Lemon and Lime Tart

A very easy and tasty dessert for those of you who are proficient in the art of shortcrust pastry and would like to tweak the recipe and try something new. This recipe comes from the MasterChef Cookery Course book.

The texture of the filling is slightly different from a standard lime tart (or tarte aux citrons, if you want to be over pompous and show off that you can speak French), mostly because the eggs are whisked up until the very last minute, thus creating a very light and frothy filling. Needless to say, you can opt for a more traditional pastry case and omit the cocoa or swap the lemons & lime zest and juice for 1 1/2 oranges’ or 2 satsumas’, the possibilities are endless. Also, where possible, I swap standard caster sugar with golden caster sugar, mostly because the latter is less refined and therefore healthier for you – not to mention it adds a caramel-like flavour to your bakes!

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Ingredients (for the pastry case)

  • 125g plain flour
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 75g unsalted butter, chilled and diced

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 3 large eggs
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 200ml double cream
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime

Method

  1. First, make the pastry. Sift the flour, salt, icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add the butter and gently rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture becomes slightly darker and resembles breadcrumbs. Add 1-2 tbsp of iced water, a little at a time, then gather the pastry with your fingers and try and bring it together. Tip onto a slightly floured working surface and use the heel of your hands to bring the pastry together and slightly knead it. Shape it into a round ball, flatten it slightly and wrap it in clingfilm, then chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  2. Once hardened and chilled, take the pastry out of the oven and roll it out on a slightly floured work surface. Use it to line a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin, then return to the fridge and chill until stone cold and hard again.
  3. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
  4. Take the pastry case out of the fridge, prick the base with a fork, then layer it with a crumpled sheet of baking parchment and fill it with baking beans.
  5. Blind-bake for 15 minutes, then remove the case from the oven, carefully lift the baking parchment off the pastry and bake for another 10 minutes to crisp up.
  6. While the pastry case is baking, make the filling. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer or using a hand-held one, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and creamy. Stir in the cream, lime and lemon juice and zest, then transfer to a jug (so that it will be easier to pour it into the pastry case).
  7. Once the case has cooked thoroughly, reduce the temperature for the oven to 160 degrees and pour the filling into the case, then return it to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before unmoulding from the tin.

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Potato & Mushroom Creamy Gratin

This is a really easy recipe which stems from 3 main principles: it is extremely easy to make, it can be prepared in advance and, for once, the recipe is all mine. The basics behind a good gratin are, as far as I am concerned, spuds, cream and garlic. Anything else is up to you and can make the real difference between a sublime baked gratin and a plain one.

A gratin really is a layered dish mainly made from potatoes, which are finely sliced to allow for a better bake and can also arranged in a fairly geometrical pattern. In this case I added mushrooms and sweet potatoes (I had some leftover in the fridge), but you can decide to keep it simple and only use potatoes or, should you be a little bit more adventurous, even try it with pumpkin or other hard root vegetables. The cream really is the key, as that is what will slowly seep into the vegetables and cook them. Consider it like a milky bath, a bit like Cleopatra’s (ok, I’m pushing it a bit too far now).

I said you can make this in advance and really, you can follow the recipe up until step number 4 and then leave it in the fridge to bake at a later time.

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Ingredients

  • 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
  • 250g mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 300ml double cream
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • mixed nuts (to sprinkle on top)

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter a large baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, mix the cream with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the mixed nuts (if using) and mix all together.
  3. Start layering the dish. Arrange an even layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping them so they cover all of the surface. Top with a layer of mushrooms and then with a layer of sweet potatoes. Repeat until you have used all of the vegetables.
  4. Pour the cream evenly on the dish.
  5. Bake for at least 40 minutes in the oven and check after this time whether the vegetables are cooked. The cream should be bubbling at the sides and the vegetables on top should have slightly coloured.
  6. Serve while warm.

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Carrot, Coconut and Chocolate Cake

This is another butterless cake. This time, however, the batter is made from eggs, carrots and coconut. I found this recipe in an Italian chocolate cookbook modestly called Il Cioccolato (Chocolate), but I had to slightly adapt the recipe to make it work my way. The cake itself does not require much skill: the all in one method seems to be working miracles here. The chocolate is also merely a glazing on top, so you could deceive yourself into eating slice after slice by justifying your actions with how healthy the cake really is.

