Posts tagged almonds

Toscakaka – Caramel Almond Cake



Aside from the fact that this cake tastes undeniably devine, one of the things I like about it the most is the subtle way you can pick off the sticky caramel almonds from the top when no one is looking with fairly unnoticeable consequences. Its not the done thing to swipe a greedy finger through the icing on a cake but you can get away with it here. Be warned, once you start you may end up with a topless and naked sponge cake and some unimpressed guests. If there was ever an award for moreish-ness (excuse the made up word) this cake would triump.

Its a super light sponge base which I decided to spike with cinnamon and vanilla, basted and topped with a crunchy caramel almond praline which is left to set and encase the pillowey cake. This recipe is from ‘Scandilicious Baking’ and is therefore (I’m told) a classic Scandi treat which quite frankly just makes me want to visit the region even more. I took the recipes advice and added a tsp of coffee to the praline topping which adds a really deep and intense flavour.

Serves 10-12


  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • 150g plain flour
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • 75g melted butter
  • 75ml buttermilk (or add a tsp of lemon juice added to normal milk)

Praline topping

  • 150g flaked almonds
  • 125g soft light brown muscovado sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 50ml milk
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a loose bottomed tin (8cm of so wide) with parchement. If making your buttermilk add the lemon juice to the milk now and set aside for a few minutes.
  2. Whisk the eggs, vanilla and caster sugar on a high speed for at least 5 minutes until really thick and creamy to get in as much air as possible. It really will pay to do this for a good length of time.
  3. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Sieve over half this dry mixture into the eggs and extremely gently using a metal spoon fold in making sure retain the air.
  4. Add half the buttermilk and fold in. Add the remaining flour, fold in and finally the rest of the buttermilk.
  5. Finally fold in the melted butter.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and set. It is important it is set so that it doesn’t collapse when you coat it in praline!
  7. While that bakes, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan or hot oven for a few minutes until golden and fragrant.
  8. Add to a saucepan with the butter, sugar, milk, salt and coffee.
  9. Heat until all melted together and then bubble for a few minutes until thick.
  10. When the cake is ready remove from the oven and increase the heat to 200°C. Pour the praline over the cake, smooth out and bake for 8-10 minutes at this higher temperature until the top is golden and gooey.
  11. Leave to cool before cutting to allow the caramel to set and encase the cake.

This can be enjoyed on its own or with healthy lashings of custard


Persian Pulled Lamb, Cauliflower Couscous, Pea Puree



A weekend of much need experimental cookery and kitchen therapy. I was craving an experiment in the kitchen and with the flat to myself, Julie & Julia playing away on repeat and the sun shining, this is what I churned out.When coming up with new recipe ideas and dishes I seem to find myself just thinking of my favourite flavours and seeing how I can wind them selfishly into the final product. This was wonderfully indulgent whilst being relatively healthy and undeniably tasty. The various textures keep it interesting and the strong flavours keep the healthy aspect well hidden.

I recently ventured to the ‘Wild Food Cafe’ (see here) tucked snuggly away in the Bohemian Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. Located above the renound Neal’s Yard Remedies and around the corner from the infamous Neal’s Yard Diary it was sure to combine many of the local gems of the area that make Borough Market what it is. Oh and not to mention Monmouth Coffee tucked around the bend. As a ‘raw’ food cafe serving raw and healthy dishes the nutritious menu was right up my street. A menu that would have even the most devoted vegan speechless at the lack of opportunity for stereotypical complaining, I tried some interesting new delights (see below). So, I was inspired to do something back home in the raw style. I can see the attraction of having a raw food element in your diet. Gentle or little cooking maintains the important nutrients, but living a life on raw is unrealistic and downright boring if I’m honest. I was surprised not to have seen this ‘of-the-moment’ and stylish cauliflower couscous on the menu but its been on my ‘to cook’ list for long enough and now seemed like an opportune time to add texture to this lovely dish.

