Chocolate Bundt Cake

A very good chocolate cake is an elusive thing. In fact, even a half-decent chocolate cake is deceptively difficult. I find that the main issues with chocolate cake are that it is either too dry, or that is lacks a depth of flavour – and herein lies the conundrum. The more cocoa powder you add to a chocolate cake, the drier it gets, as the cocoa menacingly absorbs any liquid in the batter. This can be remedied by using varying forms and proportions of both fats and liquid in the cake – some recipes use oil rather than butter, some use hot water, some use yoghurt or sour cream – but even this can be temperamental.

This recipe is so exceptionally good because it manages to not only yield a moist chocolate cake but also one that is in bundt form (bundt cakes, incidentally, are also often rather dry due to their depth). I can’t take any credit for it – it’s written by the fantastic team at delicious. magazine – but I can say that it worked extremely well made gluten free, using (as always) Doves Farm gluten free flour and xantham gum.

Strangely enough, this cake is much better the day after it is made – it becomes denser and damper – but I don’t insist that you wait that long to try it!

Tempting for both humans and furry friends…
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 300g plain flour (I used Doves Farm GF plain flour + 1 tsp xantham gum)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 160ml soured cream
  • 55g cocoa powder
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 150ml double cream
  • 70g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan150°C/gas 31/2. Make a quick lining paste by combining equal parts of soft butter, vegetable oil and flour until you get a smooth paste. Use this to generously grease the inside of a 2.4 litre bundt tin (I used a Nordic Ware one) using a pastry brush to get right into the corners of the tin. Don’t rush this stage – you need to take care and be really thorough, otherwise the cake won’t turn out of the tin.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Once melted, take off the heat and sift in the cocoa powder. Add the vanilla extract, soured cream and 80ml boiling water, then stir to a smooth, thick paste.
  4. In another large bowl, using an electric whisk, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition, then stir in the chocolate paste until well combined – but don’t over-mix. Fold in the flour mixture, using a metal spoon.
  5. Dollop the mixture into the greased bundt tin and smooth the top. Bake for 45 min or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake cool and firm up in the tin for 15 minutes, then carefully turn the cake out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  6. To make the ganache topping, heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just comes to a simmer, then remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Leave for one minute so the hot cream has a chance to start melting the chocolate, then stir until the chocolate has fully melted and the mixture is smooth. You can pour this all over the cooled bundt, or drizzle it within the ridges, and leave to set.

Lemon Bars

I have long been fascinated by lemon bars, and they’ve been on my ‘must bake’ bucket list for some time now. They are a quintessentially American treat, and something that I have heard lots about – mostly from American literature and TV shows – but they’re rarely seen or tasted in the UK.

Researching what looked like a reliable recipe for these was something of a challenge; it seems the variations on lemon bars are endless (some have a thin pastry, whilst others boast a thick shortbread base; some feature a no-bake, chilled curd, some a baked lemon custard), and every American cooking icon has their own beloved version, from Pioneer Woman to Ina Garten to the team at Bon Appétit.

For those of you who have never tried a lemon bar, the best way to describe them is probably as a slightly more robust tarte au citron, in traybake form. The base here is thin and melt in the mouth, with a sharp-sweet lemon curd-like topping. In short: they’re extremely delicious.

The recipe is largely based on one by the great Alice Medrich, but I’ve tweaked it ever so slightly to make it gluten-free and UK-measurement friendly. A copious dusting of icing sugar to finish is, of course, non-negotiable.

Ingredients

For the crust:

100g unsalted butter, melted

30g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

125g flour (I used Doves Farm gluten free plain flour + 1/2 tsp xantham gum)

For the topping:

