Recipes, baking - you name it, I'm cooking it. Probably with butter

Home made wedding favours

These iced and spiced biscuits, or cookies, are an update on a recipe of mine from a few years ago. I knew I wanted home made wedding favours for my wedding in August, and having bored my sister senseless yesterday with such stream of consciousness ramblings as: ‘Florentines? Maybe too sticky. And there’s nut allergies. What about something like Iced Gems? Too fiddly. Or home made Bourbon biscuits? But is ganache really defrostable?…’ Several hours of monologuing my way through every type of biscuit known to man later, I finally (much to her relief) remembered my favourite ginger spiced biscuit, and decided to make a test batch. Luckily, I had a tub of royal icing in the cupboard, and can verify that once piped, it sets hard, and the whole iced biscuit defrosts beautifully. 

This amount of dough makes 20 medium heart shaped biscuits, so scale up depending on how many you want. A double quantity is a manageable amount to mix and work with though. Preheat your oven to 180 C. Beat together 75g softened butter, 50g caster sugar, 25g dark brown sugar, 50g golden syrup, 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (use a food processor if you like). Add in 250g plain flour and blitz until it looks like sand, then add in one beaten egg and mix briefly to form a soft dough. Flatten the dough, wrap it in cling film and chill for 10 minutes in the freezer before rolling fairly thickly and stamping out with a cookie cutter. Chill the shapes on a baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes, before baking for 9-10 minutes and cooling on a wire rack. To decorate, let down your royal icing by beating it with a little water, then pipe your design onto the cooled biscuits. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze.

Home made wedding favours

These iced and spiced biscuits, or cookies, are an update on a recipe of mine from a few years ago. I knew I wanted home made wedding favours for my wedding in August, and having bored my sister senseless yesterday with such stream of consciousness ramblings as: ‘Florentines? Maybe too sticky. And there’s nut allergies. What about something like Iced Gems? Too fiddly. Or home made Bourbon biscuits? But is ganache really defrostable?…’ Several hours of monologuing my way through every type of biscuit known to man later, I finally (much to her relief) remembered my favourite ginger spiced biscuit, and decided to make a test batch. Luckily, I had a tub of royal icing in the cupboard, and can verify that once piped, it sets hard, and the whole iced biscuit defrosts beautifully.

This amount of dough makes 20 medium heart shaped biscuits, so scale up depending on how many you want. A double quantity is a manageable amount to mix and work with though. Preheat your oven to 180 C. Beat together 75g softened butter, 50g caster sugar, 25g dark brown sugar, 50g golden syrup, 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (use a food processor if you like). Add in 250g plain flour and blitz until it looks like sand, then add in one beaten egg and mix briefly to form a soft dough. Flatten the dough, wrap it in cling film and chill for 10 minutes in the freezer before rolling fairly thickly and stamping out with a cookie cutter. Chill the shapes on a baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes, before baking for 9-10 minutes and cooling on a wire rack. To decorate, let down your royal icing by beating it with a little water, then pipe your design onto the cooled biscuits. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze.

24 notes
Coconut Burfi

While most Indian sweets are notoriously difficult to make, these coconut burfi are the home cook’s secret weapon. They take about 20 minutes to cook, use just two ingredients, and taste like the most wonderfully soft coconut fudge. What’s not to love? I could, and have been known to eat half a tray of them still warm. My mum used to make them for us when we were tiny, cut into diamond shapes with glacé cherries on top - which, to be frank, is still my preferred option (I adore glacé cherries) - but they’re also lovely rolled in desiccated coconut as above. Although I’ve just been reliably informed by my Mum that you can only call them burfi if they stay diamond shaped, so they’re just sweets if you make them round. 

To make them, just blitz 250g desiccated coconut in a coffee grinder until finely ground - you will need to do this in a few batches. Then pop the coconut into a saucepan along with a tin of condensed milk. Stir continuously over a low heat for about 7-10 minutes - you’ll know when it’s ready, because the mixture will suddenly come together in a smooth, shiny dough that comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Tip the dough out onto a buttered plate, and squash it down evenly to help it cool. When it’s warm enough to handle (this won’t take long), break off small sections and roll them into balls, then roll these immediately in desiccated coconut. Leave the sweets to cool, and store at room temperature in an airtight box for up to a week - though it’s unlikely they’ll last that long. Perfect for hostess gifts or birthday presents.

Coconut Burfi

While most Indian sweets are notoriously difficult to make, these coconut burfi are the home cook’s secret weapon. They take about 20 minutes to cook, use just two ingredients, and taste like the most wonderfully soft coconut fudge. What’s not to love? I could, and have been known to eat half a tray of them still warm. My mum used to make them for us when we were tiny, cut into diamond shapes with glacé cherries on top - which, to be frank, is still my preferred option (I adore glacé cherries) - but they’re also lovely rolled in desiccated coconut as above. Although I’ve just been reliably informed by my Mum that you can only call them burfi if they stay diamond shaped, so they’re just sweets if you make them round.

To make them, just blitz 250g desiccated coconut in a coffee grinder until finely ground - you will need to do this in a few batches. Then pop the coconut into a saucepan along with a tin of condensed milk. Stir continuously over a low heat for about 7-10 minutes - you’ll know when it’s ready, because the mixture will suddenly come together in a smooth, shiny dough that comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Tip the dough out onto a buttered plate, and squash it down evenly to help it cool. When it’s warm enough to handle (this won’t take long), break off small sections and roll them into balls, then roll these immediately in desiccated coconut. Leave the sweets to cool, and store at room temperature in an airtight box for up to a week - though it’s unlikely they’ll last that long. Perfect for hostess gifts or birthday presents.

