Baci di Dama

Here’s a recipe for all those who love cookies but are looking for a new twist on the subject. These are traditional Italian cookies (literally, “Lady’s Kisses”) which are made from hazelnuts (or almonds, according to your taste) and then sandwiched together with some dark chocolate, so that the two halves are “kissing”. Very moreish, we have an Italian expression which goes “uno tira l’altro” (one follows the other one) and which perfectly describes these cookies. When you make them, please make sure you allow plenty of cooling time in the fridge. The first try I gave these turned out to be a complete disaster as the biscuits literally melted in the oven. Erm. The recipe below if from here and it was a roaring success with the people I tested it on.

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Ingredients

  • 140g hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 140g plain flour
  • 100g unsalted butter, cold and diced
  • 100g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped

Method

  1. Toast the hazelnuts in a 160ºC oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep golden brown color and the skins are peeling away. Remove from the oven and as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, rub the hazelnuts in a tea towel (or if they’re not too hot, with your hands), until as much of the loose skins come off as possible. Let them cool completely before grinding them up.
  2. Put the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until very fine; they should be the consistency of coarse polenta.
  3. Transfer the ground nuts to a bowl and add the flour. Add the butter, sugar, and salt to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to rub all the ingredients together until the butter is dispersed and completely incorporated. The dough should be very smooth and hold together. If not, knead it until it does.
  4. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece until it’s 2cm round. Try to get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. If the dough is too long to work with as you roll them out, you can cut the dough at the midway point and work with it in batches.
  5. Chill the dough logs until firm on a small baking sheet or dinner plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. “-3 hours is the recommended time.
  6. Preheat oven to 160ºC and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Working with one length of dough at a time, keeping the others in the refrigerator or freezer, cut off equal-sized pieces using a knife or pastry cutter. The ideal is 5 grams each, if working with a scale. The fastest way to do it is to cut one to the right weight, then hold that one alongside the logs and use it as a template to cut the others. Once you’ve cut a length of dough, roll the pieces into nice little balls and place them on the baking sheet, slightly spaced apart.
  8. Continue cutting the dough and rolling it into little balls. Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during cooking, until the tops are lightly golden brown. Let the cookies cool completely.
  9.  In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate until smooth. Put a chocolate chip-sized dollop of chocolate on the bottom of one cookie and take another cookie, and sandwich the two halves together.
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Threeway Easter Wreath

This typical Italian bread is given a new makeover with the addition of unconventional ingredients, such as chorizo, and eggs, which are a strong Easter symbol as they celebrate life, rebirth, etc. The choice of ingredients you decide to fill your wreath with is totally up to you. I recently found out smoked cheese and black olives are a match made in heaven and, for that matter, smoked cheese seems to be complementing them quite well too. For those of you who are unused to eggs being baked in the oven, let me ensure you this is a traditional Italian centerpiece. If you don’t like/want eggs on top, just leave them out, the wreath will be very flavoursome and beautiful as it is. Also, the whole assembling phase might seem long winded and difficult, but let me ensure you I had not done this before and it was a piece of cake. Happy Easter everyone!

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Ingredients

  • 600g strong bread flour
  • 12g powdered yeast
  • 150g black olives, finely chopped
  • 5 eggs, well cleaned and scrubbed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150g smoked cheese, grated
  • 150g cooking chorizo sausage, skin removed, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt

