Blackberry and Pistachio Frozen Yoghurt

I know, I know, I used blackberry and pistachio together in a recipe last month. And I also put pistachios in pretty much absolutely everything. I’ve mentioned before that I go through food obsessions and phases, and poor James has to put up with eating the same things over and over until I get bored and move onto something else. Basically, purple and green is just where it’s at with me right now, I’m afraid, so that’s what you get. Frozen yoghurt.

I never picked fruit as a child, living mainly in London and lacking that sort of bucolic rural upbringing, and so it never really occurred to me to do so as an adult until recently. A couple of summers ago, I was walking the dog of a dear friend who was temporarily immobile, post-surgery, and stumbled across the most incredible treasure-trove of untouched, heavy-ripe blackberries, just across the river from where our boat is moored.

It was part of our neighbouring nature reserve, and the plants had grown so high and wild that they’d formed winding paths through the field down to the river, each lined with dripping, plump fruit. We’re not in blackberry season yet – although it’s been so warm that perhaps it will come early this year – but when the time is right I am going to find my way back there again and gather a few tubs of berries to freeze for the colder months. Frozen yoghurt is only one of a thousand things to do with them.

Of course, you can buy perfectly lovely frozen fruit from the supermarket, but it makes me feel outdoorsy and practical to try and pick it myself occasionally. In reality, I am the least outdoorsy person you are likely to ever meet.


Anyway, we had what passes for a heat-wave in these parts last week (three full days of heat, anyone in an actual hot country is laughing at us right now), and all we really wanted to eat was ice cream. But I don’t have an ice cream maker. And I’m kind of too impatient for all that setting, stirring, setting thing you have to do with a no-churn recipe. So instead, I give you frozen yoghurt. It’s an incredibly simple recipe (as was last week’s actually – clearly I am getting lazy). It’s healthy-ish. But also nice, promise. You could legitimately have this for breakfast. I did have this for breakfast.



Obviously, you can make this with just about anything you like. I think raspberry and almond or blueberry and pecan would also be delicious, but hey, throw whatever you’ve got in the cupboards or the freezer in there and go wild. You could also stir through chocolate chips, crumbled biscuit, fudge pieces, cereal… That’s the beauty of frozen yoghurt. It’s adaptable.


300g frozen blackberries
50g pistachios
200g Greek yoghurt (I like the proper, thick, full fat stuff, but whatever you prefer will be fine)
2-4 tbsp honey (adjust to taste)


  1. Either get your blackberries out of the freezer ten minutes before you want to make this, or whack them in the microwave for 30 seconds or a minute to soften them up – some blenders (mine included) will struggle with absolutely rock hard frozen fruit. Pop your pistachios in a dry pan on a medium heat to toast for around 5 minutes – keep shaking them around now and then to make sure they don’t burn.
  2. Put your blackberries, yoghurt, and honey in a blender and blitz until smooth and thick. Taste, adjust honey if needed.
  3. Chop your pistachios roughly and serve the frozen yoghurt sprinkled with chopped nuts, and some whole blackberries if you like.

Pistachio, Blackberry, and Lemon Loaf Cake

Working from home is a funny old way of life. I’ve gone from school to university to 9-5 jobs to getting my culinary diploma. Now I’ve washed up teaching and running the administration for a cookery school, alongside freelance catering work and making the odd birthday or wedding cake. This means that my hours are mostly my own to organise, for the first time, really, in my life. Apart from actually showing up to teach classes and attending the odd meeting, I don’t generally have to be anywhere in particular for work, and can get stuff done as and when I like.

Mostly, it suits me. I never liked having to be in an office at fixed times, regardless of how much work I had on, and I’m a terrible employee in that I hate being told what to do (yes, this was often a problem). I am bossy, obsessive, and controlling (but quite a nice person generally, honest), so sorting out my own time instead of adhering to someone else’s schedule is usually advantageous.


It’s tricky, too, though. This morning, for instance, I answered three emails, raised two invoices, dealt with some website maintenance, updated a voucher spreadsheet, and researched a recipe before 9am. However, I did all this on the sofa, in my pyjamas, whilst eating toast and cuddling the cat. So it’s easy for me to feel like I am being lazy, especially as my husband is dressed and out the door to go to the office by 8.15am.

