Monthly Archives: August 2011

Random Recipe #7: Fig & almond muffins

This month for the Random Recipe challenge, Dom asked us to go “back to basics” and follow the original rules as set out for the very first challenge – randomly choose a cookbook and then randomly choose a recipe from it.  This was quite exciting because I only joined the challenge in its second month, so I missed the very first totally random choice of recipe.  So out came my trusty calculator and its random number generator (I’d probably cheat if I had to shuffle all my cookery books on the floor) and the chosen book was Baking – 100 everyday recipes, a lovely little book that was part of my Graduation present from Craig.  I was actually quite excited by this choice because it’s full of recipes that look really good but that I haven’t had the occasion to try out yet.  My calculator directed me to page 74, a recipe for fig and almond muffins, which I’ve actually been meaning to test since I got the book.  What an excellent coincidence!  I was sure I had all the ingredients and yesterday, having mostly recovered from my very annoying bout of tonsillitis, I desperately wanted to bake something so I decided to give them a go…

The odd thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t contain any eggs.  Not that I have anything against recipes that don’t contain egg, it’s just that I’ve never made muffins without eggs before.  Actually, that’s a lie – Kat and I unintentionally made muffins without egg once (for some reason, we just totally forgot the egg…  Woops.) and well, they didn’t turn out all that great (Craig still talks about them with a slight look of polite horror on his face).  Then, having started weighing out the dry ingredients, I realised that I didn’t actually have any almonds, which only happen to be one of the main ingredients.  Uhm, woops.  Luckily, I seem to stockpile ground almonds (presumably in case I have to make 100 million macarons as an emergency or something.  You never know, it could happen.  Maybe.), so a little bit of substitution was clearly in order.

I must admit that as I popped the muffins in the oven, I really wasn’t expecting a great deal from them.  I wasn’t convinced that water and two tablespoons of oil would be enough moisture to make up for the lack of egg and milk or yoghurt.  They looked more similar to a gloopy mess than to any muffin mixture I’ve made before.  Against my expectations though, they rose perfectly and came out looking beautifully presentable.  They also turned out to be rather delicious, though perhaps a bit too much on the sweet side (I’ve reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe), and although there was obviously no crunch from the chopped almonds that weren’t there, the little seeds of the dried figs are nice and crunchy and give a good texture.  We ended up having some as a mid-afternoon snack yesterday and spread with some butter for breakfast today.  Delicious!

Fig & almond muffins

Makes 12
Adapted from Baking – 100 everyday recipes

These muffins are remarkably easy and quick to throw together – the most time-consuming step is chopping up the dried figs, and that hardly takes very long!  The muffins are delicious both warm out of the oven or cold, and both as a snack or for breakfast.  The original recipe suggests sprinkling about 2 tbsp flaked or chopped almonds over the top of the muffins before baking.  I didn’t have any so I obviously didn’t do that, but they’d be a pretty addition to the muffins.

Ingredients

200g all-purpose flour
100g ground almonds
175g golden caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
95g dried figs
2 tbsp organic rapeseed oil
1 tbsp almond essence
220ml water

Directions

1.  Line a tin muffin tin with 12 muffin cups or set out 12 silicone muffin moulds on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.

2.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.  Add the ground almond and stir together well.

3.  Finely chop the dried figs and add them to a medium-sized bowl.  Add the oil, almond essence and water and mix well.  Stir the fig mixture into the dry ingredients, taking care to not to over-mix (it’s fine if the mixture is a bit lumpy).

4.  Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and bake for 25-30 mins, until risen and golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

5.  Serve warm or allow to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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How NOT to reheat a summer fruits crumble…

We were invited to dinner at my Scottish grandma’s on Sunday, so we offered to bring dessert.  You might think we’re lovely people, but actually we just wanted to be sure that at least part of the meal would be edible (my grandma isn’t exactly renowned for her wonderful cooking).  We needed a dessert that could be made in advance and was easy to transport.  There are, of course, plenty of options, particularly with all the different fruit that are in season at the moment.  The last time we brought dessert (this is quite a regular occurrence), we’d made a rhubarb clafoutis and the time before was a tart of some description, so we decided to make a summer fruit crumble, which I’ll be submitting to this month’s Simple and in Season blog challenge.

