Category Archives: Fruits

Cookbook Club: Ottolenghi’s Plenty More



I made this ‘set’ (I think ‘deconstructed’ is a more accurate term but who am I to argue with Ottolenghi and Honey & Co?)  cheesecake for our inaugural Cookbook Club last month, which is an exciting new activity I’m participating in! I’ve been wanting to set one up for ages and finally organised a first meeting. Our first evening turned out to be a few friends with whom I regularly share dinner, but it was so much fun all cooking from the same book and sharing a meal. We all cooked from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, which I chose because I love the book but hardly ever cook from it. We ate the cannelini bean puree with pickled mushrooms (and fried pitta pieces – dear god, what a moreish concept that is), potato cakes with mint that paired excellently with the aubergine pahi. I made the tomato tart and the ‘set’ cheesecake with plum compote which was a perfect balance of sweet, tart and crunch.

The cheesecake was so moreish that I made it again last week. Andrés accused me of not fully explaining that the cheesecake would not materialise as a cheesecake as such – he was apparently waiting for me to put it together while I was sneakily portioning it up and eating it when he was at work, totally oblivious to the fact that he hadn’t actually had any. (Which was obviously my secret plan).


The key thing here is the cheesecake mixture – cream cheese, mascarpone, double cream, caster sugar and some citrus. The rest is infinitely adaptable, depending on your mood. You just have to be organised enough to make the cheesecake mixture the night before so it has time to ‘set’.

My mood was raspberry/almond/lime this time but really, I suspect any citrus and fruit compote combo will work here. Cherry compote perhaps? (Also with lime?) Blueberry compote with lemon? I changed up the crumble/base a little as I am an oat girl when it comes to crumbly-things-randomly-scattered-amidst-decadent-sweet-cheesy-things and so I added oats (and used almonds rather than hazelnuts because store cupboard!). I procured black sesame from the Asian supermarket near my ballet class. (I also found birthday cake Oreo’s! Which, come on! Birthday cake Oreo’s!)

You can find one version of the recipe here. The recipe in the book uses regular plums in the compote  instead of greengages. I used the zest of one lime instead of a lemon and also made half the cheesecake amount – which was enough for four or five after a large meal. When I made the cheesecake the first time I followed most of the recipe to the letter (apart from scaling down the cheesecake side of things) and the leftover crumble kept fine (I found it went really well with yoghurt and the leftover compote as breakfast food). When I made the crumble this past week, I used the same flour/butter/sugar/black sesame measurements but then added in a handful of oats and a handful of almonds (toasted and slightly bashed up). For the compote I heated a handful of frozen raspberries with a tablespoon of caster sugar and a squeeze of lime juice.  I made half the cheesecake mixture again too.

The best thing about Cookbook Club was the way it forced me to actually use a cookbook I’d had on the shelf for ages. (Resolution anyone?) We’re meeting up again this month and are going to do Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food. I am already excited at the prospect. (There’s a recipe for Marmalade Chicken which sounds a) fascinating and b) like an excellent way to use up some of the marmalade stores!)







I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but I’m obsessed with trifle. I had forgotten about this obsession until quite recently. It had manifested in other ways – my take on Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding Cake which I’ve made for several years for dessert on December 24th; my love of all things custard. But pure trifle, unfussed with, traditional sponge cake, custard, berries and cream trifle, I hadn’t made in a long time until we went to Spain (of all places) last May.


There I met Andrés’s friends for the first time. We had a braai one day and they requested that I bring trifle as dessert. (They all pronounce it so it sounds like ‘truffle’ to my ear, elongating the ‘i’ so it sounds more like ‘e’, which makes it sound much more magical and alluring.) So I made a strawberry trifle. It was such a hit – gone in about 30 seconds – it made me remember the magical power of trifle. The power trifle has to make things better, seduce people, make you feel like the world is going to be a better place. That comforting memory of early childhood, where adults knew how to fix things, and the world was a place full of wonder and magic… (Of course, there are other takes on trifle, possibly not fueled by the same experiences I had, which you can hear about on this BBC Food programme or read about in this book, which is on my wish list.)

In need of such reassurances recently, I made what I like to term ‘freezer trifle’. This is trifle thrown together from things you already have skulking about in the back of your freezer. In my case there are always cake pieces and frozen raspberries (as well as emergency gin – like I suspect other people have homemade ready-meals, muffins and vegetables). Add in some super fast and easy vanilla custard, a slightly whipped double cream (and hazelnut praline for the funsies) and you have an easy dessert, any day of the week.