55 notes
A day in the life: food stylist/professional food shopper
You might think that working as a food stylist sounds glamorous. And it is hugely enjoyable, with the massive buzz you get on set during a big commercial, or working with lovely photographers in beautiful location houses. But one of the biggest – and least glamorous - parts of the job is sourcing ingredients for each shoot, which can mean anything from my favourite one-stop-take-the-car-to-Sainsbury’s, to a mad dash all around London, going to as many shops as it takes to find unusual, out-of-season, or just plain perfect ingredients. Here’s a snapshot of my last big shopping trip….
10.45am: Arrive at Waitrose. I get confused by the lift system in Canary Wharf, and end up in the childrenswear section rather than the food hall. I try not to get overly broody, as am surrounded by tiny dresses, and fail miserably - they’re so small, and cute, and - I finally remember that I am a professional, and should really get to work. I start walking away purposefully, then realise I can’t take my trolley down the escalator. I keep my eyes studiously on the floor as I head back past the tiny baby clothes. With tiny, embroidered strawberries on them. Then I give in – how can I resist the tiny strawberries - and surreptitiously take a photograph to what’s app to my boyfriend. Fail. 
10.55am:  Finally, I’m in the food hall. I need four bags of perfect unwaxed lemons for Monday’s photo shoot. Over the next ten minutes, in which I fear that the security guard will arrest me for showing an unhealthy interest in citrus fruit, I pick up every single one of the fifty or so bags of lemons, and examine each one minutely. There is not one bag of perfect lemons, so I start inspecting them again, hoping for decent singles. Ten minutes later, and with a slightly crazed expression, in some sort of Groundhog Day of lemon shopping, I stare, again, at the same bag of lemons, realising that they’re all useless, and potentially deformed, and that Waitrose has, for the first time in my life, let me down. Although, they have kindly refrained from setting a security guard on me. And their lemons are fine, really, for eating, it’s just I need sixteen hyper-really perfect looking, Kate Moss grade citrus fruit, and all they have are - well, lemons that look like me, who are now really harassed, and want to go home, please. Or at least to the wine aisle.  
11.20am: Smoked salmon, puy lentils, extra virgin olive oil, herbs – tick. Only the wine left. I’m under instructions to buy cheap cooking wine, which I do, but compulsively hide the label under a packet of flat-leaf parsley, as secretly fear that the other Waitrose shoppers will judge me for buying £4.99 own-brand wine. If they haven’t already judged me for manhandling all the lemons.
12.45: With the food safely stashed in the car, I’ve taken the tube to Argos on Whitechapel Road, as we need gas canisters for the shoot. Approaching the shop, I feel smug, as ordered the gas the day before to collect in store. Then I realise, on entering, that the entire store is collect in store, with about thirty people packed into a room the size of a takeaway. It takes me five minutes to work out how the queuing system works (there isn’t one), before I decide to take the plunge and dive towards the counter. Ten minutes later, I’ve jostled my way out, and proudly emerge onto the street with four canisters of camping gas in a box. Which I then realise, with a sinking heart, I have to take back on the tube. Because, of course, everyone wants to travel on the tube next to someone carrying a large box with ‘Danger, Flammable’ emblazoned on the side.
1.30pm: At Sainsbury’s in Islington, looking at the lemons. Again. Another young woman shopper comes over, and starts examining the bags, tutting and putting the less than perfect ones back on the shelf. In my paranoid state, I think I recognise the desperate look in her eyes as that of a fellow food stylist, shopping for her shoot on Monday - and I quickly grab four bags to examine all at once, in case she gets to them first. Lose. At least I’ve got the gas. And it’s quality gas. Unlike the lemons.
2pm: I should explain that I have a pathological fear of all crustaceans, starting from king prawns, all the way up through langoustines and crabs to my biggest fear of all - the live lobster. So I steel myself to go into the fishmongers, where I’ve been instructed to collect the fish for the shoot. Including lobsters. And as soon as I go in, I spot a boxful of them under the counter. Live. Their accusatory eyes swivel towards me. I look away, quickly, and explain that my senior stylist has placed an order. The fishmonger dives into the box under the counter, and starts weighing up the lobsters for me to take home. They feebly scrape their bound claws against the scale. I whisper, nervously, that I thought the lobsters had been ordered cooked, and am shocked to be met with considerable hostility from the fishmonger, who insists they’d been ordered live. I try to explain I don’t have a pot big enough, when the fishmonger moves to about an inch from my face, and shouts that the order had been for live lobsters. Live Lobsters! Live! The lobsters, perhaps sensing conflict, redouble their efforts and wriggle at me imploringly from the weighing scale. I’m about to burst into tears, when a more friendly fishmonger offers to cook them for me in store, no problem. I sniff, and pay the mean fishmonger, and am told to my dismay that they’ll take thirty minutes. My shoulders slump, and I head out to find a cafe to console myself. With my gas. At least I’ve got that. And the lemons.
2.15pm: There’s a free table in the window of a nearby deli. Win. I head inside to the counter, buy an organic sausage roll (this is Islington) and a big cup of tea - and return to the window table to find that it’s now taken. Lose. It’s so windy at my outside table that the lid of my tea blows away within seconds. Too exhausted to chase it, I complain bitterly to my boyfriend on the phone about the excessively shouty fishmonger, and then we have a row, because his first response to my story of woe is to tell me to calm down. This make me more upset. How can he be so insensitive about the imploring eyes of uncooked lobsters and aggressive Islington fishmongers? It starts to rain. I huddle under the awning, and try to finish my sausage roll, while my tea does its best to escape onto Essex Road. I dread returning to the fishmonger, and am completely bemused on my return to find the shouty man transformed into someone who smiles, calls me ‘dear’, and wishes me a good weekend. Just like that. I don’t know what to make of this, and am somewhat cheered up, until the rain decides to turn into a monsoon of epic proportions. I’m left squashed under an archway with twenty other people, twelve feet from the tube. Two minutes close proximity to that many damp people, and I’m ready to make a break for it. Gripping the gas and the lemons, I run. The lobsters jiggle furiously in their bags.

3.30pm: I may be soaked to the skin, but I am on the tube home. I’m fairly certain that people are moving away from me in the carriage, but try to reassure myself that I look more like a harassed, damp, middle-class woman carrying expensive fish, rather than someone up to something dodgy- given that I have seabass fillets as well as flammable gas on one arm, and lobsters steaming gently in their bag on the other. Half an hour later, I slump gratefully in my car, ready for the final leg home, before remembering, with rising terror, that I have a kilo of puy lentils to cook and eight bags of lemons to sift through. Glamorous indeed….

A day in the life: food stylist/professional food shopper

You might think that working as a food stylist sounds glamorous. And it is hugely enjoyable, with the massive buzz you get on set during a big commercial, or working with lovely photographers in beautiful location houses. But one of the biggest – and least glamorous - parts of the job is sourcing ingredients for each shoot, which can mean anything from my favourite one-stop-take-the-car-to-Sainsbury’s, to a mad dash all around London, going to as many shops as it takes to find unusual, out-of-season, or just plain perfect ingredients. Here’s a snapshot of my last big shopping trip….

10.45am: Arrive at Waitrose. I get confused by the lift system in Canary Wharf, and end up in the childrenswear section rather than the food hall. I try not to get overly broody, as am surrounded by tiny dresses, and fail miserably - they’re so small, and cute, and - I finally remember that I am a professional, and should really get to work. I start walking away purposefully, then realise I can’t take my trolley down the escalator. I keep my eyes studiously on the floor as I head back past the tiny baby clothes. With tiny, embroidered strawberries on them. Then I give in – how can I resist the tiny strawberries - and surreptitiously take a photograph to what’s app to my boyfriend. Fail.

10.55am:  Finally, I’m in the food hall. I need four bags of perfect unwaxed lemons for Monday’s photo shoot. Over the next ten minutes, in which I fear that the security guard will arrest me for showing an unhealthy interest in citrus fruit, I pick up every single one of the fifty or so bags of lemons, and examine each one minutely. There is not one bag of perfect lemons, so I start inspecting them again, hoping for decent singles. Ten minutes later, and with a slightly crazed expression, in some sort of Groundhog Day of lemon shopping, I stare, again, at the same bag of lemons, realising that they’re all useless, and potentially deformed, and that Waitrose has, for the first time in my life, let me down. Although, they have kindly refrained from setting a security guard on me. And their lemons are fine, really, for eating, it’s just I need sixteen hyper-really perfect looking, Kate Moss grade citrus fruit, and all they have are - well, lemons that look like me, who are now really harassed, and want to go home, please. Or at least to the wine aisle.  

