PEAR, PECAN & MAPLE SYRUP BANANA BREAD

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This is yet another recipe from this month’s Delicious Magazine. Yes, I know it sounds like I work for them but I don’t. I just love it, and this month’s issue is fantastic as always. This recipe for Pear & Maple Syrup Banana Bread by Rosie Ramsden jumped out at me and I knew I had to try it.

Ingredients
100g/3.5oz unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
3 (about 250g/9oz) really ripe and speckled bananas
100g/3.5oz golden caster sugar
2 ripe but still firm comice pears, cored and chopped, dusted in a little flour
1 tbsp maple syrup, plus extra to serve
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free-range egg
150g/5.3oz plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g/2oz pecans, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Grease and line a 1 litre loaf tin with baking paper so it overhangs the short edges of the tin. The excess paper will help you lift out the baked cake.

Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl, then stir in the melted butter and caster sugar until well combined.

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Stir through the chopped pears, the maple syrup and vanilla extract then beat in the egg.

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Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda, then gently fold in, along with the pecans.

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Pour the mix into the loaf tin, then bake for 45 minutes.

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The cake should be dark on top with a soft, moist sponge. Check its done by poking a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, its ready.

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Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then lift out onto a wire rack to cool. Drizzle with extra maple syrup to serve.

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And there you have it…a deliciously moist, sweet bread, jam-packed full of flavour and texture. Perfect with a cup of tea.

I took this into the office for my colleagues to try out and it went down a storm. In fact, quite a few of my friends said it was their favourite of all my recent bakes.  So I really hope you get a chance to try this out.

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OTTOLENGHI’S CAULIFLOWER CAKE

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As mentioned in my previous post, this month’s edition of Delicious Magazine is a corker. Every page turned revealed more and more recipes I wanted to try out, so here is another one by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi…cauliflower cake.

This is almost like a baked cauliflower frittata. Served warm with a salad, this is a fantastic dish. I baked it a few days ago and took it into the office the next day. Everyone had a slice and loved it, even those who claimed not to be the biggest fans of cauliflower.

I really hope you try this out. Its very easy to make and it will give you about 8 generous helpings, plus it really is so tasty and filling.

Ingredients
1 small cauliflower (450g/16oz), outer leaves removed, broken into 3cm florets
2 tsp salt
1 medium (about 170g/6oz) red onion
75ml olive oil
½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
7 large free-range eggs
15g chopped basil, chopped
120g plain flour, sifted
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
150g/5.3oz grated parmesan, or other mature cheese, coarsely grated
Melted butter, for greasing
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/450F/gas mark 6. Put the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 tsp of the salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes or until the florets are quite soft. Strain, and set aside in the colander to dry.

Cut 4 x 5mm thick slices off one end of the onion, break into rings and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and put in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook, stirring from time to time, over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Put the cooled onion and rosemary mixture into a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, and whisk well.

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Add the flour, baking powder and turmeric into a large bowl, and add the parmesan, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper.

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Whisk until combined before adding the cauliflower and stir gently, trying to keep some florets whole.

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Line the base and sides of a 24cm springform cake tin with baking paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, mix the sesame with the nigella seeds, then toss them around the inside of the tin so they stick to the greased baking paper.

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Tip in the cauliflower mix and arrange the onion rings on top.

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Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set.

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Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve just warm or at room temperature.

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And there you have it…a cheesy, cauliflower cake, perfect for lunch or light dinner.

Incidentally, the Evening Standard printed a really interesting piece on Ottolenghi last week, and how he has rescued the modern dinner party. You can read it here.

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CARIBBEAN SWEET POTATO PONE

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Every month I look forward to the new issue of Delicious Magazine landing at my front door, and this month was no exception. It was jam-packed full of amazing Autumnal recipes and this recipe in particular caught my eye. I have never heard of sweet potato pone before but reading chef Shivi Ramouter‘s tale of how she used to love it as a child growing up in Trinidad, and the fact she described it as halfway between a chewy flapjack and a moist carrot cake, I had to try it out straight away.

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Ingredients
250g/8.8oz sweet potatoes, grated
60g/2oz polenta or cornmeal
100ml/3.4fl oz coconut cream
50g/1.8oz desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
150g/5.3oz demerara sugar
25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas 4. Line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper so the paper overhangs – this will make it easier to lift the pone out once baked.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, polenta/cornmeal, coconut cream and desiccated coconut.

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Stir in all the spices, demerara sugar and a small pinch of salt. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract then mix well.

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Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin using the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread it out evenly.

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Bake for 55-60 minutes until the pone is golden, then remove from the oven.

4When the pone is col enough to handle, carefully lift it out of the tin on to a wire rack (keep it on the baking paper). Cut the pone which ever way you want…into squares or at angles to give irregular pieces.

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Serve warm with custard, or leave to cool completely to enjoy with a cup of tea.

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It really is a perfect mix of a chewy flapjack and a moist carrot cake, and absolutely delicious. I really hope you try it out.

