Fresh and tasty: strawberry smoothie

Strawberry smoothieI’m a bit behind on my blogging but I had a very good reason: the weather was great! I promise, in Belgium that is a damn good reason and one we cannot use very often… On those days there is only one thing to do straight away: procrastinate! So that’s what I did all day long on Sunday (that and hanging in the park with some friends and a DJ in the background). Of course we needed some refreshments to accompany all that laziness, so I went for this strawberry smoothie. I got the recipe from a colleague who really is the soups and smoothies queen. I know this because I’m part of the happy few who can enjoy the leftovers! Here’s how to make it:

Cut about 250 g strawberries and put them in a blender with the juice of 2 limes, a small handful of fresh mint leaves and half a can of Canada Dry. Blend and pour into glasses (you’ll get 2-3 glasses from this). Do give it a try, the Canada Dry makes it really fresh and it becomes sort of a cross between a smoothie and a lemonade. Of course it’s best to do this with fruit that comes from the fridge for extra freshness. Enjoy!

Dreaming of summer: strawberry tart

strawberry tartsNo, it’s not the end of my rhubarb mania series, there is still one more recipe in the pipeline, but it’s a chutney so the flavours need to develop first before I can have a taste, and I only post recipes that get my (and my family, colleagues, friends…) seal of approval. So in the mean time, I came up with these lovely tarts, perfect for a cold, wet autumn night… oh wait no, it’s officially summer isn’t it? It’s so easy to get your seasons mixed up these days! Anyway, for this recipe, I mixed-and-matched some existing recipes as follows:

First, I made the tart cases. I still had some dough in the freezer from making my lemon tart because I always make double and freeze half. For half of the dough (it resulted in about 10 tarts), mix 250 g plain flour and 70 g icing sugar in a bowl. Rub 125 g cubed butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly. Mix in 2 egg yolks and roll into a ball. Flatten out the pastry with your hands, wrap the dough in cling film, then chill for at least 30 mins. 

After 30 min, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin, then lift into your small tart cases. Press down gently on the bottom and sides, then trim off any excess pastry. Stab a few holes in the bottom with a fork and put back in the fridge for 30 min. Heat the oven to 140 C. Line the tarts with foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake for 10 min, then remove the tart tin from the oven, discard the foil, and bake for another 20 min until biscuity. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Of course you can also use shop bought crust pastry instead. 

For the filling, I used the filling from my raspberry tart: whisk 200 ml crème fraîche until firm (it needs to be cold, otherwise you’ll have difficulty whisking it, so don’t take it out of the fridge until you are ready to use it). Then add 85 g caster sugar1/2 tsp vanilla essence and the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon. Whisk again to get a thick cream. Spread over the bottom of the tart cases.

Finally top with your favourite fruit, I used strawberries (you’ll need about 200 g) but it will work with any type of food you fancy. Enjoy!



Summer flavours: basil panna cotta

Basil panna cottaOn our recent holiday to the south of England, I tried basil panna cotta at the Gurnard’s head in Cornwall. I didn’t really have much room for a dessert, but when I saw it on the menu, I just had to try it. It was so good, I decided to make it myself. I searched online for good recipes but found nothing to my liking so I decided to adapt a Lorraine Pascale recipe. The result was a big hit with our guests, although I did keep most of it for myself!

Don’t be daunted: panna cotta is the easiest thing to make! Here’s how: put 4 leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water (they have to be fully covered) and set aside for 5 min. In the mean time, put 300 ml double cream or whipping cream (you need at least 30% fat contents) in a pan with 250 g mascarpone, 100 g caster sugar and the seeds of a vanilla pod (add the pod as well for extra taste) and stir to combine. Gently heat the mixture while stirring occasionally until it’s almost boiling. Take of the heat and add the leaves of two bunches of basil (you really need a lot of it) and stir for 2 min until the basil is wilted. Using a stick blender, mix until you get an even green mix. Add the gelatine leaves one by one (squeeze out all the water first) and stir well. Pour the mixture into dariole moulds and put in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours or overnight.

To serve, make a strawberry sauce by mixing a handful of strawberries with 1 tbsp icing sugar. Push through a sieve if you prefer. Cut some more strawberries for decoration. To unmould the panna cotta, dip the bottom of the moulds in hot water for a few seconds to loosen them, then turn them upside down on a serving plate. They may need a few sharp jerks of the hand for them to come out. If this fails, run a small knife around the side of the mould to loosen slightly. Or just don’t bother taking them out of the moulds at all. Enjoy while listening to Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles.

This recipe is really versatile, if basil is not to your taste, you can add anything you want. Bear in mind that when adding sweet elements, you may need to reduce the amount of sugar. Lorraine Pascale went for a white chocolate panna cotta: to do so, stick to the above recipe but don’t add any sugar at all. When taking the mixture of the heat, add 100 g of white chocolate, instead of the basil, and stir until melted. Serve with raspberry coulis and extra raspberries.

Use up leftover mascarpone in speculamisuraspberry and orange tiramisu or strawberries with balsamic vinegar.

Quick and easy: strawberries with balsamic vinegar

strawberries with balsamic vinegarMy parents came for dinner recently and with my busy schedule I hadn’t been able to prepare a dessert ahead the night before. So I needed something quick yet still delicious and I remembered this recipe. It was very hot for a while so I never tried it (too cliché) but it seemed a good choice now as it meant I could use up some left over basil in one go. I found the recipe in an old Jamie Oliver cookbook, but I adapted it slightly. It went down a treat!

For 4 people, hull 500 g strawberries and cut them in half. Put them in a bowl and 2 hours before serving add  5 tbsp sugar and 8 tbsp balsamic vinegar (the recipe called for 10, but this seemed more than enough). Give it a good stir and leave to marinate.

In a separate bowl, mix 400 g mascarpone with the seeds of 1 vanilla pod and 2 bags of vanilla sugar (or 20 g caster sugar). You can do this right before serving.

Put a big spoon of mascarpone on each plate, top with a generous serving of strawberries and finish with a bit of shredded basil leaves or mint leaves. Enjoy while listening to Oh my gosh by Basement Jaxx feat. Vula Malinga.