11.20am: Smoked salmon, puy lentils, extra virgin olive oil, herbs – tick. Only the wine left. I’m under instructions to buy cheap cooking wine, which I do, but compulsively hide the label under a packet of flat-leaf parsley, as secretly fear that the other Waitrose shoppers will judge me for buying £4.99 own-brand wine. If they haven’t already judged me for manhandling all the lemons.

12.45: With the food safely stashed in the car, I’ve taken the tube to Argos on Whitechapel Road, as we need gas canisters for the shoot. Approaching the shop, I feel smug, as ordered the gas the day before to collect in store. Then I realise, on entering, that the entire store is collect in store, with about thirty people packed into a room the size of a takeaway. It takes me five minutes to work out how the queuing system works (there isn’t one), before I decide to take the plunge and dive towards the counter. Ten minutes later, I’ve jostled my way out, and proudly emerge onto the street with four canisters of camping gas in a box. Which I then realise, with a sinking heart, I have to take back on the tube. Because, of course, everyone wants to travel on the tube next to someone carrying a large box with ‘Danger, Flammable’ emblazoned on the side.

1.30pm: At Sainsbury’s in Islington, looking at the lemons. Again. Another young woman shopper comes over, and starts examining the bags, tutting and putting the less than perfect ones back on the shelf. In my paranoid state, I think I recognise the desperate look in her eyes as that of a fellow food stylist, shopping for her shoot on Monday - and I quickly grab four bags to examine all at once, in case she gets to them first. Lose. At least I’ve got the gas. And it’s quality gas. Unlike the lemons.

2pm: I should explain that I have a pathological fear of all crustaceans, starting from king prawns, all the way up through langoustines and crabs to my biggest fear of all - the live lobster. So I steel myself to go into the fishmongers, where I’ve been instructed to collect the fish for the shoot. Including lobsters. And as soon as I go in, I spot a boxful of them under the counter. Live. Their accusatory eyes swivel towards me. I look away, quickly, and explain that my senior stylist has placed an order. The fishmonger dives into the box under the counter, and starts weighing up the lobsters for me to take home. They feebly scrape their bound claws against the scale. I whisper, nervously, that I thought the lobsters had been ordered cooked, and am shocked to be met with considerable hostility from the fishmonger, who insists they’d been ordered live. I try to explain I don’t have a pot big enough, when the fishmonger moves to about an inch from my face, and shouts that the order had been for live lobsters. Live Lobsters! Live! The lobsters, perhaps sensing conflict, redouble their efforts and wriggle at me imploringly from the weighing scale. I’m about to burst into tears, when a more friendly fishmonger offers to cook them for me in store, no problem. I sniff, and pay the mean fishmonger, and am told to my dismay that they’ll take thirty minutes. My shoulders slump, and I head out to find a cafe to console myself. With my gas. At least I’ve got that. And the lemons.

2.15pm: There’s a free table in the window of a nearby deli. Win. I head inside to the counter, buy an organic sausage roll (this is Islington) and a big cup of tea - and return to the window table to find that it’s now taken. Lose. It’s so windy at my outside table that the lid of my tea blows away within seconds. Too exhausted to chase it, I complain bitterly to my boyfriend on the phone about the excessively shouty fishmonger, and then we have a row, because his first response to my story of woe is to tell me to calm down. This make me more upset. How can he be so insensitive about the imploring eyes of uncooked lobsters and aggressive Islington fishmongers? It starts to rain. I huddle under the awning, and try to finish my sausage roll, while my tea does its best to escape onto Essex Road. I dread returning to the fishmonger, and am completely bemused on my return to find the shouty man transformed into someone who smiles, calls me ‘dear’, and wishes me a good weekend. Just like that. I don’t know what to make of this, and am somewhat cheered up, until the rain decides to turn into a monsoon of epic proportions. I’m left squashed under an archway with twenty other people, twelve feet from the tube. Two minutes close proximity to that many damp people, and I’m ready to make a break for it. Gripping the gas and the lemons, I run. The lobsters jiggle furiously in their bags.

3.30pm: I may be soaked to the skin, but I am on the tube home. I’m fairly certain that people are moving away from me in the carriage, but try to reassure myself that I look more like a harassed, damp, middle-class woman carrying expensive fish, rather than someone up to something dodgy- given that I have seabass fillets as well as flammable gas on one arm, and lobsters steaming gently in their bag on the other. Half an hour later, I slump gratefully in my car, ready for the final leg home, before remembering, with rising terror, that I have a kilo of puy lentils to cook and eight bags of lemons to sift through. Glamorous indeed….

34 notes
Chorizo Coquilles St Jaques
I must admit here to a rather shocking culinary confession; I don’t care for scallops. Never really liked the texture, or the taste, though I must admit to a childish partiality for their shells, which I insist that people keep and give to me, so that I can wash and hoard them for future use. Contrary, I know. But my fiancé loves scallops, so occasionally, I do try to come up with dishes in the hope that I might eventually like one of them.
And this is the dish. The scallops get a spicy paprika kick from the chorizo, with added crunch from the parsley panko crumb. Instead of the flour heavy roux you usually get with coquilles st jaques, here I’ve lightened and freshened the sauce, with an intense lemony chorizo reduction. This is perfect for dinner a deux, or if you have lots of mini scallop shells, as a party canapé. 
This serves two as a main, or four as a starter. Chop 100g good quality cooking chorizo into small chunks, and saute them in a little oil until cooked through. Pour in 80ml white wine and let it bubble for a moment or two until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore, then add 1 bay leaf, 8 scallops, and 1/4 stick celery. Pop the lid on and let the scallops simmer for 1-2 minutes, before tipping the contents of the saucepan into a sieve set over a bowl. Discard the celery stick and bay leaf, and leave the scallops and chorizo in the sieve while you get on with the sauce. Return the cooking liquid from the bowl into the saucepan, then reduce it down by half on a high heat, tasting as you go - you want a nice, concentrated flavour. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, reduce the heat to a simmer then stir in 80ml single cream and 40g cold, cubed butter, a couple of chunks at a time until they’ve all melted. Check for seasoning, then halve the scallops and arrange them with the chorizo among your scallop shells (a shallow casserole dish is fine if you don’t have any shells). Top with a generous sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs and flat leaf parsley, and flash under a hot grill to brown the breadcrumbs. You can make these up in advance and grill them just before you want to eat them. Good with lots of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Chorizo Coquilles St Jaques

I must admit here to a rather shocking culinary confession; I don’t care for scallops. Never really liked the texture, or the taste, though I must admit to a childish partiality for their shells, which I insist that people keep and give to me, so that I can wash and hoard them for future use. Contrary, I know. But my fiancé loves scallops, so occasionally, I do try to come up with dishes in the hope that I might eventually like one of them.

And this is the dish. The scallops get a spicy paprika kick from the chorizo, with added crunch from the parsley panko crumb. Instead of the flour heavy roux you usually get with coquilles st jaques, here I’ve lightened and freshened the sauce, with an intense lemony chorizo reduction. This is perfect for dinner a deux, or if you have lots of mini scallop shells, as a party canapé.

