Leftover Pastry Biscuits

This is a very simple, easy way to use leftover pastry after making a pie.

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I found a slab of pastry in my freezer that I’d made a while ago in a burst of pastry inspiration and sort of forgotten about. But then, last night I had people coming over for dinner and had completely forgotten about dessert! I know, I know, cookies really aren’t dessert material, but I was in a pinch!

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If you already have pastry made, this really is simple- cut, bake and ice.

If you don’t, don’t panic! Pastry is really easy (and fun- probably my favourite!) to make! Also, deceptively, pastry is the same as a very basic biscuit dough- butter, flour and sugar. What more do you need?

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Leftover Pastry Biscuits

For the biscuit dough:

60g butter

125g plain flour

50g caster sugar

1-2 tablespoons cold water, if needed

Rub the butter into the flour either with your fingers or in a food processor until the mixture resembles yellow breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar. Then, begin to work into in a ball. If needed, added a small splash of the cold water, but not too much that the mixture becomes too wet and sloppy. Once it has formed a ball, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for at least 20 minutes.

After it has rested, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. I often find that the easiest way to do this is between two sheets of cling film. This prevents it sticking to the surface, and it also means that you don’t have to keep adding flour to it, which can make the dough too tough and not crumbly when it is baked.

Cut out circles of dough using either a pastry cutter or, if you don’t have one, a normal sized drinking glass. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes at 180 degrees or until they are starting to turn golden brown.

While they cool, make the icing.

For the decoration:

juice of half a lemon

about 6 tablespoons of icing sugar

Mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar until you have a thick, opaque icing. You want it runny enough that it is easy to spread but not too watery that it just runs off the biscuit. Add the icing sugar slowly and keep mixing well. If you need to add more to get it to the perfect consistency, definitely do so.

Once it is runny and white and your biscuits are cool, spread the icing over half the biscuit and allow to set slightly. Decorate with whatever you fancy! I used some rose flavoured sugar and dried flower petals.

Enjoy!

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xxR

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Grilled Aubergine, Mozzarella and Parsley Pesto Salad

In Marrakech, we were staying just off the main square, Place Jamaa el-Fna. At night, the whole square comes alive with hundreds of food vendors, shouting over each other, competing for customers, snake charmers and musicians. It seems that the whole city, locals and tourists alike, assemble in the square.

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The whole thing is very chaotic, it has to be said. It is impossible to walk past a food stall without the proprietor yelling at you to stop and look at his menu- and once you’ve been handed the menu, there is no way they will let you walk away. Not the sort of place you can have a leisurely mooch to decide on dinner!

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We decided to venture into the square for dinner on our second night there. Amidst the chaos, there is some seriously delicious food to be had. Because of this, we ate at the same stall again the next night!

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Everything is cooked on an open grill right in the square. It comes pretty much as soon as you order: the fastest of fast food!

When you sit down, you are given a little roll of light bread and a selection of spicy sauces including harissa. We ordered olives, vegetable tagines, couscous as well as a whole selection of grilled vegetables. Our absolute favourite was the grilled aubergine. It was practically chargrilled, cooked over the open fire. And it was delicious!

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This is my take on the aubergine. Unfortunately, it was not cooked on an open flame (my tiny flat would not accommodate that!) but it is chargrilled. And then served with parsley pesto and mozzarella- a perfect combination! This is also a really quick, really easy way to bring a little Moroccan flavour into your summer suppers!

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Grilled Aubergine with Parsley Pesto and Mozzarella

2 large aubergines

1 ball of fresh mozzarella

for the pesto:

a large handful of parsley

2 cloves of garlic

about 2 tablespoons of olive oil

handful of almonds

pinch of salt and pepper

Thinly slice the aubergines into strips. Heat up a small splash of olive oil in a griddle pan and place over a medium heat. Grill each aubergine slice for a few minutes on each side, or until it is dark and chargrilled and the inside is soft.

Once all the aubergines are cooked, place them on a plate and allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, make the pesto. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or a pestle and mortar and whizz or bash until they are combined and form a runny paste. Taste it occasionally and see if it needs more salt or pepper or garlic. When you are happy with the taste and the consistency, you are ready to assemble.

Spread the aubergine out on a serving plate (this one came from Marrakech- my new favourite!) Roughly rip the mozzarella ball into strips and dot around the aubergine. Then, drizzle the pesto on top.

Serve cool as a delicious side, or just eat the whole plate yourself and call it dinner!

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xxR

Henna Cupcakes

I have just come back from a trip to Marrakech.

place des epices in marrkech

place des epices in marrkech

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It is an amazing city, the perfect combination of bustling, crazy, extremely fast paced souks and serene, beautiful, ancient palaces. We were staying right in the centre of the Medina, very very close to Jamaa el-Fna, the main square, which made for an eye-opening, though not entirely relaxing visit. We were woken up in the early hours of every morning by a very vocal donkey braying and a chorus of roosters.

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As soon as we stepped out of the front door, we were in the midst of the souk, trying to avoid being run over by the mopeds that zoom through the tiny streets, yelling at pedestrians to jump out of their way and donkeys pulling over-loaded carts. Everywhere people shout at you, trying to attract you to look and and buy their wares.

the centre of the souk

the centre of the souk

haggling for lamps

haggling for lamps

It is impossible not to buy anything. We came home with rugs, lamps, jewellery and stacks of bowls and plates, all beautifully hand painted- I was in heaven, being an absolute crockery lover.

