Great British Chefs' - Blog

Jul 27

Cherry clafoutis tartlets

Cherries are in season at the moment and Nisha is finding out all sorts of delicious ways to use them.  She’s chosen pretty, fresh and summery cherry clafoutis tartlets to share with us.
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Just the other day I was at a farmers market and stumbled upon some gorgeous cherries. I tasted a few and they were the sweetest and juiciest I’d tried so far this season. I bought a pack and resisting the urge to eat them, I made my way home, all the while brainstorming on what to make with them…something summery, something fresh. Tarts! it had to be tarts! but with a twist. 
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Eric Lanlard’s cherry clafoutis tarts came to my rescue and they were a good choice. The tarts are pretty easy to make and you can prepare the base and filling a day or two ahead and put them together just before serving. This makes them perfect for those summer parties where you are busy with a 101 other things. I like them chilled, but feel free to devour them right out of the oven, still warm and gooey. 

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Cherry clafoutis tartlets (makes 6 to 8)


For the tart base (short crust pastry)
170 gms plain flour
A pinch of salt
100 gms cold, unsalted butter sliced into cubes
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp ice cold water
Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. Rub in the butter till the mix resembles coarse bread crumbs.
Add the sugar and mix thoroughly, followed by egg yolk and water.
Mix it all together using your hands, to form a firm dough. You may need a wee bit more water, but remember, a crumbly dough, although difficult to handle, will result in a shorter, lighter pastry as opposed to damp dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least 15 to 20 minutes. At this point you can even freeze the pastry for later use. But make sure you bring it back to room temperature before rolling it out.
In the mean time, lightly grease your tart pans with butter and arrange them on a baking tray.
After the dough has been chilled long enough, lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll the pastry into a circle. This may be a bit difficult, especially if you challenged like me when it comes to rolling out dough of any kind. You can either roll out a big round and then cute individual circles to fit your tart pan, or divide the dough into smaller balls and roll them out to fit the individual tins. I found the latter much more easier.
Carefully place the pastry into the case and trim off the edges. Pierce the pastry at random places with a fork. Pre heat the oven to 200C and blind bake the pastry shells for about 15 minutes. (Blind bake by placing an aluminium foil on top of the pastry and filling with baking beans, dried rice or dried beans so that the pastry doesn’t puff up) 
Once done, remove the baking beans from the tart and keep aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
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For the filling
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
4 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200 ml double cream
150 gms stoned cherries, halved
Icing sugar to dust (optional)
Break the egg and egg yolks into a heat proof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Add the sugar and whisk continuously till the mix turns light and fluffy. This may take about 6 to 7 minutes depending on how vigorously you whisk. Keep aside.
Into a saucepan pour in the double cream and vanilla and heat gently. Take it off the flame and slowly add the egg mix, while simultaneously whisking the mix. If you find the egg has cooked a bit, don’t panic, just strain through a sieve into a measuring cup.
Arrange the cherries at random in the pre cooked pastry cases and fill with the custard. Bake in a pre heated oven at 150C for 20 minutes or until the tart is set and golden and a tooth pick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool the tarts in their cases for about 10 minutes, after which you can carefully remove the tarts and chill in the fridge till ready to serve.
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Just before serving dust some icing sugar on top. 
Notes: You can of course use store bought short crust pastry for the base, or pre-made tart shells. This would make the job much easier.
Make the filling while the tarts are blind baking and you can finish off the whole process much quicker. Or if you don’t want to do it all on the same day, make the tart shells a day or two before and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
These tarts are not that sweet, so if you want them sweeter, serve with some stewed cherries or even ice cream.
For more delicious cherry recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.

Crème caramel with red berries

Giulia is intrigued by  desserts which are a staple of many food cultures. After the pound cake, also known as quatre quart in France, it’s time to talk about another great classic, something you could find in almost any menu of restaurants, trattorias and diners throughout the Western world.  The crème caramel.

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Have you ever studied the dessert list with greedy eyes and an increasing salivation, wondering if the warm apple cake topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot caramel sauce was better than the triple chocolate layered cake, and then you end up ordering a crème caramel?

Oh, it happens all the time to me, and usually it’s either the crème caramel or the tiramisù that win the dessert competition in my mind.

