Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb crumble has to be one of my favourite desserts.   It’s just about impossible to get it wrong.  Unfortunately my husband doesn’t like rhubarb so making any dessert to share is just a waste of time.   What I do instead is make a big bowl of stewed rhubarb with cinnamon, which keeps in the fridge for a few days and then just eat it when I feel like it.   Often Nigella-style I just eat a few spoonfuls straight out of the fridge.   Sometimes I mix it with plain yoghurt.   Sometimes I heat some of it again in the microwave.   Because it’s just for me I don’t tend to do anything too adventurous with it.  In fact, I would say that making an individual-sized crumble is about as adventurous as it gets for me and rhubarb.   As a crumble is usually made in a big dish to share It also feels nicely indulgent to make a crumble just for yourself, but if you do have people to share your rhubarb with, the ingredients could easily be increased to serve more people.    Personally, there are some things I am quite happy not to share, and this is one of them.

I am linking this to How to Cook Good Food and Working London Mummy’s One Ingredient challenge which this month is rhubarb.

Ingredients – Serves 1

2 tbsp stewed rhubarb

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp porridge oats

1/4 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tbsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp soft brown sugar

1 tbsp roughly chopped pecans

How to Make Rhubarb Crumble

1. Grease the sides of a ramekin.   Put the rhubarb in the bottom.

2. To make the crumble topping, rub all the ingredients, except the pecans and soft brown sugar, between your fingers so it resembles breadcrumbs.   Stir in the pecans and then put on top of the rhubarb.   Sprinkle the brown sugar on top.

3. Bake in the oven at about 180C for approximately 25 minutes or until the topping has browned.

4. Serve with yoghurt, custard, ice cream or cream.

Blueberry Cheesecake

There is something I love about cheesecake.   No, not just something, lots of things.   Firstly, I love the biscuit base.   It has to be biscuit.   Why does anyone make anything else?   If you’ve experienced the disappointment of ordering cheesecake in a restaurant for it then to come with a sponge or pastry base, you’ll know exactly what I mean.   I also love the creaminess of it.    Creaminess but in a cheesy way.   I’ve also been disappointed by ordering a cheesecake that managed to provide a tasty biscuit base but then topped this with a mixture that tasted like little more than whipped cream.    And finally, I like fruit in or with my cheesecake, not chocolate.    So you see, I’m not picky.     Of course, I will eat all of these creations, and may even like them, but they are not going to satisfy my ultimate cheesecake cravings.   Sometimes when you know exactly what you want, you have to make it yourself, and that’s what I did here.   And I’m rather proud of my very first cheesecake, inspired by BBC Good Food.

I stuck with their recipe for the base, but for the filling I used blueberries instead of raspberries.   I also only had two eggs left so I missed out the extra egg yolk.    It may have made a difference, but not one that I could taste.   So now I’ve dipped my toe in the world of cheesecakes, expect a few more over the coming months.    I may even break my principles and make a chocolate one.    But don’t worry,   I’ll never venture near a sponge base.

I am submitting this to Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients – Serves 12

600g cream cheese

150ml sour cream

100g blueberries + extra to serve

8 digestive biscuits

50g butter

2tbsp plain flour

175g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

How to Make Blueberry Cheesecake

1. Put the biscuits in a food processor to make into crumbs or put in a food bag and bash with a rolling pin.   Melt the butter and mix into the crumbs.  Then put into the bottom of a cheesecake tin (about 23cm) and press down.   Bake for 10 minutes at about 180C.

2. In a large bowl put the cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, vanilla essence, flour and sugar.  Whisk briefly until smooth.   Add 100g blueberries and mix in.

3. When the base has cooled.   Add the cream cheese mixture and return to the oven.   Bake for 40-45 minutes.   It should still be a little wobbly in the middle but set around the edges.

4. Leave to cool in the tin then serve with the extra berries.

Pink Grapefruit Sorbet

This is my third iced dessert made in my lovely new ice-cream maker.    The first was successful – raspberry and white chocolate ice-cream, but I would probably add a little extra sugar next time.   The second was chocolate ice-cream which tasted amazing but was too thick in texture and the paddle in the machine wouldn’t turn properly and so I ended up with a very cold stiff fudgy mousse rather than ice-cream.   It was a delicious failure, and definitely one that deserves another experiment with.   My third, the most successful yet, was this beautiful pink grapefruit sorbet which I would make again with absolutely no alterations, which is funny, as before I made it I asked my husband if he would prefer grapefruit and cinnamon, grapefruit and ginger, or grapefruit and star anise.  He chose plain grapefruit, which wasn’t even an option he was given.  But, I’m nice to him sometimes, and so decided to make the most simple sorbet ever – just 2 ingredients!

