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Slovenly Strawberry Pie

13 Jul

A pal and commenter, Lynn, asked if I would be posting some strawberry recipes as we are smack bang in the middle of strawberry season….of course, am happy to oblige! Regular readers though will know that I am not much of a dessert maker (the ever expanding waistline does not permit too many treats) so I usually pull together dishes that are quick and easy but delicious enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Strawberries are also so good right now, they don’t need too much mucking about with.

For anyone who also signed up for the “throw it together and see what happens dessert class”, this one’s for you.

Strwaberry Tart (3)

Ingredients (to serve 4-6)

  • 500g dessert pastry (I cheated and used ready made, but you can always make your own)
  • 600g fresh strawberries halved or quartered if very large
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 level tbsp cornflour
  • Splash of fruit liqueur (I used framboise)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Brown sugar

Mix the strawberries with the icing sugar, cornflour and liqueur and set aside while you roll the pastry out into a circle. Place the pastry onto an oven tray or into a tin, I used a deep paella pan which worked beautifully!

Pile the strawberries into the middle of the pastry circle then fold the extra pastry in over the top to form a bowl shape. Brush the top of the pastry with egg yolk and sprinkle over some brown sugar.

Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the strawberries are bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving – the cornflour will slightly thicken the juices. Serve with ice cream or cream whilst pretending to your impressed loved ones that it was really hard work to prepare.

Florentines – Chica Finally Makes Something Sweet

27 May

I know, I know, I can’t remember the last time I posted a recipe for something sweet and a little naughty. We all have to be naughty sometimes don’t we? And these bite sized Florentines really hit the spot and are a perfect gift to take along when you go visiting.

Florentines

I made these recently when we went for lunch with a pal to my parents. We’re not really a family of dessert eaters generally, but a little treat like this with a cup of strong coffee after a perfect lunch is a great way to round things off. And I know my mum has a soft spot for these little almond and chocolate biscuits so that was a good enough reason for me to have a go at making them.

They’re not all that difficult to make, you just have to keep an eye on them at each stage so that you don’t end up with burnt nuts (and nobody wants burnt nuts do they?!). Set aside a couple of hours and put a pot of your favourite coffee on to brew and you’ll enjoy a wonderful, creative afternoon making these sweet treats.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tsp flour
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g/2oz flaked almonds toasted
  • 20g chopped hazlenuts
  • 100g/4oz dried sour cranberries and glace cherries finely chopped
  • 150g/5oz good quality dark chocolate broken into pieces (I did a few with white chocolate too)

Varios 016

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Heat the butter, syrup and flour in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the butter has melted
  3. Gradually add the cream, stirring continuously until well combined.
  4. Add the nuts and fruit and mix well until combined.
  5. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper and place teaspoonfuls of the florentine mixture onto it. Space the teaspoonfuls out at 2.5cm/1in intervals so they don’t merge together when heated.
  6. Transfer the florentines to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn.
  7. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray, then transfer the florentines to a cooling rack. Be patient here, they need to be cool otherwise they will break easily when still warm and soft.
  8. Bring a little water to a simmer in a pan. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.
  9. Turn the florentines so that the flat base is facing upwards. Spread the melted chocolate over the florentine bases and set aside to cool and set. I used a pastry brush to do this.

Although keeping them in the fridge will cause the chocolate to lose its shine, I found that the warmth of my kitchen caused them to soften so I kept them cool. This crisped them up and they tasted great!

Inspired by a BBC Recipe

The Easiest Coffee Ice Cream You Will Ever Make

17 Dec

And probably one of the best tasting too! Christmas madness is starting to kick in around here. It will be a quiet but fun affair Chez Chica and Big Man – my parents are coming for Christmas so whilst it will be a small group, the food will still be cooked and enjoyed together, glasses will be raised to loved ones not with us, and of course silly hats will be worn.

DSC_0003

As you know, Christmas tends to be quite a multicultural affair in our home. That way we get to enjoy the best of everything. Big Man is on his way back from a trip to Spain and hopefully his suitcase is full of tasty goodies from Andalucía. We’ll be eating Panettone on Christmas morning and after lunch we’ll hotly debate whether Turrón or Torrone is better. And in a change from the roast lamb or beef we generally eat, we’re going for Goose this year. Yum…it’s been a few years since I cooked one as they’re not so good for larger gatherings as although they have loads of flavour, you need to buy one the size of a bungalow to feed a crowd.

I’m making things that I know we’ll love (why wouldn’t I?!) and I know my mum, although not a big dessert eater, loves coffee flavoured ice cream. Big Man is of the opinion that a law should be passed to make it obligatory to eat ice cream every day and my dad and I will let them tuck in whilst we tuck into the cheese and nuts.

