Category Archives: Sweets

Berry Crumble

Berry Crumble (8101)

These days I rarely have impromptu suppers at home but when I do I don’t even think twice about making this recipe for crumble, or adaptations of it. Crumbles are so versatile, plus they take almost an insignificant number of minutes to assemble. The baking takes a little longer but you don’t have to do anything while it’s in the oven anyway. It takes the pressure off cooking, especially when you know you have a standby recipe for emergencies.

Berry Crumble (8098)

This is technically not a typical seasonal recipe, but I thought to include it today because for me this time of year is all about emergencies, and a great pick-me-up during stressful times. I know that for many of you Christmas preparations can be a nightmare, but I hope the work and planning that goes on behind the scenes is ultimately worth it. I dare to say this is one of the healthiest recipes in this blog, excluding those times when there’s cream involved, of course – however it is Christmas so there’s nothing wrong in a little indulgence!

Berry Crumble (8100)

For the topping you need:

  • 125g butter
  • 60g jumbo oats
  • 40g flaked almonds
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 70g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 75g light brown sugar

For the fruit mixture:

  • 500g frozen blackberries (mixed summer fruits would also be a good option)
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 50g vanilla sugar or caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6. Melt the butter and put to one side.

In a bowl combine the oats, flaked almonds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Place the fruit of your choice in a round shallow pie dish and sprinkle the cornflour and sugar as evenly as possible over it. Move the dish about to mix. (You’ll need the cornflour to absorb some of the juices since the fruit has been in the deep freeze for some time.)

Stir the melted butter into the topping (dry oat mixture), and spoon this on top of the frozen fruit on top. Do not cover completely as to end up with some of the fruit peaking out of the topping. It will look really pretty!

Bake for around 25-30 minutes. Serve this alone or with double cream during the colder months. (In Summer it’s perfect with ice cream.)

Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Express, Chatto & Windus, 2007.)

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From the archives: Lemon Syrup Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake (6900)

A very good friend of mine came over to London for a short work-related visit. I hate not having a cake or some cookies standing by for days like these, but, as is so typical of me lately (don’t ask me why because I have absolutely no idea), I found myself frantically flipping through countless cake recipes and notes, not knowing what to do. After a few deep breaths and one lemon and ginger tea, it became as clear as day. The solution was simple: lemon cake. I love this recipe and I knew it was going to work. It brings so many memories of when I first started this blog. Enough nostalgia though and on with the baking.

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest of a lemon
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt 
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 100g icing sugar

Tin: 23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin (or similar), properly greased and lined

Preheat your oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. When you line your tin with baking paper make sure it comes up to around 1cm or a bit more to the sides (see photo). This will make unmoulding much easier.

In a large bowl whisk together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and lemon zest and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt (you can leave the salt out if you want), and add the milk. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and place it in the oven. In the meantime prepare the syrup (see method below). Bake for around 45 minutes, or until golden and check with a skewer or knife to make sure it’s done.

Prepare the syrup by placing the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small pot over the heat and swirl the pan gently until the sugar dissolves. Puncture tiny holes in the cake and pour the syrup over the cake while it is still in the tin. Make sure the middle part absorbs as much liquid as the sides.

When the cake is completely cold, you can lift it up from the loaf tin onto your serving plate. If the cake is still warm it might crumble.

Incidentally my friend brought me a big bag of Mediterranean lemons from the tree in her garden. These will be very happy days, with many many baking days ahead! Enjoy! R xx

(This recipe is adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.)

Nigella’s Holiday Hot Cake

Holiday-Hot-Cake-with-Cream-(6611)

I live in a Victorian building. It’s not insulated well and even though we do have heating, it still gets cold in the evening. Last week temperatures were almost unbearable, and everyone was rightly complaining. Main reason: the snow. We’re still using the oven almost everyday. Baking pizzas, cakes and the likes helps to warm up my tiny kitchen. Yep – that’s the excuse you see!

