Tag Archives: recipes

I hate avocados

There. I said it. It’s probably food blogger death to admit this, right? But I’ve tried them SO MANY TIMES and I just haven’t found an avo dish I liked.

And avocado isn’t the only food that I dislike but that I also feel I’m missing out on. I mean, I don’t like offal, but I don’t feel the need to like it, so I’m OK with ignoring it on menus. But there’s certain foods that I don’t like which I’d really like to like. And I know it’s possible to change your tastebuds, I hated olives till I was in my 20s, now I can think of nothing I’d rather eat than a gigantic plate of nocerella olives and a glass of something white, cold and fizzy. Not lemonade. This list includes courgettes, squashes, onions (as the main ingredient, rather than for flavour), game, tomatoes (mostly the ones you get in the UK, the ones I’ve had in sunnier climes are usually totally fine), veal, pate, and until last night, aubergine (or eggplant for you Yanks). There’s more, but I’m getting a little embarrassed about it now. IMAG3095

Now as a good Sri Lankan, there’s a dish that’s served at every Lankan party called kathirikai poriyal. It’s small diced, spiced, fried aubergine. Even this couldn’t tempt me in, just no. But my other half loves the filthy emoji, so I bought some the other day, to be a good wife. And then they sat in the fridge, taunting me. Until yesterday, when Nigel Slater and The Guardian made a suggestion that ticked all the right boxes for me – salted, floured, fried, served with cheese and honey. And you know what? It was bloody delicious.

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So now, I’m on the hunt for recipes that will make me reconsider foods I’d given up on ever liking.

What foods did you once hate but now love? And how did you start to love them?

 

Never say never – ready made biriyani spice mix

I was just having a read over some of my old blog posts and remembering how much I enjoy writing them so thought I’d drop another one for your reading pleasure. Or my writing pleasure, you may not enjoy reading it. Sorry about that.

So after my my trip to Sri Lanka the travel bug hit again, but rather than have to go through another trip with my dad, I took my husband to Venice with his best mate and his wife. We went for the Damien Hirst exhibition but as the Biennale was on, it seemed rude not to fill our weekend with art, so we did. Lots of art. It was amazing. The wine, not so much, until we found a lovely place on San Pantalon (I KNOW, but we did wear trousers, so it’s all OK) and drank a lot of wine. And that was great.

But I’m not here to talk about the mediocre tourist food of Venice, I’m here to share with you my latest food cheat discovery – Biriyani spice mix. Rice is probably my second favourite carb after bread in all its many and varied and delicious forms (sorry coeliacs/gluten freers, you’re missing out). And is my go-to comfort food (you can take the girl out of Sri Lanka…). My sister’s lovely sister in law lives in Saudi Arabia and the last time she came to visit, she brought an amazing care package of spices and herbs and the aforementioned biriyani mix. I’n not usually a fan of pre-mixed spices, being a purist and all, but frankly, this was so good I’m converted.

So here’s my recipe, using the spice mix, similar ones are available in all Asian (and some major) supermarkets. FYI this serves approximately 478 people, but it also freezes really well, so freeze in individual sized portions and then simply reheat from frozen in the foil in the oven – easy week night treat supper.

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Chicken Biriyani 

  • 600g basmati rice (wash and soak the rice, whilst you’re preparing the masala, for at least 30 mins)
  • 3 x onions, finely sliced
  • 6 x tomatoes
  • 5 x cloves of garlic, made into a paste
  • 1in of ginger, made into a paste
  • 8-10 chicken legs and thighs (skin removed but on the bone)
  • 3 x big potatoes chopped into 1-in cubes
  • 200g yoghurt (I used greek style)
  • 1 packet of biriyani spice mix
  • Water

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pan and add the onion. Fry until golden then remove 1-2 tablespoons of onions and put to one side. Add the tomatoes into the pan and fry till they’re soft, then add the ginger and garlic pastes, fry for 30 seconds, then add the chicken. Fry for a few minutes, till the chicken is golden, then add the potatoes, yoghurt and the spice mix. Stir well and fry for about 5 mins, till everything is coated. Then add 1-2 cups of water, bring to the boil then cover and simmer until the meat is falling off the bone – probably 15-20 mins.

Whilst that’s simmering, bring 8 cups of water to the boil and add the presoaked and drained rice to the pot. You need to keep a close eye on this, and take off the heat and drain just before it’s cooked – about 10-12 mins.

In the same pan as you cooked the rice, put a layer of rice back in the bottom, about 1cm deep. Then spoon over a layer of the cooked masala, repeat with the rice, then masala two more times. Try to ensure you’ve got equal quantities of chicken on each layer. Top with a layer of rice, then pour over remaining masala sauce. Cover and cook this for 8-10 mins, try not to stir it as you’ll lose the layers.

