A couple of weeks ago I turned 29. In true little loaf style, I managed to draw the celebrations out for well over a week, beginning with a BBQ in the rain, through two lunches, dinner with friends and a family meal on the actual day to a romantic meal for two. A pretty good haul for my very last birthday as an unmarried lady (‘single’ somehow sounds wrong; I’ve not been single for over eight years).
The highlight of it all was an evening at Pollen Street Social with Carnivorous Fiancé. I’ve wanted to eat there for ages and thankfully the restaurant didn’t disappoint, from the endless supplies of beautiful homemade bread (so important for first impressions, but sadly something so many places get wrong) to the tiny personalized cake and card they brought over at the end of our meal after discovering that it was my birthday. Continue reading
We spent this weekend just gone at my parents’ house in Italy (yes, if you clicked the link, I’m finally on Instagram and a little bit addicted, come join me!). High in the Tuscan mountains with little more than the sun shining above us, trees around and valleys below, we had time to reflect on the important things in life. Love and family and food featured foremost, with pretty much equal emphasis on all three.
Leaving lessons in love and family aside, let’s focus on the food. There everything seems to just taste better, from freshly podded borlotti beans to creamy mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, leafy greens and the heaviest of melons, sweet flesh replete with juice. Continue reading
Little chocolate pots topped with crunchy cocoa nibs & whipped cream
Mention the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘mousse’ and three distinct childhood memories immediately spring to my mind.
First up is that of eating little plastic pots of the stuff after the occasional mid-week meal. Nowadays I’m pretty scornful of these foamy excuses for mousses (think ingredients including reduced fat cocoa, skimmed milk, gelatine and some sort of starch), but then they were something of a childhood treat and certainly a step up from Petit Filous in the excitement stakes (chocolate; not yoghurt!). I can clearly remember the satisfying ritual of peeling back and licking the lid, scraping out each mouthful with a tiny teaspoon and trying to make my mousse last longer than my brother’s without him trying to steal any as I ate. Continue reading
Chocolate peanut butter mousse layered with chewy peanut meringue
Chocolate mousse. Two words, a hundred variations, a thousand different expectations.
Ever since I made this favourite little dessert on holiday in Italy, I’ve wanted to write about it on the blog. My usual recipe for chocolate mousse is simplicity itself, rich and elegant, steeped in childhood memories and consisting of just two ingredients: chocolate and eggs. It’s the ultimate store cupboard recipe (don’t tell me you’ve not got chocolate on your shelves, I don’t believe you), and involves minimum effort for maximum impact, making it an easy go-to recipe to have in your repertoire.
Perhaps a little too easy. Continue reading
Dense, dark chocolate orange mousse cake topped with a spiced white chocolate layer
Chocolate is one of my favourite ingredients to bake with. Whether it’s chunked and studded through cookies, stirred into the smoothest mousse, melted over ice cream or baked into a dense, fudgy cake, chocolate is an ingredient reliable enough to be called on for comfort, yet versatile enough to always be exciting.
While chocolate and cocoa regularly make an appearance in my shopping basket, it’s rare that I’ll buy a bar to simply eat on its own. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I really enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and combining chocolate with other ingredients, making it into more of a meal or occasion than a snack straight from the packet. However there are two major exceptions to this rule when I (and a pretty a large percentage of the UK population) can’t seem to help but over indulge: Christmas and Easter. Continue reading
Last night Carniverous Boyfriend and I headed South of the river to my parents’ house for our first BBQ of the year (woohoo!). After the glorious sunshine of last weekend the weather didn’t quite deliver, but it was definitely warm enough to be outside. Sipping a glass of cold prosecco as the smoky smell of chargilled meat filled the air, I started to feel like summer could be on its way.
My Mum asked me to bring a pudding and, knowing my Dad had been put in charge of buying the meat, I decided to go for something light and summery to cleanse our palates after the protein onslaught. Platters of rare sirloin steak, garlicky chicken supreme and three different types of sausages later, a delicately creamy dessert proved exactly what the doctor ordered.
These praline meringues are crispy, delicious and so simple to make, the brown sugar and praline adding a delicious nutty crunch which works well against the smooth maple mousse. I opted to freeze my mousse for an extra contrast of textures, but I think it would work just as well without. And if you’re feeling really lazy, you could forgo the mousse altogether and serve with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt, drizzling a little maple syrup over the top to finish.
Praline meringues with frozen maple mousse
Serves 8 comfortably (depending on the size you make your meringues!)
- A handful of pecan nuts
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with parchment.
- Mix the pecans and maple syrup together then spread on the tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden – the maple syrup will caramelize around the nuts, creating a delicious crunchy praline. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray.
- Chop the cool pecan praline roughly to a chunky crumb, leaving aside a few whole pecans to decorate later.
Pecan praline meringues
- 4 egg whites
- 100g soft brown sugar
- 100g caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C. Line a baking tray with parchment.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl to a soft peak. Add the soft brown sugar and continue to whisk to form very firm peaks. Finally fold in the caster sugar and praline crumbs with a large metal spoon, leaving as much air in the meringue as possible.
- Spoon the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking tray. I used a dessert spoon to make nine even sized meringues, slightly spaced apart. You could vary this but remember you’ll need to adjust cooking times according to size.
- Cook for one hour at 120 degrees C, then reduce the oven temperature to 100 degrees C and cook for another hour. They should be hard when you tap the outside, and slightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray.
- Store in an airtight tin until you’re ready to assemble.
Frozen maple syrup mousse
- 3 eggs, separated
- 100g maple syrup
- 425 ml double cream
- A pinch of sea salt
- Whisk the 3 egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl until thick and foamy. Warm the maple syrup over low heat until nearly boiling, then pour over the egg yolks and continue whisking over a bain marie until thick and creamy. Remove from heat and continue whisking until cold. Put in the fridge to chill further.
- Softly whip the cream and fold into the chilled egg yolk and syrup mixture. Put back in the fridge while you complete the final stage.
- Whip the egg whites to firm peaks with the pinch of sea salt. Fold in the chilled syrup, cream and egg yolk mixture then freeze.
Put the meringue on a plate. Using an ice cream scoop, place a large dollop of maple mousse on top. Decorate with remaining pralines.
You could also make flatter meringues and stack in layers with the mousse for something bit fancier. And if you have any leftover mousse you can serve in little ramekins like the one below. Enjoy!