Tuesday Treat

Ricciarelli

I love these little Italian biscuits – sweet and almondy, they are the perfect complement to an espresso coffee but are equally good with just about anything! This recipe will make around 34 little biscuits, they only need to be small as they are quite sweet, but the problem is I can never seem to stop at eating just the one!…They are incredibly easy to make, however you do need to make them the day before baking as by allowing the uncooked biscuits to rest and dry out overnight they become deliciously chewy – they are totally worth the wait!…

2 large egg whites

Pinch of salt

225g caster sugar

Zest of one lemon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond essence

300g ready-ground almonds

Icing sugar for dusting

2x baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper

  1. Whisk the egg whites with the salt until they are stiff, then gradually whisk in the sugar until you reach a marshmallowy consistency. Now add the lemon zest, vanilla extract and almond essence along with the ground almonds, mix to form a quite hard paste.
  2. Shape into either small diamonds or little rounds (see photo), dusting your hands with icing sugar to stop the mixture becoming too sticky. Lay them on the prepared baking sheets and leave to dry out overnight.
  3. The following day, cook the riccarelli in a preheated oven, 140’c fan, for about 30 minutes, by which time they should be pale and slightly cracked. Leave to cool.
  4. Finally dust with icing sugar and serve. They will keep well in an airtight container

Week Forty Seven

As we move out of the summer into September, I have been thinking of recipes that will break us gently into the cooler weather. September is one of my favourite months as often, although the evenings are cooler, we get a little warmth from the sun during the day, therefore, we don’t necessarily need the heavier, comforting meals of the autumn quite yet. With this in mind, I thought that I would share two of my favourite recipes which feature warm salads. Both use lentils, so on a cooler evening, they are substantial enough to be satisfying yet are still light. Menu One is ‘Salmon with Lentils, Peas, Green Beans & Tarragon’, it is a recipe with lovely fresh end-of-summer flavours; you could use another fish, such as sea bass, the important thing is to crisp up the skin. Menu Two is ‘Rump of Lamb with Puy Lentils & Beans’, this is a recipe which I found over ten years ago in Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook ‘Healthy Appetite’. Not only is this recipe healthy but extremely tasty and, in my opinion, it’s not just good enough to serve to family but also great for dinner party guests. Finally, Menu Three is a very satisfying pasta dish, which again is a recipe that has clean, fresh, ‘September’ flavours;  ‘Penne with Broccoli, Chilli & Pine Nuts’, will be on the table from start to finish in 15 minutes – it makes a great midweek meal!

Enjoy your week, and don’t forget to pop by next Tuesday for my Tuesday Treat!…

Menu One

Salmon with Peas, Green Beans, Lentils & Tarragon (Serves 4)

This dish has lovely fresh, clean flavours; you could use another fish, such as sea bass, the important thing is to crisp up the skin!

4 fillets of salmon, skin on

300g peas, defrosted if frozen

200g fine green beans

150g puy lentils

½ cucumber, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped

Handful of pea shoots or rocket

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt and black pepper

4 lemon wedges (to serve)

For the dressing:

Juice of 1 lemon

A large pinch of English mustard powder

Sea salt and pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Cook the lentils according to the instructions on the packet (in boiling water for about 20 minutes). Drain.
  2. Season the skin of the salmon, then place in a hot oven-proof pan with a little oil, skin-side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes then season the flesh and turn over, so they are skin side up. Place in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 8-10 minutes until just cooked.
  3. Meanwhile top and tail the green beans, then blanch in a pan of boiling water for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Drain.
  4. Place the peas, cooked beans and lentils, cucumber and pea shoots (or rocket) in a large bowl, then scatter with the herbs and lemon zest.
  5. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, mustard powder and salt and pepper with the olive oil. Use this to dress the lentil and bean salad.
  6. To serve, spoon the salad onto plates alongside the salmon with a wedge of lemon.

