Christmas Mille Feuille

I love Christmas, especially the buildup. London is amazing at this time of year, with lights decorating every high street, and people rushing around, hot chocolate in hand. I get really into the whole thing, and start feeling festive as soon as the calendar reads ‘December.’

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However, come December 26, I am usually over the whole thing. I want no more mention of Christmas, no more festive songs and certainly no more food! I am ready to move on with my life.

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This year, it’s been a bit different. While I was still a student, I would done with uni and home from Christmas no later than mid-December. I would then still have two weeks before Christmas to be at home and start getting properly festive. But now, I have a job, and that meant staying in London, and in the office, until the 22nd. I got home with three days to spare- and to do all the at-home-Christmas things that I consider compulsory. It has also meant that I have been extremely busy, and therefore baking, and unfortunately posting, have somewhat fallen by the wayside.

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So, the few days after Christmas haven’t felt quite the same for me. The celebration has sort of carried on, and I am still feeling quite Christmassy. It is in this spirit of elongating the festivities, that I share this recipe for Christmas mille feuille with you. Deliciously light puff pastry, sandwiched with ‘chai spiced’ whipped cream and pomegranate seeds make it taste just like Christmas. I have to admit, I baked these about a week before Christmas for some friends, but they would still be delicious eaten during this week of post Christmas revelling.

Christmas Mille Feuille

for the pastry:

25og plain flour

pinch of salt

225g cold butter

For the filling:

25oml double cream

5og icing sugar, plus extra to decorate

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

seeds of half a pomegranate

Put the flour and salt in a food processor. Turn it on and steadily pour in 15oml cold water. As soon as the dough comes together, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest.

Lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough into a rectangle. Place your butter between two pieces of greaseproof paper, and, using a rolling pin, bash your into a flat rectangle, that is about two thirds of the size of the rolled out dough. Place the flat slab of butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. Fold the top third of dough down over the butter, then fold the bottom third up. You should now have layers of dough, butter, dough, butter, dough. Pinch the edges of the dough down, to make sure the butter is completely encased.

Roll out to a rectangle and repeat the rolling and folding process. Then, wrap the pastry in cling film and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 2o minutes. This rolling and folding process must then be repeated at least 3 more times, with a 2o minute resting period between each fold.

Preheat the oven to 18o degrees celcius. Once your pastry is suitably rolled and folded, roll it out to a large rectangle. The pastry should be less than 1/4 of an inch thick- it will puff up in the oven! Cut out smaller rectangles of pastry, about 3 inches long and 2 wide, and place them on a greased and lined baking tray.

Bake for about 2o-25 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up, feels crisp and looks golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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Meanwhile, whisk the double cream until it is firm. Mix in the icing sugar and spices- do this to taste!

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When the pastry is cool, spread whipped cream over half of the pieces, then sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the cream. Sandwich the other pieces on top, and finish with a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon.

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Happy (belated) Christmas!

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xxR

Gluten Free Oat Bars with Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

I spent an embarrassingly large proportion of my university life in Pret. I’m reluctant to admit that I’m actually in Pret now, savouring a mug of green tea and stealing wifi on my lunch break.

During the hours I spent, perched on a Pret bench, revising, pretending to revise and/ or avoiding revision, I developed a real affinity for the so-called ‘Love Bar,’ a gooey flapjack-like bar, flavoured with pumpkin and vanilla, topped with a soft caramel sauce, dark chocolate chunks and pistachios. There is something ridiculously addictive about that combination, or perhaps I what I became addicted to was simply not being in the library…

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Either way, it is absolutely fair to say that I ate more than my fair share of Love Bars during my four years at the Courtauld, spending way too much money and probably eating way too much sugar. The money I can feel somewhat better about, as Pret donate a percentage from each sale of a Love Bar to homeless charities.

I eventually decided that enough was enough- I could no longer justify the £1.50 (it is impossible to eat a Love Bar without a cup of free tea, so the total spenditure of any of my Pret visits was a minimum of £3.10- not much, but trust me it all adds up!)

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I have since created my own version of the Love Bar- but one that is entirely gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Instead of pumpkin, I used sweet potato to flavour the oats, as well as give them a gooey texture. The caramel is made of coconut oil and honey, and the bars are topped with dark chocolate chunks and pistachios. I devoured the entire batch in under three days….

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Oat Bars with Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

For the bars:

1 large sweet potato

100g coconut oil

3 large tablespoons honey

250g gluten free oats

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Pierce your sweet potato and roast for about 45 minutes, or until it is very soft. It has to be soft enough to mash easily, so don’t worry about leaving it in for a bit longer than you normally would!

Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil and honey together in a saucepan. When the sweet potato is done, take it out of the oven and mash it – well! You want it to be as smooth as possible. Stir the oats and mashed sweet potato into the coconut oil and honey mixture and stir well, making sure everything is completely combined.

Grease a large pie dish and spoon the mixture in, flattening it down. Bake it for 25 minutes, or until it starts be golden around the edges.

For the topping:

3 tablespoons coconut oil

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5og dark chocolate, roughly chopped

5og pistachios, roughly chopped

Mix the coconut oil and honey together until you have a thick paste. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. When the oats are completely cool, pour the mixture over the top. Sprinkle the chocolate and pistachios on. When the topping has hardened slightly, cut them into squares.

Wash down with a lot of green tea (optional) and donate some money to a homeless charity (recommended).

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xxR

Avocado Chocolate Cookies (gluten-free, diary free and refined sugar free)

Okay I know this sounds gross. But hear me out.

Avocado is oily with a soft mushy texture, a bit like butter, right? But bursting with nutrients and healthy fats, and without the saturated fat that makes butter so bad for you. In fact, avocados can actually help lower cholesterol, and the fat they contain helps you absorb nutrients from plant foods. Basically, they have earned the title of ‘superfood’ with a pretty high level of certainty.

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So why put them in cookies?! Aren’t cookies all about being indulgently unhealthy? Isn’t that the point?! Avocados, when really ripe and mushed, are the perfect butter substitute, in that they are oily enough to hold other ingredients together, and have a mild taste that is easily masked.

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These avocado cookies are actually, believe it or not, also delicious. Seriously. I’m pretty bad at making cookies, but these are amazing. Definitely the best I’ve ever baked. They are super gooey and squigdy, and deliciously chocolatey but also surprisingly healthy.

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They are not only vegan, but gluten free and refined sugar free. Divinely delicious and heavenly healthy. They have, as the cliche goes, all of the taste with none of the guilt. Perfect!

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Avocado Chocolate Cookies

1 large avocado

1 large egg

1 tsp baking soda

15og runny honey

5og cocoa powder

pinch of salt

5og rice flour (or your favourite gluten-free flour)

1oog dairy free chocolate (most dark chocolate is dairy free, but make sure you check!)

Preheat your oven to 18o degrees, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Scoop out the flesh of your avocado into a large bowl and mash it well until it is a smooth consistency. Once it is completely smooth (lumps of avocado will not be good in a cookie- trust me!) beat in egg, then stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the lumps of chocolate.

Then, spoon out dollops of mixture onto the baking tray. These cookies don’t spread as much as normal cookies (I left them quite chunky expecting them to spread and they didn’t!) If you want them chunky and fudgy, leave them piled up quite high, or, if you’d prefer a a thinner cookie, spread the batter out more.

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Bake them for 12-15 minutes, or until the top feels slightly crispy. The inside will still be gooey- so don’t worry!

Devour them fresh out of the oven while they are still warm!

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xxR

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

Teabag Biscuits

This is the third in my series of hot drink inspired and flavoured baked goods. (I have also recently made tea infused cupcakes with honey icing and hot lemon and honey mini cakes). This series, let me just add, was entirely unplanned and unintentional.

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I made these a few weeks ago as part of Fairtrade Fortnight with fairtrade tea and fairtrade chocolate, but they are an absolute hit and I simply had to share them. For a start, they are adorable. But they are also delicious. It is way way too easy to eat about six in a row, washed down with a big mug of tea, of course.

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While we’re here- just a tiny bit about fairtrade. It’s so so so important and also much easier to support than you would think. Did you know that all Sainsbury’s tea and coffee is fairtrade? I did not until about two weeks ago. Tesco, Waitrose and M&S also all sell fairtrade coffee and tea. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose’s bananas are fairtrade. So is all Cadbury chocolate. It’s almost definitely easier and cheaper than you think!

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Anyway, these biscuits are easy and quick to make- perfect for a Saturday afternoon cup of tea!

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Tea Flavoured Teabag Biscuits

225g butter

100g sugar

250g plain flour

2 tablespoons tea leaves- about two teabags worth

1/2 teaspoon salt

Begin by beating the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and tea, then add to the butter and mix well to ensure everything is combined. Roll the dough into two balls and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Don’t leave it in the fridge too long or it will be impossible to roll out!

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough. Then, cut it out. In the unlikely event that you have a teabag shaped cookie cutter, definitely use that! If not (like me) use a teabag as a template and cut around it with a knife. This is a bit more time consuming but it does the trick. While you are doing this, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Place the biscuits on a lined baking tray and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until slightly golden brown and crisp.

