Almond Caramel Apple Shortcakes

Today’s post is proudly inspired by Mary Berry.


If you’ve never heard of her, firstly, do you live under a rock? Secondly, I’d like you to Google the Great British Bake-Off. I’ll give you a moment to catch up with the rest of the world before coming back to this post. Are we all on the same page now? Good, let’s continue.



Last week my mum and I were watching her cooking show, Mary Berry Cooks, this particular episode being about summer entertaining and afternoon tea. In case you missed it: last week I hosted a Wimbledon afternoon tea party that included this cake. I opted to make one large strawberry shortcake but Mary Berry chose to make several smaller scones to make serving (and thus eating and clean-up) easier. As someone who had heaps of cream dropped over the table, chairs and floor next week, I can testify that making individual shortcakes is a superior method- plus they still look just as appetising.




I paid tribute to Wimbledon with the classic strawberries and cream last week, so I decided that this week would belong to a different combination- apples, cinnamon and caramel. Trust me, it will not disappoint you.



What are some of your favourite flavour combinations? I’m looking to be more adventurous in my recipe testing and I’d love to hear from some of you!

Almond Caramel Apple Shortcakes

Ingredients

For the scones:

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar + extra for dusting the scones
  • 2 tsp baking powder*
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (8 tbsp) cold butter, grated like cheese or cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, cold
  • 1 egg (optional, the recipe still works well without it)
  • a handful of crushed slivered almonds, optional

For the apples:

  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, sliced thinly
  • 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup whipped cream
  • 2 tsp icing sugar, optional

For the caramel sauce: 

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Start by baking the scones. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350F°. Grease a large rimless baking sheet and like with parchment paper.
  2. Sieve the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the butter to the dry mixture and use our hands to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a dry coarse sand.
  3. Whisk the buttermilk and egg (if using)  together in a large measuring cup or a small bowl, making sure there are no streaks of egg yolk remaining. Reserve about a tablespoon of this mixture for brushing the scones.
  4. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. The dough should be slightly wet but not so much that it is sticking to your hands. If the dough is too wet then add flour, one tablespoon at a time until it holds together.
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and use your hands to press it into a large circle, about 2 cm/¾ inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or a small glass to cut the dough into scones. Gather any remaining scraps of dough and mould them together to make one huge scone.
  6. Add the cut scones and your scrap-scone to the prepared baking sheet. Brush with the reserved egg/buttermilk mixture before topping with the granulated sugar and almonds. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are just starting to turn golden brown. Allow to cool at room temperature before serving.

Prepare the filling:

  1. Whilst the scones are baking, core the apples and cut into thin slices. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Toss with the apples, making sure to coat them in the lemon juice. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare the caramel. Add the brown sugar to a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Allow the sugar to melt, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula to prevent it from burning. Once the sugar has melted completely and you have a smooth dark brown liquid, pour in the fresh cream. The mixture will sputter and spurt and that’s okay. Cut the butter into the hot brown sugar and stir until it’s completely melted. You should have a smooth, golden brown caramel. Stir in the vanilla essence and a pinch of salt, if desired.
  3. Once the scones have cooled, cut them in half. Layer first with sliced apple, followed by whipped cream and finally topping with warm caramel. If desired, you may dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!
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Tandoori Spiced Halloumi Skewers with Mint Sauce

Halloumi definitely goes on the list of things that I wish I’d known about earlier.


It just compliments everything I put it next to. Try these Halloumi And Veggie Wraps on for size. Then come back and make this recipe and try and tell me that halloumi is not magical. I have many things planned for this salty cheese in the future but let’s talk about the NOW.


Halloumi has long been criticised for becoming rubbery and unpleasant when cooked. Not that I don’t understand, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Do I have any magical tips for avoiding this? Of course I do, you know me. These are the 3 options most recommended by the Internet. Firstly, you could make your own halloumi. Whilst I’m not against homemade cheese, I don’t have 3 days to wait. The second option, which is more convenient, is to soak your cheese in cold water for up to an hour to get rid of some of the salt. The third option is to eat that cheese as soon as it comes out the pan! Don’t let your food get cold and you don’t have to worry about that rubbery feel. This is by far my favourite option because you don’t need to tell me twice to tuck into my food.


