Almond and chocolate cake

Almond and chocolate cake

[Serves about 10]

This cake has gathered something of a following in the west. Suitable for coeliacs and loved by chocaholics, it is also a very clever cake because it is virtually fool proof.

INGREDIENTS 200g / 8oz chocolate, 70% cocoa solids (we love Green & Blacks) 125g / 5oz butter, softened 125g / 5oz caster sugar 4 eggs, seperated 200g / 8oz ground almonds

To serve: icing sugar

INSTRUCTIONS Preheat oven to 180′C/350′F/ gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20cm diameter baking tin.

Bring a pot of water to the boil, reduce to a summer and place a shallow heatproof bowl on op to make a bain marie. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in the bowl to melt gently, stirring occasionally.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – you can do this is a food processor orin a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the egg yolks together with the ground almonds and melted chocolate. Mix well to combine.

In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the batter, mixing until integrated.

Pour into the baking tin and bake for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer or toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before inverting on to a plate. Dust with icing sugar and serve simply with a good pot of tea or coffee

Autumnal squash soup with toasted cumin seeds

Autumnal squash soup with toasted cumin seeds

[Serves 4–6]

This warming soup is a favourite consolation in Ard Bia when summer has finally slipped away and autumn is settling in – just the thing to cheer you up on a rainy day in the west!

INGREDIENTS 3–4 tablespoons olive oil 2 onions, diced 5 garlic cloves, bashed with the back of a knife and peeled 2 teaspoons cumin seeds 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped Salt and pepper, to taste 1 carrot, peeled and roughly diced 2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped 1.2kg squash of choice, peeled and de-seeded (butternut squash or pumpkin are the most common) 1 litre vegetable stock 1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional) 3–4 handfuls of fresh coriander, picked

INSTRUCTIONS Heat a large heavy-based pot over a medium heat and, in the following order, add the olive oil, diced onion, bashed garlic, cumin seed, ginger, salt and pepper, carrot and celery along with the cayenne pepper, if using. Sweat over a low to medium heat until the onion and vegetables soften a little and the cumin seeds are toasted.

When you think you’ve enough flavour in your pot – the change in colour is a clue but you’ll know by the delicious aromas – add your chosen member of the squash family.

Then barely cover with stock, cover with a lid and allow to simmer until the squash is cooked– about 20–25 minutes, but it will depend on what type of squash you used, so check by piercing with a knife. Allow to cool a little before blending. Add a little water if the soup needs thinning out.

Check the seasoning for taste and serve garnished with fresh coriander.

Feta and Green Chilli Dip

Feta and Green Chilli Dip

Serves 4–6 as part of a mezze spread with two or three other dips

1 green chilli, seeded and finely diced 1 garlic clove, bashed Splash of sherry vinegar Splash of milk 250g / 8oz feta (we use St Tola’s Greek-style cheese)

Combine the chilli, garlic and vinegar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the feta and pulse until fully mixed through, taking care not to over-blend as the feta will become very watery. Check consistency and add a little milk to adjust. Aim for a moist thin dip rather than a thick purée. You could add a touch more vinegar at the end to adjust taste.