The Musette: easy, peasy, chocolate pudding

I think I may have mentioned that my beloved doesn’t believe a meal is complete without dessert! If I do make one it will generally just be for him, or for guests. Furthermore, he’s none too keen on eating the same dessert several days running. This means I either have to make a small amount or something that’ll easily freeze in portions.

This chocolate dessert falls into the former category and, what’s more, tastes quite different depending on whether it’s hot or cold – a result! It’s also rather indulgent and you can easily serve a smaller portion after several courses, either cooking it before dinner or while guests enjoy the cheese course. Furthermore, it’s made with ingredients that most cooks will have in their fridge and cupboards.

Ingredients (serves 4 large or 8 small portions)

  • 100g (31/2oz) dark (semi-sweet) chocolate
  • 2 tbsp dulce de leche
  • 2 medium organic eggs (approx. 55-60g shell on)
  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp espresso coffee powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan/gas mark 3 (320ºF/275ºF fan).

2. Chop or break the chocolate into small pieces and leave to melt, without stirring, in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water (or on a low heat in the microwave). As the chocolate melts, gently stir in the dulce de leche and turn off the heat.

3. Break the eggs into a large bowl, add the sugar, salt and coffee powder and beat until thick and fluffy.

4. Stir the chocolate and dulce de leche into the mixture. You need only two three or three stirs to incorporate it. Do not over-mix it.

5. Transfer to containers using a rubber spatula.

6. Put the containers into a roasting tin or baking dish. Pour enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of them, then bake for 20 minutes until the surface is lightly crisp  – like a macaron – and the inside rich, thick and creamy.

7. Serve with a teaspoon and, if you wish, some cantucci or brutti ma buoni (hazelnut) biscuits.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. As they bake, a soft crust appears on these puddings, while the inside stays rich and fondant-like. They will stay like that for an hour or two, should you wish to make them a little ahead of time.

2. Heatproof china ramekins are ideal for these, but you can also bake them in ovenproof cups. I’ll use espresso cups if I’m making them as a dessert at a dinner party.

3. The recipe is scaleable should you wish to make more (or less).

4. I have baked these chocolate puddings hot for dessert at lunchtime and then my beloved has enjoyed another one cold in the evening, when it is like a thick, fudgy chocolate mousse.

5. I think you could also play around with the flavour by adding a tbsp organic orange zest (chocolate-orange) rather than the 1/2tsp coffee powder which just enhances the chocolate flavour.

6. You might be wondering what to do with the rest of the jar of dulce de leche? Never fear, I have some ideas

  1. A dollop of dulce de leche in your coffee will add sweetness and creaminess. Try it in your morning cup of joe and you will never want to start your day any other way. This also works nicely in iced coffee or hot chocolate, especially when topped with whipped cream.
  2. Next time you make porridge, pancakes, french toast or waffles trade maple syrup for dulce de leche. Warm it in the microwave or on the stove and drizzle over breakfast for a morning delight.
  3. Instead of using buttercream to ice cupcakes try using dulce de leche as a topping. I’ve also used it in Caramel Banana Cake.
  4. Dulce de leche makes a fun dip or sauce for fruit and it’s delicious drizzled over ice cream
  5. If you adore sweet and savory combinations try pairing dulce de leche with cheese (after all, they are both made from milk). Sounds yummy?

This recipe recently featured as a guest post over at A Jeanne in the Kitchen

The Musette: lemon and poppy seed cake

This is an extremely moreish cake. You have been warned. I make this, cut it into squares and freeze it, otherwise it’s all too easy to keep dipping one’s hand into the cake tin for yet another piece. A moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips unless you’re in calorie deficit after a nice long bike ride!

It’s a cross between a lemon drizzle cake and a lemon and poppy seed muffin. I imagine it’s the sort of cake my late grandmother might have baked to sell in her corner shop, just the thing to have with a morning coffee or afternoon cup of tea. It’s slightly tweaked from Dan Lepard’s excellent book Short and Sweet: The Best of Home Baking.