This serves two as a main, or four as a starter. Chop 100g good quality cooking chorizo into small chunks, and saute them in a little oil until cooked through. Pour in 80ml white wine and let it bubble for a moment or two until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore, then add 1 bay leaf, 8 scallops, and 1/4 stick celery. Pop the lid on and let the scallops simmer for 1-2 minutes, before tipping the contents of the saucepan into a sieve set over a bowl. Discard the celery stick and bay leaf, and leave the scallops and chorizo in the sieve while you get on with the sauce. Return the cooking liquid from the bowl into the saucepan, then reduce it down by half on a high heat, tasting as you go - you want a nice, concentrated flavour. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, reduce the heat to a simmer then stir in 80ml single cream and 40g cold, cubed butter, a couple of chunks at a time until they’ve all melted. Check for seasoning, then halve the scallops and arrange them with the chorizo among your scallop shells (a shallow casserole dish is fine if you don’t have any shells). Top with a generous sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs and flat leaf parsley, and flash under a hot grill to brown the breadcrumbs. You can make these up in advance and grill them just before you want to eat them. Good with lots of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

91 notes
Paris When It Sizzles
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of cooking in Paris is this. You’re ambling down the street, marvelling at the number of florist shops, and then suddenly, you stop. There’s the most delicious scent - hot, savoury, tantalisingly close to but not quite burnt - coming from - where? You must find the source of that smell! Then you hear a loud hiss, and a splutter, and you quickly follow your nose and start walking towards the source of the sizzling. You’re metres away from a large, fridge-sized silver box, and approach it warily. Then you reach the front of the box and suddenly realise - it’s not a fridge. It’s a machine that roasts chickens - on a spit! And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, underneath the plump, serenely rotating chickens, there’s a large tray of potatoes, roasting in the fat dripping off the chickens! You shake your head in disbelief. Those Parisians, you think. With their endless florist shops, their savoir faire and now chicken fat potatoes. So you go into the shop and order a moderate sized bucket to try. And as the chicken fat man hasn’t given you a little wooden fork, like they would in a good British chip shop, you take the potatoes to your apartment around the corner, and take a bite. And breathe a sigh of relief. Because, delicious as they are, they are not a patch on Delia’s roast potatoes, that you have an annual Christmas battle with your Mum over, that are as perfectly crunchy as glass on the outside and as fluffy as mash within. And I’ll admit that’s whether they’re made with oil, as Mum and Delia prefer, or butter, which as you know, I’m partial to.
So with my faith in British food restored, for my special dish cooked in Paris, I would do this. From the local butcher - who does have lovely meat, even if he doesn’t have any little forks - I would buy a beautiful corn fed Bresse chicken. From the food market around the corner, I would pick up an armful of plump fennel, baby globe artichokes, curly frisée lettuce, sunshiny lemons and rosemary – and, of course, a small bag of potatoes. Good Normandy butter and crème fraiche from the cheese shop. Back in our tiny, rooftop apartment, I’d push slivers of the butter under the skin of the chicken, pop half a lemon and some rosemary inside, drizzle it with olive oil and sea salt, and stick it in the oven to roast. The potatoes, I’d par boil, drain, shake violently to rough up the edges, leave to steam, then roast in hot butter and oil with plenty of sea salt. For the salad – well, at this point, I’d send my boyfriend out to buy more wine, so that I could endure the herculean task that is preparing artichokes by myself, and clear up the mess, and put some plasters on my cut fingers before he gets back. Restored by a good sip of wine, I’d thinly shave the raw artichoke and fennel with my speed peeler, and immediately dunk them into lemony iced water (acidulated water in the trade, but, essentially, it’s lemony). Then just before serving, I’d tear up the frisée and toss it with the drained artichoke and fennel slivers in a – you guessed it – lemony, peppery dressing. Once the chicken’s cooked and rested, I’d make a quick gravy from the pan juices, bubbled with white wine and finished with a swirl of crème fraiche – and we’re ready to eat. 
Roast chicken, roast potatoes and green salad – a British classic, made with the best ingredients that Paris can offer. Parfait, non?

Paris When It Sizzles

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of cooking in Paris is this. You’re ambling down the street, marvelling at the number of florist shops, and then suddenly, you stop. There’s the most delicious scent - hot, savoury, tantalisingly close to but not quite burnt - coming from - where? You must find the source of that smell! Then you hear a loud hiss, and a splutter, and you quickly follow your nose and start walking towards the source of the sizzling. You’re metres away from a large, fridge-sized silver box, and approach it warily. Then you reach the front of the box and suddenly realise - it’s not a fridge. It’s a machine that roasts chickens - on a spit! And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, underneath the plump, serenely rotating chickens, there’s a large tray of potatoes, roasting in the fat dripping off the chickens! You shake your head in disbelief. Those Parisians, you think. With their endless florist shops, their savoir faire and now chicken fat potatoes. So you go into the shop and order a moderate sized bucket to try. And as the chicken fat man hasn’t given you a little wooden fork, like they would in a good British chip shop, you take the potatoes to your apartment around the corner, and take a bite. And breathe a sigh of relief. Because, delicious as they are, they are not a patch on Delia’s roast potatoes, that you have an annual Christmas battle with your Mum over, that are as perfectly crunchy as glass on the outside and as fluffy as mash within. And I’ll admit that’s whether they’re made with oil, as Mum and Delia prefer, or butter, which as you know, I’m partial to.

So with my faith in British food restored, for my special dish cooked in Paris, I would do this. From the local butcher - who does have lovely meat, even if he doesn’t have any little forks - I would buy a beautiful corn fed Bresse chicken. From the food market around the corner, I would pick up an armful of plump fennel, baby globe artichokes, curly frisée lettuce, sunshiny lemons and rosemary – and, of course, a small bag of potatoes. Good Normandy butter and crème fraiche from the cheese shop. Back in our tiny, rooftop apartment, I’d push slivers of the butter under the skin of the chicken, pop half a lemon and some rosemary inside, drizzle it with olive oil and sea salt, and stick it in the oven to roast. The potatoes, I’d par boil, drain, shake violently to rough up the edges, leave to steam, then roast in hot butter and oil with plenty of sea salt. For the salad – well, at this point, I’d send my boyfriend out to buy more wine, so that I could endure the herculean task that is preparing artichokes by myself, and clear up the mess, and put some plasters on my cut fingers before he gets back. Restored by a good sip of wine, I’d thinly shave the raw artichoke and fennel with my speed peeler, and immediately dunk them into lemony iced water (acidulated water in the trade, but, essentially, it’s lemony). Then just before serving, I’d tear up the frisée and toss it with the drained artichoke and fennel slivers in a – you guessed it – lemony, peppery dressing. Once the chicken’s cooked and rested, I’d make a quick gravy from the pan juices, bubbled with white wine and finished with a swirl of crème fraiche – and we’re ready to eat.

Roast chicken, roast potatoes and green salad – a British classic, made with the best ingredients that Paris can offer. Parfait, non?

