Frozen cupcake topper

How to make Disney Frozen cupcakes – a masterclass with Chef Jeff

One of my absolute favourite adventures while we were in Walt Disney World was a special, money can’t buy visit to Chef Jeff, Executive Chef at Disney’s beautiful Contemporary Resort, one of my top five Walt Disney World resort hotels.  Chef Jeff and his team are responsible for all the patisserie for the resort, from gorgeous special occasion cakes, to the wonderful cupcakes available in the café.

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Charlie 16th birthday cheesecake

The Birthday Challenge: chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for Charlie

My baby boy is 16. How did that happen?  I’ll save you the ‘it seems like only yesterday’ speech, mostly because it doesn’t seem like only yesterday, in fact, I can barely remember those first few weeks, to be honest, plus it’s a bit yawny when parents start getting all misty eyed.  Suffice to say, we’re the proudest parents, we love him to bits and we’ll move on to the birthday cake of choice.

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Frozen creme egg

The one with the frozen Cadbury Creme Egg

I’m generally more of a cake lover then chocolate (you had no idea, right?) but there’s something about Cadbury Creme Eggs (yes, it’s Cadbury, not Cadbury’s – y’know, like Cinderella Castle at Disneyworld) that makes me long for Easter every year (the season is actually quite short – they’ll be gone from the shelves again on April 20th).  I think it’s a bit of a comfort thing in miserable January and February (plus March is my birthday month and I associate it with Creme Eggs!).   I’m a ‘bit the top off and lick the goo out’ person, but recently we’ve become a bit addicted to popping them in the freezer.  The filling doesn’t set solid, but becomes firm and fondanty.  Delicious, and a bit easier to scoff on the sofa, admittedly.

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Chocolate self-saucing pudding – light, gooey, delicious and surprisingly easy!

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Drizzle with some chilled double cream. Yum.

Okay, so I know we’re all supposed to be eating light and healthy now it’s the New Year, but oh, this weather is shocking isn’t it?  On Sunday, we had rain, hail, thunder and lightening all at the same time.  The poor pupster was so terrified, she did a ‘panic wee’ on the floor, bless her.

Of course, on Sundays at English Towers all bets are off anyway and I was already whipping up a bit of comfort food in the shape of a yummy chicken pie (full instructions here), so I decided to go the whole hog and add a nice, warming pudding too.

This self-saucing pud really is magic.  You start off with a very simple cake mix, then pour over an easy chocolate sauce.  Some strange chemistry-type stuff happens in the oven and you end up with light, soft chocolate sponge with a deliciously decadent chocolate sauce on the bottom.  I’ve no idea how.  But just run with it:

Chocolate self-saucing pudding

For the sponge mix:

115g butter

115g caster sugar

2 eggs

175g self raising flour

2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder

For the sauce:

300ml hot water

75g brown sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 4 and then butter a pie dish (make sure it’s pretty deep, this rises a bit).  Make the sponge by creaming together the butter and sugar with a hand held electric whisk (or use old fashioned elbow grease if you’re not as lazy as me) until it’s light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs a dribble at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour and cocoa.  Stir until it’s combined into quite a firm batter.  Spread this in the bottom of your dish androughly level off the top.

Level the cake batter in the buttered pie dish

Now for the sauce.  Pop the water, brown sugar and cocoa into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until it’s all dissolved.  It’s  good idea to put the pie dish onto a baking tray just in case it overflows, then just pour the liquid over the sponge (it looks weird, but trust me, it works!).

Pour the chocolate sauce over the cake batter

Pour the chocolate sauce over the cake batter

Place in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes.  Serve with a dribble of double cream or maybe a scoop or two of ice cream.  Yummers.

The figgy Christmas pudding 2013. Make a wish!

Christmas pudding

You know me, I pop up all over the interwebs, and at the moment you can find me chatting about Stir Up Sunday on the Yeo Valley website.  Funnily enough, my recipe is the same as theirs in that you’ll need to start a little prep the day before, as the fruit benefits from an overnight soak, but if you don’t have time (or you’ve only just read this bit and were all ready to go), don’t worry – just give it as long as you have.   Now, if you need information, hints, tips, ingredient notes and a step by step guide to making Christmas pudding, please just click here.

This is my updated recipe for 2013.  This year, I’m going back more to how Christmas Pudding used to be, with loads of figs, currants and sultanas, and moving away from the more modern apricot and cherry additions.

I was chatting to our lovely friend (and wine expert) Tom Forrest from Vinopolis on Twitter about what booze to use, and he had some really lovely suggestions.  I’m a huge fan of Pedro Ximenez and Tom recommends a Pedro from the English Whisky Company (£18) or an Aussie Brown Brothers Muscat Liqueur (about £12).   You can also be more traditional and just use brandy, obviously.

Figgy Christmas Pudding

250g dried figs, finely chopped

100g sultanas

100g raisins

50g prunes, finely chopped

1 lemon
100ml black tea

1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half

100ml Pedro Ximenez or other booze

3 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp black treacle

1 Bramley apple, grated

100g self raising flour (or rice flour for gluten free)

100g fresh white breadcrumbs (or again, ground almonds if you need to keep the recipe gluten free)

150g veggie suet

150g dark muscovado sugar

25g almonds, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground mixed spice

So on to the recipe then:

1. Weigh out the dried fruit, then have a good pick through and get rid of any stems, they’re yucky if you crunch on them.  I let them fall through my fingers into the bowl a handful at a time.  With the larger dried fruit, make sure they’re stoneless and snip them into small pieces.

2. Finely grate the lemon zest, then juice it as well.  Add the zest and juice to the fruit then brew up the tea (one tea bag is fine for that amount of water) and pour it over the fruit, along with the rum.  Add in the cinnamon stick and stir it all up.  Cover with a plate and leave the whole shooting match to steep (make sure it’s not a metal bowl) overnight, stirring occasionally if you remember.

3. The next day, weigh out all the dry ingredients and combine them in a huge bowl.  Don’t forget the spices!  The muscovado sugar can be a bit lumpy so you might need to sift it to break up any lumps.

4. Take the steeped fruit and remove the cinnamon stick pieces.  Add the eggs (give them a quick mix with a fork first), honey, treacle and grated apple (leave the peel on).

