Saturday 18 May 2013

Plum, Almond and Ricotta Cake

Here is an interesting twist on the traditional tea-time cake. Here the cake is made with ricotta cheese and includes a blend of self-raising flour and ground almonds.

The combination makes the cake moist and flavoursome but reduces the fat content as compared to using butter or margarine and the calorie content is low as no sugar is added directly to the cake batter.

So in this instance, you really can have your cake and feel good about eating it!

Plum, Almond and Ricotta Cake

Serves: 10
Plum, Almond and Ricotta Cake: Interesting layer cake of an almond, flour and ricotta batter sandwiched with jam that's topped with plums and slivered almonds before baking. Shown with a slice removed


250g (9 1/2 oz) pot ricotta cheese
140g (5 oz) butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
200g (7 oz) ground almonds
4 tbsp plum jam or apricot jam
5 plums, quartered
handful of flaked almonds, toasted
icing sugar, for dusting


Beat together the ricotta cheese, butter, eggs and sugar in a bowl then fold in the flour and ground almonds. Spoon half the batter into a greased and lined 23cm diameter cake tin. Evenly dot the jam over the centre then cover with the remaining batter.

Arrange the plum quarters attractively over the top then sprinkle over the additional sugar. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake for about 90 minutes, or until the cake is nicely risen and golden brown and the plums have shrivelled and caramelized.

Allow the cake to cook in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Scatter the flaked almonds over the top, dust with the icing sugar and serve cut into slices.

Strawberry Tiramisu Recipe

The tiramisú is the classic Italian summer dessert that manages to be light yet rich at the same time.

Very indulgent, but surprisingly easy to make. Traditional tiramisu include raw eggs for both richness and lightness, but this version dispenses with the eggs and uses fromage frais instead. You end up with a dessert that's easier to make, has less fat, yet which is still delicious and which can be made well in advance.

If you would like to compare this version with a more traditional tiramisu, see my recipe for the Best Ever Tiramisu.

Strawberry Tiramisu

Serves: 4

Strawberry Tiramisu: Light dessert of strawberries, fromage frais and sponge fingers served in a dessert glass with a fresh strawberry garnish

16 sponge fingers (about 80g [3 oz in all])
8 tbsp orange juice
300g (2/3 lb) strawberries
250g plain fromage frais
3 tbsp caster sugar


Break the sponge fingers into pieces and arrange half these pieces in the base of 4 dessert glasses. Drizzle over a little of the orange juice.

Hull and chop the strawberries, reserving two for decoration. Place a spoonful on top of the sponge fingers in each glass.

Mix together the fromage frais and the sugar in a bowl. Spoon half of this mixture on top of the strawberries, dividing it evenly between the glasses.

Add the remaining sponge finger pieces on top, followed by the remaining strawberries and the remaining fromage frais mixture.

Decorate the tops of each mini tiramisu with a whole strawberry then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes (1 hour is best) before serving.

These make an elegant dessert and are wonderful served outside.

Spicy Pork Curry Recipe

When one thinks of curry, pork is not a meat that commonly comes to mind. Both Moslem and Hindu religious preferences are against it. Yet, the Vindaloo of Goa (partly introduced by the Portuguese) is traditionally pork based and the sweet and slightly fatty nature of pork does make it a good base for many curries.

So here is a classic curry recipe that makes the most of a pork shoulder through use of slow coking and appropriate spicing.

Anyway, it's Saturday, so a good curry recipe is called for!

Spicy Pork Curry

Serves: 4
Spicy Pork Curry: Shoulder of pork in a spicy gravy base garnished with coriander in the pan it was prepared in


2 tomatoes, chopped
2 large green chillies, chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
5cm (2 in) length of fresh ginger, grated
1 small bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro), leaves and stalks coarsely chopped (reserve the leaves for garnish)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
750g (27 3/4 oz) pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp white malt vinegar
fresh ginger, finely chopped, to garnish


Combine the tomatoes, chillies, garlic, cumin and ginger in a food processor with the coriander roots and stalks. Pour in the oil then process the mixture until smooth.

Turn the paste into a casserole dish then bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown and aromatic.

Add the pork to the casserole with 1l (4 cups) water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 90 minutes, stirring often.

At this point stir in the vinegar. Allow to heat through then serve hot on a bed of rice.

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Friday 17 May 2013

Lemon Blueberry Cake Recipe

This is a light but fruity sponge cake containing fresh blueberries and lemon zest in the batter. The cake itself is cooked in a ring mould, to give it an interesting shape.

The cake is then finished with lemon juice icing (frosting), giving it a tangy zing. This is the perfect cake for tea-time or to enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Lemon Blueberry Cake

Serves: 6
Lemon Blueberry Cake: Light sponge cake containing lemon zest and blueberries in the batter cooked in a ring mould and served drizzled with lemon icing (frosting)


150g (6 oz) butter, softened
300g (10 oz) sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
finely-grated zest of 1 lemon
145ml (3/5 cup) soured cream
250g (8 oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g (1/3 lb) punnet fresh blueberries
For the Icing:
100g (4 oz) icing sugar
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice


Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating thoroughly to combine after each addition. Now work in the lemon zest before folding in the soured cream and then the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.

