Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Bara Brith Biscuits

Although not a national holiday, St. David's Day is nonetheless celebrated in a variety of ways, from the well-known parades in bigger towns and cities, to children dressing up in traditional Welsh costume. Another ubiquitous event is the school eisteddfod, a festival of poetry, recitation, music, singing and dancing. These played a big role in my childhood, with extra-curricular activities at school nearly all revolving around these important competitions. My favourite was the individual and group recitation but I also enjoyed taking part in the country dancing, as evidenced in the photo below.

Kneeling down in the front row, squinting into the sun, my smile says it all. Unlike our recitation where we regularly reached the national finals, our dancing group never progressed beyond the first few rounds but that never dampened our enthusiasm. Even the opportunity to wear the costume was exciting enough.
Taking the flavours of a traditional bara brith, these biscuits are lightly spiced, crisp round the edges with a slight chewiness from the raisins. The Welsh dragon cutter adds a celebratory touch but obviously any shape would work well.

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus.


Makes about 15 dragon biscuits, or 25 smaller round ones

90g soft salted butter
50g caster sugar
45g soft brown sugar
1 large egg
45g raisins, finely chopped
half a teaspoon mixed spice
200g plain flour
half a teaspoon baking powder

2 large baking trays lined with baking parchment

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

I use an electric mixer for the whole process but it could be done by hand. Cream the butter and sugar until pale. Beat in the egg, then add the chopped raisins, mixing well.

Sift the flour, mixed spice and baking powder together, then add to the butter and eggs, mixing until everything is combined.

Form into a ball, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of about half a centimetre. Cut into shapes and place on the baking sheets.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes until lightly golden.

Remove with a spatula to a wire rack to cool.

Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Almond and Apricot Amaretti

Almond and Apricot Amaretti

Every time I look in the fridge, I always seem to find egg whites that need using up. They seem to stare reproachfully at me from their cling-film covered bowl. I know that macarons are a great way of using them up and I do make these from time to time but to be honest, I find them a bit of a faff, what with having to use a piping bag and all that. The other common option is to make meringue but as I'm the only one at home who really likes meringue, it falls to me to eat them all, not the best idea when they're basically pure sugar mixed with egg white.  

These then, are what I came up with in my latest attempt at not wasting egg whites. The inspiration comes from an Ottolenghi recipe, and although I've called them amaretti, as he does, they're not really like classic Italian ones. These are sweet, soft and moist, with a pronounced almond flavour, perfect for serving with coffee after dinner or as a pick-me-up for that afternoon slump.

I'm sending these to Treat Petite hosted alternately by Stuart from Cakeyboi  and Kat (this month's host) from the Baking Explorer.

As I'm using up egg whites in this recipe, I'm also sending it over to the fantastic No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. This is  a great challenge and I'm so glad to see it back.

Tea Time Treats Lavender and Lovage

The theme is eggs, so I’m also taking part in this month's Tea Time Treats, hosted alternate months by Karen from Lavender and Lovage, Manjiri from Travels for Taste (this month's host) and Jo from Jo’s Kitchen.



100g caster sugar
180g ground almonds
grated zest of one orange
pinch of salt
2 drops almond extract
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons honey
50g dried apricots, chopped fairly small
icing sugar

a large baking tray lined with baking parchment

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C

Put the sugar, almonds, orange zest, salt and almond extract in a large bowl and mix well with your fingers, making sure that the almond extract and orange zest are evenly distributed.

Add the chopped apricots.

Beat the egg whites (preferably with an electric whisk) and honey until they reach a soft meringue consistency. Then gently fold this into the almond and sugar mixture. What you should have is a very sticky, soft paste.

Form the mixture into rough shapes, you should get about 20 out of this recipe. They're meant to look irregular and rustic so don't spend time shaping them into perfect little balls. Roll them in icing sugar and place them on the lined baking tray.

Bake for about 12-14 minutes, until very lightly golden on the outside but still pale inside.

Leave to cool completely, then store in a sealed jar. They keep very well for about 5 days.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Apple and Almond Cakes

Apple and almond cakes

My fruit trees are groaning with the weight of the apples and pears this year. Not only are there lots of them, they all seem bigger and better than ever before. And it's not as though I've lavished them with any special attention. The trees have been largely ignored as per usual. Whatever it is, I'm not complaining, I'm just thinking of all the delicious things I can make with them...

This recipe is based on my trusted apple cake recipe but with added almonds and a sticky glaze which gives them extra flavour. It also adds a beautiful shine to an otherwise quite plain-looking cake. Not that I mind plain-looking cakes; indeed, they are usually my favourite kind because it means that they are delicious enough on their own without having to add flavour and moisture with icings and fillings. Much like these...

