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Strawberry and Balsamic Compote

This is without question my favourite jam. The wonderfully unique and luscious flavour that is English strawberries at the height of summer seems to be beautifully intensified by the addition of balsamic vinegar and this is so damned easy, there’s no reason not to have a fresh jar in your fridge throughout the summer and early autumn.

Makes 1 medium jar

What you need…

1 x clean jam jar

500g strawberries, hulled

125g caster sugar

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

What to do…

First, sterilise your jam jar by popping it and its lid into your oven, preheated to 170˚c / gas 3, for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, leaving the jar and its lid inside until the compote is ready.

To the compote: tip the strawberries, sugar and 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar into a medium sized, heavy saucepan. Set over a moderate-low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then, simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until the strawberries have stewed down and thickened.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining balsamic vinegar. Pour into your jam jar, whop on the lid and leave to cool before keeping in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

How easy…

Wonderfully! Once it’s simmering, I set a timer and wander off to do something else, enjoying the fragrance of molten strawberries permeating the house.

Inspired by…

Waitrose & Partners

The Callista Project!

People keep asking me what the next culinary extravaganza is going to be. The cookbook will be put together when the British summertime (?!) recedes. In the meantime, the experimentation and sheer joy of indulging in great food will continue but my focus will be for a while on Callista (meaning beautiful) – Callie for short – the latest addition to our home – a little bundle of mischievous gorgeousness who is keeping us entertained but does slow down the kitchen prep somewhat!

Proper Old-Fashioned Shortbread

The 87th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this shortbread is so butterly good, that it’s practically a staple food in our kitchen!

Utterly delicious, delectable and delightful is this recipe for buttery, sweet shortbread! And also, they are a doddle to make and take just minutes.  The only downside is that it’s so easy to keep making them: perfect with morning espresso, afternoon tea, a quick dip into the tin just because….

Makes 8 – 12 slices in a 23cm tin

What you need…

1 x 23cm lightly buttered, lined fluted tart tin

175g plain flour

125g butter, cubes and at room temperature

50g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

A good pinch of salt

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out/¾ teaspoon vanilla paste

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 190˚c / 375˚f / gas 5.

Chuck all the ingredients into your food processor and pulse until a dough is formed.

Dump the dough into your tart tin and use the side of a short glass to gently and evenly ‘roll out’ the dough to fill the tin. Fork the edges.

Pop into your oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes and then cut it into 8 – 12 segments as soon as it comes of out the oven.

When cool, sprinkle with caster sugar.

That’s it! Enjoy with a hot cup of tea, an espresso or just by themselves – seriously yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

It’s a doddle!

 

 

Absolutely Fabulous Pavlova

The 68th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is a happening event this Easter weekend together with a couple of other naughties – very excited!

One of my favourite summer desserts, Pavlova is just divine: sweet, ripe fruit on top of whipped double cream, all gracing wonderful meringue: crisp on the outside and deliciously light, soft and slightly chewy on the inside. The combination is just heavenly and the joy of this recipe is that it is ridiculously easy to make – I’d never made meringue before finding this recipe but it has always been a success – in every way – and a firm favourite on our summer menus.

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

250g caster sugar, plus 3 – 4 teaspoons for the cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon malt vinegar

300ml double cream

1 x 300g punnet of ripe summer strawberries or a combination of your favourite summer fruit – I often combine strawberries, raspberries and blueberries

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1.

Line a baking tray with Bake O Glide/parchment paper and draw a 23cm circle on it (as guidance for later).

Using an handheld electric whisk, beat the egg whites and salt together until very stiff. Then, gradually whisk in the 250g caster sugar until it forms stiff peaks – this takes 3 – 4 minutes. Fold in the vanilla extract and vinegar.

Plop the meringue mixture onto your baking tray, gently spreading it to fit the drawn circle. Pop it into the oven and leave for 1 hour until firm. Then – and this is key – switch the oven off but leave your meringue in for a further 30 minutes with the door closed.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Discard the lining paper and put your meringue onto a pretty serving plate.