Method

  1. To make the dough, put the strong bread flour in a bowl, then dissolve the yeast and sugar in 300ml lukewarm water. Add to the flour and start mixing that in. 
  2. While mixing, slowly add 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt.
  3. Bring the dough together and knead on a floured work surface for about 5-10 minutes, until the dough is pliable and elastic. Shape it into a ball, transfer it to an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
  4. Once the dough has risen, take about 100g from it and set it aside. You will need that later to decorate the eggs.
  5. Divide the leftover dough in three pieces of equal size.
  6. Working one of the pieces at a time, roll it out with a rolling pin so as to obtain a long strip approximately 35-40cm long. Fill it with your favourite filling (olives, chorizo and cheese in this case), then fold the long edges onto it so as to enclose it in the dough.
  7. Roll the long tube gently in order to seal it, then set aside. Repeat for the other fillings.
  8. Line a round baking tray with baking parchment.
  9. Join the three cilinders together at the top and press it gently on to the working surface so as to make it stick it to the table. Lay the three long tubes well spaced one from the other.
  10. Start threading them together as per picture below, then bring the edges together to form a round wreath-like shape.
  11. Place 4 eggs at regular intervals on the wreath and use the dough previously set aside to make long strips to fix them.
  12. Leave to rise again for about 30 minutes in a warm place, until almost doubled in size.
  13. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, then lightly beat the remaining egg and use it to glaze the the whole surface of the wreath (minus the eggs).
  14. Bake for 40-50 minutes, then transfer to a serving dish and enjoy while still warm.

2scarcedda

Artichoke, Mushroom and Olive Pasta Bake

Pure comfort on a cold winter night – yes, I know it’s almost April, but it’s still snowing here in the UK and temperatures are not set to rise until mid next month anyway. Just when you need some solace and some quiet, especially after a hard day at work, this will provide that and more. The recipe comes from the April issue of delicious. magazine and contemplates the ingredients in the title. However, should you feel more adventurous, please feel free to modify it by adding, removing, substituting or even revolutionizing altogether. After all, the dish is a pasta bake and that needs to suit whatever you feel like eating and whenever you feel like it. Last note: the original recipe asked for Provolone, an Italian smoked cheese which my local supermarket clearly does not know of. I substituted that with a British smoked cheese and it worked very well.

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Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 200g mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
  • 50g pitted black olives, drained and sliced
  • pinch of sugar
  • 500g tube-shaped pasta (rigatoni or penne are your best option here)
  • 150g smoked cheese, coarsely grated
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 35g plain flour
  • 600ml lukewarm whole milk
  • 4 tsp freshly grated Parmesan

Method

  1. Start with the pasta sauce. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan, then tumble in the onions and soften on a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, thyme and mushrooms, then cook for another 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic and chilli flakes, then season. Cook for 1 minute, then add the wine. Turn the heat up to bubble the wine away (about 2 minutes), then add the olives, artichokes and tomatoes. Turn the heat back to medium and leave the sauce to simmer for a good 15 minutes. Add the pinch of sugar and season with salt and pepper midway through the cooking time.
  3. Now prepare the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then take off the heat and add the flour. Mix that in with a wooden spoon, then put the saucepan back on the heat and keep on stirring to cook the flour and butter mixture. This way, you will obtain the so-called roux. Once that is cooked, gently and steadily pour in the lukewarm milk and whisk to combine and remove any lumps. Leave on the heat and mix with the wooden spoon until thickened and glossy. Take off the heat and add the Parmesan. If you’re not using straight away, cover the surface with a sheet of cling film to prevent a skin forming.
  4. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Aim for an al dente result rather than extra soft, sloppy mush. Drain and set aside.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, fan oven.
  6. Start composing the dish in a big oven tray. First spread a couple of spoonfuls of the tomato sauce on the base, then scatter half of the pasta on top, followed by more tomato sauce and half of the béchamel sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, finish off with the rest of the béchamel sauce, then scatter the grated smoked cheese on top.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and crispy on the outside.

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Layer icing

Right, let’s talk technique. How many of you know what ombre icing is? In case you don’t, it is a technique used with buttercream (or any other kind of frosting) whereby you use your icing in different shades in order to create a gradual effect. You can find plenty of examples on the Internet, here are some. The most widespread form of ombre icing – which I read seems to be quite a big hit these days – involves piping small dots of icing on the cake side and then smearing them with either a palette or the back of a spoon, so as to obtain a drop-like effect. Very cool, I have to say, but extremely long winded and meticulous. In this post I wanted to show you how to use the same principle to obtain a stunning centrepiece and still obtain a well decorated cake.

