Category Archives: Teatime

Nigella’s rather good banana and chocolate bread (which can be gluten free).

I always associate banana bread with Nigella. I think it’s because, it was in one of the first recipes of hers that I read, I’m sure, that she said baking a banana bread filled the house with a fug of domesticity.

Or some such. Since then I’ve made dozens of banana breads and it usually
disappoints, probably because I keep changing recipes. Faced, however, with a huge batch of frozen, overripe bananas in the freezer (I always freeze overripe bananas) and more chocolate than any sane person needs (this is what happens when you get made Chocolate Correspondent of a national newspaper) I decided to have another go at making banana bread.

Also, for complicated reasons that I don’t fully understand myself, I hadn’t cooked or baked anything in weeks when I first made this last year. Which is really not like me, but this glorious little cake gave me my baking mojo back.

For a writer, I am remarkably picture led where recipes are concerned and thus it was that I found this recipe for Nigella’s Gluten-Free Banana Bread and it was, I confess the picture of the large slabs of chocolate which lured me in.  I planned to make it gluten free (why not) but in the end found no rice flour in my flour cupboard so made it with normal plain flour. I also lowered the sugar and used pecans instead. I think this would also be great made in muffin size. I’ve put the recipe below as I made it – do refer to the original if you wish and if you want to make it gluten-free which this ain’t.

 

175g plain flour

100g ground almonds

two teaspoons of baking power

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

a quarter teaspoon of sea salt

500g of very ripe bananas (weighed with skin on)

two teaspoons of vanilla extract

100g Greek yoghurt – full fat

Two eggs

125g light olive oil

100g light brown sugar

100g roughly chopped pecans (or any other nut you like)

150g chopped chocolate – I used a mixture of milk and plain in chocolate chip size and quite large chunks

 

You need a 2lb loaf tin for this (Nigella gives the sizes as 24cm x 12cm and mine was roughly that, why don’t cake tin manufacturers put the volume/measurements on the bottom of their tins?). Line this tin. Preheat the oven to 170C.

Mix together the dry ingredients, thus the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In a larger bowl (for this will be the one everything else ends up in) place the bananas and mash them up, then mix in the vanilla extract, Greek yoghurt and the eggs one at a time. Then the oil and sugar. When all is better unified than a post-Brexit UK, add the dry ingredients bit by bit until combined. Then finally gently fold in the nuts and chocolate.

Dollop all this in the cake tin and bake for about forty minutes. Nigella says 45-55, my oven seems quite fierce so I started checking it after 35 mins. Also it does depend on how much moisture your bananas hold.

You know it’s done when the top is dry, it springs back, it’s shrunk away a little from the sides and a skewer comes out relatively clean (obviously not if you hit a shard of chocolate).

This is a beautiful cake. Unfortunately I can’t find a picture I took of it so this post will be picture-less until I make it again.

 

Little sous vide cheesecakes

I am no stranger to gadgets. My dad used to say “un’altro gadget” (another gadget) but, although I made mistakes early on, everything I buy I pretty much use and enjoy: it earns its place and keep in our kitchen.

For instance, some years ago, I looked at sous vide cooking but, back then, the domestic sous vide machines were pretty big and I just knew that the space they took up, I’d rather  put an ice cream maker in, given my heritage.

But a few weeks ago, we had friends Natalie and Micah round for lunch and Micah mentioned they had a sous vide and how things had changed; that they were now little bigger than stick blenders and you stuck them in a pan that you already had. And how they cooked the most amazing meat [and fish and other things].

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The Joule sous vide, with plug for size comparison

So I looked and I bought.

Although the Anova is pretty popular (Martha Stewart’s chef uses one), it didn’t work that well for me – I couldn’t get it to work with the app and I am such a technophile that this mattered to me. (It doesn’t have to work with an app, you can just use the machine.) So I returned it bought a Joule instead which ONLY works via an app, which may annoy you but I love it. The app has all sorts of pre-set timings and temperatures and it’s soo easy. The Joule is also more powerful than the Anova (all but the Anova Pro which is much more expensive).

If you are thinking, WTF is she on about, then you can read  all about sous vide here. But it is, essentially, cooking food at a very precise temperature in a water bath.

I cooked a chicken breast in it and it was amazing, so moist and let’s not even get started on the steaks it cooks. It doesn’t brown but you can finish meat off in a frying pan for a final sear. The beauty of sous vide, other than it cooks to perfection, is that you can prep food and leave it, which really suits the way I cook.

But, cheesecakes.

