Fig and Yoghurt Cake

This is the last recipe in my fig series this year. It’s strange because the figs from my tree have now been used up, but now the supermarkets are full of figs. This is a recipe from Ottolenghi’s website and of course as you would expect, the cake is delicious, moist and flavoursome. The star anise gives the cake that special Ottolenghi twist. Perfect for afternoon tea on autumnal sunny day, or in fact any day and any weather!

Ingredients

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar, plus 1 tsp extra
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 180g ground almonds
  • 100g plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Scraped seeds of ½ vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp ground star anise
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 12 figs

Directions

  • Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Line the bottom and sides of a 24cm loose-based cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Put the butter and sugar in an electric mixer bowl, and use a beater to work them well until they turn light and pale.
  • Beat the eggs lightly, then, with the machine on medium speed, add them gradually to the bowl, just a dribble at a time, adding more only once the previous addition is fully incorporated.
  • Once all the egg is in, mix together the almonds, flour, salt, vanilla and anise, and fold into the batter. Mix until the batter is smooth, then fold in the yogurt.
  • Pour the batter into the lined tin and level roughly with a palette knife or a spoon.
  • Cut each fig vertically into four long wedges, and arrange in circles on top of the cake, just slightly immersed in the batter.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170C/340F/gas mark 3 and continue baking until it sets – about 40-45 minutes longer. Check this by inserting a skewer in the cake: it’s done if it comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool down before taking it out of the tin and sprinkling with a teaspoon of caster sugar.

Fig and Cardamom Friands

One of the best things about friands, is that once you have the basic recipe, you can adapt it to suit any season, any type of fruit and any type of spice. In this version I combined two of my favourites, figs and cardamom. I still maintain that this is the perfect size cake because it is big enough to hit the spot but small enough to make you feel that you haven’t overindulged, unless of course, you have more than one which is easily done as they are so delicious.

Makes 12

125g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

50g plain flour

115g icing sugar

75g ground almonds

4 medium egg whites

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

4 figs (Cut in half and then each half into thirds)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/ gas Mark 6.
  • Grease a 12-hole muffin tin with a little butter, then line the bases with circles of baking parchment.
  • Melt the butter.
  • Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and add the ground almonds and cardamom. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir the almond extract and melted butter into the flour mixture and mix to combine.
  • Using a large metal spoon, fold a quarter of the egg whites into the flour and butter mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remainder until it is just combined.
  • Divide the mixture into the holes in the tins. Arrange the figs on the top and bake for 15-18 minutes. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.

Fig and blue cheese quiche

I’m a huge fan of a quiche and have made many of them! There are a lot of blue cheese and fig quiche recipes around, and that’s not surprising. There is something quite tantalising about the combination of sweet juicy figs and the sharp saltiness of the blue cheese. I tend to opt for a creamy blue cheese like Saint Agur Blue or Castello Creamy Blue, but quite often I just use whatever my local Co-op has in stock. In terms of the creamy part of the quiche, I like to use a full fat Greek yoghurt rather than cream or crème fraiche as I have convinced myself it’s healthy. For my pastry, I always use Eric Lanlard’s recipe and may add a herb like thyme or rosemary, finely chopped, or perhaps walnuts.  I don’t really follow one particular recipe; I use my favourite elements from lots of different ones. This recipe is not original, but it has evolved to suit my particular tastes, I think it’s delicious and hope you do too.

Ingredients

For the pastry

400g all-butter shortcrust pastry. (I used Eric Lanlard’s recipe)

250g plain flour

1 tsp fine salt

150g unsalted butter

1 egg beaten

1 tbsp milk

For the filling

Knob of butter

  400g shallots, sliced

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus extra to decorate

4 eggs

400ml full fat Greek style yoghurt

140g blue cheese

8 figs, halved, cut sides brushed with a little olive oil

To make the pastry

  • Sift flour and salt into a large bowl.
  • Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk.
  • Use fingertips to mix and ingredients to make a dough.
  • Turn pastry out onto a floured surface and knead two to three times.
  • Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Blind Baking

  • Preheat oven to 180°c (fan 160°c)/ gas 4.
  • Roll pastry out and transfer onto a buttered 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin.
  • Prick the pastry and chill for a further 15 minutes.
  • Place a large piece of grease proof paper over the case and fill it with baking beads (or in my case, dried split peas).
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 10 minutes until the pastry is dry and crisp and the top edges of the tart are golden.