Menu Two

Rump of Lamb with Puy Lentils & Green Beans (Serves 4)

This is a recipe which I found over ten years ago in Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook ‘Healthy Appetite’. Not only is this recipe healthy but extremely tasty and, in my opinion, it’s not just good enough to serve to family but also great for dinner party guests. The puy lentils and beans are flavoured with just a splash of balsamic vinegar, they complement the lamb beautifully. It’s best to marinate the lamb overnight, then on the day of cooking there really is very little to do…

4 thick rumps of lamb, about 220g each

A few thyme sprigs

A few rosemary sprigs

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushes

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt

For the lentils & green beans:

250g puy lentils

A few thyme sprigs

A few rosemary sprigs

½ head garlic, cut horizontally

800ml chicken stock

300g fine green beans, topped and tailed

Splash of balsamic vinegar

  • Trim the lamb of any sinew, then place in a dish along with the herbs, coriander seeds, peppercorns and olive oil – toss to coat and leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
  • To cook the lentils, put them in a saucepan with the herbs and garlic, then pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until they are tender. Drain the lentils, reserving the stock and discarding the herbs and garlic.
  • Top and tail the beans and cut in half, into shorter lengths. Blanch the beans in a pan of boiling water for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Drain and refresh in a bowl of iced water, drain again and set aside.
  • Sprinkle the lamb with a little salt and sear over a high heat for 2-3 minutes in an oven proof pan, then turn over and cook the other side for 2 minutes until browned, finally sear the fatty edge. Place the pan with the lamb in a preheated oven, 190’c fan, for 9-10 minutes until medium rare. Place on a warm plate and pat with kitchen roll to remove the excess fat, cover with foil and leave to rest for 5 minutes whilst you finish off the lentils and beans.
  • Pour off most of the fat from the pan and tip in the lentils and beans. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, a little of the reserved stock and some seasoning. Toss over a high heat for a few minutes to warm through.
  • Spoon the lentils and beans onto plates. Thickly cut each rump of lamb and arrange on top. Finally drizzle with any of the remaining pan juices.

Menu Three

Penne with Broccoli, Chilli & Pine Nuts (Serves 4)

This is a very satisfying pasta dish with light, fresh flavours and better still, it will be on the table from start to finish in 15 minutes!

*You could cook the broccoli by adding it to the pasta pan towards the end of cooking, but I prefer to cook it separately as in this way you can be sure that it will not be overcooked.

350g penne or other short pasta

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

2 red chillies, finely chopped

1 broccoli head, about 350g, cut into small florets

50g pine nuts, toasted (in dry frying pan)

  1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain, reserving about 2-3 tablespoons of cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile cook the broccoli in boiling water for about 3 minutes until just tender – but still has ‘bite’. Drain.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and chilli and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
  4. Finally, add the drained pasta and broccoli to the pan with the garlic and chilli. Toss to combine adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen.
  5. Serve sprinkled with the toasted pine nuts.

Tuesday Treat

Gluten Free Coffee Cake with Espresso Buttercream Icing

Even if you’re not gluten free I urge you to make this cake, it has a beautifully light sponge and the buttercream really is the ‘icing on the cake’!! Finding recipes for traditional sponge cakes which are both gluten free and light can be a challenge. My son Felix found this one when searching for a recipe which would please us both (he adores coffee and I am gluten free!). It is a recipe from the producers of ‘Doves Flour’ and it uses their wonderful gluten free flour.

2 tbsp espresso coffee powder

2 tbsp boiling water

200g butter

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g Doves gluten free flour 

For the Buttercream icing:

4 teaspoons espresso coffee powder

3 teaspoons boiling water

¼ teaspoon salt

250g icing sugar, sifted

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 walnut halves to decorate

*2x 20cm/8’ round baking tins, buttered and bases lined.

  1. For the cake: put the coffee powder into a cup, add the boiling water, stir to make a paste and leave to cool.
  2. Rub some butter around the inside of two 20cm/8″ round baking tins and line the bases with baking paper.
  3. Put the butter and caster sugar into a large bowl and beat with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then sieve the flour into the bowl and beat again. Finally, add the coffee mixture and stir until everything is well combined.
  4. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and smooth the top.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven, 170’c fan, for 20-25 minutes (until a cocktail stick pressed into the centre of the cake comes out clean). Cool the sponges in the tin a little before turning them onto a wire rack and leaving to cool.
  6. Meanwhile make the buttercream icing: combine the coffee powder with the boiling water and put to one side. Place the butter and salt in a mixing bowl and beat with electric beaters until light and fluffy, then add the sifted icing sugar, and whisk until well combined, finally beat in the cooled coffee mixture.
  7. To assemble the cake turn one of the sponges upside down (flat side facing up) and spread with half of the buttercream, top with the second sponge (flat side facing down), and spread over the remaining buttercream, use a fork or knife to make a pattern and place the 8 walnut halves around the edge.

