Iced biscuits

Back in London when I used to have a job working as part of a team unlike today when teamwork is positively discouraged by my control-freak manager, I sometimes used to make biscuits to take into the office which were very well received. I no longer get to do that as no-one goes into the office but I had this cookie cutter of the queen from a long time ago and thought I should use it on the passing of Her Majesty. For the biscuit base, I used a recipe from Ottolenghi’s ‘Sweet’ and it’s a nicely spiced with orange and chinese 5 spice. The recipe actually contained anise but I didn’t have any so I thought 5 spice would work as anise is one of the components. I iced these with some royal icing, very appropriate.

Makes about 40 biscuits (using a 7 – 8cm cutter)

Ingredients

  • 360g 00 flour
  • 70g rice flour
  • 165g caster sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp chinese 5 spice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 250g butter
  • 4 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 460g icing sugar

Method

1.) Zest the orange and scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod.

2.) Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, baking powder, 5 spice, salt, orange zest and vanilla seeds to a bowl. Stir everything.

3.) Chop up the butter into cubes and add to the flour mixture. Rub in with your fingers so it becomes breadcrumbes.

4.) In another bowl, crack in the egg and beat with a fork. Tip the egg into the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Form a disc shape, wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour.

5.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Cut the dough into 4. Roll out each piece to about 0.5cm. Use your cutter to cut out as many biscuits as possible. Line a couple of large baking trays with baking paper and place the biscuits on. Bake in batches for 16 – 17 minutes ( I think mine took a little less so keep an eye on them) . Leave to cool on a cooling rack and once they’ve set enough to move you can run the baking tray under cold water to cool down and reuse.

6.) Once the biscuits have fully cooled, make the icing. Whisk up the whites of the other 3 eggs until frothy. I used a stand mixer. Add the vanilla essence and the icing sugar. Carry on mixing until a thick icing is formed. It should be thick enough that it won’t run off when you use it for icing. If it doesn’t seem thick enough, add more icing sugar.

7.) Get a piping bag with a thin nozzle and pipe around the outside of all of the biscuits. Add some water to the icing to loosen it a little. Pipe this into the biscuits and tip the biscuits very gently to move the icing around the inside of the outline. Use a cocktail stick to pop any air bubbles and leave the biscuits to set.

Sprout & Lemon Risotto

Sprouts are super tasty when not overcooked and one of the vegetables we can actually grow in the UK so it’s a shame generally people only eat them at Christmas with a roast dinner. This recipe from Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty More’ is freshened up by using lemon rind and tarragon and made a bit special with delicious dolce Gorgonzola. Ottolenghi serves this with some fried quartered sprouts (300g) which I didn’t serve on this occasion but can only improve things even more.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 30g butter
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • few sprigs thyme
  • 2 lemons
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 200g sprouts
  • 200ml white wine
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • 40g parmesan
  • 60g dolce gorgonzola
  • 10g tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Method

1. ) Peel and finely chop the onions. Chop the sprouts into shreds. Melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the onions. Start to fry until soft.

2.) While the onion is softening, peel and finely chop the garlic, strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs and peel the skin from one of the lemons. With a small knife, scrape any pith that’s left on the lemon strips. Finely slice the lemon skin.

3.) Once the onion is soft, dd the garlic, lemon and thyme to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Measure out the wine in a measuring jug.

4.) Add the rice to the pan along with the sprouts and toast for 1 minute.

5.) Add the wine and let it simmer until mostly cooked off. In the meantime, make up the stock.

6.) Add the stock in ladleful’s until it’s all absorbed and the rice is soft with a bite. Zest the lemon and measure out the cheese. Grate the parmesan. Finely chop the tarragon.

7.) Once the rice is soft, add the cheeses, lemon zest and some salt and pepper. Slice a lemon in half, remove the pips and squeeze in the juice from one half. Add the tarragon and stir.

Chickpea and bulgar soup

I think it was the caraway seeds in this recipe which drew me to this soup in Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty More’. I’ve only ever really had caraway seeds in goulash and bread as I think they’re more commonly used in Eastern European food but I love their anise flavour. There’s a feta paste to serve with the soup which makes it all so much better. The recipe serves 4 but I think you can get 6 portions out of this.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 small onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 2 tbsp harissa
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tins chickpeas
  • 1.2 litres vegetable stock
  • 100g bulgar wheat
  • 100g feta cheese
  • 60g crème fraiche
  • 15g coriander leaves
  • 15g mint leaves

Method

1.) Peel and dice the onion.

2.) Heat the oil in a casserole dish and add the onion. Fry for 5 minutes.

3.) Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and chop up the carrot and chop up the celery.

4.) Add these to the pan and cook for 8 more minutes until soft.

5.) Add the spices and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil then lower the temperature to a simmer for 10 minutes.

6.) Cover the bulgar wheat in cold water and cook this whilst the soup is simmering.

