Tag Archives: Desserts

Tapioca Pudding with Pineapple and Coconut

Tapioca Pudding with Pineapple and Coconut

This recipe for tapioca pudding with pineapple and coconut started as a bit of a food shock.

About a month ago I heard myself saying words I never ever thought I’d utter. “I’m going gluten free.” It was a shock I can tell you. As somebody who has eaten everything and anything all my life, this would be a huge change for me, or so I thought. The reason for my decision was that I had been having some niggling symptoms, nothing serious, more annoying than anything. After taking some medical advice, this seemed like the right way to go. Before I go any further I think it is important to tell you that I am not allergic, luckily, I seem to be able to take gluten, but this was more of a personal experiment to see if it would help me.

So, I decided to give it a try, see how it went, I had nothing to lose after all – except bread. Oh no, bread! What would I do without it? I came out to some friends and family with the news and set about my task. My first strategy was to scour the organic supermarkets for gluten free products. I came home, laden with quinoa, gluten free bread, crackers and pasta. Over the course of the first week I gave them a try. I replaced cous cous and bulgar wheat with quinoa, and used the bread and pasta. I have a confession, I hate quinoa. As much as I want to like it, I just don’t. Then the pasta and crackers, well, they were ok. The very worst was the bread, yuck! Gluten free bread is nothing short of awful. The texture is weird, dry and cardboard like, it’s dusty, as if somebody has wiped each slice over the sawmill floor before packaging. I needed new plan. Then I realised. What am I doing? I’m a cook for goodness sake. I shouldn’t be using these inferior overpriced replacements, I should use what I already have. What I already know. Since then I haven’t looked back. I’ve got back into using lots of grains and pulses instead of cous cous and the like, I buy spelt bread, and I use more rice now. That’s how this recipe came about. As a child I loved tapioca pudding. I haven’t made it for years – I forgot about tapioca. One day browsing through a list of gluten free food, I saw it, and I thought what a great excuse to re-create a childhood favourite. I have to say, I had to make the tapioca pudding twice, I ate the first batch, every time I passed the fridge, I couldn’t stop myself taking just one more spoonful.

So, what have I learnt? Well my personal taste lends itself to these foods anyway, so I reckon my body knew all along what it needed. And, best of all, if you can cook you are not forced to spend hours reading food labels in the supermarket, because you already know what you put in your food. Once you have a basic grasp of real foods that contain gluten, the only thing holding you back is your imagination.

Now, more than a month on, the niggling symptoms have all but gone. I haven’t missed gluten and I intend to carry on with a relatively low gluten diet.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Chilling Time: 3 hours

Serves 4 to 6

For the Tapioca
65gr / 2.3 oz. of pearl tapioca (the smaller pearls)
250ml / 8.5 fl oz. full milk
1 x vanilla pod
200ml / 6.8 fl oz. coconut milk
A pinch of salt
2 x large egg yolks
1 x heaped tbsp sugar

For the Pineapple
250gr / 8.8 oz. of diced pineapple
2 x tsp honey (or to taste)
Juice and zest of one lime

Method

  1. The place to start is with the tapioca, the pudding is a custard. So, in a heavy bottomed saucepan add the full milk, salt, tapioca the seeds from the vanilla pod and the empty vanilla pod. Bring this mix to a gentle simmer and stir occasionally. Do this until the tapioca is translucent and tender, this takes about 20 minutes. When cooked, stir in the coconut milk.
  2. While the tapioca mix is cooking you can whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl – quite big as it has to hold half of your tapioca mix too. Mix the egg and sugar together until the colour lightens.
  3. Taking your cooked tapioca mix from the heat, pour half of it into the bowl with the eggs and sugar, whisk together using a metal hand whisk. Then pour this back into the pan and place on a medium heat.
  4. On a medium heat keep whisking until the mix thickens, this takes about 5 minutes or so. It is important not to use too high a heat as the eggs will scramble. The mix will not become really thick, the chilling process with thicken it further. I like to check the sweetness level at this stage, you can add a little more sugar if you wish, but if you do, stir it through until it dissolves. Put your tapioca pudding in a clean, cool bowl, remove the vanilla bean and set aside to cool. When it has cooled, cover with cling film and put in the fridge.
  5. Now for the pineapple. Combine the fruit with the honey, lime juice and most of the zest. Keep back a little lime zest to dress.
  6. Place half of the mix in a food processor and whizz up until smooth. Transfer this back into the bowl with the rest of the pineapple and stir together – check the flavour and add more honey or lime if you wish.
  7. Once your tapioca has chilled, place some of the pineapple mix in the bottom of your serving dishes, then add the tapioca and top with a little pineapple and some lime zest to finish.

Tips and Variations 

  • Try with other exotic fruit like mango. I really like a mix of mango and passion fruit. In this version I don’t purée the passion fruit.
  • I like to make the component parts in advance and then construct the dessert when it is time to serve, but you can construct it a few hours before hand if you prefer.
  • There have been times when I need to make the custard a couple of days in advance, in this case I use pasteurized egg yolks and not fresh.
  • This is a great dessert if you are looking for a gluten free pudding.
  • I like to use goat’s milk instead of cow’s, I think it gives a fuller flavour, but that’s just a personal preference as I really love goat’s milk.

