Recipe: Mackays Strawberry & Champagne Mousse Tart

For the past few weeks I've taken some time away from blogging. It all started with my annoyance at Google by changing some account settings and all the effort it took to get things back exactly the way they were. Then, the Winter sniffles came and, amongst other things, I found it increasingly more difficult to get back into my routine. 

It has been a novelty to me to be able to watch a whole episode of Game of Thrones without the need to rewind and rewatch as I'd previously been too engrossed in Bloglovin' or keeping up to date with my Twitter feed. 

It also got to the point where I didn't enjoy it much. Not even baking. And really what's the point of churning out posts that I'm not happy with?

So instead, I've been out for lots of nice meals, discovered new places and even met some blogger friends and chatted about life apart from blogging. 

My favourites include,

Meeting Flick and Frankie for dessert - and establishing that staying in is the new going out! Frankie's review of the evening had me giggling for ages. 

Drinking Butterbeer in the snow with Boy at Harry Potter film studios. We won't count how many times I've been over the years, all I care is that it snowed in Hogsmeade and I got a Gryffindor scarf.

Going to Waitrose Cookery School with my Mum and Grandmother for a Festive masterclass. Not only were the food and drinks incredible, everyone was so lovely, we all enjoyed ourselves so much. Even the brussel sprout haters were swayed!

Any blog posts that may have appeared have been scheduled from earlier bakes in the year. 

Including this little number. Perfect to make ahead if you've guests coming over of if you're popping over to a friends. I made this the day before serving and saved the pyrotechnics for the dinner table. Its a relatively straight forward tart, even more so if you buy a pre-made tart case from the supermarket (no one will know any different).

This recipe was made for Mackays as a way of showcasing my favourite of their preserves, strawberry and champagne. But I love it just as much on toast in the mornings, any day of the week.

Mackays Strawberry & Champagne Preserve Mousse Tart
(Makes a 22cm tart)

Sweet pastry tart:

375g plain flour, sifted + extra to dust
60g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, chopped

Strawberry mousse filling:

220g Mackays Strawberry and Champagne Preserve
150ml whipping cream
1 packet of powdered gelatine (or 4 sheets)

Strawberry glaze:

120g Mackays Strawberry and Champagne Preserve
1 tbsp water


200g fresh strawberries

To make the pastry tart, add the flour and sugar into a food processor. Add the butter and process until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Add 40 ml chilled water and process once more until the dough just comes together. Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the chilled pastry and line a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill the tart for a further 20 minutes whilst you heat the oven to 1800c.

Using a fork, prick the base of the pastry case so any air is released whilst baking. Line the pastry case with baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes and leave to cool in the tin.

For the mousse filling, bloom the gelatin following the packet instructions and set aside.

Heat the jam in a small pan on a low heat until it starts to loosen, add the gelatin and quickly stir through before removing from the heat and leaving to cool on ice. Whip the cream and gently fold into the cool jam mix.

Fill the cooled pastry case with the mousse, using a palette knife or the back of a large spoon to smooth over the top.

Place in the fridge to set whilst you make the strawberry glaze. Heat the jam in a small pan on a low heat and stir in the water until the jam has loosened and is slightly warm.

To finish the mousse tart, decorate the top with sliced fresh strawberries. Pour over the still-warm glaze and leave to firm up at room temperature before returning to the fridge to set 30 minutes before serving. Or, if making the day before, leave it in the fridge until needed.

Happy New Year to you all, for the end of the week! May your 2015 be filled with peace, love and happiness.

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Recipe: Marzipan Mince Pies

Not a recipe as such, because I'm sure we're all pretty au fait with how to make a mince pie. But I thought I'd share my favourite mince pies.

These were the perfect excuse to use up the leftover marzipan I had from my stollen wreath.

For these I used a regular 375g pack of ready rolled shortcrust pastry, 1 jar of mincemeat and 100g marzipan. Roll out the marzipan, use a Christmas cutter to cut out the pie lids and place on top of the filled mince pies. Bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes.

Happy Christmas!

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Recipe: Stollen Wreath

A little bit of a twist to the traditional German stollen, this wreath is perfect to make in advance and store ready for the big day. Or alternatively enjoy in the run up...only 10 days to go!

