Cocoa Ravioli Stuffed with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

I won’t take any credit for this recipe. It comes from Venice, a wonderful book by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi on the secret cuisine of this romantic city. As it happens, the recipe was in turn taken from the Pastificio Serenissima in Castello, so at least I cannot be blamed for outright stealing. Mixing cocoa in the pasta dough might sound a bit odd, although Italy (and not only) has been manufacturing coloured pasta for a long time now. I am sure you have all seen it, it’s usually found in tourist shops all over the country. Pasta usually comes in red, green, brown and black, made with beetroot, spinach, cocoa and squid ink respectively. As the book says, the cocoa lends a certain depth of flavour and nuttiness to the pasta, which then complements the filling perfectly.

If you don’t have a pasta maker, please consider investing in one. I rolled this pasta by hand and I can tell you that, on top of being extremely hard and tiresome, the process takes a huge amount of time and gives you results which are in no way similar to the almost transparent pasta you can get with a good pasta machine. In Italy, these devices are usually called Nonna Papera. The name is probably derived from the character by the same name (in English, Grandma Duck) which appears in Disney cartoons together with Donald Duck and his family. Etymology and history aside, I do think such a device would make your life a lot easier. Otherwise, be my guest and allocate plenty of time to roll the pasta by hand.

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Ingredients (for the pasta)

  • 200g ’00’ pasta (you can easily find this in major supermarkets)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp water, if necessary

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 50g walnuts, finely chopped
  • 200g Gorgonzola (Stilton or any hard blue cheese is also fine)
  • 100g ricotta
  • 30g Parmesan, finely grated
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients (for the pasta sauce)

  • 75g butter
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 30g Parmesan, grated

Method

  1. To make the pasta, pour the flour and cocoa in a mixing bowl and combine. Make a well in the middle, then crack the eggs and the egg yolk into the well. Using a table knife, gradually combine the flour into the eggs starting with the flour around the eggs and working your way out. Keep mixing until you form clumps of mixture.
  2. Use one hand to incorporate the bits together. Lightly wet your hand to bring the dough together if the mixture is too dry and won’t hold,, but be careful not to add too much water. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough by flattening and folding it for around 5-7 minutes, adding a little bit more flour if the dough is very sticky. Ultimately, you want to reach the consistency of a very soft and pliable dough which doesn’t stick to your hands or the work surface. Leave the pasta to rest covered in clingfilm for at least 20 minutes.
  3. To roll it out, either do it by hand or put it through a pasta machine to obtain long sheets of very thin pasta.
  4. To make the filling, combine all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. The original recipe stated to use soft Gorgonzola, but I believe it’s best to use the harder variety.
  5. To make the ravioli, use a biscuit or a ravioli cutter to cut round shapes on the sheets of pasta you have rolled out. Dollop 1 tablespoon of filling in the centre of each ravioli round, then cover with a second round and press the rim together to seal it properly. You can also dab the rim of the ravioli with some water to ensure the dough sticks together. Proceed until you have run out of filling or dough.
  6. To cook them, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then tumble the ravioli in and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Drain.
  7. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large frying pan with the rosemary for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon juice and shake the pan to blend it together. Discard the sprig of rosemary. Add the pasta to the pan and shake it to cover the ravioli evenly with the sauce. Dust with the grated Parmesan and serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Avocado Brownies

Before you turn away in disappointment, let me tell you straight away these are not green brownies. Yes, they are made with avocados, but their pastel green hue gives way to the dark tones of chocolate and cocoa powder. The avocado itself doesn’t lend too much flavour either. However, these wonderful fruit are full of naturally good fats, mostly monounsaturated, which means they don’t raise ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in your blood, thus reducing the risk of heart diseases. Also, urban legends and tradition have it that dogs who feed off avocados tend to have a very shiny and glossy coats. All the more reason to be eating plenty of these pale emerald green and pear-shaped fruit.

