All posts filed under: Sweet treats

Grilled Peaches with Cardamom Cream, Bourbon Caramel and Brioche Hazelnut Crumb

I started out making a peach pie. Shortcrust pastry, homemade with butter, some bourbon, lots of lovely ripe peaches. No, that is not entirely true, I started out working on BBQ recipes, and I was diverted by peaches towards a pie. Then I thought of the BBQ and the peach, and how they should combine. Those peaches looked so good, so juicy, so ripe. My mind started to wander, no, sprint, to grilled peaches with bourbon caramel. YES, I had to do that. But something was needed in between that succulent peach and rich caramel. Cardamom cream? I love spice and a little cardamom is gorgeous with a peach, and also good with bourbon. I had just bought brioche buns at the bakers, so I was now starting to cement the recipe with the idea of brioche bread crumbs and coarse chopped hazelnuts crisped in butter, just on top. That bourbon could join some sugar in a caramel. And there we have a gorgeous succulent juicy grown up dessert. I abandoned the pie. Briefly. Caramel is very easy. …

Recipe: Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

This dessert was one of the best things that I ate in Thailand. Not the most complex by any means, or in any way challenging. For comfort, straight forward deliciousness and a dish that makes you feel brighter about life as you leave an empty plate behind, look no further. I ate it many times in Thailand. I couldn’t resist it. However, I usually had to order it holding my nose with a lemon sucking face while trying not not barf, for it was almost always served from stalls that sold its vicious smelly neighbour durian. DURIAN. Does anything smell more foul? Yes, rotten meat, cadavers and sewers but durian smells of all three. It is like a demon that has digested them and is burping it for your displeasure. Walking down the streets of Bangkok admiring beautiful colours, delicious smelling street food, watching passing monks gilded in orange robes, I would suddenly feel squeamish and sure enough shortly after I would see a durian stand. Spiky green fruit, bloated and proud. If they were …

One Heartbreaking Failure (maybe 6) and a Cracking Caramel Recipe (Candied Bacon Salted Caramel to be precise)

What exactly is that? A slightly odd looking chocolate egg in the foreground with just a touch of bling (to cover its issues), some really odd looking hens eggs covered in chocolate behind, and a jar of goo? That, dear readers, is one day of my life, the next morning very early, and a ridiculous eggy photoshoot before I journeyed to Heathrow to get my morning flight yesterday am. My annoyance is conveyed perfectly through the crap photo, I think. I know. I need to get a grip sometimes. Worth it though, these are like a pimped and slightly filthy version of Paul A Youngs amazing salted caramel filled chocolate egg, which I had for Easter last year. I have been playing around with bacon A LOT. You know this. This was one of the recipes that I had fun with, then hated, then abandoned, and then gave in. Being a perfectionist leads to a path littered with imperfection as you strive to reach your final goal. It is painful and tortuous, but when you …

Recipe: Vanilla Marshmallows [how to make them and a recipe breakdown]

Go to work on an egg. I think today I went to work on six. Six eggs for breakfast?! Well, not quite, but this week I have been coming up with new variations on the marshmallow, and I find them quite addictive. 3 egg whites produce a large volume of the stuff, and it is so utterly delicious, I could swim in it. Like all things made at home it is simply much better. It is joyful to make too, and when you understand the recipe, so easy. When I was making it and thinking about all of the building blocks in my head, I realised that – HEY! – marshmallow is all about four things. Four steps and four factors – the structure (provided by sugar), the wobble (provided by gelatine), the fluffiness (provided by the egg white) and the flavour (in this case vanilla). I wanted to explain this properly so that you could all confidently bound into your kitchens and make this at home. Cooking is only about understanding a recipe and …

A Little Fun with the Microwave: Gooseberry and Elderflower Turkish Delight

It has been a peculiar summer for me. Some extreme highs where wonderful things have happened, and some lows where things that I have wanted have felt just out of my reach. I needed to take a little time out from everything and rest my head for a while, while I figured things out. What I do next, what I can do and what I want to do. I, of course, love what I do and at times this is a problem. I jump from idea to idea and project to project, taking on too much and wanting to do everything all of the time, exhausting myself in the process. So, it was time to focus and make decisions. In the meantime, I have found myself craving the food that I cooked and loved in my childhood. Seeking a little balance and reconnecting to the person that I was before and, of course, that I still am. This has coincided with an enormous spring clean where I have rediscovered so many things that I had …

Valrhona Chocolate Masterclass & Recipe for Chocolate & Sea Salted Caramel Tart

There is lots of heavy snow outside my window again. One trip cancelled in a week is annoying, but a second would be horrendous. I am off to Amsterdam in the morning – I hope – please pray readers that London transport will be a little less wimpy. As I look out the window I am thinking wistfully back to chocolate marshmallows, sea salted caramel and chocolate tarts, early grey chocolate truffles, perfect hot chocolate and a mouse shaped Easter egg crafted from iconic Valrhona chocolate. I still have some chocolate leftover from a recent Valrhona masterclass, and I must rush to my room and make something with it. It will help to defeat this bitter weather. Valrhona have started running their covetted cooking classes in London, and I was one of the privileged few allowed to attend a preview. Valrhona is highly respected in the world of chocolate and graces the menus of the finest restaurants. Their courses for chefs have been running for years in France, and they have recently developed a one …

