Archive for the 'Sweet things' Category

Almond and orange florentines

April 14, 2010

I’m currently enjoying a week of unemployment as I take a break between leaving work and starting my course. In between running around on minor errands that have suddenly grown in importance now I know I only have a week to do them – must return library books! and go to the post office! and get my hair cut! – I’m occupying myself in the obvious way, that is, cooking elaborate meals and snacks.

I also have a deep-seated fear of waste which means that any extended period away from home is preceded by a desperate attempt to use everything in the fridge. Even though Tom will still be here, and presumably eating, I don’t really trust him not to recklessly forget to use up that half-empty tub of cream cheese and, god forbid, throw it away. I’m going to have to try not to think about it.

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a while because there’s something about florentines; they just seem so elegant for a biscuit, and you don’t come across one often so they have an elusive, special occasion quality. When I realised I could also neatly use up the two egg whites left over from macaroon making, it was a sure thing. These aren’t actually a traditional florentine, which usually includes nuts and dried fruit, but a very simple, crisp biscuit showcasing the dainty flavour of the almonds. You can also brush one side with chocolate, which is good too. I like the idea of using them as a sort of ice-cream wafer, but so far haven’t got beyond eating them with an afternoon cup of coffee in my new charity shop teacups.

Almond and orange florentines  Makes 16-20

vegetable oil for brushing
2 free-range egg whites (about 60g)
100g icing sugar
260g flaked almonds
grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 150c. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and brush with vegetable oil. I bought a silicone baking sheet after Christmas and I can’t recommend it highly enough – no need for oil, and there’s never any stickage. You cut it to fit your trays, and afterwards you wash it and it’s ready to go again. Anyway, I used this for two of my trays but had to use the greaseproof paper on the final tray, and I did find myself peeling tiny bits of paper off those. So I guess I’d say be quite generous with the oil.

Have a bowl of cold water and a fork at hand. Put the egg whites in a large bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and add the flaked almonds and orange zest. Mix gently together. Now, dip your hand in the water and pick up small handfuls of the mix, making little mounds on the baking tray. Dip the fork in the water and flatten each mound into a thin biscuit – they should be about 8cm in diameter but you don’t want too many gaps between the almond flakes. Continue until all the mixture has been used up.

Place the baking tray/s in the oven and bake until the florentines are golden. The recipe says 12 minutes, but mine took closer to 20.

Allow to cool in the trays and then remove and store in an airtight container – be careful, as they’re liable to break. They should keep for 4-5 days.

From Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s ‘Ottolenghi’.


Bread pudding

March 29, 2010

Not to be confused with bread and butter pudding, although it does contain bread and indeed butter. The main difference here is that, instead of the bread being baked in a custard, after being soaked in milk it’s mushed together and baked in a tray so that you get something altogether more solid and with a crusty sugary top.

You can serve this warm with custard, in which case it’s slightly softer but still dense, almost the consistency of a thick porridge or a really stodgy crumble, but when cool its density makes it quite cake-like, so any leftovers are good in slices at room-temperature with a cup of tea. I think you could easily get away with eating it for breakfast, even if the idea of cake for breakfast usually seems alarmingly hedonistic (it does to me).

Having eaten my first bread and butter pudding shockingly recently (custard was something I had textural issues with as a child and it’s taken me a while to get over) I like to think I’m making up for lost time in the world of sweetened stale bread. I now love bread and butter pudding, and although this is quite different, I like it a lot too.

Bread pudding  Serves 4 or more

8 slices of stale bread (I used sourdough)
300ml milk
200g dried fruit (I used sultanas, which are probably obligatory, plus cranberries and figs because they’re my favourite)
zest of 1 orange, grated
100g dark brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice (whoops! forgot to put this in)
50g butter, melted
2 tbsp caster sugar

Cut the crusts off the bread and soak the slices in milk for 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze out any excess liquid (the recipe suggests putting the bread in a colander with something heavy on top for a few minutes). Heat the oven to 180c.

Move the bread to a bowl and mush it up with a fork until it breaks down into a soft, even consistency. Chop up any large pieces of dried fruit and mix all of the fruit into the bread mix with the orange zest, brown sugar, mixed spice and butter. Mix well.

