Justin cooked a curry for visitors between Christmas & New Year. We figured it would be the ideal flavour contrast to all the other seasonal fayre – and judging by the crowds we’ve noticed in our local curry house this week, we weren’t alone!! I usually make some type of cake for dessert, but following a hearty curry that option would likely prove too filling.
Dainty Indian sweets would be the perfect end to the meal. I chose to make coconut ladoo (or laddu) because we already had all 3 ingredients in our store cupboard.
It’s the flavour of the pungent ground cardamom which gives this sweet its Indian taste.
There are other kinds made with chickpea flour or semolina instead of coconut and fried in ghee. They are also be made with the addition of dried fruit and/or nuts such as pistachios or cashews.
They’re make a great little alternative present to the more usual box of chocolates.
A treat often served at celebratory events such as the Hindu festival of Diwali
This nutty millionaire’s shortbread tastes SO much better than any I’ve ever bought from a shop. I happened to have bags of whole almonds and hazelnuts in the larder, but it would be equally as good if you made it using pecans, Brazil nuts or walnuts. Cashew butter instead of peanut in the shortbread could be a good alternative to try too!
100g/3½oz mixed nuts (I used ½ & ½ hazelnuts and almonds)
125g/4oz plain dark chocolate
To make the caramel topping, put the unopened tin in a heavy-based saucepan and completely cover with water. Cover the saucepan with its lid and boil for about 1½ hours, topping up the water level if needed.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350F/Gas mark 4, 10 minutes before baking.
Sift in the cornflour and plain flour and mix to form a smooth dough
Using the back of a dessert spoon, press the mixture evenly into the lined cake tin and prick all over with a fork
Bake for 20 minutes or until just turning golden brown
Put the nuts on to a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 10-15 minutes
Remove the shortbread from the oven and set aside on a wire rack
Remove the nuts from the oven and wrap them in a clean tea towel. Rub the nuts together to remove most of the skins (especially if you're using hazelnuts or 'red skinned' peanuts)
Reserve 9 of the nuts, roughly chop the remainder and sprinkle them evenly across the shortbread
Open the tin of boiled condensed milk (if the contents are quite rigid you can soften it by warming slightly in a saucepan on the stove or decant into a microwaveable container and heat for 20-30 seconds). Pour the caramel over the nuts and spread evenly. Refrigerate while you prepare the chocolate
Break up the chocolate into pieces and put them into a heat-proof bowl
Using a saucepan small enough not to allow the bowl to touch the bottom, fill the bowl with just enough water so that it doesn't come into contact with the base of the bowl
Simmer the saucepan of water until the chocolate has just melted
Pour the chocolate evenly over the top of the caramel
Place the whole nuts on top of the chocolate, one for each portion
Allow to set before slicing into squares & serving
You can parboil the tinned condensed milk in advance and the caramel can be stored for months & months before use. I always have a few cans of 'cooked' condensed milk stored in our larder.
We’ve been hooked on the Great British Bake Off since the very start. That’s where we were first introduced to the author of the syrup sponge recipe we’re featuring today.
Ruth Clemens of The Pink Whisk was the runner up in that inaugural series. Since then, she’s become a successful food blogger, has had a number of cookbooks published and is a regular contributor to magazines; I tore out and kept this recipe from a recent copy of Stylist. The recipe is quick & simple to make and, if you’re a fan of very sweet gooey puddings like me, tastes great!
The sponge went down a storm with Justin, he enjoyed his with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – I paired mine with a dollop of crème fraîche. Custard would be another delicious option!
The first & last time I made fudge I was about 12 years old. The only way I could get it to set was to stick it in the freezer for a few hours. It wasn’t exactly inedible, but it was bad enough to put me off attempting it again until now.
Just like our taste in ice cream, Justin & I differ in our taste in fudge. He likes it plain, I like mine stuffed full of fruit, nuts, chocolate and alcohol! To please us both, I made a normal portion of basic mix, divided it into two and made one half into rum & raisin fudge.
I used the basic recipe I found on the Carnation website. I’m already thinking of folding some of this fudge into some of my home-made vanilla ice cream – what do you think?
We don’t do the Valentine’s night restaurant ‘thing’ – long rows of tables for two, knocking elbows with the couples either side. So we usually stay in with something good to eat and a bottle of red.
This Valentine’s, Justin made gnocchi Gorgonzola and I made chocolate mousse for dessert (I even served them in heart-shaped ramekins). We rented a film, bought a bottle of nice Shiraz and settled in for the night… perfect!
I’ve been making this version of baked vanilla cheesecake since way back in 2004! It’s a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I tore out of a weekend newspaper magazine supplement. Luckily the page has been protected inside a plastic punched pocket (that’s the proper word for one of those things apparently!) otherwise it would have disintegrated by now from all the use it’s seen.
It’s a dessert that I go back to again & again. It’s really easy to make and is simply delicious – especially after it’s had a few hours to cool down. The consistency is light and melt-in-the-mouth; so much better than those recipes that use gelatine – which I don’t eat as I’m vegetarian.
It’s great served with a ginger or summer fruit compote. We had some with a lovely blueberry compote made from frozen blueberries (much cheaper than the fresh ones and you can get them year-round). Of all the Cakes & Bakes I’ve made over the years, this has long been Justin’s favourite!
Gordon Ramsay's vanilla cheesecake
For the biscuit base
100g unsalted butter, plus a little to greases the tin
200g digestive biscuits (I sometimes use ginger nuts with about half the above quantity of butter)
50g caster sugar (Again, I use half this amount if using ginger nuts)
For the filling
500g cream cheese (I've used both Philadelphia and mascarpone successfully) at room temperature
Melt the butter gently in a small pan on a low heat. Roughly break up the biscuits and and place them in a food processor. Process the biscuits for 2-3 minutes until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the sugar, then pour in the melted butter and process for 30 seconds to combine
Put the biscuit mixture into the base of the tin, using the back of a tablespoon to smooth the surface evenly. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes
Rinse out the processor bowl. Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl and process for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cornflour, sour cream and vanilla essence and process for 30 seconds to combine
Pour the filling into the tin and bake in a low oven at 150°C for 1 hour. When cooked, the cheesecake should be well-risen, with a golden brown top. It should feel slightly firm to the touch - if the mixture still appears wet, continue to bake a little longer. When cooked, turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven, with the door ajar. When completely cool, place in the fridge. Serve with summer berries and pouring cream