Cooking

Chocolate, Cardamom and Raspberry Macaroons

I’m no macaroon master. I’ve never really committed much time to perfecting the art and will fully admit I’ve had a few disasters which have put me off practicing (not the best attitude). That said, I’ve recently been playing around with the classic patisserie staple and have become a lot more comfortable with the making process. This spiced chocolate variety is my favourite experiment to date and although they’re not entirely perfect to look at, the shells are both crisp and chewy, the fillings are well balanced and, most importantly, each mouthful is deliciously moreish.

Ingredients:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80ml water
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 15g cocoa
  • 160g egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 10-12 cardamom pods
  • 1 punnet fresh raspberries

For decoration (optional):

  • some additional dark chocolate, melted
  • edible gold paint

Method (makes about 30 macarons):

  1. Before I begin- you will need a sugar thermometer, an electric whisk or stand mixer, a food processor or blender, some greaseproof paper with 4cm circles traced on to use as a piping guide (see here) and piping bags.
  2. The first thing to do is weigh out your ingredients accurately (this is something I don’t often do but for this recipe, its a necessity!) and line up to 4 baking trays with your greaseproof paper templates.
  3. Now, place your ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor and blitz until very fine (about 30 seconds- 1 minute). Pass through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the chunky bits.
  4. Next, pop your water and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, increase the heat and boil until the temperature reads 115c on your sugar thermometer.
  5. While your sugar syrup is heating up, stir half of the egg whites (80g) in with the ground almond mixture to create a thick paste. Place the other half (remaining 80g) in a clean bowl (or bowl of  a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks.
  6. Take your sugar syrup (which should now be at 115c) and, while whisking on a high speed, pour it into your stiff egg whites in a slow stream. Your egg whites will become smooth and glossy (as you would expect from meringue). Now continue whisking for about 5 minutes until the bowl has cooled down to room temperature.
  7. Take 1/3 of this cooled meringue and stir it into the almond paste to loosen the consistency. Once well mixed add the remaining meringue and fold, very gently, until you have a mixture which is thick enough to be piped without running but not so thick that the meringue isn’t fully incorporated.
  8. Pile the mixture into a piping bag and snip the end off (about 1cm diameter). Take your macaroon template and pipe vertically (not at an angle) into each circle. Be sure to leave a tiny bit of space for spreading. I find that working quickly is best for consistency as you develop a bit of a rhythm.
  9. Once you’ve piped all your circles lift the trays a few inches off the work surface and drop them down a few times- this eliminates air bubbles. Now leave them for an hour to form a bit of a skin before baking. Preheat the oven to 140c (fan).

  1. While your macaroons are forming a skin, make the chocolate cardamom ganache. To do this, put the cream in a saucepan, crack the cardamom pods and add to the pan then very gently heat. Bring to the boil then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Chop the chocolate finely and scrape into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Once infused, strain the cream into another saucepan and bring to scalding point (just before boiling) then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir together to form a smooth ganache. Set aside until cool and thickened.
  3. Now your macaroons will be ready to bake; they will take around 18-22 minutes but check after 15. You’re looking for a crisp top and chewy middle, and they should peel off the greaseproof when ready.
  4. Cool the macaroon shells on a wire rack when they’re baked.
  5. To assemble the macaroons, pipe the thickened ganache in a ring around one shell and place a raspberry in the middle, then sandwich with another shell. Decorate with drizzled chocolate, edible gold paint and freeze dried raspberries.

Enjoy!

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Pistachio Meringues with Strawberry and Black Pepper Compote

Shake up the classic British pavlova by combining seasonal strawberries with black pepper, tangy creme fraiche and pistachio meringues; the combination of sweet, spicy and savoury balances beautifully and is a great dessert option for casual summer evenings.

Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 125g chopped pistachios
  • 400g strawberries
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • splash water
  • cracked black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 trays with greaseproof paper (you can secure this down with a little meringue once it’s made).
  2. Put the sugar on a baking tray and heat for 10 minutes in the oven until hot to the touch (not melting), then set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
  3. Place the egg whites in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until you reach medium peak. Add one third of the hot sugar and increase the whisking speed until well incorporated. Add the remaining sugar in 2 additions, whisking well between each. You should eventually have a thick glossy meringue with no grains of sugar. Tip the chopped pistachios onto the meringue and fold in gently. Spoon the meringue into piles on the prepared trays and smooth into your desired shapes.
  4. Bake for 1-1/2 hours until the meringues can be peeled from the paper with ease. Once baked, turn the oven off and leave to cool with the door closed (to prevent cracking).
  5. Now make the strawberry compote; place the strawberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the strawberries release some juices. Now just cook until your desired consistency is achieved (I like to keep the fruit whole where possible but you can break down the strawberries by cooking for longer if a smoother result is what you’re after).
  6. Cool the compote and serve up with a generous spoonful of creme fraiche (or lightly whipped chantilly cream) and a crisp but chewy pistachio meringue.

Enjoy!

Coconut and Lemongrass Panna Cotta

This panna cotta recipe can be adapted by substituting the coconut for flaked almonds, basil or other nuts and herbs. I love this tropical combination for summer though; paired with mango sorbet, sesame seeds and lime zest it makes for the perfect refreshing and light dessert to follow a late lunch or dinner.

Ingredients (makes 4):

  • 225ml whole milk
  • 225ml double cream
  • 200g coconut flakes (lightly toasted)
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 3 1/2 leaves gelatine (around 6g)

Method:

  1. Lightly grease four dariole moulds with a flavourless oil (such as sunflower).
  2. Place the milk, cream and lightly toasted coconut flakes in a saucepan. Bash the lemongrass with the back of a knife to release the flavour and add to the pan. Heat the mixture and bring gently to the boil. Boil for 1 minute then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour.
  3. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes (until soft). Sieve the panna cotta mixture to remove the coconut and lemongrass then place back on the heat. Reheat until just steaming then squeeze the water from the gelatine and add. Mix in until dissolved then pour into the moulds.
  4. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours then remove from the moulds and serve as desired (dip the moulds in boiling water for a few seconds to make turning them out easier!).

Enjoy!

Rhubarb and Lime Sorbet (No Churn)

Spring has well and truly sprung here in Bucks, and the sunny weather has inspired me to make something zesty, refreshing and seasonal. This brilliant pink sorbet really hits the spot after a three course dinner or makes for a great component in a larger dessert. I’d advise preparing it a day or two ahead as it does require blitzing a couple of times (but no ice cream maker needed- result!).

Ingredients:

  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 500ml water
  • 400g rhubarb, sliced into 4 inch lengths
  • zest and juice 3 limes
  • 1 egg white (optional)

Method:

  1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb pieces and poach for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
  2. Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan and place in a food processor along with the lime juice.
  3. Increase the heat on the rhubarb sugar syrup and boil until it reaches ‘thread’ stage. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds; you can check it’s ready in two ways. Firstly, you could use a sugar thermometer and make sure it reads between 223 degrees and 235 degrees. Secondly, if you don’t have a thermometer just add cold water to a bowl and drop some of the syrup in- if it forms a thin thread in the water, it’s ready (I use this method).
  4. Once you’ve reached thread stage take the syrup off the heat and cool a little, then add half to the rhubarb and lime ( too much will make the sorbet too sweet!). Blitz to a smooth puree and pass through a sieve, then add the lime zest. Pour into an ice cream tub and freeze for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally to help break up ice crystals.
  5. After the sorbet has frozen, break it up and return to the blender. Add the egg white (if you can’t eat these or are making this for vulnerable people, just skip this) to lighten the texture and blitz again until smooth.
  6. Freeze again and use as required.