Serves 4

Pulled Lamb

  • 1 small shoulder lamb
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked
  • 1 sprig thyme, leave picked
  • 2 garlic gloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Ras el Hanout
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • 1 red onion. quartered

Pea Puree

  • 400g peas
  • Generous knob butter
  • Bunch mint, leaves picked
  • Vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper

Cauliflower ‘Couscous’

  • 300g cauliflower florets
  • Large bunch mint, leave picked
  • Large bunch coriander,
  • 1 lemon/orange zest and juice
  • 60g flaked almonds
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Place the red onion in the bottom of a  roasting tin or a large casserole dish.
  2. Chop the rosemary, thyme and garlic finely together. Sprinkle the ras el hanout over the lamb with a few glugs of olive oil. Massage the spices into the meat and then add the herbs and garlic and coat the lamb.image
  3. Place the lamb on top of the onion and pour the wine around the bottom. Cover the pan with a lid or cover with foil and roast for 3 hours. Top up with a little water now and again if drying to prevent the bottom catching. After this remove the lid/foil and turn the heat up to 180°C to brown the lamb.
  4. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest while you make the side dishes.
  5. For the ‘couscous’, toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly brown. Pulse in a food processor until fine and the texture of couscous and place in a large bowl.
  6. Pulse the cauliflower florets in the processor similarly until you form a couscous like texture. Tip into the bowl with the almonds.
  7. Chop the herbs finely and add with the citrus zest to the bowl. Add a squeeze of the citrus juice, season and stir to combine and set aside at room temperature.
  8. Once ready to serve, boil the peas for a few minutes in the stock. Transfer them to the food processor (reserving the stock) with the mint leaves and the butter. Season and add a little of the cooking stock to loosen and puree until smooth.
  9. Carve or pull the slow cooked lamb into chunks and serve on top of the warm pea puree with the couscous on the side.

Tomorrows leftovers fried until crispy in the warm hands of a soft flatbread topped with some lime yoghurt and salad is nearly as good as the main event!

A brief review…..The Wild Food Cafe, Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden

On entering the Bohemian cafe we were met with long, packed communal tables with happy chatting diners. The odd tyedye t-shirt, flowery head band and a more than average number of dreadlocked men mirrored the my initial expectations. After a helpful and sincere welcome from the team, we sat positioned next to some whirring suspect machines that we soon learned were churning away the homemade chocolate and nut butters of which I am a fan of and have made in the past- a good start. The menu was really interesting and original. We dined on a superfood salad containing a handful of delights. Courgette noodles coated provocatively in a punchy mango dressing and some powerful fresh pesto eagerly wrapped around some grainy quinoa were just a few of the surprises in this supersalad. Their devine sprouted wheat bread, toasted, was hearty, malt-like and dense whilst their pumpkin seed ‘cheese’ was on par with the flavours of my pumpkin seed butter but with a cheesy and characteristic tang. Goodness knows how that was created but their raw cookery courses run in house during the week are a good place to start. But don’t be deterred by salad…the hearty falafel burger or the generously portioned ‘raw’ chocolate torte made with avocado and cocoa will satisfy any sceptic. And folks…if you have a taste card like myself then its 2-4-1! It was a mere steal at £13 for the two of us for lunch.


Chewy Date Slice



However delicious, I was unsatisfied with churning out another generic batch of star-topped, icing-dusted mince pies this weekend. Before you bar-humbug me (as those who know me know I a Christmas LOVER) these have the festive touch of chewy sweet dates, punchy orange zest and warming cinnamon that make a welcome alternative to the mince pie. Especially if, like my glamorous Gran, you are raisin hater. Devour after a cold walk with some warm mulled wine to warn off the teasing sniffles of a brewing cold that threatens to sabotage your Christmas day..