Week Forty Six

Please pinch me!…I cannot believe that this week my son, Felix, will be celebrating his 21st birthday!…How did that happen? I have thus been rather consumed over the last few weeks with thoughts of birthday celebrations (and a slight feeling of loss!). In truth, the celebrations will be quite straightforward – a night out with mates and a celebratory meal out with us – the ‘old folk’! Naturally, this gives me the excuse to enjoy one of my preferred pastimes – eating out; we’ve booked one of my favourite London restaurants, Five Fields (see my review from last year here!). Of course, I will also be cooking some of Felix’s best-loved meals as an extra birthday treat, so I thought that this week’s recipes should reflect his favourite dishes. He is unashamedly a meat lover and prefers a sweet edge to his savoury food…

Menu one is ‘Chicken, Cherries & Chicory’, although the season is just about over, you might still be able to get some British cherries, however, if not this recipe works year-round with imported ones, as by cooking them you bring out their sweetness. This is a new family favourite, I particularly like it as it’s so easy to cook. At the moment I like to serve it with runner beans, but a good green salad would also work well and perhaps some potatoes (Felix’s favourites are Baby Roast Potatoes – recipe here!). Menu Two is ‘Sea Bream with Figs’, here the winning component is the figs – you don’t use fresh ones, but dried, so this is another year-round favourite. Menu Three is a ‘Blast from Past ‘recipe and one of Felix’s favourites – ‘Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chops with a Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki’. This is a lovely recipe by Diana Henry which I shared last July –  if you haven’t already tried it, I urge you to! It has wonderful summery flavours – perfect for enjoying with the last of the summer sun as we move into September…

Enjoy!…

Menu One

Chicken, Cherries & Chicory (Serve 4)

This is a lovely easy, very tasty bake from Rosie Birkett’s cookbook ‘The Joyful Cook’. The cherries are a wonderful sweet addition and are complemented by the bitterness of the chicory (you could also use radicchio). It is a recipe which works year round as you can use imported cherries, as by cooking them you bring out their sweetness, alternatively you could substitute them for another fruit such as plums…Serve with green or runner beans and rice or potatoes.

4 teaspoons sea salt flakes

2 tablespoons caster sugar

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or chicken pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 bay leaves

15g butter

4 heads of chicory (preferably red), halved lengthways

6 shallots, skin on, halved

1 lemon, halved

150ml vermouth or dry white wine

300ml hot water

150g cherries (there is no need to stone them – just warn your guests!)

Handful fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First of all, a few hours before cooking, grind the salt, sugar and fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar, then rub this ground ‘cure’ mixture on the flesh, but not the skin of the chicken. Chill in the fridge (you could leave it overnight) and remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. If pushed for time just leave it in the rub whilst you prepare everything else for the dish.
  2. Gently rinse the cure from the chicken and dry it well with kitchen paper.
  3. Heat the oil in frying pan over a medium heat. Brown the chicken, skin side down for about 8-10 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and place skin side up in a large roasting tin on top of the bay leaves. Season with black pepper.
  4. Using the same frying pan with the fat from the chicken, add the butter and melt over a medium heat. Place the chicory, shallots and lemon halves, cut side down in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until caramelised and softening on their cut sides. Transfer these to the roasting tray cut side up, squeezing the lemon over the chicory and throwing in the spent lemon halves.
  5. Turn up the heat under the frying pan and add the vermouth (or wine), scraping up any of the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until reduced by half, then pour into the roasting tray – avoiding the chicken as you want it to remain crisp.
  6. Finally pour in the hot water (again avoiding the chicken), cover the roasting tin with foil and place in a preheated oven, 120’c fan, for 20 minutes then take off the foil and add the cherries and chopped tarragon.
  7. Turn up the oven to 180’c fan, return the tin to the oven and roast for a further 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked, the skin is golden and there are delicious juices in the tray.
  8. Serve the chicken on plates alongside the wonderful cherries, chicory and shallots with the juices spooned over.

