Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Alternative Christmas dinner: Camembert en croute, Christmas pizza and cranberry clafoutis

I love being with my family at Christmas and we all enjoy Christmas dinner. It's the same meal every year, but we look forward to it because it's the ultimate roast with bells on and it never gets boring.

The only down-side for me is that I don't get to do any of the cooking. To combat this if ever I have people round for dinner during the festive period I like to do an alternative Christmas dinner. All the required tastes and components just in a non-traditional manner. This was exactly the motivation for this evening's meal:

Camembert en croute
Christmas pizza
Cranberry clafoutis

Camembert en croute

Fresh out of the oven this really looked quite unassuming.

However, a pair of swift incisions revealed its glory.

This was delicious and worked out far better than I had anticipated. The Camembert had been reduced to a molten flow, the tart but sweet cranberry sauce was a beautiful contrast and provided a real depth. The pastry was crisp giving a real texture contrast. I had planned to use puff pastry but filo was definitely a superior choice. I think it was far lighter than puff and even more crisp.

It was a parcel of delight that kept on giving. Quite frankly, adding a green salad to this would have satisfied me for dinner.

It's not an elegant thing to eat though...

Christmas pizza

I couldn't have been more pleased with this. Out of the oven the aroma was more then reminiscent of Christmas dinner and every bite offered something slightly different. The toppings were roast turkey, smoked bacon lardons, onion stuffing, sausage meat, cranberries and chestnuts. It was everything you could want from a pizza and Christmas dinner!

The genius stroke was using a cauliflower cheese sauce instead of a tomato sauce. This was so good because not only did it allow cauliflower cheese to be included on the pizza but it also meant that the toppings weren't battling a tomato sauce (clearly there's no tomatoes involved in Christmas dinner). The scant few cranberries provided an unusual but welcome occasional sour burst.

Cranberry clafoutis

The remaining cranberry sauce was supplemented with a dash of raspberry gin and provided the base for the dessert. The raspberry goes remarkably well with cranberry adding a light berry freshness. The tart fruit encased in a just sweet-enough smooth set custard with a hint of almond to finish. This was rich and yet light. A great way to finish things off.

All in all, I was quite happy with this meal. Festive flavours delivered in a more than satisfying manner.

On to the recipes.

Cranberry sauce

150g cranberries
75g caster sugar
Zest of half one satsuma/tangerine/clementine
Juice of one satsuma/tangerine/clementine
2tsbp port

1.Put everything in a pan and heat gently until thick and "jammy". This should take about 5-10mins.
2. Decant into a bowl and leave to cool

Camembert en croute

Whole Camembert
7 sheets of filo pastry
2oz butter, melted
Cranberry sauce (see above)

1. Layer four sheets of filo each slathered copiously with butter.
2. Place the Camembert in the middle of the pastry and top with cranberry sauce.
3. Bring the corners of the pastry up and over the cheese to wrap it snugly.
4. Layer up another three sheets of filo and place the cheese in the middle with the join bottom-most. Wrap the cheese, as before.
5. Turn the parcel over (this should put the cheese with the cranberry sauce back on top). and place on a baking sheet.
6. Bake at 180°C for 10-20mins until the pastry is golden.

Christmas pizza

For the base:
225g strong white flour
1 sachet of easy-use yeast
1/2tsp salt
1tbsp olive oil
~125ml water

For the cauliflower cheese sauce:
Half a cauliflower, broken in to small florets
250ml white sauce
100g mature cheddar, grated
1dsp Dijon mustard
For the toppings use whatever represents your Christmas dinner and in whatever quantities you see fit. I used:
~150g roast turkey
80g onion stuffing, moulded into thin discs
2 sausages, skinned and broken into chunks
20g smoked bacon lardons
50g cranberries
5-8 chestnuts, broken into pieces

1. Make the base first. Stir the yeast in to the water. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt.
2. Add the olive oil to the flour and gradually add the water to make a soft dough. Use less or more water, as required.
3. Knead for 10mins and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
4. To make the cauliflower cheese sauce, steam the cauliflower until just soft ~10-20min.
5. Warm the white sauce and add the cheese and cauliflower. Blitz with a hand-blender and season to taste.
6. Once the dough has risen, knock it back and then stretch out on a baking sheet to make the pizza base.
7. Liberally cover the base with the cauliflower cheese sauce and adorn with your chosen toppings.
8. Drizzle over a little olive oil and bake at 220°C for 20mins

Cranberry clafoutis

100g cranberries
10g caster sugar
~150g cranberry sauce
20ml raspberry-based spirit, if liked
95g plain flour
30g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
300ml milk

1. Mix the sugar and cranberries and leave to macerate (~30min).
2. Mix the raspberry liqueur and the cranberry sauce, if using
3. Mix the flour and almonds in a bowl and add the sugar. Whisk together with the milk and eggs to make a smooth batter
4. Butter a 8" pie dish and spread the cranberry sauce over the base and scatter with the cranberries. Pour over the batter.
5. Bake at 180°C for 30mins until just set.
6. Allow to cool slightly and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Bang on trend(?): Whole braised cabbage

There seems to be a growing trend for cooking entire vegetables: celeriac, cauliflower, cabbage and the such. The combination of a family conversation over Christmas, a suitable recipe being printed and the endless time between Christmas and new year has meant that I tried a braised cabbage last night.

It was surprisingly good. The cider, ham and chestnuts were a great accompaniment to the cabbage without overwhelming it. Crucially, though, there wasn't too much cabbage to put you off eating a wedge. It was very satisfying "carving" a whole cabbage too. Oh and more importantly I am now BANG ON TREND!

Definitely give this a go if you're having cabbage; it could convert a cabbage naysayer.