I do as much work now as I did when I had a ‘proper job’, but not all of it feels like work (recipe testing and ingredients shopping, I’m looking at you), and lots of it is done at funny times. I work best early in the morning, so I will get a lot done first thing, but then I will often be out doing something at some point during the day when everyone else is stuck in the office. Then again, I am usually doing work late into the night and always on weekends – I once received a surprised and delighted reply from a customer when I answered her email at midnight on Christmas Eve. Plus on most Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights, you can usually find me teaching and not getting home until 11pm.

I don’t know. I am sure (read: I hope) most people who have an unconventional job and/or work from home suffer from this slight guilt and nervousness. I always feel like I am somehow getting away with something when I have a long lunch with a friend on a weekday, or spend an hour bobbing up and down the Cowley Road to find obscure Asian ingredients on a Wednesday afternoon.


Anyway, as I said, one of the pre-9am things I did this morning was researching a recipe, and that recipe is for this Pistachio, Blackberry, and Lemon Loaf Cake.

I love pistachios. Love love love them to a disturbing degree. They’re so versatile, playing excellent roles in both sweet and savoury dishes, and completely beautiful in their enticing shades of soft purple and vivid green. I have been wanting to make a pistachio cake for a while, and then I thought of the juicy purple of blackberries against a soft nutty green, with the kick of brightening lemon, and this cake was born.


Source: The base loaf cake recipe is adapted from this one at Smitten Kitchen.

Notes: I love blackberries here but I am sure this would work well with blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. You could also leave out the lemon if you don’t fancy it, and skip all the decoration on the top.


150g roasted pistachio kernels
200 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
145g butter, cut into rough cubes (from the fridge is fine)
3 eggs
60ml cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scant tsp baking powder
120g plain flour
1oog blackberries

for the icing and finishing

100g icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon (roughly)
handful of pistachios
handful of blackberries


  1. Preheat your oven to 170C/150C fan/ gas 3. Roast your pistachios in the oven for 5-10 minutes until they are slightly darkened and smelling lovely. While that’s happening, grease and line your loaf tin (you can maybe get away without doing this if you have a non-stick tin, but I am always too scared to risk it).
  2. Pop your pistachios in a food processor with the sugar and salt blitz it all until it’s a rough powder – you want it as well blended as possible but you don’t want to go too far and make the pistachios release their oil and become wet. Chuck in your lemon zest and cubed butter and blitz again – it will look weird and clumpy for a while but eventually smooth out, so just keep running the mixer. With the mixer running, add your eggs one by one, and pour in your milk and vanilla.
  3. You should now have a rather thin, green, fairly smooth mixture. Take it out of the processor and pop it in a bowl, then add your baking powder, plain flour, and blackberries, then fold to just combine but don’t mix further. If your blackberries are huge you might want to cut them in half for more even distribution.
  4. Pour your mixture into your prepared tin and pop in your preheated oven to bake. This is a slow, gentle bake – my cake took 60 minutes in my quite fierce oven, but as with any cake with a long baking time it will vary quite a bit depending on your oven. Check at 45 minutes and then keep checking every ten minutes until the cake is risen and firm and passes the skewer test.
  5. You can absolutely keep it as it is, but if you want to gild the lily, sieve your icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add lemon juice, whisking it into an icing that is fairly thick and falls off a spoon in a slow drizzle. Let your cake cool in the tin, then turn it out and finish it with a flair of lemon icing and some artfully arranged blackberries and pistachios.

Trio of Chocolate Cheesecakes – Bake Off Bake Along Week 4

Confession: before this week, I had never made a baked cheesecake. It was one of my page-turners. Everyone must have page-turners, right? You know when you’re flicking through a recipe book (or, in this day and age, more likely a blog or online magazine), and you see a certain ingredient or instruction and automatically think ‘No, thank you!’, turn to the next page, and move swiftly along? Well, every time I see instructions to wrap a springform tin in cling film, then in foil, then fill it with cheesecake mix, then sit it in a water bath, then bake the cheesecake, then leave it to cool with the oven door oven, then let it sit overnight… well, I tend to think ‘Sod that’, and go and make a fridge-set cheesecake instead. It’s a combination of fear and laziness, really.


So, I thought this week would be a good opportunity to finally get over my baked cheesecake prejudice and make one. Well, make three. I don’t have enough ramekins for crème brûlée, and I’m certainly not going out to buy them. And although I do like meringue, I don’t think anyone could really like meringue enough to get through a whole Spanische Windtorte. Also, it would leave me with a dozen egg yolks that I wouldn’t know what to do with. Somehow, making three cheesecakes started to seem like the most sensible option.

