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.
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.
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.
I think there’s still just about enough time to squeeze in one last moment of indulgence before we all embark on the inevitable dessert-purgatory that is January. Even I might try to exercise some self-control (no promises though, okay…)
But until the clock strikes 12 we can enjoy this. Today is also my Mum’s birthday and I’m pretty sure that she would approve of this truly decadent dessert. Golden sponge soaked in a boozy orange syrup smothered in a rich truffle ganache and a very soft, light, mousse and finished off with fresh whipped cream. I’ve decorated mine with some orange meringues simply because I’ve apparently become the sort of person who has that kind of thing hanging around the pantry!
Here I’ve used the orange sponge from my cranberry & orange Victoria sponge, using quantities for one egg. If you do this it’s best to bake it in a smaller tin or as cupcakes, otherwise it’ll be really thin. You can of course use a shop-bought sponge if you want to save yourself a bit of time, it doesn’t necessarily have to be orange flavoured.
enough orange flavoured sponge cake to line the base of your serving dish
juice of 1 orange
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp orange liqueur
Chocolate truffle ganache
75g dark chocolate
1 tbsp golden syrup
zest of 1 orange
90g milk chocolate
3 eggs (separated)
1 tbsp bandy
pinch of salt
125ml double cream
dark chocolate to decorate (I also used tiny orange flavoured meringues)
Start by making the orange syrup. Combine the orange juice and sugar in a small pan and heat them until the sugar has dissolved and the juice has reduced a bit. Remove the pan from the heat and add the orange liqueur. Leave this to cool a little.
Cut the sponge into cubes and use them to line the base of your serving dish. Spoon the orange syrup over the sponge making sure that each piece of sponge soaks up some of the liquid. Let this sit at room temperature whilst you make the chocolate ganache.
Put all the ingredients for the sauce into a small pan and gently melt them together over a very low heat. Stir the mixture constantly to ensure that the chocolate doesn’t burn or seize. Once it has melted and combined pour the warm ganache over the sponge layer. Now put the dish in the fridge to chill out for a little while, just whilst you make the mousse layer.
Break up the milk chocolate and put it in a bowl, set over a pan of gently simmering water. Melt the chocolate, stirring it occasionally and then remove it from the heat. Quickly stir in the brandy. This might cause the chocolate to thicken a little but don’t panic as long as it isn’t grainy. Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate, one at a time, whilst it’s still warm and then leave the mixture to cool.
Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl along with the salt, until they hold a stiff peak. Beat one tablespoon of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten the mixture. Follow this by very carefully, using a large metal spoon, folding in the remaining egg whites, a couple of spoons at a time until it is all incorporated and you have a light airy mousse.
Pour this on top of the cooled chocolate ganache layer and then return the dish to the fridge and forget about for a couple of hours so that the mousse can set more firmly.
Finally whip the cream so that it holds soft peaks and then spread it all over the top of the trifle. Finish off with a little chocolate (or meringue) decoration and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.
I don’t really like Christmas pudding. There. I said it. It’s too rich, too heavy and quite sickly, especially to eat on what is, lets face it, the most gluttonous day of the year.
I’m always looking for an alternative that still feels just as festive. At home my mums Christmas pudding ice cream does the job. This year I can’t make it back to the UK to see my friends and family and I fear that my own iced Christmas puds might just leave me homesick and hankering for my mums version.
I’ve come up with something that’s just different enough to feel like a change. These are indulgent without feeling too rich and heavy. They might just be the perfect end to your festive feast.
These also have the added bonus that, aside from setting time, they’re really quick to make and can be made well ahead of time. Cause lets face it, who has time to spare at Christmas? Make sure that you use a fat-free mincemeat for these (i.e. one made without suet). Oh look, there’s a recipe for that here: https://colonialcravings.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/fat-free-mincemeat/ what luck!
makes 4 (8-10 dinky ones for parties)
250ml double cream
250ml whole milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp brandy
1 tsp vanilla
3 leaves of gelatine
2 tbsp mincemeat plus 1 tsp for each glass
Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and set it aside to soak.
Combine everything else except the mincemeat in a medium pan and set it over a low heat. Allow it to become quite hot whilst stirring it but don’t let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat.
Squeeze the excess water from the softened gelatine and add the leaves to the pan. Stir until they have dissolved.
Put a teaspoon of mincemeat in the bottom of each of your serving glasses or moulds. Add two tablespoons of mincemeat to the cream mixture and stir them in. Divide the mixture between the glasses and then pop them in the fridge to set.
Before serving either sprinkle the tops with a tiny bit of cinnamon if you are serving the panna cotta in glasses or tip them out of the moulds and onto dessert plates.
The time has come for Mr Colonial Cravings annual office festive hoopla. I’m not sure they refer to it like this but I think that maybe they should start.
To say thank you for the hours of photographing food that he puts in (my hands are just too shaky to take a decent picture) I’ve made him something extra special.
