Dark chocolate, raspberry and pistachio macarons

These macarons came about due to a lot of left over egg whites from custard making over the weekend . Having something bitter with a macaron shell works best for me, as it counteracts the potential cloying sweetness (which is what I found with salted caramel). I’m also a sucker for the green and red combo.

DSC_9858fullsizeoutput_2954Macaron shell ingredients:
200g  icing sugar
100g ground almonds
2 tbsp cocoa powder
half a cup of egg whites at room temp (about 3 eggs)
a pinch of salt
40g caster sugar
2 or 3 non-stick or silicon reusable baking liners

Chocolate ganache, raspberry and pistachio filling:
120g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
120ml double cream, at room temp
Handful of shelled pistachios
50g raspberries
Freeze dried raspberries


Macaron shell method:

  1. Tip the icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground almonds into the bowl of a food processor and blend for 30 seconds (if you don’t have a food processor sieve the icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground almonds into a bowl and stir till evenly combined)
  2. Tip the egg whites into a spotlessly clean and dry mixing bowl. Add the salt and, using a handheld electric whisk, beat until they will just hold a stiff peak.
  3. Continue to whisk on a medium speed whilst adding the caster sugar a teaspoon at a time. Mix well between each addition to ensure that the sugar is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next spoonful. The mixture should be thick, white and glossy. Add a little red food colouring paste to boost the brown colour.
  4. Using a large metal spoon mix 1 tablespoon of almond mix into the egg whites slowly. add the remaining almond mix in 2 or 3 batches and fold carefully.
  5. The mixture should be thoroughly incorporated and smooth but do not over mix or it will be too runny and your macaron mix will be too runny. It is better to under mix than over mix. To check the consistency of your batter pick up a little with your finger – it should form a little peak that dissolves back into the batter.
  6. Fill your piping bag with the mixture (I place my bag in a jug to hold it open) and pipe evenly sized circles onto the baking sheet – I do this by holding my nozzle at the centre point of each macaron close to the baking sheet and piping till the right size is achieved. If you see peaks after piping a whole row, the mix is not ready and needs a little more folding.
  7. When you’ve finished piping rap the tray a couple of times on the edge of a hard surface to ensure any air bubbles are got rid of.
  8. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas mark 3
  9. Leave the macarons until they have formed a dry shell, they should not be sticky, tacky or wet when tested with your fingertip. This normally takes about an hour but using a gentle blow dryer on them does reduce the time a little. This drying time is important as it ensures the macarons have a glossy surface and their trademark ‘feet’.
  10. Bake the macarons on the middle shelf of the oven for about 10 minutes (all ovens are different so keep an eye on them! This is only a guideline time – mine normally take 8 minutes) the macarons should be firm with the slightest amount of give. *
  11. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack.
  12. If you wish to decorate the macarons as I have done in the photos dip a course bristle paintbrush in red food gel and then lightly in water to slightly wet it. tap the brush sharply on your finger or a mug over the macarons to spray them lightly with food dye.

*tip: if your macarons are too brown lower the temperature of the oven and cook for slightly longer. Or place tin foil over the macarons half way through the cooking process.

Ganache method:

  1. Combine the double cream and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until the chocolate is melted and forms a glossy mixture.
  2. Allow the ganache to cool, stirring occasionally *don’t worry if the ganache splits a little.
  3. With an electric whisk, whisk the ganache until it forms a lighter airier mix – this tends to fix the splitting issue!

Assembly:

  1. While the chocolate and cream are on the heat, toast the pistachios in the oven for about five minutes. Allow to cool and then remove the brown skin (this can be a little fiddly).
  2. Tear the raspberries apart and place a little piece of each in the centre of the flat side of 1 of each macaron shell pair.
  3. Place the ganache in a piping bag and pipe generously around the raspberry of the shell. Sandwich the filling with the other empty macaron shell (see 1st photo).
  4. Grind the pistachios in a processor until they are breadcrumb-like.
  5. Combine the ground pistachios and freeze-dried raspberries on a plate an roll the sides of the macarons in it to coat the ganache (see 2nd photo).

Makes about 24 macarons

Lavender, lemon zest and vanilla shortbread

Last week I went to Columbia Road flower market and bought this lavender from one of the stalls, which had it all stacked up in an electric blue mound. This shortbread is quite unique tasting as it’s very floral and delicate. Fresh lavender has a very strong scent, so don’t be tempted to add more than the recipe states, or else you run the risk of producing something that tastes more like soap than a biscuit.

