Peach Cobbler

Sometimes I miss baking in the summer. Baking lends itself perfectly to winter – all warming crumbles, lashings of custard, rib-sticking golden syrup sponges and Christmas puddings set on fire. In summer, meanwhile, for Londoners already struggling with the occasional heatwave the thought of adding more heat by switching on an oven seems insufferable. Magazines suggest simple fruit-swirled fools, ice lollies and jazzy fruit salad combinations for dessert instead. But sometimes, these just don’t cut it.

A crumble is a classic in my house, but this time I wanted to make a cobbler to try something a little bit different. I thought it turned out looking so sweet with the little dumplings sitting in neat rows on top of the peaches. It’s definitely heartier than a crumble – a higher ratio of topping to fruit – but it gives that same satisfying texture change between the crunchy demerara top of the dumplings and the fruit juice soaked layer of the underneath. I may have had the leftovers for breakfast. Shh.

Peach Cobbler

Serves 2

  • 210g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 70g cold butter, cubed
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 50-80ml milk
  • 2 tins of sliced peaches
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Sift the plain flour and baking powder together. Add the cold butter and rub together with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the middle, and pour in 50ml of the milk. Mix with a knife to a soft dough, adding more milk if necessary. Pat out into a flat disc 1.5cm thick and use a 5cm cookie cutter to stamp out circles. Set aside.

Drain the sliced peaches and tip into a small pie dish. Sprinkle the vanilla essence over the peaches. Arrange the dough discs on top of the peaches, brush with milk and sprinkle generously with demerara sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the biscuits are golden and crisp on top. Serve warm with plenty of cream or custard.

Apricot frangipane tart

Cookery school was a year where I learnt the true art of pastry. Quiches lined with buttery shortcrust, proudly freestanding hot water crust pork pies, summer tarts edged with towering layers of rough puff, afternoons spent stretching homemade filo across entire tables – we did it all. For the majority of the year we also did everything by hand, the true Leiths way, in order to get a proper feel for the doughs we worked with. Since I finished Leiths and went to Cambridge, the proportion of my time spent perfecting pastry in this way has sadly largely declined. A situation that needed to be rectified immediately!

I didn’t start making this until about 6pm one evening, which made me think visions of eating freshly baked frangipane for dinner that evening might be overly ambitious. However, this came together in a cinch. As much as I enjoy occasionally labouring over the perfect crisp-bottomed quiche, it was joyous not to have any blind baking involved in this recipe. The jam, frangipane and fruit are all layered on the raw pastry and everything all baked together at once. You can pop it in the oven and forget all about it until the timer beeps 40 minutes later, with no baking beans in sight. The perfect way to get back into pastry making. When raw, the frangipane layer seemed perilously thin but it puffs up perfectly in the oven so do not fear! You can vary the flavours to suit seasonality and the jam you have to hand – the combinations are endless. I based my tart on this Mary Berry recipe (who better to use to avoid a soggy bottom?) with a few adaptations: I snuck a layer of jam in between the pastry and frangipane, used fresh apricots and skipped the icing layer as the jam gave that extra hit of sweetness instead. Enjoy!

Confit shredded duck, miso plums and yuzu dressing

I remember once at cookery school getting thoroughly upset because I just couldn’t master an espagnole sauce. Every time we had to make it I got all nervous, found the whole thing a huge palaver and it never turned out right. However, after a while I realised that actually, not being able to master an espagnole, a word I’d never even heard of a few months before, was not the biggest flaw in the world. There were several other examples of that throughout my year at cookery school; moments where words you’d only learnt existed the day before suddenly ruled your day. A dish of ‘Bavarois, tamarillos and lebukchen’ was my clearest example – gobbledegook one day, three deal breakers the next.

This dish wasn’t quite up there with that, but it was still an adventure to make. I’d obviously heard of miso and yuzu, but I’d never actually cooked with them myself. Hunting down the red miso in Sainsbury’s, the little bottle of yuzu juice in Waitrose and then racing back to Waitrose at the last minute after realising the recipe called for duck legs that were already confit and not just regular ones all meant that this salad was quite the mission to get together. After all that though, it came together fairly speedily. The temptation to wrap the shredded duck up into pancakes with plum sauce and spring onions instead was tempting I can’t lie, but I’m glad I stuck with giving this a go. Tangy, fruity and peppery – all the flavours balanced into one intriguingly moreish plateful. The full recipe by Rose Prince is on The Telgraph website here – enjoy!