For the chocolate decoration:

100g chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. When the biscuits are completely cool, spread a little chocolate over the lower half of each one and leave to set.

Dunk in a cup of tea and devour!

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xxR

 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

My littlest sister is a fairly recent vegan convert. She’s actually doing impressively well, but it is driving my parents a bit up the wall.

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Last weekend the three of them came to visit me in London, and we headed to Cookies and Scream in the Camden Town Stables for some vegan cookies and ice cream. Having not eaten a bite of cookie or a mouthful of ice cream for the last three months, she was in absolute vegan heaven. In fact, we all agreed that they made some pretty fine goodies, vegan or otherwise. The brownies were the perfect amount of gooeyness and their peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were to die for.

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I would highly highly recommend a trip if you are in the area and are vegan, or even if you are in the area and are not vegan but love really well made, very tasty baked goods. I promise you won’t miss the dairy!

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Back in the kitchen I attempted my own vegan cookies. I have to admit, these were not as good. But it was one of my first forays into vegan baking, so I think they were acceptable. The peanut butter makes them really soft and gooey, with a subtle nutty flavour. They are best eaten warm- straight from the oven!

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Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

60g vegan butter

40g peanut butter

200g brown sugar

125ml almond milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

250g flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup choc chips- vegan (about 175g) (I used a bar of dark chocolate broken up into chunks- that worlds perfectly too)

pinch of sea salt

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Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugar, then add the almond milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, then add to the wet ingredients.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Spoon into small dollops on a baking tray. They spread a little bit, so give them some space. Sprinkle with sea salt (salt and chocolate- best combination) before popping them in the oven.

Bake at 180 degrees for 7-10 minutes.

Devour with a big mug of tea.

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xxR

Lemon and Tahini Biscuits

There is nothing better than opening a new cookbook, and nestling down with it to explore the recipes and pictures hidden in its pages. Whenever I’m asked what I would like as a gift, for Christmas or my birthday, a cookbook is always on my list.

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These biscuits came from Crumb by Ruby Tandoh, which I received for Christmas this year, which is a really good cookbook. It perfectly balances photos and text, so you can either flick through it, only looking at the pictures, or delve more deeply, reading her explanations and little passages describing the different sections.

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It’s also just beautiful, which is, of course, a necessity for the perfect cookbook- has to look good on your kitchen shelves!

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These biscuits are delightfully simple- they take about 10 minutes to whip up and have no ingredients that you won’t already have in your cupboard. They are delightfully lemony, and not too sweet, with a nutty aftertaste. I added extra lemon flavour, in the form of juice, because I wanted to cut through the tahini, which is sometimes too rich, but if you want her pure recipe, only use the zest.

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Lemon and Tahini Biscuits (recipe adapted from Crumb by Ruby Tandoh)

120g butter

120g tahini

120g caster sugar

zest of 2 lemons

juice of 1/2 lemon

240g self raising flour

Cream together the butter, tahini and sugar. Then mix in the lemon zest and juice. Add the flour and stir.

Roll out little balls of dough, place on a greased and lined baking tray, and then flatten. You can use a fork to create lines or crosshatching if you want.

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius, or until golden brown.

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xxR

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Every year, one of the best things about the Christmas season, is baking these cookies. When we were little, my mum would help my sisters and I to roll out the dough, cut out the shapes, then pipe them with red and green icing. Of course, when it came to icing, we were far more interested in quantity than quality, so completely covered our cookies with as much icing as they would hold.

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Now, I am old enough to understand that more isn’t necessarily better, but making and icing these cookies is still just what I need to get me into the Christmas spirit.

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They are ridiculously simple to make, but it is quite a long process, from mixing to rolling to cutting to baking to icing to finally eating, so give yourself a whole day, put on some Christmas music, have some mulled wine and really get into it!

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Christmas Sugar Cookies

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

230g butter

100g caster sugar

3 tablespoons icing sugar

255g plain flour

Begin by beating the egg and vanilla together, then set to the side.

Then, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

Sift in the flour, then mix until just combined. Refrigerate the dough until it is firm, then you are ready to roll (literally).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use Christmassy cookie cutters, or a knife and a stencil if you don’t have any cutters, to cut out shapes.

Place the cookies on a greased baking tray and bake at 180 degrees for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them because you don’t want them to be overdone! You may need to turn the tray if some are browning faster than others. You will also probably need to bake them in several batches- unless you have a huge oven! Be patient, it takes a while but it’s very easy!

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For the icing:

450g icing sugar

2 egg whites

few drops of lemon juice

food colouring of your choice

Mix the sugar and egg white together until you are left with a glossy, perfectly white icing. Then add the lemon juice and food colouring.

