baking

Wild Strawberry, Cherry and Plum Clafoutis

12:18

One of my favourite summertime recipes has to be Clafoutis. I was first intrigued to try the recipe from the charming french name. It is hard to describe the cake/pudding/sweet deliciousness if you haven't already experienced it; it is almost like a very very light but moist sponge that is dotted with seasonal summer fruit, traditionally cherries. So far this year I have made it with wild strawberries (generously picked and brought back from the mountains for me), extremely juicy plums and lovely sweet cherries.




































I made a cherry clafoutis this year for a summer solstice party hosted by my ceramics teacher in her lovely wild garden. She just so happens to be French and I suddenly regretted my choice of pudding as the French tend to be just as proud and critical, or maybe even more so, as the Italians when it comes to cooking. My pudding went down extremely well and was finished within minutes, so it can't have been too far off the mark!



Most recipes don't include any added butter or oil and tend to feature very little flour which is great for those who can't or don't eat those ingredients. The two best recipes that I have used and adapted are Ottolenghi's 'Individual Plum Clafoutis' and Skye Gyngell's 'Cherry Clafoutis'. 

Cherry Clafoutis:

Ingredients:

- About 20 cherries, halved and stoned

- 3 medium, free-range eggs
- 70 grams of sugar (using 35g at a time!)
- 70g plain flour
- 1tsp vanilla essence
- 150ml double cream
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 vanilla pod
- icing sugar for dusting
Method:

- preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius

- line a 12 inch round cake tin with baking parchment

- arrange half of the cut and stoned cherries on the base of the tin

- separate the eggs

- whisk the egg whites until stiff and add HALF (35g) of the sugar and whisk again until you create soft peaks

- in a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks with the remaining (35g) of sugar until light and creamy

- fold in the flour, add the vanilla essence, cream and pinch of salt, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the mixture and then fold in the egg whites

- pour the mixture over the ready-arranged cherries

- bake for about 20 minutes before taking out of the oven, arranging the remaining cherries on top of the half-baked clafoutis and returning to the oven

- bake for another 5-10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean

- allow to cool and then sprinkle with icing sugar















Homemade Seedy, Nutty, Fruity Granola

12:33

I love granola. It is so simple to make and satisfying to eat. One of my favourite ways to eat it is an adaption from a coffee shop out here in Ferrara; layers of thick yoghurt, chopped up fruit, handfuls of granola, fruit compote and a generous drizzle of maple syrup all displayed in a glass so that you can see all of the different elements. 

Granola is great because you can chuck in lots of really healthy things such as flax seeds that aren't very tasty on their own, but once combined with chunks of oats, honey, nuts and dried fruit, you can't even tell that they are there.






























Another brilliant thing about granola, is that you can vary the basic recipe. Keep the oats, bran, honey and oil base and then swap in and out the nuts, seeds and fruit. I like to change up and adapt Leon's 'Leon Granola' recipe.


Ingredients:

150g honey
50ml seed oil
250g oats
100g oat bran
100g hazelnuts/pistachios (toasted in the oven on a baking sheet for 10 minutes and then roughly chopped)
150g sunflower seeds (toasted in the oven on a baking sheet for 10 minutes)
100g raisins/dried cranberries

Method:

- Preheat the oven to 180 C
- Melt the honey and oil together in a pan over a low heat or in the microwave
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment then weigh out, toast and chop accordingly your chosen ingredients and scatter into a large baking tray
- Add the oil and honey mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly
- Put the tray of granola in the oven and turn over every 5 minutes for about 20 - 25 minutes until golden and toasted







Homemade Pesto

12:10

As an Italian graduate I definitely should have made the connection a little sooner, but it wasn't until recently that I realised that the word pesto comes from the Italian verb pestare which means 'to crush', 'to bash' etc., which is exactly what happens to the ingredients when making pesto.




Pesto is one of my favourite summer weekend pasta sauces. Handfuls of homegrown basil, toasted pine nuts, lashings of good olive oil, fragrant garlic grown nearby in Voghiera and a generous  amount of parmesan or grana all chucked into my grandmother's pestle and mortar (I hadn't even made the connection between pesto, pestare and pestle!)

It is so simple to make; adding all the ingredients one at a time and satisfyingly bashing them down to a green, chunky paste. I like to add my pesto to spaghetti as it is a house pasta favourite but I also love it added to the Ligurian Trofie, gnocchi or spread over bruschetta. 

A pestle and mortar is the traditional way to make pesto and leaves the mix a lot chunkier, but you can just as successfully make it using a hand blender which makes a smoother but just as tasty sauce. Blenders are especially good for making pesto if you have to make a lot of it.

I generally stick to a more traditional recipe using pine nuts, basil and parmesan, but there are so many delicious variations that you can try out just switching the nuts or green elements from the recipe but keeping the quantities the same. For example a favourite of mine is using peppery rocket instead of basil, especially good if making pesto in the winter when basil is harder to come by. 

Ingredients:
(Serves two very generously)

- half a clove of garlic
- a pinch of coarse seasalt (I like to use Maldon)
- a handful of pine nuts
- two large handfuls of basil leaves, stalks removed
- a very large glug of extra virgin olive oil 
- a large handful of grated parmesan 
- a twist of freshly ground pepper 

Method:

- roughly chop the garlic then add it to the mortar with a pinch of salt to help grind it down to a paste with the pestle

- lightly toast the pine nuts being careful not to burn them. Add them to the garlic and bash to a paste

- add the basil leaves to the pine nut and garlic paste a few at a time and continue bashing until you reach a paste consistency once more

- add a generous amount of olive oil and mix in the grated cheese and grind some pepper over. Don't use the pestle at this point

- add to freshly cooked pasta and mix thoroughly or spread over toasted bruschetta. Yum