Waiting for summer……………

Well after an initial burst of warm spring weather, it is yet again cool and wet, so in order to give myself a little taste of summer, I came across this lovely summer entertaining feature my husband, photographer Ian Wallace and I shot last summer for Food & Travel magazine in the UK.

As you can see from Ian’s stunning photos it was a lovely sunny day and the colours from the food, styling and flowers zing out at you. Rather than a formal sit down menu, the al fresco nature of the story led me to assemble sharing patters, ideal for a more relaxed ambience.

Scene setter for our summer menu

Seared tuna is one of my favourite ways of eating this meaty and some would say king of the ocean. Here it is served with a spiced chermoula salsa with a hint of chilli. Chermoula is a combination of herbs, spices and aromatics used as a marinade or sauce in many Arabic countries. The actual combination of ingredients varies widely from country to country and even region to region and this one is inspired by a version I had in a London restaurant many years ago. It is great with most types of meaty fish, chicken, and lamb or even drizzled over grilled vegetables.

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Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Beef and anchovy are happy sparing partners and here, beautifully moist slices of rare beef fillet is served with a creamy anchovy dressing. A contrasting texture comes in the form of the crispy pangrattato, Italian for fried bread crumbs. It is spiced up here with a little red onion, garlic and fresh thyme.

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Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattato

Alongside our main dishes are two pretty salad platters full of Mediterranean flavours – you can almost feel the warmth of the sun as you look at them. The orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb salad is my version of a dish I was served last summer by friends who love everything Spanish. They too had been inspired by this dish from Ibiza, one of the Spanish balearic Islands. I love the little sprinkles of blackness made by the olive crumbs.

To further complement our two main dishes is a platter of char-grilled asparagus topped with creamy burrata cheese – where balls of buffalo mozzarella are filled with a rich creamy centre that oozes pure yumminess when cut open. The dressing is made sweet with the inclusion of vincotta, a thick syrup made by the long, slow reduction of grape must, produced in the Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy, Apulia, and Marche regions of Italy. If is available from Itlian food stores or online. If you can’t find it, an aged or reduced balsamic vinegar is a good alternative.

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Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb & Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincota dressing 

I simply adore coconut, so any excuse really to use it in a recipe. It adds a wonderful moist texture to this simple cake made just that little bit more special with the passionfruit drizzle. You can sieve out the passionfruit seeds if you prefer, but I think they look great and I love the crunch they add.

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Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

And if you don’t fancy cake, why not treat yourself to this delicious and decadent cocktail inspired, upside down cheesecake. It is a lovely end to this summer feast and the salty zing from the salted lime praline is lovely surprise.

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Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Summer may still be a little ways off for us here in France, but at least I can dream of warmer evenings and delicious flavours to come.

RECIPES

Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Serves: 6

6 x 180g tuna loin steaks

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds (optional)

1 bunch coriander

1 large red chili, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

a pinch of saffron strands

juice ½ lemon

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

salt and pepper

lemon wedges, to garnish

Trim the tuna steaks and brush with a little oil. Combine the paprika, cinnamon, fennel fronds if using, salt and pepper and press all over the tuna. Set aside.

Make the chermoula. Combine the coriander leaves and smaller stalks, chilli, garlic, saffron strands, lemon juice, oil and some salt and pepper in a mini food processor and blitz until smooth.

Sear the tuna on a hot barbecue or griddle pan for 1 minute each side and then rest for 2-3 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with the chermoula.

Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattata

Serves: 6

1.25 kg beef fillet

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

salt and pepper

pangrattata

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, bashed

100g day old bread, made into rough crumbs

½ small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

25g pine nuts, toasted

2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

anchovy dressing

125g aioli

3 anchovy fillets, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5. Rub the beef fillet with oil and then dust with the thyme, salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat and sear the beef for about 4 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Transfer to a roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile make the pangrattata. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic for 3-4 minutes over a low heat until lightly golden. Discard garlic. Increase the heat, add the breadcrumbs to the pan and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until evenly browned. Drain on kitchen paper. Combine the onion with the vinegar and set aside to soften for 15 mins. Drain and pat dry.