Probably it is due to its simplicity or to a inner childhood reference, but the crème caramel has this power to sooth your soul, through a trembling and silky texture and a vanilla soaked taste.

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Its origins are uncertain. The name by which it is usually known – crème caramel – denotes a French origin, but the name by which is known here in Tuscany, latte alla portoghese, Portuguese milk, seems to move it to Portugal more than France.

In Italy it is a home scented dessert, baked by grandmas for family gatherings or as a nutritious afternoon break for picky nephews who need some energy and calories.

Traditionally it is baked in large round scalloped moulds, but you can easily serve it into individual ramekins or make it into smaller silicon or non stick moulds, as to have tiny and elegant portions.

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Have you ever tried to make it at home from scratch? You will be surprised how simple it is! In summer, to fight the heatwave, serve it with a generous spoonful of quickly sautéed red berries, which will add a pleasant tangy note to the sweet and silky texture of the crème caramel. Enjoy it!

Crème caramel with red berries 

Ingredients

1 litre of whole milk

1 vanilla pod, split open

7 eggs

7 tablespoons of sugar

For the caramel

5 tablespoons of sugar

For the red fruit dressing

250 g of mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, red currants, blueberries)

3 tablespoons of sugar

Method 

Heat the oven to 160°C.

In a small saucepan heat the milk with the vanilla pod until simmering, then remove it from the stove and set aside.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until well blended, but do not overmix otherwise you would incorporate too much air.

Filter the milk and pour it in a thin stream into the eggs, stir until smooth. You’ll obtain a very liquid custard.

Pour 5 tablespoons of sugar on a small saucepan and and let it melt over medium heat until you get a golden caramel. Pour the caramel onto the bottom of a 10 mini moulds (silicon or non stick moulds).

Pour the milk and egg custard over the caramel, then gently lay the moulds inside a large baking pan filled with a few inches of water and bake for about 50 minutes, until set.

Remove the crème caramel from the oven, let it cool down then set aside it in the fridge for a few hours.

Before serving unmould the crème caramels onto a serving platter and cover them with the caramel. Cook the berries for a few minutes on medium flame with a few tablespoons of sugar, then top each pudding with some berries.

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For more delicious summer dessert recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.

Jul 20

Redcurrant Ripple Baked Cheesecake – A Summer Treat!

Baked cheesecakes are a hugely versatile dessert.  Chris explains how they’re a perfect comfort pudding for all seasons and shares her wonderful sunny recipe for a redcurrant baked cheesecake. 

 

Baked cheesecakes are my ultimate comfort food, welcome at any time of the year. A rich chocolate cheesecake with morello cherries and a slug of kirsch in Winter, a sharp lemon cheesecake with a glass of fizz in Spring, a warm vanilla cheesecake with the first of the Autumn raspberries washed down with an intensely sweet white wine. All are perfect but, at this time of year with the sun blazing down and jewels gleaming at me in my garden, it has to be redcurrant ripple cheesecake and a glass of elderflower cordial with lots of ice!

I use the same basic recipe as the base for all my cheesecakes so, if you feel the urge, you can easily replace the redcurrants with raspberries, blueberries or blackberries or swirl through some chocolate and top with cherries!

Redcurrant Ripple Baked Cheesecake

Ingredients

200g digestive biscuits

75g butter

500g mascarpone cheese

4 free range eggs, lightly beaten

150g caster sugar (+ 1tbsp)

1tsp vanilla extract

200g redcurrants (+extra to decorate)

a little icing sugar

Method

Serve with a sprinkling of sieved icing sugar, a handful of sharp redcurrants and a glass of ice cold elderflower fizz. You can serve it at room temperature or cold from the fridge.

For more delightful summer dessert recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.

Jul 13

Wonderful Watermelon Art

There’s nothing more summery than a juicy slice of watermelon and this refreshing fruit is at its peak during the summer months. What’s more, watermelons are the perfect size for creating fun, imaginative food sculptures!

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Image courtesy of sheknows.com. Click here for the step by step recipe.

We’re in the middle of barbecue season and what better way to round off a mouth-watering BBQ than with this clever watermelon ‘barbecue’! With blackberry ‘coals’, celery stick ‘legs’ and a grill made of cocktail skewers on which you can rest your fruit kebabs, guests will love this fun take on a fruit platter.

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Image courtesy of sheknows.com.