Whole braised cabbage (care of Tom Kerridge)

Savoy cabbage
100ml cider
100ml chicken stock
Bramley apple, peeled
6 garlic cloves, grated
75g butter
Bunch thyme, tied
100g ham, finely chopped
100g, vacuum-packed chestnuts, broken into pieces

1. Discard the large and loose outer leaves from the cabbage and trim the stalk (so that the cabbage will sit flat). Put two metal skewers perpendicularly through the equator of the cabbage.
2. Put the cider and chicken stock in a large pan (large enough to comfortably hold the cabbage) and bring to the boil. As the liquid is heating grate in the apple.
3. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and add the garlic and butter.
4. Once the butter has melted add the chestnuts, ham and thyme.
5. Place the cabbage on top and baste.
6. Cover and bast every 10mins until cooked through. This may take up to 1hour. Remember test only the outer parts as you won't be eating the dense central core.
7. To serve, remove the skewer and the top layer of cabbage leaves. Place the leaves on the serving platter and top with the cabbage. By doing this the bright green inner leaves will be revealed giving a fresher presentation.
8. Pour the cooking liquor over the cabbage (having reduced if required).
9. Carve and serve!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas presents 2015

As has become tradition, I spent today in the kitchen finishing off edible gifts for the family. This year I made:
  • Salted caramel;
  • Chorizo jam;
  • Chocolate ginger squares; and
  • Cashew caramels
I was a bit worried about the salted caramel as by the time it had got to 170°C it had become slightly bitter. The addition of the cream and salt remedied this though to create a rich and deep spreadable caramel. The chorizo jam is a variant of the now reasonably well-known bacon jam. The tang of the chorizo mixed with sweet makes for an excellent condiment, especially with cheese.
The chocolate ginger squares were a ginger-based rocky road: ginger snaps and crystallised stem ginger encased in dark chocolate. An indulgent treat perfect for ginger-lovers. The cashew caramels turned out to be a fabulous slightly chewy caramel encasing toasted cashews with a hint of salt.

Hopefully they will go down well. On to the recipes:

Salted Caramel (care of A wee bit of cake) - Makes approx one and a half 1lb jam jars

300ml double cream
225g caster sugar
67ml water
3dsp golden syrup
Sea Salt

1. Heat the the sugar, water and golden syrup in a deep, heavy bottomed pan and until it reaches 170°C.
2. While the sugar is boiling warm the double cream in a separate pan until it’s warm but not boiling.
3. Once the sugar reaches temperature take off the heat and carefully pour the double cream in. Take care as the mixture will bubble up.
4. Stir until well combined and set aside to cool.
5. Once cool add 1 tbsp of salt. Add more according to taste.
6. Pour into the glass jars, add a light sprinkling of sea salt and decorate.

Chorizo Jam (care of BBC Good Food) - Makes approximately two jars

500g cooking chorizo, diced
1 large white onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
85g light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp Sherry or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 shot of espresso coffee or 100ml/4fl oz strong black coffee

1. Fry the chorizo in a large saucepan for about 5mins until golden and crispy at the edges. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate, leaving the oil that has been released in the pan.
2. Turn the heat down low and gently cook the onion in the chorizo oil for 15-20mins or until very soft and starting to brown.
3. Stir in the garlic, muscovado sugar, Sherry, maple syrup, espresso and chorizo. Cook slowly for 35-40mins, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy.
4. Turn off the heat, leave to cool a little, then tip everything into a food processor. Pulse briefly to chop everything up into really small pieces, then leave the mixture to cool before packing it into sterilised jam jars.

Cashew Caramels (care of BBC Good Food) - Makes 30-40 squares

375g toasted cashews
125g butter
350ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
400g golden caster sugar
250ml golden syrup
sea salt, for sprinkling

1. Line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment and rub generously with vegetable oil. Add half the cashews to the tin.
2. In a saucepan, bring the butter, cream and vanilla to the boil, then remove from the heat.
3. In a large heavy-based saucepan, heat the sugar and syrup on a medium-low heat until it reaches 155°C. Do not stir, or the sugar will crystallise.
4. Turn off the heat and very carefully add to the cream mixture. Stir together and heat again until it reaches 125C on the thermometer.
5. Remove from the heat and pour in the remaining nuts. Quickly pour into the tin, sprinkle over the salt and leave to cool.
6. When firm (after 3-4 hrs), cut into pieces – use a knife that has been dipped into boiling water.
7. Wrap in baking parchment until ready to eat. Will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight tin.

Chocolate Ginger Squares (care of BBC Good Food) - Makes 10-20 squares

300g ginger nut biscuits, roughly crushed
140g crystallised stem ginger, finely chopped
300g plain chocolate
100g butter, diced
100g golden syrup

1. Line a 20 x 30cm tin with baking parchment.
2. Mix the biscuits with most of the ginger, then set aside.
3. Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth and glossy. Pour this over the biscuit and ginger mixture and mix together well.
4. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the reserved ginger, then flatten the top lightly – it doesn’t need to be completely smooth.
5. Chill for at least 2 hrs, or overnight, before cutting into small squares

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Choc-a-holic birthday cake

I was at a birthday gathering today at the Leather Bottle in Earlsfield for which I provided an impromptu cake. When I say impromptu, I mean that I offered to bring cake only yesterday afternoon...

Now the birthday boy is a big chocolate fan, so it was obvious what sort of cake to make, the only question was how to make it a stand-out birthday cake? Embellishment with an assortment of chocolate-based biscuits and sweets seemed to be an appropriate answer

It was an 8" chocolate Victoria sponge with a dark chocolate ganache filling, covered in chocolate butter cream and encircled by white and milk chocolate Cadbury Fingers. The cake was then topped with four different types of chocolate confections:
  1. Minty Aero balls;
  2. Peanut M&Ms;
  3. Smarties; and my favourite
  4. "The Danger Quarter" - Revels!
I'm always a bit worried in situations like these*, when there seems to be a high level of expectation, that people will be disappointed. Thankfully I don't think they were.

*This definitely wasn't made any more stressful by running out of enough Fingers four fifths of the way through decorating the cake on a Sunday morning when the only local shop that sells white chocolate Fingers doesn't open until 11am and you are supposed to be at the event at noon...

Monday, 11 August 2014


Last month at the Canary Wharf summer Lunch Market, whilst I was buying an empanada, I spotted some rather intriguing sandwich biscuits. These turned out to be "alfajores": shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with dulce de leche and lightly dusted with dessicated coconut. Apparently these little treats are eaten all over South America not just Argentina (although that may be where the originated).

Clearly as I am not one to turn down a new sweet treat, I had to have one. And glad I was that I did. Melt in the mouth shortbread with a rich caramel filling. What's not to like? A very satisfying little treat. I an quite understand how they are devoured all over an entire continent. The real question is just why have I never had one before?

It also became quickly apparent, that these would be perfect for (what is quickly becoming) my regular fortnightly work cakes.  