Brown Sugar Meringues with Rum Caramel and Bananas

Meringue is a guaranteed crowd pleaser throughout the year, whether you enjoy it torched on top of lemon meringue pie or piled high with summer fruits as the base of a retro pavlova. Though these classic forms of meringue are delicious, I thought I’d try out a brown sugar variation for a richer flavour; they worked brilliantly and the brown sugar adds a deep molasses kick which pairs really well with rum caramel sauce, caramelised bananas, peanuts and creme fraiche.

meringues1

meringues4

Ingredients (makes 6-8 large meringues):

For the meringues:

  • 225g dark brown soft sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the rum sauce:

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 40g butter
  • 75ml double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 tbsp dark rum

For the caramelised banana:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 2 bananas

For the toppings:

  • chopped peanuts
  • some creme fraiche

meringues2

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 120c. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and add the brown sugar and egg whites. Whisk with electric beaters until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is voluminous and hot to the touch.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and keep whisking. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and increase the speed on your beaters. Whisk until you have stiff peaks.
  4. Pile the meringue into nests on the prepared baking trays. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Switch the oven off when you can easily peel the meringues off the paper and they are crisp. Leave in the oven to cool for an hour.
  5. While the meringues are cooling make the caramel. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved bring to a boil and allow to turn into a deep caramel colour. Remove from the heat and add the cream, butter and salt. Whisk until smooth (it will spit). Allow the sauce to cool slightly then add the rum. Taste and add more if you feel it needs it (hardcore). Set aside.
  6. For the bananas, place the sugar in a heavy bottom pan. Heat, allowing the sugar to melt. Swirl occasionally but do not stir. Take the sugar to a golden colour and add the butter (it will spit). Stir together then add the banana pieces. Cook for a few minutes then turn over and remove from the pan.
  7. To assemble top the meringues with creme fraiche, followed by the bananas, sauce and peanuts.

meringues3

Enjoy!

Trail Mix Granola (DF/SF)

I’ve been making granola at home for a while, but I usually throw in a load of sugar and butter to make it taste more like crumbled up flapjack than a nutritious breakfast essential (don’t judge, I don’t eat it everyday). This one, however, is made with peanut butter in place of dairy and agave syrup to cut out the refined sugar- it’s really delicious and packed with protein. I like it on top of yoghurt and fresh fruit but it’s also great with porridge or warm stewed apples.

granola-1

Ingredients:

  • 350g porridge oats
  • 4tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 50g roughly chopped almonds
  • 75g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • 75g chopped dried figs
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 30g coconut oil
  • 100g peanut butter (or your preferred nut butter)
  • 100ml agave syrup

granola-2

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140c. Line a large tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the oats, cinnamon, ginger, almonds, seeds, figs and cranberries in a large bowl and mix together.
  3. Gently melt the coconut oil, vanilla, peanut butter and agave together in a saucepan until smooth. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix together until all the oats and seeds are coated in the peanut butter mix.
  4. Tip the granola mix onto the prepared baking tray and spread into an even layer. Bake for 40 minutes, turning every 10 to get an even colour on the oats.
  5. Leave the granola to cool down then store in an airtight container until required.

granola-3

GF Brazil Nut Brownies

These quick and easy brownies are rich and delicious. I’ve swapped out the flour for ground almonds to make them gluten free which means they’re even more moist than your usual brownie, and that can only be a good thing! I love the brazil nuts in these but you could sub in any nuts you like, or dried fruit and chocolate chips.

brownies-2

Ingredients:

  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 225g butter
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 100g roughly chopped brazil nuts
  • pinch sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line a brownie tray.
  2. Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally.
  3. Allow the chocolate to cool then whisk in the vanilla, sugar, eggs and ground almonds. Keep whisking until the batter becomes thick and light, then fold in the brazil nuts.
  4. Pour the brownie mix into the prepared tray and bake for 20-25 minutes (the top should be crisp and the middle gooey).
  5. Leave the brownie to cool and firm in the tin then sprinkle with sea salt, slice up and serve.