Saffron risotto

Dried chive flowers add a delicious savoury note to this delicate vegetarian saffron risotto.

saffron risotto

There are three basic ways of cooking risotto – the traditional stand-and-stir method, the bung-it-in-the-oven method and the leave-it-to-its-own-devices-on-the-stovetop method. The latter is my preferred method, particularly in the summer – mix it all up then cover it and let cook it on very low heat. An occasional stir will suffice.

Risottos are easily scalable – this recipe serves two, but if you figure 1/2 cup of rice per person, and use 3 times as much stock as rice, you’re good to go!
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: it will take about 30 minutes if you’re making enough for 2 people, then add 5 minutes for each additional serving

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli…)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
pinch saffron threads or powder (I used about 12 threads)
1 cup finely grated parmesan (or vegan alternative)
1 Tbsp dried chive flowers

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy-based saucepan over low heat.

Cook the onion until softened, then add the garlic and cook a further two to three minutes, just until fragrant. You don’t want it to brown.

Stir in the rice to coat with oil, then add the white wine and stir until evaporated.

Add the stock all at once, and stir in the saffron.

Cover and cook over very low heat, stirring every ten minutes, until the rice is cooked and it has the desired consistency. It should be loose but not liquid.

Stir through the parmesan and ladle the risotto into shallow bowls.

Sprinkle with chive flowers before serving.

Posted in italian, rice, risotto | Leave a comment

Lavender macarons

While summer brings mountains of fresh fruit and bright flavours, it is also the season for lavender to flower. Freshly dried flower buds give these macarons a rich, heady perfume which is perfectly offset by the creamy vanilla filling.

Lavender macarons

If this is your first time making macarons or you are looking for trouble-shooting tips or vegan options, check out this post for a full step-by-step tutorial with FAQ.

Makes 30 filled macarons
Shells: 30 min preparation, 20 min resting, 40 min baking
Filling: 5 min cooking, 1 hour cooling, 10 min preparation
Assembly: 10 minutes
Resting: 24 hours for best results

Ingredients

The shells

140g ground almonds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 Tbsp dried lavender flowers
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water
purple powder or gel food colouring (optional)

The filling

120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp (4 1/2 tsp) all-purpose (plain) flour
small pinch salt
115g (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
100g (1/2 cup) granulated (white) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

The shells

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each.

Mix the ground almonds. powdered sugar and lavender flowers together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. At this point, you can add food colouring, if using. Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.

Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and you should get a beak when you lift the whisk.

Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogeneous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2”, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip. Sprinkle with a few more lavender buds, if desired. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. It should be dull, and if you touch it, it should be only just tacky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

If not filling straight away, store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

The filling

Whisk flour into milk and place over medium heat in a small saucepan. Heat until thickened, whisking constantly. It should have the consistency of béchamel. Whisk in salt and pour mixture into a small bowl, then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface to avoid a skin forming. Set aside to cool completely, chill if the weather is particularly warm.

In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and mix in well.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the cooled milk mixture one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated and you have a thick, fluffy frosting.

Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, french, macaron, sweet | 8 Comments

Chocolate cookie ice cream cake

It’s like a huge frozen oreo!

Chocolate cookie ice cream cake

Summer for me is all about trying to cool down, and coming up with delicious recipes that don’t require an oven. Of course, I still bake macarons and bread and pizzas, but a freezer dessert ticks all the right boxes. And the ice cream base for this cake is no-churn, so you don’t need any special equipment.

Easy peasy to put together, and it tastes sooooo good!

Makes 1 x 24cm (9 or 10″) ice cream cake
Preparation: about 20 minutes
Freezing: at least 8 hours, or overnight

Ingredients

200g (7 oz) dark chocolate
200g (7 oz) chocolate cookies, roughly crumbled
500ml (2 cups) whole cream
1 x 397g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled

2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Melt chocolate by stirring over low heat in a double boiler, a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or in a microwave on medium and stirring every 20 seconds. Set aside to cool a little while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Prepare a 24cm (9 or 10″) springform cake pan by lining completely with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top.

Crumble the cookies roughly into a bowl. You don’t want them too fine, because the cookie bits stay crisp in the ice cream and provide a great texture.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, but not quite to the texture of whipped cream.

Add the condensed milk and beat just until very soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted – it should have a thick, mousse-like consistency.

Remove 1/3 of the mixture into a separate bowl, and stir the vanilla extract through it.

Beat the melted chocolate into the remaining 2/3 of the mixture, then use a wooden spoon or spatula to fold the crumbled cookies into it.

Spread half the chocolate cookie mixture into the cake pan, carefully spoon and spread the vanilla mixture over it, then carefully spoon and spread the remaining chocolate cookie mixture over the top. You will probably get some intermingling of layers, but just be as gentle as you can to avoid mixing them too much.

Fold the plastic wrap overhang over the top and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, uncover the top, flip onto a serving plate and remove plastic wrap. Cut into wedges with a large sharp knife.

Posted in cake, dessert, ice cream, sweet | 2 Comments

Rhubarb streusel cake

Incredibly light and buttery sponge cake topped with a fruity streusel – the bright tartness of the rhubarb is perfectly balanced by the rich brown sugar.

Rhubarb streusel cake

This recipe originated in the kitchen of a friend of mine – I saw her photo on facebook and she was kind enough not just to share the recipe, but to instruct me in the mysterious ways of rhubarb, given that I was a rhubarb novice. My experience previously consisted of my grandmother’s stewed rhubarb as a child, and Icelandic rhubarb jam to which I am now thoroughly addicted. It was definitely time to tackle it myself! Thanks, Cherie!

And after having typed the word so often today, I am reminded of the old Eric Sykes sketch, Rhubarb Rhubarb, where the word was the only dialogue…

Ingredients

Cake

150g (1 1/3 sticks or 3/5 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 large eggs
200g (1 1/2 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine salt
~180ml (3/4 cup) milk

Topping

100g (3/4 cup, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
100g (1/2 cup, packed) soft brown sugar
100g (4/5 stick or scant 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cool, diced
2 stalks rhubarb, washed, trimmed and finely sliced

powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

Preheat oven to 180°C / 355°F / Gas Mark 4 1/2, and butter and flour a 22cm / 9″ round springform cake pan.

Cake

Beat together the butter, vanilla extract and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, sprinkle evenly over butter mixture and fold in just until no traces of flour remain.

Fold in just enough milk to make a smooth batter.

Scrape into cake pan and spread evenly.

Topping

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and brown sugar, then rub in the butter with your fingertips until it’s lumpy. Toss through the rhubarb and scatter evenly over the cake batter.

Bake in centre of oven for about 45 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from oven, allow the cake to rest in the pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.

Posted in cake, dessert, snack, sweet | Leave a comment

“Hot cross” macarons

More easter fun with macarons 😀

A sweetly spiced, fruity filling and topped with a lemon icing cross – all the flavours of a hot cross bun in a macaron!

hot cross macarons

The shells

140g ground almonds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
pinch brown powder food colouring
100g egg white (from approx. 3 large eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water

The filling

90ml (6 Tbsp) whole milk

9g (3 1/2 tsp) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
small pinch salt

85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature

75g (6 Tbsp) granulated (white) sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp raisins, finely chopped

Alternative filling
I used spiced ermine frosting in these macs, because it really is a grade A filling, but it’s not GF so for those with dietary restrictions you can either switch the flour for cornstarch in the ermine frosting, or you can opt for buttercream if you prefer. If so, beat 125g (1/2 cup plus 2 tsp) room temperature butter until fluffy, beat in 250g (2 cups unsifted) powdered (confectioner’s) sugar along with the spices and vanilla extract, then fold in the chopped raisins.

The crosses

60g /1/2 cup unsifted) powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 – 2 tsp water

Directions

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each.

Mix the ground almonds, powdered sugar and brown food colouring together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture and set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.

Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and you should get a beak when you lift the whisk.

Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogeneous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2”, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip.

Leave to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. It should be dull, and if you gently touch the top of one of the piped shells, it should be only just tacky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

The filling

Whisk flour and spices into milk and place over medium heat in a small saucepan. Heat until thickened, whisking constantly. It should have the consistency of béchamel. Whisk in salt and pour mixture into a small bowl, then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface to avoid a skin forming. Set aside to cool completely.

In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix in well.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the cooled milk mixture one heaped teaspoon at a time until fully incorporated and you have a thick, fluffy frosting.

Fold in the finely chopped raisins.

Using a round piping tip so it doesn’t clog with the raisins, pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of the half of the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

The crosses

Put the powdered sugar into a bowl, add lemon juice and add water a few drops at a time until you have a thick but spreadable consistency. You don’t want it so thin that the crosses will run.

Transfer the mixture to a small piping bag or decorating syringe and pipe crosses onto the tops of the macarons. Allow to set.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for 24 hours before eating, or at least overnight. Remove from fridge at least half an hour before eating to allow the filling to soften.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, dessert, macaron, snack, sweet | 6 Comments

“Creme egg” macarons

Easter is upon us!

My kids gave up eating chocolate easter eggs a few years ago, but there’s always room for macarons. Always.

