Dessert

Panettone ‘bread-and-butter’ pudding

panettonepudding

I’m not a huge fan of panettone but there is often one knocking around after Christmas and it does make a delicious cheat’s bread-and-butter pudding. This one came from the bottom box of a ‘Tower of Treats’ and was re-gifted to me in January. I was thrilled because I new exactly what to do with it.

Since there is fruit, mixed peel, butter and sugar already in the panettone you don’t need to add any extra – which is why I use the word ‘cheat’. If you have a particularly sweet tooth you can add some extra sugar to the custard if you like and I do add a light smear of extra butter to the top of each slice of panettone for a nice crispy crust.

It’s the perfect comfort food but very indulgent. Carbs, sugar, fat – it’s all in there. Sorry if you’re trying to be good. I’ll aim for a healthier recipe next time.

Panettone ‘bread-and-butter’ pudding

  • 1 panettone (mine was 500g and 20cm diametre), cut into slices about 2 cm thick
  • 30g of butter
  • 300ml of double cream
  • 600ml of milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar
  • Nutmeg
  • Optional – 50g of caster sugar

Lightly butter a ceramic baking dish approximately 20 cm x 30 cm (or one with a similar area).

Spread the rest of the butter thinly over the top surface of each slice of panettone and arrange in a single layer in the dish but with each slice overlapping the next (as above). If you want it to look prettier then you can cut the panettone slices into smaller pieces but I don’t bother.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream and, if you have a sweet tooth, the caster sugar.

Pour this over the top of the panettone slices, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour for the bread to soak up the custard mixture.

When you are ready to cook, remove the cling film and sprinkle over some demerara sugar and a good grating of nutmeg.

Place in an oven preheated to 180oC for 45 minutes – one hour (or until the custard is set – you can test this with a knife in the middle and if it comes out clean then it’s done – and the top is a deep golden brown). Mine took 55 minutes.

Let it stand for 10 minutes (if you can wait that long) before serving. Serve with pouring cream if you like but I think it is perfect just for itself.

panettonepudding2

It tastes so much better than it looks.

Chocolate Guinness fondants with cheesecake ice cream

chocolateguinnesscakes

The above photo does not do this pudding justice. I was a bit tipsy by the time I served/photographed it (as one often is after two previous courses and two bottles of wine!).

On the subject of food photography, I really enjoyed reading this article by the brilliant Ruby Tandoh about sharing pictures of food online. In it she argues that food that looks amazing doesn’t always taste so.

I particularly loved this paragraph and I will bear it in mind every time I beat myself up about my poor photographs for this blog. Whilst my photos maybe a bit crap they are at least honest and the food has tasted good (otherwise I would not offer you the recipe).

If you want to post your meal online, post away. Upload a picture of that sausage and mash. Don’t worry that the light is dim, that the gravy sloshes in a swampy pool across your plate. Sharing is a generous act, but perfectionism smothers that goodness. Upload the unfiltered, ugly pictures of your failed birthday cake, or your fish and chips in grease-soaked paper. Or, if you want to fuss over the exact positioning of four blueberries on top of a smoothie bowl for an hour before you tuck in, do that – but don’t forget to enjoy your food.


Getting back to the point, it was my 10th wedding anniversary on Friday and to celebrate I wanted to cook a special meal inspired by the food served at our wedding.

Our ‘big day’ was not at all fancy and our budget cake was a Chocolate Guinness one kindly made by my sister.

weddingcakes

I wanted to remember this in my anniversary menu but I don’t believe in serving cake as a dessert (unless it’s hot with custard). So I had the idea of making hot chocolate fondants flavoured with Guinness instead. And then to mirror the cream cheese icing on the cake serving the fondants with a cheesecake ice cream.

It worked really nicely so here are the recipes.

Chocolate Guinness fondants

Serves 4

  • 100g of good quality (70% cocoa) dark chocolate
  • 75g of butter
  • 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • 50g of muscavado sugar
  • 50g of plain flour
  • 100ml of Guinness

Butter four ramekins with butter and place in the freezer to chill.

Set your oven to 170oC.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a pan over a low heat or in the microwave. Allow the mixture to cool a little and then stir in the two egg yolks.

In another bowl, beat together the two whole eggs, sugar and Guinness until light and foamy.

