Tag Archives: Desserts

Leftover champagne? Say what?

Woah, 2013 needs to slow down.  I can’t quite believe that it’s already been a whole two weeks since Kat and I opened the fridge on New Year’s Day and were greeted by a rather astonishing sight: an unfinished bottle of champagne.  The concept of leftover champagne may well be foreign to you – indeed it’s an incredibly rare event when I’m involved (assuming it isn’t a case (badum-tschhhh!) of bad champagne…).  So.  What does one do with champagne leftovers?  Despite the teaspoon trick (popping a teaspoon handle down in the bottle which is magically supposed to keep most of the bubbles in, though I’m not sure how), it wasn’t in the bubbliest state so drinking it wasn’t going to be ideal.

This.  This is what you do with leftover champagne…

Baking with SpiritLuckily, the alcohol of choice for this month’s Baking with Spirit challenge is “champagne” – perfect, although that doesn’t really help in choose what exactly to make.  I feel a little guilty for missing last month’s Baking with Spirit challenge (here’s the round-up) since I went on holiday and generally ran out of time, so I wanted to make something awesome to make up for it, plus it’s also Janine’s birthday month.  That plan failed a little because after much deliberation, we settled on something not particularly original and which may seem a bit of a cop-out, but it’s so delicious that I do hope Janine will forgive me…

Oh look, a champagne cork crept into the photo and everything…

It is, of course, summer here in NZ, and summer means summer berries.  Yay!  Originally we wanted to honour the Kir Royale by poaching some blackcurrants in a champagne syrup (in case you’re not familiar with Kir Royale, it consists of crème de cassis – blackcurrant liqueur – and champagne).  However, we couldn’t find any blackcurrants – I wonder if they’re only available at farmers’ markets or at pick-your-owns.  So our idea morphed into poaching a combination of summer berries in a Kir Royale syrup.  Oh hey there decadence, how you doing?  The champagne is quite a subtle taste, coming through at the start and then turning into a deliciously fruity flavour.

Looks like decadence invited itself to this party

Simple and in SeasonI have a little confession though.  Even though summer berries are in season, we actually used a frozen summer berry mix.  Shock horror, I know, but let me explain.  For a start, I needed to create a bit of space in my freezer, but more importantly, not all of the summer berries in the mix are readily available to buy fresh – as well as the mysterious lack of blackcurrants, I’ve never seen fresh boysenberries, for example.  I’m not sure why that is because the berry mix is from a NZ farm, so they are definitely grown here.  Luckily this dessert works perfectly whether you use fresh or frozen berries.  I’m going to be cheeky and still submit this to Simple and in Season, hosted by Lavender and Lovage this month, since the berries are in season, and I’d have used fresh if I could find them all.  I might be bending the rules a little bit, so I’m just going to smile, wave and move on swiftly to the actual recipe.

Langues de chat make the perfect accompaniment for this general deliciousness

Kir Royale-poached summer berries

Serves 2
Recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

You can use fresh or frozen berries for this dessert, but if using frozen berries, defrost them in advance and make sure to keep the juice.  You can use berries in whatever combination you like – although definitely make sure to try and get blackcurrants in there.  The dessert is best served with little biscuits to nibble on alongside (although it won’t necessarily be dairy-, egg- and gluten-free anymore) – langues de chat would work perfectly – and serving it in fancy glasses such as champagne saucers or martini glasses really dresses it up.  I sprinkled a bit of raw sugar crystals over the top but most of them ended up dissolving into the poaching liquid, so that ended up being a bit pointless.  If you have any leftover syrup, keep it in the fridge and use it to drizzle over icecream or sorbets.

Ingredients

250g mixed summer berries (blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
250g caster sugar
250ml champagne
1 tsp crème de cassis
Langues de chat or other little biscuits, to serve

Directions

1.  Add the sugar, champagne, crème de cassis and 350ml water to a medium saucepan (make sure that it’ll be large enough to fit all the fruit as well) and bring to the boil.

2.  Turn down the heat, and add the fruit (and any juice if using defrosted fruit).  Simmer for about 10-15 mins.

3.  Remove the fruit into a serving bowls or individual dishes or glasses.  Return the poaching liquid to the heat and simmer down until syrupy and reduced by half.  Spoon over the top of the fruit and serve with little biscuits on the side.