So this is not a recipe for trifle as such, it is a collection of ingredients that can be used to make trifle. With the exception of the custard – I’ve given you the recipe for that.

Some leftover vanilla cake pieces

Sherry (if you have it. I didn’t so mine were non-alcoholic trifles. We can debate whether this renders the dessert something else entirely if you’d like.)

Frozen raspberries, about a handful if there are two of you, heated with a tablespoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. You just want them slightly mashed and a bit juicy. (If you have a syrupy raspberry preserve, that’d work too.)

One quantity vanilla custard (see below)

Double thick cream, whipped to soft soft peaks.

Hazelnut praline. Toss a few hazelnuts (about half a cup) in a nonstick pan until they start to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat some sugar – add just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook until the sugar is a deep golden. Add in a knob of butter and swirl to incorporate. Roughly bash the hazelnuts and then place them  on a sheet of baking paper, on a tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts and leave to cool. When cold, bash up so you have different sized pieces.

For the custard (This recipe comes from my cooking school days and so I think belongs originally to Sam Marshall.)

180ml full fat milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or one quarter of a vanilla pod, split with seeds extracted)

2 egg yolks

60g caster sugar

25g plain flour

double cream (1-2 tbsp)

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Heat the milk and vanilla to scalding point. Whisk the yolks, sugar and flour together until thick and no lumps remain. Temper the hot milk into the eggs. Whisk to incorporate. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook out over a low heat until the custard is thick. (A wooden spoon is best here.) Pour into a container and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool.


Once the custard is cold, you can assemble your trifles. Layer cake pieces at the bottom of the serving dish. Splash with sherry, if using. Pour over the raspberries. Then distribute the custard. This makes enough for three (or two plus the cook eating what is left in the dish). Cover with cream and sprinkle generously with the praline. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour so things can settle. Eat.



Best of Summer Crumble

I really, really like baked fruit. I possibly like baked fruit even more than I like fresh fruit. Which is saying something. (Possibly about traumatic raw food experiences as a child, I don’t know.) But my preferred way to eat fruit is to have it baked, with an oat topping. I’m predictable and slightly boring, I am aware. This crumble highlights the best of the summer fruits current available at my local fruit and vegetable shop, Fred Hallam in Beeston if you’re wondering, which happen to be peaches, cherries (from Kent) and blueberries.

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I was invited over to cook (that sounds strange when I write it) for American friends yesterday – they do a Sunday dinner thing – and we ate outside in the garden. There was a vegetarian amongst us so I decided the easiest (and cheapest) was to do an all-vegetarian menu. I made tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits (from Joy the Baker, which I will post about separately), a squash and rocket salad and this crumble.

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There is no recipe for this crumble. I apologise, I just wasn’t organised enough to weigh everything out and I make crumble by sight (I was also ridiculously hungover from a hen night and couldn’t be bothered to stand upright longer than was strictly necessary). But I thought you’d enjoy the photos anyhow. I used four peaches, about 500g cherries and a handful of blueberries. The crumble was made with oats, plain flour, some demerara sugar, a generous handful of chopped pistachios and some butter (about 50g worth). I served it with crème fraîche but you could do cream/ice cream/yoghurt. I had the left-overs today after dinner but it works equally well as breakfast.

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Peaches, Roasted with White Peach Balsamic

Greetings dear readers,

I made it back from the USA last week (via three flights and one delay) and then worked at Open Days all weekend; after a whirlwind birthday celebration with the Princess in London (whatever you do, go and see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s possibly the best theatre show ever. We both agreed it is the most fantastical/magical/mind-blowingly-clever stage production we’ve ever seen. It made me laugh and cry and filled me with that glorious feeling of the magic of the world in a way only good children’s stories seem to do.) So I am rightly over tired at the moment. And tomorrow I am going back to school to do some follow up visits (before I can finally get down to tackling the vast amount of stuff I have accumulated as part of my field work, and make it all make sense…) I am going to tell you all about Chicago and MSU very soon, as well as Petersham Nurseries (another fantastic London find) but until then, I leave you with this very simple dish.


The best days of summer are upon us, the longest day is past and it is thus very necessary to celebrate soft fruits and sunshine. I realised whilst I was in Chicago that this blog is very much a journal of my eating experiences and ideas and any attempt to make it anything else is just silly. So you’ll probably be seeing a lot of practical eating in the next while – especially since I have to cook for myself until September. I do hope you like.