Carefully fold the blueberries into the batter. Liberally butter a 23cm diameter ring mould then spoon in the cake batter before levelling the top. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake for between 50 and 60 minutes, or until springy and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack set over a large tray and set aside to cool completely.

For the icing (frosting) mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice. Drizzle over the cake with a spoon and set aside to set.

Slice into pieces and serve.

Strawberry Mousses Recipe

Strawberry mousses are classic, light, summertime desserts typically made from a blend of fruit and cream.

Here an even lighter version is presented, made with fruit and a blend of cream cheese and strawberry jelly (jello) with beaten egg whites to give volume and lightness.

A modern low-fat version of the classic dessert.

Strawberry Mousses

Serves: 4

Strawberry Mousses: Light moose of strawberries in a cream cheese and strawberry jelly (jello) base lightened with egg whites and served in a glass topped with fresh strawberries

150g (5 1/2 oz) ripe strawberries, hulled and chopped
100g (3 1/2 oz) soft cheese
1 sachet strawberry jelly (jello)
150ml (3/5 cup) boiling water
2 egg whites


Reserve 2 tbsp of the chopped strawberries and set aside. Mix the remaining strawberries in a bowl with the soft cheese.

Mix together the jelly and boiling water in a jog, stirring until dissolved. Make up to 250ml (1 4/5 cups) with cold water then stir into the strawberry and cream cheese mixture. Set aside to cool then refrigerate until just beginning to set.

In the meantime, add the egg whites into a clean and dry bowl and whisk until they hold in stiff peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the jelly mixture.

Divide the resultant mixture between tall dessert glasses (the mixture should set almost immediately). Transfer to a refrigerator and chill for 60 minutes or until set.

Garnish with the reserved chopped strawberries and serve immediately.

As an alternate you could use orange jelly or raspberry jelly. These all work well with strawberries. You could also use chopped oranges with strawberry jelly.

Classic Fish Pie Recipe

It's Friday, and thought fish days are not commonly observed any more I thought I might just present a traditional fish dish today.

So here is a traditional fish pie made with white fish and smoked fish but enlivened with peas and prawns. This is a whole meal in a single dish, ideally suited for Friday evening (or even weekend) cookery.

Classic Fish Pie

Serves: 4

Classic Fish Pie: Traditional fish pie of smoked and white fish in a milk base topped with sliced potatoes and cheese

550g (1 1/4 lbs) potatoes, boiled in their skins until tender, peeled and mashed
500g (1 lb) firm white fish fillets (eg cod or haddock)
225g (8 oz) smoked haddock fillet
1 bayleaf
1/4 onion, sliced
400ml (1 3/5 cups) milk
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
65g (2 1/2 oz) butter
25g (1 oz) plain flour
115g (4 oz) garden peas
85g (3 oz) prawns
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
lemon juice, to taste
4 tbsp mature Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Combine the fish, bayleaf and onion slices in a pan. Pour over 350ml (1 2/5 cups) of the milk in a covered pan and poach gently for about 8 minutes. Strain the fish and reserve the milk.

Once the fish is cool enough to be handled flake its flesh into a pie dish (discard any skin and bones). Mix the eggs with the fish.

Melt 25g (1 oz) of the butter in a saucepan, scatter over the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then gradually whisk in the reserved milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce to a simmer and cook gently for 4 minutes, stirring frequently, or until nicely thickened.

Take off the heat, then add the peas, prawns, parsley, lemon juice and seasonings. Pour the resultant mixture over the fish and gently stir to combine.

Melt the remaining butter into the remaining milk then beat this mixture into the potatoes. Spoon the creamed potatoes evenly over the fish mixture then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake for about 25 minutes.

Serve hot.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Mocha Meringues Recipe

This is a decadent chocolate meringue sandwiched with cream and chocolate that makes a wonderful (but still light) tea-time treat.

These make an excellent alternative to traditional tea-time cakes, particularly if you want a little something with your tea or coffee, but do not want it to be too heavy.

Mocha Meringues

Serves: 8
Mocha Meringues: Two coffee flavoured meringues sandwiched together with chocolate cream, a great tea-time treat


2 egg whites
110g (4 oz) caster sugar
2 tsp instant coffee (dissolve in 1 tsp hot water)
40g (1 1/2 oz) dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
75ml (5 tbsp whipping cream)
2 tsp icing sugar, sifted


Add the egg whites to a clean and dry bowl. Whisk until they hold in stiff peaks then add 1 tbsp sugar and whisk until combined. Repeat the adding and whisking process with the remaining sugar until all the sugar has been incorporated and the egg whites are stiff and glossy. Now beat in the dissolved coffee.

Line two baking trays with greaseproof (waxed) paper then drop the meringue by the tablespoons onto the baking trays. Flatten the tops slightly then repeat this process to form 16 rounds.

Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 150ºC (Gas Mark 2) and bake for 60 minutes. At this time turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool for 60 minutes more.

For the filling, melt the chocolate in a small pan over medium heat. Whip the cream in a bowl until it holds in soft peaks. Now stir in the chocolate and the icing sugar. The cream should firm-up as the chocolate cools and sets. Wait until the mixture is firm enough to sandwich a pair of meringues together.

Serve immediate.

