Dal Makhani

Weeknights are such a balancing act – I won’t bore you with the laundry list of things that need to be done (including the actual laundry), but like every one else, there’s always something that needs to be done, or somewhere we need to be. Between myself, two active kids, an active dog, and a husband who works long hours with a long commute, you can usually find me from the hours of 4-8pm Monday-Friday in some degree of hectic rush. Now, I’m not complaining, not really. I’m grateful to have a job I love, even if it doesn’t always “finish at 3” (ugh). I’m grateful that my kids are active and social, and have found sports and activities that they love, and that hubby and I are in a position to let them explore those interests. I’m grateful to have a puppy I adore, and that we can both exercise together – I don’t know who enjoys his walkies more, McCartney or me. Actually… probably Mac; I don’t recall peeing in excitement over the prospect. And I’m incredibly grateful to be married to a wonderful man who works hard and makes a lot of sacrifices for the wellbeing of our family.

But, man, dinner time can be a challenge. I’ve taken to cooking dinner the night before the more hectic nights, and so I’m constantly on the look out for meals that keep really well, are nutritious and delicious, and are quick/easy to make in the first place, because often, these make ahead meals are the second dinner I’ve cooked that night, after a busy day of work/kid wrangling. Once again, I find myself very grateful that my kids aren’t fussy eaters… I’d go mad if the options were limited even further!

This dal recipe ticks almost all my boxes – it’s healthy, cheap, easy, and it doesn’t just keep well… it’s better the next day! It’s not exactly quick, but that’s only because it simmers away for an hour – it does it’s own thing on a low heat, and needs very little attention (the bare minimum of stove safety ought to cover it), so it’s definitely easy. It’s probably not the most authentic dal – the recipe from which I adapted it is, but I changed it to be quicker and more straight forward, because that’s what I need it to be. So please forgive the tinned beans and commercial chapatis… the aim of the game is to be nourished and warmed quickly and without delay – fiddling around making my own bread isn’t possible on dal day! But what it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in rich taste. I was surprised at the nutritional breakdown: despite two different types of butter and some cream, it only clocks in at 335 calories per serve, which leaves just enough room for you to justify the chapati, because at least in my view, carbs are life.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 tbs ghee

2 tbs butter

1 brown onion, diced

1/2 cup passata

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp minced ginger

400g can lentils, rinsed and drained

400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp ground chilli (I used cayenne)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 pinch Maldon salt flakes

1.5 cups water

1/4 cup Philadelphia light cream for cooking

1tbs butter, extra

Method

  1. Melt ghee and 2tbs butter in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes until golden brown.
  2. Add ginger and garlic, and stir for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Mix in the passata and stir until it is fully combined.
  4. Stir in the lentils and kidney beans – it’s okay if some of them are mashed into the sauce.
  5. Add spices, stir well.
  6. Pour in 1/2 cup of water, and stir. Reduce heat to low, and simmer (uncovered) for 45 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes or so to prevent sticking. Add the remaining water in increments throughout the simmering time – I added a quarter cup every time I stirred.
  7. After the dal has simmered for 45 minutes, stir in sugar, cream and another tablespoon of butter. Stir to combine, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Serve immediately with rice and chapati (neither are counted in the calorie calculation – I skip the rice altogether) or allow to cool, then refrigerate and let the flavours do their thing.

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Butter Bean and Spinach Smash

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I never thought I’d be the kind of person to own a book called “The Detox Bible”. I don’t believe in detox diets – namely because I feel our bodies are perfectly capable of doing all the detoxification that they need, and don’t need magical juices or powders to help them along. I also don’t believe in “bad” foods that must be avoided at all costs, unless of course, you have an allergy. Nevertheless, when a local bookshop was having a sale on cookbooks and slashing prices by 75%, I’m willing to be more open to things.

I have to say, this book pleasantly surprised me. It’s wheat, refined sugar and dairy free (all of which I happily ignore when it suits me), but really, it’s pretty well balanced. It’s more often a case that these recipes are naturally free of these devil ingredients, than a case of the authors moving heaven and earth to swap these perfectly fine ingredients with ridiculous substitutions. I appreciate such common sense approaches, even if I don’t subscribe to the core philosophy.

