Stem Ginger and Cherry Florentines

This Christmas, I’ve whiled away time in the kitchen listening to the Nutcracker Suite and making these stem ginger, cherry and cranberry Florentines to give as Christmas gifts. Of course, you can use whatever type of fruit and nut combination you like.  

There are a few steps to making these delicious morsels, it’s not just a case of throwing everything in the mixer. However, with the Christmas music and the constant quality checking the process went quite smoothly. The Florentines were a huge success bringing Christmas cheer to all.  

Ingredients 

  • 15g plain flour 
  • 25g (1oz) salted butter 
  • 60g (2 1/2oz) golden caster sugar 
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup 
  • 60ml (2 1/2fl oz) double cream 
  • 50g (2 oz/3 rounds, drained) chopped stem ginger 
  • 50g (2oz) dried sour cherries 
  • 50g (2oz) cranberries 
  • 25g (1oz) chopped pistachios 
  • 50g flaked almonds 
  • 180g (4oz) dark chocolate 

Method 

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Line 2 large baking sheets with no-baking paper. In a saucepan, combine the flour, butter, sugar and golden syrup with a small whisk to prevent lumps forming and melt gently over a low heat. Gradually add the cream, stirring all the time. 
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the stem ginger, sour cherries, glace cherries, pistachios and flaked almonds.  
  3. Dollop teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheets, leaving a generous gap between each for spreading. Bake no more than 6 Florentines per sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until deeply golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  
  4. Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool and thicken (but not set) for 5 minutes. Using a palette knife, release the Florentines from the paper. Divide the batch in half and arrange smooth-side up. 
  5. Spoon the dark chocolate over the Florentines. If you like you can use a fork to make a pattern on the chocolate once the chocolate has set a little. Alternatively, you can sprinkle gold stars or something similar onto the chocolate while the chocolate is still wet. Chill until set. 

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Butter and Sage Sauce

I love this time of year; the colour of the leaves, the soft, golden sunshine and the crisp, blue skies. I’m not such a fan of the grey, rainy days.  The autumn produce for me makes up for the sometimes gloomy days. The range of squash and pumpkin seems to be more diverse every year. Despite the stiff competition, I still feel that you can’t beat a butternut squash for its flavour and texture. The original recipe which I found on https://www.recipetineats.com/easy-pumpkin-gnocchi/ uses pumpkin, but the butternut squash works a treat. The ricotta in this recipe gives the gnocchi a lightness and together with the parmesan the gnocchi are tasty morsels of cheesiness. The classic combination of the sage and butter works beautifully; it’s a real ode to autumn.

Ingredients

Gnocchi:

  • 300 g butternut squash, cubed, baked and then pureed
  • 185g ricotta
  • 185g plain flour
  • 30g parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Black pepper

Sage Butter Sauce:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 50 g butter
  • 20 fresh sage leaves

To serve:

  • Black pepper
  • Parmesan, grated

Instructions

  1. Cut the butternut squash into cubes, season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Roastin the oven (180 fan /200/ gas 5). When the squash is cooked, crush with the back of a fork into to puree.
  2. Placethe squashand remaining gnocchiingredients in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix well – it should be a soft dough.
  3. Dust a work surface with flour, tip dough out, sprinkle with flour then pat into log shape.
  4. Cut into 6 pieces. Roll into ropes, then cut into 2cm pieces.
  5. Use a fork to press down lightly on the cut side of the gnocchi.
  6. Bring a large pot of water to the boilandadd some salt.
  7. Place the gnocchi into the water. Cook for 1 minute or until all the gnocchi riseto the surface, then drain.
  8. Meanwhile, melt about 1 teaspoon of the butter plus oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the gnocchi and cook, shaking the panuntil the gnocchiare starting to turn brown (about 1 1/2 minutes).
  9. Add remaining butter then once it melts, add sage leaves. Stir and cook for 2 1/2 minutes or until gnocchi are golden, sage is crisp and butter is slightly browned. Add salt if you used unsalted butter.
  10. Serve immediately, garnished with parmesan and pepper.

