Friday, 30 August 2013

Vegan Food Swap {August 2013}

This was my second month participating in the vegan food swap. This month, I was sending a box to Sammy in Anglesey, and I received my package from Mitsu. (Yes, the very same Mitsu who I sent a parcel to last month. Sometimes random draws are very random!)

I'm really enjoying these boxes, which are introducing me to a range of products I hadn't realised were vegan - or which are just completely new to me.

Vegan Swap Box August

Case in point: Mitsu sent me some soy sauce pearls. These little gelatinous spheres of soy sauce burst on the tongue to give a strong and sudden flavour. I've seen them in the shops, occasionally, but always just assumed they would be set with gelatine, so not only was I delighted to discover that they're vegan, but I now have a pot in my pantry. You can expect to see some recipes featuring these very soon, I'm sure.

Soy sauce flavour pearls

Another intriguing product was the black salt. The first thing I noticed about black salt is that... well, there's no other way to say this: it's pink. Definitely, very pink, in the manner of not being black at all. It also has an unusual taste to it, very different to regular salt, so I'm looking forwards to some experiments cooking with it.

Vegan swap box August

Mitsu also sent me a bag of peanut crunch, some savoury 'Go Fish' crackers, a pack of Nutty Chews, a Happy Kitchen brownie, a packet of Tingz sweets, and a bar of chocolate. All of which were new brands to me. I particularly loved the Nutty Chews - something I think I might have to learn to make for myself!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tunnel of Eupalinos, Samos


The tunnel of Eupalinos, on Samos, was built as an aqueduct to supply water the ancient capital city - going through the mountain in the hope that this would protect it from attack in times of war. It was dug from both ends simultaneously, and successfully managed to meet in the middle - quite a feat without any modern measuring equipment.

Now it's open to the public, though you do have to watch your head!




Monday, 26 August 2013

Raspberry Mocha Mousse Pots

Raspberry Mocha Mousse

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends told me about a little piece of kitchen magic. I can't quite remember how it came up in conversation, but she mentioned the possibility of making chocolate mousse from just water and chocolate. Devised by chemist Hervé This, the principle is simple: double cream whips up nicely, so why wouldn't it work to whip another emulsion with the same proportion of fat to liquid? This is edible chemistry, indeed.

I first tried out the mousse exactly as described, with just two ingredients: dark chocolate, and water. It's a strange experience, because even after you've watched someone else doing it on YouTube it really doesn't feel like it's going to work. And it continues to feel as if nothing is happening right up to the last minute, when suddenly, it thickens.

Raspberry Mocha Mousse

For this recipe, I replaced the water with strong coffee. I honestly wasn't sure whether this would work, or if I'd be throwing the whole lot away and starting again. When you're messing around with a method straight out of the bible of molecular gastronomy, you might think that it matters which molecules you're dealing with, but it was fine. I'm not sure the coffee added a lot to the taste, though.

I also added a layer of crunchy biscuit crumbs, and a layer of pureed raspberries, for a bit of variety.

Heston Blumenthal makes chocolate mousse

Raspberry Mocha Mousse

Raspberry Mocha Mousse
Serves 4

4 digestive biscuits (or graham crackers)
100g raspberries
130g / 4½oz dark chocolate
130ml strong black coffee
  1. Grind the biscuits and divide between four ramekins. Push into the base of the pot.
  2. Puree the raspberries and spread over the bases to form a second layer.
  3. Melt the chocolate in the coffee, over a low heat.
  4. To make the mousse, stack two large mixing bowls with ice in between. Instead of using ice cubes directly, I found a freezer block that sat neatly in the bottom of my largest mixing bowl, and then put another bowl on top of the ice. This seemed to be enough, without any extra ice in the sides.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the chilled bowl, and whisk with an electric mixer until it thickens. This may take some time.
  6. Transfer the mousse to a large piping bag and pipe over the raspberry puree.
  7. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon before serving.