Tapioca Pudding with Pineapple and Coconut

Quick Mince Pie Puffs

MincePiePuff1

Last year at Christmas time I went a bit crazy and made so much from absolute scratch.  It was great, don’t get me wrong, but this year I’m trying to go a bit easier on myself.  My recipes are just as tasty, but a bit quicker and less involved.  This version of my classic mince pie is absolute tribute to that.  So, if you find yourself craving those Christmas treats and the smells that just HAVE to fill the house, check out the website over the next few days for some easy ideas.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Makes: 18 to 20 puffs

Ingredients
300gr / 10.5 oz. mince meat (ready made or your own recipe)
225gr / 8.oz. puff pastry rolled out thinly and cut into squares of 8cm (I like to keep it easy for these mince pie puffs, so I use ready made)
1 egg, beaten
A little flour to make rolling the pastry easier
A little icing sugar for dusting

 Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F
  2. When you have rolled and cut the pastry, place about two teaspoons of the mincemeat into one diagonal half of the pastry. Make sure you leave enough room (about 1cm / 0.5 in.) around the edge so that you can seal them.
  3. Dab your finger into the egg and run it around the edge of your pastry.
  4. Fold one corner over to another to cover your mincemeat and make a triangle shape. Press down around the edge firmly to seal. If you find when doing this that you have put too much mince meat in your puff, you can always rearrange them.
  5. Place each puff on a baking sheet which has been lined with greaseproof baking paper. You may find it easier to fill your puffs on the lined tray.
  6. Take a fork and make depressions with the prongs all the way around each puff where the seal is, this will make it more effective.
  7. Brush the puffs with the rest of the beaten egg and with a sharp knife make a hole in the thickest part of the puff to let steam out.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes (to be safe, check after 15 minutes) or until they are golden brown and crispy.
  9. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve warm for nicest results. You can serve them with some double cream or a little clotted cream for real luxury.
  • I like to have these with a glass of port, but of course they go great with a glass of mulled wine.
  • This recipe is an easy and quicker alternative to making mince pies from scratch.

MincePastryPuff3

Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry Clafoutis

It’s not often you see a cherry recipe from me.  Not because I don’t like them, in fact, the opposite.  I LOVE them!  That’s the problem you see.  When cherries come into season and I spot them for the first time, my brain starts running around with recipe and ingredient combination ideas.  I spend the first few weeks of the season buying loads of cherries with all sorts of cooking intentions.  Sometimes I even manage to get them home without eating them. If they make it through the front door, it usually doesn’t take long before I’ve scoffed the lot.  This week, I have been disciplined enough to keep my hands off, long enough to make this delicious clafoutis anyway.

Preparation Time: 40 to 50 minutes
Baking Time: 30 to 40 minutes
The ingredients in this recipe fit a pie dish of 25cm /10in. in diameter and 5cm / 2in. deep.
Serves: 6 to 8

For the Cherries
500gr / 1.1lb Cherries with the stones removed
3 x tbsp Marsala wine
A couple of tsps unsalted butter to grease your pie dish
3 x tbsp sugar plus a little more to coat your pie dish

Cherry Clafoutis

For the Batter
75gr / 2.5 oz. plain flour
½  tsp baking powder
3 x eggs
Seeds from 1 x vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract
125ml / 4.2 fl. oz. whole milk
125ml / 4.2 fl. oz. single cream
75gr / 2.5 oz. sugar

To Finish
A light dusting of icing sugar

 Method

  1. Grease your pie dish with the butter, then add a couple of tbsp of sugar, swirl around until the sugar coats the pie dish by sticking to the butter.  If you have some areas not coated, use a little more sugar.
  2. Place your pitted cherries in the pie dish, drizzle over the Marsala wine and sprinkle over the 3 tbsp of sugar.  Set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. Mix the batter ingredients with an electric whisk or by hand until  smooth, set aside for 30 minutes.
  4. Whilst you wait for your cherries and batter, pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F
  5. Pour the batter over your cherries  in the pie dish and place in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes (check after 25).  Your clafoutis is ready when it is golden brown and you can insert a knife into the middle and it comes out clean.  It may also puff up a little.
  6. Allow to cool a little before dusting with icing sugar.  I like to serve with a little pouring cream or some marsapone or Greek yogurt.

 Tips and Variations

  • Serve warm or cold.  I prefer my clafoutis cooled to room temperature before eating.
  • This recipe works with other pitted fruits like plums, apricots, nectarines.