Anyway, I digress. This dip is why I bought the book. It’s the first page I opened to when I was flicking through it at the store, and I was immediately sold. I love beans. Like, LOVE beans. My family aren’t quite as enthusiastic, so while I use them regularly, I rarely make them the star of the dish… Until now. Combined with an array of crudités, this dip makes an extremely healthy, delicious, filling and cheap work lunch that will make you feel like some kind of nutritionally superior god/dess for only 240 calories (it’s 170 by itself). Did I mention it’s delicious?! Because, seriously, even I was taken aback with just how GOOD this is. Off a spoon, with crackers, as a bed for your egg – it just works with everything, and my new addiction.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 handfuls of baby spinach (about 25g)

400g butter beans, drained and rinsed (butter beans are lima beans – I had no idea!)

1tsp olive oil

1tbs lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chopped raw vegetables to serve

Method

  1. Place all ingredients except the crudités into a blender and pulse into a chunky consistency (you can make it completely smooth if you prefer. I like it chunky – the butter beans are creamy enough to provide a lovely texture). If it won’t break down, add a teaspoon of water to help it along.
  2. That’s it. It couldn’t be easier.

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Cream Cheese Snickerdoodles

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It’s a tragic truth that here in Australia, snickerdoodles are not readily available. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a store and seen a pack, or heard anyone casually speak of them. If not for the fact that American pop culture is ubiquitous, and the name sticks in your head (or, at least, it does if you have the sense of humour of a 12 year old boy), they’d be an unknown entity to me.

I remember once, when I was first trying my hand at cooking, making some sort of snickerdoodle slice recipe that I’d seen online, and by which I been thoroughly underwhelmed. Experience tells me now that I hadn’t completely cooked the flour out of the batter, which would account for the unpleasant aftertaste, but I still remained vehemently uncurious about these funnily named little snacks. I hadn’t thought about them for years, save for the occasional time they were mentioned in an American movie or show.

The day after Mother’s Day, I found I had a glut of cream cheese left over, and no inspiration for to do with it – not even a stale bagel, nothing. So, I figured I’d do some cream cheese cookies… because what’s life without a little naughtiness, right? It wasn’t until I’d made, eaten, and thoroughly enjoyed these cookies, adapted from This Silly Girl’s Kitchen, that I realised they were, essentially, a somewhat decadent snickerdoodle. Now I get the hype, because these are the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. They’re so fluffy and cake-like, they melt in your mouth, and are sweet without being too sweet. I could eat them all day. Of course, they’re 165 calories per (not huge) cookie, so they’re a special treat, but oh, my, what a treat they are!

This recipe yields 28 cookies.

Ingredients

1/2 cup  butter, softened

125g cream cheese, softened

1 & 1/2 cup icing sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Small pinch Maldon salt flakes

1 & 3/4 cup self raising flour

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Using a stand or electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the icing sugar until combined.
  2. Add egg, baking powder, vanilla, and salt. Mix to combine.
  3. Slowly incorporate flour, scraping the sides as needed. Refrigerate for one hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 180 degrees, and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar.
  6. Roll 2 teaspoons of dough into small balls, Roll each ball into the cinnamon sugar mixture to fully coat, and place on the trays about 5cm apart – they do spread a bit. Flatten slightly.
  7. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until just set. Be aware that these are a very blonde cookie, and won’t brown much, so don’t overcook. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes (if, after this, they still seem undercooked, place back in hot oven for another two minutes or so). Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
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Beef and Barley Stew

Oh, look. Another barley recipe! I don’t actually eat a lot of barley, but I absolutely adore it, and am always so excited to find low-calorie, delicious recipes with what is, hands down, my favourite grain.

Strangely enough, it’s never really occurred to me to cook it in my cast iron pot… I’m usually the goose standing in front of the stove for forty minutes at a time, stirring and adding bits of water at a time to stop it from sticking to the pan. Oh, sure, it’s a labour of love well worth the final result, but frankly, sticking it in the oven with slightly more water than I’d normally use is even better.