For the purposes of this recipe, avocados fully replace the fats (butter and/or oil), thus making the brownies slightly healthier. Also, seeing as no flour is contemplated in the recipe, by using gluten-free bicarbonate of soda the recipe will also be suitable for those allergic to gluten. The inspiration came to me after seeing Yakumama, a local Latin American street food vendor, was selling avocado brownies at a local foodie event. It didn’t take me long to try and make my own version of this tray bake and I have heavily amended this recipe. Word of advice: these are very fudgy and they need to set in the fridge. Don’t expect a spongy texture but, rather, quite a dense moreish full on chocolate one. You have been warned.

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Ingredients

  • 2 avocados, stoned
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment. Add the water, vanilla and chocolate extracts, and eggs to the bowl of a food processor. Use a teaspoon to scrape the flesh of the avocados into the mixer, then whiz the ingredients together until you get a smooth pale green mixture.
  2. In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, then allow to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate into the bowl of the food processor, then tumble in the dry ingredients. Process until fully combined. You are looking for a dense, cake-like batter.
  4. Transfer the brownie mix to the prepared tin and use a spatula/palette knife to spread it out and smooth the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before transferring to the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
  5. To serve them, remove the dense cake from the tin and slice it into square with a knife. I served these alongside a white chocolate and Earl Grey tea cream, which complements them quite well. Enjoy!

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Blueberry Polenta Cake (VEGAN, GF)

Right after New Year’s, we decided to go for a day trip to Doncaster. I had never been, so I was quite surprised to find out that, at least in my opinion, time looks as if it has stopped about 15 years ago in that town. Once you have seen the highstreet shops in the newly refurbished shopping centre adjacent to the train station, you are left with very little to behold in the city centre. Also, it was pouring that day, which clearly didn’t help. Anyway, all things considered, it turned out to be quite a rewarding trip if only for the discounted cooking and baking book I found in one of the many shops. One of these books is Vegan and Gluten-Free Baking (edited by Love Food), which is where I found this recipe.

It’s all very simple and straightforward. You will find most of the ingredients in health food stores or even in supermarkets. One suggestion, however, would be to buy cornmeal rather than polenta. Cornmeal is very finely ground, while polenta (including the one for quick preparation) has a coarser texture. Both lend themselves quite well to this cake, but I would go for cornmeal to avoid having crunchy bits under your teeth. That said, my official vegan and gluten-free taster loved it. I quite like the fact the polenta and rapeseed oil lend their golden colour to the cake. Blueberries make for a dramatic contrast, but blackberries or raspberries would probably work just as fine.

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Ingredients

  • vegan and gluten-free margarine, for greasing
  • 250g quick cook polenta
  • 3 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp xantham gum
  • vegan and gluten-free egg replacer, equivalent to 3 eggs
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 125ml rapeseed oil
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zest only
  • 1 unwaxed apple
  • 125g blueberries

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm round, loose based cake tin with the margarine, then line the base with baking parchment.
  2. Put the polenta, baking powder and xantham gum into a large mixing bowl and combine together with a wooden spoon.
  3. Make up the egg replacer in a small bowl according to the packet instructions and beat with a fork for a minute until bubbly. Put the sugar and oil in a separate mixing bowl and beat them together with a fork. Gradually add the egg replacer and lemon zest and continue beating until the ingredients are well combined.
  4. Peel, core and grate the apple and mix it into the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients onto the polenta mixture and stir well to combine.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle the blueberries on top of the cake and gently press them onto the surface of the mixture.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the tin. Enjoy!

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Orange and Chocolate Upside Down Cake

By now you probably think I have upside-down cakes stuck in my head. Well, to some extent, you might be right. I have been trying to find new exciting ways to bake with fruit and this type of cakes are fairly straightforward, quick to make and gorgeous to look at. This recipe in particular was inspired by the back page bake on the Morrison’s magazine, where Annette from St Albans suggested using oranges to make a cake rather than jam. The original recipe called for jam to be added both to the orange layer and to the sponge, but I have decided not to use it because I am not a massive fan.

