30 April 2014

Raspberry Macarons

So I wasn't planning on blogging this recipe. It was Saturday morning and I really needed something as a break from revision, a little project to take my mind off exam stress! So what better way to relax than tackle the enigma that is macarons!
I'm at my happiest when I'm baking with the radio on full blast and creating a mess. So when these macarons actually turned out looking OK and tasting delicious, I decided I'd share them with you.
Macarons are the avoided in baking- they conjure up pictures of nightmares, cracked shells, and faded colours, but they are really not as hard as everyone thinks they are.
If you type into google macaron recipes, there are endless troubleshooting articles suggesting all the different techniques of tackling macaron problems in order to achieve your perfect macarons! But really, as long as you follow the basic principles, your macarons should turn out ok. By all means, go ahead and follow different techniques, but these simple steps seem to have worked for me and don't involve hours letting the macaroons sit or any fancy equipment. As I'd left my piping bag up in Edinburgh, I even used a plastic sandwich bag to pipe my macarons so don't fret if you don't have a piping bag at home.

I'd made macarons once before and although they tasted fine and had a good consistency, the colour had faded during baking and they were a disappointing light brown colour rather than a pink. These on the other hand turned out beautifully bright pink.

As it wasn't planning on blogging the recipe, I didn't take any photos of the individual stages but as long as you follow the steps and weigh out your ingredients properly then you should have perfect macarons!

You can of course flavour and colour the macarons with whatever you fancy, here are some gorgeous ones: http://www.bobbetteandbelle.com/mac_instore.html but my favourite is raspberry as I love the tang of raspberry jam sandwiched in between the sticky, sugary meringue-like biscuits.


100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
2 medium eggs
55g caster sugar (I used granulated as I didn't have any caster sugar, but granulated is slightly harder to dissolve, hence why some of the sugar hasn't dissolved on the top of my macarons)
Red food colouring

Raspberry jam


1. Sieve the ground almonds and icing sugar into a food processor. Then blitz on full power for a few minutes until very fine and throughly mixed together.

2. Then sieve the mixture once again into a large mixing bowl.

3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until they form soft peaks. The gradually add in the sugar, continuing to whisk until you have a stiff and glossy mixture.

4. Then add in your food colouring. I added in 2 tsp of red food colouring to achieve this bright pink but you can add in as much as you wish depending on how dark you want to the colour to be.

5. Then add half of the meringue mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well with a spoon until you have a paste. Then carefully fold this paste into the rest of the meringue mixture using a large metal spoon, being careful not to knock the air out of the meringue mix.

6. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a medium sized round nozzle. I didn't have a piping bag with me and so filled a plastic sandwich bag, snipping a little corner off to pipe the mixture.

7. Prepare two baking trays, lining them with baking paper. Use a little spoonful of the mixture in each corner of the trays underneath the baking paper to stick it down. Then pipe the macarons in even circles onto the two baking trays. Once you have piped both trays, give the trays a tap on the work surface to get rid of any air bubbles in the macarons.

8. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees C (fan.) Then leave the macarons to stand for 15-30 minutes on the countertop for a skin to form on the top of the macarons. Then bake for around 15 minutes. When baked, the macarons should be firm on top and underneath but with a slightly squidgy and soft inside.

9. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays before peeling off. To fill, spoon a large teaspoonful of good quality raspberry jam into the middle of one macaron half. Then sandwich with another half.

10. Store the macarons in a container in the fridge. Some people argue that macarons are at their best when they have had chance to mature in the fridge for a few hours. Personally I'm too impatient!

23 April 2014

Moroccan Lamb Stew for the Maille Culinary Challenge

The lovely people over at Maille sent me an email asking if I'd like to take part in their Maille culinary challenge. This involved coming up with a creative and original recipe using Maille products in order to share the recipe with you all. I was able to choose the products I'd like to try out and then had a few weeks to experiment and produce my final recipe. We usually have their classic dijon and wholegrain mustard in the fridge on a regular basis so I decided to try out something a little different. I asked to sample their Maille mustard with white wine, apricots and curry spices and wanted to try out a slightly unusual recipe using mustard to showcase its versatility. This recipe is for a rich moroccan lamb stew. The lamb is marinated in the mustard and then fried along with other Moroccan spices, fresh ginger, garlic and chilli.  It is then slow cooked in a low oven temperature for 3 hours. Mixed with juicy apricots and chickpeas and topped with fresh coriander and flaked almonds, it makes a deliciously tasty meal accompanied by fluffy basmati rice or couscous.

Moroccan Spiced Mustard Lamb Stew with Apricots:

Ingredients: (to serve 4) NB- I used a larger casserole dish than pictured but used this smaller one to serve individual portions.

2 garlic cloves
1/2 small red chilli
Small thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
1 large onion
600g diced lamb leg
4 heaped teaspoons of Maille mustard with white wine, apricots and curry spices
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp Ras El Hanout spice mix
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1tbsp honey
150g partially rehydrated dried apricots.
240g drained chickpeas (400g tin undrained)
400g tinned tomatoes
700ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
Fresh coriander
Flaked almonds

Basmati Rice


1. Put the diced lamb into a bowl along with the mustard. Mix thoroughly to coat the lamb and then leave to marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes.

