Chocolate Lime Macaroons

Well hello there. It’s been a while I know, but I just haven’t been feeling the baking mojo of late. A seemingly endless round of family illness and grotty cold weather had left me feeling rather uninspired.

The good news is that this week the sickness has abated and I’m slowly getting back into the kitchen 🙂

My first post flu cravings were for comfort and sweetness. What better than a coconut macaroon to cheer me up. But, as it’s me in the kitchen, it’s a coconut macaroon with a twist. Of course I turned to chocolate as a first choice, but i thought this might make it a little sickly and there was a little extra something needed to take the edge off so I dabbled with a little lime. The results were just what I needed.

This is a very simple recipe and quite quick to make too. They are ideal as a biscuit replacement with your afternoon cuppa, but pretty enough to be served at a high tea.

Chocolate Lime Macaroons

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
160g desiccated coconut
Grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime ( reserve the rest in case your mixture isn’t quite wet enough)

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200g dark chocolate

50ml single cream

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together. The best way of doing this is with your hands. It will feel very dry to start with but you really need to squeeze the ingredients till they start to come together. If it’s not pressing together add the reserved lime juice 1 tsp at a time.

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Turn out your mixture onto a greaseproof sheet and press it firmly into a square about 1 cm thick.
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Take a small cookie cutter and press firmly into the mixture.
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Very gently transfer to a lined baking sheet. You will need to be quite delicate when easing the shape out onto the tray as this is a VERY crumbly mixture.

Keep cutting and repressing your mixture until it is all used. I had enough to make 24 hearts.
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Place the tray in an oven preheated to 180degrees for 10- 15 minutes, just until the coconut has started to brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the tray for 5 minutes to allow them to firm up a little before placing on a wire cooling rack.
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When the macaroons are completely cool melt the chocolate and stir in the cream until it is completely blended.
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Dip the macaroon in the chocolate ganache and place onto greaseproof paper  until the chocolate is set.
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These can now be kept for up to a week, ( if you have a stronger will that I ), in an airtight container.
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A Bientôt.

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Cranberry, Orange and Cinnamon Muffins

Happy New Year!

Yes I know, it’s a little belated but we have all been under the weather here in the last few weeks, fortunately Christmas itself was sickness free, but we’ve been making up for it since…

Now that the veil of flu is lifting from HillyWillys house, it’s long past time to get back into the kitchen.

After the most wonderful Christmas eve meal small person and a sumptuous dinner from Hubby the kitchen has been a relatively HillyWilly free zone. Time to put that right 🙂

But what to cook? After the excess eating of Christmas and new year I thought perhaps I should try something slightly less …. decadent, but still super tasty of course so I have opted to give you some healthy, low fat muffins, I can assure you they are still delicious and as they are lower in fat that means you can eat more of them…… 😉

Cranberry, Orange and Cinnamon Muffins.

300g flour
1tsp Baking Powder
25g Brown Sugar (plus a little extra to sprinkle on top)
1tsp Cinnamon
1 Orange (zest and flesh)
100g Dried unsweetened Cranberries
100ml Skimmed Milk
100ml Orange Juice
1 Egg
25g Salted Butter ( melted )

About an hour before you are ready to bake soak the cranberries in the orange juice. This will give them a nice plumpness and add a bit of sharpness to the flavour.

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In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Add to this the zest and flesh of your orange and the drained cranberries and stir well.

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In a separate bowl beat the egg and add the milk and orange juice and stir well. Melt the butter and whisk it into the liquid. If you wish to substitute the butter for sunflower oil you can do so, but don’t forget to add a generous pinch of salt.

Add the liquid to the dry bowl and beat until fully combined.

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Divide the mixture into muffin cases ( this amount should make 12) and place in a preheated oven.bake at 200degrees for 20-25 minutes.

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When the muffins come out you can if you wish add a sprinkle of brown sugar to the top, or if you are being really good you can skip this step 🙂

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Allow to cool and enjoy.

A Bientôt.

Chocolate Chestnut Chili Torte

I had this idea a while ago and thought it would be a most excellent dessert for christmas.  I’ve been  Waiting ever since. Amidst all the preparations all I could think about was finally getting to make (and more importantly, eat) my pud, and hope it was as nice as I thought it was going to be.

Well the waiting is over and I can assure you it was most definitely worth the wait 🙂

There are a few flavours in here, but they complement each other wonderfully well.

