Archive for the 'Diana Henry' Category

Chocolate, hazelnut and sherry cake with sherry-raisin yoghurt

November 13, 2009


I forgot to take any pictures of this in its intact state, but here: evidence that the leftovers went down well at work (look closely and you can see the remains of the lemon cake too). We had friends coming over who we hadn’t seen for aaages, and it seemed as good an excuse as any to crack open the bottle of pisco we’d brought back from holidays in Chile and make a batch of pisco sours. If you’ve never had a pisco sour, they’re delicious – the perfect pre-dinner drink. Just strong enough to put you in the right celebratory mood, but not so strong that you’re drunk before you move onto the wine (if you only have one, which is probably advisable). The method of making seems to vary, but we made ours with lemon juice, egg white and icing sugar all shaken up with the pisco in a giant thermos flask and it was an almost exact recreation of our favourite holiday aperitif (perhaps a bit tarter, but the Chileans seem to have a big case of the sweet tooth. Oh, and they probably used a proper cocktail shaker).

The cake was one I’d had my eye on for a while, because of  course I am nigh on obsessed with putting nuts into everything I cook, and I love sherry. I hadn’t made it yet because of these exact things: I know many people for whom the addition of nuts, alcohol and raisins to an innocent chocolate cake would be horrifying. Presented with the opportunity to make it for people who I didn’t know for sure were chocolate-nut haters, the urge was too strong and I pressed on, with grudging consent from Tom (I think I might have broken his spirit).

We brought this out after a main of Catalan chicken with picada, which was, well, fine. It’s just that it also contained raisins soaked in sherry and ground almonds and I expected a little more of it. Perhaps sherry in cake form is more likely to win over its detractors. And don’t worry if you are such a person – the sherry flavour is really quite gentle, a faint whiff of booze rather than an all-out assault, meaning this sits somewhere between a grown-up dessert cake and an afternoon coffee cake.

Chocolate, hazelnut and sherry cake  Serves 8 (generously – could easily have stretched to more)

The recipe introduces itself as follows: “Chocolate and sherry – a marriage made in heaven”, and, you know, I think I might be tempted to agree. It also suggests you treat yourself to a glass of Pedro Ximenez sherry to go with it, which I imagine would be absolutely heavenly, but I was loathe to delve into pre- and post-dinner drinks on a weeknight.

150g plain chocolate (mine was 70% cocoa solids)
75g unsalted butter (I had salted butter so I just left out the salt later on)
125ml dry fino sherry (I used Solera Jerezana dry oloroso, from Waitrose because I wasn’t about to buy two bottles of sherry for one cake)
6 medium eggs, separated
160g caster sugar
150g hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (actually, I would err on the side of finely chopped. And don’t do what I did – realise you’re one egg short and run to the shops, forgetting the hazelnuts toasting under the grill. This makes a lot of burnt nuts)
a pinch of salt
55g self-raising flour, sifted
55g cocoa powder, sifted
icing sugar for dusting

for the sherry-raisin yoghurt or cream:
250g raisins
250ml oloroso sherry
300ml double cream
60ml greek yoghurt or fromage frais (I only had greek yoghurt, so I substituted the cream for yoghurt)
4 tbsp icing sugar

Grease a 22cm spring-form cake tin (clearly Diana Henry has a 22cm cake tin. I have a 23cm cake tin. Maybe this is why neither of her cake recipes have worked out quite right for me). Line it with greaseproof paper.

Put the chocolate, sherry and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Let the mixture cool.

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until glossy (wasn’t quite sure what she meant by this – I whisked for a few minutes until it was quite pale yellow). Add the cooled chocolate mixture and 70g of the hazelnuts. Beat the egg-whites until fairly stiff (I took this to mean just before the stiff peak stage). Using a large metal spoon, loosen the chocolate mixture with a big spoonful of egg white (again, ? I just stirred it slightly). Fold in the rest of the egg white, flour, cocoa and salt (if using).

Pour into the tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180c for 50 minutes (this is absolute madness. I took mine out at 30 and it was slightly overdone, and I have an oven thermometer so I know the oven was the right temperature.) Do the skewer test to see if it’s done. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for half an hour before turning it out.

In a small saucepan, heat the raisins in the sherry for the cream. When the sherry is about to reach boiling point, turn the heat off and leave the raisins to plump up.