This was an excellent occasion to make use of my awesome new Joseph Joseph mixing bowls that I won after the June Simple and in Season challenge (thanks again Ren!), and their colourfulness definitely brightened up the day.  I was actually feeling rather rotten on Sunday, and my mum did suggest that I just stay home, but I really wanted some of the delicious-looking crumble so I went along anyway (priorities and all that…).  Considering that I’ve spent most of the last three days stuck in bed with severe tonsillitis (and the reason it’s taken me so long to get this post up), that probably wasn’t the best plan, particularly considering the fate of the crumble…

We’d taken the crumble out of the oven about ten minutes or so before the end of cooking so that we could just heat it up gently once at my grandma’s and serve it warm.  What could possibly go wrong?  (Famous last words…)  About four minutes after going in the oven, a distinct smell of burning suddenly filled the air and the fire alarm went off.  Hardly a good sign.  My mum rapidly removed a heavily singed crumble from the oven and discovered that my grandma had accidentally managed to set the oven to the highest grill setting…  Not the ideal way to reheat a crumble.  Once the burnt bits were scraped off though, it still tasted delicious, so the plan to make sure that at least something was edible still worked.  For obvious reasons, I don’t have any photos of the fully singed cooked crumble, but I did take this one before we left, so just imagine it slightly more golden on top and that’s how it should have looked…

Summer fruit crumble

Serves 6
Adapted from one of my mum’s recipes

You can use any combination of fresh summer fruits depending on what is available.  Having said that, I seem to remember that we tried adding strawberries once and that didn’t actually work all that well.  I know of some people who make their crumble in a blender, but making it by hand is much better (and loads more fun!).  If you’re preparing this crumble in advance, remove it from the oven after about 20-25 mins and then just gently reheat it in the oven for about 10 mins, just before serving.

Ingredients

For the crumble:
125g unsalted butter, cubed
200g flour
125g granulated sugar
2 tbsp ground almonds
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
200g fresh blackberries
200g fresh blueberries
200g fresh raspberries
175g fresh red currants
6-8 tbsp granulated sugar

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

2.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to a large bowl.  Add the rest of the crumble ingredients and rub together with your fingers to form crumbs, making sure that the butter is properly broken down.

3.  Wash the fruit and pat dry.  In a large bowl, mix the fruit with the sugar until evenly coated, then transfer the fruit to an oven-proof dish (make sure the fruit come quite high up the sides of the dish).

4.  Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the fruit mixture (but don’t pat it down) and bake for 30 mins until golden.  Serve with pouring cream or ice-cream.

Enjoy!

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Gin before lunch. AKA The Foodies Festival Edinburgh 2011

To put it mildly, August in Edinburgh is rather jam-packed.  Between the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the International Festival, the Art Festival, the Book Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, there is an astonishing amount going on in the town.  The number of people that descend on the town is also astounding, and I’m pretty sure that the population at least doubles.  To throw one more festival into the mix, the Foodies Festival Edinburgh was held in Holyrood Park last weekend, from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th August.

I went to the Foodies Festival two years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, I hadn’t really seen anything about it since then, so I’d assumed that it had stopped or something.  And then, out of the blue, I saw it mentioned on Twitter last week.  Craig was just as eager as I to investigate, so we decided to go along on Saturday (I even managed to come across a voucher for 2-for-1 tickets.  Win!).  Who said Twitter and BBM were just for instigating riots?  (Bad taste?)  Anyway, thanks to a couple of days of monsoon-like rain, Holyrood Park had turned into a bit of a mud bath and they had to delay the opening of the Festival on Friday whilst they put hay down everywhere.  It was still thoroughly muddy on Saturday, but nothing that a good pair of wellies couldn’t handle.

