In case you haven’t heard, spring has officially sprung. Daffodils and tulips are flowering, trees are covered in blossom and Easter is just around the corner. I love this time of year. I feel so refreshed when the sun starts to show its face again; everything is green and new and I want to be outside as much as possible.
Something that is synonymous with spring, especially in the food world is Wild Garlic. If you go in to any forest or wooded area you are highly likely to stumble across a bountiful crop of wild garlic. It grows rampantly in shady places from March until May, flowering around mid April. As far as foraging goes it’s a fairly easy one to spot and you will certainly smell it before you see it. The leaves are broad and richly coloured with dainty white, star shaped flowers. I am no expert in foraging and I’d never given wild food a second thought until a couple of years ago except for the obligatory late-summer blackberry picking. If you are interested in going out to pick some wild garlic for yourself, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you are looking for. Wild Garlic is easy to identify because it is so pungent but I still recommend looking at various different sources online and checking out your local library for a book on foraging. Wild Garlic is sometimes mistaken for Lily of the Valley which is extremely toxic, so again, be certain of what you are picking. Another few things to remember when foraging for wild food is to be respectful of the environment. Never, ever pull the plant up by its root. Only take the leaves and flowers. Don’t take too much from one spot and remember that this is natures larder. It doesn’t belong to you or anyone else, so don’t take advantage of it or be selfish.
Wild Garlic can be used in so many thing in the kitchen in exactly the same way you would use regular bulb garlic. If you are stirring it into a dish in lieu of normal garlic, I recommend treating it as you would any other fresh herb. Finely chop and stir in at the very end of cooking so that the beautiful flavour is not lost. Wild Garlic can also be used to make a butter, by chopping and mixing in to salted butter. Some people use it in a salad and you can also make a lovely soup with it.
I like to make wild garlic pesto firstly because we are big pesto fans in this house and secondly because it’s damn good. Making Pesto with wild garlic turns it from a “what the hell do I do with this” ingredient to a “what can I not do with this” ingredient. A couple of things I like to do with it are simply stir it into cooked spaghetti and use a basic white dough to make cheese and pesto swirls.
Wild Garlic Pesto
- 300g Wild Garlic
- 100g grated Parmesan
- 150g olive oil
- 100g pine nuts
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Juice of half a lemon
- Thoroughly wash the wild garlic and inspect it to make sure you haven’t picked up any non-edible greens or stowaways (bugs). Use a clean tea towel to dry the leaves gently. Then roughly chop the garlic.
- Firstly put the pine nuts in your food processor with the oil and salt and blend.
- Then add the wild garlic, a handful at a time. Finish with the the lemon juice.
- Keep blending until it reaches your desired smoothness. I prefer mine a little chunky.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days. You can also freeze this for up to one month.
Originating in Egypt, this delicious blend of nuts and spices is my new favourite thing to put on pretty much everything. Traditionally it is eaten as a condiment with bread or vegetables being first dipped into olive oil, and then in to Duqqa.
The name Duqqa (or Dukkah as it is sometimes spelt) derives from the Arabic word for “to pound” as it is made by dry roasting and then smashing together sesame seeds, hazelnuts and a mx of whole spices. It isn’t fine like a spice, but it’s ground into an almost mealy texture halfway between couscous and Polenta. There are many versions of Duqqa sold in street markets in Egypt, and of course every family has their own recipe handed down through generations. I like mine earthy and strongly nutty with good heat from black peppercorns, but I also like a sweeter Duqqa with cinnamon for sprinkling over porridge.
- 200g hazelnuts, shelled, skinned and roughly chopped.
- 100g of flaked almonds
- 200g sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- Firstly toast the nuts and the seeds in a heav bottomed frying pan, over a low heat. Keep them moving so they don’t burn. Watch out for flying sesame seeds and remove from the heat when the nuts and seeds are nicely golden all over.
- Toast the whole spices and grind. I used an electric spice grinder for this and pulsed it until the spices were ground but not too finely. Place the spices in a mixing bowl.
- Next grind the nuts and seeds. I grind a third of the mixture to a similar texture to the spices, the next third to a slightly coarser texture and the final portion I pound by hand in the pestle and mortar to give a less uniform consistency.
- Mix all of the ingredients together with a little salt, tasting as you go.
