Monthly Archives: April 2014

Passion Fruit & Lemon

When we were in Australia two years ago, visiting my brother, I was amazed to see passion fruits growing all over his garden wall, providing not only beautiful purple flowers but a whole summer’s supply of that gorgeous golden nectar. My husband was in heaven for the short time we were there, as he is particularly passionate (sorry) about the fruit, and will buy anything he can get his hands on which is flavoured with it – yoghurts, coulis, ice-cream…and I have also been known to devise and adapt recipes to include passion fruit – all in the name of love brownie point scoring.

In terms of pairings, I find it complements so many flavours – chocolate (especially white), other exotic fruits such as pineapples and mangoes, and citrus fruits – lemon, lime and orange. In the past I have made tarts, possets, mousses and ice-cream but this is one of my favourites: Tea Cup Passion Fruit Puddings.

This recipe is a lovely dinner party dessert – even better, it can be made in advance, and heated up gently while you are eating your main course. It originally featured lemon curd and raspberries, but the swapping the latter for passion fruit did it no harm at all.

INGREDIENTS – Makes 4 large or 6 small cups

250 g Lemon curd

4 ripe passion fruits, seeds and pulp removed

3 large eggs

100g golden caster sugar

85g butter, melted

100ml milk

140g plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

Icing sugar, to dust


–       Heat oven to 160C

–       Mix 150g of the curd with the passion fruit seeds and pulp.


–      Divide between the cups.


–      Put the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl.


–       Whisk until pale and fluffy.


–       Add the remaining 100g of curd, butter, milk, flour and baking powder. Fold the mixture together with a metal spoon until there are no visible lumps of flour, then divide between the teacups.


–       Line a roasting tin with a tea-towel.

–       Put the teacups in the roasting tin. Carefully fill the tin with hot water from a kettle to come about halfway up the sides of the teacups


–       Bake for 50 mins until risen and golden.

–       Dust with icing sugar.


–       Serve with creme fraiche or clotted cream.

–       Once cooked, you can cool the puddings and chill for up to a day. To reheat bake for 15 mins at 160C. They are just as good.

I wish I had taken a photo of these half eaten because I could have shown you how light and fluffy the sponge is above the silky sauce – but I guess you will just have to make them yourselves to find that out!







Carrot & Cumin

It’s been a while, but the Easter holidays have not left a whole lot of time for blogging! However, I have a couple of recipes to post including this soup from February when the rain wouldn’t stop and it felt like the only thing that would do.

My initiation into Indian ‘spices’ came in the form of  ‘The 70’s Curry’, a dish amusingly familiar to many of my contemporaries, and usually made from left-over roast lamb and a spoonful of Sharwood’s Curry Powder on a Monday night. Common to all however, seems to have been the rather bizarre but compulsory addition of fruit. For my mother it was apples (due to the surplus produced by my father’s orchard). For others, it was ‘exotic’ pineapple or banana (?) but always sultanas. Always sultanas. As I hated sultanas (and still do) curry nights would be hell for me, and a subsequent questionable encounter with a Vespa curry (a packet meal to which water was added…..) prepared by my first boyfriend (in an effort to impress) put me off Indian food for far too long. As with many of us however, I was saved by the Korma, attempted in a dodgy Indian in Coventry after a few too many in the Union bar, and I have now graduated to virtually the entire menu (but frequenting much nicer restaurants, you understand).

I don’t cook a lot of curries from scratch – I tend to use a good curry paste – but one spice I have particularly grown to love is cumin and while researching it, I found it has a fascinating history (prepare to be educated)! – thank you to

“Cumin is native to Egypt and has been cultivated in the Middle East, India, China and Mediterranean countries for millennia. Cumin was mentioned in the Bible not only as a seasoning for soup and bread, but also as a currency used to pay tithes to the priests. In ancient Egypt, cumin was not only used as a culinary spice, it was also an ingredient used to mummify pharaohs.

Cumin seeds were highly honoured as a culinary seasoning in both ancient Greek and Roman kitchens. Cumin’s popularity was partly due to the fact that its peppery flavour made it a viable replacement for black pepper, which was very expensive and hard to come by. During the Middle Ages in Europe, cumin was one of the most common spices used. Around that time, cumin added another attribute to its repertoire—it became recognized as a symbol of love and fidelity. People carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers were sent off to war with a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives. Cumin’s use for fortifying love is also represented in certain Arabic traditions in which a paste of ground cumin, pepper and honey is thought to have aphrodisiac properties.

