Lemon posset with fennel shortbread

ZIngy and creamy posset

ZIngy and creamy posset

A posset is really a cooked cream dessert very popular in gastropubs and the best alliance to the iconic shortbread. For me, this is a marriage made in British heaven and one of my favourite dessert.

I made this last sunday for my niece Antonia to go with the fennel seeds shortbread I had brought for Christmas and I knew she liked… I was thrilled to discover it is such a quick and easy pudding to make and it is definitively going into my favourites’ repertoire. This recipe is from the wonderful Tangerine Dream Cafe in The Chelsea Physic Gardens where they serve incredibly creative and quirky dishes using lots of the plants and flowers available all around the kitchen. I am a particular fan of their Lavender scones and ginger bread for tea…

Ingredients list: Serves 6

For the Posset:

  • Double cream, 500 ml
  • Caster sugar, 125g
  • Juice and finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (I recommend Amalfi lemons still seasonal and so fragrant it’s untrue)IMG_5829 IMG_5824

For the Shortbread:

  • Butter, 250g
  • Golden or caster sugar, 110g Plus for sprinkling
  • Plain flour, 250g
  • Fine semolina, 110g
  • Crushed fennel seeds, 1 tsp

For the posset:

Place the cream and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 3 minutes.

(5 minutes at 80 in the Thermomix works well too)

Stir in the lemon juice and zest and leave to cool.

Pour into sundae cups or martini glasses and decorate with edible flowers : pansies or nasturtiums are soon in season! I also use dry edible flowers bought on a stall in Borough Market.

For the shortbread:

Beat the butter in a mixer until creamy then add the sugar, followed by the flour, semolina and crushed fennel seeds.

Mix until it forms a smooth dough then roll out onto a floured surface and cut out shapes.

Place on a baking parchment or silpat sheet on a rack and bake for up to one hour at 150º. Watch so the edges do not colour too much. The cookies need to be still a bit soft on coming out as they will harden when they cool and you want a crumbly and slightly chewy texture. Sprinkle with a bit of caster sugar before they cool down.

This is a fresh and delicious pudding, perfect for a spring lunch al fresco!

For Tony

For Tony

Gluten free banana cake for recovery days

This light and moist banana loaf is adapted from a BBC recipe and it is the nicest banana recipe I have tried so far. It is also gluten-free which is sometimes useful – my guests these days seem to be more gluten intolerant than before, I have noticed.

I am eating quite a few bananas during training and especially post-runs for recovery so this is recipe makes a nice change from the habitual recovery smoothie. I suggest a cup of tea with it and a good long run before! I actually had a deliciously hot chocolate with it myself – as my pictures show…  But I had the excuse of recovering from my first EVER half-marathon…  Yeah!!! Legs felt as hard as concrete but it was real good when the rain and the run stopped… Great feeling of fear (and boredom) conquered! Anyway, that was last week and I had a few days worth of banana cake to recover so all good.

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Getting to the finish line!

Getting to the finish line!

Ingredients list:

This quantity will fill a 1kg/2lb loaf tin, lined with parchment paper, or 24 small paper muffin cases

  • Last time I did this I use the self-raising gluten free flour mix from Doves Farm. As for the bananas, nobody here likes them brownish so I freeze the overripe ones (peeled is better) to have as smoothies and I used some of those for this recipe.

Put the flours and butter and sugar together in a food processor and mix well.

Add the beaten eggs  and mix. By hand, fold in the sultanas and citrus peel.

Pour the batter into a long cake tin. Decorate the top with mixed nuts if you wish – and if you don’t have allergies to cater for.

Put in the oven for 45min at 170°. Take out when raised and when the knife comes out clean but try not to over bake so it stays moist.

This reminds me of some moist caribbean cakes and I always love the banana and vanilla pairing- simple but so comforting! In fact, I felt I had not brought back enough recipes from my recent jaunt to La Martinique so this English cake actually nicely fills the gap. But as Spring starts everywhere, I promise myself there will be more exotic recipes finding their way into this page!

Banana cake with vanilla

Banana cake with hot choc’

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Orange marmalade with whisky

The origin of the marmalade would apparently, according to Wikipedia, be Portuguese and it was the name given to a quinces’ jam. I had heard the “Marie malade” cute story involving the Queen of Scots and her French cook but I am afraid it all seemed a bit far-fetched, so Portuguese it is!

The arrival of the famously bitter Seville oranges is a short-lived event and one of the year’s highlights for any marmalade lover but if you have missed the slot do not fear because you can make a very commendable one with the stuff sold in tins in every British supermarket… I should not admit to that but I’ll say it: It will save you time, effort and even a bit of money to get yourself a tin of Ma Made by Hartley’s.

The cheat!

The cheat!

Just add sugar, water and boil as you would normally and there is is: Magical marmalade done – no sweat. I usually add a little less sugar and a little more whiskey but that’s just me. The great bit about Ma Made is that you can decide to do your Seville marmalade any time of the year and because it is just oranges, pectin and a bit of water inside the tin, it really tastes as good as homemade. The sugar is still up to you!

For those of you who, like me, enjoy getting the fresh oranges from the market, here is a very easy way to go about that too.

