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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Beyond the Kitchen...

Aside from being ill a lot, and in between University open days I've pretty much had no time or no energy to cook this week but I have been quietly getting along nicely with my A level art and thought 'hey, why not show you that instead?' So this week's post does still have a foodie theme, because yes you've guessed my art is food related. Of course it is! It has to be when it's completely up to me to choose whatever theme I like. 

It may seem a bit confusing and unrelated in a way when you've not got to see my overall sketchbook but I've just picked out the stuff which I'm most proud of. Hope you like it!!!

There’s something so ironic about the verdant nutritious lettuce making a bowl for a rather contrasting convenience food – inorganic and completely at the other end of the spectrum. When shooting for this photo I decided that there of course needed to be ketchup squirted over, a classic ‘garnish’ when you think of chips, also another violent element of colour and adding to the metaphor of our eating culture – something which was at first healthy has been distorted into something full of fat and sugar. The ketchup representative of society’s ignorance of this. 

I liked the idea of imposing a strong juxtaposition which was blatantly up front about the message I was trying to convey to the viewer and so the idea behind this is likewise to the lettuce and chips painting. A banana skin acting as a wrapper to uncover a large chocolate bar hits home the major problem our country is facing. Obesity. 

(I'd just like to point out..I'm not THAT amazing at lifelike paintings, yes those are photos which I have added paint/collage to. )

Above photos inspired by the still life master  - Juan Sanchez Cotan.

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Saturday, 10 October 2015

Fig and Pistachio Frangipane Tart

I've never actually incorporated figs before into anything I've cooked or baked; I've simply just ate them raw with goats cheese and drizzled with honey. So this is my first ever attempt at baking with figs and I am impressed! There's something so striking about this humble fruit - with it's deep purple skin and vibrant pink flesh, it makes a wonderful addition the autumnal table. Figs have a naturally high sugar content, hence they make a great pairing with equally intense ingredients and flavourings like orange. 

You might question why I've decided to not use the obvious choice of almonds for the frangipane when I just mentioned that strong flavour matches are best with figs, which almonds can most certainly provide! But as I've said before in previous posts: I don't like ground almonds or essence of the sort in cakes. The result of this being that I usually tend to dismiss tarts altogether that contain frangipane or at least try to substitute almonds where I can for vanilla. Though, this can often be a problem when recipes require a large percentage of the frangipane mix to be ground almonds and not flour. 

However, after stumbling upon a recent (well a 2015 March issue to be precise...if that even counts as recent?) of the Guardian's 'Cook' weekend newspaper, my eyes were suddenly opened (courtesy of Ruby Tandoh) to the world of ground pistachios! 

No more beige cakes. Pistachios elevate your baking into greener pastures. All you have to do is grind the nut kernels to a fine meal and then you can fold them through anything from cookie batters to buttercreams. You'll just need a food processor or coffee grinder to blitz them with. 

You might notice in my photos that I've served the tart with a dollop of  crème fraiche. This makes a sharp but creamy accompaniment which makes a healthier alternative to cream.  I've flavoured mine with the remaining orange zest, juice, icing sugar and honey then topped it with a fresh sprig of mint for some colour. 

Fig  and  Pistachio  Frangipane  Tart

Makes an 8 inch tart
Recipe for frangipane adapted from here.


For the pastry:
55g icing sugar
170g plain flour, plus more to dust
110g butter, chopped
½ of a lightly beaten egg

For the filling:
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
70g pistachio kernels, finely ground
Zest and juice from ½ orange
30g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
4 ripe figs

For decoration:
A drizzle of clear runny honey
1 tbsp icing sugar
dollop of  crème fraiche
Mint leaves


Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/ gas 6. To make your pastry, mix the icing sugar and flour together then mix in the butter, either pulse-blending in a food processor or rubbing it in with your fingers until the mixture has the consistency of crumbs. Add the beaten egg and mix the dough until firm and smooth. Wrap in cling film and let it rest for 10 minutes in the freezer. 

Roll out the pastry so that you can line your loose-bottomed tart tin (preferably about 8 inches in diameter), cut off the overhanging pastry and then line with greaseproof paper and baking beans to blind-bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, then brush a little beaten egg leftover from your pastry to seal it and bake for a further 6-8 minutes. Once baked, turn down the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. 

Whilst the pastry is baking you can make the filling. Cream together the butter and sugar before adding the eggs, ground pistachio, orange zest and juice. Combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl before adding to the wet mixture and fold lightly to combine. 

Cut the stalks off the figs and then slice into halves, half them again keeping them spherical. Fill the baked pastry case with the pistachio frangipane and then evenly distribute the sliced figs on top. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the frangipane is nicely browned. 

Remove the tart from the oven and then immediately drizzle over about 1-2 tbsp of honey. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before releasing from the tin. Dust the tart with icing sugar. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche flavoured with the remaining orange halve, using the zest and a little juice. You could also drizzle over more honey or sweeten with a bit of icing sugar to taste. 

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Choc Chip, Coffee and Walnut Jumbles (biscuit/cookie -ish!)

I first came across jumbles when flicking through a recipe book, it certainly caught my attention because I love the word. It's just a nice funny word to say isn't it? The use of the word "jumble" to indicate a mixture of stuff means you just 'jumble' all the ingredients into one pan, choose whatever flavour you want and hey presto! You've got yourself a nice biscuit err cookie thingy. I'm not sure what you'd technically class it as because I know Americans can get really fussy when you start calling biscuits - cookies when they clearly AREN'T!! But then again I get cross when they call our version of a scone a biscuit. Now that surely is just wrong. I must say that they do have an almost cookie quality to them in the centre, not chewy but on the verge if you know what I mean. Then on the outer edges they're more biscuity (if that's even a word) and by that I mean a buttery crunchy texture not a soft moist one like a scone! 

Before you go pointing out my errors, these are not to be confused with Leicestershire Bosworth jumbles, a traditional speciality biscuit from Leicestershire in England (for all you biscuit historian fanatics) they are characteristically shaped like an 's' or sometimes knots and flavoured with spices like anise or caraway. 

My jumbles biscuits don't quite hold the regal history of Bosworth Jumbles, or the refined looks either but they are quick and easy to make and are really delicious so that's good enough for me. Especially when I've been short on time these past two weekends (when I usually blog), but I'm determined to stay loyal to my lovely Spoon and Whisk, even if I only manage to get a couple of pics, it's better than nothing! So in my efforts to keep things speedy you will get this recipe and save time on washing up too with only one pan and spoon, perfect to make after college or work like I did. 

Choc  Chip,  Coffee  and  Walnut  Jumbles

Adapted from here   Makes 14


125g butter
1 tbsp coffee granules or espresso powder
100g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
175g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
50g chopped walnuts
50g chocolate chips (milk or dark)


Preheat the oven to 190°C/ 375°F/ gas 5. Grease 2 large baking trays. Gently melt the butter and when it starts to bubble add in the coffee and stir altogether until most if not all granules have dissolved and the butter turns a brown coffee colour. Remove from the heat and stir in both of the sugars. 

Pour the flour and baking powder into the bowl along with the beaten egg and stir altogether. When thoroughly combined add in the chopped walnuts and mix again. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture onto the greased trays spacing them well apart for spreading. 

Bake in the preheated for 10 to 12 minutes, until the jumbles are a light golden brown colour and are slightly firm to touch. 

Leave the jumbles to cool on the tray for about 3 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
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