The unfilled meringues can be stored in an air-tight tin — they will keep for up to 5 days.

Blueberry Fool Recipe

Fools of various kinds have been made since at least Elizabethan times. Because they are a simple blend of fruit and cream whipped until thick, they were transported across the globe with the British Empire and now fools are made almost as commonly in West and East Africa as they are in Britain.

I have published other recipes for fools on this blog before and I really love these desserts. However, they do tend to be fat rich (as they rely on cream) so I was pleasantly surprised to see that you can make low-fat versions and I had to experiment.

The result is this healthy and low-fat blueberry fool, the recipe for which is given below.

Blueberry Fool

Serves: 4

Blueberry Fool: Modern fruit fool of blueberries in a yoghurt and fromage frais base served in a glass

300g (2/3 lb) blueberries
100g (3 1/2 oz) Greek yoghurt
150g fromage frais
2 tsp honey


Reserve 10 of the blueberries for decoration, then place the remainder in a heat-proof bowl and microwave on full power for 60 seconds. Remove form the microwave and set aside until completely cooled to room temperature.

Turn the cooled blueberries into a food processor and pulse until roughly blended.

In the meantime, mix together the yoghurt, fromage frais and the honey. Spoon the blueberries into a bowl and stir the yoghurt mixture through it to form a swirl effect.

Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 10 minutes before spooning into individual dessert glasses. Decorate with the reserved blueberries and serve.

Cod, Prawn and Mushroom Gratin Recipe

A gratin is, essentially, a layered dish cooked in a cream sauce. Typically it's made with potatoes, less commonly with vegetables. But there is no reason it cannot be made with other ingredients.

Indeed, the base combination of potatoes and a milk or cream sauce is essentially the base for a fish pie and with a little imagination, a gratin can be reworked as a complete meal with fish fillets, mushrooms and prawns (shrimp) added.

Cod, Prawn and Mushroom Gratin

Serves: 4
Cod, Prawn and Mushroom Gratin: A layered dish of cod, prawns and mushrooms in a milk base topped with new potatoes and gruyere cheese


675g (1 1/2 lbs) medium new potatoes (do not peel)
450g (1 lb) cod filet, skinned and cut into 3cm (1 in) pieces
1 bouquet garni
350ml (1 2/5 cups) whole milk
225g (8 oz) button mushrooms
25g (1 oz) plain flour
25g (1 oz) butter
115g (4 oz) cooked prawns, peeled
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh tarragon or dill, finely chopped
85g (3 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Bring a pan of lightly-salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for about 25 minutes or until just tender. Drain the potatoes, allow to cool until they can be handled and slice thickly.

In the meantime, poach the cod with the bouquet garni in seasoned milk for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms to this mixture and cook for 5 minutes more. Drain the fish and mushrooms (reserve the milk).

Place the fish pieces and mushrooms in a shallow baking dish then scatter over the prawns.

Melt the butter in a pan, scatter over the butter and stir to form a smooth roux. Whisk in the milk and heat gently until thickened.

Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni then whisk in the mustard, herbs and seasoning. Pour this mixture into dish and stir gently to combine.

Cover with overlapping slices of potatoes then sprinkle over the cheese and place under a pre-heated grill until just golden.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Savoury Mini Muffins Recipe

I've not added a muffin or cupcake recipe in a while, so here is a new savoury mini muffin dish that I cam across recently.

This is a fairly simple dish, flavoured with thyme and sun-dried tomatoes, but the results are great. Try it with cheese-based soups or serve as part of a cheese board. Fresh from the oven these also make delicious breakfast muffins.

Savoury Mini Muffins

Serves: 16

Savoury Mini Muffins: Mini muffins with rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes cooked in white mini muffin cases

150g (5 1/2 oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
60g (2 oz) sun-dried tomatoes
1 egg
1 egg white
40g (1 1/2 oz) butter, melted
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl. Pour over just enough boiling water to cover then set aside for about 80 minutes, or until soft.

Sift the flour and baking power into a large bowl. Stir in the thyme and season with a little salt and black pepper. Drain the tomatoes (reserve 3 tbsp of the soaking liquid) and pat dry. Chop finely then add to the flour.

Beat together the whole egg and egg white in a bowl. Mix in the melted butter and the reserved tomato soaking liquid then quickly fold this into the dry ingredients (fold until just combined, do not beat).

Line the muffin tin with mini muffin cases and divide the batter between them. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 6) and bake for between 8 and 10 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown on top.

Serve either warm or cold, accompanied by butter.

For even more flavour you could fry two rashers of smoked streaky bacon until crisp then crumble this in with the flour and tomatoes before mixing in the liquid ingredients.

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Roasted Autumnal Fruit Salad Recipe

Here is something a little different (any maybe a little healthier) than your run of a mill pudding. It also shows that fruit salads don't have to be the usual fresh fruit chopped up and mixed together, as here the fruit are cooked before serving (which increases their food value).

Though this is excellent served as soon as it's made, the roasted fruit can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and can be served cold or re-heated in a microwave.