5. Stir well, then you can add all that into the dry ingredients.  Give it a really good stir (get everyone to take a turn to stir and make a wish).

6. Now butter a big basin (3 pint/1.7  litre) or two smaller ones and bung in your mixture, pressing it down well and filling as near to the top as you can.

7. Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper, bigger than the top of the basin/s, then add a layer of foil.  Tie the two layers tightly just under the basin rim with string, leaving lots of excess to make a handle.  Now there is some weird way to loop the excess string underneath the basin to make a handle, but I’ve never managed it as I didn’t pay attention at Brownies.  If you want to be extra sure no liquid gets in, add another layer of foil and tie again. Or you can use a basin with a lid, or tie it in a muslin, or use one of those special circular moulds.

And that’s it, you’ve made a Christmas pudding! Pause here a minute to give yourself a quick round of applause.

To steam it, you can use a steamer if you’re posh, but I haven’t got one so I just use a huge saucepan and balance the basin inside it on a circular metal pastry cutter so it isn’t sitting on the bottom of the pan.  This will also stop it burning if you inadvertently let it boil dry.  Add boiling water about halfway up the basin and put the lid on the saucepan.  Steam for 5 hours, making sure you go back every so often to top up the boiling water.

I rewrap it with fresh greaseproof paper and foil, but you don’t have to.  Keep it somewhere cool until Christmas day when it’ll need to steam for about another 2.5 to 3 hours (don’t worry if it gets a bit longer, it won’t ruin it).  Or you could *gasp* just microwave it on Christmas day.  Much easier, but not really traditional!

On Christmas day, just warm some booze gently, then at the last minute, pour it over the pud and set it alight.  A splash of rum or a bit more of that Pedro and a tablespoon of icing sugar in some whipped cream (Yeo Valley Organic of course) would make a welcome addition.

English Mum Christmas

 

James’ birthday double chocolate cheesecake

Chocolate cheesecake This week, one of Charlie’s best buddies, James, turns 16.  They’ve known each other forever, well, since they started school, and James just feels like one of the family, basically.  He had a Halloween party yesterday (his poor Mum) and they also went up to Wembley to watch the Jags vs 49ers American football game too (which was amazing, apparently – ‘apart from the streaker. Legend’).

I promised to make him a double chocolate cheesecake (we class the chocolate in the digestives as the second chocolate – probably slightly tenuous, but hey), and even though it’s not officially his birthday yet, we let him blow out the candle.  We’re good like that.

Double Chocolate Cheesecake

100g salted butter

300g pack of dark chocolate digestives

500g cream cheese

100g icing sugar

200ml whipping cream

200g good quality dark chocolate

Cream cheese and icing sugar

 

So warm the butter in a small saucepan until it’s just melted and in the meantime whizz up the digestives, or if you don’t have a processor, just put them in a plastic bag and whack them with a rolling pin.  Stir the butter into the biscuits then press into the bottom of a springform tin (you’ll never get the bugger out otherwise) and leave to cool.

Now, melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of water (don’t let the bowl touch the water), turning the pan off once the water boils.  Put the cream cheese in a bowl, beat it until smooth then beat in the icing sugar.

Now, and this is important, you must wait for the chocolate to cool back to room temperature.  Wait until it feels the same temperature as your finger when you dip it in.   While you’re waiting, whip the cream.

Add the cooled chocolate to the cream cheese and icing sugar.  Stir it in until the colour is uniform, then fold in the cream gently with a metal spoon so you don’t lose all the air you’ve incorporated.  Smooth the mixture over the prepared base.

And that’s it. Just let it set in the fridge.  I decorated mine with a bit of melted chocolate (excuse the rubbish photo – there was a bit of hilarity), but you can add whatever topping you like: grated chocolate, maltesers, raspberries, even a cheeky layer of chocolate ganache.

Happy birthday James.  Sweet 16! xx

Chocolate cheesecake

 

 

Oven baked rice pudding with a brown sugar crust

Rice pudding

Our new rule, when Mr English  is home, is to make sure we indulge in a full-on Sunday dinner.  What with being on holiday and it being nice weather, we’d kind of got out of the habit, but I’m right back on it now.  On Sunday I made a lovely beef brisket with roast potatoes.  For dessert, I thought I’d do a rice pudding.  I love rice pudding.  It’s so easy – just mix it up and bung it in the oven.  For those of you who have rice pudding skin haters in the family, I’ve got a little trick with some brown sugar which shuts them right up.  Bonus.

You will need:

Small knob of butter

150g short grain pudding rice

1.5l milk

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

So first, preheat the oven to gas 3/160 degrees.  Take an ovenproof dish and butter it generously.  Then, just tip in the pudding rice, milk, sugar and vanilla.  Give it a big stir and whack it in the oven for a couple of hours, giving it a quick stir every so often just to separate the grains (you don’t even really have to do that, to be honest – I generally forget).

Now, if you’re not a pudding skin hater, that’s it, but if you’ve got haters in the family, here’s how I deal with them, the moany blighters: remove the pudding from the oven and scrape off any skin.  Sprinkle generously with brown sugar (I actually used golden caster, but brown looks much better – darn you store cupboard management skillz) and then pop it under a hot grill until golden and bubbling.

Scrummy.  This is delicious with any sort of fruit compote (we love it with caramel apples) or just a big spoonful of jam.

rice pudding with brown sugar crust

Caramel apple pie with easy rough puff pastry

Caramel apple pie

Caramel apple pie

The lovely chaps at Waitrose are celebrating all things apple at the moment and sent me a surprise box of yummy Brilliantly British Estivale apples.  Estivale are an eating apple, but still worked really well in this pie. If you use Bramleys they’ll obviously break down a bit more, but you’ll still get a great result:

For the caramel apple filling:

6 or 7 large British apples (about 1kg)

100g brown sugar

50ml water

25g butter

Peel, core and slice the apples (pop them in salted water until you’re ready to use them which will stop them going brown).

Melt the sugar, water and butter together in a large saucepan, then just add the apples and cook until just soft – about ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Meanwhile, make the pastry.

For the rough puff pastry:

You may think that life is too short to make puff pastry, but rough puff pastry, as its name suggests, isn’t one of those complicated things requiring rulers and setsquares, and mine is even more easy and rough and ready than most.  Plus it’s so delicious and buttery and luxurious and  actually pretty good fun to make too.  I promise you’ll love it.

