Monday, 21 July 2014


The basil in the greenhouse is beginning to flower so it's time I made pesto. This easy recipe produces a jar of highly scented and delicious pesto which will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks (as if you're ever going to leave it that long!). I find the addition of a little citric acid helps to keep the fresh green colour and avoid oxidation.

Welcome British Indian Ocean Territory, number 132!
Welcome Iraq, bringing the total up to 133!

For this recipe you will need;
100g of fresh basil leaves
100g of pinenuts
150g of freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 fat cloves of garlic
100ml of a light olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of citric acid, available online or from wine making suppliers

Begin by picking over your basil leaves, this just means picking the leaves off the stalks and discarding any that look damaged in any way. When using Greek basil I usually leave the tiny leaves on the finer stalks. I find using a food processor makes really light work of pesto making. Place the parmesan cheese, cubed into the processor and process until you have a fine breadcrumb consistency. Add the pinenuts and process again, add the garlic and again process until all appears evenly fine. Finally process the basil leaves and pour in the light olive oil until you have the creamy consistency you like. Adjust the seasoning, adding salt and if you're using it, the citric acid. Place in a lidded jar and keep in the fridge.

I like to use a heaped tablespoon of this pesto along with 500g of oven roasted tomatoes as a sauce for pasta, the freshness of the tomatoes, in my opinion enhances the rich herb and cheese flavour of the pesto.

Almond Croissant

Considering how fond I am of almond croissant it was only this last weekend that I made them for the first time. Simply make the basic croissant dough and a batch of frangipan and an almond croissant can be yours for breakfast anytime you choose.

For this recipe you will need;
1 portion of basic croissant dough click here for the recipe
1 portion of frangipan made from;
100g of ground almonds
40g of unsalted butter
60g of caster sugar
1 medium egg
a pinch of salt

Topping consists of a little fondant icing and a few flaked almonds that have been toasted.

Make the frangipan by creaming together the butter and the sugar, add the egg and the salt and beat in before mixing in the ground almonds. Place the mix in a piping bag fitted with 1 centimeter nozzle and place in the fridge.
Prepare the croissant dough and at the point where you have cut out 8 to 12 triangles, pipe an amount of the frangipan along each of the base edges before proceeding with rolling up the croissant. Don't worry if some of the frangipan is exposed it should just cook along with the rest of the croissant without oozing out.
leave to rise fully, this can take several hours, I usually leave them overnight, before baking in a hot oven, 200C for 17 to 20 minutes. Drizzle with a little fondant icing made from fondant icing sugar and water, and finally scatter with some toasted flaked almonds.

I have never come across an almond croissant which wasn't flattened, I don't know why but consistently they are far flatter than standard croissants. With this in mind I half expected some sort of deflating to go on once they were out of the oven and cooling on a wire rack, however, they remained perfectly inflated, so almond croissant that look like they have been sat on remain a mystery.

You may find that you have a little frangipan left over, simply form into little balls and bake on a tray while the croissant are baking, they make perfect little petit four to serve with a cup of cafe ristretto.

White Chocolate & Peanut Butter Blondies

I put together this recipe just over a week ago, and after trying the result realised that I needed to reduce the sugar content even more. White chocolate is so much sweeter than the 70% dark chocolate I use in my brownies. Somehow the batch seemed to disappear without too much trouble, but yesterday I made a second batch and so now I am sharing my revised recipe with you.

I need chocolate!

For this recipe you will need;
250g of white chocolate
175g of unsalted butter
350g of caster sugar
100g of crunchy peanut butter
150g of Self Raising flour
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of salt
140g of salted peanuts

As with my brownie recipe click here for the recipe, prepare a baking tin and switch on the oven. Melt the chocolate, butter and peanut butter in a pan over a pot of water that is barely simmering. White chocolate is trickier to melt but the addition of butter and peanut butter makes it unlikely that you will get into difficulty. When the ingredients are melted, allow to cool for 5 minutes before whisking really well to produce an even glossy consistency. Whisk in the sugar, then the 4 eggs. Whisk in the flour, salt and finally stir in the salted peanuts. Pour the whole into the prepared baking tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. A bamboo skewer should come out with still a little of the mix adhering to it, in order for the centre to be gooey.