Labelled and dated

Labelled and dated with eat by date

Ingredients list:

  • 500ml of juice squeezed from fresh Seville oranges
  • The zest of 3 Seville oranges, peeled off and cut up finely
  • 500g of white sugar for jam (with pectin added)
  • 2 sweet oranges, cut in fine slices and then quartered
  • Juice of one lemon (its zest if you wish for more acidity)
  • A little glass of whisky

Buy your oranges (bigarade in French) as soon as they arrive and use them fresh: this way they will have more natural pectin and set quicker.

The day before your jam making session, sterilise the pots in the dishwasher and check you have all the ingredients: jaming is time consuming and then is nothing worse than discovering on the day you are missing a crucial element of the mix…

This recipe will yield about 6 to 8 pots.

On the day, press and zest your oranges and the lemon. Slice the sweet oranges. Cut up some of the skin of the bitter oranges to keep. Put all the pith and the rest of the skin into a muslin bag to dangle in the mix while cooking.

Put the fruit in a jam pan or pressure cooker with 1/2 litre of water and the sugar.

Bring to the boil and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Check the setting by putting a blob of jam on a cold plate: it should be runny but not liquid and move slowly when you tilt the plate. If not, give it another boil. Be careful not too let it go too dark or it will be burnt. Add the whisky at the end and take it off the hob.

Check the cut up skin is nice and soft. Then transfer the boiling jam into jars with a laddle and a funnel, being careful not to burn yourself. Screw the top of the jars tightly and flip them upside down to cool.

If you don’t have Jam sugar or would rather use natural pectin, try this other version with cooking apples.

On marmalade days, I love the smell that pervades from our kitchen up to the whole house: It conjures up images of orange groves and memories of the thick shade their glossy green leaves harbour all around … In Sicily, my son and I found a sunken garden where multiple species of citrus grew since the most ancient ages. Some produced bitter and thick skinned fruit and some the sweetest, most fragrant oranges I have ever tasted. In those Gardens of Kolymbetra, hidden at the feet of the ancient temples of Agrigento, we drank a heavenly orange juice and bit in a few citrus fruit we had no names for. It felt like sharing the food of the Gods.

Upside down!

Upside down!

Granola bars to fuel my winter runs

This again is adapted from the ever so plentiful blog of David Lebovitz “Living the sweet life in Paris”, of which my regular readers will know I am a fan!

At the moment I am running a fair bit and sometimes even in the rain or at dusk, so the promise of a warm drink and one of those energy packed bars is a big bonus at the end of a wet and cold run.

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Ingredients list:

  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup (45g) sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup (60g) whole almonds
  • ½ cup (60g) walnuts bits
  • 1 cup (125g) pitted and diced dates
  • 1/3 cup (50g) dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup (35g) dried sour cherries or cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (35g) sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup (65g) smooth natural peanut butter or any nut butter
  • 1/4 cup (80g) honey
  • pinch of salt

Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20cm) square pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

Spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice while baking, until they are slightly browned. Scrape them into a large bowl. Spread the almonds on the baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely break in a pestle and add the almonds to the oats.

Add the dates, chocolate chips and cranberries to the bowl.

Heat the peanut butter, honey, and salt in a small saucepan, stirring until warm, but not boiling. Pour the peanut butter and honey over the mixture in the bowl and stir until it’s completely incorporated; using your hands is the best way to go. DO not use a sweet peanut butter, just a natural one. You do not want a sickly sweet bar!

Transfer the mixture to the pan and pat it down so it’s as flat as possible. I put a sheet of baking paper over and just pushed down with my palm until it was flat! Freeze the granola bars for 30 minutes before eating them. I keep them in a metal box in my fridge and they stay fresh for longer.

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My run along the river at dusk! Beautiful and cold.

My run along the river at dusk! Beautiful and cold.

Same run in morning light.

Same run in morning light.

What is the food of love?

For your valentine today, you can whip up elaborate and sophisticated cake contraptions, spend hours turning red roses out of sugar or you can opt instead for a long bath and a DIY blow dry before turning up at the theatre doors with a simple hand drawn card!
(I let you guess what my option is.)

My, with so many personalised card offers all over the net, you can’ t even hide behind the excuse of poor drawing skills! As everybody keeps telling you: it’s the thought that counts…

In fact, go counter trend and don’t even SEND a card; better GIVE one to people you love – your sister, your son, your cat even! My Valentine does not need a card: he knows who he is!!!

Man, heart, bells - a love story in cutters

Man, heart, bells – a love story in cutters

On the first morning we shared – a Valentine’s day morning mind you -I served him heart shaped fried eggs and a couple of heart cut French toasts in my tiny Holland road kitchen. Then I took a plane… And he sent a card after me that I never got! But we got engaged 6 months later.

I don’t need to give you the recipe for heart shaped fried eggs I don’t think, or a cut out for heart-shaped toasts! I could give you a recipe for a happy marriage ( now there is an idea…) but it might take too long , and I don t like to gloat…

So… Happy valentine everyone!

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My lovers food of choice: two freshly laid eggs that were served to us at the Hibiscus on Maddox st. A real shell and inside, a reduction of mushroom topped with an “espuma” of chesnut and celeriac dusted with curry. Unforgettable.