Grease a 20cm x 20cm baking tray and scoop in the mixture. Roughly level the top and sprinkle with the caster sugar. Now, the recipe says to bake the pudding for an hour and a half. I trustingly left it in the oven while I got on with eating some beef stew and dumplings, but it ended up a bit charred around the edges and the raisins on top were cindered. It was fine, but quite chewy. I think check after 45 minutes and perhaps about an hour would do it. Leave in the tin for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Adapted from Tom Norrington-Davies’ ‘Just Like Mother Used To Make’.

Mini banoffee pots

March 24, 2010

After making my millionaire’s shortbread, I had half a tin of condensed milk left over. I also had half a pot of cream in the fridge from a toffee sauce I’d made at the weekend to pour over sticky date cakes. There were bananas in the fruit bowl and there were biscuits in the cupboard. If I believed in a god, it would be the god of kitchen synchronicity, and he was clearly telling me something: child, go forth and make banoffee pie.

Now, generally I am not in favour of daintying up puddings into dining table desserts. The banoffee pie is resplendent in its tackiness, and that’s how it should stay. However, I only had the ingredients for half the quantity of a full-sized pie, and while I own much marginally useful kitchen equipment, I do not own a very small tart tin. Out of such adversity an idea was borne: why not construct the layers into ramekins, creating individual sized banoffees?

Actually, I was quite pleased with the result. They’re pretty cute, as mini things generally are, and are highly edible, rich and satisfying while feeling almost restrained – perfect for a mid-week pudding.

Mini banoffee pots  Makes about 4 ramekins, depending on the size of yours

For the base:
125g biscuits (I used a combination of ginger nuts and plain chocolate digestives, which worked fine)
25g butter

For the toffee:
65g butter
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tin condensed milk (about 200g)

For the rest:
1 – 1/2 ripe bananas
125ml double cream
1/2 tsp honey
cocoa for dusting

Crush your biscuits into crumbs – I used the time-honoured and highly satisfying method of putting them in a plastic bag and bashing them with a rolling pin. Melt your butter and stir in the biscuit crumbs thoroughly. Press the biscuit mixture into the base of 4 ramekins or other individual sized pots, glasses etc.

For the toffee, melt the butter and sugar together over a gentle heat. When the sugar has dissolved, stir in the syrup and condensed milk. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until it turns the colour of toffee. This took about 10 minutes for me (I don’t know what I did wrong last time). Pour the toffee over the biscuit bases and leave to chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

When the toffee is set, slice the banana/s and layer them over the top. Whip the cream with the honey (apparently this makes it impossible to overwhip) until thick and spread roughly on top of the bananas. Finish with a sieving of cocoa powder.

Adapted from Tom Norrington-Davies’ ‘Just Like Mother Used To Make’.

Millionaire’s shortbread

March 24, 2010

This week’s book is ‘Just Like Mother Used To Make’ by Tom Norrington-Davies, and I don’t know what it was about the full page photo of Millionaire’s Shortbread on page 71, but it was calling to me. I had to make it. It’s not something I associate in any way with my mother or my childhood – jam tarts, peppermint creams and gingerbread men, yes, sticky layers of biscuit-toffee-chocolate, no. It might be a caramel thing. Ever since I discovered salted caramel and obssessed over the Ottolenghi caramel macadamia cheesecake until finally making it at Christmas, I’ve been a little bit crazy about caramel, and I could see a thick, amber layer of it gleaming sweetly at me from between two slabs of chocolate and shortbread.

Luckily, I had the perfect excuse in the form of a work birthday which I’d been tasked with making cakes for. The person in question had told me quite specifically that she liked fruit-based cakes best, but I brushed that little detail aside. Fruit, schmuit. I was almost certain that this would probably be her second choice, if she had one.

Not everything went exactly to plan – I thought I’d make them in advance on Sunday to give me plenty of time to, you know, check they tasted alright (don’t worry, this recipe makes a lot of shortbread). This is not a quick afternoon tea treat – there are several stages of cooling involved, and if you’re me, an extra trip to the shop when you overheat the chocolate and it goes grainy and you have to buy more. Although, if you do do this, know that you can bake the overheated chocolate into brownies and it will be fine and no-one will be any the wiser (um, unless they’re reading this). Also, my caramel took much longer than the 3 minutes specified in the recipe (I might have been a bit over-generous with the condensed milk in my excitement.)