I'm sending these to Treat Petite hosted alternately by Stuart from Cakeyboi  and Kat (this month's host) from the Baking Explorer.

RECIPE - makes 11

100g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125g self-raising flour
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50g flaked almonds

1 heaped tablespoon apricot jam

12-bun muffin tin lined with 11 cupcake or muffin papers

 Pre-heat the oven to 200°C

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sieve the flour and cinnamon and fold in, then add the apples and stir well to combine. 

Spoon the mixture in to the cases, filling each case as equally as possible. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top, trying to distribute them as evenly as possible.

Put in the oven and bake for about 20-25 mins or until the cakes are cooked and golden brown on top. They take slightly longer to cook than normal fairy cakes because of the addition of moist apple. 

Remove from the oven. Take the cakes out of the tin as soon as possible and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Warm the apricot jam with a splash of water. When the cakes are cool, brush the jam over so that it forms a lovely shiny glaze. 

Apple and almond cakes

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Monmouth Pudding

Monmouth Pudding

This year's St. David's day recipe is Monmouth Pudding. It's an old-fashioned kind of dessert, popular in Victorian times and similar to the English Queen of Puddings. This Welsh incarnation doesn't however have a meringue topping although a lot of the recipes you see for it do include the extra layer. 

Looking at the list of ingredients you might be fooled into thinking it's stodgy and heavy but it's really not. It's light, fruity and just sweet enough. You can serve it either with cream or, my preference, a fresh raspberry sauce to really enhance the fruit flavour. Monmouth pudding is at its best about 10 minutes after it's come out of the oven, still warm but not scaldingly hot. 

Traditionally, this pudding was one of those thrifty type of recipes that used up stale bread, milk and fruit from the garden to make something so much more than the sum of its parts. My version is not quite so austere; I've used cream and brioche crumbs to give an updated, more luxurious taste. I hope my Welsh ancestors would approve.

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus.

RECIPE - serves 4-6

225 ml milk
200 ml double cream
25g caster sugar
grated zest of one lemon
175g brioche crumbs
2 eggs
200g jam (strawberry, raspberry or any other kind)

You can make this as one large pudding or 6 individual ones, as in the photo.

For the large one, you need a 23x20cm ovenproof dish, buttered. For the individual ones, 6 buttered ramekins. 

Pre-heat oven to 150°C.

Pour the milk and cream into a pan, add the sugar and lemon zest and heat gently until just boiling. Remove from the heat, pour over the brioche crumbs and leave the mixture to cool for 15 mins. 

When cooled, separate the eggs, stirring the yolks into the crumb mixture.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then gently fold them into the crumb mixture with a metal spoon.

Heat the jam until it's runny, then drizzle half over the bottom of the prepared dish.

Spoon half the crumb mixture on top. 

Repeat the jam and crumb layers, making sure that the final layer of brioche mixture is level.

Bake in the oven for about 30-40 mins until the top is golden. The pudding should be set but still with a slight wobble.

Leave for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Pwdin Mynwy

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Witches Hats

Witches Hats

Now these are admittedly a little wonky and battered but I was basing them on the hats that a classic Disney witch or the Wicked Witch of the West would wear, or even the Harry Potter sorting hat, something that has seen a lot of action anyway. At least that's my excuse for the rather untidy chocolate exterior...

They would make an ideal addition to any Halloween party, whether for children or adults although if you are making them for children consider using milk chocolate instead of dark. Apart from anything else, they're really delicious with their chocolatey biscuit base and the rich ganache used to make the pointy part. Yes, they are slightly fiddly to make but there's nothing intrinsically difficult and children can help with all stages, from rolling out the biscuits to the very messy job of covering the whole hat with melted chocolate. 

Orange and/or Black is the theme for this month’s Treat Petite, so I am sending these to CakeyBoi who is this month's host and The Baking Explorer.

I’m also sending these off to Karen at Lavender and Lovage for Tea Time Treats as I think they are suitably goulish and spooky for the Halloween theme! This is co-hosted by Janie at The Hedge Combers.

Tea Time Treats


For the biscuits

150g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
65g icing sugar
75g cold butter, diced
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

100ml double cream
125g dark chocolate
10g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

200g dark chocolate for covering

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Start by making the biscuit base. Sieve all the dry ingredients together and put in a food processor together with the diced butter. Pulse until the mixture looks like sand. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix on high speed until the mixture comes together to form a ball.