This inventive watermelon shark would make a great centerpiece for a boy’s birthday party and is a lot healthier than cake! It’s simple to make too so you don’t need to be super creative to give it a go.

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Image courtesy of watermelon.org

Those that prefer slightly less scary animals might want to make this cute watermelon turtle filled with summer berries.

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Image courtesy of watermelon.org 

Even grown-ups enjoy watermelon art! This fruit baby in bassinet would be adorable at a baby shower or christening.

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Image courtesy of mandatorymooch.blogspot.co.uk

Those with artistic flair might want to try recreating their favourite animated character out of watermelon - we love this happy Shrek! 

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Image courtesy of Brenda Hass via Flickr.com

Similarly if you’re handy with a knife you might want to try making this underwater sea sculpture.

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Image courtesy of womansday.com

Have you tried making your own watermelon carvings or sculptures? If you’re crazy about watermelon why not try making William Drabble’s tropical fruit rockets? They’ll go down a treat on a hot summer’s day!

If you’ve tried your hand at making your own fruit art, then do share your images with us on Twitter or Facebook, as we’d love to see!  Let us know your favourite wonderful watermelon art images over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.

Jul 07

Zelnik - Balkan Filo Pastry Pie

This Balkan classic makes an impressive centrepiece for any table and is particularly suited to a weekend lunch - especially when washed down with a cold glass of crisp white wine.

All pie is good in my book, but this pie is extra special. Not only is it the shape of a Cumberland sausage, but it also boasts numerous layers of homemade filo pastry. Yes, that’s right, HOMEMADE filo pastry.

You’d be forgiven for thinking life’s too short for such painstaking tasks, but bear with me. I’ll admit, it would probably be fair to say you have too much time on your hands if you can afford to make homemade filo a weekly staple, but it’s sometimes nice to spend longer than 20 minutes knocking up something quickly in the kitchen. It can be therapeutic to take your time. I rolled this dough while watching the tennis. In fact, it’s the perfect activity to take on while indulging in guilty pleasures like watching telly or singing along to your favourite LP in the daytime.  It really soothes the mind to engage in simple and repetitive action like the rolling of dough. And the flavour really is worth the effort. Homemade filo is never going to be quite as thin as shop bought, but the difference in texture from a more rustic roll feels right for this roly-poly pie.

 

You can, of course, buy ready-made filo, if you must, but I think you ought to try making it yourself at least once first. As for the filling, you can sing your own tune. It’s delicious with a simple concoction of sautéed onion, garlic and spinach with a few lumps of Feta crumbled in for good measure. Minced lamb or pork with cabbage makes for a filling and robust pie and you can even add potatoes or rice for extra and economical bulk. As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with bacon and leeks as a base and I love to serve it with a simple salad. It’s best to leave the pie for 15-20 minutes after it’s come out of the oven, as the flavours are best when it’s not piping hot.

ZELNIK

 

For the filo pastry

1 kg of flour

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp. vinegar

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. oil

Up to 400ml water

Plus about 250g melted butter (or 250ml oil, if you prefer)

For the filling

1 large onion, chopped

2 leeks, trimmed and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

8 rashers of smoked bacon, chopped

200g Feta, crumbled

A generous handful of flat leaf parsley

Salt and pepper

 

Sift the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add vinegar, salt, oil and half of the water and mix together with a fork until it starts to come together. Add as much of the remaining water as you need to make a dough and turn it out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead for a few minutes until you have a soft, but not sticky dough. Wrap it in cling film and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling. Sweat the onion, leeks, garlic and bacon in a little oil or butter until soft and slightly golden. Stir in the parsley and Feta and generously season. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.

Use your hands to roll the dough into a sausage and cut into 10 pieces. Take a piece of dough and cover the remaining 9 with cling film to prevent them from drying out. Roll the dough as thinly as you possibly can into a large rectangular shape and gently stretch it further using your hands. Ideally the dough should be thin enough to be able to see your hand through. Once it is as thin as you can make it, brush the filo sheet with melted butter/oil and cover with cling film. Roll out the next piece in the same way, remove the cling film from the first sheet and place the second over the top. Brush liberally with more melted butter and place the sheet of cling film back on. Continue until all the dough has been rolled and brushed with melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan)

Place the layered filo in front of you, horizontally, trim off the edges of the pastry to neaten. Spoon the filling into a line a few inches in from the edge of the filo closest to you. Now for the fun bit!