There were rather more drinks exhibitors than I remember there being two years ago, and gin seemed to be particularly well represented.  Which is perfectly fine with me.  Within about ten seconds of our arrival we’d already managed to find ourselves at the Hendrick’s stand, which I think wins the prize for most elaborately decorated stand.  They had a bath-tub of rose petals, cucumber slices and “gin” (I assume it wasn’t actually gin – I feel that would be a bit of a waste), shelves of bottles and other curiosities and a 6 litre bottle of gin (which I’ve since been informed was empty – gutted).  However, whilst Hendrick’s is utterly delicious, it is a well-known brand, so we ambled off with our taster G&Ts to explore the rest of the Festival and in search of some new discoveries.

I was happy to see that Edinburgh Gin had a stand, although I suppose that’s hardly surprising considering that we were at a food festival in Edinburgh.  A relative newcomer to the ranks of gin (I believe it was launched a year ago), I first came across it in June, and have since noticed it in a lot of high-end bottleshops (the fact that I’m in Edinburgh probably also has something to do with that).  I love the gin itself – it’s full of botanical flavours – but I also love the packaging.

Another newcomer to the gin scene is Darnley’s View Gin, which I’d read a review of on The Gin Blog a few weeks previously but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to taste.  The first time we were at the stand they were doing straight gin tasters, which is not my usual way of consuming gin and, I’ll be quite honest was a bit too strong for me to actually taste anything except the fact that it was gin.  The second time we went to the stand, they’d added tonic to the tasters and I was able to ascertain that it had quite a floral taste and that I rather liked it.

I think that’s enough about gin (I should probably add that this post isn’t chronologically accurate – we did start off with Hendrick’s, but didn’t quite do back-to-back gin tastings before lunch.  We had wine in-between.).  There were quite a few wine sellers there as well, including The Vintner who were there in their Citroën van called Hugo.  We tried their prosecco, and two different whites, one from Southwest France and the other from Spain (if I remember correctly – this was towards the end of the afternoon) both of which were surprising in that they weren’t really what we were expecting.  They were both lovely and fresh, and very drinkable…

We also discovered that apparently we look like we can each afford to spend over £200 in one go on a case of wine.  (I can assure you that this most definitely is not the case.)  This became clear when we accidentally managed to end up having a full-on wine tasting from an importer whose name I forgot to write down (I need to be more organised!), tasting whites, reds, prosecco and champagne.  They were all very good, particularly a German red that we tasted (I’d love to give you the name, but I forgot to write it down, too.  Fail.), which was very interesting because although I’d never really tried German wine before I didn’t really have a great impression of it.  The wine that intrigued me the most was a sparkling German red, but unfortunately they didn’t have any with them at the festival.  So that still remains a mystery.

There was also a huge variety of food exhibitors – from cakes to flavoured oils to meats to chocolate, there was a bit of everything!  There were a lot of tasty samples available (and some not so tasty) which kept us going for most of the day, and the only non-taster-sized food we ended up having were crêpes as a semblance of lunch and an absolutely delicious venison burger towards the end of the afternoon.  I feel Simple Simon’s Pies deserve a special mention though, because they are absolutely delicious.  I first discovered them at the Foodies Festival two years ago and I was desperately hoping they’d be there again this year, which they were, hurrah!  I’m very picky about my pies, but these come in a huge range of flavours and are made from the freshest ingredients, always locally-sourced where possible.

There were, of course, a few exhibitors whose offerings weren’t really “my cup of tea.”  A fruit wine producer from Wales, whose wines weren’t exactly fantastic (actually, the one I tried was gross.  But he came all the way from Wales so I feel bad being overly critical).  He also had fruit liqueurs, some of which were palatable.  There was also a fudge producer offering passionfruit fudge – not a good combination, although their other flavours were yummy.  A few cake stands with unappetising cakes were also present, but then everybody has cakes they like and don’t like, so that’s just me being picky.  We only went to one of the “masterclass” events, which was a wine tasting done by the Edinburgh School of Food & Wine, but it was rather disappointing – I wasn’t really a fan of any of the wines chosen and I didn’t feel that it was all that informative either.

