Basler Läckerli – Swiss spiced cookie bars

Basler Läckerli (or Leckerli, if your keyboard doesn’t do umlauts) is a traditional Swiss spiced cookie bar that is just perfect on a cool autumn afternoon with a cup of tea.

Basler Läckerli

This particular version comes from the canton of Basel, but plenty of other variations are out there. Whole or chopped almonds, hazelnuts, different spice blends… it seems that every village has their own way of doing it. But this is the one I fell in love with, and it will always have my heart!

Läckerli are quite hard and chewy right after baking, but soften with time. They will keep well for up to two months in an airtight container, and they just get better with age!

Makes about 30 pieces
Preparation: 30 minutes
Baking: 15 minutes
Cooling: 1 hour

Ingredients

300g (2 2/5 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
225g (8 oz or 3/5 cup) liquid honey
150g (3/4 cup) granulated (white) sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
50g (4 Tbsp) finely chopped candied orange peel
50g (4 Tbsp) finely chopped candied lemon peel
100g (1 cup) ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
50ml (3 Tbsp + 1 tsp) kirsch

Frosting

75g (3/5 cup) confectioner’s sugar
45ml (3 Tbsp) additional kirsch or water

Directions

Preheat oven to 220°C / 430°F / Gas Mark 7 1/2, and grease or line a large baking sheet.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

Combine honey, sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, heat gently while stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat.

Add candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, ground almonds, lemon zest and kirsch, and stir until well combined.

Add flour and baking powder, and mix together with a wooden spoon or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until combined.

While the dough is still warm, press it out onto the baking sheet approximately 7mm (1/4″) thick.

Bake for about 15 minutes in the centre of the oven until deep golden brown.

Mix confectioner’s sugar and additional kirsch or water (it should be quite thin), and brush generously over the top while still hot.

Trim the edges and cut into serving-sized pieces, about 5 x 3cm / 2 x 1 1/2″ (a lot of mine ended up square or close to it… but I don’t think it matters), transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Store for up to two months in an airtight container.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, snack, sweet, swiss | 2 Comments

Tomato chilli jam

Sweet and spicy tomato chilli jam makes a spectacular addition to your cheese board.

tomato chilli jam

Makes about 700ml / 3 cups
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: can take a couple of hours
Recipe adapted from here

Ingredients

1kg (about 2 1/4 lb) ripe tomatoes, peeled
2 medium red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
about 30g (about 1 oz) ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
45ml (3 Tbsp) soy sauce
1 Tbsp dried chilli flakes
500g (2 cups) raw sugar
200ml (4/5 cup) red wine vinegar

Directions

Peel the tomatoes by immersing in boiling water for a few minutes, until the skins start to split. Transfer to a colander to cool enough to handle, then pull the skins off and discard.

Dice half the tomatoes and set aside.

Purée the other half of the tomatoes with the onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and chilli flakes in a blender or food processor.

Stir together the purée, sugar and vinegar in a deep, heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil slowly, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat to medium low, add chopped tomatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick. The cooking time depends on the variety and juice content of the tomatoes and the heat you are cooking it on, but it can take a couple of hours.

Pour into sterilised glass jars, seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place. It should keep for several weeks if proper sterilisation procedure is followed, but if you’re unsure you can store it in the fridge.

Refrigerate after opening and use within a week.

Posted in jam, preserves, spread, vegan | 2 Comments

Vegetarian “fish” and chips

Marinated halloumi takes the place of fish in this oven baked vegetarian interpretation of an English pub classic.

veggie fish and chips

One of my very favourite things about a trip to London is the pub food. There are always plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and the veggie pies are always a highlight (I have grand plans for a series of pies once the weather cools down) but this meal is my recreation of one we had in a Paddington pub last month – my eyes lit up when I saw the words “veggie fish and chips” and I was not disappointed. It’s not “fishy” – it’s lemony and garlicky and salty and fresh. It has become quite a favourite round here, as it’s quick and easy as well as being utterly scrumptious. Comfort food heaven.

Serves 2
Marinating: up to 8 hours
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 15 minutes
Note: for an egg-free version, use a cornstarch slurry in place of the flour and beaten egg

Ingredients

4 pieces of halloumi, about 200g (7oz) per person
2 Tbsp olive oil + extra for baking
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated with a microplane
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs, such as panko

To serve
thick cut chips (fries)
lemon wedges

Directions

Arrange the halloumi in a single layer in a dish.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and marjoram, then spoon the marinade over the halloumi. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate at room temperature, flipping over the cheese every hour or so. I do this part in the morning then finish off in the evening.

Lightly oil a baking sheet and preheat oven to 210°C / 410°F / Gas Mark 6 1/2.

Arrange the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in three dishes. Take a piece of halloumi and dredge it in flour, then dip in beaten egg, then coat with breadcrumbs and put it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of halloumi. Spritz the halloumi with olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully flip the halloumi over and bake for another 5 minutes, until crisp and browned on both sides.

Serve hot with chips (fries) and lemon wedges.

Posted in burgers&patties, lunch, potato | 3 Comments

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