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.
It might be because I was raised in the West country but I’d take one of these over a bucks fizz on Christmas morning every time. This is made from apple and spice and all things nice. And by ‘all things nice’ I mean rum.
For the simple syrup (there’s enough here for two drinks but you can easily increase the quantities) lightly muddle 3 sprigs of rosemary with 3 tbsp sugar in a small pan. Snap a cinnamon stick in two and add this to the pan along with 3 tbsp of water. Heat gently and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Leave to cool before using.
30ml cinnamon and rosemary simple syrup
50ml spiced rum
dry cider, apple slices and rosemary sprigs to serve
Shake the rum and syrup along with the rosemary and cinnamon from making the syrup in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Strain it into glasses filled with ice and top up with cider. Garnish with an apple slice and a fresh sprig of rosemary.
Mr Colonial Cravings again with another boozy post. I had been threatening for some time to do another shrub and, when recently perusing our local supermarket I decided that pomegranate would be an excellent fruit to use in one. I was warned by Mrs Colonial Cravings about how finicky pomegranate is to deal with, and it turned out that she was once again correct! However, I’m glad I persevered as it makes a lovely base for a tasty shrub and I’d say it was well worth the effort.
2 parts pomegranate juice
1 part white wine vinegar
1 part sugar
2 sprigs of rosemary
This is incredibly simple to make and as with the previous shrub it’s very tasty as either the basis of a soft drink or as a cocktail ingredient. Start by juicing your pomegranates (much better to try this with a blender and sieve, otherwise you’re left with the task of forcing it manually through a sieve a few seeds at a time which takes ages – believe me I know!). The reason this recipe is noted in ‘parts’ is simply because the amount of juice extracted from your pomegranates can vary massively based on your fruit and the time you’re willing to put into juice extraction.
Once you have your juice, measure out half the same volume of sugar in a bowl, add one of the sprigs of rosemary to the sugar and then lightly press them together. Don’t bash it too hard otherwise you risk extracting the bitter chlorophyll from the leaves as well as the flavourful oils we want, so be gentle. Once you’ve got it started, leave it to one side (for at least 15mins) and the sugar will continue to extract and absorb the herb oils for you from the lacerations in the herb.
Combine the herbs and sugar, juice and vinegar together in a jar and shake until mixed together. Leave the jar in a dark, room temperature location for a couple of days and then remove the rosemary and store the liquid shrub in the fridge. It should now last for some time, at least a few months, although I’m sure you’ll have consumed it a lot sooner than that!
I’ve use this in a refreshing and simple gin based cocktail by combining equal parts gin and shrub and then topping up with soda water in a rocks glass finishing off with a garnish of fresh rosemary to emphasize the fragrance. As ever though, feel free to adjust the relative levels based on your own tastes as you build the drink. I’m confident that whichever way you go it’ll still go down very easily!
We took a little road trip up to Vermont in October to meet up with a couple of our friends from back home. This nicely coincided with my friend’s birthday. We also realised whilst we were away that we’ve known each other for 25 years, which means that this year is our Silver Friendiversary (or something like that – I’m sure Hallmark can come up with a catchier name for it).
Anyway, I wasn’t going to turn up in Stowe without a cake for my friend, but I did need to come up with one that could survive the 500+ mile journey up there. I’m pleased to say that this performed admirably. The cake has plenty of moisture from the pears and the frosting is less prone to melting than others that I’ve worked with.
The flavours of this are quite subtle, I didn’t want anything to be too over-powering. However if you want to amp-up the rosemary then just put the sugar for the sponge in a container for a few days with several sprigs of rosemary that you’ve bashed with a rolling-pin and it’ll take on a bit more of the flavour.
2-3 pears (depending on size)
handful of rosemary sprigs
150g sugar (or rosemary infused sugar)
pinch of salt
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g pear puree
2 tbsp milk
100g icing sugar
4 tbsp maple syrup
225g cream cheese
You need to start by making the roasted pear puree, this can be done a few days in advance if you like. It’ll be quite happy in the fridge.
Peel, core and quarter the pears, mix them with the rosemary on a baking tray and roast them at 190°c until they are really soft and tender. How long this takes really depends on how ripe the pears are to start with, so keep checking them. Once they are soft, let the fruit cool and then puree them (discard the rosemary) in a food processor until they are really smooth. I like to sieve mine too so that there are no lumps at all. Set this aside.
Once you have your pear puree you can get cracking on the cake itself. Pre-heat the oven to 190°c and grease and line a couple of sandwich tins.
Cream together the butter, salt and sugar until it’s fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, following each one with a spoonful of the flour to stop the mixture from curdling. Sift in the remaining flour along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and briefly beat it together. Add the pear puree and milk and beat the batter again so that it is well combined.
Divide the batter evenly between the tins, smooth off the tops and bake the sponges for 25-30 minutes. Test them with a skewer but they should be lightly browned and feel springy to the touch.
Remove the cakes from the tins and leave them to cool on a wire rack.
The frosting is very easy to make. Simply beat the butter, salt and sugar until they are fluffy then add the maple syrup and briefly beat again. Add the cream cheese and beat the whole lot until it’s thick and creamy. Use about a third of this to sandwich the two cooled cakes together and use the remainder to frost and decorate the cake however you like. There are some videos on youtube that will show you how to do the ‘basket weave’ piping that I’ve used. It’s really very easy (I promise!).
Savoury cheesecakes might seem like a peculiar idea at first but really, is it any more strange than choosing to make a pudding out of cheese in the first place?
As a non-meat eater I think that they make such a nice change for a special lunch or a first course. Once you’ve mastered the basic mixture they’re very versatile too, there are so many flavour possibilities that you could use in them.
