Apple, Cranberry & Pecan Crumble

Christmas has passed and the last of the dry turkey sandwiches has been eaten. I emerged from the house today after a few days spent hiding in Christmas chaos, venturing to the market to re-stock the cupboards with food. 

Cranberries were almost being given away, so cheap was the price tag  - we bought a huge bag and even more apples. I simmered the cranberries with a healthy amount of brown sugar, cinnamon and chunks of orange peel until the texture was sticky and jam like. They were roughly mixed with apple and laid to rest in a baking dish before being covered with a sweet pecan crumble. 

I baked my crumble at 180C for 25 minutes until the apples were soft and the red of the cranberries could be seen trying to escape the dish. We ate generous bowlfuls accompanied with pools of chilled cream and thought about the year ahead and the year gone past. 


Fig & Pistachio Biscotti

Each clear day is feeling like a gift at the moment, so close am I to having a baby. The nights will become awake time and the days may become about survival rather than sustenance.  The house feels ready, all there is left for me to do is wait and bake. 

My first job years ago was to work for a tiny company called Green & Black's. The offices were in an attic in Waterloo and I think the team was 14 strong on joining and far more by the time I left. I've never quite forgotten those years, being part of an inspiring team, talking chocolate, eating chocolate and being shown how a really successful business rolls. 

Post leaving, I was excited to be asked back and assist creating a cookbook, to try new chocolate ideas, develop treasured recipes and test, test, test along side the very talented Micah Carr-Hill. 

I wrote this biscotti recipe in the book and haven't made it since but this week, seemed like a good moment. 

Try dipping them into sweet wine - it's heaven. 

Pistachio & Fig Chocolate Biscotti 

200g Plain Flour 
50g Cocoa Powder
1.5 tsp baking powder 
pinch of salt
150g caster sugar 
100g whole pistachios, roughly chopped 
125g dried figs, roughly chopped 
2 large eggs 

1/ Preheat the oven to 190C/gas Mark 5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. 

2/ Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar, pistachios and dried figs and mix. Gradually, add the eggs to the mixture and combine to make a dough.

3/ Divide the dough into thirds and form into sausage shapes about 20cm x 4cm. Place on the lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. 

4/ Wait until just cool enough to hand and gently cut the loaves on the angle to form 1cm slices (try using a serrated bread knife for this) and return to the baking sheet (fit as many as you can onto the baking sheet or use two). Bake the biscotti for a further 5 minutes on each side.


Bobble Hat Biscuits

I've been busy this weekend making presents; biscuits today and biscotti next week. We've put the tree up, filled up with firewood and are stocked with candles but it is isn't until the kitchen smells sufficiently festive that Christmas really begins for me. 

Gingerbread dough has a certain satisfaction both in taste and texture. I love the way it can be moulded and shaped into whatever you feel like, your imagination being almost the only limitation.

I chose mittens and bobble hats because they were on my mind. I bagged them up, tied them with ribbon and am going to deliver them this week before they have a chance to soften. 

Bobble Hat Biscuits 

280g plain flour
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g unsalted butter, softened
110g granulated sugar
1 large egg
85g black treacle
 For the Icing 
225g icing sugar 
1 medium, free range egg white 

Sift the flour, ginger, and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar using, an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add the egg. Pour in the treacle and continue beating until combined and smooth.

Gradually fold in the flour mixture to form a dough (don’t worry if it’s a little sticky to start with). Once the dough starts to come together, knead with your hands for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and combined, ensuring there is no flour left in the bowl. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least hours, or overnight.

 Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a depth of 6-7mm deep. Place the template over the dough and, working quickly before the dough gets too warm, cut around the template. Place each head on a lined baking tray and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. 

 Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 4.

Once the oven is hot, bake the biscuits for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool on a wire rack. 

For the icing, put the egg white into a small bowl and sift over the icing sugar, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps forming. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle (3or4mm) or spoon into a plastic freezer bag and cut a tiny corner away to serve as a piping bag. Decorate your hats as you see fit! 


Star Anise, Plum and Vanilla Porridge

There is a turning point in the year when I crave a hot bowl of porridge far more than fresh fruit or ice cold milk.

Everyone has their preferences for porridge, some like it gloopy, some like it solid, some enjoy embellishments and others simply, 'just as'. I'd opt for gloopy with more sweet additions than is really necessary and served hot, steaming hot. 

Star Anise, Plum and Vanilla Porridge

3 cups of water 
1 cup rolled oats 
A pinch of salt 
800g ripe plums
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scrapped 
3 star anise 
3 tbsp runny 

1/ Preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5 
2/ Place the washed plums, halved and stoned in an ovenproof dish, nestle in the star anise and vanilla and pour over the honey. Muddle as best you can. 
3/ Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is tender. 
4/ Meanwhile pour the three cups of water in a small saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Tip in the oats and add the pinch of salt. Continue to serve until the porridge has bubbled for 5 minutes  or so. Spoon into pre warmed bowls (Completely necessary I think). Serve topped with the poached plums.