Sunday, February 27, 2011


Dom over at Belleau Kitchen has come up with a genius challenge, whereby we are to choose an untried recipe from our cook books and give it a go.  To be more specific he asks us to take all our cookbooks from the shelf, choose one at random and then select a recipe from it again at random and being the brain-box he is, he has called it Random Recipes Challenge.  I would need to call in a moving company to make a pile of my cook-books (!) so instead I chose a selection of books that are untried either because they are new or because I bought them and promptly forgot them.

I was hoping for some nice cup-cakes or perhaps a wonderful new vegetable dish or even a practical mid-week dinner idea, instead I opened the page to the dreaded yeast bread.  Regular readers will know that I have a "thing" about yeast breads, all the kneading looking for spongy/springy textures - all that fuss when you can just throw a lovely soda bread together in no time, why bother!!!

The book chosen was "Bake" by Rachel Allen, and the recipe was for her "White Yeast Bread", which in itself was a problem as we much prefer brown bread.  I decided to compromise slightly and replace 200g of the strong white flour with wholemeal.

I'm afraid to say that yet again I failed in an attempt to have a perfect yeast loaf emerge from my kitchen.  The bread tasted fine, no better than one you'd buy in a supermarket, I think it would be best described as blah!!  This is a Link to Rachel's recipe.

As luck would have it, soon after making this bread, Rhylesgranny over at Tea and Wheaten posted her recipe for Honeyed Porridge Bread, which also is a yeast bread.  Her directions are so clear and simple that I felt confident enough to give it a go (and get that yeast "monkey" off my back!!!!).  This bread was so delicious (and easy to make) that I made it two days in a row!!

Thank You Rhylesgranny!

I want to thank Dom for this wonderful challenge (a step towards world domination perhaps!!!), not least because it indirectly brought me to try the Porridge bread - and of course a big thank you to Rhylesgranny too.  Looking forward to next month!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


You know the way that sometimes a recipe just comes to you - you wonder if x and y would be a good combination, throw a recipe together and bing bang boosh - perfection, it just works like magic, the work of the cake fairies.  Well this recipe wasn't like that at all !!!!!!!!!!!  It took a number of attempts to get it right, although all edible (Brownieville Man enjoyed the judging process) they just weren't wonderful, not blog worthy.  I think that the main problem was that two of the ingredients (tea and dried fruit) are two of the few foods/drinks that I don't really like.  But I battled on, and have been assured that this is a good one - and nice and easy too.

Choclette over at Chocolate Log Blog asked us to come up with something delicious which contains both chocolate and tea for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge.  Originally I thought I might use a fruit tea (which I love) but then thought that might be cheating (and that would never do!) so I decided that I would go with ordinary everyday tea (I use Barry's tea because my Mother told me that it was the best in the world (!) and I've bought it ever since!).

This is a tea brack (tea bread) with a pleasant chocolaty back taste, using the cocoa almost as a spice rather than a full on flavour (one of the mistakes of an earlier edition) and is perfect for an after dinner treat with a nice cup of tea, or an afternoon tea, or a morning coffee .... versatile cake!

It is worthwhile soaking the fruit for 24 hours, and if you have any dried fruit lurking in your cupboards from Christmas, this brack would be a perfect way to use it, as the long soak will revive it to plump moistness.  The choice of fruit is totally up to you, I have used sultanas, raisins, figs, and cranberries all to good effect.

Tea Brack with Cocoa

150g           soft brown sugar
300 ml        strong hot tea
400g           dried fruit (I recommend a combination of sultanas, raisins and cranberries)
50 ml          orange liqueur (or brandy) or use extra tea.
150g           wholemeal flour
75g             white flour
2 tbsp          cocoa powder, sifted
1.5 tsp        baking powder
1                 large egg
the day before

Add the sugar to the hot tea and stir until dissolved.    
Add the fruit and alcohol and leave to soak for about 24 hours.

when ready to bake

Preheat oven to 170 C
Line a large loaf tin with parchment paper

Add the flours, sifted cocoa, baking powder and the beaten egg to the fruit mixture, and mix well.
Pour this mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 1 hour, test before this time with a skewer, it should come out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes.
Then remove to cool totally on a wire rack.