Makes about 12 slices

  • 175g plain flour
  • 125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 250g dates
  • 1 orange
  • 75g butter
  • 150ml water (maybe a bit more)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g flaked almond
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Start with the shortbread base. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and the cold cubed butter until a dough forms. Alternatively, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you form a dough.
  2. Line a tin (about 25cm x 16cm) with parchment and mold the dough into the tin pressing it down with the back of a spoon. Chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the shortbread for about 15-20 minutes until golden but it doesn’t matter if not completely cooked as you will cook it again with the topping. Leave to cool while you make the topping.
  4. Put the dates, cinnamon, 25g of butter, water and the zest of the orange in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool and puree in a food processor. Add a splash more water if too thick.
  5. Combine the flaked almonds, vanilla, sugar and remaining 50g of butter in a saucepan and heat until the butter melts. Coat the almonds in the melted butter and leave to cool a little.
  6. Spoon the date puree over the shortbread base and spread out evenly. Scatter over the buttery almonds and bake for about 25-35 minutes until golden.image
  7. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into slices and dusting with icing sugar.



Rhubarb Bakewell Tart



With a bunch of prematurely picked rhubarb from the allotment aging ungracefully in the fridge this week I decided to experiment and make an ever favourite classic- the bakewell tart- with a rhubarb ‘jam’ instead of your traditional cherry or raspberry. Devine…

Note: For a more subtle flavour if you’re not an almond addict, feel free to leave out the extract.

Serves 8 (generously)


  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g chilled unsalted butter
  • Cold water

Rhubarb Filling

  • 350g rhubarb
  • 1-2 tbsp caster sugar
  • ½ lemon juice
  • Vanilla extract

Frangipane Filling

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 110g ground almonds
  • 25g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • ½ lemon, zest
  • Handful flaked almond
  • 70g icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease and line a 20cm tart tin. Start with the pastry and rub the butter into the flour until you have breadcrumbs. Add a few tablespoons of cold water or enough to bring it into a smooth dough. Roll out thinly and line the tart tin. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the rhubarb filling. Chop the rhubarb into pieces and place in a saucepan with the sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Heat and simmer gently until broken down and ‘jammy’. Set aside
  3. Line the pastry case with parchment and baking beans and bake blind for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the baking bean and return to the oven for 5 more minutes or so until the base is also lightly golden.
  4. Make the frangipane topping. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and almond extract followed by the almonds, flour, baking powder and lemon zest and mix until fully combined.
  5. Spread the rhubarb ‘jam’ evenly over the base of the pre-cooked case and top with the frangipane almond paste and smooth evenly, covering all the rhubarb. Scatter oven the flaked almonds and bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked and golden (cover with foil if it starts to colour before it is ready)
  6. Mix the sieved icing sugar with a few splashes of cold water until you form a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag and, once the tart is cool, drizzle over!


Green Risotto with Crispy Parma ham and Almonds

Risotto is such a versatile and satisfying meal even when, like last night, I was simply using up loose ends from the cupboard because I’d run out of food for the week. It can be made fancy and gourmet by the easy addition of some little tasty toppings which are totally open to interpretation….a poached egg on top is always a favourite of mine! As a risotto lover (and sane person) I always have risotto rice, parmesan cheese and butter in the house and with white wine never more than a stones throw away these few ingredients can always be used to make an endless amount of different variation on a risotto with whatever ingredients are to hand.

I tend to make risottos by instinctive quantities. It really doesn’t matter how much rice or stock you have weighted out as long as you taste as you go along and make sure that the consistency resembles that of loose porridge when ready. I usually use a large handful of rice per person and a pinch more for luck as cold risotto is perfect for arancini (see here).