Pumpkin and Sage Soufflé

I remember making this and thinking how delicious it was. Looking back at the pictures, I can see the time it took to get the styling right. C was waiting for his lunch and got the soufflé that had deflated in the wait, but he still thought it was awesome.

Wow, love that recipe!

pumpkin-and-sage-souffle-2I’ve never made a soufflé before as I’ve always associated them with dinner parties and stress and have seen many failed attempts on TV cookeryshows. When I saw this recipe in the Sainsbury’s magazine (Oct 2016), I thought of all that leftover pumpkin I still had to use up, and despite my fears, I decided I’d give it a go. I did change of few things in the recipe, mainly because I didn’t read it carefully enough the first time round! I also made my own cheese sauce; the recipe calls for shop bought. The recipe can be found here:

http://www.sainsburysmagazine.co.uk/recipes/mains/item/roasted-pumpkin-and-sage-souffle. The version below includes my tweaks. The original recipe was for 4 people, but I halved the quantities and still had enough mixture for 4 ramekins. I made this for Saturday lunch and served it with kale and rye bread. It was of course delicious which is…

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Fig Ice Cream

I am lucky enough to have a fig tree in my garden. It provides wonderful shade in the summer and this year there has been a particularly bountiful crop of sweet, juicy figs. There is nothing better in the morning to wake up and pick a fig or two off the tree for breakfast. In the recent hot weather, I was sitting under the tree and naturally thinking of ice cream and thought of how delicious a fig ice cream might be. I was lucky enough to find a David Lebovitz recipe and by the end of the day I was eating a deliciously creamy fig ice cream. Joyful!

Ingredients

  • 1kg fresh figs (about 20)
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 lemon, preferably unsprayed
  • 150 g sugar
  • 250 ml double cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

Directions

  1. Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Put the figs in a medium, nonreactive saucepan with the water and zest the lemon directly into the saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the figs are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid, add the sugar and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the figs are a jamlike consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, purée the fig paste in a blender or food processor with the cream and lemon juice. Taste, then add more lemon juice if desired.
  3. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Lavender and Honey Ice Cream

When the mercury reaches the 30s the only thing I feel like eating is ice cream! So this bank holiday weekend, I made two types of ice cream; lavender and then fig. I’m a huge lover of lavender, I think it’s both distinctive and elegant. This ice cream in my opinion is sublime! The lavender flavour is just enough to be present but not overpowering so you feel like you are eating soap. We recently visited a lavender farm near Seven Oaks and I was really inspired by the beauty of the fragrant fields and of course the abundance of lavender edible goodies. I’m still very new to ice cream making, but David Lebovitz’s ice cream recipes have so far yielded great results. My pistachio gelato which I posted earlier is his recipe as is the fig ice cream recipe to come.

Ingredients


125ml good quality honey
8g dried or fresh lavender flowers
375ml whole milk
50g sugar
Pinch of salt
375ml double cream
5 egg yolks    

Method


1. Heat the honey and 2 tablespoons of the lavender in a small saucepan. Once warm, remove from the heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.
3. Pour the cream in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
4. Pour the lavender-infused honey into the cream through the strainer, pressing on the lavender flowers to extract as much flavour as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the cream.
5. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
6. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling, then scrape the warmed egg yolks mixture back into the saucepan.
7. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.
8. Pour the mixture through the strainer and stir it into the double cream and whisk well.
9. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lavender flowers and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator.
10. The next day, before churning, strain the mixture, again pressing on the lavender flower to extract their flavour.
11. Discard the flowers then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Nectarine, Goat’s Cheese and Caramelised Onion Galette

Even though the skies are grey and the rain is persistent, this is high summer! Nectarines are at their best at the moment. This savoury galette is just the thing for a summer dinner served with a crisp, green salad. The contrast between the sweetness of the nectarines and spicy sharpness of the chutney elevates this galette to something very special. I did change the pastry in the original recipe (https://www.sainsburysmagazine.co.uk/recipes/starters/nectarine-goats-cheese-and-caramelised-onion-galette) from puff to a wholemeal short crust with lemon thyme. I also didn’t have as much chutney as I thought I had, so I ended up using some mango chutney as well. The final change was lemon thyme instead of thyme, just because I love lemon thyme.   The result is a decadent, intriguing and ever so pretty show- stopper.