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  • First of all, start by making your own buttercream. There are different schools of thoughts on the matter, I merely mixed the same amount of softened unsalted butter and sifted icing sugar in a freestanding mixer equipped with the paddle attachment and let it do all of the dirty work (well, I still had to clean afterwards…).
  • Unless you are planning to divide your icing in different bowls and colour them separately, I suggest you use the same container for the icing and build the colour gradually. On top of being extremely easier, it saves you having to wash up thousands (!!) of bowls.
  • Before you start adding food colouring, cover the cake with an even layer of neutral buttercream. This will act as the base for the coloured frosting. It will also allow you to fill any gaps between the layers and to create a smooth, even and crumb-free surface on which to attach the icing.

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  • Here I used a chocolate & caramel layer cake for the base, but a normal Victoria sponge cake will do. I reckon you’ll need approximately 500g buttercream to cover the whole cake.
  • Make some more buttercream and start adding the food colouring drop by drop. carefully check how the icing slowly colours and stop adding food colouring when you have reached the desired tone. For the first layer, I would suggest opting for a fairly pale colour.
  • Using a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle, start piping swirls at the bottom (or on the top, depending on how you want to start) of the cake and cover the whole outside of the cake making sure you keep the icing on the same line so as to make a ring on the outside of the cake.
  • Gradually add more food colouring to your leftover icing and keep on creating rings around the cake slowly building up in height and colour.

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  • As you can see from the picture above, you might have to pipe small dots between the swirls as there obviously tend to be uncovered bits. That is fine and it adds to the overall charm of the cake.
  • The cool thing about this is that you control the colour you get. I went for shades which were clearly different (it adds to the dramatic effect), but you might choose to opt for a more gradual approach. Below is the finished result.

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Blancmange Flan with Chocolate Ganache and Almond Praline

This is not a cake. Well, not strictly speaking, anyway. You basically make an almond case and fill it with the smoothest and nicest blancmange you’ve ever tasted. If you don’t know what blancmange is, have a look here. I took this one to work (like many others that I make) and it disappeared in a matter of seconds. Make sure you set aside plenty of time for this one as it will need at least 6 hours to set in the fridge. I made it two days in advance, so by the time I brought it in it was perfect and solid – unlike the last cheesecake I made, which melted on the tray. The recipe comes from the March issue of La Cucina Italiana.

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Ingredients

  • 420g almond milk
  • 315g plain flour + 15g
  • 300g double cream
  • 180g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 70g sliced almonds
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 40g egg whites
  • 6g leaf of gelatine
  • 5g cocoa powder
  • salt

