Rhubarb, ginger and walnut crumble

Yesterday Irene made a crumble that was so delicious that she wanted to write it down so that she didn’t forget the quantities. The orange and ginger made the rhubarb really tasty, while the crumble was light yet crunchy thanks to the walnuts and demerara. The finished pudding looks really lush with the pink juices of the rhubarb bubbling up through the brown crumble. No photograph, alas, as we demolished it far too quickly!

It cheered us up and we can recommended it as a way of enjoying the early rhubarb and beating the winter blues. Quantities give 2-4 portions, depending on how hungry you are and what you eat beforehand.

  • 400g rhubarb
  • 1-2 heaped tbsps caster sugar
  • 1 orange
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 70g plain flour
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder (or use self-raising flour)
  • 35g butter
  • 40g light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 35g chopped walnuts

Juice the orange and peel off three good pieces of the zest. Peel and finely slice the ginger. Cut the rhubarb into 3cm lengths and put in a pan with the ginger, orange juice and zest. Add sugar to taste – we like it quite tart as a contrast to the sweet crumble topping. Bring slowly to a simmer and cook very gently until just tender, which should take no more than 10-15 minutes. Watch it carefully as it can overcook very quickly.

Mix the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub it in with cold fingers. Stir in the sugars and chopped nuts – the demerara adds crunch but you can just use light brown sugar if you prefer.

When you’re ready to bake the crumble, pre-heat the oven to 185 C fan. Spoon the rhubarb into a baking dish, leaving most of the juice behind. Sprinkle the crumble evenly on top and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is crisp and brown and the rhubarb juices are bubbling up. Serve with cold cream or hot custard.

Bramble clafoutis

Another gem from my collection of cuttings, this pudding is an excellent answer to the question of what to do with blackberries, when you’ve finished making bramble jam and eaten enough blackberry and apple crumble (if that is possible). The recipe is from Valerie Wong’s Twinnydip blog, and was included in Felicity Cloake‘s Readers’ Recipes Swap column in the Guardian back in September 2013.

This version of clafoutis uses cream and ground almonds to make the batter a little richer than the everyday original from the Limousin. The light, tender custardy top sets off the dark, juicy blackberries perfectly. I cut the amount of sugar in the batter a little – feel free to add another 10g if you have a sweet tooth or very tart brambles.

The recipe starts by soaking the brambles in water with a little icing sugar in. I’m not sure why one does this, but am loath to leave it out, given that the result was so satisfactory. Does anyone know what difference it makes?

These quantities serve two generously and were a perfect fit for my 20 x 15cm enamel pie dish. It is best eaten warm, perhaps with a little extra cream (twinnydip suggest ice cream, but I didn’t fancy that).

  • 125g blackberries
  • 1 rounded tsp icing sugar
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 15g plain flour
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 120ml double cream

Heat the oven to 180 C/165 C Fan/gas mark 4. Soak the blackberries in cold water with the icing sugar for 10 minutes, then drain. Grease your pie dish and put the blackberries into it in a single layer.

Mix all the other ingredients together until smooth and pour over the blackberries. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffy and golden. Allow to cool a little before serving.

Chocolate mousse

Lockdown has intensified my search for treats that can be scaled down to quantities suitable for two. I really enjoy having a cake or dessert at the weekend, but so many recipes are designed for six or eight people and are tricky to make in smaller portions. However delicious something is, one doesn’t necessarily want to eat it three or four days in a row (quite apart from the impact on one’s waistline!).

Chocolate mousse is ideal – the quantity can easily be scaled up or down, it is quick to make and feels like a luxurious treat. The first recipe I learned when I was a teenager used only chocolate and eggs. I have since tried others which include sugar (not necessary), cinnamon (not an improvement in my book) or cream (which I prefer to serve alongside, leaving the mousse rich and dark). However, I think the addition of coffee in this recipe works really well, giving a deep, intense flavour.

Like many of us, I have been clearing out old files during lockdown, including my over-stuffed recipe folder, and found this recipe, which I had cut out of the newspaper. I hadn’t written any reference on it (tut, tut), but from the tone and the font I think it’s a Nigel Slater recipe from the Observer.

I used espresso powder, as I don’t have an espresso machine, but you could use 1 tbsp of espresso plus 1 dstsp of hot water if you make espresso at home.

For 2, in or out of lockdown

Chocolate mousse
  • 60g good 70% dark chocolate
  • 10g butter
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 25ml very hot water
  • 1 large egg

Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Put the espresso powder into a heatproof bowl with the hot water and stir until it is dissolved. Sit the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water, and add the chocolate and butter. Push any lumps of butter or chocolate under the liquid, but avoid the temptation to stir the mixture until all the chocolate has melted. Then stir once and take it off the heat.

