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Olive oil cake with flat peaches and wild plums {gluten free}

30 July 2017

Every summer, an old friend of my parents brings a a tin drum of extra virgin olive oil home from Corfu. It is simply the most delicious, vividly green olive oil I have ever tasted. It is too special to do anything with other than pour into a shallow dish, sprinkle with flakey sea salt and dip chunks of bread into.

The same is not true of every olive oil however. Lighter olive oil varieties have a delicate flavour that marries well with sweeter ingredients, such as fruits and honeys, making them perfect for baking with. Jamie's Italian have developed a handy guide to help you chose the right olive oil for your recipe.
Light olive oils and stone fruit are a match made in heaven. The soft fruits of Southern Europe are celebrated in this recipe alongside delicious light olive oil from Italy. This cake is also gluten and dairy free, and - being packed as it is with ripe summer fruits - uses only a tiny amount of sugar for sweetness.
100g light olive oil
75g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
200g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 flat white peaches
100g wild plums
red and white currants (optional)


Heat the oven to 170°C, and line a 7" cake tin with baking paper. Slice the peaches into half moon pieces and half the wild plums, discarding the stones. Set aside.

Place the oil sugar, eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat for 5-6 minutes until the mixture is pale and frothy. Add the lemon zest, and mix through.

In a separate bowl, sieve the sound almonds, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine, then add to the wet mixture, and mix until just combined. Pour the mixture into the lined tin, and level the surface. Top with the sliced peaches and halved plums. Scatter the currants over, if using. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, covering with foil for the last 10 minutes if the fruit starts to catch. Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing. 

This post was written in affiliation with Jamie's Italian, but all views are - as always - entirely my own.

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Honey, black cherry and almond cake {gluten free}

13 June 2017

Every year I write about my love for stone fruits. Peaches, cherries, apricots and plums are my absolute favourite to eat and to bake with. Juices dripping down wrists as we messily ate these as children remain the epitome of summer to me. The summery, light and floral notes of a perfectly ripe peach have excited writers and lyricists for hundreds of years - and who am I to disagree with such an amorous heritage? 

Cherries can often be hit and miss, especially as so many of them are commercially grown every summer. A truly delicious cherry - heady, sharp and deep in colour - is something to be cherished. This cake, rich with honey and toasty almonds, was my answer to that challenge. A modern version (I hope!) of the traditional Bakewell. 
6 eggs
75g runny honey
75g light brown sugar
200g ground almonds
60g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g butter, melted
150g cherries, stoned and halved
75g flaked almonds

Heat the oven to 160°C and line a 9" cake tin with baking parchment. 

Separate the eggs, and place the whites in a large, clean bowl. Whisk the whites into soft peaks.

While the whites are whisking, weigh the honey, light brown sugar, ground almonds, buckwheat flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract into a separate bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the egg yolks and melted butter, and mix until well combined.

Add one large spoon of the whites to the second mixture. Beat in to loosen the mixture. Next, add the remaining egg whites and carefully fold until combined, working to retain as much air as possible. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin.

Stone and half the cherries, and arrange on top of the cake. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Test the cake and, if not completely baked, cook for a further 10-15 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve with lightly whipped cream and an extra drizzle of honey.

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Yoghurt, honey and almond panna cotta

28 May 2017

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to spend three months training at Leiths School of Food and Wine here in London.

Professional cookery school is something that I had deliberated over for years. I was always desperate to do it but - like most people - couldn't quite join the dots financially between a year of unemployment, living in London and, of course, coughing up for the fees themselves. And oh my, those alone looked pretty eye-watering to me.

So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered that Leiths were introducing a brand new professional course, designed specifically for people like me. Set across evenings and weekends, the course could be fit around a full-time 9-5 job and, while still a big outlay financially, was significantly cheaper than foundation or diploma courses.

And so, from January through to March, life was point blank crazy. Twice a week, I would get to work in East London for 7.30am to ensure I could leave on time. Come 5pm, there was the mad dash across London at rush hour, laden as always with various bags of clothes and a rucksack jangling with tuppaware boxes. Next, the inevitable sprint from the tube station to school, before throwing on chef whites and studying until 10pm. I'd usually falling asleep on the tube back to Brixton, before arriving home wide awake and deciding there could be no better time than 11.30pm on a Monday to practise filleting a flat fish or filling choux buns with pastry cream.

There is no denying that this is an intense way of working towards a professional cookery qualification. On those nights that I wasn't at school, I was practising the skills I'd learnt, writing time plans for the next class and - occasionally - attempting to maintain some loose form of a social life. The later took a bit of a beating, but it could not have been more worth it. The joy I felt at learning again, improving as a professional cook and meeting a whole new group of incredible, like-minded people was off the scale.

Leiths, I love you. Reader, if you are also toying with professional training but - like me - can't see how to make it work, I implore you to look into the Evening Essentials Course. You can find all the details here.

This recipe was inspired by one of my favourite recipes that we cooked on the course. My recipe uses yoghurt in place of cream, which makes these a little less indulgent, but no less delicious. Whenever yoghurt features in one of my recipes, I always recommend using Rachel's Organic. It is totally delicious and the texture is perfect for set desserts such as this.
100g flaked almonds
150g whole milk
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
350g Rachel's Organic honey yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 gelatine leaves
Honey, for drizzling
Bee pollen, to decorate (optional)

Makes six individual panna cotta

Brush six moulds or glasses very lightly with sunflower oil. Invert so that any excess oil can drip away. 

Heat your oven to 180°C and line a large baking sheet with parchment. Spread the flaked almonds evenly over the sheet, then toast in the oven for around 10 minutes. They should be a deep golden colour and smell fragrant and nutty. Watch them closely as they burn quickly if over toasted. Reserve 10g of toasted almonds to decorate the panna cotta with before serving.

Place the milk, caster sugar and salt in a small saucepan, and warm over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the milk has reached scalding point. Remove from the heat and tip in the toasted almonds. Stir, then leave to infuse for 25-30 minutes. Do not leave for any longer, as the nuts will soak up too much of the milk. 

Once infused, pass the milk through a fine sieve into a sauce pan. Discard the soaked almonds. Separately, place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water, and leave for 5 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, return the infused milk to the heat and gently warm over a low heat. Add the softened gelatine, and remove the milk from the heat immediately. Stir until the gelatine is completely melted, returning to a low heat very briefly if needed. 

Stir through the yoghurt and the vanilla extract. Divide the mixture between the oiled moulds, then place in the fridge to set. They will take 1-2 hours to set completely. 

When you are ready to serve the panna cotta, dip each mould quickly in a bowl of boiled water, then turn out onto a small plate. Drizzle with runny honey, and decorate with bee pollen and the reserved toasted almonds. 

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