I am linking this to Sweet as Sugar Cookies for Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients 2-3 servings

3 pink grapefruits (this made 350ml of juice)

2 tbsp icing sugar – more or less to taste

How to Make Pink Grapefruit Sorbet

1. Squeeze the three grapefruits and then pass the  juice through a sieve to remove any pips, pulp or pith.   These could give the sorbet a bitter taste.

2. Add icing sugar to taste.

3. Put in the ice cream maker according to the machine instructions.

Carob and Chocolate Cake

I have decided that there is nothing I like better than recreating a favourite dish after a holiday. And when that dish is as interesting as this cake then so much the better.
I left Croatia a couple of weeks ago, having made a new discovery.    That discovery was carob.   It wasn’t a completely new discovery.   When I was in my early teens, my sister made something with carob in.  I say something as I have completely forgotten what it was.   It could have been a cake, biscuits, whatever, but it’s not important.   I asked what carob was and was told it was a substitute for chocolate.    Of course,   I was imagining some sort of delicious chocolatey dessert and when I tasted it, and it clearly wasn’t chocolate, I was very disappointed, as would any adolescent be.   I decided carob was not for me, and I would probably not have tried it again except for that fact that in a lovely Italian restaurant in a suburb of Dubrovnik, I fancied homemade cake for dessert.    There were only two types of homemade cakes.   As I peered into the glass cabinet trying to work out which to choose, I asked the waiter what the delicious looking chocolate coloured one was.   He didn’t know the word for carob in English, but it sounded a bit similar.    He showed me a dried pod and told me it grew in Croatia.   He had me hooked.   A local ingredient, something different.   Maybe it was time to try carob again.   After all, it looked so good.
When it came, I wasn’t expecting a chocolate cake, and so I wasn’t disappointed.   I tasted it to see if I liked it, trying to work out what it tasted of, but I couldn’t really say it tasted like anything else I knew, but it did taste really good.   I loved it, but apart from the carob, I couldn’t quite work out what it had in it.
That first night was near the beginning of our holiday, and I kept thinking back to that cake.  We ate in lots of places, in the old town of Dubrovnik and near our hotel, but I didn’t have another dessert I liked quite as much, and I was still mulling over what the ingredients were in that carob cake.   We decided to go back.   Once again we had a lovely meal, with a lovely relaxed atmosphere and at the end of the meal I finished with the carob cake.    Just as good as I remembered.   But I still couldn’t quite work out what it had in it.
A few days passed, we went home, I looked for carob cake on the internet, but all the cakes seemed to use carob as a substitute for chocolate.   I wanted a recipe for a cake that would celebrate carob as an ingredient in its own right.   Also, none of the recipes I found sounded quite right.   And so, having kept the card, I emailed the restaurant, not even knowing if I would get a response.   Then, about 24 hours later, I got a reply.   Srdan had very kindly taken the trouble not only to reply but also to translate the basics of the recipe into English.   I danced around the living room!
I was a little bit unsure of what was meant by some of the ingredients, but I experimented and followed the basic method.   The cake I ended up with didn’t taste exactly the same as in the restaurant, but it was similar.  It still had that carob flavour, distinct from chocolate.   The texture was also different.   Mine was crumblier, not as solid as the restaurant one and the bits of apple were jucier.   I also didn’t have any rum so I decided to substitute it with sloe gin.  I thought it would go well with the fruitiness of the apple and currants, although my cake guinea pigs said they would like to have it with rum next time.   One of my cake guinea pigs thought the apple needed to be cooked more before going in the cake but the other cake guinea pigs liked the little cubes of juicy apple.   Overall, there is room for some more experimenting with this cake before I declare it an absolutely final recipe – I would quite happily make it and eat it again as it is but I think I’ll experiment with preparing the apple in different ways.   There was also one ingredient that  stumped me – flavour.   Was it a misspelling of flour?  Or was it something else?   I could have asked, but I was enjoying the experimental nature of the whole challenge – so I decided to use ground almonds.    After all, why not?
If you ever get the chance to go to Dubrovnik, and if your hotel is in Lapad,  I would strongly recommend the Konoba Atlantic.   There are a lot of hotels in Lapad and a lot of restaurants, many of them on the main pedestrianised road leading to Lapad beach, but this restaurant was a clear step above these.   It was on a very quiet residential road, running parallel but behind the main road.   Unless you knew it was there, you wouldn’t just wander across it, and because of that the quality and service were of a much higher standard and meant we had a much more enjoyable meal out.   Delicious bruschetta, homemade pasta, and of course for me, the star of the meal, the carob cake.
Konoba Atlantic can be found on Kardinala Stepinca 42, Dubrovnik
Ingredients
4 apples, peeled and diced into tiny cubes, about 2mm
4 eggs
30g  currants
100 ml rum, alternative alcohol or fruit juice
100g caster sugar
100g carob powder
100ml oil
60g ground almonds or 100g flour ( as in the real recipe)
50ml milk
120g dark chocolate
How to make Chocolate and Carob Cake
1. Put the currants in a bowl and pour the alcohol on top and leave to stand.
2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk till they turn white and begin to form soft peaks.
3. Gradually whist in the sugar, egg yolk, ground almond, oil, milk and carob powder.
4. Mix the apple, currants and alcohol together.   Then mix the fruit mixture into the other bowl.
5. Grease the bottom and sides of a springform tin and then add the cake mixture.   Bake in the oven at about 180C for 40-45 minutes.   Check it is ready with a skewer or cocktail stick.
6. When the cake has cooled, melt the chocolate and spread on the top of the cake.
Update: Srdan has since got back to me and the mystery ingredient, flavor, was actually a typing error for flour.  Next time I’ll try it that way and let you know how it turns out.   I imagine it will be less crumbly and with a more similar texture to in the restaurant, but the taste should be almost the same.

