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Rhubarb and apple crumble

It’s rhubarb season! The word “forced” used to lead me to believe that this kind of rhubarb is somehow inferior, but I have since come to love this delicious late winter treat. Lifting sections of the rhubarb roots and bringing them under the cover of a greenhouse or other warmer place, shutting out all light, creates stems that grow pale. This means the light-starved plants desperately reach out in search of light and thereby produce smooth, bright crimson stems (rather than green ones created post photosynthesis). The Rhubarb Triangle in West Yorkshire produces some of the world’s finest. Forced rhubarb is less bitter than the traditional, non-forced stalks and needs less sugar to balance the tartness. Pretty in pink and less astringent – perfect!

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Rhubarb and apple crumble

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients for the fruit filling

500g rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1/2 cm pieces

2 apples, cored and thinly sliced

zest of 1 orange

juice of 2 oranges

40g dark muscovado sugar

1 cinnamon stick, broken into 2 or 3 pieces

Ingredients for the topping

85g cold unsalted butter (preferably organic) or ice cold coconut oil, cut into little cubes

50g mixed nuts, roughly chopped (I used a combination of almonds, pecans and walnuts)

30g demerara sugar

70g muesli base (mine is a mix of oat, rye and quinoa flakes, but you can use any combination)

70g wholemeal rye flour (or use wholemeal spelt or you favourite gluten-free mix)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (370°F).
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl, then transfer to a medium ovenproof dish and cover with a lid or foil. Bake for 45 minutes (or until the fruit is tender when tested with a sharp knife), stirring carefully half-way through the cooking time.
  3. In the meantime, place all the topping ingredients apart from the butter in a bowl and mix well. Now add the butter (or coconut oil) and quickly rub into the dry ingredients until it comes together and you are able to form large clumps. Spread the clumps out on a baking sheet and place in the oven with the fruit. The crumble topping should be ready after about 30 minutes, but use a spatula to turn the pieces over gently half way.
  4. To serve, divide the fruit amongst 4 – 6 bowls, spoon over the delicious juices, scatter the crumble over the fruit and serve with vanilla-sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream of your choice.

Note: If you use coconut oil and gluten-free flour, your crumble will be a much finer texture, but still crunchy and delicious.

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Apricot, red currant & butternut cake

I absolutely love cooked apricots, whether in a cake, jam, compote, tart or savoury dish. I find that they offer the perfect balance of flavour, and the vibrant colour is always a treat. This cake has a firm texture and is not very crumbly, so makes for an ideal dessert to take along on a picnic. Use frozen red currants if you can’t find fresh.

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Apricot, red currant and butternut squash cake

Makes one 20cm cake

 

Ingredients

3 medium eggs

150ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) macadamia nut or extra virgin olive oil

140g (1 cup) palm sugar or dark muscovado sugar

1 vanilla pod, cut into smaller pieces (or just the seeds if you are not using a high-speed blender)

130g (1 cup) wholemeal spelt or buckwheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of sea salt

165g (1 1/2 cups) grated peeled butternut squash

150g red currants, stripped from the stalks

8 small apricots, halved and stone removed

Toasted macadamias, optional

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/360°F, and grease a 20cm spring form.
  2. In a blender, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla pod pieces (or vanilla seeds, if not using a strong blender).
  3. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the egg mix. Stir until just combined.
  4. Stir in the butternut and half the red currants, then scrape into prepared tin.
  5. Place the apricot halves, cut sides down, onto the cake batter and scatter the rest of the currants on top. Use the back of a large spoon to gently press the fruit into the batter.
  6. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean or with a few dry crumbs.  It may need a little longer, depending on your oven.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  8. Serve with whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts.

 

 

 



Red Velvet Ice Cream Sandwiches

If you have never tasted a slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, you may not understand what all the fuss is about. Its intriguing name refers partly to its smooth and velvety texture, and partly to the sensual red colour, which is achieved in most modern recipes by adding (lots of) red food colouring to a chocolate cake batter.

Both these features were, however, originally due to the reaction of an acid (like vinegar or buttermilk) with the cocoa powder in the batter, which not only created bubbles and aeration, but also enhanced the red anthocyanin in the cocoa, a compound (also found in foods like red cabbage) that gets more red in the presence of strong acids. However, these days most cocoa powder undergoes Dutch processing, where an alkalizing agent is added to neutralise its acidity. Hence the need for (lots of) red colouring was created amongst bakers, and expertly fulfilled in the US by Adams Extract, a Texan company with good marketing sense.