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Ingredients

  • 300g carrots
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 150g desiccated coconut + extra for decorating
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50ml double cream, at room temperature

Method

  1. Start by peeling and finely grating the carrots. Please be advised that the 300g indicated above are the quantity needed of finely grated carrots, and not of the unpeeled and whole vegetables.
  2. Line and butter a 20cm deep cake tin. Do not use sandwich tins or the cake will overflow. Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  3. In a big bowl or in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, add the eggs, sugar, carrots, coconut and almonds, then mix to combine. Your cake batter will be slightly denser than what you are normally used to, but that is desirable.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Increase the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and bake for another 40 minutes. In the last 10-15 minutes, cover the surface of the tin with a sheet of foil to prevent the top from burning.
  6. Check if the cake is cooked by testing it with a toothpick or a skewer, then remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the cake tin. The cake will shrink slightly and come away from the sides.
  7. While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate ganache. Break the chocolate into chunks and put into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Melt the chocolate and then add the cream, mixing to combine.
  8. Take the bowl off the heat and let the ganache cool to room temperature, until it thickens nicely.
  9. Lay the cake on the cake stand or serving dish of your choice, then pour the ganache on top and spread with a palette knife to smooth the top and cover the sides. Dust with some desiccated coconut and leave to cool and harden.

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The cake before icing

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Chocolate, Macadamia & Coffee Torte

This is a weird cake as the sponge is made entirely from macadamia and contains no butter. The nuts are finely ground and then mixed to the other ingredients, and their natural oils provide the ‘fat’ base for the cake sponge. The final decoration really is up to you, I merely followed the recipe as in the GBBO book and experimented with feathering. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this refers to a particular type of icing whereby a ganache is decorated with feather-like shapes, obtained by tracing horizontal lined with a darker ganache on the smooth base surface and then drawing the surface with a cocktail stick to leave a trail behind and bend the horizontal lines. The result is pretty much self-explanatory.

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Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 200g macadamia nuts
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 2 yolks
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Ingredients (for the ganache)

  • 170g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tsp brandy
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

Method

  1. First of all, start with the sponge. Line and grease two 20cm sandwich tins and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  2. Coarsely grind the macadamia nuts in a food processor until they start to clump together. Tip onto a plate lined with kitchen paper, spread out and leave to dry for about 5 minutes, then mix with the ground almonds.
  3. Melt the white chocolate over a pan of simmering water, then leave to cool.
  4. Put the 8 egg yolks (6 eggs + 2 extra yolks, remember!) into a large mixing bowl with the vanilla extract and whisk with an electric mixer (I swear by my KitchenAid) until the mixture is very thick and the whisk leaves a ribbon-like trail when lifted from the bowl. Use a big spatula to fold in the nuts, then fold in the white chocolate and milk.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold those in too in batches.
  6. Divide the mixture between the two tins, then bake for 35-40 minutes. Check the sponges are cooked using a skewer, then remove from the oven and leave to cool in their tins.
  7. Move on to the filling. In a mixing bowl, stir the brandy with the espresso powder until dissolved. Add the mascarpone and the icing sugar, then mix to combine. Chill until needed.
  8. Last step, the ganache. Put the white chocolate in a bowl, then heat the cream until almost boiling. Pour onto the chocolate in a thin stream, whisking constantly. When the mixture is smooth, stir in the brandy. Spoon a quarter of the mixture into a separate bowl and stir in the espresso powder. Cover both bowls and leave to cool until needed.
  9. To assemble the torte, put a small blob of the filling on the serving plate/platter, then set one of the sponge layers on top. Use the rest of the filling to cover it, then top with the other sponge layer. Once the ganache has cooled down, spread over the top of the torte and let it drip down the sides. Spoon the coffee ganache into a piping bag and snip off the end, then pipe uniform horizontal lines on the now iced surface of the cake. Using a cocktail stick, draw vertical lined across the ones made with the ganache alternating upwards and downwards movements. Leave to set until needed.