This is just the way I like to make Duqqa. If you prefer yours spicier or less spicy, more fragrant or more sweet, experiment with different whole spices and dried herbs. Lots of variations include dried mint, dried marjoram and thyme as well as cinnamon and cardamom.
I like to use Duqqa as a garnish on soups such as Carrot and Lentil. It goes very well on hoummous and you can sprinkle it over salads for a different flavour dimension. To make a sweet Duqqa, I reduce the amount of cumin, leave out the coriander and black pepper, reduce the chilli by a little and add lots of cinnamon, a little nutmeg and all spice. It’s really good on porridge and yoghurt.
Tea Loaf, not to be confused with Tea Cake is a light and juicy fruit cake. The dried fruit is re-hydrated by being simmered in black tea, giving the cake a simultaneously rich and zingy flavour.
I must confess I actually hate fruit cake; I’m not really a fan of raisins and I personally really dislike the way dried fruit tastes when it’s been soaked for days and baked into a cake for an eternity in a slow oven. But my husband loves this kind of cake, so for anyone else who enjoys a light and fragrant fruit cake to nibble on over a cup of tea in the afternoon sunshine, here is my recipe:
- 300g mixed dried fruit
- 225g water
- 4 tea bags (I prefer Earl Grey, but any black tea will do)
- The juice and zest of 2 lemons
- 100g of sugar
- 50g butter
- 1 egg
- 225g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C / gas mark 4. Grease and line a 1lb Loaf tin.
- Place the water and tea bags in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add the lemon juice and zest followed by the dry fruit. Simmer the whole mix for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Take out the tea bags and discard.
- Set the pan aside for a minimum of 15 minutes to cool. Whilst the mixture is cooling, the fruit will absorb the tea and lemon.
- In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then beat in the egg.
- Mix the fruit into the butter, sugar and egg.
- Next add the flour and baking powder and stir until everything is well combined.
- Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin and bake in the centre of your oven for around 1 hr. When the cake is ready it will be dark and bronzed on top and a skewer should come out clean.
- Allow to cool for around 20 minutes before you take it out of the tin.
This cake is very moist and will keep well in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you can keep your hands of it that is!
Move over Pizza: we have a new favourite bread based dinner and it’s called Pide!
Originating in Turkey this traditional bread is stretched thin and baked in a scorching hot oven, leaving the outside crisp and golden and the middle, soft and fluffy. During Ramadan this bread is eaten plain, with just a smattering of poppy seeds and sea salt, at the end of a long day of fasting.
Alternatively it can be topped with various different things, similar to an Italian pizza, and sold from kiosks on the bustling streets. We like our Pide with a spiced Lamb topping and a sprinkling of pickled onions. Other great toppings include Halloumi or Feta, Spinach and Egg.
To make this as a weeknight supper, we put the dough on at about 4:30 and leave it to rise for an hour whilst we prepare the filling and any salads or dips we decide to have. By 5:30 I’m shaping the Pide, baking them in a hot and they’re on the table by 6.
For the dough:
- 7g instant dry yeast
- 1 tbsp flour
- 300g flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 100g water
- 30g yoghurt
- 2tbsp olive oil
For the Lamb filling:
- 500g minced Lamb
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cumin, ground
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 1/2 tsp sumac
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the pickled onions:
- 100g white wine vinegar
- 100g water
- 50g sugar
- 5g salt
- 5 cloves
- 2 small red onions, sliced
- Make the dough by putting the flour and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer. Make a well in the centre and pour in the salt, sugar, water, yoghurt and oil.
- Mix on a low speed to combine the ingredients and form a dough.
- Continue mixing on a medium speed for 10 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough has formed,
- Set aside to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- To make the pickled onions, combine the water, vinegar, cloves, sugar and salt in a small pan. Bring to a boil whilst stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar,
- Once the liquid has come to a boil, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the onions, stir and set aside to cool.
- To make the Lamb filling, heat a large skillet with a small amount of oil. Add the onions and cook slowly until they start to caramelise.
- Add to this the Lamb and the ground spices. Turn up the heat to brown the meat.
- Then add the garlic and tomatoes. Add a little water if the mixture looks dry and cook on a low heat for approximately 15 minutes until the tomatoes start to break down.
- Season to taste and set aside to cool while you wait for the dough.
- Preheat your oven to its highest setting, prepare your baking tray by dusting it with flour.
- When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured work surface and divide into 4 equal portions.