But now for the really interesting bit. For our purposes today, at least. During the Second World War, bakers used reduced beet juice to enhance the colour (and texture) of their cakes, including the infamous Red Velvet cake, and give otherwise cheap bakes a dramatic appearance. Ah ha! As you know, adding vegetables to any kind of dish is my forte, so I present to you: the very beet-y red velvet ice cream sandwich.

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Red velvet ice cream sandwiches

These sandwiches are a beguiling mix of earthy, sweet, cool and chewy. I used buckwheat flour to keep it gluten-free, but if you are not a fan of the taste,  use stoneground spelt flour instead. Be sure to freeze the sandwiches until firm, or else you will end up with more ice cream on your shirt than between your biscuits!

Makes 8 sandwiches

Ingredients for the ice cream

200g roasted beetroot (about 500g peeled, raw beetroot)

1 whole vanilla pod

1 can coconut milk, gently warmed to melt the fat

60ml (1/4 cup) raw honey, plus a little extra to taste

flesh of 1/2 ripe avocado (about 50g)

15g (2 tablespoons) organic unsweetened cocoa powder

7g (1 tablespoon) arrowroot powder, dissolved in 15ml (1 tablespoon) water

Ingredients for the cookies

1 tablespoon ground golden linseeds (flax seeds)

60ml (1/4 cup) milk of your choice

60ml (1/4 cup) melted coconut oil

60g (1/2 cup) coconut blossom sugar

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

30g (1/4 cup) organic unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of sea salt

160g (1 cup) buckwheat flour

Method

  1. For the ice cream: put all the ingredients, except 2/3 of the coconut milk and the arrowroot powder slurry, in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside. (If you do not have a high speed blender, scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pod and only use these – pop the pod in your coffee or sugar pot.)
  2. Whisk the arrowroot slurry into the rest of the gently warmed coconut milk. As soon as it thickens, remove from the heat, and once cooled, add the beetroot mix and whisk. Refrigerate until cold.
  3. For the cookies: whisk the ground linseeds and milk together. Set aside for a few minutes to allow it to swell.
  4. Whisk the oil and sugar together until light and frothy. Add the vanilla & linseed mix, then sift the dry ingredients into the wet. Mix together briefly until you have a ball of dough.
  5. Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop 16 dough balls onto a baking sheet (no need to grease) and flatten each ball (I use a small palette knife to do this).
  6. Bake for 10 minutes at 180°C/360°F. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
  7. For the sandwiches: churn the refrigerated ice cream mixture in your ice cream maker.
  8. Transfer the soft ice cream to a shallow container that will yield a slab of ice cream 3 – 4 cm thick. Pop it in the freezer until almost solidly frozen, then use a cookie cutter the same size as your cookies to cut out ice cream rounds and place between two cooled cookies. You could also remove the ice cream slightly earlier and use an ice cream scoop to place one scoop between two cookies and press down lightly.
  9. If you would like to make these ahead of time, put the sandwiches in a container in the freezer and remember to take them out at least 5 – 10 minutes before eating.

Note:

To roast the beetroot, scrub clean, peel and cut into medium dice. Toss lightly in melted coconut oil and roast at 180°C/360°F until tender (about 1 hour), turning every so often. Be careful not to let them burn.

If you do not own an ice cream maker, you can make the ice cream by freezing the mixture and whisking it every 30 minutes or so, to prevent the formation of ice crystals.

Flowers



Chewy almond and fig thins

It doesn’t really matter when you make these, but you should! They are rather easy to throw together and definitely hit the spot when you need a little something to cheer up your darling (or yourself!). If you can’t find matcha powder, use a few drops of beetroot juice instead, to colour the chocolate pink.

