Better than Takeaway Butter Chicken

I LOVE butter chicken. It is always my go-to order at Indian restaurants and a good butter chicken is up there with my favourite foods. Sadly, butter chicken doesn’t always love me. I’m allergic to capsicum and while Canberran restaurant butter chicken was capsicum-free, the Adelaide restaurants I’ve tried all seem to add it in ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  That meant that for 2 miserable years I had no butter chicken that didn’t result in terrible stomach pains.

Fortunately, Pinterest came to the rescue (as it often does), and after a few false starts, I found a recipe that produced butter chicken equal to or better than my favourite restaurant versions. The key ingredient is fenugreek leaves. They may be a little hard to find (I order mine online from herbies spices) but PLEASE do not judge this recipe without it – they are what set it apart from pre-made butter chicken sauces and give it its authentic flavour.

Because it is a little fiddly to make, we often double the recipe and make a huge batch that will make enough for several dinners and lunches. I actually think it tastes even better the next day once the flavours have had more time to integrate. We serve it with fluffy basmati rice and homemade rotis.

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Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1kg chicken thigh fillets, diced
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
1 brown onion, chopped
6 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
50g cashews, soaked
60g butter + 1 tablespoon for cooking
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon tandoori paste
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup cream

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Sauté cardamom pods in 1 tablespoon of butter in a large pan for 1 minute. Add onion, garlic and tomatoes with a pinch of salt and cook over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add cashews and ginger and continue to cook until tomatoes are pulpy.

Cool the mixture slightly, then blend in a blender until it resembles a loose, smooth puree.

Add 60g butter to the pan and then return the puree to the pan after straining it through a sieve and discarding the cardamom pod fragments. Add chilli flakes, fenugreek leaves and salt and cook for around 15 minutes on medium heat.

Add chicken, tandoori paste, garam masala and honey. After 15 minutes, adjust seasoning as necessary and let simmer for a further 25-30 minutes for the flavours to develop.

Add cream just before serving.

Serve with rice and/or rotis. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from ‘Homemade Recipes.com.au’

 

2 Minute Nutella Mug Cake

You know when it’s 9pm in the middle of winter and you have a hankering for something sweet? You don’t feel like going to much effort but something comforting and warm and chocolate-y would really hit the spot? Well, have I got a recipe for you!

This mug cake is deliciously warm and chocolate-y with a heavenly layer of oozy Nutella goodness in the middle and, as a bonus, is gluten free. It also doesn’t have that springy, rubbery texture you often get in mug cakes because of the almond meal. The real clincher for me though, is that it only takes about a minute to throw together and then a further minute to cook in the microwave. Washing up is also minimal – hallelujah! Need more convincing? See below:

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Ingredients (serves 1)
¼ cup almond meal (hazelnut would also work well)
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons Nutella
Icing sugar, to dust
Vanilla ice cream, to serve

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Method
Combine almond meal, cocoa powder and caster sugar in a medium bowl. Add coconut oil, egg, milk and one tablespoon of the Nutella, and stir until smooth.

Spoon ¾ of the mixture into a 310ml capacity microwave safe mug. Spoon remaining tablespoon of Nutella into the centre, then cover with the remaining mixture.

Microwave on high for 1 minute (this is for a 1000 watt microwave, adjust as necessary).

Serve dusted with icing sugar and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

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Adapted from a Sunbeam recipe on taste.com.au

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

These chewy, fudgy chocolate brownies, created by the domestic goddess Nigella herself, are my reliable go-to goodies when asked to bring a plate for morning or afternoon teas. They are best eaten on the day made (which often means I get up early on the day to make them) and are ridiculously good warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

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Ingredients (makes 16 large brownies)
200g good-quality dark chocolate
250g salted butter
1¾ cups brown sugar
4 eggs
⅓ cup cocoa
1¼ cups plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder

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Method
Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Line a 20cm x 30cm rectangular tin with baking paper.