The cake is also very popular at our cycling club events, which is where this one ended up. Having dropped off a number of cakes for our last club event, the volunteers were seen hovering over them like buzzards. I’m assuming some of the participants got back quickly enough to have a few slices, but the tail-end Charlies were probably all too late.

This cake is too delicious for mere words

Ingredients (cuts into 32-36 small squares)

  • 400g (2 2/3 cups) caster sugar
  • 125g (9 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 100ml (6 tbsp) buttermilk
  • 50ml (3 tbsp) hot water
  • 2 tbsp finely grated organic lemon zest
  • 100ml (6 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 large organic eggs, approx 45g (1⅔oz) each without the shell
  • 250g (1 2/3 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 75g (¾ cup) fine oatmeal (or oats, finely ground in food processor)
  • 30g (4 tbsp) poppy seeds

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the cakes in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into squares for serving.

3. Beat 250g of the sugar with the butter, buttermilk and lemon zest until pale and fluffy, add in the eggs one at a time and beat well to incorporate. Then beat in the hot water.

4. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and baking powder into a medium mixing bowl, add the oats and poppy seeds, stir to combine. Spoon the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and mix gently until just combined. Do not overmix.

5. Pour the soft-dropping consistency batter into the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

6. While the cake is cooling in its tin, gently heat the remaining sugar with the lemon juice until it dissolves. Poke holes all over the cake with a skewer and brush the lemon syrup all over the top. Leave to cool, still in the tin, on a wire rack and then dredge with more caster sugar before serving.

This cake is dangerously moreish!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than the cake should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium-foil tent.

4. I have successfully made the cake substituting coconut cream or vegetable oil for the buttermilk with no noticeable change in either texture or taste.

5. If you don’t like poppy seeds, just leave them out.

The Musette: lamb casserole with beans

At the weekends, particularly during the colder months, one of my challenges is to find, amend or develop recipes that cook while we’re out riding and are ready to serve by the time my husband has finished his post-ride ablutions. My solution to this conundrum is what I like to refer to as ‘slow one-pot cooking’. Slow cooking turns less expensive cuts into a feast, tenderising the meat and giving the flavours time to develop and meld together. I cook this in the oven but equally it can be cooked in a crock-pot or on a gentle heat on the stove.

This is a favourite recipe which I’ve adapted from one by Australian cook and restauranter Bill Grainger. It requires only a few ingredients and can be served with a simple green salad and a crusty baguette or another green vegetable. For very hungry cyclists, you could also serve a baked potato to mop up the tomatoey juices.

 

Like so many things in life, planning and preparation is the key to a successful outcome

Ingredients (serves four cyclists)

  • Approx 1kg (2.2lbs) boned and rolled lamb shoulder, trimmed of all excess fat (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 250ml (1 cup) of white wine (optional)
  • 1 fresh or dried bouquet garni
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) cans cannellini or haricot beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC /140ºC fan/gas mark 3 (320ºF/275ºF fan). Place a large, sturdy roasting dish, casserole (dutch oven) or frying pan on the hob over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the room-temperature lamb and brown well all over. This will take ten minutes or so.

Beautifully browned

2. Remove the shoulder and now gently cook the onions in the fat until they turn translucent – about ten minutes. Add a teaspoon of salt to help prevent the onions from browning. Add the garlic for 30 seconds at the end.

3. Remove the onions, drain off any excess fat and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Let it bubble away for around five minutes. Season the lamb and put it, onions and winey reduction into a casserole dish.

Ready for the oven

4. Now add all the other ingredients and stir gently. To prevent the casserole from drying out, cover the contents with a circle of crushed, damp greaseproof (parchment) paper and pop on the casserole lid. Slide it into the oven and leave to cook while you’re out riding. This will cook happily for anywhere from 2-4 hours.

5. On your return, remove the casserole dish from the oven and leave to stand with the lid still on while you’re having your shower.

