Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Queen of Desserts

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love puddings. In fact, I actually start reading a menu from the desserts working my way up. Of course the queen of puddings for me is sticky toffee pudding. I have therefore gone out of my way to perfect it. To me, it has to be light and fluffy, accompanied with a rich toffee sauce and of course vanilla ice cream, bliss. There are so many recipes around so I tried to pick the best from those I found. Below is what I think works best after having been tried and tested so many times, my waistline can attest to that!

I have found over the years that reading a recipe through at least once or twice makes it easier to follow. The ingredients are also listed by how they come into the recipe, something I’ve also found very useful.


Ingredients for the Sticky Toffee
200g pitted dates
250ml water (or enough to just cover the dates)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
55g butter (at room temperature)
170g Demerara sugar
200g self-raising flour
2 medium free range eggs (at room temperature)

Toffee Sauce
175g light Muscovado sugar
55g butter, cut into pieces
225ml double cream
1 tbsp golden syrup

Method for the pudding
Grease 8 medium sized ramekins (can also use a big one) with butter and Demerara sugar and place in the fridge ready for the pudding mixture (ideally for at least an hour).  

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Put the dates in a medium pan, pour in enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and mash the mixture with a wooden spoon to the consistency of a thick soup. Add the vanilla extract then mix in the bicarbonate of soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy. Add they golden syrup and then the eggs, one at a time and beat until smooth. Add the flour and beat at a low speed until well combined.

Pour the date mixture into the pudding batter and beat until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the pre-pared ramekins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Ovens vary so keep an eye on them.

To make sure they are ready, insert a metal skewer (or knife) in the middle of one of the ramekins, it should come out dry.

Let stand for a minute and use a knife around the edges to loosen the pudding from the ramekin and invert onto a plate.

Caution, use oven gloves or a tea cloth as the ramekins will be hot.

Pour the Toffee sauce on top and serve with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Method for the Sauce

Put the sugar and the butter in a medium heavy based saucepan with half the cream and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring all the time. Once the sugar has dissolved, add in the golden syrup, turn up the heat slightly and let the mixture bubble away for 2-3 minutes until it is a rich toffee colour, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn at the bottom.

The sauce can be served at this point but to create that meltingly thick sauce, add the rest of the cream when you’re just about to serve the puddings and whisk it to thicken it all up.

Chef’s Tip:-

Placing the buttered ramekins into the fridge beforehand helps release the puddings after baking. The same rule applies to a successful soufflé.

When adding eggs, milk, flour etc. to a cake mixture, always start beating at a low speed gradually increasing speed as it combines. This makes for a light and fluffy cake/pudding.

If using the creaming a method for a cake, always have the butter and eggs at room temperature, this helps make the cake light and fluffy.

To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, soak them in a bowl of water for 10-15 minutes.

Happy eating.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

How Will You Have Your'

Just as everyone has a preference as to how to have their eggs, steak or bacon I’m very fussy about my tempura too, its lightness, what to dip it in and what vegetables are used is very crucial.  Tempura is and will always be one of my most favourite snacks and has prompted many a visit to another of my favourite restaurants, Zuma.

Accessed through a dodgy looking alleyway in one of London’s most prestigious addresses, Zuma belongs to an era when the hedge fund lot ruled the world and money was no issue.  It seems to have somehow servived the credit crunch to both my relief and disappointment, relief because it’s still as good as it used to be, disappointment because it’s still difficult to get a table! Nothing much, apart from the clientel, has changed. You still have the same buzzy atmosphere as you walk in, fabulous cocktails, a table at the bar (with the exact menu as anyone who’s booked a table, only difference being, depending on what side of the bar you sit, you may leave a bit whiffy) and incredibly good food.

I do digrace. For someone who’s rarely fazed by recipes I had never attempted to make tempura until last weekend. Whether it’s because I’ve been daunted by the prospect or because it had just never occurred to me that I could do it myself I’m not sure. Last weekend however all that changed, I decided to treat myself at home and have to say I was quite pleased with the results.

There are so many recipes and methods that one could use but I preffered the one below as it left the batter very light and crunchy. Some people use eggs in the batter but I found that this leaves it rather heavy. Ensure that you prep everything else before you make the batter and that you don’t over mix it as the bubbles in the water help airate it making for very light  tempura.

I have to admit that the most difficult part of the whole process was deciding whether to have it with soy sauce or Wasabi mayonnaise, the latter won. Try it and let me know what you think!


100g corn flour
150g plain flour
10g baking powder
Iced Sparkling Water
Vegetable oil for frying

Fish & Veg
Prawns (King Prawns preferably)
Red pepper
Sweet Potato (par-boiled)

·         Clean all your veg and devein the Prawns leaving the tail on (as otherwise they curl up when cooking) and pat dry with kitchen paper or tea towel
·         Heat the oil
·         Mix all the flours, baking powder and add the water whisking very gently until the batter is very light, (lightly coats the back of a spoon). It’s fine if there are lumps in the mixture
·         Dip your vegetables and Prawns into the batter and immediately drop into the hot oil
·         Remove when they have turned golden brown

Serving Suggestion
·         Serve with a dollop of Mayonnaise mixed with as much Wasabi as you can stand