Fold in the chocolate mixture and the flour with a metal spoon until well incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the chilled ramekins and bake for 9 minutes, or until the surface is set but there is a slight wobble in the middle.

Turn out onto plates and eat immediately with cheesecake ice cream (see recipe below).

NOTE: You can make these up in advance and keep covered in the fridge until you want to bake them. This is good if you’re making them for a dinner party. They also taste fine baked and then reheated in the microwave the next day.

Nigella Lawson’s cheesecake ice cream

  • 175ml full fat milk
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125g Philadelphia (or other full fat cream cheese)
  • ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 350ml of double cream

In a bowl beat together the sugar, Philadelphia, vanilla and egg.

Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot and then pour this over the cream cheese mixture.

Then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and place over a medium heat until the mixture thickens, whisking all the time. Try not to let the mixture boil or it will curdle.

Once the consistency of smooth custard, remove from the heat and whisk periodically until cooled to room temperature. Then place in the fridge to get really cold.

Finally add the double cream (lightly whipped) and lemon juice and pour into an ice cream maker. Churn until thick then put in the freezer to finish hardening.


Here’s a random photo of some baguettes I made this week. Aren’t they beautiful?

beautiful-baguettes

Not beautiful but very happy – Ben and I on our wedding day 10 years ago.

ben-and-zoes-wedding-029

Meringues

Meringues.jpg

Up until very recently meringues have been my culinary nemesis (along with brandy snaps but that’s another story).

I was going slightly crazy because I just couldn’t work out what  I was doing wrong. I tried lots of recipes and followed all the advice (buying fresh eggs, scrupulously cleaning the bowl and whisk, separating the eggs with great care).

But they would always collapse when I added the sugar, making a sticky, sickly-sweet, flat disc that was barley edible.

You may wonder why on earth I kept at it. Well I often make other things (custards, ice cream) that use only the egg yolk and meringues are the perfect way to use up the white. Also my grandma is a champion meringue maker and it just didn’t seem right that I couldn’t do it.

Anyway, still frustrated but determined, I watched this YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrjWrWeM5JI) and finally worked out what I was doing wrong. I had been using this whisk attachment that came with my hand blender:

balloonwhisk.jpg

But the in the video the presenter used the two regular beaters instead.

handwhisk.jpg

And when I did that they came out beautifully.

So I am now making meringues regularly and very happily (hence the need for the recipe to be recorded on this blog).

Meringues

(a combination of the recipe in the YouTube video above and Delia Smith’s Pavlova recipe from her Complete Cookery Course)

  • Egg whites
  • Caster sugar – 50g per egg white

Set your oven to 150oC (fan).

Carefully separate your eggs making sure to get no yolk at all in with the white. Save the yolks for another use.

In a very clean, glass bowl, beat the egg whites with your electric hand blender (using the two regular beaters) until you get stiff peaks (in other words the mixture would stay in the bowl if you tipped it upside down).

Measure out 50g of caster sugar for each egg white used. Add this to the egg white a dessert spoonful at a time, mixing after each addition for about 10 seconds with the electric whisk, before adding the next.

At this point I like to swirl a bit of gel food colouring into the mix for a nice effect (yellow is used in the photo above). Dot the food colouring into the mix with a cocktail stick and then swirl a couple of times with a metal spoon.

Take a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and dollop the meringue mix onto the sheet using a metal spoon. You can make the meringues any size you like, or shape into a large circle with an indent in the middle if you are making a Pavlova.

3 egg whites will make five large meringues (as above) or one Pavlova.

Put the meringues into the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 140oC.

Bake for one hour, then turn the oven off (do not open the door) and leave in the oven overnight until they are completely cool.

Store in an airtight container.

Banana fritters with coconut ice cream

bananafritters2

Cooked banana is like marmite, you either love it or hate it.

I absolutely love it (I take after my father here).

If I ever see banana fritters (AKA: Pazham Pori, Toffee banana, Glouy Tod) on a dessert menu then I just have to order them even if I’m already stuffed. We won’t talk about my gannet-like behaviour at the Golden Dragon in Shardlow where they offer banana fritters as part of their all-you-can eat Sunday buffet.