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave (or on the stovetop) and stir until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

Place sugar, eggs, cocoa, flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Pour in chocolate mixture and mix until combined.

Pour into prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes or until set on top (but should still be gooey in the middle). Leave to cool slightly in tin.

Cut into 16 evenly sizes pieces. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson.

NB: Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, but in my opinion, the fresher the better.

 

 

Mini Quiches

These delicious quiches are perfect for picnics, high-teas or parties. Here I’ve provided the recipe for cheese & bacon mini quiches, which are probably the biggest crowd pleaser, but you can add anything you’d like to your quiches – I love spinach and semi-dried tomato as a vegetarian option.

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Ingredients (makes 36)
2 sheets puff pastry
5 rashers shortcut bacon, with fat removed
185g shredded cheese
3 eggs
½ cup thickened cream

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Method
Defrost pastry sheets at room temperature for approximately 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190°C fan-forced. Spray three 12-hole round-bottomed patty-pan/yorkshire pudding pans (see picture below) with cooking oil. Otherwise, muffin pans will work fine but you may need to adjust the size of your pastry rounds.

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Image Credit: Amazon.com

Dice bacon into 1cm squares. Cook until crispy (I tend to be lazy and use the microwave, but by all means cook in a frypan).

Once pastry has defrosted, cut out rounds with a 6cm cutter and press into prepared pans.

Divide bacon pieces evenly among quiche bases. Top with approximately 1 teaspoon of cheese per quiche.

Whisk together eggs and cream in a small bowl. Transfer into a small jug for easy pouring. Pour approximately half a tablespoon of egg mixture into each quiche base.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Let the quiches cool for 2 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Quiches can be served warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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NB: Quiches keep for 1-2 days in an airtight container in the fridge, but are best eaten on the day they’re made so the pastry is crisp.

Recipe from my Mum, Anne Bills.

Neapolitan Easter Layer Cake

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This cake is surprisingly quick & easy to whip up and makes the perfect centre piece to an Easter celebration. This cake is very rich so small pieces are recommended, especially when consumed in addition to chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday!

Of course, this cake doesn’t need to be Easter-themed at all, just omit the mini eggs and decorate as desired.

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Ingredients (layer cake serves up to 20 + 6 cupcakes out of the vanilla cake mix)
For the white & pink layers
190g butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
410g caster sugar
4 eggs
1½ cups plain flour
¾ cup self-raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
¾ cup milk
Pink food colouring

For the chocolate layer
60g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140g caster sugar
1 egg
100g self-raising flour
¼ cup cocoa
80ml water

For the vanilla buttercream
200g butter, softened
½ cup milk
1 tblspn vanilla extract
8 cups icing sugar

To decorate
150g dark chocolate
1 ½ bags Cadbury mini eggs, or easter eggs of your choice

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Method
Grease & line three 20cm cake tins and line a 6-hole muffin tin with patty pans. Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced.

To make the vanilla cake layers, add the butter, vanilla, caster sugar, eggs, flours, bicarb soda and milk to a large bowl. Beat for 1-2 minutes with an electric mixer until completely combined and lighter in colour.

Fill the 6 patty pans approximately ¾ full with cake batter and set aside.

Divide the remaining vanilla batter into halves and colour one half pink with food colouring (this time I only used a couple of drops, but in future I will put in more for a more vibrant colour). Spread white mixture into one prepared tin and pink mixture into another, and set aside.

To make the chocolate layer, add butter, vanilla, sugar, egg, flour, cocoa and water into a large bowl. Beat for 1-2 minutes with an electric mixer until completely combined. Spread into remaining cake tin.

Place the three large cakes into the oven and bake for ~40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. When they are half way cooked (i.e. after 20 minutes), put the cupcakes into the oven and let them cook for ~20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool cakes for 5 minutes in their tins, then gently turn out onto metal cooling racks to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cool, you can start on the frosting. Cream the butter for 1-2 mins in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add the milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 mins (until the mixture is light and fluffy). Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 mins or until of a spreadable consistency. Add extra milk if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet.