Linking up to the Chocolate Party, where this month's theme is coffee.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Orange & Olive Oil Loaf Cake

Orange & olive oil cake

I first tasted an olive oil cake at a charity bake sale - which is one of my favourite ways to try out new and unusual treats because if you don't like whatever you buy, well, you've still made a donation to a worthy cause. It sounded intriguing, and I was particularly interested by the fact that you could actually taste the peppery olive oil through the sweetness of the cake. This has been on my baking agenda ever since.

The cake I tried was made with lemon and thyme, but I was buying oranges for another recipe, so I decided to have a go at an orange version. I was tempted to add a little rosemary, but since one of my target audience was a young and slightly fussy eater, I thought maybe I should only include one unusual ingredient at a time. I still think it would work really well, though.

I would recommend using the most flavourful olive oil you have available, as the peppery notes really come through. The resulting cake is subtly flavoured and not too sweet. Definitely a winner.

Orange & olive oil loaf

Orange & Olive Oil Loaf (recette en français)
Makes 1 loaf

1 large orange
350g (2 cups) plain flour
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
120ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
5 slices candied orange peel
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F), and line a medium loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Zest and juice the orange. Measure the juice, and top up to 240ml (1 cup) with cold water. It doesn't matter if you get a bit of orange flesh in with the juice, but obviously try to avoid the pips.
  3. Sift together the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil, orange juice and water, and orange zest. Stir to make a batter, taking care to fold in all the dry ingredients.
  5. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin.
  6. Arrange the candied peel slices on top of the batter, pressing them lightly into the surface.
  7. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a knife comes out clean.
  8. Turn out and cool on a wire rack before serving.
Orange & olive oil cake

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Megali Panagia Monastery, Samos


The Megali Panagia monastery, on the Greek island of Samos, is nestled in a serene and beautiful spot. I could hardly imagine a location better suited to a life of quiet contemplation.

The college where I did my A levels was just around the corner from a Carmelite convent so I regularly passed the nuns as they went about their daily business, and I mine, but I never did see inside the walls.

I suspect my views of the monastic life are very much romanticised. I was a huge fan of the gentle mystery series Cadfael while I was growing up, where aside from solving the odd murder, life seemed to consist of maintaining a herb garden while devoting hours to the study of esoteric manuscripts. It sounded rather nice; given the chance, who wouldn't choose to spend their days gently pottering and reading? And of course, as a lover of historical ruins I've often found myself wandering through the remnants left behind by British monastic orders, most of which were dissolved and their assets seized by Henry VIII. As with many castles, the outlines left by history give only the vaguest notion of how things would have been, allowing plenty of scope for the over-active imagination to fill in the gaps.

This monastery on Samos, however, is very much in use. In fact, much of it appears newly built, despite dating back to the 16th century - it was obviously undergoing extensive renovation. We were asked to dress modestly lest we encounter any of the monks, but the place felt eerily quiet - that is, aside from our group of academics disturbing the peace.







Monday, 19 August 2013

Lebanese Flatbread with Spicy Chickpeas

Lebanese flatbread

This month's Kitchen Nomad box brought me a selection of ingredients from Lebanon, and features a selection of recipes by Bethany Kehdy, author of The Jewelled Kitchen (a beautiful book that I'll be reviewing soon).

Ever since my first visit to Turkey, I've had a bit of a thing for middle eastern food, so many of these ingredients were familiar to me. I was particularly amused to see a pot of freekeh, an ingredient I first cooked with last week, when I served it with spicy roasted vegetables.

Kitchen Nomad - Lebanon

I was inspired by the flatbread recipe which came with the box, but obviously I wanted to make a vegetarian version. I stuck with the basic tomato and onion base, and got the idea of including chickpeas from a blog post over at When Shaikha Cooks. Za'atar is a blend of dried herbs (mostly thyme) with sumac and sesame seeds, which works wonderfully with the earthy taste of chickpeas, especially after adding a little garlic.