I recently I had the best banana fritters (Glouy Tod) I’ve ever eaten at ZAAP Thai in Nottingham and it made me want to try making them myself. I’ve had a go before with a simple flour and egg batter (not a great success) but the addition of coconut and sesame seeds here adds something extra special.

Now I need to forget that I’ve ever discovered this recipe or I’ll end up the size of a house.

Thai style banana fritters

Serves 2-4

  • 2 bananas cut on the diagonal into 1cm slices
  • Groundnut oil for shallow frying
  • Golden syrup to serve

For the batter

  • 3 -5 tablespoons of cornflour
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon of dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of sesame seeds (plus more for sprinkling)
  • A pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients for the batter together in a bowl until smooth. Start with 3 tablespoons of water. At first the consistency will be slightly weird because of the cornflour (both runny and thick at the same time), you need to add just enough additional water for the mix to be smooth without the cornflour resisting being stirred (hopefully this will make sense when you do it). The original recipe uses rice flour so you can use this if you prefer.

Tip in the banana and stir gently with your hands until each piece is well covered with the batter.

Fill a frying pan with enough groundnut oil to cover the whole bottom of the pan and heat to a medium-high heat. Put each piece of battered banana into the hot pan and fry on each side until golden brown (about 3 minutes each side). You may need to do this is two batches depending on the size of your pan.

You can also deep fry them if you like. In this case they only take around 2-3 minutes. Make sure your oil is really hot though.

Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen towel.

Eat immediately with golden syrup drizzled over the top and coconut or vanilla ice cream on the side.

NOTE: For the coconut ice cream follow this recipe for vanilla ice cream but substitute half the double cream for coconut cream, omit the vanilla essence and add 3 tablespoons of dried unsweetened coconut before churning. Served on its own with chocolate sauce this would be like a frozen Bounty.

Pumpkin pie

pumpkin pie with pumpkin 2
I’m a total Grinch when it comes to Halloween. I will carve a pumpkin (if pushed) but I was bought up to believe that ‘trick or treating’ is evil and the rest of the hype (a whole aisle of flammable costumes in Tesco for example) just makes me want to find a dark hole to climb into.

We do grow pumpkins because they are easy to grow at a time when not much else is happening on the allotment, but this year they were small and not great for carving. The upside was that they tasted amazing – the flesh was sweet and fresh, almost melon-like. My children happily gobbled it up raw.

With these delicious insides I decided to try making a pumpkin pie. I never liked it as a child but I thought I’d give it another go. So I googled for a recipe and this is an amalgamation of those that used ingredients I already had in my cupboard.

I stole the idea of a biscuit base from Good Food online (because I’m rubbish at pastry). Most recipes seemed to use evaporated milk but I only had condensed, so I found one that used that instead. The result was a pumpkin pie that was perfectly edible – rather like an egg custard tart with pizazz. Ben said it tasted Christmassy (that will be the cloves) so I might freeze some of the pumpkin puree and make this over Christmas.

Anyway, I know that I’ve missed the boat in posting this recipe now that Halloween (and Bonfire Night for that matter) have passed, but I wanted to record what I did ready for next year.

Pumpkin pie

At least 12 servings

For the crust

  • 200g digestive biscuits (approx. 13 biscuits), crushed (or you can use ginger biscuits)
  • 50g butter, melted

For the filling

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves (or you could use nutmeg if you dislike cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 425g pumpkin puree (see below if you don’t already have this to hand)
  • 397g can sweetened condensed milk

To make the pumpkin puree, first cut a medium pumpkin (or two small ones) into large wedges and remove the seeds with a spoon but don’t peel. Put the wedges into a large baking tray, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour at 180oC (the pumpkin flesh should be soft and you can test this with a skewer, if it goes through with no resistance then it’s done). Leave to cool and then scoop out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. This will probably make more than the quantity required for this recipe.

For the base, smash up the biscuits either with a rolling pin in a plastic bag (my preferred method), or in a food processor.

Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Tip into a 23cm, loose-bottomed tart tin. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the base and up the sides of the tin. Put in the fridge and chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 17oC.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together until smooth.

Remove the crust from the fridge and place on a baking tray in the middle of the oven. Pull out the shelf and carefully fill with the pumpkin mixture, pouring it right to the top. Try not to slosh the filling over the sides as you push the shelf back in.

Bake for 40 minutes until set.

Cool in the tin to room temperature then chill completely in the fridge.