The publishers of a new foodie magazine Baked and Delicious have contacted me to ask if I would let you know about their new publication - looks good to me!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I have an admission to make, I adore coffee cake so when the Cake Slice Bakers selected the Coffee-Heath Bar Crunch Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes by Laura Chattman, (after I initially read it as Coffee Health Cake and jumped for joy!!!!), I despaired for my healthy eating plan!!  I knew that I would have to play around with the recipe or,  as the only coffee cake lover in the house, every time I walked into the kitchen I would be tempted by the delicious cake in the corner, seductively calling  "eat me, eat me, you know you want to"!!!!!!

I didn't make many alterations, I just reduced the coffee from 1 tbsp to 1 scant tsp, and then added a heaped tbsp of cocoa, added chopped dark chocolate to the batter and replaced the plain flour in the topping for whole meal - and I have to say that this cake is just magic.  The melted toffee bars on top have alternating textures, from soft and chewy to light and crunchy - so very, very moreish.  Luckily so, as it was polished off in no time (before I had a chance to add more inches to my hips!!).

Chocolate and Coffee-Curly Wurly Bar Crunch Cake

For the strusel topping

4              Curly Wurly Bars (my replacement for the Heath Bars) from the fridge.
1.5 tbsp    packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp      wholemeal flour
1 tbsp      softened butter

For the cake

1.5 cups    plain flour
1 tsp         instant espresso coffee powder
1.5 tbsp    cocoa powder - Green and Black is good
1.5 tsp      baking powder
4 oz          softened butter
1 cup        packed light brown sugar
1              large egg
1              large egg yolk
1.5 tsp     vanilla extract
1 cup        milk
2oz           dark chocolate - chopped finely

Preheat the oven to 180 C
Grease and line the bottom of a 9" round springform tin.

To make the topping

Chop up the toffee and chocolate bars.
Place the butter, flour and sugar in a bowl and combine with your fingers to resemble crumble topping,
Add the bars and leave in the fridge until the cake is ready.

To make the cake

Combine the flour, coffee powder, sifted cocoa and baking powder in a mixing bowl.
In another bowl combine the butter and sugar and cream until light and fluffy.
Slowly mix in the eggs and vanilla.
Keeping the mixer on low speed add 1/3 of the flour mixture and the 1/2 the milk, repeat until everything is combined being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl regularly.
Add the chopped chocolate pieces and combine.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out.
Scatter the topping evenly over the cake.
Bake until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean - about 45 - 55 min
Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Then remove to the wire rack to cool completely.
Serve on it's own or with your favourite accompaniment.


Saturday, February 19, 2011


Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes has challenged us to create a soup or dressing which is luxurious and creamy for this months No Croutons Required.  I have to admit that I was more in a frugal and low fat humour when the time came to make my soup - so here goes ... my attempt at a creamy, luxurious, frugal, low fat/carb soup ...... oxymoron, you might think - but just try it and I think you'll be convinced!!

Although I try to keep most of our food local and seasonal - sometimes I yearn for the fresh flavours of summer.  When I found asparagus for 89c in my local Aldi, I had to leave my principles at the door and buy an obscene amount of the stuff!!!!  As I had so much I felt that I could be extravagant when snapping the stems, then when I saw the amount of asparagus going in the compost, I realized that I had to do something with it (well most of it - I discarded the very woody ends) and this soup is the result.  That was the luxurious and the frugal parts of the equation, now for the creamy and low fat/carb part! Cream cheese was the answer the very low fat type - I have used it before in soups and it always does the business, so here is my contribution to this month's No Croutons Required.