To make the filling

  • Melt the butter in a large pan, then add the shallots and soften for 10-15 mins, until golden and squishy. Stir in the thyme for 1 min, then remove from the heat.
  • Beat the eggs in a jug with the yoghurt. Crumble in the cheese and season with pepper and a small amount of salt.
  • Add the cooled onions to the cream mixture and pour into the case.
  • Sit the fig halves on top, cut side up, sprinkle with some more thyme and bake on the middle shelf for 1 hr-1hr 10 mins until the tart is browning and has a slight wobble – the cheese middle will firm up on sitting.
  • Cool for about 15-20 mins, then remove from tin and serve with a green salad.

Figs dipped in dark chocolate with sea salt

It’s fig season! The tree in my garden has produced a bumper crop of figs so succulent and sweet that honey would be overkill. This has coincided with a heatwave, so I’m eating lots of fig salads, figs with yoghurt and orange zest rather than some of the bakes that I usually do. A friend of mine suggested that I just dip the figs in chocolate. Then we decided what would be even better would be if the chocolate was dark, bitter and with sea salt. So now we have the perfect sweet treat, something that is salty, bitter and very sweet and only takes a few minutes to make.

I can’t really call this a recipe because all you have to do is: cut the figs in quarters, melt the chocolate, (I used Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt), cover the figs with the melted chocolate and put them in the fridge to set.

The Perfect Summer Lunch: Sicilian style pasta and rocket salad with caramelised oranges, figs and manchego

It was not my intention to post this. I took the pictures to capture the moment of a beautiful summer’s day, sitting under the dappled shade of my fig tree in my own private bubble with my partner. The food was amazingly delicious and so easy to make that it would be a crime not to share it. The pasta was unexpected; the orange and cinnamon are not something I would usually use in a pasta dish, until now. The recipe is from goodhousekeeping: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/food/recipes/a558776/sicilian-all-in-one-pasta/

The salad recipe is from Melissa Hemsley. The orange was a nice tie in to the pasta, though the figs did not come from the tree we were sitting under! https://www.sainsburysmagazine.co.uk/recipes/salads/wild-rocket-salad-with-caramelised-oranges-figs-and-manchego

Sicilian Style Pasta

Ingredients

300g wholewheat spaghetti

400g cherry tomatoes (plus extra to garnish)

finely grated zest and juiceof 1 orange

50ml  olive oil

50g sultanas

5cm piece cinnamon stick

2 oregano sprigs, leaves picked, plus extra to garnish

160 g tin tuna in spring water, drained

large handful rocket    

Directions

  1. Put pasta into a large, deep frying pan so it lies flat, breaking it up, if necessary. Add tomatoes, orange zest and juice, oil, sultanas, cinnamon, oregano and some seasoning.
  2. Pour in 750ml (1¼ pint) freshly boiled water from the kettle. Bring up to the boil over high heat, then bubble for about 15min, mixing occasionally, or until the pasta is just tender and there is a nice volume of sauce left.
  3. Mix through tuna and check seasoning. Discard cinnamon. Divide among four bowls and sprinkle with some oregano leaves, rocket and tomatoes.    

Rocket salad with caramelised oranges, figs and manchego

Ingredients

3 oranges

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the tray

50g blanched almonds (or with skins on)

3 ripe figs

50g Manchego or vegetarian alternative, rind removed

1 tbsp clear honey

1 x 120g bag wild rocket

2 medium courgettes, shaved into ribbons, or 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat the grill to high. Peel two of the oranges, slice into 5mm rounds and place on an oiled baking tray. Grill the oranges for 5-7 minutes until they start to brown and are a little soft, but not falling apart. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until golden, then roughly chop them.
  2. Halve the figs or quarter if large. Use a vegetable peeler to make shavings of Manchego.
  3. Squeeze the juice from the remaining orange and whisk with the honey, oil and some seasoning. Spread the rocket over a large serving platter. Top with the figs, caramelised oranges and the courgette ribbons or fennel. Scatter with Manchego shavings, drizzle with the dressing and season with salt and pepper. To serve, scatter with thetoasted chopped almonds.

Olive and Orange Maamools

During lockdown I have had a chance to browse through my extensive collection of cookbooks and revisit some of my favourite recipes. Honey and Co at Home, was one of the books we cooked from at the Borough Market cookbook club. There were so many great recipes in this book, a couple of which I have already blogged. You can click on the link to see the posts: Spinach, egg and filo pie, and  Medjool date, honey and macadamia breakfast loaf. Having just made a rose and semolina cake, I still had some semolina left, so I knew I had most of the ‘tricky’ ingredients for these super tasty maamools. What is particularly pleasing about these tasty treats is the beautifully crumbly pastry and the contrast of the salty olive and fragrant orange. They are surprisingly satisfying and filling and freeze extremely well.