Roll the whole thing up tightly into a long sausage and, with the seam underneath, coil the sausage into a tight ring. Butter a round ovenproof dish, big enough for the pie to snugly fit into the dish. Use a couple of fish slices, or any other long flat implement to hand, to carefully transfer the pie to the dish. Brush the top of the pie with more melted butter and sprinkle over a little salt and pepper.

Place the pie in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (160°) and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Leave to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before carefully transfer the pie to a serving plate and enjoy!

For more delicious pie recipes visit Great British Chefs collection

Jul 05

Strawberry and cream French macarons

Macarons are hugely popular right now - they may even be the “new cupcakes”.  However they can be tricky to make at home.  Nisha shares her experience of the ups and downs of creating macarons and how she’s mastered the technique to produce these delicate strawberry and cream beauties.

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Macarons have become so popular these days, everyone’s trying to perfect them. There used to be a time when I would try different recipes and procedures and wait patiently in front of the oven, only to be disappointed with feetless macs, macs that were distorted and worst of all, macs that had exploded while baking. Waste of ingredients, waste of time and the disappointments combined together would make me vouch never to try them again. But the mere sight of these dainty little darlings would stir interest and I’d set about baking again.
Slowly, with practice, I started becoming better. I mean there would still be a batch that would go awry in between, but there were lesser disasters and lesser tantrums (from my end that is). It’s a bit intimidating, this macaron making, with all those tutorials and troubleshooting articles out there. Its also good to read through them once, so you know how to go about it, and what to expect. I am no expert here, but most of all, know your oven really well and half of your issues are sorted.
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With the Wimbledon tournament in full swing, I thought it would be a great idea to do strawberry and cream themed macarons - very quintessentially British and even more, Wimbledon appropriate. This recipe has been adapted from Ottolenghi’s book, a trusted recipe that always fetches good results, and can be easily tweaked. The said amounts make 20 to 22 medium sized macarons.

Strawberry and cream French macarons
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For the shells
60 gms ground almonds, sifted
100 gms powdered sugar
40 gms caster sugar
60 gms egg whites, preferably aged
2 generous drops of strawberry essence/ extract
Poppy red colour paste as required.
For the filling
Double cream- 1/2 cup
Powdered sugar- 2 tbsp (or more if you prefer)
Vanilla extract- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Strawberries- 100 to 150 gms, hulled and roughly chopped
A drop or two of Strawberry essence/ extract
Poppy red colour paste as required
Before you start, make sure you have all your ingredients and equipment ready. Line two baking trays with baking paper and get the piping bags (you would need two in this case) ready with a round tip nozzle.
Sift together the icing sugar and almond powder to make sure there are no lumps. It’s ok if they are not too fine.
Into a mixing bowl, add the egg whites and whisk till they are frothy. Add the caster sugar bit by bit, while continuously beating the egg whites.
You are good to go go when the egg whites hold its peak shape when you lift the whisk, but not too dry. I know its tricky, but if in doubt, continue beating. Even if its a bit dry, you can tackle the issue later.
Add the sifted sugar and almond powder into the egg white and fold gently using a spatula. Once mixed well, add the strawberry essence and give one final mix. Again, gently. Resist the urge to be vigorous with the folding. An over mixed macaronage is only going to fetch you disastrous results.
If you are doing two different colours, like I did, then split the batter into two and into one add the red colour paste.
Add a little at first, slowly fold it in, and if its not the colour you want, then add more till you get the desired colour. Its better to use colour paste, because the liquid colours kind of change the consistency of the batter and you really don’t want that!
Lift your spatula with the batter and let it fall freely into the bowl. You know your consistency is right when it falls down like ribbons without a break. Or place a tsp of the batter on a plate, and if its spreads out on its own slowly, then you are good to go. If it doesn’t, then given a couple more folds and loosen it out. Whatever it is, make sure its not too loose.
Fill the piping bag with batter from one of the bowls and pipe them out onto the prepared baking tray.
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Keep about 2 inches gap between the shells, as they are going to expand and also, try and get same sizes while piping which would mean resting times would be the same for all, and so will the cooking times. 
Keep the tray aside to dry. This can range from 15 minutes to about an hour, depending on the humidity of the place.
They are ready to bake when a film forms on the shells. Basically they shouldn’t stick to your fingers, when you lightly touch them.
Pre heat the oven to 140C and bake the macarons on the middle rack of your oven for 12 to 14 minutes. You can also say a lil prayer to get those gorgeous macaron feet :) (If you have split the batch, then while the second batch is in the oven, quickly pipe out the remaining batter and leave aside to rest. It’s ok if it’s still not dry by the time the first batch comes out. Leave your oven on and wait till the shells are dry.)
Once the macs are cooked, take the tray out of the oven and leave aside to cool completely, after which you can carefully remove them from the paper and store in air tight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days (till you are ready to pipe).
For the filling, whip the double cream along with sugar and vanilla extract till soft peaks form.
I was using two types of filling for the macs, so i split the cream into two. Ignore the step if you are not doing two fillings.
Into one bowl add the red paste colour and a drop of strawberry essence and mix till the colours are blended in well. Be careful, you don’t want to over mix and split the cream. Keep refrigerated while you fill the first set of macarons.
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Assembling:
Onto a baking tray, arrange pairs of macarons (try and pair similar size and shaped ones) and onto one shell, either pipe out the cream filling or use a tea spoon to spread the filling carefully.
Arrange a few of the chopped strawberries on top and sandwich with the other macaron shell. Continue till all of the shells are used up.
Similarly, arrange the white shells in pairs and pipe on the pink strawberry flavoured cream onto the shells.
Transfer the macarons into a box and store in the refrigerator for a couple of hours for the flavours to infuse and eat away.
Notes: Due to the nature of the filling, the macarons don’t stay well for more than a day. They turn soggy because the cream doesn’t do that well as a filling. So try and eat them the very same day. But otherwise, they can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
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For more amazing macaron recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.