The contrast between the soft sweet sponge and the juicy tart oranges is quite something. I have used dark chocolate chips in this cake, but if you have a very sweet tooth I would suggest swapping them for milk chocolate ones. The added sweetness will marry the sourness of the oranges perfectly. This cake is perfect with a cup of tea or to end a meal. The sponge is light and crumbly and, even without the addition of yogurt/creme fraiche, it stays soft and moist.

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium oranges, peeled and sliced into 3mm rounds
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease the base and sides and line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin with parchment.
  2. Arrange the orange slices to cover the base of the tin. You might need to gently squeeze them in there, but try to cram in as many as possible. Scatter half of the chocolate chips over the oranges.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the leaf attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down the sides. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and the remaining chocolate chips, then spread the mixture over the arranged orange slices and use a rubber spatula to level the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before unmoulding and turning upside down. Gently peel off the baking parchment and slather the top with the apricot jam to make it shiny and add extra flavour. Enjoy!

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Smoky Pea, Cheese and Prosciutto Quiche

I love it when I manage to source Italian ingredients from my local supermarkets. Although I normally shop at Morrison’s (mostly because it is the biggest in town), I sometimes like to browse the shelves at M&S for new and intriguing ingredients. Don’t ask me why, but they seem to very interested in widening the range of food they have on offer. Also, they import quite a lot from Italy. True, the majority of the food you find there is overpriced (£6 for 100g of Gianduiotti, seriously?!?) and please be aware most of these goods are specifically packaged and manufactured for exporting purposes. That said, they seem to be pretty much on the ball in terms of sourcing new ingredients, such as new varieties of oranges, etc.

It was in one of my latest trips to this wonderland that I found a close equivalent to speck. I have talked about this ingredient in previous posts, mostly complaining because I could not find it here. Well, now I can (happy me!). True, it is called ‘smoked prosciutto’ and it’s not the original one, but being as close as it gets, that will do. This is a recipe which I improvised to make good use of it – and what better way than to use it in a quiche? The traditional Quiche Lorraine, after all, also includes lardons, so why not stay more or less on the same theme? I added peas and smoked cheese because I think they work well together, but asparagus or cherry tomatoes would also taste nice.

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Ingredients (for the pastry)

  • 225g plain flour
  • 50g unsalted butter, fridge-cold
  • 50g lard, fridge cold
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks (keep one of the whites)
  • 200ml double cream
  • 100ml creme fraiche
  • 2 x 83g smoked prosciutto packets
  • 50g smoked cheese, finely grated
  • 100g peas (frozen is fine)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. To make the pastry, put the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Cube the fat (butter and lard) and add it to the flour mixture, then use your fingertips to rub the fat into the flour until you get a breadcrumb consistency. Don’t overwork the fact or the pastry will be tough, but don’t leave big lumps of fat in the mixture either.
  2. Now add the water. I normally add 4 tbsp icy cold water to the mixture and it works fine every time, but start with 3 and take it from there. Use a round bladed knife to mix the water into the flour mixture and to bring the mixture together. Switch to your hand to briefly work the pastry into a big ball. You are looking for the pastry to be fairly dry and not excessively wet.
  3. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm, gently press it down so it turns into a rough square and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  4. After this time has elapsed, remove the pastry from the fridge and use a rolling pin slightly dusted in flour to roll out the pastry on your work surface. Please ensure to lightly flour the rolling pin and the work surface. Don’t flour the pastry or you’ll compromise the balance between flour, fat and water. Roll out the pastry to a round big enough to line a 20cm fluted round tart tin. Gently press the pastry in place and ensure it closely adheres to the fluted edges, then use a knife or run your rolling pin onto the tin to cut the excess pastry overhanging. Working with your fingers, gently press the pastry upwards on the fluted edge so that the pastry comes approximately 2-3mm over the edge of the tin. This way, when you bake it, the pastry has room to shrink.
  5. Prick the tart base with a fork, then chill the pastry case for at least 30 minutes to relax the pastry.
  6. Move on to the filling. If you’re using frozen peas, gently poach them in simmering salted water for about 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. In a large frying pan set over high heat, fry approximately half the smoked prosciutto slices until crisp, then set aside to cool. Chop then finely, then combine with the peas and the grated cheese. In a bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks, double cream and creme fraiche with a pinch of salt and pepper. Go easy with the salt as the prosciutto and the cheese are already quite salted. Combine with the peas, cheese and chopped prosciutto, then set aside.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Slide a flat baking tray in the oven to warm up. Line the pastry case with baking parchment, then fill with baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment, then bake for another 10 minutes until the base is fully cooked.
  8. Use a pastry brush to lightly cover the cooked base of the pastry with the egg white, then return to the oven for 3 minutes to cook. This layer will make the pastry waterproof, ensure you get a nice crispy bottom and insulate the pastry from the wet filling.
  9. Lower the oven temperature to 180C. Remove the cooked base from the oven and arrange half of the uncooked slices of smoked prosciutto on the bottom so that they evenly cover it. Pour in the filling, then arrange the remaining slices on top in a pattern you fancy. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown on top and fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before removing from the tart case. Slice and enjoy!