Whip the cream (if using) and stir the yoghurt and sugar into it. Add the raisins with their soaking liquid (I would actually advise not adding the soaking liquid as it turned it an unappetising colour and it was pretty boozy already. This might have just been because I mucked about leaving out the cream though). Check the sweetness.

Dust the surface of the cake with icing sugar and scatter the rest of the hazelnuts on top (oops! I forgot. Blame the pisco sour). Finish with another light dusting of icing sugar and serve with dollops of the cream/yoghurt.

Adapted from Diana Henry’s ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’.




Lemon and rosemary cake

November 9, 2009


Saturday was shaping up nicely, the beginning of one of those luxurious weekends in which you have only the loosest of plans and can suit yourself. We swung by the new Ashmolean, which has just re-opened after a £61m renovation project: it was all light and glass and whispered praise and I took a serious fancy to a Japanese picnic box in the shape of a boat. Then we had a rather nice light lunch of quail’s eggs with roasted cumin salt, Cumbrian air-dried ham and Montgomery cheddar with quince, all washed down with Cotswold autumn beer, in the ultra modern new rooftop restaurant. Afterwards, we headed to the covered market so Tom could get his hair cut and I could buy the necessary ingredients for dinner, which I had determined would be a recipe I’d had my eye on for months: sausages with lentils and sweet and sour figs. Sausages were no problem – after some consideration, a winning combination of Toulouse, venison and Oxford pork were duly purchased – but where were the tempting, juicy-looking figs I had seen last week? “We’re all out,” said the woman on the greengrocer’s stall, “but we’ll be getting Brazilian ones in next week.” This was just the tip, as it later transpired, of an Oxford-wide fig shortage. We visited every fruit and vegetable purveyor on the Cowley road and all we found were 6 semi-rotten specimens shoved in a box down the back of a shelf. “What happened to being able to get anything you want whenever you want?” I moaned. The light lunch, while pleasant, was wearing off and leaving me fig-less, hungry and fatigued. We had to go to the off-license we fondly refer to as the ‘magic booze shop’ to buy some campari to cheer me up.

So, instead of sausages with sweet and sour figs we had a somewhat less glamourous sausage, bacon and onion casserole, but after a nice sit down and a cold Americano it seemed like just the thing to accompany the sound of fireworks from across the street. For dessert, we had this lemon and rosemary cake.

Lemon and rosemary cake  Serves 8

I would have liked the flavour of rosemary to have been a bit more pronounced here: I don’t think I used enough – although it smelled so fragrant while it was cooking! After some debate we concluded that a ‘sprig’ of rosemary is one of the little branches of herb, not the little bunches of needles attached to it.

55g stale white bread
100g blanched almonds
2 tsp rosemary leaves
200g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
200ml olive oil
4 eggs, beaten (I used large)

for the syrup:
juice of 2 lemons
125ml water
60g caster sugar
2 sprigs rosemary

for the garnish:
icing sugar
berries (optional)
yoghurt or cream to serve

Put the bread, almonds and rosemary leaves in a food processor and grind as finely as possible. Put the mixture in a bowl and stir in the sugar and baking powder. Add the lemon zest, olive oil and eggs and stir well.

Pour the batter into a greased 22cm spring-form cake tin (my tin was 23cm). Put in a cold oven and set the heat to 180c. Bake for 45-50 mins (mine took much less than this – I kind of forgot to set the timer, but I think it was done at about 30 mins so check early). A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. Leave in the tin for 5-10 mins to cool and turn out onto a plate (mine seemed pretty well wedded to the base so I just left it in and served it from that).

Make the syrup by gently heating the ingredients together. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat and boil for 5 mins.

Pierce holes in the cake while it’s still warm and pour over the syrup, discarding the rosemary. Leave the cake to cool and when ready to serve, dust with icing sugar and serve with berries or citrus fruits in syrup and yoghurt.

From Diana Henry’s ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’.