Creamy lemon and courgette risotto

Last night I was woken up three times by crazy thunderstorms. Huge flashes of lightning, followed by counting the seconds until the seemingly endless rumble of thunder breaks, the rain persistently pounding the roof. Not exactly ideal July weather. Good for the garden, maybe, but not for maintaining a holiday tan. It also causes a dilemma for summer cooking – despite it being late July, torrential rain does not call for summer salads.

This summer risotto is the answer. It’s hearty enough to suit the weather, but with fresh flavours and a way to use up some of the courgette glut that regularly occurs at this time of year. The swirl of crème fraiche at the end is entirely optional but I love it for making this extra creamy and luxurious, balanced perfectly by the crunchy pine nut sprinkling. Time to curl up with a big bowl, listen to the rain and cross your fingers for sunshine soon.

Creamy lemon and courgette risotto

  • 1 onion
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 litres warm chicken stock
  • 3tbsps pine nuts
  • knob of butter
  • 2tbsp crème fraiche
  • parmesan, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of oil until softened. Coarsely grate 2 of the courgettes and add to the onion, cooking for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook out.

Add the risotto rice and stir to coat in the onion and courgettes. Add the lemon zest and juice. Once the rice has absorbed the lemon juice, begin adding the chicken stock, one ladle at a time. Stir the risotto regularly and once it has absorbed each ladle of liquid, add the next one.

Meanwhile, finely dice the remaining courgette. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the courgettes and fry over a high heat until the courgettes are beginning to go brown and crispy. Add the pine nuts and fry for a further 2-3 minutes until golden.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it is al dente (about 20-25 minutes), stir through the crème fraiche into the risotto. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the crispy courgette and pine nuts, and a sprinkling of parmesan.

Salted Caramel Pineapple Cake

In my final year at school, classes started to have cake rotas. A sure fire way to lift the spirits (and waste a few minutes passing around a tin of muffins), these weekly occurrences were a great development of education. Sadly at university, any such notion disappeared. Even when I did a paper called ‘Food and Drink in Britain and the Wider World’, for an entire year, not once did we eat food in class. Equally my dissertation on food writers and 7,000 word coursework on the beginnings of the sugar trade turned up no eating opportunities in supervisions. Imagine my envy, therefore, when my friend announced that in her sole class of the year touching upon the theme of food and drink, the lecturer had turned up with a variety of cake examples for them to try. One of these had been the 1970s classic of an Upside Down Pineapple Cake, complete with shiny glacé cherries, which are one of my many guilty pleasures. I decided to channel this case of envy and bad luck into my own seventies throwback, updated with salted caramel for a 21st century twist.

Sometimes cakes can over deliver on looks and disappoint on taste. Not this one. This more than lived up to expectations. The almonds (oh, and the lashings of caramel sauce) keep the cake super soft and moist, which also means it lasts well, not that that should be a problem. Although it lacks my beloved glacé cherries, the aforementioned sauce definitely makes up for it. The recipe makes a surprisingly fairly small cake, but it is rich and sweet enough that you don’t need (as much as you might want) huge slices so this is perfect. The recipe was originally from Waitrose Magazine but I tweaked it a bit to suit my ingredients to hand to ensure I could make it immediately.

Salted Caramel Pineapple Cake

  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 100g plain flour
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder

For caramel:

  • 75g butter
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 2tbsp double cream
  • 1 tin of pineapple

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line the base of a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment. For the caramel, gently melt the butter, sugar, salt and cream in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat, stirring now and then. When smooth and all combined, pour into the base of the tin. Arrange the pineapple slices in a single layer on top of the caramel, making sure they are fairly tightly packed, cutting one slice into pieces to fill in the gaps.

