This bountiful mix of Umami goodness started as an experiment with my air-fryer. I had previously used said air-fryer to dehydrate pears for cake decorations but…could I use it for something else? To dry ingredients so as to alter them altogether? I’m aware that sounds a LOT more intriguing than the actual result. I mean it’s not like I’m going all Star Trek and altering matter! Using my air fryer I dried pickles to the point where, using a spice grinder I ground them to a powder with the zingy briny flavor of pickles. (Trivia- it remains my most viewed piece of social media with 29.7K views on TikTok, albeit with some questionable comets!)
A point to note on the use of pickles. Using “Bread & Butter” pickles doesn’t work. The sugar content of the slices yields a piece that on dehydration becomes sticky, gummy and more chewy than what is needed. The spears that I used were 1/2 sour and quartered and ended up looking like “the Chocolate Lady from Sponge Bob Squarepants“…or so I’m told!
I digress! Once you have your pickle dust, it along some no fuss ranch dip seasoning become the flavor bombs in this tasty and utterly moreish snack mix. In fact, so easy is it to make that I even roped the kids in to doing it. After much chorusing of, “Not another handful” they eventually managed to combine the ingredients into the savory buttery coated mix you read of now.
Once It’s made and cooled you can store it in a tin at room temperature and it’s good for a couple of weeks. I find this is great for this summer time of year when it can be bagged up for road-trips, picnics, or taking along to BBQs and cookouts. Oh! and also perfection with an ice cold beer.
2 cups Shreddies
2 cups cheerios
2 cups Chex
2 cups mini-pretzels
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon pickle dust*
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pack (1oz) ranch dry seasoning
2 Tablespoons half-sour pickle juice, from the jar
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
Preheat your oven to 300oF
In a large bowl combine the Shreddies, Cheerios, Chex, mini-pretzels, pecans and peanuts. Give them a good stir to mix up
In a pan, combine the butter, pickle dust, garlic powder, ranch seasoning, pickle juice and vinegar. heat over a medium heat, whisking occasionally until the butter has melted. Continue to heat for another 2 minutes
Remove the butter mixture from the heat and pour over the cereal mix
Using a spoon (or when it’s cooled for a few minutes you can use your hands) mix up to ensure all the cereal is coated and slick with the butter mixture
Transfer the buttered cereal mixture to a large cookie sheet and place in your preheated oven
Bake for between 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cereal starts to lightly brown
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray on a cooling rack
When fully cooled, transfer to an airtight container, or jars, for storage and eventual scoffing!
* I make pickle dust by dehydrating pickles in my air-fryer. For this recipe I dehydrated 2 medium half-sour pickles, cut lengthwise into quarters. Arrange on your system’s drying rack and dry at 150oF for 6 1/2 hrs. Once they have dried out successfully (they will shrivel up quiet a bit) they will cleanly snap rather than bend. Break them into smaller pieces and using a spice grinder, or coffee grinder, blitz the pickle pieces to a find powder. This will give you 1 tablespoon of pickle dust (powder). Keep in an airtight container until ready to use.
So I’m a sucker for cravings. Once I get something in my mind that’s it- I won’t rest until I’ve tasted it. That was that was the case with this cherry cobbler. Sure it’s a cheat’s version- using canned pin filling. But I craved it and the quicker I got it the better. Also lets face it- using canned filling cuts down on the stove-time involved in the making off this. If you feel so inclined, go right ahead with your favorite mix of cherries that you might use for your fillings. I’m definitely not one to dictate how you should run your kitchen.
The topping here is an adaption of a regular biscuit dough that I use to biscuit top stews and casseroles. Here I’ve slightly upped the sugar for a sweeter finish, adding in some cinnamon and oats for a more rustic dessert finish.
I love the flavor combination of cherries and almonds, thinking that it’s one of the best out there. Food trivia moment- both are linked by the compound Benzaldehyde, which is the second most popular flavor and fragrance after vanillin. Baking- educational too! (Darn! now I’m thinking I need to make a Cherry Bakewell…curse you infernal cravings!
With the use of pie filling these are so quick and easy that even making them in the current warmer weather can be justified. Plus adding a scoop of your favorite ice cream on top even more so!
1 can 540ml (20 oz) cherry pie filling
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup toasted, flaked almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Jumbo rolled oats
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk
4 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar
Butter four 0.25L ramekins
In a bowl mix the pie filling and the almond extract. Divide the pie filling equally among the ramekins
Sprinkle the tops of the pie filling with the toasted almond flakes. Set them aside on a foil-lined baking sheet until later
Preheat oven to 375 F
In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, ground cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine
Add the melted butter and milk, stirring just until moistened. The biscuit batter will be quite thick and lumpy. Drop batter by heaping scoopfuls onto the filling
Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the biscuit dough
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until biscuits are browned and filling is hot and bubbly
Leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment/ waxed paper and set aside until needed later
Pop popcorn in your preferred method and salt to taste. Pour into large bowl and set aside.