Lebanese flatbread

This recipe makes a light flatbread which bubbles up when cooked, and would be great with any number of toppings, or plain as an accompaniment for mopping up excess sauce. While I was working out the quantities for this recipe, I ended up with some spare flatbreads and chickpea mix. I baked these simply with a little grated cheese on top, and that was also delicious, really bringing out the garlic flavour of the spice mix.

Lebanese flatbread

Lebanese Flatbread
Makes 4

For the flatbreads:
150g strong white bread flour
100g strong wholemeal bread flour
½tsp salt
½tsp sugar
½tsp dried fast-acting yeast
125ml (½cup) warm water
2tbsp olive oil

For the topping:
230g chickpeas (cooked and drained)
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp za'atar blend
1tsp whole cumin seeds
½tsp sumac
2 cloves garlic
8 large tomatoes
2 large onions
1tbsp pomegranate molasses
1tsp chilli flakes
a few fresh mint leaves
  1. Stir together the dry ingredients for the dough.
  2. Add the water a little at a time and bring together, until the dough is not too stiff (but stop before it gets sticky - you may need a little more or less than 125ml, depending on the humidity), then knead for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the olive oil and knead gently until absorbed.
  4. Set the dough aside to rise for a couple of hours.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.
  6. Combine the chickpeas in a bowl with the olive oil, za'atar, cumin, sumac, and crushed garlic. Set aside.
  7. Skin the tomatoes by submerging them in boiling water for a few seconds, then cut in half and scrape out the seeds. Chop the flesh finely.
  8. Squeeze any excess liquid from the chopped tomato.
  9. Finely mince the onion, and combine in a bowl with the chopped tomato.
  10. Add pomegranate molasses and chilli flakes.
  11. Divide the dough into quarters, and roll out each flatbreads to about 2mm thick.
  12. Divide the tomato and onion mixture between the breads, and spread evenly over the surface.
  13. Top the flatbread with the chickpea mixture, being sure to scrape all the oil and spices out of the bowl (you wouldn't want to waste any!).
  14. Roughly chop the fresh mint leaves, and sprinkle over the top of each flatbread.
  15. Bake at 250°C (480°F) for 5 minutes. The bread should puff up a little (especially in any areas which don't have topping) and start to crisp around the edges.
Lebanese flatbread

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Black Bean & Corn Fajitas

Black Bean & Corn Fajitas

Making Mexican-style macaroni cheese the other day has left me wanting more Mexican food. Mexican cuisine has some of my favourite flavours, and since we don't have any authentic Mexican restaurants nearby, it's something I only get to eat if I make it myself.

I have a particular soft spot for fajitas. They're very much a help-yourself kind of dinner, which is great because it means everyone can make up their wraps in the style they prefer, as well as feeling informal and friendly. Even when I've had them in Mexican restaurants, there has always been a separate plate of tortillas, with the vegetables and sauces served on the side.

This time around I used the Discovery Fajita Kit, which comes with generous sachets of spice mix and salsa, as well as tortilla wraps - meaning I didn't really have to think about anything beyond deciding what vegetables to use. I used to use a lot of this kind of kit when I was at university and had a very small kitchen; these days I tend to have enough stocks in the pantry to pull almost anything together from scratch, but having everything measured out and prepared for you can still be convenient for a quick dinner after a long day.

If you don't have access to a Mexican spice mix, you can get a good approximation of the taste from just paprika and cumin, with a little extra chilli if you like more of a kick. Personally I prefer to have a mild vegetable mix and a spicy salsa, so everyone can more easily tune the finished dish to their own tastes.

This meal could easily be vegan: just serve your fajitas with fresh guacamole instead of the sour cream.