Ingredients

For the orange semolina dough

250g plain flour

30g semolina

1tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

50ml olive oil

50ml vegetable oil

100ml orange juice

For the olive filling

1 tsp dried tarragon

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried mint

zest of 1 orange

30g grated pecorino

130g Kalamata olives

large pinch of black pepper

olive oil, for brushing

Directions

  1. Mix the flour with the semolina, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  2. Add the oils with the orange juice and mix to form a light even dough. Wrap in cling film and set aside to rest for 30 minutes (do not chill).
  3. Make the olive filling by blitzing all the ingredients together in a food processor.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°C fan/ gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
  5. Lightly dust a working surface with flour and roll out the dough to a rectangle of 20 x 30cm with the long edge closest to you.
  6. Scoop half the olive mixture onto the bottom part of the rectangle and press to flatten a little.
  7. Roll the dough to create a log. This should roughly reach the centre of the rolled-out dough. Use a knife to cut the log off, leaving the remaining half of the rectangle on the work surface. Lift the log onto the tray and repeat the process with the remaining dough so that you have two olive filled logs.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the tray for an even bake and bake for another 10 minutes. After this time, remove the logs and brush with olive oil, then return to the oven for a final 3 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little, then use a sharp knife to slice each log into 12-14 pieces.

Raspberry Amaretti

Spurred on from the success of the Matcha Amaretti, (Click here for Matcha Amaretti post) I decided to find that raspberry powder I bought on impulse and then neglected in the back of the cupboard and inject some life into it. The results could not have been better.  I know raspberry is not a traditional flavour, but the raspberry really popped whilst the texture remains true to a traditional amaretti. As mentioned previously, cook 25 minutes for a slightly harder outside and soft chewy middle or 20 minutes for a soft amaretti.

The recipe comes from: https://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2018/12/raspberry-amaretti-cookies.html

Ingredients

200g almond flour or very finely ground almonds, sifted

200g granulated sugar (I used 150g)

25g freeze dried raspberry powder

Few drops of red food colouring

pinch salt

2 large egg whites (about 60g)

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

icing sugar to dust

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, sugar, raspberry powder and salt until evenly incorporated.
  3. In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites, food colouring and lemon juice until they hold soft peaks.
  4. Add beaten egg whites and almond extract to dry ingredients and stir until mixture forms a soft, sticky dough.
  5. Lightly dust your hands with icing sugar. Portion the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll into a smooth ball, then roll in icing sugar. Arrange on the lined baking tray, leaving 1 inch of space between balls.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes until tops are cracked and bottoms are just barely golden. If you prefer softer amaretti bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Rose and Semolina Birthday Cake

This cake is a true family birthday cake. I made it for my mum’s birthday at the end of January, but because I was ill, I ended up cancelling my trip and the cake ended up in the freezer. Then I was going to go to Newcastle to celebrate the March birthdays (Dad’s and Aunty Joan’s) as well as Mother’s Day but this was just before lockdown and we decided to cancel that as well, so the cake stayed in the freezer. Finally, it was my birthday and the cake came out! Actually, I made six of these mini bundts, so to be honest I did try one to make sure it was ok after being in the freezer for all that time! (It was fine).

I made the syrup with rose water rather than fresh rose petals and added the fennel and cardamom as suggested in the recipe. I had the butterflies, made from rice paper, in my cake decorating box so decided to use them.  The original recipe comes from:

https://www.twiggstudios.com/2019/06/moist-semolina-cake/

  • Sponge Ingredients
  • 125g baking spread or softened butter
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 90g ground almonds
  • 130g fine semolina flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tablespoon rose syrup or 1/2 tsp rose extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 160c fan
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter or baking spread (margarine) with the sugar and beat for about 4 minutes, then scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Then mix again for 1 or two minutes or until really pale and creamy.
  • Add one egg and mix at high speed for 2 minutes, then scrape around the sides of the bowl and mix again for another 2 minutes, then add the next egg and mix again for two minutes. scrape the bowl and add the last egg and mix for 2 minutes until thick and creamy.
  • Add the rose syrup, or extract and vanilla and mix.
  • Mix the semolina, almonds and baking powder together with a pinch of salt, then fold until combined then add the mix and mix in.
  • Pour into a lined 9 inch cake tin, (I used a mini bundt tin) and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
  • Once completely cooled, drizzle over some syrup to make it into a delicious moist semolina cake and serve with praline and cream or creme fraiche.

Wild rose syrup with cardamom and fennel seeds

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh wild rose petals (garden roses will also work) or use 1 tsp rose water
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 650ml water
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 cup caster sugar

Directions

In a pan add the rose petals, water, cardamom and fennel seeds then simmer for 20 minutes on a medium heat. Strain liquid and remove the petals and seeds then pour back into the pan.