Serve cold.

Pumpkins sinister

pumpkin pie slice

Peanut butter cookies

peanut butter cookies

If you think sugar and salt are evil then turn away now.

These cookies have both in abundance but they are absolutely delicious.

And I do apologise to anyone on a diet because there has been a bias towards sweet recipes on this blog in recent weeks. Believe it or not I do have some health food blogger followers, because I do occasionally post a recipe with kale in it.

Anyway, talking of sweet treats, hands up if you knew it was National Dessert Day on Wednesday. I didn’t until the University of Nottingham tweeted about it like it was something real that should be taken in all seriousness.

In a household where we nearly always have pudding, I struggle with the concept of ‘National Dessert Day’. Does it mean that you can only have dessert on that day, or does it mean you should have double the amount of dessert? Either way, for me, these national/international days of whatever some marketing bod fancies are a load of old tripe (but then this is coming from someone who doesn’t do Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day).

But let’s give a big cheer for pudding (or dessert if you must) because it makes life worth living. And if you’re NOT on a diet then do try these cookies. I challenge you to only eat one.

Peanut butter cookies

Based on a recipe from the NY Times website (I’ve changed the name from ‘Salty sweet peanut butter sandies’ because that’s a bit too American for me)

Makes about 24

  • 115g of butter, softened (add a large pinch of salt to the recipe if you’re using unsalted butter)
  • 75g of granulated sugar
  • 85g of light brown sugar
  • 205g of peanut butter, smooth or chunky
  • 1 egg
  • 125g of plain flour
  •  1 teaspoon of Maldon sea salt and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar for sprinkling

Heat your oven to 170oC and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy (in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, with an electric hand mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon).

Add the peanut butter and egg, and mix. Add the flour and salt and mix until well combined.

Put heaped teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets. The original recipe uses a cookie scoop but I’ve never heard of one of these. The cookies will not spread much when they bake so they can be placed quite close together, but leave room for air circulation so they can brown.

In a small bowl, mix one teaspoon of Maldon sea salt (or other flaky sea salt) and one of granulated sugar. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with this mixture.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown.

Carefully lift the cookies off the baking sheets with a palette knife and cool on wire racks.

Try not to eat too many in one go.

New York cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I’ve been using a Mary Berry recipe for baked vanilla cheesecake for years and I’ve always been perfectly happy with it. Last week though I decided on a whim to try Nigella’s New York version instead and my goodness it was so much better. The texture was smooth and creamy, it was not too sweet AND there were no cracks (probably due to the addition of cornflour).

In true Nigella style this is an expensive cheesecake to make (£11.46 based on my Tesco shop using branded items such as McVities and Philadelphia) but it’s huge and therefore ideal if you’re catering for a lot of people.

Nigella Lawson’s New York cheesecake
(from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’)

Serves 12 generously

For the base

  • 250g of digestive biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs with a rolling pin or in a food processor (89p)
  • 150g of butter, melted (53p)
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar (5p)

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons of cornflour (7p)
  • 225g of caster sugar (28p)
  • 750g of full fat soft cream cheese (£6.40)
  • 6 eggs, serparated (£1.25)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (47p)
  • 150ml of double cream (60p)
  • 150ml of sour cream (60p)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (2p)
  • The grated zest of 1 lemon (30p)

Butter the bottom and sides of a 24cm round, springform cake tin.

For the base, mix together the butter, sugar and biscuit crumbs and press firmly into the bottom of the tin. Chill for one hour.

For the filling, start by setting your oven to 170oC.

Mix together the sugar and cornflour. Beat in the cream cheese, egg yolks and vanilla extract by hand or with an electric mixer. Then slowly pour both the creams in, add the salt and lemon zest and beat some more.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold carefully into the cheese mixture using a metal spoon. Tip into the chilled base and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes (the recipe said for between one hour and one and a half hours so I went with the middle ground).

Turn off the heat (don’t open the door) and let the cake stand in the oven for two more hours.

Then open the door and let it stand for another hour.

Chill in the fridge and serve cold.

You can dust the top with icing sugar before serving if you like.

NOTE: This is lovely eaten just as it is but I served mine with a cheat’s raspberry coulis (basically a tin of raspberries in syrup whizzed up until smooth). I think it would also taste nice with any other fruit coulis, or a caramel or chocolate sauce.

