Fig galette

I must have gone on about galettes before but here I go again. Just so versatile and understated, my kind of galette consists of short, buttery pastry rolled out rough and topped with basically anything you fancy. The edges are then folded over in a haphazard way and the whole thing is baked to a crisp. In my opinion, as long as you use a really fine and melt-in-your-mouth pastry (like the one below) the world is your oyster. I like to sprinkle the pastry with a layer of ground almonds or pistachios when making sweet galettes, and use fruit in season. Having a layer of nuts at the base helps when using juicy fruit like figs or plums as they can make the pastry soggy. Always, always brush the pastry with melted butter and give the whole thing a final scattering of sugar. When it comes to savoury, steamed kale and dots of sausagemeat and pine nuts works very well, as does a riff on the pissaladiere using caramelised onions, chargrilled red peppers, anchovies and a few cheeky olives.

Fig galette

For the pastry

180g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

170g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

about 80ml iced water

For the nut layer

3 tbsp ground nuts (hazelnuts, almonds or pistachios)

2 tbsp plain flour

60g caster sugar

For the topping

6–8 fresh figs

pinch sea salt

5 tbsp vanilla sugar or caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle

handful walnut halves (optional)

knob unsalted butter, melted

 

Make the pastry. Put the flour and salt in a bowl with the butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour. The butter should still be visible in small chunks. Slowly drizzle in the ice-cold water, just enough to bring the ingredients together to form a dough. Don’t overwork it. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a large thin round. You’re aiming to get the pastry about 2–3mm thick. Transfer the dough to a lined baking sheet.

Scatter the ground nuts, flour and sugar over the pastry. Slice the figs and place in a bowl with the salt and sugar. Toss to combine. Arrange the fig slices neatly over the pastry, I like to do concentric circles. Fold the edges of the pastry up over the figs, tucking them as you do so. Scatter over the nuts. Brush the pastry border with melted butter and sprinkle with extra sugar.

Bake in the oven for 40–45 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Serve with ice cream, pouring cream or custard.

(Recipe adapted from apple galette in Spring: the cookbook, Skye Gyngell, Quadrille)

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A cure-all lemon passion fruit tart

One of my all-time true loves has to be a good lemon tart. By good, I mean really tangy with fruity lemony-ness and egg-rich curd as smooth as silk. The ratio of curd in the filling to pastry is of the utmost importance if you ask me. Sometimes, if the pastry is too thick and cumbersome, it ruins the whole tart. A perfect one needs shortcrust pastry, with a hint of sweetness, and the ability to hold together yet melt in your mouth at the same time. I haven’t posted anything in an age because I have had a rough few months with morning sickness (well, that’s what it’s called but for the unlucky few it’s more like ‘all day and all night sickness’). I wasn’t able to keep any food down for weeks on end – miserable for someone who lives to eat. Anyways, this tart will always hold happy memories for me as it was made on week 20 of my pregnancy, when I was feeling able to cook again, and was just the thing to get my appetite back. It’s almost THE only tart you’ll ever need but I think I’ll try the recipe again with a few more tweaks to the pastry. It’s important not to overcook the pastry when blind baking as when the tart shell is baked with the filling for a second time it will get quite brown. Because passion fruit isn’t in season all-year round, I used jarred passion fruit pulp in syrup that can be bought from just about any good supermarket.

Lemon passion fruit tart

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For the pastry

240g plain flour

pinch sea salt

75g icing sugar

110g cold unsalted butter, diced

3/4 tsp poppy seeds (optional)

finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1 egg yolk

2–3 tbsp ice cold water

For the lemon passion fruit curd filling

3 eggs, plus 5 yolks

180g caster sugar

finely grated zest of 5 lemons, plus the juice of 3 lemons

11/4 tsp passion fruit pulp in syrup or 11/2 passion fruits, pulp scooped out

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped

150g soft unsalted butter, plus extra to grease

 

First, make the pastry by combining the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to rub it into the flour, until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Stir in the poppy seeds if using, the lemon zest and egg yolk, then add enough cold water to bring the dough together into a ball. (Handle lightly so that your pastry doesn’t get overworked.) Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F and grease a 25cm loose-bottom tart tin. Grate the chilled pastry over the tin in an even layer and press the dough into the tin using your fingers. Grate more pastry fro the edges, creating an even layer about 3mm thick. You will have leftover pastry, that’s okay – just put it in the freezer and use it for another one of these tarts. Gently prick the pastry all over with a fork and bake for about 25 minutes, until light in colour but not golden. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack. Increase the oven temperature to 230°C/450°F.