Overall however, I thoroughly enjoyed the Foodies Festival!  I love that it showcases local producers and food-related businesses of all sorts, and I think that can only really be a good thing.  If I’m ever in Edinburgh again whilst it’s on, I think I’ll definitely be going again…

Oh and in case you didn’t believe me about the mud, this was the state of our wellies by the end of the day (apparently I’m better at getting muddy than Craig):

Enjoy the rest of your day (mud optional, but gin recommended)!

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Toothy’s Travels – Edinburgh: The Pentland Hills Regional Park

My plan for today had been to share the recipe that I tried out for dinner last night.  This plan was thwarted by the dismal failure that came out of the oven.  Thankfully it did actually taste lovely, but that was the only good thing about it – it was an absolute pain to make, more or less fell apart before even going into the oven and wasn’t remotely presentable when it came out.  Clearly some serious recipe tweaking will be required.  So instead of sharing a recipe today, I thought I’d introduce a new feature on my blog, called Toothy’s travels.  This will basically just be a feature where I can share my adventures in and around Edinburgh and other places that I happen to visit and enjoy.  There’s a slightly more detailed explanation if you click on the link or the tab above the header.

When we lived in Norway, I often went hiking with the Guides – we were spoilt for choice when it came to mountains and scenic hikes.  After Norway though, we move to the Netherlands, which isn’t exactly famous for its hilly terrain, and I haven’t really done much hiking since.  I could have done plenty of hiking around Scotland whilst at university, but I never really quite got round to it.  Shame on me, I know.  So anyway, about two weeks ago (I’m obviously really on the ball with getting my posts up) my mum and I decided to take advantage of the wonderful sunny weather and go explore the Pentland Hills Regional Park.  Well, we only really went for a little 5km hike in a small area of the park, but it still counts as exploring because, despite the Pentlands being on our doorstep, we’d never actually been walking there.  I wouldn’t exactly describe my Scottish family as avid hill-walkers, so whenever we came to Edinburgh on leave, unfortunately we never really took the time to go for hikes.

If you’ve ever been to Edinburgh and looked southwards, you’ve probably noticed the artificial ski slopes, and in fact, that’s the area of the Pentlands that we explored.  As you can see from the little map (which I spent far longer putting together than I should have – I discovered that you can draw routes on OS maps online.  I’m easily amused…), we basically went up Caerketton Hill and back down again.  It took us about 2 ½ hours (I kept stopping to take photos and we faffed around at the cairn for quite a while) and we were treated to some fantastic views of Edinburgh, though the Firth of Forth was a bit hazy.  The heather was also in bloom, so we were treated to beautiful purple expanses at several points.

We parked on the main road near the turn-off for the Hillend snowsports, so we started off by walking towards the ski slopes.  It’s not particularly difficult to orient oneself in this part of the Pentlands since the ski slope and Edinburgh are pretty distinctive landmarks, so we were fine with just the map provided by the Regional Park, but if you’re going to venture further into the Pentlands, I would definitely suggest investing in an Ordnance Survey map, especially since there is a military rifle range within the park.

We knew we were aiming for the top of the hill, so as the ski slope came into sight (complete with people actually skiing.  In full ski gear.  In July.  I dread to think how disgustingly hot that would have been.), we just sort of struck upwards.  There are a lot of small paths that go upwards so this isn’t exactly difficult, and you can pretty much make your own path anyway.  As we were making our way up, several paragliders were taking off from the top, so it was good fun to watch them glide around on the air currents.

