Apricot, lavender and heather honey shortbread cookies

April 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Spring is starting to bloom into summer, with golden hazy days and Pimms-drenched afternoons becoming part of the daily routine. As I have most of the day off (a rare occurence), I decided to try out the new heather honey I bought recently. I don’t know if any of you have tried Walker’s Oatflake and heather honey biscuits, but the second I tried these I fell in love. I’ve finally got around to trying to make them with a little twist, as usual.

Using some more of my lovely lavender sugar from Waitrose, and some of my own vanilla sugar that I made last time I used it for strawberry, vanilla and basil ice cream (the recipe for which I’ll put up once I’ve perfected it), I made these shortbread cookies. They may be a little sweet, but they’re perfect for tea.

With the addition of a little chopped apricot, these are the right mix of fruity and sweet, with the herby lavender and heather notes balancing the taste well.

To make these delectable little treats, you will need:

  • 230g plain flour
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp lavender sugar (mostly flowers if you can pick them out)
  • 2 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp heather honey (large spoonfuls, mind)
  • 50g semi-dried apricots chopped into 5mm cubes

Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and lavender sugar in a medium bowl. Set this aside to use in a little while. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, vanilla sugar, icing sugar and heather honey. Cream these together until smooth and then add the chopped apricot.

At this point you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients – the best way to do this is to add the flour one third at a time, mixing well in between. You’ll form a soft dough, which you scoop out onto a floured board or worktop.

Roll this into a log that is roughly 2 inches in diameter, and then wrap up tightly in cling film. Refridgerate the wrapped up dough for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and cut the refridgerated dough into ½ inch cookies. Place onto a parchment-lined baking tray about 2 inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden around the edges. They’ll be a little soft in the middle when they come out, so either stick them in for another 2 minutes if you want them crispy through, or let them cool completely.

The sea salt forms little salty pockets in the shortbread which work wonderfully with the sweet bites! These are best enjoyed with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea, or drizzled with a little melted white chocolate if you have an even sweeter tooth!

Leftover lamb gnocchi with apricots

April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Once again, I have to apologise for such a lengthy intermission between posts. I’ve been so bogged down with work, moving house, networking, and travelling that I’ve hardly had any time to pick up a fork let alone a spatula.

However, I really made the effort this Easter. I forgot to take photos, mind, as I’m terribly rubbish like that. I made a rolled leg of lamb roast stuffed with spinach, apricots and pine nuts, served with thyme potato dauphinoise and honey and thyme glazed sticky carrots. It was delicious! But we had a fair amount of roast lamb leftover for the next day which was still really juicy and tender, so we decided to make a leftover’s recipe based on the combination of flavours we’d worked with the night before.

Lamb and apricot are a marriage made in heaven. The idea of combining lamb with the fragrant apricot is very Moroccan and Middle Eastern. Many Middle Eastern dishes, such as tagine, use fruits and spices alongside meat to create a unique complement.

However, the idea of combining them with gnocchi is fairly unusual and probably not one that you’d start off considering. The real beauty of this dish is how all the flavours come together and are just right – no particular ingredient overpowers the other. Although apricots aren’t in season at the moment (May to September is the usual time), dried apricots are the main star of this dish – plus with all the hot weather we’ve been having it almost feels like it’s summer already.

So, some of these are estimations as it’s based on how much we had leftover! But here we go:

  • 500g storebought gnocchi
  • 100-150g fresh baby leaf spinach
  • 6 semi-soft dried apricots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • approximately 100-150g roast lamb
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stems rosemary, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
  • a splash of cream
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • flaked sea salt and pepper
  • parmesan, for sprinkling

Start off by toasting your pine nuts in a large frying pan – just dry roasted as there is no need for oil. After about 3-4 minutes these will be done and you can remove them to a small bowl while you prepare the sauce. Wash the spinach and put into the frying pan with a knob of butter and the chopped garlic. Let this reduce for about 30 seconds or so before putting in the chopped apricot and pine nuts. Chop up your leftover lamb into bitesize chunks and then add to the sauce.

Stir gently to combine, then add the thyme leaves and chopped rosemary. Season with Maldon sea salt if you have it, otherwise some normal sea salt is really brilliant in this kind of dish. Add some black pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir everything together and turn the heat off.

Hopefully you’ve boiled a kettle of water in preparation, but if not, boil some water and stick it in a saucepan with the gnocchi (make sure you salt the water well). Once the gnocchi rises to the surface of the water it is ready to drain. When you’ve drained the gnocchi, put the sauce mix back on the heat and add a splash of cream. Stir about to combine, then add the drained gnocchi. Combine well, then serve in shallow bowls with grated parmesan over the top.

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