Melt white candy melts in a microwave in 10 second bursts, stirring frequently until smooth and being careful not to overheat
Add ½ cup of the cake mix to the white chocolate and stir to combine
Immediately pour the candy/cake mix mixture over the popcorn and use a spatula to combine. Add the remaining ¼ cup of the cake mix and the sprinkles and stir or toss again to combine until thoroughly coated
Spread onto prepared baking sheet in a single layer and top with some extra sprinkles if you like. Leave on the baking sheet until set and then break apart into small clusters. Serve and enjoy!
*White chocolate bars may ne used as well but your final coated popcorn won’t set as hard or be as crunchy.
**Before using the cake batter mix, treat it in the oven by spreading it on a lined baking tray and toasting it at 350 F for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cooled, use as per the recipe above. One thing to note is that the sprinkles in the cake mix may discolour a little or melt a bit. More reason to add those extra sprinkles!
2oz semi-sweet chocolate (I use bars with 1/4 oz square so I can put 2 in each dish)
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly grease 4 individual (0.25L) mini-cocottes, ramekins or other ovenproof dishes and place them onto a baking tray
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to work the butter into the flour until a rough, crumbly mixture – similar to thick breadcrumbs or damp sand is achieved
Add the milk, chocolate milk and stir just until the mixture comes together
Spoon this into the prepared smaller baking dishes. Push 2 x 1/4 oz square of chocolate into the middle of each pudding. Set aside while you prepare the sauce
Combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, water, butter and vanilla in a pan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
Once it reaches a rolling boil, remove it from the heat and ladle this over the cake in the ramekins.
Bake the puddings for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of a pudding comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let the puddings cool for about 15 minutes before serving (be careful syrup is hot!)
MACARONS! The very word alone is enough to induce a nervous twitch in most bakers. These deliciously delicate Franco delights are notoriously tricky to make and master. Requiring high maintenance and careful handling I think of them as the Madonna of the cookie world. However fickle they are, they are NOT impossible to make though. Slow, steady precision is the key here. I’ll be perfectly honest and say this is not recipe to attempt whilst young kids are running around your legs in the kitchen!
There are a few keys things I would advise-
The recipe for the macarons themselves is in metric. A more precise way of measuring this helps with achieving a better result
Let your egg whites “mature” overnight at room temperature. This helps increase their elasticity which yields a better whipped meringue
Sift your almond mix. You want to avoid knobby almond bits!
Add your sugar slowly and in stages
Work out any frustration- make sure you bang them on the counter, and leave to rest afterwards
As disheartening as it may be- if at first you don’t succeed, try again. You’re not the only person who may have a bake fail- macarons have a tricky reputation for a reason. Take courage!
I wanted to create something a little different here – surprise! A few years ago, I had tried a “macaron burger” at a food event. This was exactly as it sounds- a miniature beef patty sandwiched between two macaron shells and finished with a bun-mimicking sprinkle of seeds. Did it work? For me, no. There was something jarring about the chargrilled beef flavour against the sweet almond macaron. It didn’t manage to hit the mark of that pleasing interplay of sweet and savoury.
With this idea as a springboard, I started thinking that the sweet/ savoury interplay was the route I wanted to take. Could I improve on a “macaron burger”? Maybe but I also thought it was visually predictable. What else could work with an almond rich flavour? The next stop on my train of thought was of course…curry. There’s an abundance of curry dishes which use almond as a base in their gravies. And so, development began! Research led to a dish called “Badami Curry”, from Mughlai cuisine of Northern India. Using a creamy almond soup made with finely ground almonds I decided this would be the main inspiration for this macaron recipe. For the filling elements, I wanted to keep flavours that worked with the concept of Badami- a centre of mango & ginger curd nestled inside a rim of rich cardamom buttercream- all ingredients often featured in Mughlai cooking. Topping of with a sprinkling of Nigella seeds gives a pleasing gentle mustardy hit to cut through the almond sweetness.
Please don’t be daunted by these. Yes, they are a project requiring some planning but trust me they are well worth it. You and anyone who tries them will be talking about them for a long time afterwards.
