White vanilla macaron with sakura tea ganache recipe

This is a recipe from Sakura at Sake No Hana

Sake no Hana sakura macaronsFor the tant pour tant:


600g ground almonds
600g icing sugar
220g egg whites


In a mixing machine bowl, mix all the ingredients together until smooth.

For the macaron:


1 batch tant pour tant
220g egg whites
600g caster sugar
120g water
8g white colour
1 vanilla pod seeds scraped


  1. Place the egg whites into a machine mixing bowl, begin to whisk on a low speed.
  2. Place the caster sugar and water together in a pan and cook the sugar to soft ball 118°C. When the sugar has reached 105°C, increase the speed on the egg whites and stabilise the meringue with 20g caster sugar.
  3. Once the boiling sugar has reached 118°C, reduce the speed of the egg whites and pour the sugar gently over the egg whites.
  4. Increase the speed and mix for 1 minute, stop the machine and add in the white colour and vanilla pod seeds. Turn on the speed again and whisk until the meringue has cooled to blood temperature.
  5. Fold 1/3 of the meringue into the tant pour tant base and mix gently until smooth then fold in the remaining meringue and mix until smooth and glossy.
  6. Place into a piping bag with a 10mm piping nozzle.
  7. Pipe 4 cm diameter rounds onto a tray lined with a non stick baking mat, allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Pre heat the oven to 130°C, place the macarons into the oven and cook for 16-17 minutes, until they just start to peel off the baking mat.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

For the sakura tea ganache:


150g milk chocolate (35% cocoa solids)
150g dark chocolate (66% cocoa solids)
210g whipping cream
8g sakura tea
25g unsalted butter



  1. Place the whipping cream in a pan and bring to the boil, add in the sakura tea and allow to infuse for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Strain the whipping cream into another pan.
  3. Place the chocolate into a mixing bowl.
  4. Bring the infused cream back to the boil, pour over the chocolate mix gently until a ganache consistency is formed. Gradually add in the softened butter, mix until fully emulsified.
  5. Allow to set, at room temperature.


To build the macaron:

  1. Match the macarons to create a top and a bottom.
  2. Place the sakura ganache into a piping bag with a 10mm piping tube, pipe a bulb into the centre of one half the macarons.
  3. Stick the top to the bottom of the macaron.

Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, InterContinental Park Lane Hotel, Review

The InterContinental, 1 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7QY wellington-lounge.co.uk

Pastry platter, Christmas Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge

The last time that I went for Afternoon Tea with my mother was maybe a decade ago.

The new way of drinking tea was just becoming fashionable in China. Instead of the Chinese staple of green teas, the tea houses were exploding with leaves from all over the world. The saying in Britain might be “not for all the tea in China”, but the Chinese revered red tea and the British way of drinking it – with milk and sugar.

Of course, tea houses existed long before that.

I remember being around five and being taken to the old tea houses where people sat around square mahogany tables amongst a sea of bamboo arm chairs. These were always outdoors and were open year round.

There were really only two kinds of tea – jasmine or Long Jing (dragon well). The loose leaves, always full petal and not broken crackling, arrived in a porcelain cup that had a saucer and lid. The saucer caught any spillages and made the scorching cups easier to handle while the lids protected the tea from the elements and served as a good implement for pushing back the leaves. Your cup would be topped up throughout your time at the tea house by the tea porter, which might be several hours or the whole day.

The only nibbles were sunflower seeds, and sometimes mixed sweets. There were always piles of shells and wrappers littering the floor, constantly swept away by attendants with sorghum brushes and quickly piling up again. It was rustic stuff but it was a place where people could talk, play cards, or as more often was the case, Mahjong in the days before widespread technology. Sometimes, there were performances of Sichuan opera and live talks too.

I don’t know when it was but those kinds of tea houses fell out of fashion. While tea remained popular, the Chinese version of Afternoon Tea wasn’t revived until the hotels started serving red teas. Soon, tea houses were everywhere again but now in much more luxurious surroundings than its rustic predecessor. Snacks, pastries and sometimes full meals would be served. Prices also shot up by two or three hundred per cent.