Date-stuffed mackerel with spicy broth and couscous

November 6, 2009


I’m trying to be bolder with fish. Because, really, there’s nothing to be scared of, so why do I rarely eat it whole and unashamedly fish-shaped instead of in neatly filleted form? Mackerel is relatively cheap, good for you, and sustainable so I’m after cultivating a taste for it other than smoked and sealed in supermarket packs. It just so happens that I love dates, so this seemed as good a place as any to start. First stop, the fishmonger’s in the covered market, where I promptly humiliated myself by asking if they had any mackerel while, ahem, standing right in front of it. In my defence, they were bigger than usual…

So, mackerel successfully purchased, gutted, and placed in a carrier bag, I skipped home…where I promptly thrust the resulting pungent whiff and fish-blood dripping package in the fridge until Tom came home to wash away the gory bits. I, meanwhile, busied myself with mixing chopped dates and diced cubes of butter and toasted almonds into a stuffing. Perhaps I’m not quite ready to graduate from fish cookery school just yet.


Luckily, if you too are a nervous mackerel eater, this may be just the dish. The stuffing is very sweet and rich, the broth is aromatic with the must of saffron and a gentle kick of cayenne, there’s a lot going on that the fishiness stands up to but is also slightly tamed by. I was surprised, as someone who can find mackerel and sardines too dense and powerful, how much I liked it here. It also, with dates and cinnamon and ground ginger and heat, feels almost festive: “this would make a great Christmas dinner”, as Tom put it. Well, I think I could be happy with that.


Date-stuffed mackerel with spicy broth and couscous  Serves 2

You’ll need approximately one mackerel per person, but mine were whoppers, as noted above – about twice the weight specified. We saved what we couldn’t eat and I tossed it into a salad of boiled waxy potatoes, green beans and walnut pesto for lunch today. I halved the amount of stuffing, but you’ll want to double it again if your fish are as big as ours or they won’t be stuffed as much as comfortably full (don’t double the spices).

2 x 175g mackerel, scaled and gutted
olive oil
around 1/2 tsp each of ground ginger and cinnamon
150ml fish stock
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp, or a good pinch, of saffron threads
small bunch of coriander

for the stuffing:
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp olive oil
5 moist dates (I used deglet nour)
10g blanched almonds, toasted
about 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 small lemon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp harissa
15g butter

for the couscous:
100g couscous
100ml water
1/2 tbsp olive oil

For the stuffing, gently saute the onion in a small pan until soft and translucent. Tip into a bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Pit the dates and roughly chop. Crush or chop the almonds quite small – you want some chunks and some powdery bits. Dice the butter. Add the dates and almonds to the onions with all the other stuffing ingredients and some salt and pepper. Mix everything together with your hands until sticking together.

Preheat the oven to 180c. Wash the mackerel (or get obliging boyfriend/housemate to do it). Bloody bits will make it taste bitter, so be thorough. With a sharp knife, open out the slit in the tail end a bit more so you have a bigger pocket for the stuffing.

Pour a little olive oil into the bottom of an ovenproof dish or baking tray. Season the inside of the fish, fill them with the stuffing, and lay them in the dish. Drizzle a little oil on the outside and rub with the ginger and cinnamon. Season again on the outside. Roast in the preheated oven for about 20 mins, or maybe 10 mins longer if your fish are on the large size. You can tell if it’s done by having a poke with a knife and seeing if the flesh pulls away easily from the bones.

Put the couscous in a bowl, boil the water, and pour it over. Cover with a teatowel for 5-10 mins until all the water has been absorbed, then fluff up the grains with a fork (I’ve simplified the original instructions to the way I normally do couscous, because I wasn’t about to faff about with two soakings and a steaming).

Bring the stock to the boil and add the cayenne. Pour a little boiling water on the saffron and let it steep for a few minutes, then add that too. Taste for seasoning.

Chop the coriander roughly. Get out two big, flat soup or pasta bowls (we had to cut our fishies’ heads off to get them to fit) and divide the couscous between them. Pour over the broth. Top with the mackerel and strew with coriander.

Adapted from Diana Henry’s ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’.

Kushary and roast vegetables with zhug

November 4, 2009


Kushary (or kushari, koshary or koshari) is one of my favourite meals ever. In fact, I think if I had to live off only one thing for the rest of my life – an unlikely scenario, I admit – this might well be an almost perfect solution. What it is, if it’s not crossed your path in life, is an Egyptian pilaf, a mix of lentils, long-grain rice and small pasta like macaroni. It’s served with a spicy tomato sauce, and, usually, a garnish of fried onions. It’s closely related to another Egyptian pilaf called megadarra or mujaddara which is usually just rice and lentils with the onions but no tomato sauce. I prefer it with pasta, of course (see also: potato and rosemary pizza, spaghetti and breadcrumbs), although the simpler variation is nice if you’re having it as a side or with a selection of smaller dishes. I usually eat kushary as a main course and, for me, it’s the ultimate comfort food: starchy and homogenous enough to be eaten soothingly out of a big bowl, tasty enough that you want to carry on eating it until you burst.

