Entries in nuts (14)


chocolate fig cake


i’m a big fan of fruit cakes and love the fact that they keep so well. this chocolate and dried fig cake from dan lepard is very different to the traditional fruit cake that might have been made at the end of last year as part of the christmas stockpiling but it is no less delicious.

dried figs are softened in a warmed mix of honey and marsala but i think you can vary the alcohol to take into account whatever you have an excess of – i actually used the dregs of a bottle of welsh elderport which has wonderful berry flavours which, i think, go really well with chocolate.

decoration is also a matter of taste – i smothered mine with melted dark chocolate (as pictured above) and then allowed my inner barbie free reign with the edible glitter; the original recipe has a more elegant approach witrh fresh figs and chocolate ivy leaves.

whatever you use will be wonderful and actually this is all about the eating – a gently spiced chocolate and dried fruit delight. i took one into the office and had to provide the recipe to several colleagues one of whom has declared it will usurp the traditional christmas cake and christmas pudding options that she usually falls back. as for me, i’m happy eating it whatever the time of year. 

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mincemeat streusel tart


i’m so proud of this tart. i really struggle with pastry but this time i had a decent result – the pastry case didn’t shrink or collapse and it tasted light, buttery. it was just as it should be.

i based this on a mincemeat streusel tart recipe from betty’s of harrogate, that the guardian published a couple of years ago. the change i made was instead of using proper mincemeat, i used the fruit from my christmas vodka. the fruit in the vodka was a mix of candied peel, dried apricots, raisins and dried cranberries, with dark brown muscovado sugar – having strained off the vodka, i added some grated apple, some leftover poached quince which i had in the fridge (this si obviously optional) plus some apple juice before simmering it for 10 minutes or so to allow the apple to soften, the remaining vodka to evaporate and to cook off the apple juice (i read that cooked mincemeat lasts longer than uncooked and as i strained the vodka a couple of weeks before needing to make the tart this was an issue for me).

the streusel topping was a crumble mix  (flour, butter, caster sugar) with flaked almonds and cocoa nibs stirred through. and the pastry? it’s called a sweet pastry and although it was a bit sticky to work with and a texture i wasn’t used to, it worked perfectly so it’s one i will be using again.

it’s a lovely combination of flavours and a nice alternative to mince pies. well worth a try if you fancy something a little bit different this christmas.

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nigel’s top ten – chocolate chip hazelnut cake with chocolate butter cream


this is the only sweet recipe in nigel slater’s top 10 and i was excited to try it after opera tavern’s fantastic warm hazelnut cake with lemon thyme ice cream. i was also expecting good things as two of the cakes i make most often – variations on his damp plum cake and the lemon and rosewater-frosted orange and pistachio cake - are nigel slater recipes.

so, how did i get on?

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orecchiette with pistachios

pasta is often part of my weekly menu and i’m always keen to try new and different recipes – there are already 80 pasta recipes on this blog! this orecchiette with pistachios caught my eye for two reasons – david’s love of pistachios and the fact that i thought it might look beautiful, with the green and pink of the pistachio nuts flecking the finished dish.

it’s very quick and simple to make – while the pasta cooks chopped pistachios are mixed, into a rough “pesto” with garlic, mint olive oil and parmesan. needless to say, i couldn’t resist fiddling about with the basic recipe – for a second batch i toasted my pistachios which gave them a bit more crunch. i also added red chilli for some heat and lemon zest to work with the mint in lightening everything up. a squeeze of lemon juice will probably be something else to try in future and i bet it would work wonderfully with roasted garlic. i also fancy trying a toasted walnut, sage and blue cheese version.

this is a rich dish with gentle comforting flavours and needs, i think, a salad on the side to balance it out – i used a rocket, spinach and watercress mix with cherry tomatoes and a balsamic dressing.

i’m sharing this dish with nic from lemon and cheese who is hosting this week’s presto pasta nights. and if you fancy giving it a try, get cooking and let me know how you get on as i’ll be hosting presto pasta nights next week!

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a new nibble - egyptian dukkah

a few weeks ago i did another cookery class with jennifer at eat drink talk. as ever it was great fun and i came away having eaten delicious food and inspired to be more creative in the types of food i cook.

the course was about cooking with spices* and had been sold to me (at a previous class on malaysian cookery) on the basis of the dessert option – chinese five spice doughnuts. however, it turned out that i was more enamoured by jennifer’s take starter option - egyptian dukkah. this is a blend of toasted nuts**, seeds and spices plus a little brown sugar and seasoning. to eat it we made flatbreads which, while still warm from the pan, were dipped in olive oil  and then the dukkah. it is such a delicious combination and i’m not surprised that this is a popular pre-meal nibble in a number of places including australia, where jennifer says it is increasingly common.

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