Make the dressing. Place the aioli, anchovies, lemon juice and a little pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Cover and set aside.

To serve, place the breadcrumbs, onion, pine nuts, capers and parsley in a bowl and stir well. Cut the beef into thin slices (it should be lovely a pink in the middle) and top with some of the pangrattata, the anchovy dressing and a little extra drizzle of oil.

Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincotta dressing

Serves: 6

1 kg asparagus spears

2 teaspoons olive oil

200g ball buratta cheese

300g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved

50g rocket leaves

25g pistachio nuts, chopped

15g Parmesan shavings

dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon vincotto (or aged balsamic)

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Trim the asparagus stalks and place on a tray, add the oil and season with salt and pepper, stir well. Cook on a hot griddle pan for 3-4 minutes turning half way through until lightly charred. Transfer to a platter and let cool.

Make the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.

Tear the burrata into pieces and arrange over the asparagus with the tomatoes, rocket and pistachio nuts. Drizzle over the dressing and serve scattered with parmesan shavings.

Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb

Serves: 6

50g pitted black olives

300g baby new potatoes

1 small head fennel, trimmed (fronds reserved for the beef)

8 large radishes, trimmed

3 oranges

3 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

a small fresh chervil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 140c/220f/gas mark 1. Make the olive crumb. Place the olives on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake the olives for 1-1/2 hours until dried out. Leave to cool and then transfer to a chopping board. Chop finely until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes for 10-12 minutes until just tender, drain, refresh under cold water and drain again. Pat dry and let cool. Cut larger potatoes in half.

Finely slice the fennel. Thinly slice the radishes.

Peel and thinly slice the oranges over a bowl to catch the juices and arrange the slices on a platter. Taking all the peelings and ends of the oranges squeeze any juice into the bowl. Whisk in the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and salt and pepper.

Top the orange slices with the potatoes, fennel and radish slices and scatter over the chervil leaves. Top with the olive crumbs and serve drizzled with the dressing.

Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

Serves: 8-10

180g butter, softened

250g caster sugar

6 eggs

225 g desiccated coconut

225 g self-raising flour

250g Greek yogurt or crème fraiche

300g raspberries

passionfruit drizzle

150g caster sugar

150ml water

100ml passionfruit pulp, about 6 large passionfruit

Preheat the oven to 160c/fan-forced 140c/325f/gas mark 3. Oil and line a 23cm loose-bottom cake tin. Cream the butter and half the sugar together until smooth and then beat in the remaining sugar and eggs, a little at a time until combined (don’t worry if the mixture appears curdled). Fold in the coconut and flour until smooth and spoon into the prepared tin.

Transfer to the oven and bake 45-50 minutes, covering loosely with foil if the cake begins to brown. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire tray and spike with holes.

Meanwhile, make the passionfruit drizzle. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the passionfruit pulp and bring to the boil, simmer gently for 8-10 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened. Spoon all but a few tablespoons over the cake and let infuse until cold.

Serve the cake in wedges with the yogurt, raspberries and remaining sauce.

Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Makes: 8

200g white chocolate, melted

50g butter, melted

175g digestive biscuits, crushed

grated zest and juice 3 limes

100ml tequila

250g caster sugar

600g soft cheese

250ml cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

Finely grate 50g of the white chocolate into a shallow bowl. Take 8 martini or margarita glasses, dip the rims into cold water and then into the grated chocolate to coat the rims. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour into a bowl. Add the digestives and stir well until evenly coated. Divide between the glasses pressing them down lightly using the end of a rolling pin. Chill until required.