Black Bean & Corn Fajitas

Black Bean & Corn Fajitas
Serves 2

1 courgette (zucchini)
1 red bell pepper
1 large onion
2tbsp olive oil
4tbsp fajita spice mix
250g (10oz) black beans, cooked and drained
150g (6oz) sweetcorn

8 tortilla wraps
thick sour cream and salsa (to serve)
  1. Slice the courgette, red pepper, and onion into thin strips.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and add the vegetables and spices.
  3. Stir fry until the vegetables are soft and coated in the spice mixture. Add the black beans and corn, and cook over a medium heat until warmed through.
  4. Gently warm the tortillas (I used the microwave).
  5. Serve with sour cream and salsa, and a crunchy salad on the side.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Harissa & Mint Roasted Vegetables with Freekeh

harissa & mint vegetables

My first experiment with harissa went a bit wrong, because I hadn't realised quite how spicy it was. It looked like an innocent tomato-based sauce, so I upended half a jar into my casserole, and spent the rest of the evening trying to bring it down to an edible level by adding increasing quantities of cream and yoghurt. I won't be making that mistake again. I was, however, sufficiently enamoured with the taste that I really wanted to do it again (just, better).

Freekeh & baharatHarissa & mint vegetables

Then Terra Rossa sent me a tub of intriguing cracked green wheat, known as freekeh (pronounced 'free-kah') to sample, along with a Jordanian spice mix called baharat, and I knew I had the makings of a middle eastern feast.

Freekeh has a nutty flavour, and baharat is a sweet spicy mixture, so cooking the two together makes for a subtly flavoured side dish. The texture of the freekeh was a bit more robust than you'd get from, say, bulgar wheat (which is about the closest I had eaten before) and it felt like a balanced part of the meal, rather than just "something" to mop up the juices from the vegetables.

And diluting a small amount of harissa paste with tomato and cream made for a wonderful, flavourful sauce which I think will quickly become a staple of my kitchen. In particular, I think the heat is perfectly complemented by a huge helping of fresh mint leaves straight from the garden.

Note: anyone who can't find baharat locally might be interested to know that the Terra Rossa blend contains ground coriander, dill, galangal, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, dried lemon, and caraway. Quite a mixture! But although that's the order on the packet, with this dish I felt the dominant flavours (the ones that came out above even the harissa) were the cinnamon, ginger, and allspice - so in a pinch you could spice up your freekeh with a few staples from your pantry.

Harissa & mint vegetables

Harissa & Mint Roasted Vegetables
Serves 4

For the vegetables:
1 butternut squash
1 aubergine (eggplant)
2 courgettes (zucchini)
1 red bell pepper
2 small red onions
100g (3.5oz) baby plum tomatoes
2tbsp olive oil
200ml (7fl.oz) tomato passata
2tsp harissa paste
a large handful of fresh mint leaves
3tbsp thick cream or yoghurt

For the freekeh:
2tbsp olive oil
200g (7oz) freekeh
1tbsp baharat
30g (1oz) pine nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).
  2. Peel and chop the butternut squash into small chunks.
  3. Chop the aubergine, courgette, red pepper, and onions. Slice the tomatoes in half.
  4. Heat the olive oil in the oven in a large roasting tin.
  5. Add the butternut squash, toss to coat in the oil, and return to the oven for 20 minutes until starting to soften.
  6. Next, prepare the freekeh. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the grains for a couple of minutes.
  7. Add boiling water to cover the grains, stir in the baharat, and bring to the boil.
  8. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, without stirring.
  9. Meanwhile, add the courgette, aubergine, peppers and onion to the roasting tin with the softened butternut squash. Toss to coat in oil, and return to the oven.
  10. After 15 minutes, remove the vegetables from the oven, and stir through the tomato passata, harissa paste, and (roughly chopped) mint leaves. Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  11. Toast the pine nuts for 3-4 minutes in a dry frying pan.
  12. Add the tomatoes to the vegetables in the oven, for just a couple of minutes before you're ready to eat.
  13. Drain the freekeh, stir through the pine nuts, and serve.
  14. Stir the cream or yoghurt into the vegetables just before serving.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Merry Maidens Stone Circle in Cornwall

Cornwall is one of those counties where a field without an ancient monument is an empty field indeed. Given my penchant for hanging around ruins, this works pretty well for me, and I'm always happy to stop and take a look around if we're passing somewhere that seems interesting. Stone circles are always a draw, and we had a particularly gorgeous day for this one, the blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds which make photography a dream.

