Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Can you believe that I took this photo yesterday ....  in Ireland ...... in March!!!!!  We have been having the most unbelievable weather recently,  last week was all bright sun (although cold) then we had (almost) torrential rain on Monday, then SNOW yesterday.

Of course my thoughts turned to food the minute I looked out the window!!  Comfort food was what the doctor ordered, so I turned to and to the members own recipes.  There are two recipes that stand out on the cookie front:  CAL's oat cookies, and Jon's peanut butter cookies.  They have one thing in common,  they are so much more than the sum of their parts.  Both have few ingredients,  but taste truly wonderful.  If I had to choose one to go for it would be the oat cookies (sorry Jon!!) and that's a textural thing, I love that crumbly, crunchy feeling.

These are both real "store cupboard" standbys.  The oat ones particularly handy as they don't contain any egg (the ingredient I am most likely to run out of),  and they taste great.  What more could you ask for??

Here goes:

CAL's Oat So Simple Cookies

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line baking trays

100g   Oats
100g   Plain Flour
100g   Caster Sugar (see a pattern here??)
100g   Butter
1 tbsp Honey/Golden Syrup
1 tsp   Cinnamon/Mixed Spice

Makes about 15 cookies

Mix oats, flour and spice.
Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan.
Combine the flour and butter mixtures.
Use two spoons to form into balls and place on the lined baking sheets.
Dampen the spoon and press down on the cookies.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

It is simple to make large batches of these little beauties, as the proportions increase easily.

Jon's Peanut Butter Cookies

Preheat oven to 175 C
Line a baking tray

1 cup      peanut butter (I used crunchy)*
1/2 cup   sugar**
1             egg

Beat the egg until frothy.
Add the peanut butter and stir with a wooden spoon until smoothish.
Add sugar and stir until smooth
Roll walnut sized portions between your hands.
Place on baking tray and press down with a fork.
Bake for 10 minutes (approx)
When baked remove tray from oven and leave for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

*Use good quality peanut butter.
** Original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar but I found this too much.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Had a bit of a cake emergency recently (!) - my nephew's birthday cake of choice was out of stock at the shop, so Aunty Brownieville Girl had to step up to the the (cake) plate!

The resulting cake was one of the best yet, I used an old favourite for the cake, but the icing was where things really hit the dizzy heights!  AND I DON'T KNOW HOW I DID IT!!!!!!!!

Well I do know how I made it, I just used up any left over icings in the fridge, added a couple of tablespoons of Nutella and hay presto, delicious icing.  I had a small amount of both malteser and chocolate icings and a larger amount of the custard icing I made for my pimped biscuit, I added the Nutella whipped this up for about five minutes and yummmmm!!!!!   The obvious problem is how to replicate the icing,  I will try, and try and try and I promise to let you know how it goes.

The cake is moist and soft and chocolatey, here is the recipe.

Excellent Chocolate Cake
Based on Margaret Costa's Chocolate Fudge Cake

225g    plain flour
2 tbsp  cocoa
1 tsp    baking powder
1/2tsp  coffee powder
1/2 tsp bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
55g      70% chocolate
115g    butter
175g    caster sugar
1          egg
150ml   soured cream
1/2 tsp  vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 190 C
Prepare 21cm ( 8") cake tin

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, coffee and bread soda together.
In a saucepan melt the chopped chocolate with 30ml of water, when melted stir until smooth -  allow to cool slightly.
Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, and then add the beaten egg a little at a time.  Mix well.
Beat in alternately, half of each at a time the chocolate, flour and the sour cream.  Finally add the vanilla extract.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes.  The cake is ready when  a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Decorate with your chocolate icing of choice.


Monday, March 29, 2010


This is another one of our regular breads - really handy when there is no buttermilk in the house. The abundance of seeds really bump up the volume both taste and health wise - great when that combination comes together!

Before my blog addiction started, and all my recipes came from cook books I had thought this bread unusual as it uses just baking powder as the raising agent - now of course I realise that there are plenty of yeast and bicarbonate free recipes around, but I still think that this one is a winner.  It is incredibly easy to throw together, it's my bread of choice when I'm distracted (not an unusual occurrence!) as a light hand isn't necessary (as with soda bread) and energy isn't needed either (as with yeast!).

You will see from the photo that I have upped the sunflower seed ratio,  I love that they can be used here with no risk of the "green" goblin (bicarbonate of soda reaction) getting to them!!