For the curd, half-fill a large pan with water and bring to a simmer. Put the eggs and egg yolks in a heatproof bowl with the sugar. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Use a hand-held mixer to whisk the ingredients in the bowl, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest, juice, passion fruit pulp and vanilla seeds, whisking constantly to stop the eggs curdling. The mixture will start to thicken after about 7 minutes, at which point add half the butter. Whisk to combine, and once the butter is mixed in, add the remaining butter. Whisk to combine and then transfer the mixture to a jug. Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 12–14 minutes, checking frequently. The tart will be beautifully golden and speckled with brown spots when it’s ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Serve or chill in the fridge until ready to devour.

(Recipe from Nina St Tropez, W&N, 2014)

Turmeric milk

Golden milk or turmeric milk is hands-down a cure for everything (well, almost). Feeling a bit down in the dumps and life just doesn’t seem that perky? Have a warming mug of yellow milk. I swear it lifts your mood. Maybe it’s simply a case of the lusciously rich, almost psychedelic yellowness that makes you feel just that little bit better. During the past year I’ve been having on-and-off arm/wrist pains caused by tendonitis and a combination of other typing-related injuries, so I’ve been upping my anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory food intake. And I think it helps. Turmeric is one of those God-send ingredients that is said to help with all sorts of ailments, arthritis and joint pain to name just two. You can go too far with it in dishes though, putting too much in when chunks of it just seem to wangle their way out of the spice jar, so tread lightly I say.

This is my new winter concoction for before bedtime. It’s easy and takes about the same amount of time to make as boiling the kettle and brewing a tea, and makes you well sleepy.

Turmeric Milk

Makes 1 mug

1 mugful of almond milk (or soy milk is rather tasty too)

scant 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

large pinch ground cinnamon

pinch sea salt flakes

manuka or rewarewa honey, to taste

Heat the milk, turmeric, cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until tiny bubbles appear. (Don’t let the milk boil, otherwise it will form a nasty skin.) Take off the heat, add the honey and drink up.

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Loganberry and apricot loaf for two

Juicy berries can be messy eating. I’ve mentioned in the past how I’m just not one for white clothing as I constantly spill food all over the front. This is especially true when it comes to berry eating (cue COS white t-shirts now ruined and in the bin). This past summer, I have eaten my fair share of berries – mostly blueberries because I kept stumbling on farms where you pick your own for cheap. I also happened to discover the loganberry. These lipstick-hue berries are something else. A cross between a raspberry and blackberry, they are altogether juicier and sharper in flavour, and even better when cooked. I bet loganberries would make a beautiful jam with a hint of rose geranium (another new favourite! Post to follow shortly on the wonders of rose geranium).

Sometimes, if it’s just you and one other person in the house, you can’t be bothered getting your ‘bake on’. But I don’t think we should miss out, and besides, who says small can’t be better? I really advocate making just enough to eat and savour and not too much that it goes to waste. I always enjoy making mini-versions of bakes that will be just right for two greedy mouths. Plus, these daintier bakes don’t last long enough for you to get sick of them, and then you can swiftly move on to the next recipe you’ve Post-it noted. This recipe has been adapted from a Claire Ptak cake recipe, which featured in The Guardian column. You could basically use any fruit that you like and adjust the sugar to suit. I prefer to balance the fruit between one that releases a fair amount of juice when cooked (such as berries) and one that merely softens (such as apricot or stone fruit).

