Panna cotta is pretty quick and easy to make (bar setting time) and it’s always sure to impress. It can be such an elegant dessert.
Darjeeling has a much more complex flavour than your average cup of Rosie Lea and it works really well paired with rich buttery caramel and fruity pears. It’s also Mr Colonial Cravings’ favourite brew, seriously, he talks about it like it’s vintage wine. Is there a tea equivalent of a sommelier? If there is I think that may be his dream job.
These panna cottas will take you about 20 minutes to make and then you can just leave them in the fridge until you need them. You can either serve this in ramekins or glasses, or if you’re feeling brave set them in moulds and turn them out onto plates before serving.
250ml double cream
2 tbsp darjeeling tea leaves
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste/1 pod
3 gelatin leaves
2 ripe but firm pears (red skinned ones look pretty)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Combine the milk, cream and tea in a small saucepan and gently heat it but don’t allow it to boil. When the mixture is hot remove it from the heat let it steep for 15 minutes.
Put the gelatin leaves in a small dish of water and set aside to soften. Strain the cream mixture through a fine sieve and rinse the pan to remove any stray tea leaves. Return the infused cream to the pan, add the sugar and vanilla and heat it, but still don’t let it boil.
Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze the excess water from the gelatin and dissolve this in the hot cream mixture. Stir well and divide between your moulds, ramekins or glasses. Put the panna cotta in the fridge for several hours to set.
Wash and core the pears and thinly slice them. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the pear slices and the cardamom. Gently fry them over a low heat until they start to feel tender, turning them occasionally. Sprinkle over the sugar and keep turning the pears until the sugar starts to caramelize and the pears become golden and coated. Let the pears cool a little before serving alongside the panna cotta.
Oh. My. Word! This is very exciting for me. Probably less for you guys but put yourself in my shoes for a moment. I’ve never even eaten a hand raised hot water crust pie let alone baked one. Let alone baked one that’s really good. On my first attempt! Okay, enough trumpet blowing, but seriously, I’m so pleased with these.
I’m a bit of a pastry fiend, sweet and savoury, so I’ve always been a bit put out that I can’t (usually) indulge in traditional hand raised pies. They always seem to be meat filled and more often than not the crusts are made with lard. No good for meat averse me.
But it’s not just the light, crisp, buttery crust that’s really good on these. The filling is delicious, warming and hearty but not heavy or stodgy. Yep, I’m marking these down as an all round winner. I can’t wait to try out some more variations of these beauties.
Makes 2 decent sized pies
1 tsp olive oil
1 small red onion
1 medium carrot
1 can butter beans
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste
100g tomato paste
1 tbsp chopped parsley
50g cheese (any full flavour medium fat one you like)
100g plain flour
30g bread flour
50ml boiling water
pinch of salt
1 tsp paprika
Dice the onion and carrot (fairly small) and gently fry them in the oil until they are just starting to colour. Mince the garlic and add that to the pan along with the spices and seasonings. Fry for a couple of minutes before adding the beans. Mix in the tomato paste and cook until it has lost its ‘raw’ taste. Remove from the heat and mix in the parsley and the cheese, which will help to bind everything together. The filling should be quite thick. Leave this to cool whilst you make the pastry. You don’t want to try to fill warm pastry with warm filling, that will get you into all sorts of bother!
To make the hot water crust melt the butter in the boiling water. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flours, salt and paprika. Lightly beat the egg and set aside a spoonful of it for glazing the pies before baking. Use a butter knife to mix the remaining egg into the flour. Pour in the hot water/butter mixture and combine everything so that you have a very soft pliable dough. It’s okay if you need to sprinkle in a tiny bit more plain flour to absorb any excess stickiness.
Divide the dough into two and then pull about a quarter off each ball. On a lightly floured surface use the tips of your fingers to pat out the larger balls to about 7 inch discs and the small ones to about 5 inches. Cut a couple of slits in the centre of the smaller discs.
Pile half of the filing on to each of the larger discs and place the smaller disc on top. Gently bring up the sides of the pastry and crimp them together with the lid, making sure that everything is well sealed. If you want to you can use a fork to press around the edges too.
If, like me you don’t trust everything to hold together in the oven then wrap and tie some strips of baking parchment around the pies for a bit of structural support. Use a fish slice (dipping it in flour makes this easier) to transfer the pies to a greased baking tray.
Chill the pies in the fridge for at least 20 minutes (they can sit there for longer if you aren’t quite ready to bake them yet). Brush the tops of the pies with some of the remaining beaten egg and then bake them in an oven pre heated to 200°c for 35 minutes, until they are golden brown and the pastry is crisp.