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Scallop and Salad Cream Profiteroles

Before we even venture into the recipe, a couple of points. By salad cream I do not mean the disgustingly mayo-like and yellow or white-ish stuff you Brits squeeze/dollop/smear over your salad to dress it. Rather, I mean an actual cream made of boiled salad leaves. Secondly, I know you are used to sweet choux pastry, but its savoury counterpart is just as good.

For this recipe, please make sure to buy good quality scallops and to clean them thoroughly before use. Also, allow plenty of time to prepare and assemble everything. This recipe was featured in the March 2013 issue of La Cucina Italiana and works brilliantly as a canapé or starter when you have people over. Dead easy to make too!

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Ingredients

  • 1 quantity choux pastry
  • 100ml double cream
  • 6 big scallops
  • 180g bag of mixed salad leaves, chopped
  • 3 small artichokes from a tin/jar
  • 30g butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • chives
  • oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Prepare your choux pastry and pipe into small balls on the prepared tins. Bake as appropriate until the balls have puffed up and are a good golden brown.
  3. Remove from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the salad cream. In a frying pan, melt the butter and then tumble in the finely chopped shallot, mixing it until slightly golden. Add the salad leaves and let them wilt in the heat. As soon as they start leaking water, transfer them to a blender together with the cream and add 1 tsp chopped chives. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour back into the pan and bring to the boil over medium heat, reducing it until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  6. Sear the scallops in a very hot pan. Be careful not to overcook them. 2-3 minutes per sides will be more than enough. Transfer to a chopping board and, using a very sharp knife, slice into half.
  7. Finely chop the artichokes and mix together with the parsley and a dash of lemon juice. Season with pepper.
  8. Cut the choux profiteroles into half, then spoon some salad cream in the bottom half and top with some of the artichoke mixture. Arrange the scallop slice on top and cover with the choux bun top. Repeat with all of the choux buns.

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Orange Praline Meringue Cake

This is a stunning centerpiece for whichever occasion you might be willing to bake. The cake comprises of 2 génoise sponge layers alternated with 2 meringue discs and sealed with orange-flavoured and praline-dusted buttercream. The sides of the cake are then iced with more buttercream and are covered with coarser praline. It takes a while to make s there is quite a lot involved, but it isn’t as difficult as it might come across as and, once assembled, you will be glad to have spent that extra hour in the kitchen. The recipes comes from the GBBO book, but as it lacked a picture to go with the cake, I had to improvise a little bit on the decoration.

For those of you who don’t know, a génoise sponge is a whisked sponge which involves very little flour and is made by whisking the eggs in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, so that they start to cook and, at the same time, increase in volume at least threefold.

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Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 150g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • good pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 165g caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 and a half oranges
  • 75g unsalted butter

Ingredients (for the meringues)

  • 100g ground almonds, sifted
  • 70g icing sugar, sifted
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 70g caster sugar

Ingredients (for the praline)

  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g whole (unblanched) almonds

Ingredients (for the butter icing)

  • 450g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 450g icing sugar, sifted
  • finely grated zest of 1 and a half oranges
  • 3 tbsp orange juice