Enjoy!

Always a good sign.

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Golden kiwifruit pavlova

New Zealand’s most renowned dessert is probably the pavlova.  Incidentally, Australians also claim the pavlova…  Awkward.  You’d be surprised at the amount of argument that goes on between the two countries about who invented pavlovas, although both agree that it was to honour the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova when she visited Australasia in the 1920s.  Since I live in New Zealand, I’ll run with the Kiwi version.  Now, I have a little confession: despite being here for eight months, I’ve never actually eaten a pavlova.  Shocking, I know.  The perfect opportunity to amend this terrible state of affairs came in the form of AlphaBakes, which is hosted by Caroline Makes this month.  The special letter is “P” – P for… pavlova.  No-brainer.  Since I’m upholding the Kiwi version of the pavlova story, I figured that I might as well go for the most appropriate-sounding topping possible: kiwifruit.

Now if you’re thinking that those kiwifruit are looking rather yellowish, then you’d be perfectly correct because I used golden kiwifruit.  I’d never heard of golden kiwifruit until I read my New Zealand guide book – I’d only ever come across the standard green ones before, and I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of green kiwifruit.  But golden kiwifruit, oh my goodness, they’re delicious.  I’m a huge fan.  I find that they’re much more flavourful than their green counterparts, and sweeter, too, which I much prefer.  I buy a box nearly every week, and am building up quite a collection of kiwi spoons (plastic spoons with a cutting bit on the handle so that you can slice the kiwi in half with the knife part and scoop out the flesh with the spoon part – genius).

Kiwifruit are one of the few fruits in season at the moment (that I know of), so I’m also submitting this recipe to Simple and in Season, hosted by Feeding Boys and a Firefighter this month.  It’s also a super-simple dessert to prepare – literally just throw all the ingredients (ok, maybe not throw them, but place them) into a bowl, let the electric whisk do all the work and then pop it into the oven (the meringue, not the electric whisk).  Then just top with whipped cream and fruit and ta-da, you’re done!  Simple as.  Slicing it, on the other hand, isn’t quite as straightforward.  I mean, whoever thought that slicing a meringue would be a good idea?  I found it difficult to make a perfectly clean cut through the fruit, whipped cream and meringue.  I think little individual pavlovas would be far easier to serve, so I’ll try that next time.  Thankfully, shoddy slicing doesn’t affect the taste, and this golden kiwifruit pavlova was rather scrumptious.  Extremely sweet though, so a small slice was enough for me.

Golden kiwifruit pavlova

Serves 8-10
Slightly adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

It’s very important for the mixing bowl and electric whisk beaters to be clean of any grease and thoroughly dry or the egg whites won’t cooperate.  If you’re not confident making meringue, age the egg whites in a jar in the fridge for a few days – this will increase the protein ratio which makes apparently makes the white whip easier.  The meringue will keep for a couple of days on its own so it can be made in advance the day before and then topped with the cream and fruit just before serving.  The pavlova won’t keep very well so is best eaten the same day.

Ingredients

For the meringue:
350g caster sugar
2 egg whites (I had about 65g total), room temperature
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp boiling water

For the topping:
5-6 golden kiwifruit (or green)
200 ml NZ pure cream (or whipping cream)
1-2 tbsp icing sugar

Directions

To make the meringue:
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C and place a rack in the centre of the oven.  Line an baking tray with baking paper.  Draw a circle of 23cm in diameter in the middle of the baking paper and flip the baking paper over so that you can see the circle through it.

2.  Add all the meringue ingredients to a large bowl, adding the boiling water last.  Immediately whisk for 10-12 minutes with an electric whisk on high speed until shiny with stiff peaks.  Spoon into the circle on the baking paper and spread it evenly with a spatula, smoothing it as much as possible.

3.  Bake for 10 mins, reduce the heat to 150°C/fan oven 130°C and bake a further 45 mins.  Turn off the heat and allow the meringue to cool in the oven for at least an hour (overnight is fine).

To assemble:
4.  When ready to serve, peel and slice the kiwifruit and set aside.  Carefully peel the baking paper off the bottom of the meringue and transfer to a serving plate.