That having been said, this recipe is no frills, no fuss. The instructions are as simple as the cooking time is short. If you’d like to turn up the heat then increase the amount of cayenne. If you’re spice-shy then I’d suggest lathering the halloumi skewers in this simple mint sauce. Enjoy!


Tandoori Spiced Halloumi Skewers with Mint Sauce

Ingredients

For the halloumi:

  • 250g halloumi, sliced into thick rectangular prisms (nerd much??)
  • 6 skewers
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

For the mint sauce: 

  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan

Method

To make the mint sauce: combine all the ingredients for the mint sauce in a blender and pulse until combined. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar. Will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.

To make the halloumi skewers:

Start by carefully skewering the halloumi. Set aside. Combine the spices and olive oil in a small bowl and stir until it forms a thick paste. Coat the halloumi skewers in the tandoori spice paste. Heat a skillet on high heat and brush with some vegetable oil. Grill the skewers for 3 minutes on either side. Serve with the mint sauce and some naan and yogurt to curb the heat!

The Best Pasta Sauce

It’s really funny how this one came about.


At the end of last year, my dad brought home about 30 tomatoes. No joke, my kitchen was overflowing with this bright red fruit (vegetable?). I honestly feel uncomfortable calling a tomato a fruit, it just doesn’t feel right.


If you’ve read my post on this simple spinach and parmesan pesto, you’ll know that I love pasta from my head to-ma-toes. It’s honestly the best thing on this planet, next to chocolate of course. If there are two things that are meant to be together in this world, they are pasta and tomatoes. To be more specific, tomatoes that have been simmered for a couple of hours, with fresh fragrant herbs mixed in to give it that enticing aroma and I am going to stop before I drown in a pool of my own drool. Tomato sauce is okay, marinara sauce is great but this version is the best. After many weeks of tweaking and adjusting, I have finally come up with the variation of this sauce that I love the most.


Once made, don’t keep this to yourself, share it with others! I have a friend who brings pasta to school every single day for lunch. I have known him for 4 years now, and he’s still bringing pasta to school. No joke. Every day without fail, one of his parents will deliver a lunchbox with pasta to school. Just to mix things up a little, I decided to give him a jar full of this sauce to try out at home. I can confidently assure you that it received his stamp of approval and it’s the reason why you see this post up today. Shout out to all my pasta lovers out there.



The Best Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6-8 medium fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped (IN CASE OF EMERGENCY use 3×14 oz tinned tomatoes, but the taste won’t be nearly the same)
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • a handful of fresh rosemary (may sub 2 tsp dried rosemary)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn (may sub 2 tsp dried basil)
  • a handful of fresh oregano (may sub 2 tsp dried oregano)

Method

Heat a heavy bottomed cast iron pot on high and add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Fry the onion until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and herbs. Give the tomatoes a quick stir and season with salt and pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the tomatoes have cooked down released their juices. If you’d like your sauce to be chunky, then great news, you’re all done! Store in a sterilised glass jar in the fridge for up to a month. If you’d like a smooth sauce then add the contents of the pot to a blender and puree for 2 minutes or until there are no longer any large tomato pieces before adding to a glass jar for storage. Use in pastas, as a base for pizza or as a sandwich spread (as my friend recently started doing). Enjoy!

 

Vegan Millionaire’s Shortbread Bars

I have big news for you all: I HAVE A BLENDER!


Shout out to mummy for recognising the struggle that was my culinary life without a blender. I honestly don’t care how broke I am in college, as long as I have a blender to cuddle at night.


I think it’s only fitting that the first vegan dessert I attempted with the blender was this millionaire’s shortbread. This has always been one of my favourite desserts to make so it was only natural that I attempted a no-bake version. If you follow my Instagram @thefoodscientistblog then you’ll know that I’ve been cooking a storm with this vegan caramel (tomorrow guys!). For now, let’s sit back and enjoy this lush dessert.
Vegan Millionaire’s Shortbread

For the crust:

  • 2 cups rolled oatmeal
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3 pitted medjool dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

For the vegan caramel sauce:

  • 2×14 oz can coconut cream (just leave a tin of coconut milk in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 and ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
  • ¾ cup maple syrup

For the topping:

4 ounces vegan chocolate

Start by making the vegan caramel sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut cream and brown sugar over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is at a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla essence and salt. Add to a glass jar and refrigerate for an hour. Will keep for a week in the fridge.