6. Take out the lamb and discard the bouquet garni.

Ready to serve

7. Remove the string, thickly slice the lamb  – it generally just falls apart – and serve with a portion of the sticky, tomato-flavoured beans. You’ll see from the photo I’ve sprinkled some chopped flat leaf parsley onto the beans, or you can use chopped fresh thyme leaves. Just add a green salad or another green vegetable on the side and, if you must, some crusty bread or a baked potato. It all depends on how much energy you’ve expended on your morning’s ride!

Soon to be demolished

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Don’t forget to taste and season as you cook. Unseasoned food is bland and you use less salt and pepper if you season at the start and during the cooking process, rather than at the end.

2. Shoulder of lamb is quite a fatty cut so it’s important to eliminate as much of that fat as possible by cutting it out and then browning the lamb. If, when the dish has finished cooking, it still looks too fatty, blot the surface gently with a paper kitchen towel to absorb any excess.

3. This dish can be cooked the day before, left overnight in the fridge and then reheated the following day. This also makes it easier to eliminate any excess fat which will harden on the surface.

4. The recipe works equally well made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Again, you can used tinned or cook from dried the day before.

5. As this is cooking rather than baking, feel free to play around with the herbs and spices. I have made a similar dish with tinned flageolet beans, a finely diced confit lemon, a handful of artichoke hearts and 500ml (2 cups) of white wine.

6. If you are going to use wine, only cook with wine you’d be happy to drink.

7. Go easy on the rosemary in the bouquet garni as an excess tends to give the beans a soapy flavour. I use a mixture of bay leaves, thyme and a little rosemary.

8. I often fold young baby spinach into the hot bean mixture, instead of serving it with a salad.

9. You can cook the lamb separately from the beans. Once browned, pop it into a roasting tray on a trivet, add an inch or so of water and cover the tin with baking foil. The water will prevent the lamb from drying out. Just cook the beans as instructed, albeit without the lamb.

The Musette: beef casserole

With the nights starting to draw in and the mercury dipping, thoughts turn to warming recipes. This is another of my one-pot recipes which happily cooks while I’m out cycling or watching live bike racing. If I’ve the time and/or inclination, I might marinade the beef beforehand in the red wine but I find it works just as well without.

You may notice an absence of herbs and spices in the picture of ingredients. That’s because it’s another dish where I would encourage you to use what you have in your cupboard – experiment.

I’m going to ‘fess up. The bottle of wine has a screw top. You may be shocked since I always say “cook only with wine you’d be prepared to drink”. This was a very acceptable red wine – for drinking and cooking – I found in my local branch of Lidl for €2.19 a bottle. There, my secret’s out. I am not, and never will be, a wine connoisseur.

Ingredients (serves two cyclists)

  • 1 beef cheek cubed (approx 400g/14oz of meat)
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or beef dripping
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 small turnips, finely chopped
  • 12 small carrots peeled and left whole
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 6 anchovy fillets preserved in oil
  • 500ml (2 cups) of red wine
  • 500ml (2 cups) of beef stock (home-made, tinned or cubed)
  • 1 bouquet garni (fresh or dried)

Method

1. Mix together in a sealable plastic bag the flour, paprika, salt, pepper and dried thyme. Add the beef chunks, seal the bag and shake to coat. This helps to seal the beef and thicken the sauce slightly while it cooks.

2. Heat your fat of choice in an ovenproof casserole (dutch oven) or saucepan on the stove on a medium-high heat. When the fat is hot add the beef in a single layer. Do not crowd the pan. If necessary cook in several batches. You want to sear the meat to lock in flavour, not boil it!

3. Brown the meat on all sides. It should take around ten minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put aside.

4. Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until the celery softens and the onion is translucent – 10-15 minutes. Add the cubed turnip and whole carrots, the crushed garlic and the anchovies. Don’t turn your nose up at the anchovies, they impart a delicious taste and no one will know they were even there. It’ll be our secret! Break the anchovies up with a wooden spoon, stirring until they melt.

