Friday, 18 November 2011

Goat Cheese & Walnut Truffles

Goat Cheese & Walnut Truffles

A great, elegant appetiser.. Quick to make and perfect for a pre-dinner drink , it will impress your guests. You can coat the truffles with all sort of spices or nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachio, paprika... to name just a few). 

In this recipe I have used sesame and poppy seeds, as I like the contrast of the colors.

  • Goat Cheese, 150g
  • Chopped walnuts, 80g
  • Salt and pepper

For the coating
  • Sesame and poppy seeds, or,
  • Chopped Walnuts
  • Chopped hazelnuts
  • Chopped pistachios
  • or anything you like!

Prepare the coating and set aside.
In a bowl whisk together the goat cheese, the walnuts, salt and pepper. Chill the mixture for about an hour. Take a small spoonful of the goat cheese mixture and shape it into truffles.
Roll the cheese balls in sesame and poppy seeds (or in the coating of your choice) and place on a serving plate.
If you think the goat cheese is too strong, you can mix it with some plain soft cheese.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Strawberry & Cream Celebration Cake

Strawberry & Cream Celebration Cake

This, for me, is the best celebration cake ever. I love the combination of the light sponge, the pastry cream, the whipping cream and the strawberries (what else can you ask for??). Now that strawberries are not in season, you could also make it without them, it is still delicious, trust me. It’s also perfect for children, as the sponge is moisten with sugar and orange syrup. Otherwise if you prefer a nice kick, you can use a mixture of limoncello and water (in equal parts), even better!

Ingredients (for a 24cm round tin) 

For the sponge
  • Eggs, 5 (at room temperature)
  • Caster sugar, 150g
  • Flour 00, 150g
  • Grated zest of a lemon
  • A pinch of salt

For the pastry cream

  • Whole Milk, 500ml
  • Eggs, 6 (medium, and at room temperature)
  • Caster sugar, 140g
  • Flour 00, 80g
  • A vanilla pod
  • A pinch of salt

For the syrup (to moisten the sponge)

  • Water, 150ml
  • Caster sugar, 100g
  • The juice of 2 oranges

For the decoration
  • Fresh strawberries, 500g
  • Fresh whipping cream, 600ml
  • Caster sugar

Another decoration idea


Preparing the Pastry Cream
In a saucepan, bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla pod (and the seeds scraped out into the milk). Allow to cool slightly and remove the vanilla pod. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar. Sift the plain flour, add it to the egg mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour the milk onto the egg mix, whisking continuously. Return to a clean pan and stir with a wooden spatula, bringing it to the boil over a gentle heat until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat, transfer the pastry cream into a clean bowl and place some clingfilm over the surface. The clingfilm will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate and chill completely.
Making the sponge

Heat the oven to 180°C. In a large bowl mix the eggs, the sugar, the grated lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Beat the mixture until very soft and fluffy, for at least 20 minutes! I normally use a kitchen mixer, but an electric handheld one will do. This is key to the success of this recipe, and to obtain a very light sponge. Please remember that you are not using any raising agents, this is why you have to incorporate a lot of air into the mixture. Sift the flour (I usually sift it twice). Fold the flour in, very slowly and gently, a bit at a time, with upward movements. Butter and flour the cake tin. Transfer the mixture very gently into the tin, and bake for about 35/40 minutes. Test the cake by inserting a clean toothpick into the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Let cool completely.
Preparing the syrup

In a saucepan bring the cold water and the sugar to a boil. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is clear, approximately 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Add the juice of 2 oranges, stir, filter and let cool completely.
Assembling the cake

Make sure that all of the ingredients are cold. Wash the strawberries (leaving some aside for the final decoration), slice them and transfer to a bowl. Add a couple of table spoons of sugar and mix together. Leave aside.  Remove the crust of the sponge, cutting the borders, the top and the bottom. I do this as I like every bits of the cake to be soft and moisten. Don’t worry too much about the shape, as you are going to frost the cake with the whipping cream. Slice the cake horizontally, in three slices/layers. Place the first slice on the plate or cake board. Spoon a little bit of pastry cream on the board, to make sure the first layer will stick to the base. Using a brush, moisten the first sponge layer with the syrup. Spoon half of the pastry cream onto the sponge, and spread it evenly with a flat spatula. Spread half of the strawberries (the ones you have already sliced) evenly on the cake. Repeat the operation with the second layer. Place the third sponge layer on top, and brush with the syrup. Transfer to the fridge to set for at least half an hour.  In the meantime, prepare the whipping cream. Before whipping, transfer the cream in the freezer for about 20 minutes. The cream has to be very cold. Using an electric handheld beater, or by hand, whip the cream until firm, but not too firm. When you see the cream turning a little bit yellow, stop beating immediately, otherwise it turns into butter!  With the help of a flat spatula, spread the cream onto the cake evenly. Decorate with more cream (I used a Wilton M1 tip) and the strawberries that you have previously left aside. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Flavrbox! A new way to buy great food, made by people you'll love

Flavrbox was created by a group of passionate food lovers with the aim of helping independent food producers earn a good living from doing what they love. Practically speaking, it's an online platform through which you can list and sell your products direct to customers (similar to a farmer's market if you like). Our long-term plan is to create a vibrant community, made up of the finest food makers the UK has to offer.

