Monday, 29 October 2012

Apple, blackberry and hazelnut cake with nutmeg icing

Winter seems to have arrived early up in York. Where this time last year, back down south, we were still basking in the afterglow of a surprise 'Indian summer' in October, on Friday I came out of the cinema to find a flurry of snowflakes had settled over the city, turning everything wet and slightly crunchy underfoot. My woollen gloves turned instantly sodden as they grasped my bike handlebars and my journey home mostly involved wincing as trees shook off their light smattering of snow onto my head. There's a real biting chill in the air, although one that for some strange reason I find more exhilarating than unpleasant. Perhaps it's the still lingering novelty of the bracing northern air flushing out my stagnant southern lungs, one that will probably wear off soon and involve me digging out my skiing thermals to wear on an everyday basis.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Spiced caramelised apple and cranberry toast with ricotta and thyme

I sometimes feel like I neglect the poor humble apple. Caught up in the irresistible nectar-like liquor of a ripe marigold mango, or the perfumed snap of a pale translucent lychee, or the honeyed notes of a sugared gooseberry in high summer, it's easy to forget the value of our most beloved home-grown fruit. But the apple sits there patiently in the background, biding its time, a reliable constant. Like that best friend who will still always be there once passionate romances have long faded into the distance, proffering a consolatory cup of tea and telling you there are plenty more fish in the sea and you could do much better, and she always thought there was something suspicious anyway about the way he tied his shoelaces.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Pasta with blue cheese, bacon, caramelised pear and fennel

This is a pasta recipe that I need to rave about. It's bloody amazing. I ate it on the sofa, greedily, from a bowl balanced precariously on my knee, whilst watching Downton Abbey. The combination was almost too joyous for my delicate nervous system to handle.  

It's one of the best things I've ever made. It's the perfect comfort food dinner. It's surprising and wonderful. It has the perfect balance of flavours and textures. It can be eaten with just a fork. Starchy carbs are involved. It has a cheese sauce. There is bacon. All these are good boxes to tick, right?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Spiced ginger plum and smoked chicken couscous salad

My kitchen table is currently groaning under the weight of an enormous cardboard box packed with fruit. If you know me, you'll know this basically means I've reached my peak of happiness. Yes, I lead a life of simple and edible pleasures. There are three bunches of bananas (which are just crying out to be left to blacken and become prime banana bread material), a scattering of plump marigold clementines, several voluptuously tapered conference pears, and an abundance of round rosy apples. There are also some beautiful plums, deepest purple with a gentle white bloom. This delightful array was sent to me by Fruitdrop, a company that delivers fruit to workplaces in London and across the UK to help keep workforces motivated, healthy and productive.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Banana caramel and coffee upside-down cake

I was recently sent an exciting new Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio coffee machine to try out, and asked to create a recipe based around coffee - either something featuring coffee as an ingredient, or something that would be good with a cup of coffee. Naturally, I went all out and did both. 

When I consulted my flavour thesaurus for ideas, a surprising number of ingredients cropped up that apparently pair well with coffee, the most surprising being beef (the combination of red meat and coffee is recommended as a dinner party dish for 'your most health-conscious friends'). I'd have thought that coffee would be a rather difficult ingredient to work with, because it is so bitter and complex in itself. Apart from the obvious - chocolate, cream, milk - I wasn't sure of any coffee pairings that would work. However, given its strong bitterness, coffee works quite well with ingredients that are naturally rich - nuts, for example, and flavoursome spices like cardamom. It's therefore a great base flavour for all sorts of decadent sweet concoctions; this is just one example.