Don’t let any of this put you off – I may have had to take my first bite after dinner, several hours after the caramel craving first hit, but it was worth the wait. Oh yeah, they went down pretty well at work too.

Millionaire shortbread  Fills a 20cm x 40cm tray

A couple of notes: first, I would advise cutting these into small squares. That way, you can have one and not feel too bad when you have another one later. My first wedge was a bit hefty and I almost struggled to finish it.

Secondly, the recipe asks for milk chocolate, which I thought would be a bit sickly, so I used Bourneville as a compromise. In retrospect, I can see milk chocolate working, so I think go with whatever chocolate you like best. Also, Tom felt that there was not enough chocolate. I think he’s wrong, but have duly noted his comments.

For the shortbread:
125g butter (salted is best)
50g caster sugar
175g plain flour

For the caramel:
125g butter
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tin condensed milk (about 200g)

For the topping:
200g chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 20 x 40cm baking tray with baking parchment.

Rub all of the shortbread ingredients together with your fingertips as if you were making crumble or pastry, but keep going until a dough starts to form. This might seem at first like it’s never going to happen, but it will. You’ll know you’re there when you can squeeze it into a ball and it holds together. Press it evenly into the base of the tray. Now, it may look as if it won’t cover the base of the tray, but it will honestly turn out quite thick, so just keep squidging it in. Bake it for about 20 minutes and then leave to cool – it should still be pale.

For the caramel, heat the butter and sugar in a saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved add the syrup and condensed milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring it constantly, until it thickens and turns a toffee colour. For me this took more like 30 minutes – just remember to keep stirring and don’t let it get too hot. It firms up a lot as it cools, so don’t worry if it seems a little runny. When it reaches the desired colour, pour it over the shortbread. Put the whole lot in the fridge to set for an hour.

Now for the chocolate. Norrington-Davies melts the chocolate with 4 tablespoons of water to make it easier to pour and so the topping is smooth and doesn’t set completely hard. Having done this, I realised that I prefer my chocolate toppings to be hard and shattery rather than soft and smooth, so I would leave out the water next time. Whichever path you take, break the chocolate into pieces and melt it either over a pan of hot water or in the microwave (carefully!) Pour it over the toffee and biscuit and smooth it out. Put it back in the fridge for at least an hour before you go at it with a knife.

It will last in the fridge for about a week.

Adapted from Tom Norrington-Davies’ ‘Just Like Mother Used To Make’.

Sesame sweets

March 11, 2010

Yesterday afternoon I felt the need for something sweet, as I often do in the hours between lunch and late afternoon. I sort of wind down in that period and sometimes only the thought of something else nice to eat rouses me. Leafing through this week’s book, these sesame sweeties caught my attention – of course, I’m a sucker for anything with tahini and the deal was sealed with honey and coconut. They fall within the realm of a healthy snack, if you count using no refined sugar and two kinds of seeds, but they’re still fairly treat-like. Imagine what would happen if a Sesame Snap got in a fight with some fudge, and you might be close: sticky-sweet and dense and a little bit gritty and chewy, but not in a bad way.

Sesame sweets  Makes 7-10 delicious balls (their words!)

30g sesame seeds
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp tahini
30g toasted wheat germ, or substitute more sunflower seeds
pinch of salt
30g shredded coconut, plus more for rolling
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grind the sunflower seeds into a rough powder in a blender. Combine with all the other ingredients into a bowl and mix into a stiff dough – this will be messy and sticky, but you should have a consistency you can form into balls. (Add more of the wet or dry ingredients as needed.) You may find it helps to wet your hands. Shape into walnut sized balls and roll in shredded coconut. I’ve been keeping mine in the fridge.

*Note: these are suitable for vata only.

From Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai’s ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook’.

Banana bread with macadamia nuts

March 1, 2010

I learned from Orangette the technique of throwing age-mottled over-ripened bananas into the freezer for baking later. They look very underwhelming when you take them out, all blackened and sludgy, but if you can get past peeling off the slimy skin you’ll have a little puddle of pure, fragrant banana bread gold.