Finding recipe was pretty easy. Finding a jar of dulce de leche was more taxing. Now, I know that I could have taken the condensed milk route, but I wanted something more "authentic". I eventually tracked down jar of Merchant Gormet Dulce de Leche from Asda(!).

These turned out rather well. Given how very short the biscuit dough was I had my doubts but the were ill-founded. The biscuits were crazily short and had that smooth melt-in-the-mouth quality that cornflour brings. The lime in the biscuits perfectly offset the richness of the caramel. The caramel itself provides a very long finish. I could have been slightly more generous with my caramel, but I was worried about running out before I made all the sandwiches.

Recipe for Alfajores (adapted from Cooking with Books)

200g plain flour
300g cornflour
1/2tsp baking powder
200g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
2 medium egg yolks
1tbsp vanilla extract
Fresh lime zest
Juice from 1 lime
A jar of Dulce de leche
Dessicated coconut, toasted

1. Sift the flour, cornstarch and baking powder together and set aside.
2. Cream the (very) soft butter and sugar together until pale.
3. Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract, lime juice and zest.
4. Add all the dry ingredients at once and mix until completely incorporated.
NB The dough is VERY dry (resulting in a very short cookie). However, add a dessert spoon of water at a time to ensure the dough fully comes together. DO NOT work the dough as you'll develop the gluten and make the biscuits tougher.
5. Form the dough into a fat disc, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30mins.
6. On a floured board, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time. Aim for about a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 2" circles.
7. Place the dough circles on a lined and greased baking tray. They can be placed close together as the biscuits will not spread.
8. Bake for at 160°C for10-12 minutes. (Don't let them brown.) Cool.
9. Meanwhile in a dry pad gently toast the coconut until lightly browned. Set aside and cool.
10. Once both biscuits and coconut are cool, it's time to assemble. Slather dulce de leche on the underside of a biscuit and sandwich using another biscuit.
11. In a wide bowl take 2dsp caramel and mix in 2tsp of water to lightly slacken the caramel. Roll the biscuits in the runny caramel sauce and then the shredded coconut.
12. Try not to eat them all at once...

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Picnic in Regent's Park: Picnic loaf and raspberry & white chocolate cake

K organised a picnic in Regent's Park today as part of her birthday celebrations. Given it was a bring your own affair and a fair-sized gang was expected, I thought I'd take "big" things to share.

This also gave me an opportunity to finally make a picnic loaf, which I have been wanting to make for an age (most probably inspired by James Martin on Saturday Kitchen). Basically you hollow out a whole loaf of bread and fill it with tasty stuff, so each slice (and indeed bite) is an explosion of tastes.

As it was a birthday celebration, I was compelled to make a birthday cake so went for a seasonal raspberry and white chocolate affair.

The picnic loaf lived up to expectation. It was stuffed with layers of chilli red onion marmalade, avocado, mozzarella, griddled chicken thigh, and tomato. It was immensely satisfying with each mouthful including a little but savoury, sweet, bitter, salty and sour: a completely rounded flavour profile. The variety of fresh vegetables made sure it wasn't too heavy.

The picture is of one I made the next day with feta instead of mozzarella, grated carrot and an attempt at giardiniera. This goes to show the flexibility of the recipe. Equally as epic as the first. 

These are known as "pan bagnat" in Nice or as "muffaletta" in New Orleans. Both much more romantic terms than the prosaic "picnic loaf". 

The cake was a success despite my worries of transporting it on the Tube and the searing afternoon sunshine which K had somehow managed to conjure up. The sponge was very moist with a delicate crumb. The lemon and raspberry offset the rich sweetness of the white chocolate buttercream very well.

The cake not only went down well, with practically everyone hoovering up a slice, but also acted as a strong bartering tool in the cake for wine scheme K had set up resulting in a rather smart glass of fleurie for me. Given the sunshine and the general relaxed nature of the afternoon, I completely forgot to take a picture of a slice until the sun had done its work and the cake was a little past its best. It turns out butter cream melts when placed in direct sunshine for hours on end. Who knew?

I tried a crazy two ingredient buttercream for the white chocolate icing. As easy as it was to make, I think it probably needs some icing sugar to keep it stable.

Recipe for a Picnic Loaf

1 ripe avocado
Lime juice
Red onion marmalade
3 chicken thighs
Beef tomato, thinly sliced
Mozzarella, sliced
Loaf of bread

1. Take the skin off the chicken thighs and de-bone. Sandwich between two layers of cling film and batter out.
2. Oil and season the chicken and cook on a griddle. Allow to cool.
3. Peel, de-stone and slice the avocado. Douse gently in lime juice to and tang and prevent discolouration.
4. Cut the top off the loaf of bread and hollow out the inside leaving a layer below the crust of approximately 1/2". You can also scoop a little of the bread from the lid.
5. Generously spread onion marmalade on the bottom of the loaf
NOTE: You can make this yourself. Or just buy. I made mine with four thinly sliced red onion, a finely diced red chilli (seeds removed) and soft brown sugar. Simply throw in a pan with a slug of olive oil and leave over very low heat until the onions are tender and caramelised. Finish with a glug of balsamic vinegar.
6. Layer up the ingredients until the loaf is full, not forgetting to season each layer liberally. I think my layers were: avocado, tomato, chicken, tomato, mozzarella, avocado.
7. Slather the lid with more onion marmalade and press back on the filled loaf.
8. Tightly wrap the loaf in cling film (you may need three or four layers).
9. Place the loaf on a tray, put another tray on top, weigh down and leave. An hour will do but overnight will result in an even more compressed loaf which will be easier to slice.

For the second loaf, I ran out of onion marmalade so made a quick giardiniera, which went amazingly well.

Stick celery, peeled and finely sliced 
1tbsp capers, rinsed
Garlic clove, crushed, 3tbsp olive oil
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1tbsp dried chives
(You should also add 100g green olives (stuffed with pimento, ideally) and shallots would be better than the chives. I had neither of these in the cupboard so went without) 

Method:  Mix and leave to mingle!