5. Add the bouquet garni, red wine and the beef stock, bring the mixture up to a simmer; add the beef and any juices. Cover the ingredients with a damp, scrunched-up piece of greaseproof (cartouche) – which prevents the dish from drying out – add the lid and pop into a pre-heated slow oven on 140°C/120°C fan/gas mark 1 (275°F/250°F fan) and leave to gently cook for anything up to eight hours.

6. Remove from the oven, fish out the bouquet garni, stir, check the seasoning and serve with your side dish of choice. I served mine with mashed celeriac because it cooks quickly. But equally, you could use mashed or baked potatoes to mop up the delicious winey juices.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. This is a very forgiving recipe. As I said above you can use lots of different ingredients with the beef. Just think about things which go well together. You can make the dish go further with the addition of more vegetables. Anything you add to the casserole which is finely chopped tends to mush down into the sauce while large pieces of vegetables soften but remain whole. For example, I might fry pancetta lardons with finely chopped leeks rather than onions, add a packet of frozen button onions to the casserole and a handful of whole button mushrooms. Instead of whole small carrots, I might use parsnips, cut into finger-sized pieces. Or even add small whole potatoes still in their (cleaned) skins.

2. If you use a more gelatinous cut of beef say, the blade (shoulder), I would advise marinading the meat for 12 hours beforehand in the wine.

3. If you don’t use anchovies, add 1 tbsp of soy sauce or more salt. I sometimes add a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

4. You can remove the meat, whiz up the sauce with a hand-held blender and serve it as that Niçois classic daube with small meat-filled ravioli. Personally I find this too heavy but have happily served it with gnocchi or panisse, a sort of Niçois polenta but made with chick pea flour. I make these up in batches, in a square cake tin and freeze the excess.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (4 cups) of water
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • ¾ tsp of sea salt
  • 285g (2¼ cups) finely ground chick pea (garbanzo) flour

Method

1. Lightly oil a 23cm (9 inch) square cake tin and line with cling film (plastic wrap).

2. Bring the water, oil and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan. Don’t let it boil!

3. Whisk in the sieved chick pea flour and continue whisking, to avoid lumps, until it thickens – about three minutes.

4. Switch to a wooden spoon and continue to stir until the mixture becomes very thick. This generally takes around ten minutes and helps you work up a bit more of an appetite.

5. Pile the mixture into the oiled and lined baking tin, smoothing the surface with a pallet knife and leave it to cool.

6. Once cold, tip out onto a chopping board and cut into servings. These can be the size of fat chips or even larger. In Nice they’re shaped a bit like flying saucers because they pour the mixture into saucers to set. They’ll keep for a week in the fridge but I generally freeze any excess for up to three months.

7. Use enough olive oil to coat the pieces and put them into a medium hot oven at 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F fan) on a shallow baking tray for 30 minutes to brown, turning them over after 15.

8. Alternatively, you can shallow fry them in a frying pan of hot olive oil until they’re crisp and nicely browned, approximately five minutes on either side. Drain on kitchen paper before serving.

9. They also make rather nice pre-dinner nibbles if cooked in bite-sized pieces and served warm, on cocktails sticks, with plenty of freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

The Musette: coconut financieres

When I make  crème anglais (custard), ice cream and lemon curd, I have a lot of leftover egg whites. But I don’t throw these away Instead I store or freeze them to use later in meringues, buttercream, angel food cake, pavlova, mousse, nougat, marshmallow and financieres. The latter were created in the late 1800s by a bakery near the Paris Bourse, currently being renovated and opening in 2020 as the Pinault Collection.

Paris Bourse (image: Wikipedia)

The cakes were named and made for the wealthy bankers who frequented the shop. They’re rich with brown butter, small and crumbless for portability, shaped like a gold bar – ideal for a busy banker or handy for a cyclist’s back pocket. Financieres are very forgiving and versatile cakes which can be made in a variety of small shapes and flavour combinations. Typically they’re made with ground blanched almonds which have little flavour so I like to play around with them and one of my favourite combinations uses coconut and coconut sugar which I think gives them a more unctuous and interesting flavour.