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Chewy almond and fig thins

Ingredients

50g unsalted organic butter (or coconut oil)

50g coconut palm sugar (or you could use demarara sugar)

Pinch of sea salt

65g orange marmalade, very finely chopped

100g soft dried figs, finely chopped

80g flaked blanched almonds

30g shelled hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts)

25g brown rice flour

 

For the chocolate drizzle

100g organic white chocolate, broken into pieces

matcha powder (roughly 1 teaspoon)

freeze-dried raspberries or additional hemp hearts

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter and palm sugar in a small pan over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the salt, give it a stir and set aside.
  3. Put the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and using a tablespoon, press everything against the sides to mix thoroughly and evenly distribute the flour. Add the butter and sugar mix and repeat the process until you have a lovely dark golden ball of deliciousness.
  4. Place this ball between two large pieces of parchment paper and roll it out until it is quite thin (how thin will depend on your preference, but I have found that 4mm is just about perfect). Slide onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes before removing from the oven.
  5. Now cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (press any offcuts together and roll them out again) or for a lot less effort, use a large knife to cut the cookie dough into rectangles. Place on the lined baking trays and return to the oven for another 8 – 10 minutes, rotating the trays half-way. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. When cool, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water!) and stir every now and then. As soon as the chocolate has melted, add enough matcha powder for a lovely green hue.
  7. Dip each cookie in the melted chocolate half-way and sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries or additional hemp hearts. return to the cooling racks and store in an air-tight container when set. You could also spread chocolate on the underside of each cookie and let it cool upside down. You will need more than 100g of chocolate, but it is more traditional. And reeeeeally good.

Note: If you are not a fan of white chocolate, feel free to use dark chocolate instead.

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Sweet potato loaf with apple butter

Some mornings I just need things to happen a little quicker than usual. Avocado on a slice of rye sourdough will always be a favourite, but for something different try baking this loaf the day before. It was born out of my eternal quest to incorporate more vegetables into our daily eating and the kids love it with raw lightly salted butter. As a special treat (and to keep it dairy-free), slather it with the apple coconut butter below. This gorgeous spread keeps well in the fridge for a week or so and is equally delicious stirred into hot porridge, as a topping on pancakes, or on crunchy toast.

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Sweet potato loaf

Ingredients

5 medium organic free range eggs, lightly beaten

520g (about 2 cups) mashed cooked sweet potato

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

100g (just over 3/4 cup) coconut flour

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

50g (about 1/3 cup) dried cranberries, soaked in juice from 1/2 an orange for at least 2 hours

60g (1/2 cup) pecan nuts, roughly chopped

some coconut sugar to sprinkle over, optional

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (or 160°C in a fan oven).
  2. Grease a medium sized loaf tin and line with parchment paper, allowing the paper to overhang on the long sides.
  3. Beat together the mashed sweet potato and the eggs until smooth, light and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the baking powder, add the salt, coconut flour and grated ginger, and mix well.
  5. Stir in the soaked and softened cranberries, any remaining orange juice and chopped nuts.
  6. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes to give the coconut flour time to absorb the liquids.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, sprinkle over a little coconut palm sugar if using, and bake for 50 minutes or until the top begins to brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the bread comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. Store covered for a couple of days at room temperature or in the fridge for several days. You could also freeze it. Like most gluten-free breads, it is quite fragile and can’t really be slotted into a toaster, but I do sometimes toast it in a medium hot pan in some butter or coconut oil.

Sweet pot

Apple and coconut butter

This will only really work if you have a high-speed blender, as the coconut butter is quite solid in anything other than very hot weather and you will end up with a lumpy mess. But if you don’t own one, try gently heating the coconut butter and then stirring in the apple sauce. It won’t be as spreadable, but still pretty darn delicious as a topping. 

Ingredients

160ml (2/3 cups) home-made or store-bought apple sauce

70g coconut butter (also called coconut manna or creamed coconut) at room temperature

squeeze of lemon juice

Method

  1. Pour the apple sauce into the blender, then cut the coconut butter into small chunks and add. If the fat has separated and formed a layer on top of the more crumbly coconut component, make sure you include some of the fat when adding to the apple sauce. 
  2. Blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides once or twice.
  3. Add lemon juice to taste, blending in between additions.

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Stone fruit slices

The memories of my primary school years are punctuated by gloriously colourful events, much-loved traditions, lessons learnt the hard way, meaningful moments… And Maike’s mum’s weekly apricot tray bake. It will forever crop up in my mind as the most delicious treat anyone could wish for. It perfectly captured the balance between soft and chewy, tart and sweet.  And it looked and tasted like the summer sun.