7.) Make up the feta paste by blending the crème fraiche and feta (I used an immersion blender). Finely chop the herbs and mix them into the paste with a pinch of salt.

8.) Drain the tins of chickpeas and the bulgar wheat and add to the soup and cook for a further 5 minutes.

9.) Serve some feta paste with the soup.

Fig, Orange & Mascarpone Cheesecake

I had a few people round to watch The Apprentice so I made this cheesecake that was in ‘Sweet’ by Yotam Ottolenghi which is a really great dessert book, packed with beautiful looking desserts with intriguing flavours. I felt that the cheesecake was worthy of a night spent watching this series of the Apprentice, where they’ve once again outdone themselves in finding the most arrogant people living in the UK. Is it horrible to like watching these people fail? I don’t often eat figs as it’s so hard to get them fresh in this country and this was my first time in trying dried figs which I actually prefer. Whisking the egg whites up makes the cheesecake light. I was too lazy here to put greaseproof paper around the outside of the cake tin but if you do that then it should be a lot neater than mine.

Ingredients

  • 100g digestive biscuits (graham crackers if you live in the US)
  • 80g walnuts
  • 60g butter
  • 250g dried figs
  • 250ml orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 500g mascarpone
  • 250g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

1.) Line a 23cm springform tin with baking parchment. If you do around the sides, you need to do 5cm above the rim.

2.) Blitz the digestive biscuits until nearly fine crumbs, then add the walnuts and blitz a little bit more so they have some small chunks.

3.) Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave, add the biscuits and nuts and mix everything.

4.) Press the mixture into the tin with a spatula. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

5.) Chop up the figs, discarding the stalks. Add to a small pan with the orange juice and the cinnamon stick and the cloves. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes to a thick liquid. Leave to cool. Then take the cinnamon stick out and spread over the base and return to the fridge.

6.) Preheat the oven before you start to make the filling.

7.) In a large bowl, add the cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla.

8.) Zest the orange and add the zest to the filling.

9.) Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the cream cheese. Beat all of this with an electric whisk until smooth.

10.) In another bowl, whisk up the egg whites to stiff peaks.

11.) Fold a third of the egg whites into the cream cheese. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.

12.) Take the springform pan out of the fridge and wrap in foil. Place on a baking tray and pour in the filling.

13.) Bake for 75 – 80 minutes. If you see it going brown, put some foil over the top but not too early as you don’t want the foil to stick as the cake rises.

14.) The cake should have a slight wobble but not look liquidy when done. Take out and leave to cool to room temperature. Wrap in cling film, move to the fridge and leave for at least 4 hours. (It can keep up to 2 days at this point).

15.) Take out the fridge, remove the springform collar, serve in slices.

Sprout Salad with Roasted Celeriac

I did make this meal just after Christmas where brussels sprouts were still all the rage in the supermarket but I hadn’t got round to posting it. I love sprouts and they’re great in a salad because they don’t go soggy the day after like lettuce. The salad didn’t quite feel like enough on its own despite the richness of the poached egg and manchego cheese deliciousness. I’ve seen whole roasted celeriac around for a while on social media platforms but I’d always been put off making it just because the cooking time is 3 hours. In actuality, it’s a case of bunging it in the oven and really the only problem is making sure you make it on a day you’re in the house and remembering to plan ahead. It’s a nice healthy accompaniment to the salad and also would work pretty well as a jacket potato substitute. Both parts of the recipe come from the ‘Nopi’ cookbook by Yotem Ottolenghi.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large celeriac
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 punnet shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 8 eggs
  • 250g brussels sprouts
  • 20g parsley
  • 60g manchego
  • salt and pepper

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C and prepare a roasting tray.

2.) Wash the celeriac and scrub off the hairs.

3.) Rub all over with the olive oil and 2 tsp salt.

4.) Roast in the oven for 3 hours.

5.) About 30 minutes before the celeriac is ready, boil some water, pour in a pan, place in the eggs and cook for 7 minutes. Prepare a mixing bowl with some ice and water. Once the eggs are done, transfer the eggs to the bowl until they’re cool enough to handle.

6.) In the meantime, prepare another baking tray, slice up the mushrooms, spread out on the tray and stick in the oven for 20 minutes.

7.) chop off the bottom of the sprouts, peel off the outer leaves and discard. Finely slice the sprouts and add to a mixing bowl.

8.) Finely chop the parsley and add to the sprouts. Shave the manchego into thin slices with a cheese slice and add to the bowl.

8.) Make the dressing, in a measuring jug, add 60ml olive oil, the juice of half the lemon, the red wine vinegar, the syrup and a pinch of salt and pepper.

9.) Peel and chop the eggs in half.

10.) Take the celeriac and mushrooms out the oven.

11.) Mix the dressing with the sprouts mixture and divide among 4 plates. Divide the mushrooms among the plates and the eggs .

12.) Slice up the celeriac and place on the side.