One of my favourite things is the Holiday Hot Cake from Nigella Express. It’s easy and you don’t need any fancy equipment to make it. It doesn’t look good on photos either but it *is* good. I don’t like advocat too much so I don’t add anything with the whipped cream. I make it during Christmas, but this year it has made a very special appearance during the Easter break. No one minded.

Holiday-Hot-Cake-with-Cream-(6612)

You can find the recipe on Nigella’s website here. Enjoy!

Rob x

Mini Macarons

Luxemburgerli-(6548)

When we travel I tend to stay away from shopping in general; one exception though is food of course. (Another exception is tea towels, but that’s not a given either, and yes, it’s kitsch.) We have not travelled much lately but J has been to Zurich for a couple of days. I knew he would get some kind of liqueur with him but I never expected him to return with these little dainty babies. It’s true to say that the best gifts are the unexpected ones and this box of goodies was a nice surprise from Sprüngli.

Luxemburgerli-(6537)

I never had macarons before, let alone teeny tiny ones like these. Delicious. They came in a pink box, with one little note of instruction, something along the lines of: to be eaten as soon as you see them, my interpretation of course, or best when fresh. And as I *almost always* do as I am told, we devoured them, in a matter of days…*a few days* but  we certainly didn’t want the box to finish. Next time I’m in Zurich, I now know what to get. And, like a dog with treats, I salivate when I think about them.

As I haven’t yet attempted to make them myself (I have to someday) I am happy just to eat them, for now.

Enjoy the pics.

Rob x

 

Kwareżimal – a traditional Lenten recipe

Kwarezimal (6567)

I must apologise for my long absence! I cannot believe I have not written anything for you here since the 20-something of February. I was in Malta for a short while, enjoying the sunshine. I needed it. (It’s a glorious day today, so I’m done complaining.) Before I left though, I spent most weekends in the kitchen, trying new recipes and also cooking some old ones, which are still going strong. The saying goes if something ain’t broken, don’t fix it. However a little while ago I promised you a good recipe for Kwareżimal, and after a few adjustments here it is. This is the perfect time to try it out.

Kwarezimal (6566)

Kwareżimal is a traditional Maltese biscuit widely found on the island during Lent. The authentic recipe, for lack of a better word, has no eggs and no butter. No one fusses too much about fasting anymore, (few people avoid sweets for 40 days) and anyway, I think that one egg for binding doesn’t do any harm. I use plain flour together with ground almonds, which makes the recipe less of an expense. If you love almonds as much as the Maltese do, then this one’s for you. Makes 4 large rectangular shaped cookies.

  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon orange oil (substitute this with orange flower water if you prefer)*
  • golden syrup, slightly warm for brushing the tops
  • enough flaked almonds to cover the surface of the biscuits

Preheat the oven to 190 ºC and line one or two baking trays with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, place the flour, ground almonds, caster sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and lightly mix with a spoon or a whisk.

Add the beaten egg, vanilla extract, lemon zest and orange oil* and continue mixing, using your clean hands. The mixture will turn into a fragrant dark-ish dough.

Place the biscuit dough onto a floured surface and divide it into 4 rectangular pieces, placing these onto the prepared baking tray as you go. Brush the surfaces with the golden syrup, slightly warmed into a more liquid consistency, and sprinkle the flaked almonds.

Bake for around 20 to 25 minutes, till they turn slightly golden. Take them out of the oven when they feel a little soft to the touch.

This is such an easy one to make. Good, easy with minimal cleaning. What more could you ask for? Enjoy!

Rob x

Apple and Walnut Cake

Apple-Cake-(6431)

I am not a big fan of apples. I buy sacks of them but it takes an effort to eat them all. The fact that J doesn’t like them much either doesn’t help. However they will always be forever present in this house, just because they are good and healthy. Any extras will undoubtedly end up in pies or cakes.

I am aware that I should make the most of the wonderful juicy apples here. They grow almost everywhere in England. Although all is not as rosy as it seems. A long time ago there were approximately 1,500 varieties of apples in this country. Now there are only around 500, and we are eating a lot less than that. It seems that we are only buying what looks good on supermarket shelves, many of which are imported from other countries. Pity.