Separate the egg, and beat the egg white to soft peaks. Use a finger to check that the chocolate mixture is just warm, then beat the egg yolk lightly and mix it into the chocolate with two or three stirs. Finally, fold in the egg whites slowly and firmly with a metal spoon, without knocking out all the air you’ve just beaten in.

Spoon the mixture into after-dinner coffee cups or small glasses, cover with cling film and chill for at least a couple of hours. Savour with a teaspoon, and a little cream or an almond biscuit on the side if you wish to gild the lily.

Almond Biscuits

This post is for Marlene, who used to make these delicious biscuits for tea when I was visiting. She kindly gave me a folder of recipes she had collected, including this one, which was originally part of a Good Housekeeping menu from 1982 for a September Dinner Party. The biscuits were to accompany a Grand Marnier Bavarois with Raspberry & Blackberry Sauce, which sounds amazing. The rest of the menu featured a starter of Chilled Ratatouille (including leeks & mushrooms – surely inauthentic) and Steak in Whisky served with watercress and Scalloped Potatoes – how tastes have changed!

Being able to give any dinner party seems a distant prospect as we edge back into lockdown, but baking is firmly on the agenda, and these biscuits give a very good effort to return ratio. I made the full quantity, but only shaped and baked half of it, putting the rest of the dough, tightly wrapped, into the butter compartment of the fridge to bake later. The biscuits do keep for a few days in an airtight container, but are particularly nice on the first day. The recipe makes 16 biscuits.

  • 75g soft butter
  • 100g granulated (or caster) sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a few drops of almond essence

Heat the oven to 160 C fan/180 C/Gas Mark 4. Beat the butter until soft and gradually beat in the sugar either by hand or in a mixer. Then mix in all the remaining ingredients, and knead lightly until the dough just comes together.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half into eight balls. If you want to keep half for later, wrap it tightly and pop it into the fridge (you could probably put it in the freezer too, though I haven’t tested that). Place well apart on a lined baking sheet and flatten each one with the tines of a fork. I always use a silicone liner as it works out cheaper than greaseproof paper and is wonderfully non-stick.

Bake in the preheated oven for 13-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown. Carefully lift off the baking sheet – a cranked spatula is ideal for this – and cool on a wire rack. As you can see mine came out a bit cracked and wonky, but they were delicious to eat!

Mrs Langan’s Chocolate Pudding

I was given this recipe a very long time ago by my brother’s girlfriend, who had made it for a dinner we had together. For years I assumed that her mother was called Mrs Langan, and that it was her recipe, but a chance comment I saw on Instagram revealed that  Mrs Langan’s Chocolate Pudding actually came from the Good Food Guide Dinner Party cookbook.

The Instagram comment mentioned that her mother served it filled with pears, which I think sounds absolutely delicious. Raspberries would probably be good too, but here is the recipe as I was given it – pre-decimal, but I have given approximate metric weight conversions.

I haven’t made this for years, so no photo yet, but hope to add one soon.

  • 6 large eggs
  • ½lb/225g caster sugar
  • 2oz/60g cocoa
  • 12oz/340g dark chocolate
  • ¾ pint/450ml double cream

Grease and line a 13″ x 8″ (33 x 20cm) Swiss roll tin. Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Whip the egg yolks until they thicken. Add the sugar, and beat again until thick but not white. Add the cocoa and mix thoroughly. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff but not dry, and fold gently into the yolk and cocoa mixture.

Pour mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes or until it is set without being dried out. Allow the sponge to cool on a rack, then turn it out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper lightly dusted with caster sugar.

Melt the chocolate with a little water over a gentle heat. Cool the chocolate but do not allow it to set. Then pour it over the chocolate sponge base.

Whip the double cream until thick, but not stiff. Spread most of the cream evenly over the chocolate. Gently roll up or fold over the cake by moving your fingers underneath the greaseproof paper and tip onto a serving plate. Cover with the remaining cream.

 

Blackcurrant and almond cake

This is a Sarah Raven recipe, which I found in The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, a book given to me by my friend Richard. It took me a while to work out how best to navigate it but once I started dipping into it there was no going back. It is a real source of inspiration, full of new ideas and good recipes, including this one.

I made this cake with some frozen, home-grown (not by me!) blackcurrants, and it showcased them beautifully.  The almond essence gives it a lovely marzipan flavour. I reduced the quantities by a third to fit my tin (the original uses 200g butter/sugar/ ground almonds and blackcurrants and a 25cm tin).

IMG_6302.jpeg

  • 130g butter
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 130g ground almonds
  • 1 scant tsp almond essence
  • 130g blackcurrants

Grease and line a 20cm cake tin and pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.

Cream together the butter and sugar until they are pale. Beat the eggs in one at a time and then fold in the ground almonds and almond essence.

Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and scatter over the blackcurrants. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Sift icing sugar on top and serve with crème fraîche.

