Grilled pineapple with rum

Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugarThis is an almost embarrassingly easy dessert recipe. It’s perfect for a last-minute pudding panic, for using up ripe pineapple or for a dinner party where you really want to keep the cooking simple. Although it’s incredibly quick and straightforward, this is a super tasty and refreshing dish. The sugar on top becomes dark and caramelized with a bitter taste, the rum gives a light kick and if you’ve picked a perfectly ripe pineapples then the fruit is sweet and juicy.

Top tip: to check whether a pineapple is ripe before buying, gently pull on one of the leaves. If it comes away easily then the pineapple is ripe, if not then root around for another one.
Ingredients for rum grilled pineapple
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 ripe pineapple
4-6 tsp brown sugar
Small shot of dark rum

Method
1. Heat the grill to high.
2. Cut the pineapple into quarters – if you’d like to make this easier then you can cut the top off, but I think it looks prettier to keep it on. Use a sharp knife to remove the hard core and then slice down to (but not through) the skin at 2-3cm intervals.
Preparing the pineapple quarters
3. Lay the pineapple quarters on a grill tray lined with foil.
Preparing the pineapple quarters
4. Pour a couple of teaspoons of rum over each quarter, followed by the brown sugar.
Topping the pineapple with sugar and rum
5. Place under the hot grill for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbling and the pineapple is warmed through.
Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugar
These are lovely enjoyed by themselves, though you could also serve it with some vanilla, or even rum and raisin, ice cream.
Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugar

Sangria

Sangria
Last week was named Salad Week and we had different summer salads from sweetcorn salsa to refreshing watermelon to raw fennel. All delicious, healthy dishes, packed with strong flavours and perfect for summer eating. However, in the interest of balance this week will be all about booze and frying.

In our house, sangria means New Year (or Hogmanay as we call it here). A slightly odd combination, I’m not actually sure where it came from, but it’s now a firm family tradition. Sangria is one of my favourite alcoholic cocktails, and when I’m in Spain I can drink it by the bucket load with a bowl of olives and be happy with the world. It’s the perfect drink to make for a barbecue during the summer, or for any occasion that involves lots of people, as you can multiply up the quantities to serve as many as you like – just make sure you have a jug big enough!

This recipe is based on one from Katie Stewart’s Cookbook (our cooking bible, as I mentioned before), with a little extra booze and fruit thrown in for good measure. You can follow this exact recipe to start with, but adapt it to your own taste as you learn what works for you. I’ve had some sangrias in Spain that have enough liquor to get you under the table after just a couple of glasses (I remember one particular concoction at a beach bar which included nearly every spirit in the bar – actually very delicious, but totally deadly) so experiment with different spirits if that’s up your street. If you have a particularly sweet tooth then use lemonade instead of soda water, but personally I find this too much. As for the fruit, basically anything goes. We added peach in to this batch and it worked a treat, as would nectarine. Melon is a great addition to sangria, though some people don’t like the taste. I should probably tell you to get a half decent wine to use, and in fact a Rioja is a perfect option if you find a nice bottle, but really this is a great opportunity to use a cheaper wine. Once the fruit, spirits and soda have gone in, no one will be any wiser. Even more true after a couple of glasses have been quaffed.
Ingredients for homemade sangria
Ingredients
1 orange
2 lemons
Any other fruit you like e.g. apple, peach, melon
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp cointreau
70cl bottle of red wine, chilled
350ml soda water, chilled

Method
1. Chop the fruit into similarly sized pieces. Remove any pips from the lemons and orange, but leave the skin on.
Chopped fruit for sangria
2. Place the fruit into a large jug and pour over the sugar and spirits. Mix well and leave to marinade for at least an hour.
Marinading the fruit for sangria
3. Add the chilled red wine to the jug and leave for at least another half hour.
Adding red wine to the marinated fruit for sangria
4. When ready to serve top the sangria up with soda water. You can alter the quantities of soda water to your taste, depending on whether you like the sangria weaker or stronger.
Topping up the sangria with soda water
5. Fill glasses with ice and pour over the sangria with some fruit pieces.
Sangria
Serve as a punch at a party, with the main course of a Spanish meal or as an aperitif with olives, some sliced Manchego cheese and serrano ham or just some fresh crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Close your eyes as you sip and you could nearly be on the beaches of Spain.

Strawberry and Vanilla Muffins

Homemade strawberry and vanilla muffins
It’s been a busy few weeks. Trips to the countryside, graduations, birthdays, painting, football, tennis, family celebrations, BBQs. Just like summer should be. Unfortunately it has meant that there has been very little time to photograph and write up new blog posts, although we have still been doing a lot of cooking (including an incredible beef brisket recipe which I can’t wait to share with you, if I could just manage to photograph it before it all gets gobbled up!).

But today I’m back with a simple, yet satisfying recipe: strawberry muffins. I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe for blueberry muffins, substituting the fruit and adding some vanilla extract for good measure. He recommends leaving the mixture to rest overnight, but after reading this article by Felicity Cloake (whose “How to make the perfect” series I absolutely love) I decided to skip this step in the name of speed and ease. I have to admit that blueberry muffins are still my all-time favourite flavour, but right now seems like the perfect time to go with a seasonal, summery fruit. If you have some slightly over-ripe strawberries then these light and fluffy muffins are the ideal way to use them up.
Ingredients for homemade strawberry and vanilla muffins
Ingredients (makes 9 muffins)
100g butter, softened
65g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
125g ripe strawberries

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6 and line a muffin tray with 9 paper cases. If you don’t have paper cases then don’t worry – cut small squares of baking parchment and press them into the moulds, folding slightly in a few places. Pleasingly rustic.
Homemade muffin case
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Butter and sugar for creaming: strawberry muffins
Creamed butter and sugar: strawberry muffins
3. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla, mixing for a few minutes. Fold through the flour and baking powder and stir well to combine.
Plain muffin mix ready for flavourings
4. Chop the strawberries into small pieces and fold through the muffin mixture.
Chopped ripe strawberries
Adding chopped strawberries to the vanilla muffin mix
Strawberry and vanilla muffin mixture
5. Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling to roughly half way. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Filling the muffin cases
Cooling the strawberry and vanilla muffins
Cool on a wire rack.
Close up of homemade vanilla and strawberry muffins
Strawberry and vanilla muffins
These are delicious eaten still warm from the oven, but will also keep well for a couple of days in an airtight container. If they survive hungry siblings and last that long…