Summer is here at last and not only does it bring light and warmth, it also brings us a wealth of juicy fruit. When you’ve had your fill of fresh berries and stone fruit, you’ll probably be looking for other ways to eat them. This recipe for poached peaches and apricots in a spiced lemon & thyme syrup is simple to make and utterly delectable.
It really is too hot to think about food at the moment. I know we’ve not had much of a summer yet, but I don’t take too well to the heat; now it’s arrived all I want to do is lie in a hammock under a shady tree and drink iced tea – peach and rhubarb iced tea to be exact.
One of the many highlights of our day at River Cottage last week, was the blackberry and apple spelt soda bread we made along with some beautiful butter. I was so delighted with the bread that I went foraging for blackberries a few days later and made a loaf at home.
Pasta is one of those standbys that is perfect for meals in a hurry. I often make tomato sauce to go with pasta and add carrots and onions and any other vegetables I happen to have around – parsnips work well. The other day, I was in even more of a hurry than usual and so I thought I’d try blending a raw tomato sauce instead.
As soon as I chose honey for this month’s We Should Cocoa, I’ve done nothing but dream of honey bakes. I love honey and if money was no object would use it instead of sugar almost exclusively. As well as the flavour, honey has a lot of health benefits which are not found in sugar. When I saw that Classic French this month was madeleines, my mind immediately moved to how I could incorporate honey and chocolate into these delicate little French cakes. I was recently sent some New Zealand Honey to try out and whilst I liked the woody notes of the 10+ pre-biotic Beech Forest Honeydew, I thought the more floral notes of the 10+ antioxidant Thyme Honey would work better here. Right until the last minute I was going to grate some milk chocolate into the mix which I thought would give a pretty speckled look. However, I wanted a hint of thyme to shine through and I thought this would be better achieved with white chocolate. I had seen a recipe for Honey Madeleines in a recent book I was sent for review purposes, Stacie Bakes, so I set to and adapted it quite heavily.
This is how I made:
Honey, Thyme and White Chocolate Madeleines
- Melted 50g unsalted butter in a small pan over low heat.
- Added 50g chopped white chocolate and 1 heaped tbsp thyme honey.
- Beat 2 duck eggs with 50g cardamom (caster) sugar until thick, pale and tripled in volume.
- Poured the chocolate mixture gently down the side of the bowl and folded into the egg mixture as gently as possible.
- Sifted in 75g unbleached flour and just over half teaspoon of baking powder.
- Finally folded in a scant teaspoon of finely chopped fresh lemon thyme.
- Spooned into 16 madeleine moulds and baked in the middle of the oven at 180C for ten minutes.
- Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.
These were by far and away the most delicious madeleines I’ve made yet. The honey was the predominate flavour, but it also gave them a succulent and sticky texture which was just delightful. White chocolate seems to work really well in bakes and although the flavour can’t be detected, it gives them a certain body and je ne sais quoi. They are very different without it. Lemon thyme & cardamom sugar combined to give a soupcon of citrus to the proceedings. They could, of course, be dusted with icing sugar, but I thought they were quite pretty in their yellow and brown livery, so left them au natural. I got the desired “foot” that is required for a classic madeleine, but in my short madeleine making career, I have not so far had a problem with this. Unlike most madeleines that really need to be eaten as soon after baking as possible, these improved with age and became stickier and even more scrumptious, although that didn’t prevent us from tucking in immediately.
I am obviously entering these madeleines into my very own We Should Cocoa.
I am also submitting them to Classic French with Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes who has chosen Madeleines as this month’s theme.
I adore herbs and use them a lot both in my cooking and for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, but I rarely pair them with chocolate. So it is a rare event that I am able to enter Karen’s excellent Herbs on Saturdays and I am always a little bit excited when I can do so – you never know I might just win a book. This month’s book sounds especially good and right up my street – cooking with edible flowers by Miriam Jacobs. I’m crossing fingers.
Thanks to the New Zealand Honey Co. for sending me some of their delicious honey to try.
When I first started this blog, I envisioned creating a number of savoury recipes using chocolate, but somehow my sweet tooth got the better of me and not many savoury dishes have in fact appeared. So when I made contact with a certain talented and loquacious goat called Ethel (how many goats do you know on Twitter?), I bucked my ideas up. Ethel kindly invited me to join in the #CapricornChallenge and I was delighted. The idea is to come up with an exciting recipe or three using Capricorn Cheese and a number of ingredients provided as inspiraton. There is no rule to say that the results have to be savoury, but I wanted to expand my culinary horizons.