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Ingredients

100g butter, room temp
50g icing sugar
1 tsp fresh lavender
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
100g plain flour
50g corn flour

Method

  1.  Cream together the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and lavender and mix again.
  2. Finally, add the two types of flour, the salt and mix again.
  3. Once combined, bring the dough together into a ball and place on a dusted board to shape into a cylinder.
  4. I find my shortbread a bit crumbly at this point, so it is often easier to form a rough cylinder, place the dough on a strip of clingfilm, and then shape it further as you tightly wrap the dough in the clingfilm.
  5. At this point you want to preheat the over to 160C/150C fan, and place the dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes, till it firms up.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and slice it into rounds of about half-centimetre thickness. Place the shortbread rounds on a baking sheet and bake for about 20-30 minutes, until a light golden colour forms at the edges (you can lift one up to check it’s base is not doughy).
  7. Transfer to a wire rack, to allow them to cool and crisp-up.

Makes about 15, 4cm diameter shortbreads

Chocolate Brownies

These are hands down the best brownies that will ever grace your taste buds. A Nigella Lawson recipe – she never disappoints. You can add toppings, such as caramel, chocolate chips or marshmallows, before placing them in the oven, but I might accuse you of gilding the lily. Walnuts are an exception to this – they taste great. So, if you’re a fan, chuck a handful in when you add the flour.

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The steely eyed amongst you will notice the caramel swirls…

 

Ingredients

190g butter
190g dark chocolate in pieces
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g caster sugar
110g plain flour
(150g walnuts)

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/356F and grease and line a shallow metal tray with baking parchment or foil.
  2.  Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Once melted allow it to cool for a few minutes, so as not to cook the eggs in the next stage.
  3.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar using an electric mixer, or a hand whisk, till pale and creamy.
  4. Stir the chocolate mixture into the eggs and then fold in the flour.
  5. Pour the brownie mix into the greased and lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes*. It should have a shiny crust but you still want the brownie mix to be gooey.
  6. Leave the brownies to cool for a couple of hours, before attempting to slice them.

makes about 10-12 brownies

*If your tray is small and the brownie mix is quite deep, (like in the top photo) they may need a little longer than this.dsc_8179

Orange crème fraîche ice-cream

This ice-cream is very rich and a real treat. It’s made from my favourite half crème fraîche, half double cream custard base and is very easy to scoop straight from the freezer – an added bonus. Using a little muscovado sugar creates a subtle caramel flavour which balances out the slight bitterness from the orange rind.

 

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Ingredients
450ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
strips of rind from one orange (no pith)
5 egg yolks
170g unrefined caster sugar (I used our vanilla sugar)
5 tsp dark muscovado sugar
5 tsp glucose syrup
300ml double cream
300ml crème fraîche

Method
  1. Heat the milk and vanilla essence and orange rind in a pan till just below boiling point. Leave off the heat to infuse for an hour.
  2. reheat the milk again to just below boiling point (when the milk shivers). Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. While the milk is cooling, whisk the egg yolks and both types of sugar in a separate bowl with an electric whisk till pale and thickened – when you lift the whisk it should drop forming thickish ribbons.
  4. carefully pour a little of the hot milk into the egg yolk mix whilst whisking, ensuring that the eggs don’t cook. Continue to pour in all the milk, whisking continuously.
  5. Before the next stage of cooking fill your sink part way with cold water and place a bowl in it, big enough to hold the ice-cream mix.
  6. Pour the mixture back into a heatproof pan and place it under a low heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring continuously. The mixture should thicken slightly (to the point where it thinly coats the back of a wooden spoon).  This process can happen very quickly and if you’re not careful it will curdle! If you have a thermometer it should reach just below 86C.
  7. Once thickened quickly pour the custard into the bowl and place the bowl in the sink so the cold water surrounds it. Whisk the mixture continuously till it has cooled.
  8. Once cool, whisk in the double cream and crème fraîche.
  9. Leave the mix in the fridge till cold.
  10.  Once cold, pour the mix through a sieve to remove the orange rind and then into your ice-cream maker. Follow the manufacturers instructions.
  11. Once frozen, transfer into a freeze proof container with a lid (I use a cake tin with a hinge lid)
  12. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker place the mix in the freezer and stir it every 1-2 hours to break up larger ice crystals.

Raspberry ice-cream with white chocolate and pistachio swirl shards

A friend and I went fruit picking a few days ago and got a little carried away when we spotted the raspberry bushes – we ended up with 3.5 kgs! As a result I’ve made 15 jars of raspberry jam and also came up with this ice-cream recipe. The vodka flavour is not detectable, it simply lowers the freezing temperature so that it remains creamy. The white chocolate shards are fun and easy to make, as well as being really beautiful.

