Sometimes there’s nothing better than a sandwich. It could be a properly crusty, thickly sliced loaf filled with simple cheese and chutney, a bagel filled with pastrami, gherkins and mustard or some thin rye bread topped with smoked fish and herbs. I don’t think I could ever tire of something that you can just grab and eat with your hands. My salami and mozzarella open ciabatta is just the thing for a simple, no fuss, full of flavour dinner. Don’t tell anyone but I could have eaten all four pieces to myself.
You know those bananas that you keep avoiding in the fruit bowl? The ones which got a bit speckled a few days ago and now are fully fledged brown? Well, throw out your normal go-to recipe because my banana bread with chocolate, oats and honey is the way to go. Adding a few extra ingredients gives it a delicious flavour and texture and I have been very much enjoying having a slice for breakfast each morning. Any excuse to start the day with chocolate.
You will need (for one banana bread loaf):
Minimum fuss and maximum results were the name of the game with my most recent dessert. Another hot day, the last thing I needed was to be baking pastry, so I didn’t, but made a tart nonetheless. My Strawberry and Peanut Tart makes use of a few sneaky kitchen shortcuts to make a delicious and impressive pudding. A chocolate and peanut base smothered with cream and stacked high with fresh fruit it almost seemed a shame to cut into it. But, you know, someone had to.
You will need (for 6-8 servings):
When there’s strawberries in the house that’s how I know it’s summer. I never eat them out of season; I feel like it’s worth the wait to abstain from eating strawberries for nine or ten months of the year and then gorge on them from late May until they disappear again. Mostly I just eat them as they are but sometimes I like to make something a little more interesting. This Strawberry, Basil and Shortbread Mess is exactly that. Something that doesn’t take long to make but turns a weekday evening into something a little more special. And it does look rather lovely if I do say so myself.
Adding herbs to bakes and drinks is something I really like to do. I like the botanical flavour that herbs can bring to various dishes and I think woody herbs really suit being paired with chocolate. These chocolate, thyme and lemon shortbread biscuits are a delicious combination of flavours if I do say so myself and if you’re unsure about adding herbs to a biscuit you’ll just have to give it a try!
You will need (for 12 squares):
- 180g plain flour
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 50g caster sugar
- 150g softened butter
- 50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1tsp dried thyme
- Zest 1 lemon
Preheat your oven to 160C and line a baking dish; I used a square one for this batch but round or circular dishes work just as well.
There are so many delicious cakes and biscuits which appear from the recipe books ready for Easter. Simnel cakes, hot cross buns and Easter egg nest cakes to name a few. Frankly I think it’s shameful that all the Easter treats aren’t served all at the same time with a huge pot of tea and some excellent company. So that’s exactly what an Easter afternoon tea is all about. An excuse to scoff all the tasty cakes and biscuits along with some sandwiches (which of course contain some sort of vegetable to negate the cake calories) and scones (because it’s not afternoon tea without a scone).
If you’ve ever been to Cornwall you’d have been hard pushed not to see, smell or try a Cornish Pasty. And a proper pasty is a serious business, don’t even think about adding peas to the classic recipe, it’s unforgivable. The classic mix of beef, potato, swede and pastry is hard to beat and I recently found out there’s such a thing as Cornish Pasty Week! If you ask me that’s a great excuse to eat as many pasties as possible between 25th February and 3rd March. The week culminates with the World Pasty Championship which takes place at the Eden project on 3rd March.
Citrus in January is obligatory as far as I’m concerned. Whether its limes, lemons, grapefruits, blood oranges or, if you’re lucky, bergamot lemons there’s always got to be something citrussy in the kitchen. That sharp hit of acidic, fresh taste is just what I need on these cold, grey days and if that lifting flavour can be added to a cake then it’s all the better. This Upside Down Lime Cake was born out of necessity; my need to be greedy and a need to use up all the limes I had in my fruit bowl.
I love a mince pie, but they have to be just right. I want the pastry to mince filling ratio to be almost 50:50; too much filling and you can forget it. Preferably my mince pies will be warm and covered in (clotted, ideally) cream. However, I can’t possibly eat that every single day and I still need my mince pie fix. This is how my Mince Pie Fruit Loaf came about; designed to have all the fruity spiciness from a mince pie but without the pastry and cream. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of butter for spreading!
When the nights get darker and colder I reach for two things: one is the big cast iron saucepan and the other is my collection of spices. But for all the big flavours, homely soups, stews and curries that seem so apt at this time of year sometimes I crave a little delicacy. Something subtle, light and simple is what I’m after and these Lemon Almond Biscuits are exactly that. Just the ticket at the end of a busy day with a cup of tea, preferably Earl Grey. These little biscuits take less than half an hour from start to finish; perfect.