Tuesday, 30 July 2013

'Caffe Shakerato' - Iced Italian Coffee

Apart from the more obvious benefits of this beautiful summer weather, it's also given me the opportunity to dust off some all-but-forgotten favourites we used to enjoy in Italy. One of these is the 'Caffe Shakerato', pronounced as you would expect. It seems incredible that simply shaking strong sweet espresso with ice can produce such a dense, creamy foam but it does. Just look at the photo - there is no milk or cream there, only espresso, sugar and ice.

Normally, I loathe coffee with sugar in, to my mind it's like drinking hot, liquid coffee cake. My usual espresso is strictly unadulterated - no milk, no sugar and certainly no flavoured syrups. However, I make an exception in this case - you really do need a touch of sweetness when drinking coffee at these icy temperatures.

It goes without saying really that the quality of your caffe shakerato depends on the quality of your espresso.

RECIPE - enough for 2

3 small cups of freshly made espresso
2-4 teaspoons of sugar (depending on taste)

Add the sugar to the espresso while it's still hot so it dissolves completely. 

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice, pour in the sweetened espresso and shake vigorously for a minute or two until you have a rich, creamy foam. Serve in chilled martini glasses or champagne flutes.

A perfect ending to an al fresco lunch or dinner.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Chocolate and Pistachio Macaroons

Chocolate and Pistachio Macaroons

I do realise that macaroons are no longer at the apex of food fashion. Luckily for me, I am not a slavish follower of trends; I mean, just think of how many things I would have had to deny myself over the years simply because they were no longer 'fashionable' - prawn cocktail, black forest gateau, goat's cheese salad, chicken kiev...

Macaroons may have had their day but I stay true. Their small size and intense sweetness, coupled with the chewy yet soft texture make them an ideal way to finish a meal. They're also perfect with an espresso at any time of the day.

This particular version has been inspired by Nigella - indeed, it is a reworking of her chocolate macaroons sandwiched together with the filling from her pistachio ones. I'm including the recipe for the chocolate macaroons here because I've adapted it and you can find the recipe for the pistachio filling in Nigella's book, How to be a Domestic Goddess.

There are some fellow bloggers who make very impressive macaroons - have a look at Corner Cottage Bakery's stunningly beautiful white-on-white ones here, Blue Kitchen Bakes' delicious sounding raspberry filled ones here and Supergolden Bakes' incredibly professional ones here.

As these are perfect for parties, I'm sending them over to A Kick at the Pantry Door for July's Forever Nigella challenge, started by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.

As they are completely made from scratch, they're going to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge too, Made with Love Mondays

125g icing sugar
60g ground almonds
15g cocoa
2 egg whites
15g caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper

Sift the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder together. Whisk the egg whites until fairly stiff then sprinkle over the caster sugar. Continue whisking until the egg whites become very stiff then gently fold in the sifted ingredients. 

If you have an icing bag (I use the disposable ones), fit with a plain nozzle and fill with the macaroon mixture. It's a little bit fiddly and the mixture is really sticky so try to get it all in the bag! Pipe out small rounds onto the prepared baking sheets. If you're not bothered about having perfect discs, you can just put small teaspoons of the mixture onto the lined sheets instead of messing about with an icing bag. 

Leave to stand for 15 mins and then bake in the pre-heated oven for about 12-15 mins. Using a palate knife, remove to a wire rack to cool and then sandwich with the pistachio buttercream. 

Chocolate Macaroons

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Three Berry Cake

Three Berry Cake

I love cake with fruit in; by that, I don't mean 'fruit cake', although I love that too, or cakes layered or topped with fruit, I mean cake with bits of fresh fruit in the batter. Apple cake is a particular favourite of mine (see here and here for two recipes) but it's obviously an autumnal cake whereas I wanted something in a similar vein but that would celebrate this beautiful weather we're currently enjoying. With the plethora of gorgeous soft fruit we have available in summer, it took much deliberation before deciding on a mixture of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Summer in a cake - what more do you want?

I'm linking this up to several blogging challenges. The first is July's gorgeous Tea Time Treats Challenge, Fresh Fruit Treats, jointly run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage (this month's host) and Kate at What Kate Baked.

It's going to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge too, Made with Love Mondayswhich encourages everyone to cook from scratch.


Finally, I'm entering it into Calender Cakes, run by Rachel from Dolly Bakes and Laura (this month's host) from Laura Loves Cakes. The theme is Fruity Bakes.  

Calendar Cakes Challenge


200g butter
200g caster sugar
200g self raising flour + one tablespoon for the fruit
180g raspberries, strawberries and blueberries (roughly 60g of each fruit)
3 eggs
zest of one lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Grease and base line a round cake tin, 22cm diameter

Wash and prepare the fruit.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sieve the flour and fold in. Toss the fruit in a tablespoon of flour (this prevents it from all sinking to the bottom during baking) and fold in to the cake batter along with the grated lemon zest.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top.

Put in the oven and bake for about 45-50 mins or until the cake is cooked and golden brown on top. It takes longer to cook than a normal sponge cake because of the addition of the moist fruit. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 mins before carefully turning out and leaving to cool on a wire rack. 

This cake makes a perfect pudding eaten still warm from the oven, served with crème anglaise. As a cake, it's wonderful too and in fact tastes even better after a day or two - very handy for a summer picnic.

Tri Berry Cake

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Tuna with a warm herb vinaigrette

I never seem to learn. Once again, I have succumbed to the temptation to order tuna in a restaurant, drawn in by the enticing descriptions - pan-seared, lemon-scented, herb-encrusted...I've tried them all and they are invariably disappointing. There's nothing wrong with the sauces and salsas, the problem lies with the tuna - it's always overcooked, giving it the consistency of particularly dry cardboard and turning even the finest grade tuna into something that looks and tastes as if it has just come out of a tin. I mean, I'm not disparaging tinned tuna, it certainly has its place, but it definitely cannot be compared to the fresh stuff. After every delusion I vow never to repeat my mistake, only to fall off the wagon again.

The latest let-down left me longing for a decent piece of tuna, seared on the outside for seconds rather than minutes and still juicy and pink within. I liked the idea that I'd seen at the restaurant which was tuna served with a salsa verde. However, I wanted something slightly less aggressive, just some fragrant herbs, a few capers, a squeeze of lemon juice with some of the zest thrown in for good measure, with just enough olive oil to combine everything.

This post is making its way over to the newly named Cooking with Herbs (but it's still our old favourite Herbs on Saturday). The challenge is created and hosted by Karen from the wonderful Lavender and Lovage.

Herbs on Saturday for June: Cooking with Herbs Challenge - Win a Pot of Culinary Lavender Grains

I'm also sending it to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge which encourages everyone to cook from scratch, Made with Love Mondays.



2 tuna steaks
extra virgin olive oil

For the herb vinaigrette
150ml extra virgin olive oil
handful fresh flatleaf parsley
handful fresh basil
1-2 tbsp capers
juice and zest of half a lemon

For the warm vinaigrette, start by roughly chopping the herbs. Put the olive oil into a small saucepan, adding the herbs, capers and lemon zest (though not the lemon juice at this point). Warm everything very gently over a low heat. 

In the meantime, heat a heavy-based griddle pan until hot. Season the tuna steaks with some sea salt and rub with the olive oil. When the pan is very hot, put the tuna steaks in and sear for just one minute each side. It should still be pink inside. 

Just before serving, stir the lemon juice into the sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper and spoon over the tuna. 

In the photo you can see that I served this with some courgettes which I lightly sauteed in olive oil, adding a squeeze of lemon juice at the end.