(Read more about tea houses in China in my Lonely Planet post here)

These were the Afternoon Teas I had a decade ago.

But now I was sitting down in the plush, upholstered arm chairs in the Wellington Lounge and our Afternoon Tea came with a Champagne cocktail.

The food had all the right notes of Britishness.

Warm Mountbatten Estate partridge, morel and foie gras pie; Speyside salmon and Lords of the Hundreds cheese sandwiches; and sultana and buttermilk scones with Devon clotted cream and strawberry preserve were just some of the things on the menu. Interlaced were Christmas highlights like choux swans (a-swimming), dark chocolate drums (for the drummers drumming) and French hens eggs in the sandwiches.

There was still something reminiscent of the old tea house experiences though. A jasmine silver needle tea was on offer and it was exquisite. The jasmine of yester-year certainly had nothing on the finesse of this one.

But then I suppose, many things had become refined and infinitely more luxurious compared to those first experiences of tea houses.

Click here for menu and photos


In Pursuit of Food was a guest of InterContinental Park Lane. If you want to know what this means, check out our Editorial Policy.

Tea and tapas at El Pirata Detapas, Notting Hill, dinner

Menu from a dinner at El Pirata Detapas in Notting Hill with Lalani & co to sample their tea and tapas pairings with boutique estate teas supplied by Lalani & co:

Seared tuna, ajo blanco, marinated almond

Prawn tartare, egg yolk citrus sauce

Roasted fig with cheese foam and crispy ham

Spring Reserve 2011, LaKyrsiew Garden

Seared scallops, cauliflower purée and grilled mandarins

Fresh cod, pil-pil sauce

Silverleaf Green, 16th November 2011, Lakyrsiew Garden

Langoustine and ceps risotto with Idiazabal cheese emulsion

Serrano ham croquettes

1st Flush Jade Oolong, April 2012, Jun Chiyabari Garden

Ganache of white chocolate, jelly mint and cookie dash

Lalani&co and tapas at El Pirata Detapas, Notting Hill

Mari Vanna, Knightsbridge, Afternoon Tea Review

Wellington Court, 116 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7PJ www.marivanna.co.uk

Photographs, Afternoon Tea at Mari Vanna, Knightsbridge

You don’t realise how British you are until you sit down to an afternoon tea, see jam on the table and automatically assume that scones are being served. But at Mari Vanna, jam and honey are for sweetening the tea and not for treats.

The Knightsbridge restaurant, with its distinctive flair, is all stacking dolls, little trinkets and black and white photographs, transporting you to some archetypal Russian family home. And this homely feel lies in stark contrast to, say, the chic interior of the Bulgari Hotel opposite or the opulence of the Mandarin Oriental a few paces away. Strange choice of location, you might think, until you realise that the restaurant is brought to you by one of the co-owners of Quintessentially and that there is probably more to the restaurant than meets the eye.

So what then might you expect from Mari Vanna’s new afternoon tea?

Well as I had mentioned earlier, there are no scones. Tankards in a mix of pewter and glass hold hot potions from the Rare Tea Company, poured from hefty teapots. Oolong, silver tip and lemon verbena are just a few of the leaves brewing. Mini teapots hold toothpicks while tiny bowls offer jam and honey with a lacquered wooden spoon to ladle.

A traditional three-tiered cake stand arrives but that’s about all that’s traditional about it. Bland and boring sandwiches are replaced with savouries in the form of smoked salmon and cream cheese blinis, caviar topped Oladushki (pancakes), herring with rye toast and vegetables and meaty Pirozhki (stuffed bread roll). The sweet-toothed need not worry – the top two tiers are no less twee. Fancies of chocolate, pastry, honey and more create a smorgasbord of treats.