I’ve combined his favourite Italian treat with something festive from their Austrian neighbours. Gingerbread! And it is so good! If you like gingerbread lattes then you’re going to love this. Seriously, this tastes amazing. Layers of richly spiced sponge soaked in boozy coffee, sandwiched together with thick zabaglione cream. Christmas dessert heaven…
You can bake the sponge ahead of time because it keeps really well, and also if it is a tiny bit stale then it tends to soak up the coffee better. Winning all round!
If you don’t have a spring-form cake tin, of just don’t want to serve the tiramisu like this, then you can of course just build up the layers in a serving dish, trifle-style. Either works well for this.
Half the quantity of gingerbread from my gingerbread latte cupcakes, baked in a spring-form pan for about 35 minutes at 180°c.
300ml strong brewed coffee
3 tbsp sugar
50ml brandy/dark rum (feel free to use more if you like it really boozy)
1 tbsp coffee liqueur (optional)
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla paste
225g mascarpone (room temperature)
200ml double cream
dark chocolate to serve
Trim away the very top of the cake, to expose the crumb and slice the sponge in half horizontally. Set aside.
Mix one tablespoon of the sugar with the coffee, brandy/rum and coffee liqueur (if using) and let the coffee cool a bit.
Place the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl with the egg yolks and vanilla and place it over a pan of simmering water. Whip the yolks until they are pale and fluffy and have at least doubled in volume. Remove them from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two before beating the mascarpone into it.
Put the cream in another bowl and whip it until it becomes thick and fluffy. Use a large metal spoon to fold the cream into the egg yolk/mascarpone mixture.
To assemble the tiramisu place a layer of the sponge back into the springform pan that you baked it in. Brush the surface of it with the coffee mixture. You need it to be saturated but not so soggy that it loses all integrity.
Spread half of the creamy filling mixture evenly over the sponge and then carefully place the second layer on top. Brush this with coffee too, again making sure that it is well moistened but not drenched. Don’t worry, you won’t need all of the coffee mixture. Cover this with the remaining cream mixture and smooth off the surface. Put the tiramisu in the fridge to firm up for a couple of hours.
Dust the top of the tiramisu with some grated dark chocolate (I like to be fairly liberal with it) and run a palate knife around the edge of the tin before releasing the catch and removing the sides of the tin. Carefully transfer the tiramisu to a serving plate. Enjoy!
I’ve made a fair few apple pies in my time. They’re one of my preferred vehicles for clotted cream, especially in the colder months. Plus I’m continuing my quest to make pastry as good as my Grandma used to make, one day I’ll get there.
Now she never put booze in her dough but following my success using gin in a tarte au citron during the summer I thought it might be worth slinging some in a pie too. Now here’s the science part. The theory is the alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water so subbing it in place of water should make for lighter, crisper pastry.
Don’t worry if you aren’t that keen on the idea of a boozy pie. It doesn’t taste boozy at all, and of course the actual alcohol bakes off (which is kind of the point). It really does just leave you with light crisp pastry. It’s some of my best pastry work, I’m slowly and surely getting closer to my Grandma-goal.
There’s enough pastry here for a standard double crust pie so please don’t feel obliged to spend ages making a fancy cut-out top if that’s not your thing. I just have too much time on my hands some days!
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soft brown sugar
3-4 tbsp brandy
75g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp brandy
15g (ish) butter
1 beaten egg and white sugar to finish off
Cut the cold butter into small pieces and gently rub it into the flour with the tips of your fingers, until it resembles bread crumbs. Mix in the salt and sugar with a fork. Use the brandy to bring the mixture together to form a ball of dough. Add the liquid a tablespoon at a time so that you don’t end up adding too much. Flatten the ball a little and wrap it in cling film. Pop it in the fridge to chill and relax for about 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and lightly grease a 20cm pie tin.
Peel, core and slice the apples quite thinly. Whisk together the sugar, salt, cornflour and spices in a large mixing bowl and then toss the apple in this. Sprinkle over the brandy.
Take the pastry from the fridge and cut it in two, make one piece slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece out so that it’s a few millimeters thick and large enough to line the pie tin. Do this either on a lightly floured surface or on a piece of parchment paper. I prefer to do it this way as it makes it easier to transfer it to the tin later.
Carefully place the rolled pastry into the pie tin and gently push it into the corners. Leave a little over hang at the edge. Tip the apples into the lined tin and spread them out. Dot the surface with butter.
Roll out the remaining dough, again to that it is a few millimeters thick and a little larger than the size of the pie. If you want to do some fancy cut outs on the top of the pie then now is the time to do it. Brush the edge of the pie with a little of the beaten egg and carefully place on the lid. Gently push it down around the edges to seal the pie. Trim and crimp the edge however you like, the easiest thing is just to press down the edges with the tines of a fork. Add any extra pastry embellishments you like (made from any leftover scraps of pastry), using the beaten egg as a glue. Brush the whole pie with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake the pie for 45 minutes, until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden brown.
Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving so that the juices can thicken. Serve with homemade custard, ice cream or glorious velvety Cornish clotted cream.