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Dukkah Crusted Salmon with Asparagus and Vine Ripened Tomatoes

This dish is an easy one to make for a light lunch or dinner. While there are a few steps, there is nothing really challenging, and it’s definitely not time consuming!

And you can always buy dukkah from a health food store or specialty grocer, rather than make your own.

Ingredients

Dukkah

30g skinned hazelnuts

6 cardamom pods, seeds removed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

The dish

1 bunch asparagus, about 6-8 spears

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 spring onions, tops trimmed

2 salmon fillets, skin on

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4-8 cherry tomatoes on the vine if possible

Method

To make the dukkah, put the hazelnuts in a heavy bottomed frying pan and lightly toast for a couple of minutes.

Add the spices and toast for a further 2 minutes.

Put this mixture plus the salt into a food processor and blitz. Don’t overdo it- you don’t want a powder, you want small chunks of nuts.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan-forced.

Cook the asparagus in the microwave for about 2 minutes just until slightly softened.

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a baking dish. Lay the spring onions on the bottom. Place the salmon fillets, skin side up, on the spring onions. Scatter over some salt and ground black pepper. Place the asparagus spears and the cherry tomatoes around the salmon in the dish.

Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, and carefully peel the skin from each fillet. Scatter the dukkah over the fillets, put back in the oven and cook for 3 minutes longer.

Remove from the oven. You can serve as is, but I like to arrange the asparagus on top of the salmon. Sometimes I serve the tomatoes separately too.

Great with crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of wine!

Easter Fruit and Spice Muffins

This year I’m getting my Easter baking sorted early. And I’m also writing my Easter posts early too! So to get the ball rolling, heres a lovely Easter muffin recipe from a few years back.

It’s a great alternative – or addition – to hot cross buns, super simple muffins with all the flavour of hot cross buns. And the added bonus that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar to give a donut crunch on the top!

The mixture makes 6 large muffins or 12 normal size ones.

This mixture keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days, so why not bake double the recipe and keep the remaining mixture in the fridge. That way you can have fresh muffins to bake on demand!

Ingredients
1 cup sultanas and raisins
1/3 cup Pedro Ximinez sherry or any sweet sherry
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking sofa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup milk
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup golden syrup

For the topping 
20g melted butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon 

Method
Soak the sultanas and raisins in the sherry for half an hour or more, if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the holes of a 6 or 12 cup muffin pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl, beat the milk, eggs, oil, honey and golden syrup. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, stirring for about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the fruit just until blended.
Fill the holes of the prepared pan two-thirds full. Or fill a little higher if you like muffins that have a “muffin top”!
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. I check after 15 minutes. Ovens are variable, so you need to keep checking for doneness.
When the muffins are clearly cooked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.
Put the melted butter in a small bowl, and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon on a plate. While the muffins are still warm, dip the top of each one in butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Serve warm or at room temperature, for morning tea, afternoon tea or anytime Easter snack.

Salmon, Asparagus and Tomato Buttermilk Quiche

Quiche is always a popular lunch or supper dish, winter or summer, served indoors by the fire or alfresco on a sunny day.

Great with crusty bread and a green salad, and a glass of wine!

This quiche is super easy as it’s made with filo pastry. I suppose it’s more like a traybake, cooked in a square dish, and it cuts into hearty slices.

This recipe calls for buttermilk in the custard, for a tangy flavour. But make it with full fat milk instead – it will still taste great.

Ingredients

8 sheets filo pastry

6-8 asparagus spears, trimmed

50g butter, melted

100mls cream

150mls buttermilk

4 free-range eggs

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

50g cheddar or feta

2 spring onions, trinm

1 large cooked salmon fillet*

6-8 cherry tomatoes

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter a 20cm – 22cm square baking dish or pan.

Remove filo pastry from the fridge.

Lay a sheet of filo pastry in the dish or pan. Take the next sheet and lay at right angles to the first, to ensure even coverage. Liberally brush with the melted butter. Lay another 2 sheets in the same way, brushing the second sheet with melted butter.

Layer the next 4 sheets, brushing with melted butter after every second sheet.

Take the asparagus and microwave for a couple of minutes on low to medium to just cook. Alternatively stick the asparagus spears top side down in a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes until barely cooked.

Refresh asparagus under cold water.

