A N   O D E   T O   P E C A N   N U T S .

If there’s one thing I’m taking away from this recipe, it’s the realisation that I put pecan nuts in far too few baked goods.

I’d forgotten how deliciously chewy and rich they go once baked, and how the oven seems to intensify their nutty flavour. When I was younger I had an obsession with this cinnamon pecan tart my Mum used to serve as a treat after special Sunday lunches, and I’d clean forgotten about how much I used to love it until biting into one of these brownies!

And really, is there any better combination than that of chocolate and nuts?

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What else do you need to know about these babies? Well, for starters, they’re vegan! I stumbled upon the original recipe on Pinterest and thought it looked so delicious it was worth testing out, and after a little tinkering, am totally sold on it.

They’re a little lighter than your average brownie- still rich and sweet and intense enough to sate even the most overpowering of chocolate cravings, but not quite so cloying as your average brownie.

The wholemeal buckwheat flour adds depth of flavour and nuttiness, and by ensuring that the buckwheat flour you buy is a gluten free blend, you can make them both vegan AND gluten free!

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Here’s how to make them…

I N G R E D I E N T S  ::
200g dark chocolate {Lindt’s 70% is the one I used here}
5tbsp dairy-free spread {I use Pure Sunflower Spread}
170g buckwheat flour
1tsp baking powder
200g soft light brown sugar
3 tsp cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1tsp vanilla extract
230ml unsweetened soya milk
150g pecan nuts

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, then lightly grease a square baking tray and line it with parchment paper.

- In a bain marie, melt together 150g of the chocolate with the margarine, and then set aside to cool slightly. Take care not to melt the chocolate too fast or over too high a heat- slower is better!

- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, and then stir in the sugar and pinch of salt.

- Whisk in the soya milk and vanilla extract, followed by the melted chocolate mixture. Finally, stir in 100g of crumbled pecan nuts, and the remaining 50g of chocolate broken up into small pieces.

- Pour out the batter into the prepared baking tray, scatter over the final 50g of crumbled pecans, and bake for 18-22 minutes.

* I found these cooked far quicker than the original recipe suggested, and so for a soft, squidgy brownie, check them towards the lower end of the cooking time. I took mine out at 20 minutes, and they came out more firm than I’d have liked! Still delicious though, so I can’t complain… *

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D O U G H N U T S   F O R   M O N D A Y S.

Sometimes, Mondays can only be made better by the addition of doughnuts.

I mean, it’s not as though there’s ever a bad time to eat a doughnut. What could ever be wrong about taking a round of soft, sweet dough, frying it until it’s crisp and golden outside and fluffy within, coating it in one form or other of sugary coating, and then settling down to eat it with a cup of rich, strong coffee on the side? It’s a blissful experience, and if you ask me, one that can’t be topped. I just feel sure though that if there ever was a *right* day to eat a day a doughnut, it’s a Monday.

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I’m not quite sure why, but up until recently, I’d always been too daunted by the idea of deep frying to have a go at making my own doughnuts. True, I’d dabbled in churro-making a couple of years ago (I can’t quite believe that was actually more than 2 years ago! WHERE IS THE TIME GOING?), but something about the idea of plunging bread dough into hot oil made me nervous. Not to mention the fact that I lose all self control around doughnuts, and can put away a frightening number in the shortest amount of time. I mean, I once at 8 Krispy Kremes in a day when I was at school.

In my defence I was 16, had the metabolism to match, and used to take about 15 hours of dance classes a week, but still. EIGHT. I had a three hour dance class that same evening, and remember feeling so sick and full of sugar I was certain I had Original Glaze seeping out of my pores. It most certainly wasn’t my finest hour.


I like to think that now though, I’ve got a little more restraint than my 16 year old self. Doughnut consumption is limited to maybe two at most…though all bets are off if they come hot, fresh, dredged in sugar, and served in a paper bag from a fair or market. (Aren’t they always the best?)

Perhaps it still is best to eat them on a Monday, though. Why? Well, the promises I usually make myself on Monday mornings, about ‘hashtag clean eating’ and all that kind of jazz, help fortify my resolve and keep me from polishing off the entirety of the batch before Jason gets so much as a look in…

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I found the base for this recipe whilst browsing through Paul Hollywood’s British Baking cookbook. In the book, he shares a recipe for ‘Isle of Wight Doughnuts’, which, so says Paul, contain a small handful of citrus peel and raisins in their centres instead of the usual jam or, indeed, a hole. But since if you ask me at least there’s no quicker way to ruin a baked good than by adding dried peel (I LOATHE the stuff), I’ve tinkered with the recipe just a little. You’re on board, right?

