Pavé style spiced truffles

When I began this blog, I often mentioned that I didn’t really like chocolate. I never really craved it or found myself blown away by any particular brand. It was just a food stuff that always sat in the ‘average’ catagory for me. Now, some years on, either my tastes have changed or I’ve ventured in to better quality chocolate. I’m not sure which it is, but I actually like it.

My favourite is the intense, high cocoa chocolate with a flavour (if you haven’t tried Lindt’s dark lime yet, you should) or better still, some spice. The spiced chocolate I’ve been loving lately comes from the John Lewis Cook Edition’s killer truffle recipe.

glossy ganache trufflesThese are french pavé style truffles; the beauty of these is that there’s no messy rolling or shaping to do. Just whip up a ganache, leave it to set, cut it up and dust with cocoa. If you’re short of last minute gifts or want something special for guests over Christmas, these fit the bill. The silky, shining ganache is incredibly rich with it’s 70% cocoa content and the added spices leave a warming feel, making them the perfect treat for winter days.

John Lewis have kindly let me share this recipe with my readers, but you can pick up a copy of the free magazine in store to get your hands on the rest. It’s all focussed on celebrating food moments and has plenty of ideas for last minute edible gifting. That said, I think these truffles would make a great mini project for the quiet days after Christmas and are simple enough for kids to get involved in.

There’s so much beauty under the cocoa dusting of these truffles that I almost didn’t want to finish making them. If I could have left them with their lustrous sheen, I would have.

pave truffles

To make 50 spiced truffles, you’ll need:

300g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
300ml double cream
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Cocoa powder for dusting
 

Line a 20cm square tin with cling film or baking paper and set aside.

To make the ganache. Chop the chocolate finely in to a medium sized bowl. Using a small saucepan on a low heat, combine the spices and cream by stirring with a whisk, until the cream reaches a simmer. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and leave for a couple of minutes.

Stir the chocolate and cream mixture together with the whisk until you reach a glossy, smooth consistency. Don’t worry if the mix starts look split, grainy or oily, it can easily be rescued. It may be as simple as to just whisk the mixture more to help the emulsification process. If that doesn’t work, try adding a tablespoon of warmed milk at a time and using an electric whisk.

Pour the silky ganache in to the tin and level out. Pave truffle recipeAlow to cool at room temperature for around an hour, then transfer to the fridge until firm. Cut the ganache in to truffles of around 2cm and lightly dust in cocoa powder, shaking off any excess.

ganache trufflesPave style trufflesThese gorgeous truffles are best eaten at room temperature but should be kept in the fridge where they’ll happily keep for two weeks. Just pop a few out on a plate an hour before serving.

If gifting, there are plenty of kits around to dress up your home made goodies at this time of year. I used the bags and gift tags from the Meri Meri Kit to package mine.

dusting truffles

If you make these beauties, come back and let me know how they turned out and tweet a photo using the hashtag #JLCook.

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Apple crisps and something way better than nutella

Every single year, there’s a guaranteed gift at the bottom of my Christmas stocking. A big shiny apple. It’s a tradition that comes from when my Mum was little and her great-aunt in Canada would send over a box of huge apples at Christmas. So to me, apples are very Christmassy, hence today’s recipe for apple crisps.

They’re a healthy treat alone and extra festive with a sprinkle of mixed spice, but I know how to make them absolutely awesome. Lindt’s Crema Nocciola. Think nutella, but more indulgent and way more luxurious. Dip an apple crisp in to some or drizzle it on with a spoon, it’s the perfect pairing.

apple crisps recipespiced apple crisps

To start making the crisps, take your apples and give them a good wash then twist the stalks off. These imperfect beauties are the first crop from the trees in my Parent’s garden. They are quite tart but I love how that comes through in the crisps, especially with the Crema Nocciola (or Lindtella as it’s become known in our house).

homegrown ApplesNow preheat your oven to 180 Celcius and start slicing.