Rather than being a cake, this recipe really is more of a nutritious snack that I happily give my children after school and help myself to during busy mornings catching up on admin and work. The end result relies to a large extent on the taste and quality of your fruit, but even so, it is a good way to use up over-ripe, squooshy apricots and plums.

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Stone fruit slices

Ingredients

3 medium eggs, at room temperature and separated

80ml (1/3 cup) oil (coconut oil, macadamia nut oil or melted butter)

80ml (1/3 cup) honey

1/2 teaspoon good quality almond extract

pinch of sea salt

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

230g (about 2 1/3 cups) ground almonds / almond flour

750g large apricots and small’ish plums (about 6 of each), halved, stones removed and sliced into eighths

Method

  1. Whisk together the egg yolks, oil, honey, almond extract, salt and lemon zest.
  2. Stir in the ground almonds and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F.
  4. Whisk the egg whites to firm (but not stiff) peaks, and gently fold into the almond mixture.
  5. Spread this mixture out in an even layer in a greased ovenproof baking dish (about 30 x 20 cm).
  6. Place the fruit slices skin-side up as close together as possible in the thin layer of batter – alternating the fruit as you go along. You could also use apricot halves only, which would be much quicker and easier, but not as pretty.
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for another 15 minutes, before removing and allowing to cool.
  8. Cut the cake into squares in the dish, then carefully slide an offset spatula under each row to carefully lift them out.
  9. Store in the fridge for several days or freeze.

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Hot cross breakfast bake

I have an issue with Christmas decorations appearing in September. And hot cross buns being for sale all year long. They are such a treat precisely because they are usually only available during Easter – and, like fragrant strawberries in summer and nutty-sweet Jerusalem artichokes in winter, I so look forward to indulging in them for a brief period every year. Here is a recipe idea for a savoury dish making use of these little spiced buns and one of my favourite greens – cavolo nero.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter!

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Hot cross breakfast bake

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large onion, finely chopped

large knob of organic butter

50g (small handful) Tuscan kale / cavolo nero, leaves stripped from stems and roughly chopped

4 wholewheat, preferably organic, hot cross buns, sliced into 5 slices each (they can be a few days old)

3 pastured organic eggs

200ml (1/2 plus 1/3 cup) milk of your choice

small handful (about 20g) pine nuts, toasted in a heavy based pan until golden

large handful (about 40g) grated strong cheddar cheese

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Heat the butter, add the onion and cook over a medium heat until soft and translucent. Now turn up the heat and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid the edges catching.
  3. While the onion is caramelising, “steam” the kale briefly in a little water until bright green and wilted. Refresh under cold running water and squeeze out any excess liquid.
  4. As soon as the onions are golden and sweet, set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Butter each of the hot cross bun slices with butter and stack in an ovenproof dish. Scatter over the toasted pine nuts.
  6. Now place the onion, kale, eggs and milk in a blender and blend briefly until the kale is finely chopped (but not completely liquidised). Carefully pour this mixture over the hot cross buns and leave to stand for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and set.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

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An Easter cake fit for a king

Easter is a special time of celebration in our household and even though we (well, I!) try to limit chocolate consumption to a manageable amount, a showstopper cake seems to fit the occasion. This squash and parsnip cake relies on olive oil for its moist and dense texture, whilst the flavour is a delightful mix between earthy and fresh, and not at all too sweet. All you need now is a freshly brewed cup of tea and a comfy seat.

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Butternut squash and parsnip cake with saffron icing

Makes 1 small (18cm) double layered cake

Ingredients for the cake

170g wholemeal spelt flour or gluten-free flour

130g chickpea / garbanzo bean / gram flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

pinch of sea salt

200g coconut blossom sugar or light muscovado sugar (lumps removed to avoid holes in your cake)

seeds of 12 – 15 green cardamom pods, ground with mortar and pestle

185ml (3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

4 eggs, preferably organic and pastured

30ml (2 tablespoons) milk of your choice if you are using gluten-free flour

Zest of 2 oranges, preferably unwaxed and organic as citrus fruit is often heavily sprayed with pesticides

150g peeled and grated butternut squash

150g peeled and grated parsnips

Ingredients for the frosting

large pinch of saffron, ground into powder with mortar and pestle

50g butter (preferably organic and grass-fed), softened

250g full-fat organic cream cheese (preferably organic and grass-fed), at room temperature