Loganberry and apricot sticky loaf

Makes 1 small loaf

75g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

75g caster sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

100g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the fruit

120g apricots

40g vanilla sugar, or caster sugar

seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod

90g loganberries

Greek-style yoghurt, to serve (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a small loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

Slice the apricots into wedges and combine in a bowl with the sugar and vanilla seeds. Arrange in your prepared tin, alternating the apricot pieces with the raspberries however you like.

For the sponge, beat the butter and sugar until light in colour and delightfully fluffy. Add the egg, mixing well until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Gently mix this into the butter mixture until only just incorporated. Spread over the fruit and smooth over the top carefully.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few tiny damp crumbs attached. The top should be golden and springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes, in the tin. To serve, run a knife along the inside of the tin and turn the loaf out on to your serving plate. Slice up and serve with yoghurt if you like.

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Prunetastic scones

I do enjoy a good prune. It’s an ingredient that I’ve grown up with, having had parents who were obsessed with their daughters’ digestive health. Although, I really didn’t like them when I was young because of the threat of those darn stones (even if they are ‘pitted’). I was always so scared of chipping what little good teeth I had remaining. Nevertheless, I clearly didn’t let that stop me from eating them again in my thirties. The joy of prunes is that they are so sticky and moist, adding just a little somethin’ somethin’ in baked goods that you just can’t get with other dried fruit. Don’t even get me started on raisins or sultanas (I actually tell people I am allergic to them because I hate these shrivelled up disasters so much!) Not usually a fan of scones in general (am I sounding a bit high-maintenance… oops), but after trying these ones I may have found a new baking love. Scones are supposedly the easiest things to bake but I’ve always found them a bit problematic: the trick is not to overwork the mixture to achieve that perfect sconey texture.

The recipe below is pretty easy, and you feel a bit perky/smugly healthy eating it what with the oats and spelt. Considering the health-fad craze at the moment, I don’t want to seem like a trend follower (even though I probably am a sucker for fads), but these are very tasty and moreish despite that. In fact, probably one of the yummiest scones I’ve had in a long while. Healthy can taste really good. So there you go! The scones can easily be frozen and then magically baked when you feel the urge to have a sweet sweet bite.

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Prune, oat and spelt scones
Makes 12

4 tablespoons Earl Grey tea
300g pitted prunes
200g jumbo rolled oats, plus extra to sprinkle
375g wholegrain spelt flour
80g light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
300g cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons maple syrup
250g plain yoghurt
1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, for the wash

Line a baking tin (around 20 x 30cm) with baking parchment.
Soak the prunes in a bowl with the brewed tea.
Combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and salt, then whisk together. Use a knife to cut the butter into the dry ingredients, or use your fingers to rub it until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks, eggs, maple syrup and yoghurt. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out. Tear the soaked prunes into pieces and dot them all over. Pour the remaining liquid from the soaked prunes over the top. Cover with clingfilm and chill for about 3 hours (or overnight ideally).

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Tip the chilled scone mixture out of the tin and cut into 12 triangles. (If you don’t want to bake them all at this stage, cut them and then wrap each triangle in clingfilm and freeze for another time.) Put the scones on the prepared tray, brush the tops with the egg wash, and sprinkle over the remaining oats. Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until golden. Best eaten as soon as possible but they will also be yummy with a bit of butter for breakfast the next day.

IMG_2520(Recipe from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, Claire Ptak, Square Peg, 2015)

Tahini biscuits

Tahini has taken years to grow on me. I think it might be one those foods that you first either love or hate. Even if you do hate it, I still think you should give it another try. The first time I tried tahini I was disgusted. It just seemed like really bad peanut butter and I couldn’t work out why anyone would eat it. I gave tahini another chance a few years later in a cake and really didn’t like it! But I didn’t so much HATE it. It wasn’t until years later that I became a full-on convert when I tried the tahini sauce at Ottolenghi in Islington, paired with juicy-fried aubergine slices. Such garlicky and great-tasting tahini sauce that was. These days, I use tahini all the time, at any chance I get . Most often, I crush a little garlic with salt, whisk in some tahini and add a dash of water. This elixir is just divine served with baked or grilled fish, or sometimes I add a bit of ground up nuts and then use it as a salad dressing for farro. Yummo.

