Chocolate-dipped Coconut Macaroons

Christmas/Hanukkah Gifts: Coconut Macaroons

So recently I was looking for a recipe that was +gluten free +dairy free +lowfat (sort of) +hanukkah-ish (if possible – or at least not too christmass-y) and, through the magic of googling, got interested in coconut macaroons. Now there are many coconut macaroon recipes out there, but in the end I decided on these chocolate dipped ones, as they really are just egg, coconut and sugar (and chocolate).  They are also very easy to make and YUM!

Christmas/Hanukkah Gifts: Coconut Macaroons

A few notes on the recipe:

I have never heard of sweetened shredded coconut, so just mixed in some icing sugar in addition to the granulated (castor) sugar, to taste.

The recipe somewhat jumps the shark toward the end,  by not giving the amount of chocolate required for melting and dipping, but instead including a chocolate ganache step which seems entirely unrelated to the rest of the recipe. I just melted what I thought was enough chocolate (~80-100g) for dipping, and then melted a bit more when it turned out I needed it.  For the record, I have no problem using a microwave for chocolate melting.

While the vanilla was nice, another recipe I have since misplaced suggested adding lemon rind, and I may well do that if I  make them again for a lemony kick.

Also?  I doubled the recipe and only ended up with about 4 extra macaroons compared to what the recipes says.  I assume mine were giant sized (they seemed ok to me…)


Spiced Mango Chutney 2011

Christmas Gifts: Mango Chutney
So two years ago I made Spiced Mango Chutney, got very positive feedback from those I gave it to, and I’ve been fondly thinking of it ever since. Time to make some more! This year we elected to cook it in the slow cooker on low heat, for about 10 hours, used dark brown sugar instead of light brown (it’s what we had),  and tried adding some mustard seeds in pace of the nigella. We still had some of the plastic preserving jars last over to use,  but this time we didn’t try sterilising them (which lead to jar melting last time), but just spooned it in once it had cooled a bit. To be honest we eat the chutney so quickly,  you don’t really need to preserve, just keep it in the fridge.

And it’s still fabulous with sharp cheddar cheese on a corn thin. Mmmm… corn thins…

Spiced Mango Chutney

Spiced Mango Chutney

The secret to this spiced mango chutney is that there’s not actually that much mango in it!  It’s actually mostly pumpkin, which makes it less jam-like, and more substantial.

I was interested in making some jam/chutney/whatever as Christmas gifts – partly as I  had preserving jars to use. I was also interested in using my slowcooker to do it. So I had a quick look in one of my slow cooker recipe books and the mango chutney recipe was an obvious one to try. Still, the recipe made only 3 jars,  which seemed to seem not much reward for a reasonable amount of effort.  So I doubled the recipe – which worked out fine except the cooking time seemed to be much longer.  Much much longer (see below). Despite this, the chutney was still way worth it. The first jar went the very next night, accompanying a roast beef meal.  It went really well with cheddar on biscuits too, and everyone I gave a jar to was very impressed.  This recipe is definintely a keeper.

Spiced Mango Chutney

Single recipe makes 3 x 400g jars

Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 21/2-23/4 hours
Cooking temparture : high
Slow cooker size : standard (which from the book might 3.5 L or so – we did double the recipe in a 6L cooker)

Single recipe:
1 large mango
1 small butternut squash about 750 g, deseeded, peeled and diced (we did aobut 1-1.5 cm cubes – smaller would have been better)
2 large onions chopped
200g soft light brown sugar
100 mL white wine vinegar
4 cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed
2 tsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed
1 tsp black onions sseds (aka nigella – we didn’t have and therefore didn’t include)
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt

Peel and dice mango flesh
Put mango, squash and onion in the slow cooker pot and mix in the sugar and vinegar.
Add the ginger, cumin, coriander, black onion seeds and tumeric and season with salt and pepper.
Cover with the lid and cook on high for 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 hours.

Warm 3 clean jars in the bottom of a low oven.  Spoon in the chutney, place a waxed disc on top and leave to cool.  Seal each jar with a screw topped lid then label.  Store in a cool place for up to 2 months.  Once opened, store in the refrigerator.

We doubled the recipe and cooked in a 6 L slow cooker.  It took TWICE AS LONG as the recipe said – probably 5 hours on high.  We had to mash up the pumpkin at the end to get it to the right consistency but we might have avoided this if it had been cut up a little smaller to start with. Our plastic jars were ‘sterilised’ in hot water very quickly to avoid melting/deformation.  I would highly recommend using glass! Still the chutney has kept really well in the refrigerator.  We still have one jar to eat – we must start using it!

Vanilla Extract

I think it was some time in September that I found out that:

a)  you could make vanilla extract by putting a vanilla bean in vodka (see: here, here, and here)

b) you could buy vanilla beans on eBay

I can’t even remember how I came across these facts, but I did think that real vanilla extract would be a great thing to give out as Christmas presents.  The thought simmered in my head for a couple of months but it wasn’t until R and L suggested forming a consortium to buy a stash of vanilla beans that I actually got my act together. With two other friends we bought a kilo of A-grade beanz and I received them a couple of days before Xmas Day.

Now, you can make extract in any sealed glass jar,  but I decided to do it proper-like and bought 100 mL bottles from Plasdene (awesome packaging company), and made a label too.

Vanilla Extract

I think they look pretty awesome 🙂

There’s no real recipe for this – I spilt whole vanilla beans and then put one in each bottle.  Other people  snipped the beans in pieces but I like the way the bean contorts inside.  One bean to 100 mL vodka seems to be a higher ratio of bean to vodka than is needed,  but the beauty of the extract is that you can keep refilling the bottle with vodka until the bean is completely extracted. Apparently it takes 6-8 weeks or longer to make proper extract.  My extract is dark and vanilla-y after less than a week so I’m looking forward to the final product in late February (expect to see a rise in baking then  :-). I’m also planning to make vanilla sugar, vanilla olive oil and maybe some vanilla rum, but I’ll probably do this with used beans.

Vanilla BeansMaking Vanilla ExtractMaking Vanilla ExtractMaking Vanilla Extract