Roasted hazelnut and chocolate ganache tart, caramelised figs

Happy Sunday! It’s been a slow weekend, and I’m not mad about it. It’s been a busy old week of work, events and a cinema trips, so some downtime in kitchen has been just what the doctor ordered. I’ve been thinking more and more about the kinds of recipes for entertaining friends and family at this time of year (see last week’s post), and with that came the idea for this hazelnut and chocolate tart.

I really enjoy working with chocolate; it’s such a versatile ingredient and has been inspiring me a lot lately. Pastry on the other hand is something I will 9/10 avoid making from scratch, but with some time on my hands, I gave this shortcrust method another go. It’s pretty fail-safe, and can be whipped up in 10 minutes so I’d encourage you to have a go too! With a decadently rich filling, nutty topping and sweet, ripe figs for a luxurious finish, these are flavours and textures that work in harmony.

Serves 8-10 | Prep: 30 mins | Cooking: 55 minutes

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • Round 20cm non-stick pie tin (removable base)
  • 250g organic plain flour
  • 150g chilled salted butter, cubed
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

For the chocolate filling:

  • 150g 70% dark chocolate
  • 400ml double cream
  • 120g whole hazelnuts
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • Pinch of sea salt

For the caramel sauce:

  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g salted butter
  • 2 tbsp light soft brown sugar

To serve:

  • Dusting of icing sugar
  • 4-5 fresh figs, halved
  • Caramel sauce

Step one: On a clean work surface, sieve the flour from a height. Use your hands to make a well, and rub the cubes of butter into the flour until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Add a little water at this point to bind and knead the dough together, but avoid overworking.

Step two: Flour the surface and place the dough on top. Press firmly with the palm of your hand, then wrap in clingfilm before letting it rest in fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Step three: In that time, prepare the chocolate ganache filling. In a saucepan, simmer the cream on a low heat for about 10 minutes until it begins to bubble at the sides. Turn off the heat and add the broken pieces of chocolate and a pinch of sea salt, stirring continuously until smooth and melted. Leave to cool. Whisk one whole egg and one yolk, and add to the ganache. Mix well and set aside.

Step four: Flour the surface and roll your pastry so it’s thin enough to cover your tin. Gently and evenly press the pastry into the tin and up the sides. Prick the base several times with a fork, and use a sharp knife to remove the excess pastry from the rim. Fill with a circle of greaseproof paper and baking beans (or dried pasta). Blind bake for 15 minutes at 150 degrees to cook the pastry.

Step five: Once cooked, remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans. Spread the base with 60g whole hazelnuts, then fill with the ganache. Return to the oven for approx. 30 minutes. The edges should be firm and the centre still a little soft. Remove from the oven as the residual heat will continue the cooking process.

Step six: Crush and roast the remaining 60g hazelnuts on a baking tray for five minutes. This will release their natural oils and give a wonderful, earthy flavor to the tart. Sprinkle on the tart and chill for at least two hours.

Step seven: To make the caramel sauce, melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan on a low heat for about five minutes. Once bubbling, pour in the cream and stir gently. It will thicken quickly, so remove from the heat when this happens and set aside. It should be glossy and cover the back of a spoon.

To serve: Dust the tart with icing sugar. Halve the figs and assemble in the centre, and drizzle over the cooled caramel sauce generously. Slice and serve with lightly whipped cream.

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Baked white chocolate and ginger cheesecake, winter berries.

This has to be my ultimate dessert. A rich, creamy cheesecake ticks all the boxes for me; indulgent, just sweet enough and satisfying. Now that autumn’s here, this is a seasonsal take on what can be quite a summertime dessert. I also champion this recipe because it looks a lot more challenging than it actually is (trust me!). With a hint of ginger in the base, and a vibrant forest fruit medley on top, it’s a winner all round for this time of year. It’s time to organise that dinner party you’ve been talking about!

Serves 8-10 | Prep: 20 mins | Cooking: 50 minutes

For the biscuit base: 

  • 250g pack of McVities ginger nuts (substitute if desired, but these are the best)
  • 50g butter or sunflower spread
  • 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

For the cheesecake:

  • 280g  full fat cream cheese (I use Philadelphia original)
  • 200g marscarpone cheese (I use Galbani)
  • 100g good quality white chocolate (I use Green & Black’s 30% cocoa with vanilla)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Zest of a whole lemon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 150g frozen berries (blackberries, cherries, currents, blueberries)

Step one: Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees (fan assisted). Grease and line a 20cm round tin. Set aside.

Step two: Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin in a sandwhich bag or plastic bag. You want a semi-smooth texture with a few chunky bits.

Step three: Melt the butter on a low heat, add the crushed biscuits, ginger and cacao and stir until well coated and softened. Remove from the heat and press evenly into the lined cake tin. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Step four: In a heatproof bowl, gradually melt the broken white chocolate over a bain-marie (a pot of simmering water) until completely smooth. This should take around 8 minutes. Set aside.

Step five: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and marscarpone until smooth. Add the salt, grated lemon zest and eggs one at a time, mixing throughout.

Step six: Once cooled, stir the white chocolate into the mixture along with the honey. At this point the mixture will be silky smooth and cover the back of a spoon completely.

Step seven: Remove the base from the fridge. Pour in the wet mixture and smooth with the back of a spoon for an even finish. Bake for approx 50 minutes. The edges should be light brown and coming away from the tin slightly but firm to touch (don’t worry about minor cracks). The centre should still have a little give.

Step eight: On a low heat, thaw the frozen berries until softened and oozing natural juices. Set aside and cool before topping the cheesecake for serving.