Recipe for Raspberry and White Chocolate Cake

4 eggs
8oz plain flour
2tsp baking powder
8oz butter
8oz caster sugar
1oz ground almonds
100ml raspberry purée (from ~150g raspberries)
Zest of one lemon
Juice half a lemon
For the buttercream:
212g white chocolate
281g butter
A few raspberries, crushed
To decorate:
White chocolate buttons, ~150g

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale.
2. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, alternating with a spoon of sieved flour (to prevent curdling).
3. Beat in the lemon juice, zest and raspberry purée. Stir in the ground almonds.
4. Sieve the plain flour and baking powder together and fold into the batter.
5. Divide the batter between two lined and greased 8" round cake tins.
6. Bake at 180°C for approximately 25mins. Bake until a skewer comes out clean.
7. To make the butter cream, melt the butter and white chocolate together in a pan over a low heat until melted.
8. Allow to cool then refrigerate until solid.
9. Put the solidified mixture into a bowl and then beat until fluffy and light.
10. To put the cake together, spread approximately a quarter of the icing on top of one of the cakes. Then spread over some crushed raspberries. Sandwich the cakes together.
11. Thinly ice the cake all over (the crumb layer) and refrigerate until set.
12. Spread the remainder of the icing over the cake, again refrigerate to set
13. To decorate, insert buttons vertically around the rim of the cake then carefully place raspberries to fill the top. Use more buttons to decorate the sides of the cake.

Friday, 4 July 2014

All American 4th July

I had my first Edible Experience tonight care of a Monkey and Molasses pop-up:
Deep South (London) hospitality, good ole home style cooking, three lip smacking courses and a pitcher of homemade spiked Tennessee sweet tea to lighten the mood!

Come on down to Blue Mountain Cafe in Penge to celebrate the 4th of July with us Southern Style. Think cornbread, Southern fried chicken....there'll be mountains of food and plenty of Mississippi charm to keep everyone entertained all night....we might even throw a banjo or two in to the mix!

Well I do declare, all this for just £25 and BYOB too!
K was convinced to join me by the delight of a night in Penge. We had a sweet tea to kick the evening off which was a welcome beverage on a warm summer's evening. It put me in the mood for some Long Island ice-tea, but we made do with a nice bottle of red that K had brought along.

The food started with creamed corn and ham hock with a pineapple and chilli chutney and a Parmesan crisp. The corn was incredibly sweet but the ham and Parmesan served as suitable foils. The chilli offering a pleasant kick.

The main event was fried chicken, mac 'n' cheese, collard greens with chilli, and corn bread with onion and jalapeno. The chicken was phenomenally crisp and yet succulent. Simply superb. The macaroni cheese was bit dry for me but that's just my taste; I like it saucy! The collard greens were good (I think they were spring greens, but I could be very wrong) and were a welcome vegetable side. The corn bread was very sweet and dense. The onions and jalapeno went some way to making it more enticing, but ultimately it proved too much for both me and K.

The pudding was sweet potato pie with key lime cream. The best thing about this was the cream. Unfortunately the pie was just a one-note blandness of sweet potato with a bit too much cinnamon. The cream helped invigorate things but neither of us had the enthusiasm to finish our generous slices.

The food did seem to represent what I know of deep South cooking. Plenty of carbs and plenty of sugar. However, the execution was excellent.  The Cafe had bags of character and despite packing the tables in the atmosphere was friendly and hospitable. I'd definitely go back to sample some of the Monkey and Molasses magic.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Everyday sausage salad

Sausages. Great aren't they? Not considered during the summer apart from when cremated barbecued, and stuck in a soft roll.

Turns out they make a mighty fine addition to a salad.

Tonight's dinner was a rough and ready "everyday" salad. Little effort, big reward. A varied flavour profile and contrasting textures with every forkful giving something different. Soft and salty halloumi, crisp meaty sausages, tangy tomatoes and peppery crisp watercress. Is this a summer re-birth for the humble banger?

I'll not give you a formal recipe mostly because it's just not worth it (and it'll read better as prose). Split a brace of sausages along their length and griddle until cooked with those delightful griddle marks. At the same time dry fry a few thick slices of halloumi until browned. Once the cheese is done, splash a bit of olive oil in and quickly fry some halves of tomato until lightly caramelised. That's all the cooking done. 

Chuck some salad leaves on a plate. Then tear over the halloumi, followed by some strips of sausage and then the tomato halves. Scatter over a thinly sliced spring onion and some Parmesan shavings. Drizzle over the oil form the tomato pan and then finish with some balsamic vinegar.

Just image if you used a high quality sausage or something interesting like a chorizo or merguez...

Monday, 16 June 2014

You've never seen cake go so fast...

I took cake into work for the second time today because:
  1. It was Monday;
  2. It was the start of a new Sprint with a planning meeting the "highlight" of the day; and
  3. Feedback from the last Sprint was that there hadn't been enough cake.
Over the weekend I had narrowed it down to taking in some bars (easier to portion for mass cake provision), I hadn't got much further: I was lacking inspiration to say the least. That was until I found a couple of old Olive magazine supplements and my quandary was no more.

I went with the very suitable-for-elevenses-and-seemingly-healthy blueberry crumble cakes (above) and the bury-your-sorrows-in-something-ridiculously-sweet white chocolate rocky road.

I have never seen plates of cake disappear so fast despite a simultaneous offer of Krispy Kremes! One-nil to the boy baker!

Both are ridiculously easy to make and suitably pleasing. Mind you the white choc rocky road really should only be taken in small doses otherwise that sugar-crash is gonna hurt!

I forgot to take pictures and, as we all know, I'm no food stylist. Fortunately the blueberry squares are on the Olive website and the white chocolate rocky road, just really isn't camera worthy. I'm sure your imagination can conjure up a suitable image for white chocolate, amaretti and dried cherry goodness...

Recipe for Blueberry Crumble Squares (taken from Olive)

30g pecans
125g butter, very soft
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
125g blueberries
1tbsp milk
For the crumble topping:
15g butter
50g plain flour
40g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
30g unrefined light brown sugar
3/4tsp ground cinnamon

1. To make the topping, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs and stir in the nuts, sugar and cinnamon. Chill while you make the cakes.
2. Blitz the pecans in a food processor until coarsely ground. 
3. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
4. Gradually beat in the eggs
5. Sift the flour, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and fold in along with the ground pecans, blueberries and milk.
6. Pour into a lined 8" square cake tin. Sprinkle with the topping mixture.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180°C, until risen and golden. (A fine skewer inserted into a cake should come out dry with no uncooked batter stuck to it.) 
8. Cool on a wire rack. Cut the cake into 16 squares.

