Monthly Archives: March 2019

Asian-Inspired Salad with Asparagus and Crayfish

The 58th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is the most scrumptious of salads: zingingly fabulous!

Salad days are here – yippppeee and lordy, lordy, lordy, this salad is spectacular: it’s zingy and fresh and its fabulous tastes and textures demand your attention. Eat it by itself or serve with fish: terikayi tuna is ideal but also, try this salad on the side of a lovely roasted salmon fillet – maybe with a wedge of lime on the side. I’ve changed the original recipe by adding a few extra ingredients, most notably the crayfish tails (they were on offer) but equally you could add prawns, smoked salmon or even hot, seared scallops. Anyway, it’s just lovely! I’ve never understood why people think salad is boring – this one will knock your socks off – give it a go!

Serves 2 (this is based on the quantities used to make up the marinade – if you’re creating salad for more people, just increase the quantities accordingly).

What you need…

for the salad

A selection of salad leaves: handfuls each of red chicory, rocket, spinach and baby gem work well but really, it’s whatever takes your fancy and is in the fridge

5cm chunk of cucumber, peeled and chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

A handful of mint leaves, torn

A handful of coriander, chopped

250g asparagus, trimmed

125g crayfish tails or prawns (optional)

for the salad dressing

1 lime, juice only

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 dessertspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon palm sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce (or Tamari if you would prefer gluten-free)

1 red bird eye chilli, finely chopped

1 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped

Tip…

If you’re not too sure about the kick of the chilli, use just half, rather than a whole one

What to do…

Pop the asparagus into boiling, water and cook for 2 minutes until al dente. Drain, refresh with cold water and drain again. Set aside to cool.

Put all your salad dressing ingredients into a screw-topped jar, tighten the lid and shake vigorously until mixed thoroughly together.

When you’re ready to eat, take a large pretty bowl, chuck in your cucumber, tomatoes, all your salad leaves, herbs, asparagus and crayfish tails . Tip over the dressing and mix together. That’s it! Serve and enjoy this absolutely wonderful salad with a lovely crisp dry white wine.  And relax….

Inspired by…

Watching James Martin and Mary Berry, separately, and then doing my own thing.

How easy…

Well, it’s salad so it’s not hard is it?!

 

Gently Spiced Prawn and Bacon Skewers for the Barbie

The 57th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, these gorgeous little numbers are fabulous on the barbecue – the sun’s out –what’s stopping you?!

Absolutely delicious and a great pairing – I would never have thought to put these two together. The gentle spicing adds to the natural flavour of the prawns, rather than detracting from them and I have to say, every time I do these, they go down a storm! Hot favourite for the barbecue season!

Makes 30

What you need…

Bamboo skewers

30 raw king prawns

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

4 big, fat cloves of garlic, chopped

15 rashers of streaky bacon, cut in half

Lime slices, to serve (optional – I have forgotten them mostly!)

What to do…

Tip the prawns into a bowl with everything except the bacon and lime slices, mix all together, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to develop.

Just before cooking, wrap each prawn in half a piece of streaky bacon and thread onto your bamboo skewers. It’s up to you how many you put on each skewer depending on how many people you are feeding, how many prawns you want them to enjoy and whether they are sharing skewers or individual ones!

Pass prawn skewers over to husband who is manning the barbecue, sit back and sip wine whilst he cooks them to perfection, 4-5 minutes on each side.

Serve with salad, new potatoes, garlic bread and loads of other good barbecued fish and meats for a proper al fresco summer feast – yum!!!!

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

I prep a couple of hours in advance. John fires up the barbie. What could be easier?!

Brûléed Cheesecake

The 56th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is an absolutely gorgeous pud, slotted into our menu-planning at least a couple of times a year!

This is lovely, light, fluffy and quite luscious in the middle; with an extra bit of pizzazz provided by the crunchy, sweet brûléed topping – sinfully delicious and therefore very easy just to keep digging into for just that little bit more! And then of course, there’s the quite necessary opportunity to play with a blowtorch – great fun and very easy to get carried away! Give it a go!

