Nigella Lawson

Nigella’s dairy free olive oil chocolate cake

oliveoilchocoatecake

These are the things I haven’t given up for Lent.

Cake, coffee and a good book.

How can I not be happy with those marvellous things still in my life?

For me Nigella is the queen of cakes – even better than Mary or Delia – and this dairy free chocolate one is delicious and very simple to make.

There are a few members of my family who don’t eat dairy so this is a useful recipe to have in my ever expanding collection of chocolate cakes (this is the fifth one on this blog and that doesn’t even include chocolate brownies, muffins and fondants!).

oliveoilchocoatecake1

Nigella’s dairy free olive oil chocolate cake

Makes a big cake which cuts into 12 large slices

  • 150ml of regular olive oil, plus a little to grease the tin
  • 50g of cocoa powder
  • 125ml of boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 125g of plain flour (or, if you want a gluten free cake, use 150g of ground almonds instead, although this will result in a heavier cake best served warm with cream)
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Line a 23cm diametre spring form tin with baking parchment and grease lightly with olive oil.

Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl or jug and stir in the boiling water until well combined and without lumps. Add the vanilla extract and leave to cool a little.

In another bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and stir to combine.

In a large bowl add the eggs, olive oil and sugar and whisk with an electric hand whisk on a high speed for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Nigella uses a free standing mixer with a paddle attachment but I don’t have one of these.

Add the cocoa mixture and mix briefly on a low speed until just incorporated.

Then add the flour and mix on low again until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cake is just set. Mine was perfect after 40.

Let the cake cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then turn out and leave to cool. Or, eat warm with cream or ice cream.

This cake keeps well but if my family is anything to go by it won’t last more than a day or so.

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Post Christmas notes

Happy New Year!

This was the Christmas present I received from my children.

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This made me so happy – the promise of a delicious sounding meal is the perfect present for me. I am particularly intrigued by the ‘salted caramel light bulb’ – the idea of my 6 year old son who has obviously been watching too many reality cooking competitions.


Despite my last post (where I was very grumpy about Christmas) the festive spirit did eventually kick in and I actually ended up doing quite a bit of seasonal cooking. Mainly with my children as a way to keep them entertained during the holidays.

You will most probably not be interested in reading about these recipes now that Christmas is well and truly over. But I am just making a note of them ready for next year – because the main user of this blog is me!

Scroll down to see recipes for yule log, a gingerbread house and a chocolate salami (or just look at the photos).

Or ignore and wait for my next post which will probably feature something healthy.

Yule log

yule log.jpg

I’ve been making this for a couple of years now but for some reason haven’t posted the recipe. The cake part comes from my trusty Peyton and Byrne British Baking cookbook. The icing is Nigella’s and it is the best chocolate icing I have ever tasted. I’m not a fan of yule log but it always goes down well with the chocolate lovers in my family and makes a good Christmas Day dessert alternative for those crazy people who don’t like Christmas pudding.

For the cake

  • A tablespoon of melted butter for greasing
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 130g of caster sugar, plus 35g
  • 100g of self-raising flour, plus some for dusting
  • 25g of cocoa powder
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • A little icing sugar for dusting

For the icing

  • 175g of dark chocolate
  • 250g of icing sugar
  • 225g of soft butter
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180oC.

Brush a 33cm x 23cm swiss roll tin (or shallow baking tin) with melted butter then line with baking parchment. Brush the parchment lightly all over with melted butter and then dust lightly with flour tipping out the excess.

Beat together the egg yolks and 130g of sugar until pale and creamy.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder and fold into the egg/sugar mixture.

In a separate, scrupulously clean, glass bowl whisk the egg whites with 35g of sugar and the pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Stir a third of the whites into the egg yolk mixture to slacken the mix, then gently fold in the remainder with a metal spoon taking care not to knock out too much air from the mix.

Pour into the prepared tin and spread out as evenly as you can with a palette knife.

Bake for 15 minutes until the cake has risen and is springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and place a layer of clingfilm on top followed by a chopping board. Tip the cake out onto the chopping board, then take the short end and roll up incorporating the clingfilm into the roll. Leave to cool completely all rolled up.

For the icing, melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Let it cool a little.

Mix together the soft butter and icing sugar until pale in colour. Then add the melted chocolate and the vanilla essence. Beat until smooth.