Makes 28 macarons
*For best results start this recipe 2 days before you want to serve the macarons
100g egg whites (usually between 3–4 large egg whites)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
80g fine sugar
1–2 drops yellow gel food
125g ground almonds (make sure it’s made with blanched almonds)
125g powdered sugar
3 teaspoons good quality curry powder
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream, or whipping cream, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
salt, to taste
Mango & Ginger Curd
1 cup fresh mango, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger
½ cup sugar
2 ½ Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 large whole eggs
2 egg yolks, from large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and cold
Decoration to finish
1 Tablespoon Nigella seeds
Gold leaf (optional)
48 HOURS BEFORE
Add egg whites to a dry, clean bowl. Cover with cling wrap and set aside on your counter for 24 hours
To make Mango & Cardamom Curd
Puree the mango pieces and ginger together in a blender
Whisk together the mango/ ginger puree, sugar, lemon juice, eggs, and egg yolks in a heavy based saucepan over low heat. Stir over low-medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and it’s just starting to bubble
Add the cold butter 3-4 pieces at a time, stirring until each addition is melted and incorporated
Turn the heat to low and continue stirring and cooking the mixture for 2-3 minutes until it is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. (Test by drawing a line through the curd on the back of the spoon and the line should not drip)
Pour into a clean bowl. Cover the surface with cling warp to prevent a skin forming and store in the fridge until needed
*This recipe makes more than needed, the curd can be kept in the fridge in and used for a range of things from drizzling over pavlovas, to spreading on toast, to swirling in homemade ice-cream.
To make macarons
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground almonds, powdered sugar, and curry powder. Pulse 4-5 times making sure that all the ingredients are blitzed. Line your counter with baking paper and using a large sieve, sift the mixture from the food processor to remove any large almond husks pieces, onto the baking paper. You can use a spoon to work through any large lumps as you don’t want to discard a lot of the dry mix because then you won’t have enough dry ingredients in the batter. Transfer this almond mixture to a large dry, clean bowl. Set aside until later
To the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs whites (prepared from the day before) and cream of tartar. With the whisk attachment fitted. beat together on medium speed until very soft peaks form. Once the egg whites begin leaving tracks, you have soft peaks. Stop beating.
Add about 1/3 of the sugar. Beat on medium-high speed for about 10 seconds, then with the mixer continuing to run, add another 1/3 of the sugar. Beat for 10 seconds, then with the mixer continuing to run, add the remaining sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, slowly and gently fold the food colouring into the egg whites
This is the tricky bit! Slowly fold the beaten egg whites into the almond mixture in 3 separate additions, folding until combined before adding the next addition. After you add all the egg whites, pay very close attention to the consistency of your macaron batter. Continue folding the batter until it thins out into the consistency of a thick syrup. A more helpful cue is the “V-test”. Drop the macaron batter off your spatula back into the bowl. The batter mixture should fall off the spatula in semi-fluid globs, leaving a “V-shaped” trail of batter hanging from the spatula It’s best to go very slow so you don’t accidentally overmix and damage the batter consistency
Spoon the macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a medium round piping tip. This may be somewhat messy as the macaron batter is very drippy
Holding the piping bag at a 90-degree angle over the baking sheet, pipe batter in 1.5 – 2 inch rounds about 1-2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. The piped macaron batter flattens out. Bang the pan a couple times on the counter to pop any air bubbles, then use a toothpick to pop any further remaining air bubbles. If using, sprinkle the tops of the flattened macarons with a few Nigella seeds to your liking
Let the piped macarons sit out until they are dry and no longer tacky on top, usually 30-60 minutes dependant on your kitchen humidity. This time allows the top to firm up and form a skin. Do not let them sit out for longer than they need to because they could begin to deflate
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Note: as the macaron shells bake, they should form feet. To test for doneness, lightly touch the top of a macaron your finger. If the macaron seems wobbly, it’s not done and needs another few minutes. If it seems set, remove them from the oven
Let the shells cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to continue cooling. (The macaron shells may stick to the parchment paper/baking sheet if you try to remove them too early. If this is happening, let them cool on the baking sheet a little longer before removing. Nonetheless I’ve found they sometimes need some gentle persuasion)
While the shells are cooling you can prepare your buttercream filling
To make Cardamom Buttercream
Make sure your butter is softened to room temperature before beginning. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy.
Add powdered sugar, cream, and ground cardamom. Beat on low speed until these ingredients are incorporated, then increase to medium-high speed. At this point, you can add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin or a splash of heavy cream if it’s too thick
Add salt to taste. This helps the filling from being overly sweet. Transfer to a piping bag with a small round piping tip. Set aside until needed
Once your macarons shells have fully cooled, pair up together with those of a same size
Transfer your chilled cured into a piping bag, with no nozzle fitted. Set aside until needed
Using your prepared bagged buttercream, pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge on the flat side of half of the macaron shells. This will form a barrier for your curd filling
Snip the end from your bagged cured (you want an opening about 3-4mm wide), and pipe a dollop of curd into the void inside your buttercream ring
Using another macaron shell of similar size, sandwich together, giving a slight twist to trap the curd and buttercream inside
Repeat until all shells have been filled and paired up. The finished macarons can be further decorated with gold leaf if using
Refrigerate the 24 hours so the macarons and flavours can mature. Bring to room temperature before serving for best taste
Cover leftover macarons and refrigerate for up to 5 days