Do puddings get more comforting than a cheesecake? Crumble perhaps plays a close second to this decadent, comforting dessert that feels like a warm, sweet hug and tastes like a little slice of creamy heaven.
It sits firmly in the camp of luxurious puddings with crème brulee, panna cotta and ice cream – a real treat but also one which works incredibly well with a spot of sharp fruit involved. Think of crème brulee spiked with the aromatic tang of passionfruit, panna cotta served with a spoonful of stewed, tart blackcurrants providing a beautiful, stark colour contrast too – deepest night-purple against purest white, or vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce.
I love both varieties of cheesecake – a NY one studded with that all-American favourite, the blueberry, cooked to a gentle wobble and then left to set overnight; or a no-cook number, a classic digestive base coupled with mascarpone or some other cream cheese and double cream and plenty of red fruit swirled through it. You’ll notice this recipe is low on the sugar front – because it’s so rich I find the filling must be relatively unsweetened – with the base providing a sweet, crunchy finish to the dish. Feel free to add ground or smashed nuts to the base – hazelnuts or pistachios would make a delicious addition. You could easily use frozen fruit here too – just defrost before use.
Click here to read my recipe for raspberry smash cheesecake
American food has become the now-food – burgers are popping up on every other menu, pulled pork, slow braised beef ribs, fries and onion rings are the norm. Slaw or coleslaw might seem as American as apple pie – but it actually has its roots in Europe – the word itself coming from the Dutch koolsla, an abbreviation of koolsalade ie cabbage salad.
A good coleslaw though is a world apart – a versatile, quick accompaniment to a meal. I’ve veered further and further from the traditional mayo treatment, preferring a lighter, fresher version made with buttermilk, cider vinegar and just a dollop or so of mayonnaise. Another delicious variant is a yogurt based dressing with olive oil, mustard and again a splash of vinegar or citrus.
It’s a simple way to use whatever veggies you’ve got left in the fridge – and don’t view it as solely a Summer treat – our hardy root vegetables are ideal for coleslaw – parsnips and celeriac making fantastic additions. We usually have a coleslaw to accompany lunch on Boxing day – with a few beautiful dried cranberries or sour cherries thrown in for good measure. Fresh herbs lend a welcome lift and a perfumed note. Ideal with cold cuts…and a million miles from the shop bought variety.
And what are your slaw secrets?
My addiction to all things sweet is no secret. I’m happiest with a bowl of ice cream, scattered with all kinds of good/bad/naughty things, a lick of dark chocolate sauce, sea salted caramel or a zingy raspberry coulis. I am a big fan of contrast though – hence the sea salted caramel above, all sweet and savoury at the same time. I always get my popcorn mixed at the cinema – a bit Russian roulette perhaps, but a delicious, more-ish combination none-the-less.
Perhaps that’s why I go mad for a milkshake with a burger; it’s an old school classic combination – perversely, as kids, we used to dip fast-food chips into milkshakes. That’s a blast from the past and something I’m quite keen to try again. All kinds of wrong – but utterly delicious; salty hot chip, cold, sweet chocolate milkshake. Maybe it’s just me…
Still – a fantastic addition to a milkshake and one we don’t use to often over here is malt – adding savoury, Malteser-y notes to cut through the chocolate-y richness. Don’t scrimp with the ice cream here – super-indulge.
Click here to read my recipe for malted chocolate milkshakes
I’m mad for it, entirely mad for it. I’ll eat it until I’m about to pop. The most expensive varieties right down to the cheapest. Hearing the clanging, chaotic melody that chimes forth from an ice cream van that heralds the potential of a 99 Flake still gets me excited.
A cornetto, strawberry flavour of course, has always been a favourite – the cone going chewy around the top just where the chocolate coats it.
A little tub in the theatre with the funny flat spoon in it; a big pile of different scoops topped with sauces and all manner of sprinkles at the cinema; an artisan variety picked up from Gelupo in Soho flavoured with the most wonderful Italian ingredients; memories of a rectangular block of ice cream shoved between two wafers or choc-ices from which I would try and eat as much of the chocolate as possible before tucking into the ice cream alone.
I frequently used to discard the chocolate entirely in favour of the block of bright yellow frozen pleasure.
One of my favourites is the banana split; a grown up version is easy and ready in a shot. You don’t need a recipe for this but a few suggestions – an entire banana, per person, split down the middle; a generous scoop of good vanilla ice cream in the middle.
