I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while, since my enthusiasm for festive food got the best of me far before it was acceptable, but the tightness of my jeans indicates it is time.
These little darlings are based on traditional Croatian Christmas biscuits – the inclusion of black pepper sounds a little odd but it gives a subtle warmth to the biscuits, which are similar to gingerbread and have a comforting softness to them.
As I inherited a slight walnut allergy from my mother, along with sturdy thighs and a love of food, I switched out the traditional walnuts in favour of pecans. I also used a tiny squirrel cutter instead of the wooden moulds they’d be made with in Croatia, because the tiny squirrel was too cute to resist.
There are very few things about modern cookery that actually make me sad. For my dad, the great tragedy is chilli being added to everything – chilli ketchup, chilli chocolate…other things. Some might be disappointed by the rise of burgers, or perhaps by how their native or favourite cuisine has been bastardised as its slipped into the mainstream, like Mexican food expert Diane Kennedy is.
I’m just sad that if you google macaroon, you get pages and pages of macarons, with not a shred of coconut in sight. Instead of golden, moist treats, it’s all smooth domed meringue, glued together with ganache or curd. The humble coconut macaroon has been usurped by the finicky French macaron. Read More
t was the spring of 2012 and I was crying. Not the elegant kind you see in films, no quiet single tears rolling down a cheek: it was full on snotty, heaving, gasping crying. There was cold wood under my feet – the piece of wood between kitchen and living room where, if we got up early enough, we’d see slugs on their morning commute back to the garden – and a scrunched up Freddo packet on the counter of our pokey student kitchen.
I wasn’t crying about the slug wood.
For what felt like weeks – but was actually only about ten days – I’d been following the Dukan diet. You know, the one where you basically only eat chicken and yoghurt. There are photos of me tucking into, and, amazingly, finishing, an entire roast chicken, with a face of utter dejection. I lost weight, but also nearly lost both some friends and all of my marbles. Read More
This time last week, I was waking up from a nap, with a pounding headache and a strange sense of home that contradicts everything I wrote about in my past post.
If you’re expecting this to be a romantic story about friendship and discussing deep issues under the stars…you’re going to be disappointed. At a friend’s place, we were far enough out of London to actually see the stars, but bank holiday Friday was a night of tequila shots and pizza, cookies baked at 1am and so many ridiculous stories that will become part of the lore of our group. The weekend has been the subject of a number of flashbacks throughout the week that have left me burying my face in my hands, half in laughter and half in disbelief. In short, it was excellent. Read More
This post was very nearly given the subtitle, “Pastry, who’s got the thyme these days?”. Some people have pastry fear – that’s not my problem. It is a beast that can be tamed. The issue is more that, well, it’s a bit of a faff, isn’t it? When it comes down to it, I’d rather start cooking knowing that within an hour I’ll have a hot little pie in my hand, rather than my hands in a hot bowl of washing up. I’d rather spend these approaching early-dark weekends going for walks and breathing in petrichor than fighting with butter and flour. Sometimes it’s worth taking a shortcut. For the sake of apple pie.
I’d love to say that I have some sort of emotional connection with apple pie, a story of sitting down to eat it with a grandma on a Sunday afternoon. The closest thing I’ve got takes place under the harsh yellow of university cafeteria lighting, the apple pie the only reason I’d frequently stray from food I’d cooked (or, let’s face it, assembled from Ritz crackers and Philadelphia), because I can’t be trusted to make a whole pie and not eat it. Which explains the tiny hand pies, right?
I’m happy to admit that I was a little nervy about this flavour combination, a bit concerned that it’d taste like medicine. I’m also happy to announce that it does not taste of medicine. It does taste of apples and honey, with a hint of earthiness that’s so appropriate in this transition phase. Perfect for wrapping up and popping into your pocket for those walks. We’re halfway through the best month. Read More
Like many recipe ideas, this one started on Pinterest, but it was so hard to find a recipe that was based on “normal” ingredients, which led to an early-morning investigation into what America’s oft-used cake flour actually contained (answer here). Just when I thought I’d have to modify a chocolate avocado cake and hope for the best, I found Joy the Baker’s avocado pound cake. It wasn’t quite right, but close enough to work with – I reduced the sugar content, swapped out buttermilk for yoghurt and milk, and translated the recipe from cups to grams, before topping it with a sweet honey buttercream that perfectly compliments the subtle avocado taste.
Morrison’s supermarket currently has avocados for sale for 4 for £1, proving that they’re not always too expensive to justify (just avoid Waitrose!). They’re for ripening at home, but nestling them in a fruit bowl with some bananas will decrease the ripening time.
Unsurprisingly, people look a little dubious when they see a slightly green cake, and that look of distrust doesn’t always go away when you explain it’s an avocado cake…but the taste is a pleasant surprise. It tastes like cake, not guacamole.
Notes The original recipe calls for cornmeal, which, as it turns out, is the same thing as polenta. You learn something new every day!
The milk/Greek yoghurt mixture doesn’t have to be completely precise – I used a 1/3 cup measure which I filled roughly halfway with yoghurt then topped up with milk.
The recipe states 100g honey because that’s how much I used – but really it’s down to your taste. Start at 50g and add more to your liking.
175g plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium avocado, mashed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1tsp vanilla extract
1/6 cup Greek yoghurt, mixed with 1/6 cup milk (or 1/3 cup buttermilk)
150g butter, room temperature
Pinch of salt
270g icing sugar
1) Preheat the oven to 160C and line/grease a loaf tin. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, polenta, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
2) In a separate bowl, beat the butter until soft, then add the sugar, and beat for about 2 minutes (for the first minute it’ll look like a sugary paste that may never come together. Stick with it.)
3) Add the avocado and beat until fully incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between them, and then the vanilla extract.
4) Add half the flour mixture and beat on a low speed until incorporated, before adding the yoghurt & milk mixture, followed by the rest of the flour. When fully mixed together, pour into your tin and bake on the middle shelf for 40 minutes to an hour, until a skewer or cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. (I checked mine every 5 minutes after 40, but it took the full hour.) Cool on a wire rack.
5) While the cake cools, make the buttercream. Beat together the butter, 50g honey, and salt, and then gradually add the icing sugar, beating on a low speed. Add more honey according to your taste. Spread on top of the cake.