Extra Healthy Brown Bread

300g      wholemeal flour
200g      plain flour
50g        bran
100g      seeds (whatever combination you want)
1 tbsp    treacle, honey or dark sugar
2 heaped tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp   salt
600 ml    milk (maybe less)

Preheat oven to 200 C

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the treacle (or whatever you are using) and stir in enough milk to make the mixture moist, but not as wet as a soda bread mixture. 

Place in a well oiled 900g tin (or I use a tin lined with parchment paper to save on the wash up!) and bake for 1 hour, after the hour remove the bread from the tin and tap the bottom, if it sounds hollow remove to a wire rack - otherwise return it to the oven without the tin for another 10 - 15 minutes.  I usually give it the extra time as the crunchy texture this gives is popular here.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I blogged about the wonderful Malteser Cake some time ago,  I just thought I'd show you how well this recipe translates into cute little baby muffins!!!

These little cuties would be wonderful at a party (kids or adults!)

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Please forgive me for repeating a picture - it's just that David Roche's version of his slow cooked chicken looked alot prettier than mine!

I think that it's a very good sign when a cookery demonstration inspires you to cook a dish within a day of seeing it prepared, and David should take a bow!!  I was really anxious to try this pot roast chicken and to see if it was really as easy as it looked, and if it could handle all that salt!

My version was all I hoped it would be, really moist and packed full of flavour,  and I don't know where all the salt disappeared to, it just made a free range chicken taste like an organic one! (There were no organic chickens available when I shopped)

The only bit of faffing around was the browning of the chicken before it goes into the oven, but that only takes a couple of minutes and is really worth it.  About 35 minutes before the chicken was cooked I added new potatoes and carrots to the casserole - next time I will put them back in the oven to brown while the chicken is resting - that really is the joy of everyday cooking, you learn by trial and error with no pressure!

The really good thing about this chicken is that there is loads and loads of really tasty oil left - I am going to use some of it with the juices and some of the meat to make a simplified version of Nigella's Venetian Chicken.  I will just cook some pasta and dry roast some pine nuts.  When the pasta is just short of done, I'll drain it, put it back in the pan add some of the juice, oil, chicken and  the pine nuts -bring this back to hot and serve. Really, really delicious.

Pot Roast Salted Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

1   medium fresh chicken
Good handful of Maldon salt (or similar)
250ml  olive oil
1 tbsp   flour (heaped)
1 head  garlic
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon
100ml  white wine
150ml  chicken stock (I forgot about the stock, to no ill effect!)

Rub the chicken with the salt and leave to stand in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes preheat the oven to 150 C, and heat the oil in a casserole (big enough to hold the chicken)
Split the garlic into bulbs but leave the skin on, and put into the warming oil.
Bring the oil up to hot.
Rub the chicken with the flour, and then place breast first into the casserole to seal and brown.  Seal all the chicken in the oil.
Squeeze the lemon over the chicken and place it and the rosemary in the pot, add the stock and wine.
Put the lid on and bake in the oven for 90 minutes.
Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
When cooked remove the chicken from the pot and allow to rest for 15 minutes, then place in a platter and garnish with olives and some of the cooking liquor.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I had a lovely day yesterday, I headed over to Kilmacanogue to Avoca Handweavers for a cookery demonstration.  David "chefs don't burn things they caramelize them!" Roche was our chef/teacher for the morning, and although he professed having nerves for his first ever demonstration, none were evident.  It was an entertaining and educating experience (what a great combination).  David's demonstration was full of chefs tips - exactly what we were all after. 

He started with a pea and coriander soup, his tip here was to add your pepper with the butter and oil at the very beginning, as you would any other spice (I would usually season further into the cooking process).  Aren't the pea shoots a beautiful garnish?

David also showed us a pot roast salted chicken with lemon and rosemary - my lesson here was not to be afraid of the amount of salt and oil in the recipe,  he used a good handful of Maldon salt and 250ml of olive oil.  I don't think I could have used that much salt on a chicken until I saw David doing so.  He also told us that although there was a large quantity of oil in the recipe, you can reuse it the next time you cook this chicken and that it keeps very well in the fridge.

A fantastic Tarte Tatin was probably the most instructive part of the demonstration,  as smell plays a huge part in each stage of this dish.  I would never have had the nerve to allow the caramel get as dark as David did, and it was so much the better for it.  Then little pointers like bringing the caramel back to the simmer after the apple is added -  before covering  with the blanket of pastry.  Again allowing the tart to come up to heat before putting in the oven.  You know your tart is done when you start to smell appley caramel instead of baking pastry.  Finally and most importantly - don't turn out the tart for at least an hour after taking it from the oven.  Two reasons for this, safety... that caramel really burns! and because it tastes much better warm rather than hot.                                                            


David in full flow.  You can see here the beautiful gardens at Avoca.

