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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