29 Aug 2014

Scottish Lavender Shortbread

I've been having haggis cravings lately.
No, it's not a sign that I'm pregnant with a Scottish baby.
(For that matter, The Man is not Scottish anyway)
So it might be a sign that I'm ready to celebrate a very early Burns Night or just wanting haggis season to start now.

Of course, there's no such thing as a "haggis season", but The Man has decided that it's too hot to eat haggis these days.
Nonsense. I'd like to take him to Savoie (in the French Alps) and we'll see if those Savoyards (people from Savoie) stop eating tartiflette and raclette (local delicacies based on melted cheese, potatoes, charcuterie and all things fat) in summer!
 Whatever (yes, I am a rebellious teenager)And I'm enjoying the anticipation almost just as much (Mainly I'm secretly hoping for a cold wave next weekend to justify a we're-having-haggis-for-dinner revolution).
Until then, I've managed to bring a little taste of Scotland to our tea breaks.
recipe scottish shortbread

Lavender Scottish Shortbread

I fell in love with shortbread when I visited Scotland last year and tasted real artisan shortbread, which is very different from industrial shortbread.
You could flavour this shortbread with many different things (orange zest, dried cranberries, chocolate chunks, etc) but I love the delicate aromas the lavender brings to it, for a slightly posh version of this lovely traditional Scottish biscuit.
As it's a very buttery tasting biscuit, make sure you use good-quality butter, so you get the best results.

200g plain flour (+ extra for dusting)
125g cold unsalted butter, diced
25g caster Sugar
25g lavender sugar

Method to make lavender shortbread

1/ Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. 

2/ Mix the flour and sugars together in a mixing bowl. 

3/ Rub in the butter with your thumb and forefinger, squash, pat and push it into a dough. 

4/ Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (or onto a baking silicone mat), and without kneading it, pat it down flat until it's 1cm thick. 

5/ Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (square, round, or finger-shaped. If it splits or tears, just press it back together). Try and work the dough as little as possible to ensure it will be a short as possible and make very crumbly shortbread.
If you like, score lines on the shortbread so that you can click the biscuits off into pieces later

6/ Sprinkle over some caster sugar, and bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until it's a light golden colour. Leave to cool completely before serving or storing in a tin.

Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver

19 Aug 2014

Homemade toffee popcorn

I've got a new passion. And it has a name: Elvis Presley.

It all started with The Man playing me records on Saturday mornings while I bake. 
Since his music repertoire is much wider than mine (I am limited to what airs on Magic 105.4fm), he constantly introduces me to lots of different bands and music genres, including approachable bands and more obscure stuff.
Before long, The King became my favourite Saturday morning baking session soundtrack.
Still, the image I had of Elvis tended to be of the overweight and drugged up 1974 version of him. Until one day, The Man came home with the 68 Come Back Concert DVD, and I fell in love with the "cool as hell" Elvis. 

From his story and his songs, to his movies and interviews, I became a little obsessed with everything touching Elvis, watched every youtube video about him, and to this day am completely fascinated.

So this week's recipe is dedicated to The King!

Homemade Toffee Popcorn

When I was a child, I loved going to the movies, mainly for the toffee popcorn from a brand called Baff that my mum would traditionally buy for us when she'd take us to the cinema
Since then, I've been dreaming of re-creating a toffee popcorn as nice as this one. I'm not sure this taste exactly the same, but there definitely goes down like a treat!

Ingredients (for 2 people)

50g popping corn
20g muscovado sugar
6 tbsp golden syrup

Prepare the toffee popcorn

1/ Warm the oven at 180deg C.

2/ In a medium pan with a lid, heat -on high heat- the corn without any oil or butter, shaking the pan regularly so the corn doesn't burn, until it starts popping. Reduce the heat and keep on shaking the pan regularly until you can't hear any popping sound anymore. Transfer the popped corn into a bowl.

3/ In a small pan, melt the butter, golden syrup, and cook on medium heat, mixing regularly, for about 3 to 4 minutes, until it thickens slightly.

4/ Slowly pour the toffee sauce on the popcorn, mixing continuously with a spatula (ideally silicone so the toffee sauce doesn't stick to it) until the popcorn ispretty much fully coated in toffee sauce. 

5/ Transfer the toffee popcorn onto a oven tray lined with baking parchment and cook in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes (we're not really cooking the popcorn but more setting the toffee coating on it)

6/ Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy with a good DVD!

  And for a glimpse of Smoking Hot Elvis

Who's the little bear on the photos? It's Chocolat my travelling bear, of course! To follow his travels and adventures, check out Chocolat's facebook page.

12 Aug 2014

Cornwall #2: a rambler's paradise

Cornwall is not only an enchanting foodie region, it's also a great place to do walks.
So if you wish to follow the South West Coast Path or do other short walks, there are plenty of choices wherever you are in Cornwall and whatever your level is.

If you're a wildlife lover, there are so many bird species to look out for, such as the famous Cornish choughs. And you might even get a glimpse of sea lions too.

As you walk, you'll regularly find tea rooms or pubs to stop at for a drink. You'll also have a chance to pick up fresh produce from "honesty box" displays. 

I had never encountered "honesty boxes" before visiting Cornwall and I really loved the whole idea behind them. Locals display, unattended at the entrance of their properties, trays of produce that they grow in their gardens (vegetables, fruits), make themselves (jams, etc), or farm (eggs, etc). Items are often priced, but not always. Next to the trays there is an unlocked money box or jam jar called the "honesty box", where ramblers pay in cash for whatever they take away with them, offering the price they think is fair for those un-priced items. 
Of course, in the paradise that is Cornwall, no one seems to cheat or steal. It made me feel like I was walking in some kind of a magic world, so far from our busy capital city. I loved it!

Last but not least, as you walk you'll get to see incredible views, a sea as blue as you can imagine, beautiful light houses, quirky old mining chimneys, plenty of thatched cottages and lovely villages.

Jamaica Inn, the real one!

St Michael's Mount


St Ives


1 Aug 2014

Hugh Fearnley Witthingstall's Beetroot and Chocolate Brownies

Why on earth would you add beetroots to your brownies?
Well, for many good reasons really: 

- If you're on a diet, you should know that they bulk your brownies up without adding anything bad for you, which makes each portion a little less rich. (oui, oui!)

- If you love trying new things without compromising on taste, you should give a shot to this not-so-usual pairing, which doesn't make your brownies taste strange in any way.

- If your main goal is to bake cakes as moist as possible, then beets (like carrots and courgettes) should be your friends.

- If you just want to experience the joy of seeing the faces of your friends, family members and colleagues loving your brownies, and being so surprised when you tell them that there are beetroots in them: go for it, it's worth it!

Hugh Fearnley Witthingstall's 
Beetroot and chocolate brownies
250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
250g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
150g self-raising flour (wholemeal ideally but white works well too)
250g beetroot, boiled until tender, cooled, peeled and grated (I used sous-vide Sainsbury's beetroots, and drained the water)
100g chocolate, of any colour, for the decoration

How to make the beetroot and chocolate brownies 

1/ Grease a shallow baking tin, approximately 20 x 25cm, and line the base with baking parchment

2/ Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the oven at 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and put the bowl in it for a few minutes until the chocolate and butter start to melt. Stir, then put back in to the oven for a few more minutes to melt completely. Of course, you could melt them together in the traditional way, over a pan of hot water, but you might as well make the most of the warming oven

3/ Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth. Combine the salt with the flour, sift them over the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Fold in the grated beetroot – be careful not to over-mix or it will make the brownies tough

4/ Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes; when the brownies are done, a knife or skewer inserted in the centre should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Don’t be tempted to overcook them or they will be dry

5/ Remove the tin from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool before cutting in to squares.

Recipe adapted from River Cottage