Evening Standard Column: Rhubarb and Blood Orange Meringue Pie

From the Evening Standard, January 5th 2012 I love meringue pie, it’s utterly comforting, nostalgic and just beautiful to eat. It’s especially nice in January, after an endless parade of green and brown food, when gorgeous Yorkshire forced rhubarb and bright bloody oranges arrive. If you can’t get blood oranges, feel free to substitute normal ones. Many meringue pie recipes call for cornflour to thicken the curd but I prefer not to use it here. Some time in the fridge will allow it all to set. The results are a little sloppier than the traditional version perhaps, but the flavour is terrific. Rhubarb and blood orange curd Makes 2 small jars *200g rhubarb, trimmed and chopped *50g unsalted butter, plus a few knobs *50g caster sugar finely grated zest of 1 blood orange and juice of 2 *2 whole eggs, plus 2 egg yolks Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Roast the rhubarb for 15 minutes until tender. Drain in a sieve. Meanwhile, melt the butter and sugar in a double boiler. Add the …

A Recipe for You: Fritole (Gorgeous Apple Yeast Doughnuts) from Istria in Croatia

Hello readers! This week I am in Croatia – Istria in the North of Croatia to be precise. I am here for a week, eating too much, looking for truffles, sampling the (delicious) local wine, and cooking with some of the locals. I am quite lucky as I have some friends with an apartment here who have put me in touch with some local people who are very passionate about their food culture. I had been to Dalmatia, further South (I am sure you will have heard of Dubrovnik) so had some expectations which were not realistic. Istria is more like Italy (not surprising as it used to be part of it) and so there is lots of homemade pasta and risotto. There is also a huge Hungarian influence, so you see lots of goulash too. One of the first things that I ate here, and still my favourite, is little sweet apple doughnuts called fritole (pronounced frit-oh-lay). They are served cold, although I would quite like to try them warm too. Most recipes are …

Easter Recipe: Tom Herbert’s Hot Cross Buns

This blog sometimes throws some nice things my way, and recently one of them was the offer to review a weekend baking course in Cornwall (at the Bedruthan Steps in Bedruthan to be precise). I am a keen home baker but there is always more to learn, so when I discovered that the course would be led by fifth generation baker Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery, I jumped at it. Bedruthan is a sleepy village in Cornwall, not too far from Watergate Bay – home to Fifteen and the Beach Hut – and itself home to sister hotels The Scarlet, a gorgeous ecofriendly hotel and Bedruthan Steps, its more family friendly sibling. They are running many crafty courses over the coming months including also beekeeping, sewing and knitting. (Aside: I am actually an expert knitter & seamstress – genuinely! – my babysitter growing up was a professional aran knitter and taught me everything she knows. We learned to knit and sew in school too.) The baking course package included full board and two nights …

A Recipe for Yellowman (aka Honeycomb, Cinder Toffee)

YELLOWMAN! How great is that? Yellowman? I love it. The quirky Irish decriptor for Honeycomb, or what the ‘merican folks call cinder toffee. Such fun to make, a joy to eat (for all except your fillings who will retreat to the back of your mouth for safety), and a really ace little Xmas present for those you love from your kitchen. But, wait! It’s not all fun and games. Making yellowman has it’s downsides. The first is the intense temperature, you need to heat the sugar & golden syrup to 150C to reach hard-crack stage, and you may burn yourself. Of course most of you won’t, but I did, and I have a nice cascade of blisters on my arm. The other, less described danger, is that you may find yourself wandering around your kitchen waving a jam thermometer with melted sugar spindles dripping off it, singing YELLOWMAN to the Elton John’s Rocket Man at the top of your voice. It was all worth it. Even the burn. It’s such fun to make. Once the …

Coconut & apricot snowballs

It’s silly season! Lots of socialising, lots of fun, (over)eating and drinking. I have been trying and failing to save myself for my impending two week break – my office xmas party got the better of me last week, then I had the pleasure of an old friend visiting, which naturally involved lots of eating, partying and late night chattering. I have withdrawn again in an attempt to gather some energy and tie up some loose ends before I make my journey back to Ireland, but, before I did I called to a friends for her annual xmas drinks last weekend. She had (as always) the most amazing spread. One of the many things that I couldn’t stop eating were these little coconut & apricot snowballs – they were just beautiful. I enquired after the recipe and was shocked at how simple they are, they are so delicious, I thought that there must be some complicated technique behind this, but no, it’s one she has been making since childhood: quick, simple & dare I say …

Peyton & Byrne, Bake-a-boo & Cupcakes

Peyton & Byrne is a treasure trove of cupcakes and other sweet & savoury delights nestled between Heals & Habitat on Tottenham Court Rd, London. Owned by Oliver Peyton, a Mayo born London based restaurateur, it opened in September 2006 along with Meals in Heals next door. This is not Peyton’s first venture, far from it, he started with nightclubs which he proclaimed a means to an end, dallied with the import/export of Japanese beer & absolut vodka and then moved into restaurants with the opening of the critically acclaimed Atlantic Bar & Grill in Picadilly. Since then he has opened Mash, Isola, the Admirality restaurant at Somerset House, Inn the Park at St James Park, The Wallace Restaurant, Peyton & Byrne, Meals, The National Dining Rooms & finally The National Café. Peyton has always championed the use of quality ingredients and British cooking and this is obvious in his establishments. He is well known as one of the judges on the Great British Menu, a BBC show where top UK & Irish chefs compete …