Christmas Stollen Wreath

375g strong white flour, plus extra for shaping
75g caster sugar
3/4 tsp fine salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamom (I didn't have any so just used all-spice instead)
50g ground almonds
2 tsp fast action yeast
200g dried mixed fruit (I used raisins, cherries, cranberries and mixed peel)
150ml milk
125g unsalted butter
1 medium egg, plus 2 yolks
2 tbsp dark rum (I used Amaretto instead)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
oil for kneading
250g marzipan
melted butter and icing sugar and dried cranberries to finish

In a large mixing bowl, combine 350g flour, sugar, salt, spices, almonds, yeast and dried fruit. In a small pan, whisk the milk and remaining 25g flour on a low heat and bring just to the boil. Spoon the paste into another bowl. Use the pan to gently melt the butter, cool a little and beat this into the milk with the egg, yolks, rum and zest. Stir into the flour to form a sticky dough.

Leave to rest for 10 minutes, lightly knead for a few minutes, then leave to rise for 2 hours back in the bowl. Knead once more and roll out on a floured work surface into a long rectangle shape. Roll the marzipan into an equally long sausage. Lay the marzipan onto one edge of the stollen and roll. Press down to seal and place into a well greased bundt tin with the seal side at the top (which will become the bottom when upturned after baking).

Cover the stollen in the tin with a clean tea towel and leave once more until it has risen by half. Heat the oven to 200 degrees and bake for 35 - 45 minutes, remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack or plate to cool. When still warm, brush a generous amount of melted butter over to seal and dust with icing sugar once cool. To finish, drizzle with some icing and top with dried cranberries. 

I've wrapped mine up in some wax paper and sealed in a large freezer bag to freeze ready for the big day. You could also make miniature stollen bites, just be sure to cook for less, 20 minutes should do.

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Recipe: Ultimate Lindt Cookies

These cold, dark winter evenings have been pretty uninspiring. After countless attempts at photographing recipes with no joy, I gave up. Instead I've spent my spare time this week wrapped up on the sofa watching Netflix and working my way through a delivery of Lindt. It's a hard life!

After more truffles than I dare count, I decided it may be wise to share maybe just a few. To do so I've come up with the ultimate cookie recipe. Soft on the outside, perfectly gooey on the inside and packed full of chocolate.

These are so good, I've made a few batches to share and some to store away in the freezer. In true Nigella style, its always a good idea to have a log of cookie dough stowed away. You can bake it straight from frozen and slice off one or two cookies at a time. 

I've also boxed some up to give as gifts, albeit early ones. It won't be a surprise to my loved ones that this year's Christmas wrapping theme is chocolate! These mini Santa chocolates come in a pack of 5 and are perfect to use as gift tags or as table settings on the big day.

My absolute favourite Lindt are these Winter edition milk and white chocolate truffles. They're perfect for cookies as the white chocolate centre oozes out and looks great.

I also have one more trick...Lindt hot chocolate. Heat some milk in your favourite mug in the microwave, drop in 3-4 Lindt truffles and give it a good stir. Undoubtedly the best, most speedy hot chocolate you can make at home.

Chocolate Lindt cookies
Makes 12

200g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
1 egg
275g self raising flour
75g cocoa powder
100g chopped nuts/chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gently beat in the egg. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder, adding a splash of milk if needed to loosen the mix. Fold in chopped nuts or chocolate chips. 

Dollop the mix onto a large sheet of baking paper and use to roll and wrap into a sausage shape. Place in the fridge to firm for at least 30 minutes. (I prefer to whizz up the cookie mix the night before needed and leave to chill overnight).

Line two baking trays with baking parchment and divide the mixture into 12 equal sized balls. Squeeze a truffle into the centre of each and place evenly spaced onto the baking trays. Don't be tempted to flatten the cookie balls down, they'll drop whilst baking in the oven.

Place in a preheated oven at 220 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. They will have flattened but will be floppy. Leave them for 20 - 30 minutes to firm after removing from the oven.

Feel free to experiment with your truffle flavours. My favourite of all the batches so far have been adding chopped hazelnuts to the cookies and dunking them in hot chocolate made with hazelnut milk.

And if you're going to do the Nigella-esque trick, wrap the cookie dough well, label up and freeze away. It should last up to 3 months, or alternatively a week in the fridge.

I also have the cutest chocolate Christmas decorations ready for my tree. No doubt I'll be joining in with the rest of Twitter and Instagram when it's up and showing everyone just how cute it is...if they don't get eaten first.

Thank you to Sally for kindly sending me these samples from Lindt. Please note, all enthusiasm for Lindt chocolate is my own...who can resist the Chocolate Santa's and Easter Bunnies?!

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Recipe: Gingerbread Thumbprint Cookies with Mackays Christmas Preserve

These gingerbread cookies are the most festive cookies, ever.

I make the dough a day in advance and leave it to chill in the fridge. You can either take a few chunks out a time to make fresh cookies as and when you need, freeze it for a later date...or just eat them all in one go.

