Strawberry and almond crumble

YES, another Nigella recipe. This one is from Kitchen, and in the blurb at the beginning she says it’s great for out-of-season, virtually tasteless strawberries. She’s right, it is. However, I had a punnet of strawberries that I’d taken into work to munch on during the day, but then for two or three days straight I was barely in the office and so these strawberries were just sat, uneaten, getting progressively riper and mushier by the day. I realised I’d need to eat them up REALLY quick, but they’d got to that stage where they were just a bit too mushy to want to eat as is. So I decided to use them in this crumble as I already knew it was amazing from making it with some punnets of reduced out-of-season strawberries that I bought a good few months back, and their squidginess would be desirable in this context.

Once I’d sorted through them and got rid of the REALLY bad ones I still had plenty for making into the crumble, and I added a few of my own strawberries from the garden that I’d picked juuuust underripe before the slugs/birds got hold of them. The mix for this crumble is really quick and easy (especially if you keep a supply in the freezer, ready to use at a moment’s notice), and there is no faffing with stewing any fruit as there would be for apple or rhubarb. As these strawberries were nice British (and home-grown!), seasonal ones they didn’t need any sugar at all. When I poured the vanilla extract over the strawberries the scent that hit me was amazing, total heaven!

Strawberry and almond crumble

Serves 6

Filling

500g strawberries, hulled

50g caster sugar

25g ground almonds

4 tsp vanilla extract

Topping

110g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g cold butter, diced

100g flaked almonds

75g demerara sugar

 

Double cream, to serve

 

Preheat the oven to 200C. Hull the strawberries and put them into a pie dish. Sprinkle over the sugar (if you need it), vanilla and almonds and mix everything together.

Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub the butter in with your fingers until it becomes a kind of oatmeal texture. You can also do this in a processor/freestanding mixer but it really takes no time at all! (and much less washing up).  Stir in the flaked almonds and demerara sugar with a fork.

Cover the strawberries with the crumble mixture and spread it out fairly evenly. Stand the dish on a baking tray and bake for around 30 minutes, or until it’s turned golden and the strawberries are juicy and bubbling. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes, by which time it will be the perfect temperature to avoid burning your tongue. This HAS to be eaten with cream – it’s like summer in a bowl. Enjoy!

 

 

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Gooey Chocolate Puddings

These puddings from Nigella’s How to Eat are another permanent feature on my repertoire and I think I’ve cooked them for pretty much everyone now. They’re just so incredibly quick and easy and I generally have all the ingredients in the house. They’re the perfect thing when you just want an intense chocolatey dessert – the gooey chocolate sauce is amazing! Be warned though, once they come out of the oven they’re like lava, so it’s worth waiting a few minutes for them to cool slightly (unless your greed takes over and you’d rather risk a burnt tongue than wait a few minutes more).

The way to eat these is to scoop a little out of the centre and pour some cream into it, then keep dribbling small amounts of cream into the pudding as you eat. Yummm.

Gooey Chocolate Puddings

Serves 4

125g dark chocolate

125g butter

150g sugar

35g plain flour (00 if you have it)

3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 200C. Melt the butter and chocolate together however you like (I just melt them in a saucepan over a very low heat, but you could use the double boiler method or microwave).

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour until combined (I do this in a large jug as it makes it very easy to decant the mixture into the ramekins!).

Once the chocolate mixture is melted and cooled a little, add it to the eggs, sugar and flour and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins (you can grease and flour them if you like, I used to but now I don’t bother)

Sit the ramekins on a baking tray (this helps to cook them from underneath) and cook them for around 10-15 minutes depending how much goo you want and how fierce your oven is.

Serve with lots of double cream!

Nigella’s Chocolate Cloud Cake

Despite being called a cake, I think this is much more of a dessert. Yes, I made it for my husband this year as his birthday cake, but it’s definitely chic and rich enough to pass as a pudding for a dinner party. I first came across it watching Nigella Bites and instantly wanted to just throw my face into it because it looked SO GOOD. The cake is flourless, which makes it really light despite its richness. In fact, after I made it for my husband’s birthday we had leftovers which I put in the fridge, and if you eat the cake chilled it takes on a totally different texture; it’s much more dense and truffley. In my book, this can only be a good thing.

I decided to make one as a dessert for my aforementioned barbecue because it was easy to prepare ahead and would be plenty to go around. The only thing I change about the recipe is that I don’t use the Cointreau or orange. I’m really not a fan of Cointreau and I personally think all sweet things are ruined by the addition of alcohol (e.g. rum truffles, gag). So I omit the orange too because I’m intolerant to oranges. To be honest, I don’t think it suffers at all! Below is the recipe and method as it appears in the book. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cloud Cake

Serves 8-12

250g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids

125g unsalted butter, softened

6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated

175g caster sugar

2 tablespoons Cointreau (optional)

Grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

23cm springform cake tin

Cream topping:

500ml double cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Cointreau (optional)

1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder for sprinkling

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Line the bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment.

Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave, and then let the butter melt in the warm chocolate.

Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 75g of the caster sugar, then gently add the chocolate mixture, the Cointreau and orange zest.

In another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the 100g of sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff.

Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the centre is no longer wobbly. Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools.

When you are ready to eat, place the still tin-bound cake on a cake stand or plate for serving and carefully remove the cake from its tin. Don’t worry about cracks or rough edges: it’s the crater look we’re going for here. Whip the cream until it’s soft and then add the vanilla and Cointreau and continue whisking until the cream is firm but not stiff.

Fill the crater of the cake with the whipped cream, easing it out gently towards the edges of the cake, and dust the top lightly with cocoa powder pushed through a tea-strainer.

Quick pasta and hot cross bun ice cream sandwiches

I had all these good intentions of cooking a really nice dinner last night but then I sort of got sidetracked on the way home (buying plants for the garden, rock and roll) and ended up getting home late. Instead of the more elaborate dinner I had planned to cook, I ended up cooking my failsafe dinner (well, apart from fish fingers, waffles and beans): tomato linguine.

I’m not even going to write a recipe because it’s so basic. It was just linguine with tomato sauce, and a handful of rocket on top drizzled with olive oil and balsamic glaze, and topped with parmesan shavings. It’s still tasty though, so I thought it warranted an appearance here. The mix of the balsamic with the tomato sauce in the pasta is really good, and the rocket is a nice texture against the pasta.

To make up for my low effort dinner, I felt like I wanted something for pudding. As I’d bought a pack of hot cross buns from the supermarket, and since they’re my first of the year (I can’t quite believe it), it had to be something involving those. Given my  recent obsession with making everything into a sandwich, I figured I’d do the same again, so I toasted the hot cross buns and put a scoop of cinnamon ice cream inside. This was INSPIRED, because it tasted amazing. Also we ate them like sandwiches which is one of those things that sort of feels wrong but at the same time SO RIGHT. If only the ice cream hadn’t run out because we’ve still got two hot cross buns left…