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Rocky Road

This recipe couldn’t be any simpler. There is a tendency in the baking world (much in the same way as there is elsewhere, really) to try and label everything. You have a torte, a cheesecake, a Danish pastry, etc. This, therefore, should be called a ‘fridge cake’ because it involves no cooking and it sets in the fridge. Call it as you wish, it still is rocky road. As usual, the origin of the dessert is lost in the mists of time. What is certain, however, is that an ice-cream by the same name predates the candy bar, which originated in the US. It was then exported and adapted for the British market to include staples which the Brits might find more palatable and domestic, such as raisins and/or sultanas.

The name ‘rocky road’ most likely refers to the bumps and humps of the chocolate bar. And that is exactly what I like about it. It looks homemade. The original recipe for this comes from the Gü Chocolate Cookbook, which is chock full of inspiration if you, like me, are a true chocolate lover. However, I have amended it to suit my taste better and use more chocolate (obviously). One word of warning: please use good chocolate. I always buy dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids (Green & Black’s is a good commercial brand and they do organic chocolate too). I know it might be more expensive than your average chocolate, but if you are planning to work with this sometimes fiddle ingredient, quality is essential.

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Ingredients

  • 500g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 6 digestive biscuits, roughly crushed
  • 50g mini marshmallows
  • 50g puffed rice
  • 50g pistachios
  • 20g candied cherries, halved

Method

  1. Cover a deep 20cm square cake tin with clingfilm or baking parchment, ensuring the clingfilm is left overhanging.
  2. Break the chocolate into smaller pieces, then put 300g of the dark chocolate, the milk chocolate, the butter and the golden syrup in a large heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan filled by one-third with boiling and simmering water. Ensure the bowl doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl or the chocolate will seize. Gently melt the chocolate mixture over bain mairie until the chocolate is smooth, stirring occasionally to evenly expose the chocolate to the heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. In another bowl, combine the pistachios (no need to chop them), marshmallows, puffed rice, cherries and digestive biscuits. Drop them into the chocolate mixture, then mix with a rubber spatula to coat evenly. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and spread it evenly with the spatula, pressing to ensure the mixture is compact. Transfer to the fridge to set for a good 2 hours.
  4. Melt the remaining 200g dark chocolate over bain mairie, then remove the set chocolate bar from the fridge and pour the melted chocolate on top. Tilt the cake tin to spread the chocolate mixture evenly, but don’t be afraid if the surface still features dents and gaps, that adds to the charm.
  5. Put the completed cake back in the fridge to set (at least 1 hour), then remove from the fridge and use a warmed knife to cut through or break the bar to ensure an even more rustic look. Enjoy!

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Not a recipe, but something about me…

A while ago Sophie, one of my former (and sometimes current) interpreting trainer and the genius mind behind Speechpool, a fantastic resource for interpreting students & trainers, tagged me into a post from her blog where she provided answers to questions related to creative pursuit. Although it took me a while, here are my answers.

What are you working on?

Lately, I have been discovering different types of flour and experimenting with them. As a self-taught baker, I always relied on plain flour and white strong bread flour for my recipes, with the occasional interference of their wholemeal cousin. I used to shy away from more ‘unusual’ ingredients. My innate fear was that baked goods would not turn out as good as they would with normal flour, which probably originated from my lack of knowledge in the field.

