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DIY CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE - QUINCE FRUIT PASTILLES

9 December 2018

For the second instalment of my DIY Christmas gift guide mini series, homemade fruit pastilles rich with vibrant citrus and my favourite winter fruit, quince.

Fuzzy, yellow and knobbly, quince are a strange looking fruit. They have a heady, floral scent and require slow and gentle cooking to truly come into their own. During the cooking, the fruit flesh slowly transforms from white to a deep, ruby red - a little Christmas miracle in the comfort of your kitchen!

The below recipe is very similar to how you could make membrillo, or quince 'cheese', which is traditionally served with - you guessed it - cheese. I make and set a batch every year, saving half for the Christmas cheeseboard, and cutting the rest into bite size pieces and tossing in sugar to eat as pastilles.

The first recipe from the DIY Christmas gift guide mini series, fancy festive chocolate buttons, is available HERE.

THE INGREDIENTS 
800g quince (approximately 2 fruit)
1 orange
1 lemon
Approximately 600g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

THE RECIPE
Line a baking tray with cling film. You should ensure the cling film is two/three sheets thick all over the tin.

Wash the quince to remove any fuzz, then chop into small pieces. You can leave the skin on but remove the core. Place in a large pan and cover with enough water to cover the fruit. Use a vegetable peeler to par the zest or the orange and lemon into strips, adding to the pan. Add the juice of both to the pan. Cook on a low heat for 1.5 - 2 hours, stirring regularly, until the quince has broken down and the liquid has turned from white to pink.

Blend the mixture using a stick blender. It’s fine to blend the quince skins and citrus peel, but you can remove them first if you prefer. Weigh the purée - you will have around 900g. Note down the weight then return the purée to the pan. You need to add two parts of caster sugar for every three parts of sugar (so for 900g purée you would add 600g caster sugar).

Once the sugar is added, stir well and return to a medium heat. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Once thickened, pour the quince paste into the lined tin. Leave to cool and set completely.

Slice the quince paste into shapes, or use a cookie cutter if you prefer. Toss in caster sugar and serve. The uncoated quince paste will keep in the fridge for around six months.

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DIY CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE - FESTIVE CHOCOLATE BUTTONS

5 December 2018

It's that time again! Christmas is in full swing here in London, and I for one am totally embracing the fizz and flounce, the festively dressed windows and holiday excitement this year. Working in food, Christmas actually starts with recipe shoots and planning in July (often coinciding - somewhat sadistically - with the hottest days of the year), and in previous years I've felt a little exhausted by it all by December.

This year however marks our first Christmas in our little flat, and having our own tree has given me an excuse to finally give my collection of Liberty Christmas decorations an outing (here they are in all their glory!). I've been building up my collection each year since first moving to London, and it feels so special to finally have enough to adore our tiny tree.

One of my favourite parts of the Christmas season is planning presents for my family and friends. I love planning gifts for the people I love, and thinking carefully about which wrapping paper, silk ribbon and adornments to use. What I don't love, however, is how expensive it can all get - Christmas gifting can get out of control, which can be stressful for a lot of us. 

So with that in mind, I'm excited to introduce a mini blog series for December - my DIY Christmas gift guide! Homemade gifts, carefully made and beautifully hand-packed and wrapped, are such a special way of spreading the love and festive cheer at Christmas. 

These festive chocolate buttons, or mendiants, are so easy to make. stacked up uniformly, these remind me of the mendiants sold in Paris at Christmas time. Top them with all of your favourite things, and pack in cellophane and ribbon for perfect homemade presents.

THE INGREDIENTS - MAKES 50-60 BUTTONS
150g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 tsp flaky sea salt
A section of toppings, such as: pistachio slivers, dried rose petals, crushed candy canes, dried fruits, sprinkles

THE RECIPE
Line two baking trays with baking paper. Finely chop the dark chocolate, then place in a large heatproof bowl. Fill a small pan a quarter full with water, then place over a low-medium heat and bring to a simmer. Place the bowl of chocolate on top of the pan, ensuring that the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl.