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Spinney’s FOOD Magazine Vegetarian Feast Feature

Food Photography: Simon Brown

Food Styling: Rukmini Iyer

I was absolutely delighted to feature a vegetarian feast menu in the latest edition of the Dubai based Spinney’s Food magazine. Some of my favourite photographs from the shoot above; you can see all the others in my portfolio at www.rukmini-iyer.com

111 notes

Swedish Cardamom & Cinnamon Buns

These pillowy, soft, cardamom and cinnamon laced buns are possibly my favourite thing to bake, and eat - and bake for other people to eat, come to think of it.  I could rhapsodise about how wonderful they taste, and how good they make your kitchen smell while they bake, but I think they speak for themselves - try them once and you’ll see. This week they were a bit of a celebratory bake too, as I wanted to create a post to say thank you to Tumblr for featuring my blog in the ‘Trending Blogs’ section of the site over the past few days - I’m really honoured to be featured, and figured nothing says thank you like a nice bit of baking.

I’ve used lots of different recipes for these buns over the years, but this latest version yields, in my opinion, the fluffiest buns for minimum effort. Double up the quantities if you’ve got freezer space, because they defrost beautifully for the sort of rainy day when you need a bun, and don’t have the ingredients or inclination to make them.

In a large mixing bowl, weigh out 500g flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 75g sugar, and 3 and a half teaspoons of dried fast action yeast. Remove the seeds from 6 cardamom pods, and grind them finely in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the ground spice to 240ml milk and 75g butter in a small saucepan, and heat through until the butter has melted. Let the milk and butter mixture cool down to tepid, then whisk in one egg. Add the egg, milk and butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly to form a wet dough. Work it in the bowl with your hands until it comes together, then knead it briefly on a surface for 3-4 minutes, without adding any extra flour. (The dough will come together smoothly, and quite quickly - you don’t want to over-knead, as you’ll be rolling it out thinly later and if the dough’s too elastic, you’ll find this tricky. That’s also why, proportionately, there’s less yeast in this recipe than you might expect for the amount of flour.) 

Pop the kneaded dough back into the bowl, cover it with clingfilm, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Five minutes before the dough’s ready, preheat your oven to 220C, and make the filling by beating 75g softened butter with 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 30g dark brown sugar. Punch down the dough, roll it out into a thin rectangle measuring 50cm by 30cm, and spread the cinnamon butter mixture all over, leaving a small margin around the edges.

For the shaping part, I’ve made you a handy infographic which you can view here on my recipe page, which is much easier than looking at written instructions. Once you get to stage 6, fold the twisted ends in on themselves, almost but not quite in a knot shape as in the photographs above, and pop them onto a baking sheet, well spaced out. Leave them to prove for 35-40 minutes, before baking them on the middle shelf of your oven for 12-14 minutes. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool a bit, and eat warm. Not that you need me to tell you that.

193 notes
Pork cheek, armagnac prune and leek broth
It feels like the right time of year to move away from heavy casseroles to light, herby spring broths. I used pork cheeks here for the first time - they’re not only incredibly good value for money, but possibly the tastiest, meltiest cut of pork too. And as I had a box of Armagnac prunes about (born of my compulsive need to buy anything in the Sainsbury’s baking aisle labelled ‘Taste the Difference’- it’s a problem) I decided to pop them in too, remembering that they’re a classic French flavour combination with pork, and understandably so. Flavour the broth with whatever fresh herbs you have to hand, and serve it with a good dollop of strong Dijon mustard and - if you’re me - a cold glass of sauvignon blanc.
Preheat your oven to 150C. In a large casserole dish, soften a roughly chopped onion in butter for five to ten minutes, before adding two sliced cloves of garlic, a grated carrot and a sliced stick of celery. Stir and soften for a further ten minutes. Meanwhile in a large frying pan, brown eight pork cheeks (around 550g) in two batches. You want them well browned on each side, not to seal the meat, but to add lots of lovely caramelised flavour to the dish. Once you’ve browned all the pork cheeks, set them aside on a plate, and deglaze the pan by throwing in half a large sliced leek along with a knob of butter. Leave the leeks to soften for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they’re soft, throw in 125ml white wine, and let it bubble down until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore. 
Tip the leeks, wine and pork cheeks into the casserole dish with the vegetables, and tuck in 150g armagnac prunes around the meat along with your fresh herbs. Pour over 450ml good quality chicken stock, bring it to a simmer on the hob, then transfer it to the oven to cook for 1 1/2 hours. Half an hour before the casserole is ready, slice the other half of the leek, a carrot and a stick of celery into 1/2 cm pieces, and tip them into the casserole dish to cook with the pork for the final 25 minutes, so you’ll get a lovely textural contrast between the melting pork and crisp vegetables. After an hour and a half, remove the casserole dish from the oven, prod the pork to check that it’s completely tender (it should threaten to fall apart), and taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a good grind of black pepper and smooth Dijon mustard. The broth is rich and filling enough that you don’t really need much to go with it, but buttery mashed potatoes or a nice crusty baguette wouldn’t go amiss. 

Pork cheek, armagnac prune and leek broth

It feels like the right time of year to move away from heavy casseroles to light, herby spring broths. I used pork cheeks here for the first time - they’re not only incredibly good value for money, but possibly the tastiest, meltiest cut of pork too. And as I had a box of Armagnac prunes about (born of my compulsive need to buy anything in the Sainsbury’s baking aisle labelled ‘Taste the Difference’- it’s a problem) I decided to pop them in too, remembering that they’re a classic French flavour combination with pork, and understandably so. Flavour the broth with whatever fresh herbs you have to hand, and serve it with a good dollop of strong Dijon mustard and - if you’re me - a cold glass of sauvignon blanc.

Preheat your oven to 150C. In a large casserole dish, soften a roughly chopped onion in butter for five to ten minutes, before adding two sliced cloves of garlic, a grated carrot and a sliced stick of celery. Stir and soften for a further ten minutes. Meanwhile in a large frying pan, brown eight pork cheeks (around 550g) in two batches. You want them well browned on each side, not to seal the meat, but to add lots of lovely caramelised flavour to the dish. Once you’ve browned all the pork cheeks, set them aside on a plate, and deglaze the pan by throwing in half a large sliced leek along with a knob of butter. Leave the leeks to soften for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they’re soft, throw in 125ml white wine, and let it bubble down until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore. 

Tip the leeks, wine and pork cheeks into the casserole dish with the vegetables, and tuck in 150g armagnac prunes around the meat along with your fresh herbs. Pour over 450ml good quality chicken stock, bring it to a simmer on the hob, then transfer it to the oven to cook for 1 1/2 hours. Half an hour before the casserole is ready, slice the other half of the leek, a carrot and a stick of celery into 1/2 cm pieces, and tip them into the casserole dish to cook with the pork for the final 25 minutes, so you’ll get a lovely textural contrast between the melting pork and crisp vegetables. After an hour and a half, remove the casserole dish from the oven, prod the pork to check that it’s completely tender (it should threaten to fall apart), and taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a good grind of black pepper and smooth Dijon mustard. The broth is rich and filling enough that you don’t really need much to go with it, but buttery mashed potatoes or a nice crusty baguette wouldn’t go amiss. 