Method

  1. First you start with the base. In a big bowl, mix 300g of plain flour with the cocoa powder, 150g of softened unsalted butter, 50g ground almonds, the icing sugar and a pinch of salt. Little by little, pour in 70g of almond milk and bring the dough together with your hands. You should get a soft dough. Tip it on to a work surface, wrap it in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare a 22cm springform tin by lining the bottom with baking parchment.
  3. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to 5mm thickness. Use the rest of the flour to dust the work surface and avoid the dough sticking to it. Once the dough has been rolled out, roll it on to the rolling pin and lift it on to the tin, then let it fall gently and push it down to the bottom. Use your hands to cover the whole of the inside of the tin (both bottom and sides), and trim the excess pastry or adjust it to obtain an even surface. Chill the uncooked case in the fridge for half an hour.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and put a baking tray in the oven to warm up.
  5. Take the case out of the fridge, cover the inside with baking parchment and fill it with baking beans/rice so as to blind bake it. Put it in the oven on the pre-heated baking tray and bake for 25 minutes. Once that time has elapsed, take the case out of the oven, remove the beans and bake for another 10 minutes to ensure the pastry case is completely cooked. Take out of the oven and leave to cool down on the side.
  6. Now on to the blancmange. In a medium pan, heat 350g of almond milk with 30g caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the gelatine leaf (previously soaked in water for 5 minutes and squeezed to remove the excess liquid), then mix 15g butter with 15g flour to make a paste and tumble that in the pan too. Use a whisk if necessary to mix it all in. Bring to the boil then cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let the custard cool down.
  7. In another bowl, pour 200g of double cream, then whisk it until it holds soft peaks. Cover with cling film and chill until ready to use.
  8. Now prepare an Italian meringue. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. In the meantime, warm 80g caster sugar with 3 tbsp water in a casserole and let it bubble away until it reaches 118 degrees Celsius (I don’t have a sugar thermometer, so I just let it bubble away for 2 minutes from the boiling point). Gently and steadily pour the sugar syrup over the egg whites, whisking all the time, until the meringue has cooled down and perfectly holds its shape.
  9. Once the custard has cooled down, mix it with 50g of ground almonds, then fold in the meringue (half at a time) and the whipped cream. Your blancmange is now ready to fill the case. Pour it inside the almond case, smooth the top and chill the whole flan in the fridge for at least 6 hours, better if overnight.
  10. To make the chocolate ganache, bring 100ml of double cream to the boil in a casserole, then pour over the dark chocolate. Let it melt on its own for a couple of minutes, then stir it to complete the process. let it cool down for a good 2 hours, or speed the process up by chilling it in the fridge for about half an hour. Once cooled, whisk slightly with a balloon whisk.
  11. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe small dots in a circle pattern around the edge of the flan. You can add extra ones or pipe a ring all around the edge, it’s up to you.
  12. Last, but not least, make the praline. Melt 40g of caster sugar in 4 tbsp water and 15g butter in a casserole, then bring to the boil. Toast the sliced almonds in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes, then tip into the pan and mix well to cover them in the caramel sauce.
  13. Transfer to a baking parchment sheet, then cover with another one and use a rolling pin to spread it out and even it all out. Peel the top baking parchment sheet off and leave to cool at room temperature or put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. You can even make this step well ahead. Once cooled down, break the praline in medium size chunks and use them to decorate the cake. You can drop them casually on the top of the cake or press them gently on to the ganache stars.

Tips

  • You can easily find almond milk in healthy food stores, like Holland & Barrett. 

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Piri-piri Prawns and Harissa Couscous

For a little Moroccan touch to your evenings in, why not try this African-meet-Middle-East dish? Really easy to assemble, twice as easy to cook and very, very tasty. You can also adjust the final hotness by choosing how much chilli flakes you put in and, should you prefer to tone it down a little and not use chillies whatsoever, why not substitute them with smoked paprika or cinnamon? The recipe is James Martin’s, but I adapted it ever so slightly by using my own spice mix rather than the baharat one as advised.

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Ingredients (for the prawns)

These quantities are for approximately 12 medium size king prawns. Adjust accordingly if you are using larger amounts.

  • 12 king prawns
  • 2 red chillies, seeds in, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 lemon, juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • black pepper, ground

Ingredients (for the couscous)

  • 300g couscous
  • 400ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • juice from half a pomegranate and seeds from a whole one
  • 1/2 lemon, juice
  • 1 tsp each of: dried coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin & paprika
  • black pepper, ground
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 small bunch of coriander, to serve

Method

  1. Prepare the marinade for the prawns by putting all the ingredients (but the prawns) in a food processor and blitzing until smooth and pink in colour. 
  2. Tip the prawns in a shallow dish and pour the marinade all over them, then cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour.
  3. Take the prawns out of the fridge and either cook on a grill pan on a medium heat for about 2 minutes a side or arrange on a baking tray and cook under a grill for about 4 minutes in total.
  4. For the couscous, pour the lemon juice, harissa and pomegranate juice in a big bowl, then tip the couscous in and add the spice mix. Mix it all together, then pour in the boiling water, cover tightly and leave to stand for about 5 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, peel and finely chop the onion and put in a separate bowl with the pomegranate seeds and coriander.
  6. Once the couscous has absorbed all the liquid, remove the cling film and fluff it with a fork (don’t use a spoon). Tip in the other ingredients in the bowl, season with salt and pepper and serve topped with the searing hot prawns.

Tips

  • If you, like my partner, do not enjoy the crunchiness and freshness of pomegranate seeds, you can substitute them with raisins, currants, chopped dried apricots, cranberries or, even, a mixture of all of them. 
  • You can also use cranberry juice instead of pomegranate juice, which saves you having to buy a pomegranate only to squeeze half of it.