The combination of chilli and craisins is an absolute winner here, and lends to a sweet and spicy combo that really keeps things interesting. I know slow-cooking rump steak isn’t really the done thing, but I took the risk in hopes of keeping the recipe as low-cal as possible, and it worked. At 423 cals for a good-sized bowl, this stew is perfect for cooking the night before, ready to nourish and warm you up after a wintery evening of schlepping the kids to their various sporting commitments.

Serves 5

Ingredients

3 tsp olive oil

500g beef rump (don’t trim the fat), cubed

2 cloves garlic

1 onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

2-3 tsp Masterfood minced chilli

400g tinned tomatoes

1 1/2 cups beef stock

1 cup pearl barley

1/2 cup craisins

parsley, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C. In a cast iron or other oven-safe pot with a tight lid, heat half the oil over medium-high heat on the stove, and brown the beef in batches and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining oil over low heat. Add onion and carrots, and cook for 10 minutes, until softened. Stir in garlic and chilli, and mix for 1 minute to combine.
  3. Add beef, tomatoes and stock, and bring to a simmer. Transfer to oven and cook for 1 hour.
  4. Add barley and craisins, and bake for another hour, stirring occasionally to avoid the barley from sticking. Top with another half cup of water as you go, if necessary. (I found I don’t need to, but ovens are fickle and yours may vary).
  5. Either serve immediately, or allow to come to room temperature and then refrigerate. Reheat gently over a medium heat, topping with more water/stock if you find it dries out as it reheats. Garnish with parsley to serve.

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Baked Sweet Potato with Burghul Chilli

Every now and then I think about vegetarianism. I think I’d be good at it. There are SO many good vegetarian dishes that highlight amazing ingredients rather than try to compensate for the lack of meat, and I appreciate that greatly. However, at the end of the day, I enjoy eating meat (although I don’t need to eat it every day) and don’t believe in completely cutting out entire food groups from my diet ( I have no issue at all if you do, I just don’t want to, for various reasons). In saying that, I don’t miss meat at all when I have a great veg meal, and I find myself having more of them lately. I seem to find myself creating delicious vegetarian lunches to take to work, because then my hubby and kids aren’t being forced into anything, I don’t need to worry about balancing nutrients for anyone except myself (which I already do anyway), and I’m cutting down on unnecessary meat, without making any massive changes. I guess I’m coming across a totally uncommitted, fake, wannabe vegetarian, and I’m absolutely okay with that. I’m not any those things, really, least of all a vegetarian; I just love vegetables and experimenting with both cooking and eating, and this seems to be my thing du jour. I think I’ve struck a good balance. I hope so. I can’t say there have been any negative effects since reducing the extraneous meat consumption, and I’m still getting adequate levels of quality protein. Win win!

This vegetarian chili, adapted from The Women’s Weekly’s Eat Well With Wholefoods, is the perfect example of a completely whole meal in and of itself, that is delicious, filling, and complex in flavours and textures. It makes the perfect at-work lunch or light dinner, and at only 304 calories a serve, nobody would blame you if you popped a drained can of tuna in there to bulk it up a bit and/or satisfy the carnivores in your pack. Honestly, though, it doesn’t really need it – it’s filling and hearty just as it is. Conversely, if instead of being a fake vegetarian, you wanted to go the other way and make it vegan, all you need to do is omit the yoghurt. Talk about a crowd pleaser!

Serves 2

Ingredients

Spray oil, or 3 tsp of olive oil

300g sweet potato, cut into large cubes

1 brown onion, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

1 clove garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 can diced tomatoes

50g burghul

salt and pepper to taste

4 tbs natural yoghurt (I use Danone yopro – high protein, no sugar, thick and creamy)

Dried parsley to serve.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Arrange sweet potato on baking tray and spray/drizzle with 2 tsp of the oil. Roast for 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low and cook onion and carrot for 10 minutes.
  3. Add all the spices, and stir until combined and aromatic, about 1 minute.
  4. Pour in tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add burghul and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Season and remove from heat.
  5. Tumble sweet potatoes on to two plates. Spoon the chilli over the vegetables, and top with yoghurt and parsley to serve.