2. Peel and finely chop the garlic, ginger and onion. Deseed and finely chop the chilli.  Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (fan.)

3. Add the lamb to a large casserole dish along with the olive oil and fry over a high heat until just browned. Add in the garlic, chilli, ginger and onion and turn the heat down to a medium heat.

4. Add in the spices, honey and a good pinch of both salt and black pepper.

5. Continue to fry the mixture over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the onion has softened. Then add in the tinned tomatoes and stock. Bring to a simmer and then put into the oven with a lid on for 2 hours.  Check the stew at half hour intervals to check that it has enough liquid and is not drying out or burning. If it looks a little dry add a little more stock before returning it to the oven.

6. Meanwhile, cut your apricots up into chunky pieces.

7. Add the apricots to a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow the apricots to sit whilst the stew is cooking. This will help to ensure the apricots are really juicy. 

8. After two hours of cooking, add the chickpeas and apricots to the stew and then return the stew to the oven for another hour. 

9. During the last 15 minutes of cooking time, prepare your rice. Thoroughly wash your desired amount of basmati rice in cold water and then add to a pan along with double the amount of cold water to rice and a pinch of salt. I use one cup rice and 2 cups cold water for 2 people (my cup is a small tea mug). Put over a high heat and cook for 10-12 minutes until the rice is fluffy and tender. 

10. Once the stew is cooked and the lamb meat is really tender, remove it from the oven and scatter over some freshly chopped coriander and flaked almonds. Serve immediately with the fluffy basmati rice. 

18 April 2014

Rhubarb and Custard Tart

I know that for lots of people Easter is all about all forms of chocolate, (especially for those who madly gave it up for Lent!) but by the time it gets to pudding on Easter Sunday, another rich chocolate course (after a breakfast of chocolate eggs) can be a bit too much! - even for me and I'm a chocolate fiend!
So, if you're looking for some inspiration for a special pudding this weekend then why not try this tart with the classic flavours of rhubarb and custard. It's indulgent without being too sickly as the rhubarb provides a great bitter tang to the tart. Served with a little double cream, it's the perfect seasonal family dessert.

In order to keep the rhubarb looking lovely and pink and still holding its shape, (instead of the mushy brown rhubarb you're given for school dinners), I roast it, packed tightly in lines in the oven.

Sorry the photos are a bit rushed as my hungry guests couldn't wait any longer for pudding!


For the pastry:
170g unsalted cold butter
340g plain flour
3tbsp caster sugar
3-4 tbsp cold water

For the custard filling:
4 whole large eggs
150g caster sugar
500ml double cream
100ml milk
1tsp vanilla paste

For the rhubarb:

Approx. 550g big bunch of rhubarb
85g caster sugar

To start, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (fan.)

Wash the rhubarb and then chop it into equal thumb-size pieces. (You can peel the rhubarb if you wish to stop it being too stringy, but I like it without.)

Arrange the rhubarb in an oven-proof dish in tight rows and then sprinkle over the sugar.

Cover the dish with tin foil and then roast for around 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Then remove the foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes until tender but still holding its shape.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, add the cold butter, flour and caster sugar to a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then add in the cold water a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together into a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and then chill in the fridge for around 15 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured work surface until about the thickness of a one pound coin. Grease a loose-bottomed tart tin and then carefully lift the pastry over the tin. You can do this by rolling the pastry over a rolling pin and then unrolling it over the tin. Using a small ball of excess pastry, carefully push the pastry into all the grooves in the side of the tin.

At this stage, leave any excess pastry hanging over the side of the tin and cover the tart with a sheet of baking paper. Then fill the tart with some baking beans and cook the pastry case in the oven for 15 minutes. I cook the tart on a heated baking tray to make sure the bottom of the pastry is cooked enough. After this, remove the baking paper and baking beans and return the pastry case to the oven for another 10 minutes until golden brown. Then remove from the oven and use a sharp knife to trim off the excess pastry.

Whilst the pastry is cooking, whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla in a separate mixing bowl with an electric whisk until pale and thick. Add the milk and double cream to a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Then pour the hot milk and cream mixture over the eggs and sugar, whisking continuously until you have a smooth mixture. Strain the custard mixture into a jug through a sieve and then pour it into the tart case. Carefully return the tart to the oven and cook for 1 hour at 130 degrees C (fan) until set but with a slight wobble in the middle.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool completely and then chill in the fridge. When ready to serve, top the custard tart with the roasted rhubarb and the rhubarb syrup form the dish.

Serve with double cream.