Chocolate Chestnut Chilli Torte

  Chilli Pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Chilli sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and sprinkle.
(* if you don’t have any chilli sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1tsp of chilli flakes and 1/4tsp of chilli powder to regular granulated sugar)
 Chocolate torte

200g Dark Chocolate

100ml Cream

100g Marzipan

50g Chestnut paste

7 whole cooked Chestnuts

Icing sugar to dust

Cut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry cutter gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand. Add the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg s you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour.

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.
roll out pastry to 1/2cm
Once the pastry is chilled roll out to about 1/2cm thick. You will need the pastry to be relatively thick as there is a point with this torte when you will be using your hands and you don’t want it to fall apart when you pick it up.
Press gently into a greased and floured tin and blind bake* for 25 minutes.

*To ‘blind bake’ you need to cover the uncooked pastry with a sheet of baking paper and weight it down with pastry beads or uncooked rice and place in a pre-heated 180degree oven.
cover and blind bake pastry
Take the pastry from the oven when it has started to brown around the edges and allow to cool completely. When it is completely cold remove the beads/rice and paper .
baking rice
Roll out marzipan to about 1/4cm and line the pastry shell.
Spread a generous layer of chestnut puree on top of the marzipan.
The reason for the marzipan, should one be needed, is to stop the chestnut puree soaking into the pastry and making it soggy. And it tastes fantastic.

chestnut paste

Place the dark chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and when it has melted stir in the cream. It takes a few minutes for the cream and chocolate to combine so stir gently until the mixture is smoothe dark and runny.

heat chocolate and cream

Take from the heat and stand for 5 minutes before pouring into the pastry shell.
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Now you have to be patient. Set aside to cool for an hour and when the top of the ganache is set arrange your chestnut pieces gently on top. Now leave the torte to cool completely either in a cool place overnight or in the fridge for a few hours.
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When the torte is solid, you are free to enjoy 🙂

I would recommend serving with a little cream or creme fraiche. The pastry is not overly hot and the chocolate ganache complements the hint of chili without ambushing it completely. But in the wise words of small person “don’t eat the pastry on its own…get me some water”!

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A Bientot.

Cinnamince PIes

Cinnamince Pie

Mmmmmm Mince Pies

I’m just putting it out there; I LOVE mince pies.

One of the best things for me about the build up to Christmas is the smell of mincemeat gently bubbling inside a crispy pastry shell. Oh just thinking about it makes me want to sing carols and stuff my face with pies – not at the same time obviously, that would be gross.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about,  the humble mince pie is a singularly British concoction that starts to appear around mid-November, hangs around for the festive season then disappears for the rest of the year. It is a small sweet pastry shell filled,  not with minced-meat, but with mincemeat. I hope that’s cleared that up.

I’ve been making my own mincemeat filling for a few years now, as it tastes so much better than shop bought,  and of course you can monkey around with it till it tastes just how you like it .Home-made mincemeat is VERY easy to make, but rather time consuming so its best to prepare it reasonably well in advance. The joy of this is that when it comes to actually making the pies, it takes a matter of seconds to fill the pastry cases.

You also get to monkey around with the pastry shell. Some people favour puff pastry, but my preference is definitely shortcrust and of all the different types I’ve tried out, my absolute favourite for mince pies is sweet cinnamon pastry.

This is my favourite mince pie combination to date, I hope you enjoy.

Mincemeat
(can be made up to 3 months in advance… definitely jar it and  leave it overnight before baking. This recipe makes around 1kg.)

200g Apples ( peeled cored and finely diced)
100g shredded suet
175g raisins

100g sultanas

100g currants

175g Brown sugar

1 Orange ( rind and Juice)

1 Lemon ( rind and juice)

2 tsp mixed spice

½tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp Armagnac

4tsp Amaretto

add juice to fruit and nutsSimply put all of the ingredients, except the brandy and amaretto, into a large bowl, mix well and leave covered with a cloth for at least 12 hours.

place in an ovenproof dish and bakeStir the mixture well and place in a large dish and bake at 120 degrees for 2- 2&1/2 hours ( dont let it get too dry).

Take it out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

jar and top with greasproof paperOnce cooled stir in the brandy and amaretto and spoon into sterilised jars. Top with greaseproof paper and seal jars.