Recipe for White Chocolate Rocky Road (also taken from Olive)

300g, white chocolate
150g, butter
60ml double cream
100g amaretti biscuits, broken into small chunks
25g desiccated coconut, toasted
100g dried cherries and berries
50g flaked almonds, toasted


1. Melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a bain marie until melted and combined. As long as you don't over heat a good beat will bring it all together.
2. Mix all the other ingredients into the chocolate-butter mix.
3. Tip the mixture into a lined 8" square tin, cool and refrigerate until set solid.
4. Divide into 16 squares.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Grub Club

I came across Grub Club today:
Grub Club connects foodies with new and creative Chefs across London.

A Grub Club is like a restaurant but a lot more fun! We make sure that our handpicked Chefs serve up the most delicious food in often quirky spaces.

We do our best to ensure there is a communal feel to the meal, so that you get to meet some great people.

Let us take you back to a simpler time when it was easy to meet and make friends......

So yet another opportunity to go out eating and socialising. I need to get on this...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Food idioms

A universal preoccupation with food is apparent in the many idioms based on it. Here are just ten:

1. apples and oranges: two things that are inherently different or incompatible. For example, “To compare The Chronicles of Narnia to the Twilight series is to compare apples to oranges.”

2. bad apple: a negative or corrupting influence on others; a troublesome or despicable person. For example, “One official of a national motorcycle organization argued that a few bad apples shouldn’t be allowed to ruin all motorcyclists’ reputations…”

3. bring home the bacon: to bring home the prize, to achieve success.

In American usage “to bring home the bacon” means “to earn the living for a household.” The expression probably originated from the custom/legend of the Dunmow Flitch. A “flitch of bacon” is a side of bacon, salted and cured. Married visitors to the town of Dunmow in Essex who knelt on two sharp stones and could swear that during the past twelvemonth they’d never quarreled with their spouse or wished themselves unmarried could claim a free flitch of bacon. Another possibility is that the expression derives from greased pig contests at county fairs. The contestant who succeeded in catching the pig “brought home the bacon.”

4. chew the fat: originally the expression meant to argue over a point, perhaps because people arguing make energetic mouth movements similar to what is required to masticate gristle.

In British usage, both “chew the fat” and “chew the rag” mean to argue or grumble. In American usage, the expressions mean “to engage in friendly conversation.”

5. cream puff: literally, a cream puff is a shell of puff pastry with a cream filling. In British usage, a “cream puff” is an effeminate person. In American usage, a “cream puff “is a used car in especially good condition.

6. cup of tea: something that suits a person’s disposition

The expression is used in both positive and negative contexts:
“A Mozart concert? Just my cup of tea!”
“A ball game? Sorry, football is not my cup of tea.”

7. a pretty/fine kettle of fish: an awkward state of affairs; a mess or a muddle. For example, “As the crisis dragged on to the eleventh month, Bishop Segun introduced a pretty kettle of fish to the whole matter when he instituted an ecclesiastical court…”

In researching this post, I discovered that the expression “a pretty kettle of fish” (with the meaning “a fine mess”) seems to be morphing into “a different kettle of fish” or “another kettle of fish” with the meaning “something else entirely.” For example, “Your website needs to be a whole different kettle of fish.”

8. a lemon: something that is bad or undesirable.

Anything that fails to meet expectations can be called a lemon. For example, “Her first husband was a lemon.”

Most often, the term is used to describe a car that has problems from its time of purchase. Individual states have “lemon laws” intended to protect consumers from substandard vehicles. The federal lemon law (the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act) was enacted in 1975 and protects citizens of all states.

9. full of beans: full of energy and high spirits. For example, this headline: “Hollins still full of beans as he settles in at Crawley Town”

In current usage the expression “full of beans” is so frequently associated with children that it has been adopted as a brand name by child care centers and a children’s clothing store. I’ve always assumed that the expression derived from the idea of a frisky bean-fed horse, but recently I read that at one time beans were considered an aphrodisiac.

10. hot potato: a delicate situation that must be handled with great care. For example, this headline: “Herbert’s ‘Healthy Utah’ Plan Could be a Political Hot Potato”

Orignally posted on Daily Writing Tips

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Caramel cake

Caramel is one of my favourite sweet flavours. I had been thinking about how to make a caramel cake for quite a while. Research on the interweb shows that they are quite popular in America but it seems to be more about a plain cake with icing: not particularly interesting or inspiring.

I had also recently learnt the rules about substituting oil for butter in cakes to allow different flavour profiles and I thought a caramel cake would be the perfect way to try out my own oil cake recipe.

To make my "ultimate" caramel cake, I baked two different cakes, one vanilla and one caramel (using muscovado sugar). These were then split into three and layered with three different types of icing. The combination of icings was determined by a taste test at work a few days ago. A lunch time activity which my work pals were more than happy to participate in. I even had some of the cake trimmings with me to help out.

The final cake looked like this (unfortunately I don't have a cross-section).

The cake was amazing. I would go so far as to say it was possibly the best cake I have ever made. The caramel cake had a really rich deep flavour. The slight bitterness from one of the icings worked really well as a foil to the sweetness. The plain sponge cake also provided contrast for the other flavours to work against. Overall the cake tasted of a rich caramel providing a long, rounded and satisfying mouthful with each bite and crucially it wasn't too sweet. The decorative sugar shards provided a textural contrast although they didn't last long in the warmth of the office.

Anyway, on to the recipe. Be warned there are six different components in this cake: two cakes, three types of icing and the sugar shards. It's a lengthy undertaking but one which, I think, is well worth it.