Consulting the map after the fact, we concluded that this was the ring known as the Merry Maidens. Should you wish to track it down for yourself, it's just off the B3315, about mid-way between Penzance and Land's End.

Stone Circle - Cornwall 2013

Stone Circle - Cornwall 2013

Stone Circle - Cornwall 2013

Stone Circle - Cornwall 2013

If you like this kind of thing, you might also be interested in similar circles we've enjoyed visiting in Scotland and Dartmoor.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Three Chocolate Finds

Just because everyone loves chocolate... here are a few of my most recent cocoa discoveries.

In Bruges, following a friend's recommendation, we breakfasted a couple of times at Le Pain Quotidien. One of the best things about their breakfast basket was the selection of jams and spreads available to complement your bread and croissants. I was sufficiently impressed with the (vegan) dark chocolate spread in particular that I came home with a jar tucked into the corner of my suitcase. It's rather pricey - certainly the most I've ever spent on such a product - but it's so rich that you only need a thin layer on your toast. And since I don't know of any UK branches outside of London, I'm having to ration my consumption!

I was recently sent a couple of bars of Seed & Bean chocolate to sample: coconut & raspberry, and lavender. I've been a fan of this company for a little while now: their bars are organic, fairtrade, and are made with real, natural ingredients - so, unsurprisingly, they taste great too. I was also impressed by how much of the range is vegan. I like my chocolate at the darker end of the spectrum, but sometimes it's nice to have some added flavours, something which can be surprisingly hard to find; flavoured bars are likely to have at most 50% cocoa solids, even if they claim to be 'dark' chocolate. These ones have 66% and 72% cocoa, which are the sorts of numbers I'd choose in a plain chocolate bar.

And finally, I don't usually mention products that I haven't tried, but there's a new Baileys on the horizon - and it's been blended with Belgian chocolate, which puts it straight onto my radar of interesting drinks. Apparently it's taken them hundreds of attempts to get the taste and texture just right, to make it feel like drinking real chocolate rather than a chocolate-flavoured drink. Our all-time favourite hot chocolate, in Cuba, really was just like drinking molten chocolate - so I'll be fascinated to see how this compares. At the moment it's only available in Harvey Nichols, so I haven't had chance to sample it yet, but I'll be sure to let you know when I do.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Mexican-Inspired Macaroni Cheese

Mexican Macaroni Cheese

If I've learnt one thing from my American friends, it's that macaroni cheese can have a near-infinite number of variations. I'm not sure I would have thought of taking Mexican inspiration and applying it to a cheesey pasta bake, if I hadn't seen US menus with pages full of mac'n'cheese variations. But adding some Mexican spices to the cheese sauce worked really well, and it was nice to have a few extra veggies in the mix, so I can definitely see myself making more variations in future.

I used a modified version of Pinch of Yum's cauliflower alfredo recipe, just for a bit of a change, but you could also make this dish with a regular white sauce. I've seen this sauce around (on Pinterest, mostly) and really wanted to try it out. Andy was very skeptical of the cauliflower sauce right up until he tasted it, at which point he said I could make it again! It's not much like a traditional white sauce, but it is tasty, so do give it a go if you're halfway tempted. (Ingredients & instructions for both sauce options are at the bottom of this post, or you could just use your favourite recipe.)

Of course, I've never felt it was particularly necessary to use macaroni in macaroni cheese, either: today I used fusilli, because that's just what happened to be in the cupboard.