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Ingredients
Ice-cream
3 tsp glucose syrup
450ml whole milk170g unrefined caster sugar
5 egg yolks
1.5 tbsp vodka
100ml double cream
350ml créme fraíche
700g raspberries
Shards
75g white chocolate, broken into squares
8 shelled, unsalted pistachios
red/pink food dye

 

Method

  1.  Reserve a large handful of raspberries and place the rest in a blender. Once blended, pour the raspberry mix into a sieve and reserve the seed-free coulis, keeping in the fridge till needed.
  2. Heat the milk and glucose syrup in a pan till just below boiling point. Leave off the heat for about ten minutes.
  3. While the milk is cooling a little, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl with an electric whisk till paler and thickened – when you lift the whisk it should drop forming thickish ribbons.
  4. carefully pour a little of the hot milk into the egg yolk mix whilst whisking, ensuring that the eggs don’t cook. Continue to pour in all the milk, whisking continuously.
  5. Before the next stage of cooking fill your sink part way with cold water. and place a sieve on top of a bowl big enough to hold the ice-cream mix.
  6. Pour the mixture back into a heatproof pan and place it under a low heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring continuously. The mixture should thicken slightly (to the point where it thinly coats the back of a wooden spoon).  This process can happen very quickly and if you’re not careful it will curdle!
  7. Once thickened quickly pour the custard through the sieve into the bowl and place the bowl in the sink so the cold water surrounds it. Whisk the mixture continuously till it has cooled.
  8. Once cool, whisk in the double cream, crème fraîche and finally the raspberry coulis.
  9. Pour the mix into your ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturers instructions.
  10. Once thickened and ready for the freezer, add the final large handful of raspberries in the ice-cream maker. Allow the raspberries to be crushed and mixed a little, then pour the ice-cream into a metal airtight tin and place in the freezer to finish firming up.
  11. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, just pour the mix directly into your metal tin, place in the freezer, and stir it every 1-2 hours to break up larger ice crystals.
  12. Remove the ice-cream from the freezer about five minutes before serving, to allow it to soften a little.

 White chocolate shards

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl suspended over simmering water.
  3. Once melted, leave the chocolate to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place the pistachios on a baking dish and put them in the oven for about 7-10 minutes, till toasted a little..
  5. Pour the chocolate onto a baking sheet liner and spread out in a thin layer with a spatula.
  6. Crush the pistachios a little with a pestle and mortar.
  7. With a paintbrush, flick the food dye over the chocolate and swirl it a little with a tooth pick.
  8. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the white chocolate.
  9. Leave the chocolate slab to cool to room temperature, then score it a little with a knife, so it’s easier to break up into the right sized shards later.
  10.  Place in the fridge till cold.
  11. When you serve the ice-cream, take the slab out of the fridge and break it up into pieces.

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Prawn Pad Thai

This is a very easy recipe. As long as you follow the marinade instructions and add plenty of ginger and garlic, you can’t really go wrong. The veg can be substituted for whatever you’ve got in the fridge, although the red cabbage with the pepper gives it great colour.

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Ingredients

Coconut oil, for frying
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
6 spring onions, finely chopped
half a thumb size piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 Leeks, thinly sliced
1/4 Red cabbage and 1/4 white cabbage, thinly sliced with a mandolin
1 Pak choi, chopped
1 Marinated red pepper, sliced into small pieces
bunch of coriander, finely chopped
180g Prawns

Marinade
2tsp tom yum
2tsp fish sauce
2tsp maple syrup
2tsp chilli powder
OR omit maple syrup and chilli powder and replace with chilli jam

 

Method

 

  1. Melt about 2 tsp of coconut oil in a heavy based frying pan or wok.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onions. When the spring onions are soft add the leeks and increase the heat a little.
  3. Once the leeks have softened, add the cabbage and pak choi. Continue frying until the cabbage has softened slightly but is still al dente, about 2 minutes.
  4. Pour the contents of the pan into a big bowl and mix in the red pepper and coriander.
  5. To make the marinade: combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake.
  6. Place a third of the marinade in the same pan and add the prawns. Fry on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, just to warm them through.
  7. Stir the rest of the marinade into the Pad Thai and add the prawns. Serve immediately.

 

Serves 3,
Prep time: 20 minutes

Almond biscuits

These biscuits are an adaptation of my favourite sweet shortcrust pastry recipe. They are brilliant for dessert when cut into rectangles and served with blackberry jam, folded into crème fraîche, as a dip.If you don’t have any vanilla icing sugar, I recommend adding half a teaspoon of vanilla extract in the first step.
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Ingredients
175g butter
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
225g plain flour
125g slivered almonds
dusting of vanilla icing sugar


Method
  1. Put the butter, sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and blend together quickly.
  2. Add the flour and blend again.
  3. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour. At this point pre-heat the oven to 356F/180C/FAN 150C.
  4. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Once flat, roughly create a single layer of slivered almonds on the surface and continue to roll till the dough is about the thickness of a £1 coin (3-4mm).
  5. Cut out shapes using a cutter and place on a metal tray lined with baking parchment.
  6. Place in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes, but check on them after 10 minutes. They should end up being a light golden colour.
  7. Carefully place the biscuits on a cooling rack.
  8. Once cooled, dust the biscuits with vanilla icing sugar.
makes about 30 little discs