Unroll the cake and spread with an even layer of icing. Then cover the outside of the log with icing and use a skewer to make log like marks.

Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

NOTE: For a less rich cake, make half the amount of icing and fill the centre of the roll with whipped cream saving the chocolate icing for just the outside.


 

Mary Berry’s Gingerbread House

gingerbread-house-1

I once made a gingerbread house from a kit. It was fun to make but inedible. The gingerbread itself was vile – stale and tasteless.

Elizabeth and I had a lot of fun making this one from scratch but it wasn’t easy. She made the gingerbread mix but I did the rolling and cutting out using this template:

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/tv/christmasbakeoff/gingerbread_house.pdf

Do follow Mary’s advice about rolling between baking parchment it makes it much easier. Also remember to trim the gingerbread after cooking using the template as a guide as it will have spread a bit. I forgot to do this but it would have been easier if I had. I had a lot of gingerbread left over which I made into biscuits. The gingerbread itself is absolutely delicious.

Next year I’m going off piste and designing my own template.

For the gingerbread

  • 375g of butter
  • 300g of dark muscovado sugar
  • 150g of golden syrup
  • 900g of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons of ground ginger

For the icing

  • 3 egg whites
  • 675g of icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180oC fan.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a large pan. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the melted butter mixture, stir it in and, when cool enough to handle, knead to a stiff dough.

Divide the mixture into five equally-sized pieces, cut one of these pieces in half (so you have six pieces in total). Roll each piece out between two sheets of baking parchment until it is about ¾cm thick. Using the templates as a guide cut out all the sections and slide onto baking trays before baking.

For the pieces with windows remove from the oven after 7-8 minutes, sprinkle boiled sweets (crushed with a pestle and mortar) into the window holes and return to the oven for another 3-4 minutes until the sweets have melted.

For the other pieces (without windows) bake for 10-12 minutes.

You will need to do this in batches unless you have a very large oven and several baking trays.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then trim around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. You will not be able to remove the windowed pieces from the baking parchment until the windows have cooled and hardened completely.

For the icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Using a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric mixer on slow speed, add the icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time. Stir in the lemon juice and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.

On a cake board spread a layer of icing thinly over the surface to stick the house on to and to create a snow effect.

Use the icing to glue all the pieces together and assemble the house. It is helpful to have another pair of hands but the mixture sticks and hardens very quickly so this part is not as tricky at it looks. Mary suggests using cocktail sticks to hold the roof in place but I didn’t find this necessary.

I don’t believe in being prescriptive about the decoration. Buy lots of sweets and chocolate buttons and be creative. Use a little blob of icing to glue each sweet to the gingerbread and pipe icing around the edges of the house if you want a neat look.

For younger children just smear the icing all over the surface and then let them add sweets in any way they like. Try to let go of any urge to be neat and tidy and buy extra sweets as for everyone that goes on the house another will go in the mouth.

gingerbread.jpg


 

Nigella’s Chocolate Salami

chocolate salami.jpg

This is good fun – it’s basically a chocolate biscuit fridge cake doing a very good impression of a giant meat salami. It flummoxed everyone in my family. It keeps very well in the fridge so it can be made well in advance. My husband is still ploughing through ours and will not entertain the idea of throwing it out.

  • 250g of good quality dark chocolate
  • 250g of amaretti or rich tea biscuits (I used rich tea because I do not like almond flavourings)
  • 100g of softened butter
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of amaretto liqueur (I used brandy instead)
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 75g of almonds, roughly chopped
  • 75g of hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50g of pistachios, roughly chopped
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Melt the chocolate either in a microwave (which is what I do) or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.

Smash up the biscuits in a polythene bag with a rolling pin. You want a rough texture not dust.

In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar and add the eggs one by one. Then mix in the liqueur. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled.

Sift the cocoa powder into the melted chocolate and then stir the whole lot into the egg mixture.

Finally add the crushed biscuits and nuts and mix thoroughly to make sure that everything is covered with chocolate. Put in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a bit.

Now for the shaping. Lay a couple of sheets of cling film onto your work surface and tip the chocolate mixture into the middle.

Shape the mixture into a rough sausage shape (approximately 30 cm long) and then roll up with cling film and twist the ends of the clingfilm to tighten. Then put it in the fridge for to set for at least 6 hours but overnight would be better.