This is a Nigella Lawson recipe, and perfect for a last minute dessert if you don’t fancy making custard…

Ingredients (makes about a litre)

  • 600ml of double cream (heavy or whipping cream)
  • 1 tin of condensed milk (mine was 397g)
  • 4 tablespoons of instant espresso coffee powder

Whip all the ingredients together until thick and soft peaks are formed. Pour into your freezer proof container and freeze until solid. No churning, no whipping. Remove from the freezer a few minutes before you want to eat it to let it soften a little and enjoy. See, I told you it was easy!

Chocolate and Amaretto Semifreddo

3 Nov

Now please don’t send the dessert police round if this is not really an authentic semifreddo. I’ve just looked at the Wikipedia definition and it seems like it should have ice cream mixed in with the whipped cream.  Oh dear, Chica taking shortcuts again.

Regular readers of this blog will probably have already noticed that I don’t post a huge number of dessert recipes. Mainly because I’m not very sweet toothed, and secondly because Big Man and I don’t really need to be eating too many naughty treats and generally stick to fruit and yogurt at the end of a meal.

But sometimes, yes sometimes, life calls for pudding and with some new pals round recently for supper, this was such an occasion. Obviously, after a long day of house renovation, I needed a meal which I could prepare in advance so that I could relax and enjoy the food and company.

The main course was Pollo Cacciatore, made the day before. Dessert was made the evening before, inspired by part of a programme presented by Nigella Lawson. I missed the detail of the recipe, so this is my version and it worked out perfectly. I am my own Domestic Goddess.

Semifreddo (4)

Ingredients (serves 6-8….well 4-6 in my house)

  • 600ml of double or whipping cream
  • 100g of your favourite chocolate which you need to put into the fridge for an hour or so
  • 2-3 tablespoons of amaretto (or your favourite liqueur)
  • 4 ready-made meringue nests (or you could be a complete Domestic God or Goddess and make your own)
  • A loaf tin or plastic ice cream tub lined with cling film

Beat the cream until is softly whipped (but not stiff). Finely chop the cold chocolate and add it to the cream with the liqueur then crumble in the meringue (break it up into small pieces). Mix gently with a large spoon until combined and then spoon it into your container. Cover with cling film and freeze until you are ready to serve. Take it out of the freezer a few minutes before you want to eat and slice it (I found it easiest with a bread knife) into portions.

I served mine with fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis (made with one cup of raspberries and half a cup of icing sugar, cooked then sieved) and some flaked almonds. It’s not the most beautiful photo in the world, I apologise, but it was taken as I served it up after an evening of food and wine conviviality, at about 10pm in an underlit kitchen.

Easy, delicious and very little effort. Perfect!

Autumn Days and Autumn Nights – Apple and Blackberry Pudding

16 Sep

The days are getting shorter, the sun still shines most of the time but not with the intensity of summer. The air smells different, fresher, more invigorating. It’s time to finish off doing things you meant to do in summer and plan for the next few months.

Time to enjoy autumn fruits like prickly pears…

Chumbos (2)

Big Man and I haven’t had the great summer we had hoped for in Spain this year. That’s the way life goes sometimes. You just have to accept it and move on.  We hadn’t had a single chance to go to the beach, so at the end of last week we made it happen. Granted, we didn’t get down there until lunch time, but luck was on our side and a beachfront table at one of our favourite Chiringuitos (beach restaurants) became available as we arrived.

Beach 12 Sep (8)

Perfect, time to relax with a bottle of chilled white wine, a mix of deep fried fish and some peppers and a plate of little pieces of grilled monkfish.

Beach 12 Sep (5)

After a reviving coffee it was time for a gentle snooze down by the sea, listening to the waves and the distant sounds of murmered conversations.

What a difference a day makes, the next day Up the Mountain was grey and misty with low clouds lurking around the house.

VIstas 13 Sep (10)

A day that made me wish the blackberries here were still going strong, as they had been in England. A little bag of about 2 cups of blackberries had been picked on a seaside walk in England Down by the Sea and turned into a delicious autumn pudding.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (3)

Apple and Blackberry Pudding

  • 2 cups of blackberries (approx.) washed, two small apples peeled and thinly sliced and both fruits mixed together and sprinkled with about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of self raising flour, a pinch of salt and quarter of a cup of sugar mixed together in one bowl
  • 1 large egg, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a quarter of a cup of oil and a quarter of a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well, if the mixture is very stiff, add a tablespoon full of milk.