61 notes
Rhubarb Curd 
This went down so spectacularly well with my fiancé this week that I did, briefly, consider making litres of it to pour into miniature jam jars as wedding favours. Then I realised that for an August wedding, this was a) mad and b) unseasonal. And that I should stop daydreaming about scaling down every foodstuff known to man into miniature form and wondering if it would make a good wedding favour. Because that way, insanity lies.
So instead, for the months that rhubarb is in season, consider putting aside part of your rhubarb crop for normal sized jars of this absolutely delicious curd. It’s perfect with pancakes, as a cake filling, on toast, or spooned out of the jar by itself. Alas, the colour won’t ever be as vibrantly pink as you’d wish, unless you use a little artificial help, but with my technique below, you should get a decent shade of rosé. 
Start off by making a batch of the rhubarb cordial as in my previous recipe below. Pop 400ml of the cordial into a saucepan, and stirring occasionally, reduce it down to 100ml. This intensifies the flavour, as well as giving you a much pinker curd. Allow the reduction to cool down for ten minutes. Then set a large glass bowl over a smaller saucepan of boiling water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, and start to whisk two eggs over the heat until foamy. Pour in the cooled, reduced cordial, and whisk continuously for ten minutes or until the curd has thickened up nicely and forms ribbons when you trail the mixture over the surface. You can check by coating the back of the spoon too, and running your finger through it - if the curd stays in place on the spoon, it’s done. Reduce the heat, stir in 20g of cold, cubed unsalted butter, one cube at a time, and you’re done. Pour the curd into a jar and let it cool down completely before refrigerating. If it doesn’t all get eaten the first day you make it - which is unlikely - it will last for a few days in the fridge.

Rhubarb Curd 

This went down so spectacularly well with my fiancé this week that I did, briefly, consider making litres of it to pour into miniature jam jars as wedding favours. Then I realised that for an August wedding, this was a) mad and b) unseasonal. And that I should stop daydreaming about scaling down every foodstuff known to man into miniature form and wondering if it would make a good wedding favour. Because that way, insanity lies.

So instead, for the months that rhubarb is in season, consider putting aside part of your rhubarb crop for normal sized jars of this absolutely delicious curd. It’s perfect with pancakes, as a cake filling, on toast, or spooned out of the jar by itself. Alas, the colour won’t ever be as vibrantly pink as you’d wish, unless you use a little artificial help, but with my technique below, you should get a decent shade of rosé. 

Start off by making a batch of the rhubarb cordial as in my previous recipe below. Pop 400ml of the cordial into a saucepan, and stirring occasionally, reduce it down to 100ml. This intensifies the flavour, as well as giving you a much pinker curd. Allow the reduction to cool down for ten minutes. Then set a large glass bowl over a smaller saucepan of boiling water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, and start to whisk two eggs over the heat until foamy. Pour in the cooled, reduced cordial, and whisk continuously for ten minutes or until the curd has thickened up nicely and forms ribbons when you trail the mixture over the surface. You can check by coating the back of the spoon too, and running your finger through it - if the curd stays in place on the spoon, it’s done. Reduce the heat, stir in 20g of cold, cubed unsalted butter, one cube at a time, and you’re done. Pour the curd into a jar and let it cool down completely before refrigerating. If it doesn’t all get eaten the first day you make it - which is unlikely - it will last for a few days in the fridge.

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Pink Rhubarb Cordial
I couldn’t resist buying a massive bunch of pink stemmed rhubarb at Borough Market last week, and managed to accidentally acquire more after this week’s food styling shoot. If you find yourself in the same position, rhubarb wise, you could do worse than settle down for an afternoon of cordial, curd and compote making, and then you’ll have a satisfying array of jars and bottles in various shades of pink for the week to come. 
For the cordial, cut your rhubarb into 1cm pieces and place in a large saucepan with sugar. I had 1kg rhurbarb, and added 400g sugar, which is my preferred level of sweetness, but you can scale the proportions up or down depending on how much rhubarb you have and how sweet you like it. If you add less sugar and find the cordial too tart, you could always make a quick sugar syrup at the end and add it in. Stir the rhubarb and sugar together in the pan, then leave on a low heat covered for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is completely soft. Pour the lot into a sieve set over a large bowl, and gently stir to push the wonderful pink cordial through the sieve. Don’t push too hard, as you don’t want to get lots of the green pulp through. Save the leftover rhubarb pulp for crumbles, pies, or to have with yoghurt and granola for breakfast. Keep the cordial in a bottle and store it in the fridge until needed, and dilute to taste with iced lemon water, cloudy lemonade or ginger beer. Now that I think of it, you could also use it as an excellent base for a pleasingly pink gin cocktail.

Pink Rhubarb Cordial

I couldn’t resist buying a massive bunch of pink stemmed rhubarb at Borough Market last week, and managed to accidentally acquire more after this week’s food styling shoot. If you find yourself in the same position, rhubarb wise, you could do worse than settle down for an afternoon of cordial, curd and compote making, and then you’ll have a satisfying array of jars and bottles in various shades of pink for the week to come. 

For the cordial, cut your rhubarb into 1cm pieces and place in a large saucepan with sugar. I had 1kg rhurbarb, and added 400g sugar, which is my preferred level of sweetness, but you can scale the proportions up or down depending on how much rhubarb you have and how sweet you like it. If you add less sugar and find the cordial too tart, you could always make a quick sugar syrup at the end and add it in. Stir the rhubarb and sugar together in the pan, then leave on a low heat covered for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is completely soft. Pour the lot into a sieve set over a large bowl, and gently stir to push the wonderful pink cordial through the sieve. Don’t push too hard, as you don’t want to get lots of the green pulp through. Save the leftover rhubarb pulp for crumbles, pies, or to have with yoghurt and granola for breakfast. Keep the cordial in a bottle and store it in the fridge until needed, and dilute to taste with iced lemon water, cloudy lemonade or ginger beer. Now that I think of it, you could also use it as an excellent base for a pleasingly pink gin cocktail.

44 notes
French Lavender, Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tarts 
These tarts are just the thing for a relaxed weekend potter about the kitchen. Leave the onions to slowly caramelise by themselves while you get on with the pastry, and use goat’s cheese or feta to finish the tarts off. You can make one large tart or several small ones for the week ahead - they reheat beautifully. 
Start off by thickly slicing six red onions, then melt 25g butter in a large pan with a little oil to stop it from burning. Once you’ve got the pan nice and hot, tip in the onions, mix them thoroughly with the hot butter, and let them cook on high for about six to ten minutes until very lightly browned at the edges. Then turn the heat right down, and add two teaspoons of dried lavender flowers, one teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary, a big pinch of sea salt and a grind of black pepper. Stir the mixture well, then leave it uncovered to cook for about half an hour. As with a french onion soup, you want a lovely caramelised layer to form underneath the onions, so once you’ve given it that initial stir, resist the temptation to prod at it over the next thirty minutes.
Preheat your oven to 200C. For the pastry, follow my recipe and instructions for blind baking pastry cases in my previous post here, to make one large or several small tart cases.
For the filling, whisk 150g creme fraiche with 3 eggs in a jug, and season. Give the onions a good stir after half an hour, check for seasoning, and allow them to cool a little. Fill your cooled, blind baked pastry cases with the onion mixture, then generously crumble either goat’s cheese or feta over the onions. Carefully pour the creme fraiche filling over the onions, then bake the tarts in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the filling has just set, and the tops are golden brown. You don’t want to overcook the filling, so if it wobbles gently after 20 minutes but hasn’t browned, take the tarts out and flash them quickly under a hot grill. These go beatifully with a watercress salad and roasted honey parsnips. 