Then move on to the base:

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Add the oats and almonds to a food processor and pulse until it forms a fine, crumbly meal. Add the dates and maple syrup and process until you get a thick, dough. Press the dough into the bottom of a loaf pan in an even layer. In the same blender, process the vegan caramel you made earlier with the cashews and maple syrup. Pour the caramel layer over the base and freeze for 4 hours, or until solid. Slice into bars, and let chill at least 5 minutes at room temperature before consuming. Enjoy!

Red & Green Thai Curry Pastes

As you all know by now, I have a thing for spicy food.

I’ve been effortlessly eating whole chillies and immediately chugging gallons of water for the better part of my life. I always find myself mindless reaching for the chilli powder whenever I’m cooking- never salt, never pepper, always chilli.

I made my first curry about 5 years ago, and as a clueless 14 year old, I had been very proud to have successfully combined curry powder, tinned tomatoes and coconut milk in a pot and called it a day. Oh how naive of me. Nowadays when I make a curry, it starts with roasting cumin seeds, grating ginger and crushing garlic way before I even switch on the stove. Recently, I feel like I’m betraying South Asian cuisine by using curry powder. It just didn’t feel right, or necessarily like it was enough. Sure, it has its uses when it comes to making curry spiced burger patties or even curry spiced breads, but using curry powder to make a spicy heartfelt bowl of curry? I couldn’t take it anymore.


So of course I did away with the Madras curry powder. I had gotten the hang of adding coriander, garam marsala and fenugreek seeds to the pot but to speak quite frankly, running back and forth between the spice cabinet and the stove was just a tad bit excessive.  Enter: homemade curry paste. Shoutout to Thailand for making the curry making process just that much more convenient. All the fresh ingredients are blended up by you and thrown into a glass jar to use whenever you’re having a craving for Indian eating. It takes you about 5 minutes to prepare and the amount of time it saves you in the long run is phenomenal. I know this isn’t as fancy as an Oreo Milkshake recipe or a Lentil Curry but maaaaaaaan, these are lifesavers.

I’ll definitely be giving you a couple of examples on how to use these this week; I have already used the red curry paste before when I made this Cashew Coconut Lentil Curry.Don’t be afraid to customise these to your liking by adding or subtracting the number of chillies, throwing in some lemon zest etc etc. This is all about personalising to your taste, and I’m never one to restrict your creativity in the kitchen.

Red & Green Thai Curry Pastes

Ingredients                                                                                                               for each curry paste 

  • 1 large pepper, use red for the red curry paste and green for the green
  • 3 garlic gloves, peeled
  • between 3 and 6 fresh chillies (I used 4 in each)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp lemongrass (I used freshly picked from my garden but jarred works too)
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp each salt and pepper

Method

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse 2 minutes until you have a thick paste and no large chunks of pepper remain. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Strawberry Chia Seed Jam

Hola!

I am glad to announce to the world that I am still alive. I’d love to catch you up on what’s been going on in my life but I’m afraid that’s going to have to wait for the next Actuellement post. You can imagine that after close to 3 months of inactivity, I’m a bit rusty to this blogging thing. My sincerest apologies if any of my followers feel as though I have forsaken you, leave me a comment and let’s catch up!


I thought I would ease back into the swing of things with this simple recipe for Strawberry Chia Seed Jam. 5 ingredients. 10 minutes of your time. Vegan? Yes. Paleo? Yes. Delicious? OH YEAH. This jam is a perfect accompaniment for any cheeseboard, the sweetness of the jam works wonderfully for a creamy cheese such as brie (which I used in these photos) or cream cheese. This is so much better than anything you would find on any supermarket shelf that you can guarantee is full of sugar and preservatives and all sorts of other nasty things. As a bonus, you can gloat to all your friends at the next wine and cheese gathering that you tackled this all on your own. I’ll raise my glass to that.