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Curried Lentil and Tomato Stew

I’m still feeling the effects of Maypril (with all the family birthdays plus Easter in this period, hubby and I long ago decided to combine the period from the end of March to beginning of May into one big, expensive conglomerate of cake), and am also in the middle of school holidays, which means my routine has been shot to absolute bits. As a bit of a creature of habit, I’m really yearning to get back to my “New Normal” – that is, the routine that I know allows me to eat a balanced and delicious diet (with room carved our for treats of course!) at regular times, stay active, and control my nutritional intake, while maintaining my weight. While this month has not been a disaster in the sense that I didn’t magically regain 53 (or any) kilos like I felt I surely would, I still haven’t been eating well, and I can feel “old Michelle” issues coming – I’m not sleeping well, I feel bloated, and I’m starting to run out of steam. I know I say that it’s all about Calories In Calories Out, but at this stage of the long-term game, it’s really not. Not every calorie is made equally, and you can’t eat 500 calories worth of chocolate and expect to feel the same as when you eat 500 calories of high quality protein, veggies and wholegrains. Trust me, I know this from experience!

Except for my husband’s birthday next week, I’m all out of Maypril madness so I’m back on track, and so, so happy about it! This is how I know this is a true, permanent lifestyle change for me – fun is fun, but it’s only fun for a very short while. Then I’m itching to go back to New Normal, and don’t feel the slightest bit deprived. New Normal is liberating, and it’s something I jealously guard. I refuse to give it all up for a lifetime of bloat and regret. But then, I also refuse to give up cake, so it’s all a big, mindful balancing act.

Throughout the past four weeks, it’s been lunches that have been the most difficult thing for me to plan. So to mark getting back to New Normal, I meal prepped lunch for the next couple of days. With how much rich, fatty food I’ve devoured lately, a light vegetarian option was absolutely needed, and this stew, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Ina Garten, who probably adapted it from another recipe that mine doesn’t even faintly resemble (like culinary Chinese Whispers!), fit the bill perfectly. It’s simple to make, low calorie (175 calories), packs a punch, freezes well, costs almost nothing to make, and chances are that you won’t even have to go to the shop, as it’s a meal of staples (you absolutely can use tinned tomatoes, in fact SK’s recipe calls for them. I only used fresh because I have too many and they’re starting to turn). This recipe serves 4, but you can adjust the ratios to make more or less. Four is great though, as it’s the whole can of lentils, so no waste.

Ingredients

3 second spray olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

1 tsp minced ginger

2 tsp minced garlic

6 small tomatoes, finely diced

Small pinch sea salt flakes

1 cup drained tinned lentils

2 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock works well, too)

1 heaped tsp curry powder

1 tsp dried basil

Pepper, to serve.

Method

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan, sweat onion and carrots over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add ginger and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt and lentils, mixing to combine. Cook for 3 minutes until tomatoes soften.
  3. Add stock, curry and basil, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat back to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and stewed.
  4. Serve with cracked pepper.

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Creamy bacony healthy boscaiola

I know I promised I wouldn’t be all about pretending lower fat/carb/what have you is the real deal, and instead celebrate food for what it is, rather than demonising food groups. And that still stands, even with recipes like this, which substitute traditional pasta for gluten free pulse pasta (that it’s GF wasn’t a consideration in choosing the ingredient, just a note that it IS gluten free, but I’m sure the recipe itself isn’t). Furthermore, from day one of my fitness journey, I’ve been adamant that I wouldn’t cut out any foods – no food would be forbidden, although I knew some meals would be on a much lower rotation.

Of course, common sense dictates that creamy, bacony pastas have been severely limited. I haven’t had a boscaiola in what seems like forever, which is especially sad, as it was once my signature dish! However, this “nots-caiola” means that I can have my pasta and eat it, too! At 385 calories for a smallish serve (small but still adequate – it got me through a 1.5 hour roller derby training session with no problems), it’s not exactly low calorie, but by using a pulse pasta made of lentils, borlotti beans, peas and chickpeas instead of the usual wheat pasta, swapping the cream for the lighter Philadelphia cream for cooking and loading it with veggies, what was once a heavy and indulgent meal is now a nutritious and reasonable occasional weeknight dinner that the whole family loves. It doesn’t taste exactly like my old boscaiola, but it is in no way subpar or inferior. It’s just more nutritious and far less caloric. Win, win, win!