30ml (2 tablespoons) honey, preferably raw

pinch of sea salt

Method

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Grease and line two 18cm round cake tins with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and cardamom powder.
  3. Separately, whisk the olive oil, eggs and orange zest until combined.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix, and pour in the eggs. Stir to combine, then gently mix in the carrot and parsnip. If the grated strands are on the long side, run a sharp knife through the veggies a few times before adding to the batter (this will help prevent any bubbles or unevenly cooked bits).
  5. Divide the cake mix between the two tins, tap them vigorously on your counter top to allow air bubbles to escape and bake for about 55 minutes, or until golden and a skewer or toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the tin for a few minutes, then remove from and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the frosting:

  1. Soak the ground saffron in just enough hot water to cover for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Beat the butter until soft and light. Add the cream cheese and continue to beat until smooth.
  3. Add the honey and salt and beat another few seconds.
  4. Now you can either add all the saffron water or divide the frosting into thirds, colouring each third slightly more yellow than the one before. Use the three shades to create an ombre effect cake.
  5. Place the frosting in the fridge and allow to set to a pipe-able consistency before icing your completely cooled cake.

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Cacao and matcha pinwheels

We all know that regularly enjoying a cup of green tea is beneficial to our health. Matcha powder is a concentrated powdered green tea that can be stirred into hot water to make a cuppa, but also be added to a variety of dishes, such as smoothies, porridge, lattes, chocolate truffles and cakes. The nutritional value and antioxidant content of matcha tea exceeds that of regular green tea tenfold, because the whole leaf, not just the brewed water, is ingested. Amongst its many benefits, matcha is packed with antioxidants, boosts metabolism and burns calories, detoxifies, calms, aids in concentration, contains vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium, fights against viruses and bacteria, is rich in fibre, and lowers cholesterol and blood sugar. Well worth incorporating into your diet, it seems.

Keksi

 

Gluten-free cacao and matcha pinwheel cookies

Makes 50 – 60 cookies, depending on thickness

Ingredients

110g butter, preferably organic and pastured

130 – 140g coconut sugar (you could also use unrefined brown sugar)

1 egg

250g gluten-free flour (try using one that contains no xanthan gum) or wholegrain spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

15g (2 tablespoons) unsweetened cacao powder

7g (1 tablespoon) matcha green tea powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line a large  baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, then fold into the butter mixture.
  4. Now divide the mixture in half, add the cacao powder to one half and the matcha powder to the other. Use your hands to work the cacao and the matcha into the two balls of dough. The dough will be quite sticky, but should be workable. The matcha half may need a tiny bit more flour.
  5. Now flatten the cacao dough ball onto a large piece of parchment paper in a rectangular shape. Place another piece of baking parchment on top and roll out until you have a very thin large rectangle. Place in the fridge on a chopping board or tray.
  6. Repeat the process for the matcha dough half. Remove the cacao rectangle from the fridge, peel off the top piece of paper, and flip over onto the matcha rectangle. Cut off any overhang to patch any gaps.
  7. Sprinkle the piece of paper that you peeled off the cacao rectangle with flour, then flip the now stuck-together rectangles onto that.
  8. Carefully start rolling up the dough on the long side until you have a very long and tight sausage. Place this in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before moving on to the next step.
  9. When completely firm, cut the sausage in half, leave one half in the fridge and slice the other half into thin rounds. Place on the lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet once. Repeat for the other half of the sausage.
  10. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.


Picnic à deux

Ok, full disclosure: I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I used to, but that was before I married another Capricorn at the end of January. By the time Christmas, New Year’s Eve, our respective birthdays and our wedding anniversary have been duly celebrated, we are usually ready for a break.

I am a HUGE fan of romantic dates, however. Any time, any place. And if Valentine’s Day happens to be the next available opportunity to spoil your sweetheart, then make the most of it with this easy peasy, super sexy stay-at-home picnic for two. Open fires and games of scrabble optional.

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The Ruby Noir

Makes 2 cocktails

Ingredients

60ml (1/4 cup) 100% pomegranate juice, chilled

30ml (2 tablespoons) damson, plum, blackberry or sloe vodka

1 teaspoon sweetened lime juice (squeeze out half a lime and stir in 1 teaspoon honey)

Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled

1 teaspoon pomegranate seeds

2 small and fine rosemary twigs (optional)

Method

  1. Mix the pomegranate juice, vodka and lime juice, then divide between two champagne flutes, pouring through a funnel if you want to keep it extra neat.
  2. Top up with Champagne, by carefully pouring the bubbly into the glass over the back of a metal spoon to “float” it on top of the pomegranate mix.
  3. Carefully float a few pomegranate seeds on top and finish with a rosemary twig, if you like.

