Monday, 31 March 2014

Spoiling mum

Wow has mothers day moved up a notch. When I was little I remember a gaggle of us running up the church aisle clutching foil wrapped posies of daffodils to give to our mums, along with a handmade card. Now I have friends buying full body massages and £50 bouquets! Not wanting to let the side down (and now I’m a ‘grown up’ with more than 50p’s pocket money to splash), mummy found a Bayes Diptique candle on her tray. Alongside was a Lindt Creme Brûlée ‘Creation’ – our current obsession. Honestly these are the bee's knees. For brekkie I made her the easiest 20 minute homemade granola which I layered up with yoghurt, mango and raspberries for a breakfast ‘sundae’. She also devoured our other obsession: a warm almond croissant. Sitting on the end of her bed we had a giggle and gossip– what mothers are for!

Speedy Granola
  • Preheat the oven to 180C
  • Mix 200g Rolled Oats, 100g Oatmeal, 50g Desiccated Coconut and 50g Flaked Almonds.
  • Warm 3tbsp Vegetable Oil and 2tbsp Honey and mix into the dry ingredients.
  • Transfer to a baking tray and cook for 20mins until everything looks well toasted.

Sunday lunch was seafood paella with lobster and monkfish. I’ve made a few paellas recently for events and our kitchen’s café and I think I’ve finally mastered the art. Basically it is all down to a very decent stock (a mixture of chicken and fish) and a good base sofrito, which is finely chopped onion and garlic mixed with sweet smoked paprika and fresh tomatoes all cooked in lots of olive oil until soft and jammy. If you get these two right, the rest is very simple and perfect for cooking for a crowd. Paella recipes are a minefield of fish to seafood ratios and differing opinions on whether to mix chicken with fish, or stick to the purist, Valencian version of chicken, rabbit and occasionally snails. I take the stance that you can throw in whatever you want and is available at the time, as long as the rice is good. My dad had picked up some reasonably-priced lobster and monkfish from the Portsmouth fish market and they both were delicious in the paella with sweet petit pois and lots of lemon to finish.

To finish, my favourite Ballymaloe/Darina Allen recipe 'Fluffy Lemon Pudding'. This dessert is legendary with the girls I share with in London and is fool proof. I've often made it by guess-timating the weights of ingredients as we don't have scales and it always comes out fluffy with a sharp citrus sauce beneath.

Fluffy Lemon Pudding by Darina Allen
Serves 5-6

  • Cream 30g Butter. Add 170g Castor sugar and beat well. Grate the rind of 1 Lemon and squeeze and strain its juice.
  • Separate 2 Eggs and add the yolks one by one. Then stir in the 55g flour and gradually add the finely grated rind and juice of the lemon. Lastly add the 250ml Milk.
  • Whisk the 2 Egg Whites stiffly in a bowl and fold gently into the lemon mixture.
  • Pour into a 1 pint pie dish and bake in a moderate oven, 180C, for 40 minutes approx. Dredge with icing sugar. Serve immediately with cream or mascarpone.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Dark Chocolate Cheesecakes

This is about as decadent as a dessert can get. It came onto a catering menu at work for a director’s dining room in the city so had to be powerful, no-nonsense and to the point – rather like its customers!! To be honest, I have always thought putting chocolate into a cheesecake was a bad idea, turning something seemingly light into a denser beast. Having said that, by using dark chocolate and added cocoa powder, the bitterness only cuts through the richness. I am just about converted. The berries on top are optional but I love the contrasting textures.

Individual Dark Chocolate Cheesecakes
Serves 6 (and easily doubled/tripled etc.)

  • Crush 200g Digestive Biscuits and add 60g Butter, melted. Press into 6 metal ring moulds and chill.
  • Melt 190g Dark Chocolate and cool slightly.
  • Whip 150ml Cream. Beat together 150g Cream Cheese, 2tbsp sifted Cocoa Powder and 140g sifted Icing Sugar until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate and then the cream.
  • Divide the mixture between the moulds and chill until firm.
  • To serve, run a hot knife inside the moulds and remove. Top with a mixture of berries and a sprig of lemon verbena