Baked brie. Picture: Polly Webster/PA
Baked Brie with blackcurrants, pecans, honey and herbs
Baked brie – gooey and straight from the oven – is the perfect crowd-pleaser if you’ve got guests round. This version by Elly McCausland pimps the classic with tangy blackcurrants, buttery pecans and fragrant herbs.
“I like to serve it with Scandinavian-style rye crackers but a good, crusty baguette is also an excellent vehicle for transporting cheese to mouth,” she says. “I highly recommend seeking out blackcurrant vinegar, but you could replace it with the more common raspberry vinegar, or a good, syrupy balsamic.”
45g pecan nuts
250g wedge of brie
70g fresh or frozen blackcurrants
2tsp thyme leaves or finely chopped rosemary needles
3tsp blackcurrant vinegar or balsamic vinegar
3–4tsp runny honey
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5.
2. Put the pecans in a small oven dish and place in the oven for eight minutes, until toasted. Remove (leave the oven on), set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
3. Take a small baking dish, the right size to fit the piece of brie snugly. Slice the brie horizontally in half (so you have two flat triangles). Put one half in the dish, cut side up. Take half the toasted pecans and press them gently into the cheese. Do the same with the blackcurrants (some will fall off the sides into the dish – that’s fine, but try to get as many as possible on the cheese). Sprinkle over half the thyme or rosemary, then drizzle over half the vinegar and half the honey.
4. Put the other piece of brie on top, rind side upwards (so you have essentially sandwiched the cheese back together as the wedge it was). Press the remaining pecans and blackcurrants onto the top of the cheese (again, some will fall off). Drizzle over the remaining vinegar and honey and sprinkle with the remaining thyme or rosemary.
5. Bake for 10–15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and spread out a little in the dish. Remove from the oven, leave for five minutes, then dive in with crackers or good crusty bread.
Banana, tahini and white chocolate muffin recipe
Muffins are great to whip up at the weekend – so you can make your way through them in the week.
Elly McCausland says her recipe using banana, tahini, cardamom and white chocolate, results in a “highly addictive sweet-savoury combination” and is also an “excellent way to use up overripe bananas – the blacker the better”.
For the muffins:
200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, finely ground
1/4tsp sea salt flakes
100g white chocolate chips (or 1cm pieces of white chocolate)
3 large bananas, mashed
70g light brown soft sugar
50g butter, melted and cooled
1tsp vanilla extract
For the tahini glaze:
100g icing sugar
1tsp lemon juice
1tbsp sesame seeds (a mixture of black and white looks nice)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases (or grease thoroughly with some extra butter if you don’t have paper cases).
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the cardamom and salt. Stir in the white chocolate.
3. In a separate bowl, mash together the bananas, sugar, egg, melted butter, vanilla and tahini.
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to over-mix – this is the key to a light muffin. Divide between the 12 cases and bake the muffins for 20–25 minutes, until they spring back when pressed lightly with a finger.
5. Transfer the muffins in their cases to a wire rack to cool.
6. Make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, icing sugar, lemon juice and two tablespoons of water. When the muffins are cool, spoon the glaze over the top. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and leave for an hour or so for the glaze to set before eating (if you can wait!).
The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland, photography by Polly Webster, is published by Bloomsbury Absolute.