Baking and dessert recipes are like London buses. So, given we’ve had virtually no sweet service over the past few weeks, it wasn’t a surprise to find the bank holiday weekend stacked with double deckers.
The Sunday Times housed a set of Nordic desserts by a Swedish food writer called Simon Bajada. Blueberry and elderflower crumble tempted. As did ‘dream cake’ which is basically a cream enriched sponge with a chewy caramel topping (with barley and berries in the mix too). He also provided the method for an authentic looking cinnamon bun.
On which note, Ruby Tandoh’s Guardian ‘Cook’ column was cinnamon spiced. A chai swirl loaf cake is a smart idea for tea time snackage. Cinnamon and chilli chocolate tarts with honey cream will go down well with most people, I’d have thought.
Saturday’s Times featured a number of baking ideas from Andrew Dargue, a chef at Vanilla Black, which is a fairly inventive vegetarian restaurant. Crumbles and meringues were straightforward, but a pineapple and rum upside down sponge sandwich with brown butter filling looks impressive, and I rather liked the fairly leftfield idea for parsnip cake with Horlicks icing.
Ella Woodward’s ‘healthy’ sweet recipes for The Telegraph included a mango and banana ‘ice cream’ (puréed frozen fruit), walnut and chocolate truffles (puréed walnut and cocoa powder) and oat cookies (oat cookies, not puréed).
I think my favourite sweet column this weekend was Nigel Slater’s. He gave Observer readers two meringue recipes – one with lime curd and pistachios, the other a rectangular pavlova, topped with custard and apples. I particularly liked the fact that both of the recipes provide a use for yolks – which so often get left behind and subsequently wasted when making meringue. Each recipe also suggested we warm the sugar before incorporating into the egg white. Not so that it’s a hot syrup and therefore an Italian meringue. Rather, just a little warmth to the sugar apparently adds gloss and helps create a reliably marshmallow-like centre. If this guy keeps up with the interesting ideas, he may well find himself with a career in food writing.
One of the best things about food loving Brits is our willingness to be influenced by global cuisine. This is both fed and reflected by numerous writers who lace their recipes with flavours from around the world.
The best of Donna Hay’s 20 minute meals in Saturday’s Times, for example, was a grilled salmon rice bowl – the fish is doused with a sesame, honey and rice wine dressing.
Bill Granger’s approach is, more often than not, very Australian. Which is to say, 75% kinda Asian fusion. This week, for example, his Bank Holiday BBQ recipes included grilled mixed baby vegetables with a sweet miso dressing; and bavette steak with a peanut relish. Both of those dishes should be pretty good. The bavette, for example, is marinated in honey, soy, rice wine vinigar, chilli and lime. Those flavours (and more) are used again in the relish.
Yotam Ottolenghi has found that we’re receptive to Middle Eastern cuisine. But he’s not limited to that part of the world. This week, for example, he provided Guardian readers with two laksa-style recipes. You just know both will taste banging, though I’ve specifically bookmarked the webpage for the laksa Johor recipe – there’s so much going on in the ingredient list: mackerel, prawns, dried shrimp, lemongrass, galangal, coconut, paprika, chilli … and more.
Thomasina Miers’ ‘thing’ is the food of Mexico. In Saturday’s Guardian, this was reflected by the way she laced a crab mayonnaise (to go with avocado) with smoky chipotle chilli.
The second instalment of Cook’s CookOneThingUseItFourTimes feature began with a simple roast chicken … which then became the base for a curry, Vietnamese summer rolls and a fish sauce seasoned noodle soup. Quick mid-week leftover meals do lend themselves to a splash of soy or a sprinkle of curry spices.
And finally on this theme, Jane Baxter’s feast plan in the same supplement was for a jerk pork meal, to be served alongside a homemade roti and ‘coconut greens’. I really like that this column, whilst aimed at less experienced cooks, is neither dumbed down nor without adventure.
For all the promotion of global flavours, there’s always a good handful or more of classically ‘British’ food in the papers too. Take Jamie’s lamb shank with roast beetroots in The Sunday Times, for example. (Though this recipe feels more appropriate for Autumn than mid Spring).
If Bill Granger’s food is generally on an Asian fusion theme, then his Independent stablemate Mark Hix is most often in the Brit camp. That said, I’m not quite sure where his filled jacket potatoes sit on the culinary map (or, indeed, how I feel about them). Mash laced with a white wine, cream and chive reduction, put back in the skin and topped with salmon roe is probably pretty decent. A kedgeree version might be too (better than just using rice?). But a full English breakfast spud seemed a bit silly to me.
Rose Prince’s Spring vegetable recipes for The Telegraph looked good. Not least the new potatoes topped w brown shrimp, mace and chive butter, and cos fritters with wild garlic sauce and broad beans.
White asparagus isn’t particularly British. But Rowley Leigh is. In his latest FT Weekend column, Leigh moaned, groaned, but ultimately praised Twitter for its ability to deflate and inspire in equal measure. Then, prompted by Alan Passard, he gave us a rather snazzy recipe for white asparagus with carrot purée and sorrel.
Of course, whilst ‘modern British’ is largely about seasonal ingredients, modern Britain appears to be in the grips of wellness focused eating. The Telegraph was the picture of this trend, with a set of Weight Watchers’ greatest hits, and also some recipes which’ll apparently make your skin shine. So there’s a green smoothie in there, a simple beetroot salad, and also some ‘Oh She Glows’ tomato soup, which is thickened with cashew nuts and topped with roasted chickpeas. Better skin and dairy free, but what about my nut allergy?
On the internet
I haven’t mentioned Shu Han’s Mummy, I Can Cook blog for a while. An oversight. I’m intrigued by her homemade condensed milk recipe. Not least because it leads to condensed milk, coconut and sweetcorn popsicles.
Bank holiday Monday included some meringue making, sparked by Mr Slater’s Sunday recipes.
I went for the lime curd and pistachio topped meringue – which was very definitely marshmallow-like in the middle, so perhaps the warm sugar trick is a good one. Should’ve left the meringues in the oven for a little longer, though, as they weren’t crisp enough (my fault, not the recipe). You wouldn’t want the curd without its sweet meringue partner, though – it’s made without sugar, so is super, super, hyper sharp.
Weekend Menu, 2 and 3 May 2015
White asparagus with carrot purée and sorrel
Rowley Leigh, The Financial Times
Jerk pork, roti and coconut Spring greens
Jane Baxter, The Guardian ‘Cook’
Upside down rum and pineapple sponge, brown butter cream
Andrew Dargue, The Times (Saturday)
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