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SALTED CARAMEL MILLIONAIRE SHORTBREAD

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I was recently luckily enough to be sent a copy of Jane Hornby’s new book What To Bake And How To Bake It.

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The book is aimed at amateur bakers looking to master the classics and expand their repertoires. Each of the 50 delicious recipes is accompanied by photographs of the ingredients, each step of the process and a finished dish shot, ensuring foolproof results every time. Every element of the baker’s craft is covered, from everyday cakes and cookies to special occasion breads and pastries.

If you follow my blog, you will see that I do the same thing…printing step-by-step photos throughout all the recipes I post. I have always thought that if you can read, you can bake. But so many people still find baking hard, so I thought it would help people to see how each stage should look so they know they’re on the right track.

Flicking through the book, I wanted to bake almost everything, but I decided to begin with this salted caramel millionaire shortbread recipe. I don’t have much willpower against the words ‘salted caramel’. I’m so glad I did as they tasted AMAZING. They’re ridiculously rich but not overly sweet as the salt cuts through the cloying sweetness. They’re also annoyingly addictive.

INGREDIENTS

For the base
110g /4oz  soft butter, plus extra for greasing
50g/2oz sugar
a pinch of flaky sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
140g/5oz plain flour

For the caramel
110g /4oz butter
200g/7oz dark brown sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 x 400g / 14-oz can full-fat condensed milk

For the topping
200g/7 oz bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

Lightly grease a 23cm/9-inch square baking pan, then line with parchment paper. Make the base first. Put the butter in a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy and very pale. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat again until even paler.

Sift the flour over the creamed butter and sugar. Using a spatula, gently work the flour into the mixture to make an evenly blended dough that starts to clump together.

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Press the dough into the prepared pan, then level and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Prick it all over with a fork, then chill for 10 minutes, or longer if you like, until firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. If using a fan oven, lower the temperature by 20°.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden all over. Let cool completely.

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Now for the caramel. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup, and salt together gently in a pan, then stir in the condensed milk.

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Bring the caramel to a simmer, stirring constantly with a spatula, and let it bubble for 4 minutes, or until it thickens and smells like creamy toffee. It should be thick enough for the spatula to leave a trail in the caramel for a few seconds. Don’t leave the pan or stop stirring during this step, as it can easily burn on the base.

Pour the caramel over the shortbread, then let cool completely.

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Once the caramel has set and cooled, it’s time to finish the layers. Melt the chocolate either over a pan of water or in the microwave, stir in the oil, then pour this over the caramel.

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Sprinkle with the salt and let set at room temperature, or in the fridge if it’s a hot day. The oil helps stop the chocolate setting too hard, which can make it difficult to cut.

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When the chocolate is just set, mark it into squares, then chill until completely firm. (As you can see, mine hadn’t completely set in the middle yet.)

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Cut into cubes to serve. I got 30 out of this recipe. I decided to go for smaller cubes as I knew it would be very rich,  For a really clean finish, wipe the blade of your knife with a slightly damp cloth between each slicing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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What to Bake & How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (Phaidon, September 2014). The illustrated cover is by Kerry Lemon and photography is by Max and Liz Haarala Hamilton.

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TRAVEL BACK IN TIME THIS WEEKEND TO THE KEROUAC SHACK…

Keraouc Shack

Travel back in time to celebrate the era of Kerouac & Ginsberg et al for a night of fine dining propelled to you by some of the best blues music modern day London has to offer.

This one-off private food and music event will be held in the most atmospheric of surroundings: A petrol station garage, complete with an open kitchen, vintage cars and biker gangs. The organisers are trying to keep the event private so the petrol station location is secret until ticket purchase.

You will be greeted on arrival with complimentary wine or a whiskey cocktail, and after this you will be able to purchase the american drink of your choice served from the Bootleg Bar.

As The Gastronome celebrate the launch of their website, you can expect five courses inspired by the travels of The Gastronome himself: Joseph Curtis. (he’s awesome)

With beat poetry, bourbon, blues and dancing in the aisles, this is a night not to be missed.

MENU

Amuse Bouche

Spiced confit chicken leg or Truffled wild mushrooms with Sweetcorn puree and pea shoots

Grilled Bavette steak or Squash and allium Wellington with mac’n’cheese, watercress, pickled shallot and peppercorn sauce

Orange and bourbon granita

Blueberry cheesecake

Confirmed music line up
Dollar Bill
Kitty,Daisy and Lewis

There are still some acts TBC. All the details and updates for this event can be found here.

After Party
Gastronome’s friends at Shake! are giving free entry to anyone with a Kerouac Shack ticket. With a live performance from Smith & The Honey Badgers and blistering party funk and soul records till 4AM, If you don’t want your night to end at the Kerouac Shack then this is the place to go.

Shake @ the Buffalo Bar
259 Upper Street
London
N1 1RU

The £50.00 tickets can be purchased by bank transfer, where once your money is received The Gastronome will email you your numbered ticket or tickets and the location of the petrol station. Tickets are non refundable.

Email team@the-gastronome.com for tickets.