Combine the lime juice, tequila and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water), stirring until the chocolate is melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the cheese in a food processor with the tequila lime mixture and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the melted chocolate and cream and blend again. Using a piping bag with a large lain nozzle divide the mixture between the glasses. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Make praline. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Combine the remaining sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for a further 5-6 mins until the liquid turns golden brown. Pour the caramel onto the prepared tray and leave to go cold.

Roughly crumble the praline and place in a food processor with the lime zest and salt and blitz to make a slightly chunky crumb mixture. Spoon onto the set creams and serve at once.

Copyright Food & Travel, 2017

Recipes,  Louise Pickford

Photographs, Ian Wallace

A Scandinavian dinner

A dinner inspired by spring, the weather, Scandinavian design, great quality ingredients and sharing ideas and recipes with great friend, food writer Mary Cadogan.

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This spring is cold and wet and reminds me very much of the year we arrived in France from Sydney in 2013. We landed in May expecting balmy days and cool but pleasant evenings, but instead it was cold, wet and very grey. Not quite what we had expected but then not much one can do about the weather but get on and do what you love doing best – cooking, eating and sharing meals with friends.

For me inspiration comes from many different things. Travel, shared stories, design, colour, books and loads more. This menu came to Mary and I over a cup of tea (and one of Mary’s delicious ginger cakes) in her kitchen back in early 2014. We decided to collaborate on a Scandinavian inspired dinner and so together we set about creating a meal full of exciting flavours, colours and textures that we felt were all synonymous with the Scandinavian culture.

We start with an apero. Mary’s delicious red currant vodka served with my take on cured herrings. Steep red currants and sugar in a good quality vodka for 2 weeks, turn the bottle and gently shake every few days to help disperse the flavours. The resulting liqueur is vibrant red, slightly sweet and reassuringly warming.

Making the most of the terrific mini blinis so readily available in the supermarket I topped them with smoked herring, creme fraiche, shredded apple and poached quail’s eggs. I like the smoky richness of the fish and the eggs balanced with the freshness of the crisp apple.

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The first course is one of my favourite ways of serving a young goat cheese like the Chabichou from the region. Lightly whipped with a little buttermilk and a good fruity extra virgin olive oil. I then serve it with homemade crisp breads flavoured with dill seeds or anise. The flavours combine well and the starter is light. I love the contrasting colours here too with nigella seeds and a touch of summer with nasturtium petals and a few salad leaves. It tastes as fresh as it looks.

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For the main course we opted for a meat and a fish dish, either as a sharing course, or for those who have a preference for one or the other. Mary’s marinated salmon (barbecued on a cedar plank giving the fish a lovely deep smoky flavour) is served with pickled vegetables to offset the richness of the fish – it is a fabulous example of a well balanced dish.

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Cooking on cedar planks is is actually an ancient way of cooking something that needs to be protected from the fierceness of the flames or heat, as in indirect grilling. The Finnish have loimulohi (blazing salmon) where the fish is nailed to a plank and cooked over coals and the North West coast American Indians used red cedar planks to cook pacific salmon on. Today you can buy varying sizes of cedar planks online or make your own. The wood is pre-soaked in water to prevent it from catching fire. It is fun and does add a light smokiness to the fish.

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Spring heralds the arrival of young lambs born over winter and fed on the tender sweet grass shoots that give the meats it’s lovely flavour. Lamb works well with fruit and although fresh red currants are out of season, they are a fruit that freezes exceptionally well, even still on the stalk (as a stylist every summer I buy excess berries to keep in the freezer for any out of season photo shoots, pictured here). Here though the flavour in the dish comes from redcurrant jelly echoing the Scandinavian love of paring meat with  fruit. A side of mesclun and radish salad and baby new potatoes in a dill dressing round of the dish perfectly.instagram-in-stream_tall___wheatberry-salad-copy.jpg

Wheat berries are packed with fibre, protein and iron, so not only do they add a distinctive nutty flavour and texture to a dish, they are very healthy too. I love the pickled onion and dried cranberries here. The salad is sweet, tart and nutty all at once.