Roasted Autumnal Fruit Salad

Serves: 4
Roasted Autumnal Fruit Salad: Fruit salad of mixed roasted autumnal fruit served with yoghurt


250g (9 oz) pears, cored and sliced
250g (9 oz) eating apples, cored and sliced
200g (7 oz) plums, pitted and halved
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp honey (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp Greek-style yoghurt


Arrange the fruit and the cinnamon stick in a large roasting tin. Sprinkle over 4 tbsp water. Spray with a little oil then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 190ºC (Gas Mark 5) and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and beginning to char around the edges.

Remove the fruit from the oven, remove and discard the cinnamon stick then sprinkle over 2 tbsp of the honey (easiest if the honey is warmed a little first) then stir to combine.

Divide the fruit mixture between four serving bowls. Add a dollop of yoghurt, drizzle over the remaining honey and serve.

Jacket Potatoes with Ratatouille Filling Recipe

Ratatouille is one of the classic French dishes that everyone should know how to make. It's one of those things that is easy to make, but hard to make well as you need to judge when to add each individual vegetable so that it cooks to perfection.

Still, even a basic ratatouille makes an excellent topping for something like a baked (jacket) potato, giving you a hearty and healthy vegetarian dish that makes a wonderful lunchtime snack.

Jacket Potatoes with Ratatouille Filling

Serves: 4

Jacket Potatoes with Ratatouille Filling: Baked (Jacket) potato split in half and topped with French-style ratatouille vegetable stew


4 large baking potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 small aubergine (eggplant), chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
400g (14 oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
a few fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
5 tbsp red wine or vegetable stock
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


For perfect jacket potatoes you need potatoes of even size (about 275g [10 oz] each is ideal). Scrub the potatoes clean and prick all over with the tines of a fork. Brush with a little butter or oil then sit on a baking tray and transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 6) and bake for about 60 to 75 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft when gently squeezed.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and use to fry the onion gently for about 4 minutes, or until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute then stir in the aubergine and the bell peppers. Fry the mixture over medium heat until it just begins to soften.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, oregano, basil and wine or stock. Bring gently to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced slightly.

When the potatoes are cooked cut them in half and arrange on a serving plate. Season the ratatouille to taste, then spoon the mixture over the potatoes.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Lemon Angel Cake Recipe

This recipe is loosely based on the classic American Angel Food Cake which itself is based on the classic French method of using beaten egg whites as a raising agent for cakes.

As long as your egg whites are not over-beaten, what you end up is a wonderfully light cake with a tangy bite due to the lemons.

Lemon Angel Cake

Serves: 10

Lemon Angel Cake: Light and fluffy sponge cake cooked in a ring mould and served with a lemon icing drizzle

4 eggs, separated
125g (4 1/2 oz) golden caster sugar
finely-grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
75g (2 3/4 oz) self-raising flour, sifted

For the Icing:

80g (3 oz) icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice


Beat together the egg yolks, half the sugar, the lemon zest and the salt in a bowl until thick and pale.

In a separate bowl (this must be completely grease free), beat the egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in the remaining sugar until the whites are stiff and glossy.

Carefully fold the flour into the egg white mixture in batches, followed by the egg yolk mix. Spoon this batter into a greased and lined 23cm (9 in) diameter ring mould (bundt pan). Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 170ºC (Gas Mark 5) and bake for between 20 and 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then carefully loosen around the cake with a round-ended flat-bladed knife. Invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

For the icing (frosting) mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice and pour this over the cake so that it drips down the sides.

For a colourful springtime table centrepiece top the cake with edible flowers like violets and primroses. At other times you can use candied violets, candied primroses and candied heartsease or even candied rose petals.

Mint and Raspberry Jellies Recipe

Today's dessert recipe is for a light and refreshing summer pudding and are particularly good for eating outside. These are excellent for barbecues or other occasions as they can be prepared well beforehand.

The combination of mint and raspberry is not one that you encounter particularly often, which is a shame as it really works well. But if you want an even more modern twist, add just a little freshly-ground black pepper to the berries before use. It may sound strange, but it really works (the Ancient Romans were very fond of black pepper with fruit).

Mint and Raspberry Jellies

Serves: 4
Mint and Raspberry Jellies: Individual raspberry jellies (jello) containing fresh raspberries and mint


10 mint leaves, torn
300ml (1 1/4 cups) boiling water
1 sachet raspberry jelly (jello)
125g (4 1/2 oz) raspberries


Place the mint leaves in the base of a heat-proof jug then pour over the water. Set aside to infuse for 5 minutes.

Now add the jelly to the jug and stir to dissolve. The jelly mixture should dissolve readily, if it does not, place in the microwave for a few seconds to heat through then stir again to dissolve.

Reserve fur of the raspberries, then place the remainder in a bowl and crush with a fork. Stir the crushed raspberries into the jelly. Top the mixture up with cold water to make 600ml (2 1/2 cups) in all.

Divide the jelly between four glasses then set aside to cool. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill in the refrigerator for at least 60 minutes, or until set.

Serve garnished with the reserved raspberries.

Chilli Cornbread Recipe

Cornbread is a staple of some of the southern states of America and Mexico, it's also commonly baked in Liberia, West Africa (where I first came across it).

This version comes from America, but is strongly influenced by Mexican food. However, I like to give it a West African twist by adding piri-piri chillies rather than the jalapeños with which it's most commonly made (this makes it much hotter). Still, if you want a little of the chilli flavour, but not much of the heat you could just as well make it with cayenne chillies. (As you may have guessed, I love chilli-based recipes!)