Caramel cake recipe

For the vanilla sponge:
2 eggs
4oz butter
4oz plain flour
4oz caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
For the caramel sponge:
2 eggs
90.4g flavourless oil e.g. sunflower
22.8g milk
4oz dark muscovado sugar
1tsp baking powder
4oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
Filling icing 1 (taken from Bay Area Bites recipe):
2 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup water
2oz butter
30ml double cream
5oz icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
Filling icing 2 (taken from Scrumpdillyicious's recipe):
1/4cup light brown sugar
10tbsp butter
1/3cup double cream
8oz cream cheese
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup icing sugar
External frosting (taken from My Recipes):
1oz butter, melted
1 3/4oz dark brown sugar
2-4tbsp milk
1dsp vanilla extract
135g icing sugar
Caramel shards, to decorate (taken from Ricardo Cuisine):
60 ml water
20og sugar
1.5oz  butter
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp baking soda

1. Start be making the vanilla sponge. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs one by one, alternating with a little flour, and then beat in the vanilla extract.
3. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mix and fold in.
4. Split the batter between three 8" lined cake tins and bake at 180°C for about 10mins until cooked through. You'll need to keep a watchful eye to check that the edges don't go crisp before the middle is cooked.
5. To make the caramel sponge whisk together the wet ingredients: eggs, oil and milk.
6. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and mix with the muscovado sugar.
7. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, whisking only just enough to combine them.
8. Split the batter between three 8" lined cake tins and bake at 180°C for about 10mins until cooked through. You'll need to keep a watchful eye to check that the edges don't go crisp before the middle is cooked.
9. For filling icing 1, a caramel syrup is required. In a large heavy-bottomed pan mix the water and sugar until the mixture feels like wet sand.
10. Heat the pan on maximum until the syrup is smoking slightly and has a dark amber colour. (this may be as high as 190°C).
NB The aim is to create a slightly bitter syrup. This is crucial to offset the sweetness of the cake.
11. Carefully pour in one cup of water and whisk over medium heat until the syrup has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. (Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it!)
12. To make the icing make a beurre noisette by cooking the butter until it is brown. Sieve into a bowl and aside to cool.
13. Beat the brown butter with until smooth and then ad in the icing sugar gradually alternating with the cream or caramel syrup. Repeat until all the sugar, syrup and cream has been incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add salt to taste.
14. For filling icing 2, gently warm the brown sugar and 4 tbsp butter together until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium heat and remove from the heat.
15. Whisk in the cream until well combined. Transfer to a heat-resistant bowl and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
16. Beat the remaining butter until soft and smooth. Beat in the cream cheese, vanilla and salt until smooth.
17. Slowly beat in the cooled brown sugar mixture (an electric whisk helps here) until smooth. Add the icing sugar gradually, beating well after each addition until completely smooth. Chill slightly for a firmer texture, stirring occasionally.
18. For the external icing, melt the butter over a medium heat.
19. Add the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk. Cook for 1 minute or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; cool slightly.
20. Combine the butter mixture and 2 vanilla in a large bowl. Gradually beat in the icing sugar; beat with a until smooth. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, as required until spreading consistency.
21. To make the decorative caramel shards, bring the water, sugar, butter, and salt to a boil. Cook until the mixture caramelises and take on a golden brown colour.
22. Remove from the heat immediately and stir in the baking soda with a whisk. Quickly pour on to a baking sheet lined with silicon sheet. Spread the caramel in a thin layer and cool completely. Once cold, break the caramel into long pieces.
23. To assemble, put one of the caramel sponges on the bottom of the serving board. Spread one third of filling icing 1 over the cake. Place one of the vanilla cakes on top and spread half of filling icing 2 over the top. Repeat these layers, alternating cakes and icings until all six cakes have been used and five layers or icing have been spread (see diagram below).
24. Slather the cake with a thin layer of the external frosting (a crumb layer) and refrigerate until solid. Use the rest of the frosting to cover the cake liberally. Decorate with shards of caramel.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


I've fancied the idea of a veg box for a while but never actually round to sorting it out (I think I have either been put off by the price or the lack of a suitable delivery time/location).

FarmDrop takes the veg box to another level. It provides a pick-up point for produce from local farms and producers. Essentially it's a "supermarket" but without the middle-men. Everything will be local and seasonal (no strawberries in December here!) available to be bought once a week. It might be the just the thing for me.I'll keep track and see if one gets set up reasonably near me...

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Edible Experiences

I stumbled upon Edible Experiences today and then instantly wondered why I have only just found out about it now.

It's basically a listing of food and drink related events and activities in and around London village.
Whether you're looking for a cooking, baking or butchery class; a tasting, foraging expedition, or supperclub or pop up, our hosts have something to tickle your tastebuds. Have a browse around. We hope something tempts!

It includes all sorts of classes, talks, tasting and supperclubs. Clearly I will be investigating with vigour. There's no need for there to be another dull moment!

La Polenteria

Last night we popped into La Polenteria for a quick pre-comedy gig dinner.

I love polenta but even so I  don't make it as often as I could. It is normally compared to mashed potato which is a reasonable comparison but it seems a bit more sophisticated than that to me. The USP of La Polenteria is that every dish contains polenta. I was excited to find out if they could pull off such a menu: would it be too restrictive or would it serve as a platform for unbridled creativity?

We started off with some of the polentini or "polenta bites". Three small slabs of grilled polenta serving as vessels for typically delicious Italian toppings. Our favourite was the gorgonzola and walnut combination.We were off to a good start.

For main there was no way I could resist the wild boar ragu with wet polenta. The wet polenta wasn't as wet I was expecting but it didn't really matter .It was delicious. The ragu had a real depth of flavour and the polenta working in harmony as a comforting partner.

On a dank March evening this was perfect comfort food. Once I had finished, I wanted more even. None of the desserts appealed which was good because I was stuffed.

It's a small restaurant with a rustic wooden and metal interior. The tables are very close together but that can be forgiven in such a small Soho location. By the time we came to pay the bill the place was almost full, mostly it seemed with Italians. Surely a good sign?

Unfortunately, the service was less than to be desired: it was less than attentive. Long gaps between courses and Having asked for the bill we were ignored for what seemed like an eternity especially frustrating when you've got a show to go and see. 

I'd definitely go back. I'll be interesting to see how they develop the menu for the summer months. I'll make sure I've got nowhere to be afterwards though.

La Polenteria on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 February 2014

The Bombe?

Last weekend I had a conversation about an alternative to trifle, which lead to the invention of the Swiss-roll, jelly, Angel Delight (or S-JAD) bombe.

Given that I had some time on my hands today and access to all the required elements I just had to give it a go.

Firstly, I covered a large glass bowl in cling film and packed two raspberry Swiss roll-worth of slices tightly in.

Next, I made up a strawberry jelly using just half the recommended amount of water. The jelly was to be the mortar of my cakey igloo, so I needed it to have the requisite structural integrity. This was poured over the Swiss-roll slices.