I’ve used pretty classic autumn flavours in this version. These also look really pretty when you cut into them and the colours are amazing.
Be careful not to over-bake the cheesecakes or they’ll dry out a bit and lose their nice creamy consistency. It’s also important to make sure that the cheeses and eggs for the filling are at room temperature before you start.
3 tbsp digestive biscuit crumbs
3 tbsp oats
3 tbsp melted butter
200g butternut squash
1 fat clove of garlic
small handful of sage (with some smallish leaves if possible)
225g cream cheese
2 tbsp grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 190°c. Slice the butternut squash into thin slices, only a couple of millimeters thick, so that you have 12 slices. Lay these on a lightly greased baking sheet and scatter over the sage and pop on the garlic clove, unpeeled. Roast the squash for 15-20 minutes, until it is tender and then leave it to cool a bit on the tray.
Reduce the oven to 170°c and line a six hole tin with muffin wrappers, silicone ones work a treat. Fill a roasting tin with water and pop that in the oven to use as a bain-marie later.
Combine all of the ingredients for the base mixture and press a spoonful of it into the base of each of the muffin wrappers. Put this in the fridge to chill and become a bit more firm.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is nice and soft. Add the egg and beat again until it is well combined. Crush or finely chop the roasted sage, keeping back any leaves that you want for decorating, the small one are best for this. Mince the roasted garlic. Add the parmesan, crushed sage, garlic and the seasoning to the cheesecake filling mixture and stir well. Set this aside for a moment.
Using a pastry cutter that is roughly the same size as the muffin wrappers, cut out circles from the cooled roasted squash.
Put a spoonful of the cheesecake mix on top the biscuit base for each cheesecake and spread it a little. Top this with a circle of squash. Repeat this, finishing with a layer of cheesecake mix. Top with a sage leaf to decorate.
Put the tray into the bain-marie and bake the cheesecakes for 20-25 minutes. They should still have a little wobble to them once they are cooked. Turn the oven off and open the door a bit. Leave the cheesecakes to cool to room temperature in the oven and then pop them in the fridge to chill. Let them sit a room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
So it turns out that souffles aren’t actually that hard to make. Not nearly as hard as they are to photograph! Granted, if you want to show off your beautifully risen, fluffy culinary achievements, you might need your diners to gather around the oven as you take them out, but they’ll only sink a little and they taste amazing. Plenty of rich, earthy, sweet flavour from the beets pepped up with the horseradish, and the parmesan forms a lovely cheesy crust.
Once you’ve got the beetroot puree these are actually really quick and pretty easy to prepare too. The only things you need to remember are to be very gentle when you fold in the egg whites and not to open the oven door until the 12 minute cooking time is up.
makes 4-6 (depending on the size of your ramekins)
200g cooked, pureed beetroot
pinch of salt and pepper
1 scant tbsp grated horseradish
sprig of thyme
the juice of 1 lemon topped up to 80ml with water (I actually use the water from cooking the beetroot for a bit of extra colour)
3/4 tbsp flour
butter and a couple of tablespoons of finely grated parmesan for the ramekins
Butter the ramekins and dust them with the parmesan (you might need to press it into the sides a bit). Pre-heat the oven to 220°c.
Blend the beetroot with half of the liquid, the seasonings, thyme and horseradish until it’s really quite smooth.
In a small pan mix the flour with the remaining liquid and gently heat it until you have quite a thick paste. Add this to the blended beetroot ingredients and mix well.
Separate the eggs, setting aside the whites in a large bowl and putting the yolks with the beetroot mixture. Thoroughly blend the yolks with the beetroot.
Whip the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Mix a tablespoon of this with the beetroot to lighten the mixture a bit. Fold in the rest of the egg white with a large metal spoon, a few tablespoon at a time. Don’t over mix it or you will knock all the air out of it.
Spoon the souffle batter into the prepared ramekins, you can fill them almost to the top, and bake them for 12 minutes. Serve immediately, so they don’t have time to deflate too much.
I realise that having a third madeleine recipe on here may be a bit extravagant, a second floral themed one at that, but when I scavenged some lavender flowers from my mums garden I couldn’t resist using them in some of these pretty little cakes. Plus it totally justifies the fact that I even own a madeleine tin at all!
I’m not normally a massive fan of lavender, I think that I associate the smell of it with having migraines, but these are actually very nice. The lemon zest really perks them up so that the lavender isn’t too perfumy. They go very well with a cup of earl grey tea too.
1 tbsp lavender flowers
zest of 1/2 a lemon
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp milk
Melt the butter and use a little of it to brush your madeleine tin. Dust the tin with a little flour too and shake out any excess. Put the tin in the fridge to chill. Set the remaining butter aside to cool.
Put the sugar, lavender and lemon zest in a dinky food processor and whizz it up for a few moments. This will get some of the oils from the flowers and zest into the sugar.
Beat together the egg and the sugar until it is thick, pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then fold this into the egg mixture.
Mix the honey and milk into the butter, making sure that the honey blends in. Stir this into the batter and then let it stand in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Towards the end of the resting time pre-heat the oven to 220°c.
Spoon the batter into each of the little shell shaped cavities of the chilled madeleine tin. You don’t need to worry too much about spreading it out to fill them, the batter will do this of its own accord once it hits the heat of the oven.
Bake the madeleines for three minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c and leave them for a further five minutes.
Once the little cakes have risen and become golden brown take them out of the oven and place the tray on a cooling rack for a few minutes. When they’ve cooled a bit you can carefully lift them out of the tin and let cool completely on the rack before sprinkling them with a little icing sugar.