Pancetta Parmesan Puffs

I have to say I was a bit scared at first to try this recipe, mostly because it involves a rough version of choux pastry, albeit with less eggs and definitely less work. Still, I can confirm this is the easiest and tastiest little snack you can try. If you have a piping bag and a big nozzle, then pipe the little balls. If you don’t, then I’m sure two teaspoons will do just as good. This recipe is from Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food.

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Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 125ml milk
  • 70g pancetta cubes
  • oil
  • 30g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs

Method

  1. Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. In a frying pan, drizzle some oil and fry the pancetta cubes until golden and crispy. Drain using a slotted spoon, then set aside on a piece of kitchen paper to dry the excess oil. Chop finely once cooled.
  3. Put the butter and the milk in a pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil.
  4. Take off the heat and tip in the flour, Parmesan cheese, salt and chilli powder, then mix all together using a wooden spoon. Keep on mixing until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
  5. Tip the mixture into a big bowl and spread it with the back of the spoon. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
  7. Break the first egg into the bowl and combine it with the wooden spoon. Don’t worry at first if the mixture looks like a lumpy mess, keep on stirring and eventually you’ll get a smooth mixture. Repeat with the other egg.
  8. Once the mixture is smooth and all combined, add the pancetta and mix thoroughly to combine.
  9. Tip the mixture into a piping bag and pipe small blobs on the baking parchments, keeping them fairly apart as they will increase in volume during baking.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes, by which they all should have puffed up nicely and turned a golden colour.
  11. Take out of the oven and leave to cool slightly, then tip on to a serving plate and enjoy!

Carrot Muffins with Aromatic Cream

Now, before you start complaining, these are dead easy. Just a bit of mixing and piping and it’s all done. The recipe comes from an Italian food magazine, La Cucina Italiana (The Italian Cuisine), which I buy when I go back home as it’s full of very interesting recipes and food news. The original recipe also asked to sprinkle the muffins with some dark chocolate, but as I was more after a savoury version of the dessert rather than a proper sweet muffins, I left that out. I would still serve this after your mains, as the whipped cream makes it sweet anyway – and the carrot batter, to be fair, is very much reminiscent of a miniature carrot cake. The quantities below make 12 muffins, but you can only see 10 in the picture below as my partner slyly decided to kill two even before I had the chance to ice them…

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Ingredients

  • 250g double cream
  • 200g plain flour
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 200g carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • 80g soft butter
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 15g icing sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 amaretti biscuits, crushed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • pinch of cocoa

Method

  • Grease and flour (I only used a cake release spray and it worked all right) a 12 muffin tin and heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  • In a bowl, mix together the grated carrots, eggs, flour, bicarbonate of soda, milk, butter, crushed amaretti and caster sugar. Add a pinch of salt and mix that in too.
  • Transfer the batter to a jug (I found this to be the easier way) and pour into the muffin holes, aiming at filling them for 2/3. Don’t overfill them as the batter will not be enough and you will end up with uneven muffins.
  • Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are ever so slightly coming away from sides and are well puffed up and golden.
  • Take the muffins out of the oven, transfer the tin to a cooling rack, cover with a damp towel and let them cool completely.
  • Using a round-bladed knife, release the muffins from the tin and take them out.
  • In a bowl, whip the double cream with the cinnamon, cocoa and chilli powder until stiff.
  • Transfer to a piping bag equipped with a star nozzle and pipe small swirls on top of the cold muffins. You can also dust them slightly with cocoa powder if you wish.
  • Keep refrigerated if eating later and, once ready, leave at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Banana Boston Cream Cake

Ever heard of the Hummingbird Bakery? Well, if you haven’t, then you should. I have been making their Guinness Cake for ages and it’s always a raving success. They have so many amazing and creative ideas for desserts and they have recently published their second book (which, of course, is already in my possession). It’s called Home Sweet Home and contains plenty of innovative recipes for cupcakes alongside more traditional cakes and American-inspired pies and tarts. Just delicious! This cake comes from this book, so I hope I am not breaching anyone’s copyright by posting the recipe on here. It is a banana sponge cake with a custard filling and a chocolate ganache on top. Now tell me you don’t want to eat it! The recipe involves three main steps, so I will divide ingredients and method accordingly.