This recipe is great for mopping up sauces and gravies and this makes an excellent accompaniment to a range of meals.

Chilli Cornbread

Serves: 8
Chilli Cornbread: Classic cornbread containing chillies baked in a loaf tin.


75g (2 1/2 oz) plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
200g medium cornmeal (or polenta)
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
300ml buttermilk
4 tbsp olive oil
200g tinned sweetcorn, drained
2 red chillies, finely chopped (remove the seeds and membranes for a milder effect)
2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped


Sift together the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl then stir in the cornmeal and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk and oil. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. Nw stir in the sweetcorn, chillies and coriander then pour the batter into a deep 1kg (2 lb) loaf tin that's been greased and linen on its base with greaseproof (waxed) paper.

Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 8) and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cornbread emerges cleanly.

Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

As an aside to the main recipe, if you would like to learn a little more about chillies (hot peppers) and how they were spread to the Old World from the Americas, read this article on the Worldwide Spread and Adoption of Chillies.

Monday 13 May 2013

Apple, Pear and Hazelnut Cake Recipe

This cake is lovely and moist due to the fruit. It will also keep in an air-tight container for between 2 and 3 days. The addition of semolina in a North African twist that is often used as an alternative to ground almonds and yields the cake a pleasantly crumbly texture.

This cake can be served warm or cold and is delicious with coffee.

Apple, Pear and Hazelnut Cake

Serves: 12
Apple, Pear and Hazelnut Cake: Classic fruited cake with semolina in the batter served with a wedge slightly extracted


175g (6 oz) small pears, cored and sliced
75g (2 3/4 oz) red apple, cored and sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
125g (4 1/2 oz) butter or margarine
150g (5 1/2 oz) soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
40g (1 1/2 oz) semolina
75ml skimmed milk
25g (1 oz) hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp icing sugar (for dusting)


Mix together the pear and apple slices with the lemon juice in a bowl (this will prevent the fruit from turning brown).

In a large bowl cream together the butter or margarine with the sugar until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla extract then mix in the eggs a little at a time, beating thoroughly to combine after each addition.

Sift together the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl then gently fold into the
liquid ingredients along with the semolina and milk. Mix the batter until you have a smooth dropping consistency.

Line a 20cm diameter cake tin with greaseproof (waxed) paper and grease lightly with butter. Turn the cake batter into this then scatter over the apple and pear slices and the hazelnuts. Drizzle over any leftover lemon juice then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 160ºC (325ºF, Gas Mark 3) and bake for between 70 and 80 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack. Dust the top with icing sugar and either serve hot or cold.

Baked Cardamom and Orange Custards Recipe

Baked custards are a classic recipe that have been made since Ancient Roman times (if you don't believe me, see this recipe for an Ancient Roman Baked Custard [Tyropatinam]).

Victorians loved them in many guises (see Eliza Acton's recipe for The Printer's Pudding) and classic modern versions include Crème Caramela (this particular version is from the Sudan).

Given all this historical competition, I decided to add elements from India and North Africa in my version of a baked custard. As a result, in this recipe the custards are baked individually and they are flavoured with cardamom and oranges and are served chilled and topped with orange segments.

Baked Cardamom and Orange Custards

Serves: 4
Baked Cardamom and Orange Custards: Individual custards flavoured with cardamom and orange served topped with orange segments


200ml (4/5 cup) milk
4 cardamom pods
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp honey
2 oranges


Pour the milk into a pan, extract the seeds from the cardamom pods and add to the milk. Gently warm the mixture until hand hot then take off the heat and whisk in the eggs and honey.

Lightly grease four 150ml (3/5 cup) ramekins with butter or oil. Pour in the custard mixture (strain this through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the cardamom seeds).

Finely grate the zest of 1 orange and stir a little into each ramekin.

Sit the ramekins in a deep roasting tin. Fill this with enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 160ºC (325ºF, Gas Mark 6) and bake for about 40 minutes or until the custard are just set (they should still wobble slightly when shaken).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely then transfer to the refrigerator to chill.

When ready to serve, use a serrated knife to remove the skin and pith from the oranges. Using a knife separate the segments from the oranges (collect any juice).

To serve, top the chilled custards with the orange and any collected orange juice.

Tabouleh Recipe

This is a classic Middle Eastern recipe for a salad of Bulgur or cracked wheat with parsley, mint, cucumber and bell pepper in a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. This is quite a substantial salad that makes an excellent light summer lunch and is a great accompaniment to barbecue dishes of all kinds.


Serves: 4

Tabouleh: Classic Middle Eastern salad of cracked wheat and mixed vegetables.

225g (8 oz) cracked wheat (Bulgur wheat)
225g (8 oz) tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chop
1/4 cucumber
1/2 red bell pepper
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Pick over the cracked wheat, place in a large bowl then cover with plenty of boiling water. Set aside to stand for 30 minutes, or until the grains are tender and have swelled in size.

Once tender, turn the wheat into a fine-meshed sieve and allow to drain thoroughly, pressing down with a plate to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Transfer the wheat to a large bowl.

Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out the seeds and discard. Chop the tomato flesh into fine dice. Halve the cucumber lengthways and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Peel the cucumber and finely dice the flesh. De-seed the bell pepper and chop the flesh. Add the tomato, onion, cucumber and bell pepper to the wheat and mix in with the herbs and pine nuts. Toss the ingredients to mix thoroughly.

Mix together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the wheat and vegetables and toss together. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Tabouleh is always best prepared a few hours before it's served as this allows the flavours to develop and meld.

Classic Coleslaw Recipe

It's an odd thing, but I really have not seen many recipes for coleslaw around, and particularly not for a version that I really like.

So here is a recipe for my personal favourite coleslaw. This one has a carrot and cabbage base in a mayonnaise and yoghurt sauce with just a hint of Tabasco. It's finished with green bell peppers and sunflower seeds (which I love), but chopped walnuts or any other seed or nut also work just as well in the base.

Classic Coleslaw

Serves: 10–12

Coleslaw: A mix of cabbage, carrot and green bell pepper in a yoghurt and mayonnaise dressing enlivened with Tabasco

150ml (3/5 cup) mayonnaise
150ml (3/5 cup) natural yoghurt
dash of Tabasco sauce
1 medium head of white cabbage
4 carrots
1 green bell pepper
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, yoghurt, Tabasco sauce, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine then refrigerate until needed.

Cut the cabbage into quarters through the centre. Remove and discard the tough stalk then shred the cabbage leaves finely. Wash the leaves and pat to try thoroughly.

Quarter and de-seed the bell pepper then cut the flesh into thin strips. Combine the vegetables in a large serving bowl and toss to mix. Pour over the dressing then toss until well coated.

Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and set aside in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Just before serving toast the sunflower seeds in the oven or under the grill until lightly browned.

Scatter the sunflower seeds over the coleslaw and serve.

As variants you can add dried or fresh fruit (raisins, grapes, diced or grated apple) are all good. Toasted nuts such as walnuts or hazelnuts are also good as are salty cheeses like Halloumi or feta.

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Sunday 12 May 2013

Banana Caramel Cake Recipe

This is a moist banana cake with the twist of a caramel topping.

Though I, personally, am not a big fan of banana cakes, I seem to have gathered a number of recipes for them, possibly because I am looking for the perfect banana cake. This version, with its caramel topping is quite close to perfection.

Banana Caramel Cake

Serves: 8

Banana Caramel Cake: Classic banana cake topped with a rich caramel layer sliced into wedges before serving

50g (1 3/4 oz) butter, melted
110g (4 oz) soft light brown sugar
325g (11 1/2 oz) bananas, peeled and mashed
1 egg, beaten
finely-grated zest of 1 lime
175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
For the Topping:
75g golden caster sugar
juice of 1 lime


Combine the butter, sugar, bananas, egg and lime zest in a large bowl. Add 2 tbsp water and beat until you have a smooth batter.

Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spice. Stir until well combined then pour into a 20cm diameter cake tin, the base of which has been lined with greaseproof (waxed) paper and lightly greased with butter.

Transfer the cake to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cake is cold prepare the topping. Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a simmer and cook until golden.

Take off the heat and pour the syrup over the cake. Score the top of the cake into eight slices through the caramel before this has completely set hard (otherwise the caramel will crack when you come to serve).

This makes an excellent tea-time cake, but it can also be served as a dessert with cream or custard.

Spiced Carrot Puddings Recipe

Carrots are not just suited for carrot cake. The sweet taste of this root crop also makes them ideal for puddings of all kinds. Indeed, village-style puddings have been made with carrots and parsnips for many generations. This is a modernized version of those traditional puddings, incorporating cream cheese, oranges and spices.

Spiced Carrot Puddings

Serves: 4

Spiced carrot pudding. Individual pudding topped with an orange slice served with a spoon

1 small orange
110g (4 oz) carrots, finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
250g (9 1/4 oz) cream cheese or Greek yoghurt
1 tsp mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice)
4 tsp honey


Finely grate the zest from the orange and set aside. With a sharp knife, slice the orange into the thinnest rounds you can. Take four ramekins and sit an orange slice in the base of each one.

Mix together the carrots, orange zest, eggs, cream cheese (or yoghurt), spice and honey. Spoon this mixture over the orange slices.

Sit the ramekins in a deep roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to come 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake for about 20 minutes, or until set and just beginning to brown on top.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Now take out the ramekins and carefully loosen the sides with a knife.

Turn out onto plates and serve immediately.

Caesar Salad Recipe

Caesar Salad is one of the truly classic salads. It was first created in 1925 by the Italian chef, Caesar Cardini for his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. The version presented here is a slightly quicker and more cut-down version than the original (you can se an example of the original recipe at this traditional, authentic Caesar Salad recipe page).

This is a truly great salad for a barbecue and it goes well with all kinds of meat dishes, but is equally at home served by itself as a starter.

Caesar Salad

Serves: 6-8

Caesar Salad: Classic Caesar salad served in a cream bowl

For the Salad:
2 thick slices of white bread
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 rashers streaky bacon
1 garlic clove
1 large cos (romaine) lettuce
50g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, shaved with a potato peeler

For the Dressing:

1 small egg
juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp olive oil
salt and ground white pepper, to taste


Begin by making the bread croûtons. Remove the crusts from the bread (discard these). Cut the bread into small cubes, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bread until golden brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Remove the rind from the bacon then chop the bacon and fry until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

Cut the garlic clove in half and rub all around the inside of the serving bowl. Wash the lettuce, tear into bite-sized pieces and place in the serving dish.