I envy those bakers who can experiment for days in their kitchens, sometimes wasting ingredients in order to come to the perfect recipe. I don’t bake professionally, so everything I make also needs to get eaten. This proves extremely fruitful for my friends, my partner’s and my work colleagues, my students and even the local café (they don’t sell the cakes, they eat them), but I also prefer not to overdo it. As a result, rather than risking a recipe, I preferred to stick to familiar territory.

However, I have become more daring in the last few months. This is partially due to me finally sticking my head out of my comfort zone and to my new working environment. My manager is intolerant to gluten, dairy and egg whites, which pretty much rules out all of the ingredients I would normally use to bake with. As I said, I bring plenty of baked goods to work at least once a week and I found it very unfair for others to enjoy homemade cakes while my manager was left out. Therefore, I resolved to try and bake something which she could enjoy as well – a very interesting challenge. I have now successfully baked a good number of gluten-, dairy- and egg-free desserts and a couple of days back I even bought a cooking book on the subject. For the moment, I still stick to recipes as this is a very unfamiliar territory for me, but I plan on being able to improvise very soon.

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Some of the new types of flourI have been experimenting with

How does your work differ from others’?

Those of you who know me will be aware I always talk about food. My family is slightly food-obsessed (and not just because we’re Italian) – my mother is a trained chef with working experience in restaurants, kindergartens and care homes. My grandmother, now widowed, keeps herself busy by making gnocchi, tagliatelle, tortelloni, tortellini, cakes and all sorts of delicious things, which she then freezes so she always has a batch available. Saying her freezer is about to explode would be an understatement. You can then see the environment where I was brought up – even my dog, Tobia, gets leftovers for dinner and not bags of pet food.

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My main baking shelves with sugars, nuts and extracts

Therefore, over the years I have developed a real passion for food and for the role it plays in an household. I love hearty, homemade food because I appreciate the care and time which went into its preparation. If we also consider I am a very curious person (not nosy, but thoroughly intrigued by the unknown), my thirst for knowledge results in sometimes unconventional bakes and I admit the ingredients I use can at times be perceived as a bit weird. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of molecular cuisine with its foams, balsamic vinegar pearls, etc. Rather, I like traditional food with a twist, be it an unusual ingredient in a very well-known recipe or a new way of cooking/baking.

Why do I create what I do?

I could probably find a great philosophical answer to this, but I will keep it plain and simple. There are two main reasons:

  1. Because cooking/baking relaxes me and allows me to have some ‘me’ time. When I started baking, I used to work in a call centre. Having to constantly man the phone all day long was exhausting and I cherished every little moment of peace and quiet after 8 long hours at work. Cooking and baking were perfect because I would be in my (then open-plan) kitchen pottering away and not having to listen to someone or actively engage in a conversation. Now, as weird as it may sound, preparing food is still something I cherish and do with an almost sacred respect, mostly because of its deep therapeutic advantages. It allows me to calm down if I had a very bad day at work and it fills me with pride and happiness when I manage to make something I would have considered completely off-limit a couple of months earlier.
  2. Because I love making food which others love and enjoy. And no, I don’t do it to receive a pat on the back or to be told I am amazing at what I do. It’s nice to receive compliments, but as someone constantly struggling to reach perfection, I always think I could have done better. I just love the expression on someone’s face when it transpires they find my food delicious, tasty and moreish, because that in my opinion is the biggest compliment I can receive. You could argue I am to please, but I do so only because I like to think that food has the same effect on others as it has on me.

How does my creative process work?

As I repeatedly stated in my blog, I used to follow recipes verbatim and not to play with them the way I do now. I still use recipes I find online (or in the many books I have), but I allow myself more freedom in terms of flavour combinations, textures and even ingredients. Also, now I know more or less where I am going, so for instance I know what consistency a sponge cake should be, what flavour to expect and so forth. This means that I can simply take a traditional recipe and twist it as I please.

