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Meringue Bark

31 March 2019

I'm not usually a lover of pastel baking. Pale pinks and yellows can quite easily teeter over into Cath Kidston and bunting territory and, while there's certainly a time and a place for both of those things, I try where possible to keep away from the twee when it comes to baking. What can I say - I prefer the Paris patisserie look to the village fete version, which is why I'm usually reticent to go too pastel in my approach. 

But as Easter approaches - intrinsically light, fresh and hopeful - I'm more prepared to let a glimmer of pastel into my kitchen. A touch of colour in meringue is somehow so much chicer than in a cake; with its cloud-like texture, there's something of the ethereal here which I can definitely get on board with. 

You guys shared so much kind feedback about my homemade Christmas gift guide series, which got me thinking about what you might like to make for loved ones come the four-day weekend. Meringue  calls for just two base ingredients and, once you've mastered the basic recipe, where you take things from there with decoration and colour is entirely down to you. For me, part of the joy of these shards is their irregularity, so don't get too het up on the slicing - pack them up in cellophane, or use to top your Easter pavlova. 
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
Gel food colouring
Edible decorations - try dried flowers, rainbow sprinkles or chopped candied peel

Heat your oven to 120°C, and line three large trays with baking paper. In a squeaky clean bowl (you can lightly rub it with a slice of lemon first to ensure it is dust free), whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. With the beater still running, add the caster sugar one spoonful at a time, whisking for ten seconds or so after each addition. This is to ensure the sugar is completely absorbed (which will prevent the meringue from weeping when it bakes).

Divide the meringue into three bowls, and add a dab of gel colouring to each. Mix to fully distribute the colouring. Spoon each batch of meringue onto separate baking sheets, and use a palette knife or offset spatula to spread the mixture thinly and evenly over the tray - you want the meringue to be about 1/2 a cm thick. Sprinkle with your chosen toppings. 

Place in the oven to bake for 25-40 minutes, until the centre feels only very slightly soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and lift the paper carefully onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Break into shards and serve.  

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Grapefruit granita

16 March 2019

It's mid-March and I can feel spring around the corner - phew! I don't know about you, but I've struggled this winter. The lack of daylight and sunshine has really got to me this year, and I find myself daydreaming about long weekends and warmer climates more and more as I battle my way onto the tube every morning and evening. 

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Spiced pineapple crumble

31 January 2019

What could be more welcome in the throws of January than a taste of the tropics? I love visiting our local market at this time of year - crates of sunny citrus fruits, fluorescent pink forced rhubarb and tropical pineapple, papaya and mango bring colour and brightness to these grey winter days.

A dose of vivid colour - and flavour - is certainly welcome in the kitchen too, and there is something lifting and affirming about having a fruit bowl full of bright tropical fruits on the side at this time of year. I adore fresh pineapple - sliced up and served with a squeeze of lime, a little brown sugar and even a sprinkling of chilli flakes - but also love to cook with it for warming winter puddings. If you can't get fresh pineapple, then make this with tinned or Nature's Finest potted pineapples as I do below. Gently cooked before the topping is added, this recipe sees the pineapple transformed from sharp and acidic to sweet, jammy and fragrant.
1 small pineapple, peeled and diced, OR 1 400g pot of Nature’s Finest pineapple pieces
1 lime
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 
50g coconut sugar
60g almonds
30g wholemeal or spelt flour 
60g oats
Pinch salt
30g coconut oil
30g macadamia nuts
20g coconut flakes

Heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan. If using fresh pineapple, cut off the rind, top and tail, then use your knife to remove any seeds from the flesh. Dice up and cut away from the core, discarding the hard middle. If using tinned or potted,  drain the pineapple, retaining 50ml of the juice. Place the pineapple and retained juice in a small pan. If using fresh pineapple, place this in the pan with 50ml of water.

Add the juice and zest of the lime, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and 30g of the coconut sugar to
the pan. Set over a low heat, allowing the sugar to dissolve. Continue cooking until the
pineapple is fragrant and well coated in the coconut sugar syrup. Remove from the heat, and
transfer to an ovenproof dish.

To make the topping, place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until ground to a fine,
sandy texture. Do not over grind - the nuts will become oily if over processed. Transfer the almonds to a large bowl. Add the remaining 20g of coconut sugar, flour, oats and salt. Whisk to combine.

Add the coconut oil. Use a fork to gently break the oil into the mixture. Once in small pieces,
use your finger tips to quickly rub the coconut oil into the flour. The mixture should look
crumbly and soft. Stir through the macadamia nuts and coconut flakes. Spread the topping over the pineapple.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the surface of the crumble is golden and the fruit is bubbling at
the sides.

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