5.  Whip the cream and icing sugar together until stiff and spread it over the top of the meringue, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Top with the sliced kiwifruit and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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The Olympics are over… now what? Banana mousse, that’s what.

So.  The Olympics are over and normal life has resumed.  Does anybody else feel like there’s a gaping hole in the shape of fiver inter-linked rings in their lives now?  At least it’s only for a couple of weeks until the Paralympics start (hurry up already!), but in the mean time, comfort food is clearly the order of the day.  What’s that?  The point of the games was to inspire everybody to go be sporty and all?  Well that’s all good, but people still have to eat, so comfort food wins out for today.  I’ve got the perfect comfort dessert for you – not only is it delicious, but it’s also exceptionally easy and quick to prepare…  Fast food with no McDonald’s in sight.

After last month’s excuse for a nosy snoop around other bloggers’ bookshelves, we’re going “back to the very beginning” for this month’s Random Recipes, meaning back to the original rules of randomly picking a book, then randomly picking a recipe from said book.  Simple.  I used the random number button on my calculator as usual, which directed me to book number five, which turned out to be Cuisine Express, a convenient choice since the recipes are all fairly quick to prepare, though a fair few of the shortcut ingredients aren’t very easy to find outside of France (and are usually expensive if you do), which isn’t ideal.  I needn’t have worried though, since the random number button directed me to page 146, giving me a choice of several different quick fruit mousse recipes.

As delicious and tempting as the raspberry or peach mousses sounded, it’s very much not raspberry nor peach season here, so I chose the banana express mousse.  It definitely lives up to its name as it only takes ten minutes to prepare, although it does require at least two hours of chilling in the fridge before serving.  But actually that’s great because it’s a dessert that can be prepared in advance or even the night before, which is always helpful.  The mousse itself is lovely and creamy and smooth, and the banana flavour comes through strongly, which is great.  I added some honey on a whim since I’ve got a bit of a sore throat so I’m adding honey to things left, right and centre at the moment and that was a delicious little added extra, as were the banana slices and toasted walnuts.  They’re all optional extras, but they can take this from an everyday dessert to one presentable enough to finish up a dinner party without much extra effort (always a bonus!).  Serving it in martini glasses or champagne coupes also automatically makes it look fancier.  Here’s to speedy comfort food!

Banana express mousse

Serves 4
Adapted from Cuisine Express

Although very quick to prepare, don’t forget to plan for the 2h of refrigeration.  The mousse can be refrigerated for longer, even overnight if necessary – the lemon juice keeps the banana from going all brown.  This can work as a fancy dessert served in martini glasses, champagne coupes or other fancy glassware, or an everyday dessert served in little ramekins or bowls.  The decorations on top are totally optional, but do add a little bit of pizzazz to the presentation.  Whilst brown sugar would go really well with the bananas, I decided to stick with white sugar as I’m not sure that using brown would result in the most presentable of colours.

Ingredients

5 bananas (includes 1 to serve which is optional)
1 lemon
40g caster sugar
200ml whipping cream
20g icing sugar
6 walnut halves (optional)
Honey, to serve (optional)

Directions

1.  Peel four of the bananas (keep the fifth one unpeeled until needed) and pop them in a blender along with the juice of the lemon and the caster sugar.  Whizz together until totally smooth.

2.  In a large bowl, whip the cream.  As it begins to firm up, add the icing sugar and continue whisking until firm.  Gently add the banana mixture to the whipped cream and carefully fold together.  Split equally between four martini glasses/champagne coupes/ramekins/bowls.  Refrigerate for at least 2h.

3.  Whilst the mousse is chilling, roughly chop the walnuts and toast in a frying pan over a low heat until fragrant.  Allow to cool and set aside until needed.