Serves 2 generously

  • 2 large handfuls of risotto rice
  • 40g butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 2 sprigs thyme, leave picked
  • Small glass dry white wine
  • Hot chicken/vegetable stock
  • Handful of finely grated parmesan
  • 2 handfuls of frozen peas
  • Small bunch mint, chopped
  • Handful of rocket leaves
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 slices of parma ham
  • Small handful of flaked almonds
  • Creme friache
  1. Begin by boiling the peas for a good 5 minutes. (Keep a handful aside for garnish if you like) and blend the rest in a food processor with a splash of the stock until really smooth. Set aside.
  2. Continue by melting half the butter in a pan with a teaspoon of oil. Soften the onion gently until translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Turn the heat up a little and add rice and fry until really hot. Add the white wine to let the rice simmer to absorb the wine.
  4. Now add ladelfuls of the hot stock as each addition of liquid becomes absorbed by the rice, simmering gently over a low heat. The rice takes about 18 minutes to cook so keep adding as much stock as needed until the rice is just cooked and soft. Keep stirring all the time to make sure the starches are released and you get a really creamy texture.
  5. As soon as the rice almost appears to plump up and double in volume and it is just cooked and soft to taste, add the lemon juice and season.
  6. Now stir in the pea puree and mix evenly. If it thickens too much, add a splash of stock to keep it loose.
  7. Add the other half of the butter, cut into cubes, and the grated parmesan. Cover quickly with a lid and take off the heat to rest.
  8. While it rests for 5 minutes, fry the parma ham and flaked almonds in a little oil until crispy and golden and then drain on kitchen paper.
  9. Now stir the melted cheese and butter evenly through the rested risotto and add the rocket and mint and stir to wilt down in the residual heat. If it thickens, add a splash of stock again to get a loose oozing consistency.
  10. To serve, pour a generous portion into a warmed bowl. Top with a few whole peas, the crispy parma ham and toasted flaked almonds and a few teaspoons of creme fraiche if you like!

For tips on the perfect risotto or more definitive measurements, see here.


Trout stuffed to the gills

Just as we were deliberating what we would devour for dinner the other night, an obviously psychic neighbour bought around a freshly caught trout wrapped obligingly in yesterdays paper! Perfect… to create a delicious recipe…..

I’m not a fan of seafood dishes where you constantly have to probe your hands into unwanted shells and tails, picking- if you’re lucky- small bones from between your teeth or in drastic cases, performing the heimlich maneuver on your friends from your fishes splintering skeleton! However, I thought it would be nice to stuff this lovely trout, so I decided to fillet it first and follow an original Jamie Oliver…

Serves 3

  • 1 whole large trout, filleted into two or 4 small fillets
  • 1 handful of flaked almonds
  • 1 bunch of mint, shredded
  • 1 generous handful of breadcrumbs
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 slices of Parma ham/streaky bacon
  • Handful of artichokes in oil- drained and chopped roughly
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Creme fraiche to serve
  • String
  1. Toast the almonds in a hot, dry frying pan for a couple of minutes until fragrant
  2. Crush in a pestle and mortar until fine, leaving some more chunky pieces
  3. Tip into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, crushed garlic, mint, thyme leaves, lemon zest and juice and a glug of extra virgin olive oil to moisten. Season with lots of cracked black pepper and salt.
  4. Cut about 3 lengths of string and lay one trout fillet on a lined baking tray on top, skin side down. Spread the fleshly upside with the mixture and then place the second fillet on top, skin side up.
  5. Lay the Parma ham/bacon slices on top and tie tightly with the string. Scatter any remaining filling around the edge.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 220°C for about 15 minutes until crisp and cooked.
  7. Serve with a lemony creme fraiche.



Breakfast Granola


There is ALWAYS a jar of this in our cupboard, except this morning when we ran out…… a small tantrum was thrown before butter, oats and honey were scavenged from the pantry and a batch was in and baking before you could say ‘granola!’. This sweet jar of toasty crumbs is perfect for topping yoghurt, fruit salad, compote or just simply with milk. Its delicious and is free for adaptation depending on what your shelves depict and what your taste buds request…

  • 250g oats
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • Handful of mixed nuts (I use chopped walnuts/hazelnuts)
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Handful of dried fruit i.e.cranberries, blueberries, raisins, apricots etc
  • 5 tbsp runny honey
  • 50g unsalted butter
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl except the dried fruit, butter and honey
  2. Melt the butter and honey in a saucepan until liquid
  3. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix
  4. Place on a lined baking tray and spread out thinly
  5. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at 180°C turning every 5 minutes to get an even bake
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Don’t worry, once it cools, it will crisp up.
  7. Once cool, mix in the dried fruit and store in an air-tight container where it will keep for weeks!