Dark chocolate & walnut cookies

Dark chocolate and walnut cookies

Instagram discovery number two (see previous post) has been these dangerously addictive cookies, from Ravneet Gill’s new book The Pastry Chef’s Guide, which is now top of my wish-list. She shared this recipe on Instagram live (where she is @ravneeteats) and, aside from enabling you to make these fabulous cookies, the videos show that she will surely have a TV series soon, being  as charismatic as she is talented. I have now signed up for the online pastry school that has just been launched by PUFF the bakery, run by Ravneet with fellow pastry chef Nicola Lamb, who ran very successful  pop-ups before lockdown. So expect more pastry and desserts on the blog – and that I will be two sizes bigger by the time you next see me!

These quantities make about 6 cookies and they are pretty rich so probably not wise to make a larger batch unless you are locked down with the whole family, as they are totally irresistible. However, should you be lucky enough to be with a crowd then its easy to double or triple the quantities. Apparently, this recipe also works with vegan margarine and a flax egg, though I haven’t tested this. I have taken the liberty of dialling down the quantity of sugar a bit, using soft light brown rather than caster sugar, and adding some ground almonds. You can use chopped chocolate instead of the nuts, but in my view that would be too much of a good thing – you need the crunch of the nuts to set off their glorious brownie-like squidginess.

IMG_6285The cookies are very straightforward to make, taking less than 30 minutes of your time (with an hour rest in the middle). So if you need a treat for tea – and who doesn’t at the moment – I heartily recommend them.

  • 110g dark chocolate
  • 15g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 60g soft light brown (or caster) sugar
  • 12g cornflour
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds (optional)
  • 3g (1 tsp) cocoa powder
  • 1g (1/3 tsp) baking powder
  • 35g chopped walnuts (or roasted hazelnuts)
  • pinch of Maldon salt

Bring a small pan of water to a simmer. Break the chocolate into a heatproof bowl, add the butter and set over the simmering water to melt, ensuring that the bowl doesn’t touch the water. You could also melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave, but I never do this, so can’t give advice on it. Once the chocolate is nearly melted, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, stir to amalgamate and put on one side.

Break the egg into a mixing bowl and beat with a whisk. Then add the sugar half at a time, whisking to incorporate after each addition. Combine the cornflour, baking powder and cocoa powder, sieving if they are lumpy. Stir in the ground almonds if you’re using.

By now the chocolate and butter should have cooled a little. Whisk them into the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the dry ingredients, at which point the batter will become quite a bit stiffer. Finally, stir in the chopped nuts (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the salt – that comes later). Tip the mixture into a container which will hold it in a shallow layer so it will cool down quickly and put it to rest in the fridge for an hour. I used quite a large mixing bowl, so I just spread the mixture out in that and popped it in the fridge. You can leave it in the fridge overnight (but no longer than 24 hours or you will inactivate the baking powder).

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C and line a baking tray with a silicone liner or piece of baking paper. Take the mixture out of the fridge and using a teaspoon, an ice cream scoop or your hands (best to use a disposable glove unless you want to end up with a lot of cookie dough on your hands; on second thoughts…) scoop out balls of the mixture, weighing them to ensure that your cookies are evenly sized. Ravneet used 50g per cookie but I made mine with 35g in the vain hope that I would eat a smaller portion. Roll each scoop into a ball then flatten it slightly and put it on the baking sheet. Pop the shaped cookies back in the fridge while the oven finishes heating.

Once the oven is up to temperature put in the cookies, which should be quite firm by now, and bake them for 8-9 minutes. At this point they should have risen and spread a little, the outside will look dry and crackled, but they will still be soft if you touch them. Take them out of the oven and crumble a little Maldon salt over each one. Leave them on the baking tray until they have firmed up, which will take at least 5 minutes. They will keep in a tin for a few days.

Lemon Posset

This is such a simple recipe, in which lemon juice and heat, by a sort of alchemy, transform cream into a delicately set and delicious dessert.  It is easy enough to make for a Friday night supper but easily grand enough for guests, especially when dressed up with raspberries or redcurrants and served with crisp biscuits.

A posset was originally a hot drink made from hot milk curdled with wine or ale, and spiced with nutmeg or cinnamon. This modern incarnation is more like a syllabub, but quicker and easier to make.

Making the posset takes barely 10 minutes, but you do need to allow about three hours for it to chill in the fridge. These quantities are for 4 but can easily be divided or multiplied.

300ml double cream
75g caster sugar
zest & juice of 1 lemon

Bring the double cream and sugar slowly to the boil in a saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Pour into 4 ramekins, leaving room enough room to add a few raspberries or redcurrants to garnish if you wish, and put in the fridge to chill and thicken for about three hours.

Serve alone, or with raspberries or redcurrants and crisp shortbread-type biscuits – lemon, almond or hazelnut biscuits all work well.

