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Blood orange & almond sponge with perfectly pink poached rhubarb

Blood Orange and Almond Cake 
This cake is an adaptation of a recipe by the famous chef Claudia Roden, it’s really easy to make and also gluten and dairy free. It uses a whole orange, skin and all, which gives the cake a really great deep flavour. I love it served with thick greek yoghurt, chopped almonds and a generous drizzle of honey. If you want to go all out, enjoy it with the poached rhubarb too….

  • 2 whole blood oranges
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 125g caster sugar, plus a tablespoon for the orange upside-down topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Preheat the over to 180 degrees celsius and line the bottom and sides of a 16cm cake tin with baking paper
  2. Place one whole orange in a microwavable bowl, pierce it once and cover the bowl with cling film. Microwave the orange for 3-5 minutes until its soft and squishy. Allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the second orange into thin slices. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the bottom of the cake tin and place slices of orange on top. You can overlap them slightly in a nice pattern. This will give you an orange topping to your cake once you turn it out of the tin.
  4. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the ground almonds, baking powder and caster sugar.
  5. Retrieve your microwaved orange. Chop it into quarters. Remove any pips and blitz it in a food processor or with a hand blender.
  6. Stir the blitzed orange into the cake mix and pour the whole mixture into the cake tin.
  7. Bake in the over for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden, firm and springy to the touch and a knife or skewer comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then turn the cake out onto a cooling rack with the sliced oranges on the top. Remove the baking paper and allow the cake to cool completely before tucking in.

Perfectly Pink Poached Rhubarb
Rhubarb is one of my all time favourite flavours. In crumble, in salad, in jam, in sweets. In January perfectly pink forced rhubarb is in season and I love to simply poach it to preserve the gorgeous colour. I use a little cardamon too for a hint of warming spice. This is so straight forward and you’ll have a gorgeous bowl of rhubarb to brighten up your puddings, yoghurt or porridge….

  • 400g rhubarb
  • 200g water
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 5/6 cardamon pods
  1. Put the water, sugar and crushed cardamon pods in a pan. Heat and gently bring it to the boil.
  2. Chop the rhubarb into approx. 4cm pieces.
  3. Add the chopped rhubarb to the sugar syrup and turn off the heat straight away. Cover and allow to cool completely.

PS keep hold of the rhubarb syrup and add a little to your G&T!

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New Year Rocky Road Cheesecake

This is pure chocolate indulgence and that, in my opinion, is the best way to see in the New Year! Ginger-nut, cranberry and pistachio rocky road, topped with creamy white chocolate cheesecake – this is a pudding that needs no baking at all, just stirring, mixing and some time in the fridge. A great one to make during these ‘bit-in-between’ days before New Year’s Eve when you’ve had enough of scrabble!

Both parts are quick to make but the chocolate base needs at least two hours in the fridge before you make and add the cheesecake topping. As the cheesecake also needs time to set, I recommend making it a day ahead and leaving it overnight. I decorated mine with super tart stewed cranberries (instructions below), but fresh raspberries work well too, either way this sweet pudding goes really well with a little sharpness.

Make it in a round tin to serve as slices for pudding, or in a square tin ready to cut it into smaller pieces if you’re feeding lots of party-goers! My top tip is to leave it out of the fridge for 10 minutes before cutting and then use a hot sharp knife to cut neat pieces.

Rocky road base

  • 175g dark chocolate
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 2tbs golden syrup
  • 150g ginger nut biscuits
  • 75g each of chopped pistachios, dried cranberries and mini marshmallows. You can freestyle these ingredients to include other nuts, fruits and treats if you like, just aim for the same quantities.

Cheesecake topping 

  • 175g white chocolate
  • 300g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • 300ml double cream

Cranberry decoration (optional – try fresh raspberries instead)

  • 150g fresh cranberries
  • 100ml water
  • 100g sugar
  1. Line the base and sides of a 20cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin with baking paper
  2. In a pan, over a low heat, melt and stir together the dark chocolate, unsalted butter and golden syrup. Set to one side.
  3. In freezer bag or deep bowl, crush the ginger nut biscuits so you have a mix of chunkier pieces, smaller pieces and crumbs.
  4. Stir the crushed biscuits, chopped nuts, cranberries and marshmallows into the chocolate mix.
  5. Pour it into the cake tin and use the back of a spoon to press it down and make the top as flat as possible.
  6. Leave in the fridge for at least two hours before making the cheesecake topping.
  7. Once your chocolate base has set, break up the white chocolate and in a heatproof bowl gently melt it in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water. Leave it to one side to cool slightly.
  8. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese so it’s smooth and soft, then stir in the melted white chocolate.
  9. In a separate bowl whisk the double cream so it’s thick but only just holding its shape.
  10. Gently fold half the whipped cream into the cream cheese and chocolate mixture, followed by the second half.
  11. Spoon the cheesecake mixture on top of the rocky road base and use a small palette knife or the back of a spoon to level the top as much as possible.
  12. Leave it to chill in the fridge until set. I suggest making it the day ahead and leaving it overnight.

For the cranberry topping – put the cranberries, sugar and water in a pan and cook over a gentle heat until the cranberries start to soften and pop and the water and sugar becomes thick and syrupy. Drain the cranberries and leave to cool on parchment paper. Roll them in some loose case sugar to coat them. 

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