Mix the cake mix into the fruit and pour into an ovenproof dish. Bake at 180º for about 30 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the pudding comes out clean and the top is slightly browned.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (1)

Serve with cream and/or ice cream whilst making sure your dog does not sneak up on you and pinch a mouthful.

Spiced Poached Peaches

30 Jun

Well, it´s peach season here, and mostly my favourite way to eat them is “au naturel”.  Sometimes though, it´s fun to do something a little more exciting with them.

Here´s a simple little recipe for those of you who want to make a light dessert using the best of the season´s fruit. Oh, and wine. Not sure how it would taste using an alternative, grape juice perhaps, but if anyone gives it a go, I´d love to hear how it turns out.

I made the recipe for three, but the spices are enough for about half a dozen pieces of fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1 peeled peach (or nectarine per person) left whole but scored as if you were going to cut it in half
  • About half a dozen red grapes and raspberries per person
  • Red wine
  • Water
  • 3 tsp of sugar per person
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 clove per person
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced in half lengthways (you can reuse to make vanilla sugar afterwards)
  • A good grind of fresh black pepper

Put the peaches or nectarines and grapes into the snuggest pot they will fit in, then cover completely with half water and half wine. Add the sugar, vanilla and spices (including the black pepper) and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender then remove the fruit.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary or a little squeeze of lemon juice if you prefer it less sweet.

Turn up the heat, and boil it hard until you have a pouring syrup.

Arrange the fruit on a serving plate, strain the syrup over (you don´t want the spices now) and garnish with fresh raspberries (rose petals and mint leaves are optional). Chill and serve as is or with single (pouring) cream.

And if this has set you thinking, check out Greg´s fantastic post which features an amazing range of ideas for using peaches in recipes. Yummy!

Speedy Strawberry Delight

30 May

For many of us it´s strawberry season right now. The pleasure of eating a sweet juicy strawberry on its own, or covered in whipped cream is something very special. And of course we can mix them into cakes, turn them into jam…well, the possibilities are almost endless.

Sometimes though you fancy a bowlful of strawberry deliciousness but you need it NOW. Here´s a little dish of strawberries that´s not too naughty and quick to pull together and hit the spot last night when we fancied a little midnight feast (hence the dark shot)!

Per person

  • Half a cup of thick creamy natural yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar (optional)
  • About half a dozen strawberries, sliced
  • A drizzle of honey
  • A splash of framboise (raspberry) liqueur – optional

Stir the sugar (if using) into the yogurt, pile the strawberries on top, splash on the liqueur, drizzle the honey over then find yourself a nice quiet spot to sit and enjoy a little indulgence and a moment of peace all to yourself.

Flat Ruthie Ventures Up the Mountain – Strawberry Jam & Coffee and Baileys Ice Cream

16 Apr

For any eagle eyed readers out there, you may remember that Flat Ruthie of Cardboard Me Travels sneaked into my suitcase on a recent trip back from the UK.

Stowaway on Board!

While she was here she took the opportunity to do some sightseeing, so we didn´t see her for a while. However, it´s strawberry time here and as soon as she heard I had bought a few kilos of local strawberries, she finally joined me again.

Obviously, as we were going to be cooking, she insisted on a little apron, so I obliged.

We weighed out a kilo of washed, chopped strawberries then simmered them until slightly soft. Then we added a kilo of sugar, a sachet of pectin and the juice of half a lemon and boiled until setting point.

Ruthie stood back for a while as burning jam can be pretty dangerous but she was pleased to see how well it all turned out.

The next morning the sun shone brightly and I called her to join me for breakfast in the garden.

I think all her sightseeing must have worn her out as she stayed in bed and missed breakfast completely.

When she did eventually get up she decided she needed a good strong coffee to get her going.

No decaf in this house!

As I was making ice cream from Chgo John´s amazing recipe, she had the bright idea of replacing the pistachios I had wanted to use (but couldn´t find) with a shot of coffee.  I didn´t have half and half either so she explained to me that I could substitute a mix of both half whipping cream with half full fat milk for this part of the recipe.

Just as we were about to pour the ice cream mix into the machine she decided that about 100ml of Baileys would also be a good idea, so we put that in too.

After a little churning and a couple of hours in the freezer it was time to taste the ice cream. She took her pinny off to eat and her verdict was….mmmm, we´ll definitely make this again!

Finally I can take my pinny off and have a little break!

Thanks for the visit Ruthie, it was fun. Do keep the pinny, it suited you and it definitely won´t fit me!

Baked Cherry Cheesecake

26 Mar

A slightly sad looking final slice of cheesecake....