Defrosted egg whites to the left (image Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 72 petit four sized cakes)

  • 180g (3 cups) desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 150g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 75g (¾ cup) coconut sugar
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 225g (8oz) egg whites (7-8 egg whites)
  • 90g (3oz) butter ‘beurre noisette’
  • 110g (4oz) clarified butter
  • 120g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

Method

1. Prepare the beurre noisette (‘hazelnut’ butter, so called for the scent of hazelnuts the browned butter produces), cut the butter into pieces, melt it in a small saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once the butter boils, keep a close eye on it — you want it to turn a golden brown. The deeper the colour, the better the flavour, but be careful not to let the butter burn and go black — something that can happen very quickly.

2. Melt the rest of the butter in another saucepan over a low heat, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool and for the milk solids to settle.

3. In a large mixing bowl combine the coconut, sugars and salt and fold in the egg whites.

4. Add all the butters (but not the solids) in three steps, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

5. Sift the flour onto a piece of greaseproof (parchment) paper and add in three stages folding gently each time to incorporate.

6. Cover the batter with cling film (plastic wrap) and chill for several hours or overnight in the fridge. The batter will firm up considerably.

The batter will firm up in the fridge (image: Sheree)

7. Take the batter out of the fridge. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC/170ºC fan/gas mark 5 (375ºF/325ºF fan).

8. Generously butter  – financiere batter is notoriously sticky – and then sugar your preferred baking moulds – the smaller the better. I use mini muffin and mini financiere tins.

9. Fill mould three-quarters full – I use a very small ice cream scoop so that they’re all the same size – place tins on baking sheet, put in centre of oven and bake for about 15 minutes. The cakes should be a dark golden brown, springy to the touch and easy to pull away from the sides of the pan.

10. Unmould the cakes as soon as you remove the tins from the oven. If necessary, run the handle of a teaspoon or a blunt knife around the edges of the cakes to help ease them out. Transfer the financieres to a wire rack and allow them to cool to room temperature.

11. The cakes are best eaten they day they’re made but they’ll keep in the cake tin for 1-2 days, providing you can resist temptation, or sit in the freezer for a month.

Little bars and coins of chewy deliciousness (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the financieres in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. With financieres it’s all about the ratio of crisp exterior to soft chewy interior which is why they’re so often served as petit fours.

4. If you bake yours in silicone moulds, still generously butter the form as it’ll create the much-desired crispy outer crust.

5. Once you’re conversant with the recipe, experiment. I often use ground pistachios instead of coconut and add some matcha tea powder to intensify that gorgeous green colour.

6. If you make larger ones you can pop some fruit in the centre, raspberries with pistachios, pineapple with coconut, apricots or peaches with almonds – there’s no end to the possibilities.

7. You can even make savoury ones but leave out the sugar!

8. The batter will keep for a week or so in the fridge so there’s no need to bake them all at once.

The Musette: sticky, spicy beef ribs

When my friend’s sons come to stay with me I do literally kill the fatted calf and ply them with their favourite foods but then the way to most men’s hearts, whatever their ages, is via their stomachs. Of course, the boys have high expectations because their mother is an excellent cook.

They both love beef so home-made hamburgers, côte du boeuf (roast ribs of beef), tafelspitz (Austrian boiled sirloin of beef) and lasagne Bolognese are all popular but their favourite is my sticky, spicy beef ribs adapted from a recipe for BBQ beef ribs by Michelin two-starred chef Tom Kerridge.

I live in an apartment where BBQs are forbidden, largely because of the fire risk but, while I accept that the deep smokey flavour in the original recipe is missing from these ribs, they are still finger-lickin’ delicious. The dish takes three days to prepare but each stage involves very little actual work on the part of the cook.

