Like many of you who are in the midst of summer right now, I haven’t been cooking much of late. However, I have been getting back into smoothies come breakky time, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to take a glass of blended fruit and milk to something close to perfection.

1. Make your smoothie mostly fruit

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, as someone who isn’t a big fan of fruit unless somebody else has cut it up for me and garnished it with lashings of whipped cream, this is a sure fire way to get a big serve of multiple fruits in one go, without losing out on fibre as you do when juicing. Secondly, because milk isn’t the main ingredient, those who are lactose sensitive/intolerant or like to avoid dairy won’t be missing out – you can sub in juice, soy milk, soy yogurt, almond or rice milk, even coconut milk, as long as you chill it first.

2. Fill the glass, not the beaker/blender/food processor

In the past, I was forever getting the quantities (or the ratio of ingredients) wrong when it came to smoothies. I’d whack a bunch of ingredients in the beaker for my stick blender, blend away like mad, topple the lot into my glass and find I’d made too much/not enough/it was too watery. These days, I just fill as many glasses with fruit as needed, top with yogurt or ice cream, and fill to the brim with milk. Pour the glass/es into the blender and viola! The perfect size.

3. Freeze your fruit

This will give you a thickshake or melted ice cream consistency, making the smoothie feel treat-like rather than medicinal. It also means you can save your fruit before it goes strange by chopping, portioning and freezing it ready for smoothies. Your smoothie will be cold, delicious, and so thick you could eat it with a spoon. In fact, if you pop it in the freezer for half an hour you could even serve it as dessert.

4. Use 4 fruits or less

In the smoothie pictured, I have fresh mango, half a frozen banana, frozen strawberry pieces and the pulp of two passionfruit. I’ve noticed keeping things to 4 fruits or less gives a cleaner taste. Also, one of the strongest flavours in the smoothie is banana, which makes sense because bananas are one of the sweetest fruits you can buy, so I never put in more than half a banana unless I want that to be the only flavour. The worst smoothies I’ve had don’t taste like anything in particular because there are so many kinds of fruit in there that no one flavour stands out. So whatever your fave fruit is, go heavy on that.

5. Use a straw

Ok, so this is just a personal preference of mine, but doesn’t life just feel that much more luxurious when you’re sipping your drink through a straw? I’m not saying you’ll feel like you’re on a northern Brazillian beach or anything, but a straw can’t hurt. Hell, why not chuck in a cocktail umbrella for good measure.

What’s your fave smoothie recipe?

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I know I can’t be tho only one whos’ kitchen experiments sometimes turn out…questionable. Or is it questionably? Whichever is grammatically correct. Anyway, we’ve all had moments where we’re sure the lightning bolt of genius has his us. ‘Mustard éclairs!’ we shout ‘Twice-baked rum-soaked polenta!’ ‘Chocolate steak!’. But, by and large, it is disaster, not genius that has struck.

Personally, my mistakes aren’t usually to do with creativity. I’m not much for crazy fusion projects (Italian sushi, anyone?). Rather, my disasters are the fruit of my impatience. I will drop or undercook or burn myself on things in my haste to prepare food quickly. I’m never going to make a mustard éclair, but I cook the same way I eat…fast. And as a result, sometimes my creations can resemble a kind of indigestion.

I have been putting off posting this recipe because for this very reason; I’m just not sure about it. Something about it just isn’t quite right. It isn’t terrible. It does work, in theory. It tastes ok. It’s good on paper. Nobody died. But I’m not convinced by it.

Maybe it’s because I love panettone, buttered and dunked in coffee so much that it seems a bit redundant, like bread and butter pudding made with croissants – as if there’s any such thing as a leftover or stale croissant. Maybe it’s just not as good as the sum of its parts – all the components are delicious, so you’d expect the finished product to be even more so, but it isn’t. Maybe you can tell my what’s missing, or maybe you can fix it. Either way, here it is: Panettone Trifle.

Raspberry Upside-down Panettone Trifle
1 Panettone, sliced into thick rounds (as you would a layer cake, I’d imagine)
About 400g frozen raspberries
1 portion Portuguese custard or any other custard you like
About 300ml fresh coffee, cooled and in a flat dish

Find a container roughly the same size as or a bit smaller than the panettone. Line it with cling wrap.

Dunk a round of panettone in the coffee, press into the container. Scatter a few raspberries and slather on some custard, repeat with all layers – you should have art least 1/3 of the custard left. Cover and refrigerate.

To serve, turn the trifle out onto a plate, cover in custard and sprinkle with raspberries. It will be a mess but maybe you will like it.

So, do you have any questionable kitchen experiments you’d like to share?

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