Limes and mint

K is for Key Lime Pie

Over the past couple of weeks, I managed to do my L blog before the K one, so I’ve been holding off publishing it to ensure they go in order.

K this week was always going to be a fruit-based dessert, perhaps a kiwi or kumquat…something, but then it hit me, Key Lime Pie! As a fan of all pies, and with help from my all time favourite chef Eric Lanlard, the blog this week is Key Lime Pie.

Key Lime Pie Cheesecake - ingredients Key Lime Pie Cheesecake - ready to bake

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes

Cooking time: 35-40minutes

Whisked egg whites

Limes ready to be mixed into pie mix

Ingredients:

  • 350g digestive biscuits (crushed into small rubble)
  • 125g unsalted butter – melted
  • 175g caster sugar (125g for syrup & 50g for the filling)
  • 125ml water
  • 4 large eggs (separated into yolks and whites)
  • 6 limes (2 finely sliced; 4 zested and juiced)
  • 1 tin (397g) of full-fat condensed milk
  • handful of fresh mint
  • 300ml whipping cream (whipped to peaks)

Recipe:

  1. This recipe starts backwards, as we start making the decoration first. Mix 125g of caster sugar and 125ml of water over a medium heat until it reaches a boil. Add 2 finely sliced limes and poach for 10minutes with a few of the mint leaves. Then take off the heat and leave the lime slices to stoop in the syrup overnight.
  2. To make the pie base, mix the melted butter and crushed digestive biscuits together and press into a buttered loose-bottom pie tin (ideally fluted). Leave to chill in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Bake the biscuit base blind for 10-15mins until it takes on colour. This is done by lining with baking parchment (crumpled) and carefully half-filling with ceramic baking beans.
  4. To make the pie filling, beat the egg yolks together and then stir in the condensed milk (making sure to not waste any from the tin – it’s precious stuff), lime zest and lime juice.
  5. In a separate, clean, dry bowl, using an electric whisk beat the egg whites together, slowly adding the remaining 50g of caster sugar until firm peaks are formed.
  6. Fold together the egg whites and lime mixture together then pour into the biscuit-lined cake case. Bake for 25minutes until the pie mixture is set. It should be lightly golden on top. It will rise a little and then sink back once out of the oven.
  7. Once completely cool, loosen and gently remove from the spring-form tin. Decorate with the whipped cream, fresh mint and the syrup-infused sliced lime.

Key Lime Pie Cheesecake

Key Lime Pie Cheesecake - badly decorated

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I is for Ice cream

This homemade ice cream is a sweet cheat. It takes minutes to prepare (plus several hours to freeze) and is great to impress midweek. I make mine with crushed honeycomb (see my earlier blog), but you could mix in anything from pistachio nuts to crystallised ginger to fruit. However you want to make your ice cream, this is a rather calorific dessert, so eat with restraint….or a small spoon.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Freezing time: minimum 4 hours (ideally overnight)

Ingredients:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 397g (1 can) condensed milk
  • 120g honeycomb

Recipe:

  1. Pour both ingredients into a large bowl and whip until the mixture forms soft peaks.
  2. Add your ice cream flavour, in this case all the honey comb made previously (smashed into large chunks, small pieces and some dust) and stir gently.
  3. Transfer into a freezable container and freeze overnight.

Ice cream - softly whipped

Ice cream - mixed

Ice cream - ready to freeze

Gnocchi with spinach and pancetta

G is for Gnocchi with spinach and pancetta

This dish is superbly simple to make, tasty and very rewarding with a glass (or several) of a dry white after a long day at the office.
 I do enjoy making my own gnocchi, which isn’t that difficult but time consuming enough to be left to the weekend, so it’s out of a packet in this recipe but there’s nothing wrong with that!
Gnocchi with spinach and pancetta
Ingredients:
This makes enough for 2
  • 500g fresh gnocchi
  • 206g cubed pancetta
  • 260g young spinach leaves
  • 100ml single cream
  • 2 cloves garlic – finely
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • A squirt of lemon juice
Recipe:
  1. In a large frying pan tip all the pancetta cubes and fry on a high heat until starting to turn golden and crisp. You won’t need to add any oil, as there is plenty of fat in the pancetta itself.
  2. Once golden, remove the pancetta and place on kitchen paper to mop up any excess fat.
  3. In the frying pan pour away about half the remaining fat and top up with a dribble of olive oil (not extra virgin, regular will is fine). Add the garlic and fry on a medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile salt a large pan of boiling water and toss in the gnocchi. It should sink to the bottom, and after about 5minutes will raise to the top of the pan – indicating it’s cooked.
  5. Turn the heat down under the frying pan as low as it will go and toss in the spinach.
  6. Stir the spinach around until its coated in the garlic-y oil and has nearly all wilted.
  7. Then add the cream, a spritz of lemon and a couple of turns of pepper and turn up the heat, letting the cream bubble away for a few minutes.
  8. By this point the gnocchi should be cooked, so turn the heat off both pans. Add the pancetta back to the frying pan, drain the gnocchi and add that too.
  9. With a wooden spoon gently fold everything together so the gnocchi is coated in the creamy sauce and serve immediately.

