Forever Nigella #5: Ginger Fruit Salad

The salad days have more or less come to an end in the southern hemisphere – the salad greens in our garden are either as tall as I am or buried beneath agressive weeds – but that wasn’t going to keep me from the challenge of whipping up a salad-ish entry for Forever Nigella #5.

I feel a bit nervous whenever someone mentions fruit salad, thanks to the dire stuff we had at school. The cooks would open vast tins of budget fruit cocktail – that bleached, tasteless collection of mystery fruits and the requisite one ‘cherry’ per tin – add slices of mushy bananas and serve it with luridly coloured jelly. I think we ate it out of hunger and boredom more than anything else, especially on the nights when dinner was curried sausages or suspiciously green-tinged ham steaks. This one, inspired by a recipe in Forever Summer (one of my favourite and most-used books, whatever the season), is something else entirely.

Gingery Fruit Salad
Nigella’s original recipe has melons, fresh lychees, peaches and pomegranate, but mine is more seasonally appropriate (for the southern hemisphere, anyway). She makes a special syrup to drizzle over hers – I’ve gone the express, no mess, no waste route and used the syrup from the lychee tin instead.

1 tin lychees in syrup
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced into thick coins
2 golden kiwifruit
2 persimmons
2 passionfruit
1 lime, juice and zest

Drain the lychees into a serving bowl and pour their syrup into a small saucepan. Set this over gentle heat and add the sliced ginger. Let simmer gently for five minutes, then take off the heat and set aside.
Peel and slice the kiwifruit and persimmon and add to the lychees. When the syrup has cooled, drizzle it over the fruit. You won’t need all of it – save the rest in a lidded jar in the fridge and add to gin and tonics or pretend champagne (or soda water).
Zest the lime over the fruit, then squeeze in the juice. Scoop the passionfruit pulp out and stir through the fruit. Serve immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for a few hours. Serves four.

Forever Nigella #4: Tiny Trifles

The wedding is getting ever closer and so is our party. At this point I’d happily settle for sitting in front of the TV or laptop on my own with a cucumber sandwich, but I don’t think I’m going to get away with it. Even my boss came up to me yesterday and asked for costume advice for a royal wedding party outfit (she’s red-haired, English – the choice was obvious).
More importantly, I had an epiphany over the weekend about my Forever Nigella #4 entry – and so now I’ve revised my party plan accordingly. Next Friday night I’d like to be sitting in front of the TV with a cucumber sandwich and one of these little beauties.

Royal Wedding Trifles
Exhaustive research has revealed that there’s at least one trifle recipe in all Nigella’s books and this recipe owes a little to all of them. I’ve aimed for a vague red, white and blue theme – berries, sponge, cream and Greek yoghurt – with a splash of Pimms for that English summer feeling and a dollop of passionfruit to represent the colonies. I made these in my precious ER glasses (which date back to the Queen’s 1953 tour of New Zealand) for the photograph but for the party itself I’ll be using something a little more robust. If you are feeding lots of people at your street party (or, indeed any party) you could always use plastic glasses. Quantities are approximate – so just add or subtract as you see fit.

For four people
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries and raspberries
A slab of sponge (or trifle sponges, if you are in the UK)
About 1/2 cup Pimms
Juice of 2 oranges (to equal 1/2 a cup)
About 1 cup softly whipped cream
About 1 cup Greek yoghurt
2 passionfruit

Cut the sponge into cubes and divide the fruit between the four glasses. Mix the Pimms and orange juice together and sprinkle over the top – you might not need all of it, in which case it can be a cook’s treat. Divide the fruit between the four glasses. Fold the whipped cream and yoghurt together and dollop gently on top of the fruit. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least two hours before serving (up to 12 hours is probably ok). Just before serving, scoop out the passionfruit flesh and divide between the glasses. Serve with tiny spoons and glasses of bubbles. To the bride and groom!

One ring to rule them all

There are just 15 sleeps to go until The Wedding and my party preparations are shamefully behind schedule. In all honesty, it’s because I’ve been spending most of the time admiring this very special part of my costume.

Isn’t it a beauty? Even if I don’t get around to anything else, at least I’ll be able to gaze at it as I sip my Pimms in front of the TV on April 29. I think I got the last one in Australasia, but you can always try your luck here.