4.  To serve, peel and slice the last banana, lay three slices of banana in the middle of each individual mousse, and top with the toasted walnuts and a drizzle of honey.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Fête des Mères from afar

Today is Fête des Mères, or Mother’s Day, in France.  Since my mum is French, we always celebrate French Mother’s Day rather than the Mother’s Day of whichever country we happen to live in, which inevitably falls on a different date.  It does involve some serious organisation when it comes to Mother’s Day cards, but other than that, celebrating it on a different date doesn’t really affect proceedings much.  The last four years, when I’ve been in St Andrews and my mum in Edinburgh, my mum has come up to see me for Fête des Mères, and we’ve either gone out for lunch or I’ve cooked for her.  Actually, that’s one of the distinct advantages of celebrating Mother’s Day on a different date to of the country you live in – it’s usually much easier to book a table in your choice restaurant.  This year though, my mum happens to be located on the other side of the world – a little far for a day trip – so I can’t give her all the hugs that she deserves and cook for her or take her out, which I really wish I could.  Skype is awesome, but it has its limits.

My mum is the best mum I could ever wish for, and definitely a better mum than I deserve.  She has always been there for me, always encouraged me, always supported me, no matter what.  At the age of ten, I announced that I loved sharks and wanted to be a shark researcher.  And haven’t changed my mind since.  It can’t be easy when your only child’s dream career revolves around things with sharp teeth and a bad reputation for eating people (no matter how many times said child tells you that the reputation is unjust).  And yet, my mum has always encouraged me to follow my dreams.  Even though she jokingly tried to convince me for several years that studying sardines would be far more interesting, I always knew that she would support me, whatever I chose to do with my life.  I think that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give a child – unending support in whatever they choose to do.  When I announced that I was thinking of applying for Masters in NZ and Australia, despite the prospect of me ‘abandoning’ her and disappearing off to the other side of the world, she still fully encouraged me.  And when I was offered a place, she helped me with all the packing whilst I was busy feeling totally overwhelmed and not getting anywhere with it.  Truly the best mum ever, and I can never thank her enough.

My mum adores chocolate, so if I was cooking for her today, I’d make a chocolatey dessert – last year I made some deliciously dainty chocolate and hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups, which she adored.  If she was coming for lunch this year, I’d have made her these chocolate and chestnut fondants – they’re super rich and chocolatey, which she would love, but I think the chestnut flavour that comes through is what makes them truly special.  On top of that, they look rather impressive, but are actually really simple to put together (my favourite kind of recipe).  I wish I could serve these up to my mum today, but I don’t think they’d survive very well in the post, so I’m afraid, Maman, that if you’d like some, you’ll have to make them yourself…  Or wait until you visit me.  DIY Mother’s Day dessert isn’t much in thanks for everything that my mum does and has done for me.  My mum might be the best mother ever, but I’m really not the best daughter.

Bonne Fête des Mères, Maman – merci pour tout et je t’aime de tout mon cœur!

Chocolate & chestnut fondants

Serves 6
Slightly adapted from Cuisine, March 2012

I used non-sweetened chestnut purée.  If you’re not sure what to do with the leftover chestnut purée, I think you can just warm it up with a little milk or cream, some sugar and a little bit of vanilla and whisk together to make a sweetened version, then serve it for dessert with a little bit of cream (I’ve yet to try sweetening the purée though).  Using sweetened chestnut purée may make the fondants a little too sickly sweet.  This recipe splits really well, so if you only want to make two or three, the recipe will still work with smaller quantities.  The fondants are very rich and chocolatey, so the crème fraîche cuts through very well – I think that serving them with whipped cream would be too sweet.

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
200g unsalted butter, plus extra for the ramekins
6 egg yolks
200g caster sugar, plus extra for the ramekins
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g chestnut purée
50g all-purpose flour
Crème fraîche, to serve
Cocoa powder, to serve

Directions

1.  Liberally butter six ramekins (mine are 200ml in capacity) and sprinkle the inside with caster sugar.  Set the ramekins out on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

2.  Break or chop the chocolate into pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl, along with the cubed butter.  Melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally (make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

3.  Add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture and whisk together, followed by the sugar and vanilla extract.  Whisk together until smooth.

4.  Remove about 150ml (⅔ cup) of the mixture to a separate bowl.  Add the chestnut purée to this and whisk together (don’t worry if it’s not entirely smooth).  Fold the chestnut mixture and the flour into the original chocolate mixture.

5.  Split the chocolate mixture evenly between the six ramekins and bake for 10-15 mins (I took mine out at 10 mins and they were very slightly under-done).  The middle should still be a little wobbly or soft, but the edges of the top should be set.  Remove from the oven and rest in the ramekins for 3-4 mins.  Turn the the fondants out onto individual plates (you may need to run a knife around the edge of the ramekins) and serve immediately, accompanied by crème fraîche and dusted with cocoa powder.