Menu Two

Roast Sea Bream with Figs and Almonds (Serves 4)

In this recipe the delicate flavour of sea bream is complemented by salty olives and sweet figs – it’s a fantastic combination! In addition it’s a really simple recipe, all you need is a good green salad on the side. You don’t use fresh figs, but dried, so this is a good all-year-round recipe. Depending on the size of the fish you could serve one fish per person or alternatively two larger fish for four. I found this recipe in Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’ – not only are the recipes delicious but the photographs of both the food and of Venice are inspiring!…

4 sea bream (or 2 larger – see note above)

10 dried figs, quartered

80g black olives, stoned

20 almonds, chopped

50ml white wine

50ml olive oil

A few sprigs of rosemary

Sea salt

  1. Wash the fish under cold water and pat dry, including their insides, with kitchen roll. Rub the insides of the fish with a little salt and lay them in a roasting tin.
  2. Scatter the figs, olives and almonds over and around the fish. Drizzle in the wine and olive oil, tear the rosemary into pieces and add to the roasting tin.
  3. Roast in an oven to 180’c fan for 30 minutes until the fish is cooked.

‘Blast From the Past Recipe’

I shared this recipe last July, it is such a delicious quick recipe that I thought I should remind you of it!…

Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chops with a Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki served with Rice (Serves 4)

This recipe is from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Pure, Simple Cooking’, it is one of those cookbooks which I find myself going back to again and again, it has lots of really simple yet stunning recipes. This recipe has the flavours of Greece, it is a perfect summer dish, and if the UK weather permits, even better al fresco! I like to serve it with white long grain rice. Make sure you allow time to marinate the chops, anything from 1-24 hours – but the longer the tastier!..

8 thick lamb chops (chump chops)

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Marinade:

2½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses

8 tablespoons olive oil

1½ tablespoons honey

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki

200g radishes, finely sliced

½ cucumber, cut into small cubes

300g plain Greek-style yogurt

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons mint, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

To serve:

Large bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Olive oil

1 lemon

3 tablespoons of fresh pomegranate seeds

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together, coat the chops generously and leave to marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 24 hours.
  2. To make the Tzatziki simply mix the radishes, cucumber, yogurt and garlic together, then stir through the mint leaves and olive oil.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, cook the chops for about 3 minutes on each side, do not have the heat up too high otherwise you will burn the honey and pomegranate mixture.
  4. Serve the chops on a bed of the coriander leaves, dressed with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and the tzatziki on the side, sprinkle over pomegranate seeds. Serve with rice.

Tuesday Treat

Almond, Pear and Ricotta Cake

This is the most delicious, delicate tasting cake. It’s not overly sweet and is quite light, but be warned it is very moreish! I have taken this recipe from Nina Parker; she mentioned that she first tasted it in Capri, where she had it for breakfast….So, how could I resist, I had to try it myself for breakfast, and yes, it’s indulgent, but, oh my, it really is a great start to the day – try it! In her recipe, Nina poaches fresh pears for the filling, however I have tried it with both fresh poached and tinned pears, and there really is little difference, so now I always make it with tinned pears, which of course makes life a lot easier. The cake itself is rather flat looking, don’t expect a risen ‘victoria sponge’ like cake, but as you know looks can be deceiving and in this case they really are – it is a dream cake and it’s gluten free!

190g caster sugar

5 eggs, 4 separated, 1 left whole

170g ground almonds

1 tablespoon rice flour

½ teaspoon almond extract

For the filling:

250g ricotta cheese, drained of any water

100ml whipping cream

A few gratings of nutmeg

Seeds from ½ vanilla pod

Zest of a lemon

70g caster sugar

400g tin pear halves, drained and cut into small cubes

Icing sugar to dust

*2 x 10 inch cake tins

  1. First of all grease two 10 inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
  2. Using an electric whisk, whip the 4 egg whites until just light and fluffy and then slowly begin whisking in the sugar until it is all mixed in.
  3. In a separate bowl lightly beat together the 4 egg yolks, 1 whole egg and the almond extract, then add the ground almonds and rice flour – the mixture will be dry.
  4. Use a spatula to mix in ¼ of the egg whites, to loosen the mixture and to help get rid of lumps. Carefully add another ¼ of the egg whites and finally, fold in the remaining whites until the mixture is well combined – it may still appear a little ‘lumpy’, but don’t worry too much.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in a preheated oven, 170’c fan, for about 25 minutes until they are light and springy to touch and golden on top. Allow to cool completely on cooling racks.
  6. Meanwhile make the ricotta filling. Whisk the ricotta, whipping cream, nutmeg, vanilla pod seeds, zest of lemon and the caster sugar until it forms soft peaks, the consistency of whipped cream, then gently fold in the cubes of pear.
  7. Spread the ricotta cream over one of the cake bases and place the remaining cake on top. Dust generously with icing sugar and serve. (This cake keeps well in the fridge)