A long pour of sea salted caramel or shop-bought butterscotch drizzled over the top along with an equal measure of chocolate sauce is perfect. Or add sprinkle of your choice of toasted nuts and lastly, some marshmallows tumbled over that have been shown a blow-torch for a few seconds to get them toasted.
Now that is a proper pudding. Stick a paper brolly in it if you must.
I split my time in the kitchen 50/50 between creating new recipes and cooking the classics.
For me, these dishes form an important basis from which you can develop and tweak recipes – but they’re also, more often than not, classics for a reason – because they are utterly delicious.
One such dish is Caesar salad. I ate one recently in a restaurant that was very good but didn’t quite deliver – perhaps they’d swayed too far from the original with cheffy flourishes.
I decided that I would make one at home – a perfect light-ish meal for a Saturday night post a few olives, a shared plate of charcuterie and a few glasses of wine.
Once we’d sat down to eat I couldn’t understand why a) anyone would mess with such a great thing and b) why we don’t see this classic salad on more restaurant menus because it is so utterly yummy.
I am guessing it’s probably the raw egg thing – but use good, organic, free range fresh egg yolks here for best results – and use your leftover whites to whip up a meringue for pudding.
Click here for my recipe for classic Caesar salad
I’ve just been fortunate enough to spend a few days in sunny Greece.
It’s many a moon since I’ve been here. A fleeting visit to Mykonos last year was the last time and before that a childhood trip to Crete, so long ago that all I remember is remote beaches, the azure Mediterranean sea and a bee, buzzing around me as I drank something probably far too sweet.
This trip brings me to Thessalonica in the North-Eastern tip, known as the ‘fingers’ of Greece – three giant spits protruding out from the country’s side.
The food here is exquisite, living up to all the high hopes one has when you think about Grecian food – beautiful grilled fish, fresh salads, creamy tzaziki, stunning salty olives, fried aubergines and courgettes and feta, plenty of creamy, tangy feta.
The Greek salad is a glorious invention – a meal my sister and I often share when we visit each other’s houses, but a dish that tastes best in its country of origin.
My great friend Yianni, who runs the infamous burger joint The Meat Wagon and is now turning out cracking food down at The Rye in Peckham, hails from Greece, and he taught me his version of the classic salad, commonly known as ‘horiatiki’ or ‘peasant salad’, while cooking together the other day.
Click here for the recipe for Yianni’s horiatiki (peasant salad)
A thing of exquisite beauty is the sweet potato. A versatile friend in the kitchen, it lends itself to a number of different cooking methods and a variety of different cuisines.
It fits, nestled amongst other vegetables, into a fiery Indian curry – or even a Thai version, rich with coconut milk. Baked whole, it makes a quirky alternative to a jacket potato, split open and garnished with a dollop of sour cream and chives.
Cut it into wedges, toss with olive oil, ground allspice, cinnamon and salt and pepper and roast until the edges go dark and chewy. I do this and pile the wedges high before drizzling over yogurt mixed with garam masala and lime juice. I finish the dish off with zippy green chillies and chopped, aromatic coriander.
I do a hybrid of these when I’m in a rush – a cross-cultured dish I would be loathe to call fusion. It feels somehow Spanish – fried sweet potatoes with North African spices, chorizo, coriander, chilli and topped off with two soft yolked fried eggs. A frugal, fridge found supper for a speedy weeknight supper.
Click here for my recipe for sweet potato hash with chorizo and fried eggs
The ever so short asparagus season is in full swing now, coming to a close later in May when the versatile veg is replaced by foreign cousins, pretenders to the throne of this great British vegetable.
The finest spears come from Norfolk and if you’re lucky, they’ll come thin as your little finger, ready for the briefest of baths in boiling water and plunging into whatever luscious sauce or soft, golden egg yolk you have to hand.
They’re a quick weeknight fix, a simple supper rustled up in a jiffy, blanched, slapped onto a hot griddle and dressed quickly with olive oil, lemon juice and grated parmesan.
A piece of rustic sourdough underneath and we’re talking five star dining – the sort of plate you pay the big bucks for in high end eateries. We should be proud of their slender stems that sit perfectly in a risotto – a weeknight supper staple if ever there was one.
Click here to read the recipe for asparagus and pea risotto