I swathed a desert bowl in cling film and weighted it down on the jelly, forcing the liquid up the sides of the bowl. I left this in place whilst he jelly set in the refrigerator.

Once the jelly had set, I removed the dessert bowl and poured in a strawberry Angel Delight. Again it was left to set.

I managed to turn the whole thing out onto a serving dish. I was a little disappointed that it didn't quite hold it's shape as well as I has hoped. The first thing that comes to mind is The Blob, obviously.

I'm not sure the end result was quite worth the effort. Quite simply it tasted like jellified Swiss-roll with Angel Delight. Not quite the off-the-shelf gastronomic delight I had dreamed of. Still as they say, "nothing ventured, nothing gained".

Friday, 7 February 2014

Baked Alaska

The old work gang of Hammers came over tonight, for what turned out to be, a very civilised Friday evening. 

It was styled as the first part of a Come Dine With Me quadrilogy. I'd planned a pretty good seasonal three courses:

Jerusalem artichoke soup
Roast chicken with all the trimmings
Baked Alaska

It all went rather well. The soup bought a hush to the dining room for the first time since everyone arrived. A good sign.

The roast chicken was also well received. Quite an accomplishment for a Friday night post-work affair, I thought given that not only was a chicken roasted it was accompanied by roast potatoes (obviously), lemon carrots, purple-sprouting broccoli and celeriac purée. I even managed to make a decent gravy from the roasting juices, which is a first for me.

However, clearly the most interesting part of the evening (well for me anyway) was the dessert of baked Alaska. Given the fact that the whole gang seemed to have given up the ghost and decanted to the sofa to adjust their waist bands and digest, I wasn't entirely sure I was going to get the chance to make it. It would have been a tad frustrating having been up the night before making the sponge base, roasting the rhubarb and defrosting egg whites. Thankfully sense, or was it just plain greed, prevailed.

This is a pud of contrasts. The light ginger sponge as the base, which had a delicate warmth, worked well with the fruity rhubarb. The sweet meringue was offset by the tartness of rhubarb. The combination of temperatures and textures worked remarkably well.

I was going to make a separate orange sauce to accompany it but held-off as it seemed that that might just push everyone over the edge.

I'm not sure there's much of a recipe to give for the Baked Alaska, it's more of an assembly job, unless you're making all the individual components. What I did was make an 8" Victoria sponge (using the usual 2444 mix) with a teaspoon of ground ginger. I used my usual recipe to roast about a pound of forced rhubarb.

Just before assembly I made the meringue. Four egg white were whisked until stiff then 7oz of caster sugar gradually added until the meringue was glossy and stiff. To assemble, the cake base was first put on a roasting tray. The juices from the rhubarb were brushed over the cake then the rhubarb spread all over in a single layer. Next softened vanilla ice-cream was piled on. (You should really put it back in the freezer for 10 minutes or so before doing anything else.). The the meringue was slathered over everything making sure that there were no gaps. The pud was then baked for 10mins at 200°C until brown. (I used a blow torch to add some extra depth of colour).

You have to serve this pretty quickly. It also needs easting all in one go, so make sure you've got plenty of people around who are still hungry! (Mind you I did toy with making individual ones, which may have been more elegant and slightly less extravagant.)

PS. This is what my dinner the following night, made with the left-overs, looked like. It was just as tasty especially with the potatoes and chicken  fried in goose fat...

Sunday, 2 February 2014

My first fruit cake

Today I delivered my first ever fruit cake. I know. I was as surprised as you when I realised I hadn't ever made a fruit cake before.

I didn't really know where to begin for a recipe. There seems to be some quite a lot of dull recipes that basically just mix fruit and a load of flour - no wonder they are "heavy". Remarkably the recipes are incredibly similar. There also seemed to be some variation between a fruit cake and a Christmas cake, with the latter having a much more interesting set of ingredients. (Why can't you have a "Christmas" fruit cake any time of the year?) I stumbled upon a recipe for ale cake and since I wanted a cake that had more than a hint of booze (it was for my friend's dad as a thank-you for some no longer used bake-ware) this is what I went with.

It turned out very well. The fruit was incredibly juicy, (as well they should be having absorbed half a pint of ale!) leading to a very moist cake. It had a complexity and deepness to it that was remarkable. The topping was a sweet hit that served to break up the homogeneity of the cake very well. Ultimately it could be described as very satisfying!

Recipe for Ale Cake (adapted from Women's hour)

For the cake:
225g raisins
225g sultanas
350g currants
75g citrus peel
250ml strong English ale
225g butter
225g dark brown muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle
4 eggs
225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
Zest of one lemon
For the icing:
75ml evaporated milk
3oz caster sugar
Egg yolk
1.5oz butter
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1oz dessicated coconut
2oz mixed fruit and nuts, chopped

1. In a large bowl, steep the fruits and the citrus peel in the ale, leaving it for at least 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in the treacle and then slowly add the eggs
3. Fold in the flour and spice, until thoroughly mixed together.
4. Stir in the steeped fruits
5. Pile the mixture into a greased and lined 8" round cake tin.
6. Bake in the centre of the oven for one hour at 160°C (the original recipe states 180°C but this is too high and leads to the cake getting far too brown too quickly). Reduce the temperature to 120°C for a further 2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly. Leave to cool.
7. For the icing mix the milk, egg yolk, sugar, butter and vanilla extract in a small pan over a low heat. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens, approx. 12 mins.
8. Remove from the heat.
9. Beat in the fruit and nuts and coconut. Continue until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a spreading consistency.
10. Slather all over the cool cake and allow to cool completely.

NB. The cake can be stored before being iced. To store wrap first in baking paper then in foil and place in an air-tight container.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Things you buy, not make.

What do these items on the right have in common?

Well, they are things you buy rather than make. Apparently.

This came up during a pre-Christmas Sunday pub lunch, where the topic of conversation turned to crumpets. I'm not sure why (maybe because I'd made some that morning). This lead to a conversation about things that you buy not make and consequently a culinary challenge.