I had some oddly summery vegetables left over from my veg box (is it me, or shouldn’t I be getting bumpy root like things by now, not sweetcorn and peppers and courgettes?) so I decided to roast them up as a side dish, although it is altogether possible that the main reason I made this particular recipe was that I love the word ‘zhug’. Maybe I should have called this blog Aioli to Zhug.

Anyway. Zhug is a fiery hot sauce from Israel with (a lot of) chilli, cardamom and caraway. Sounds odd? I think I’m still getting my head round it, and I’ve already tried it. According to the recipe, it makes a good marinade for chicken or lamb, but I think I’d prefer it where it’s not too late to control the amount of it. If you have any labneh left over from yesterday’s pilaf, that’s recommended with the vegetables and some warm bread.


Kushary  Serves 4-6 (I’d say 6 would be pushing it, but I do like it a lot)

I’ve reordered the recipe slightly in a way that made a bit more sense to me and left out a couple of steps which seemed like unecessary work and/or washing up.

110g long-grain rice (I used brown basmati)
140g brown or green lentils
8tbsp olive oil (I think I used a lot less)
1 onion, roughly chopped
75g macaroni or other small pasta shapes. Or, snap some spaghetti/vermicelli into short lengths.
1 tsp ground cumin
400ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
2 onions, sliced

For the sauce:
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil (I left this out)
1 tsp harissa
2 tsp soft brown sugar

To make the sauce, just put all the ingredients in a saucepan, stir, and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 mins, stirring occasionally, and you’re done. You can puree it with a hand blender or in a food processor to get a smoother texture, which I would recommend although it seems a little fussy, because otherwise the bits of celery are a bit stringy and unpleasant.

You’re supposed to rinse and soak your rice for 2 hours and your lentils for half an hour, but I always forget and nothing is ruined, so I can only conclude that it’s not essential. Either way, cook your lentils for 15 minutes in boiling water.

Cook the pasta separately in boiling water until al dente, then drain and saute in 1 tbsp of the oil until starting to colour. Set aside.

Add a little more of the oil to the pan if necessary and saute the chopped onion until starting to brown. Stir in the cumin, lentils and rice and cook for about a minute. Add the stock/water and some seasoning. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and let cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Mine took more like 30 and some more stock, but that’s because I used brown rice. If your stock runs out before the rice is cooked, just keep adding more water and reducing it down until the rice absorbs it and is soft to the bite. Then stir in the pasta, cover, and leave on a low heat for 5 minutes to brown the bottom.

Heat the rest of the oil until very hot and brown the sliced onions in the same pan as the rice mixture, breaking up the crispy bits from the bottom (I used my trusty balsamic onions from last week so omitted this step). Check the seasoning and serve with the sauce.

Zhug  Recipe halved to serve 2 or more

I’m assuming I don’t need to tell you how to roast vegetables – just chop a selection of vegetables of your choice into large pieces, drizzle over olive oil, season, and they should take about 40 mins in a 190c oven.

3 medium green chillies, halved and deseeded (I used one green, one red)
2 red bird’s eye chillies (I only had dried bird’s eyes so chucked in one of those)
seeds from 4 cardamom pods
3/4 tsp caraway seeds
1-2 garlic cloves
handful of coriander
50ml olive oil
squeeze of lime juice

The instructions say to put everything in the food processor except for the oil and lime juice, but I found the spice seeds were a bit small to get ground that way, so you may want to pre-grind them with a pestle and mortar. Once everything’s in the food processor, add the olive oil as you blend, until you have a sauce of a thick but pourable consistency. Add lime and salt to taste.

Adapted from Diana Henry’s ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’.