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There isn’t a recipe here. (I’m not big on recipes, I won’t lie.) Basically I found this fantastic white peach balsamic in Chicago (on a food tour which I will write about soon). What better way to roast peaches than with a little olive oil, balsamic and brown sugar? So that’s exactly what I did. I halved the peaches, drizzled some balsamic and olive oil over them, and then sprinkled them with brown sugar. I roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes, at 180C, until they were soft through and the juices and vinegar had caramelised. I served them warm with yoghurt, some pistachios and a few strawberries. (You can embellish a lot here – add in herbs you have, I like thyme with peaches – or some oats for a more crumble effect. You can serve the peaches with ice cream or cream or sweet biscuits. The choice is yours really. Just use slightly under ripe fruit for the best results.)

Pear and Panettone Pudding

So, more on my Christmas in July dinner. Obviously I’m still talking about dessert. At some point I may mention the main course. Then again, maybe not. This dessert has it all going on. I might make just this in the future. Who needs real food anyway?

So, this is obviously an adaption from bread and butter pudding, that stalwart of British dining. I won’t lie, bread and butter pudding is not up there on my hit list of desserts. It’s a dessert that was born out of rations and need in post-war Britain and I really don’t envy those who had to eat this at the time. (Although many of my British friends rave about this, I remain skeptical. Like I am about rhubarb. And summer pudding. I mean honestly, how much bread do you need to eat for dessert people? Seriously.) I digress. This is the Italian version of the dessert. I’ve made a French version too, using day old croissants and some cinnamon sugar. It worked wonderfully so I had high hopes for this dessert.

Now, I won’t lie, I didn’t come up with this all by my ownsome. I owe credit to Annie Bell, this comes from her Gorgeous Christmas book. (If you’re obsessed with Christmas only half as much as me, I’d suggest you buy this book.) It looks spectacular, all glossy and caramel coloured and works wonderfully with my ice cream so a winner all round. I did make some changes to the recipe (temptation is too much) and so I poached the pears before adding them to the dish. She also only makes one layer and scatters the pears on the top. I made 2 layers and put pears in the in-between layer too. Feel free to make it either way. I was cooking for a crowd but I also like at least 2 layers of panettone. It gives the dish some oomph and makes it filling, in a good way. This is the kind of dessert that will keep you going for days in the depths of winter.

Pear and Panettone Pudding
Adapted from Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Christmas
Feeds 21, easily with some leftovers for breakfast

1 panettone, sliced
Butter, for spreading
9 eggs
450g caster sugar
1250ml double cream
1250ml full cream milk
Splash of vanilla paste
8 pears
1L stock syrup
Apricot jam, for glazing

You’ll need to rather large, rectangular dishes for this, greased lightly. First things first, peel and core the pears. Heat the stock syrup (1L of water, 250g caster sugar, 3 slices of lemon) until simmering. Place the pears in the syrup, cover with some baking paper (for those technical minds this is called a cartouche) and simmer until the pears are tender and slightly translucent. The time this takes depends on how ripe your pears are. The riper the pears, the quicker they’ll cook. Mine were ridiculously ripe so this took less than 10 minutes when I did it but can take up to 45 minutes if your pears are like rocks. Don’t skip this step. The pears will discolour in the soaking process if you don’t cook them. Once the pears are tender, remove from the syrup and place on a chopping board. Slice the pears in half and then into thirds. Allow to cool.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until combined. Then whisk in the vanilla, milk and cream. Strain into a jug and set aside. Butter the slices of panettone and line the baking dishes. The aim is to completely cover the base of the dish. Scatter half the pears over the slices. Repeat again with slices and pears. Pour the egg mixture over the slices until they are completely covered. Wrap the dishes in cling film and refrigerate overnight. This allows the bread/panettone to soak up all the egg mixture and become soft and gooey which results in a smoother end pudding.

The next day, heat the oven to 160C and take the puds out of the fridge about an hour before baking to allow them to come to room temperature. This speeds up the whole cooking process. When you’re serving your main course, place the puddings in roasting dishes (or deep sided oven racks) and fill the roasting dish with water so that the water comes at least half way up the side of the pudding dish. Place these in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the puddings are set, golden and puffed at the sides.

Heat the apricot jam (about 4 tablespoons worth) with some water until it bubbles at the sides and is smooth. Brush this over the tops of the pudding. Serve with ice cream, custard or cream.

Unfortunately there are no photos of this lovely dish. I was distracted with the whole entertaining process and forgot about them. Apologies.

Apple Crumbles

An apple crumble is like the epitome of comfort food in my book. Its warm, you can eat it with custard (as far as I’m concerned, custard constitutes its own food group) and it makes use of any excess tart apples you may have hanging around looking mournful in your kitchen. This afternoon it started to rain (again) just as I was in the kitchen sorting out dinner – lamb and tomato pasta. I decided that such weather was just screaming out for an apple crumble and I’ve been craving them all week so I took advantage of the opportunity.