Dust your work surface with icing sugar. Take the salami out of the fridge and tie some string onto the twisted clingfilm of one end. Trim away as much cling film as you can but leave the two twisted ends. Dust the whole salami and your hands with icing sugar and then string up the salami – this is tricky to describe but this video is helpful. Finish by tying the twisted end with string. Roll up in tin foil or a new layer of clingfilm until you are ready to serve.

Serve fridge cold.

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

Lazy fish tacos

fish tacos

It has been far too hot this week for extravagant cooking.

I never lose my appetite in the heat (this only ever happens when I’m really, really poorly) but I do change the way that I eat – grazing lazily on smaller dishes throughout the day rather than wanting big, hot food.

In this summer weather I’ve been craving fresh, simply cooked fish and this recipe is just perfect. It’s basically a posh take on a fish finger sandwich (ever so Nigella).

I’m too lazy to bother with the corn relish or the quick pickled onion in the original recipe (find these on the BBC Food website if you like). I just serve the baked fish inside some sort of bread, with whatever salad bits happen to be in the fridge and some sort of sauce – usually mayonnaise and/or chilli sauce.

Nigella’s fish tacos

Serves 4-6

(I made this with 500g of hake and this served 3 generously. I then roughly halved the quantities of spices below)

  • 750-900g of hake (or haddock)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (or grind your own from whole with a pestle and mortar – it helps to dry fry in a hot pan for a minute first before grinding)
  • ½ a teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated or minced
  • 2 tablespoons of regular olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200C fan.

Skin and remove any pin bones from the fish fillets (or ask your fishmonger to do this for you). Then cut into longish chunks and arrange in a shallow roasting tin.

Mix together the cumin, paprika and salt, and sprinkle over the fish fillets.

Mix the garlic and the oil in a small bowl. Drizzle the fish with the garlicky oil, and roast in the oven for 8–10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets. Check to see if the fish is cooked through before taking out of the oven.

Serve the fish wrapped in some sort of flatbread. Tortillas and pittas both work well. Bought ones are just fine but the best (if you can be bothered) are homemade – such as my ‘sort of naan’ flatbreads (recipe here). Then add in some sort of salad and sauce of your choice.

Here’s a photo of the baked fish inside a toasted pitta with broad bean hummus (it’s the season) and my new addiction – Sriracha chilli sauce.

fish tacos 2

I’ve realised that there are a lot of Nigella recipes on this blog. If you fancy trying any of the others here’s a recap.

My favourite Nigella recipes

Chocolate Guinness cake (I made this for the first time in ages this week – I’d forgotten how seriously delicious it is and it went down very well with my Bollywood dancing troupe)
Old-fashioned chocolate cake
New York cheesecake (the best cheesecake ever)
Ricotta hotcakes (I make these almost every weekend for my children as a breakfast treat)
Breakfast bars 
Crunchy cornflake coated chicken
Pea and garlic soup

 

Nigella’s crispy cornflake chicken

cornflake chicken

I’m really enjoying ‘Simply Nigella’. I am a sad case but I look forward (with great anticipation) to my Monday night escape into her wonderful world of liquorice treasure boxes, giant walk in pantries and pretty pink tableware.

But the best bit for me is that she makes food that I actually want to eat.

Now I’m a huge fan of Carluccio’s Chicken Milanese (if you haven’t come across this it’s basically a giant middle-class chicken nugget), so when I saw Nigella make crunchy chicken cutlets (that looked very similar) I knew I had to give them a go.

First my daughter played guinea pig and I used the cornflakes as a coating for chicken without the mustard/cinnamon/garlic seasoning. She loved it. Then I followed the recipe almost to the book (but with a little less mustard) and fed it to my husband. He declared it ‘surprisingly delicious’. He was surprised because in his eyes Nigella is a crazed mad woman and he can’t get past the programme’s introduction before he has to leave the room.

The mustard and cinnamon tasted amazing and I’m going to use that idea again even if I do opt for proper breadcrumbs. There’s something gratifying about turning old bits of bread into breadcrumbs for dishes like this, but in our house of hungry gannets bread is rarely leftover any more so this makes a good (and cheap) alternative. Shop bought panko breadcrumbs are so expensive.

PS. I’ve also made Nigella’s fish tacos (8/10).

Nigella’s crispy cornflake chicken

If you want the real recipe go to http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/crunchy-chicken-cutlets or ask Santa to bring you the book (Santa it’s only £12 in Tesco!)

