Those Chocolate Swirl Meringues That We Ate On The Beach.

16 September 2013

It now seems an age away, but less than a month ago, some friends came to visit for the day. It was their annual summer trip down to seaside: they still live where we used to live in Middlesex. With five children between us we headed to the beach in the afternoon. I bought each of our child guests buckets and spades and made an afternoon tea picnic to enjoy before paddling in the sea. I took along a Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom Cake and these Chocolate Swirl Meringues, for which my friend Reena requested the recipe. So Reena, here as promised is that recipe. It's one to do of an evening when your gorgeous children are tucked up snuggly in bed and you feel like a bit of pottering about in the kitchen. 

Chocolate Swirl Meringues

100g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped or broken
3 large egg whites
150g caster sugar
cocoa powder, to serve

Makes approx 12

Preheat the oven to 150℃ / 130℃ fan / gas mark 2 and line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.

Heat the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously, until all the sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is very stiff and glossy. Drizzle the cooled melted chocolate over the meringue and use a metal spoon to fold it gently through to create a marbled effect with bold chocolate streaks running through the mix.

Carefully place spoonfuls of meringue in 12 large dollops on the baking trays, making billowing peaks on each one with the back of a spoon.

Put the tray in the oven and cook the meringues for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them to cool and dry in the oven overnight.

To serve, pile haphazardly on a large plate or decorative dish and dust with a little cocoa powder.

Recipe: Bill's Cookbook: Cook Eat Smile.
Photography: Buttercup Days

That Week in September + Naked Cakes

13 September 2013

September is a crazy month for us. It starts with a new school year (or in this years' case - new schools), it's the busiest month of our business year and at the end of the month I will be hosting a pop-up tearoom at home as part of Macmillan Cancer Support's 'World's Biggest Coffee Morning'.

The kid's have been settling in well at school, particularly Lily. Arthur is mostly taking it in his stride, but is coming home (at lunchtime!) exhausted. He is due to start full-days after next week - I'm unsure if he is ready for it. We have the option to keep him part-time till after Christmas, so we'll see how he goes next week and decide.

Next week David and I are off to London to play our part in the London Design Festival. As last year, we will relocate our press office to Tent London. This years show, along with its sister show Super Brands London, looks set to be an must-see design event. My three-part review from last year can be found here, here and here, if you want to get a flavour of it. It's well worth a visit.

My parents will be coming to stay and look after the kids, ferrying them to and from school and taking in swimming lessons and cinema trips already scheduled for next weekend. I couldn't think of anyone better to leave the kids with, but despite them being 8 and 4 and doing this 'September thing' for several years now, I still hate leaving them and seem to spend my time in London with a permanent knot in my stomach, which won't subside until I return home.

Once back from London, I have under a week to prepare for my pop-up tearoom, so I've been trying to bake a few sponges this week - the ones that freeze really well - in order to get ahead. Naked, they look very plain, but once filled, iced and decorate they should look irresistible. So far there is a Honey & Poppyseed sponge and a Lemon & Almond Sponge - by the end of the weekend there will also be a Courgette sponge.

This will be my second year as part of the World's Biggest Coffee Morning. Last year was a huge success; exhaustingly busy, but well worth it. You can read about it here. Macmillan's are a worthy charity who I like to support. My original reason for getting involved with Macmillan was in memory of my father-in-law who we lost to cancer 10 years ago, but in the last year two friends of mine have been diagnosed with cancer - these are women who are in my age group with young children. The help that Macmillan's provide when your world is turned upside-down is priceless. In my mind holding this annual event is really a no brainer. Fingers-crossed, in two weeks from now, I'll have a heavy donation box and just crumbs left on the table ..... and normality will return as we move from a busy September into (a hopefully less hectic) October.

Photographs: Buttercup Days

New School No. 3 + Chocolate & Pistachio Biscuits

5 September 2013

It has been a scorcher today - the last burst of summer, before she gives way to autumn. But despite the temperatures, I feel as though summer has ended: school is back, the football season is underway and the supermarkets are stocking Christmas goods (!).

Today, was Lily's first day at her new school - a big day. It's her third time as 'the new girl'. It was never our plan to move her around schools as we have, but luckily she doesn't seem affected by it, if anything it has made her a rather adaptable little girl, ready to take on any situation she finds herself in, which isn't a bad life skill to have. The school she is at now is where we had always wanted her to go. It's been a bit of a journey, two schools and an almost-house move, but we got there in the end.

My mind was preoccupied today, wondering how she was getting on in her new environment, full of new faces and unfamiliar routines. So I set about baking a batch of these Chocolate & Pistachio biscuits for us to have when she got home - a bit of baking can be quite a good way to kerb anxieties.

3.20pm couldn't have come soon enough. She came out of school smiling and filled me in on the days events on the short walk home. She loves her new school and has made several new friends - I had no need to worry. I'm so very proud of her. 

The biscuits, by the way were also a success. 

Chocolate & Pistachio Biscuits

220g unsalted butter
80g icing sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
280g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
70g whole blanched pistachios

For the dough, combine the butter, icing sugar and salt. Add the egg, flour and cocoa powder. Add the nuts and combine. Chill for 1 hour.

When the dough is firm, roll it into a sausage and cut into 5mm slices. Preheat oven to 190C / Gas 5.
Arrange biscuits on a baking tray and cook for 12 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

Recipe: A la Mére de Famille
Photographs: Buttercup Days