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Monday, 16 November 2015

Coffee and Walnut Shortbread

Officially mid November, and by the time I get hastily home from college these days it's barely daylight, so I'm finding it increasingly difficult to take decent photos with natural light (if any that remains beyond 4 o'clock!) Shortbread seemed like an obvious win win for being quick and simple. Made using a food processor may I add.  

I don't know if added flavourings to the Scottish classic shortbread, is ever really acceptable north of the border. Personally, although I am somewhat reluctant to tamper with a classic, what the heck...if it works then why not  (plus I'm not north of 'said' border luckily!) I love the classic pairing that is the good old coffee and walnut. I love it in cake so I was dying to see if it worked in a biscuit and guess what it does!

If we are being all finicky picky, then technically I'd have to call it mocha because the shortbread soldiers have been dipped in chocolate but I'm not calling it that because honestly, I think coffee and walnut just sounds better.

If they manage to last that long... the coffee piquancy develops and intensifies more with time so hold a few back for the following day for a mega coffee hit, enough to keep you up all night long! (So you might want to avoid having one right before bed, unless you have some dreaded work to do like I did and you need that boost just to keep your eyelids open.)

Enter the Cornflour...
Cornflour you ask?!! Well yes, although sounding dubiuosly excotic for shortbread, you can use this instead of ground rice to give a "nice melt in the mouth texture". A bit less crumbly and 'short' in texture than you might be more used to but it does indeed dissolve more on the tongue which I prefer to Scottish sand in my petticoat tails (or rather soldier bars.)

Coffee  and  Walnut  Shortbread

Makes 12 bars


1 ½ tbsp coffee granules
125g icing sugar
225g plain flour
45g cornflour
225g unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the tin

150g milk or plain chocolate
35g chopped walnut pieces


Preheat the oven to 180°C/ gas 4/  350°F. Grease a rectangular baking tin approximately 11 x 8 inch in size. then line the base with greaseproof parchment. 

In a coffee/nut grinder or pestle and mortar, blitz the coffee granules to a fine powder. Put the coffee powder, icing sugar, flour, and cornflour into a food processor and pulse to combine, then add the butter chopped into small cubes and mix on a slow speed until the mixture comes to a pastry-like dough. Take it out of the processor and, on a floured work surface, knead gently until it just comes together in a large ball, but don't over handle it or else it will become tough when baked.

Press the dough into the prepared tin and make sure it is flat. Mark the surface with the tip of a knife into 12 and then prick the shortbread all over with a fork and bake for about 25 minutes.  It's very easy to overcook shortbread so take them out when they start to turn golden brown around the edges. It will continue to crisp up more in the tin, out of the oven.

Cut the shortbread with a knife, following the markings that you made as a guide, then leave them to cool in the tin. 

Break the chocolate into small pieces into a deep small bowl, this will make it easier to dip the shortbread into as it will go further up the sides. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in short bursts on a medium heat, stirring in between each burst of 30 seconds. 

Dip the shortbread bars about a quarter of the way into the chocolate and then place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof parchment. Sprinkle over the chopped walnut pieces onto the melted chocolate and then leave them to set in the fridge. Store for up to 5 days in an airtight tin. 

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Monday, 9 November 2015

Speedy Pappardelle Pasta with Parma Ham, Mushrooms and Peas

Guess what; this is the first time I've ever had pappardelle pasta. It was fresh egg pasta too. I don't know why but that somehow feels like a treat from the regular dried cupboard companion. It's weird to think that the only thing different is the fact that it is does fresh equate to special nowadays? (Now that's a question.) 
I suppose it just feels special to me because firstly, it's more authentic, as if I'm sat in Italy with the sun shining down on me (which of course makes everything seem better!) Eating a big bowlful that's been lovingly made and handcrafted from scratch...that reminds me - I've still never made my own pasta before, I've been meaning to for awhile now but I guess having a pasta machine is quite a crucial part to any success. 
Secondly, fresh pasta is special because it takes so little time. I mean I'm not complaining that 8-12 minutes is hardly long but when you can do it under half that amount I'm suddenly very impressed!!
But enough about my rave on fresh pasta ... 
This recipe is a firm family favourite. I'd say we have it at least once every 2 weeks ( usually we have it with dried pasta tubes though. not pappardelle as this is my first time remember?) A standby supper as it's so delicious and everyone loves it; which is very hard with my brother and dad who are fussy eaters believe me!! It's great because it does what it says on the tin -  speedy for sure. Oh and don't worry, it's still fast with dried pasta, just a whole 4-8 minutes slower if you can cope with that? 
The sauce, although you can't see much on the photo for which I can assure you there is, the pasta just sucked it all up by the time I got a decent photo! ooops, is made simply by combining cream cheese with crème fraîche. As you can imagine is goes all nice and silky smooth which coats the pasta just nice and there's the right amount of creaminess, not too rich like it would be if it was all made with cream.