- Shape each piece of dough into a long oval shape by stretching it with your hands. Place onto the baking sheet and spread the Lamb evenly across each Pide, leaving a 3cm edge all the way around.
- Fold the edge over the Lamb, pinching it at either end to make a point, and pinching all along the edges with your finger and thumb as you would to crimp a pie edge.
- Brush the edge of the Pide with a little olive oil.
- Bake in a hot oven for approximately 10-15 minutes, turning half way to ensure an even colour.
- The Pide are done when the dough has cooked underneath, the lamb is sizzling and the edges are golden.
- Serve immediately with the pickled onions on top.
Pistachios, Cardomom and Rose Water are probably some of my favourite ingredients to bake with. This may have something to do with my love for middle eastern food. I find it very fitting then, that this cake is called a Love cake. The exact origins of this cake are unknown, and there are countless different recipes under this name. The main ingredients of this cake have been used in Iran and the area which used to be the Persian Empired for thousands of years, not only because they are delicious and fragrant, but also for their medicinal properties.
According to folklore, this cake was first baked as a romantic gesture for a prince. Quite appropriately then, it has been a very popular choice for weddings for a couple of years now. I even baked it myself for my best friends wedding!
For this bake, I’ve used a silicon mini cake pan. It gives really neat, rectangular cakes instead of the usual round muffin shape. The advantage of using a mini cake mould is that you don’t have to worry about portioning the cake before you serve. Also, everyone gets to enjoy the chewy, caramelised edge which forms whilst baking. The quantities on this recipe will yield approximately 18 mini cakes, but will happily fill an 8″ cake tin. I would not recommend trying to make this cake too deep, as the recipe is only 50% cake flour which means it has a really delicate crumb structure, and although delicious and light, is also prone to sinking.
- 200g Sugar
- 200g butter
- 150g pistachios (shells removed)
- 150g plain flour
- 5g baking powder
- 1 tbsp rose water
- 3 eggs
- 5 Cardomom pods
- 100g white chocolate
- 50g double cream
- Dried rose petals to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.
- Grease your silicone muffin pan with a little butter and dust with flour.
- Place your pistachios and Cardomom pods in a food processor and blitz as finely as you can. Add to this the flour and baking powder and pulse until combined.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a large mix no bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the rosewater.
- Beat the dry ingredients into the wet.
- Fill each cell of the muffin pan with the batter until it is 2/3 full.
- Bake on the middle tray of your oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning the tray around after 15 minutes to ensure even colouring. When baked, the cakes should be lightly golden on top and springy. To check for raw batter, insert a clean metal skewer into the middle.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the muffin pan for 5 minutes, then gently remove. Sprinkle the cakes with a little extra rose water if you really want to intensify the floral scent.
- While the cakes cool, make your ganache by heating the cream and pouring it over the white chocolate. Stir until all the lumps have melted. Set aside to cool to a spreadable temperature.
- When the ganache is the right consistency and the cakes have cooled, spread a little chocolate over the top of each cake and top with rose petals, chopped pistachios and any other pretty additions you have in your kitchen. I’ve used freeze dried raspberry pieces.
We don’t really celebrate Valentines Day in this house. We are way to cynical. Also the thought of my husband presenting me with some naff red roses and a Dairy Milk Tray make me cringe so hard it hurts.
This pudding is really quick but it’s got a sexy French name and I’m sure you could lick it from a spoon in a suggestive manner if you felt that way inclined, which is why I think it would make a very nice ending to a romantic meal. It needs at least 2 hours to chill in the fridge, but you could make the chocolate cream the day before and put the cream on just before you serve it.
Bonus point: there’s lots of whipping involved which is great for bingo wings.
- 150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 3 egg yolks
- 300g double cream
- 150g whole milk
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp rose water
- Put 150g of double cream and all of the milk in a pan and heat on a medium flame.
- Beat the egg yolks and 1 tbsp of sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Slowly pour the hot cream and milk mixture into the egg, whisking constantly.
- Return this back to the pan and cook over a low heat, whisking constantly, until it has thickened to the consistency of custard.
- Pour half of this on to the broken chocolate and stir until completely smooth.
- Pour the remaining custard into the melted chocolate and beat until smooth and glossy.
- Pour the chocolate cream into the vessel of your choice. Pretty tea cups, fancy glasses and jam jars all work well. As does a normal dish.
- Gently tap the pots of chocolate on the work top to get rid of the bubbles.