What you’ll need:

350g plain flour

pinch salt

250g cold butter

150ml iced water

As always with making pastry, the trick is to keep everything cold, hence the need to pop a couple of ice cubes into your jug of water.

Measure the flour out into a large bowl and add the salt.  Now, chop the butter into small squares – the smaller the better, and pop those into the flour.

Now, get your hands in there (wash them in cold water – every little helps) and just with your cool fingertips, lightly rub the butter lumps into the flour so that they’re pretty much separate.  You don’t need to make crumble, just make sure every little lump is covered in flour (as you can also see, I’m pretty slap dash at this bit, but it doesn’t matter):

Rub butter into flour

Rub the butter roughly into the flour

Now, add in the cold water and stir around a bit, then unleash The Claw: get your hand in and start gently bringing it all together until you can tip it out onto a floured work surface:

Unleash The Claw

Unleash The Claw

Squish it roughly into a rectangle, pressing the edges in, then roll it out into a larger rectangle.  Now, fold the top third of the pastry down, and the bottom third up over the top of it:

Fold the top third down and the bottom third up

Fold the top third down and the bottom third up

Now give it one turn, just 90 degrees, and do it again… roll it out into a rectangle, then flap the top third down and the bottom third up – see how you’re making flaky buttery layers?

Rotate and do it again

Rotate and do it again

Do that two or three times (that’s usually all I can be bothered to do), then pop it into the fridge to chill for 20 minutes or so, letting it relax is quite important.

Split the dough into two: one third for the lid and two thirds for the base.   Roll out the base pastry and line a baking dish.  Pop this back into the fridge just while the apple mixture is cooling.  If you put hot apple into it, it will start to melt the butter and make it go soft.

Once the apple is cool, spoon into the prepared pastry dish, roll out the lid, pop it on top and crimp around the edges.   Brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at gas 6/200 degrees until golden.

If you’re cooking individual mince or fruit pies, it should take about 15 mins at gas 6/200 degrees.

I was pretty pleased with the result.  The pastry was nice and light and crumbly.  Okay, not perfect, layered puff pastry, not brilliant crimping, possibly a bit soggy on the bottom… but hey, if you want perfect, you can buy one in a supermarket, and where’s the fun in that?  Where’s the ‘TA DA!’ moment when you plonk this on the table in front of your family?!  This is home baking.  Bake the ones you love a pie.  An imperfect, rough puff pie.  They’ll love you for it.

Waitrose are running a competition on the Waitrose Facebook page to find your best apple recipes.  The winner will have their apple creation featured on Waitrose.com and have the recipe mentioned in their weekly in-store Waitrose Weekend magazine.   They’ll also win £500 Waitrose vouchers.  Click here to find out more! 

Step by step: how to make oaty apple crumble

Oaty apple crumble

My Dad and his wife have a beautiful garden at their lovely bungalow tucked away down a leafy lane in Hertfordshire. The garden is centred around a wide piece of lawn, is completely enclosed and private and has the most wonderful flowers and fruit trees.  We were walking around talking about his plans for the strawberry and raspberry beds (dig them up and start again – apparently they only last a certain amount of years) and discussing the fact that all the plums on the tree this year have little worms in them (I tested this – they do. Ugh) when we came across the big old apple tree which is GROANING with huge apples.  I obviously offered to relieve him of some of the glut (I’m all heart), and we arrived home with his strimmer, hedge cutter and a huge bag of apples!

Even though it was still quite warm, we decided that apple crumble was the only way to go.  Here’s how I made it.  I like oats in my crumble and crunchy brown sugar, but personalise it however you see fit, maybe add sultanas or cinnamon in with the apple, or sprinkle the finished crumble with slivers of almond.

For the apples:

6 or 7 Bramley apples (my Dad’s apples aren’t Bramleys, but seem similar)

Big splosh of apple juice or water (say 100ml?)

2 tbsp brown sugar

For the crumble:

175g plain flour

125g butter

125g brown sugar (I use Demarara)

25g porridge oats

Preheat the oven to gas 6/200 degrees.

To prepare the apples, just peel and core them, then slice them into smallish chunks. While I’m doing it, I pop them into a bowl of salted water to stop them going brown.  When they’re all done, drain them and put them into your pie dish.  Sprinkle over the couple of tablespoons of sugar and pour over the liquid (water is fine).  Give them a quick stir to distribute the sugar.

For the crumble: rub the butter and flour together (not too fine – a lumpy texture is better), then stir in the sugar and porridge oats.   Cover the apples with the crumble and bake for about 30 minutes.  Serve with double cream or custard.  Oh, and you can’t beat a cold bowl of crumble with yoghurt for breakfast either.  Yummy. 

Cherry and basil yogurt… it’s the future (maybe)

Cherry and basil home made yogurt

I’m quite confident in the kitchen and really happy making lots of things from scratch: pastry, cakes, pies, jams and more.  But when Yeo Valley challenged me to make my own yogurt for their blog, I was slightly perturbed – I mean, the masters of organic yogurt production challenging little old me to play them at their own game?

First of all, I felt at a distinct disadvantage – I don’t have the beautiful herds of British Friesians (all Yeo Valley born and bred – they haven’t bought a cow for over 20 years), neither do I have acres of lush organic pasture or the sparkling little stainless steel factory in the Mendips of which Yeo Valley are so rightly proud.  Still, they gave me a little pot of their own yogurt to get me going and, being a gung-ho sort of gal, I set to work.

Yogurt making (on a very small scale) is actually quite easy.  In the Yeo Valley Cookbook (The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook – out now), Sarah Mayor describes the process step by step.  It’s basically heating milk, mixing in bio yogurt and waiting, but everything must be scrupulously clean and you do really need a thermometer to get it right.

And then the fun really begins.  We got to choose our flavourings from what we had in the fridge and cupboards: honey and cinnamon, cherry and banana, honey and almond, cherry and almond, and my own creation: cherry and basil yogurt (no, don’t laugh, really, it works).

By this time of course, we were very very full up, but it’s a fab thing to do at home (kids will love it, watching how the milk thickens is like magic) and you can carry on and strain the yogurt more to make it thicker, or add salt, herbs and all sorts of other things to make a lovely soft cream cheese too (more details are in the book).  Plus, of course, once you’ve made it, you can repeat the process and make more – meaning that – in principal – you’d never have to buy yogurt again (except, of course, I’m addicted to Yeo Valley’s Lemon Curd yogurt so that would never happen).