Method

  1. First of all, let’s start with the sponge. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Sift the flour, cornflour and salt onto a sheet of baking parchment and set aside. In a pan, melt the butter, then transfer to a bowl to cool down and set aside. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin (I used a springform one) and set aside.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, break the eggs and whisk with an electric mixer until just frothy. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and whisk in the sugar and the orange zest. Keep on whisking on high speed until the mixture is very thick, pale and mousse-like and leaves a ribbon-like trail when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.
  3. Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk again for a good 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled down to room temperature.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg one and dribble over the surface half of the butter mixture. Using a spatula or a big metal spoon, slowly and carefully fold these in until you can’t see any flour streaks anymore. Repeat to add the rest of the flour mixture and butter, then gently and carefully fold those in too.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check whether the sponge is cooked by testing it with a skewer inserted in the middle. Once baked, remove from the oven and loosen it from the sides using a spatula or round-bladed knife, then set over a wire rack to cool down. Leave in the tin for about 5 minutes, then unmould and leave to cool down on the wire rack.
  6. Now, let’s move on to the praline. Set a pan over a low heat and tumble in both the sugar and the almonds. Grease well a baking tray and set aside.
  7. Stir occasionally and allow plenty of time for the sugar to start dissolving. Once the sugar has more or less completely melted and has turned into a brownish caramel, turn up the heat and let it come to a bubble, mixing constantly.
  8. When you see the mixture turning a dark brown colour, tip it onto the oiled baking sheet and flatten it out, then leave to cool to room temperature. In the meantime, I made the meringue layers, but I will put the whole procedure here for your convenience.
  9. Once the praline slab has cooled down to room temperature and is very hard to the touch, remove from the tin and break into smallish shards with a knife or a kitchen hammer. Transfer to a food processor and blend until you get a coarse powder. Sieve the mixture into a bowl so as to separate the praline powder from the rest of the coarser mixture. The powder will be used in the buttercream, so set that aside. Keep the coarser praline to ice the sides of the cake.
  10. Next step, the meringue layers. Using the cake tin base, draw a circle on two pieces of baking parchment, then turn the paper over so that the drawing is visible through the parchment and use to line two baking sheets. Mix the sifted ground almonds and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  11. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks will form. Slowly but steadily add the caster sugar and keep on whisking on high speed until stiff peaks form. Once the egg whites are fully whisked, use a large spatula to fold in the icing sugar and ground almonds mixture and ensure to mix that in with a gentle but steady movement, so as to knock out as little air as possible. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  12. Divide the meringue mixture between the two baking trays and try to fill the circles drawn on the baking parchment, smoothing the sides and the top to make it into a disc.
  13. Bake for 1 and a half hours until crisp on the outside and dry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack until stone cold.
  14. Last, the butter icing. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy, then slowly mix the sifted icing sugar in before increasing the speed and adding the orange juice and praline powder. Beat again until creamy and fluffy.
  15. Last step, assembling the cake.
  16. Slice the sponge layer in half horizontally. Trim the meringue discs (if needed) to be the same size as the sponge layers.
  17. Sit one of the meringues on the cake stand/serving plate you are using and glue it with a dollop of butter icing, then cover with a layer of butter icing. Lay one of the sponges on top and cover that with a layer of icing, then top with a meringue disc and the last sponge layer, sticking them together with the butter icing.
  18. Use the rest of the butter icing to cover the sides and make the cake smooth, but keep some of the icing aside as you will need it to pipe on the top of the cake. Grab the coarser praline and, using your hands, stick handfuls of it to the fresh buttercream, so as to cover the sides evenly.
  19. Transfer the rest of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe a ring on top of the cake to cover any imperfections created when icing the sides, then use some to stick some of the praline in the middle and, if you want to, pipe a small star right in the middle of the top sponge layer and decorate with orange slices.

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Mushroom, Ginger and Blueberry Stir-fry

The other day I was scouring the Internet on the lookout for new flavour combinations and I came across this recipe. Needless t0 say, my first reaction was probably the same as everyone else: disgust. I am not a big fan of mixing sweet and savoury. I don’t like salted caramel (in fact, I think it’s an abomination) and therefore using fruit in a stir fry was something I would have never even thought of. Until now.

I am not claiming this is the best combination ever. It probably is an acquired taste or rather something you either love or hate at first sigh (taste, more like it). However, as we did enjoy the stir fry, here is our little adaptation of the recipe. It is a simple stir fry, after all, so just use what you have!

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Ingredients

  • 180g soba noodles (which equals two nests)
  • 70g sugar snaps
  • 250g button mushrooms, roughly sliced
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 140g can of water chestnuts, drained and roughly sliced
  • 150g fresh blueberries
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
  • soy sauce
  • toasted sesame oil

Method

  1. Start by drizzling some sesame oil in a wok or big frying pan and put on a medium to high heat.
  2. Add the spring onions and the ginger and stir frequently until fragrant and the onions are beginning to turn golden. Stir in the water chestnuts, mushrooms and sugar snaps and drizzle some soy sauce on top.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the soba noodles. Cook according to packet instructions, then drain and tumble in with the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Add some more soy sauce and stir frequently, then tumble in the fresh blueberries and stir for another 3 minutes.
  5. Serve and enjoy.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

You know, I used to think baked cheesecakes were some sort of baking masterwork no-one could tackle. I’m not sure exactly what is was, maybe the idea of actually baking cream cheese, which I still find kind of hard to digest. However, I have to say that if you follow a few very easy steps, a baked cheesecake can be as easy as a non-bake one.