Spread frosting over the top of each of your cupcakes and top with a mini egg if desired.

To assemble the layer cake, put a small amount of frosting in the middle of a cake stand (or plate/cake board/ whatever you want your cake to be displayed on) and gently place your chocolate layer on top. Top the cake with a generous layer of frosting and smoothe it out to the edges so you have an even layer. Gently place the pink layer directly on top, ensuring that it is flat and in-line with the chocolate layer (if the cake is wonky at all, shave some of the cake off with a knife so it sits flat, or add more frosting where it is thinner). Top the pink layer with a generous dollop of frosting and, again, smoothe it out to the edges so it’s evenly spread. Gently place the white cake on top, again making alterations if necessary so that it is flat and even.

Coat top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting and don’t worry if you get crumbs in this layer (it is known as the ‘crumb coat’). Put the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes or until set. Top with another layer of frosting and smoothe with a palette knife so you have a neat, even surface. Return to the freezer for a further 10 minutes to set.

While the cake is in the freezer, melt your chocolate ready for the drizzle. Once your cake’s frosting is set, pour the melted chocolate onto the top of your cake and allow it to run down the sides. Make sure the entire top of the cake is covered in chocolate. Once the chocolate has set slightly (but not completely!!) top evenly with mini eggs. Leave it for a few further minutes until the chocolate has completely set and then serve. Enjoy!

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Cake recipes adapted from the ‘cut and keep butter cake’ and the ‘one-bowl chocolate cake’ in the Australian Women’s Weekly Classic Cakes cookbook.

Decoration inspiration from Sainsbury’s Magazine.

Chocolate Mint Sundae Cupcakes

Chocolate and mint are a match made in heaven and these cupcakes combine them in one deliciously compact package. The cupcakes are a dark chocolate mudcake which, to me, are the perfect blend of light and rich. They are then topped with a generous layer of fluffy mint buttercream (which tastes exactly like peppermint ice-cream I might add), melted dark chocolate and a crumbled Flake bar – what’s not to love?! These are also a gorgeous shade of green – perfect for St Patrick’s Day!

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Ingredients (makes 12)
90g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
⅔ cup self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
⅓ cup almond meal
⅔ cup water
60g dark chocolate melts, melted

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting
125g butter, softened
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Peppermint essence
Green food colouring

To decorate
1 large Flake bar, crumbled
30g dark chocolate melts, melted

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Method
Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced). Line a 12-hole muffin tin with patty pans.

Beat butter, sugar & eggs in a large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in sifted flour and cocoa, almond meal, water and melted chocolate.

Fill each patty pan approximately ⅔ of the way full. Bake for around 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Stand cakes in tin for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Once cakes are fully cool, you can make the frosting. Beat butter in a medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in icing sugar and milk and a drop each of peppermint essence and green food colouring  (or until desired colour and flavour reached).

Ice cupcakes with a generous layer of frosting. To decorate, dollop each cupcake with dark chocolate and spread it so that it looks as though it is dripping slightly down the cakes. Top with crumbled Flake.

Enjoy!

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Adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Cupcakes by Colour’ cookbook

Xmas Reblog: Christmas Crinkle Cookies!

Gosh these are good. So good in fact that I’m reblogging them and I STRONGLY urge to make yourself a batch, stat! You can thank me later…

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Ingredients (makes approx. 36 cookies)
100g butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g dark chocolate, melted
1 ¼ cups flour, sifted
2 tspns baking powder, sifted
¼ cup cocoa, sifted
1 tablespoon red food colouring (depending on strength & desired colour, mine could have been a bit redder)
150g extra dark chocolate, roughly chopped
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup icing (powdered) sugar

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Method
Place butter, brown sugar & vanilla in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 3-5mins or until light and well combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour, baking powder, cocoa and food colouring and beat until a smooth dough forms.

