Sitting at my desk writing my blog this morning, drinking a cup of tea as the warm sun is sparkling through last night’s rain on the window, it occurs to me that we’re hurtling into Summer rather rapidly. The changeable weather is free-wheeling, which is giving us all wardrobe issues (cue carrying various rainproof supplies – brolly, raincoat, shoes instead of sandals, to name a few!). We layer up in the damp, chilly morning, only to find that by lunchtime it’s blazing brilliant sunshine! One thing that is benefiting from all this random weather is the garden. Our pots of plants are flourishing & fabulous flowers are blooming between splashes of rain & sporadic sunshine, giving us some glorious fruit & vegetables to look forward to, hopefully very soon!
The bees seem to be having a great time in the blossoms too. My Husband calls me the Bee Whisperer, because I’m always rescuing them. The bees are very important to us & we should look after them – after all, no bees means no fruit & veggies (or wine, beer & chocolate!). If you see one resting on the ground, he’s probably just tired & needs a rest. Gently move him to safety (use a piece of paper to slide underneath) & give him an energy boost – dissolve a little sugar in some tepid water & put it in a little bottle cap next to him. Trust me, once they’re rested & recuperated, they will buzz back with all their little friends (aka the Pollinators!).
Bees aren’t the only ones to like the sweet stuff & sometimes we need a little treat too. When it’s warm outside, it’s hardly surprising that no-one feels like standing in front of a hot oven, baking a selection of sweets & treats for dessert. Even I like a day off every now & then! Recently, I’ve had a couple of friends ask me for oven-free dessert ideas, so here are a few to inspire you. Whether a couple of unexpected visitors turn up or a crowd of friends, these luscious little lovelies should keep everyone happy!
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll have seen a couple of my no-bake easy desserts before. There are recipes for a gorgeous Greek yoghurt & fruit ice cream (just chuck everything in a blender & serve), plus a very easy chocolate sauce (this also tastes great on toast too!). Here’s the link:
These next two desserts are fabulous favourites of ours & perfect for when you need a sweet fix. I’ve been making them for many years & these bake-free beauties always do the trick! The first one is a gorgeously gooey chocolate tart. Now this perfect pud does need at least an hour in the fridge before serving, so you can make it in advance & forget about it until dinner. Ready? Hands washed & aprons on – let’s get chocolatey!
What you need:
For the base:
12 plain Digestive Biscuits (you could use Biscotti or cookies – have a look through my website for recipes)
2oz melted Salted Butter (plus a little extra for greasing your dish)
For the chocolate sauce:
4oz softened Salted Butter
14oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
A few fresh Raspberries
A sprig of fresh Mint leaves
A teaspoon of Icing Sugar (optional)
What to do:
Firstly, prepare your dish – you can use a loose-bottomed tin for this too if you like.
Brush a little melted butter all around the inside of your dish or tin with a pastry brush (you can use your fingers, but this way you get into all the edges quicker). If you wish, line with a little greaseproof paper (you can take this off just before serving).
Now to make the base! Crush the digestives in a large bowl or chuck them in the blender, whizzing them up until fine crumbs.
Add the melted butter & mix well together, until you have a crumbly mixture resembling moist sand.
Tip the crumble mixture into the bottom of your dish, pressing firmly into all the edges to form a nice smooth base. Place in the fridge while you make the sauce.
Pour the condensed milk into a saucepan with the butter & chocolate. Heat gently to melt, stirring carefully until everything is fully combined & melted into a dark, delicious pan of gooey gorgeousness (resist the urge to taste it – it will be quite warm!). Turn off the heat & leave to one side to cool for a couple of minutes.
Remove the biscuit base from the fridge & pour the chocolate sauce on top & return to the fridge to set for an hour.
Just before serving, remove from the fridge for a couple of minutes to soften slightly. Decorate with a few fresh raspberries & a couple of mint leaves, maybe give them a light dusting of icing sugar (I use a fine mesh tea strainer for this). Here’s a little tip to make slicing easy: boil the kettle & half-fill a mug. Put a sharp knife in the mug to warm through for about 20 seconds, then dry it before slicing your tart – it will cut through cleanly & effortlessly!
Sometimes I like to use ginger biscuits for the base, adding a few slender shards of stem ginger to the chocolate sauce at the end, piped with a little splodge of whipped cream & delicately dusted with grated dark chocolate. And then there’s always the coconut version which goes down well (add a little dessicated coconut to the chocolate sauce before pouring for a tropical-tasting treat & decorate as above).
Hungry for more? Thought so! These sweet shots of fast fruity cheesecake can be prepared in moments. As these are individual portions, I prefer to serve them in some pretty wine glasses, such as Champagne saucers, Martini glasses or just large wine glasses (you can use tea-cups for children’s portions – the handles make it easier for them too). Aprons on, hands washed & here we go!
What you need:
4 plain Biscuits – Digestives, Biscotti or a handful of Amaretti, etc (whatever you have in the pantry is fine)
2 heaped teaspoons of Strawberry Jam
1 tub Mascarpone Cheese
1-2 tablespoons Greek Yoghurt (or Natural Yoghurt)
Icing Sugar (optional)
Crush up a couple of biscuits & place some in the bottom of each glass.
Whip up a tub of Mascarpone cheese with the Greek yoghurt to loosen it up a bit. You can always use a little semi-skimmed milk, just a tablespoon will do.
Add the strawberry jam & slowly stir into the Mascarpone, until it turns a beautiful blush pink colour.
Spoon or pipe swirls of the strawberry Mascarpone generously over the crushed biscuits, or perhaps add a few chopped fresh strawberries to the mixture beforehand. If you’re going to pipe it, forget using a nozzle, just snip the end off a piping bag instead.
Top with a couple of fresh strawberries, dust with a little icing sugar if you like & serve immediately. I like to slice them 3/4 of the way to the top & leave them attached, then fan them out on these dinky desserts. If you don’t want to use strawberries, try using apricots, raspberries or blueberries, swapping the jam for whichever fruit you use. If you fancy something a bit special, cherries go very well with the delicate almond flavour of crushed Amaretti biscuits – just sprinkle a few toasted almonds on top to decorate before serving. Bellissimo!
So when you need to whip up a dessert storm, try these swift, sweet solutions for after dinner! Stay hungry 😉 A x