Adapted from: http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/rhubarb-and-custard-crumble-tart

14 April 2014

Apple and Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

I love any excuse to decorate the house - Christmas is of course the obvious one but I think it's really nice to add little seasonal touches throughout the year. We have an Easter tree that we make out of branches from the garden and lovely little painted eggs that hang from ribbon. Along with an Easter wreath and some freshly picked daffodils, it's a lovely reminder of the fact we're getting closely to summer and some beautiful sunny weather! We also started sowing seeds in the veg patch today - hopefully they'll be as successful as last year! (fingers crossed)

What are your plans for this Easter weekend? We are having a big Sunday roast and then I'm off for brunch with the girls on bank holiday, a much anticipated break from revision. 

Easter isn't Easter without hot cross buns. This is just a quick post for this classic recipe. The addition of pieces of apple to this version gives a lovely tang to the buns and makes them extra moist. Toasted and slathered with some salted butter, they are a perfect breakfast treat.

Ingredients: (makes about 12)

300ml full-fat milk
50g butter
500g strong white bread flour
1tsp salt
75g caster sugar
1tbsp sunflower oil
7g sachet fast-action yeast
1 egg, beaten
40g sultanas
35g currants
Zest of 1 lemon
2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon

75g plain flour
Apricot jam


1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to the boil. Then remove from the heat and add in the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and then leave to cool slightly.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add in the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Then, once the milk has cooled to hand temperature, (you should be able to test the temperature with your hand and it should be warm not hot) make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk and butter mixture. Then add in the egg.

3. Mix well with a wooden spoon, bringing everything together and then use your hands to form it into a sticky dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. You could also do this in a mixer with a dough hook.

4. When the dough is ready, put it in a lightly oiled, clean mixing bowl and cover the bowl with some lightly-oiled cling film.

Leave the dough to rise in a warm place (a warm kitchen or pantry) for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

5. After it has doubled in size, add in the sultanas, currants, lemon zest apples and cinnamon. Knead these into the dough, making sure the fruit and spice is evenly distributed throughout. Then leave to rise for another hour or until doubled in size, covered again with some lightly-oiled cling film.

6. Then divide the dough into about 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a floured work surface. Then arrange the buns on baking trays lined with baking paper. Leave enough space in-between the buns for them to rise again. Cover with a clean tea towel and then set aside to prove for one more hour.

7. Then heat the oven to 200 degrees C (fan.) Before baking, mix the 75g plain flour with a few tablespoons of cold water until you have a fairly thick paste. Spoon into a piping back with a small nozzle and pipe a cross over each bun. I didn't have a piping bag and so just used a tablespoon to drizzle the paste over the buns. It's easier to go along the whole line of buns one way and then the other rather than do them individually.

8. Then bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Once baked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

9. Meanwhile heat a few tablespoons of smooth apricot jam in a bowl in the microwave for a few seconds until runny and then brush over the hot cross buns with a pastry brush.

Slightly adapted from:

10 April 2014

Pear and Walnut Cake with Ricotta and Salted Caramel

I've come home to two new cafes in my local town - one of which, The Buttercross has a very tempting cake display including an assortment of chocolate cakes, crunchy lemon drizzle, seasonal creations and one of my favourites- a tasty banana bread. They serve theirs with ricotta and a caramel sauce- something I hadn't considered before but just knew I had to try my own version.

This cake is not overly sweet but has a great crunchy texture with lots of walnut pieces throughout. The roasted half pears are a delicious surprise when you bite into the cake and provide a great fruity contrast.

Served still warm with a spoonful of ricotta cheese and some salted caramel sauce, it's a divine treat with a cup of tea!


For the cake:

260g plain flour
55g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
75g walnuts

2 large eggs
225g caster sugar
85g light brown muscovado sugar

120ml buttermilk
120ml sunflower oil (any vegetable oil)
2-4 medium sized ripe pears

For the salted caramel sauce: 

200g caster sugar
90g salted butter
120ml double cream
1 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C(fan.)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the plain flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda and spices.

 Chop the walnuts into small pieces on a chopping board and then add the walnuts to the bowl. Stir thoroughly.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs and both sugars together with an electric whisk until you have a pale and thick mixture. Add in the buttermilk and oil and beat again until mixed.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a metal spoon until fully incorporated into the mixture. Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined round and deep cake tin.

Wash the pears and then cut them in half. Use a small scoop to take out the pips and then arrange the pear halves in the cake batter with the tops just sticking out.

Bake the cake in the preheat oven for around 55-70 minutes until a skewer, when inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out clean. You may want to cover the cake with tin foil half way through baking to stop the top from burning. 

To make the salted caramel sauce to accompany the cake: (recipe taken from http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/homemade-salted-caramel-recipe/)

Heat the sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. Don't stir the sugar but let it melt, shaking the pan a little to spread it out evenly if you need to. When the sugar has all melted and turned into a brown-amber coloured liquid (don't let it burn), add in the butter.

Stir quickly until the butter melts into the caramelised sugar. Be careful as the caramel will bubble when the butter is added.

Then drizzle in the double cream and continue to stir. The mixture will bubble rapidly here and start to boil but continue stirring over the heat for about one minute until you have a smooth caramel sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt.

Serve the cake with some ricotta and a drizzle of the salted caramel sauce.

Adapted from: http://www.bakersroyale.com/cakes/pear-walnut-cake/