250g caster sugar

25g plain flour

3 large, free-range eggs

Grated zest of 3 lemons, preferably unwaxed

Juice of 2 large lemons

Icing sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 8 x 8 inch square metal baking tray and then line it with baking paper so that it overhangs (this will make it easier it lift the bars out of the tray).
  2. To make the crust, combine the sugar, vanilla, salt and melted butter in a medium bowl. Add the flour (and xantham gum, if using) and mix until incorporated, and you have a nice, soft dough. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the tin, then bake for about 25 minutes until the crust is well browned at the edges and golden brown in the centre. When the crust is done, remove it from the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 150°C.
  3. Whilst the crust is baking, make the topping. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour to combine. Next, whisk in the eggs until blended, followed by the lemon zest and juice.
  4. When the base is cooked, remove it from the oven and carefully pour the lemon mixture onto the warm crust, then return the tin to the 150°C oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, until the topping is puffed at the edge and no longer jiggles in the centre. Transfer the tin to a cooling rack and let it cool completely. Once cooled, I like to transfer the tin to the fridge for an hour or so for the filling to firm up completely.
  5. Once completely cool, lift the baking paper liner out of the tin and transfer the bars to a cutting board. If the surface is covered with a thin layer of moist foam (not unusual), you can blot it gently with a paper towel (although if you’re covering the bars with icing sugar, this isn’t really necessary). Using a sharp knife, cut into bars and then dust liberally with icing sugar just before serving.
  6. The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.

Lemon and poppyseed loaf

I am yet to meet anybody who doesn’t enjoy lemon loaf (and I’m not sure I’d like them very much if I did). There is just something so irresistibly reassuring about this cake – it is simple, yes, but could never be called boring. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have more with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon.

This particular loaf comes from Ottolenghi’s Sweet, and it’s the sense of safety and reliability from this recipe that provoked Ottolenghi and Helen Goh to affectionately name it their ‘National Trust’ cake. It works very well gluten free, using Doves Farm plain GF flour along with 1/2tsp xantham gum. I find that this loaf disappears incredibly quickly, and so it might be worth doubling the recipe here to stash one loaf in the freezer, un-iced, for a moment of need.

Makes 1 2lb/900g loaf

Ingredients

3 large eggs

225g caster sugar

120 ml double cream

75g unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing

10g poppy seeds

finely grated zest of 3 lemons (preferably unwaxed)

170g plain flour

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

For the glaze

100g icing sugar, sifted

2 tbsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Grease the loaf tin and line with baking parchment, then set aside.
  2. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on a medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until pale and frothy. Add the cream and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes, until the mixture has combined, thickened a little and turned pale.
  3. In the meantime, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, add the poppy seeds and lemon zest and set aside.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt (plus the xantham gum, if you’re making it gluten free) together into a bowl, then use a rubber spatula to fold this into the egg mixture before folding through the butter, poppy seeds and zest.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. Place the tin on a baking tray and cook for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Whilst the cake is baking, make the glaze by whisking the icing sugar with the lemon juice in a bowl. Pour this over the top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, spreading it over the top so that it sinks in and creates a nice glaze. Set aside to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the tin. Leave to come to room temperature before serving. The cake will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.

Bomboloni

I can’t quite shake the way in which the name of these wonderful little Italian doughnuts reminds me of the Gipsy King’s Bomboleo. Linguistics aside, the joyfulness of the anthem is certainly reflected in the delight that these tasty morsel impart on the lucky eater.

As a coeliac, the food that I have missed the most since my diagnosis back in 2002 is doughnuts. Gluten free doughnuts are almost impossible to buy – and I mean proper fried doughnuts, not the baked, ‘healthier’ ring-shaped cakes that lurk around health food shops, deceitfully masquerading themselves as the real thing.

Admittedly, these ricotta and orange bomboloni aren’t strictly doughnuts, seeing as they’re yeastless and therefore very low-maintenance. They’re perhaps best described as a cross between a beignet, churro, and loukoumade. I have made my own gluten free yeasted doughnuts in the past, and they were good, but labour intensive and temperamental. These bomboloni are the closest thing I’ve had to a damn good doughnut in 18 years , and they seem too good to be true – ludicrously easy and yet ludicrously delicious. In fact, they almost feel like cheating; they entail minimum effort but yield maximum satisfaction. There’s no yeast, no proving, no special equipment – the batter is literally the work of 5 minutes plus half an hour of resting time (for both you and the batter). 

I can take no credit whatsoever here for the recipe – it’s one by Ravneet Gill for the Guardian over the summer. I can, however, confirm that they adapt very well to be coeliac-friendly; simply substitute the flour for gluten free plain flour (I use the Doves Farm one). We demolished these very quickly just as they were, but I think they would also be very nice indeed served with a hot, bitter chocolate sauce.

