Salted Chocolate Tart

Typically this marvelous tart is made in a 10″ springform pan, but as you can see, it makes a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert when made into a heart. Either way, it is devine.

For the base:

28 Oreo cookies
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa solids)
3 tbs. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. smoked sea salt flakes (Maldon makes a wonderful one)

For the filling:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa solids)
3 tbs. cornstarch
1/4 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
7 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 tsp. instant espresso powder or strong instant coffee powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. smoked sea salt flakes

Snap the cookies into pieces and drop into the bowl of a food processor. Do likewise with the chocolate and whizz into crumbs. Add the butter and salt and blitz until everything clumps together. (To do this by hand, bash the cookies with a rolling pin in a sealed plastic bag, finely chop the chocolate and melt the butter. Stir everything together in a bowl.) Tip into a 10″ springform pan, pushing it with a wooden spoon into the bottom and up the sides. Chill and harden at least 1 hour, but not more than a day.

For the filling, finally chop the chocolate. Put the cornstarch into a cup and whisk in the milk until smooth. Pour the cream into a heavy saucepan into which all the ingredients can fit. Add the chopped chocolate, cocoa, espresso powder, sugar, vanilla, olive oil and sea salt flakes. Place over a medium heat and whisk until melted and smooth.

Off the heat, whisk in the cornstarch mixture until fully incorporated. Put it back on a low heat and mix with a wooden spoon until thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not let it boil. When ready, it should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, and if you run your finger through it, the line should stay. Pour into a large measuring cup. Take a piece of parchment paper and run it under the cold tap. Wring it out, scrunch it up and place it over the chocolate. Chill for 15 minutes.

Smooth the chocolate in the base, cover and chill overnight. Remove 10 minutes before serving and untold, living the base pan on.

Serves 12

 

Halloumi with Quick Sweet Chili Sauce

Halloumi cheese is the star here, followed by the beloved red chili. Modulate the heat of the sauce by the amount of chili seeds you use.

3 red chilies
2 tbs. honey
1 lime, halved
1 8 oz. block of halloumi cheese
salad leaves of your choice
extra-virgin olive oil

Slice 2 of the chilies, leaving the seeds in. Then deseed the third chili and chop all of them finely. Add to a small saucepan (something like a butter warmer) along with the honey and the of 1/2 a lime. Put the pan on the smallest ring of the stove and bring to a bubble. Then, turn the heat to low and let it foam for 4 minutes, stirring often.

Slice the halloumi into 8 pieces. Heat a heavy skillet or griddle and cook the halloumi for 30-60 seconds a side, until patchily bronzed. Arrange the salad leaves on the plate and drizzle with olive oil and the juice of the other lime half. Top with the halloumi and drizzle the chili glaze on top. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Warm Spiced Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

This warm and warmly scented side is perfect with roast chicken! Use any color of cauliflower you fancy.

1 small head cauliflower
3 tbs. regular olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups chickpeas, drained
1-2 tbs. harissa
4 smallish ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. sea salt flakes or kosher salt
3-4 tbs. pomegranate seeds
2 1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oven to 425°F. Trim the cauliflower and divide into small florets. Pour the oil in a large bowl, add the cinnamon and cumin seeds, then toss in the cauliflower. Tip onto a baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Don’t wash out the bowl.

Add the chickpeas, harissa and tomatoes to the bowl and toss well. Add this to the baking dish and roast for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and give a good stir.

Arrange the parsley onto two plates and spoon everything on top, then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Serves 2

Triple Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies

Using buckwheat flour makes these lovely cookies gluten-free.

2/3 cup small bittersweet chocolate chips
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa solids)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs. buckwheat flour
3 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
4 tbs. soft, unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste or extract
2 extra large eggs, fridge-cold

Clatter the chocolate chips into a flatfish dish and put in the fridge while you get on making the batter. This makes them not melt too much in the baking.

Heat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the bittersweet chocolate and melt it either in a suitable bowl in the microwave or over a saucepan of just simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.

In another bowl, fork together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In yet another bowl or that of a free-standing mixer, combine the butter and sugar with the vanilla and cream together. Beat in the slightly cooled, melted chocolate and the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides, then carefully beat in the dry ingredients.

Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, fold in the cold chocolate chip. Dollop by tablespoonfuls onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 1/2″ between each one. Put the bowl with the remaining dough in the fridge while these cook. Bake for 9-10 minutes,  until they are set around the edges, but otherwise seem undercooked. Remove them from the oven and leave to sit on the baking sheets for 10 before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

When the baking sheet is cool, repeat with the remaining dough.

Yields approx. 25

Potato and Pepper Bake

These potatoes are roasted in the oil from jars of roasted red peppers. They are perfect for guest because they are equally good hot or at room temperature.

4 1/2 lbs. waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
2 1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted red peppers in their oil
2 tbs. coriander seeds
Heat the oven to 425°F.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1″ pieces, then tip them into a large, shallow roasting tin. Tip in the roasted red peppers with their juice and add the coriander seeds. Toss to combine and break up the peppers. Roast for 1 hour or until the potatoes are soft on the inside and golden on the outside. Season.

Using a slotted spoon (let the excess oil drip back into the tin) transfer to a serving bowl.