Serves 5

 

Ingredients

250g dry San Remo pulse pasta

½ cup peas

2tsp olive oil

2 tsp minced garlic

125g shortcut bacon, diced

2 tsp minced garlic

250g mushrooms

1 brown onion, thinly sliced

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into fifths

½ cup chicken stock

1tbs cornflour

2tsp Worcestershire sauce

¾ tub Philadelphia lighter cream for cooking

Black pepper and grated parmesan cheese, to serve.

 

Method

  1. Heat oil in large frypan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook for 4 minutes, or until golden and starting to get a little crispy.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta to packet instructions – that is, boil for 6-8 minutes. In the final minute of cooking, add peas. Rinse, drain and keep warm.
  3. Stir in mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and cook for a further few minutes, until tender.
  4. In a bowl or jug, combine cornflour and stock, whisking until smooth. Add cream and Worcestershire sauce, and stir to combine.
  5. Stir drained pasta into bacon and mushroom mixture. Add cream mixture and stir to combine well. Adjust heat to low and cook for 3 minutes, until sauce thickens and clings to the pasta.
  6. Serve with ground black pepper and parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

 

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Cauliflower, Chilli and Cheddar Bites

It’s not going to be popular, but I’m going to say it – keto turns me off a little. I know of people who have lost up to 200 pounds (over 100 kilos!!) and kept it off for 3 years by faithfully sticking to keto and intermittent fasting, and I’ll support them all day and all night in that journey. I cheer them on and ask them questions because I’m nosy and like knowing about various options. I’m just not the slightest bit interested in following it myself. From the second I decided that I was going to lose weight, I knew it would have to be a sustainable and balanced diet for me to stick to it. I don’t want restrictions, I don’t want the words “I can’t eat that” to pass my lips, and I REALLY don’t want to banish carbs. Obviously, I needed to restrict calories, there are certain foods I choose not to eat (or at least choose not to eat outside of special occasions), and it’s natural to shave calories by reducing nutritionally-lacking carbs. But, hands off my fruit and veggies, and don’t even think about making me live a bread-free life! I don’t actually eat a lot of bread anymore, but when I do, you can bet it will be good quality, usually wholegrain and freaking delicious… which also makes it completely non-negotiable!

As you can see, my slight aversion to keto isn’t based on a whole lot of research, and I’m not anti-keto, or anything like that. It’s just not really for me – the wild imbalance between macros doesn’t tickle my fancy, nor does a diet of rich, fatty foods. I found what works for me, and happily accept that others can do the same. I’m not a dietitian or nutritionist, and I’m not going to tell you how or what to eat.

I will urge you, however, to try these amazingly spicy, keto-friendly little vegetarian quiche-muffin thingies. I don’t really spend much time scouring keto food blogs or cookbooks, but a recipe for something similar to these fell in my lap from an online friend, and after a few tweaks to suit my preferences and contents of my kitchen cupboards, I whipped these up in no time. I had one at about 5.30pm last night, and then promptly went and had a car accident that kept us in the hospital until midnight (we’re relatively unscathed). Having missed dinner, I was hungry when I got home, but not starving. Not a bad job for a 180 calorie, three bite snack! The recipe makes 12, and they freeze well, so each batch is a great 2-weeks worth of mid-morning work snacks.

Ingredients 

2 cups raw riced cauliflower (approximately 1/2 head)

3  extra large eggs

2 tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp onion powder

1 pinch salt flakes

black pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1.5 tbs minced chilli

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup, shredded cheddar cheese

2tbs almond meal

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cases.
  2. To rice cauliflower, pulse in a food processor for approximately 5 seconds, until roughly the size of rice.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cauliflower, eggs, butter and spices well. Add cheeses and almond meal, and fold to combine, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes. Turn off oven, and rest for 15 minutes with the door closed, to continue to firm up.
  5. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Muffins can be served warmed or cold, and freeze/thaw beautifully.

 

 

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Bean, Barley and Vegetable Soup

Ugh – still sick. My chest infection  has devolved into a common cold, but it’s been a few weeks now, and I feel like little more than a drippy, droopy mess. But there ain’t no rest for the wicked, so all that’s left is to power on and occasionally whinge on social media.