Serve with raita and poppadoms or just eat on it’s own, either way it’s delicious.

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Salted Caramel Tart with a Lankan twist

I’ve just returned from a very last minute week in Sri Lanka – aka the motherland. My dad’s family were the patrons of a temple in their home village (Kondavil in Jaffna) and the temple has recently been refurbished (in all of the colours) so my dad wanted to go for a pilgrimage. Now, I haven’t been to his (or mum’s) home towns since the mid-80s (you know, war) so I volunteered to go along with him. I know, I’m a saint, it was such a chore heading over to 31c, sunshine, beaches etc etc…

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It was a hugely emotional trip for many reasons – not least because of my current generally emotional state (see previous post). But rather than go into that, instead, I’m going to sing the praises of my new favourite ingredient that I brought home – palmyra jaggery.

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So as you probably know, jaggery is unrefined sugar made from plants with a considerable amount of sucrose – usually sugar cane. But palmyra jaggery is made from the sap of the palmyra tree which grows in abundance in Jaffna. Mum had asked me to bring some home and being a sucker for packaging, when I saw it, I decided to get some for myself too (see pic below – it’s in a case made from palmyra fronds). And what with it being mother’s day yesterday (in the UK, don’t panic, rest of world) I thought it’d be nice to make her something with it because she inspired me to buy it. In terms of flavour, the palmyra jaggery has a really rich deep taste, almost coffee like. Or cinder toffee.

And then I thought, god, this would make an amazing salted caramel which naturally took me to thinking about the lovely popcorn cheesecake recipe by Rosie Birkett. But given I’ve made that about 680 times in the last twelve months (because it’s AMAZING, go on, try it), I thought I’d try something different.

I found a recipe on Great British Chefs which I modified a little because life’s too short to weight out grams of eggs (and I wanted to incorporate the jaggery, obviously). But the original recipe is here if you fancy making it (it also gives you a great option for what to do with seven left over egg whites. Mine have just gone in the freezer). Also this is possibly the tastiest sweet pastry recipe I’ve ever tried – but don’t do what I did and trim it before you bake as it’ll collapse on itself and you’ll have to try and fix it in the oven with a spoon. Hence the slightly wonky base.

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Salted Caramel Tart with Palmyra jaggery – serves 10-12 (or 8, if you’re hungry buggers) 

For the pastry base:
NB this makes enough for two tarts but can be frozen so you’ve got the best pastry on hand all the time – honestly, it’s delicious.  

  • 400g plain flour
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 130g ground almonds
  • 4g salt
  • 240g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the filling:

  • 140g caster sugar
  • 500ml of double cream
  • 100g palmyra jaggery (or any jaggery or dark muscovado)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt

Method

Prepare the pastry first – this probably needs to chill for a minimum 5 hours so you don’t end up with a fat bottomed pie.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and then add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the ingredients together till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then pour in the beaten egg and stir till the mix comes together. If it’s a little wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time, till it comes together and away from the sides of the bowl. tip onto a clean surface and knead briefly then pat into a flatish disk, wrap in clingfilm and put it into the fridge.

For the caramel filling, melt the caster sugar over a low heat. You may need to swirl the pan to help things along but try not to stir it too much – it may seize. Once the sugar has melted, add the double cream and stir to bring together. Then add the salt, remove from the heat and set to one side to chill.

Meanwhile, grate the jaggery into a large bowl and beat in the egg yolks. Pour over the warm double cream mix whilst continually beating. Then add the pinch of salt. Using a fine meshed sieve, pour the mix through into a clean bowl and leave to cool. Once the mix is cool (30-40 mins), skim off any bubbles from the top of the surface, cover and put into the fridge.

You can do all of this up to three days in advance.

When you’re ready to prepare your tart, remove the pastry (well, half of it) and caramel mix from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 150c and prepare a pie tin (I did mine in a 20cm springform cake tin as I couldn’t find a pie tin – worked just as well…) Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin and roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm and then line the tin, taking care not to rip the pastry (if you do, simply patch it up with any excess). Make sure you’ve got enough to hang over the edges of the tin – this is where mine collapsed and created a wonky base.

Put it back in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up again, then line the base with greaseproof paper and baking beans, pop onto a baking sheet and put into the oven.

Once the sides are golden, remove the baking beans/paper and put back into the oven for the base to cook and colour (approx 5-10 mins). Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, reduce the heat to 100c.

Once the base is cooked, pour the salted caramel filling into the tart case and put the whole thing back into the oven. The tart is cooked when the filling barely wobbles when you shake the tin. It will take at least one hour depending on how accurate your oven is, but check it after 40 mins, and then every 15 mins after that.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Serve with a drizzle of cream or a random selection of macarons, praline and ice cream if you want to be all Great British Cheffy. Or just eat as is.

 

Eating down the freezer…

Did I tell you what I got for Christmas? I don’t think I did. Anyway, I got an ice cream maker. It’s not one of those that freeze on the counter top, it’s one that you need to freeze the bowl and then churn like a churning ocean of emotions (nb, I found a poetry book I wrote when I was a misery teenager today, so forgive any ridiculous turns of phrase…) 

The ice cream maker looks amazing but I haven’t been able to use it as our freezer is permanently full. Full like a bean bag, before the woes of the world drowns its liveliness with hugecrushing asses. Yeah. I’ll stop soon. It’s currently sitting on the shelf, next to the deep fat fryer that we also bought for Christmas, which we love. But more on that in another post.

So in the spirit of my new year resolution to spend too much money on stuff, I have made a plan to eat down the freezer so I can start making ice cream. Today I have taken three chicken legs, chorizo and some chicken breasts out of one of the overstuffed drawers and I’m making a chicken and chorizo stew. Admittedly, I’m making enough for about 14 people and I’m currently home alone (the wino is in Spain for “work” which has so far involved a five course lunch and a lot of fun) so that there’s the fear that I’ll simply cook a shit tonne of stuff and then refreeze it but luckily my sister is doing up her kitchen so can’t cook at the moment, so I’m taking this to her and her family tomorrow. I’m good like that. 

It’s a lovely simple recipe so I’m sharing below. I’ve put the amounts that I’ve used to clear out my freezer but you can make it bigger or smaller. Obviously. 


Chicken and chorizo stew

  • 3 x chicken leg joints
  • 3 x chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 x chorizo sausages (the type that need cooking not the ready to eat type) 
  • 3 x red peppers 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced 
  • Olive oil and salt and pepper
  • One tin of tomatoes
  • One tin of chickpeas

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chorizo and slice into chunks. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the chicken and brown it on all sides.

Remove the chicken and leave to one side. Add a little more oil (not too much though) and throw in the garlic and chorizo. 

Let the chorizo brown for a couple of minutes then add the cubed peppers and let that cook for a couple of minutes too. Throw in the tin of tomatoes and then fill the empty tin with water and add that too. Stir the chunks of chicken breast in to the mix, then place the chicken leg joints onto the top. Bring the mix to the boil, cover and leave to simmer for around 30-40 minutes. At around 25 mins, add the drained chickpeas. For a thicker sauce, remove the lid from the pan around 20 mins in to the cook. 

Once it’s cooked, chop up some parsley and sprinkle on top. 

Serve immediately, with some crusty white bread. 

Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.

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As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

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See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

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You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 

 

Recapping November… and Monkey(bread)ing around

Blimey, what a month. As I mentioned, briefly, in passing (ALL THE TIME) I turned 40 in November and as that’s apparently quite the milestone, I decided to drag out the celebrations for the better part of the month.

The actual day, my wino and I went to breakfast at the Delaunay (amazing), saw Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy which moved me to tears in parts, utterly emotional and beautiful and then had a mildly crappy afternoon tea because we’re old and needed a sugar hit. And then dinner with my family that evening which was also simply super (although mediocre food, didn’t expect much more from the local curry house).

My birthday gift from the husband was a trip to Berlin so we went the following weekend and stuffed our faces with German cakes and weinerschnitzel and saurkraut and stuff. Had the best time at the Photography Museum at the Frank Horvat exhib, love his stuff and went to a few other galleries and mostly just pootled around the city really. Don’t go to the zoo, it’s absolutely horrible and I totally cried at the sad lions and camels. Tinged a little bit with sadness – an old friend moved there  a few years ago and I was hoping to catch up with him and his partner but wasn’t to be the case as his partner sadly lost his battle with cancer the week before we arrived. Nic’s been bravely and beautifully blogging at his struggles with dealing with his loss here – please go read it, it’s an honest, heart wrenching and sad read (love you Nic).

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Then back to London town, to start a new job (which is awesome and huge and I think may keep me away from blogging for a bit just whilst I get my head into it) and to celebrate with a bunch of my very best family and friends.