Tip out onto a work surface and bring it all together into a ball, wrap it in cling film and leave in the fridge for half an hour.

In the meantime, you can make the ganache. Heat the double cream and butter until just simmering, then remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until it has all melted and then whisk until it gets thicker. Leave to cool.

Remove the biscuit base from the fridge and roll out to about half a centimetre thick. Cut out about 8 large discs (about 6 or 7 cm diameter) and 8 smaller ones (about 3 cm diameter). Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. 

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Put the ganache into a piping bag with a large star nozzle. When the biscuits are cool, pipe the ganache onto the smaller biscuits, making a tall cone shape. Make sure that the ganache is anchored firmly to the biscuit base. Put into the fridge to cool.

Now for the fiddly bit. Melt the chocolate. Dip the large biscuits (one side only) into the melted chocolate, then repeat with the small biscuits with the pointy tops, making sure that they are completely covered with chocolate. Then place the small biscuits carefully onto the centre of the large ones and leave to cool on a wire rack, so that when the chocolate has solidified, the two parts are stuck firmly together. 

Decorate if you wish with star shapes, liquorice laces tied round like ribbon or anything else that takes your fancy. 

Witches Hat biscuits

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Vanilla Panna Cotta with fresh blueberry sauce

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is my go-to dessert for entertaining gluten-free friends. It doesn't require any tinkering because it's already naturally gluten-free and as it can all be prepared the day before, it makes for a very easy pudding. 

I've talked before about how I never choose panna cotta in restaurants because I find them all too solid and rubbery. This recipe is different however; I use just enough gelatine to allow it to set, but it still has a glorious wobble. I find the all-cream versions too heavy; the perfect ratio for me is half milk (full-fat of course) and half double cream. However, if you prefer a creamier version, just up the cream to 300 ml and reduce the milk to 200 ml. See the recipe for a note about the sugar too.

The crowning glory is the blueberry sauce. Heating the fruit with a little water, sugar and lemon juice so that it releases those wonderful, purple juices transforms what is quite a bland fruit into a beautifully flavoured sauce that complements the creamy panna cotta perfectly.


250ml double cream
250ml full-fat milk
60-70g caster sugar (I use 60g as I don't like it too sweet but you can increase the amount of sugar if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4g gelatine leaves

For the blueberry sauce
100g blueberries
2 teaspoons sugar
juice of half a lemon
grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon water

Put the gelatine sheets in cold water to soak.

Put the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. When it's just about to boil, remove from the heat and stir in the squeezed-out gelatine. 

Pour into small moulds and leave to set in the fridge overnight. 

The blueberry sauce can be made the day before too. Just put all the ingredients (blueberries, water, lemon juice and zest, sugar) in a saucepan and heat gently for about 10 minutes until the blueberries are soft. Strain through a sieve, squashing the fruit so the pulp goes into the sauce, leaving just the skins behind. 

To serve, run a knife around the panna cotta before inverting onto a plate. Serve with the sauce and a few fresh blueberries if you like.

panna cotta with blueberry sauce

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Pasta with Walnut Sauce

Pasta with walnut sauce

Autumn has arrived so I thought I'd mark the occasion with this wonderful pasta dish. Walnut sauce (salsa di noci) originates from Liguria and is traditionally prepared in autumn when the nuts are harvested. It has a delicate taste but is rich and filling at the same time, perfect for colder evenings, with the added benefit of being full of healthy omega-3.

Every village and town has a slightly different way of making the sauce but all recipes include bread and milk. I've used the sauce with penne here but you can use any pasta you want really; in Liguria, it's usually served with filled pasta. 

As it's a great way of using up leftover bread and milk, I'm sending this over to Foodie Quine, this month's host of No Waste Food Challenge, overseen by Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen.

Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary                         Credit Crunch Munch
I'm also entering it into Credit Crunch Munch, co-hosted by Camilla At Fab Food 4 All and Helen over at Fuss Free Flavours. 


30g bread, without crusts (you can use white, wholemeal, or whatever you happen to have)
160ml whole milk
160g shelled walnuts
1 clove garlic
20g pine nuts
30g parmesan, grated
4g marjoram
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Start by roughly tearing up the bread and place in a bowl with the milk, leaving it to soak.

Put all the other ingredients (walnuts, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, marjoram and oil) in a food processor and whizz together until smooth. 

Remove the bread from the milk, squeezing out any excess and add to the food processor. Pulse to mix everything together. 

Add salt to taste and thin it down with the leftover milk if you think it's too thick.

Serve with any kind of cooked pasta. It's also nice spread on toasted bread.

Pasta con salsa di noci