Ingredients (serves two teenage boys with hollow legs)

Spice rub:

  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp  ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp dried origano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 x 500g (2lb total) short ribs of beef on the bone

Glaze:

  • 60g/7oz pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 85g/9oz jar onion relish
  • 150ml (⅔ cup) Guinness beer or similar
  • 1 tbsp hot English mustard powder
  • 2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • 100ml (½ cup) cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar

Method

1. Stir together all of the dry spices and herbs and rub them all over the ribs of beef. Place the beef into a large plastic bag and cover with any remaining mix. Store in the fridge overnight.

2. To make the glaze, place the chopped dates and onion relish into a bowl. Bring the beer up to the boil in a saucepan and pour it onto the dates and onions. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to cool to room temperature.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the remaining glaze ingredients.

4. When the date and onion mixture has cooled, blend the mixture until smooth and pour it into the rest of the glaze.

5. Take the ribs out of the fridge, wash off the spice rub and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place them into a large casserole dish (Dutch oven), pour over the glaze, cover with a scrunched up damp piece of greaseproof paper (cartouche) and cover with a lid or aluminium foil.

6. Put the casserole into a preheated oven at 150°C /130°C fan/gas mark 2 (300°F/275°F fan) and cook very slowly for four to five hours, or until the beef is very tender and has almost fallen off the bones. The house will smell wonderful!

7. When the beef is cooked, remove the casserole from the oven and leave to cool at room temperature. When cool, place in the fridge to chill overnight. When it’s cold the fat will have set on the top and can easily be removed. It can sit happily in the fridge for several days until you’re ready to finish the dish.

8. When you’re ready to reheat, place the lidded casserole dish back into a pre-heated oven at 120°C/100°C fan/gas mark 1 (300°F/275°F fan) and allow the ribs to warm through for two to three hours, preferably while you’re out riding.

9. Remove from the oven, if necessary, place over a low heat on the hob and slowly reduce the glaze with the beef still in the pan, basting the ribs every 10 minutes. When the glaze is reduced and coats the beef, remove them from the pan and serve with oven-baked potatoes and home-made coleslaw or whatever else takes your fancy!

Sheree’s handy hints

1. My version of this recipe differs from the original because when I first made it I didn’t have all the specified ingredients. I generally don’t tamper – well not much anyway – with recipes from Michelin-starred chefs. However the end result was truly scrummy and so I’ve continued to make them this way by popular demand of the men in my life.

2. However, I would urge you to experiment and find the combination of ingredients which best suits your tastes.

3. If you can use a BBQ, then steps eight and nine should be done on it, rather than in the oven and on the hob.

The Musette: Bosh mezze cake

A crowd coming round on a Monday night? I raided the cupboards and fridge and had all the ingredients for this recipe to hand which I followed to the letter. It was very tasty – nothing left over – but I thought it could be improved upon. So the second time I made it I did improve it, but also learnt a few important lessons!

Ingredients (feeds 8 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 large aubergines (eggplants) cut into round discs
  • 2 fat courgettes (zucchini) cut into round slices
  • 1 small jar grilled artichokes, drained
  • portion Hummus (recipe here)
  • portion Moutabal (recipe here)
  • portion Tapenade (recipe below)
  • 1 flat bread (cut to the size of the cake tin)
  • handful finely chopped coriander (cilantro)
  • portion 100g (1/2 cup) basmati rice (cooked & cooled) or portion mujadara (recipe here)
  • tomato chilli jam (recipe here)
  • portion falafel mix (recipe here)

Tapenade

  • 200g (4 cups) whole black olives, preferably niçoise or kalamata
  • 3 tbsp capers, well rinsed if packed in salt
  • 2 anchovies, well rinsed if packed in salt, roughly chopped
  • 1 fat clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tbsp organic lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Method (for tapenade)

1. Remove the stones from the olives with a pitter or a sharp knife. Put in a food processor with the capers, anchovies, garlic and thyme, and whizz to a rough puree. Squeeze in the lemon juice and, with the motor still running, add the oil.