You can also use sous vide to cook little cheese cakes and chocolate puddings. You can adapt this one below by adding fruit compote at the end or a biscuit base. We made them with Oreo cookies (use the double filled ones, one per portion – so if using the recipe below you would use six – blitzed in a blender and distributed amongst the jars and pressed down, then you put the cheesecake batter on top – you can use any extra crumbs to put on top of the cheesecakes just before you eat them) but you could use digestive biscuits with a bit of melted butter to bring them all together if you fancy a more traditional cheesecake base.

You need six 135ml mason-style jars. I use these ones.  They are perfect for these mini desserts and many others you can make sous vide. You can also use Weck jars (use the seal and the clips and I guess, regular jam jars but I haven’t yet.

Sorry about the Amazon link for the jars but Lakeland will start selling them come the autumn.

Ingredients for six people

(Six double fill Oreos if using)

225g cream cheese

110g of caster sugar

110g creme fraiche

Three eggs

Grated zest of a lemon (I always use organic when I use the zest of citrus fruits)

Method

You can do this in a food processor but it’s not difficult to mix it up by hand. Mix together the cream cheese and the caster sugar, then add the creme fraiche, the lemon zest and the three eggs one at a time. Make sure everything is really well combined.

If you are using a biscuit base you will already have pressed it in the jars.

Distribute evenly amongst the six jars up to the ‘thread’, seal until they are finger tip tight (ie you can unscrew using just your finger tips), set your sous vide to 80C and 90 mins, and when up to temperature, submerge the jars (I use a jar tong, be careful of your fingers).

When done take out, cool then refrigerate for a couple of hours.

I know this recipe isn’t relevant to those of you without a sous vide but you know…if you like kit I’ve given you lots of reasons to buy some.

Home made hobnobs

In an attempt to get my mum (who taught me so much about home cooking) to eat more home made biscuits, I made her these. But it was literally just 24hrs before she was back to having her regulation “two biscuits witha mya coffee” (two Rich Tea Biscuits. I had looked up how to make Rich Tea but the general consensus seems to be it’s impossible).

Unlike so many, I don’t particularly like Hobnobs. But these are a good little recipe to have in. People love home made biscuits, it shows love and these aren’t difficult to make. They keep well and you may well have all the ingredients.

You will need:

140g softened unsalted butter

140g granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of milk

1 teaspoon of golden syrup

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

140g self raising flour

110g rolled oats

 

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 150C. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. You will need to do these in batches.

Cream the 140g of butter and 140g granulated sugar together, then beat in the one tablespoon of milk and one teaspoon of golden syrup. Then mix in the 140g of self raising flour, one teaspoon of bicarb and finally the 110g of rolled oats. You can form the ‘dough’ together for the final bit with your hands.

Then take off walnuts sized pieces, roll between your palms to make a ball and place on the tray. On my tray, I can fit six in as these do spread. Flatten gently with your hand and place in oven for about 15 mins. But check after 10 and you may need to go up to 20mins if you make them bigger/smaller or your oven is different to mine. They are done when they are golden.

Leave on the baking parchment for a few moments before sliding the biscuits/parchment onto a cooling rack. I have another piece of baking parchment ready for the next batch to allow them to cool as, for the first few minutes, these biscuits, fresh out of the oven, are quite frangible.

When totally cool put in a nice tin ready for teatime.

Chocolate Chip Brioches, dough made in the bread machine (especially for Connie).

So a while ago, I posted a recipe for enriched dough chocolate chip brioches. My youngest actually prefers the enriched dough version but I had long hankered after proper, buttery, brioche dough.

I wanted something I could bung in the bread maker and let machine make the dough. And although my Panasonic bread maker doesn’t have a brioche cycle (it’s nearly 20 years old) I knew the newer ones did so I did a search and found a recipe, online, in a newer Panasonic breadmaker instruction book.

These brioches are fairly fuss free. As with all brioche dough, it is very buttery and if handled too much at the shaping stage you become FULLY aware of how much butter is in there as it starts to slide across the kitchen counter and you end up needing to wipe down your hands a lot. But most of the work is done in the bread machine so don’t worry.

Make these the day before you want them, shape them, cover them, stick them in the fridge and the day you want them (they make wonderful breakfasts) just heat up the oven, glaze the buns and stick them in the oven. Voila. Buttery, brioches with melting chocolate inside.

I cooked some of these this morning (made yesterday) because I was making Christmas cards with my children and my friend Mary, who is super crafty came with her absolutely fabulous children and we all sat sticking, embossing and cutting; chatting, the fire burning, lovely music on. It was like something out of a Jane Austen novel, except with Spotify.  Connie, the eldest has just started making bagels and asked me for the recipe. So here it is.

