Tuesday, 13 November 2007
I won't be updating here, so if you like what you see do pop over to the new site to say 'hello' and read further into my culinary travels.
Tuesday, 6 November 2007
It was very lucky that I had two courgettes sitting in my vegetable box just screaming out to be enveloped in a rich chocolate batter. I mean, lets face it getting smothered in chocolate isn't a bad thing to happen is it?
Despite my enthusiasm to try to out a new recipe, especially such an interesting one, I had my doubts about how it would turn out. Courgettes and olive oil in a sweet bake, it just didn't sound at all right in the scheme of things.
How wrong could I be? Immensely, judging by my friends and families reactions; lots of oohs, ahhs and mmms. No one could believe the cake contained courgette. It just added a fluffy moistness and the chocolate chips added a little crunch. The cocoa powder as usual brings a rich deepness to the whole episode.
The recipe provides a choice with the fat - butter or olive oil. I used an Umbrian extra virgin olive oil which I'd bought in a small bottega during my holiday in Assisi last spring, which lent a peppery tang. Next time I'll try using unsalted butter, which I think will make the cake slightly more moist and fluffy.
I topped the cake with melted white chocolate, mini gold dragees and silver sugar hearts.
110g unsalted butter at room temperature, or 120ml extra virgin olive oil plus 1 pat butter or teaspoon olive oil for greasing.
240g plain flour
60g unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
180g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
3 large eggs
350g unpeeled grated zucchini from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini - keep the remaining half-zucchini for optional garnish
160g good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips
Confectioner's sugar or melted bittersweet chocolate (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180'c and grease a 25cm spring form pan with butter oil oil.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a food processor, process the sugar and butter until creamy (you can also do this by hand, armed with a sturdy spatula). Add the vanilla, coffee granules, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.
3. Reserve about 120g of the flour mixture and add the rest to the egg mixture. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.
4. Add the zucchini and chocolate chips to the reserved flour mixture and toss the coat. Fold into the batter and blend with a wooden spoon - don't overmix. Pour into the prepared cake pan and level the surface with a spatula.
5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen the cake, and unclasp the sides of the pan. Let cool to room temperature before serving. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, glaze with melted chocolate, or decorate with a few slices of raw zucchini (you don't have to eat them though).
Monday, 5 November 2007
Reading Nigel Slater's Eating For England made me crave Tunnock's Tea Cakes.
Nigels wonderful writing brought back fabulous memories of friends birthday parties. Not unlike Nigel Slater, I never ate these at home, they were something my parents would just not buy, despite my pleading.
For those of you who don't know about these little delightful mouthfuls the product consists of a small round shortbread biscuit covered with a half-dome of marshmallow which is then encased in a thin layer of milk or plain chocolate and wrapped in a distinctive red and silver foil paper for the more popular milk chocolate variety, with blue and gold wrapping for the plain.
What really sets the Tunnocks apart from its Tea Cake brethren is its marshmallow which is based on egg white rather than gelatine. This gives it a consistency somewhere between shaving foam and bath sealant. The process that places this stuff on the biscuit base and then covers it in chocolate must be a miracle of biscuit engineering given the super sticky nature of the mallow.
As Nigel points out half (if not more) the fun of eating a tea cake is the unveiling of it; painstaking peeling off the delicate foil, hoping the tea cake will be pure and unmarred, shame then that 99% of the time they are covered with hairline cracks, ah well that doesn't distract from the taste.
I'm off to sink my teeth in to one right now.
On Friday we had a little gathering for her and I made the cake. A very apt cake it was too - Choco-Guinness Cake, adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson. The cake was soaked with a Guinness syrup and then topped with a creme fraiche and white chocolate topping.
The cute little cake topper was a lovely gift from my friend Violets. I filled it with a cocoa powder paste and a little of the topping in an attempt to make it look like a pint of 'the black stuff'.
It might not have been the prettiest cake ever but it was very moist and flavoursome, as Nigella says, this cake has a "resonant, ferrous tang" and is absolutely delicious. The cocoa powder really wasn't an overpowering flavour but just added a roundness.
This could be the start of good things as I've already had a few orders for cakes for other upcoming occasions. Needless to say I'm rather pleased.
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
When I received my shopping, everything was really close to its sell/use by date meaning I two options - cook up a storm or battle through day by day and throw some of it. I wish I could say I chose option one but I didn't, there just weren't the hours in the day.
Last nights dinner of Pork Chop with Fennel & Potato Gratin was born out of need to use up a few of these ingredients. I made it up as I went along but am really glad I scribbled it in my notepad as it was a total winner.
Fennel & Potato Gratin
1 Fennel bulb cut into thin slices.
4 Large potatoes cut into thin slices (I used Lady Balfour)
25g Butter (unsalted)
200 ml Double cream
3 tbsp Noilly Pratt
1 tbsp chives (finely chopped)
1 tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
50g Gruyere (grated)
Salt & Pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180'c or the alternative.
2. Place a casserole dish on the hob over a medium heat and saute the fennel with the butter until slightly golden.
3. Add the potatoes and mix to ensure all coated with the butter.
4. Add the Noilly Pratt and allow to simmer over a low heat until reduced.
5. Add the cream, milk and seasoning, bring to near boiling point and simmer for five minutes.
6. Add the herbs, mix through.
7. Scatter over the cheese and place in the oven uncovered, cook for 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.