After the demonstration I spent far too long (and too much) in the shop, but everything is just so appealing!

I would like to thank everyone at Avoca for a really enjoyable morning.

Apple Tarte Tatin

75ml       water
100g       vanilla caster sugar
20g         butter
5             golden delicious apples peeled, cored and halved
250g       all butter puff pastry (defrosted)

Preheat the oven to 200 C

In your oven proof pan of choice (fairly small - just big enough for the apples to fit snugly) place the water and sugar over a high heat. Simmer until the syrup becomes a dark golden colour.  It is really important not to stir as this forms crystals in the caramel. (and we don't want that!)

Stir in the butter, again swirl rather than stir.

Place the apples in the caramel as attractively as possible.  David put them on their sides.

Wait for the caramel to come back to a bubble, then place the pastry over the pan tucking it around the outside of the apples. 

Again continue on the heat until the caramel bubbles, and then place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

When the pastry looks and feels cooked and when you can smell the appley caramely sauce, remove from the oven (remember to use a cloth) and leave aside to cool.

When ready to serve turn your tart very carefully onto a plate.  (I intend to go outside for this bit!!!)


Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Just when I thought that all was rosy in the garden a Red Velvet Cake came and bit me you know where!!

I have been reading about the American favorite "Red Velvet Cake" for forever, and finally decided to give it a go as I had managed to source some red colour paste (I didn't fancy using half a bottle of the supermarket stuff), I can assure you that the rest of the paste will be kept for my icing!!!

Never one to leave well enough alone I decided to make the cake mixture into mini-muffins and ordinary muffins - I made the batter, filled the cases half full and in return I received - a considerable amount of time scrubbing muffin tins!!!

The really awful part is that I had a house full of teenage boys (well four, but they are very tall!!) and they wouldn't even eat the ones I salvaged ..... this is not a good sign.  I can't say I blame them, these uglies had a strange texture and taste.  I wonder if the whole point of Red Velvet Cake is the icing, and I gave up the game too soon?

Anyway,  these go into the "never try again folder"!

The recipe I used was from Rachel Allen's Bake, I won't bother giving it to you!  In Rachel's defence this is the first recipe I've tried from this book that didn't taste great.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I discovered glucose liquid for the first time at the supermarket a few weeks ago .... not too exciting you might think, but in my world VERY exciting, I could at last try Delia's Truffle Torte.

Every year at the start of the build up to Christmas, the first thing I do is unearth my Christmas cookery books (except Nigella's which is on the go all year) and every year I come upon the picture of a delicious looking chocolate torte in Delia Smith's Christmas and decide to make it..... then every year I search in vain for glucose syrup.  NOW can you understand how exciting my discovery was?

Next I just needed an occasion to serve it (a bit rich for just us) and my sister provided just the event (Thanks Sis!)  It turns out that this torte is my nephew's favorite dessert of all time, and he is only 5!  Pretty sophisticated tastes when you consider that it contains pretty much only 75% chocolate, double cream and rum!!

A word of warning, this torte is very, very rich and most people would only be able to manage a small portion (excepting said nephew who scoffed about 1/3 of it).  I think it would be beautiful served with some fresh raspberries and some sour cream.

The next time I make this I intend to line the tin with ginger nut biscuits, I think they will give the torte a nice edge.

Truffle Torte

Line the bottom of a 23cm spring form cake tin with parchment and brush the sides with a tasteless oil.

5 tbsp     glucose syrup
5 tbsp     rum
450g       high cocoa content chocolate
570ml     double cream
75g         biscuits (amaretti or ginger)

Crush the biscuits and scatter over the base of the cake tin.
Put the chocolate, glucose and rum in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
When melted stir until smooth and leave aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl beat the cream until slightly thickened.
Fold half of the cream into the chocolate mixture, then fold this mixture into the rest of the cream.
Spoon evenly over the crushed biscuits in the cake tin.
Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight (at least)
To serve, run a palette knife around the edge, slightly loosen the spring form.  Turn the torte onto a serving plate.
Dust with cocoa if you wish (I didn't) and serve.


Sunday, March 21, 2010


Another foray into the Brownie Zone!  I have been know to visit from time to time (!) and the general consensus there is that these Snow-Flecked Brownies from Feast are her best - no better reason to give them a try.

I forgot to take a photo on the day of the bookclub, so luckily there was one left over to photograph the next day.