Once level with the top of the ski slope, you have to follow a fence for a little while to get to a crossing point, which is a good reminder that a large proportion of the park is actually used for pasture, so if you’re taking a dog with you, make sure that it doesn’t worry any livestock, particularly during the lambing season.  Whilst we’re on warnings, you should also be aware that it’s currently the grouse shooting season, and will soon be the partridge shooting season, but apparently (according to the website – I can’t actually vouch for this) areas to keep away from are signposted and marked out by the rangers every day.

According to the OS map, just before crossing over the fence, we were really close to the remains of an old fort, but I don’t think it’s particularly obvious, because we certainly didn’t notice it.  To be investigated next time…  We then continued upwards, up a very steep slope on which we discovered wild blueberries.  I love wild blueberries, but these ones were tiny and very tart, so rather on the disappointing side (I’m obsessed with food, of course I stopped and tasted them!).  Oh well, never mind.

Reaching the top of the slope, and thus Caerketton Hill, affords absolutely stunning panoramic views.  Not only are you treated to the sight of Edinburgh sprawled out beneath you with the remarkably pronounced mass that is Arthur’s Seat, with the Forth beyond, but there are also beautiful views of the rest of the Pentlands, stretching southwards.

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A little further along the path, there is a cairn.  Well, actually, I would describe it more as a haphazard pile of rocks and stones, but perhaps that’s what cairns are in Scotland.  I’m not sure – I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a Scottish cairn before – but if so, I have to admit, it’s a little disappointing.  My previous experience of cairns consists of Norwegian ones, which are stacked up properly like a tower and usually well-maintained.

Continuing past the pile of rubble cairn, the path continues along a sort of ridge, with the Caerketton Craigs below, although they’re more obvious and impressive from below rather than looking down.  You can continue along the path and climb to the top of Allermuir Hill and its viewpoint, but we were a bit short on time, so we decided to follow a vague path down the side of the hill towards Swanston instead.  It’s pretty steep, so good shoes (and knees) are recommended before going down that way.

Once at the bottom of the hill, directions to Swanston are well signposted, so off we went along the path, only to find our way blocked by a herd of hairy Highland cows with very pointy horns.  So we beat a hasty retreat (you can never be too careful around cows, especially ones with pointy horns), and took a little diversion.  As I said before, it’s easy to orient yourself in this part of the park, and we found our way to Swanston without any difficulty.

I’m not a huge fan of the word “quaint,” but I’m not really sure how else to describe Swanston, a small village where Robert Louis Stevenson spent several summers as a young man, on account of his health.  We emerged into a a group of white-washed cottages with thatched roofs, and they were just adorable.

As we made our way back towards the main road, we followed a path that was bordered by the Lothianburn Golf Course on one side, and fields on the other.  It turns out there’s a free-range chicken farm in Swanston, and they have some really nice-looking chickens.  (And how fancy are their coops?)  I don’t know if you can buy eggs and whatnot from the farm, but I feel it’s worth investigating next time…

So there you have it, a thoroughly enjoyable short walk in the Pentlands, and a long ramble of a blog post which is really just an excuse for me to show you some photos that, for once, have nothing to do with food (except that last chicken one.  Oh and the blueberries).  If you’re ever in Edinburgh and enjoy walking though, I would thoroughly recommend going for a little trip in the Pentlands!

Enjoy the rest of your day!

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Cocktail in a macaron: White Russian

Although I’m still not really sure where my life is currently going and whether I’ll get a post-grad somewhere and where that will happen to be, almost everybody else seems to have wonderful plans, courses and jobs lined up for after the summer.  One of the many people who know what they’re doing after the summer is a friend of mine (of cute-baby-seal-birthday-cake fame) who has been accepted to do a Masters at Oxford.  Getting into Oxford is something he’s wanted for quite a while now, so for a number of reasons, this is a really big thing for him.  He actually received the news way back in March, but at the time he only told a few people and asked us to keep it quiet because he wanted to wait for the right time to drop the “Oxford-bomb” so that the announcement would have maximum impact (I suspect that he had a few specific individuals in mind).  Apparently the “O-bomb” was finally dropped a few days ago, which means that I can finally share the congratulatory macarons I made for him with you (I’ve only been waiting five months).