This was so easy I was suspicious: whizz bananas, butter, egg and milk in the blender and stir into a bowl of flour, sugar and chopped nuts. I thought my batter was a bit thick, but I shoved it in the oven and hoped for the best. Within minutes a warm, sweet-smelling fug filled the flat, causing me to leap up and check every 5 minutes until it was done. I managed to restrain myself for about 20 minutes before cutting a slice, and it was every bit as light as I could have hoped, with, to me, the perfect level of banana flavour, almost caramelly.

You could play with this quite a lot – I imagine many people would like icing, for a start, but I wanted to keep to the recipe first time. The notes state that you can also chargrill and serve it warm again the next day.

Banana bread with macadamia nuts  Serves 8+

2 very ripe bananas
100g butter, melted
3 tbsp milk
1 egg
250g plain flour
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
50g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180c and grease and line the bottom of a 500g loaf tin.

Throw the peeled bananas, butter, egg and milk into a blender and blend for a minute or two until smooth and creamy.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and nuts. Pour in the banana mixture and mix until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and roughly level. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until risen and browned – if it seems to be browning too much before it’s done, you can cover it loosely with silver foil. When ready, a skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Nice warm.

From Sophie Michell’s ‘Fabulous Food: Sexy Recipes for Healthy Living’.

Lapsang poached fruit with praline

February 17, 2010


This is a recipe from the Christmas section of Allegra’s Colour Cookbook, but I like it so much I make it all year round. I have a particular affinity for dried fruit compotes, although I suspect that’s not the coolest thing to admit. This one has whisky in, if it helps.

The book is divided into 4 main sections, each with their own colour theme: roughly speaking, winter is dark green, spring is light green, summer is red and autumn is orange. Christmas is a bonus section on the end. What I particularly like about Allegra McEvedy, aside from the fact that she writes knock-out recipes, is that she writes about the health benefits of food in an enthusiastic and inspiring way, without making nutrition sound joyless or crackpot. I think there’s a sense of generosity and care about her food. When I flick through this book, I’m happily reminded of how much of it I’ve made and enjoyed, and feel briefly satisfied; then I remember how much I want to make it all again and all the other things I haven’t made yet, and feel pangs of regret. It’s a good book, that’s what I’m saying.

As she rightly points out here, winter is a bit low on the fresh, seasonal fruit front, and dried fruit can be a useful staple to add some nutrients to your diet (figs, prunes, apricots and sultanas are a good source of iron, as well as vitamins and fibre). This works as a pudding, snack, or (sans booze and praline) a breakfast. I especially like it on porridge.

Lapsang poached fruit with praline  Serves 3

I tend to half the recipe as I live in a dried fruit lover household of one. Also, you probably want slightly smaller servings for breakfast. You can safely double everything if you prefer.

Feel free to change the choice of fruit to whatever you like best or happen to have in the cupboards.

For the poaching liquor:
1.5cm chunk of ginger, sliced lengthways
45g brown sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 lapsang souchong teabag
1 clove
2 cardamom pods
1/2 – 1 star anise (I use 1/2 if I find a broken one, don’t break one on purpose)
1 bay leaf
1/2 mace blade (optional – I never have mace)

For the praline:
75g caster sugar
60g flaked almonds
2 tbsp water

For the fruit:
2 apples
1 pear
90g prunes
6 dried apricots
3 dried figs
35g dried cranberries or cherries

To serve:
35ml whisky, or booze of your choice
thick yoghurt or whipped cream

Put all the ingredients for the poaching liquor in a saucepan with 350ml water. Bring to a gentle simmer, then turn down to the lowest heat and leave for 20 minutes.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, oiled, or even better, a silicone baking sheet. Put the sugar for the praline in a small saucepan, heavy-based if possible, and sprinkle over the water. Stir briefly so that all the sugar is wet. Set over a low to medium heat and wait for it to turn an amber, golden colour – this might take a while, but don’t forget about it or it’ll have gone too far behind your back. You can tilt the pan, but don’t stir the liquid. It helps if you have a light-coloured pan so that you can see the caramel changing colour, but in my experience most pans are black, unhelpfully. When it’s at the right colour and thickness, quickly stir in the flaked almonds, stir to coat, and tip them out onto the greaseproof paper. Leave to set.