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Queen of baking and desserts, Mary triumphed with two sensational desserts to round off a very wonderful meal. Swedish pancakes are smaller than their European and American counterparts. They are particularly light too and not dissimilar to the French crepe. The ice cream is incredibly simple (Lingonberry jam is available online or from Ikea and some specialist food shops).

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The Norwegians call this cake The World’s Best Cake and they may well be right. A layer of sponge, covered in meringue with toasted almonds, filled with cream and berries – sounds pretty amazing and it is! And just when you thought that sounded good, it even has a tablespoon of vodka in the filling.

This is quite an involved meal so if it seems a daunting task pick and choose the dishes that inspire you the most. There should be something for everyone here. I hope we did Scandinavia proud, I know not everything is authentic but we made avery effort to be as true as we could to the cuisine of the Nordic countries whilst use those ingredients that we could find locally.

THE RECIPES

Smoked herring blinis

Makes: 12

100 g smoked herring

12 quails eggs

1 apple

1 tsp white wine vinegar

12 mini blinis

2 tbsp crème fraiche

a little watercress

extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Make the topping. Cut the herring into small bite size pieces and reserve. Very gently crack the quails eggs into small dishes. Poach the eggs in gently simmering water for about 1 minute until soft set. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool in cold water. Transfer to kitchen towel to dry and set aside.

Just before serving very finely julienne the apple and toss with the vinegar. Spread each blini with a little crème fraiche and top each one with a slice of herring, a poached egg and garnish each with the apple and watercress . Season with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with a little oil.

To make red current vodka

Layer 250g red currents and 175g caster sugar in a bottle and pour in 1 litre of vodka. Screw tight and leave to infuse for 2 weeks, gently turning and shaking the bottle from time to time.

Dill crisp breads with goat cheese

Serves: 6

150 g soft goat cheese

3 tbsp buttermilk

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

a handful of nasturtium flowers (optional)

a sprinkling of nigella seeds

a few salad leaves

crisp breads

150 g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp dill seeds or anise seeds

50 ml cold water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Make the crisp breads. Preheat the oven to 200c/fan-forced 180c and lightly oil 2 large baking trays. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a food processor and stir in the dill seeds. Add the water and oil and process until the ingredients just come together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough into a ball.

Wrap in cling wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a large thin rectangle about 2 mm thick. Cut into long thin triangles. Transfer to the prepared trays and bake for about 15 minutes until crisp and lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Combine the cheese, buttermilk, oil and salt and pepper in a bowl until smooth. Spread on a plate and scatter over the nasturtium flowers, salad leaves and the nigella seeds. Drizzle with a little oil and serve with the crisp breads.

Plank barbecued salmon

Serves 6

You will need a thin cedar plank 30cm x 20cm for this recipe, these are available from specialist cookware stores or online.

800g salmon fillet, skin on

2 tbsp sea salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp white peppercorns

1 tsp fennel seeds

large bunch dill

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

sauce

2 tsp each dijon and wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp sugar

100g crème fraiche

2 tbsp roughly chopped dill

Line a dish with cling film, large enough to take the salmon. Mix the salt and sugar. Crush the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar or spice mill and stir into the sugar mix. Finely chop the dill stalks and reserve the fronds for later.

Sprinkle half the salt

mixture over the cling film, then scatter over half the dill stalks. Put the salmon on top and sprinkle with the remaining salt and dill stalks. Cover the fish tightly with cling film and put in the fridge overnight.

The next day, soak the cedar plank in water for 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine the mustards, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl with a little salt. Stir in the crème fraiche and dill. Chill until required.

Unwrap the salmon and brush off most of the marinade, pat it dry with kitchen paper. Brush the salmon lightly with oil on all sides and place on the prepared planks, skin side down. Cook the salmon for 12-15 mins over hot coals or on a heated griddle pan, covered with a tent of foil, or the barbecue lid. Serve on the board scattered with dill sprigs with a bowl of sauce on the side.