Are you doing anything to celebrate the royal nuptials? If you are, don’t forget to enter this month’s Forever Nigella challenge, which has a Street Party theme. Oooh, and nip over here for some free printable bits of party kit (with thanks to party organiser extraordinaire Emma of Frog, Goose and Bear for the tip!). And do let me know if you have the secret to un-soggy cucumber sandwiches…

Comforting Chocolate Muffins

I woke up yesterday and remembered I hadn’t made anything for Maison Cupcake’s ‘Seduced by Chocolate’ Forever Nigella challenge. I fretted about what to make for about five minutes, then Hana the Super Nanny rang and said she was too sick to look after the Small Girl and suddenly my day became a lot more complicated.

As it turned out, my lovely boss was understanding and the Small Girl and I had a really fun morning. Then the Boy Wonder rang, sounding panicked. “It’s Christchurch. There’s been another earthquake. I don’t know when I’ll be home tonight.”

The news from Christchurch is just horrible. The September 4 earthquake was bad enough, but then it was just about buildings. Now it’s about mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, colleagues and friends, who have lost their lives due to an incredible dose of bad luck.

It’s pathetic, but the only thing I felt I could do last night was make a batch of Nigella’s chocolate chip muffins for the Boy Wonder and his workmates, who have put aside their own personal attachments and worked through the night to deliver news that nobody wants to hear.

Comforting Chocolate Muffins
I couldn’t find the recipe for this on, so here’s my slightly tweaked version. I hope you won’t mind me suggesting this, but maybe you’d like to consider making a batch of these for your colleagues and asking them to donate to the Christchurch earthquake relief fund at Thank you.

250g flour
3Tbsp cocoa
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
160g caster sugar
150g dark chocolate, smashed into little bits
250ml milk
6Tbsp melted butter, cooled (about 100g)
1 egg
1tsp brandy

Preheat oven to 200C. Put paper cases in 10 holes of a standard muffin tin.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, then stir through most of the chopped chocolate. Mix the wet ingredients together in a jug, then pour into the dry mix and fold together until just combined. Add a little more milk if it seems a bit dry. Sprinkle the rest of the chopped chocolate over the top. Bake for 20 minutes, until they are springy and pass the skewer test. Cool for five minutes before taking them out of the tins and setting on a rack to cool completely.

Pasta sorta alla Nigella

I like to think Nigella Lawson and I have a lot in common. We both love cooking and eating and feeding people, we both love buying cookbooks and bits of kitchen kit, we both have brown hair and beautiful daughters. We both have millionaire husbands and live in swanky Georgian houses in Belgravia… oh, hang on, that’s right, I knew there was something that didn’t quite match. For all our similarities, I doubt Nigella has the same sort of slightly sick feeling in the middle of January when she gets her credit card statement. She probably doesn’t look in her pantry and think, oh god, there’s nothing to eat and another week until pay day. But if she did, I like to think this is what she might come up with…

Pasta sorta alla Nigella
This is my entry for Forever Nigella, a new blogging challenge set by the wonderful Sarah of Maison Cupcake fame. The theme for this month’s challenge is ‘Seasonal Sensations’ – which I have interpreted as ‘making something sensational even when you are broke after Christmas’. I’ve taken inspiration from Nigella’s Ultimate Greek Salad (published in Forever Summer), which we have been eating almost constantly. But with no feta or olives left in the fridge, this is what I came up with to sustain us on a night when the cupboard was bare and the only thing we had in abundance was basil in the garden. Actually, the cupboard seems bare quite often at the moment, so we are eating like this a lot (which is no bad thing).

1/2 cup olive oil
1Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed with a little salt
4-6 vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
handfuls of fresh basil, roughly torn
225g pasta
salt and pepper

At least an hour before you want to eat (preferably two or more), put the olive oil, vinegar, onion and garlic in a small bowl. Stir well and cover.
Just before you want to eat, put the tomatoes, sugar and salt in another small bowl. Stir well and leave at room temperature.
When you want to eat, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain into a serving bowl, then tip the onion and tomato mixtures on top, followed by the basil. Grind over lots of black pepper. Toss well and congratulate yourself on another night of outwitting the bailiffs.