One and a half teaspoons of instant yeast

400g strong white bread flour

Four tablespoons of caster sugar

15ml of rum (I seriously don’t know what this does so if you don’t have it I’m sure you can just add a bit more milk but if you have it, add it, I mean why not?)

One and a half teaspoons of salt

70g of butter, cut into cubes and straight from the fridge

90ml of milk

50g of butter, cut into cubes and straight from the fridge for later *

100g chocolate chips, I prefer dark – for when the dough is out of the machine

Makes 12

Put everything except for the chocolate chips and ‘later’ butter into the bread maker and set the dough cycle – it should be about 2hrs. Mine is 2hrs 20minutes.

At the first knead stage (about 30-50 mins in) add the ‘later’ butter. Your machine may have a beeper for ‘later butter’ stage. Mine doesn’t.

*You can add all the butter at the beginning and honestly I’ve not noticed much difference, so see how you go. If you’re around and can add it later, do, if you need to get on with something just add it all at once.

Don’t, however, add the chocolate chips now, they will melt slightly and the dough will be slightly coloured. It doesn’t affect the taste but..I just prefer it done later.

When the dough cycle is finished, take the dough out, flatten out, add the chocolate chips and sort of gently knead them in. Rest the dough for ten mins, then cut 12 pieces out of it and shape into sausage shapes (or rounds). If you find the dough resistant you can cut the 12 pieces, then rest, then shape. Or just cut and shape straight away – see how you feel.

When shaped, place on a baking parchment lined tray, cover with a tea towel and put in the fridge overnight or for a few hours until you need them.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 180C, brush the brioches with egg yolk and cook for 20 mins (check after 15).

Eat about 30 mins out of the oven when it’s the perfect mix of warm brioche and melting chocolate. You can also freeze them, when cold, for resuscitation another day.

Un tiramisu che ti tirasu

A few years ago, when we fancied making a tiramisu (it means pick me up, or pull me up), I looked at loads of recipes. I was quite shocked (I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Italian cooking) at the variations. I mean, Nigella, whom I love, had one, in How To Eat, using no coffee or chocolate and meringues instead of sponge fingers. It caused me to  to slam the pages of the book shut in mock horror.

It is the coffee, and the chocolate that is supposed to act as a ‘tiramisu’. Anything else, to my mind, ti spinge giu (pushes you down).

I have hundreds of cookery books, and a world of recipes at my fingers tips, as do you, on the internet. But nothing was really saying Italian tiramisu to me. Then I thought of looking in my Italian cooking bible: The Silver Spoon.

In these days of celebrity cookbooks, stuffed full of photographs, the recipes in this book are easy to overlook: simple, very few pictures and the list of ingredients for each recipe is short. But don’t overlook them because not only is this a fantastic cookery book, the recipes are accomplished – some of them go back fifty years. As you may expect, some of the recipes are as good as they’re ever going to get.

And the tiramisu recipe is no exception. It is one of the few with a photo which I admit helped…I made it and it is the only way we make tiramisu now. It’s simple, anyone can do it (my bambine frequently do) and once made sits in the fridge for a good few days, yielding to your spoon just when you need a…pick me up.

It has no alcohol – so if you feel the need for some after dinner, serve that separately – which means children can easily eat this. Although beware of eating it too late as there’s quite a caffeine punch.

My friend Tamsin doesn’t like coffee, so she doesn’t include it in her tiramisu. Of course I have told her it’s not really a tiramisu, but more of a creamy pudding. Don’t even think of using cocoa powder (other than, maybe, on the very top but I don’t) instead of grated chocolate. The chocolate shavings make this stand out and allow for some bite in what is a wallowy pudding which offers little resistance: you could easily eat aged 98, when all your teeth have fallen out.

And use icing sugar, not caster, which can result in a runny mess.

Here it is:

2 egg whites, 4 egg yolks (freeze the 2 extra egg whites)

150 icing sugar

400g mascarpone

200g sponge fingers

175ml espresso coffee

200g plain chocolate, grated (grating chocolate is one of my least favourite jobs but I do it for this)

What to do:

I make this in a rectangular Pyrex, which also has a handy lid so I can save it for a few days. Mine is about 17cm x 25cm and it makes two layers. But of course you can make it in a different shape so you get more layers, or even make it circular or in individual portions, just break the sponge fingers up to fill the spaces.

It would, I think, easily serve eight people depending on the size of portion.

First you whisk the egg whites until stiff, set them aside for a moment whilst, in a separate bowl you beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar, then you fold/whisk the mascarpone into the egg yolks and sugar and finally, into this you gently fold in the egg whites. This is your creamy bit.