Goats and I go back a long way. When I was a child I spent many a happy week on a remote Cornish smallholding where I went to bed by candlelight and drew water from the well. As well as feeding the steaming pot of mash from the range to the chickens and moving the sheep from field to field, I spent much of my time with the goats. Taking Starlight and Moonlight out each day to keep the brambles down was one of my duties as was collecting branches from the hedgerows to feed them with. Sadly my attempts at milking were less than successful, but I did get to drink a lot of goat’s milk and try my first ever goats cheese. I also learnt that the front end of a goat can be somewhat dangerous; on occasion Moonlight took exception to being moved around and would butt to get her point across.
I’m sure Ethel is much better behaved. She must be because a hamper filled with good things including some of her own wonderful cheese duly arrived from her home in Somerset, over the border in England. Plenty of ideas immediately sprang to mind. Some friends were the unsuspecting guinea pigs for one of those ideas: a Mediterranean inspired creation which I turned into a starter. This would also work well as a light lunch. To give the starter its chocolate hit, I started by making some chocolate balsamic vinegar.
This is what I did to serve four as a starter:
Spiced Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
- Dry fried 1/2 tsp cumin seeds in a small saucepan for a few minutes until a delicious warm aroma arose.
- Poured in 100ml of a good quality balsamic vinegar.
- Added 25g caster sugar and stirred until the sugar had dissolved.
- Simmered mixture for a couple of minutes.
- Poured over 25g of 70% dark chocolate (G&B) and stirred together until melted.
- Poured into a bottle, left to cool then capped.
- Rolled half a block of all butter puff pastry into a 9″ square then cut into four square pieces.
- Placed these onto a lined baking tray.
- Cut a cross into four fresh figs, cutting to about 3/4 of the way down.
- Placed a fig on each square of pastry.
- Scattered a sprig of thyme over each one.
- Cut 50g Capricorn Goats Cheese into eight pieces and stuffed the centre of the figs with two pieces each.
- Drizzled each fig with 1/2 tsp honey.
- Scattered a few chopped walnuts over the top.
- Baked in the oven for 10 minutes at 200C until the pastry was risen and golden, the cheese had melted and the walnuts had toasted.
- Drizzled with the chocolate balsamic.
- Placed onto 4 plates and served immediately.
Everyone was really impressed with these tarts, both with the looks and the taste. Sadly their appearance was not captured very well on camera. The sweet sticky figs complemented the salty melted cheese and the crunch of walnuts added another dimension to the texture. The flavour of thyme completed the Mediterranean feel. The chocolate balsamic was the crowning glory and brought out the flavours of everything else as well as making its own distinct contribution: rich, fruity and chocolatey with the sour vinegar cutting through both the cheese and sweet figs. These worked particularly well for a dinner party as they were quick and easy to make, but looked and tasted rather classy.
If I’m lucky, one of my recipes might get picked as a #CapricornChallenge finalist which gets my recipe included in the Capricorn Kitchen.
As thyme was an important constituent of these tarts, I’m including them in Herbs on Saturday – a lovely challenge run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage. As I don’t use herbs in my chocolate creations very often, I don’t get the chance to enter very often either.
Although I’ve already entered this month’s One Ingredient with my figgy flapjacks, I used dried figs. However they are nothing like fresh figs, so I am entering this one too. Laura of How to Cook Good Food and Working London Mummy alternate hosting this monthly challenge.
Dom’s random recipe challenge this month is to randomly pick something from our stashes of magazines, cuttings and pull-outs. He knows us so well; don’t we all have a pile of those lurking around somewhere, trying to attract our attention and making us feel guilty? In my more organised moments, I gather clippings and old envelope jottings and put them in folders – three in fact, one for sweet stuff, one for savoury and one for Christmas. Annoyingly, I haven’t got organised enough to have one for chocolate. However, I’m not as efficient as I’d like to be, so most of them are still lying about the house in various places or used as bookmarks. I was NOT going to embark on a mega house-clearance and recipe sort out week, so I put my hand into the file for sweet recipes, hoped for the best and pulled out ……. another apple cake recipe!!!!!