2. Alternatively, pound the garlic, anchovies, capers and thyme together in a pestle and mortar until smooth, followed by the olives, leaving these slightly more chunky, then gradually add the oil and lemon juice, pounding between pours.

3. Taste, and add pepper and more lemon juice if necessary.

Method for Mezze Cake

1. Put all the falafel ingredients into a food processor, blend to a thick paste and put to one side.

2. Cook the rice or mujadara and leave to cool.

3. With a sharp knife, cut the flat bread to the shape of your cake tin.

4. Cut the aubergine (egg plant) and courgette (zucchini) into to 1cm thick slices and griddle on both sides of each slice until they’re cooked through. I just brush them with olive oil on both sides.

5. Place the flatbread in the base of the cake tin.

6. Carefully and creatively layer each ingredient to build the cake (it’s your cake, add what you want, when you want or see video in link below for guidance! Make sure the top layer is the falafel mixture). I started as per the video with hummus dribbled with chilli jam as per photo above, then added layers of vegetables covered with tapenade and moutabal with my mudjara rice layer in-between.

7. Bake the cake at 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan) for 30 minutes until golden on top. Take the cake out of the oven and leave for 10 minutes or so before decorating with a further layer of hummus and some more griddled vegetables (I found that this step isn’t strictly necessary) before slicing and serving.

8. Serve with chopped coriander (cilantro) more chilli jam or whatever else you’d like.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Feel free to replace any of the home-made components with shop bought ones or indeed replace anything you don’t like with something you do.

2. The first time I made this in a square rather than round tin and it kept its shape so much better.

3. Remember to press all the layers together tightly before adding the falafel layer. The second time I made it I left the mixture as falafel balls. It loooked smarter, didn’t require topping with further hummus but it was a big mistake as the falafel top layer helps the cake keep its shape and makes it easier to cut.

4. As it’s a mezze cake, I generally serve it with some refreshing tabouleh which is heavy on the parsley and mint.

5. The following day, the cold left overs make a delicious wrap.

The Musette: Italian style soft almond biscuits

I love almonds and am always looking for recipes which include these lovely nuts. I love biscuits but too many include forbidden dairy ingredients. I always have a couple of egg whites knocking around in the fridge so I love it when I find a recipe that solves this three-way issue.

The recipe starts with blanched almonds, rich in moisture and essential oils which I reduce to a fine flour in my food processor. However, I’d be just as happy to use unpeeled ones. It’s important to use good quality nuts otherwise the end product won’t taste good.

I make the biscuits  all the same shape and size by using a very small ice cream scoop but you could roll the balls of dough in pine nuts or crushed pistachios, stud them with glace or fresh cherries, or a curl of candied peel, or a thumb print of jam. I like them best plain, I don’t even dust them afterwards with icing sugar as I find they’re sweet enough.

These are as much marzipan sweets as they are biscuits, with the egg white keeping them sticky and light, so they need careful cooking. When cooked, the biscuits turn opaque with just a gilding of gold on top. Keep a close eye on them, so they don’t catch on the bottom. These are not biscuits to walk away from – they require you to loiter close by. When they come out of the oven, they will still be soft, so let them cool on a wire rack before lifting on to a plate and (if you must) dusting with more icing sugar.

Soft almond biscuits (makes 25 – 30 small biscuits)

  • 250g (2 1/2 cups) blanched almonds, ground in a food processor
  • 250g (2 cups) sifted icing (confectioners’) sugar, plus extra to dust
  • Zest of an unwaxed organic lemon, approx. 1 tbsp
  • 2 organic egg whites (approx. 60g or 2oz)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/(325F/300F) gas 3½. In a food processor, grind the almonds to a flour, tip into a large bowl, then add the sifted icing sugar, salt and lemon zest. Stir well to incorporate all the ingredients.