Jun 29

Wimbledon Cake

Victoria’s gluten free “Wimbledon Cake” is delicious topped with a generous dollop of cream and served with fresh, juicy strawberries.  So good you won’t want to just serve it during Wimbledon fortnight.

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Wimbledon has already been an exhilarating rollercoaster of a ride. The first week isn’t even over yet and we’ve already lost Nadal and Federer and seen more injury-related match retirements than ever before.  The nation is braced for a possible Murray victory – let’s just hope that pesky Djokovic doesn’t steal it away.  Murray (according to a fleeting glance at last week’s Radio Times front cover) had a dream that this year he will win the Men’s Singles – and if Andy Murray having a dream doesn’t give us concrete hope, I don’t know what will.

To honour this exciting tournament, I have made a cake that I have decided to name “Wimbledon Cake”, because it has a big hole in the middle that’s just the right size for a tennis ball (or a big pile of strawberries if you prefer).  I love using a cake ring as, not only does it look invitingly fancy, but it also means that even the largest of sponges will bake more quickly, so the waiting time between cake and mouth is much reduced.  I’m not sure there’s a person alive who could fail to be cheered by that.

My gluten free Wimbledon Cake is delicious topped with a generous dollop of cream and served with fresh, juicy strawberries – well, it is Wimbledon after all, and you can’t watch the tennis without strawberries and cream. It just wouldn’t be British.

Wimbledon Strawberry Cake (Gluten Free)

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Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and flour (with Gluten Free flour) a 10-inch cake ring

6 large eggs, separated

1 tsp. white wine vinegar

220g caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp.

½ tsp. salt

130 ml sunflower oil

The seeds of 1 vanilla pod

2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. vanilla extract

220g rice flour

½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda

100g icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp. cold water

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks. Add the 1 tbsp. of caster sugar and whisk to stiff peaks, then whisk in the vinegar and set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks, remaining caster sugar, oil, vanilla pod seeds and 2 tbsp. vanilla extract in a large bowl with an electric hand whisk for a few minutes. Sift the rice flour and bicarbonate of soda over the wet ingredients and mix in.

Fold the egg whites into the batter with a large metal spoon and pour the mixture into your prepared tin. Level out with a palette knife and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in its tin completely on top of a wire rack before turning out. Once completely cool, mix the remaining vanilla extract and water with the icing sugar to make a loose vanilla-flavoured icing and drizzle over the top of the cake.  Serve with strawberries and cream.

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For more great strawberry recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.