Flavrbox is launching in Beta in the Autumn 2011 and is offering an early-bird exclusive annual discount. For anyone signing up on the mailing list on before the launch, Flavrbox will offer 10% discount on every single purchase for an entire year. Yes, 365 days. 4 seasons of local independent and tasty food.

No rubber. No added water. Only amazing products made by people you'll love.

Think your farmers' market meets Amazon, the convenience of buying online with the choice of all the UK's top farmers market' producers. Tasty sausages and jams.

Coming Soon!!.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Happy Easter

Friends, food, wine, sun and relax... Happy Easter everyone.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Braided Sourdough Loaves with Poppy, Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds (Pane a Treccia con Pasta Madre e Semi di Papavero, Zucca e Girasole)

Braided Sourdough Loaves with Poppy, Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds

Hello! I have been away for quite a long time, but I am back. Life is hard sometimes, but what is important, is to keep up the fight.
Kneading bread surely helps to produce some good, positive energy, so let’s get started again. This recipe is inspired by my previous one (Sourdough Bread, Autolyse Method), with the addition of poppy, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. This bread is truly delicious.

Ingredients (makes two braided loaves)
  • Strong white flour, 475g
  • Dark rye flour, 25g
  • Water, 360g
  • Ferment, 150g
  • Fresh yeast, 5g
  • Salt, 10g
  • Some fine semolina flour
  • Poppy, Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds
  • Egg white for brushing


In a large bowl, mix the flours and the water. Cover with cling film and let it rest for about half an hour (not less than 20 minutes).

Add the yeast and the ferment and mix well.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 15 minutes. The mixture is quite sticky, and the best way to work it is to use Richard Bertinet technique (he stretches the dough and slaps it down very energetically, incorporating a lot of air inside). I recently came across this video that shows this technique The video explains how to knead sweet dough, but the procedure is just the same.

Add the salt and work for further 2-3 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, transfer to your mixing ball, cover with cling film and leave it to rest for an hour.

Turn out the dough onto your lightly floured work surface, fold again, bringing the outside edges to the center a few times, rotating the dough and forming a ball.

Put back into your ball and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto your lightly floured work surface and cut into 6 pieces (to make 2 braided loaves).

Cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 250°C.

Roll the sections (3 at a time) into approx. 12-inch long ropes. Brush the ropes top surface with the egg white, and sprinkle one with poppy seeds, one with pumpkin seeds and the third one with sunflower seeds.

Braid the three sections as you would if you were braiding hair. Hold the outer sections. Pull the left section over to the center. Then hold the old center section with your left hand and pull it to the side. Finally, bring the right section over the center. Repeat the process, alternating sides, until the entire length of bread is braided.

Press each end of the braid together and secure under the loaf. Follow the same process for the second braided loaf.

Place the loaves on a backing sheet (sprinkled with semolina flower) to rise for about one hour and a half or until doubled in size.

Quickly open the oven door and mist with water spray. Slide the loaves inside and quickly mist again (mist the oven, not the bread).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Pane a treccia con pasta madre e semi di papavero, zucca e girasole

Ingredienti (per due trecce di media grandezza) 

  • Farina bianca forte, 475g
  • Farina di segale integrale, 25g
  • Acqua, 360g
  • Lievito madre, 150g
  • Lievito fresco, 5g
  • Sale, 10g
  • Un po’ di farina di semola
  • Semi di papavero, zucca e girasole
  • Albume di un uovo per spennellare

In un recipiente capiente mescolare le farine con l’aqua. Coprire con della pellicola da cucina e lasciare riposare per almeno 20 minuti (massimo un’ora). Aggiungere il lievito e la pasta madre e mescolare. Rovesciare su un piano da lavoro leggermente infarinato e lavorare per 15 minuti. Il composto risultera’ piuttosto appiccicoso ed il miglior metodo (secondo me) per lavorarlo, e’ proprio quello di Richard Bertinet: Questo video riguarda una pasta dolce, tipo brioche, ma il procedimento e’ lo stesso. Aggiungere il sale e lavorare per ulteriori 2-3 minuti. Chiudere a palla e riporre nella ciotola leggermente infarinata. Coprire e lasciar riposare per un’ora. Rovesciare il composto sulla superficie leggermente infarinata e piegare stendendo i lembi verso l’esterno, ripiegando verso l’interno e premendo al centro, fino a formare di nuovo una palla. Riporre nel recipiente, coprire e lasciar riposare per 30 minuti. Rovesciare la pasta sulla superficie leggermente infarinata e dividere in 6 parti (per formare due trecce da tre). Coprire e lasciar riposare i pezzi per 15 minuti. Pre-riscaldare il forno a 250°C. Allungate i 6 pezzi di pasta (circa 30 cm. di lunghezza). Spennellare la superficie con l’albume, e cospargete con i semi. Formare le due trecce (come se fossero trecce di capelli). A questo punto adagiate le due trecce su una teglia senza bordo, cosparsa di semolino (oppure coperta da carta da forno). Coprire con un panno da cucina e lasciar lievitare per un’ora e mezza o fino a quando il volume sara’ duplicato. Aprire velocemente il forno e spruzzare dell’acqua all’interno (una quindicina di spruzzi). Infornare le trecce e prima di chiudere la porta del forno spruzzare ancora un po’ di acqua (l’interno del forno, non le trecce). Cuocere per 30/35 minuti, o fino a che la superficie non diventa ben dorata. Io ho cotto a 250°C per i primi 5 minuti, e ho continuato a 230°C fino a cottura ultimata.