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Fold through the chocolate chunks and refrigerate, covered, for an hour.

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Roll dessert spoons of the dough into the white sugar, shape them gently into balls and then toss in icing sugar. Place them on lined baking trays allowing plenty of room for spreading.

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Bake the cookies for 12-14mins or until the surface is cracked and the edges are slightly crispy. Don’t worry if the centre of the cookies looks undercooked, it will harden while cooling and be deliciously chewy. Enjoy!

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Adapted from the Red Velvet Crackle Cookies recipe in the Donna Hay Magazine Dec/Jan 2014

 

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

Pic from Inspired Taste.net (mine got eaten too quickly!)
Pic from Inspired Taste (mine got eaten too quickly!)

Even though Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday celebrated here in Australia, this year my family decided to get in on the action anyway as a number of us will be away over Christmas (and we like to party with or without good reason). So, in keeping with tradition, I made a pumpkin pie for dessert. I had no idea what to expect having never tried one before, but gave a highly rated recipe I found online a go and was really pleased with the result. If I didn’t know there was pumpkin in there (and it wasn’t orange) I wouldn’t pick it because it’s really the vanilla and spices that come to the fore, with the pumpkin providing a creamy, sweet back note. Pumpkin-y or not it was delicious and I’ll probably make it again when pumpkins are in season.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
Pastry
1 ½ cups plain flour
3 tspns icing sugar
140g cold butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tblspoons water

Filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (made by roasting pumpkins, scooping out the flesh, blitzing it into a smooth paste in a blender and then putting it in a sieve for an hour or so to remove the excess juice)
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup brown sugar
¾ cup cream
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
A pinch of salt
1 quick grind of pepper (i.e. a really small amount, sounds odd but it works!)

Method
To make the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar, butter, yolk & water into a food processor and process until it just comes together. Press into a ball, knead gently on a floured surface until smooth & then refrigerate, covered in clingfilm, for 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 23cm flan tin or pie dish.

When the pastry has chilled, roll dough on a floured surface until large enough to line the tin (I often have a bit left over). Lift pastry into tin, ease into the sides & then trim the excess.

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Cover the pastry with a sheet of baking paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, cream, vanilla and spices and stir until all incorporated.

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Pour mixture into pastry case (obviously remove the baking paper and pie weights first!!) and smooth over the top. I ended up having a bit of pumpkin filling left over that I might use in muffins or something (if I don’t eat it all first :P)

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Bake pie in the oven for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 160°C fan-forced for around 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

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Let cool completely before transferring to a serving platter and then serve at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy!

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Pic from Inspired Taste (mine got eaten too quickly!)

Pastry recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe & Filling Recipe from Inspired Taste.net

Crispy Skinned Peking Duck Pancakes

I’ve wanted to start the savoury baking section of my blog for a while now, but unlike with sweet baking, my savoury baking is almost never planned (and consequently not photographed). Finally, after months & months of struggling to decide which recipe to put up as my first in the section, I decided on one of my all-time favourites: peking duck pancakes.

If I’m honest, they are a bit time-consuming to make, and duck breasts certainly aren’t cheap, but considering how much you can pay for these babies in a restaurant, it’s certainly worth your while having a go at home, and they’re absolutely delicious!

The recipe I have written here is enough for a main meal for 4, but feel free to halve it if it’s just for an entrée, or double it to make it serve more.

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Ingredients (makes approximately 40 small pancakes)
For the pancakes:
4 ½ cups plain flour
1½ -2 cups boiling water
Sesame oil

For the duck:
4 duck breasts
Salt

To serve:
1 large cucumber, cut into batons
The green tops of 2-3 spring onions, julienned
Coriander/cilantro
Hoisin sauce (aka the greatest thing ever)

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Method
To make the pancakes, place the flour in a large bowl and stir in the boiling water. Knead until the dough is smooth.

Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a clean,damp cloth and allow to stand for at least 30mins.

Knead again for about 5mins, then divide into approximately 40 balls.

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Dip one side of a ball into a little sesame oil. Press the oiled ball together with another (unoiled) dough ball, oiled side towards the centre, and roll out to form a 15cm circle. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Fry the pancakes in a lightly oiled pan over a low heat, turn and lightly cook the other side. Both sides should be only very little browned (sort of like a mini tortilla).

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Carefully peel the pancakes apart (careful not to burn yourself!) and keep warm until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 200°C and 2 frypans to a medium-high heat. Prepare the duck by scoring the skin with a sharp knife and lightly salting it.

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I know I said 4… and this is 6. But I had 2 left over for another time

Place 2 breasts in each pan, skin-side down and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the skin is golden. Turn and cook for a further minute.

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Transfer the duck breasts onto a lightly oiled baking tray and cook in the preheated oven for a further 8-10 minutes.

While the duck is cooking, prepare your vegetables.

Once the duck is cooked, rest it for 5 minutes and then slice.

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To assemble the pancakes, put approximately a teaspoon of hoisin sauce onto the middle of the pancake, top with 2 slices of duck, some cucumber, spring onion & coriander and roll. Enjoy!

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Pancake recipe adapted from ‘The World’s Finest Food’ by Ann Creber, Elisabeth King & Phil Wymant

Vanilla Bean Macarons

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I made these particular macarons to sit on top of my 21st birthday cake (and because I think no afternoon tea is complete without them!) Feel free to adapt the colours or flavours as you wish.

Ingredients (makes around 40 macarons, 20 paired)
Macaron shells
225g pure icing sugar
130g almond meal
115g egg whites
60g caster sugar
1g bicarb soda
A few drops of rose pink & violet food colouring

Vanilla bean filling
100g butter, softened
¼ cup milk
½  tblspn organic vanilla bean paste
4 cups icing sugar
Rose pink & violet food colouring

Method
Preheat oven to 150°C fan forced. Grease and line two large baking trays with baking paper.

Separately sift icing sugar and almond meal into medium bowls or over sheets of baking paper. Repeat process 3 times and re-weigh ingredients (I know this seems excessive but trust me, it’s worth it). You will need to top up the ingredients as you may have lost some in the sifting process. Sift icing sugar and almond meal into a bowl and repeat, ensure there are no lumps.

Whisk egg whites until doubled in size using electric beaters or an electric stand mixer. While still whisking, gradually add caster sugar and bicarb, whisking until mixture forms very stiff peaks.

Gently fold almond meal mixture into meringue using a spatula until incorporated.

Divide mixture into 2 bowls. Add food colouring (pink to one, purple to the other) one drop at time, stirring very gently with a spatula, until desired colour reached.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 9mm round nozzle (approximately). Hold nozzle close to the baking tray and pipe 3cm diameter circles onto prepared trays – don’t make a circular motion àla soft serve. Tap the underside of the tray to allow macarons to settle and air bubbles to escape. If there is still a little peak on top, dip a teaspoon in water and use the back to smooth the surface. Repeat with other colour. 217929_10151403883896183_1104201680_n

Leave to rest for at least 20-30 minutes or until the macarons form a skin and the top is no longer shiny or sticky to the touch (this is VERY important as it will give your macaron its lovely ‘foot’).

Bake for 12 minutes. Remove trays from the oven and allow macarons to cool on the tray. They will still be soft at this stage but will firm up on cooling.

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To make the buttercream, cream the butter for 1-2 mins. Add the milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 mins (until the mixture is light and fluffy).

Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 mins or until of a spreadable consistency. Add extra milk if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet.

Halve the mixture and add a drop of rose food colouring to one half and a drop of violet colouring to the other.

Pipe a generous amount of buttercream onto half the macarons and sandwich with a second macaron.

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Recipe adapted from Callum Hann’s ginger macarons