I’d decided on macarons because A) I knew that Kat was making him a cake, and B) I was looking for an excuse to make macarons.  Not exactly much of a decision.  The difficult part was choosing which flavour to attempt.  At first I wanted to do something Oxford-themed.  The University of Oxford colours perhaps?  Hmmmm…  I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired.  Anyway, the shades probably wouldn’t have come out exactly correct anyway, and I didn’t feel like getting lectured about the exact specifications of Oxford Blue (to save yourself the Google search, you can find them here.  And yes, I actually looked them up…) complete with several historical anecdotes (I’m sure it would be very interesting, but not in response to a gift).  So I quickly scrapped the Oxford-themed idea, and decided to make macarons based on his favourite cocktail: the White Russian.

White Russian macarons?  Brilliant plan!  The only minor flaw is that, despite being a big cocktail fan, I’ve never actually had a White Russian.  Pick yourself up off the floor, and I’ll explain: it’s the cream.  It just totally puts me off.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cream.  Love cream (seriously – you’ll find at least three different kinds in my fridge at any given time).  But not in a cocktail – I just think it would make me feel very sick, very quickly.  I know what goes into it (vodka, coffee liqueur and cream), but I had to do a bit of guesswork with regards to exactly how the cocktail actually tastes.  Personally, I think the macarons were good, but I can’t vouch for how akin to an actual White Russian they turned out.  He seemed to have enjoyed them though, and that’s the main thing!  I’m also submitting these macarons to this month’s Mac Attack challenge, since the theme rather conveniently happens to be “kick it up with alcohol” (I know, it’s like the challenge was made for me!).

White Russian macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe adapted from Pure Gourmandise

The colouring of the shells is totally optional – I decided to colour them at the last minute but didn’t have any brown colouring.  My genius solution: use a mixture of all the other food colourings that I do have (because everything mixed together makes brown, see?) – luckily it worked.  If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you could make only the bottom shells brown and leave the top shells white, which is more reminiscent of an unstirred White Russian.  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
4 tsp coffee granules
½ tsp coffee extract
Coffee-brown food colouring paste (optional)

For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
4cl (40g) vodka
2 tsp coffee granules

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

2.  Finely grind the coffee granules.  Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and ground coffee together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  Add the coffee extract and a dollop of brown food colouring paste (if you’re using it) just before the end and mix well.

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the ganache filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the white chocolate and vodka ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces) and the vodka, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).

9.  Finely grind the coffee granules into a powder (or put them in a zip-lock bag and roll over them with a rolling pin).

10.  Once the ganache has cooled, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of  ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Sprinkle a pinch of finely ground coffee over the top of the ganache, and then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

11.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Mac Attack #21: Lemon granita with a chocolate macaron crumble

I’m not sure where July has gone, it seems to have just sped by, and somehow it’s already the 1st of August, so I should probably get myself into gear and post my entry for July’s Mac Attack challenge (the deadline was yesterday, not cutting it fine at all, nope…).  Actually, aside from my general disorganisation, there’s a very logical reason that I’ve left it to the very last minute.  You see, the theme was “ice-cream” so we had to create a dessert using ice-cream or sorbet and macarons.  But here’s the thing – actually, before I go any further, I hope you’re sitting down (so far nobody has died of shock at the up-coming revelation, but I don’t want to take any chances) – I don’t like ice-cream.  Yes, you did read that correctly, and I’m fully aware of how bizarre a concept that is (try being a child living in a fairly warm country like Nigeria and having an aversion to ice-cream…).  My main issue with ice-cream is that it’s too cold, which I know is the whole point of ice-cream, but there you go.  I’m also not a great fan of the texture.  So the thought of creating a dessert including ice-cream didn’t exactly have me jumping for joy.