First of all, the oven temperature, which cannot be as high as for a victoria sponge. The reason behind it is that the cheese has been mixed up with eggs (and other ingredients, most of the time), so by increasing the temperature above 160 degrees Celsius you usually overbake the cheesecake and this results in cracks on the surface.

The same applies to the baking time. Bake it until the cheesecake still has a little wobble in the middle. I know it sounds off-putting, but the cake will keep on cooking upon cooling and the wobbly bit will set as nicely as the rest of the cake.

Last, the resting time. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the oven, then put it in the fridge and allow plenty of cooling time there. The cold of the fridge not only allows the cheese to become firm again, but also stabilises the whole cake so that when you try to unmould it the cheesecake doesn’t collapse and, most importantly, doesn’t melt.

This recipe is taken from the GBBO book, but can serve as a basic recipe to personalise your cheesecake and come up with unusual flavour combinations.

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Ingredients

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate + some for the decoration
  • 50g white chocolate + some for the decoration
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 500g full-fat cream cheese
  • 250ml soured cream

Method

  1. Crush the biscuits to a fine powder. I find the easiest way to do this is in a food processor, but feel free to put them in a sealed bag and unwind all of your frustrations on them with either a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass. Once reduced to a fine crumb, combine with the butter to create a sand-like consistency. If using a food processor, add the butter directly from the fridge as it will combine better and the mixture will hold together. If doing it by hand, then use room temperature butter.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a 23cm springform tin and line both the base and the sides. Try and push the buttery crumbs up the sides as much as possible to create a crater-like biscuit base. Chill in the fridge until set.
  3. In the meantime, pre-heat the ovnen to 150 degrees Celsius.
  4. Chop the dark and white chocolate as finely as you can, the put on one side.
  5. Put the cream cheese, vanilla extract and sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix those in until thoroughly combined.
  6. Stir in the soured cream and the chopped chocolate, then transfer the mixture to the prepared biscuit base and spread evenly on top.
  7. Bake for 1 hour or until set. As said, the cheesecake should still have a bit of a wobble to it in the centre. Turn off the oven, the take the cheesecake out of the oven and shut the door. Use a round bladed knife or a palette to run around the sides and loosen them, then pop back into the oven and leave to cool down with the door closed.
  8. Once cold, take out from the oven and pop in the fridge to set completely for at least 3 hours, if not overnight.
  9. When ready to serve, unmould the cheesecake and use a potato peeler to shave curls from the rest of the white and dark chocolate.

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Sticky Cinnamon Buns

Did I tell you I’m secretly (not really) training for the GBBO? I have decided I want to give all things baked at least a go to see whether I would be up for the challenge. That’s also why I’m baking like a mad person, on top of actually and thoroughly enjoying it. These are from the How to Bake book from the GBBO and they might look very complicated, but believe me they only require a little bit of proving and then sbam! They’re ready.

These are a buttery and nutty take on cinnamon buns. The recipe is pretty basic, but I would suggest giving it a go first as a trial batch if you have never baked with a yeasted dough before.

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Ingredients (for the dough)

  • 200ml milk
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes, crushed
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 25g unsalted butter, melted
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Ingredients (for the topping)