You’ll need a mandoline to achieve thin slices that dry out evenly.  I used the Chef’s Slicer from OXO (£60) for this recipe but for a more affordable, less bulky option, their handheld mandoline (£15) would handle these apples with ease. It’s best to leave the apple core in as you slice and just brush away any pips before baking them. Less hassle and more apple.

apple slices mandolinLine a baking sheet with a silicone mat or greaseproof paper and lay the slices in a single layer. If you’d like to sprinkle any spices on them, do that now. Bake for around 25 minutes but keep an eye on them towards the end as all apples have different moisture content. The edges will start to curl up when they’re nearly done.

Take them out to cool on a rack, then it’s just a case of enjoying what you’ve made. I’d love to tell you that these will keep for a week, but unfortunately mine never have made it that far. They do tend to lose their crispness so they’re best eaten straight away with something naughty to drizzle/dip them with.

apple crisps and lindt chocolateI feel pretty strongly about bloggers being transparent with readers about gifted items or sponsored content. So here is the down low. Lindt sent me a package of samples to test out and the Crema Nocciola made my hit list. I chose to share it with you because I really believe it’s a great product, I haven’t been paid in any way to say that. Seriously, it’s just that good. Also, you may have noticed that I work with OXO products quite regularly and that’s a partnership I hope to keep. Their kitchen tools and gadgets are especially good if you struggle with grip or dexterity. Again, I’m never paid to include them or talk about them but I am given samples.

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The last minute Christmas gifts

This year, I’ve been finding it hard to buy for people. It’s a good problem to have in a way because it means my closest friends and family are content and have what they need or want. Then there is Matt… well he is just a naughty pre-Christmas shopper. All the stocking filler ideas I had for him arrived in an ASOS parcel this weekend. New belt, new beanie, the obligatory new Christmas socks. I needed to rethink his gifts.

For the lovely ladies in your life; Nans, Sisters, Mums, Aunties, Friends. If there’s nothing that they particularly want this year, I have two gift ideas to help you treat them on a budget. Chocolates and flowers. A cliché, they may be, but for a good reason.

christmas chocolates

I had the arduous task of putting Hotel Chocolat’s H-Box though a rigorous testing procedure. Rumour has it that this is Matt’s Mum’s favourite brand and I can see why. They use more cocoa and less sugar than most chocolate brands, resulting in more complex flavours and to me, much much much better chocolate. The cherry on top is that they’re an ethical and fair grower, something that is often overlooked in the cocoa bean industry.

The Christmas H-Box has fourteen chocolates with all the flavours you’d expect; nutmeg, champagne, mulled wine… The winner for me was the gingerbread truffle, topped with a sprinkle of gold leaf.

gingerbread truffle

This box is £12 which includes a personalised card inside. Order up until 6pm on the 19th December using the standard delivery option or if you’re in a squeeze order next day on the 23rd. You can also cheat entirely and have it beautifully gift wrapped.

Next, the Christmas flowers option which was gifted to me by Debenhams, in exchange for a 25% discount code for my readers. I chose to test the Festive Rose and Tulips (my favourite).

christmas flowers last minuteroses and tulips

They’ve lasted well but the tulips did something I’ve never seen before. They grew, considerably! I trimmed them and put them in a vase as soon as they arrived and two days later, the tulips had grown a good two inches. Does that normally happen or is it just a sign of how fresh they still are? A quick trim soon tidied them up and they were nestled amongst the roses again.

christmas flower discount code

This bunch works out around £23 with the discount code and comes with guaranteed named day delivery as standard. There are flowers at both ends of the scale; the Designer Gold Leaf is way more extravagant but the Festive Rouge sits at just £12.75 after discount. The order cut off for Christmas Eve flower delivery is 23rd December by 4pm. The code to grab you these bargains is: DFBLOG25

I hope this post helps you out if you’re looking for gifts still. As for Matt’s gifts, if you have any suggestions I’d love your help!

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A private house party, but you’re invited

epicloftparty

What if I told you that I was designing the drinks for a private house party in London? That would be pretty cool, right? Now let’s add to that Radio 1 DJ, Annie Mac, playing to an intimate crowd of around 70 people, in a luxury Shoreditch loft. Might I also add that the venue is being professionally styled by Zoe Brewer and catered for by pop up restaurant cook, Rosie Lewellyn. It’s going to be epic and it’s happening this Thursday, 11th December.