Enjoy!

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Dessert for one… Or maybe three

Cooking for one can be a bit of a pain.  I have so many bookmarked recipes that are for four or more people and not particularly easy to split.  I get bored eating the same thing several times in a row and my freezer is currently full (thanks to a recipe I tried out the other week that made enough food for 6-8 people… which I obviously didn’t forget to check before I started.  Ahem.), which I need to sort out before I start making soup for the winter.  Now I love crumbles, but all my recipes seem to be for large crumbles to feed at least six people.  I could probably eat a whole six-person crumble in one go all by myself… but just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea.  So I decided to try making myself a one-person crumble.  Cooking for one shouldn’t mean depriving oneself, it just means trying to adapt things to make smaller quantities.

I was originally going for a pear hazelnut crumble, but as I was rummaging around the fridge, I happened across an apple that was looking a little lonely all by itself, so I decided to make a two-person pear and apple hazelnut crumble.  The two-person crumble turned into a three-person crumble because the fruit turned out to be a tiny bit too much for just two ramekins.  So much for a one-person crumble…  Since I made them in ramekins it’s easy enough to just limit oneself to eating one at a time though, so it’s not much of an issue (otherwise I’d have just another spoonful, and just a little one more, and oh… where did the crumble go?  Woops.).

The flavours of pear, apple and toasted hazelnut complement each other so well, and are really the perfect autumnal combination.  I don’t think I’ve ever matched all three flavours together before, but I’ll definitely be trying the combination out again!  Since the hazelnut flavour in these crumbles absolutely shines through, I’m submitting this to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes, because the random letter is “H” – H for hazelnut, but also for honey, which also features.  I’m not entirely sure whether the challenge is only for baked goods, or whether anything that has seen the inside of a hot oven is fair game.  I’m going with the latter…

Pear & apple hazelnut crumble

Serves 3
Recipe from my imagination

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell toasty (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  I used a bosc pear and a braeburn apple since that’s what I had in the fridge.  If using a small apple and small pear, you could probably fit the slices into just two ramekins instead of three.  I always think that crumble is best served with pouring cream or ice cream.

Ingredients

40g flour
25g unsalted butter
4 heaped tsp light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
20g porridge oats
20g toasted hazelnuts
1 medium apple
1 medium pear
2-3 tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
2-3 tbsp honey

Directions

1.  Add the sugar, flour and cinnamon to a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the sugar and flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2.  Roughly chop the hazelnuts and stir into the crumble mixture with the porridge oats.  Set aside.

3.  Slice the apples and pears (you might need to cut the slices into two or three to fit them into the ramekins) and mix together.  Set out three ovenproof ramekins (mine are 0.2 litres) and split the apple and pear mixture between them.  Drizzle with about 1 tbsp of Frangelico per ramekin, followed by about 1 tbsp of honey, then top with the crumble mixture, evenly split between the three ramekins.  Don’t pat down the crumble mixture, but make sure that it covers the fruit more or less evenly.

4.  Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 mins until the crumble is golden.  Serve immediately, accompanied by pouring cream or ice cream.

Enjoy!

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Happy World Whisky Day!

Today is the first World Whisky Day!  Isn’t that exciting?  (Correct answer: yes!!  If you don’t like whisky, bear with me, or just skip this paragraph).  So the day is supposed to be all about celebrating world whiskies, which is wonderful, except that it’s a Tuesday, so as much as I’d love my day to involve tasting lots of whisky, my day will actually consist of sitting at my desk and pulling my hair out whilst trying to understand exactly how one goes about calculating the strengths of magnetic and tide-induced electric fields and trying to organise the logistics of transferring some rays down to the aquarium.  I clearly very much chucked myself into the deep end for my Masters.  Woops.  Anyway, I digress.  So today is not likely to involve much whisky-drinking for me (perhaps a wee dram this evening as I finish unpacking and tidying everything away), I decided to add some whisky to the recipe I’m sharing today.  Because whisky-eating is the next best thing, obviously.

