‘After Eight’ Ice Cream Bowl

Magic shell

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Our flat is filled with sparkling lights, rolls of wrapping paper, the smell of pine and the sound of Mariah Carey (don’t judge me, you know you’ll dance around your tree to this at least once before the year is out). I’m the proud owner of a brand new gingerbread man jumper (eat them, wear them, I’ll take any form of extra baked goods in my life). And everywhere I look (granted I’m looking at food blogs, food websites and cookery programmes on TV), it’s all about festive food. Continue reading

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Pie with a Bourbon Biscuit Crust

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Fresh mint ice cream with flecks of dark chocolate in a rich Bourbon biscuit crust

I love my kitchen. Regardless of the day I’m having, if I can take time to brush down the work surfaces, get in front of the stove and rootle around in the cupboards, I’m transported to a happy place. Preparing food is one of my favourite ways to relax, to completely clear my mind and to be as simple or creative as I choose. Cooking is a joy and my kitchen allows that to happen.

Good for me, then, that I don’t have to share it. I don’t mean with my nearest and dearest – Carnivorous Boyfriend and I will happily cook together side by side (as far as space allows) – I mean the kind of shared kitchen of my university years; the endless piles of washing up, slightly scummy surfaces, disappearing pints of milk and a fridge full of other peoples’ long-forgotten leftovers. My cupboards may be fit to bursting and my ingredients organized in a haphazard way, but they’re mine; I know exactly where everything is and I like it that way.

When I was growing up, my parents shared their house in Italy with a family friend. We’d sometimes go on holiday all together but, more often than not, the friend (who didn’t have any children) would visit outside school holidays, meaning we’d sometimes arrive a long time after he’d left. Down one side of the cool, dark kitchen was an enormous wooden cupboard where we stored dry goods. As it could often be up to six months in between our visits, the contents tended to be stripped back to the bare basics; kilner jars of slightly damp salt and sugar, half a packet of leftover risotto rice, a handful of teabags, a tube of tomato purée.

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White Chocolate & Peppermint Candy Cane Macarons

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Shiny-shelled macarons with a hint of peppermint

Much like dreaded dinner party nemesis the soufflé, macarons have earned themselves a bit of a reputation as a difficult beast. Browse your favourite blogs or recipe sites and you’re sure to encounter strict words of warning and reams of advice; how to avoid the shell cracking, how to achieve the perfect raised ‘feet’, the importance of almonds and why ageing your egg whites is crucial. It’s enough to put off even the most intrepid of bakers.

At the end of the summer I joined Mactweets, a ‘virtual Mac Kitchen’ which sets its members a new challenge each month, allowing them to share the highs (and lows) of their attempts at macaron mastery.  I’ve made a fair few batches of macarons now, and what I have learnt is this… Continue reading

Chocolate Marquise with Mint Crème Anglaise

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Chocolate marquise with a delicate mint crème anglaise

I can hardly begin to imagine a life without flour. Yes, it forms the basis of a lot of the food that I put in my mouth, but for me flour is so much more than that. It’s the foundation of baking, a hobby and passion I find therapeutic, relaxing, rewarding and escapist.  I love the process of rolling up my sleeves, dusting down the work surfaces, sifting and weighing, kneading and shaping, folding and finishing.

Flour is a staple ingredient in bread, of course, but so much more besides; think biscuits and brownies, pastry and cakes, pizza, pancakes and puddings, even quietly playing its part as a subtle addition to something as simple as a white sauce. It’s the ultimate easy ingredient; long-lasting, cheap and filling. Continue reading