Who knew?

In the past I have used cumin with garlic, lemon, ginger and mint, and I prefer to grind and toast the seeds rather than use pre-prepared powder.  My abiding favourite pairing however, is the humble carrot. I think cumin lifts it to a completely higher plane, and even more so when it’s roasted and sweetly sticky.  This soup is fantastic for a cold dark day, which it happened to be when I made it (not so much now Spring is here, but hey ho!).

 INGREDIENTS – makes 4 large bowls

150g Butter

150g onions, chopped

300g Carrots

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 large tsp Cumin seeds

1 tsp Madras curry powder

300ml chicken stock


–       Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees centigrade.

–       Parboil the carrots (I find doing this prior to roasting ensures the carrots are cooked through properly and caramelize better).


–       Chop the onion with the garlic (another really useful photo!)


–       Sweat the onion, garlic. Add the curry powder and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.


–       Toss the carrots in chicken fat (I always seem to have some lurking at the back of the fridge after a roast, and it really does add great flavour) or sunflower oil and Cumin seeds.


– Roast on a baking tray for 30 mins until caramelized (warning: it will take consiserable willpower at this stage not to shove the whole lot into your mouth with your bare fingers…).


–       Add the stock and carrots to the onions.


–       Blend to a smooth puree and season with salt and pepper.


Serve with swirl of crème fraiche and chopped coriander (I had neither to hand, but it was still fabulous).

Do you have any favourite Cumin recipes?




Cheese & Cayenne Pepper

My nanna was a great cook;  one of the things she made that stood out for me as a greedy child (nothing much changed there then!) was her Sables. French for ‘sand’,  they were particularly delicious cheese biscuits with a spicy kick that she would serve with drinks, cut into triangles and sprinkled with salt. Google tells me that they date back to 1670, and originated in Southern Normandy. Asking one day how she made them, I remember her saying. ‘easy as pie – equal quantities of butter, flour and cheese with a large pinch of cayenne pepper’ . I never forgot that, and although I have tried numerous other recipes – mainly for cheese straws (I like the statuesque impact of a spray of them on the table) I always go back to this one. You can’t make them into straws as the dough is too sticky, but they are always a huge hit whenever I serve them.

The brilliant thing is that they also welcome other flavours – I love poppy seeds in the dough itself, but I have also rolled them in the seeds for a pretty, crunchy border, or you can also add herbs (rosemary is good) crushed black pepper, chilli flakes or even garlic. I tend to use Gruyere cheese, but any hard cheese would be good – especially a strong cheddar. I have grated it finely here, but larger bits add a good crunch if you don’t have the seeds. The addition of cayenne pepper is quite unusual however, but it works so well with cheese and I often sprinkle it on cauliflower and macaroni cheese too for a bit of a kick! (see Tomato & Chilli, below). Some recipes advocate an egg yolk, but I’ve always found this makes the mixture too wet.

INGREDIENTS – makes 20 (I often double up….)

75g plain flour
75g cold unsalted butter, cubed
75g Gruyere cheese, grated
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Sea salt


– Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl or food processor. Add the butter.

– Rub in or blitz in the processor until it resembles breadcrumbs.
– Add the cheese, poppy seeds and cayenne pepper.


– bring the mixture together with your hands or pulse in the processor.

– Roll out into a sausage shape, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

– Heat oven to 200 degress and butter two baking sheets.
– Slice the biscuits off the roll in 5mm thickness (I find this easier than rolling out the dough as it’s still quite sticky).
– Put them on the sheets, leaving plenty of room for spreading.

– Bake for ten minutes – keep an eye on them as they can go too dark quite quickly.

– Once out of the oven, grind some sea salt on them and leave to cool for a few mins before transferring to a wire rack.

These are best eaten completely cold – I find if they are warm they are a little too greasy (although I know pinching one beforehand is virtually impossible to resist). These are fabulous with a glass of ice cold champagne – or sherry, should you wish to carry on my grandmother’s tradition…