Asparagus Soup

1         Large Onion
           The stem part (minus the very woody ends) from 4 bunches of asparagus - I kept the first 4"/10cm for another recipe and used the rest of the stem for this soup.
            Vegetable Stock - enough to just cover the vegetables in the pot
1tbsp   Extra low fat cream cheese

Chop the onion and the asparagus spears, put in a pot and cover with vegetable stock (I used Marigold).
Bring to a simmer and cook until tender.
When tender remove from the heat and add the cheese.
Blitz until smooth.
Serve with a dollop of low fat yogurt and freshly milled pepper.


Monday, February 14, 2011


Shakespeare might think that music is the food of love, but I must be very pedestrian because my motto is "If food be the food of love, eat on"!!!!!

I associate chocolate and Champagne with romance - probably because I love both, and any excuse!!  This year I wanted to make a nod to the day that's in it - despite my ongoing efforts to shed a few pounds.  To this end I searched out Ellie Krieger's book The Food You Crave - Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life (I bought it late last year and then forgot all about it - anyone else ever do that?!).  She had a lovely sounding recipe for Triple Chocolate Cookies and I thought that they would do the trick - we'd get the chocolate hit and my poor hips wouldn't become an increasing target!!

They are delicious - darkly chocolaty with an interesting (in a good way) texture, which is helped rather than hindered by the whole wheat flour.  My only problem was that Ellie said that the recipe made 24 cookies - I could only etch out 14!!  I know that I am probably failing on the "portion size" module of my diet education - but dividing the mixture into 24  would have made TINY cookies, anyway these morsels are not quite as low in calories as I might wish (!) but they have it all taste wise.  I have (of course) played around with the recipe, and this is how I made them:

Triple Chocolate Cookies

1/2 stick (2oz)        butter, softened
1/2 cup                   packed brown sugar
1/4 cup                   flavourless oil (I used sunflower)
1 large                    egg
1 tsp                      vanilla extract
1/2 cup                  whole wheat flour
1/4 cup                  cocoa powder
1 oz                       dark chocolate (about 70%) - chopped*
1 oz                       milk chocolate - chopped*

Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Mash the butter and sugars together until well combined.
Add the oil and the egg and beat until creamy.
Add the vanilla and combine.
Sift the flour and cocoa into the butter mixture (just add in any flour that doesn't go through the sieve)
Mix until fully combined.
Add the chocolate and mix well.
Place teaspoons of the mixture on the baking sheet, leaving space between the cookies. (I made mine in two batches)
Bake until they are set - about 12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
When cool, hide away in a tin - they are way too tempting to leave sitting around!

* I just used 2oz dark chocolate (which actually only makes these Double Choc - oops!!)


Friday, February 11, 2011


I was away on my annual "Girls Weekend" recently - it's just the best thing.  We spend a weekend eating good food (and plenty of it!!) and drinking fizzy wine, but most importantly chatting.  Actually it has been called the "you're great ... no you're great .... no you're great ... we're all great" weekend.  The cheapest, and funnest (!) therapy of all time.

When we were taking a break from telling each other how great we are (seriously!) the conversation turned to food, and special occasion food to be exact.  I was telling the girls about my favourite special occasion meal, and they asked me why it wasn't on the blog - good question.  This to rectify my glaring omission!

I first saw this recipe on T.V. and I'm pretty sure it is a Jamie Oliver dish, although it has probably evolved a fair bit over the years.  It's definitely a special occasion dish as the fillet (tenderloin) of beef is so expensive - but it is always popular, it's easy to carve and the left-overs are just heavenly.  Another advantage is that if you are cooking for a large number of people the meat will have different levels of "doneness", the thin end will be well done whereas the Chateaubriand will be rare, with medium meat in the middle.  If you are cooking for a smaller number of people you can use a smaller fillet (or perhaps two pieces of fillet one that you cook to well done and the other to rare), the herbs, mushrooms and parma ham, impart a wonderful subtle flavour the the tender moist meat - it's the business!