Jun 28

Incredible Edibles - Sport themed desserts

Cake decoration is an art in itself and with Wimbledon very much in swing, we’ve brought you the very best in sport themed desserts.

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(Photo source: Squaremeal)

A few years ago in honour of Wimbledon, Bjorn van der Horst at the Eastside Inn created a special strawberries and cream dessert, within a large white chocolate, tennis ball rolled in coconut for an accurate depiction of a true tennis treat. 

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If you are celebrating Wimbledon at home, try our jelly strawberries and champagne recipe, a classic combination synonymous with Wimbledon.  If you’re time pressed, you can always quickly put together a dish of strawberries and cream, a simple dish but always a winner.

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(Photo source: Angies cupcakes)

As we discussed here, cake trends can be fickle and ever-changing. Petite desserts make for easy entertaining, and at a sports themed bash when you’re catering for many, simple is usually better. Cake pops are a great way of using up leftover cake, or make a new batch of little balls. These are the ideal shape for creating mini basketballs or baseballs.

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(Photo source: easteuropeanfood)

If you’re looking for a fruit based sports themed dessert, try decorating strawberries rather than sweet baked goods. These little treats are great for children’s parties when you’re trying to disguise healthier alternatives for picky eaters.

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(Photo source: loveandoliveoil)

Bringing a large cake out for a group of people never fails to impress. Icing artistes, can really go to town in this theme. Elaborate cakes give that little extra scope for creativity.  You can add in minute details such as individual blades of grass, an incredible feat for any perfectionist sports fan.

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(Photo source: cakecentral)

Sport based desserts aren’t just for kids. If both you and your partner are sport fanatics, a themed wedding cake could add that extra touch of personalization to your special day.  

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(Source: occasionsonline)

Whatever your celebration or skill level, a themed cake is perfect for any occasion.

What’s the most impressive themed cake you’ve seen?

Jun 23

A Picnic Guide For Gluten Dodgers

Picnics are necessarily a happy affair for those with gluten intolerances. Think of all the portable wheat products normally in picnics.  Victoria presents a great guide to picnics that all can enjoy.  She also shares a recipe for sweet gluten free treat to end the picnic.

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When we think of picnic food, for those unaffected by gluten intolerance, the mind immediately focuses on portable wheat products: sandwiches, quiche and cake, or perhaps a nice crunchy baguette with a generous smear of blue cheese (the moulds in some blue cheeses are grown on breads or cultures that contain gluten).

Failing that, salads are always safe aren’t they? Not necessarily for gluten dodgers. Aside from the obvious hurdles involved in pasta and couscous salads, some vinegars contain gluten, as do most soy sauces and, to ramp up the complications further, certain mustards contain wheat-based thickening agents. Suddenly salad dressings are starting to prove trickier than expected. 

And this is all before we even consider the possibilities of cross-contamination when shared serving utensils get dipped and dunked into several different dishes, causing havoc for wheat avoiders. It sounds easier to just stay at home, but where’s the fun in that?

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It’s simple to create a totally gluten free picnic that everyone can enjoy without fear of cross-contamination, and I promise it will be a lot tastier than a squashed cheese and pickle sandwich and a packet of twiglets.

 

You can make your own gluten free pies and sandwiches very simply, but if you don’t feel confident, a potato salad made with homemade mayonnaise (spiked with a little Dijon mustard if you fancy it) will have your carbs all wrapped up. Add a scattering of fresh chives and pretty borage flowers and your spuds will look picture on your picnic rug, as well as helping you to take full advantage of the end of the Jersey Royal season. If potatoes don’t float your boat, check out www.souschef.co.uk for red quinoa or black rice - both make the basis for delicious salads.

Starchy salads sorted, a lovely alternative to sandwiches is Vietnamese summer rolls (just be sure to use a gluten free hoisin sauce or make your own using gluten free soy sauce). In terms of leaves, you can be as adventurous as you like with your salad ingredients, just be sure to leave the croutons out and make or buy a dressing that doesn’t contain gluten. Most balsamic, wine or cider vinegars are fine, or you can simply juice a lemon or lime to create the required acidity.

As far as I’m concerned, a pork pie is a thing of beauty, but my interest wanes if there’s a big, roasted hunk of meat on offer instead. I often roast a chicken to take cold to a picnic, or, if I’m feeling particularly extravagant, a rare rib of beef with lashings of horseradish, walnut and watercress salad can’t fail to hit the spot.