This month’s Random Recipe challenge theme of “lucky number 17” was chosen by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog – we had to choose the 17th book on our bookshelves.  The only flaw was that my cookbooks spent most of the month in a box somewhere between Edinburgh and Auckland, and thus not terribly accessible.  So I decided to adapt the rules to doing the 17th recipe in a food magazine that I’d bought on arrival to try and get an idea of what is actually in season here (since it’s the total opposite of the Northern hemisphere and I felt like a total foodie criminal buying apricots in March…).  Well, it was the 17th recipe that I could actually feasibly make (so I didn’t count the recipes that required a food processor, electric whisk or barbecue), which ended up being poached stone fruit with cinnamon honey syrup.  Helloooo delicious-sounding recipe!

As I mentioned earlier, in honour of World Whisky Day, I decided to add some whisky to the recipe.  I used Milford 10 year, which is a New Zealand whisky, since I know absolutely nothing about NZ whisky and figured this would be a good excuse to make a start on that.  This turned out rather delicious, and makes such a wonderful late summer dessert.  It’s so easy to make as well, and can easily be prepared in advance and served cool, or warmed up.  The addition of the whisky was perfect, too, and comes in as a subtle flavour.  I’m submitting this recipe as a second entry to this month’s Simple and in Season blog challenge, since all the ingredients are in season (although it’s coming to the end of the stone fruit season – sad times!), and are definitely local (unlike the mangoes in my mango and chocolate muffins) – even the whisky!  Now that I’ve been reunited with my cookbooks, next month I’ll be back to the proper Random Recipe rules, I promise!

Poached stone fruit with a honey, cinnamon & whisky syrup

Serves 2
Adapted from Food (February March 2012)

I used Milford 10 year whisky, but use whatever good whisky you have available, preferably one with fruity, honey undertones.  The original recipe also used apricots, but I couldn’t find any nice ones, so I just used nectarines and plums, but this would work with most stone fruit.  The total poaching time depends on how ripe the fruit are, so try to choose ripe but still quite firm fruit.  If you want to add a bit more of a whisky kick to it, stir some through the syrup once it’s been taken off the heat.

Ingredients

375ml water
50g light brown sugar
85g liquid honey
4 tbsp whisky (optional to add more at the end)
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 peaches
4 plums

Directions

1.  Add the water, sugar, honey, whisky and spices to a medium saucepan (make sure it’s large enough for all the fruit to fit) and bring to the boil.

2.  Turn down the heat, add the larger stone fruits and allow to simmer for about 2 mins before adding the smaller stone fruit.  Allow to poach for 5-15 mins, depending on how ripe the fruit is to start with, until just tender.  (The plums that I used were ready in about 5 mins, but the nectarines took nearly 15 mins.  If the plums start to be too tender, remove them into the serving bowl.)

3.  Remove the fruit into a serving bowl or individual dishes, and return the syrup to the heat.  Simmer down until the reduced by about half.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1-2 tbsp whisky (optional) before spooning over the poached fruit.  Serve with yoghurt, ice cream or dainty little biscuits.

Enjoy!  And happy World Whisky Day!!  (Also, drink responsibly and all that jazz…)

PS – I know that the fruit are a little too large for the martini glass and it looks a bit odd in the photos, but I didn’t have anything else that was vaguely fancy to present them in.

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Random Recipe #9: Chocolate & whisky charlotte

Dom mixed things up for this month’s Random Recipe challenge by pairing all the participants up so that each blogger randomly picked a book number and page number for their partner.  I was paired  up with the lovely Camilla from Little Macaroon, a Scottish expat currently living in Singapore.  Her blog is full of beautiful photography that desperately makes me miss expat life and discovering new cultures and countries!  It also really makes me miss living somewhere warm and sunny (grumble grumble)…  I picked book number six, page 124 for her which was steamed and roasted duck with honey and oyster sauce (how delicious does that sound?!) and you can read about the adventures involved in acquiring and roasting a 2.7kg duck here.  She randomly selected book number two, page 42 for me, which was a recipe for a chocolate and whisky charlotte from La Popote des potes.

