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).
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.
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.
I think pears are annoying. Lovely, but annoying. They sit around in the fruit bowl looking all delicious and they’re never ripe. Then, when one is ready to eat the rest immediately go ripe too and then you have to eat them all at once. Well I’m not standing for it any longer, I decided that I would use the pears while they are under ripe so I can enjoy them while waiting for the others to ripen. The word ripe has lost all meaning. These mini toffee pear pies are made from surprisingly few ingredients (if you buy readymade pastry) and are just perfect for celebrating the pear in all its I’m-never-quite-ready-ok-now-I’m-too-ready glory.
I’m not sure these Peanut Butter and Raspberry Brownies need an introduction; just the name gets my mouth watering and a hankering for a piece with a coffee shortly follows. I’ll be honest from the outset, these are not exactly what you’d call healthy. They are full fat, properly indulgent, to-hell-with-it brownies. And frankly, when you’ve been working hard all day coming home to one of these and a cuppa is like a hug for the soul. A gooey, chocolatey, nutty…stop it…slice of comfort.
I do love the expression ‘fart-arsing around’. When it came to making and decorating these dark chocolate orange and pistachio biscuits I wasn’t going to be fart-arsing around with any of it. An all in one biscuit dough means it’s easy to mix and haphazard throwing around of melted chocolate makes the decoration a breeze. No dunking of biscuits in chocolate for the perfect edge, no placing of individual caramelised pistachios with tweezers and you know what? I think they taste all the better for it.
When I was in Spain I ordered a dessert on the assumption that there had been a translation error on the menu. They can’t mean cheese ice cream, surely, they must mean cheeseCAKE ice cream, that’ll be delicious. Nope. Along came some cheese ice cream with a massive cracker on the side. What a revelation it was. The ‘cracker’ was actually a slightly sweet, very thin, fennel infused biscuit covered in sticky honey, which when dunked in the cheese ice cream was really rather delicious. I wanted to attempt something similar to this at home, so here are my Spanish fennel biscuits served with cream cheese and honey alongside some cracking fino sherry.
After double, these cookies could only be improved by making them triple; perhaps a drizzle or dunk of white chocolate on each. As they stand however, my Double Chocolate and Orange Cookies are just splendid as they are. Especially straight from the oven. The smell as they bake is hard to beat. I like to use dark chocolate when making cookies as sweet as these because I think it adds some welcome bitterness. When it comes to rolling the cookies, for reasons I am not sure of, I always seem to manage to end up with thirteen; a perfect baker’s dozen.