The theme for August's Pasta Please challenge is pasta bakes, hosted over at Cate's Cates. I'm also linking up at Let's Cook With Cheese and Deena's Fusion Food Challenge.

Mexican macaroni cheese

Mexican-Inspired Macaroni Cheese
Serves 2

1tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 sweet red pepper
1 small red onion
5 spring onions (green onions)
100g (4oz) tinned sweetcorn
white sauce (see below)
½tsp cumin
½tsp smoked paprika
100g (4oz) mature cheddar cheese
200g (8oz) pasta
  1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan.
  2. Crush the garlic into the oil, and sautee until soft.
  3. Finely chop the onion, red pepper, and spring onions. Drain the sweetcorn.
  4. Set aside the softened garlic, and in the remaining oil, fry the onion and red pepper until soft.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).
  6. Make the white sauce (see below), and stir through the cumin, paprika, sauteed garlic, and ¾ of the cheese.
  7. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
  8. Add the pasta to the white sauce, along with the vegetables.
  9. Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
Cauliflower Sauce

½pint vegetable stock
350g (12oz) cauliflower
2tbsp double cream
  1. Heat the stock in a medium saucepan, and add the cauliflower.
  2. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.
  3. Transfer the cauliflower to a blender or foodprocessor, along with about 250ml (1 cup) of stock, and puree until smooth.
  4. Add the cream and stir until combined.
Traditional White Sauce

25g (1oz) butter
50g (2oz) flour
300ml full-fat milk
  1. Heat the butter in a small pan.
  2. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and cook for a few minutes over a low heat to form a roux.
  3. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring to break up any lumps.
  4. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly. The sauce should start to thicken after about five minutes.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Coriander Falafel (370 calories)

Falafel is one of my favourite treats. I love chickpeas any which way, and all the added spices just make them extra special. (Especially coriander, which I could eat almost endlessly.)

Falafel are typically ball-shaped, but my favourite falafel shop always used to squash them with a fork before serving them in a wrap, so I decided to just make these ones as flat patties. This also makes it easier to fry them in very little oil, with only occasional turning required - by the time the outsides are crispy, the insides are nicely cooked.

The falafel recipe is vegan, and the tahini dressing could easily be made with vegan (soya) yoghurt.

5:2 Intermittent Fasting button5:2 Diet
By my calculations, this is 370 calories if served as described: fried using a single tablespoon of oil, and served in a single pitta bread (160 cals according to the packet) with tahini yoghurt dressing and salad.


Coriander Falafel Recipe
Serves 2

For the falafel:
230g chickpeas (cooked & drained)
1 medium onion (100g)
2 garlic cloves
2tsp lemon juice
1tbsp plain flour
½tsp ground cumin
½tsp ground coriander
freshly ground black pepper
a large handful of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), including stalks
1tbsp olive oil

For the dressing:
2tbsp low-fat plain yoghurt
1tsp tahini
a pinch of cumin

To serve:
2 pitta bread pockets
salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, extra coriander leaves)
  1. Blend the chickpeas, onion, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor.
  2. Fold in the flour and spices, and shape into four balls.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. 
  4. Flatten the falafel balls between your fingers to about 1cm / ½in thick, and fry until golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, make the dressing by mixing the yoghurt, tahini and cumin. Also, slice the salad ingredients and warm the pitta breads.
  6. Serve each pitta with salad, two falafel, and a drizzle of dressing.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Chocolate Lime Cups

Chocolate Lime Cups

My list of sweets to try has been growing steadily, thanks in no small part to all the recipe ideas I've been finding on Pinterest. As part of a sponsored post for Collective Bias®, I headed to Sainsburys to shop for some confectionary ingredients, with the hope of recreating some of my favourite pins. Marshmallows, nougat, turkish delight... I want to master them all.