Crumbles in general are quick and easy to make. I work on 1 and a half pieces of fruit per person (if you’re doing apple, pear, peach, plum etc). If you’re using berries I would go with a cup per person, give or take. One of the main debates in crumble is the amount of crumble for the amount of fruit. I personally like a lot of crumble with my fruit and so am more likely to use more. I also make more crumble mix than I need and freeze the excess. This makes it even faster to get crumble-y goodness going the next time. Some people put spices into their crumble, either tossing it with the fruit or adding it to the crumble mix. I didn’t tonight but am partial to a little cinnamon once in a while. Depending on your fruit you may want to add a little sugar to the fruit itself, just a sprinkling mind because the crumble mix has sugar in it. I do this when the apples are particularly tart.

Apple Crumbles
1 and a half apples per person, peeled, and chopped into 1cm pieces
100g oats
100g flour
100g light brown sugar
100g butter, cold
nuts of your choice, if you so desire-about a handful, roughly chopped

Divide the apple pieces between 4 ramekins. Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a standing mixer, place the flour, oats and sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and add in. Mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Using a spoon, place the crumble mix on top of the apples. Don’t be afraid to pile it up, the apples will cook down in the process so the mix on top will fall in too.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the apples are soft and the crumble mix is brown. Serve with custard, ice-cream or cream.

The nut addition is personal. Sometimes I add some in, other times I don’t. This time I did not but I find when I make berry crumbles, like blueberry for example, the extra nut crunch adds an unexpected texture.

Mrs Figg’s Figgy Newtons

Herewith continues the saga of the Figgy Newtons. I admit that sometimes making shortbread is not the easiest thing. It doesn’t come together and can break up when you roll it but my! I have struggled this morning. The dough kept breaking up, it flaked when I rolled it, and I have fought to get it into some form of what the instructions say it should look like.

This recipe comes from Flour by Joanne Chang. I’m obsessed with this book. Not least because it is so fabulously American in all its goods but also because the pictures are mouthwatering and the girl went to Harvard before realizing that baking was the only way forward. I could not agree more. Flour is in Boston, has 3 outlets and is most definitely on my ‘list of places to go’ when I next visit. (Would some divine good fairy please organize a trip for me?) I still have to make the vanilla cream filled doughnuts at some point. I dream about them. But as I said, I had a glut of figs and no ideas as to what to do with them. So Figgy Newtons it is! The pastry on these things is wonderful. Its perfectly crisp but then just melts away in your mouth. Better yet, they’re not particularly sweet. The acid and tart fig jam complements the sweeter pastry resulting in something you could probably eat a lot of in a small amount of time. Particularly if you served them with vanilla ice-cream or mascarpone.

Mrs Figg’s Figgy Newtons
Adapted from Flour
For the Jam
650g ripe figs
1 orange
110g light brown sugar
zest of one lemon
pinch of salt

Peel, seed and chop the orange. Remove the stems from the figs and cut into quarters. Chuck all the ingredients in a pot and cook down until thick and jam-y. This takes about 45 minutes on a low heat. Allow the jam to cool completely. See the pictures of the jam yesterday.

For the Pastry
230g unsalted butter, soft
75g light brown sugar
30g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
some vanilla
140g stone ground cake flour
120g regular cake flour
half a teaspoon of baking powder

Cream the butter and sugars until light, white and fluffy. Add in the yolk and vanilla. Finally add in the flours and baking powder. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Turn this out and knead into a flat disc. Refrigerate for half an hour. In the mean time, heat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Now, the instructions say to roll out the pastry into a rectangle and then fill and bake this. I couldn’t get the dough to work nicely for me (see my rant above) so I eventually divided it into 2 pieces. I rolled each piece out, filled it with jam and then folded the edges to meet in the middle. As illustrated below.

Once you’ve done that, fold the other edges in and crimp to seal. It should look like a pillow with a seam down the middle. Now, very expertly and quickly, turn your pillow over so that the smooth side is turned upwards. I got lazy with the second one and didn’t turn it over. It is not nearly as nice aesthetically speaking but also was harder to cut. Bake these for about 35 minutes until golden brown. If you’re making a single one (those of you who are better skilled at this rolling thing than me) bake it for about an hour or so. Allow it to cool completely before slicing.

 This is supposed to be like an afternoon snack thing but I’d serve it as a dessert and I suspect it would go well with Greek yogurt at breakfast too.