Cherry Clafoutis

Spice: A Capsule Collection for Every Cook

Spice2

Spice: A Capsule Collection for Every Cook

I have many food obsessions.  Spice has to be one of them.  A serious one of them.  I think I can safely say I am a collector of spices.  At present I have over  70 in my possession.  A whole kitchen cupboard has been given over to this particular food obsession.   I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting flavours that will add to my dishes, give them that special something that only spice can bring.  When I travel, I eat as much local cuisine as I can, the more exotic the better.  I dissect each mouthful to detect any possible spice addition, a new one, one I don’t know about, the next in my collection.  The next spice on my route to creating a new recipe or enhancing an existing one.

I’m not a spice hoarder though.  They all get used, oh yeah, they get used alright.  I can’t imagine life without these flavour makers.  Every day, opening my spice cupboard is like opening a treasure chest.  I feel like the hero in a pirate movie who opens the chest, and his face is lit up by the glow of the treasure inside.  I am sure that my face glows with the prospect of the power of flavour at my fingertips.

I wasn’t always so au fait with my spices.  There was a time when all I had was salt, pepper and some old, crusty spices, probably cinnamon and curry powder which lurked at the back of a kitchen cupboard, seriously out of date.  I’m not ashamed to admit that, I’m not a spice snob.  I mean you have to start somewhere – right?  So, this is my spice starters kit for those of you who have a feeling that your life may benefit from a little spice, but, are not sure where to begin.

For the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Cook
Cinnamon Powder
Cardamom Pods and Powder
Cumin Powder and Cumin Seeds
Turmeric
Fennel  Seeds
Chili Powder (or dried chili’s)
Paprika Powder

For the Baker
Cinnamon Powder
Vanilla Pods (or Vanilla Extract – never essence)
Ground Ginger
Ground Nutmeg
Ground Cloves

For  the Indian Curry Maker
Garam Masala
Turmeric
Cumin Powder and Seeds
Cardamom Pods and Powder
Coriander Powder
Black or Brown mustard seeds (never yellow)
Chili Powder (or dried chili’s)

The Complete Capsule Collection
You’ll notice that there is some cross over in each collection, so, if you want to have the complete capsule collection, here it comes:

Cinnamon Powder
Cardamom Pods and Powder
Cumin Seeds and Powder
Turmeric Powder
Fennel Seeds
Chili Powder (or dried chili’s)
Paprika Powder
Vanilla Pods (or Vanilla Extract – never essence)
Ground Ginger
Ground Nutmeg
Ground Cloves
Garam Masala
Coriander Powder
Black or Brown mustard seeds (never yellow)

 

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

These are the kind of desserts that I love to make (and eat!).   This is ideal to make if you have friends and family coming round.  Why?  Well, you can make it in advance, and when you have had your main course, you can enjoy the company and the conversation in the knowledge that when everybody is ready for dessert, so are you.  Just whip it out of the fridge and off you go!

Preparation Time: 25 minutes plus a few hours in the fridge to chill.

Cooking Time: None

Ingredients for 4 to 6  servings
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
300gr / 10.5 oz. mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1 x tbsp of sugar
2 to 3 drops of vanilla extract or the contents of a vanilla pod
Zest of an orange
100ml / 3.5 oz. of cold strong black coffee (good quality like espresso)
80ml / 2.7 fl. oz. Vin Santo – Italian dessert wine (or Marsala wine is also good)
About 12 savoiardi (Italian Sponge finger biscuits)
Sifted cocoa powder and some grated dark chocolate which contains 70% cocoa solids to decorate.

Method

  1. Whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until they reach stiff peaks and set them aside.
  2. Add the Vin Santo to the coffee in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and egg yolks in a separate large bowl and whisk with the electric mixer until evenly combined.
  4. Fold the egg whites bit by bit into the mascarpone mix, adding half of the orange zest also.  To do this use a metal spoon, the clean thin edge of the metal makes it easier to work everything together.  The important thing is not to lose too much of the air in the egg whites that you have whisked in.
  5. Put a little of the cream mix in the bottom of your serving dish.
  6. Dip the biscuits in the coffee and wine mix, making sure that they take up the mixture but that they do not disintegrate.  They will take up the liquid very quickly and easily as they are quite dry.
  7. Lay the biscuits out over the cream mixture in your serving bowl.
  8. Repeat until the mix is finished or your bowl if full.  The last layer should be cream.
  9. Dust with cocoa powder, rest of the orange zest and grated or shaved dark chocolate.
  10. Cover the dessert and put it in the fridge.  It needs some time, preferably overnight, but 5 to 6 hours is mostly good enough.

Tips and Variations

  • Try using Marsala wine or coffee liquer instead of Vin Santo.  For something stronger you can go for Amaretto.
  • This is a classic Italian dessert.  It translates as “Pick me Up”, I’m not going to argue with that!  It is actually based on the English trifle.  Not often that English cuisine is celebrated by other cultures in this way, although, I am sure that the Italians would say their version is better.
  • You can also try a version with half mascarpone and half whipped cream.
  • Make as  one large tiramisu on as individual portions in glasses.
  • Don’t keep this dessert for too long, I tend to use it no later than the next day.  The reason being is the use of raw eggs.  Although it tastes so good I am sure you will have no worries in this area!