Makes about 12-14 bomboloni

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 40g of caster sugar, plus extra, for coating
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 220g ricotta
  • 110g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Vegetable or sunflower oil, for frying
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Lightly whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the sugar and orange zest, and whisk again to combine. Add the strained ricotta and stir gently to combine – don’t overwork it because you want to keep some of the lumps intact.
  2. In a second bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, then add to the ricotta mixture and whisk to combine.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (or for up to two hours in the fridge).
  4. Put a medium-sized saucepan on the hob, add enough oil to come halfway up the sides and put on a medium heat. You’re ready to cook once the oil is hot enough to make a droplet of batter sizzle gently and float to the surface.
  5. Cooking the bomboloni in batches, drop small tablespoons of batter into the oil and fry for two to two and a half minutes in total, until golden – the bomboloni should naturally flip by themselves after about a minute.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to lift the cooked bomboloni from the pan and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining batter. Once all the batter is used up, toss the bomboloni in the extra sugar mixed with cinnamon, and serve. These are best eaten fresh, but they keep for a few hours at room temperature (once cooled, it’s best to store them in an airtight container).

Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

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There is many a purist who would firmly contend tampering with a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe in any way. A typical cookie is formed from varying quantities of butter, sugar, flour and egg, with some form of raising agent, and, of course, chocolate. However, contrary to traditionalists, the humble chocolate chip cookie is the most perfect vehicle to experiment with, using different kinds of sugar or chocolate, distinctly flavoured flours such as rye, or adding things like nuts and dried fruit.

In any ‘classic’ chocolate chip cookie I make, I always add vanilla bean paste, espresso powder and salt, all of which enhance the flavour of the chocolate. The same can be said for the ingenious addition of tahini to David Lebovitz’s recipe for these chocolate chip cookies. The tahini creates another layer of flavour, lending a very subtle bitter, savoury note to the dough. I think chopped dark chocolate works better than commercial chocolate chips here, as the larger piece melt into little chocolate puddles within each cookie. I’ve altered the baking temperature of Lebovitz’s recipe, as I found a shorter bake in a hotter oven made for a better texture. If you can bear the wait, refrigerating the dough overnight really does yield a far superior cookie.

Makes around 25 cookies

115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml tahini, well stirred
100g granulated sugar
90g light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
tsp sea salt
280g chopped dark chocolate 
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

 

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, tahini, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy. 
  2. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Add the egg, the yolk, and vanilla, and continue to mix for another minute, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl during mixing, to make sure the eggs are getting incorporated.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and sea salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just combined, then add the chocolate chips. Do not overmix. Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 190ºC. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or silicone baking mats.
  5. Form the cookies into balls using a small ice cream scoop, a tablespoon measure, or your hands.  Sprinkle each cookie ball with a little extra sea salt, if you like. Place them evenly spaced on the baking sheets, around 8cm apart. Bake one sheet at a time, so you can keep an eye on them, in the middle rack of the oven.
  6. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges but still pale in the centre. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. Bake the remaining cookies the same way.

Storage: These cookies will keep for two or three days at room temperature. The unbaked dough can be refrigerated for up to one week, and frozen for up to two months.

Hazelnut meringue with roasted apricots and lavender

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I have historically had a very difficult relationship with making meringue. I am always painstakingly careful, diligently carrying out all of the ‘tricks of the trade’ that I’ve read up on: I whisk the meringue with spotlessly clean apparatus, ensuring there’s no fat; I use a metal bowl; I only use room temperature egg whites. And yet, more often than I like to admit, something goes wrong. My kitchen has seen all too many runny meringue mixtures or collapsed pavlovas, and a few tears of frustration along the way. This recipe, however, is fairly foolproof in that it doesn’t really matter what the meringue looks like. Mine collapsed a fair bit when it came out of the oven, and there were a few patches of meringue which had caught. None of this was a problem, of course, since it was destined to be slathered in cream and piled with fruit, and, being a flat ‘sheet’ meringue, it wasn’t as exposed as a normal pavlova.