Brown sugar ice cream with a miso caramel swirl

miso caramel ice cream

I don’t own a mobile phone and I’m not on facebook (which I hate) but I do rather uncharacteristically use (and even like) twitter. And I don’t mind admitting that this is mainly to salivate over pictures of beautiful food. Some people may find it super sad but I really am interested in what Nigella (who lives a life of glamour and privilege so far removed from mine) is eating for lunch.

I also follow my almost-neighbour and culinary magician Sat Bains (although I could happily do without the macho gym and gun photos) and he once tweeted a picture of his miso fudge which had me dribbling all over my laptop. I could literally taste how great that flavour combination would be.

Despite not being able to try the real thing (because I’m not wealthy enough to eat at his restaurant on even a yearly basis) the idea stayed imprinted in my brain. Then recently I came across a recipe for miso caramel in Tim Anderson’s new Japanese cookbook ‘Nanban’ and so I just had to give it a go.

In Tim’s recipe he uses the miso caramel to flavour a ‘whippy’ ice cream (made with cornflour not egg yolk) and mixes it in completely. In my version I use my favourite standard vanilla ice cream recipe (only this time I replace the caster sugar with brown sugar) and then use the miso caramel as a ripple. This way you get a pure hit of sugary umami* (for all those Sat lovers out there you’ll know what this means).

All pretensions removed, if you like ice cream, salted caramel and Japanese flavours then it’s very likely that you’ll love this ice cream.

NOTE: umami* – a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavour of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate (miso is naturally high in MSG, as are many other foods that we all love – Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, marmite, ripe tomatoes, breast milk!)

Brown sugar ice cream with a miso caramel swirl

For the miso caramel

  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 55g miso paste
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the brown sugar ice cream

Makes 1 1/2 pints

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 dessert spoon of cornflour
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream

First make the caramel. Heat the milk in the microwave or in a pan until it is nearly boiling.

Then put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and let it bubble away until in turns a dark amber caramel. Keep a careful eye on things because it will turn very quickly.

Whisk in the hot milk but be careful because it will bubble up. Keep whisking until all the caramel has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the miso and vanilla extract.

Pass the mixture through a sieve and then return to the heat and let it simmer away until it thickens up a bit. You want a nice thick pouring consistency. Leave to go completely cold.

Now for the ice cream. In a bowl beat the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together.

Heat the milk in a saucepan slowly until it is almost boiling and then stir this into the egg and sugar mixture.

Tip the whole lot back into the pan and place on a medium heat stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Try not to let it boil or there will be a chance it will curdle and ruin.

Cover the mixture and leave it to cool first to room temperature and then in the fridge.

Once cold, stir in the cream and churn in an ice cream maker until thick.

To assemble, take a plastic container and first put in half the ice cream mixture, then drizzle over half the caramel. Spoon in the remaining ice cream and then finally the rest of the caramel. Take a butter knife and run it through the mixture in a wavy motion to create the swirl.

Place in the freezer to finish hardening.

NOTE:

If you like ice cream and don’t already have one I really do recommend buying an ice cream maker. I have a Magimix Le Glacier ice cream maker – the cheaper sort where you have to freeze the bowl overnight before using (about £50 from John Lewis or Argos). If you don’t have an ice cream maker then you can still follow this recipe but you will need to whip the double cream first before adding it to the milk/egg/sugar mixture. Fold the cream into the custard and then freeze, beating every couple of hours with a fork or in a food processor until it is firm enough to scoop (usually about 6 hours).

If you really can’t be bothered with making ice cream then just make the caramel and pour over shop bought vanilla.

Elderflower pana cotta with gooseberry sauce

panacotta

Our gooseberry bushes at the allotment have done really well this year so I earmarked this recipe to try and use them up and asked my daughter Elizabeth (aged 5) to pick the fruit.

I have vivid memories of being sent into my granny’s garden at a similar age to pick gooseberries. Now, if you have ever picked them yourself you will know that they are very thorny. It’s a painful pursuit but as a child I didn’t wear gloves and despite getting prickled and scratched I don’t remember making a fuss. Perhaps it was the thought of the gooseberry fool that we would make afterwards by mixing the stewed fruit with Bird’s instant custard that kept me going.

