Monday, 8 February 2016

Cherry, matcha & sakura mousse cake

It's early days, but a gentle flourish of pink has begun to scatter across the branches of the large cherry in the orchard. I'm careful not to overdo it, but confiscating a small handful of flowers shouldn't have much impact on this year's cherry crop - today's storms are more of a worry in that respect. The Japanese love eating cherry flowers, or 'Sakura'; I've used Matcha in the sponge - the subtle green tea notes work perfectly with the sweet cherry mousse filling.

For the cake:
100g Butter
100g Caster sugar
85g Plain flour
15g Matcha powder
1Tsp Baking powder

For the cherry mousse:
600g De-stoned frozen cherries
3 Leaves of sheet gelatine
3 Egg whites
150g Caster sugar
300ml Double cream

To decorate:
Icing sugar
Cherry blossom (optional)

1 Heat the oven to 180c/160 fan/gas 4. Whisk the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Sieve in the flour and matcha powder, then beat again until you have a thick batter. Pour into a lined 20cm loose-based cake tin and bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when poked into the top of the cake. Transfer to a wire cooling rack with the bottom of the cake facing upwards.
2 Soften the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Tip the frozen cherries into a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Blitz to a purée, pass through a sieve and then add the gelatine. Stir until it has dissolved, then set aside to cool to room temperature (but don't refrigerate).
3 Wash the cake tin, then line with cling film, allowing for a generous overhang all the way round. Sit the cake on a work surface, this time the right way up. The cake should have risen nicely with a domed top; two level tiers of sponge are needed here though so use a bread knife to trim off the curved top and make the cake level. Cut the levelled cake into two equal-sized discs, then put the top half into the lined tin.
4 Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy, then whisk in the sugar bit-by-bit until thick, glossy and forming stiff peaks. Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it starts to thicken, then fold into the meringue with the cooled cherry mixture.
5 Pour the pink mousse over the sponge base, level with the back of a spoon and then top with the other half of sponge (with the bottom of the original cake facing upwards). Gather the cling film up over the cake and refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours before serving - overnight if possible. To serve, dust with icing sugar and cherry flowers.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Baked toffee apple cheesecake

Discovery has to be one of my favourite eating apples. It’s an early; I’ve picked them in late July after long, hot summers and found them to be perfectly ripe. The flesh has a vibrant magenta blush when cut, while the taste is crisp, sweet and refreshing in still heat of a sun-baked afternoon in the orchard. Discovery is a natural partner for sticky toffee and works brilliantly in this baked cheesecake recipe - good eaters like Cox or Braeburn are more than worthy alternatives if you’re unable to find them.
• 200g Ginger biscuits
• 75g Butter
• 6 Discovery apples
• 600g cream cheese
• 100ml Double cream
• 150g Caster sugar
• 50g Plain flour
• Vanilla essence
• 300ml pot of Double cream
• 100g Light brown sugar
• 75g Butter
• A pinch of sea salt

• A 23cm spring-form cake tin

1 Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until fine, tip into a bowl and mix in the melted butter. Use a little butter to grease the tin, then line with baking parchment. Spread the biscuit mix onto the bottom of the tin; use the back of a spoon to flatten it out into an even layer. Put the tin in the fridge to chill.
2 Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Peel, core and finely chop two of the apples, then mix with the lemon juice and set aside. Whisk the cream cheese, double cream, caster sugar, flour and vanilla essence together, then stir in the chopped apple. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and bake for 30-40 minutes, after which the centre of the cheesecake should have a uniform wobble when gently shaken.Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven until it has cooled.
3 To make the toffee, melt the cream, sugar, butter, salt and a few drops of vanilla essence together in a pan. Bring to a low bubble and keep stirring until the liquid is a thick, golden toffee colour.. Spoon a thin layer of toffee onto the cheesecake. Core, slice and arrange the remaining apples on top. Use a pastry brush to thinly coat the apple slices with toffee (this will create a seal and stop them going brown). Drizzle over the remaining toffee before serving.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Kale with bacon and apple

Salty bacon, kale, wild fennel seeds and sweet caramelised apple slices. I love this on so many levels...

Friday, 13 December 2013

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Sloe Whisky

I'm a big fan of Sloe gin, but the pursuit of different ways of using my wild gatherings is an addictive and enjoyable one. A fruit-whisky-sugar combination works fabulously well in the Scottish classic Cranachan; I see no reason why this should be any least successful. High hopes rest on getting a bit of game involved with the soon-to-be ruby mixture during the cold winter months of the new year, not to mention a cocktail or two.
40cl Whisky (it's best not to use anything to fancy/expensive, in a similar fashion to Sloe Gin making)
125g Granulated sugar
Roughly two large handfuls of Sloes
Half a cinnamon stick
A couple of cloves
Pour the sugar into a bottle with the Whisky, add the spices and then fill to the rim with sloes. Gently agitate the bottle daily for the first 7 days and weekly thereafter to help everything blend together. It'll taste good after about three months, but patience is rewarded.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Pumpkin gnocchi with wild mushroom and chestnut butter

29th October
The willows seem to have been worse affected by the storm. Jagged splinters of wood fissure skyward along the river bank as we trudge down the hill towards the wood; the weather is brooding and unsettled. Clear blue sky and blazing sun one moment, a dark cloak of slate cloud and rain the other - we shelter under an old Oak during one particularly enthusiastic monsoon and stumble upon a large Hen of the woods mushroom nestling at the base of the trunk. Teamed with a pocketful of Sweet Chestnuts that we found earlier on in the walk, lunch appears to be gradually coming together. This is the beauty of foraging for me - the element of chance involved in any one given foray. You can use pumpkin or squash in this recipe; a sprinkle of crispy sage leaves are a worthy addition if you have them at hand.

600g Pumpkin, skin removed and cut into chunks
Fresh Thyme
Freshly ground nutmeg
Olive oil
3/4 Pint chicken stock
200g Plain flour
A handful of wild mushrooms (I used Hen of the woods, but shop-bought mushrooms work equally well)
1 Garlic clove, finely chopped
1Tbsp Chopped roast chestnuts
A large knob of Butter

1 Heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/Gas 4. Spread the pumpkin chunks out evenly in a large roasting tin. Season, add a drizzle of olive oil, teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and a pinch of nutmeg, then roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
2 While the pumpkin is roasting, heat the stock in a saucepan. Add the roasted pumpkin to a blender, then pour over the stock. Blitz until you have a smooth, thick, soup-like mixture, then pour back into the pan.
3 Keep the pumpkin mixture on a low heat and slowly sieve in the flour, stirring continuously as you do so. It'll gradually start to thicken to a dough-like consistency. Spoon into a bowl and leave to cool.
4 There are plenty of ways of shaping gnocchi, but in this instance I found this technique to be a quick and easy way that suits the dough consistency of this recipe. Take two spoons. Use one spoon to chop off a gnocchi-sized portion of mixture in the bowl, then scoop up using the side of the bowl to form a rugby ball-shaped gnocchi as you do so (see step pic). Use to second spoon to scoop underneath the little gnocchis (gnocchlets?) and let them drop into a hot oiled pan. Fry until golden.
5 Melt the butter in a pan with the garlic, then soften the mushrooms in the hot butter for 5 minutes. Just before serving stir in the chopped chestnuts then spoon over the crispy gnocchi.