Spoiler alert: it was definitely not the most sensible option. It was actually a huge hassle, and all of our friends will be eating cheesecake for days.


Nonetheless, I made three baked cheesecakes and managed to stack them into a tower that didn’t collapse, so I am definitely calling this a win, despite the fact I had to literally buy a kilogram of cream cheese to make this and nobody should ever really be doing that.

I’ll be really interested to see what everyone else tries to make this week, because I imagine lots of you will have the same problems and reservations that I did regarding crème brûlée and Spanische Windtorte, but making three tiers of cheesecake doesn’t exactly feel like the easy way out. Oh, how I miss cake week. Next week is free-from baking – you know, sugar free and gluten free and such – and I can’t imagine that will be any easier.


Can we also just take a moment to mourn the departure of Sandy from the tent? She was never one of my picks for the final, but she was definitely one of my favourite bakers. Some of the things she said literally made me laugh out loud.

Also, Ian winning star baker is now getting boring. Three weeks in a row?!


So, on to the cheesecakes. I will admit that these are not going to be winning any beauty contests. By the time it got to the decorating stage, I was short on time and very stressed, so it was all a bit of a rush job and I am terrible at tempering and piping chocolate, so I basically threw things on top of them and hoped for the best. I also had to move the delicate cheesecakes around so much – first to stack them and then to separate them – that they started to crack a bit. Nonetheless, they were really delicious. Once I have gotten over the trauma of this, I might actually make a baked cheesecake again.

On the show, Paul and Mary kept complaining about fruit bleeding into cheesecake, but what’s wrong with that!? I actually like that, and purposefully mashed up my fruit a bit in the cheesecake batter to encourage the pretty colours rippling into the smooth, pale cheesecake.


Source: I started with a plain baked cheesecake recipe from Leiths How To Cook and then adapted it. A lot.

Notes: I very much doubt that anyone wants to be as insane as me and make this whole recipe start to finish, so I am not going to give any instructions for stacking or decorating, which is all common sense in any case. The method is exactly the same for all three cakes, only with different quantities and some variations on ingredients, so I am going to provide the ingredients for each cake and only write out the method once.

One of the reasons I went for this particular base recipe was that it didn’t ask you to mess around with a water bath or wrapping the tin, and I am inherently lazy. It seemed to work out fine just bunged in the oven like a regular cake.

This would have looked far better if I’d had a smaller top tin, but I didn’t, and didn’t want to buy a new one just for this, so such is life.


for the little white chocolate, blackberry, almond, and ginger cheesecake (16cm)

for the base
50g butter
65g ginger biscuits
20g ground almonds

for the cheesecake mixture
3 tbsp caster
10g cornflour
240g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
2 medium eggs
90ml cream
100g white chocolate
100g blackberries

for the medium milk chocolate, hazelnut, and raspberry cheesecake (20cm)

for the base
85 butter
125g oat biscuits
25g chopped skinned hazelnuts

for the cheesecake mixture
5 tbsp caster
15g cornflour
415g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
100ml cream
200g milk chocolate
150g raspberries

for the massive dark chocolate, apricot, and pistachio cheesecake (23cm)

for the base
100g butter
150g digestives
30g roughly chopped pistachios

for the cheesecake mixture
6 tbsp caster
20g cornflour
500g cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
200ml cream
150g dark chocolate
4 apricots, stoned and chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6, and grease and line your tin. Melt the butter for the base. Crush the biscuits, either by beating them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or whizzing them in the food processor. Put them in a bowl and mix in your nuts. Add the butter, mix, and then press the mixture evenly into the base of your tin. Bake the base in the oven for ten minutes, then remove and leave it to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 150C/ 130C fan/ gas 2.
  2. For the topping, set aside 2 tbsp of the sugar. Put the rest in a large bowl with the cornflour and beat with the cream cheese and vanilla to combine. Separate the eggs, and then beat the yolks into the cream cheese along with the cream.
  3. In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to medium peaks, and then whisk in the saved 2 tbsp of caster sugar. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently fold it into the cheesecake mixture, along with the fruit.
  5. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until just set with a slight wobble. Leave it to cool in the tin. Chill in the fridge.