French Lavender, Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tarts 

These tarts are just the thing for a relaxed weekend potter about the kitchen. Leave the onions to slowly caramelise by themselves while you get on with the pastry, and use goat’s cheese or feta to finish the tarts off. You can make one large tart or several small ones for the week ahead - they reheat beautifully. 

Start off by thickly slicing six red onions, then melt 25g butter in a large pan with a little oil to stop it from burning. Once you’ve got the pan nice and hot, tip in the onions, mix them thoroughly with the hot butter, and let them cook on high for about six to ten minutes until very lightly browned at the edges. Then turn the heat right down, and add two teaspoons of dried lavender flowers, one teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary, a big pinch of sea salt and a grind of black pepper. Stir the mixture well, then leave it uncovered to cook for about half an hour. As with a french onion soup, you want a lovely caramelised layer to form underneath the onions, so once you’ve given it that initial stir, resist the temptation to prod at it over the next thirty minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200C. For the pastry, follow my recipe and instructions for blind baking pastry cases in my previous post here, to make one large or several small tart cases.

For the filling, whisk 150g creme fraiche with 3 eggs in a jug, and season. Give the onions a good stir after half an hour, check for seasoning, and allow them to cool a little. Fill your cooled, blind baked pastry cases with the onion mixture, then generously crumble either goat’s cheese or feta over the onions. Carefully pour the creme fraiche filling over the onions, then bake the tarts in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the filling has just set, and the tops are golden brown. You don’t want to overcook the filling, so if it wobbles gently after 20 minutes but hasn’t browned, take the tarts out and flash them quickly under a hot grill. These go beatifully with a watercress salad and roasted honey parsnips. 

172 notes
Rose, Pistachio & Lemon Cakes
Food Photography: Holly Pickering
Food Styling: Rukmini Iyer
These tiny cakes taste like something out of the Arabian nights - a soft, dense mouthful of pistachio and rose flavoured sponge, topped with a sharp lemon icing. Pile them into a vintage box as a gift for a friend, or if you’re feeling less generous, arrange them on an exquisite plate and take them with you to recline on a pile of cushions with your best illustrated book and a glass tumbler of fresh mint tea. 
For the cakes, preheat your oven to 180C. Lightly oil a 24 hole mini muffin tin - I use that 1cal oil spray as it’s the quickest (but assure you that is the only thing it’s used for in my kitchen). Cream 8oz butter with 8oz sugar, and beat in 4 medium eggs vigorously one at a time. Grate in the zest of one orange and add a teaspoon of rosewater, then gently fold in 2oz plain flour, 3oz ground almonds, and 3oz ground pistachio (use a coffee grinder to blitz your own, and sieve it if you want a really smooth texture). Taste and check if the batter is at your preferred level of rosiness, add a tiny drop more rosewater if not, but don’t overdo it. Carefully spoon the mixture into your mini muffin tins - you will probably have some extra batter, so pop any excess into cupcake cases to bake after the smaller cakes are done. Pop them into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tin half way to make sure they cook evenly. Check them by gently prodding the tops, and bake for a further 4-5 minutes if needed until golden brown on top. Let them cool on a wire rack.
For the icing, shake about a cupful of icing sugar into a large bowl, then mix gently with freshly squeezed lemon juice a couple of tablespoons at a time - you want a very thick, glossy icing, rather than a transparently thin one. Once the cakes are cool, spoon the icing over the cakes, and decorate with chopped pistachio, and crystallised rose petals if you have them. 

Rose, Pistachio & Lemon Cakes

Food Photography: Holly Pickering

Food Styling: Rukmini Iyer

These tiny cakes taste like something out of the Arabian nights - a soft, dense mouthful of pistachio and rose flavoured sponge, topped with a sharp lemon icing. Pile them into a vintage box as a gift for a friend, or if you’re feeling less generous, arrange them on an exquisite plate and take them with you to recline on a pile of cushions with your best illustrated book and a glass tumbler of fresh mint tea. 

For the cakes, preheat your oven to 180C. Lightly oil a 24 hole mini muffin tin - I use that 1cal oil spray as it’s the quickest (but assure you that is the only thing it’s used for in my kitchen). Cream 8oz butter with 8oz sugar, and beat in 4 medium eggs vigorously one at a time. Grate in the zest of one orange and add a teaspoon of rosewater, then gently fold in 2oz plain flour, 3oz ground almonds, and 3oz ground pistachio (use a coffee grinder to blitz your own, and sieve it if you want a really smooth texture). Taste and check if the batter is at your preferred level of rosiness, add a tiny drop more rosewater if not, but don’t overdo it. Carefully spoon the mixture into your mini muffin tins - you will probably have some extra batter, so pop any excess into cupcake cases to bake after the smaller cakes are done. Pop them into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tin half way to make sure they cook evenly. Check them by gently prodding the tops, and bake for a further 4-5 minutes if needed until golden brown on top. Let them cool on a wire rack.

For the icing, shake about a cupful of icing sugar into a large bowl, then mix gently with freshly squeezed lemon juice a couple of tablespoons at a time - you want a very thick, glossy icing, rather than a transparently thin one. Once the cakes are cool, spoon the icing over the cakes, and decorate with chopped pistachio, and crystallised rose petals if you have them. 

205 notes

Triple Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake

Food Photography: Holly Pickering

Food Styling: Rukmini Iyer

You could pretend that the berries make this cake one of your five a day - but why bother? Make it and be happy. And if you’re feeling particularly generous, make it for someone you like quite a lot.

For the cake, make a standard 10 x 10 x 10 chocolate sponge with five eggs, replacing 1 3/4 oz of the flour with cocoa powder. (Follow my basic cake method in the ‘Misc Recipe' section). Add a good splash of milk to the batter, before dividing it evenly between three cake tins and baking in a preheated oven at 180C for about 25 minutes. Leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack while you get on with the icing. Melt 175g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids minimum) in the microwave or in a bain marie, then leave it aside to cool for a few minutes. In a food processor or in a teatowel covered KitchenAid (trust me, you'll need this to prevent your kitchen turning into an icing sugar cloud) beat together 250g butter with 250g icing sugar. Once the mixture's light and fluffy, pour in the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. The icing will stay spreadable for about half an hour, so once your cake has cooled, assemble on a cake stand, scattering your favourite berries over each layer and on top.