Luckily though, I do quite like sorbets.  I know they’re cold too, but they always seem slightly less cold than ice-cream to me, though I’m not really sure why.  And I tend to let them melt a bit before I eat them anyway (thus somewhat defying the point, I know).  I also much prefer the lighter and smoother texture of good quality sorbets, and I love how fruity they are.  So I thought I might do something involving a sorbet of some sort.  But, because I’m a bit lazy, I wasn’t feeling especially motivated to make my own sorbet and I’m not really sure where to find good sorbet in Edinburgh (any recommendations welcome!).  This left me in a little bit of a pickle.  And then, on Friday, it suddenly hit me – perhaps I could do something with a granita!  They’re frozen, so that’s totally close enough to ice-cream/sorbets, right?  I’m going with yes.  My first foray into the world of granitas was the G&T granita that I made for World Gin Day, and although it took 9 hours to freeze properly, it turned out to be easy to make and rather delicious.

I decided to try out a lemon granita recipe that I came across in delicious. a few months ago, and go for the cop-out option of sprinkling some crushed macaron shells over the top to create a dessert.  This was going to be the first time that I made macarons using my mum’s oven, so I wasn’t sure how they would turn out (since every oven is different and I’m not quite used to this one yet) – crushed macarons seemed the safest bet in case they went horribly wrong.  I was going to make the lemon granita on Saturday, but it ended up being warm and sunny (a rare occurrence in Scotland, but it does occasionally happen!) so we went for a wander in the Pentlands (a series of hills just outside Edinburgh).  Which means that although I made the macarons shells that evening (which thankfully turned out fine), I didn’t have time to make the granita and ended up making it yesterday.  It turned out rather yummy – fresh and summery, and the macarons shells complemented the very lemon-y granita wonderfully.

Lemon granita with a chocolate macaron crumble

Serves 3
Granita recipe adapted from delicious. (June 2011)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!

The shells can be made a couple of days in advance and kept in an air-tight container until required.  The granita can also be made in advance, though will require some thorough stirring to break up the ice crystals before serving.  Adding a splash of vodka to the granita is completely optional, but I find that it slightly enhances the flavour of the lemons.

Ingredients

For the granita:
150g sugar (granulated or caster – it doesn’t really matter)
150 ml water
Grated zest of 1 lemon
200 ml lemon juice (roughly 5-6 small lemons)
100 ml vodka

For the macaron shells:
40g aged egg whites
27g caster sugar
48g ground almonds
72g icing sugar
3g cocoa powder (at least 70%)

Directions

To make the granita:
1.   Place the water and the sugar in a small saucepan and simmer gently over a low heat for around 10 mins until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid reduces a bit to a slightly syrupy viscosity.  Remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl and allow to cool.

2.  Mix in the lemon juice and allow to rest for 30 mins, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the lemon zest and vodka, and pour into a freeze-proof container with a lid (an old plastic ice-cream tub is ideal) and place in the freezer.

3.  After 2 hours, remove the container and stir with a fork (don’t worry if it’s still liquid).  Place the container back in the freezer for a further 30 mins, before removing and beating with a fork.  Once again, place the container back into the freezer.  Repeat every 30 mins for a total of 4 ½ to 5 hours (not including the initial 2 hours).  Store in the freezer until ready to serve.

To make the macaron shells:
4. Line one or two flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

5.  Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

6.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.

7.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

8.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter, but these don’t have to be perfect – they’ll be broken up later).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

9.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

10.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool fully on the baking trays before carefully removing them and storing them in an airtight container until required.

11.  When ready to serve, break the macaron shells up into pieces.  Remove the granita from the freezer and beat with a fork to break the ice crystals up.  Spoon into 3 bowls or glasses (martini glasses make for impressive-looking presentation!) and sprinkle with the broken up macarons.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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