A charlotte is a dessert that consists of a truffle-y custard or fruit mousse surrounded by sponge fingers.  I’m not sure how popular they are here in the UK, but in France they are quite widespread.  My mum, who loves both charlottes and chocolate, was super-enthusiastic when I announced what I had to try and make.  Luckily, she even has a charlotte dish which I was able to use, although you could probably make one in a large soufflé dish or something similar – the key thing is that the dish is deep enough for the sponge fingers to stand up in.  I’d never tried making a charlotte before, so I enthusiastically followed the recipe to the letter.  The results of my first attempt were… disappointing.  Oh, it tasted wonderful, but it wasn’t particularly presentable.  The sponge fingers didn’t fit snugly against each other, and the chocolate filling filtered through the resulting little gaps.  The sponge fingers were also clearly a lot less dense than the filling and rose up and came away from the edge of the dish, leaving some huge gaps between them (we forced them down a bit after the filling had set, but it wasn’t ideal in the presentation stakes – see the photo below).  What had come out of my fridge really didn’t match the photo in the book.  And even though it tasted good – rich, but deliciously chocolatey with a hint of whisky – I was disappointed.  This is a dessert that would be served to guests, so it is supposed to look nice – why hadn’t it worked properly?

Part of the problem may have been that sponge fingers in France (biscuits à la cuillère) are a bit shorter and fatter than the ones in the UK, so perhaps they fit together a little better, or are slightly denser.  A little hunt around Edinburgh didn’t turn up any imported French sponge biscuits, so I turned to the source of all dessert-related knowledge, Pierre Hermé’s Larousse des desserts to see if there were any helpful tips on making charlottes work.  All of his charlotte recipes involved soaking the back of the sponge fingers in an alcoholic sugary syrup to soften them so they could be pushed together.  This isn’t the first recipe that I’ve tried from Popote des potes that hasn’t quite worked, so out of frustration (and perhaps a little bit of spite), I refused to be thwarted and decided to make the charlotte again, but this time with the added step of dipping the sponge fingers in a whisky syrup.  I can be quite stubborn at times…

I was faced with a minor issue though: I’m currently on my own (my mum is on holiday), but the recipe serves 6-8 people and is difficult to split (8 egg whites and 5 egg yolks?  How unhelpful).  I was never going to be able to eat it all myself, but then realised that I could I make it anyway and give it to Craig and his family to test.  Genius idea!  (Though somewhat stressful in case it didn’t work at all…)  Craig helped out and did an excellent job of lining the dish with the sponge fingers and squeezing them together.  This time, the charlotte worked much better – hurrah!  Craig has reported back to say that his family all enjoyed it and thought it was absolutely delicious (phew!).  Even with the addition of the whisky syrup, the flavour of the whisky wasn’t over-powering, but was a lovely warming addition.  The closest thing to a criticism that I could get out of Craig was that it was quite rich, which is hardly a major issue, it just means you can’t wolf the whole thing down by yourself.

Chocolate & whisky charlotte

Serves 6-8
Adapted from La Popote des potes and Larousse des desserts

I used a charlotte dish because I had one, but I’m sure that a large soufflé dish could be used.  I used 12 year anCnoc whisky, a single malt from Aberdeenshire which is quite light and has notes of honey and fruit.  Use your favourite whisky, or whichever whisky you think would best go with chocolate.  This is a very rich dessert, so I wouldn’t recommend serving it after a heavy meal!  What is wonderful about it though is that it can be prepared in advance (although remember that it does contain raw eggs) and kept in the fridge until ready to serve.

Ingredients

For the lining:
Sponge fingers (the amount will depend on the circumference of your dish – we used about 18)
80ml water
100g caster sugar
60ml whisky

For the chocolate filling:
310g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
185g unsalted butter
8 egg whites
5 egg yolks
50g icing sugar
6 tbsp whisky
Chocolate shavings to decorate (optional)

Directions

1.  Mix the sugar and water together in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and allow to boil for about 5 mins to form a syrup.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Once fully cooled, stir in the whisky.

2.  Dip the non-sugar-coated side of a sponge finger into the syrup and place standing up in the charlotte dish, with the sugar-coated side facing outwards.  Repeat with the rest of the sponge fingers until the sides of the dish are fully lined.  If there are gaps between the fingers, pour a little bit of whisky syrup into the bottom of the dish and allow to soak up into the base of the fingers, before carefully squashing them together to close any gaps.  You may need to add a few more fingers – none of them should be able to move from side to side.

