Yes, I’m one of those lucky people for whom self- isolating is rather pleasurable, writes PRUE LEITH
Yes, I’m one of those lucky people for whom self- isolating is rather pleasurable! Of course, I am sitting pretty with few mouths to feed, no business to run or job to lose. Apart from vague but unremitting unease about family, friends and the world in general, I’m fine.
Although ‘retired’, my usual life is a constant dash from meeting to meeting about charities I’m involved with, the new house I’m building with my husband, start‑up businesses I support, writing articles or books and TV filming. I’ve been just too busy to do what I like best — cooking.
In the past three years I’ve written two cookbooks, the vegetarian one with my pastry-chef niece Peta Leith. But apart from the devising and testing, I’ve not had time to return to them for such a luxury as baking. Until now.
With everything cancelled, I’ve got (glory of glories) time on my hands. So I have been baking — in a very old-fashioned simple way.
Somehow, with the world in crisis, no‑nonsense recipes made out of easy-to-get or store cupboard ingredients seem right. Who wants to be tracking down sumac and yuzu juice?
So, I’ve chosen bakes that have stood the test of time, are popular with young and old, are comforting, and which store well in a tin or freeze perfectly.
Four are for teatime or pudding and the ice cream goes well with them all. Enjoy!
Chocolate brownies with caramelised nuts
These caramelised nuts stay wonderfully crunchy inside the gooey brownies.
FOR THE BROWNIES:
- 300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
These caramelised nuts stay wonderfully crunchy inside the gooey brownies, writes PRUE LEITH
- 150g soft light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa (cacoa) nibs to serve
FOR THE CARAMELISED NUTS:
- 50g whole almonds, skin on
- 50g whole hazelnuts, skin on
1. Heat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas mark 6. Grease a 20cm (8in) square brownie tin with oil and line it with baking parchment, and also line a baking tray with baking parchment.
2. To make the caramelised nuts, roast them on the baking tray for five to six minutes until they are golden and aromatic. Remove from the oven. Put the caster sugar in a large saucepan with about 25ml of water and set over a medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils, swirl the pan over the heat until the syrup turns a deep golden colour. Remove the pan from the heat and, at once, stir in the nuts and the butter. Then tip out on to the lined baking tray and quickly separate so nuts are not touching each other.
3. To make the brownies, melt the chocolate and butter together in a heat-proof bowl set over (but not in) a pan of simmering water. Once melted, take off the heat, but leave bowl over hot water.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the caster and brown sugars until the mixture is thick and doubled in size.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk the melted chocolate and butter into the eggs, then beat in the flour. Tip in the caramelised nuts and stir well.
6. Tip the batter into the lined brownie tin and scatter the cocoa nibs over the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cake has risen and has a shiny crust on top, but is still slightly wobbly in the centre. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out and slicing.
GRAPEFRUIT TREACLE TART
I adore treacle tart. But I do recognise most are too sweet, so I devised this variation with the grapefruit cutting through the sweetness of the syrup. Tinned grapefruit segments work well, too. If you have a blowtorch you could lay the grapefruit segments on a baking tray, sprinkle with sugar and blowtorch to brown the sugar.
I adore treacle tart. But I do recognise most are too sweet, so I devised this variation with the grapefruit cutting through the sweetness of the syrup, writes PRUE LEITH
- 3 grapefruits (pink if possible)
- 100g coarse fresh white breadcrumbs
FOR THE PASTRY
- 140g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1. To make the pastry, put the butter, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour lightly using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Use a butter knife to mix in the egg yolks and enough iced water to bring it together to a crumbly dough — it should only just hold together. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour, until firm.
2. Finely grate the zest of one grapefruit. Cut the fruit in half and extract the juice. Put the grapefruit juice into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until the juice has reduced by about two-thirds and has become syrupy. Peel and segment the other two grapefruits, removing the pith.
3. To make the filling, whisk the eggs in a bowl until combined, then add the golden syrup, cream, reduced grapefruit juice. zest, breadcrumbs and sugar. Stir vigorously to combine.
4. Heat the oven to 190c/fan 170c/gas mark 5. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Grease a 24 cm (9½ in) loose-bottomed flan tin.
5. Unwrap the pastry and roll it out as thinly as you can on a dusted surface, ideally to a thickness of only 1 mm. Line the greased tin with the pastry, then put it in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill.