For the dressing, whisk the egg in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice and the oil. Season with salt and white pepper.

Pour he salad dressing over the lettuce and toss to coat. Serve the salad sprinkled with the bread croûtons, bacon and the Parmesan shavings.

Hash Browns with Relish Recipe

Here is a classic American recipe that works well as an accompaniment. Though often served for breakfast, these potato cakes work just as well as an accompaniment to a main course. They are very easy to make and they allow you to easily extend your main meal accompaniment repertoire. They can also be made vegetarian be replacing he smoked bacon with smoked cheese (but choose a hard cheese type that does not melt easily.

Hash Browns with Relish

Serves: 4
Hash Browns with Relish: Two hash browns served with a pot of relish


750g (1 1/2 lbs) potatoes, peeled
6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, rinds removed and finely diced
45g butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
220g (7 oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp horseradish sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped


Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and parboil for 10 minutes then drain and cook under cold, running, water before patting dry.

Coarsely grate the potatoes and mix with the bacon then season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Melt the butter and 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan. Shape about 2 tbsp of the potato mixture into patties and cook in the butter mixture until crisp and golden brown then turn over and cook on the other side then remove from the pan.

Drain on kitchen paper and set in a low oven to keep warm whilst you cook the remaining hash browns.

For the relish, add the onion to the oil remaining in the pan and fry for about 4 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, salt and black pepper then bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture is pulpy.

Now stir in the horseradish, mustard and thyme. Cook for 1 minute more, or until the relish mixture is heated through.

Serve the hash browns with spoonfuls of the relish to accompany.

Saturday 11 May 2013

Bitter Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

The style of this cake is Arabian/Middle Eastern, but it uses a very British ingredient, classic thick-cut Dundee marmalade.

I really love this cake with its blend of traditional and new. It's something that almost everyone I serve it to has not tried before, but everyone comes away loving it.

Bitter Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

Serves: 8


3 tbsp good-quality thick-cut Marmalade (traditional Dundee marmalade is best)
150g (3/5 cup) natural yoghurt
3 eggs
175g (1 cup, scant) golden caster sugar
200g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
175g (1 cup, scant) butter, softened
finely-grated zest of 1 orange
2 tsp poppy seeds, lightly toasted
For the Sticky Orange Topping:
juice of 1/2 orange
5 tbsp thick-cut Dundee marmalade


Melt the marmalade in a pan, take off the heat and beat in the yoghurt then set aside to cool.

Mix together the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, butter, orange zest and poppy seeds in a bowl. Beat until smooth then quickly work in the yoghurt and marmalade mixture.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin (about 20 x 10cm [8 x 4 in]) and mound it slightly in the centre so that the top of the cake forms a mound.

Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 160ºC (325ºF, Gas Mark 3) and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly. Check the cake after 45 minutes, if it looks like it may be colouring too quickly, cover loosely with baking parchment and continue cooking until done.

For the topping, melt together the orange juice and marmalade in a pan. When the cake is ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool until just warm. Spoon over the glaze and allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

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Fruit of the Forest Steamed Pudding

This is a traditional recipe for a cooked mixed berry pudding that is essentially an autumn pudding that is steamed in a pastry case and served topped with stewed fruit.

This is quit a light pudding of its type and makes an excellent family dessert. My mother makes a version of this with the season's first blackberries, and it's delicious, but I think the mixed berry version is better for everyday.

Fruit of the Forest Steamed Pudding

Serves: 6
Fruit of the Forest Steamed Pudding: Classic steamed pudding filled with frit of the forest served with a berry sauce


225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
110g (4 oz) butter or margarine
50g (1 3/4 oz) golden caster sugar
500g (1 lb) frozen black mixed fruit


Sift together the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Dice the butter or margarine, add to the bowl and rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Stir in 1 tbsp of the sugar then work in the milk until the mixture comes together as a dough. Trim off 1/3 of the dough, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and set aside.

Turn the remaining 2/3 of the dough onto a floured work surface and roll until large enough to cover the base and sides of an 850ml (3 2/5 cups) heatproof basin.

Mix 300g (2/3 lb) of the fruit with the remaining sugar then spoon into the bowl. Roll out the remaining dough to form a lid and sit this on top of the fruit. Crimp to the dough on the edges.

Cover the pudding with a lid or a folded piece of greaseproof (waxed) paper and secure to the sides of the bowl with string (pleat the paper if using to allow space for the pudding to rise).

Place the pudding in a steamer basket over a large pan of boiling water. Cover with a lid and steam for 80 minutes, or until nicely risen and dry on top. Ensure that the pan does not boil dry during this time.

When the pudding is nearly ready, place the remaining fruit in a saucepan. Add 3 tbsp water, bring to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes. Take off the heat, then push through a nylon or fine-meshed sieve with the back of a spoon to form a puree (discard any seeds).