I am sure we all have “go to” recipes for times when we are in a hurry, or just want to return to an old favourite.  I adore baked cheesecake and have been using an adapted version of a BBC Good Food one for several years now.
When I found out that I had been asked to make a dessert for lunch with friends, I got out my cream cheese and eggs and quickly got to work. Apologies for the photo, I forgot to snap it in all its glory before we attacked it!

Ingredients

  • 12 crushed digestive biscuits (graham crackers)
  • 50g melted butter
  • 600g cream cheese
  • 2 level tablespoons of flour
  • 175g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml whipping cream (or heavy cream)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 jar of cherry jam plus I used some of my cherries in brandy (drained)
  • 1 sachet of flavourless gelatine or vegetarian substitute

Heat the oven to 180º C or gas mark 4.  Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter and press into a springform tin. Bake for 10 minutes and leave to cool.

Beat the cream cheese, flour, sugar and eggs together then add the cream and vanilla essence and then any fruit filling (not the jam).  Blend gently, pour into the tin and bake for 45 minutes.  It will still be slightly wobbly in the centre but leave to cool out of the oven.  It will continue to cook slightly.  I have to confess mine always cracks, I don´t know if there is a way around this – I´d be happy to learn!

For the topping you can either just cover with fruit or make a jelly fruit topping.  I did this by adding a sachet of powdered gelatine to about 4 tablespoons of cold water.  In a small pan warm the jam until it starts to bubble then pour it over the gelatine and mix well until all the granules have dissolved.  Leave it to cool down until almost cold and starting to set then pour over the cheesecake (still in the tin).  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and remove from the fridge an hour before serving to reach room temperature.

Rainbow Birthday Cake

31 Jan

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

There are some occasions in life when only cake will do.  This weekend was no exception, Big Man´s Granddaughter was celebrating her 7th Birthday, so cake was most definitely needed. No comments please about me being a Step Granny…!

I have seen various versions of rainbow coloured cakes around for a while, from mini cupcakes, to regular sized ones with splodges of different colours, to multi tiered cakes.  For a beautifully elegant grown up cake, do pop over to see what Smidge did for her birthday.

Obviously, when you´re 7 years old, you´re not looking for elegance or sophistication (phew!), so I thought that the 7 colours of the rainbow and the 7 tiers of the cake would tie in perfectly.

The cake mix I used is very simple and is not a whipped, butter version.  The benefit of this is that as I only have two Victoria sandwich tins (which are 7” or 18cm in diameter and 1” or 2.5cm high), and the mixture makes enough for 3 cakes, it can stand around quite happily while waiting for the first cakes to cook.  I had initially only planned on making 6 colours, but I forgot to line the bases of the tins for the first two, and they wouldn´t come out without crumbling into a thousand pieces. Eventually I made a third batch of mixture and ended up with 7 colours.

I have to warn you that there is a little “waste” as I needed to cut the tops off the cakes where they rose and were browned (you don´t need to worry about cutting the sides off) but these crumbs could be used to make cake pops, or just eaten as is….I mean, who throws cake away?!

Apologies for the photos, the cake was assembled late at night and the decorating was undertaken by the Birthday Girl, who had great fun, and these final photos were the snaps we took.

For 3 cakes (make two batches of this mixture)

  • 2 cups of self raising flour, a pinch of salt and a cup and half of sugar mixed together in one bowl
  • 3 large eggs, half a cup of vegetable oil and half a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well, if the mixture is very stiff, add a tablespoon full of milk.

Divide the mixture into up to 3 bowls and add food colouring to each. You will repeat this with the second batch of mixture.

Pour into your base lined tins and bake at 180º for about 30 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from tins, when cool slice off the raised top with a bread knife. Eat crumbs with a cup of coffee whilst making the other cakes.

For the cake filling (to sandwich between the layers)

  • 300g cream cheese mixed with 50g of soft butter and a cup of sieved icing sugar. Tablespoon of milk (optional)

Beat well and add a little milk if the mxture is too stiff to spread easily. Put a small dot of the mixture on your serving plate and place the first player of cake on top. Spread the mixture thinly over the top of the cake and continue to repeat with all your layers, but don´t ice the top of the final layer.

For the icing (makes enough to cover a 7 layer cake).

  • In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water put 2 egg whites, 350g (12oz) of white sugar, 3 tablespoons of hot water and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar (optional, but it does help to maintain the firmness of the meringue if you make it ahead).  Add a few drops of food colouring if required.

Now, with your electric beater (or by hand if you are feeling super energetic), mix for about 5-7 minutes until thick and fairly stiff.

Apply immediately and find a small child to help you with decorations.

PS. I don´t advocate feeding children enormous amounts of food colouring every day, but once a year should be fine.  Work off excess energy chasing small dogs round the garden until it is time to go home.

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