Serves 10-12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered and bottom lined with parchment paper

1 x kitchen blowtorch!

for the biscuit base

100g unsalted butter, melted

250g digestive biscuits

4 tablespoons demerara sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 happy egg yolk, beaten

for the filling

Zest of 1 lemon

500g full fat soft cheese

125g golden caster sugar

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3 eggs, beaten

200ml full fat crème fraiche

for the brûlée topping

2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Roughly break up the biscuits and chuck them in your food processor (with the blade attachment). Whizz until they look like chunky breadcrumbs.

Thoroughly mix together the digestive crumbs, sugar, butter and ginger. Tip into the cake tin and, using a straight-sided glass, firmly press the mixture evenly across the base and 3cm up the sides.  Pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Brush over the egg yolk and pop back in the oven for a further 3 minutes to seal.

In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix together the lemon zest, cheese, sugar, cornflour and vanilla. Using a handheld electric whisk, work in the eggs until smooth and then, returning back to the spatula, fold in the crème fraiche.

Pour the filling over the base, pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes; then reduce the temperature to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1 and bake for a further 45 minutes or until set to a gentle wobble. Turn the oven off but leave your brûléed cheesecake in for 1 hour, with the oven door left ajar. Cool completely and then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Release your cheesecake from the confines of its tin (I didn’t dare to remove the tin bottom for fear of total collapse). Scatter over the golden caster sugar and arm yourself with the blowtorch! Brûlée the top until the sugar turns a deep coppery brown – for a bit of theatre, do this at the table! Serve and enjoy the unique combination that is the crunchy sweet brûlée topping with the lovely light and fluffy cheesecake filling! Utterly delightful!

Inspired by…

My Waitrose magazine

How easy…

Very easy. The digestives need bullying into place but even if there’s a bit of crumbling going on, it just adds to the homemade appeal!

Partridge with Wild Mushroom Ravioli

The 55th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this dish exudes opulence but is easy to make and a real winter treat.

This is a proper winter indulgence: the rich sauce and delicious partridge perfectly contrasted by the lightness of the ravioli, packed with intense flavour. The first time I made this, I used a pasta machine to make my own pasta and whilst it wasn’t hard, it was messy, time-consuming and quite tricky to deal with the ever-lengthening pasta strips and to get them to the necessary thinness (thick pasta is not great). So, on the basis that life’s too short, I’ve replaced that process with the use of ready-made pasta – it’s a lot easier unless you are a perfectionist with either a lot of time on your hands and a love of clearing up or an absolute whizz with the pasta machine! Given that change, this dish is lovely, indulgent and really quite quick to knock up!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 partridges (ask your butcher to separate and de-bone the breasts from the rest of the birds)

2 small carrots, peeled, topped and tailed

1 onion, peeled and quartered

1 bay leaf

for the ravioli

1 x cookie cutter, 7-8cms wide

12 fresh lasagne sheets

Knob of butter

100g wild/mixed mushrooms

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked

150ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

for the sauce

1 beef stock pot (I use Knorr)

Splash olive oil

Knob of butter

250g wild/mixed mushrooms

100ml double cream

A few sprigs thyme, to garnish

What to do…

Remove your lasagne sheets from the fridge to come to room temperature.

Separate the partridge breasts from the rest of the birds, leaving the breasts in the fridge for now. Cut from the remaining partridge carcass whatever meat you can get and pop it into your food processor – we’ll get back to that later.

To enhance your sauce, make a quick stock: take a medium saucepan and chuck in the remaining partridge carcass, carrots, onion and bay leaf, season and cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for 20 minutes. Sieve the ‘stock’ into a jug, retaining just 200ml (chuck the rest) and then, using a small balloon whisk, mix in the stock pot. Your stock is now ready. Set aside.

Using a medium-sized frying pan, melt a knob of butter over a moderate heat and then add the mushrooms and thyme, cooking them whilst stirring, for 2 minutes. Throw the cooked mushrooms and thyme together with the cream into the food processor with the partridge. Season and then blend until smooth. If you are preparing in advance you can stick this in the fridge now until you are ready to finish off.

Layout your pasta sheets and using your cookie cutter, cut two circles from each sheet, producing 24 pasta circles. In the centre of 12 of them, place 1 heaped teaspoon of the mushroom/partridge mixture. Brush around the edges with water and then place another pasta circle on top of each and seal, producing 12 ravioli.