Swedish pickled vegetables

Serves: 6

600ml water

500g sugar

400ml white wine or cider vinegar

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tsp white peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 tsp allspice berries

2 cinnamon sticks

250g baby carrots or carrot sticks

250g baby beetroots

1 head fennel

half a cucumber

Put the peppercorns, bay leaf, allspice and cinnamon stick into a large pan and dry roast the spices until they give off their perfume. Add the water, sugar, vinegar and onion and bring to the boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Peel and trim the carrots and trim the beets. Cut the fennel into wedges. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and have ready a large bowl of iced water. Cook the vegetables one type at a time, the beets for 15-20 minutes, the carrots and fennel for 5 minutes. As they are cooked scoop from the water and cool quickly in the iced water. Cut the cucumber into sticks and keep these raw.

When the vegetables are cool transfer to four jars and cover with the pickling liquid. Leave to marinade for 24 hours and eat within 3 days. To serve, drain off the pickling liquid and serve with the mustard cream (recipe above).

Roast glazed lamb with herb flowers and red currants

Serves: 6

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary with flowers

2 tbsp dried oregano flowers (or fresh from the garden)* available from specialist stores or online

1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed

4 whole all spice berries, crushed

1.75 kg boneless leg of lamb, butterflied

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp red current jelly

mesclun, radish and hazelnut salad

3 handful mesclun leaves

6-8 radishes, very thinly sliced

50 g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

a few red currants, optional

3 tbsp hazelnut oil

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp whole grain mustard

1 tsp clear honey

salt and pepper

Combine the rosemary, oregano flowers, crushed fennel and crushed allspice in a bowl and add some pepper. Place the lamb on a board and using a sharp knife score the flesh in a diagonal pattern all over. Brush with oil and rub the herb and spice mixture into the lamb, cover and leave to infuse overnight.

Preheat the oven to 230c/210c fan-forced. Arrange the lamb on a rack set over a roasting tin with 150ml cold water in the bottom of the pan. Combine the red currant glaze with a little salt and brush all over the top of the lamb. Transfer to the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 190c/170c fan-forced and roast for 30 minutes until browned. Remove the lamb to a platter and wrap loosely in foil. Transfer the pan juices to a small saucepan, reducing slightly, if necessary and keep warm.

Just before serving, arrange the salad leaves in a bowl and scatter over the radishes, hazelnuts and a few red currants, if using. Blend together the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad leaves and toss lightly. Slice lamb and drizzle over the pan juices. Serve with the salad.

Potato salad with dill salsa

Serves: 6

1 kg baby new potatoes, scrubbed

1/2 bunch fresh dill

1/2 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley

150 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1/2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Scrub the potatoes and place in a large saucepan of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10-12 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, place all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blend and blend to form a smooth green sauce.

Strain the potatoes and return to the pan, add the pesto and stir well until coated. Serve with the lamb.

Wheat berry salad

Serve 6

300g wheat berries

1 red onion

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 tbsp rapeseed oil

100g dried cranberries

50g pistachios, roughly chopped

bunch mint

bunch chives

handful baby spinach leaves

Cook the wheat in plenty of boiling salted water for 25-30 minutes or follow pack timings, then drain well and leave to cool. Peel and thinly slice the onion and mix with the vinegar.

Add the cranberries and pistachios to the wheat berries and mix well. Pick the leaves from the mint and snip the chives, then stir in thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to the onion, then mix in the oil. Tip onto the wheat berries, add the spinach leaves and toss everything together until the berries are glistening.