I think that Mr Colonial Cravings is the only member of his family who celebrates his Scottish heritage on Burns Night. I think that this is partly my influence (I don’t think he’d ever eaten a Burns dinner before we met) and partly because it’s a damn fine excuse to eat cranachan.
Seriously, who can say no to a combination of whisky, raspberries and cream. It’s just glorious. This year I’ve refreshed my usual recipe (this one over here… https://colonialcravings.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/cranachan/) and turned it into a wonderful, easy peasy, no-churn ice cream. This is truly heavenly, I think it might be my new favourite of all the no-churn ice cream recipes on here. The sharp ripple of raspberry sauce nicely cuts through the richness of the whisky ice cream and the honey coated granola clusters add a really nice crunch.
This makes double the amount of my other ice-cream recipes – which is just as well because it’s really, really good!
150g raspberries (frozen is fine)
2 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp oil (anything with a mild flavour)
pinch of salt
600ml double cream
350g condensed milk
Pre-heat your oven to 170°c. Gently heat the salt, oil and honey to melt and combine them and toss the oats in this. Spread the mixture out on a baking tray, keeping things clumped together a bit. Bake the oats for 25 minutes, until they are golden brown. Leave them to cool and crisp up on the tray and then break up the clumps a little.
Warm up the raspberries (in a small pan or the microwave) to encourage them to release their juices and then mash them and push them through a sieve. Stir the icing sugar into the resulting puree and set it aside to cool.
Pour the cream and condensed milk into a large mixing bowl and beat them with an electric mixer until they are quite thick and fluffy. Add the whisky and beat the mixture again until it holds soft peaks. Fold in the cooled granola.
Transfer the ice cream mix to a freezable container and then ‘ripple’ the raspberry sauce through it. Freeze until solid.
I love French onion soup but more often than not it’s made with beef stock which means that it’s off the menu for me. It’s so rich and warming, it’s one of the few meat based things that I do feel I’m missing out on by not eating meat.
A little dab of Vegemite though and I’m free to indulge again. Mr Colonial Cravings even said that he couldn’t tell the difference between this version and one made with beef stock.
The best part of French onion soup is, of course, the melty, gooey cheesy Gruyère smothered crouton floating on the surface. Don’t skimp on this. Use proper Gruyère and plenty of it. It’s no bad thing if the bread is a little stale too. Day old bread will soak up the delicious flavours of the soup better than fresh bread.
serves 2-4 (depending on how greedy you are)
2 large onions
2 tbsp butter
2 fat garlic cloves
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre vegetable stock
small sprig of thyme
1 tsp Vegemite (optional – you can season it with salt if you prefer but tis helps with the colour too)
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
slices of baguette
50g veggie friendly Gruyère, grated
1 box of tissues (if you’re anything like me cutting onions!)
Peel the onions and cut them in half or quarters (depending on how big they are). Slice them quite thinly.
Melt the butter over a low heat in a large saucepan and then toss in the onion. Let the onions cook very gently and slowly. You really can’t rush this bit. Stir them frequently and they should steadily become wonderfully dark and caramalized.
Crush the garlic and add this to the pan along with the thyme and mustard powder. Cook for a couple more minutes before pouring in the stock. Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes and then check the seasoning. Add black pepper to taste and either salt or Vegemite.
Toast enough rounds of baguette to generously top each serving bowl for the soup and then arrange the slices on a baking tray. Pile the grated Gruyère onto them and grill them until they are bubbling and melty.
Fill your serving bowls with the soup and use a fish slice to transfer the cheesy croutons on top of each one. Yum!
A little while ago I was given a big bag of dried hibiscus by a nice man from Honestea at the Smithsonian food festival. I knew I wanted to do more than just make a brew from it and it has sat patiently in my pantry whilst I’ve been distracted by all manner of festive goodies.
Now it can have my full attention though and I’ve chosen to try it out in an adaptation of my Greek yoghurt marble cake. It works really well, I think I like it even more than the chocolate version (and that’s saying something!) The colour of this is great, it’s a purple (almost blue) and orange cake without a single drop of food colouring in it. Amazing! Hibiscus has very tart, fruity flavour, not at all floral, as you might expect and the sweetness of the orange in this cake goes with it perfectly.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with the rest of the bag…
zest and juice of 1 orange
15g dried hibiscus
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp hot water
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
75g butter, melted
150g fat-free Greek yoghurt
Pre-heat your oven to 190°c and grease and line a loaf tin.