Pop a large pan of salted water on a high heat and bring to the boil.

Preheat your oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6.

In your frying pan, add to any left over juices, your splash of olive oil and half the knob of butter.  Once hot, add the partridge breasts and cook skin-side down for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking tray and pop in the oven for 5 minutes, skin-side up.

Returning to your frying pan, add a tiny bit more butter and once hot, chuck in the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they have floated to the top. Remove with your slotted spoon and put three on each plate.

Gradually stir the cream into the mushrooms and stock to create the delicious rich sauce. Transfer to a jug.

Retrieve the partridge breasts from the oven and add to the plates and then pour over the sauce. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Delicious! Serve either just as it is or maybe with some greenery, wilted spinach perhaps. Either way, your partridge with wild mushroom ravioli will be relished: rich, indulgent and absolutely lovely – enjoy!

Inspired by…

James Martin, Saturday Kitchen (I have reduced the amount of butter he is renowned for using!)

How easy…

Really easy if you don’t go down the route of making your own pasta!

 

Dips and Tapenades for Drinks, a Picnic or just for Snackin’

The 54th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, these dips sit at the heart of one of my ‘fridge-raid’ suppers where the table overflows with cheese, paté, cold cuts, pies….and dips!

Having friends around for drinks or a picnicky lunch? Dips are always welcome. Here we have a selection of tapenades and dips to tempt the taste buds. Hummus is my favourite , I eat loads of the stuff and the authentic recipe here is bang on! This hummus is rich and creamy but also fresh-tasting because of the lemon juice and the combined flavours of the garlic, dark tahini and chick peas really come through beautifully – the recipe is also really cheap, quick and easy to do. If you like hummus, give this a go.

And then there’s the others – also gorgeous (but hummus has a special place in my heart and stomach, hence the big intro).

The juicy, sweet but piquant sun-dried tomato and basil tapenade and the more earthy, intense olive version both shout with flavours of the Mediterranean. Then, there’s this recipe for guacamole, which combines the luscious creaminess of avocado with a fresh coriander edge and a real kick of chilli. All four dips can be made in advance and in less than half an hour, using a mini food processor for each one and a quick wipe out in between – simple!   In essence, dip into a quick, easy and vast array of flavours – yummy!

What you need…

for the Middle Eastern Hummus

400g can chickpeas in salted water, drained

100ml ice-cold water

4 tablespoons dark tahini

2 cloves garlic, chopped

125g plain yogurt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt

Splash olive oil

for the Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Tapenade

200g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained

A large handful of fresh basil leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil (from the jar of sun dried tomatoes if possible)

50g pine nuts

for the Olive Tapenade

100g pitted black olives, drained

100g pitted green olives, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 anchovies in oil, drained

½ garlic clove, peeled

Black pepper, to taste

for the Guacamole with Coriander

1medium tomato, quartered

1 just-ripe avocado, peeled and roughly chopped

½ fresh green chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

½ garlic clove, peeled and chopped

A large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Zest of half a lime, finely grated

A good squeeze lime juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

What to do…

Hummus: into your food processor, chuck all of the hummus ingredients except the salt and olive oil. Whizz until smooth. Taste. Season with salt. Whizz. Taste again and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Pour into shallow serving bowls and pop in the fridge (where it will thicken) until you are ready to serve.

To serve, use a spoon to make a slight hollow in the centre of the hummus and pour in a little olive oil.

Sun-dried tomato tapenade: rinse out your food processor and blade. Dry with kitchen paper.  Stick all the ingredients into your food processor. Whizz until smooth. Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Olive tapenade: rinse out your food processor and blade. Dry with kitchen paper.  Chuck all the ingredients for the olive tapenade into your processor and whizz until smooth. Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Guac: rinse out your food processor and blade.  Dry with kitchen paper. Tip all the ingredients for the guacamole into your processor, marvel at how lovely it is to have such a great gadget and then whizz the ingredients until the consistency is as you would like – rustically chunky, elegantly smooth or something in between! Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Serve your wonderful dips with and an assortment of breads, crackers and crudités; some cold, crisp dry white wine and most importantly, a good collection of family and friends. Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Suzanne Husseini, When Suzanne Cooks (thanks Denise) for the hummus and Mary Berry for the others

How easy…

An absolute whizz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken, Mozzarella and Pesto Filo Parcels

The 53rd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, these are parcels of utter deliciousness – a gift to do as well as for the palate!