To make the custard, combine cream, buttermilk, free-range eggs, salt, pepper and half the cheese, in a bowl, and beat with a fork or a whisk until thoroughly combined.

Pour the custard into the dish or pan. Lay the asparagus and spring onions on top of the custard. Break up the salmon fillet into chunks and put into the dish. Scatter the cherry tomatoes, whole, in between the other ingredients. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until the custard is set looking, but not hard or cracked.

Remove from the oven to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the previous mentioned bread and a green salad.

* cook the salmon fillet on baking paper for 10 minutes with a little oil in a 180 degrees C oven.

Fig and Almond Tart

It’s mid March and the last of the figs are still available in the markets. This is a tart I made in another summer, when figs were plentiful, so I thought I would share the recipe again to maximise the last of the fig bounty.

The figs are baked on an almond frangipane base in shortcrust pastry. Figs and frangipane go well together, the lovely almond cream complementing the juicy sweetness of the figs.

The shortcrust pastry is based on Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry but any good shortcrust would do.

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry base:

200gm chilled unsalted butter

250gm plain flour

1 tsp caster sugar

135gm sour cream

For the Frangipane:

100gm butter

100gm caster sugar

100gm ground almonds

1 free-range egg

10 fresh figs, quartered

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, (180 degrees C non fan forced).

Butter a 23cm (9 inch) fluted flan tin with a removable bottom.

To make the pastry, pulse butter, flour and caster sugar in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Using your hands, shape pastry into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
 Roll the pastry out and place into the buttered flan tin.

To make the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor or you can use an electric mixer. Add the ground almonds and egg and mix well.

Spoon the frangipane over the tart base. You may not need all the mixture – the idea is to have a base on which to sit the figs. Arrange the fig quarters in a circular pattern over the frangipane. You needn’t be too precise. The figs should be sitting on top of the frangipane. If they sink in, you probably have too much frangipane and may need to take some out.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the pastry looks cooked round the edges. Don’t overcook so that the pastry edge burns.

Remove from the oven, and after 10 minutes, when the tart has cooled slightly, carefully remove the outer ring of the flan tin.

Serve at room temperature on its own, or with cream or yoghurt.

Molasses Soda Bread

Want bread in a hurry? Can’t be bothered making sourdough or even a standard yeast loaf?

Then soda bread, specifically Irish soda bread, is for you! I make a lot of sourdough, and I love it – both the bread to eat and the whole lengthy process of making that delicious crusty loaf.

But we all need a quick fix and soda bread is just the thing when you want to make a loaf from start to finish in under an hour.

Delicious fresh from the oven, slathered in melting butter, or eaten with cheese and quince paste, and finally, toasted the next day with luscious jam.

My version of soda bread includes a tablespoon of molasses. While I include the molasses to give the bread a slightly caramel flavour, it also produces a nice brown colour.

Here’s the recipe, it’s super easy.

Ingredients
340g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ -1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
290mls buttermilk
1 tablespoon molasses

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Place flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture, and pour in the buttermilk and molasses, mixing quickly to form a soft dough.

Once the buttermilk and molasses have been incorporated, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.

Form into a round then place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm, fresh or toasted!

Passionfruit Butter Cake

This would have to be one of the easiest cakes to make and it looks pretty nice too!

It’s an all in one cake. I’m a huge fan of these kinds of cakes as Mary Berry the “Queen of Cakes” advocates this method.

So this is a simple butter cake, given a bit of zing by adding passionfruit to the batter and in the icing. But you could just as easily substitute lemon or orange as the flavouring or chocolate or coffee.

I made the cake in a bundt tin, but an ordinary cake tin is fine. A bundt tin makes a cake look special, a tip given to me by another good cook, my sister!

Ingredients

200g softened butter

200g caster sugar

200g plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 free range eggs

3 tablespoons milk

Juice of half an orange

4 passionfruit

100g icing sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced. Butter a large bundt tin or a 22cm cake tin. If using a bundt tin make sure you really butter it well to ensure the cake comes out successfully.

Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, orange juice and the juice and seeds of two of the passionfruit in the bowl of a food processor.

Whizz until all the ingredients are well blended.

Spoon the mixture into whatever tin you are using. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes for the bundt tin or 30-35 minutes for the regular tin. The bundt tin takes a bit longer as it’s deeper.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the juice and seeds of the remaining two passionfruit. Depending on how juicy the passionfruit are, you may need to add more icing sugar.