Now if only I can sell my cherry and coriander yogurt idea to Yeo Valley…

Review: ‘Melt’ by Claire Kelsey: ice cream for grown ups

Melt by Claire Kelsey

Melt by Claire Kelsey

So finally the sun is shining, and if you like tinkering in the kitchen, I think you’ll love this book.

Claire Kelsey’s a bit of a rising star as far as street food is concerned.  Her beautifully refurbished retro ice cream van,  ‘Ginger’ has been gracing the trendiest festivals with her distinctly grown up ice creams, and now Claire has published a book with loads of her favourite, funky ice cream recipes.

The flavours move well away from plain old vanilla and sickly strawberry – in this gorgeous book you’ll find pea and mint sorbet, and marmalade on toast – a flavour that won ‘Best Dessert’ at the British Street Food Awards.

 

Garden mint and chocolate crisp ice cream

Garden mint and chocolate crisp ice cream

I had a go at recreating Claire’s garden mint and chocolate crisp ice cream.  I love that her ice creams start with proper custard.

You may well balk at using 6 eggs and double cream in a recipe, but in my view this is just how ice cream should be, not full of emulsifiers and vegetable oil.

My garden mint was just springing up when I made it and wasn’t very strongly flavoured, but the finished ice cream was luscious and fresh tasting and the bit where you drizzle on the chocolate was great fun too.  I don’t have an ice cream maker but Claire gives easy instructions and the result had a lovely, soft texture.  I’ll be trying it again when my mint has grown up a bit!

Melt, by Claire Kelsey, published by Simon and Schuster is out now. RRP £18.99

Step by step: how to make lemon curd and news of the ‘lemonster’

Lemon curd

Lemon curd

My Mum’s been on holiday to Sorrento.  While she’s been away I’ve been popping in occasionally to look after the cats and water plants, etc.  I’m always worried that people will think I’m a burglar, so I always talk really loudly to the cats: ‘hello Harreeeee!  Are you missing your mummmeeeeee?’.  It’s now dawned on me that rather than being labelled a burglar, my mother’s neighbours think I’m some sort of weird cat whisperer wannabe.  Ah well.

True to the English Mum philosophy of nothing going right if it can go wrong, I was startled awake the morning of her return at 1.30am by a phone call: ‘it’s me’, said my Mum, ‘you locked me out’.  Ah.  I’d managed to leave the key in the back door when locking it from the inside, not realising that she hadn’t taken a front door key with her.  No matter.  I drove down and let her in.  Whilst there, she handed me a suspicious, nobbly parcel.  It was obviously a good pressie as she was pretty pleased with herself.  Delving deeper, it turned out to be THE BIGGEST LEMON THAT YOU’VE EVER SEEN IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE.  One of my twitter followers named it ‘The Lemonster’.  Here it is next to a lemon from my fruit bowl:

The Lemonster

The Lemonster

During the following lemony discussions, it turned out that most people have never made lemon curd OR Limoncello.  Both of which are dead easy.  I’ll start with lemon curd.  Once you’ve got the basic recipe, you can make lots of different kinds of curd – I’ve made berry before, and you can make lime, passion fruit… basically any juice that’s nice and sharp will translate well into a lemon curd.

You will need:

2 lemons, zested and juiced (or about 6 tablespoons of sharp, fresh juice)

100g butter (I use salted as I think it brings out the flavour)

150g caster sugar

2 large free range eggs, plus 1 extra yolk

Take a saucepan and add in the juice, zest (if using citrus fruits), butter and caster sugar.  Melt it all together slowly until the sugar is all dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined (if you’re being restauranty here, you can sift the egg to remove any lumps of white).

Now, take the warm juice/butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.

Pop that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and gently simmering until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.  If it’s really not going to thicken, you can help it along by popping in another egg yolk and whisking again until it does.  Remember it will continue to thicken as it cools.

If you’re potting it up, make sure your jars are sterilised (good sterilising advice from my friend Mammy’s Kitchen right here), but if you’re using it straight away, or pouring it into a tart case, let it cool a bit, remembering to stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on. When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case and pop into the fridge to cool.

A sealed jar will keep for a good few months in the fridge, but opened jars should be eaten within about a week.

Sorrento sounds utterly fabulous, by the way.  Tempted to pop over and pick up a few more enormous lemons.

A triple layer chocolate mousse cake for the Dude’s birthday

Triple layer chocolate mousse cake

Triple layer chocolate mousse cake

I know I’m always complaining about being old but blimey, my youngest was 15 yesterday. The Dude is mahoosive and has turned into a handsome, kind and funny teenager who is American Football mad and a bit of a gym obsessive. We’re all immensely proud of him.

As is the tradition at English Towers, he’s been allowed to choose the birthday cakeage. Usually this means they choose the most difficult thing they possibly can and today is no exception. Flicking through my cakey Pinterest pins, the birthday boy opted for a bloody enormous triple layer chocolate mousse cake, but without the white chocolate layer. A mousse cake should be soft and melty, so I decided on a lovely soft flourless chocolate cake as a base layer, then topped with a dark chocolate mousse and then a milk chocolate one. Simples.

One word of warning: sometimes mousse takes a while to set. If you need this cake in the evening, make it in the morning or the night before. If desperation sets in, a blast in the freezer for a half hour will help it along. As you can see from mine, the top layer wasn’t quite set and started to collapse – by the time we’d lit the candles, the Maltesers were sliding down the side of the cake. No matter, we just scoffed it really quick.

For the flourless chocolate cake

This is an easy cake to make and makes a great pudding served with whipped cream. It WILL sink in the middle, but when topped with the mousses of course this doesn’t matter.

As I was trying to build up height I used a smallish (8”) high sided loose-bottomed tin, with the sides lined with cut-to-fit silicone baking sheet. Remember you’re going to add the mousse layers so line the sides quite high. Preheat the oven to 160/gas 3.

125g dark chocolate

60g butter

3 large free range eggs, separated

125g soft brown sugar

So melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over some hot water. As soon as the water starts to bubble, turn it off and let the butter and chocolate melt gently together.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until they’re really firm.