Hazelnut Cake

Jeremy Lee’s king of puddings column in the Guardian’s cook supplement had become a highlight of my Saturday, much mourned since its disappearance when the supplement metamorphosed into Feast recently. I haven’t actually cooked his recipes that often (lest I lose all semblance of a waistline), just salivated over how delicious and comforting they sounded. However this cake sounded just too tempting to be savoured only in the mind.

I made a smaller cake than the original (which used 5 eggs rather than 3 – just scale up if you have more cake-lovers to feed). I used a big bag of excellent toasted and ground hazelnuts, found in the kosher section of my supermarket (alas they only have them around passover, but I stock up), rather than roasting and grinding them myself. This only takes a little longer, though, and the taste will be even better, so don’t worry if you can’t find ground hazelnuts.  As suggested, I served it with cream; raspberries or some lightly stewed plums would be great alongside it too if you want to serve it for pudding.

This cake is simpler to make than our much loved hazelnut and raspberry birthday cake, or this hazelnut cake, making it suitable for less momentous celebrations: small triumphs or a weekend treat.

210g hazelnuts, whole or ground
3 eggs, separated
120g caster sugar, plus 1 dstsp
60g butter
zest of 1/2 lemon

Heat the oven to 170° C. If you are using whole hazelnuts, put them on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes (keep a close eye on them) until they are brown and the skins are coming off. Tip into a clean tea towel and rub off as much of the skins as possible, then grind to a coarse meal in a food processor.

Line an 18cm cake tin (or similar) with baking parchment. Melt the butter in a small pan.

Separate the eggs and beat the 120g sugar into the yolk using a wire whisk, until they are pale and foamy, stopping when you can write your initial with the trail from the whisk. Using a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then add the extra dessertspoon of sugar and beat again.

Fold one third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture, then add half the hazelnuts, amalgamating them lightly and swiftly. I use a large silicone spatula for this, which makes easy work of incorporating all the mixture. Follow this with another third of egg whites, and the rest of the hazelnuts. Finally fold in the last of the egg whites, the melted butter and lemon zest until all is amalgamated.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for around 30 minutes. Use a wooden skewer to check that it is done before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Allegedly, it will keep for a couple of days in a tin…

Hazelnut cake

IMG_2573

On Friday we cooked an early birthday lunch for Irene’s niece, so a cake seemed the right choice for dessert. Finding big packets of ‘kosher for passover’ ground hazelnuts in the supermarket made me think about trying a hazelnut version of my favourite almond and orange cake (which, I now discover, is unaccountably not yet on the blog). I couldn’t resist looking at other recipes and adapting it, ending up with this cake: nutty, light but moist – just what I had hoped for. You could probably make it using only hazelnuts, but I think ground almonds help the texture and stop the cake being dry.

As ever with hazelnut desserts, this cake is particularly good served with raspberries and softly whipped cream (or crème fraÎche if you prefer), and I had some caramelised hazelnuts which I chopped and sprinkled over for contrasting crunch. I could, of course, have resorted to the traditional family birthday cake, but it was nice to try something new. As it was so well received, I expect to be making it again soon.

The quantities here are for a 15cm cake tin, serving four – double them to fill a 20cm cake tin, and give it another 10 minutes in the oven.

100g butter at room temperature
75g caster sugar
2 large eggs, separated
60g ground hazelnuts
40g ground almonds
25g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1-2 tbsp orange juice

Heat the oven to 160ºC fan/180ºC/Gas 4. Grease the cake tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. If you can’t find ground hazelnuts, toast hazelnuts for 5 minutes or so (watch them closely so they don’t burn) in the warming oven, rub them in a tea towel to get rid of (most of) the skins and grind them to crumbs.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and light – I made this cake in my mixer, but a hand-held beater, or a wooden spoon and elbow grease, would do the job equally well. Beat in the egg yolks with a spoonful of flour. Add the rest of the flour, baking powder and ground nuts. Mix in, adding the orange juice a bit at a time depending on how stiff the mixture is.

In a spotless bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff.  You could do this using the whisk attachment of the mixer, though I can never be bothered to transfer the cake mixture and wash and dry the mixer bowl in the middle of baking a cake to do this – and besides it is satisfying whisking egg whites with a balloon whisk in my beautiful copper bowl. Gently mix a large dollop of the egg whites into the cake mixture with a large spoon, then fold in the rest of the egg whites gently but thoroughly, keeping as much air in the mix as you can.

Turn into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until it is firm, starting to brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave in the tin on a rack for 10 minutes, then un-mould and leave to cool.

I prefer my cakes plain, but this would probably be delicious filled with a chocolate and hazelnut butter cream, or perhaps served with Travel Gourmet’s luscious-sounding Vanilla Ice Cream with Gianduioso, if you wanted a more indulgent dessert.