Pomelo Projects


Thursday, 19 April 2012


There’s something about brioche which really dings my dong – like croissants but without all that irritating flakiness. Not that I would ever put down a croissant (literally and metaphorically). This recipe by Dan Lepard for the Guardian worked brilliantly. It was so fun to do and the end result was the most divine buttery loaf, with a texture somewhere between bread and cake, and a little denser than a shop bought brioche.

A few comments…

1) Dan says that this will make two large loaves, but I only had one loaf tin so I loaded in all my dough and made one really large one. It worked fine.

2) I dread to think what the calorie content of this brioche is. It contains An. Entire. Pat. Of. Butter.

3) Of course, the ideal thing is to have the brioche ready for breakfast but that would involve getting up at about five in the morning which I’m not sure is very realistic. For that reason doing it in one day is probably better. And to get that fresh out of the oven feeling microwaving a slice for 15 seconds worked for me.

The recipe in pictures...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Ginger Beer

It took four attempts for me to find a ginger beer recipe that I thought worked well.

1) First of all I tried a very simple, non-brewed version by Jamie Oliver. Its advantage is that you can whip it up in about 20 minutes. Its disadvantage is that it is quite frighteningly spicy – not fiery, spicy. Everyone tried to be polite but it was clearly too challenging for the palate for my family. I can’t imagine the child who could drink this stuff. Here's my sister attempting to take the smallest possible sip.

 2) Next I went for a Nigel Slater recipe, one that involves letting the mixture sit around in a bowl overnight. The problem with this one was that it had a pretty lacklustre fizz – I think too much gas was lost during the first hours (although I did leave mine in the bowl for 24 hours instead of 12). In addition, when I bottled it, I ended up with one virtually clear ginger beer, and one incredibly cloudy, milky one because all the yeast and cream of tartar was sitting on the bottom of the bowl. Perhaps I should have swirled it around, or avoided the bottom. Either way, Nigel neglected to advise.

 3) Next I turned to Hugh F-W. I foolishly attempted to use bread yeast so the whole thing smelt like thrush. Sorry.

4) I tried Hugh once more and succeeding in creating a really delicious ginger beer. Not particularly fiery mind but quite winey, refined, fizzy and very drinkable. In the recipe below I suggest adding more ginger to give it more kick. And as long as you strain through muslin there’s no need to peel it.


1 plastic 2 ltr bottle (buy some cheap water for the bottle)


¼ tsp brewer’s yeast
225g caster sugar
4tbsp grated fresh root ginger
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp honey

1)      Put the yeast into the bottle, then the sugar, then the rest of the ingredients.
2)      Add cold water to ¾ full and shake till everything is dissolved.
3)      Top up leaving a 2.5cm airspace in the top of the bottle.
4)      Leave in a warm place for 48 hours.
5)      Strain and put into the fridge to stop the yeast working. Once chilled, it’s ready to drink.

Battenberg Cake

The excellent thing about Battenberg is the ratio of sponge to marzipan. The pink and yellow chequered sponge is, to my mind, just a vehicle for all that almondy squidginess. But it is also visually lovely – a pretty, delicate tea-time cake.

However my boyfriend Jack wanted to take the Battenberg to another level. It was his colleague Emma’s birthday and he had an ambitious vision of a Battenberg that contained an ‘E’ in pink sponge. The result was an enormous, weighty brick of a Battenberg. But although it might have lost some of its traditional elegance, and the sponge to marzipan ratio was not quite what one would hope, this was a very fun cake to make.

We used Sarah Cook’s recipe for the BBC, which we chose because it contains ground almonds, crucial to creating a dense, squidgy sponge. The comment I will make about this recipe is that it makes A LOT of cake. In addition to the ‘E’ Brickenberg that we made, I then made a second Battenberg, virtually the same size, out of just the off cuts, plastered together with apricot jam. My advice would be to either halve the quantities or make two cakes. If you don’t do this then you will end up with a very long skinny cake. A snake, if you will.     