I saw Tom Daley do these on TV and thought that they looked so very tasty as well as being so very easy and they are exactly that! An ideal gift of a lunch or supper (you do feel like you’re opening a present when you cut into them), these are really lovely and much more filling than I had thought. We did also think ‘ideal student food’.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking sheet, lined with baking parchment

2 tablespoons olive oil

A large handful basil leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons pine nuts

450g skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

8 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

250g mozzarella, chopped

8 rectangular sheets filo pastry, cut in half to make 16 squares

50g butter, melted

Sea salt and black pepper

What you do…

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6. Pop in your baking sheet to warm up whilst you make the parcels.

To create a pesto, put the oil, basil and pine nuts in mini chopper if you have one and whizz until smooth. If you don’t have a mini chopper, just chop the basil and nuts as finely as you can and then mix them with the oil.

Put the chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella into a bowl and add the pesto. Season liberally and stir everything together.

Take 4 squares of filo pastry and lay them one on top of another, but turning each one a little to the right to create a star outline once all four are on top of one another.

Divide the mixture evenly between the four pastry ‘stars’ piling it up in the middle of each.

Brush a little melted butter in a fat circle around the mixture and then scrunch each ‘star’ together to create 4 large moneybag shapes. Brush each parcel all over (except the base) with butter – this will help the pastry stick together and will also turn it a gorgeous golden brown when cooked.

Pop the parcels onto your preheated baking tray and bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden.

There’s quite a bit of theatre to serving them: they look amazing and then when you cut into them for ‘the big reveal’ the delightful crunch of the buttery filo pastry gives way to the really very yummy contents inside!

Serving suggestion…

Green vegetables or a salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and avocado, drizzled with a olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard dressing (which is what we did together with some fresh, warm, chunky bread – delish!)

Inspired by…

Olympic diver, Tom Daley

How easy…

Fabulously easy and very attractive on the eye as well as the palate!

 

 

Blackberry and Blueberry ‘No-Bake’ Cheesecake

The 52nd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is THE BEST cheesecake I’ve ever made and every time I make it, I get asked for the recipe!

An absolute ‘wow’ of a decadent dessert that could take central stage at any dinner as well as a cheeky family lunch! A crispy, rich ‘Oreo’ base is perfect to underpin the light, fluffy and fabulously fruity flavour of the ‘mousse’ that is the mainstay of this delicious cheesecake; and all topped with a glossy, slightly tart yet sweet jelly that is bursting with the Autumnal flavours that are blackberries. Just yummy!

Serves 10 -12

What you need…

1 x deep, 20cm round cake tin, liberally buttered and lined with parchment paper

60g butter, melted

250g Oreo biscuits

200g blueberries

350g blackberries

150g caster sugar

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, separated

100ml water

400g full-fat cream cheese

250g mascarpone

300ml double cream

3 sheets fine-leaf gelatine

to decorate

Blueberries and blackberries, (optional)

What to do…

Whizz the Oreo biscuits in your food processor until quite fine crumbs. Pour in the melted butter and whizz to evenly combine. Tip into your cake tin, spread evenly over the bottom and then use the back of a spoon to press firmly into place. Chill.

Meanwhile, heat the berries, 25g of the sugar, all of the lemon juice and the water in a saucepan until bubbling. Bubble gently for around 15 minutes or until the blackberries are super mushy.

Push the fruit mixture through a sieve, using the back of a spoon to press down hard, extracting as much juice as possible. Either discard the purée or cover it and chill it to make mini blackberry and apple pies or spread on toast (like I did!) Back to the recipe: cover and cool the berry juice.

When you’re ready to assemble, tip the cream cheese, mascarpone, double cream, remaining sugar and all of the lemon zest into a large bowl and use an electric handheld whisk to beat until really stiff. Pour in 150ml of the berry juice (reserving the rest) and whisk again to incorporate. Plop the ‘mousse’ onto the base and spread evenly and level. Pop into the fridge and chill for 1 hour.