When the butter and chocolate are melted, stir in the brown sugar, the vanilla extract and the egg yolks, then gently fold in the whisked egg whites.

Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for about half an hour or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool.

Weighing out the chocolate

Weighing out the chocolate

Just thought I’d slip in a pic of my new scales here – I love them. You can find them on Amazon – they’re called Epicurean by Ozeri. Rather lush aren’t they?

For the mousse layers

You only need a thin (ish) layer of mousse. I made my first layer far too thick, so I’ve halved the quantities here.

125ml double cream

150g dark chocolate

2 eggs, separated

So just pop the double cream in a saucepan and break in the chocolate. Put it on a low heat and as soon as the cream is warm enough to melt the chocolate, turn the heat off, continuing to stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Leave to cool a little while you whisk the egg whites. Do check that the cream/chocolate mixture is cool enough (it needs to be lukewarm otherwise it will scramble the eggs) before mixing in the egg yolk.

Then just fold in the whites, again take your time and wait until everything is a uniform colour. Pour the mousse on top of the chocolate cake layer and return to the fridge.

When this layer is set, make another batch of mousse with milk chocolate. Pour VERY gently over the first mousse and allow to set.

To serve, you need to be VERY careful – firstly make sure it’s properly set (ahem) and then balance it on something solid and slowly push the tin down. Decorate if you want, or just ram it into your face.

Happy birthday, Chas. We love you loads xx

Charlie with his cake

Charlie with his cake

 

 

Simple pancakes for Shrove Tuesday

PancakesIt’s Shrove Tuesday today so it’s a great opportunity to get the kids into the kitchen (and maybe even sneak some fruit in there too).  Traditional pancakes are quick and easy to make, and with a little bit of practice you’ll be flipping pancakes like a pro!  The Death Wish Dude flipped his onto the floor this evening, but we applied the 5 second rule and he’s still alive – I just checked.

Ingredients

(Serves 4 generously)

200g plain flour

2 eggs

600ml milk

Firstly, sift the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack the eggs into it.

With a wooden spoon, break up the eggs and start stirring gently, gradually bringing the flour into the mix.

Now, slowly add in the milk, stirring all the time, until you get a nice smooth batter (this batter can be made up to a day in advance and kept, covered in the fridge).

When you’re ready, add a tiny splash of oil into a heavy-based frying pan and pour in enough batter just to cover the bottom of the pan evenly when swirled around.  Any more and your pancake won’t cook evenly.  Now leave it to cook on the bottom. Carefully lift up an edge to check how it’s cooking, and when it’s lightly browned, give it a shake to free it from the pan.

FACT: THE FIRST PANCAKE IS ALWAYS POO – give it to the family glutton or just chuck it.  Now do another one.

Now’s the time to perfect your flip, so making sure that everyone’s safely out of the way, tilt the pan slightly downwards away from you (make sure you don’t lose your pancake here) and then with a flick of the wrist, flip it up into the air.  Hopefully, you’ll catch your pancake (otherwise, the dog’s had a result).  Place the pan back on the heat to make sure the second side is cooked through.

Keep your finished pancakes warm in a low oven, covered loosely with foil, while you make the rest.

Once your pancakes are cooked, it’s time to choose your filling.  Our favourites are lemon and sugar, tinned cherry pie filling (I know, I know), Nutella, and bananas with M&S salted caramel sauce (mmmmm), but feel free to experiment.

Happy flipping!

How to make a Christmas pudding (gluten free if you need it to be): an easy step by step guide

I ADORE making Christmas pudding: it’s my first real Christmas job (because I’m lazy with the Christmas cakes) and the house just smells divine. Actually, because I soak the fruit overnight, I tend to start on Stir-up Saturday (what? it’s a thing, honestly), but you could start in the morning, soak the fruit all day and make the pudding in the evening too…

Ingredients

So first things first: shopping.

Have a look at the ingredients list now so you’ve got a chance to put anything you don’t have on your shopping list before Saturday.  And don’t forget the pudding basin!

The best thing about listing the dried fruit in one 500g item is that you can tweak the recipe as you see fit.  I HATE dried peel, so you won’t see any of that in any of my christmas baking (it’s made of the devil’s toenail clippings, don’t you know?) but I love the glistening gold that little snipped up bits of apricot add, so I always add in some of those.  You can just buy a 500g bag of mixed fruit if you’re in a rush too.

Gluten/alcohol free

Remember, if you don’t want to add booze, substitute with fruit juice – cranberry juice is lovely (or more tea), and if you need the recipe to be gluten-free I’ve added tips for that too.  If you really must eat peel, though (bleurgh), I shall never speak to you again.  Just saying.

Oh and quick tip: tick off the ingredients as you put them in, which will save you doing what I did last year and forgetting the spices.

Right, here we go then:

Christmas Pudding

500g dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dates, dried apricots snipped into small pieces… whatever you like.

1 tbsp Maraschino cherries, halved (optional, but it’s nice to see a little glistening bit of red when you cut it open)

1 lemon

100ml black tea

100ml booze – I’ve used Pedro Jimenez sherry, Morgan’s Spiced Rum.. whatever you have.

1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half

3 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp black treacle

1 Bramley apple, grated

100g self raising flour (or rice flour for gluten free – thanks as always to the lovely Pippa for the help regarding gluten)

100g fresh white breadcrumbs (or again, ground almonds if you need to keep the recipe gluten free)

150g veggie suet

150g dark muscovado sugar

25g almonds or pistachio nuts, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground mixed spice

So on to the recipe then:

1. Weigh out the dried fruit, then have a good pick through and get rid of any stems, they’re yucky if you crunch on them.  I let them fall through my fingers into the bowl a handful at a time.  If you’re using larger dried fruit like prunes or apricots, make sure they’re stoneless and snip them into small pieces.

2. Finely grate the lemon zest, then juice it as well.  Add the zest and juice to the fruit then brew up the tea (one tea bag is fine for that amount of water) and pour it over the fruit, along with the rum/brandy/whatever.  Add in the cherries and the cinnamon stick and stir it all up.  Cover with a plate and leave the whole shooting match to steep (make sure it’s not a metal bowl) overnight, stirring occasionally if you remember.

3. The next day, then, weigh out all the dry ingredients and combine them in a huge bowl.  Don’t forget the spices!  The muscovado sugar can be a bit lumpy so you might need to sift it to break up any lumps.