Now Elizabeth is pretty tough but she managed to pick just five gooseberries before moaning and giving up. I let her off and picked the rest myself (albeit with gloves) wondering whether I should be a tougher parent.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that I’m a fan of stodgy puddings but in warm weather it’s nice to have something lighter and more summery. This Hugh  Fearnley-Whittingstall dish from his ‘River Cottage everday’ book is just the ticket and it’s the best panna cotta recipe I have tried. I often find panna cotta too creamy but in Hugh’s version he adds yoghurt which gives a nice tang.

Elderflower panna cotta with gooseberry sauce

For the elderflower panna cotta

  • 100ml whole milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of elderflower cordial (homemade or shop bought)
  • 2 gelatine leaves
  • 150ml plain yoghurt

For the gooseberry sauce

  • 500g gooseberries
  • 75g caster sugar

First make the gooseberry sauce. Wash and top and tail the gooseberries, then put them in a saucepan with the sugar. Cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Hugh keeps his sauce lumpy which you can do if you like but I personally don’t like the texture of the pips so I whizz the mixture in a food processor then pass through a sieve so that you have a nice smooth sauce. Set aside.

For the panna cotta, first soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5-10 minutes until floppy.

While the leaves are soaking, in a saucepan combine the milk, cream, sugar and elderflower cordial and bring the liquid just to the boil (Hugh calls this scalding).

Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the hot creamy mixture and stir until they have dissolved.

Leave the mixture to cool at room temperature, stirring from time to time.

Once cool add the yoghurt and stir until well combined.

Pour the mixture into ramekins or small jelly moulds and chill in the fridge until set (about 4 hours).

When you are ready to serve, dip each mould in warm water for a couple of seconds and then turn out onto a serving plate (as you can see from the photograph above mine were left in the water just a little too long which is why some of the outer mixture has melted into the gooseberry sauce).

Serve with a spoonful of gooseberry sauce and if you want to be poncy (like me) some wild strawberries.

NOTES:

If you don’t like gooseberries then you can serve these panna cotta with any fruit sauce. Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, plum all work brilliantly. You can also leave out the elderflower and add a few drops of real vanilla essence instead (you will need to add an additional 10g of sugar to the milk at the start though).

I made elderflower cordial for the first time this year because it’s really expensive to buy in the shops and we have an elder tree overhanging our allotment. It was super easy and here’s how I did it. Measure out 900g of caster sugar in a bowl and pour over 1.7 litres of boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and leave to cool. Add about 30 elderflower heads and 50g of citric acid (which I bought in my local chemist for 99p). Leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring from time to time. Strain through some muslin and transfer to sterilised bottles. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. You can dilute it with tap water, sparkling water or champagne!

Ode to the digestive – part 1, silly toppings

Digestive

I love digestive biscuits. Admittedly they are a bit boring by themselves but they are so versatile and great topped with sweet or savoury food stuffs or as the biscuit base for all sorts of puddings. When I rooted through my recipe folder I found quite a few digestive based desserts and so these very silly recipes begin my 5 days of 5 ways with digestives.

Digestives with melted marshmallow

I’m not sure where on earth this idea came from but I used to do this as a child and now my own children just love it. It is pretty exciting watching the marshmallow blow up like a balloon and the end result is a sweet and sticky delight.

  • a digestive biscuit
  • a standard marshmallow (pink or white)

Place a single marshmallow on a digestive biscuit.

Place in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and watch it blow up like a balloon. When it is about the same size as the digestive (circumference-wise) stop the cooking. When you take it out it will deflate into a lovely melted gooey mess over the digestive.

Leave to cool for a minute before eating.

Marshmallow on a digestive

Ready for action.

marshmallow on a digestive blown up

Blown up.

melted marshmallow

Yummy.

Cheat’s cheesecakes

This is for when you really can’t be bothered to make a proper dessert but you need something sweet to end your day.

It honestly does taste just like the real thing once it’s all mushed up in your mouth but you obviously couldn’t serve it a dinner party – unless you were trying to be funny.

Cheat’s lemon cheesecake
Take a digestive biscuit and smear with cream cheese. Then dollop a spoonful of lemon curd on top.

Cheat’s raspberry cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of raspberry jam.

Cheat’s chocolate cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of chocolate spread.