Then add the sugar, stir to combine and reduce until syrupy (about 5 to 8 minutes)

Matcha Amaretti

Although I cannot reveal how I obtained the ground almonds during lockdown, I was delighted that they came into my possession. It meant that I could do a trial run of the recipe I was going to use as my birthday recipe. Quite often, I make macarons to share with my nearest and dearest, but after the success of Ottolenghi’s amaretti I made at Christmas (click here for recipe)and my love of matcha (see matcha, pink peppercorn and cherry madeleines click here for recipe), I decided that these matcha amaretti would be the perfect little morsel to celebrate with.

I found the recipe on https://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2019/02/matcha-amaretti-cookies.html. There is also a raspberry version using raspberry powder which also look tempting. The only changes I would make to this recipe would be to reduce the amount of sugar from 200g to 150g and also to reduce the cooking time to allow for a softer amaretti. Though I have to say I did enjoy the chewy amaretti that came as a result of 25 minutes in the oven, I prefer a softer version. Next time I’ll bake them for 15-18 minutes as in the Ottolenghi recipe.

I will definitely be baking a double batch to celebrate my birthday when we get out of lockdown, one matcha and one raspberry. For now though, I will just have to enjoy these on my own!

Ingredients

200g almond flour or very finely ground almonds, sifted

200g granulated sugar (I used 150g)

1 tablespoon matcha powder

pinch salt

2 large egg whites (about 60g)

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Icing sugar to dust

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, sugar, matcha and salt until evenly incorporated.
  3. In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and lemon juice until they hold soft peaks.
  4. Add beaten egg whites and almond extract to dry ingredients and stir until mixture forms a soft, sticky dough.
  5. Lightly dust your hands with icing sugar. Portion the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll into a smooth ball, then roll in icing sugar. Arrange on the lined baking tray, leaving 1 inch of space between balls.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes until tops are cracked and bottoms are just barely golden. If you prefer softer amaretti bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Hot Cross Buns

I wasn’t intending to make hot cross buns as I had managed to buy some on a trip to the supermarket during lockdown. I also snapped up the last bag of strong white bread flour. Yes! Then a fellow baker asked if I was going to make any hot cross buns for Easter but I told him I didn’t have the right dried fruit. I had apricots and a tiny handful of cranberries, not a sultana in sight. So, I toasted and buttered one of Sainsbury’s best buns. They were quite squidgy as supermarket buns tend to be, but they did the trick. During my trip to the supermarket I also bought a Lindor bunny (just because) and some tulips to lift my spirits; a proper collection of Easter goodies which would make a lovely picture. Then I started feeling weird, why would I take a picture of supermarket goods when usually I only take pictures of food that I have made? I already had the flour, so I decided to have another look in the cupboard and found a jar of stem ginger. That was it; I followed a Jamie Oliver video and made these really lovely hot cross buns. The top is glazed with the syrup from the stem ginger rather than the honey which was in the recipe.  So here I am in splendid isolation eating homemade hot cross buns! Hey don’t judge me, I might put some in the freezer!

Ingredients

200 ml semi-skimmed milk (I used almond milk)

55g unsalted butter

½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)

455g strong white bread flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

55g caster sugar

7g yeast (one sachet of dried yeast)

1 large egg

85g Sultanas

2 tablespoons candied peel (I used dried apricots in place of the sultanas and the peel)

30g stem ginger (I used 2 balls)

Honey to glaze (I used the stem ginger syrup)

Directions

  1. Put the milk and butter into a saucepan and gently heat until the butter has melted. Grate the nutmeg into the milk mixture and set aside to cool.
  2. In a bowl, put the flour, cinnamon, salt, sugar and yeast then mix until combined.
  3. Add the egg and start to combine with the flour using a fork. Add the milk mixture and start to bring the dough together.
  4. Dust a clean surface with flour and tip out the dough. Knead for 10 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to prove for 30 minutes.
  5. Knock the air out of the dough and flatten with your fingers. Scatter the fruit and ginger evenly over the dough and press it into the dough.
  6. Fold the dough over itself and start to bring it back together so that the fruit is incorporated. Shape into a log and them cut into 12 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into balls and place them onto a baking tin, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove again for 30 minutes. The balls should expand slightly and may touch the ball next to them.
  7. In the meantime, make the mixture for the cross by mixing 2 tablespoons of flour with a little water. You are aiming for a consistency that is runny enough to be piped. Put the mixture into a piping bag. When the buns have proved, pipe the cross on the buns.
  8. Bake at 190 degrees, for 15-20 minutes. Glaze the buns as soon as they come out of the oven with honey (or ginger syrup).