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon thyme

For the filling

  • 150ml full fat crème fraiche
  • 125g vegetarian soft goat’s cheese, crumbled
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tsp chopped lemon thyme, plus extra to garnish
  • 2 ripe nectarines
  • 150g caramelised onion chutney
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl, rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the lemon thyme. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk. Use fingertips to mix the ingredients to make a dough. Turn pastry out onto a floured surface and knead two to three times. Cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Place a large baking tray into the oven and preheat to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6. Roll the pastry on a floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll out to a 30cm circle (use an upturned plate to guide you). Transfer to a large sheet of baking paper.
  3. Mix the crème fraiche, goat’s cheese, lemon juice and lemon thyme together, mashing with a fork to break up the lumps of cheese. Season generously.
  4. Cut the nectarines in half, removing the stones, then slice into thin wedges.
  5. Spread the goat’s cheese mixture over the tart, leaving a 4-5cm border around the edge. Use a teaspoon to drop dollops of onion chutney over the cheese. Arrange the nectarine slices on top and season again.
  6. Fold over the pastry edges, so it overlaps the filling slightly. Lift the baking paper; slide the tart onto the hot tray (keep the baking paper under the tart).
  7. Brush the exposed pastry with the egg, then bake for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and crisp. Sprinkle with the extra thyme, if using, and serve.

Honey, Lemon Thyme and Ricotta Ice Cream with Vanilla Peaches

I really loved the pistachio gelato I made a while back and was keen to make the most of my new ice cream maker. I can’t remember exactly how this recipe from https://www.snixykitchen.com/honeylemon-thyme-ricotta-ice-cream-with-vanilla-peaches/ came across my radar, but I do remember that it stuck in my mind as something I had to make. I’m a huge fan of using herbs in sweet food and I particularly like lemon thyme. When I was in Florence, as well as indulging in pistachio gelato, I had pear and ricotta gelato which was delicious.

This is a really special ice-cream, its not very sweet and has a savoury tang. When combined with the sweet juicy vanilla peaches, it is sensational. 

Ingredients

  • 130 ml whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour
  • 95ml whipping cream
  • 4-6 sprigs fresh lemon thyme (or regular thyme works too!)
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 30g honey
  • 2 tablespoons cane sugar
  • 340g ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt

Vanilla Peaches

  • 3 medium peaches
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Directions

  1. Whisk the corn starch in a small bowl with about 3 tablespoons of the milk to make smooth slurry. Set aside.
  2. Bring remaining 95g + 1 tablespoon whole milk and whipping cream to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat add the fresh thyme and vanilla bean seeds and pod (or essence), cover, and let steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Strain the milk into a heat proof bowl to remove the thyme and vanilla bean. Scrape the inside of the warm vanilla bean into the milk and cream. Return the steeped milk and cream to the saucepan.
  4. Give the corn starch slurry one last whisk to make sure it’s completely incorporated. Slowly whisk the corn starch slurry into the milk and cream saucepan and bring it back to a boil over medium-high heat.
  5. Cook, stirring, until it thickens about 1 minute.
  6. Pour in the honey and sugar, stirring just until it dissolves. Remove from heat.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and water.
  8. Add the honeyed milk to a blender or food processor with fresh ricotta, cream cheese, and salt. Blend until completely smooth.
  9. Pour the ice cream base into a large Ziploc bag. Seal it and submerge the mixture in the ice bath until cold, about 30 minutes.
  10. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions and freeze overnight.
  11. Serve with warm vanilla peaches.

Vanilla Peaches

  1. Peel the peaches. Either do this with a vegetable peeler or blanch the peaches in boiling water for 20 seconds, dunk them in an ice bath, and slide the skin off. Slice into 8-12 wedges.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the peaches, honey, and vanilla bean scrapings. Cook just until the honey melts and the peaches begin to soften, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Serve warm or cold over scoops of ice cream.