Whisk the cream and 3 – 4 teaspoons of sugar together (the amount of sugar depends on your personal taste) until stiff and then pile on top of the meringue. Arrange the fruit on top, stand back, admire your handy work and then serve – just divine – this is one of those desserts that is so light and delicious, I just keep coming back for one more spoonful….time and time again. Enjoy!

Tips…

Don’t waste the egg yolks – they can be frozen for another use.

If I’m feeding a crowd, I’ll double up on these ingredients and made a great big Pavlova and then use the remaining 6 egg yolks to make a large tiramisu – a thoroughly naughty conclusion to any meal!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Very, very easy and simply delicious!

Hasselback Potatoes

The 16th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, Hasselbacks are a great little aside to many a dish.

I first saw these on MasterChef and having tried them once, they’ve graced our plates many times since, so popular are they! They tick all the boxes – easy, exceedingly tasty – something between sautéed, really great chips and roasties – they taste fantastic anyway and I just love the way they look after they’ve fanned out in the oven during cooking. My version is slightly healthier than the original (unusually for me), which uses butter as well as oil.

Serves 4

What you need…

12 medium potatoes

5 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Sea salt (course crystals work spectacularly well, giving these potatoes a lovely glistening crunch)

What to do…

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

Take each potato and put it onto a wooden spoon and cut across it at roughly 3mm intervals. Because the potato is on the spoon, your knife won’t be able to cut all the way through but will stop on the lip of spoon: it is this that enables the fanning out of the potato during the cooking process – so damned easy but so impressive (well, I’m easily pleased).

Pour the rapeseed oil into your baking tin and pop it onto the hob over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, place in the potatoes, cut-side down into the oil, swizzle them around and then turn them over so that the cut-sides are facing upwards. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pop them in the oven to let them do their thing. How long they take depends on their size – 40 minutes for medium potatoes but longer for bigger ones. Keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when they are crisp on the outside but still soft in the middle.

Serve and enjoy this lovely version of the humble potato!

Inspired by…

Annie, a contestant on MasterChef, who in turn attributed the recipe for these Swedish potatoes to Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Very, very easy – they do themselves while you do other things!

 

The Yummiest Profiteroles

The 7th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, I love making profiteroles and the sheer exuberance that is eating these little gems filled with fluffy, sweet cream and topped with an indulgent quantity of intense, dark chocolate – heaven!

One of my son’s favourites, these little profiteroles are fabulously naughty: pop them in and just revel in the indulgence that pervades your taste buds! One is never enough!

What you need…

50g butter, preferably unsalted, plus a knob

2 tablespoons caster sugar

150ml water

75g plain flour, sifted with a pinch of salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

300ml double cream

200g good quality dark chocolate

What to do…

Heat the oven to 220°c/200°c fan/gas 7.

Put the butter and 2 teaspoons of the caster sugar in a saucepan with the water. Place the pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have melted, then bring to the boil. Take off the heat, tip in the flour all at once and beat energetically with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then, using a food processor beat in the eggs bit by bit until you have a stiff, glossy mixture. Rinse two baking trays with cold water, shaking off any excess so they are slightly damp (this helps the choux pastry to rise). Using two teaspoons, spoon blobs of the mixture onto the baking trays. Then place in the oven and cook for about 18-20 minutes until well risen and brown. Remove the profiteroles from the oven and cut a small slit in the base of each one so they don’t collapse. Cool on a wire rack.

When they are cold, whisk together the remainder of the caster sugar and double cream until just holding its shape. Sweeten to taste. Spoon cream into a piping bag and using the slits in the base of the profiteroles, fill each bun to nearly bursting point with cream (these desserts are exuberant so no half-heartedness here – total indulgence or don’t bother!)

Break up the chocolate and put into a heatproof glass bowl in a steamer over a pan of boiling water. When the chocolate has melted, use a spoon to spread it over the profiteroles – again, no holding back – it should be dribbling down the sides in an ‘artistic’ manner. Put the chocolate-topped profiteroles in a cool room to set. Stack up on top of one another to create a mountain of naughtiness and serve. Just scrummy!

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How Easy…

Really easy if you follow the instructions! The wrong flour results in flat, hard disks (I know from experience) but give them a little attention and you will be addicted!

 

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