These brownies are dense, rich, intensely chocolaty in fact they are just what a brownie should be, well worth a try.  That said the quest continues!!

This is the recipe as I made it - minor tweaks included. (Makes about 24 brownies)                   

Snow Flecked Brownies

375g         Butter
375g         Dark Chocolate (I used half 85% half 50%)
6               Eggs
350g         Golden caster sugar
1 tsp         vanilla extract
1/2 tsp      coffee powder
225g         plain flour
250g         white chocolate (chips or chopped - I chopped  Green and Black)
2 tsp          icing sugar to dust (to make snow like!)

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare a 33x 23x 5.5 cm baking tin, with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large saucepan.
Separately combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla - mix well.
Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Beat the egg mixture into the chocolate.
Fold in the flour and coffee.
Stir in the white chocolate pieces, ensure that the batter is well combined.
Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 25 minutes, check to see if ready.  The outside should appear cooked and the center should still be dense and gooey.  Check often until they are as you like them, they will continue to cook in the tin for a while when taken from the oven.
Cool in the tin.
When cool, sprinkle with icing sugar.  


Saturday, March 20, 2010


It's bookclub night soon (yahaa!) and I've realised that I didn't blog about the one I held here last month.
Our bookclub is a very relaxed affair, the host supplies cheese, grapes and crackers.  The guests bring along the wine.  We discuss the book for a short while and then get down to the important business of putting the world to rights!!

We discussed Colum McCann's "Let The Great World Spin", everyone enjoyed it, found it multi-layered, the type of book you could re-read and get even more from it next time round.  He definitely deserves all the awards he has received.

Back to the food - I have never been one to allow an opportunity to try out new recipes pass.  This time I was anxious to try out an idea I had had for a candied, spiced nut mixture - they were a huge success, I don't think I will be allowed to host another evening without serving them!!!

At my son's request I made cheese straws, I wanted to try a new recipe and found one that looked good on Deb's blog "smitten kitchen" - I subsequently made these into cheese biscuits using different cheeses (actually the ones left over from the spread above) and they were even better than the first time.

I, of course served brownies towards the end of the night - I will blog about these tomorrow.

Here's what I did:

Spiced Candies Nuts

200g         hazelnuts
200g         almonds
100g         pecan nuts
1/4 cup     brown sugar
1/4 cup     caster sugar
1/2 tsp      ground cumin
1/2 tsp      ground coriander
1/2 tsp      ground cinnamon
1   tsp       curry powder
1               egg white
1 tsp         maldon salt

Preheat oven to 150 C
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Whisk the egg white until light and frothy and set aside.
Mix the sugars and spices.
Combine the nuts and egg white until evenly coated.
Add the sugar mixture and toss well.
Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, stir occasionally to ensure there is no clumping.
Remove from oven sprinkle with the salt and allow to cool.

Serve and Enjoy.

Cheese Biscuits/Straws

1 1/2 cups    grated hard cheese*
50g              softened butter
3/4 cup        plain flour
1/4 tsp         chili flakes (optional)
1 tbsp          milk

Preheat oven to 180 C

Combine the cheese, butter flour and chili flakes in a food processor, in short pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the milk and process until it forms a ball.

Roll out between two sheets of cling film until about 1/2cm thick.  then either cut into strips (use a knife dipped into flour) or use a cookie cutter.  The cookie cutter option makes them very attractive to kiddies.  I think these cheese biscuits would be a great option for a children's birthday party,  make you feel less guilty serving all the sugar rich food. (I would of course leave out the chili).

Gently transfer the strips/biscuits onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  They expand a little bit so leave some space between them.

Bake the straws/biscuits for 10 - 15 minutes,  until they are a nice golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.

These biscuits keep well in a  sealed container.

*First time round I used a strong cheddar,  second time I used an Irish hard herbed cheese and a small piece of spicy cheese (left out the chili flakes).

Hope you enjoy the nibbles.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I make bread about five times a week,  and really like to ring the changes - as with all my cooking and baking I wouldn't be the most loyal of customers!  I think it would be boring beyond belief to have to make (never mind eat) the same bread day in day out.

Last week I even made two different breads on the same day - my old reliable brown soda (which I play around with quite a bit) and a bread recipe that I found in a newspaper years ago (I can't remember where, so apologies for not giving credit, although I have probably changed it beyond recognition by this stage!)

My friend and blog critic (!) K. has requested (instructed) that I give a recipe for an easy, everyday, no fuss, have everything in the cupboard, did I say easy soda bread, and I'm good like that - I do what I'm told!!!