Lay the sponge fingers onto the base of your dish and brush or pour the coffee on top. Because I know mine makes two layers, I pour half the coffee on now. Then spoon on a layer of the cream and sprinkle with the grated chocolate. Repeat this, ending with a layer of mascarpone/sprinkling of chocolate. I usually end up with more chocolate than I need for this, for some reason, so if so just keep it in a jam jar for next time.

It is better the next day, but can be eaten within a few hours of making it and chilling it to allow the ingredients to meet each other, and mingle.

 

 

 

 

White chocolate and amaretti cake

I don’t often have cake failures. I’ve been baking since I was seven. But when I do, they hit me hard.

The first time I made this – a Donna Hay recipe – it went wrong. It looked fine, coming out of the oven, but when you cut into it there was a hole running the whole width of the cake, so that each slice had a hole right through it. The sort of thing which, if you’d tried to achieve, would have been impossible.

It tasted delicious, but it was a failure. I whizzed the whole sorry thing up in a food processor and froze the crumbs. They will be delicious on some ice cream, as a topping, or put in milk shake mix ins.

I had a rare afternoon nap and then it came to me: I had forgotten to put the milk in. I had made it in a bad mood, and got distracted. The original method is also a ‘bung it all into the food mixer’, which is where I also went wrong as I lost track of the ingredients.

This is a simple cake – simple to look at, simple to make, but the ingredients add up. It has nearly £5 of white chocolate in it. Of course, you could put any old white chocolate in it, something cheap, but I think good quality white chocolate makes a difference. I use Green and Black’s white cooking chocolate. Then there’s the amaretti. The rest is regular baking fayre: butter, eggs, flour. Oh and milk.

I have adapted this so it’s all done by hand. I felt I got a better result. If you want to, you can bung everything save the amaretti crumbs into a food mixer and mix away until smooth, then rejoin the recipe at the putting into the tin stage.

Because this recipe contains amaretti – almonds – it is not suitable for anyone with nut/almond allergies.

This is what you need:

185g very soft unsalted butter

220g caster sugar

3 eggs

a teaspoon of vanilla extract

250g melted white chocolate, slightly cooled

300g self raising flour

310ml of milk

160g crushed amaretti biscuits

A few amaretti, crushed, for decoration after cooking.

This is what you do:

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour a 3l bundt/ring tin.

Cream together the butter and sugar, add the three eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Now gently mix in the melted chocolate. Then add the flour and, little by little, the milk.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin, sprinkle the amaretti crumbs (I pulse them in a food processor) over the cake mixture. I use a skewer to gentle feather them through the mixture, but you don’t have to. Now top up with the rest of the cake mixture.

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Bake for about 45 minutes. Check with a skewer to make sure it’s cooked. Make sure it comes out clean.

Leave to cool for ten minutes, then turn out and sprinkle a few crushed amaretti over the top if you’d like.

This cake fills the kitchen with amazing Viennese coffee house smells as it cooks. It’s even better the next day. The white chocolate gives the sponge an amazing lightness and a taste you can’t quite put your finger on. And the amaretti crumb layer is just amazing and marzipan-ish in taste (so absolutely no good if you hate marzipan).

 

A healthier waffle recipe

When I bought my waffle maker, I diligently followed the recipes that came with it and they were very good. But I wanted something un peu healthier. There are thousands of waffle recipes on the internet and in books. I personally like to add my sugar, if I add any at all, afterwards in the form of fruit or maple syrup. I found one on an American site which looked good and had a tweak around and now this is pretty much the waffles I make.

This recipe makes about 18 but they freeze well (freeze them flat on a tray then bag up together) and cook splendidly from not quite frozen, but ten minutes out of the freezer. If you toast them straight from the freezer by the time the toaster has defrosted them the waffles have got quite dry. Far better to take a waffle out of the freezer when you first get up, let it defrost at room temperature for ten minutes (who wants to eat when they very first get up anyway?) and then pop it into the toaster for a minute or two.

I eat mine with live yoghurt and berries and maple syrup and, incredibly, this breakfast keeps me going til lunchtime.

I’m sure you could up the wholemeal flour even more if you wanted to.

120g plain wholemeal flour

225g plain white flour

50g porridge oats

110g rice flour

2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of fine sea salt

1 litre of full fat milk (or use a combination of milk and yoghurt for an even lighter waffle)

4 eggs, separated

115g melted butter (or coconut oil)

 

Combine all the dry ingredients – the flours, oats, bicarb, baking powder and salt – in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine the milk, egg yolks and melted butter or coconut oil.

In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the butter/milk/egg yolk mixture. Mix everything together until nice blended. Now dollops the egg whites on top and gently fold in.

In my waffle maker I cook these for about 2m45s on the buttermilk setting, but you’ll have to experiment with yours.