Enter, “creme egg” macarons! Chocolate shells, filled with a vanilla ermine frosting “egg white” and a yellow custard “yolk”.

If you’re new to the macaron game, check out my comprehensive written, pictorial and video tutorial.

Chocolate shells

140g ground almonds
125g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
15g unsweetened cocoa powder
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
brown food colouring (optional)
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water

Directions

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each.

Mix the ground almonds, powdered sugar and cocoa powder together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. At this point, you can add food colouring, if desired. Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.

Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and you should get a beak when you lift the whisk.

Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized egg-shaped shells, about 4cm / 1 1/2” at the widest part, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. You’ll need to move the piping bag to fill the shape, but in order to avoid bubbles you should avoid lifting it or swirling the batter, so it’s best to pipe with the bag on a 45° angle, with the tip almost touching the parchment. Start at the base end and work your way up to the narrow end.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you touch it, it should be only just tacky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 20 – 22 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet after 10 minutes. You can test for doneness by gently nudging the top of one of the shells – it shouldn’t move away from the foot.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

Vanilla ermine frosting

90ml (6 Tbsp) whole milk
9g (3 1/2 tsp) all-purpose (plain) flour
small pinch salt
85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
75g (6 Tbsp) granulated (white) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
white powder food colouring (optional)

Whisk flour into milk and place over medium heat in a small saucepan. Heat until thickened, whisking constantly. It should have the consistency of béchamel. Whisk in salt and pour mixture into a small bowl, then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface to avoid a skin forming. Set aside to cool completely.

In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla and food colouring, if using, and mix in well.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the cooled milk mixture one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated and you have a thick, fluffy frosting.

Custard yolk

4g (1 1/2 tsp) all-purpose (plain) flour
30g (2 1/2 Tbsp) granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg yolk
60ml (1/4 cup) milk
few drops vanilla extract
yellow food colouring (optional)

Whisk flour and sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat egg yolk in a separate bowl. Set aside.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan. When the milk comes to the boil, remove from heat. Add vanilla, flour and sugar to the pan and whisk until there are no lumps.

Very gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk.

Return the mixture to the the saucepan. Cook over a very low heat, stirring constantly with the whisk, until the mixture is very thick, about 6 minutes.

Whisk in a drop or two of food colouring as desired.

Remove from heat, transfer to a clean bowl, cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface (to avoid a skin forming) and set aside to cool completely. I find it best if it’s cold for filling because it is thicker and easier to work with, so I refrigerate it. The custard can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge until needed.

Filling

Pipe a generous ring of vanilla ermine frosting onto the flat side of half the shells, coming all the way to the edge but leaving a void in the middle for the yolk.

Pipe or spoon about 1/3 teaspoon of custard yolk into the void in the ermine frosting.

Top with the remaining shells and press together gently.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.

Enjoy!

Posted in biscuit, cookie, dessert, macaron, snack, sweet | 2 Comments

Romanieh – Palestinian lentil and eggplant stew with pomegranate

Comfort food for the soul. And it’s vegan.

Romanieh - Palestinian lentil and eggplant stew with pomegranate

Middle Eastern food is a firm favourite round our way. The heady spices, the delectable combinations of rich, earthy and bright flavours, the simplicity of the ingredients that go together to make something you simply cannot stop putting in your mouth. Every time we sit down to a Middle Eastern dinner, I can’t help but declare my love for food!

You can accompany this with olives, cheeses (which would make it a non-vegan meal, obviously) such as labneh, feta or halloumi, salads, stuffed vine leaves… for a truly delectable table.

This recipe was ever so slightly adapted from here with inspiration from my dear friend, the amazing Palestinian cook Sawsan.

Serves 4
Preparation: 45 minutes

Ingredients

250g (1 1/2 cups) brown lentils
1 tbsp ground cumin
600ml (2 1/2 cups) water
1 large eggplant (aubergine) approx. 350g / 12oz, peeled and diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sumac
50ml (3 Tbsp + 1 tsp) olive oil
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
150ml (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) pomegranate molasses
juice of 2 lemons

To serve

additional olive oil for drizzling
seeds of a small pomegranate
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
pita bread

Directions

Put the lentils, cumin and water in a medium, heavy-based saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add the eggplant, salt and sumac and cook, covered, over very low heat for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small pan over low heat, combine the olive oil and garlic and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, until fragrant but not browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the fried garlic and pomegranate molasses to the lentils and stir to combine. Cook, covered over very low heat for another 5 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice.

Spoon into bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil and decorate with pomegranate seeds and parsley.

Serve with a spoon and some pita bread for scooping.

Posted in middle eastern, vegan | 8 Comments