F – Fig and Almond Tart

My fig and almond tart takes enough effort to blitz together a few key ingredients and slice up a handful of figs to produce a special dessert.
Fig and almond tart - ready to cook
Ingredients:
  • 350g all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 tbsp double cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zested
  • 6-8 ripe figs, washed and dried
Recipe:
  1. Heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Roll the pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle approximately 34cm x 18cm.
  3. Beat the double cream and egg yolk together and use to brush the edges of the pastry. Fold the edges of the pastry over to make a 1cm wide border. Brush with more of the glaze and chill the pastry on a baking sheet for at least 30 minutes. The idea here is to produce a frame of pastry to hold in all the fig juices and almond and lemon mixture.
  4. In a food processor, add the ground almonds, caster sugar, softened butter, egg, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Whizz together until smooth – you will probably need to use a spatula to push in all the bits stuck on the side. Don’t worry if the mixture is thick, it’s meant to be.
  5. Spread the almond filling over the bottom of the pastry and chill for 10 minutes while you prepare the figs.
  6. Cut each fig into quarters through the stalk. Arrange the figs cut-side up over the almond mixture. Slide the baking tray into oven and cook the tart for about 35-45 minutes until golden.
  7. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Fig and almond tart

Eton Mess

E is also for Eton Mess

This is an incredible easy recipe, unlike the previous E. Just a few key ingredients, a few moments of effort are required to deliver this delicious dessert.
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 meringue nests (homemade or bought)
  • 300g strawberries
  • 200g raspberries
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1-2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Recipe:
  1. Cut off the green stalks front the strawberries and cut each fruit into similar sizes as the raspberries.
  2. Set aside a couple of pieces of strawberry and raspberr and dribble the balsamic vinegar and caster sugar over the strawberries and leave to stoop for a couple of hours. Don’t worry, the balsamic ail help bring out the taste of the fruit rather than overpowering it.
  3. Crush the meringues. You want a mix of chunky pieces, small pieces, and sand-like dust.
  4. When you’re ready to serve the dessert, whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks (this should only take 1 minute by hand).
  5. Fold in the fruit (juice and all), meringue into the cream and top each serving with a couple of pieces of fruit.
  6. This recipe should serve 4 greedy people

Eton Mess - fruit

Eton Mess

B is also for Beef Wellington

To salivate the taste buds this weekend in preparation for the previously blogged Brownies, I invited a couple of friends round for Sunday dinner, where we indulged (even if I do say so myself) in individual Beef Wellingtons with porcini mushroom sauce and roasted new potatoes.

The mushrooms can be prepared in advance, so if you’re cooking for others, you just need to fry the beef and then it’s a quick assembly job before leaving to cook in the oven.

Beef Wellington - prepped for the oven

Beef Wellington – prepped for the oven

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 500g puff pastry (and plain flour for dusting)
  • 4 x 180-200g fillets of beef
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 500g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 large onion (or 4 small shallots)
  • 300ml double cream
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Oil (anything flavourless in which to fry the meat)
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 egg
  • Olive oil
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
Porcini mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms

Recipe:

These steps are for the mushroom mixture and can be prepared in advance:

  1. I prepare the pastry first, by cutting the block of defrosted puff pastry into 4 equal squares and then rolling out into equal-sized squares about 15cm x 15cm. Dust with a bit of flour and place on a tray and leave in the fridge.
  2. Place the porcinis in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. They take about 20 minutes to soften properly. Whilst they are softening, finely chop the onion (or shallots) and lightly fry in a large frying pan.
  3. Chop the chestnut mushrooms as small as you can and add to the onions. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of thyme.
  4. Drain the porcinis (keep the liquid as a stock for another dish later on), chop finely and add to the onions and other mushrooms.
  5. Add a big knob of butter and fry until nearly all the moisture has disappeared.
Mushrooms and onions

Mushrooms and onions

When you’re ready to cook the main dish, the following steps remain:

  1. An hour before you’re ready to eat, preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut up the new potatoes, put in a baking tray and sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Drizzle over 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Approximately 30 minutes later, turn the oven up to 200°C. Put a griddle pan on a high heat. Whilst it’s getting warm, get the beef fillets out their packaging and rub all over with the oil. You oil the meat rather than the pan to stop it smoking too much.
  3. Fry the beef for about 4 minutes on each side.
  4. Whilst the meat is cooking, take the pre-cut pastry out the fridge, and place a large spoonful of the (now cooled) mushroom mix in the middle of each square.
  5. Once the beef is cooked, put each fillet on top of the mushroom mix on each pastry square. Fold each corner of the pastry into the centre, then the next fold in the newly formed corners again to seal the package. Flip over and place on a baking tray.
  6. Lightly beat the egg and brush over each beef wellington package. Add some artistic slashes into the top of each Beef Wellington and put into the oven for 15-20minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
Roasted new potatoes, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme

Roasted new potatoes, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme

Beef Wellington - frying the fillets

Beef Wellington – frying the fillets

Beef Wellington - assembly

Beef Wellington – assembly

Beef Wellington - prepped for the oven

Beef Wellington – prepped for the oven

Whilst the Beef Wellingtons are in the oven, reheat the remaining mushroom mix, and add the double cream. Leave to bubble away until the sauce is slightly thicker and it’s ready to serve alongside the Beef Wellingtons.

Once the Beef Wellingtons and roast potatoes are ready (which should be the same time), take the out of the oven and serve up with steamed green beans.

Beef Wellington with porcini sauce and roasted new potatoes

Beef Wellington with porcini sauce and roasted new potatoes