Last night, I could think of absolutely nothing other than a big bowl of soup that would guarantee a full and immediate restoration of my health. Taste didn’t really matter, as I’ve temporarily lost that particular sense, along with its good friend smell – I wanted comfort and wholesomeness. And with this recipe, I got it in spades.

Bonus: even I could tell it tasted divine, and my family were more than willing to affirm this, even though they’re insanely carnivorous  and this recipe is decidedly not (well, except for the parmesan, but you can get vegetarian varieties if that matters to you). And at 170 calories for a VERY generous serve, it really is just a bowlful of goodness.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2tsp olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

3 medium sized carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup pearl barley

1.25 litres chicken stock

2 x 400g cans four bean mixed, drained

400g tinned chopped tomatoes

1tsp dried parsley

2tsp dried basil

1tsp dried rosemary

1 large zucchini, diced

4tbs grated parmesan cheese

Method.

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add onions, garlic and carrots, and sweat for 10 minutes.
  2. Add  barley and stir to combine well with vegetables.
  3. Add stock, stir, and increase heat to high. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 25 minutes, until barley has started to soften.
  4. Add tomatoes, beans and herbs, and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Tumble in zucchini, and simmer for 5 minutes, until softened but not mushy.
  6. Serve into large bowls. Top with parmesan.

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Mocha Macarons (Mocharons?)

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with macarons since the Zumbo craze a few years back- they’re delicious, of course, but they’re also expensive and just a tad pretentious for what they are. And I was convinced that they’d be hard to make, even though I do know my way around meringue and baking in general. I wrote them off as something I’d never bother to make years ago.

For my later, I received a gift certificate from my mother in law to the Paris International Cooking School (sadly, in Sydney, not Paris, but it was still an awesome gift!), and walked out of there a few weeks later with a bunch of recipes, a full belly, and, inexplicably, a bottle of gourmet coffee flavoured syrup I’d purchased on a whim. Predictably, that syrup sat in the dark recesses of my baking cupboard for a month or so, until today, when another impulse purchase took me by surprise – a 2kg bag of almond meal.

You can see where this is going.

With all these ridiculous ingredients, guests on their way, and a healthy fear of what was to come, I had to work out the most fool-proof option for making these macarons. Thank goodness for Elaine and her recipe at The Spruce Eats,

as not only did she provide a really simple and effective base recipe that I could change up a bit, but she also talks the reader off the ledge every step of the way.

All I did differently here was add a teaspoon of cocoa to the macaron mixture, and a dash of coffee syrup to the filling. And it was perfect. Chewy, light, barely sweet, and a breeze to cook for only 110 calories a pop (if you make 12). I did, however, find that I had to keep them in the oven longer, but ovens are notoriously fickle, so I took that with a big old grain of salt.

Ingredients

3/4 cup icing sugar

3/4 cup almond meal

2  egg whites

Small pinch maldon salt flakes

1/4 cup caster sugar

1tsp cocoa

Filling:

2/3 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup icing sugar

2tsp coffee syrup

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 C. Line two baking trays with baking paper, and draw 12 circles on each of them, using a shot glass as a stencil.

Sieve the icing sugar and ground almonds into a large mixing bowl, ensuring there are no lumps – I like to whisk the end result, just to be sure.

In a separate clean bowl (I used my stand mixer here), whisk the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Add the caster sugar little by little, whisking until the whites are glossy and stiff peaks form.

Gently fold in the almond mixture. Don’t worry that the meringue loses air, this is normal.

Fill a piping bag with the mixture. Don’t use the star nozzle like I did at first – you want a round, flat base here. Pipe the mixture onto the rounds, filling in the circle.

Gently bang the baking trays on the bench to release any air pockets. Leave on bench to dry out for 20 minutes.

Bake the macarons for 15 minutes, opening the door halfway through to allow any steam (and hence moisture) to escape. Remove from the oven, and allow to sit in their trays until cool. They might seem a little underdone, but will firm upon cooling.

To make the filling, cream the butter and gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add flavouring and beat a little more. Spread 1/2 tsp of filling onto the flat side of one macaron, sandwich with another, and gently twist to cement them together. Repeat with remaining cookies.

 

 

 

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