I have re-written and simplified the recipe, and chucked in a few iphone photos at the bottom for reference…


350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
280g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract

Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
1kg white marzipan
Apricot jam

1)      Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line two rectangular tins with baking paper.
2)      Put the first eight ingredients into a blender and whizz.
3)      Split equally into two bowls and add red food colouring to one, and yellow to another. Stir and add until you have the right colour.
4)      Put the two cake mixtures into the tins and bake for 25-30 mins.
5)      When cooked, leave the cakes to cool.
6)      Slice up the sponge into long square strips and arrange in a chequered pattern or in any way you like.
7)      Brush your cake construction with apricot jam and then roll the marzipan tightly around it. Trim the ends to reveal the perfect Battenberg cross-section. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Mozzarella Cottage Cheese

I have tried four times and I have not succeeded in making mozzarella. But it is possible to make something that tastes like mozzarella, even if it doesn’t have the right texture. So rather than the documentation of an out and out failure, this post is will present my findings in the business of fresh cheese-making, and the unintended, though delicious, results.

My mozzarella quest began when I saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s article on the subject in the Guardian last summer. I wasn’t sure where to get raw or unhomogenised milk from but when I discovered that Selfridge’s food hall stocks Laverstoke Park buffalo milk I sought some out to have a go. (This kind of milk is occasionally and randomly stocked in some branches of Waitrose and Sainsbury’s but it’s near impossible to track down – I tried calling both supermarkets and Laverstoke Park and was advised just to keep an eye out for it on the shelves. But Selfridge’s seems to keep it in reasonably steady supply.) Here is the recipe.

Attempt No. 1:
Done without a thermometer – pretty dumb of me. But it was really delicious. The curds were the texture of cottage cheese and incredibly rich.

Attempt No. 2:
Convinced that my texture-related problems were to do with temperature control, I bought a digital thermometer and had another go. This time I decided to try the recipe with cow’s milk and I used Duchy originals organic whole milk (pasturised but not homogenised). The texture was improved but Hugh’s instructions to “stretch out the cheese, folding it back on itself and working it just until it’s stretchy, shiny and smooth” were no good to me. There was no stretching taking place, just tearing and general disintegration. Very frustrating. So I gave up stretching and simply started moulding the chunks of curd into rough balls. It kiiiind of worked but the balls kept leaking their moisture and gradually became smaller and tougher. I could practically wring them out. And the other consideration was that the flavour of the cow’s milk mozzarella did not come near the complex taste of the buffalo milk.

Attempt No. 3:
I spent hours researching what might be going wrong. Some websites suggested putting the curds in the microwave, others that it was something to do with the Ph levels of the cheese. I finally hit upon a possible solution – Hugh’s recipe calls for ¼ tsp rennet but it occurred to me that he might be using powdered animal rennet which is much more powerful than the liquid VegeRen I had been using. So I followed the advice on the VegeRen packet and used 10 drops for every pint of milk. Of all the attempts, this was the worst. The cheese was tough and almost flavourless. I ate it, but…

Attempt No. 4:
I was completely out of ideas as to what I could do to make my mozzarella recipe successful. So I decided to salvage the fruits of my research to see what I might reasonably suggest as a recipe. I realised two things. One, that the recipe only actually takes about 30 mins to do – it’s very easy. And two, that the best version of mozzarella I had attempted was my very first batch. So I set about recreating it. Here is the resulting recipe:


Large pan


1tsp citric acid
2 litres milk, raw or unhomogenised
5 drops liquid rennet
2 tbsp salt

1)      Dissolve the citric acid in 60mls warm water.
2)      Put the milk in a pan and heat very slightly to 13C (if it needs to be heated at all).
3)      Add the citric acid and heat to 30C, stirring gently. It will start to curdle.
4)      Dilute the rennet in a tablespoon of warm water and add immediately to the milk.
5)      Warm the milk gently to 38-39C stirring occasionally.
6)      Remove from heat, add the salt and leave for 15 mins.
7)      Scoop curds out of pan and into a sieve.
8)      Press curds gently to remove a little more whey, but not too much otherwise the cheese will be hard.
9)      Break and crumble the soft curds into a bowl.