To the jelly: soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 275ml berry juice until hot (if you’re a bit short on the juice, just top it up with a little water). Remove from the heat, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine leaves and add to the juice. Stir to dissolve. Cool for 15 minutes and then pour over the ‘mousse’. Carefully, pop your cheesecake back into the fridge for at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight.

To serve, gently release your cheesecake from its tin confines and peel away the parchment paper. Transfer to a pretty serving plate and decorate with blueberries and blackberries. Cut into wedges of gorgeousness and simply savour every delicious mouthful. Go for a second piece!

Tip…

Pick your blackberries, wash them, dry on kitchen towel and then freeze in bags – no need to lay them out flat on trays

Inspired by…

Good Housekeeping

How easy…

It takes time but you can do it in stages and go off and do other things whilst the different elements chill and cool. Other than that, it’s dead easy to make, requires no baking and is sensational. Also, you have to make it the day before you want it, which I love.

 

 

New York Caesars Salad, My Way

The 51st of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is one sassy salad!

Many years ago I had a marketing job that meant, in the name of work, I ate out a lot. And I mean a lot. There was also the occasional overseas trips undertaken and twice I was lucky enough to visit New York on business.  Labelled a ‘jolly’, the trip was as much about food as it was the thrills of Manhattan: huge hotel breakfasts followed by large, leisurely lunches and obscenely over-indulgent dinners punctuated each day (they don’t make jobs like this anymore!) There’s only so much a girl can eat even if the food is amazing so I quickly took to choosing Caesars Salad as my default choice for lunch, being the perfect foil for the inevitable heavy, rich dinners that I knew would follow. I’ve never had a Caesars Salad as good as those I enjoyed in New York and so ended up developing my own version. I have no idea how close to the authentic recipe mine is but it’s pretty close to those savoured in Manhattan. It’s light but edgy – salad with attitude I’d say – and really enlivening – give it a go!

Serves 2

What you need…

4 good-sized slices back bacon

300g mixed salad leaves (including iceberg for the crunch), torn

A good handful of freshly grated Parmesan

for the croutons

1 slice bread from a large loaf

50g butter

for the dressing

60ml olive oil

30ml white wine vinegar

3 anchovies

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper to season

What to do…

For the croutons, cut bread roughly into 1cm squares and pop into a bowl with the butter and then into the microwave for 1 minute.  Stir to make sure the butter is evenly distributed and pop back in for another 40 seconds. Repeat this last process until the croutons are golden and crispy. In my microwave, I do 3 x 40 seconds.

(N.B. microwave times may vary – I rarely use a microwave so ours is old and pretty inferior so yours may do the job much quicker).

Set the croutons aside to cool.

Dry-fry the bacon until its crispy. Remove from the pan and as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, chop it up into bite-sized pieces (I use scissors for this – it’s quicker than a knife for me). Put the chopped pieces on kitchen paper to absorb the moisture whilst the bacon cools.

In a jam jar, chuck all the dressing ingredients in together, screw on the lid and shake like mad to mix everything together and break down the anchovies.

When you are ready to serve, tip your salad leaves into a large roomy salad bowl and throw in the bacon. Add half the Parmesan and then the dressing. Toss everything together.  Either divide into two bowls or serve to the table in the salad bowl. Whichever way, scatter over more Parmesan and finally, the croutons. Enjoy! It really is a wonderful salad!

Serving suggestion…

I like it on it’s own as a main course, but it also works well served with steak or as a starter, perhaps with garlic bread.

Tip…

If you don’t fancy using a microwave, you can fry croutons in oil and a little butter or brush/toss them with oil and then bake or grill them – whichever suits you best.

Inspired by…

New York!

How easy…

Ever so!

My Favourite Recipe for the Perfect Chocolate Sponge Cake

The 50th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is my ‘go-to’ recipe for the perfect, luscious chocolate sponge.

Over the years I have made many, many chocolate cakes and for me, this is absolutely the perfect recipe for a chocolate sponge that is light and fluffy as well as super chocolatey and moist – it’s fiendishly good and I have made it in many guises, with different butter creams and glazes, all sorts of decorations and fillings but always, the chocolate sponge recipe remains the same – utterly fabulous!