3.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmer water, until a smooth chocolate mixture has been achieved.  Remove from the heat.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites into firm peaks.  As they begin to firm up, add the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes.

5.  Stir the egg yolks and whisky into the chocolate mixture, before folding into the egg whites with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Pour the mixture into the prepared charlotte dish, cover with a lid (or tin foil) and refrigerate for at last 4 hours until set.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings before serving.

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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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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Happy (belated) World Gin Day 2011!

Yes, that’s right, yesterday was World Gin Day!  In case you don’t already know, I’m quite a big gin fan, so I don’t think I don’t have to tell you quite how enthusiastic I was about a whole day dedicated to gin…  (By the way, if you don’t like gin, I wouldn’t really bother with the rest of this post.)

I obviously wasn’t going to let World Gin Day slip away without making something gin-related.  I was originally going to do something in the form of baked goods (for a change), but none of my fellow gin-lovers are currently here in St Andrews, and I feel that eating an entire batch of gin-packed baked goods of whatever description all by myself smacks somewhat of alcoholism and very much of loneliness.  So I’ve had to change my plans a little.  Never fear though, I’ve still got something exciting for you…

I needed to find something that could either be made in an individual portion or could be stored for a while.  I was drawing a blank on something that I could make an individual portion of, which left finding something that I could make and have a little bit of today and then store for a while until everybody gets back.  I decided to make a Gin & Tonic granita, which is basically a Slush Puppie (remember those?  I haven’t one in forever!) but alcoholised.  With the bonus that it can be stored in the freezer, though it might require some vigorous stirring to break up the crystals after a few days.

As I was looking up G&T granita recipes, a rather genius idea hit me: I could add some of the cucumber liqueur that I’ve not really sure what to do with.  It goes wonderfully with regular G&Ts, so there’s no particular reason why it wouldn’t work in a granita.  This turned out to be a rather inspired idea, if I do say so myself…  I thoroughly enjoyed my portion of the granita, and the rest is currently sitting quite contently in the freezer, waiting for Kat and Craig to drop by, or anybody else with a penchant for gin.  I only ran into one issue whilst making this: it took forever.  The recipe that I adapted stated that it required 2 hours of total freezing time.  However, the extra alcohol in the liqueur in addition to the increased quantity of gin that I used meant that the first ice crystals started forming in the granita about 4 hours after going into the freezer.  I totally forgot to take the higher alcohol content into account, and in total, the granita required a stint of about 9 hours in the freezer.  Nine hours.  Which is why this post is going up today rather than yesterday (I didn’t have time to sort the photos out last night).  Woops.  On the plus side, at least that means that you can just pop in the freezer and go about your daily business and just check on it from time to time when you’re home, without worrying about it.

Gin & Tonic granita

Makes about 1 litre
Adapted from delicious. online

The granita takes a while to freeze, so it would probably be a good idea to make it the day before you’re planning on serving it and then just stir it up enthusiastically just before serving up.  Although I’ve suggested serving it as a dessert in martini glasses or tumblers, the granita would also work perfectly served as an amuse-bouche in shot glasses.  It’s also quite yummy to drink when it melts.  Obviously, make sure you use a good quality gin because you’ll definitely be able to taste it – I chose Bombay Sapphire because it’s very aromatic.

Ingredients

100ml water
200g caster sugar
175ml gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
75ml cucumber liqueur
500ml tonic water (without saccharin)
Cucumber slices, to garnish

Directions

1.  Heat the water and sugar together in a large saucepan for about 5 mins until all the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and mix in the gin, cucumber liqueur and tonic.  Allow to cool a little before pouring into a freezer-proof container and allowing to cool fully to room temperature before freezing.

2.  After about 4 hours, remove and break up any ice crystals that have formed using a fork, before returning to the freezer.  After about 1 ½ hours, remove the granita and once again break up any ice crystals up with a fork before returning to the freezer.  Repeat after 1 ½ hours, and once again after a further 1 ½ hours.  Just before serving, break the ice crystals up to Slush Puppie consistency, and serve in martini glasses or tumblers, each garnished with a slice of cucumber.

Enjoy!  (And just pretend it’s still World Gin Day!)

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