  • 2 chicken breast fillets battered out with a rolling pin to about 1cm thickness
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 75 grams cornflakes
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a big pinch of salt
  • Oil for frying (Nigella uses 2 tablespoons but I needed more)

Crack an egg into a shallow dish that you can fit both the chicken breasts in and whisk in the mustard, cinnamon and garlic. Add the chicken breasts and spoon over the mix. Leave to marinade while you prepare the coating.

Put the cornflakes into a bowl and crush them by hand with your fingers until they look like coarse bread crumbs, you don’t want dust. Add the salt, paprika and cayenne.

Take the chicken breasts out of the egg mixture one by one and toss them in the cornflakes until they are really well coated on both sides. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when medium hot, fry for 3 minutes on the first side, then turn them over carefully and give them another 3 minutes. By this time the chicken should be cooked through but do check.

Serve with salad.

Stir fried egg and tomato

stir fried egg and tomato

I’m sticking with the Chinese theme here with a dish that we ate a lot when travelling in China. At the time we suspected this was just comfort food served up for the benefit of tourists terrified of accidently eating dog, but apparently it’s just good Chinese home cooking.

I hesitate to even call this a ‘recipe’ because it’s so simple, but if Nigella can dedicate the first slot of her new programme to mushed-up avocado on toast then I’m going to jump on the bandwagon. On the subject of Nigella, did anyone else hear her describe chopped up onion as “lambent puce”? (I had to look that up*). Even by Nigella’s standards that’s pretty funny.

Returning to the point, I know egg and tomato doesn’t sound particularly Chinese but there’s something about this dish which makes it taste different to how you would imagine the sum of its parts to taste. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself very well but if you try it you’ll hopefully see what I mean.

I just wish I’d known about this dish when I was a student. It’s so quick and cheap I probably would have eaten it every day.

*Lambent – (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance. Puce – of a dark red or purple-brown colour.

Stir fried egg and tomato

Serves 2-4 (in our case, two adult portions and two children’s)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil for frying
  • About 450g of fresh tomatoes, chopped into chunks, or halved if using cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon and a good pinch of salt
  • 2 spring onions, chopped and separated into white and green parts
  • Black pepper
  • A pinch of sugar (only really necessary if your tomatoes aren’t that sweet/ripe)

Whisk the eggs with the sesame oil and a good pinch of salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil in a wok until smoking.

Tip in the egg mixture and fry until nearly cooked (about 30 seconds – 1 minute) breaking the egg up a little with your spatula. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of groundnut oil. Stir fry the tomatoes and white spring onion over a very high heat until the tomato juices are released and tomatoes are slightly wilted but still intact (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle over a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of sugar (if using) and a good grind of black pepper. Stir to combine.

Return the eggs to the wok and stir fry for a further 30 seconds.

Serve over rice sprinkled with the green tops from the spring onion.

Nigella’s brilliant breakfast bars

breakfast bars

These breakfast bars are really clever. They’re a bit like flapjack but instead of combing the dry ingredients with butter, sugar and syrup, they simply use a tin of condensed milk. There is still some sugar (about 14 grams per bar), but a lot less fat and a good amount of calcium from the milk. Plus there are wonderfully healthy nuts, seeds and oats  (I’m avoiding using Jamie’s ‘superfood’ buzz word because that’s just annoying),

Breakfast is the only meal of the day where I can entertain the concept of eating ‘on the go’. Even then it’s only because the mornings are terribly chaotic now that I have children to herd off to school. But whilst I allow myself to eat breakfast standing up, I will not eat and walk because I’m a complete snob about that.

I love Scarborough, but I’m disgusted by the sight of people strolling along the seafront eating cartons of fish and chips, dropping a few on the pavement as they go. Even when we buy ice cream from a van I make the children find a nice place to sit first.

Rant over.

These bars aren’t just for breakfast, they also make a good mid-morning/mid-afternoon snack too (just make sure you’re sitting down nicely though before you tuck in). I’ve been making them for my husband to nibble on (do men nibble?) when he’s bored in the shop or when he’s driving around in his van delivering furniture. They are slightly more wholesome than chocolate orange digestives (his current obsession) which don’t feel at all satisfying unless you eat at least four.