Mograbiah with spinach, labneh and roasted tomatoes

November 3, 2009


This week’s book is Diana Henry’s ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’. Ooh, I was excited about this one. I love this book. Not only is it full of exactly the kinds of things that I want to eat for dinner, but her writing is wonderful: so elegant and so evocative that I feel like Alice in Wonderland tumbling into a daydream world, only it’s filled with rosewater and lavender and figs instead of rabbits and mad hatters and the queen of hearts. The pages are covered with post-it notes marking things I wanted to make the last time I took it down from the shelf, but this time I found a completely different set of things caught my interest – a demonstration of how your taste for what you want to eat changes by the day, the week, the month. Among the things that caught my eye: lemon and rosemary cake; greek herb pilaf with prawns and feta; catalan chicken with picada; sausages and lentils with sweet and sour figs; chocolate, hazelnut and sherry cake with sherry-raisin cream; fig anchoiade…frankly, there’s not much in this book I don’t want to make.

This one recipe, however, I knew was going to be a great dinner to start the week, and I knew because I’d made it before. It’s a good example of how Henry’s recipes pile in as many delicious things as possible: sauteed spinach, fresh, creamy cheese, spicy-sweet tomatoes, caramelised onions, all tangled about and set off perfectly with the softness of the starch. The original recipe used bulgur wheat, but I’d run out so used mograbiah – the large-sized couscous, also known as (I believe) pearl couscous or Israeli couscous. I also happened to have roast tomatoes and roast onions in my fridge from my Skye Gyngell experiments, so dinner was on the table with almost no effort at all, but I’ve included the notes for the original recipe’s chilli roast tomatoes and cinnamon onions below.

Mograbiah with spinach, labneh and roasted tomatoes  Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side

Recipe halved from the original as other half has issues with ‘small textured’ starches so had cheese on toast instead. I initially thought what I ended up with a bit small for a main, but it is unexpectedly filling – if you’re really hungry, up the quantities.

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
100g mograbiah or bulgur wheat
200-300ml chicken or vegetable stock
150g spinach
small bunch of mint, leaves chopped

for the labneh:
200g greek yoghurt (I used the fat free yoghurt I had in the fridge – worked fine)
1 garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt

for the tomatoes: (quantities for a full batch as they’re good to have around)
12 plum tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-1 1/2 tsp harissa
2 tsp soft dark brown sugar

for the onions: (also full batch)
2 onions, very finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp soft dark brown sugar
juice of 1/2 small lemon

You need to start the labneh the day before, but it’s no trouble. Line a sieve with cheesecloth or muslin (I normally just use the cut off foot end of an old pair of tights, which Tom thinks is disgusting, but I promise they are clean) and set it over a small bowl. Dump the yoghurt in the cloth and tie the ends up over the top. Put it in the fridge for 24 hours. That’s it! Excess moisture will drain out and leave you with a firm, cheese-like texture. When it’s done, add the garlic and salt.

For the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 180c. Halve them lengthways and put them in a small roasting tin. Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, harissa and a bit of salt and pepper and pour over the tomatoes. Turn them over to coat them in the mixture but turn them back cut side up for the oven. Sprinkle over the sugar and cook for 40-45 minutes until shrivelled somewhere between a normal and a sundried tomato, and sweet.

Now the pilaf. Saute the chopped onion in half the olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Tip in the bulgur or mograbiah, pour on the stock, and season. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and let the grains simmer in the stock for about 15 mins – if using bulgur it should have absorbed all the stock and you can cover the pot and leave it to fluff up for another 10 minutes. If using mograbiah, you may need more stock as it’s less absorbent and doesn’t cook as well in small amounts of liquid, so use a larger amount and boil off any excess liquid if necessary. Or you could cook it separately, drain it, and add back to the onions and garlic.

Meanwhile, take the stalks off the spinach, wash the leaves and chop. Cook the leaves in a covered pot with the water still clinging to them (although it occurred to me after the fact that you could possibly wilt the spinach leaves in the stock for the grains and save yourself a pan and a few oil calories). When wilted, cool slightly and squeeze out any excess moisture. Then saute in the remaining oil from the first step and season. Stir into the bulgur/mograbiah.

Quickly cook the sliced onions in very hot olive oil until golden brown and starting to crisp. For the last minute that they’re cooking, add the cinnamon and sugar. Stir until the sugar melts, then add a squeeze of lemon juice and season.

Layer up your pilaf in a shallow bowl or receptacle of your choice. Bulgur/mograbiah first, then half the mint, then the tomatoes, then the other half of the mint. Break the labneh into lumps and scatter over the top, then finish with the onions.

Adapted from Diana Henry’s ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’.