4. Take the steeped fruit and remove the cinnamon stick pieces.  Add the eggs (give them a quick mix with a fork first), honey, treacle and grated apple (leave the peel on).

5. Stir well, then you can add all that into the dry ingredients.  Give it a really good stir (get everyone to take a turn to stir and make a wish).

6. Now butter a big basin (3 pint/1.7  litre) or two smaller ones and bung in your mixture, pressing it down well and filling as near to the top as you can.

7. Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper, bigger than the top of the basin/s, then add a layer of foil.  Tie the two layers tightly just under the basin rim with string, leaving lots of excess to make a handle.  Now there is some weird way to loop the excess string underneath the basin to make a handle, but I’ve never managed it as I didn’t pay attention at Brownies.  If you want to be extra sure no liquid gets in, add another layer of foil and tie again. Or you can use a basin with a lid, or tie it in a muslin, or use one of those special circular moulds.

And that’s it, you’ve made a Christmas pudding! Pause here a minute to give yourself a quick round of applause.

To steam it, you can use a steamer if you’re posh, but I haven’t got one so I just use a huge saucepan and balance the basin inside it on a circular metal pastry cutter so it isn’t sitting on the bottom of the pan.  This will also stop it burning if you inadvertently let it boil dry.  Add boiling water about halfway up the basin and put the lid on the saucepan.  Steam for 5 hours, making sure you go back every so often to top up the boiling water.

I rewrap it with fresh greaseproof paper and foil, but you don’t have to.  Keep it somewhere cool until Christmas day when it’ll need to steam for about another 2.5 to 3 hours (don’t worry if it gets a bit longer, it won’t ruin it).  Or you could *gasp* just microwave it on Christmas day.  Much easier, but possibly a little sacrilegious.

On Christmas day, just warm some booze gently, then at the last minute, pour it over the pud and set it alight.

Berry meringue pie for Grandma’s birthday (alternatively titled: when Freddy Mercury came for dinner’)

Yesterday was MENTAL.  The mentalness started early when we woke up to find that our poor Mad Professor, Sam had had an allergic reaction overnight to the plaster on his face and now had a chin full of blisters.  This caused so much hilarity ‘stop making me laugh, you bastards… OMG my chin looks like lasagne‘ that we were all late for school.

The madness continued into the evening when we realised that we’d better tidy up in readiness for our celebration for English Grandma’s birthday.  Stinky socks were thrown into bedrooms, balloons were hastily inflated (‘not two pink ones, they look like… erm… well, y’know…‘) and bags containing humming sports kits were hurled into the garage.  We spritzed a bit of air freshener around. It was fine, honest.

My brother, IJ, is my wine guru (he is generally cursed for our regular and massive Majestic Wine bills) and brought along a delectable bottle of Aussie Shiraz: Jim Barry The Lodge Hill 2010 (highly recommended). We then ordered the biggest Chinese takeaway known to man (the woman at the takeaway nearly passed out as she took the order).  My nephew and niece, the gorgeous Jackson (who was a bit late after taking part in a Queen tribute band at his school music evening) and impossibly glamorous Turtle joined the hilarity and soon we were wrestling (well, THEY were wrestling), laughing, cracking backs (the Death Wish Dude is good at this, but it made me feel a bit faint) and generally jabbering away.

Turtle and the DWD did an impressive job of lighting about a thousand candles (luckily, Grandma wasn’t offended) and in the process managed to burn a bit of meringue and quite a lot of each other, but no matter, soon we were gathered round the table, squeezed in on random garden chairs, Sam with his lasagne chin and Freddie Mercury with his sharpie moustache, singing happy birthday.

It took a while to blow all those candles out, mind you..

Berry Meringue Pie

For the sweet shortcrust pastry, you’ll need:

200g cold butter

400g plain flour

Pinch salt

1tbsp caster sugar

1 egg

2 or 3 tbsp cold water

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180/gas 4.  It’s easiest to do this in the food processor but you can do it by hand if you’re not as lazy as me.

Chop your cold butter into squares and add it to the flour, salt and sugar.  Process it until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Now plop in the egg and pulse slowly, adding a tablespoonful or two of water until it just comes together.

Flour the work surface and squish the mixture together into a ball.  Wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for about 20 mins.

When it’s rested, flour the work surface, and your rolling pin, and roll it out to about 5-6mm thick, then roll it onto your rolling pin and unroll over your flan dish or baking tin  (about 24cm should do it).  When it all breaks apart, swear a bit and kind of patch it together. Nobody will notice.  Push it in to the edges and trim the top.

Now to bake it blind: scrunch up a bit of greaseproof paper, then smooth it over the pastry and pour in some baking beans – you can use ceramic or whatever. I’ve got some old dried beans – for about 15 minutes.

Then, take the baking beans out and pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes, just to crisp up the base.

For the berry curd:

Couple of handfuls of berries (fresh or frozen)

100g butter

150g caster sugar

2 eggs, plus 1 yolk (save for the meringue)

For this curd recipe, you need roughly 6 tablespoons of concentrated, sharp juice.  I had a small bag of mixed berries left over from fruit picking during the summer, but you can use lemon juice, lime juice, whatever…  For the pie to work well, the juice needs to be acidic, so if you’re using fresh, sweet fruit, add a little lemon juice. Just keep the quantities the same.

It’s easiest to extract the juice by heating the berries up in a pan.  Once they’re going squishy, let them sit in a sieve over a bowl so you can catch the juice.

Take a saucepan and bung in the butter, juice, zest (if using citrus fruits) and caster sugar.  Melt it all together slowly until the sugar is all dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined.  Now, take your warm juice/butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.  Now bung that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and simmering until the mixture thickens.  As usual, make sure there’s someone behind you at this point shouting ‘WHISK! WHISK FASTER!’ – I’m SO going to record myself doing this so you can play it as you whisk.

Turn off the heat and leave to cool.  Remember to just stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on.  When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case and pop into the fridge to cool.

For the meringue:

4 egg whites

225g caster sugar

Pinch of cream of tartar if you have it

Whisk the eggs in a very clean bowl until they form firm peaks, then keep whisking while you add the sugar, spoon by spoon, until it’s all incorporated and the meringue is thick and glossy.  Give it a pinch between your fingers – it shouldn’t feel gritty.  Now pipe (or just spoon) it all on top of the pie.