Breakfast bars (From ‘Nigella Express’)

Makes 16 large bars

  • A 397g tin of condensed milk
  • 250g of jumbo rolled oats
  • 75g of shredded coconut
  • 100g of dried fruit (Nigella uses cranberries but I use sultanas because they’re cheaper and I don’t like cranberries anyway. But I’ve also had good results with chopped, dried apricots or dates)
  • 125g of mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame)
  • 125g of unsalted, unroasted peanuts (or other nuts that you like)

Preheat the oven to 130oC.

Line a 23 x 33 x 4 cm baking tin with parchment, making sure that it goes all the way up the sides, and grease with oil or margarine.

Warm the condensed milk in a large saucepan, then tip in all the other ingredients and stir well to combine.

Tip the mixture into the tin and press down firmly either with a wooden spoon or with damp hands (which is what I do).

Bake for 1 hour, then remove and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Cut into squares with a very sharp knife. Make them as big or small as you like (Nigella cuts hers four down and four across to make 16).

Leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Ricotta hotcakes

ricotta hotcakes

I have mentioned Nigella Lawson’s ricotta hotcakes before but at that time I just included a link to the recipe on her website because I only ever made them very occasionally for my husband who disliked my stodgier Be-Ro dropped scones.

Nearly two years on however these have become the ones I ALWAYS cook. It turns out that my children prefer them too and with no sugar in the pancake itself they are a teeny bit healthier. Nigella keeps hers healthy by serving them simply, with strawberries, but in our house it’s golden syrup and chocolate spread all the way, so they do still remain a weekend breakfast treat.

You need two bowls and you do need to remember to buy ricotta cheese from the supermarket, but once you’ve made them a couple of times you’ll find that they’re not that difficult to make.

Because there is no sugar in the batter they also make a good alternative to blini topped with savory toppings like smoked fish and sour cream.

Nigella’s ricotta hotcakes

Makes about 20

  • 1 tub (250g) of ricotta cheese
  • 125ml of semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Groundnut oil (or other flavourless oil) for frying

You’ll need two mixing bowls. First separate the eggs and put the egg yolks in one bowl and the whites in the other.

In the bowl with the egg yolks add ricotta cheese and milk. Mix until well combined and then add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix again until you have a thickish batter.

Whisk the egg whites in the other bowl until foamy. This will only take a couple of minutes – you don’t need stiff peaks as for meringue.

Fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture with a metal spoon, nice and gently so that you don’t knock out too much air.

Heat a large frying pan with a little groundnut oil to a medium high heat. Then add dessert spoons of batter into the pan (I do four at a time).

Cook the pancakes for about a minute until golden and then flip and cook on the other side for about another minute. The batter is quite delicate so this is probably the trickiest bit.

Continue this process until all the batter is finished, keeping the cooked ones warm on a warmed plate covered with a tea towel (or in my case I act as pancake slave, serving up each batch immediately to my family of hungry little birds who eat them more quickly than I can make them).

ricotta egg yolks burghley

Showing off my new Burleigh bowl – a 38th birthday present from my mum.

Pea and garlic soup

pea and garlic soup

I may be glowing with the success of my garlic crop but I don’t talk about my peas (which never even germinated). Luckily this recipe (based on a Nigella  one) uses frozen peas rather than fresh.

Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic – once roasted the flavour is mellow and sweet and not at all over powering. I’m not a fan of super creamy soups so I have reduced the amount of butter and cheese by half, and I don’t bother with double cream which I think dulls the flavour.

Pea and garlic soup

Serves 4

  • 2 large heads of garlic
  • 4 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 400g of frozen peas
  • 400ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 25g of butter (Nigella uses double this amount)
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan (Nigella uses double this amount)
  • 300ml of double cream (optional)

Cut the very top off the head of garlic so that you can just see the tops of the cloves. Cut out a square of tin foil, sit the garlic in the middle, drizzle over 2 teaspoons of olive oil and then make a loose parcel with the tin foil around the garlic, sealing at the top. Repeat with the other head.

Bake in an oven preheated to 180oC for an hour until soft.

Squeeze the soft cloves of garlic out of their skins into a food processor.

Heat the chicken stock in a pan, add the frozen peas and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until the peas are thawed and warmed through. Add the peas and stock to the food processor.

Add the butter and Parmesan then process until creamy.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little cream if you think it necessary – I don’t.

NOTE: This is great served with homemade baguettes (find the recipe here)

 

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.