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Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 125g soured cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/s tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method (for the sponge)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins.
  2. Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  3. In a jug, mix together the mashed banana, soured cream and vanilla extract.
  4. In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarb.
  5. With the whisk on a medium speed, pour the soured cream mixture into the creamed butter and sugar and mix well to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  6. Divide the batter between the two tins and bake for 25-35 minutes. Check the cakes are cooked with a skewer. The sponges should be light and bounce back when slightly pressed.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Ingredients (for the custard)

  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour

Method (for the custard)

  1. In a medium pan, bring the milk and vanilla extract to the boil.
  2. In a bowl, mix the yolks with the sugar, flour and cornflour until it forms a paste. You can also add a small amount of the milk to loosen the mixture up.
  3. Once the milk is ready, slowly pour it into the bowl with the eggy mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Pour it back in the pan and cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a thick custard. The process will not take more than 5 minutes. You need to keep an eye on the eggs and keep on mixing because if the heat is too high they will scramble and you will end up with a mess. If you notice the eggs start creating lumps, take the pan off the heat and whisk ferociously until the mixture is smooth again.
  5. Once cooked, pour the custard in a bowl and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.

Ingredients (for the ganache)

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 300ml double cream

Method (for the ganache)

  1. Pour the cream in a pan set over a medium heat and bring to the boil.
  2. Break the chocolate into smallish chunks into a bowl.
  3. Once the cream is hot, pour over the chocolate bits and leave to rest for a good couple of minutes.
  4. Mix to melt all of the chocolate.

Assembling the cake

  1. Once the sponges and the custard have cooled completely, start assembling the cake.
  2. Place one of the sponges on your cake stand or plate and pour the custard on top of it. Spread it with a palette knife and ensure the whole surface is covered. Top with other sponge layer.
  3. Wrap the cake in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to set for another 45 minutes.
  4. Once that is done, take the cake out of the fridge and peel off the clingfilm.
  5. Set the assembled cake on a wire rack standing on a baking tray and pour the ganache on top, ensuring the whole cake is covered. repeat the procedure if needed.
  6. I personally spread the ganache with a spatula, so that is why I didn’t get a shiny effect in the end.

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Flourless Citrus Cake

This cake is the easiest piece of baking I have ever done. All it requires is a bit of cooking and then the food processor and the oven will do all the hard work. Nigella bakes hers with clementines, I have tried with oranges and it’s a raving success, less so with limes as it was extremely bitter, although I later found out the fruit I used had more pith than pulp, so that might be why. The recipe below is for the orange version, but feel free to substitute more or less the same weight with lemons, limes, clementines and so forth. I reckon two big oranges will probably equal about 5 to 6 limes and the same amount of clementines, while with lemons it all depends on how big they are.

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Ingredients

  • 2 large oranges
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 6 eggs
  • 225g caster sugar (but golden caster sugar works just as fine)
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Remove the stalk from the oranges, then put them in a pan filled with water and boil them for 2 hours, topping the water as you go as it will evaporate. Don’t peel them, don’t quarter them, just put them whole in.
  2. Once they are completely cooked, let them cool completely. I usually do this the previous day so the oranges have time to cool overnight, but if you are doing the whole process in a day, then I’d reckon a couple of hours should do.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line and grease a 20cm springform tin.
  4. Slice the oranges in half using a very sharp knife and remove the seeds if there are any, then put them in a food processor and blitz them until they are mushy and coarse.
  5. Slowly add the rest of the ingredients and keep on whizzing until the cake batter is smooth and combined.
  6. Pour in the tin and bake for about 1 hour, covering the cake with foil after 40 minutes if the surface is browning too much. Remember to use a skewer to check if the cake is cooked all the way through.
  7. Take out of the oven and put on a cooling rack, but cover with a towel to keep the cake moist.
  8. Serve on its own or with some whipped cream/ice cream.