Remove the pudding from the steamer. Take off any coverings and carefully loosen the sides with a flat-bladed knife. Invert the pudding onto a serving plate and serve accompanied by the fruit sauce.

Falafel Recipe

Falafel in one form or other is made throughout the Middle East, from Egypt through Israel and the Levant to Iran and Iraq.

This is a classic broad (fava) bean version that is based on an Israeli recipe, but which has a couple of Egyptian twists.

Whatever the origin, this is a great tasting recipe that can be used as a vegetarian burger, as a snack for dipping in dips or which can be wrapped in flatbread with salad as a main course.


Serves: 10
Falafel Recipe: Falafel, a classic Middle Eastern snack of fried broad (fava) bean patties


250g (1/2 lb) dried, skinless, broad (fava) beans, soaked over night in a large bowl of water
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp baking powder
200g (7 oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
groundnut oil or sunflower oil, for deep frying


Drain and rinse the beans. Place in a food processor and add the onion, garlic, cumin, ground coriander seeds, allspice cayenne pepper and baking powder. Process the mixture until almost smooth (it should be a little grainy).

Add the parsley and coriander. Blitz briefly to combine (you want the herbs only coarsely chopped, but distributed throughout the mixture). Scrape the mixture into a bowl and set aside to rest for 60 minutes.

Take tablespoons of the mixture and shape into flat rounds about 5cm (2 in) in diameter. Continue this shaping process until all the mixture has been used up.

Heat oil to a depth of 1cm in a large non-stick frying pan. When the oil is hot, add a single layer of the falafel and fry until golden brown and crisp on one side. Turn them over and cook until crisp on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Repeat this process until all the falafel have been fried.

Friday 10 May 2013

Baked Brownie Cheesecake Recipe

Here is a classic marbled crustless cheesecake that blends a chocolate brownie mix with a traditional cream cheese filling before oven baking.

This rather unusual blend is a sure-fire hit at kids' parties.

Baked Brownie Cheesecake

Serves: 12

Baked Brownie Cheesecake served topped with ice cram and chocolate drizzle

100g (1/2 cup) butter
275g (10 oz) plain chocolate, chopped
100g (1/2 cup) dark brown sugar
150g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g (1 cup) plain flour, sifted
50g (2 oz) pecan nuts, chopped
150g (3/4 cup) cream cheese
160ml (2/3 cup) soured cream
1 tsp vanilla pod paste


Chop 150g of the chocolate and combine in a heat-proof bowl with the butter (diced). Melt in a microwave or over a pan of barely-simmering water then stir until well blended and set aside to cool.

Using and electric whisk beat together the brown sugar, 100g of the caster sugar, 2 eggs and the vanilla extract for about 4 minutes or until doubled in volume.

Gradually mix in the melted chocolate, beating all the time. Now fold in 80g (3 oz) of the flour and the pecan nuts until just mixed in. Pour this mixture into a greased and lined 23cm (9 in) diameter loose-bottomed cake tin.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, soured cream, remaining caster sugar, vanilla pod paste and the remaining eggs and flour for 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate, then place large dollops of this cheesecake mixture on top of the brownie mixture in the tin. Swirl the two mixtures together with a blunt knife.

Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the filling has set.

Serve with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Tart au Citron with Cassis Sauce Recipe

Today's dessert is a classic French summer pudding. A light and tangy lemon tart served drizzled with a blackcurrant (cassis) sauce.

This looks very elegant on the plate and tastes wonderful. The tartness of the lemon makes an excellent antidote to an excess of meat in a barbecue too.

Tart au Citron with Cassis Sauce

Serves: 6
Tart au citron with cassis sauce: Classic French lemon tart served as a slice drizzled with cassis sauce


For the Pastry:

150g (5 oz) plain flour
50g (2 oz) caster sugar
75g (3 oz) unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Filling:

3 small lemons
110g (4 oz) caster sugar
50g (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
For the Sauce:
300g (2/3 lb) fresh blackcurrants
2 tbsp Cassis (blackcurrant cordial)
sugar, to taste

icing sugar, for dusting
crème fraîche, to serve


Begin with the pastry. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the butter and rub into the mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence and still using your fingertips work these into the other ingredients. Finally bring the mixture together to form a dough.

Press the mixture into the base and sides of a greased 23cm (9 in) diameter loose-bottomed flan dish (this should be 2.5cm [1 in] deep). Lightly prick all over the base with a fork. Place the lined flan tin in the freezer for 15 minutes and allow to set until very firm.

Set the flan tin on a rigid baking tray then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake blind for between 12 and 15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4).

Allow the pastry to cool as you prepare the filling.

Scrub the lemons and then finely grate the zest. Extract the juice and strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. Mix the lemon zest, sugar and melted butter in with the lemon juice. Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl, then pass through a sieve into the lemon mixture. Stir well to combine.

Pour the resultant custard filling into the pastry case. Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until just set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin then carefully remove the tart from the tin and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

For the sauce, combine the blackcurrants and cordial in a small pan. Bring to a simmer and cook gently until the blackcurrants are soft. Sweeten to taste then pass through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the pips and skins.

To serve, slice the tart into wedges. Arrange these on chilled serving dishes, dust with icing sugar and drizzle over the cassis sauce.

Serve immediately, accompanied by crème fraîche.

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