Cinnamon pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Cinnamon sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and dust finished pies. .
(* if you don’t have any cinnamon sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1/4tsp ground cinnamon to regular granulated sugar)

ingredientsCut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry blender gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand.

blend pasrtyAdd the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg as you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour. (reserve the remaining egg to brush the pastry).

gradually add egg

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.

ball pasrty dough, then refrigerateWhen your Pastry is cold and a little stiff, sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar and roll out to desired thickness ( I like about 1/4cm). Cut a large circle and a star for each pie.

roll and cut pastryGrease and flour your baking tin ( I prefer to use a deep tin as this tends to minimise spillage from over boiling in the oven), lightly place your pastry circle into the tin then spoonabout 1&1/2 to 2 tsp of mincemeat into each case. Gently place your star on top and brush with beaten egg.

fill and top piescook  in a 200 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brow. Remove to a wire tray and allow to cool for 5 to 10  minutes.

Cinnamince PiesWhen still warm, dust with icing sugar and eat immediately. You’ve waited long enough 🙂

You can serve with cream or crémé fraîche and i can assure you that they are just as tasty cold ( if they make it that far)

A Bientôt.

Catastrophic Carrot Chutney

Let me start by saying that, despite the title, this is one of the nicest chutneys I have made so far. It’s zesty and tangy, has a lovely rich colour and packs a real punch with a mature cheddar.

I’m never making it again.

You see every time I make this something goes horribly wrong. Not with the chutney, it’s one of the few things I will remake to the exact recipe, just with the surrounding circumstances.

For example ; The first time I made this delicious chutney I rather overdid the quantity and even after giving some jars away to my friends/guinea pigs there were still quite a few leftover. So I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to pack up a few jars (along with some excess jam)  and take them as gifts on our imminent visit to the UK. What could possibly go wrong?

As we were traveling by Eurostar suitcase weight was not an issue so I tightly packed in the many jars amongst my belongings and off we trundled. All went well until we reached the Victoria line underground interchange.

At rush hour.

On a Friday.

By this time I had a very tired small person on one hand, her luggage, my handbag, a VERY heavy suitcase and a dead arm. A very kind gentleman offered to take my suitcase onto the tube and found a tiny corner amid the sea of humanity to wedge it in.

With his foot.
Of course his foot connected with one of the jars. The one I squeezed in at the last minute because there was a tiny space left. The one that wasn’t wrapped in a plastic bag.

By the time we left the tube there was a rather pungent aroma emanating from my case and a small orangey brown puddle on the train floor.  We fought our way through Waterloo station leaving a sticky trail behind us and located the train heading out to Richmond. By the end of the half hour journey we, rather unsurprisingly, had the carriage to ourselves.

At my friends flat it was time to assess the damage. Rather wisely I elected to leave the case in the downstairs hall while I picked out the broken glass and sticky pickle from my belongings. Even the clothes that hadn’t come into direct contact with the chutney needed washing due to the smell. When we left a few days later I’m embarrassed to say the hall still carried a heady lingering aroma.

(Almost two years later there is still a vague whiff every time the suitcase gets unzipped – which is not very often as it has been relegated to shed and used for ‘storage’).

Rather ironically when we got back one of my friends here was desperately disappointed when I told her there was none left as her husband had finished the whole jar in the 10 days we had been gone. She has been dropping hints ever since that he would really like some more.

Last week I found myself with a surplus of carrots so thought I’d be kind and make a jar or two for Mr.W.

So what went wrong this time?  (I hear you ask) Read on to find out why this is the last time.

Carrot Chutney

300g brown Sugar

150g Sultanas

1 Orange (zest and juice)

1 Lemon (zest and juice)

3tsp mixed Peppercorns

2tsp wholegrain Mustard

2tsp clear Honey

1tsp mixed Spice

2 cloves of Garlic (minced)

500ml Red wine vinegar

250ml White vinegar

250ml Tarragon vinegar (if you cant get tarragon vinegar then just use 500ml of white vinegar and add 1/2 tsp of tarragon)

600g Carrots

2 Onions

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan combine all the ingredients except the carrots and onions and bring to the biol stirring to ensure the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

While your vinegar mix is heating, grate the carrots and onions.

When the vinegar mixture is boiling add the vegetables and boil for 5 minutes stirring at all times

Now turn down the heat until you get a gentle simmer and leave it bubbling away for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When the liquid has reduced by around a 1/3 and is sticky on your spoon it’s time to take it off the heat and ladle into sterilised jars .

Top Tip – If you are using jars with metal lids make sure you cover the pickle with a wax disc or some greaseproof paper as the acid in the vinegar can react with the metal and cause it to rust.

This amount of ingredients should give you a enough to fill 4 regular jars or two large ones.

Unless of course you are an idiot.

Don’t worry Mr. W – the only remaining jar has your name on it!