Serves 8 – 10

Date and Marmalade Christmas Cake

Celebrate the festive season with this molasses-rich and last-minute fruit cake. It can be easily shared out because it is both gluten-free and daily-free!

1 cup strong black tea
18 oz. medjool dates, snipped into pieces
3/4 cup candied cherries or dried cherries
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sultanas
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs. dark brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 tbs. coconut oil
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
scant 1 cup good-quality orange marmalade, plus more for brushing
2 cups almond meal
3/4 cup chopped almonds
3 extra large eggs, beaten

In a large saucepan, combine the tea, dates, cherries, cranberries, sultanas, brown sugar, coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let the batter stand for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 300°F and line the bottom and sides of an 8″ springform pan with parchment paper. (To line the sides, make 1″ snips along the bottom edge and ease it around the tin to form a collar.)

Add the marmalade, almond meal, chopped almonds and eggs to the batter and stir well. Spread in the prepared tin and bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours. The sides will be coming away from the tin and the center will leave only a slight stickiness when tested with a cake tester.

Remove to a wire rack and brush with about 3 tbs. marmalade, then let the cake cool in the tin. The cake can be stored in an air-tight container and wrapped in foil for up to a month.

 

Apricot Cake with Cardamon and Rosewater

Simple, beautiful, fragrant and beguiling.

6 oz. dried apricots
1 cup cold water
2 cardamom pods, cracked
2 cups almond meal or flour
1/3 cup fine polenta or fine cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
6 extra large eggs
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. rosewater

To decorate:

2 tbs. apricot jam
2 1/2 tsp. finely chopped pistachios

Put the apricots in a small saucepan, cover them with cold water and tip in the cracked cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then let boil for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the pan is just about out of water. Set aside to cool.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 8″ round springform tin with parchment paper and grease the sides.

In a food processor, combine the almond meal, polenta, baking powder, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and rosewater. Set aside 5 of the apricots, then add the rest and any liquid left in the pan to the processor. Blitz into a smooth batter.

Spread the batter in the tin and smooth the top. Split the apricots in two and arrange them around the circumference of the tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. If the top is getting too brown, top it with foil.

Remove to a wire rack and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes. Brush on the jam, letting the heat of the cake melt it. Sprinkle over the pistachios and leave to cool completely.

 

Cauliflower and Cashew Nut Curry

This delightful curry is a fusion of Thai and Indian. It’s a perfect light and meatless meal.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2-3 tsp. sea salt flakes or kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1 tbs. cold-pressed coconut oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. finely copped fresh ginger
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbs. finely chopped coriander stems
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
14 oz. tin coconut milk
2/3 cup cashews
1 lime, halved
small handful coriander leaves
naan or flatbreads, to serve

Put a saucepan of water on to boil and tip in the cauliflower. Once boiling, add 2 tsp. salt and the bay leaves. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until just barley cooked. Drain.

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet that has a lid. Add the scallions, ginger, cardamom, cumin and coriander stalks. Stir over a medium heat for a minute or two, then add the curry paste and coconut milk.  Add the cauliflower and check the sauce for seasoning. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods.

Meanwhile in a small dry frying pan, toast the cashews until they have colored. Stir half into the cauliflower and set the other half aside.

Transfer the cauliflower to a 2 serving bowls and top with the reserved cashews, coriander leaves and a sprinkle of lime juice. Serve with warm naan or flatbread.

Serves 2

 

No-Churn Brandied Pumpkin Ice Cream

It is hard to believe that it takes longer to do the washing up than it does to make this fabulous frozen treat. Spiced by the warmth of freshly grated nutmeg and spiked by the mellowness of brandy, this is, indeed, the ultimate autumn pleasure.

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbs. brandy

Combine the pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl and stir to mix.

Whisk the cream into soft peaks, then whisk in the pumpkin mixture until thick again. Grate in the nutmeg and whisk in the brandy.

Pour into an airtight freezer container and freeze overnight. Take out of the freeze 5 minutes before serving to soften.

Asian Flavored Short Ribs

This stew is remarkable in its ease for entertaining and its fullness of flavor. Serve with short grain brown rice and a green veg.

5 1/2 lbs. beef short ribs, cut into 2″ squares
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
2 tbs. Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbs. Asian sesame oil
4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped, to serve
2-3 tbs. fresh coriander, chopped, to serve
3-4 lime wedges, to serve

Heat the oven to 300°F. Clatter the short ribs into a large pan that has a lid. Mix together the hoisin sauce, water, soy sauce, wine, 5 spice powder, red pepper flakes, sesame oil and garlic, then pour over the ribs. Cover everything with a layer of parchment paper, tucking it in around the ribs, then cover with the lid. Roast for 4 – 4 1/2 hours until the meat is tender and coming away from the bone. Allow to cool for a bit.

Transfer the ribs into a bowl and gently remove the bones. Cover and chill for at least 1 day or up to 3 days.

Before reheating the ribs, remove the hard layer of fat that will have formed on the top and discard. Transfer the meat to a oven-proof dish, cover with a lid or foil and reheat at 400°F for 1 hour or until piping hot.

Scatter the red chili, and coriander over the top and serve with lime wedges.

Serves 6 – 8