If you think the icing needs more liquid, add another tablespoon of passionfruit juice or lemon juice. You want the icing to be able to drip down the sides of the cake.

Specialise in liberally over the top of the cake.

I think the cake is lovely just served on its own for morning or afternoon tea. But by all means serve with cream or Greek yoghurt if you think it needs it!

Sourdough Wholemeal Loaf

Sourdough in all its forms is the best bread and I continue to add to my store of great stand by bread recipes. I don’t make as much wholemeal as I should – something I should do something about!

This is a lovely wholemeal sourdough loaf that is great for just about anything – fresh with butter or dipped in olive oil or toasted.

But it really makes great sandwiches. I’m particularly fond of an egg and mayo sandwich, as pictured here. But choose whatever filling you fancy.

It can be shaped as a batard in a proving basket and then baked in a pot, or equally baked in a loaf tin to make it easier to slice for the aforementioned sandwiches.

The recipe is based on my go-to sourdough method, with some tweaks for wholemeal. I have given instructions for both the batard in a cast iron pot and the loaf tin versions.

Ingredients

150g strong wholemeal flour

300g strong white flour

150g wholemeal sourdough starter 

325g tepid water

2 teaspoons honey 

10g salt

Method

Weighing, mixing, autolyse
Weigh both flours into a large bowl. Weigh the sourdough starter and add, followed by the water. Add the honey. Mix everything together very roughly, in order to incorporate the ingredients.

Cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.  I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too. The autolyse is an important step to activate fermentation. 

After the autolyse add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. I strongly advise using a dough hook in a stand mixer – I have a KitchenAid which I swear by. You can really develop the gluten in the dough, which makes the dough much easier to pre-shape and then shape. *

Kneading and proving 
Using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test. If you pull and stretch a small section, it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. I usually do a couple stretch and folds too – one straight after mixing, and one half way through the prove. 

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by about 50%.

Pre-shaping
Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and shouldn’t be too delicate, but don’t be too rough! Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shaping
This is where you can shape for a batard in a proving basket to be baked in a pot or for a loaf tin. It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping as you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

Fo the batard shape, put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Now roll up the dough like a Swiss roll, it doesn’t matter which side you roll up. Press the seam to seal.

If using a proving basket, carefully move the dough into a batard shaped proving basket, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

If using a loaf tin, butter a large loaf tin generously. Move the dough and place seam side down, into the tin. 

Second proving
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Baking
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C fan-forced. Put the pot in when you begin to pre-heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or a very sharp serrated edge knife. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough. Put the lid back on the pot. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter baking time, and have come to the conclusion that the longer baking time gives a richer, browner loaf, which is what I prefer.

If baking in a loaf tin, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees C fan-forced 30 minutes prior to baking. If you have one, use a baking or pizza stone. Place this in the oven at the time of pre-heating. Once the 30 minutes is up, to add steam to the oven, put a cast iron pan or a baking dish with water in it in the bottom of the oven. Put the loaf tin in the oven onto the heated stone.

Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf should be dark brown on top.

For either the batard or the loaf, once cooked, remove from the oven, take out of the pot/tin and leave to cool for an hour.

Slice for sandwiches. Of course like any good sourdough, lovely with plenty of butter and home made jam!

*If you don’t have an electric mixer, I recommend the stretch and fold method – see previous post on Sourdough, Ultimate Bread here for how to do this. As for traditional kneading, there is plenty of information on the internet to guide you.

Sugar Plum Fairy Cakes

Everyone loves a cupcake, and a fairy cake with its little cake wings is so pretty.

I recently picked up some sugar plums, a late summer fruit. These are delicate little plums, perfect for adding a sugar coating.

So with a nod to Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, here’s a recipe for little cakes with a sugar plum topping. I made 6 large cupcakes for the recipe, but you could just as easily make 12 small cupcakes.


Ingredients 

Little cakes

125g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
125g butter
2 large free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Creme Patissiere

240 mls milk
2 free range egg yolks
35g sugar
10g plain flour
15g cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Sugar Plums

1 free range egg white
100g caster sugar
6 sugar plums or any small plums

Icing sugar for dusting

Method

For the cakes, preheat the oven to 180 degrees For this recipe you are making 6 large cupcakes – you should get 6 good size cakes from the mixture. Put 6 large paper cases in a Texas muffin tin.

Put all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling the cases equally.

Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top.

Take the cakes in their cases out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the creme patissiere, whisk the egg yolks with sugar until pale and slightly thickened. Whisk in the flour and cornflour.

Put the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour about a third of the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan with the milk.

Bring to a boil, whisking until the custard thickens. Cook for a couple more minutes to cook out the cornflour. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and whisk in the butter.

Pour the custard into a bowl and cover with cling wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming.

To make the sugar plums, preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Whisk the egg white to loosen. Sprinkle the caster sugar onto a plate.

Dip each plum in the egg white, then roll the caster sugar to coat. Place the plums in a baking dish lined with baking paper and place in the preheated oven.

Bake the plums for about 15 minutes or until the sugar has melted and the plums are crusty.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, cut each plum into two, removing the stone. The sugar will melt after a few hours, but the plums will still be baked and sweet.

To assemble the sugar plum cakes: take each cake and cut out the top of each cake. Cut each top in half. Put a couple of teaspoonfuls of creme patissiere on each cake.

Position the cut cake pieces on either side of each cake. Place one or two plum halves into the centre of each cake.

Dust the cakes liberally with icing sugar before serving.

Oven Baked Chicken Risotto

I posted this recipe from Australia’s wonderful Bill Granger during lockdown the year before last. It seems so strange to be talking about lockdown in 2020 when we are still dealing with the pandemic…

It’s quick and easy because it’s an oven baked risotto. It makes sense to let the oven do the cooking rather than spend all that time stirring on the stove top.

Recently, a friend told me that this dish is her go to recipe for risotto, as it’s so much easier than cooking risotto the traditional way.

So I thought it’s about time I posted it again, to encourage reluctant risotto cooks to give it a go!

Bill’s recipe has leeks and asparagus as the veggies. You could replace the leeks and/or asparagus with whatever you fancy – zucchini, peas, broad beans or even tomatoes for a red hued risotto.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken breast or thighs, cut into thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
250g Arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
250ml white wine + extra if needed
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
A handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove top over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining olive to the pan, then the onion and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the onion and leek are soft. Add the lemon zest and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add the chicken stock and white wine, and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 20 minutes. At this point, if the risotto seems to have absorbed all the liquid, add a splash or two of white wine. Add asparagus, return the chicken to the casserole and bake for a few minutes or until the asparagus is just tender, the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Bill says to do this for 3-4 minutes, I found it took more like 10 minutes to fully cook the rice.

Stir in parmesan or pecorino and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cheese.

Coffee Walnut Rustic Cake

Coffee and walnuts, a match made in heaven. This is a simple but very delicious cake, great for the afternoon tea table. There’s not much to do to decorate the cake apart from icing it, so I’m calling it a “rustic” cake. You could go fancy if you wanted to!

You mix most of the ingredients at the same time, so it’s a kind of one bowl cake. You just add the coffee dissolved in milk and walnuts at the end.

Bake the cake in two layers, fill and ice with buttercream. You could easily make this as cupcakes as well!

Ingredients

Cake 

50g ground almonds

125g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

125g caster sugar

125g butter

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 teaspoons instant coffee powder

2 tablespoons milk

50g chopped walnuts + a few extra for decorating

Buttercream Icing

125g butter, softened

250g icing sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons instant coffee

1 tablespoon milk

Method

The Cakes

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease two 18cm (7″) cake tins.

Put all the ingredients except the milk, coffee and walnuts into an electric mixer and mix until smooth and well incorporated. Dissolve the instant coffee into the milk, and add together with the chopped walnuts into the mixture.

Divide the batter equally between the two tins.  Place the tins in the oven and bake for 25- 30 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven, leave in the tins for 5 minutes before carefully turning out of the tins to cool on a wire rack.

Buttercream Icing

In a food processor, cream together the butter and icing sugar until light an fluffy. Dissolve the instant coffee into the milk. Add this mixture to the icing, process until light and creamy.

To assemble

When cakes are completely cool, spread half of the buttercream icing on the bottom layer, and top with the second layer.

Roughly ice the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the buttercream using a palette knife. When you get to the sides, occasionally dip the palette knife into cold water as you ice to remove some of the thicker icing and to create the “naked icing” effect. The idea is that the top of the cake is well iced and that the side sides are stripped back for a more rustic look.

Quick Make Coffee Walnut Cake!
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