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It is not just the thousands of plates hanging in the souks that are a thing of beauty. Every building you go into, from the riad we were staying in, to the palaces that date from the sixteenth century, is adorned with the most ornate decoration. Marrakech is famous for its tiles, and rightly so.

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However, the palaces were also decorated with amazing relief carving, of both wood and stone, creating complex archways and eye catching details, even in the great heights of the vaulted ceilings. It is impossible not to be stunned by the beauty of these places, but also the craftsmanship that went into their creation.

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These cupcakes are my little homage to Marrakech, playing on the shapes and designs of the city, and of course, henna, which is not only something I love but also something that is very quintessentially Marrakechian.

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They are full of the flavours of the Marrakech, mainly cinnamon, which is used in both sweet and savoury Moroccan dishes.

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There is also something very similar about icing a cupcake and applying henna…

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‘Henna Cupcakes’- Chocolate Spiced Cupcakes with Cinnamon Icing

for the cupcakes:

150g chocolate

80g butter

240g plain flour

240g brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

240ml milk

2 eggs

Begin by melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once it has melted, take it off the heat. It has to be completely cool before you can use it.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until they resemble sand. Then add the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

In a jug, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add about 2/3 of this mixture to the flour mixture and beat to combine. When it is well mixed, add the rest.

When the chocolate is really cool, stir it in.

Spoon the batter into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to the touch with a slight spring.

for the icing:

400g icing sugar

200g butter

splash of milk, if needed

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Beat the icing sugar and butter together really well until it is completely combined. Add a splash of milk if needed to make it a silky, icing consistency. But you don’t want it too runny if you are going to pipe it, so go easy on the milk!

Put about 1/4 of the icing into a separate bowl and add the cinnamon. You want it to be a nice brown colour. Mine wasn’t really brown enough to stand out well, so if you think it needs to be a darker colour, add more. Be careful though- you don’t want the cinnamon to be way too strong! Keep tasting as you add it. You can always add a splash of brown food colouring if the cinnamon just isn’t dark enough.

Put the icing into a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe your favourite henna patterns!

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xxR

Olive Breadsticks

I live by myself in a tiny one bedroom flat. I absolutely adore it. I loved living with my friends, of course, and we had so so much fun together. But it is also nice to come home and know that I can do whatever I want, I can make as much mess in the kitchen as I please and no one can complain about it.

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Yes, I love living alone.

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But the one time of the week when I start to feel loneliness creeping in is Sunday evening. When I’ve been hanging around the flat all day by myself, the hours of solitude can start to take their toll.

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The best cure for the Sunday evening by yourself blues, I’ve found, is baking bread. Bread is sort of like a very needy friend. You have to tend to it, love it, massage it occasionally, leave it alone for an hour or two, go back and check up on it… It’s time consuming and the perfect distraction from an empty, albeit tiny, flat.

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These breadsticks are a perfect Sunday evening project. And they are delish. They are sort of like soft, mini baguettes crammed full of olives. What’s not to love?

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Olive Breadsticks

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500g strong white bread flour

10g salt

10g fast action yeast

400ml warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g olives of your choice

Put the flour in a large bowl or a mixer. Put the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other. Add about three quarters of the water and mix until the dough starts to come together. As it comes together, add the rest of the water.

Knead for at least 10 minutes. It should be wet and stretchy. Mix in the olive oil, and then add the olives. Keep mixing until they are evenly distributed.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise for at least an hour or until tripled in size. It should be full of air holes.

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Once it has risen, tip the dough out onto a floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with more flour, and gently stretch into a rectangle.  Handle it gently, you don’t want to knock all the air out. Starting at one side, cut the dough into long strips and place on a lined baking tray. Once all the sticks are cut, bake at 220 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and crisp.

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They are best eaten warm and dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Enjoy!

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xxR

Raspberry Cupcakes with Mint Icing

These cupcakes really divided the crowd. I loved them- mint is up there in my favourite herbs; I will happily eat a whole bunch raw. I think it’s delicious in salads and sweets.

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To me, mint is summery and light, which, let’s face it, is exactly what you want your cupcakes to be. A friend of mine, who I test a lot of my bakes on these days, said she was worried about them being toothpastey, but no, she liked them too. Or, at least, she said she did. Maybe she’s just nice.

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My parents, on the other hand, were less than complimentary. They said herbs are not meant in cupcakes. They couldn’t get to grips with my maverick flavour combinations. But I think mint works perfectly in sweet things, especially with raspberries! Hello- match made in heaven!

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If you are feeling adventurous, I urge you to give these a go. Just think Pimm’s.

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Raspberry Cupcakes with Mint Icing

For the cupcakes:

200g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 punnet raspberries

Begin by beating together the butter and sugar until pale, then add the eggs and mix well. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Finally, mix in the vanilla.

Cut the raspberries in half or quarters, and then gently mix them in. Be careful not to just squish them!

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees celcius for 20-30 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

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For the icing:

250g icing sugar

125g butter

handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

Beat the icing sugar and butter together until pale. It is best to do this with a whisk if you want really white, light icing. Add the mint and stir well.

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When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the icing over the top and decorate with a raspberry and a mint leaf.

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Verdict?

xxR