There are many recipes out there for apple cake, but I chose to try one from Nigella’s Domestic Goddess book, or a variation of it anyway. (Turns out that Nigella’s recipe is a twist on one by Anna del Conte.) The original recipe calls for walnuts, listed as an optional ingredient. The thing is though, I did have the walnuts, way above the amount stated. I took the package out of my pantry and placed it right in front of me. However, as is typical when in a rush, or when there’s no peace of mind, I totally forgot about them and ended up with a plain apple cake. Typical. It was delicious anyway but I think it did lack something and I missed them. It would have been better to have them in the cake. There’s always a next time though…

I made this apple cake during the Christmas holidays, since I wanted an easy alternative to the traditional fruity one which can be a little bit too much for two people. This one struck the right balance. (Next time I will try to use baking powder instead of the bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartare.) You will need:

  • 100g sultanas
  • 75ml rum
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 450g apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon lemon oil (the original recipe doesn’t have this so don’t worry if you don’t have it.)
  • (100g chopped walnuts, optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC, and grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin. In a small pan with a heavy base, place the sultanas and rum on the hob. When they start bubbling away, take them off the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl add the flavourless oil and sugar and start beating, while adding the eggs one by one. Add the flour, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and mix with a large metal spoon. The mixture will be quite stiff here so you do need some elbow grease I’m afraid! Fold in the apples, lemon juice, lemon oil and walnuts if you are including them (you really should I think).
  3. Tip the cake batter into your prepared tin and bake for around 1 hour. Always check if it’s cooked through with a knife or skewer. Eat it warm and make sure to wrap it in foil to keep it moist.

Good with a cup of coffee. Enjoy!

Rob x

Easy Almond Biscotti

Kwarezimal-(5471)

Kwareżimal is a Maltese traditional biscuit made and eaten during Lent. Even though many have abandoned the idea of fasting during the forty days (quaresima) leading up to Easter, these simple bakes are still widely found throughout the island on shops and in homes. My friend M makes wonderful kwareżimal which I cannot get enough of. However what I will give you now is something a little different…

What I have for you here is less of a kwareżimal, and more of a biscotti. It wouldn’t be fair to call them otherwise, mostly because these babies contain eggs and butter; it is more a matter of convenience than anything else. I have taken the liberty of naming them “Cheat’s Kwareżimal” though, hoping not to offend anyone here! I have no idea why I tend to eat almonds (and/or bake with almonds) after the Christmas period. They may be rich but in my mind they are still healthy and good for you.

J came up with this recipe while we were still in MI, and since it always works well for us I decided to leave the measurements in cups rather than grams, as they are in my notebook. To be honest I prefer this way of measuring. For me, it’s quicker and more convenient (and I have an affinity for it because that’s the way I learnt) especially when you use large glass containers for storing baking ingredients. I cannot do this anymore due to the lack of storage space in my kitchen, but I know that one day I will find a way to do this again…eventually that is.

OK, enough talk and let’s get down to the really fun stuff…For 4 large rectangular-shaped portions you will need:

  • 2 cups soft light brown sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups flaked almonds
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, beaten as egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 175 ºC/350 ºF and line two large baking trays with parchment or baking paper.
  2. Place the sugar into a large mixing bowl together with the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and almonds and lightly mix these before adding the softened butter. I would recommend using your hands for this (clean, of course!). You risk breaking the flaked almonds if you use a mixer on high speed and I like to see the almonds clearly when cutting into the biscuits.
  3. This mixture will turn into a dough, and when it does place it on a floured surface. Cut this in four approximately equal pieces and roll each one into a log shape.
  4. Place the dough onto the lined baking trays and flatten them into around 1cm thick rectangles. Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake for around 25 to 30 minutes, till they turn golden brown.

Store them in an airtight container and cut as many pieces as you like, as you go. Do not attempt to cut them up before serving since they will almost certainly dry out.To make this even more traditional, you can add lemon peel and a few drops of orange flower water, something found in the Maltese version.

Happy Baking!

Rob x