2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, add to the almond mix and bring everything together into a dough initially using a spatula and then your (clean) hands.

3. Use a small ice-cream scoop to form balls or dust your hands with icing sugar and make balls by rolling walnut-sized lumps of dough between your palms.

4. If you want to decorate them, either press something into the centre of each biscuit, or make a deep indent with your finger and fill with a blob of jam.

5. Put the dough shapes, slightly flattened, nicely spaced out, on a baking tray lined with greaseproof (parchment) baking paper or silpat, and bake on the middle shelf for 10-12 minutes, or until they are lightly golden.

6. They will still be soft when pulled from the oven, so leave them to cool completely on a wire rack, then lift on to a plate and (if you must) dust with more icing sugar. Heaven with tea or coffee!

The Musette: mujadara

Lentils, rice, olive oil, spices and onions – this Middle Eastern standard is the ultimate pantry recipe. It’s also the classic example of a dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts. There are literally dozens of recipes for mujadara out there – each country, possibly even each family, seems to have its own version. The one I like best is that served at our local Lebanese restaurant, who kindly gave me their recipe – result! It’s also quick and easy to make. A bit of stirring on the stove and then pop it into the oven and it’s ready in next to no time.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 medium-sized onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g (3/4 cup) Puy lentils
  • 1ltr (4 cups) boiling filtered water
  • 325g (1 1/2 cups) long grain brown rice (soaked for an hour in 500 ml (2 cups) filtered water)
  • bunch finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves or coriander (cilantro) leaves

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 3 (375°F/350°F fan).

2. Toss the onions with the olive oil, cumin and thyme in a frying pan (skillet) and cook over a high heat until they turn golden brown, about 15 minutes.

3.Add the rinsed lentils, chopped garlic, salt and pepper and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the drained rice to the mix and turn into a casserole dish (dutch oven) before carefully adding the boiling water. Stir, pop on the lid and put it into the oven for around 25-30 minutes. It’s done when the lentils and rice are tender and there’s no liquid left.

4. Remove the dish from the oven. Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning. Fluff with a fork, sprinkle with the parsley or coriander (cilantro), and serve warm or at room temperature.

5. If you’re so inclined, you can dress it with greek-style yogurt, Aleppo-style pepper, crispy shallots and additional olive oil.

The Musette: vegan quinoa pancakes

My beloved was heading off on an insane four-day trip to Bangkok and I wanted to give him (and me) a breakfast treat before he left. I had a few frozen blueberries in the freezer which I turned into blueberry compote with the addition of the juice and zest of an organic lemon and two tablespoons of my home-made strawberry jam, though any red/black jam will do.

I also had a spot of quinoa flour lurking in the bottom of one of my storage jars which I toasted in the oven and then cooled before using in the recipe instead of the oat flour I typically use. I also added some coconut flour which I’ve found greatly adds to their texture making them ultra fluffy, but also moist and tender. Consequently they soak up the compote and maple syrup, but don’t fall apart when you cut into them.

Ingredients (enough for two hungry cyclists)

  • 50g (1/2 cup) almond flour
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot starch or cornflour
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2  tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups plant-based milk, I used unsweetened almond
  • 2 chia or flax seed eggs (2 tbsp chia seeds or flaxseed meal plus 6 tbsp filtered water)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil, I used grape-seed

Method

1. Preheat a non-stick griddle or flying pan over a medium heat.

2. Whisk together the chia seeds or flax meal with the water and set aside to gel.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.

4. Whisk together the milk, oil and syrup then add the “eggs” whisking again to incorporate. Then pour wet into the dry ingredients until a smooth, thick batter forms.

5. Pour ¼ cup of batter onto the pan and flatten slightly. Cook the pancake until small bubbles begin to form around the edges, about 2 – 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 1 – 2 minutes longer until the other side is golden brown. Repeat until no batter remains – typically makes six pancakes.

6. Serve warm with compote or fresh berries and pure maple syrup – enjoy!