Using piping bags, pipe beautiful designs onto your cookies. Leave them to set, which should only take about half an hour. Then- devour them and feel Christmassy.

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xxR

Lemonade Stand Chocolate Chip and Almond Cookies

I’ve been away for the last few weeks (did you miss me?) I was back in America, visiting friends where I grew up in Connecticut and where they live now, dotted across the states. I also spent some time with my family at our tiny little house on the Maine coast, a good contender for my favourite place in the world. The trip was lovely, and I’m still slightly in that post holiday daze, where I cant quite believe that I have to start back at university (and my master’s degree!) next week.

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I’m also in one of those post holiday dazes where all I can seem to talk about is my trip. So, sorry, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it quite a bit over the next few weeks, as I share some of the recipes and stories from my visit.

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I’m starting with a basic. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Here’s the story (I’ll be quick (Mum, that was aimed at you (I’m always nagged about my too long stories!))) While we were in Connecticut, my friend, whose house we stay at, had a tag sale. If you’re American you’ll know exactly what that is, and you’ll probably get as excited about the prospect of one as me. If you’re not American, you might be thinking what the heck. A tag sale is pretty straightforward: it’s basically a big sale in the garden of whoever is doing the selling. They are very common where I used to live, with lots happening every weekend of the summer.

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At this tag sale, we tried to rope in business by offering lemonade at 50 cents a cup. This was also a nod at our childhood, when we would hold lemonade stands selling lemonade and cookies to passersby. When we were little the stands seemed hugely successful- I mean, back then $10 was a lot of profit for a day of squeezing, baking and selling.

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These cookies are the ultimate in lemonade stand treats, mainly because they are so sweet that tart lemonade is essential to wash them down!

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Now, I need to make a confession. I’m bad at cookies. They never come out how I want them too- either over cooked or uneven or, worst of all, I am left with one big one. I never make cookies, so I think this is a good time to start.

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Chocolate Chip and Almond Cookies

250g butter

300g brown sugar

150g caster sugar

2 eggs

300g plain flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground almonds

400g chocolate chips

250g flaked almonds, plus extra for sprinkling

pinch of sea salt

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Cream together the butter and sugars. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, then mix in the ground almonds.

Pour the eggs and the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternatively. Then stir in the chocolate chips and almond flakes.

Scoop small balls of the dough on a greased and lined baking tray, then sprinkle with a small handful of almond flakes and tiny pinch of sea salt.

Put in the fridge for at least an hour and preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden brown.

Enjoy warm, with a big glass of lemonade! (Or milk!)

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xxR

Sunshine Lemon, White Chocolate and Parsley Biscuits

We are currently experiencing a bit of a heatwave. I’m no weather expert, but I’ve heard that currently we are soaring high above the average temperature for March. Apparently over the weekend, it was hotter in London than it was in Greece!

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Which is fantastic.

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We have been trying to spend as much time out in the sun as we can. (In England, you really have to make the most of it while its there- because you never know how long it will last for or when it might be back!)

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Unfortunately, in our skinny terraced house that is sandwiched in on all sides, we don’t have much of a garden. The tiny courtyard space in the back is barely big enough for a washing line- and sun there is scarce! So we have taken to sitting outside the front of our house, in the foot of space between our front door and the pavement. We set up camp there first thing in the morning, and refuse to move until the sun has finally disappeared. Also, its south facing- and for some reason, it’s never windy, so we have our own little sun trap.

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Also our absolutely adamant approach to being outside is definitely entertaining our neighbours!

These biscuits are the perfect outside in the sun treat. They are ridiculously easy to whip up, and taste just like sunshine.

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Lemon Biscuits with White Chocolate Icing and Crystallised Parsley

for the biscuits:

200g butter

100g sugar

300g plain flour

zest of 2 lemons

Mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gently mix in the flour until it is incorporated but be careful not to over mix. Add the lemon zest. Use your hands to bring the mixture into a ball of dough.

Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick, and using a pastry cutter (or a smallish drinking glass if you don’t have one (like me!)) cut out round biscuits. Put onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius and bake for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden.

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To decorate:

1 bar of white chocolate

a small handful of parsley leaves

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Once the biscuits are cool, spread some of the melted chocolate on top, then leave to harden slightly.

Crystallising things is really fun and very easy- you can do it will all sorts of leaves or edible flowers so feel free to experiment!

All you need is a beaten egg white and some caster sugar.

Using an artist’s paintbrush, brush each leaf with egg white. Then sprinkle generously with caster sugar. Leave in a dry place overnight to harden. They can be stored in an air tight jar and used to decorate, well, everything!

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xxR