Blackberry and Coconut Cupcakes

If you go to a restaurant these days, you will be served by an assortment of waiters and waitresses. Perhaps I am choosing to go to the wrong places or getting unlucky, but every time I have been out to eat in the past year, at least, I’ve been served by multiple people. I am sure it used to be different; I am sure it used to be customary for a table to have one waiter or waitress who said ‘Hi, I’m Lucy’ (or whatever their name actually is) at the beginning of the evening and stuck with you for a whole meal. In a helpful way, not a creepy way. That used to be a thing, didn’t it?

Now, you go out to eat and one person takes your order, another brings you drinks, a third puts your food on the table, and so on. This seems to me to be an infinitely worse system. Firstly, you don’t have one person responsible for your table – if you need service, you don’t know whose eye to catch, and if you want to praise or complain about the treatment you’ve received, there is no one person that’s accountable. Secondly, it is hugely inefficient. Stupidly often, someone will come to take a drinks order when you already a placed it with another person five minutes ago, or three different people will check if your food is okay, or no one thinks to look in on you for twenty minutes while you’re desperately trying to find someone to ask for the bill. Thirdly, you don’t build up a rapport with anyone. If you have the time and are feeling social, it’s nice to chat to your waiter or waitress throughout the meal as they come and go, and you end the evening knowing them by name and feeling rather fond of them and more willing to leave a large tip. This doesn’t happen if you’re visited by five different people in passing.


For all these reasons and more, it seems like it would make far more sense to simply assign each table in a restaurant to one dedicated server and have everyone look after their own patch. I literally can’t think of a single reason why the haphazard approach of having multiple people serving one table has become the norm. But I suppose there must be a reason, or all these restaurants wouldn’t be doing it. What is the reason? Why don’t tables just have one server any more? This isn’t rhetorical – I really would like to know, so if you have the answers then please enlighten me.

I am writing this because we have just been out to lunch in London at a moderately fancy restaurant where the food was lovely and the service was poor. I mean, I’d much rather that than having service that was lovely and food that was poor, but still. When you go out to a restaurant your main focus is obviously (probably) the food, but you’re paying for a whole package of food and service and atmosphere, surely?


Rant over. Time for cupcakes.

I was asked to bake a couple of things for a charity event last weekend, and the idea of a blackberry and coconut cupcake popped into my head, doubtless because blackberries are everywhere at the moment. I’ve never really noticed it in previous years for some reason, but this August I can barely walk past a hedgerow near where we live without stopping to marvel at the abundance of the soft, bounteous berries, blushing through shades of deep crimson to dusky purple and black.

Notes: These cupcakes are soft and moist from the coconut cream and oil, dense and lightly scented. They will keep reasonably well and stay moist for a couple of days, especially with the jam in the middle and buttercream on top.


for the cakes

3 eggs
175g caster sugar
120ml coconut oil
70ml coconut cream
175g self raising flour, sifted
50g dessicated coconut

for the frosting

100g softened butter
200g icing sugar
3 tbsp blackberry jam

to decorate

blackberry jam
12 blackberries
handful of dessicated coconut


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and line a cupcake tray with twelve cases. Pop your eggs and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk for two minutes. In a measuring jug, combine the coconut oil and coconut cream (it will separate and look weird, but don’t worry, it will all be fine), and add this to the eggs and sugar. Mix until just combined. Keep your mixer on a low speed, and gently add your flour and desiccated coconut to the batter.
  2. Using an ice cream scoop if you have one (or any old spoon if you don’t), divide the mixture evenly between the cases: they should be about 2/3 full. Bake for fifteen minutes, or until well risen and golden (it could be more like twenty minutes in a different oven). Put the cupcakes on a wire rack and let them cool completely.
  3. Once the cupcakes are cool, core them. I have a set of cookie cutters, and I use the smallest one to core cupcakes, which works perfectly. You might have a proper cupcake corer, or you can just cut out the centres with a knife. Spoon blackberry jam into the holes.
  4. Make the buttercream. Beat the butter until soft, and then sift the icing sugar over it. Mix the icing sugar in roughly with a spatula, and then use the electric whisk to beat the buttercream until completely smooth and fluffy. Beat in the blackberry jam – if you want a completely smooth frosting, sieve the jam first. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes using a piping nozzle with a star tip, or simply dollop it on to each cake if you’d rather.
  5. Top each cupcake with a blackberry and sprinkle with coconut.