The event has been organised by Money Supermarket and they’re rather kindly giving away the chance to be on the exclusive guest list. Matt and I will be heading down to London for the night so it would be amazing to see some of you there. Entering is just a simple tweet, see this link for details.

Now, I could tell you the drinks I’ve chosen and the story behind each one, but I’d rather save it as a surprise. I’ll be tweeting my way through the event with the hashtag #MSMEpicHouseParty so you’ll get a sneak peek if you follow me on twitter. I’ll follow up after the event to tell you all about it and show you behind the scenes. I really hope I can see some of you there so good luck if you enter!

 *photo courtesy of rentadvisor.com. The venue is top secret so I can’t show you a photo yet, but you get the vibe.

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Four Christmas Party Nibbles

It’s the first day of December. I have no idea how that’s happened but the year is nearly up and Christmas shopping and planning is well underway. For me though, Christmas began in my inbox on the 2nd October, in the shape of a series of projects with awesome brands. The first of which I’m bringing you today.

I’ve been working with Funkin’ Cocktails to draw up a collection of party nibbles to see you through the festive season. The idea is that armed with these four recipes and a couple of Funkin’s fast cocktail mixers, you’ll be set to head in to the mania of Christmas as the best host/hostess/guest around.

So, without further ado, let’s look at the menu:

cocktails and canapes chrismas nibbles

Menu

Caprese puff pastry spirals

Prawn pico de gallo in baked tortilla cups

Baked mozzarella pearls with a marinara dip

Coconut chicken goujons with a mango and chilli sauce

My ideal party is a hands off party, where you can enjoy your guests and not spend all night worried about what’s going in the oven, when. The recipes are simple and can be prepared in stages to give you time to get ready and in the party mood. Using them as your base and then adding some bought in nibbles like olives, continental meats and cheeses will create an awesome spread.

To take the pressure off even more, set up a ‘serve yourself’ bar with pitchers of cocktails made using the Funkin mixers. Just add ice, spirit and the mixer of your choice. You can then sit matching cocktails alongside well paired foods, for instance the Bellini goes perfectly with the Caprese Spirals.

Clicking the links above will take you straight to the recipe, half of which you’ll find in this blog. Head over to Funkin’s Party Hub for the coconut chicken goujons and, Matt’s favourite, the prawn pico de gallo.

Caprese Spirals

puff pastry tarts

You’ll need:

(makes approximately 15 spirals)

320g Prerolled puff pastry
3 Tbsp Sundried tomato puree
1 Handful of basil leaves
130g Mozzarella (drained weight)
 

Spread the tomato puree evenly over the sheet of puff pastry. Tear the mozzarella in to thin strips and lay on top then scatter over the basil leaves. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Starting at one end, roll the whole thing tightly in to a log shape. At this point you can wrap it in cling film and leave in the fridge for up to three days.

When ready to bake them, reheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with a non stick sheet or greaseproof paper- I love silicone mats for jobs like this. Slice the roll in to 1cm thick discs and spread out on the tray. Bake for 15 minutes.

 
caprese puff pastry spirals
 

Baked Mozzarella Pearls with Marinara Dip

 mozzerella bitesmozzerella baked pearls

You’ll need:

130g Mozzarella (drained weight)
2 Tbsp Flour
1 Egg, whisked
5 Tbsp Panko
Marinara Sauce
 

If you can get hold of mozzarella pearls for this recipe that’s perfect, but if not, it works just as well to take a normal mozzarella ball and to cut it in to 1cm cubes.

Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees Celsius. Set up three bowls, one with the flour, one egg and one panko. Heavily season the flour with salt and pepper.

Roll the mozzarella cubes/pearls in the flour, then egg then panko. Repeating the egg and panko steps to achieve a good covering. Spread on a non stick baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes of until golden. Serve with some marinara sauce for dipping.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I enjoyed making them. Don’t forget to check out the Funkin shop to stock up before your Christmas parties. If you sign up to their mailing list using the bar at the top of their website, you’ll get 20% off your first order.

funkin mixers

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