Sweet and spicy cashews

These are very moreish. I recommend making them in small batches, as you’re likely to want to sit and eat them all!

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Sweet and spicy cashews

50g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
50g cashew nuts
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Put the sugar and water in a small pan and heat over a medium heat to make a caramel. Don’t stir it!
2. Once the syrup is a dark golden colour remove from the heat and stir in the nuts. Let the mix cool slightly before adding the sesame seeds, chilli flakes and cayenne pepper.
3. Spread out over greaseproof paper and allow to cool fully.

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Festive fruity compote

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but my vague aim for the coming year is to be more frugal and make sure our home is only filled with items we love and use regularly. In the spirit of using things up, this recipe is great for jazzing up leftover fruit from Christmas.

Fruity compote with port
The base for this is 2tbsp port, the zest and juice of one orange, 1 tbsp caster sugar and 1 cinnamon stick. Add these ingredients to a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the fruit you want the use up; plums and blueberries are particularly good, but anything goes here. If you’re using things like pears or apples, make sure they’re chopped into bite sized pieces. Simmer for at least one minute, or longer if you want the fruit to be softer. Serve while still warm.

Bonfire toffee blondies

I know we’re hurtling towards Christmas, but I’m just not ready for the festive season to begin so I’m clinging on to November. This recipe used up the last of the bonfire toffee I had in the house.

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Bonfire Toffee Blondies (makes 9)

250g butter
300g golden caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100g bonfire toffee, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and prepare a 20cm square baking tin by greasing and lining.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and set to one side.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until the mixture is frothy. Stir in the melted butter. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and add 50g of the toffee pieces and stir until just combined.

4. Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle the remaining toffee shards on the top. Bake for 25 minutes. Don’t overlook the blondies. The top should be set but it should still be a little bit gooey in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

Lychee sorbet

728A35CD-57ED-4AF5-8EA0-1382480ADF1AIt’s not really ice cream making season, but this is so easy if you have an ice cream making machine and it’s just delicious.

I’m so enamoured with this sorbet that I’m thinking of having a Chinese themed dinner party just so I can serve this for dessert.

Lychee Sorbet (serves 2)

1. Tip a 425g tin of lychees, including the juice, into a blender with a splash of lime juice and purée until smooth.

2. Sieve the mixture to get an nice smooth consistency.

3. Freeze the sorbet in the ice cream maker, following the instructions for the machine.

4. Allow to soften at room temperature for a while before serving.

Maple syrup cake

I’ve been trying to have a sort out of my ever expanding cookbook selection and take the opportunity to try some new recipes. This recipe was inspired by one in Tom Kerridge’s ‘Proper Pub Food’. He has a recipe for a maple syrup cake with a smoky flavour from a combination of using smoked butter and cooking it on a BBQ! Well it’s currently very grey and drizzly here, so a BBQ was out of the question, and smoked butter wasn’t a feasible ingredient either. Not to be put off, I improvised this version and found it was just what I needed to brighten my spirits on a rainy spring day.

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Smoky Maple Syrup Mini Cakes

200g Butter
150g Caster Sugar
4 tbsp Maple syrup
200g Self Raising flour
3 Eggs
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Extra maple syrup for drizzling over the top

1. Preheat oven to 180°C and prepare four small ramekin style cake tins by greasing well.

2. Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Sift in the flour and add the eggs. Mix well to combine. Finally stir in the maple syrup and smoked paprika. Make sure they are completely mixed in.

3. Pour into the ramekins and bake for 20 minutes until risen well. Check the cakes are cooked by inserting a metal skewer into the cake and checking it comes out clean.

4. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before carefully extracting the cakes. Drizzle a small amount of maple syrup on the top – not too much though, otherwise it’ll be too sweet! You want the smoky paprika taste to come through.

Lavender and coconut biscuits

Last summer we visited Norfolk and one of the highlights was visiting Norfolk Lavender and enjoying lavender cake AND lavender lemonade to wash it down.

 

I wanted to have a go at baking with some lavender. These are shortbread-style biscuits, but as I used gluten-free flour and dairy-free spread, I’m sticking with calling them biscuits. The dairy free spread was coconut flavour which adds a subtle twist to a traditional flavour. If you’re not feeding these to people with dietary requirements butter and plain flour will work just fine.

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Lavender and coconut biscuits (makes 10)

160g coconut Vitalite dairy free spread
75g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on the top after baking)
150g plain gluten free flour
80g cornflour
1 tsp dried edible lavender

1. Beat the spread and sugar together.

2. Sift in the flour and cornflour. Sprinkle in the lavender and mix together to make a smooth dough.

3. Press into a greased tin (20cm round) and prick all over with a fork. You can bake straight away, or chill for a few hours.

4. Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with caster sugar. While the dough is still soft mark out the slices with the tip of a sharp knife. Leave to cool then fully cut into slices.