs mustard seeds

    1tbs caraway seeds

    salt and pepper

    To garnish

    4 dessert spoons sour cream

    4tbs pine nuts

    4tbs fresh chopped dill

    METHOD

    Start by sweating the vegetables and dry spices in a medium saucepan in a dessert spoonful of olive oil with a teaspoon of salt stirred through, which helps the vegetables break down. It’s great to get a bit of colour on the shallots as their caramelised flavour lends beautifully to the sweet carrots.

    Once the vegetables have a bit of colour on them, pour in the white wine followed by the chicken stock. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, top it up with water. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are completely soft, about 30-45mins.

    When the carrots are soft, take the soup of the heat and blend it until it is a fine puree. Let it down with a bit of water until it is the desired consistency. You don’t want it to thick, nor too thin. Think the of the body of double cream, that’s what you’re going for. Add plenty of fresh cracked pepper and a bit of salt if the flavour needs a bit more oomph.

    To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil and add a dallop of sour cream in the middle, laying it down gently so it rests on top of the soup. The sour cream really boosts and balances the flavour of the sweet carrots. Sprinkle over the dill and finally scatter the pine nuts.

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  10. Smoked Mackerel Potato Salad

    I learned a version of this recipe from my mom’s Parisian cousin, so it’s gotta be good. Paris has such style. Even their casual is pulled together, which basically sums up this salad too.

    Great for a BBQ, mid-week dinner or picnic lunch, this is a go-to recipe and it’s so simple a small child could knock it together. Woohoo!

    SMOKED MACKEREL POTATO SALAD

    Serves 4-6 as a side, 3-4 as a main

    INGREDIENTS

    250-300g smoked peppered mackerel

    500g new potatoes, boiled or steamed

    4TBS mayonnaise

    1 lemon

    20g chives, finely chopped


    METHOD

    Zest the lemon into a small bowl and keep it to the side. Juice the rest.

    Cut the potatoes into quarters and place in a large bowl. Skin the mackerel and break it into generous chunks.

    IMG_5410
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