11,679 notes
Almond and Cinnamon Meringue Cloud Cake 
Food Photography: Holly Pickering 
Food Styling: Rukmini Iyer
This ethereal cake is far easier to make than it looks, although I had my doubts when I saw the recipe with its yolk-only batter and baked meringue topping - particularly since every instruction I’ve ever followed for meringues specifies an extremely low heat and long cooking time. But Holly, the lovely photographer who collaborated with me on this and the upcoming series of cake photographs, was happy to take the gamble on this recipe, and it turned out my fears were groundless. As you can see, the cake comes out beautifully, and sandwiched with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and chopped almonds, it’s perfect for a special afternoon tea. 
The recipe comes from Tessa Kiros’s ‘Falling Cloudberries’, which if you don’t already own, you need to get hold of - it’s one of my favourite cookbooks, with the most spectacular food photography. We decided to leave out the raspberries in the filling, and use more chopped almonds instead, but by all means squash some fresh raspberries or other berries in if you have any about. 
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and line two small springform cake tins. Beat 90g butter with 130g sugar until white and fluffy - we used Holly’s cherry red KitchenAid for this and it was an absolute revelation. Separate four eggs, and pop the yolks in with the butter and sugar, along with a teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth, then sift in 170g self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder. Fold in gently along with 60ml milk, then divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, smoothing it right to the edges. Don’t worry about how thick the batter is - it’ll still bake normally. Using a scrupulously clean bowl and (electric) whisk, whisk the two leftover egg whites until fluffy. Sprinkle in another 130g caster sugar over the egg whites while whisking continuously, until the meringue mix forms a stiff swan’s neck shape when you lift the beaters out. Smooth the meringue mix over the cake batter in the two tins, then sprinkle with ground cinnamon and chopped almonds. Bake for 30 minutes, then let the cakes cool completely. Sandwich with lightly whipped cream and more chopped almonds (add a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar to the whipped cream if you like) and serve on your best cake stand. 

Almond and Cinnamon Meringue Cloud Cake 

Food Photography: Holly Pickering 

Food Styling: Rukmini Iyer

This ethereal cake is far easier to make than it looks, although I had my doubts when I saw the recipe with its yolk-only batter and baked meringue topping - particularly since every instruction I’ve ever followed for meringues specifies an extremely low heat and long cooking time. But Holly, the lovely photographer who collaborated with me on this and the upcoming series of cake photographs, was happy to take the gamble on this recipe, and it turned out my fears were groundless. As you can see, the cake comes out beautifully, and sandwiched with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and chopped almonds, it’s perfect for a special afternoon tea. 

The recipe comes from Tessa Kiros’s ‘Falling Cloudberries’, which if you don’t already own, you need to get hold of - it’s one of my favourite cookbooks, with the most spectacular food photography. We decided to leave out the raspberries in the filling, and use more chopped almonds instead, but by all means squash some fresh raspberries or other berries in if you have any about. 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and line two small springform cake tins. Beat 90g butter with 130g sugar until white and fluffy - we used Holly’s cherry red KitchenAid for this and it was an absolute revelation. Separate four eggs, and pop the yolks in with the butter and sugar, along with a teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth, then sift in 170g self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder. Fold in gently along with 60ml milk, then divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, smoothing it right to the edges. Don’t worry about how thick the batter is - it’ll still bake normally. Using a scrupulously clean bowl and (electric) whisk, whisk the two leftover egg whites until fluffy. Sprinkle in another 130g caster sugar over the egg whites while whisking continuously, until the meringue mix forms a stiff swan’s neck shape when you lift the beaters out. Smooth the meringue mix over the cake batter in the two tins, then sprinkle with ground cinnamon and chopped almonds. Bake for 30 minutes, then let the cakes cool completely. Sandwich with lightly whipped cream and more chopped almonds (add a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar to the whipped cream if you like) and serve on your best cake stand. 

94 notes
Sugar-free Indian Sweet Lime (Nimbu Pani) 
For some inexplicable reason, I decided to walk the six miles home from Central London yesterday along the riverside. By the time I was two miles away, legs seizing up (I am very unfit) there was only one thing I wanted when I got home - a large glass of freshly made sweet lime. If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying this on a visit to India, I strongly urge you to make it next time you pass a bag of limes at the supermarket. It’s the most refreshing drink you can think of, which is probably why it’s so popular in India, and like lassi, you can have it sweet or salted (though you’d put a good pinch of salt in the sweet version too). My grandmother makes an excellent version of this, which I’ve adapted to the recipe below. 
Don’t be put off by the sugar free label at the top of this post - I dislike artificial sweeteners intensely, but am a complete convert to xylitol after cooking with it on a shoot for Daisy Lowe last year. Xylitol is natural birch sugar, and very good for your teeth - who knew? And best of all, you’d never know it wasn’t real sugar from the taste of it, which is more than you can say for aspartame based products. So if you want to guzzle litres of this without fear for your teeth, or are making it for a diabetic friend, do get hold of the xylitol, which is readily available from Sainsbury’s, otherwise just substitute sugar. 
Start off by juicing 7 limes over a sieve into a measuring jug - you should have about 160ml. Weigh out 100g xylitol (or sugar) into a saucepan along with the zest of one lime, and add enough water to just cover the xylitol. Stir the mixture on a low heat for about 4 minutes, until the crystals have dissolved completely into a syrup. Let the syrup cool down a bit, then pour almost all of it into the lime juice, along with 1/2 pint cold water and a large pinch of salt. Give it a good stir, and add more salt and syrup to taste. Chill and serve over ice. You will want more than one glass….

Sugar-free Indian Sweet Lime (Nimbu Pani) 

For some inexplicable reason, I decided to walk the six miles home from Central London yesterday along the riverside. By the time I was two miles away, legs seizing up (I am very unfit) there was only one thing I wanted when I got home - a large glass of freshly made sweet lime. If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying this on a visit to India, I strongly urge you to make it next time you pass a bag of limes at the supermarket. It’s the most refreshing drink you can think of, which is probably why it’s so popular in India, and like lassi, you can have it sweet or salted (though you’d put a good pinch of salt in the sweet version too). My grandmother makes an excellent version of this, which I’ve adapted to the recipe below. 

Don’t be put off by the sugar free label at the top of this post - I dislike artificial sweeteners intensely, but am a complete convert to xylitol after cooking with it on a shoot for Daisy Lowe last year. Xylitol is natural birch sugar, and very good for your teeth - who knew? And best of all, you’d never know it wasn’t real sugar from the taste of it, which is more than you can say for aspartame based products. So if you want to guzzle litres of this without fear for your teeth, or are making it for a diabetic friend, do get hold of the xylitol, which is readily available from Sainsbury’s, otherwise just substitute sugar. 

Start off by juicing 7 limes over a sieve into a measuring jug - you should have about 160ml. Weigh out 100g xylitol (or sugar) into a saucepan along with the zest of one lime, and add enough water to just cover the xylitol. Stir the mixture on a low heat for about 4 minutes, until the crystals have dissolved completely into a syrup. Let the syrup cool down a bit, then pour almost all of it into the lime juice, along with 1/2 pint cold water and a large pinch of salt. Give it a good stir, and add more salt and syrup to taste. Chill and serve over ice. You will want more than one glass….

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