Posts Tagged: caramel

Nov 10

The proof is in the pudding



I’m a big fan of rice pudding – it’s a humble, quiet pudding that probably haunts most from school days but that can be elevated to dinner party level with a few simple steps.

That’s not to say it isn’t still a worthy contender for post-Sunday lunch pud, but that with a few little touches here and there can suddenly become quite the designer dish.

Small confession and a break from the tradition of baking the pudding – I make mine stove top. It’s smooth, silky and somehow prettier without (for me) the dreaded skin, which I know is a favourite of some!

Caramelising the sugar adds a depth and richness to the finished pudding that mean really only a few spoonfuls is enough to fill you up, but you could omit this stage and add the seeds from a vanilla pod if you wanted or indeed a cracked cardamom pod for a bit of mellow spice.

A rice pud recipe for you then. I am a big caramel nut and try and find ways to stick it in all my puddings, give or take. There are few it doesn’t perk up. The prunes are optional but delicious.

Click here for my recipe for caramel rice pudding

Jun 09

Easy like sundae morning


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I love the recent trends towards old puddings. You can barely move for these luxurious, decadent classics. Trifles, summer puddings and arctic rolls seem to be cropping up on the menus of fine-dining restaurants and pubs alike.

Just the other day I popped round to a friend’s house and we had banana split for afters – a refreshing reminder about how delicious this simple dessert can be. Ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, maraschino cherries and toasted, chopped pecans sprinkled over the top. Does life get more pleasurable than that?

Nostalgia plays such an important part in the food we eat – both smell and taste are especially evocative and can transport us instantly to another time or place. The current trend to revisit our childhood classics can only be a good thing, taking modern techniques and subtleties and creating dinner party-worthy fare.

My most recent effort was a peanut butter and chocolate sundae – a trip down memory lane for some, a twist on a retro classic for others. This recipe encompasses the best in salty and sweet. Large scoops of ice cream, salted peanuts rolled in chocolate and dusted with sugar combined with a deep chocolate and a rich butterscotch sauce, topped off with a peanut butter brownie cookie. Over-the-top, but utterly delicious.

Peanut butter and chocolate sundae (makes 8)

For the chocolate peanuts

  •     50g salted peanuts (not roasted)
  •     50 g dark chocolate
  •     1 tsp sugar
For the butterscotch sauce

  •    70g sugar
  •    50g butter
  •    150ml double cream
  •    Large pinch of sea salt flakes
For the chocolate sauce

  •   100ml double cream
  •   1 tbs sugar
  •   50g dark chocolate
  •   1 tbs golden syrup
For the peanut butter brownie cookies

  •   200g dark chocolate
  •   60g butter
  •   35g flour
  •   2 medium eggs
  •   150g caster sugar
  •   4 tbs crunchy peanut butter
  •   Pinch of salt
  •   8 scoops vanilla ice cream
  •   8 scoops chocolate ice cream

First, make the cookies. Break chocolate up into pieces and melt with butter over a low heat. Once melted, remove from heat. In a bowl whisk eggs with sugar until light and pale. Add salt and melted chocolate and butter mixture. Mix thoroughly and add peanut butter, beating it to incorporate thoroughly. Sift in flour and mix again.

Chill mixture for an hour or. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place a sheet of greaseproof on a baking sheet or in a tin. Divide mixture into 8-10 balls, rolling them in your hands to make spheres. Spread them out evenly on the greaseproof, leaving a few centimetres around each. Bake for around 12 minutes – you may have to do this in batches. They will be very squidgy when they come out. Leave them to cool.

Make the sauces. For the butterscotch, melt ingredients – bar the salt – together in a pan and cook for five or so minutes on a medium heat. The mixture should thicken. Add salt, stir and then set aside to cool. For the chocolate sauce, melt ingredients together in a pan. You may need to add a few tablespoons of water to get the right consistency. Set aside.

Next make the chocolate peanuts – break chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a saucepan of water. Roll peanuts in the chocolate and spread onto a non-stick tray or on a lightly oiled plate. When they have cooled slightly but not set, sprinkle over the sugar and refrigerate.

To serve, take eight large glasses or bowls. Put a ball of each ice cream into the bowl. Crumble the peanuts slightly and sprinkle over. Spoon over some of each sauce, then break a cookie into three or four, placing it around. 

May 09

Sweet sensation – caramel and vanilla panna cotta

pana-cotta-a.jpgThere are few desserts as simple and satisfying as panna cotta. Not only are they perfect for preparing ahead of a dinner party, but somehow it seems like cheating as they are just so quick and easy.

Whenever I make them I always whip up a second batch to experiment with, adding different ingredients like fruit purees or infusing the milk with a range of additions. Some of my favourites include the Rare Tea Company’s aromatic and floral Jasmine tea (the best tea in the world, in my book) and lemon zest or a herb like lemon verbena.

The latest batch I made were during one of my ‘caramel phases’, when everything I make has a caramel lurking in it somewhere (including some rather exquisite cocktails). Essentially this is rather like a set butterscotch but a tad lighter. It’s devilishly delicious – and would be perfect served with some of the season’s poached rhubarb and a crushed amaretti biscuit for texture.

Caramel and vanilla panna cotta

Ingredients (serves 4)

•    100g sugar
•    1 vanilla pod
•    250ml whole milk
•    250ml double cream
•    2.5 sheets leaf gelatin


In a heavy based saucepan melt the sugar over a low heat. Do not stir. When the mixture is liquid add the seeds and the shell of the vanilla pod. Allow the mixture to cook for several minutes until it goes the colour of mahogany but don’t let it burn. As far as caramel is concerned, the darker it is – the more flavour you have,

Pour in the cream. The mixture will bubble furiously for a moment and the sugar may seize, but keep stirring and it will all go liquid again. Add the milk and cook for a further couple of minutes. Remove from the heat, strain and reserve.

Soften the gelatin in a bowl of cold water for five minutes. Take out of the bowl and squeeze the excess water from it. Add to the butterscotch mixture. Pour into four dariole molds or ramekins and refrigerate for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

Either serve in the ramekins or if you want to turn them out, dip the molds or ramekins in boiling water for a few seconds before up-turning on a plate. They may need a little shake.

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