Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

One bite and this pudding instantly became a favourite.

I discovered this recipe on the Los Angeles Times website a couple of years ago. They have this series, Culinary SOS, where people write in asking for recipes of their favourite restaurant dishes. This dessert is from Cafe 14 in Agoura Hills, CA.

I love bread pudding and when I was at university we used to go to this cafe where they usually served it with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. When I came across this I thought it sounded perfect and after I made it the first time I knew it was going to be something I would make many times again.

Ever since I discovered this densely decadent dessert, I think I've made it at almost everyone's house I've visited, attempting to introduce this amazing pudding to as many people as I could. It has proved quite popular so I thought I'd share it here.

It's really rich so don't tell anybody what's in it until after they've eaten it. Diced croissants are mixed with mashed bananas and then soaked in a caramel custard before baking it. Place the pudding under the grill for a minute or two after it's done baking for a wonderfully crisp topping.

Click here for the recipe.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the brown sugar...

... stir until sugar has dissolved...

... then stir in the cream...

... and bring it to the boil.

Once it has come to the boil, take the caramel sauce off the heat and set it aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cut up the croissants into cubes (the recipe calls for 6 cups of diced croissants which, depending on their size, is 3 or 4 croissants), mash the bananas and toss them together in an 8-inch square dish.

When the caramel sauce has cooled, whisk in the eggs (crack the eggs in a separate bowl and whisk lightly before adding to the caramel) and mix well. Pour the caramel custard mixture over the croissant-and-banana mixture and let it soak for 1 hour.

Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes until the pudding is puffed up and has browned on top.

Serve warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.

And yes, it is perfectly acceptable to eat leftovers for breakfast.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple Cake

As summer (finally) quickly and quietly slips into winter (we don't really have autumn in Islamabad), the variety of fruit available to bake with becomes very limited.

You always have apples though.

I can't explain it but I don't like big chunks of apple in cake or muffins. I don't have a problem with baked or cooked apples in general, I love apple pie and crisp and all that. This particular quirk is just limited to apples in cake. Some recipes call for cooking the apples first and then adding them, but that takes away significantly from the flavour. In my opinion the best thing to do it is to grate them.

This is the simplest apple cake recipe with warm, smoky hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. It's a great way to use up apples and the cake is such perfect comfort food. We've been eating it with vanilla custard. Delicious!

4 oz (½ cup) butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
½ cup wholewheat flour
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup milk
2 cups grated apple

  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰F).
  2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and allspice and set aside.
  3. Beat together the butter and sugars at high speed until the mixture is light and creamy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture, one tablespoon at a time, with your mixer/beater on slow speed. Add the milk alternately with the dry ingredients, a little at a time, until it's all used. 
  6. Finally stir in the vanilla, apples and nutmeg (nutmeg is a strong flavouring and a tiny bit will go a long way so don't be tempted to add too much). Don't over-mix, just stir to combine all the ingredients. (You can add some finely chopped walnuts too at this point, I don't know why it didn't occur to me until after the cake was in the oven.)
  7. Grease and flour your cake tin. I used a 10-inch bundt tin, but you can use any tin you like. However, you will have to adjust the baking time with a different cake pan.
  8. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt tin and place in the oven. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
  10. Then remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool. 
  11. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sweetcorn Salsa

Sunday night we hosted a dinner party and I somehow ended up with most of the cooking.

I made Hara Masala Chicken  and I made a Thai red curry at home for the first time and it turned out really good so I'll post that recipe soon.

In the meantime, here's the recipe for the Sweetcorn Salsa I made as a side dish. It's an easy colourful zesty accompaniment to any meal. Serve it as a salad, as an appetizer with corn chips or toss it into some pasta for a light lunch.Swap out the sweetcorn for another chopped tomato and you've got fresh tomato salsa!


1 (15oz) can sweetcorn
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (coriander)
1 green chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon crushed garlic 
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Drain the sweetcorn and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, except for the salt and pepper.
  2. Mix well, cover and let the salsa sit for a couple of hours (at room temperature or in the fridge, doesn't really matter).
  3. Just before serving season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Peach and Butterscotch Tart

The aforementioned peaches were still all over the house so for a dinner party one evening I decided to take along a peach tart.

Now I know pastry can seem scary and difficult (I used to think so) but a basic shortcrust pastry isn't. And I'm going to go ahead and encourage you to use a food processor to make it.

Our Pakistani summers are long and very hot so for most  of the year making pastry by hand just doesn't work. The butter, which is supposed to be cold, starts to soften and liquefy within seconds and the heat from your hands doesn't help when you begin to rub the butter into the flour. I have a lot of trouble rolling it out too in this kind of weather. You're supposed to chill the pastry to allow it to rest and to make it easier to roll out. But there's no point because the second it's out of the fridge it becomes incredibly difficult to handle.