Inspired by Masterchef: Vanilla Panna Cotta and Mixed Berry Sauce

Last week on Masterchef it was all about baking and desserts so I really was spoilt for choice over what to make – cupcakes, clafoutis, eccles cakes, bakewell tart or choux buns were just some of the options I had to  turn down.  I don’t consider myself to be an expert on desserts, but I do like making them and am almost always happy with the results.   Well, how could anyone not be happy with creamy vanilla and berries?

I chose panna cotta in the end as it is something I had planned on making for a long time.  It is also one of the desserts on my list of new year food plans.   Looking back at the list it strikes me that I have actually made a lot more of the desserts than savoury dishes.  Something that will have to be put right after Masterchef finishes I think.

The last time I ate panna cotta was about a month ago in a restaurant on my birthday and I was a bit disappointed with the texture.   It just wasn’t smooth and creamy enough.   But, luckily the one I made was perfect.  I can say with 100 percent confidence that my one was better than the restaurant one.   I served it with a warm sauce which made it melt a little at the sides but both texture and taste were lovely.   Next time I have guests I know what I’ll be making.

Next week’s Inspired by Masterchef post will be published early on 28 April.

I am also sending this to Lisa at Sweet as Sugar Cookies for Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients – serves 2

250ml double cream

1tsp vanilla essence

25g caster sugar

1g gelatine leaf

Berry Sauce

Approx 3 tbsp frozen mixed berries

1 tbsp caster sugar

30ml water

How to make Vanilla Panna Cotta and Mixed Berry Sauce

1. Soak the gelatine leaf in warm water.   When it’s soft, squeeze the excess water out.

2. Put the cream, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan and heat.   Stir to dissolve the sugar.  When it is bubbling around the edge and just about to boil, take it off the heat and add the gelatine leaf.   Stir till fully dissolved.

3. Pour into two ramekins and put in the fridge.   They will need a minimum of two hours to set.

4. Make the sauce by putting all the berries, sugar and water into a small saucepan.   Bring to the boil and reduce till the sauce is syrupy and the berries are beginning to break down.

5. To serve, fill a saucepan with boiling water from the kettle. Hold the ramekin in the pan for about 20 seconds.  Turn the ramekin over onto a plate and the panna cotta should fall out. Spoon some sauce onto the side.If serving the sauce warm then serve immediately as it will begin to melt the panna cotta.