Bacon wrapped dates with almonds and goat cheese

Unctious, divine and so easy.

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24 large moist dates, such as Medjool
12 not-too-thick slices of bacon
2 oz. softened goat cheese
24 whole toasted unsalted almonds

Move oven rack to upper third of oven and preheat oven to 500°. Pit dates, tearing them open as little as possible. Set dates aside. Halve the 12 slices of bacon crosswise. Put the goat cheese into a pastry bag fitted with a round, plain ¼” tip.

Stuff cavity of each date with 1 almond. Pipe goat cheese into the opening of each stuffed date. Wrap 1 half-piece of bacon around width of each date and put dates, seam side down, on a baking sheet, at least ½” apart. Bake until bacon is golden and crisp, 6-8 minutes.
Set aside to cool briefly before serving.

Easy orange, rosemary and polenta cake

I love making cakes when you don’t have to “cream the butter and sugar” As soon as I see a recipe that asks for that, I’m out of there. This one is so easy and uses the whole orange, which gives it a very intense flavor that the fresh rosemary positively flirts with! And a great added bonus is that it is also gluten free.

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Serves 8

Butter, for greasing
2 large oranges
6 extra large free-range eggs
6 oz polenta
6 oz ground almonds
9 oz golden caster sugar
1 heaped tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp demerara sugar

For the orange drizzle
4 oz caster sugar
3 tbsp orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Grated or shredded zest of 1 orange

Grease and base-line a 9 inch springform cake tin. Put the whole oranges in a large pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour, until soft. Remove, cool, then halve and remove the pips.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Whizz the orange halves (with the skin) to a purée in a food processor. Beat in the eggs, polenta, almonds, sugar and rosemary.
Pour into the tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for 1 hour, until the cake is risen and golden.
For the drizzle, dissolve the sugar in 100ml hot water in a pan. Boil for 5 minutes but don’t let it color. Remove from the heat and cool briefly. Add the liqueur, rosemary and zest.
Cool the cake in the tin, then turn out and drizzle with the syrup.

Semolina, coconut and marmalade cake

This is such a simple, moist and flavorsome cake from the recipe book called “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi. Semolina cakes soaked in syrup are all over the Middle East. They stay moist, with a light texture and are so easy. This cake keeps for 5 days if wrapped carefully to keep the air from it.

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3/4 cup sunflower oil
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade (fine-cut or without peel)
4 large organic eggs
grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar)
3/4 cup shredded dried coconut
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp semolina
2 tbsp ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
Thick Greek yoghurt flavored with 1 or 2 drops of orange blossom water to serve

Soaking syrup
1 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar)
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Whisk together the oil, orange juice, marmalade,eggs and orange zest until the marmalade dissolves.
In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients. Mix until really well combined.
The mixture should be runny.
Grease and line with baking parchment or waxed paper  2 x 1lb loaf tins (about 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″)
Divide the filling evenly between them. Bake for 45 to 60 mins until a skewer inserted into them comes out clean and the top is an orangey brown.
Near the end of the baking time,place the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, start brushing them with the hot syrup with a pastry brush; you will need to do this in a few goes, allowing the syrup to sink down into the cakes before continuing. Use up all the syrup so it is absorbed into the cakes.
Once the cakes have cooled a little, remove them from the pans and leave them to cool completely.
Serve with the flavored yoghurt







Quick salmon with a crunchy cheesy crust

Who would have thought this combination of flavors would work so brilliantly!!  It’s fast, easy and gorgeous.
Serves 4
4x 6 oz salmon fillets, skin removed if you prefer
1/2 cup softened butter
4 tbsp slivered almonds
4 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
Preheat the oven to 375 F
Season the salmon all over.
Liberally butter a shallow ovenproof dish big enough to take the fish in one layer.
Smear the salmon with the remaining butter
Mix together the almonds, parsley and Gruyere cheese, then press some on top of each piece of salmon.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and golden and the salmon is cooked.
Serve with baby buttered potatoes and a green salad.


Ginger, curry, candied almonds

Delicious and festive!

Yields 4 cups

1lb raw unpeeled almonds
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2” piece ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 cayenne
Kosher salt to taste

Heat oven to 350 F
Spread the almonds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; cook until heated through, about 5 minutes; set aside.
Heat the butter, brown sugar, curry powder, ginger and cayenne pepper in a 2 qt saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Pour the glaze over the nuts, stirring to coat evenly, return to the oven and cook until slightly dry, about 15 minutes more.
Sprinkle with salt and let cool before serving

Cauliflower gratin with manchego and almond sauce

This recipe is wonderfully rich and substantial and you won’t miss the carbs one little bit.
Manchego cheese is a Spanish sheep’s cheese and of course, almonds are really good for you!


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 Serves 6

3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup whole roasted almonds with skins on, plus 2 tbsp coarsely chopped almonds (3 oz)
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp finely shredded aged Manchego (or aged Gouda)
A large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 2lb head of cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2 inch florets
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

Preheat the oven to 400F
In a small saucepan, heat the half and half until steaming, then transfer it to a food processor or blender.
Add the 1/2 cup of whole almonds and process until finely ground. let stand for about 10 minutes.
Strain the half and half through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the almonds to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the ground almonds

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add the flour and whisk over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add the milk and the half and half and cook, whisking, until thickened, 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Add 1 cup of the Manchego cheese and whisk until melted. Whisk in the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

In a large skillet, bring 1/2 inch of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower, cover and cook over high heat until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
Drain the cauliflower in a colander and wipe out the skillet.

Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter in the skillet. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring until lightly browned, for about 5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Transfer the cauliflower to a 7 by 10 inch glass or ceramic baking dish and spread the Manchego sauce on top.
Sprinkle the gratin with the remaining cheese, the 2 tbsp of chopped almonds and the paprika and bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until bubbling and browned on top.
Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Curried rice salad with raisins and toasted almonds

Serves 4 to 6

3 – 4 tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked short grain brown rice
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 3/4 cups water or chicken broth
2 tbsp dried raisins or currants
1 – 2 tsps curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 small (about 1/4 x 1 inch) cinnamon bark
1 whole clove
1/3 cup slivered, blanched almonds
1 cup chopped tart green apple (I use a Granny Smith)
3/4 cup trimmed and thinly sliced scallions
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
2 – 3 tbsp lime or lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
fresh cilantro, chopped (a bunch)

Heat 2 tbsps of the oil and the sesame oil over a low heat in a heavy saucepan.
Stir in the rice, turmeric, curry powder, 1/2 tsp salt, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and clove and saute, stirring constantly for 1 minute or until it is all coated with the oil and spices.
Add the water/broth and currants.
Heat to boiling over high heat stirring once.
Cover and cook over medium-low heat until all the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes, then let sit off the element for about 10 minutes or until rice is cooked. Remove the lid and let it stand to the side until cool.
Remove and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and clove from the rice.
Heat the oven to 350F. Spread the almonds in a small baking pan and place in the oven for 5 mins or until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
When the rice mixture is cooled to room temperature, empty it into a serving bowl and stir in the toasted almonds, chopped cilantro, apples, celery, scallion, chopped red or green pepper and lime/lemon juice.
Add 2 more tbsp of olive oil if you think it needs it and adjust the seasoning. Chill in the fridge for 2 -3 hours before serving.