This recipe is based on one written for Waitrose magazine by the lovely Georgina Hayden. The finished meringue has a perfect layering of flavour profiles: the combination of sweet, nutty, marshmallowy meringue, with the pillowy, tangy yoghurt-cream, finished with semi-sharp and floral apricots. Apricots are at their best at this time of year, and invariably taste better when cooked; if you can, roast them in a really floral honey (such as heather or orange blossom honey) to bring out the delicate flavour of the apricots. I’m not the biggest fan of using flowers in cooking, but lavender has a bewitching affinity with apricots – just be sparing with it so that your meringue doesn’t taste like soap!

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Serves 10-12

Ingredients

500g apricots, halved

3 tbsp floral honey

50ml white wine or rosé

250g caster sugar

5 large egg whites

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp white wine vinegar

100g pack roasted, chopped hazelnuts

300ml double cream, softly whipped

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

200g Greek yoghurt

Fresh lavender flowers (optional)

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Put the apricots in an oven-proof dish and drizzle with the honey and wine. Roast in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until soft but not falling apart. Set aside to cool and lower the oven temperature to 180°C.
  2. For the meringue, line a large, rimmed baking tray (about 25cm x 30cm) with baking parchment. Put the egg whites in a large bowl with a pinch of salt and whisk until stiff peaks form, then gradually whisk in 250g sugar, one teaspoon at a time. In a small bowl, stir together the cornflour and vinegar, then whisk into the egg whites. Finally, fold in the hazelnuts. Spread the mixture out on the prepared tray.
  3. Bake the meringue for about 45 minutes, or until set and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
  4. Stir together the whipped cream, yoghurt and vanilla bean paste, then spoon it over the meringue. Top with the roasted apricots and any roasting juices, and sprinkle over a few lavender flowers to finish. Serve immediately.

 

Lemon, almond and polenta cake

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There’s certainly a time and a place for multi-tiered, elaborate cakes. Over lockdown, I’ve particularly enjoyed devising increasingly complex and embellished celebration cakes for a number of quarantine birthdays and graduations, relishing the challenge of combining the perfect crumb structure with the right flavour profile, icing (cream cheese frosting, Italian meringue buttercream, or ganache?) and decorative finishing touches. However, I also find that there is equal – or even greater – joy to be found in simple, plain cakes; the kind you can cut and come again whenever the kettle is boiling. Over the last few years, social media platforms have been awash with ‘satisfying’ videos documenting cakes being cut, moulded, iced and decorated beyond recognition – think rainbow cakes, drip cakes, or cakes that have a hidden confectionary centre. While all of this is well and good, the phrase ‘style over substance’ comes to mind; these creations seem to consist primarily of saccharine icing and not much else. Yes, they look beautiful, but do they actually taste nice?

In my own kitchen, the most simple cakes are the most requested: Victoria sandwich, lemon loaf, maybe the odd carrot cake. It’s true that the simpler the cake, the less room there is to hide, but with the right recipe there’s little that can go wrong. This iconic River Café lemon, almond and polenta cake is the type of cake which is as at home alongside a cup of strong coffee as it is as an elegant dinner party pudding with a dollop of crème fraîche. It’s not iced, glazed, or soaked in syrup, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. The tender, damp cake is heady with lemon, and the polenta gives it a wonderful bite. It’s a one-bowl, one-tin kind of cake, and it’s flourless, too, so it’s naturally gluten free. For me, it’s the perfect cake for summer – moist, zesty, and somehow light despite the outrageously high butter content.

The original recipe (taken from the first River Cafe cookbook) makes a 30cm (12 in) cake, which is uncommonly large, so I’ve converted the quantities to make a standard 23cm cake (hence the slightly random measurements).

Torta di Polenta, Mandorle e Limone

338g unsalted butter, softened

338g caster sugar

228g ground almonds

1 tsp good vanilla essence

4 very large eggs

zest of 3 large, unwaxed lemons

juice of 1 lemon

169g polenta

1 heaped tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Butter and flour a 23cm springform cake tin.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and light. Stir in the ground almonds and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the lemon zest and lemon juice, the polenta, baking powder and salt.
  3. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes or until set. The cake will be a deep brown on top.
  4. Leave to cool in the tin before releasing.