Swirl olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and thyme into the cheese and serve with ciabatta.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lemon Curd

I feel I have to confess that I did not make this lemon curd myself, although I did witness it being done. And I admit that that is a horribly posed photo with a raw crumpet. But I thought there would be no harm in documenting the process that my sister Cescy went through, guided by good old Nigel S for the Guardian. The recipe and article, which you should probably just read rather than this post, is here.

There was just one crucial change that we decided to make and that was to strain out the lemon zest. We just don’t like those bitty bits. Abominably fussy, I know. But the zest goes in initially, of course, because it is vital for the flavour.

This seems to be the bit when the sugar was added...

Yep, so that's it really. My only criticism of Nigel's recipe was that it only made one quite large jar of lemon curd and I think it's more fun to make a hefty batch. In our house we also like to keep it in the freezer - the combination of cold, melting lemon curd and hot toast is a real winner. It's a kind of ice cream on pancake scenario. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Vegetable crisps

Sweet crisps basically. They're pretty sickly but ridiculously more-ish. I very almost bought a mandolin for this activity because I could imagine bothering to peel the veg into wafer thin slices. But at the last minute I discovered that my mum’s ancient magimix has a blade designed for chopping vegetables very finely. She has never used it in all the years she’s had her blender. Check out the retro packaging:

Anyway, my advice is, if you have a blender, to have a look at the attachments it came with because it probably has something ideal for this recipe. I had great fun slicing all the veg up at top speed and arranging it proudly on a platter...

And then I deep fried the whole lot in batches which did actually take quite a long time. I’m sure this would be a lot easier with a deep fat fryer. I know people say you can bake them but I just couldn’t imagine the crisps curling up and cooking evenly that way. Mine were pretty greasy though it has to be said.

We doused them in salt and tucked in over gin and tonics and it was good. Here's the recipe...


2 parsnips
2 sweet potatoes
4 beetroots
2 carrots
Vegetable or sunflower oil

1)      Slice all the veg up as thin as you can manage.
2)      Deep fry in very hot oil in batches until they curl and crisp up.
3)      Remove with a slotted spoon and put them on to some kitchen roll to reduce greasiness.
4)      Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Orange and Lemon Squash

I am not sure it would have occurred to me to make squash if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was panicking about finding a way to use up a tonne of oranges and lemons. My sister brought back a sack of them from a party where she'd waitressed and, get this, the fruit was just the decoration – it wasn’t even intended to be eaten! An outrage to our puritanical sensibilities.

I’m not sure this recipe would be particularly cost effective if you had to actually buy the fruit, but the flavour of this squash is so sparkly and sunshiney and complex that it's definitely worth the money. The other issue is that it takes quite some time to zest the fruit, and a lot of time to juice it. Just this part of the procedure probably took a couple of hours, so this is an activity for a relaxed day. But in the winter there is nothing nicer than surrounding yourself with a citrusy haze. Although I admit this photo of the carnage doesn't make it look very relaxing:

Equipment: some glass bottles, funnel could be handy.


1kg sugar
1ltr water
Zest of 4 lemons
Zest of 4 oranges
Juice of 10 lemons
Juice of 10 oranges

1) Sterilise your bottles (you can see in the picture how many I used).
2) Put the sugar, water and all the zest into a pan and bring to the boil so that the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour. The liquid should become a thin syrup.
3) Add the all the juice and heat again until it is almost boiling.
4) Strain the lot through a sieve and bottle.

N.B. I am quite interested in the business of finding interesting, non-alcoholic drinks. I love the idea of the 6pm gin and tonic but I usually regret it whenever I have one - you know it means a bit fat full stop on your productive day. Sometimes that's exactly what you want but often it's nice to actually do things in the evening without feeling tired and groggy. Recently I've been drinking a lot of tonic water with Angostura Bitters but I think this squash will be an interesting addition. I also think a bottle of homemade squash is a really nice present for a teetotal mate, or anyone for that matter.