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Do you think I have enough cooking books/magazines? The (multiple) baking ones are elsewhere

 

For instance, the other day I wanted to use some plums I had bought and never used, so I decided to make an upside down cake. I remembered having made a similar one a while back where the sponge was enriched with either Greek yogurt or sour cream. I had some creme fraiche in the fridge, which would work just fine. I started off with a plain Victoria sponge (250g of flour, butter, sugar and eggs) and toyed with the recipe by modifying the quantity and type of sugar (225g, half golden caster, half light brown), adding the creme fraiche (therefore reducing the amount of butter) and combining plain flour with ground almonds (just 50g, enough to give flavour and a chewier consistency). I then checked the batter once all the ingredients were combined. Had it been too stiff, I would have added some milk to thin it down. Conversely, I would have added more ground almonds. Anyway, it was just perfect, so I baked it for 45 minutes at 180C and there it was. Magic.

As I said, once you know the basics, improvising is a doodle. I tend to modify even the recipes I have been making for a while, such as muffins, cupcakes and pastry. I am now more daring in terms of ingredients (adding cheese, spices, etc.) because I know what consistency I want, how long to work it for and so on. I feel my confidence has grown over time and now I can comfortably throw things together without fearing too much (unless it is a vegan/gluten-free recipe, see above).

Also, I try to find unconventional bakes online and/or to work with ingredients I need to use because they are running out of date or that I have in great quantities at home. For instance, a while back I had a gardening phase (which ended when autumn began in the UK and the skies went dull and gray) during which I had grown some basil and parsley on my window sill. When the time came to get rid of the basil plant, I didn’t want to throw all of those leaves away unused and I felt freezing them (which I normally do with fresh herbs to preserve their flavour) wouldn’t have done them justice. Therefore, I set about online to look for a creative way to use basil in cakes and, in particular, to see whether it was possible to use them in buttercream (a wild guess at the time). To my surprise, someone had already done and I could use their recipe to start from and build my plum cupcakes with a basil frosting.

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It doesn’t get more traditional than that. One of the very first Italian cookbooks and a true source of inspiration.

I hope these insights into my creativity have satisfied your curiosity or have provided some of you with food for thought. As I said, I believe that ultimately creativity comes down to confidence and a bit of background knowledge, so get baking and you’ll soon see the results!

Cranberry and Marzipan Cake

Happy New Year! As usual, I watched the London fireworks display on TV and, as usual, it made me want to enjoy it in person at some point in the future. Not from the river banks, though, especially now that you need to pay. Rather, from the balcony (or window) of a very tall building with a view on the Thames… Anyway, back on track. Cranberries are generally available in December and January. Because I am not British, they don’t evoke very Christmas-y feelings in me. Rather, I see them as slightly weird berries. That said, they are great in baking because they turn a deep red and they lend whatever you bake a slightly sour note.

I usually pair them up with white chocolate, like in my festive muffins. The sweetness of the chocolate is perfectly offset by the sourness of the cranberries, so every mouthful is a bit of a celebration. This cake works exactly on the same principle, but it uses marzipan instead. As you might imagine, the marzipan melts in the oven into little pockets of sugar and almonds, just pure deliciousness. Serve this cake on its own or with some custard/whipped cream. And why not try ice-cream, too?

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Ingredients

  • 115g cranberries (fresh is better, frozen is also ok)
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 65g golden caster sugar
  • 200g marzipan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 120g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g flaked almonds

Method

  1. Put the soft butter and the sugar in the bowl of a freestanding food processor fitted with the paddle attachment, then beat until light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one by one, beating well after each addition.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line the sides and the base of a 20cm springform tin.
  3. Crumble or break up/cut the marzipan into small pieces and mix with the cranberries.
  4. In another bowl, combine the ground almonds with the flour and the baking powder. Gently fold in the flour mixture and the cranberry and marzipan into the butter and egg mixture. Try not to overmix or the cake will be too dense.
  5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Scatter the sliced almonds onto the surface of the cake, then place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, before removing from the tin and turning out onto a cake platter. Dust liberally in icing sugar or serve on its own.

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