 

 

Heart crackers

 

Spiced rye crackers with figgy goat’s cheese

Ingredients for the crackers

Makes about 18 small crackers, but feel free to double or triple the recipe – they keep well

50g (1/3 cup) stoneground rye flour

pinch of salt

pinch each of caraway seed, aniseed and cumin

10g (about 2 teaspoons) cold butter, cut into small cubes

15ml (1 tablespoon) or thereabouts milk of your choice (I used almond milk)

Ingredients for the figgy goat cheese

Enough for 2 people

70g (1/3 cup) soft goat cheese

1 large soft dried fig, finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley, leaves only

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

aged Balsamic vinegar to serve (optional)

Method

  1. For the crackers: preheat the oven to 220°C / 420°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, spices and salt. Using your finger tips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine bread crumbs.
  3. Add the milk and knead the dough until it comes together in a soft ball – not too sticky, and not crumbly.
  4. Roll the dough out thinly and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Place these on the prepared sheet.
  5. Bake for roughly 10 minutes, or until the edges have turned golden, then remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  6. For the goat cheese: while the crackers are baking, mix all the ingredients for the cheese in a bowl, adjust seasoning and set aside.

 

Picnic

Scallop pops with avocado aïoli

What can be more seductive than nibbling on a sizzling scallop lollipop? These guys are the perfect mess-free picnic food and add just the right amount of spice to wake up the senses. Serve with a plate of gorgeous roasted mixed beets.

Ingredients for the marinade

handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

1 small red chilli, finely chopped (deseeded and membranes removed if you prefer it milder)

1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced

splash of olive oil

For the pops

6 large or 8 small scallops

knob of butter, preferably organic

4 to 6 wooden skewers

Ingredients for the avocado aïoli

1 small ripe avocado, mashed

1 – 2 tablespoons garlic aïoli or mayonnaise, preferably home-made

squeeze of lemon

sea salt

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and rub it into the scallops. Set aside for at least half an hour.
  2. While the scallops are marinating, mix together the ingredients for the avocado aïoli and refrigerate.
  3. When you are ready to fry the scallops, pick out the garlic slices, as they burn too easily, and heat the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet or pan over a medium heat.
  4. Fry the scallops for a minute or two on each side – do not overcook them! – then slide one to two onto each skewer. Season with sea salt and serve with the avocado aïoli.

 

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Chocolate-drizzled pear and raspberry lollies

For me, a romantic dinner has to be delicious, yes, but definitely not too filling. Who wants to feel stuffed and uncomfortable on a date? These refreshing, yet luscious lollies will hit the spot.

Makes 4 small or 2 large lollies

Ingredients for the lollies

teaspoon of coconut oil

2 pears, peeled, cored and quartered

1 teaspoon molasses sugar or dark brown muscovado sugar

80g (1/2 cup) frozen or fresh raspberries, plus a few extra

60ml (1/4 cup) milk of your choice (I used almond milk)

Ingredients for the chocolate drizzle

10g / 10ml (2 teaspoons) coconut oil

20g (about 6 squares) dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

Method

  1. For the lollies: heat the coconut oil in a heavy based saucepan until hot, then lay the pear quarters down, sprinkle over the sugar and do not turn until they’ve developed a lovely golden colour and the sugar has melted (about 5 to 10 minutes).
  2. Turn over and fry on the other side for another 5 minutes.
  3. Now blend the pears, raspberries and milk until smooth. Stir in the remaining raspberries (crush them if they are frozen) and fill the ice lolly moulds.
  4. Freeze for at least 4 to 5 hours.
  5. For the chocolate drizzle: put them coconut oil in a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted.
  6. Add the bits of chocolate and continue to warm over a medium heat until melted.
  7. Give it a quick whisk, then set aside to cool slightly.
  8. Run hot water over the moulds to remove the lollies. Using a spoon, drizzle some chocolate sauce over each and give it half a minute or so to set.

Lollies