Bake in the very low oven (gas 2/150 degrees) for about 40 to 50 minutes, depending on how squelchy you like your meringue.   If it’s a Special Birthday Meringue Pie, you can decorate it (we frosted some berries in granulated sugar) and add candles.

 

Mini lemon meringue pies: perfect for picnics (or Paralympic torch relays…)

So last night, we met up with the Foxys and Glam C and their families for a very special evening.  The Paralympic Torch was due to come through our local town at about 11pm (inconvenient time – why couldn’t they travel during the day?), so we met in the pub, then wandered into town to soak up the atmosphere and drink gin sneakily out of jam jars. As you do…

After all that, the torch convoy didn’t appear until after 1am, by which time we were a bit nippy and very tired, but still the atmosphere was amazing… the police outriders high fiving all the kids as they drove past, and everyone daring to walk, cycle or drive down the high street being subjected to massive cheers and whistles.  A long night, but oh it was fun…

We all agreed to take a few nibbles along.  I decided to take some mini meringue pies… really easy to make and, cooked in some paper muffin cases, not too messy to eat either:

For the pastry, you’ll need:

200g cold butter

400g plain flour

Pinch salt

1tbsp caster sugar

1 egg

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180/gas 4.  It’s easiest to do this in the food processor (the pastry, not the preheating.  That would be silly), but you can do it by hand if you’re not as lazy as me.

Chop your cold butter into squares and add it to the flour, salt and sugar.  Process it until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Now plop in the egg and pulse slowly until it comes together.  Every time you make pastry it will be different, but you should find it comes together quite well. If it’s really dry, add a tablespoon or two of cold water.

Flour the work surface and squish the mixture together into a ball.  Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for about 2o minutes.  Next, roll it out to about 5-6mm thick, then cut out rounds using a pastry cutter that’s about the same size as the top of the paper cake cases.  Pop each round into a paper case and push it down gently.  Carry on until you’ve done all 12, then stab each one with a fork a couple of times and pop it into the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd (or buy it – I won’t tell):

100g butter

2 lemons, zested then juiced (if you’re using bottled juice, it’s about 6 tbsp)

150g caster sugar

2 eggs plus 1 extra yolk (keep the white for the meringue)

Take a saucepan and bung in the butter, juice, zest and caster sugar.  Melt it all together slowly until the sugar is all dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined.  Now, take your warm lemony butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.  Now bung that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and simmering until the mixture thickens.  Make sure there’s someone behind you at this point shouting ‘WHISK! WHISK FASTER!’, or you can just imagine me shouting it in your head (you’re welcome).

Turn off the heat and leave to cool.  Remember to just stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on.  When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry cases and set aside while you make the meringue:

2 egg whites

115g caster sugar

Pinch of Cream of Tartar

Whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl until they form firm peaks, then keep whisking while you add the Cream of Tartar, then the sugar, spoon by spoon, until it’s all incorporated and the meringue is thick and glossy.  Pile  (or pipe) it on top of the lemon curd then bake for a further ten minutes.

And I’ll leave you with this, a blurry close up of the torch bearer’s delighted face. Doesn’t that make it all worth while?

For more photos of the Paralympic Torch Relay, check out my Facebook page

 

Frozen damson and plum yogurt terrine layered with vanilla plum sorbet

One of the things I love about Yeo Valley is that they never stop being creative.  New flavours and limited editions are always appearing, and their new Limited Edition Damson and Plum Yeogurt is a fine example of this – a lovely, and very British mix of gorgeous ripe plums and that tart little late-summer smasher, the damson.

The plum and damson flavour is delicious on its own, spooned over a fruit compote (use the plum recipe here) or made into an easy, frozen terrine.  As you have to wait for each layer to freeze, it’s probably best to make this the day before you need it.  Here’s how I did it:

You will need:

1 pot Yeo Valley Damson and Plum Yeogurt (450g)

100ml double cream

For the plum compote:

60g brown sugar

100ml water

250g ripe plums, halved and stoned

1 vanilla pod

First, line a medium loaf tin with cling film

Next, whip the cream and stir gently through the yogurt.  Be gentle as it’s the air bubbles that keep the texture of the finished ‘ice cream’ light.

Pour half the yogurt mixture into the loaf tin, level off the top and freeze for a couple of hours.  Pop the remaining half into the fridge for later.

Meanwhile, make the compote.  Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the plums and vanilla pod, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer until the plums are tender – about ten minutes should do it.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Remove the plums from the syrup (fish out the vanilla pod but keep the syrup, it’s delicious drizzled over the finished terrine) and whizz the plums in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Pour over the first frozen layer and return to the freezer for another couple of hours.

Finally, spoon over the remaining half of the yogurt mixture and freeze for another couple of hours or overnight.  Remove from the freezer about 20 minutes before serving.

Yeo Valley’s new Damson & Plum yogurt (450g) is available from all major retailers at MRRSP £1.49. For more information about Yeo Valley, product information and recipe ideas, please visit www.yeovalley.co.uk

*Limited edition – on pack offer*

For those thinking of starting their own mini fruit orchard, there’s a fabulous on-pack competition to instantly win one of 500 English fruit trees, with varieties including Conference pears, Victoria Plums and Discovery Apples. Simply pick up a limited edition Damson and Plum yogurt to be in with a chance of winning and keep these rare British fruits alive by starting a little bit of countryside in your own back garden!

Sunvil’s sunny baklava recipe

Sunvil are a lovely travel company who have over 40 years’ experience and an amazing amount of expertise on all aspects of the Greek islands. They’re passionate about their destinations: their people, their culture and, of course, their food, so they’ve decided to start posting a recipe every month on their website to celebrate the wonderful food of the area.  Baklava hails originally from Crete and seems a rather lovely place to start.  I’ve never actually made baklava, so when Sunvil challenged me to give it a go as part of the new Sunvil Supper Club, I jumped at the chance.

First of all, I’d say don’t be daunted by filo pastry.  I think I dithered a bit too long trying to make sure that every part of every sheet was brushed with the butter/oil mixture, which allowed the waiting pastry to dry out a little bit. Cover your pastry in a piece of damp kitchen towel, and you’ll be fine.