Strain the poaching liquor into a large saucepan and reheat. Cut the apples and pears into quarters and core. I don’t bother to peel them.

Put the dried fruit into the poaching liquor – making sure any stones have been removed. Stew gently for about 10 minutes, then add the apples and pears and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until soft but still intact.

If you still have a lot of liquid left, take out the fruit with a holey spoon and leave the liquid to simmer down to a thicker consistency. Peel the almond praline off the greaseproof paper and break it into chunks.

Serve a portion of the fruit with some of the liquid poured over, and stir in the whisky. Top with yoghurt or whipped cream and praline pieces.

Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Colour Cookbook’.

Tahini cookies

February 1, 2010

If you like tahini, you’ll love these cookies. I don’t feel as if I should even have to write that sentence, since as far as I’m concerned tahini is one of the most delicious substances known to man and no opportunity to eat it should ever be missed, but people do exist who do not like it. I know, because I had dinner with one of them on Saturday night and she declared a houmous to be ‘too tahini-y’.

So, assuming that everyone who’s still reading likes tahini (chances are if you don’t you didn’t even get past the title of this post), these cookies are amazing. Sweet, but with that ethereal, nutty sesame taste that always makes me want to keep on eating something. They’re a great coffee or tea biscuit – crunchy, a little bit crumbly but not too much, with a bit of chew in the centre. There’s a handful of walnuts in there too, for interest, though I think you could easily leave them out. Or maybe substitute them for sultanas or chopped pistachios – I’m thinking the biscuit equivalent of halva here.

While we’ve got the tahini jar out, I thought I’d mention a few of the other things that I like to do with it. None of them are really recipes so much as ideas, but they’re worth knowing about if you’re tired of houmous and  cookies (seems unlikely, I know but…) and you’re wondering what else to do with that brown-cream sludge in your fridge.

1. On toast: tahini is a great topping for toast. It has that sort of unctuous mouth-coating quality that peanut butter has and goes well with tomatoes, for a savoury version, or try it with molasses or honey for something sweet.

2. In a similar vein, a spoonful of tahini and a spoonful of honey in thick plain yoghurt is a simple but delicious pudding, or indeed breakfast.

3. In ice-cream: semi-defrost a tub of vanilla ice-cream until soft and beat in 2 tablespoons tahini. Put it back in the freezer. Voila, tahini ice-cream!

4. Tahini sauce: mix 150ml tahini with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and a couple of spoonfuls of lemon juice and thin with water to a pourable consistency. Add more lemon juice to taste and more water as necessary – thinner makes a good salad dressing, thicker makes a good sauce for meat or fish. We had it last week over cod – just warm it slightly over the fish when it’s almost done. A good healthy tasty dinner.

Tahini cookies  Makes 24

50g butter
150g tahini
120g caster sugar
50g soft dark brown sugar
1 egg
190g plain flour
1 level tsp baking powder
145g walnuts, chopped

Heat the oven to 180c. Cream the butter, both sugars and tahini together until light and fully blended. Add the egg and beat well.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the same bowl and fold into the tahini mixture, along with the walnuts.

Shape small portions of dough into walnut-sized balls – it may seem a little crumbly, but don’t worry, it will become more malleable as you handle it. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of one hand and place on a couple of greased baking trays.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and firm at the edges. Leave on the baking trays to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

Adapted from Tess Mallos’ ‘The Complete Middle East Cookbook’.

Semolina pudding with blood orange syrup

January 27, 2010

I’m a terrible hoarder. Hidden about our flat (which, as I may have mentioned, is very small), are old bits of string, buttons, copious stashes of plastic bags, shoes with broken straps, unidentifiable wiring and multiple unused packets of obscure ingredients. Often in my enthusiasm for trying a new recipe, I rush out and buy something that I probably only need one tablespoon of for that particular meal and have no clear intention of ever using again.

Every now and then (usually in January, it seems like a January kind of thing to do) I go through my cupboards and sort them out, which generally means I end up with exactly the same unused and out of date things I had before, only now they’re neatly arranged. In the process of one of these sortings-out recently, I came across an almost full packet of semolina which I’d bought for a sort of Moroccan yoghurt cake which didn’t turn out very well. At the same time, I was leafing through the Greens cookbook and came across this recipe for a semolina pudding with blood orange syrup. It just so happened that I’d had a delivery of blood oranges in my veg box that week. I took this as a sign from the universe that it was meant to be.