The other bread is my husband's current favourite (he's pretty fickle too - bread wise only!) but I know why, this bread has a nice soft texture, but still retains an interesting mixture of tastes - I love it with butter and home made raspberry jam (freezer full of raspberries no longer an issue!!)

There are a few guidelines that help when you start making soda bread, hopefully they will ensure that you have success from day one :

Work your dough as little as possible
Be stingy (mean) with your bread soda (bicarbonate of soda) you really don't want that soapy taste you get from too much - if a recipe calls for a tsp, make sure it is level not heaped.
Sunflower seeds turn dark green when combined with bread soda, they still taste great, but the green can be off putting!
Make sure you use fresh bread soda (bicarb)
Always preheat your oven.

Easy Soda Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups       wholemeal flour
1/2 cup            white flour
1 cup               bran
1 cup               porridge oats
2 tbsp              brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp          bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
500ml              buttermilk
Extra milk to moisten as necessary
Any seeds/nuts/dried fruit you fancy

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a loaf tin (approx 21cm x 10cm)

Mix all the dry ingredients, add the buttermilk (or soured milk).  You want a sloppy mixture, like thick porridge.  I like to scatter with seeds before I put the bread in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour.

Bread is baked when you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow.

Allow to cool on a wire rack.

This recipe multiplies up very well, you can make as much bread as you have tins!

This next recipe is slightly more complicated, but not much.

Brown Bread

350g     wholemeal flour
350g     white flour
100g      bran
100g      porridge oats
50g        brown sugar
2 tsp      baking powder
1 tsp      bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
2 tbsp    seeds to taste (optional)
1            egg
1 ltr        buttermilk (approx)

Oven 180 C
Prepare 2 loaf tins as above

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl,  add egg and enough buttermilk to make soft and sloppy.

Divide between 2 loaf tins, bake for one hour, remove the bread from the tin and return to the oven for 10 - 15 minutes.  Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a wire rack


Thursday, March 18, 2010


Over at the wonderful "Claytons Blog", EmmCee has challenged us to "Pimp" a Biscuit, and this is my effort.

I have spent hours in the biscuit isle of the local supermarkets - not my usual lurking section (that's more the baking isle) - eyeing up my options.  I had originally wanted to try a particularly Irish biscuit, but the only one I could think of was a Mikado, and I really don't like them, so I've resorted to the good old Custard Cream.

My first disappointment was that the custard creams were rectangle, not the round shape I had remembered from my biscuit buying past.  I have two sandwich tins the exact size stipulated in the rules,  but I reckon that I needed to stick as near to the original as possible (only better! - I hope!!)

I started with a shortbread base, I really love this shortbread, it's wonderful crumbly texture is due to the rice flour, it is alot lighter than other shortbreads I've tried with a pleasant grainy feeling in the mouth.

I made the filling with Birds custard - it was exactly the flavor I was after, it had the custardiness of a custard cream but didn't have the synthetic taste I was afraid I'd get. Result!!!!

The biscuit shape was my next problem,  I decided to use my large brownie tin, which is about 16 1/2inches x 7 1/2 inches, and cut the shortbread in half when it came out of the oven.  I think it worked well.

Here's the recipe:


170g   softened butter
85g     caster sugar
170g   plain flour
85g     rice flour

Line and butter your tin (I usually use 2 x 8" round sandwich tins)
Preheat oven to 150 C

Mix butter and sugar, until fluffy.
Sift flours and add gradually to the butter mixture.
This can be quite crumbly (see picture) but comes together well when you knead lightly.
Divide mixture between the tins and press down as evenly as possible.
Pop into the fridge for at least 30 minutes (can be done the day before if that helps)
Bake at 150 C for 30 - 40 minutes, until a light golden colour.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

This shortbread is wonderful served with fresh berries and cream,  but that's beside the point I'm making a custard cream, this was the filling.

Custard Icing

100g     icing sugar
50g       soft butter
1 tbsp   custard powder

Whip the butter in a mixer, gradually add the sugar and custard powder.  If necessary add a tablespoon or two of hot water to get the desired texture.

I piped the custard icing onto the bottom sheet of shorbread and sandwich with the other sheet.

The "biscuit" passed the taste test here (ie. disappeared in no time) the shortbread was crunchy and crumbly, and the "custard" contrasted wonderfully, much smoother then the real thing.  The biscuit pimping exercise would have to be called a success!!! I want to say thank you to EmmCee, for bringing us this challenge - it's been great fun.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all from the Emerald Isle!!! 