Serves 16+

 

What you need…

2 x 20cm / 8” cake tins (spring form or loose-bottomed ideally), liberally buttered and lined on the bottom with parchment paper

340g unsalted butter, room temperature

340g caster sugar

6 happy eggs

1 dessertspoon vanilla extract

140g milk

225g self-raising flour

85g cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

for the chocolate butter cream

(This is enough to sandwich the two cake tiers and to slather over the top. Make double if you want to cover the sides as well).

 50g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa) broken into pieces

100g unsalted butter, room temperature

200g icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 180°c  / 350° / gas 4.

Using a food processor, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Whilst it’s still beating, add in the eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix in.

In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Then, add in the ingredients from the food processor and, using a balloon whisk, fold together all the ingredients until they are thoroughly blended.  Divide the chocolate sponge mixture between the two cake tins.

Bake the sponges in the oven for 45 minutes until the cake is firm and an inserted skewer comes out dry.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tins and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the butter cream, made especially gorgeous by the use of the melted chocolate.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Gently melt the chocolate and then set aside until it is cool enough to touch.

In a separate bowl, sieve in the icing sugar and then beat together with the butter. Add the vanilla essence and then tip in the warm chocolate. Mix together using a small balloon whisk to ensure it is evenly and thoroughly blended. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Pop your bottom cake tier onto a pretty serving plate and spread the butter cream evenly across. Pop on the top sponge and slather butter cream across the top, using the tip of the spatula to create a swirly design, if you like. (You could also pipe it, if you wanted the cake to look terribly grown up!

Inspired by…

It’s a good mish mash of different recipes!

How easy…

Very easy the smell of chocolate as the sponge is cooking is to die for!

 

 Glorious Marsala-Baked Summer Peaches with Mascarpone Cream

The 49th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is the most wonderful pudding to celebrate the joys of an English summer!

Utterly delicious is my description. John’s is a little more vibrant: peaches with dogs’ bollox cream! Why? I have no idea but it’s stuck in this house, so when the British Summertime rolls around, there is an inevitable request for this dish – using John’s language – and we all know what he’s talking about! Anyway, the point is that this lovely pudding is proper summertime glorious, spectacularly easy and can be made in advance. The light and fresh ‘cream’ contrasts perfectly with the rich Marsala sauce in which the peaches sit so prettily; and the whole thing simply exudes ‘summer’. Like I said, utterly delicious! (It also keeps in the fridge very well, so can be indulged in over a number of days if there are only two of you enjoying it!)

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x shallow baking dish

6 firm ripe peaches

40g caster sugar

275ml Marsala wine

2 x cinnamon sticks

1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways

1 rounded teaspoon arrowroot

for the cream

4 rounded tablespoons mascarpone

4 rounded tablespoons fromage frais

A few drops of vanilla extract

1 dessertspoon caster sugar

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

First of all, you need to relieve the peaches of their skins and there’s a really easy way to do it. Halve the peaches and remove their stones. Pop two halves into a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water. Don your marigolds and after 30 seconds, remove one of the halves from the water and just slip off it’s skin – it will come straight off – dead easy. Do the same to the second half. Then, repeat the process with the remaining peach halves, two at a time, using freshly boiled water for each set of two halves (it won’t work so well if the water has cooled slightly). That done, the rest is a delight to do!

Place the peach halves into your baking dish, rounded side down. In a jug, mix together the Marsala and sugar and then pour over the peaches. Wodge in the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pod halves and pop in the oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and, using a ladle, transfer the Marsala ‘sauce’ to a small saucepan, discarding the vanilla pod halves and cinnamon sticks. Mix the arrowroot with a little cold water and then add it to the saucepan, whisking it in over a gentle heat until the sauce has slightly thickened.

Pour the sauce back over the peaches and set aside to cool. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge over night to allow the flavours to fully develop.

To make the ‘cream’, use an electric handheld whisk to beat together all of the ingredients and serve in a pretty bowl or jug.

Ideally, enjoy this lovely little dessert on a balmy summer’s evening with friends.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

Very easy: a simply delicious dish, all round. And, you prepare it the day before you want it, which is always a bonus in my book!