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CHOCOLATE DIPPED PISTACHIO MADELEINES

madeleines

Contrary to my last post about cutting out cakes and sweet stuff, and focusing more on a healthy diet, here is a recipe for chocolate-dipped pistachio madeleines!  Even though I am not technically eating cake at the moment, I still love baking.  So on Monday night I suddenly had an urge to bake, but as it was 9pm I needed something that wouldn’t take too long. I immediately thought of madeleines as they only take about 10/15 minutes in the oven and they’re very easy to prepare.

I must admit, when they came out of the oven, the aroma of warm sponge was too much to resist and I had to try one.  It was delicious. Soft, spongy, light and nutty with the zing of lemon in the background. I did show some restraint though, and took the remaining 23 madeleines into the office the next morning.

This recipe makes 24 madeleines.

200g butter, melted
170g plain flour
100g pistachios
200g golden caster sugar
2 whole large eggs, separated
2 egg whites
zest of 1 lemon
30g dark chocolate
30g milk chocolate

Heat oven to 180C fan. Grease madeleine moulds with butter.

Chop the pistachios in a food processor and grind until fairly fine but with a bit of texture.

Sift the flour and add it to a large bowl. Add the pistachios (keeping some aside for dipping later), the lemon zest and sugar and stir to mix through.

Place the melted butter and egg yolks in a separate bowl and mix together.

Whisk the egg whites in a separate clean bowl until they form soft peaks.

Fold the butter mixture into the dry ingredients, then fold in the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into the madeleine moulds and bake for 12-15 mins until golden and firm to the touch.

Cool for a few mins in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. (I like to add a little squeeze of Golden Syrup to my chocolate, as well as a tiny pinch of salt.)

Once the madeleines have cooled, dip the tips into the melted chocolate, about a third of the way down. Then dip into the reserved chopped pistachios and then put aside to set.

I actually wedged each one into my dish rack as it was the only way I could get them to stand up and avoid the chocolate smudging.

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I left them to set overnight then packed them up and took them into the office. I arrived at work at 9am, they had gone by 9.30am!

madeleines

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STUFFED PEPPERS

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I have done something quite unprecedented recently…I’ve decided to cut out crisps, chocolate, cake (yes, really), burgers, butter…basically all the rich, fattening, decadent, indulgent food I feast on daily.  I don’t want to bore you with the reasons why, but for now I’m just taking a little break so I can feel a bit cleaner and healthier.  I’ve been at it for 4 weeks now and I must admit, I feel a lot better. I feel lighter, full of energy, I’m sleeping better, I’m able to focus at work better and therefore I’m being a lot more productive. Its amazing. I wish someone had told me this sooner!

Anyway, I’ve found it rather challenging coming up with different meals to have each day that are healthy, low in fat and calories, but also tasty.  I find it easier at lunchtime as I work in Central London and I’m surrounded by hundreds of healthy lunch options, but dinner is a different matter. Turn back a few weeks and my usual after-work routine was to meet a friend somewhere in Soho for a bite to eat…a burger with fries one night, truffle mac n cheese the next night, tapas the night after that…you get the picture. Over the last few weeks however, I’ve been heading straight home to cook my meals from scratch. Nothing processed, nothing pre-prepared, just simple, good ingredients.

So with this in mind, I made some mixed stuffed peppers the other day. I had two sweet Romano peppers and decided to fill one with a mix of quinoa, cherry tomatoes, red onion and pine nuts, and the other with couscous, pistachios, olives, pomegranate seeds and mint.

I began by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, then slicing the peppers lengthways and removing all seeds.

21I then placed them on a baking sheet and spritzed with a few sprays of cooking spray. If you’re not looking to cut fat or calories you can simply drizzle with oil. I placed them in the oven for approx 10 minutes, until they softened.

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Whilst they were in the oven I made some couscous (I put 70g in a bowl and covered with hot chicken stock until it had been absorbed. You can use hot water if you prefer, the stock just gives it more flavour), added 10g of chopped pistachio nuts, a sliced spring onion, a grated garlic clove, some torn mint leaves, a squeeze of lemon and some seat salt and pepper.  Then I decided to add a few black olives, sliced.

22I spooned the mixture on top of the pepper halves.

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Next I cooked 30g quinoa and added to it 3 sun dried tomatoes (when I took them out the oil I pressed them in some kitchen towel to get rid of the excess oil), 40g fresh cherry tomatoes (chopped), 7g of toasted pine nuts, a finely chopped slice of red onion which I’d gently fried with a couple of sprays of cooking oil, a few torn basil leaves and salt & pepper.

7Again, I spooned the quinoa mixture on top of the remaining pepper halves.

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Then I drizzled each half with a little olive oil and put the peppers back into the oven for about 15 minutes.

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I then served with mixed leaves, and topped the couscous with pomegranate seeds.

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This was so delicious and even better…healthy and low in calories and fat. Adding up the ingredients on the app My Fitness Pal, I worked out that the two couscous halves came to a total of 360 calories and the two quinoa halves came to 215 calories. So if you fancy a half of each with some salad leaves, the meal comes to under 300 calories. Not bad at all!

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