This is my very favourite cake in the whole world (bold words I know!!).  I am normally totally fickle with my food loves, but this cake has been my constant since I discovered it (much like my husband!!!).

It is Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake (with a very minor tweak),  there are many reasons why this cake ticks so many boxed, it has a dense, rich texture (bordering on brownie), and a complex range of flavours, thanks to the hoppiness of the Guinness, and the richness of the organic cocoa.  It is incredibly easy to make, only dirties one large saucepan - whats not to like!!

I have reduced the amount of bicarbonate of soda from the original version, I sometimes use just 1 teaspoon, and it still rises beautifully.  I also leave out the icing when I make it just for the family - the icing looks fantastic, and its similarity to a pint of Guinness is really cute- but I like the full on flavour of the cake without the sweetness of the icing.  I tried to make up for the lack of icing in the photo with some shamrock sweets, pitiful!!

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Preheat oven to 180 C.
Prepare a 23cm springform tin with parchment paper and butter.

250ml     Guinness
250g       Butter
75g         Cocoa
400g       Caster Sugar
142ml     Sour Cream (I sometimes use creme fraiche)
2             Large Eggs
1 tbsp     vanilla extract
275g       plain flour - sifted
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (bread soda) - sifted

Measure the Guinness into a large saucepan and add the butter (cubed will speed up the melting process) - heat gently until melted.
Whisk in the sugar and cocoa.
Beat in the sour cream, the eggs and the vanilla extract.
Whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin, and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 - 60 minutes.
When a cake tester (or piece of spaghetti) comes out clean it is ready.
When you remove the cake from the oven leave it in the tin (on a wire rack) to cool completely.

Hope you enjoy it, I'm looking forward to a slice with an Irish Coffee!



Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I have an obsession with keeping a full freezer (and larder),  the snow earlier in the year has just given me   vindication (couldn't get out to shop, but it didn't matter we had plenty!!!)  This obsession slapped me in the face when I tidied out my freezer recently and discovered that I had seven packets of raspberries.  I couldn't have that - they were taking up space that I could have used for my  uncooked cookies!

I searched through the usual cookbooks and  these muffins jumped out at me, (from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess)  they were just what was needed.  Of course I had to do a bit of tweaking, originally they were Lemon-Raspberry Muffins, but I changed them to White Chocolate-Raspberry Muffins and they were really good, so good that the first batch was eaten so quickly that I had to produce a second batch immediately! 

Here goes:

White Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins

60g        butter
200g      plain flour
2 tsp      baking powder
1/2 tsp   bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
150g     caster sugar
1           large egg
150g     raspberries
100g     white chocolate - chopped
105ml   milk
1 tbsp   lemon juice

Preheat oven to 200 C
Line muffin tray with 12 paper cases

Melt butter and set aside.
Using a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
In a measuring jug pour in the lemon juice, then add milk to reach the 200ml mark. Don't worry if it curdles.
Beat in the egg and melted butter.
Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir briefly.
Add the chocolate pieces and raspberries,  stir just enough to combine.  The less you stir the lighter the muffin.
Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for about 25 minutes.
When cooked the tops will spring back to your touch, and a tester will come out clean (unless you hit a raspberry!!)
Allow to cook in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.





Monday, March 15, 2010


I really enjoyed the Delia Smith programme which was on recently, it charted her work through the decades, and was a really interesting social history, as well as culinary history.

In the programme which covered the 80's (I think!) she spoke about a chocolate dessert that was one of her most popular recipes, seemingly everyone had served it at their dinner parties ..... and I hadn't even tried it!!  Well I couldn't have that!  So at the first opportunity I took out my incredibly battered copy of Delia's "Complete Illustrated Cookery Course" and located the recipe for "Squidgy Chocolate Log" ..... Chocolate Roulade stuffed with chocolate mousse stuffed with cream .... how had it escaped me!!

It was a truly decadent dessert, and maybe just a tad over the top .... but it was really, really good. 

I had a minor panic when I took the roulade part out of the tin (which I had measured and was the prescribed size) and I thought it wasn't big enough to roll, but I should have known Ms Smith never lets us down, it actually meets rather than rolls - but that was fine, so panic unnecessary!

Squidgy Chocolate Log


6 Large eggs, separated
150g    caster sugar
50g      cocoa powder


225g    dark chocolate (I would say 75% max)
2          Large eggs, separated
225ml  cream (double)
2 tbsp   warm water

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line and grease a tin 29cm x 18cm x 2.5cm

Start with the filling.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water.
Remove when melted add the warm water, and stir with wooden spoon until smooth.
Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate. 
Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold into the chocolate mixture.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about an hour.