Warm the orange juice a little and use this to steep the hibiscus in a small dish. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the hot water and set it aside to cool.
Sift together the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and then whisk the salt and sugar into it.
In a separate bowl or jug beat together the melted butter, Greek yoghurt and eggs, ensuring that they are well combined. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into this. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Use a rubber spatula to stir everything together, until it is just combined. You don’t want to over-mix things at this stage.
Divide the mixture roughly in two and fold the orange zest into one half. Use a tea strainer or small mesh sieve to squeeze as much liquid as possible out the steeped hibiscus and discard the ‘leaves’. Pour this liquid (it should be at least a couple of tablespoons) into the other half of the batter and stir it together.
Gently marble the two batters together and then pour them into the prepared loaf tin. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until it is lovely and golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
We all feel like we should eat a little bit lighter after Christmas but on cold, grey, dreary winter days it’s hard for me to get excited about a bowl of salad.
I need bright colours, bags of flavour and preferably a bit of spice to warm me up from the inside!
I know a lot of people who struggle to get on board with eating tofu. I think it’s because they view it just as a meat substiute. I just view it as a protein source. I know that the flavour can take a little getting used to and that it needs a little help in that department, but that’s also why it works so well in spicy dishes.
These little crispy patties, topped with colourful, chunky salsa certainly remind me that, one day, there will be warm sunny days again!
450g block of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
3 spring onions
handful of coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch each of ground cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper
1 tsp chipotle paste
squeeze of lime juice
chili sauce to taste
3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp sweetcorn
1 small ripe avocado
handful of cherry tomatos
handul of coriander
lime juice, salt and pepper to taste
little gem lettuce leaves to serve
Mash up the tofu with your hands in a large mixing bowl. Make sure that there are no large lumps in it. Slice the spring onions and chop the coriander. Add these to the mixing bowl and mix them through with a fork. Add everything else but the panko and mix these through too, making sure that they are well distributed through the tofu. Finally add the panko and mix the whole lot. Let this sit whilst you make the salsa.
Dice the tomatoes and roughly chop the coriander and chili . Mix these with the sweetcorn, lime juice, salt and pepper. Peel and pit the avocado and dice this so that it’s a similar size to the tomatoes. Toss this in with the other ingredients.
Shape the tofu mixture into little patties, a heaped tablespoon is about the right amount. Fry these over a medium heat in a lightly oiled frying pan until the outsides are golden and crisp.
Serve the patties on the lettuce leaves with a sprinkling of the salsa and perhaps an extra drop or two of hot sauce.
Just look at the colours of this. Deep purple, vibrant green and fiery oranges. How could you fail to be cheered up on a gloomy January day if you were presented with this? And that’s before your fork has even come close to your mouth!The beetroot is earthy but also sweet and sticky from the orange, the fiery harissa is instantly cooled by the rich, creamy, tart yoghurt, the pistachios add crunch and the thyme lends a savoury finish.
I enjoyed this dish so much that I suspect my fingers might be beetroot stained for the rest of winter. I do lead a glamorous life!
This is really good with a big mixed green salad or some braised green lentils (or both!). I think what I love most about this is that it makes me feel like I’m doing the whole January healthy eating thing whilst not missing out on all that lovely winter comfort food.
As an added bonus you don’t really have to weight or measure any of the ingredients for this, I’ve only put amounts as a guide, you can pretty much do everything to taste.
4-6 smallish beetroot
1/2 tsp olive oil
juice and zest of 1 orange
couple of sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to taste
knob of butter
handful of roasted pistachios
150g Greek yoghurt
1 tsp harissa
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and line a small roasting tin with foil.
Trim the tops and roots of the beetroot but don’t peel them, just give them a good scrub. Cut each one into six or eight pieces (depending on how big they are). Toss them in the roasting tin with the salt, pepper and oil.
Zest the orange and set this aside to use as a garnish. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice over the beetroot. Sprinkle on the thyme leaves, keeping back a few to finish off the dish. Roast the beetroot for about an hour, they might take a bit longer if the pieces are quite chunky. Turn them a couple of times during roasting and give them a poke with a knife to see if they are tender.
Once they cooked to your liking take the tin out of the oven and add a small knob of butter to the beetroot. Toss the veg around until the butter has melted and they look nice and shiny. Let this cool for a few minutes.
Dollop the yoghurt onto your serving plate and spread it out into a thick layer. Dot the yoghurt with the harissa and swirl it into it. Pile the beetroot into the middle of the plate and then scatter over the reserved thyme, orange zest and the pistachios as a garnish.