Speedy  Pappardelle  Pasta  with  Parma  Ham,  Mushrooms  and  Peas

Serves  4


180g parma ham, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil
250g mixture of chestnut and closed cup white mushrooms, halved or quartered
500g fresh pappardelle pasta
160g frozen peas
200g cream cheese, preferably a flavoured one with garlic and herbs
150g crème fraîche
salt and pepper
50g parmesan, grated
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley


Heat a frying pan until really hot and add the pieces of parma ham. Fry until crisp then set aside on a plate and keep warm in a low oven. Add the rapeseed oil to the empty hot frying pan and then pour in the chopped mushrooms, fry for 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the packet instructions, usually 3 minutes for fresh pasta. Towards the last minute of the pasta cooking time add in the frozen peas. Drain then set aside, reserving a few ladlefuls of pasta cooking water for the sauce later.

To the frying pan with the mushrooms which have been cooking for 2 minutes add in the cream cheese and crème fraîche. Bring to the boil over a low-medium heat, stirring. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and then add the cooked pasta, peas and 1 ladle of the pasta water. You may need to add more if you want it more runny. 

Add half of the crispy parma ham pieces to the pasta and stir everything together. Serve onto plates and grate over parmesan and sprinkle over the rest of the parma ham pieces. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. 

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Monday, 2 November 2015

Roasted Carrots + Crispy Chickpeas with Goats Cheese, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Herby Dressing

Let's talk about these beautiful carrots?! I was recently given these beauties and straight away I knew I couldn't just pass them as any old supper veg to simply just be overlooked and pushed aside like usual. These carrots called for a dish on its own to take pride of place as the star ingredient! 

This wintery roasted root dish is just perfect for the heritage carrots and even better if you have a rainbow of coloured alike. To the carrots you will notice I have added an array of other accompanying ingredients...chickpeas which have been lightly spiced with smoked paprika and cumin, roasted till crisp and nutty. A crumbling of creamy goats cheese and wilted spinach. Then a handful of toasted pine nuts gives even more warmth and is protein-rich too, making this a wonderful meat-free meal and you don't feel like you're missing out at all!! (Honest.)

Don't feel like you have to have this as a main meal though, it would also make a lovely side dish and any leftovers can be spooned into tupperware to provide a wholesome tasty packed lunch for the next day. 
If you have a big old platter I recommend serving it up like I did, it looks sooo good just as it is, vibrant and colourful with a scattering of more parley, it's a meal where everyone can help themselves. 

If carrots aren't enough for ya (you greedy lot) then throw in some butternut squash chunks or beets as well to roast with your carrots and get them all soft and caramelised from the orange juice. I really recommend keeping the spinach in there though as there's so many health benefits to the wonderful leaf. Read all about it here!

Roasted Carrots  +  Crispy  Chickpeas  with  Goats  Cheese,  Spinach,  Pine  Nuts  and  Herby  Dressing


For the chickpeas:
1 tin chickpeas (240g drained)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
For the carrots:
9-12 small/medium sized heritage carrots
pinch ground cumin
pinch smoked paprika
juice of ½ orange
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
For the herby dressing:
1 heaped tbsp creme fraîche 
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper
To serve with:
80g spinach
70g goats cheese
40g pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves


Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/ Gas 6.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas then pour into a bowl with the olive oil, cumin and paprika. Toss the chickpeas with your hands until evenly coated. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and then pour into a small roasting tin. Before putting the chickpeas into the oven, prepare the carrots. Make sure the carrots are clean, you may need to scrub them or even peel if you prefer. Place them onto a large roasting tray lined with baking parchment. Sprinkle over a pinch of cumin and paprika, drizzle over a good lug of oil and a squeeze of orange juice. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and use your hands to coat them all over. 

Now place the chickpeas on the top shelf of your oven and the carrots underneath. Make sure to check your chickpeas and give them a quick stir now and then to crisp them all over. Cook both the carrots and chickpeas for about 30 minutes or until tender and the chickpeas are crisp. 
To make the dressing, chop your parsley and add to a small bowl with the creme fraîche. Stir in the lemon juice and a small pinch of salt and pepper. Mix until smooth.

When the carrots and chickpeas are nearly cooked, wilt the spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds and place the pine nuts into a small frying pan over a medium heat to toast. Don't stir them, just shake the pan to evenly toast them until golden all over. 

To assemble the dish, place the chickpeas onto your serving platter and then dot the wilted spinach around and on top of the chickpeas. Next place the roasted carrots in a row and crumble over the goats cheese into small chunks. Scatter over the pine nuts and herby dressing and then finish with a final few parsley leaves to garnish. 
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