Makes 12 small doughnuts. Adapted minimally.

Ingredients ::
300g strong white bread flour
1/2tsp fine sea salt
50g caster sugar
7g fast action dried yeast
50g room temperature unsalted butter
150-175ml milk

To glaze ::
2 cups icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
5tbsp semi skimmed milk

OR caster sugar + cinnamon

- Put the flour in a large bowl, then add the yeast to one side of the bowl, and the salt and sugar to the other. Add the butter and roughly two thirds of the milk to the centre of the bowl, then begin to slowly knead the mixture together.

- Add the remaining milk a little at a time, stopping as soon as a soft and slightly sticky dough has formed. Knead it for at least 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, until the dough has smoothed out and is no longer sticky.

- Lightly oil the bowl, place the dough into it and cover over with cling film, then leave to rise until the dough has doubled in size (at least 1 hour).

- Gently knock back the dough, then divide it into 12 small pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball, then space evenly across two parchment paper-lined baking trays. Place each tray into a clean plastic bag or cover over with clingfilm, and leave to prove for 45 minutes.

- Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, and heat to a temperature of 185 degrees celsius. Fry the doughnuts in batches of two for 3 minutes per side, 6 minutes total.

- When cooked, allow to cool completely (if dipping in glaze) or for a minute or two if dredging in cinnamon sugar.

- For the glaze, simply whisk all the ingredients together in a shallow bowl, and then turn the doughnuts over in the glaze before allowing to drain on a wire rack. If you’d rather use sugar, mix cinnamon into caster sugar to taste, then roll the still warm doughnuts in the mixture until entirely coated, and set aside.


^^ Unbeatable.^^


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And now that the berries have been picked, what to do with them all?

Whilst fresh berries and sunshine are as beautiful a combination as you could ever imagine, it’s never a long-lasting situation. The heat will take the ripest, most perfect berries of the bunch and tip them over into the land of mush and fermentation quicker than you can say ‘would you like some cream with those?’. Before you know it, you’re left resentfully feeding the remains of the punnet to the dog, whilst complaining about how what was once such beautiful fruit is wasted on an animal who drinks filthy puddle water like it’s a fine wine.

So, after devouring the first of the bunch plain (nothing can better a perfectly sweet strawberry or tart raspberry), and then adding the next round to yoghurts and porridge in the mornings, what to do with the remaining half kilo or so? Should you make jam, or strawberry ice-cream? Fruity salads, or sweet summer cakes?

Or, how about a galette or two? They’re simple, delicious, and despite being the easiest things in the world to whip up, look impressive in their own rustically-charming kind of way. Here’s how…

Cider-with-Rosie-food-photography Cider-with-Rosie-strawberry-galette2 Fresh-strawberry-galette

I like to imagine these galettes being served up to friends at the end of a meal eaten outside in the summertime. They’d be the pre-curser to the cheese board, and the follow up to a meal of heaping salads and roasted vegetables and tender fish and crusty bread. Do you do that, too? Lose yourself in fantasies of dream dinner parties? I hope it’s not just me ;)

However they’re served though, in a some-day-dinner party or merely at the end of a simple Sunday supper for two, they make perfect summer dining.

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Ingredients ::
300g plain white flour
150g unsalted butter
Pinch sea salt
Iced water

300g strawberries
Zest 1/2 lemon
1tsp soft light brown sugar

150g raspberries
2tsp soft light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
Extra sugar for sprinkling

- Put the flour and salt into a large bowl, and cut the cold butter into small 1/2cm cubes. Toss the butter cubes into the flour, and slowly add in ice water a little at a time, mixing until the dough come together and forms a rough ball.

- Flour both your rolling pin and a clean surface, and turn the dough out of the bowl. Roll the dough out away from you into a rough rectangle, then fold the top third of the pastry into the centre, and the bottom third of the the pastry up over that to create an envelope shape.

