Tag Archives: peanut

Brixton Macaron Bake and a temperamental oven

I’ve just come back from a great staycation down in Brixton in South London. My friend K and her baby were on their own for the night, so I went down there, we made macarons, and saw some of the local food highlights. To top off the evening, some guests were coming to dinner, and we decided that they would be tasting the results and giving us their verdict.

K had been determined to at least have a go at making macarons during her maternity leave. In the interests of science, we tried two versions: simple (whisk egg whites, add to icing sugar and ground almonds) while the other was rather more laborious (involving preparing meringue with cooked sugar syrup). We also prepared a range of fillings.

Macarons are a combination of cooking, art and chemistry. You need to have an appreciation of the magic that is at work, everything needs to be measured exactly, and you need to have an oven that works. “Oh, did I mention that there is a problem with the oven?“. Eh, no, you didn’t. “Well, the dials are off, so it’s difficult to know the exact temperature of the oven, or even whether it is the oven or the grill that is on“. It looked like this was to be more of a sporting option than I had first anticipated…

We started with chocolate maracons using the easy method. This all went smoothly. I would have preferred to blitz the almonds in a coffee grinder to get them perfectly powdery as they were a little coarse, but this wasn’t a major issue. I piped out a trayfull, then my co-chef for the day had a go. It turned out it was her first time piping macarons, but after a couple of tries, she got the method down to a tee. The texture was good too – the tops smoothed out perfectly. We left them to dry for 20 minutes, baked them, and they came out of the oven looking perfect. Only one of them saw fit to erupt volcano-style. Nice chewy texture too. Result!

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Filed under Guest chef, Recipe, Sweet Things

Chicory and Peanut Salad with Chilli-Lime Dressing

I’ve noticed I’ve got a bit of a habit of favouring complex or time-consuming recipes. To make up for this, here is a quick and easy salad with an Asian twist to it.

I made this a few days ago to accompany a chickpea and squash curry. I liked the idea of the crisp, fresh vegetables with a sharp citrus and chilli dressing to contrast with the rich, spicy curry, and the two dishes worked together really well. The salad was huge, but it all went between three people. I think the “lightness” of the salad meant it was easy to keep picking at it once we had finished the main course, although I must confess that the raw veggies also were also perfect for dipping into the remaining satay sauce…

For the salad:

• 2 heads of chicory
• 1 large carrot
• 1/2 cucumber
• 3 spring onions
• 75g peanuts
• handful coriander
• 5-6 mint leaves, finely chopped

Place the peanuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven at 180°C until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and chop roughly.

Cut the chicory in half, then slice each of the halves into very fine strips lengthways.  Peel the carrot, and slice into fine strips lengthways with a vegetable peeler. Cut the cucumber into quarters, and remove the seeds. Cut into thin batons. Top and tail the spring onions, and cut – you’ve guess it – lengthways into thin strips.

Place the sliced vegetables in a bowl and toss gently. Sprinkle over the peanuts, coriander and mint. Just before serving, pour on the dressing.

For the dressing:

• 1 red chilli
• 1 unwaxed lime (rind and juice only)
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Remove the seeds and veins from the chilli, and chop finely. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Allow to sit until you are ready to serve the salad, and whisk again just before using.

Worth making? Yes. There is a nice mixture of textures and flavours here, with the bonus that there is very little salt in this recipe (apart from the soy sauce). Nothing here is particularly unusual, which made the end result all the more impressive, and I am sure that the basic recipe would lend itself to easy adaptation (cos lettuce in place of chicory, adding beansprouts or pea shoots…so many options!).

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury