Wednesday 23 September 2015

Macarons à la pistache

Macarons are notoriously difficult to make. Having never attempted the feat before, I thought there was no better time to try then when bringing a dessert to a friend's do... I made a back-up pud.

They were not terrible. Bashed up pistachios and icing sugar form the basis of both the macaron biscuits and the inner cream. I used Nigella's recipe if anyone's feeling brave. I never used to be a nuts girl, but these (alongside walnuts in carrot cake and pine nuts on salad) might just have changed my mind. There were none left by the end of the party.

I'd love to know how proper pistachio macarons have their soft green colour? There's probably a Farrow & Ball hue named after them they're so pretty. I'm hoping to try these out again so if anyone's hosting a French-themed party soon, invite me along.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Walk like an Egyptian

Om Ali is an Egyptian dessert brought to me by Nige (lla Lawson) in her book 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. Legend says that Om Ali was sultan Ezz El Din Aybek's first wife. When the sultan died, his second wife argued with Om Ali, resulting in the second wife's death. Om Ali made this pudding to celebrate and shared it out with the people of the land. 

Is this true? Doesn't really matter. The end result is this dishy dessert, a cross between baklava and bread pudding. Start by brushing filo pastry sheets and lying them on baking sheets like "wet rags". Once they're cooked, break them up into a layer at the bottom of a dish, then add a layer of dried fruit and nuts (apricots, sultanas, flaked almonds pine nuts, pistachios) and then another layer of pastry. Keep layering until you reach the top. Then boil up a lotta lotta milk, double cream and caster sugar. Pour it over, sprinkle on some nutmeg and pop the whole thing in the oven until crisp and golden.

The plan is to bring a little warmth to this year's village 'summer' BBQ which has somehow slipped back in the calendar to late September. The sun is indeed shining, but my toes are cold, so I'm fairly sure autumn is creeping in.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Twist it up

Bread is always a wonderful gift for a dinner party host or hostess. Even the pretty crude rosemary rolls I brought to my sister's for dinner were well received when used to mop up her delicious lasagna. This twisted loaf is filled with green pesto, but you could use red pesto or tomato sauce and cheese for a pizza version. We served up the bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and everyone tore in. 

Once I'd kneaded my second batch of dough (the first was a flop, made with out-of-date yeast),
I rolled it out, spread pesto all over (fresh, as ever, is best, but the jar stuff does the job), and rolled it up lengthways. I sliced it down lengthways and then, on a baking tray, twisted the two halves together. This makes a right royal mess but looks beautiful once it's done. Try it to take to a dinner party this weekend!

Saturday 1 August 2015

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel

Today I have cooked. And cooked. And cooked. 

Not for the faint-hearted, this chocolatey goodness is closer to a mousse than a cake, in that it involves six eggs, with whites beaten into cloudy foam. It's a bit unusual with a touch of cardamom and cinnamon to spice up the sweetness. It's topped with salted caramel - which seems to divide my family and friends into fans and foes. I'm a former, and the extra jug of caramel sauce went down all-too-quickly. We served this up with crème fraîche (which, to be honest, no one chose), ice cream, cream and caramel sauce. It's a beast. Enjoy it.

Monday 27 July 2015

Verdant Veg

The clouds may be looming, but summer still calls. Tonight's supper was a lemony, parmesany ricotta tart with a lotta green veg thrown on top. I've become a bit of a ricotta convert recently. Healthy, but indulgent, this tart ticks all the right boxes for a light summer supper or, made in mini form, for a zingy starter to set off your barbecue. 

The recipe is adapted from the Waitrose Kitchen magazine, a personal favourite (though admittedly very middle class) publication. For all you other aficionados, skip this and head to page 41 of the magazine.

The tart is made from half a sheet of puff pastry (baked alone for 15 mins), topped with ricotta (mixed with lemon zest, pepper, salt and parmesan) and veg (blanched peas, sugar snap peas and leeks, all mixed with oil and lemon juice), and garnished with pea shoots.

July's issue also offered some tips from Nigella, one of which particularly resonated as I know it affects many cooks among my family and friends...

"This is so much easier to say than to do, but try, when you're cooking for people, not to apologise nervously for what you've made, alerting them to some failure only you might be aware of, or indeed, might have invented. Besides, it only creates tension, and although I do believe food is important, atmosphere matters so much more."

So, next time you're offering up a plate of saggy yorkshires, claggy pasta or charcoaled rhubarb to the table, give the group a chance to enjoy it. My father, for one, enjoys most foods with a slightly burnt edge. Or perhaps he's been lying all my life; a small kindness in return for many a charred cookie and cupcake. 

Thursday 28 May 2015

Garlic and Galettes

After the sunshine comes the rain... Durham is showery. Amy and Josie went to pick the wild garlic which is all over the banks of the river and the forests - you can smell it in the air on a lap of the Bailey. They blended it with pine nuts, basil, lemon juice and oil to make the most beautiful wild garlic pesto to go with fresh pasta. Follow me on Instagram @lashart93 to see photos!

For dinner - can you tell we have more free time after exams? - we made a galette. It's one of the best ways to use up bits and bobs of veg and cheese from the fridge in a kind of elegant way. I make my pastry with 1 part butter to 2 parts flour, with a bit of water thrown in to bind it together. I roasted a load of veg (courgette, carrot, sweet potato, red onion and baby plum tomatoes), added some 'salad cheese' and whacked it on top of the pastry. When the edges are folded over, it goes in the oven to cook. All that was left was to ask our guest to bring us hummus and crisps; always a winner but we plan to make our own next time!

The idea for this comes from the winter vegetable and gorgonzola galette at Happy Yolks, but Donal Skehan has a recipe for a tomato, ricotta and thyme one and Apt. 2B has one for rhubarb and apple.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Mud Pies

Our kitchen has been a flurry of baking activity this afternoon. Not only did we get to work on these little beauties, but also a batch of flapjacks for Amy’s lucky brother and his family. So, with a little help from my friends, I present to you the mud pie brownie/biscuit combo, stuffed with chocolate chunks, peanut butter and chocolate spread.

Originally, the recipe was for Salted Caramel + Nutella Stuffed Double Chocolate Chip Cookies from the lovely Izy Hossack at Top with Cinnamon.  Izy’s one of those girls who, at 19, has achieved more than I hope to in my lifelong career, with a cookery book published at just 18 and a whole lot of press coverage besides. I’m cool with it. 

In case anyone’s desperate to wish me luck, my next exam is on Saturday. Then I’ll be heading down south and, since Mumma and Pappa Hart have abandoned me for a mini gap-yah in Australasia*, imposing myself on my siblings – I figure they probably miss me since I haven’t been home for a couple of weeks. I’m hoping for sunshine, baby shower planning (don’t panic, not for me) and maybe a cheeky first BBQ of the year...? A girl can dream.

*Also known as taking time to visit their two much-loved eldest children and their families.