It may be Russian but vodka is not served up with Afternoon Tea. Instead, all alcoholic indulgences take the form of champagne, Bruno Paillard to be precise. Then there are the sides if you fancy something off-piste. More caviar blinis, sweet dumplings and Smetannik (sour cream cake) than you can shake a stick at actually, but that does make things rather pricey. So let’s just say that Afternoon Tea starts at a SW1X snip of £10 for your basic tea and jam. It’s the Russian way you see.


The Fountain Restaurant, Fortnum & Mason, Review

Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER www.fortnumandmason.com

“You must not,” Jonesy tells me sternly, in a manner befitting a school headteacher, “talk about the food. Under any circumstances.”

And like a naughty school girl, I defiantly enquired: “What, then, should I be talking about in a restaurant review? Surely food plays a major part?”

The Fountain Restaurant, Fortnum & Mason“Talk about the history.”

“Ah yes. As an English institution, Fortnum & Mason certainly has a wealth of history for me to explore. Like when William Fortnum moved into Hugh Mason’s house with his family in 1707, and thereby facilitated their meeting and future partnership. Or perhaps when Fortnum began to amass a small fortune from sales of reconstituted candles that later funded the first Fortnum & Mason store. Or even all those times when Fortnum & Mason first introduced new products to the British public, products which later became staples, like the humble baked bean.

But alas, I’m no Andrew Roberts and waxing lyrical about history just isn’t my bag. Besides, the Fortnum & Mason website does it perfectly well so there’s really no need for a fool like me to stumble over the facts.”

“Talk about cashmere and pearls then.”

The Fountain Restaurant bar, Fortnum & Mason“Nothing to talk about there. While it is true that guests are encouraged to ‘lean more towards ‘elegance’, but that doesn’t surely mean I have to dig out those pearls and make like my mother? Charlotte and I mused over the dilemma of cashmere and pearls. Naturally we wouldn’t want to appear out of place amongst the well-heeled crowd. And going Stepford could almost be exciting, if you really enjoy irony. But it was fashion week and anything short of ‘this season’ with a dash of opulence just simply won’t do. So in the end, fur and Tiffany’s won out over cashmere and pearls.”

“Fine, talk about the jazz.”

“Indeed, we were at The Fountain to enjoy a jazz brunch so I suppose the jazz bit is rather important. And pleasant it was too in that quintessentially British way that gets you saying quaint a rather lot.

Two smartly dressed gentleman sat to one side of the restaurant and played a gentle lull, creating a very soothing backdrop to the conversation. You almost don’t notice that they’re there, except when they stop playing.

At first you won’t even realise it. Then slowly but surely, the feeling that something has gone amiss will creep up on you. You can’t quite put your finger on it but you know it’s there. Your breath becomes shallower, faster, and there’s an increasing sense of anxiety in the air.

But then they start up again and as if a dream upon waking, all dark clouds disperse and you are reunited with that sense of well being. So you sort of carry on like nothing has happened and continue tucking into your food.”

Outside The Fountain Restaurant, Fortnum & Mason“Oh, there you go talking about the food again.”

“But, Jonesy, food is what I know. Surely people would be desperate to learn about the precise degree of piquancy of the steak tartare? Oh, how that yellow yolk exploded over it when I dug in – it was a moment of pure delight. And the sourdough toast was just the sort of equipment you needed to mop up any excess juices. Of course then there’s the scrambled eggs on toast that came up top as Charlotte’s eggy breakfast of the week.

Jonesy, wouldn’t you much rather hear about the rich, moistness of the chocolate cake with a filling akin to luxurious ganache? Okay, that one was strictly speaking off the menu until 3pm when Afternoon Tea is served. But the sticky toffee pudding I had was every bit its match…”

All that not talking about food has left me quite ravenous. I think some tea and cake is called for before I continue with this imaginary conversation about the review I should be writing. Or perhaps this conversation makes the perfect antidote to my usual lengthy explorations of food because, aside from the Jonesy bits, all other observations are factual. But wouldn’t you much rather me dote more on the sauce for that sticky toffee pudding?

(First seen on The Arbuturian)