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating constantly, followed by the vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder to make a stiff batter. Spoon into the cake tin and smooth flat, being careful not to dislodge the pineapple layer. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the sponge is golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to sit in the tin for 5 minutes, then place a serving plate (with a lip to catch the caramel) over the tin, carefully flip over and remove the tin and baking parchment.

Giant veggie samosas

Being a Cambridge student leads to a lot of questions when I get home. ‘Is everyone incredibly posh? Do you know anybody related to a Lord or Earl? Did everyone go to Eton?’ My answer to all these is, perhaps disappointingly, no. I found myself getting slightly swept up in the Cambridge bubble though when I exclaimed in Cambridge, ‘Oh, this Sainsbury’s doesn’t have any filo!’ Happily, my very #firstworldproblem must have been heard by the Sainsbury’s gods as a few weeks later there it was alongside the puff and shortcrust.

My initial plan had been for a spinach and filo pie, but that had long been made at home and gone by the time this filo was found. Samosas were the main result of a brief ‘filo recipe’ Google, but I was sceptical that with my highly limited store cupboard ingredients they would turn out bland. Luckily, I gave them a go anyway and I was so pleasantly surprised! Turns out a generous hand with the curry powder can bypass the myriad range of spices and herbs that would normally provide some complexity of flavour. These proved highly therapeutic to make with the repetitive buttering and folding of pastry, and highly addictive to eat!

Giant veggie samosas

Makes 6

  • 1 onion
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 100g butternut squash, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 handfuls of peas
  • 1 heaped tbsp. of medium curry powder
  • 75g butter
  • 1 packet filo pastry
  • nigella seeds, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a drizzle of oil until soft. Add the sweet potato and butternut squash and cook until cooked through, adding a splash of water to stop them sticking and stirring regularly, around 10-15min. Add the remaining veg and curry powder and cook until the peas are cooked through and the spinach wilted. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Melt the butter in a mug in the microwave. Unroll the filo, keeping the pastry you are not working with covered to prevent it drying out. Take one sheet of filo, lay it flat and brush with melted butter. Fold in one third of the pastry lengthways towards the middle. Brush again with the butter and fold in the other side to make a long triple-layered strip.

Place one tablespoon of the filling mixture at one end of the strip, leaving a 2cm/1in border. Take the right corner and fold diagonally to the left, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Fold again along the upper crease of the triangle. Keep folding in this way until you reach the end of the strip. Brush the samosa with more butter, sprinkle with nigella seeds and place onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crisp,

Tortellini minestrone

Tortellini is the easiest last minute meal. I’m known for being so busy doing something I delay and delay cooking dinner, until suddenly it is 9pm and I’m totally ravenous. At that point, the thought of having a filling meal ready in essentially the time it takes to boil the kettle is highly appealing. However, on days when I remember to begin cooking before I reach that stage, this dish is the perfect way to sneak some extra veg into a simple pasta dinner.

I’m not a huge fan of regular minestrone – something about it feels slightly too virtuous for me to enjoy without spoiling its effect with a heap of parmesan on top. The addition of tortellini therefore bulks it out to be a more filling meal and distract from all that veg. The recipe is highly flexible to whatever you have languishing in the fridge – red peppers, some butternut squash or even aubergine would all fit in nicely here.

Tortellini minestrone

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • half tin of tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • handful of green beans
  • large handful of spinach
  • half a packet of spinach and ricotta tortellini

Finely dice the onion, carrot and courgette. Sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of olive oil until soft, about 5-10minutes. Crush the garlic, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and stock and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly. Add the green beans and simmer for a further five minutes. Add the spinach and tortellini and cook for 2 more minutes. Ladle into bowls, topping with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

Food photographs at this time of year are full of delicious ways to cook with the bounty of berries that summer provides. Particularly around the Fourth of July in America, my Instagram filled up with patriotically red strawberry galettes, blackberry pies and big sheet cakes with the most perfect berry specimens carefully arranged on top to depict the stars and stripes. Whilst these always look gorgeous, my issue is that berries in my kitchen rarely last long enough for me to gather enough to cook with. A punnet of strawberries on the counter will slowly be depleted throughout the day as I snack on a few every time I happen to walk past, with any stragglers at the end of the day being simply tipped into a bowl and smothered with cream to be eaten as dessert. Bowls of cherries disappear even faster, leaving just a tell-tale pile of stalks where they once were.