I've tried this recipe with a few different jams and preserves, my favourites being Mackays Christmas preserve or cherry jam. Regular strawberry and raspberry would work equally well!

Gingerbread Thumbprint Cookies with Mackays Christmas Preserve
(Makes 3 dozen)

150g butter, softened
170g soft brown sugar
80g molasses
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 egg
450g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1⁄2 tsp ground nutmeg
1⁄4 salt

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the molasses, ginger and egg and mix well.

Sift in the flour, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, nutmeg and salt and stir until well incorporated.

Press the dough into a ball, cover and chill in the fridge for 4 hours, or overnight.

Heat the oven to 1800c and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls and place on the tray with a 2-inch space between each cookie.

Press a thumbprint into the centre of each ball, about 1⁄2 inch deep.

Fill each with about 1⁄2 tsp Mackay’s Christmas Preserve.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

I was sent some gorgeous festive samples from Mackays in order to come up with some recipes. Feel free to use any jams...although this festive preserve is a sure winner!

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Review: Pizza Express Christmas Menu

Last week Boy and I set out to try the Pizza Express Christmas menu for lunch. It's probably the most festive I've felt so far. I heard a Christmas song for the first time this know when your ears prick up and you do a double take - yes, I am hanging up my stocking on the wall thank you, Slade.

So down to business, this year's Christmas menu...

To start, I opted for Arancini Provola, baked risotto balls with spinach and Provola cheese centre served with a spicy arrabbiata sauce.

Boy went for garlic bread as unfortunately they didn't have any of their other festive starters left, pork & pancetta croquettes.

Next up, I chose the Festiva Romana, brie, leek, pine kernels and mozzarella with garlic oil, rosemary and sage on a béchamel base served with lots of rocket, Gran Moravia cheese and cranberry sauce.

I love their traditional Romana bases and the béchamel sauce was a great creamy addition.

Boy went for the Anatra Romana, pulled duck, shredded courgette, red onion and mozzarella on a light plum hoisin sauce with lots of rocket and spring onions.

Tender shredded duck, sweet and sticky hoisin sauce - I'd definitely go back and order my own.

And for my favourite part,

Mince Pie Cheesecake, rum soaked fruit in a clotted cream cheesecake and crumbly biscuit base. Quite possibly the best cheesecake I've had in a while. It tastes exactly like a mince pie should, but in a creamy cheesecake!

And just as good, the Chocolate Tartufo, rich Belgian dark chocolate with a praline mousse centre.

I'd have quite happily polished off the other festive dessert also, Snowball Doughballs, all in the name of research if needed!

The Pizza Express Christmas menu offers a 2 course lunch menu for £14.95 or alternatively, 3 courses for dinner for £19.95 with a glass of prosecco.

Find out more here.

Although Pizza Express kindly asked me to give their festive menu a try, all opinions are my own - and I probably would have gone anyway...who am I kidding, I know I would!!

Recipe: Mini Christmas Cakes

“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…”
This Sunday will mark the last Sunday before Advent, and it is therefore dubbed Stir-up Sunday.

A British tradition hailing back to the Victorian era, where families would gather in the kitchen to each take a turn to stir the pudding ingredients and to make their own wishes. Some hide coins in the mix, that once found are thought to bring health and happiness for the coming year.

Instead of making a regular Christmas cake, these mini versions are perfect for gifts.

Mini Christmas cake loaves
(Makes 8 mini loaves/muffins, recipe adapted from Whitworths)

180g sultanas
180g raisins
100g glacé cherries
30g mixed peel
50ml brandy
100g unsalted butter, softened
75g dark brown sugar
100g plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 small orange, zest and juice
1/2 tbsp black treacle
2 eggs
50g flaked almonds

N.B, in order to make these quicker buy a bag of pre-soaked mixed fruit from your local supermarket and use instead. Alternatively, soak your own in brandy or your favourite tipple.

Place the dried fruit and peel into a bowl, pour over the brandy and cover. Leave for 48 hours to soak.

Heat the oven to 140 degrees and fill a baking tray with mini loaf cases (muffin trays will work just as well if you don't have any).

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Sift in the flour and mixed spice and gently beat to combine the mixture. Add the orange zest and juice, black treacle and beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the soaked fruit and almonds until evenly incorporated through the mixture.

Spoon the batter between the cake cases, filling to the top of each.

Place on the bottom rack of your oven and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Store in an airtight tin until needed. To decorate, dust with icing sugar and dried cranberries. 