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 100g walnut/pecan pieces

Method

  1. First of all, gently warm the milk and the butter until the latter just melts, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool down. It should become lukewarm, but not cold. 
  2. Once the mixture has cooled down, in a big bowl, mix the flour with the salt and the sugar. I use my big KitchenAid for this, but you are more than welcome to use your hands.
  3. Add the egg to the lukewarm milk mixture. Moving quickly, pour the yeast in the bowl with the flour and follow through with the eggy mixture, gently and slowly mixing that in.
  4. Keep on mixing and work the liquid into the flour until you obtain a soft but not sticky dough. Turn out on a floured worktop and knead by hand for 10 minutes (or leave in the mixer bowl and beat on low speed for about 5). The dough should be very smooth and pliable.
  5. Return the dough to the bowl and cover very tightly with clingfilm, ensuring the cling adheres to the edge of the bowl. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  6. In the meantime, slightly grease a baking sheet (with a rim) or a roasting tin.
  7. In a bowl, mix the softened butter with the other ingredients (maple syrup and sugar) until thoroughly combined, then spread over the surface of the tin. Scatter the nuts over the buttery layer.
  8. Once ready, remove the clingfilm and punch down the dough, then turn it out onto a slightly floured worktop. Roll/press the dough into a rough rectangle (about 24 x 48cm). Brush with the melted butter and dust with the sugar and the cinnamon. Starting from one of the long edges, roll the dough up like a swiss roll. Use a sharp knife to cut across and obtain 12 slices.
  9. Arrange the slices cut side up in the tin, in rows of 3 or 4, spaced evenly apart. Cover with a towel and leave to rise for a further hour in a warm place until doubled in size.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  11. Uncover the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until the buns are a good golden brown and the caramel is bubbling along the sides. Remove from the oven and, using a round-bladed knife, loosen up the buns from the edges. Leave for 4 minutes for the bubbling to subside, then carefully turn the whole tray upside down onto a bigger tray. Lift off the smaller tin – the topping will be sticking to the buns.
  12. Leave until cool or enjoy when lukewarm.

Notes

  • Be careful when upturning the tin into the bigger one after the buns have baked as the caramel topping will be very hot.

Courgette Lasagnotta

Yes, I know. The name is extremely clichéd and you wouldn’t have expected it from me, being Italian and all that. I have to say, though, that in my defence this is an original creation of mine and, as such, deserves a creative name. What with it being a lasagna made with ricotta and courgettes, the name came by itself. Also, ‘lasagnotta’ sounds particularly cute in Italian.

Right, the concept behind this recipe is that I had some courgettes and some ricotta in the fridge. I had read somewhere that you could make a good lasagna out of it, but as I did not recall neither where I had read it (I devour food literature) nor how much of each, I decided to improvise. The result is very good and I am particularly proud of it. Please feel free to adapt the recipe, I used all the little pieces of leftover cheese I found in my fridge, but you are more than welcome to stick to just one variety. I also think a very good addition to the lot would be smoked salmon, as it goes really well with courgettes and cream.

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Ingredients

  • 3 courgettes
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 x 250g tub of ricotta
  • 100ml sour cream
  • 6 lasagna sheets – check how big your oven dish is before deciding how many you need!
  • 100g full-fat cream cheese
  • 100g mixed grated cheese (I used goat’s and standard cheddar)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil
  • Parmesan, to taste

Method

  1. Finely grate the courgettes and slice the spring onions. Warm some oil in a frying pan, tumble in the vegetables and cook over a medium heat, stirring regularly, for about 20 minutes. The vegetables should have softened but not turned into a mushy mixture. Halfway through the cooking time, add a pinch of salt and grate some black pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, boil some water in a kettle and pour it into the tin you will use for the lasagna. Add a drizzle of olive oil and slowly plunge the lasagna sheets in the boiling water. Leave for about 7 minutes or until softened. Alternatively, you can boil them for about 5 minutes. Once softened, arrange on a plate and brush with olive oil to avoid them sticking to one another.
  3. Now prepare the ricotta sauce. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, cream cheese, sour cream and the mixed grated cheese to obtain a slightly dense but soft mixture. Add the paprika and chilli powder and mix that in.
  4. Once the courgettes are cooked, start layering your lasagna. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  5. Use about one third of the courgette mixture to spread on the base of the oven dish, then top that with a layer of lasagna sheets (3, in my case). Spread about half of the ricotta mixture, then top scatter another third of the courgette mixture. Cover with a second layer of lasagna sheets, then repeat the ricotta mixture and the courgette one to complete.
  6. Grate some Parmesan on top, then cover the oven dish with some foil and bake for about 30 minutes.