Blueberries, however, might be my one exception. Cheap enough that it doesn’t feel like sacrilege to bake with them, and not quite as sweetly addictive to eat by the greedy handful as the others, I knew that they were worth baking with. Plus these bars only need one simple punnet of blueberries as opposed to kilos of hulled and de-stemmed fruit, making this finger-staining recipe infinitely worth it.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 125g cold butter, cubed
  • 200g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line a 20cm square baking tray.

Mix the flour and caster sugar together in a medium bowl. Add the cubed butter. Rub together until it is the texture of fine breadcrumbs, then keep going for a few more minutes until it begins to come together in larger clumps.

Take 2/3 of this mixture and press into the base of the lined tin to form a shortbread. Scatter over the blueberries. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of crumble mixture over the top.

Bake for 15-20minutes, until golden and crisp. Slice into squares.

Rhubarb Galette

I got an unusual message from my friend the other day. ‘Babe, you’re a bit obsessed with rhubarb on Instagram’. A quick check of my most recent likes showed that they were indeed skewed towards all things pink and long stemmed. Rhubarb vodka, cakes, just pictures of people’s bright fruit hauls ready to be turned into something delicious. In particular, my likes kept showing me lots of highly elaborate rhubarb tarts – with delicately fragranced custard fillings, carefully latticed pie lids or neat fruit arrangements in long rectangular tins. I desperately wanted to try all of these, but my limited space and equipment at university meant that (for now) I had to go with something a little bit more rustic to turn my evident rhubarb insta-favouritism into something real.

I used to make a plum and marzipan galette that was absolutely delicious and I wanted to recreate some of that magic galette simplicity with this. The brown sugar pastry gave a lovely extra flavour to the biscuity pastry and a generous slice, served with an equally generous pour of custard, proved the perfect afternoon treat.

Rhubarb galette

  • 200g plain flour
  • 140g cold butter
  • 85g brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 300g rhubarb
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 5tbsp caster sugar
  • 2tbsps ground almonds
  • 1tbsp demerara sugar

Rub the butter into the flour until resembling fine breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar. Mix the egg yolk with 1tbsp of water, and pour into the flour mixture. Use a knife to stir together and bring into a dough. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.

Cut the rhubarb into 5cm sticks. Stir together with the orange zest and sugar.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Roll the pastry into a large disc, 3mm thick. Lift onto a lined baking tray. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the pastry. Pile the rhubarb into the centre of the disc, leaving a 5cm border of pastry. Fold the pastry border over the edges of the fruit. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the edge of the pastry.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with plenty of custard.

Spaghetti Carbonara

I’m approaching the revision period for my final exams. In doing so, I am discovering an intense ability to procrastinate. Turns out there are just questions in life that bother me more than  what was the cultural significance of Renaissance inventories. Like what the heck is going on with Brexit and Trump, sure, but also whether I’ll ever learn how to do perfect winged eye liner. Which shady character is the actual villain in series three of Broadchurch. The real life mystery of what exactly was going on with Hiddleswift last summer. How to make the perfect carbonara.

I love carbonara, but for years I have been making not-very-good ones and going along with it because it involved bacon, carbs and cheese and so could never be that bad. But then in New York last summer I had the ultimate fancy restaurant carbonara; one of those ones with an egg yolk on top to pierce and let flow down throughout the spaghetti. It showed me just how perfect a good carbonara could be and I knew I’d never be going to back to mildly scrambled versions. I would never claim this is a traditional version – I love the luxuriousness of the added cream too much – but it’s my favourite version and that is all I need. Maybe if I served it to Tom Hiddleston he’d explain everything?

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 1

  • 100g spaghetti
  • 3 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • splash of double cream
  • parmesan, to grate

Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and snip into 2cm pieces.

Mix the egg yolks with the double cream in a mug. When the spaghetti is done, remove 2tbsp of the cooking water and mix in with the egg and cream.

Drain the spaghetti and return to the warm saucepan. Add the egg and bacon and stir to coat the pasta evenly and create a sauce. Pour into a bowl and top with plenty of grated parmesan.