Cherry Ripple Ice Cream

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Admittedly, homemade ice cream is a bit of a labour of love, but it is almost always worth the effort. I have long been a disciple of ‘cheat’s’ two-ingredient ice cream – a no-churn option typically made with cream and condensed milk. However, having had much more time on my hands over lockdown, I’ve been making custard-based ice creams from scratch, enjoying the process and the technique. Now that I’ve found a trusty recipe for a custard base, I’ve been able to use it to make all sorts of ice creams depending what fruit is in season (or what’s delivered in our OddBox). My general rule is to lightly cook 400-500g of fruit of your choice in a pan with a tablespoon each of water and sugar (until the fruit is soft and releasing its juices), and then pour off any excess liquid before puréeing in a food processor or with a stick blender. This can then be incorporated into the chilled custard prior to churning in an ice cream machine.

Cherries have always been my favourite fruit, but I rarely buy them due to their  typically ruinous cost. However, our local farmers’ market has been selling 2kg punnets of the best cherries I’ve ever tasted for a very reasonable price, so we’ve been gorging ourselves whilst the season still lasts. Having made one clafoutis too many, I turned to this ice cream, which is as pretty as it is delicious. If you can’t get hold of any affordable cherries, any berry would work really well here.

If you’re really pressed for time (or don’t have an ice cream churner), you could always make the cherry purée mix and then ripple it through a basic ice cream base of 300ml of double cream that has been beaten with a 397g tin of condensed milk until thick and pillow-y (I like to add a glug of neutral alcohol, too).

Ingredients

For the ice cream:

4 free-range egg yolks

100g caster sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

400ml double cream

100ml whole or semi-skimmed milk

 

For the cherry ripple:

400g cherries, pitted

1 tbsp caster sugar

1tbsp water

Method

  1. Put the egg yolks, caster sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk until pale, thick and aerated – around five minutes. In a medium pan, heat the milk and cream to just below boiling point, then slowly pour onto the eggs, whisking all the time, until completely mixed.
  2. Wash out and dry the pan and then pour the custard back in. Over a medium-low heat, cook the custard gently, stirring all the time until it thickens and can coat the back of a spoon. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
  3. For the cherry puree, put the stoned cherries into a small pan with the sugar and water. Heat the cherries over a medium heat until they begin to break down and release their juices – around ten minutes. Remove from the heat and pour away the liquid. Purée the softened cherries in a small food processor or with a hand stick blender until smooth, and then pass the purée through a fine sieve to remove any pith or fibre. Chill until needed.
  4. Churn the custard in an ice cream machine according to manufacturers’ instructions. Once thickened and frozen, transfer to a container or tupperware, and then ripple the cherry sauce through the ice cream attractively. Freeze.
  5. Remove the ice cream from the freezer at least 15 minutes before you want to tuck in to allow it to soften.

Madeleines

 

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“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

 

It’s not easy to write about madeleines without referring to their ultimate fan, Marcel Proust. Proust’s infamous musings on madeleines in his novel In Search of Lost Time covertly seek to contrast voluntary memory with involuntary memory through the experiences of his nameless narrator. Much like Proust’s narrator, I too find madeleines extremely evocative, and have memories of eating them in France as a very young child (in the blissful years prior to my coeliac diagnosis). However, madeleines are so much more than a Proustian literary cliché. Put simply, they’re a lighter-than-light sponge cake from France comprised of sugar, butter, flour and eggs, most often baked in distinctive shell-shaped moulds. However, method and flavourings can vary hugely, with purists favouring a modest dash of vanilla to the batter, whilst revolutionaries have (sacrilegiously) fashioned such creations as ‘funfetti’ madeleines. For me, when it comes to madeleines, the simpler the better. However, keeping it simple unequivocally demands the best quality ingredients; there’s nowhere to hide with madeleines made with cheap butter and battery-farm eggs.

Under the guidance of the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi and Phil Vickery, I have always made madeleines with honey as well as sugar, which I find lends a more complex and often floral sweetness to the cake. My most recent madeleines, however, used browned butter along with the honey, yielding what I believe to be my most delicious batch yet (thank you, Ravneet Gill). Whilst browning the butter takes a little more time, the deep, sweet nuttiness of the finished cakes is well worth the effort; affording simple ingredients like butter such love and affection transforms a simple confectionary into a more ambrosial pleasure.

