Saturday, 1 March 2014

Treats for the Weekend

My brother and his lovely girlfriend, who live in Manchester, are coming to stay with us this weekend. We are going to take them to the MK Handmade and Vintage fair, because I think they will love it (and I love an excuse for a good browse around this fab fair!)

In days gone by, I would then have found a lovely restaurant or foodie pub to take them to in the evening. But that was the pre-kids era. Nowadays, when weekend evenings are all about cosying up in front of the tv, weekend visitors means cooking up a lovely dinner at home. I haven't decided what to make for dinner yet, but in true to me style, I have thought about desserts and treats.

Some of the old favourites have already been prepared and stashed away. Nigella's Pistachio Fudge is a firm favourite in this house. It's a great little treat to have in your repertoire, because it's so ridiculously easy to make, can be stored in the freezer (in fact, we think it tastes better straight from the freezer) and everyone loves it.

Next on the list is Chocolate Macarons, or Macaroonies, as Evie calls them. I was lucky enough to have a day out with a good friend, to London, a couple of years ago, to attend the Macaron course, run by lovely Caroline Hope of www.teaandscones.co.uk. If you have even the slightest interest in making macarons, I thoroughly reccommend this course, as it takes all the mystery out of them. You get to spend a lovely morning in Caroline's kitchen, learning all about macarons and the art of tea making, and come home with a little moc of macarons to show for it. Treat yourself!

But back to my macarons, I have followed Caroline's recipe ever since, varying it to make all kinds of different flavours, and have had great success. I love making macarons and they are another great thing to be able to make for treats, or as gifts. They take quite a bit more effort than the fudge, but they can be made in stages, and they are always really well appreciated. Chocolate macarons, filled with chocolate ganache and a 'surprise' centre of strawberry syrup are the firm favourite in this house. They can also be frozen, either just as the shells, or as the finished, filled macaron, but they never last long enough in this house, to make it to the freezer.

Finally, a twist on another Nigella recipe. It's based on her No-Churn Margarita Ice Cream, but uses a liqueur of your choice instead. This time, I used some lovely Bramble Liqueur, which had been purchased at Wrest Park, a lovely local English Heritage property. Equally yummy unfrozen, as a kind of syllabub, or frozen, as ice cream. Either way, add a couple of amaretto biscuits and you're in heaven! If you're serving unfrozen, this takes literally moments to make, so is perfect for an impromptu dinner party.

Ingredients:

150ml Bramble Liqueur

100g Icing Sugar

500g Double Cream

Method:

Put the Liqueur and sugar into a large bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the cream and whip to the soft peaks stage. Pour into serving glasses if you're serving it unfrozen, or into a freezer proof container and place in the freezer, to make ice cream. Easy as that.

I have made variations of this with Limoncello and with Chambord (lemon and raspberry liqueurs) and all have been delicious. I implore you to have a go at this with your own favourite liqueur. I promise you won't be disappointed. Especially if you serve it in these gorgeous Alessi ice cream bowls!

So that's the sweet stuff sorted. Now I suppose I should think of something savoury to eat first!

What are your go-to recipes for easy entertaining?