- Turn the pastry dough one quarter turn (so that you have a short side nearest to you again) and repeat the process. The roll-fold-turn process needs to be completed five times in total, flouring well between each turn. The dough should be smooth and pliable once you’re finished. Wrap well in cling film, and refrigerate for at least half an hour. (In summer, an hour’s chilling is best!)

- When the dough’s chilled, take it out and divide into two. Roll out each half into a rough circle until the pastry is 1/2 centimetre thick (thinner than photographed, the pastry was puffing up quicker than I could get these photos shot!) and then transfer it to a tray lined with parchment paper.

- Toss the strawberries and raspberries with sugar (less for the sweet strawberries, more for the tart raspberries), grate in some lemon zest, and then heap the berries into the centre of each pastry round. I made one strawberry and one raspberry, though you can mix if you’d rather.

- Fold in the edges of the pastry, brush with a little beaten egg and scatter over a small handful of brown sugar, then transfer to an oven preheated to 200 degrees celsius.

- Cook for approximately 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is golden and flaky and the fruit soft and bubbling. Serve with a scoop of ice-cream (homemade, if you’d like!), or a serving of creme fraiche.

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If there’s one thing I’ve discovered during the past few years, it’s that the joy of ‘home grown’ is unlike anything else. There’s something special about how unhurried (not to mention patience-inducing) the process of growing is, and the results are all the more satisfying for it. It becomes part of the day’s routine- watering, waiting, nurturing, and tending to. Poking seeds into soil and repotting spindly herbs, then watching them grow wild. Being able to snip a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or sage straight from the garden to add to a dish, instead of having to turn to a few sad stalks taken from a plastic bag from the fridge.

Because of the abundance of herbs we’ve got growing in our little garden at the moment, I’ve been finding new ways of incorporating them into…just about everything. Mint leaves into lemonade and soft drinks and just plain old iced water. Fried sage on top of thinly sliced and fried pork loin steaks. Rosemary inside chicken (along with garlic and lemon, of course), then into the oven for roasting. My favourite combination though, of a herb plus any other flavour on earth, is that of thyme and lemon. I first tried it a year or so ago in the form of a heavily-frosted cupcake (I even blogged about it!) and have been obsessed with the idea of making my own lemon/thyme cake ever since.

Almost a full year on, and I think I’ve got it down. Glazed lemon cake is the taste of my childhood so will forever hold a special place in my heart, but the addition of thyme makes this version so much more grown up. It brings a faintly aromatic, grown-up punch of flavour to a perfectly simple cake, whilst a few tablespoons of yoghurt keep the cake itself (made from a tinkered-with basic sponge recipe) moist and tender-crumbed.

It’s so simple, so delicious, and tastes so perfectly summery, it’s practically a crime not to make one right away…

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The ingredients are listed first in ounces because I learnt how to make this base cake recipe using pounds and ounces in probably about 1993, and still can’t quite bring myself to measure it out in grams. I’ve listed them though, in case your scale won’t work with silly old-fashioned British measurements…

Ingredients ::
8oz (225g) soft unsalted butter
8oz (225g) caster sugar
8oz (225g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
4 tbsp plain natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 whole lemon, plus the juice of 1/2.
Leaves from 2 small sprigs of fresh thyme

Approx. 300g icing sugar
Approx. 4 lemons

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, and generously butter a bundt tin.

- Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl, and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk together the eggs, natural yoghurt and vanilla extract in a jug, and sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl. Grate the lemon zest and add the thyme leaves into the flour mixture.

- Add half the egg mixture to the butter and sugar then beat to combine, and then add in half the flour and beat again. Repeat until all the ingredients are combined, and beat until the batter is smooth and light. Beat it for about thirty seconds longer, fold through the lemon juice, and then stop.

- Pour out the batter into the tin, smooth over the top, and then place it into the oven to cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out.

- Sift out the icing sugar (approximately 300g, but it’s totally flexible!), and then squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice to bring the glaze to a consistency just slightly thicker than double cream.

- When the cake is cool to the touch, pour over the glaze (with a plate underneath the rack to catch excess!) and decorate the top with a few thyme leaves and, if you can find them, thyme flowers too.


^^ There’s nothing like a good drizzle, is there? ^^

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I reckon if you made one this coming Saturday, it’d carry you through the whole bank holiday weekend on a wave of tea, cake, and crackly lemon glaze…

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