It is widely recognised that madeleines are at their absolute best when served straight from the oven (like they do at St. JOHN). The beauty of Gill’s batter, then, is that is keeps beautifully in the fridge for several days, meaning that we could enjoy freshly baked madeleines periodically over three days. Although Gills’ recipe claims to make 12 madeleines, I suspect this is a misprint as I actually came out with 40 (which was just as well in the end). These really are one of my absolute favourites, and if I were to ever have my own restaurant, these would be the first thing on the menu.

 

Ravneet Gill’s Brown butter and honey madeleines:

Ingredients:

185g unsalted butter

40g medium-dark runny honey

4 large eggs

150g caster sugar

20g demerara sugar

1tsp vanilla bean paste

185g plain flour (I used Doves Farm gluten free plain flour)

pinch of salt

10g baking powder

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and keep heating until it is browned and smells nutty. Stir in the honey and set aside.
  2. Put the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer or in a mixing bowl. Beat together at a medium speed for 2 minutes using the whisk attachment or a hand-held whisk. Add both sugars and the vanilla and beat at a medium-high speed for around 5 minutes until thick and frothy.
  3. Meanwhile, sift the flour, salt and baking powder together into a separate bowl and set aside.
  4. Beat the honey butter into the egg mixture at a slow speed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl if using a stand mixer.
  5. Fold the flour mixture in three separate batches. I like to use a whisk to fold in the same way you would use a spatula to fold as this minimizes lumps. Transfer the batter to a container, cover with a lid and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours (and maximum of 3 days).
  6. Preheat the oven to 180° fan/200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
  7. Heavily grease madeleine tray with butter and dust with flour. Place 1 tbsp of batter into each indent and bake for 8-12 minutes until there is a bump in the middle of each cake that springs back once pressed. Tap the tray on the table to release the cakes. These are best eaten freshly baked and warm.

Comforting Chickpea Stew

There is huge comfort and reassurance in the possession of a few cans in the cupboard, especially so in times like these. Many have been the time that I have wearily returned home, unhopeful of any good supper, and found relief in a can or two hiding at the back of the cupboard. Tinned tomatoes and pulses are the most common rescue, though coconut milk comes a close second. This stew is one such recipe that requires very little fresh ingredients – or rather, as little as you like, as many of the ingredients can be omitted depending how destitute your fridge is. It is a variation of Alison Roman’s infamous ‘The Stew’, which caused a stir all the way through New York when the recipe was first published in the New York Times. It’s very hard to know what exactly makes a recipe go ‘viral’, but there are certainly no bells and whistles here; I think the secret to this particular recipe lies in its simplicity, wholesomeness, and the comfort it brings in what Nigella has called ‘the solace of stirring’. I often make this is in a big batch and then freeze leftovers in portions, and it never fails to soothe the soul. It’s substantial enough to be eaten on it’s own, but I like it with brown rice and a dollop of yoghurt, though I’ve often served it with naan or roti to mop up the golden juices. This takes 30 minutes from start to finish, but if you’re short on time (or energy) you can always forgo the crispy chickpeas (although they do add a lovely crunch!).

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Ingredients

For the crispy chickpeas:

1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed

oil

2tsp paprika

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1tsp fennel seeds

 

For the stew:

Oil, for frying

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped

a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tin of full-fat coconut milk

1 stock cube or stock pot (vegetable or chicken)

large bag of baby spinach

Handful of fresh chopped mint (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Tip one can of chickpeas into a medium roasting dish, drizzle with a glug of oil, spices and salt and pepper, then shake the dish to coat the chickpeas. Place the tray in the hot oven and cook for about 30 minutes until dark golden and crispy, and slightly shrunk in size. You will need to keep checking them every ten minutes or so and shaking the tray so that they cook evenly and don’t catch.

In a large pan, heat a good glug of oil, then add the chopped onion and garlic. Fry over a medium-low heat until the onions are soft and translucent, then add the ginger and spices and cook, stirring, until the pan smells fragrant. Add two cans of chickpeas and use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to partly crush the chickpeas so that they’re semi-broken down – this helps to thicken the stew. Once the chickpeas have been smooshed a bit, add the coconut milk, 250ml of boiling water, and the stock pot. Bring to a bubble and cook for about ten minutes, until the chickpeas are nice and soft and the stew has reduced very slightly. Stir through the fresh spinach to wilt, and then check the seasoning. Serve with rice or flatbreads, with mint and crunchy chickpeas sprinkled over.