Lingonberry and cardamom ice cream with Swedish pancakes

Serves: 8

Ice cream

4 cardamom pods

400 ml double cream

400 g jar lingonberry preserve

Pancakes

3 large eggs

350 ml milk

150 g plain flour

50 g butter, melted

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

butter, for cooking the pancakes

icing sugar for dusting and clear honey for drizzling

raspberries to serve

Make the ice cream. Put a plastic food container into the freezer. Split the cardamom pods, remove the seeds and crush them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Whip the cream to firm peaks.

Tip the lingonberry preserve into a bowl and fold in the cardamom cream. Transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Make the pancakes. Mix the eggs with about ¼ of the milk in a food processor. Add the flour and process again until smooth. Add the remaining milk and all the ingredients and process briefly to mix. Pour into a jug.

Heat a knob of butter in a small pancake pan. Add a tablespoon of batter and cook until the edges turn brown, then flip and cook again briefly.

Keep warm while you make the remaining pancakes. Serve warm with lingonberry ice cream, a drizzle of honey and a light dusting of icing sugar.

Norwegian cloud cake

Serves 8

100 g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

100 g caster sugar

100 g softened butter

4 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp milk

meringue

4 egg whites

100 g caster sugar

100 g icing sugar

2 tbsp flaked almonds

filling

500 g summer berries

1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

1 tbsp vodka, optional

300 ml double cream

1 sachet vanilla sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper and draw a rectangle on each, 10cm x 22cm. Turn paper over and fix to the baking sheets with a little butter on the corners.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the remaining cake ingredients and beat for 2-3 mins until light and fluffy. Spread half the mixture evenly over each rectangle.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Continue whisking while adding the sugars to make a stiff heavy meringue. Spread half the meringue over each cake mixture, spreading it over the edges to enclose it. Smooth one meringue flat and form swirls and peaks with the other. Sprinkle the almonds over the peaks.

Bake the cakes for 30 minutes until the meringue is golden and crisp. Leave to cool on the baking sheets.

Tip the berries into a bowl, halving any that are large and sprinkle with sugar and vodka if using. Stir well, then leave to macerate until the juices flow, about 1 hour.

To assemble the cake whip the cream with the vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)  to stiff peaks. Set a sieve over a bowl and strain in the berries, reserving the juices. Invert one flat meringue cake onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and put the cake on a platter, meringue side down. Spread with the cream and then cover with berries. Invert the other cake, peel off the paper and put on top of filling, meringue side up. Dust with icing sugar and serve cut into thick slices.

 

 

Recipe of the week……………….spelt.

Mushroom spelt risotto with melted camembert

Spelt is one of the world’s oldest wheat grain varieties. It is great as an alternative to rice in a risotto as it retains a wonderfully crunchy texture and unlike rice, you can add the stock all at once and let the risotto simmer away on the stove – making it low maintenance as well as delicious.

Spelt and Mushroom risotto 2

Serves: 4

300 g spelt grains

15 g dried porcini

150 ml boiling water

100 g butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbs chopped fresh thyme

500 g mixed mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped

150 ml red wine

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

50 g Parmesan, grated

150 g Camembert, sliced

salt and pepper

freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Soak the spelt grains in boiling water for 20 minutes. Soak the porcini in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain spelt and shake dry. Drain and chop the mushrooms, reserve the liquid.

Melt half the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion, garlic and half the thyme over a low heat for 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the mushrooms and porcini and stir-fry until starting to soften. Add the spelt and stir for 1 minute then pour in the wine and boil until it is all but absorbed.

Meanwhile bring the stock and reserved porcini liquid to the boil in a separate pan. Add 750 ml to the risotto and cook gently over a low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stock is almost absorbed and the spelt, tender. Add a little more stock if needed (any left over stock can be reserved, chilled in the fridge for up to 3 days).

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan and half the Camembert, cover and leave to melt for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan and add the remaining thyme leaves. Cook gently over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until the butter turns a golden brown. Serve the risotto topped with the remaining camembert and drizzled with the thyme butter.

Tip: Spelt is available from larger supermarkets as well as health food stores.