Strawberry Chia Seed Jam

Ingredients

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp chia seeds

a pinch of salt

Method

In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries, honey and lemon juice. Cookover medium heat, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes, the honey should have completely blended with the strawberry juices. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender* to purée the strawberry mixture until it reaches your desired consistency. Stir in the chia seeds and salt and transfer the jam to a glass jar.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.Serve on toast, on crackers with a side of brie or with your yogurt and granola at breakfast.

*If you like a chunkier jam with fruit pieces, there’s no need to use a blender. If you don’t own a blender, you can also use a potato masher to crush the strawberry pieces.

Salted Caramel Iced Coffee

Coffee – the only reason why anyone ever gets up in the morning. My morning routine usually finds me reaching for a cup of black coffee to calm my nerves, and lately I have just been looking for a way to make it a little more interesting. Enter iced coffee. My first experience with iced coffee was terrible. I was honestly convinced I would never try it again. It was like 90% water, 5% coffee and 5% sugar. Gross. Needless to say, I haven’t ordered it since.

 

I had all but closed the chapter on iced coffee until I came across this beautiful photo of iced coffee taken by Amy Johnson. I was then convinced that I had to give iced coffee a second chance. I decided to do a few things differently this time, such as freezing brewed coffee to make ice cubes so that I didn’t end up with another situation of super watery coffee-like drink. I decided to shake things up a bit by bringing the salted caramel flavour into the mix. Ain’t no syrup like a homemade syrup.


And guys, I know this looks like a lot of unnecessary work for a drink but I PROMISE that this is worth every minute you spend in the kitchen. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to cut corners and just buy a bottle of caramel syrup on your next trip to the grocery store. I’m not at all saying you can’t do that. I’ll even turn away whilst you do it.


I was not at all disappointed when I eventually got round to making this. The flavour pallet is absolutely insane. Rich earthy caffeine undertones. Sharp sweet butterscotch taste. Ice cold and refreshing, this is one of those drinks that hits the back of your throat and you just die internally of happiness.

Salted Caramel Iced Coffee

Ingredients 

Chocolate coffee ice cubes:

1 cup brewed coffee, either instant or French press

2 tbsp cocoa powder

½ tsp vanilla essence

Iced Coffee: 

1 cup ground coffee beans or instant coffee

1 tsp ground cinnamon

a pinch of sea salt

7 cups cold/room temperature water

Salted Caramel Sauce: 

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup fresh cream

4 tbsp butter, cut into cubes

1 tsp vanilla essence

pinch of sea salt

Salted caramel syrup: 

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup water

3 tbsp salted caramel sauce 

Method

Make the chocolate coffee ice cubes:

Combine all the ingredients for the chocolate coffee cubes in a jug and stir well. Pour into moulds and freeze at least 2 hours.


Make the iced coffee:

Add the ground coffee, cinnamon and salt to a large pitcher and top with the water. Stir well and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight. Strain the coffee into a large jug to remove the grounds from the mixture. If using instant coffee, you won’t need to refrigerate the coffee for as long, 2 hours at the least.

Make the salted caramel sauce:

Add the brown sugar, butter and fresh cream to a saucepan over medium heat and warm together, stirring constantly until combined and is a deep golden colour. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla essence and salt. Store in glass jar and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be kept sealed airtight in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and reheated in the microwave when needed.

Make the salted caramel syrup: 

Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of the caramel sauce you just made. Transfer to a glass jar and let cool in the fridge. Can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

*ASSEMBLY:

  1. Start by preparing the glasses you’re going to serve this in by drizzling the leftover salted caramel sauce on the inside of the glasses to create a pattern. Freeze the glasses for about 10 minutes for the caramel to set.
  2. Once the glasses are ready, add 2-3 of the chocolate coffee ice cubes to the glass and pour the chilled coffee over. Add a tablespoon of the salted caramel syrup and stir with a long handle spoon. Serve immediately, with more salted caramel syrup and milk. You can even add condensed milk or maple syrup if you would like it sweeter.

*If you’re rushing to get to work/school in the morning, there’s no need to decorate anything; you can just add the chocolate coffee ice cubes to a flask before pouring the chilled coffee and caramel syrup over and stirring.


 This is a great way to start any morning.