- Lick the bowl so that no chocolate goodness is wasted.
- After a minimum of 2 hours the chocolate should be set enough to decorate.
- To make the Rose scented chantilly, place the remaining cream and sugar into a bowl with the Rose water and vanilla. Whip until it forms soft peaks and is light and airy.
- Pipe or spoon on to the chocolate cream. Decorate with berries, rose petals and chocolate shavings.
When you work as a pastry chef in a bakery where artificial colouring is outlawed, things start to get a little brown at this time of year. All summer we work with vibrant hues of pinks, purples and yellow. Autumn brings us beautiful purple and red shades from plums and spring brings us fluorescent pink from Rhubarb. There isn’t really a lot of colour to work with at this time of year. That is until blood orange season is upon us!
Blood oranges are in season from mid January to early March, so not long at all really. They get their beautiful colour from a naturally occurring pigment which only develops when night time temperatures are low. Some of them are stained red on the outside whilst some look perfectly, ordinarily orange.
This Tart does take a bit of time, as it’s very important that you rest the pastry and chill the filling. Patience is most definitely a virtue when it comes to patisserie. Trust me when I say this took me a long-ass time to learn. If blood oranges are out of season, substitute with normal oranges.
For the pastry:
- 250g plain white flour
- 150g icing sugar
- 120g unsalted butter
- 1 egg
For the curd:
- Juice and zest of 4 oranges
- 200g butter
- 150g sugar
- 4 egg yolks, 1 whole egg
- 1 tbsp cornflour
For the meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
To make the pastry:
- Cream the butter and icing sugar using a wooden spoon.
- Mix in the egg, then gently with your hands mix in the flour to form a dough. Be careful not to over work the pastry as this will leave you with a tough pastry case.
- Place in a plastic bag and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin and line a Tart case. Make sure the pastry is pressed right in to all the knooks and crannies and leave a little extra pastry over hanging the edge of the case. Prick the base of the case with a fork.
- Place in the fridge or freezer to chill for at least an hour.
- When fully chilled, cover the pastry in greaseproof paper and fill the case with rice or dried beans. This stops it puffing up in the oven.
- Bake the pastry case in a preheated oven at 160 degrees/ Gas mark 3. It will need approximately 20 minutes, turning half way, plus another 10 with the paper and rice removed. Because of the sugar in this recipe, the pastry does colour quite fast, so keep a close eye on it.
- When the case is out of the oven, use a small sharp knife to tidy up the over hanging edges. Set aside to cool.
For the Blood Orange Curd:
- Set up a Bain Marie using a pan of simmering water and a heat proof bowl. The bowl must not touch the water.
- Melt the butter and sugar in the Bain Marie.
- In a seperate bowl, combine the eggs, orange zest and juice and cornflour. Make sure they are well mixed.
- Pour this mix into the melted butter and sugar. Cook it carefully on the Bain Marie, whisking continuously until it starts to thicken. It should be glossy, smooth and coat the back of a spoon when ready.
- Place in a clean tub to cool, with some cling film on the surface so as not to form a skin.
When the Orange Curd is cool, pour it into the cooled Tart case and place this into the fridge to set. The Tart will be lovely just as it is, however if like me you have a constant need to go one step further, you can decorate your Tart with Swiss meringue…
For the Meringue:
- Over a Bain Marie, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Cook until the mixture reaches at least 63 degrees, or is just about too hot for your pinky finger.
- Using an electric whisk, whip the mixture until it forms stiff peaks.
- Pipe or mound onto your filled and chilled Tart and carefully toast with a blowtorch.
- If your Orange Curd lacks acidity (as Orange often tends too), squeeze in a little lemon juice at the end of the cooking. If you have it, a pinch of citric acid works even better.
- If you do not have a blow torch and still want to do the meringue, cover the whole surface of the Tart in meringue and cook it under the grill.
- Any left over Orange Curd will keep in the fridge for 3 days and it tastes amazing on toast.
- If you think you may struggle for time, you can line the pastry case up to a week before you need it and store it in the freezer. The Curd can be made a few days in advance and stored in the fridge.
- Freeze your pastry scraps with a date label and store for up to a month. A small amount will defrost quickly and be ready to roll for when you next need it.
- If you will not be serving your Tart within a few hours of finishing it, I recommend glazing the inside of the pastry case with an egg wash. Do this when you remove the paper and rice.