I know semolina pudding may not sound very exciting, and to be honest, it wasn’t. But that’s really no bad thing, in my opinion. I think some puddings are meant to be on the plain and humble side, like rice pudding or baked apples or oatmeal cookies. It’s also, as you may have noticed, not very picturesque – apart from the rather kitsch pink syrup – but what it is, warm from the oven, is like cake, but softer, or maybe souffle, but heavier, and with the faint vanilla sweetness of custard. The next day, when I had some cold from the fridge, it had firmed up and I liked it even better.

Sadly, it only used a negligible proportion of my semolina stash, so either I’m making this every week or I have to find some other way to use it up…

Semolina pudding with blood orange syrup  Serves 4-6

For the pudding:
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
450ml milk
110g sugar
50g semolina
25g butter
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180c. Generously butter a baking dish – I used a 19cm round one. It doesn’t matter if the mixture comes all the way up to the rim as the pudding won’t rise much.

Heat the milk with the sugar and vanilla (either the extract, or scrape the seeds into the milk and add the pod) in a large pan. Just before the milk reaches boiling point add the semolina gradually, stirring to remove any lumps. Cook until the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat, taking out the vanilla pod (if used) and stir in the orange zest and butter. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with a little of the semolina mixture to warm them before mixing into the pan. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and then fold them into the mixture gently. You don’t need to be too thorough so don’t worry if it’s a little streaky.

Pour the mixture into the buttered dish and bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour. You may need to cover the top loosely with silver foil to stop it browning too much (I did!) When done, the centre should be firm and lightly browned. Let the pudding cool for an hour, at which point it will still be warm, or cool it completely and refridgerate.

For the syrup:
Several strips of orange peel
Juice of 2 oranges (preferably blood oranges, but normal oranges will be fine)
100g sugar
1 tbsp Grand Marnier (optional, I didn’t have any)
2 cloves
cinnamon stick

Cut the orange peel into very thin slices. Combine it with the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Pour some of the syrup over each portion of the pudding.

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s ‘The Greens Cook Book’.

Sweet yellow lentil dahl

January 19, 2010

Now, that might look like a picture of a bowl of soup. A pretty orangey coloured soup, butternut squash maybe, with a dollop of sour cream? No. What that is, in fact, is a sweet yellow lentil dahl. Yes, like the thing you get with your curry, but in dessert form. As someone who likes lentils very, very much, imagine how delighted I was to find the opportunity for another entire course of lentil. Very delighted, is the answer.

For the less lentil enthused, I argue thus: here is where the blandness of the lentil really works in its favour. It provides a formless, starchy mush, which may not sound appealing, but basically it’s exactly the same job that rice plays in rice pudding only it’s nicely pastel hued. It’s the kind of food you might feel like giving to invalids. There’s a whisper of cardamom, but the great sticky hit of condensed milk prevents it from being in any way elegant. The yoghurt is for contrast – trust me, on first bite it might not seem that sweet, but a few mouthfuls in and – ah, there you go.

Sweet yellow lentil dhal  Serves 4

A quick note about lentilly things: I used the tiny yellow moong dal here, the split and hulled version of a mung bean. It mushes down well, I find, because of its diminutive size. However, I feel that the recipe may have had a larger legume in mind because the quantities of water given were far too much and took ages to absorb. I’d say start with a ratio of twice as much water to lentil and top up if necessary.  

I halved these quantities, which you may do also, if you want to use the other half of the condensed milk to make baked yoghurt.

1 mug of yellow lentils
2-5 mugs water
6 whole cardamom pods
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp sultanas
1 x 397g tin condensed milk
natural yoghurt, to serve

Place the lentils, water, cardamom and ginger in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 50 minutes with the lid off. The time may vary depending on your lentils, but all the water should be absorbed and the lentils should be soft to the bite. The recipe instructs you here to mash them so the lentils are half-pureed, but mine were really soft, not mashable, more like a savoury dahl.

Add the sultanas and condensed milk and warm for a further 10 minutes on a low heat. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt.

Adapted from Rosie Lovell’s ‘Spooning With Rosie’.