Gluten-free Lemon Ricotta Cake

The other day, I was given a load of ricotta which was going to be thrown out. Its use by date was about to pass and therefore was unable to be sold, but essentially it was fine. Given this ricotta mountain, I set myself the task of turning it into delicious food. Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from the whey left over from the production of other cheeses like mozzarella, hence its name (ricotta literally means “cooked”). It is a versatile cheese, being used in both sweet and savoury dishes, like the traditional Italian Easter pie, Torta Pasqualina. Given the family’s need for a cake this week, and one which could be used as an impromptu pudding too, I decided to start off by making a ricotta cake; not quite a Sicilian Cassata, but a cake of ricotta, eggs, sugar and a little flour.lemon ricotta cake

You will need
150g softened butter
150g granulated sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
1/2 tsp. vanilla paste
3 large eggs, separated
250g ricotta cheese
65g gluten-free plain flour, plus a little for dusting
2 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
Dash of Salt
To Serve:
Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (any berries available and in season)

Preheat oven to 170°C and lightly grease and flour a 20cm spring-form pan.  Beat the butter and sugar, or use the food processer, until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks and ricotta cheese and beat until smooth. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, before beating into the butter mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the tin, then bake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool, then top with your selection of seasonal berries.


Favourite Five Strawberry Recipes

Strawberries are one of mine, and my family’s, favourite fruits. They are beautifully sweet and their bright red colour always enlightens a plate. We grow them on the allotment and most of the fruit is usually eaten well before it makes its way into the kitchen. In fact it most often doesn’t even make it into a punnet! When they do get home, we use them in a range of desserts. Here are my favourite five recipes.favourite five

Strawberry Eton Mess  – A fabulous combination of cream, strawberries and meringue. Whip cream to stiff peaks, then fold in some of the strawberries whizzed with a touch of elderflower cordial. Break up some meringue and fold into the cream, followed by the remaining strawberries sliced. Pop into small glasses and top with a mint leaf and a couple of sliced strawberries.

eton mess

Elderflower Pannacotta with Macerated Strawberries – I’ve blogged the recipe for this recently, but its such a delicious dessert. The creamy and floral panna cotta combines well with the sweet and juicy strawberries. Macerating the fruit in a little elderflower cordial really heightens their strawberriness.

eledeflower and strawberry panna cotta

Frozen Strawberry Smoothie – A quick and easy way to use up strawberries which have become overripe. Just collect these strawberries and pop them in the freezer as you go along. When you’re ready for a cold smoothie, just whizz the frozen strawberries with a banana, a few tablespoons of yoghurt and a dash of honey. Serve with a straw. The kids always like a straw!

Strawberry tart – This is an adaption of the berry tart I blogged about last year, combining mascarpone cream in a pastry case and topped with sweet berries. For the filling, whip 500g mascarpone, 100ml single cream, 3 tbsp. sugar, a little lemon zest and a knife point of vanilla paste until its shiny. Evenly smear the filling onto a 28cm sweet shortcrust pastry tart case, then top with small strawberries. Glaze with a bit of strawberry jam warmed up.

Strawberry and Ginger Cheesecake – We make this with gluten free ginger biscuits, but any ginger biscuit will do. Crush 80g of biscuits and divide between 4 glasses. Beat 200g soft cheese, 200g yogurt, 4tbsp. sugar and a little vanilla paste together until smooth, before spooning over the crumbs. Chill until ready to serve. Meanwhile hull and slice berries and toss in a little strawberry jam, then place on top of cheesecakes and serve.

What ways do you use strawberries in your cooking?



Elderflower Panna Cotta with Strawberries

Elderflowers give a beautiful perfume to a dish, and add something special to this classic panna cotta. This is a desert which, despite its appearance on fancy restaurant menus, is a simple one to make. All you need is time for the gelatine to do its thing and set the sweetened cream.eledeflower and strawberry panna cotta

You will need (serves 4)
100ml milk
50ml double cream
2 tbsp. elderflower cordial
20g caster sugar
knife tip of vanilla paste
2 leaves of gelatine
150g yoghurt

100g strawberries (sliced)
1 peach (sliced)
1 tbsp. elderflower cordial

Stir the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla together in a pan over a lowish heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is just starting to boil. Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Soak the gelatine in cold water for five to 10 minutes, then remove from the water and squeeze out water. Add to the warm milk and cream mixture and stir until dissolved. Pass through a sieve into a bowl and leave to cool. Mix in the yoghurt until smooth. Pour the mixture into small glasses, cover and chill for four hours. Meanwhile, hull and slice the strawberries and put in a bowl with the elderflower cordial. Leave to macerate for 30 minutes. I tend to serve these panna cotta in the glasses, with the fruit on top; but if you want to turn out of the moulds, dip the glasses in hot water for a few seconds, then turn onto a plate.

strawberries and elederflower panna cotta

I’m entering this recipe for Four Seasons Food celebrating the vegetables and fruits of spring.  FSF is run by Anneli at Delicieux and Louisa at Eat Your Veg who is hosting this month.


Wheelbarrow Planter

I’m always keeping my eyes open for different containers to grow crops in. Recently I’ve come across a couple of old wheelbarrows; abandoned and rusty, they are sad versions of their former working selves. They still serve a purpose though. They can hold soil, and as the bottoms are not rusted, a few drilled holes provide the necessary drainage. One of the wheelbarrows has been turned into a strawberry planter. Where once there were bricks and gravel, now there is lush green foliage, white flowers and the little green fruit of the developing strawberries. The berries are rapidly ripening and I had visions of being able to wheel the barrow around the plot, taking the fruit to whoever fancied the delight of picking fresh strawberries. Unfortunately, the weight of the soil, and the rusty wheel didn’t allow it. We’ll just have to go to the strawberries.

The other barrow has been sown with carrots. Its added height hopefully means that the dreaded carrot fly won’t detect the roots and damage the crop. I’ve sown little spherical Parisian carrots, so the lack of depth shouldn’t be a problem, and the fact it’s a container has allowed me to use a better draining soil (lots of sand imported) than the heavy clay we usually have. Now to find another wheelbarrow and see what I can put in it.