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We’d booked out lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in Queen’s Park – the lovely Caldo. It’s a tapas place and wine bar (and my husband does some of the list so he knows them well). Sorted out a set menu and awaited the hoards to arrive – and boy did they. There were friends from all aspects of my life – school, university, work, drinking in bars, family friends, family members, all told I haven’t felt so loved since probably my wedding day. I always think it’s amazing that some of those people have been in my life for the whole of it, the experiences we’ve shared together could fill books.  It was a lovely day, there were shots done, a cake by a baker (Fondant Fox) whose creations I’d been drooling over on Instagram for a while and whilst her cakes clearly look amazing, they also TASTE amazing, which is possibly the most important thing. And then there was the afterparty. And from that I don’t remember much, but I do know that my fridge was stuffed full of fizz, a tequila station was set up in the kitchen and I had enough Doritos to feed 500 peple before we went to lunch but the next morning the fridge was empty and there were Doritos all over the floor. Lord knows what happened to the tequila. Never saw the bottle again, think it ran away. Took me the better part of a week to recover – won’t be doing that again for a while… Although I tried, the following weekend when my GBFF treated me to an amazing Twin Peaks themed dinner/immersive theatre thing (which I’ll blog separately), I had to follow a bus and a Spice Girl around in a pee yellow car for a day and I have been hanging out with X Factor stars. All told, November has been quite spectacularly full on and, frankly, awesome.

Last weekend was the first weekend we’d had at home since October and the last till Christmas so I decided to get baking – and I’ve been wanting to make Monkeybread for quite some time. For those of you who don’t know, Monkeybread is (probably) an American thing, it’s effectively enriched, sweet dough balls, rolled in cinnamon, sugar and butter and baked. What on earth about that is not to like? I’ve been avoiding my bundt tin since last Christmas when I didn’t grease it enough and an impressive cake I should have made (spiced cranberry) got stuck in it so I had to slice it to take to a party. Not ideal. So I decided to bundt the shit out of my monkeybread to break the fear. And I’m glad I did. It looked GREAT and tasted even better.

Couple of changes I made to the recipe. I have a sweet tooth but I don’t think it compares to most American recipes I’ve seen – sometimes even I get unnerved by the levels of sweetness in a recipe. So I decided to use a traditional white bread dough to make the monkeybread and hope that the sweetness of the cinnamon, sugar, butter would be enough – and it most definitely was. If you do want to go all out, a brioche style bread would probably work quite well – I had no milk in the house so couldn’t do that. Next time, I’m going to experiment with savoury flavours -I think herbed bread and cheese would be amazing. But here’s my recipe, enjoy!

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Monkeybread 

For the dough:

  • 400g strong white bread flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 tsp fast acting yeast
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • Oil for kneading

For the cinnamon sugar

  • 100g butter melted and slightly cooled
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • Pinch of salt

Put the flour into a bowl and add the salt and yeast, making sure these two ingredients don’t touch. Add the warm water and bring the dough together to a sticky shaggy mess. Scrape any dough from your fingers and then cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 30 mins. After that time, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled and dusted board, and knead. Use whatever method you’re most comfortable with – I use Dan Lepard’s, it’s easy to follow and usually comes out with a great bread. Knead for about 5 mins, return to the bowl, leave covered for 15 mins, then repeat this process twice more.

After the last knead, put the oven on a low-medium heat (around gas mark 4 or 170C) to preheat and make your cinnamon sugar – simply mix the sugar and spices and salt together in a bowl. Grease a 25cm bundt tin.

Turn the dough out onto a board and start rolling small dough balls – you want to get at least 30 small balls (golf ball sized). Dip and roll each ball into the melted butter and then dust them in the bowl of spiced sugar and then placed them into the bundt tin. 30 balls comes up about half way up the tin – don’t worry about this, once all the sugar coated balls are in you need to leave it for its final prove so it’ll fill up.

The final prove takes around 30-45 mins (the doughballs should spring back when you poke them!), then put the tin into the oven to bake for one  hour.

Let the monkeybread cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn it onto a serving platter and give the base of the tin a good whack, it’ll release and leave it ready for serving. It’s a lovely indulgent breakfast cake but equally good when still warm with ice cream. Enjoy!

 

 

Cheese and Jam Pizza – weird but so good…

Soft cheese, hard cheese, crumbly cheese, melty cheese, processed cheese (honestly, I’m not even joking about my love of Dairylea – it is one of the few constants in my fridge for comfort eating days) – I love me some cheese. So when the team at Castello asked me if I wanted to try a new cheese, I may have actually punched the air with joy before calmly saying, oh, sure. OK, if I must. I have uber cool appearances to keep up, you see.

The cheese is the story so here’s a little bumpf from the press release.

“Castello is bringing Aged Havarti to the UK following strong demand from cheese lovers…. With buttery caramel flavours, Castello Aged Havarti is base on an authentic Danish recipe dating back to 1952 and matured for 12 months for a richer taste experience.”