Altering the original

I find this mixture requires a little longer to cook, but keep an eye on them.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Chocolate Brownies

My daughter makes the best brownies I know, well that at least is what I have always thought and I get her to make a batch occasionally when she visits.This means that in the last nine years I have not made brownies, so you can imagine my surprise when I telephoned her to ask her for the recipe, "But it's your recipe" she said. I had completely forgotten that when she set off to university I equipped her with some of what I considered essential recipes, brownies being one of them.

She sent me the recipe via text, very modern, and I have tweaked it so that she and I will continue to make different brownies to each other.

For this recipe you will need;
250g of chocolate (70%)
250g of unsalted butter
400g of caster sugar
4 medium eggs
140g of S.R.flour
120g of walnuts pieces
100g of white chocolate chips
100g of dried sour cherries
50ml of seriously strong fresh espresso coffee
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Begin by placing the butter and chocolate (not the white chocolate chips) in a large bowl over a small amount of simmering water. Switch off the heat and leave for 10 minutes until the chocolate is completely melted while you line a baking tin with baking parchment; I use one that measure 30cm by 20cm by 5cm.
Set the oven to 180C
When the chocolate butter mix is fully melted allow it to cool for 10 minutes before stirring in the sugar and mixing thoroughly, beat in the eggs and coffee. It's important at this point to keep mixing until you have a smooth even consistency. Stir in the flour and salt and again beat to achieve a smooth consistency before you finally add in the nuts, cherries and white chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Test the brownies at 30 minutes by pushing a toothpick or wooden skewer into the centre, unlike the test for when a cake is cooked the stick should come out slightly glistening with the mix. You need to judge just how wet the stick can be and this will only happen with experience, too wet, i.e. too much mix on the stick and the centre will be seriously wet when the brownies have cooled, no real hardship, what you need to avoid is the stick coming out completely dry, this will mean your brownies will taste delicious but not have the yielding texture that they should. Divide and cut the brownies while still a little warm.

Clearly you can bring your own variation to this recipe, you can vary the nuts and dried fruit, but essentially this is a good recipe for a basic brownie, producing 18 brownies in all.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Peach Leaf Pannacotta

It was about 20 years ago that I first made peach leaf ice cream, amazed to discover that these simple long mid green leaves render up a bitter almond flavour, not unlike that of a good amaretto biscuit. The other day I thought the same technique of steeping peach leaves in scalded milk would work as a flavour for pannacotta. Now I far prefer making pannacotta with a mix of milk and double cream, I think it produces a lighter end product with a delicate texture, especially if you disregard the instruction on the packets of gelatin or vegetarian gelling agent and put in 75% of the recommended amount, in this case 3 rather than the recommended 4 sheets of gelatin. I also think it's far easier to pour the pannacotta into small serving bowls so that you can top them with whatever you wish thus avoiding the task of unmoulding them. 

Happy to welcome Martinique, bringing the number up to 131
For this recipe you will need;

300ml of double cream
300ml of full fat milk
7 peach leaves
3 gelatin leaves (4 being recommended to set 600ml)
30gm of sugar
A pinch of salt

Bring the milk to just under the boil in a small saucepan and place in the washed peach leaves, I have my own peach tree so I know the leaves have not been sprayed with any insecticide but do check. Allow the leaves to steep in the hot milk for 10 minutes, you may need to experiment with the timing but I find 10 minutes produces a subtle flavour avoiding too much bitterness. I add the sugar and salt at this point and taste to see what I think. Sweetening the mix allows you a more accurate sense of whether or not you need to put the leaves back in for a few minutes more. Bring the milk back up to scalding, just under a boil, and add the gelatin leaves (or vegetarian gelling agent) having soaked the leaves in cold water for a couple of minutes. Stir to ensure the gelatin completely dissolves, add the cream, stir well and share between 4 dessert bowls, leaving enough room to place a small amount of topping on each just prior to serving.

I served these with a compote of rhubarb and raspberry. My early strawberries have finished and my late ones have yet to fruit. My rhubarb is still going strong and since I have it in a flower bed I like how the leaves look but thinning out three stalks was sufficient to make a small mount of topping with 200gm of raspberries, the last of the early variety grown here. I stew the rhubarb with a little sugar for a few minutes until softened then pour in the raspberries but don't stir them until the rhubarb has cooled completely, This way the raspberries remain reasonably intact when served.