This lovely recipe really doesn’t take long to prepare and is a total showstopper. I also loved bubbling away the sugar syrup to make the final caramel-coloured honeyed syrup which is spooned over the warm baklava.  Utterly delicious.

If you’d like to have a go at making the baklava yourself, the recipe is on the Sunvil Supper Club page on the Sunvil website, and for more information on holidays to Crete, click here.

My Dad’s gorgeous garden, and The Icecreamists’ raspberry sorbet

My Disreputable Dad and his other half have been away on holiday this week (to the same place in the South of France that they go every year, to eat at the same restaurant every night – he’s a man who knows what he likes)….  I was left in charge of the garden, which basically meant I had free rein to go in and nick all the strawberries and raspberries.  While I was in there pilfering I took some pictures. It really is an extraordinarily beautiful garden, and he has a skill with roses that I’m sad I haven’t quite inherited.  There are entire beds of the same coloured, ruffled peach roses, and deep scarlet ones too… and around every corner a surprise – a trellised gate wound with delicate pink climbing roses that leads on to a hidden part of the garden with apple trees already groaning with baby fruit (I’ll be back for those)…. and, of course, those raspberry canes – protected with fake birds of prey, painful when you’re collecting raspberries and one bashes you on the back of the head, but they do the trick.

 

Charlie and I crept in one lovely evening and gathered an enormous punnet of raspberries.  Back at home with our spoils, we decided to make raspberry sorbet.  The recipe is adapted from The Icecreamists (out now priced £16.99, published by Octopus Books) – a wonderful book which, when you look past the ‘I’m mad, I am’ over the topness (breast milk ice cream, anyone?) contains some amazingly clever and easy to follow recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made ‘Glastonberry’, a seasonal berry sorbetto, and jolly nice it was too.  Scoffed in the garden, watching the sun go down, and wishing my roses were as good as Dad’s.  There’s always next year…

baking-header-english-mum

Testing… testing… substituting yogurt in recipes for Yeo Valley: yogurt scones and ice cream!

l love cream.  But with double cream containing 48% fat, it’s not exactly your healthy option.  Fine for the occasional treat, but not for every day.  So how can we still make all the lovely creamy recipes and sauces that we love whilst reducing some of the calories and producing a lighter, fresher end result?

Well, last time I was there, the Yeo Valley chaps set me a bit of a challenge: have a go at substituting yogurt in some of my favourite creamy recipes.   And you know me, I’m always up for a challenge in the kitchen.

In baking, dressings and marinades you can add yogurt straight from the fridge.  If you’re cooking with the lower fat yogurt varieties, you do run the risk, as with single cream, that they will ‘split’ (ie curdle) if you place them straight into a very hot environment.  You can counter this by using the ‘standard’ versions rather than the low fat (still much lower fat then cream) and bringing the yogurt up to room temperature before you cook with it.

I used Yeo Valley’s Greek Style Natural Yogurt which has 9.5% fat (plus a nice long sell-by date) so it’s still got a nice creamy finish and isn’t too sharp-tasting.  I’ve taken to keeping a couple of pots in the fridge as I use them at breakfast time, with fruit and muesli, as well as for cooking.

I had a go at cooking some of my favourite creamy recipes, substituting yoghurt instead. Here’s how I got on:

Spaghetti carbonara (or yoghetti carbonara – see what I did there?)

Snip a pack of smoked streaky bacon (outdoor reared, please) or pancetta into strips and fry in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until nice and crisp.  Set pan aside on a low heat (you can do this while the spaghetti cooks).

Cook 300g spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water.

Meanwhile, mix a large tablespoon of Greek yoghurt with two eggs and a splash of milk, then stir in a big handful of grated Parmigiano or Pecorino.

When the spaghetti’s cooked, drain and dump it into the bacon. Pour over the yogurt mixture and toss to combine.

The verdict:

To be honest, once we’d added Parmesan, we could hardly taste the difference.  Slightly sharper in flavour but still yummy.  Fussy Death Wish Dude didn’t even notice and hoovered it down, and the Prof said that he’d ‘noticed something a bit different’ when I told him afterwards. Success.

We also tried:

Ice Cream: AMAZING success here. We actually liked the flavour of the ice cream better with the yogurt.  Especially good with fruity and citrussy flavours and the bonus is here that you don’t need an ice cream machine.  Try folding lemon curd through Greek yogurt and adding a grating of fresh ginger for extra zing, or just fold through your favourite fruit compote (Yeo Valley do some lovely flavours) before freezing.  Take the ‘ice cream’ out of the freezer to soften up a little before serving.

As a dressing: I mixed the yogurt half and half with mayonnaise, added a squeeze of lemon and a handful of herbs and served it with smoked haddock fishcakes. Delicious.

Scones – totally yummy and the yogurt keeps them lovely and tender.

 

Yeo Valley’s really rather revolutionary ‘make your own cheese’ cheesecake

So when we went down to Yeo Valley last week, I was telling them how much I wanted to have a go at ‘Jaime’s strawberry and rhubarb cheesecake‘ recipe that’s on their website.

‘Well go on, then’, they said, ‘feel free’.

So I did.

The thing that’s so appealing is that you get to MAKE YOUR OWN CHEESE. Yup, you read that right.  It’s really simple (great fun to do with kids) and the end result is really quite magical!  In 24 hours you have your very own ‘curd’ cheese, which cuts out the need for buying cream cheese (a big bonus) and uses fat free yogurt (an even bigger bonus).  Obviously I then went and completely ruined it by making it into a chocolate version, but hey, you can use fruit too.

Basically, all you do is take one of their pots of fat free natural yogurt (the big 500g ones – soon to be in the pretty new packaging I showed you), stir in a pinch of salt, then just pour the whole tub into a sieve that’s been lined with a muslin or clean tea towel.

You sit it over a bowl and 24 hours later – hey presto – you’ve got a soft cheese curd just begging to be turned into a soft, velvety cheesecake!

I mixed the curd with double cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract as in the recipe, but then after it was whisked, I stirred in 100g melted dark chocolate (left to cool a little).  The result is so easy and very lush, although we were a divided house… de brevren and I loved it, but English Dad thought the slight tartness didn’t go with chocolate, so next time it’ll be the fruity version.

For the full recipe of the fruity version, click on http://www.yeovalleyorganic.co.uk/recipes/jaimes-strawberry-rhubarb-cheesecake/