I must admit, I’ve always been a bit of a conservative and have mostly stuck to using tahini in savoury dishes. But boy was I missing a trick; tahini can really lift a bored or tired bake. I think I’ve made these particular tahini biscuits about four or five (!) times this year and for someone who really despises making recipes over and over again that’s really saying something. This recipe is from Ruby Tandoh, most known for being a finalist in The Great British Bake-Off, but also now talented food writer. Her recipes are exactly what I look for: unexpected yet genius flavour combos and informative, unpatronising and well-crafted writing. With the masses of cookbooks being churned out these days, it is increasingly hard to find recipes that are different and still offer something of value, more than the ‘been there, done that’ ones, and I find myself turning more and more to Ruby Tandoh as a reliable source. These tahini biscuits remind me of these other really tasty tahini biscuits in one of my favourite cookbooks of all-time, Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. The thing that gives these biscuits another dimension of flavour is the lemon zest. Each time I make these biscuits, they always taste different depending on the size of the lemon or what kind of tahini was used. I like that a lot. These are so melt-in-your mouth and crumbly that you once to pop you won’t be able to stop. If I feel like I’m getting a bit boring, I sometimes go ‘crazy’ and add a bit of honey instead of the full amount of sugar for a slightly chewy texture. Another good addition is vanilla pod seeds instead of the lemon. Rebellious times!

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Tahini lemon biscuits
Makes about 20–24

120 g butter, softened
120 g tahini
120 g sugar
zest of 1 or 2 lemons
240 g plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
pinch sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Cream the butter, tahini and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gently stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, using the back of a spoon to combine.

Roll out into balls and space them apart on the baking tray. Pat each down with your fingers, or use a fork to make a crosshatch patter on top of the biscuits. Bake for 12–15 minutes, or take it a bit further for more brownish edges like in the photo above. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the tray for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Dunk into a cuppa tea and enjoy!

(Recipe from Crumb by Ruby Tandoh, Chatto and Windus)

Hen-in-the-nest

I’ve always been a fan of eggs. They are such versatile things and a fresh egg can taste so good. If you ask me, you can’t have a much better breakfast than a couple of garlicky anchovy soldiers dipped in a perfectly gooey centred soft-boiled egg. This recipe for hen-in-the-nest aka egg in a hole or moon egg just proves food heaven can be so simple, as long as it’s cooked just the way you like it.

Last year, I edited a fabulous book titled Egg, by Blanche Vaughan. In this book, there are a myriad of recipes for this humble and versatile ingredient. This was where I came across a recipe for ‘egg in a hole’, taking me back to childhood sleepovers at other kid’s houses. We would wake up to the smell of fried bread and eat these weird toasts with a hole in the middle and where a cooked egg nestled. I think I only tried it twice and on each occasion it was made with bog standard and stale white bread and served with tomato sauce. When I came across the recipe 25 years later, I wondered if it could be good. It can!

This really is such an easy breakfast, and so child-friendly. The key thing is to toast the bread just enough so that it is perfectly golden and crispy but the egg yolk still runny (this will mean all the better for dipping that bread disc). Revisiting retro recipes is something pretty fun; if made with the best ingredients you can afford and with a few extra touches here and there, the dish can become something altogether new.

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Hen-in-the-nest

1 slice brioche bread (or chilli cornbread is also delicious)
large knob butter
1 egg
smoked paprika, to sprinkle
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Use a glass to stamp out a hole in the middle of the bread and remove. Melt half the butter in a frying pan over a low heat. Once the butter foams, add the slice of bread and bread disc and cook for 2–3 minutes until golden. Flip the bread over and add the remaining butter to the pan. Crack the egg into the hole of the bread and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until the egg is set to your liking, covering the pan with a lid for the last minute. Transfer to a plate, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over a little smoked paprika. Serve with the bread disc for dipping.