Special Roast Fillet of Beef

This is the recipe for 6 people - but it's easily increased/decreased

1          Fillet (tenderloin) of beef - about 3lbs/1.2kg *
20        Slices of Parma Ham (more if you are cooking a large joint)
2           large garlic cloves
15g       dried porcini mushrooms
200g     mushrooms
3 tbsp   butter
1/2       lemon - juiced
2 tbsp   chopped rosemary and thyme (amount when chopped nice and small)
2 tbsp     olive oil
2           glasses of red wine

Preheat oven to 200 C

Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water (for at least 1/2 hour)
Heat a large frying pan and add 1 tbsp oil - sear the meat on all sides and leave aside.
Add the rest of the oil to the pan and add the sliced  fresh mushrooms and the chopped garlic - cook until tender and add the soaked procini mushrooms which you have also chopped up finely.
Add about 200ml of the soaking water and simmer until it has reduced by half.
Add the lemon juice.
Lay the parma ham out on some greaseproof paper - you want a large sheet of ham (without holes) big enough to wrap the meat.
Spread the mushroom mixture over the ham.
Pat the herbs into the meat and then place on the sheet of ham and mushrooms.
Wrap the beef with the parma ham and tie with strings.
Place the beef in a roasting tray and roast for about 40 - 50 minutes.
Halfway through the cooking time add the wine to the baking tray.
When the meat is done remove it to a serving plate and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.
Simmer the pan juices and serve as gravy.


Thursday, February 3, 2011


Sometimes you need something sweet and tasty, but really don't fancy the whole rigmarole of taking out mixers and beaters and whisks - let me be honest here - sometimes I want to have my cake and eat it, without having put much work into the process!!!

This cake is just what the doctor (that very strange doctor that lives in my imagination and tells me to eat all the chocolate I wish!!!!) ordered.  Like Nigella's Guinness Cake this is a "one pot wonder", all you need is a scales, a large pot a baking tin and you're in business.

It started life out as the Birthday Cake in Nigella Lawson's "How to Eat", and although I still  make the original, the one I make more often is this evolved version below.  I have reduced the fat, by using a light condensed milk and by omitting the ganache (or sometimes just using 1/4 of the specified amount) - then I have replaced some of that fat (!) by adding chocolate chunks (and sometimes roasted hazelnuts).  I no longer faff about with splitting the cake in half and sandwiching with ganache - not really in the spirit of my lazy inner self!!

Although I usually make the plain, uniced version - for special occasions I whip out the icing!  This cake was made for a very special occasion -  my sister's significant birthday!!  Her little angel (he was so good he was given a "star stamp" at play school .... awwwwww!) helped me to decorate it with a delightful crater pattern, even going so far as to eat all the removed ganache - that's dedication!!

I don't usually need much help in the creating craters dept!!

Dress Up or Downable Chocolate Cake

225g      self-raising flour
40g        cocoa
200g      caster sugar
100g      butter
100ml    just boiled water
200g      light condensed milk
200g      dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa) - broken into pieces
50g        chopped roasted hazelnuts (optional)
2            large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare a 20cm springform tin by buttering it and lining the bottom with parchment paper.

Put the sugar,  butter, boiled water, condensed milk and 100g of chocolate into a large pot and put on a medium heat until melted, stir until glossy and smooth.
Remove from the heat and stir in the sieved flour and cocoa.
Finally add the eggs and mix well.  (Do not forget this part - if you do the result is disastrous!!!!)
Add the remaining 100g chocolate chunks and the nuts (if using).
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes.
This cake needs to cook like a brownie - firm on top but still slightly gooey in the center.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes.
After this time remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

If you wish to make a ganache for the top just heat 100ml double cream and then add 100g chopped chocolate, stir until amalgamated and pour over the cooled cake.

This is my contribution to Forever Nigella # 2 - seduced by chocolate over at Maison Cupcake.