Tonight saw me prove that you really can make everything. Putting a menu together really was quite difficult. Just how do you feature the teatime treat of crumpets into a dinner menu? My only option was a multi-course tasting menu, so (as you may have guessed from the picture) we ended up having:

Vegetable crisps and red pepper houmous
Baked beans on toast
Fish fingers
Scotch Eggs
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup

Vegetable crisps and red pepper houmous
I've wanted to make vegetable crisps for ages and was very pleased that these turned out really well. I made a variety of root vegetables and seasonings: carrot and cinnamon (depth of flavour), parsnip and cumin (spicy and sweet), sweet potato and smoked paprika (smoky and sweet). Using both a mandolin and a peeler to make different crisps gave an interesting mix of textures. Unfortunately the strength of the red pepper houmous was too much for the crisps (especially the more delicate "peeler" crisps; it over-powered rather than supported.

Baked beans on toast

I got the recipe for these beans from Tom Kerridge and his recent "Proper Pub Food" programme/book. They are quite acidic which tends to over-power the other flavours. I think if I made them again I would reduce the amount of red wine vinegar. I also made the bread (obviously!), which, given it was the first loaf I'd made for quite some time, turned out very well.

Fish fingers

I dissected a cod loin to make the fish fingers. I was going to carefully craft "proper" finger shapes but we came to an agreed position that that would actually be a waste of fish, so we had fish "snowmen". Obviously I made the tartare sauce as well.

Scotch eggs

The main event. I had a practice run a few days before and was quietly confident that these would be a success. They were. The lightly spiced pork, enveloped in a crispy breadcrumb layer with a still runny yolk hiding beneath it all. It was a deeply savoury treat but at the same time delicate. Having it hot really does make a difference in turning it into something of a gastronomic treat far beyond a cold snack. Paul's Plum Sauce (a Christmas present) was a very well-balanced fruity and tangy accompaniment.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
I'd originally been set a challenge of making Revels, but time was against me and I didn't really know how to make revels into a proper dessert. Given the A and K's delight in peanut butter, I went for a super-sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. It was a chocolate pastry case with a peanut butter cream filling topped with ganache. The level of conversation declined quite considerably when I put this on the table, so I think it went down well. 

My version was more "grown-up" than the American confection. It wasn't quite so sweet, with the the bitter topping a good foil to the silky rich filling (opposed to the chalky Reese's interior). There combination of textures was also rather moreish.

The whole evening, although slightly stressful, went very well with all the food well received (despite "bean suspicions"). Although we did realise that it was a very "orange" feast, as most processed foods seem to be. Anyway, another challenge successfully taken on. Definitely the hardest yet. On to the recipes:

Vegetable crisps and red pepper houmous

No recipe here. Just make houmous as usual (chickpeas, tahini, lemon, olive oil, garlic, seasoning) adding as few or as many pepperdew peppers to suit your taste.

Baked beans on toast (taken from Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food) - serves 4

1 tin haricot or flageolet beans, drained and rinsed
100g smoked streaky bacon, diced
100g onions, finely chopped
Garlic clove, minced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
75g soft dark brown sugar
100ml red wine vinegar
250ml water

1. Heat some oil in a large casserole and fry the bacon until crisp.
2. Add the onion and garlic and cook until onion is soft.
3. Add the vinegar and de-glaze the pan.
4. Add all the remaining ingredients (apart from the beans) and bring to the boil.
5. Add the beans and simmer over a low heat for 1.5-2h until the sauce is thick and the beans soft.
6. Serve on slices of buttered toast.

Fish fingers and tartare sauce
I'm not sure there's much of a recipe for the fish fingers. Simply cut some fish into suitable pieces, dust in seasoned flour, douse in beaten egg and then cover liberally with breadcrumbs. Fry gently until the coating is crisp.

There's slightly more to tartar sauce though.

Egg yolk
1tsp Dijon mustard
Flavourless oil
Gherkins, chopped finely (I used cornichons)
Lemon juice

1. Mix the egg yolk and mustard together in a bowl.
2. Gradually whisk oil into the egg mix until the desired quantity and consistency is reached.
3. Add the capers, gherkins and parsley to taste.
4. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Scotch Eggs (taken from Heston's recipe)

10 medium egg
450g good-quality sausages, skins removed
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp cornflour
45g Dijon mustard
Plain flour, seasoned
125g breadcrumbs

1. Put 8 eggs into a pan in which they fit in a single layer. Add enough cold water to cover the eggs by 3cm and cover with a lid then place the pan over a high heat.
2. Once the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand for 3 minutes. In the meantime, fill a bowl with ice and cold water and after the 3 minutes, transfer the eggs to the iced water.
3. Leave to cool for 10–15 minutes.
4. Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the shells using a teaspoon.
5. Place the sausagemeat in a food processor with the smoked paprika, cornflour, mustard, and a splash of cold water. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and blitz together. Divide into eight balls, approximately 55g per portion.
6. Flatten each portion of sausagemeat between two sheets of clingfilm into a circle, then remove the top layer of clingfilm. Place an egg in the centre of each sausage meat circle. Wrap the sausage meat around the egg, by bringing all of the edges together and twist the top of the clingfilm. Press the edges to seal but don’t press too hard. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
7. Roll each coated egg in the seasoned flour, then dip it the remaining beaten eggs. Finally, roll it in the breadcrumbs, making sure that all sides are coated. Place the eggs in the fridge for 15 minutes.
8. Fry the Scotch eggs until golden brown in a deep fat fryer at 190º.
9. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a baking tray.
10. When all the eggs have been fried, place in the oven for 10 minutes at 190ºC

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (This came from A Cozy Kitchen, sorry about the American cups...)

For the crust:
4oz butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
For the filling:
3oz butter, room temperature
3/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp double cream
For the topping:
75ml double cream
75g dark chocolate, broken in to pieces
0.5oz butter
Maldon sea salt

1. To make the pastry cream the butter and sugar until combined. Add egg yolk and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Sift in flour and cocoa powder, and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and form it into a disk; wrap well in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
2. Preheat oven to 160°C. Between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper, roll the tart dough into a 14-inch circle. Gently transfer dough to a 9 1/2-inch tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan, trimming away any excess dough. Chill the tart shell in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
3. Line the tart shell with a piece of parchment paper, and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and its contents, and bake until the pastry looks dry and set, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.
4. To make the filling, beat together the ingredients until smooth.
5. Fill the cooled tart crust with the peanut butter mixture and smooth top. Chill for 30 minutes to set.
6. Meanwhile, make the ganache. Place the chocolate, cream and butter in a bain marie and heat until the chocolate melts. Pour some the glaze over the tart while still (just) warm.
Top with a few sprinkles of sea salt and serve.
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