Meanwhile  proceed with the roulade.
Whisk the egg whites.(I use the bowl from the last lot of egg whites)  Put aside.
In another bowl whisk the egg yolks until they start to thicken.
Add the sugar and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens a bit more.
Next whisk the sieved cocoa into the yolks.
Fold the egg whites into the yolk and cocoa mixture.
Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until springy.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin, don't worry about shrinkage.

When the roulade is cold, turn it onto a sheet of greaseproof paper which has been dusted liberally with icing sugar (although not quite as liberally as mine was!!)  Peel away the cake tin lining paper- carefully.  Then spread the chocolate mousse filling over the roulade.  Now whip the cream to soft peaks and spread over the mousse.  Finally roll up to make a log shape.


Sunday, March 14, 2010


I have come across the Neiman Marcus Cookie story a few times, whereby a lady at the Neiman Marcus Cafe asked for the recipe for the cookies she had just eaten, the waitress explained that there would be a "two fifty" charge, the lady presumed that this covered the photo-copying and said that that was fine.  When she got home she realized that they had charged her two hundred and fifty dollars for the recipe - so she e-mailed it to everyone she knew (requesting them to forward it to all their contacts) so nobody else would be stung like that!!!!!

With a back story like that I just had to try the recipe myself, and a very good recipe it is too..... not $250 good but very, very good.  The blitzed oats give the cookies a wonderful texture.

I got my recipe from, a really enjoyable blog, with fantastic photos.  I have used the american measurements, except for the butter which I have converted (I find measuring butter by cups far too messy!).  I give you the recipe as I made it, with a couple of tiny tweaks.

The Neiman Marcus Cookie

Makes about 25 cookies

2 1/2    cups of rolled oats
2          cups plain flour
1 tsp     baking powder
1 tsp     bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
1cup/230g  butter
1 cup    granulated sugar
1 cup    brown sugar
2           eggs
1 tsp     vanilla extract
12oz     milk chocolate chips
4  oz     dark chocolate chips
1/2       cup hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 180 C,  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend the oats in a food processor to a fine powder. 
Using a medium to large bowl, combine the blended oats, flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (bread soda), and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, (3-4 minutes).
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Beat in the vanilla extract.
On a low speed gradually mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Divide the dough into 2 oz balls ( about 2 tbsp worth) and place about 3 inches apart on the baking sheets.*
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
The cookies should be lightly brown and set in the outside but still look a little undone in the middle - that's OK they will finish setting up after they are removed from the oven.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

*At this stage I put half my raw cookies on a tray in the freezer, and after a couple of hours bagged them up.
They are the best thing ever to have in the freezer as they can be baked for 15 minutes from frozen when unexpected guests arrive - really impressive stuff!!!!

*An ice-cream scoop is great for measuring out the dough for large cookies.


Happy Mother's Day To You  All  :-}

Friday, March 12, 2010


Firstly apologies for the photo,  I am such a piggie that I had already dived in when I realized that I'd forgotten to take a photo!!!

Despite the shameful photo, I really had to blog about my mushroom risotto.  I don't think it's any better than anyone else's risotto, it's just that it is so handy.

Shameful admission number two, they are really building up today!  I was watching "Come Dine With Me" recently, (I know, I know, but I love the voice over guy) and they mentioned the old restaurateurs trick of par cooking risotto, then finishing the dish to order.  There are times when I feel like a short order cook, everyone coming home at different times etc. etc. - so I decided to give this "trick" a try, and it worked, it worked really well.  You should try it too!

You just make your risotto as usual, sweat off the onion in butter and olive oil until translucent, then add your main flavouring, next add the rice, then the alcohol and finally work in half of your stock.  Remove from the heat.  You then finish off each portion as needed with more hot stock.  It does mean you have to taste as you go (no bad thing) as you may need less stock than usual.  Finish with your cheese of choice and serve.

Mushroom and Cheese Risotto

1 tsp    butter
1 tsp    olive oil  (you may need more, but I was trying to be goodish!)
1         small onion
300g   risotto rice
125ml alcohol (white wine is probably best, I used Marsala)
250g   mushrooms (I used chestnut)
1 tbsp  porcini mushrooms (reconstituted - keep the water and add to your stock)
1 litre   hot chicken stock
20g      low fat cream cheese per portion (or any cheese you like)

Gently fry the onions in the butter and oil, until translucent.  Add the fresh mushrooms and the drained and squeezed dry porcini mushrooms, continue frying until these are cooked too.  Add the risotto rice and make sure it is well coated in oil, then add the white wine and still until absorbed.