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Review: The Great British Butcher Giftset

Now that Christmas is well on the way, it's time to start thinking about Christmas gifts. Being quite organised, I usually write a list of ideas for my loved ones quite early on...including a little letter for Father Christmas myself. However, this year I seem to be having an unorganised streak. I have no clue what to get for anyone and where to start.

I suppose starting with food is always a good idea!

This all natural rubs and crumbs giftset from The Great British Butcher is a great set for all food lovers. Each of the 4 rubs and crumbs in the set can be used in a whole range of different meals, whether for creating new recipes and ideas or just to use on your weekly favourites to add a different taste.

The flavours within the set include: Bloody Mary Rub, British BBQ Rub, Crunchy Curry Crumb and Lemon & Mustard Crumb.

Within the box you get a recipe card for each of the 4 flavours to get you started. There's also a whole load more recipes on their Facebook page including Bloody Mary mayo, Lemon & Mustard salmon supreme and BBQ potato wedges.

I decided to give the Lemon & Mustard crumb a whirl today and use it for the coating of a homemade chicken kiev.

The shaker tins not only look great but are really easy to use with one side for pouring and one side for shaking.

Homemade chicken kievs
(Serves 2)

50g butter, room temperature
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 lemon
2 chicken breasts
2 tbsp flour, seasoned
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp Lemon & Mustard Crumb
4 tbsp breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
Vegetable oil to deep fry

To start, mash together the butter, garlic, parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Wrap and roll in clingfilm to form a tight sausage shape. Chill in the fridge whilst you prepare the chicken.

To butterfly the chicken, use a long sharp knife and slice along the long side of the breast using a sawing motion; be careful not to cut all the way through. Open up the breast and flatten between two pieces of cling film. Give it a good bash all over with a rolling pin until about 0.5cm thick all over.

Chop the sausage of butter into two halves. With the first, place onto one side of the chicken and roll the meat around it, tucking in the ends as you go. Wrap in clingfilm and roll the edges like a cracker to tighten the kiev shape. Continue with the second breast and freeze both for 2 hours.

Into 3 bowls, place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs. Roll the frozen kievs in all three one at a time, followed by a second coat of eggs and crumbs in order to get a nice coating. Place on a plate and leave in the fridge for 1 hour to defrost.

Heat the oven to 150 degrees. Fill a saucepan with enough oil to cover a kiev and gently heat to 160 degrees (or until a crumb of bread turns golden in 15 seconds when dropped in). Gently lower a kiev and cook for 8 1/2 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to keep warm in the oven whilst you fry the second one.

Once both are cooked, served with steamed vegetables and some new potatoes.

I know a few people in my family who would love to receive this set. I keen myself to create lots of new recipes with the other flavours. Or even just to top a fillet of fish as a quick weekday meal.

You can find the all natural rubs and crumbs giftset on Not on the Highstreet here, which comes with 4 rubs and crumbs, a teatowel and recipe cards.

I'm now off to eat my kiev. One of those food blogger moments when you photograph and blog before eating!

The lovely Danielle at The Flava People sent me the giftset to review, however all views and opinions are my own. This is exactly something I would buy for myself.

Recipe: Chilli Jam

It's been almost a year since I've lived in my own place. At the start I had great intentions to fill my window sills with happy herbs and flowers. But within the first fortnight I'd managed to kill off most of my plants, even those that didn't need much care. After an emergency visit to Mum's Plant Hospital for some much needed TLC they soon started to thrive.

Almost a year on, I've got to the stage of being able to keep things alive, just. After purchasing a chilli plant I've struggled to keep up with the amount it produces. There's only so much chilli a girl can have!

This recipe is easier than others I've tried and only needs 4 ingredients. It's a good way to keep up with my windowsill crops. Not to mention the boys in my family, they love this chilli jam!

Chilli jam
(Makes around 4 large jars)

150g fresh chillies, cut into 4
150g fresh red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into chunks
1kg jam sugar
600ml cider vinegar

To sterilize your jars, wash them well in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place them on a baking sheet and leave in the oven on 140 degrees to dry.

Put the chopped chillies and peppers into a food processor and blitz. You may want to deseed the chillies depending on your heat preference or even so the jam looks smooth.

In a large wide pan, heat the sugar and vinegar on a low temperature until the sugar has melted, without stirring.

Scrape the chilli mix out of the processor and into the pan. Stir and bring to the boil. Leave boiling away at a high temperature for a further 10 minutes.

By now, the jam will be syrupy. Leave to cool for around 40 minutes. By this point the jam will have started to thicken.

Ladle into the prepared jam jars, seal tightly and leave to cool fully.

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