Which leads my to my second unorthodox suggestion; don't roll out the pastry. Just press it into the tin or pie plate the way you would a cheesecake base. It is better to roll it out so the pastry's the same thickness and all, but if you, for whatever reason, can't do that, pressing it into your pan will suffice for a tart.

When the weather is cooler I will do a post about making pastry by hand and we'll do it all properly and roll it out and everything, but for now let's just take the easy way out. (It's okay to do that sometimes.)

This simple peach tart is elevated to a whole new level of delicious with a butterscotch filling in the gaps left between the fruit and makes for an excellent dessert served with a drizzle of cream.


1½ cups flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
4 oz (½ cup) butter
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

6 peaches, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg

Butterscotch filling
2 oz butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup cream 

  1. To make the pastry, add the flour, icing sugar and butter to a food processor and pulse about three times, a few seconds each time, until the butter has been cut up and the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. It's okay if there are still bits of butter visible but these pieces shouldn't be larger than the size of a pea.
  2. With the processor running, add one 2 tablespoons of water, one by one. The dough should start to clump together, the mixture wont form one ball of dough but will form larger clumps. If not, add another tablespoon of water, but you really shouldn't need more water than that. 
  3. Remove this mixture from the processor and press together in your hands to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰F).
  5. After 30 minutes, remove the pastry from the fridge and knead lightly to soften. Place the pastry dough in a 9-inch tart tin or pie plate (I used a tart tin with a removable base) and press evenly into the tin/plate, starting with the base and working up the sides. 
  6. Add the peaches to a large bowl. Add in the brown sugar, caster sugar, cornflour, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss lightly to coat the fruit.
  7. Arrange the peaches in the pastry crust. There should be gaps between the fruit and the peaches will shrink a bit while baking, which is fine because we need space for the butterscotch filling.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the pastry is a light golden brown.
  9. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  10. When the tart has cooled, make the butterscotch filling by melting together the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cream and stir to mix (the mixture will bubble up). Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce cook for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  11. Let the butterscotch filling cool a bit, it shouldn't be very hot but it shouldn't be allowed to cool to much, because it will thicken.
  12. When the filling is still warm ,drizzle in or drop teaspoons into the gaps in the pastry crust between the peaches, until no gaps remain. Drizzle some of the sauce on top of the peaches and leave the tart to cool again.
  13. Serve with single cream.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Roasted Peach Ice Cream

Say you have a lot of peaches in the house...

... like really a lot...

... well, you can only eat so many.

So I had to find other ways to use them up.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, fresh-fruit ice cream is much harder to make by hand because, without the churning process, it isn't easy to get all the ice crystals out. So I decided to roast the peaches with some brown sugar to cook the water out.

This is a lazy day-off kind of ice cream. You leave the peaches to roast in the oven, then puree the fruit and stir it into the cream. Easy! No egg yolks or custards or anything.

The result is a spicy, kind of peach-pie flavoured ice cream. It's delicious served with a drizzle of caramel sauce or dark chocolate sauce.


500g peaches
5 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
1½ cups cream

1. Preheat the oven to 190⁰C (375⁰F).
2. Peel the peaches, and slice each one into eight pieces.
3. Place the peaches in an ovenproof dish, add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg...

... and toss together so that the fruit is coated.

4. Place the dish in the oven for 1½ hours, stirring every 20 minutes, until the syrup has reduced and thickened (as shown below).

5. Remove the dish from the oven and let the peaches cool to room temperature.
6. When the peaches have cooled, add them with the syrup to a blender or food processor and puree.
7. Stir this puree into the 1½ cups of cream. Mix well and then transfer to a large rectangular freezer-safe container. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to chill.
{If you have an ice cream maker, lucky you. I'm hoping to get an ice cream maker attachment for my Kenwood soon, but until that happens I'm still making ice cream by hand. This is why even if you do finally get a fancy stand mixer you do not toss away the trusty hand beater that stood by you for 11 years (and counting).}
8. Remove the container from the fridge and, if you're using an ice cream maker, churn the peach mixture according to the manufacturer's instructions.
9. If not, place the container in the freezer and after every 30 minutes stir the ice cream vigorously, breaking up all the frozen bits around the edges. (The first two times I did this by hand with a spatula but after that, I switched to my electric hand mixer.)
10. Continue this process for about 3 hours, mixing up the ice cream every 30 minutes. Then leave it in the freezer to firm up. (There are some great instructions on David Lebovitz's blog about how to make ice cream by hand.)
11. When serving, if it's too firm to scoop out, take it out of the freezer 10 minutes beforehand and dip the ice cream scoop in hot water before using.