My initial plans always tend towards the over-ambitious, and I actually had dreams of making dozens of pretty sweets in a single afternoon. Then I clicked through from the pinboards (where everything looks so very easy) and realised that, in the real world, there's serious work involved in making the likes of Montellimar nougat.

Marshmallows sounded comparatively easy, and I found plenty of cases of people claiming to be able to make them in less than half an hour, beginning to end, so that seemed like a good place to start. I had some lime extract that I wanted to use, and I got the idea of lime marshmallows from Bobbies Baking Blog, but I didn't want to make them plain. Chocolate limes are a classic sweet and one of my childhood favourites, so my first thought was that it might work well to half-dip the marshmallows in chocolate. Or maybe, inspired by some of the amazing striped marshmallows I'd seen, I could make one layer of lime and one of chocolate.

I started by following this vanilla marshmallow recipe, which was about the simplest I could find, but I used Dr Oetker's Vege-Gel as a substitute for the gelatine. The Vege-Gel packet is very insistent about the fact that it works in a different way to gelatine, so I was prepared to amend the recipe accordingly to follow the packet instructions. That's fine; I'm very happy changing recipes and experimenting. I figured out how much Vege-Gel I was supposed to use based on the amount of liquid in the recipe, and I thought I was good to go.

Unfortunately it didn't work. An hour of hard work later, and all I had to show for my efforts was a bowl of striking green goo. Whatever I did, it refused to thicken to anything beyond a lime-scented slime. (The kitchen did smell amazing, though.)

Green slime!
Not a marshmallow.

I went back to Google, hoping I'd be able to track down someone who'd successfully made the substitution, only to discover pages of lamentation and failure... and the recommendation to use agar agar instead. I managed to find a vegan marshmallow recipe that doesn't rely on gelatine. Being vegan, it also skips over the egg whites, so the ingredient list is much simpler. Well, luckily I had a box of agar flakes in the cupboard, so I took a deep breath and went back to the kitchen. This one got a lot closer to working, but although the mixture did everything it was supposed to this time (including climbing up the arms of the whisk), the end product never quite set into a successful marshmallow.

Well, I needed to feed my friends now, not in six months time when I've finally mastered the art of the vegetarian marshmallow - so I turned to a more reliable idea. Sticking with the chocolate lime theme, I made some cute little chocolate cups, and filled them with a whipped white chocolate ganache, which I coloured green and flavoured with lime extract. Unlike my marshmallow attempts, these were a resounding success.

Chocolate Lime Cups

Chocolate Lime Cups
Makes 18

100g dark chocolate
150g white chocolate
100g double cream
½tsp lime extract
a couple of drops of green food colouring
candy lime slices and green glitter sugar, to decorate
  1. First, make the chocolate cups. Melt (and optionally temper) the dark chocolate, and coat 18 mini sillicone cases. The easiest way to do this is to add more chocolate than you need for each case (I found 1tsp was about right) and slowly rotate the case to coat it, before tipping the excess back into the melting pot. Don't make the cases too thin, or they will break when you try to remove them from the moulds.
  2. Set aside, and leave to cool.
  3. If you want to add glitter sugar, spread the sugar crystals on a plate, and dip the edge of the chocolate into the sugar just before it hardens.
  4. Once the chocolate cups have hardened, carefully remove them from the sillicone cases.
  5. Melt the white chocolate.
  6. With an electric beater, whisk the white chocolate together with the cream, lime extract, and food colouring. Beat until light and fluffy.
  7. Gently transfer the ganache to a piping bag, with a wide nozzle.
  8. Pipe ganache into each chocolate cup.
  9. Top each cup with a candy lime slice for decoration.
  10. Chill the chocolates until you're ready to eat them.
Chocolate Lime Cups

I'm linking up with We Should Cocoa, which is being hosted this month at Elizabeth's Kitchen - where the theme is chocolates. These little morsels are perfect with a cup of coffee. I can't wait to see what everyone else comes up with.

Chocolate Lime Cups

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