6. Trim the excess pastry from the top of the pastry case, then fill it with the treacle mixture. Put it directly onto the pre-heated baking sheet in the oven. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-50 mins, covering it with foil towards the end of cooking if it is browning too much.
7. While the tart is baking, dry the grapefruit segments on a piece of kitchen paper.
8. Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool to lukewarm. Arrange the grapefruit segments on top.
GINGER ICE CREAM
Prue’s ginger ice cream, made using just five ingredients
- 4 pieces stem ginger, cut into fine strips
1. In a small, heavy-based saucepan, slowly dissolve the sugar in 150ml water. Boil for exactly 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool for 1 minute.
2. Whisk the yolks with the ground ginger and pour into the hot sugar syrup (do not allow the whisk to touch the syrup, or the cold metal will cool the syrup and it will stick to the whisk). Add the stem ginger.
3. Lightly whip the cream until thickened, but still just runny. When the egg yolk mix is cool, fold in the cream, then pour into a plastic container and freeze.
4. When the ice cream is frozen, but is not yet rock-hard, take it out, chop it into chunks and whizz in a processor. This will beat more air into it and ensure the ginger doesn’t sink to the bottom. (In the absence of a processor, mash the ice cream with a fork when it is half-frozen). Return to freezer.
5. Remove from the freezer half an hour before serving.
ORANGE BACI DI DAMA
These melt-in-the-mouth ‘Ladies’ Kisses’ are irresistible. They are delicious served with coffee or ice cream, anywhere where you can ration them at one or two per person. Put them in a biscuit tin and they’ll be gone by morning.
These melt-in-the-mouth ‘Ladies’ Kisses’ are irresistible. They are delicious served with coffee or ice cream, writes PRUE LEITH
- Finely grated zest of one orange
1. Heat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas mark 4.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and light. Add the ground almonds, flour and orange zest. Work the mixture until it forms a stiff dough.
3. Shape into 20 small balls, then arrange on baking sheets, leaving a 3-4 cm gap in between each one. Press an almond half in the centre of each ball. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Vegan carrot cake
This is my niece Peta’s vegan carrot cake, adapted from one she used to make at The Ivy.
This is my niece Peta’s vegan carrot cake, adapted from one she used to make at The Ivy, writes PRUE LEITH
1. Heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm (8in) loose-bottomed round cake tin with baking parchment.
2. Toast the walnuts in the oven for 2-3 minutes, then set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the vegetable oil and orange juice together, then beat in the ingredients in the order listed (left). The batter will seem very stiff at first, but juice in the carrots will loosen it.
4. Transfer the mixture to the lined cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
10 STAPLES TO BOOST IMMUNITY
Shoppers are clearing the shelves of dried goods such as pasta and rice. However, eating nothing but carbohydrates isn’t good for you. Pick up these staples instead to help boost your immune system, says nutritional therapist and TV presenter LOWRI TURNER.
A great source of B vitamins, which help give you the energy to fight infection, as well as immune-boosting Vitamin A, zinc and the antioxidant glutathione, which helps to prevent cell damage.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight on your skin. But if you’re stuck inside, one other really good source of it is eggs (stock image)
Contains a smorgasbord of immune-supporting nutrients including Vitamins A and C, plus potassium and glutathione.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight on your skin. But if you’re stuck inside, one other really good source of it is eggs.
THESE contain compounds called polysaccharides, which ‘feed’ friendly bacteria in the gut. These bacteria play an important role in immunity.
Vitamin C stimulates the formation of antibodies that fight infection — and peppers have more vitamin C than oranges.
Avocado really does score well for immune health. It contains essential fats which are important for protecting cell structure (stock image)
Full of probiotics, aka friendly bacteria, including lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus. These have been shown to boost our body’s natural immunity.
GINGER AND GARLIC
Both of these have natural anti-viral properties. Cook with garlic, and steep slices of fresh ginger in hot water to make ginger tea.
The hipster’s favourite really does score well for immune health. It contains essential fats which are important for protecting cell structure.
Like chicken, turkey is a good source of lean protein which we need to keep our bodies strong and recover from illness. But turkey also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which we can use to make the mood-lifting brain hormone serotonin.
Jewel-like pomegranate seeds have been shown to have anti-viral properties because they promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, which can inhibit pathogens.