Do not stir the chocolate. Keep an eye on it, and once around half of the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and gently stir. This should melt the rest of the chocolate. If the chocolate is not quite melted, return it to the pan of water - off the heat - and allow it to melt for a further five minutes before removing and stirring again.

Use two teaspoon to carefully spoon circles of melted chocolate onto the prepared trays. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt, and a selection of your chosen toppings - toasted pistachio slivers, dried or crystallised rose peals, candied peel and sprinkles all work well.

Allow the buttons to sent firm at room temperature. Do not put them in the fridge, or they will loose their glossiness. Peel the cooled mendicants from the paper, and store in a cool dry place.

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Tahini & Dark Chocolate Cookies {with Bacofoil®}

10 October 2018

Hello autumn! My favourite season - and no, I’m not just jumping on the #pumpkinspice #autumnleaves bandwagon. For me, autumn spells a return to routine (this is not really the case now that I’m a fully grown adult, but you know - old habits die hard), a new spread of incredible season produce to cook and bake with, my birthday (gulp), and our upcoming holiday to Sri Lanka. Exciting! Any tips or recommendations for the later would be gratefully received, especially if they involve anywhere that I can get my mitts on delicious Sri Lankan food.

But I digress. The cooler temperatures and darker evenings still feel charming to me at the moment, especially when I get to spend them tucked up in our kitchen trying out new recipes. We’ve been eating a lot of meat-free recipes recently, and tahini has become an essential ingredient to have to hand. We’ve been drizzling tahini lemon dressing over whole baked cauliflower, coating sweet potatoes in it and stirring through soups and risottos. Too good.

The use of tahini in baking has an established pedigree (Ottolenghi, anyone?), and for good reason too. It has the textual quality of a nut butter with the slightly bitter tang of sesame, which works perfectly with chocolate. Put them in a cookie and expect gooey, buttery deliciousness.

Gooey cookies are the best kind (in my opinion, anyway), but can be tricky to bake smoothly. The soft centre and melted chocolate chips are prime candidates for sticking to baking paper - which is nobody’s favourite. So when Bacofoil® challenged me to test a notoriously sticky product on their Non-Stick Baking Paper, I was all ears!
For anyone wondering how this works, let me enlighten you. The paper has an innovative and unique non-stick textured surface. The little dimples mean there is less surface area in contact with the food, allowing it to bake more evenly and preventing sticking.

I put the Non-Stick Baking Paper to the test vs regular baking paper AND an unlined tin. I think the results speak for themselves! The cookies slid off the Bacofoil® paper like a dream. The regular paper - not so much. Sticking, stuck chocolate chips and even one sad broken cookie (I wasn’t so sad about that but, you know). The unlined tin was a similar story (*sigh*).

In short, the Non-Stick Baking Paper is a dream to bake with, and makes this recipe that bit easier - which is always a win in my eyes.

Regular baking paper
No baking paper
THE INGREDIENTS
100g unsalted butter, softened
150g dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
100g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
125g tahini 
100 dark chocolate
Flakey sea salt

THE RECIPE 
Line two baking trays with Bacofoil® Non-Stick Baking Paper, and heat the oven to 180°C. 

Cream together the softened butter and sugar. Once fluffy, beat in the egg and vanilla. Scape down the sides of the bowl and beat again until well combined.

Separately, whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and fine sea salt. Add to the wet mixture, and mix to combine. Stir through the tahini. 

Finely chop 60g of the dark chocolate, the stir through the cookie dough. Use a tablespoon measuring spoon to spoon the mixture onto the baking trays, ensuring they are well spread o
ut. Sprinkle with a little flakey sea salt, then bake in the oven for 8-11 minutes - the cookies are ready when well spread, and the edges have browned but the centre is just cooked. You will need to bake the cookies in several batches (the paper can be re-used). 

Cool the cookies on the trays. Melt the remaining 40g dark chocolate, the drizzle over the cookies. Once the chocolate is set, lift the cookies off the tray with a palette knife. Store in an airtight tin. 

This post was written is partnership with Bacofoil®, but all views are - as always - entirely my own.

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