Add the stock, one ladle at a time, making sure it is absorbed before adding more.

When the rice is half cooked, remove pan from the heat.

As needed take a portion of the risotto to a new pan bring up to bubbling and add more hot stock until cooked.  Add your cheese and serve.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


I am very fortunate to have a wonderful fish mongers in a nearby town,  and recently I discovered that not only do they have great fresh fish but they also stock some treasures in the freezer!

I love crab, my kids love crab, even my other half (who loves fish, but isn't big on shellfish) likes crab,  Connolly's stock bags of crab claws and boxes of crab meat in the freezer.  The crab meat is unlike any I have bought in the supermarket as there are great big chunks of crab in it, not just the normal little splinters.  I bought a packet of the claws and a box of the meat, and when I got home while still frozen halved the box of crab meat, kept one half out and put the other in the freezer.

Then I put my thinking hat on (it's very becoming!!!)  and this is what I came up with,  it is a really luxurious dish,  I recommend it wholeheartedly.  Because it is a store cupboard (and freezer) meal, it would be very impressive to hand up to unexpected guests, and perhaps even to expected guests!  I think that the crab claws add to the appearance of the dish, but it would still be wonderful without.  I am planning on adding some steamed asparagus next time for colour.

Pasta with Creamed Crab

Serves 3

100g    crab meat
15        crab claws (optional but up the crab meat content if not using them)
1 tbsp   garlic oil  (is using the claws)
2 tbsp  creme fiche (light cream cheese would work too)
1 tbsp  lemon juice
zest of half a lemon
pinch of something spicey (I used cayenne pepper)
1 tbsp of parsley - finely chopped (I didn't have any to hand)
plenty of salt and pepper.

Fry the crab claws in some garlic olive oil.
Combine all the other ingredients.
Prepare your pasta of choice.
Stir the crab mixture and pasta together.
Divide the crab claws artistically (!) on the pasta and serve.



My search continues for the perfect brownie -although in this case I'm a firm believer in the "it's the journey not the achievement" philosophy!!

These beauties are thanks to Nigella Lawson, they are from How To Be A Domestic Goddess (like the baking/cooking part of that quest, not the constant cleaning bit!) and are my current favourite, it should be noted that I am very fickle when it comes to brownies, and that my favourite is usually the one I've just tasted.

The cream cheese gives them a wonderful contrast between the fudgy, sweet chocolate and the smooth and savoury cheese,  these are on my "return to" list. 

Cream-Cheese Brownies

125g    dark chocolate
125g    butter
2          large eggs
200g    caster sugar
1 tsp    vanilla extract
75g      plain flour
200g    cold cream cheese (Philadelphia or supermarket own brand)
1/4 tsp  coffee powder (this is my addition, as I feel a tiny bit of coffee is great with chocolate)

Line and grease a 23cm square tin, 4cm deep (although I just line mine)

Preheat oven to 180 C

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla in another bowl.

Measure the flour and coffee into a third bowl.

When the chocolate mixture has nearly completely melted - remove from the heat.  Allow to finish melting and then to cool slightly.

Beat in the egg mixture.

Add the flour and coffee - combine until smooth.

Pour half this mixture into the prepared tin, and lay the thinly sliced cheese on top.

Pour over the remaining half of the brownie mixture, making sure that all the cheese is covered.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes (as always mine took longer).  The top should be slightly pale and dry,  but a cake tester (or piece of spaghetti) should come out still fairly sticky.

Cool in the tin for at least 20 minutes then move to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut when cold and hide!


Monday, March 8, 2010


I love, love, love a proper Sunday dinner - a succulent roast, crispy roast potatoes, and loads and loads of vegetables, and of course gravy.  This would have to be my last meal on earth (given the choice of course!)

This week I tried something a bit different, I knew things would be hectic towards the end of the week, so I bought my leg of lamb early,  spread a marinade on it and popped it in the freezer until Saturday evening.

I made up the marinade with what was at hand, and it turned out beautifully - the spice was nice and subtle.  This is going right up there with garlic, rosemary and lemon for future lamb roasts.

Marinade for a Leg of Lamb

Tbsp of fresh thyme (or half that of dried)
Tsp Cumin
Tsp Coriander
Tsp Harissa
Zest of half a lemon
Tbsp Olive Oil (more if needed)

Stud the meat at regular intervals and rub the marinade with it.  This should be done as long before roasting as is convenient.  I really recommend the freezing with marinade option.