 

And now for something sweet … You can’t have a picnic without a bowl of fresh, juicy strawberries to nibble on, but, for my money, ending the afternoon with a sugary treat is a must. You can find plenty of gluten free bakes on the website already, but my gluten free coconut and cherry squares tick all the portable boxes and are so delicious that you’ll have your friends wondering why they ever bothered with wheat in the first place.

Gluten Free Coconut and Cherry Squares

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Grease and line a 10-inch by 8-inch cake tin and preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/ Gas Mark 4

75g soft, unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

2 large eggs, separated

150g rice flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. milk

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

A pinch of salt

50g desiccated coconut, plus an extra 30-40g for sprinkling

5 tbsp. Morella cherry jam (or whatever jam you fancy)

Cream together the butter and 50g of the sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the egg yolks before sifting over the rice flour and baking powder. Whisk together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla pod seeds and milk and continue to whisk until everything comes together and you are left with a fairly stiff batter. Spread the mixture evenly over the base of the tin with a rubber spatula. Next, spread over the jam evenly over the top, right up to the edges.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, whisk the egg whites and salt together until stiff. Continuing whisking while gradually adding the remaining 100g of caster sugar. You should be left with a glossy meringue. Fold in 50g of desiccated coconut and spread evenly over the jam layer. Sprinkle over the remaining coconut and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin on top of a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes before cutting into even squares. Leave to cool completely before removing the squares from the tin with a step/cranked palette knife.

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Inspired?  For even more gluten free recipes for your picnic visit Great British Chefs collection.

Jun 19

The Pimms Alternative - Sipsmith Summer Cup

Which drinks say summer has arrived?  For some it’s their first glass of Pimms.  Or maybe a jug of Sangria?  Or a fruit punch enjoyed at a party in your garden? We’d like to throw Sipsmith’s Summer Cup into the mix.  This delicious gin based drink is a summery interpretation of English “cups” from the 1800’s.  Discover what goes into this drier alternative to Pimms.

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Sipsmith are London’s first copper distillery in nearly 200 years hand-crafting gold medal spirits. They call themselves “sip-smiths” to celebrate the craft of distillation and artisanal methods. In late Spring 2009 their handmade copper-pot still, “Prudence”, first began to gently deliver batches of gin and vodka.

The distiller wanted to create a fruit cup for a while.  Fruit based drinks have less of an impact than other spirit based drinks and are easy to drink on a balmy summer afternoon.

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Sipsmith’s award winning London Dry Gin is blended with a host of summery ingredients such as infusions of Earl Grey tea, lemon verbena, cardamom, orange and cucumber.  Unlike many other fruit cups you’ll find it surprisingly dry on the palate. That’s down to the tannins from the Earl Grey tea that cut through the inherent sweetness of some of the base components.  

To make your very own summer in a cup, just follow the simple 1 to 3 rule: for every part of Summer Cup, add three parts mixer and serve over a glassful of ice.  Fans of Pimms would use lemonade as a mixer, but if you like something spicier try ginger ale or ginger beer. If that’s too spicy for your tastes - a 50:50 mix of lemonade and ginger beer could be perfect for you.

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Garnishes for the Summer Cup should be kept simple – the team at Sipsmith have found that sliced orange, strawberries,  a slice of cucumber, and a sprig of mint works well and balance the fragrant drink’s summer feel.

When you give the Summer Cup a try, see which spices you can taste.  Look out for juniper and hints of cherry in the drink too. James from Sipsmith sums up the flavour perfectly “ It’s bone dry, it’s complex. It’s summer in a glass.”

To enjoy the summer even more, we’ve teamed up with Sipsmith to bring you the chance to win a fantastic a summer meal for two at any Great British Chefs restaurant.

Jun 14

3D Latte Sculptures

Imagine ordering your morning latte to find a towering foam giraffe peering out of your coffee…sound a bit far-fetched?  It wouldn’t be if Kazuki Yamamoto were your barista!  The Japanese latte artist’s creative coffee sculptures have earned him legions of fans on Twitter and it’s not hard to see why.

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‘Latte art’ as it is more commonly known, is not a particularly new concept; the Italians have been serving cappuccinos adorned with a decorative leaf pattern for many years, while David Schomer is credited with bringing this trend to the US in the nineties at his Seattle coffee shop Espresso Vivace. 