Sounds delicious (although would be interested in learning how strong the strong demand was – given I work in PR, I spot a stat fudge when I see one!) The challenge set by the team was to create a pizza using this cheese – they’re working with the super talented Trine Hahnemann to develop recipes for it and provided one she’d created using quite Scandi flavours. They’d also put some stuff in about smorging but by this point I decided all I wanted to do was cut the cheese (ha ha ha) and eat the cheese.

The second food confession I need to make is my love of pizza. Honestly. it would probably be my death row meal (washed down with a side of KFC and my mum’s chicken curry). I love pizza. I have been known to have pizza at lunchtime and pizza for dinner (earning me the not so interesting but factually correct nickname, Vinnie-two-pizza – thanks Sarah!) I have made pizza at home before but usually I order in and when I say usually, I try to limit it to only when I’m hugely hungover, there’s no bread in the house and I want chicken wings. I know, I’m filth.

But now I’m approaching (two days to go) 40, I figured I need to stop spending my money on Papa John and start making pizzas for myself. It feels like something a proper grown up would do, and I figure that grown up malarkey is going to kick in on Monday and I’ll start wearing power suits and reading the FT.

So with my niece and nephew hanging out with me over half term and with a pizza stone provided by Castello, we decided to make five pizzas. One for each of us and one dessert pizza. Here’s a selection of toppings from our savoury pizza day. We ate a LOT of pizza.IMAG3409

You know how a good cheeseboard will feature fruit? Usually figs or apricots or grapes. After I’d tried the Havarti, I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind to make a herby, spicy jam (and definitely a jam, not a chutney) to use instead of a tomato sauce and with the cheese on top. And it worked really well – just that right combination of salt and sweet and the thyme and fennel brought the whole thing together. I’ve been fascinated by the combination of cheese and jam since we ordered scones in Cape Town and they provided a side of grated cheese and strawberry jam and it worked really (if weirdly) well. So here’s my take on a Cape Town classic, using lovely Havarti Aged Cheese.

(If you couldn’t already tell, this is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own. They haven’t made me lie about cheese, I love cheese.)

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Roasted plum, thyme and fennel jam

  • 12 plums, halved
  • 1.5 cups of golden caster sugar
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme, cut into smaller pieces
  • 2 tsps fennel seeds
  • 1.5 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1.75 cups of water

Preheat your oven to gas mark 6. Place plum halves skinside down into a roasting tin – as you’ll see from the pic above, I didn’t bother to try and get out the pits, they come out easily after they’ve been baked.

Sprinkle over half a cup of sugar and the fennel seeds and place the thyme sprigs around the plums in the roasting tin.

Roast for approximately 25 mins until the tops are golden and the sugar is melted. Remove from the oven and leave to cool until you can handle them.

Remove and discard the pits. Scoop the flesh from the skins and put into a bowl. Put the skins and herbs and any juice from the roasting tin into a saucepan, add the lemon zest and juice. Taste at this stage to see if it’s got the right level of thyme/fennel for you and if not, add more – I put three more sprigs into the pan. Add 1/4 cup of water and bring to the boil over a low heat – you want to release the additional roasted flavours from the skins. Once the liquid has reduced by half, remove from the heat and strain. Add the liquid to the reserved plum flesh, along with the remaining sugar (1 cup) and water (1.5 cups), transfer to a saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer until you get the consistency you want (check by doing the line test – drop a blob of jam onto a freezer cold plate and then drag the back of a spoon through it – if the line holds, your jam is set).

Put the jam into a sterilised jar – it should keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

Plum jam and Castello Aged Havarti Cheese pizza

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I used the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pizza dough recipe which worked REALLY well and will become my go-to. You can find it by clicking on the link.

To make a jammy cheesy pizza, simply heat up your pizza stone (or baking tin) in the oven at the highest temperature, roll out your dough, transfer it to a baking sheet with no edges that has a light sprinkling of semolina on it (this’ll help it to slide off the tin and onto the stone in the oven). Smear 2-3 heaped tablespoons of jam over the base (as you would with tomato sauce). Sprinkle a tsp more fennel seeds and a a similar amount of thyme and then top with Castello Aged Havarti – we used a good 150g, because I love cheese (have I mentioned that before?). Transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes – the cheese cooks a lot faster than mozzarella and you may burn the jam if you leave it any longer. Allow to cool before eating. I had mine with Green and Black’s chocolate ice cream which may have taken the weird food couplings a smidge too far but wasn’t bad. Maybe a dollop of cream or creme fraiche would have worked better? Regardless, utterly delicious and definitely something I’ll be doing again. Thanks Castello!

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