A Bientôt

Epic Jelly ….. Epic Fail

I was in two minds whether to post this one or not as it didn’t turn out quite as planned, but then I thought “What the heck, why not” because someone might like it and it does look so pretty….

epic jelly
As I mentioned in my last post we have been celebrating (for what seems like forever) the birthday of the smallest person in the house and HillyWillys kitchen has been under a cloud of flour, chocolate, icing sugar and jelly. Lots of jelly. ( For my U.S friends that would of course be jello )

I had seen this recipe posted on line a few months ago and stored it in my ‘oooh that looks fun’ file and decided that small ones birthday party would be the perfect time to try it out. The fridge was re-shuffled, many plastic tubs were unearthed and I began…

Stained Glass Window Jelly
4 packets of assorted (brightly coloured) Jelly

1 small tin of condensed milk

3 6g packets of Gelatin powder

Make up your 4 different flavours of jelly and set overnight.

Jelly

Sprinkle the gelatin powder into a small amount of cold water and stir to a smooth paste, set aside for 5 minutes then stir again. At this point add 500ml of boiling water and mix until there are no clumps or lumps. Now add the tin of condensed milk and mix well. Set aside and allow to cool.

mix the coloured cubes

When your coloured jellies are well set turn out and cut into cubes and gently mix the  cubes in a large container. Take the cooled gelatin mixture and pour slowly into the container of jelly cubes. Return the large container to the fridge and set for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight.

When your jelly is completely set. turn out. slice and serve.

stained glass Jelly

Now the title of the post will tell you that something went wrong, well 2 things went wrong in actual fact.

The first thing was that I had entirely failed to take into consideration that jelly isn’t a common dessert over here and whilst French cuisine is highly regarded around the world they are not exactly renowned for their acceptance of any food that is a bit different to their usual fare.  To put it mildly the children at the party looked terrified when I unveiled my masterpiece and were extremely reluctant to try it.

The second, and most important, thing was that the taste just doesn’t live up to the look.
Perhaps i used the wrong combination of jelly flavours, but it was just too much of a confusing taste to be considered lovely. The condensed milk/gelatin mixture is fantastic for the colour, but it makes the whole thing so sweet that my teeth were singing at the first spoonful. Perhaps (if I ever make it again) I would use single cream or evaporated milk instead to take an edge off the super-sweetness.

I would also recommend that if you attempt this one, only to use half of the jelly in each pack as there was rather a lot of it to dispose of.

So not my finest moment, but not everything always turns out quite how we would like, so its time to dust myself off and get back in the kitchen.

Thankfully the main event of the birthday cake was a triumph so the jelly incident was quickly forgotten, and I shall be putting up the recipe for that in a few days 🙂

A Bientot

Pain au Pud

I’ve been mulling this recipe over for a long time and imagining how yummy it would be, but as of a few days ago I’ve never made it. There is a very good reason for this. The reason is that the recipe requires 3 slightly stale pain au chocolate, and they have never existed in our house. Of course one or two* pain au chocolat have crossed the threshold but they have never survived long enough to become even a tiny bit stale, a lifespan of less than 5 minutes is more usual.

Now as it happened I was looking after the small person of a friend for an afternoon last week and when she came to pick him up she brought, as a thank you, an enormous box of pain au chocolat for us to consume during our collection time coffee. Now with the best will in the world ( in addition to the fact I’d spent most of the afternoon feeding the children on freshly made biscuits and cakes ) there was not much of a dent in box when she left. And so it transpired that even after a few days there were a few pastries left lingering in the cupboard. It was time.
.
*probably a few more than that.

Pain au chocolat pudding

3 pain au chocolat
200 ml milk
3 eggs
75g vanilla sugar

Slice the pain au chocolat thinly (1/2cm slices) and arrange in an ovenproof dish.

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Put milk into a bowl ( probably a slightly larger one than I used…) and whisk in 3 eggs. Stir in the sugar till well mixed.

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Pour over the slices of pain au chocolat and allow to soak until the slices are soggy.
With traditional bread and butter pudding you have to soak the slices for a little longer, but as the pastry is a lot less dense than bread the soaking time is significantly shorter. About the same time as it should take to pre- heat your oven to 175 degrees should be perfect.

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Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the ‘custard’ begins to set then remove from the oven and rest for a few minutes then make a cut right down the centre of the pudding. I know this sounds a little peculiar, but trust me on this. It will made your pudding rise beautifully, and stay risen!

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Return your pudding to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, until it is well risen and the ‘custard’ is set.

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Rest for a few minutes before cutting, then serve warm with a big dollop of double cream or creme fraiche. If by any chance there is any left over, it also tastes great cold.

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