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However 26 year old Yamamoto takes the medium to a whole new level with his elaborate 3D foam sculptures.  Among his most impressive pieces is a mischievous cat reaching from one cup to a ‘pond of fish’ in another cup and a melting clock that resembles Dalí’s masterpiece ‘The Persistence of Memory’.

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The gifted barista currently works at Cafe 10g in Osaka, Tokyo but harbours hopes of opening his own establishment where he can focus more on his art.  He has managed to amass a whopping 106,000 Twitter followers by tweeting daily pictures of his latest creations.

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Yamamoto is not alone in his passion; in fact, coffee art is so widespread that there is an annual World Latte Art Championship where talented baristas go head to head with their intricate patterns.  This year’s championship is being held in Nice from the 25th to the 28th June.  We think Kazuki Yamamoto would be a shoo-in.

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Do you think Kazuki Yamamoto’s latte art is too good to drink? What animals or characters would you like to see in foam form?  Let us know what you think below.

Jun 09

Halloumi Pasta with Lemon and Mint

Hooray for Halloumi. This firm and squeaky cheese is well known as a substitute for meat in burgers or and added into tasty kebabs for a barbecue.  However, there’s much more to this versatile cheese and Leyla shares some of her favourite ways of eating it including a delicious Cypriot recipe for halloumi with pasta. 

 

There are few things more pleasurable than biting into the yielding flesh of a thick slab of smoky halloumi taken straight off the barbecue  blistered brown by the heat and relinquishing all its salty wonder with every bite. Society is now relatively accustomed to this firm and squeaky cheese traditionally made with the milk from goats and sheep and originating from Cyprus; it’s frequently used as a meat substitute in burgers and on kebab skewers, added to salads or served with vegetables. It can be eaten straight off the knife but is also often found grilled, fried or barbecued due to its unique quality of form that lends itself so well to the cooking process – it’s a cheese that doesn’t melt, it just gets a bit softer.

My father is from North Cyprus, so growing up surrounded by the fabulous Cypriot and Turkish cuisine (as well as excellent Mauritian cuisine from my mother’s side), I’m probably more accustomed to this cheese than most. And I therefore know just how versatile it can be. As well as the above, it is also traditionally found incorporated into bread dough and one of my favourite ways of devouring it, with pasta. This dish is one from my childhood - one of those where I’d get overly animated when I knew it was on the menu for dinner. I’ve carried it through to adulthood, frequently returning to it and sharing it with friends who have almost unanimously fallen for it at first taste. It’s one of the simplest meals in my repertoire consisting of a mere six ingredients, yet yields one of the biggest pleasure bounties. 

Combining flavours of both fresh and dried mint, chicken stock and lemon juice with the saltiness of the cheese, the result is a plate of pure satiety. Serving the cheese in its grated form allows each mint laden particle to mingle with the lemony chicken juices and coat every bit of pasta. To make this dish vegetarian, simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Excellent eaten either hot or cold the next day, it makes the perfect accompaniment to some left over roast chicken taken on a picnic. 

Halloumi Pasta with Lemon and Mint

Serves 4

200g halloumi

400g whole wheat pasta

2 litres of ready made chicken stock (or three chicken stock cubes)

2 lemons

2 tbsp dried mint

A few sprigs of fresh mint

Finely grate the cheese and mix with the dried mint. Chop a handful of the mint leaves and set aside. In the meantime, cook the pasta in the chicken stock. If you don’t have ready made stock, use three chicken stock cubes in around two litres of water. The liquid should cover the pasta by an inch or so. If the liquid gets too low before the pasta is cooked, add a splash more. You want most of the liquid to have been absorbed by the end, but with some still remaining.

Layer some of the grated cheese and mint in an empty shallow bowl per person. When the pasta is al dente, ladle half a portion into the bowl along with a little of the stock. Sprinkle another layer of the grated cheese, top with some more pasta, and finish with the final layer of cheese. Sprinkle with a generous amount of the fresh mint.

Squeeze the juice from ¼ to ½ a lemon over each bowl (depending on how much your guests like lemon – I like it a lot), and serve with a few more wedges should they wish for more.

For more delicious cheese recipes from some of Britain’s finest chefs, visit Great British Chefs collection.