Cheesecake Brownies

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A good chocolate brownie is one of my favourite things to make and eat. Brownie recipes range from simple cocoa rich treats to complex beasts with more add-ins than you know what to do with but I'd pretty much eat whatever kind of brownie you put in front of me. I like mine more on the fudgey than cakey side. I like chewy edges and sticky middles. I like rich chocolate flavours and simple additions. I am always keen to try new things.

I've been reading for ages about the wonderful mix of cheesecake and chocolate cake. Black bottom cupcakes for example combine a chocolatey cake with a cheesecake centre into a perfectly formed cupcake combination. They are also on my list to try. The combination extends to cheesecake and brownies. There is just something about the combination of dense chocolate brownies with a rich topping of slightly sweetened cream cheese that makes them irresistable. I must emphasise that they are irresistable; I have made 2 batches in the last couple of weeks and they've been snaffled up.

This recipe is from David Lebovitz who has a whole book about chocolate. I trusted him to provide a reliable and easy recipe and I was right to. This recipe is simple to follow and has no complicated/unusual ingredients or instructions. I've reprinted the recipe here using only the metric measures.

85g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
115g dark chocolate, chopped
130g sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
70g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g chocolate chips

200g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
75g sugar
Splash of vanilla extract

Line a 9-inch (23cm) square pan with foil, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C).
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the sugar, then the eggs.
Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
Distribute the cream cheese mixture in eight dollops across the top of the brownie mixture, then take a dull knife or spatula and swirl the cream cheese mixture with the chocolate batter.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the brownies feel set in the centre. Allow to cool before peeling the foil off and slicing.


Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Chocolate and coffee are flavours made for each other. Whether mixed together hot into a mocha or enjoyed as simply as a square of chocolate with a cup of hot coffee, the way the flavours complement each other makes for a combination that is hard to beat!

When I was browsing (as I do every year) through Martha's Christmas cookie list, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps. The crackled top caught my eye and the stark contrast between snowy icing sugar and dark chocolate cookie makes for an attractive cookie. I'd never rolled unbaked cookies in icing sugar before so this was a new technique to me. The resulting treat is dark and chocolatey with the complex espresso flavour lingering behind. I made these as part of my Christmas baking but they are suitable as a year round treat.

I've reprinted the recipe with metric conversions.

60g plain flour
35g cocoa powder
4 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter
135g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
115g dark chocolate (melted and cooled slightly)
1 tbsp milk
Icing sugar, for coating

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg until well combined then mix in cooled chocolate.
With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour icing sugar (about 60g) into a medium bowl and, working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.
Place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.


Damson Linzer Biscuits

Saturday, 12 December 2009

I really wanted to start this post with some fascinating information about Linzer biscuits... Unfortunately, I don't have any. I've done a bit of Googling and have found very little in the way of history or origin. I apologise.

I do not however feel sorry for making these beauties. They are delicious! The eye catching "window" on the top biscuit (somewhat reminiscent of a very popular mass produced treat) lends itself well to the holiday season as any small, festive cutter can be used to create it. The jam (or in this case jelly) shines through like a jewel and the crumbly, slightly spiced biscuit pairs with this beautifully.

The dough for this recipe can be made several days ahead and kept in the fridge or freezer. It is easy to make and work with if chilled before attempting to roll. Next time I might dust the top biscuits with icing sugar before sandwiching with the bottom but this is purely an aesthetic thing. I chose to use our homemade damson jelly to sandwich between the layers. Raspberry jam is more traditional but I wanted something smooth and dark. The damson flavour worked well as it was not too sweet.
I used this recipe from Joy of Baking and must say that it worked really well. I made some alterations and will add them in. This is largely the original recipe but I'll reproduce it with the metric measures for ease.

110g ground almonds
280g plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
227g butter at room temperature
135g granulated white sugar (divided)
1 tsp vanilla
2 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
Icing sugar (for dusting)
120g damson jelly (heated with the water until smooth and runny)
1-2 tbsp water

Mix the ground almonds with 50g of the sugar and set aside.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer (you can use a hand mixer) bream the butter and the remaining sugar together until fluffy.
Add the vanilla, egg yolks and lemon zest and beat until combined. Add the ground nut mixture and beat again.
Add the flur mixture and beat until just combined. Divide the dough into two and wrap with cling film. Chill in the fridge until firm.
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Take one of the pieces of dough from the fridge and roll on a floured surface until just under 1cm thick (the original recipe says 1cm but I think that's too thick personally).
Using a round, fluted cutter, cut an even number of disks from the dough rerolling as necessary. Using a smaller cutter (I used a star) cut holes in the centre of half the disks.
Transfer the rounds to the baking sheet spaced about an inch apart and bake for 12-14 minutes or until very lightly golden brown.
Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack completely before sandwiching a plain and a holed biscuit with the warm jelly.
Dust with icing sugar (I would consider doing this with the holed side before sandwiching together).


Perfect Chocolate Truffles

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It's Christmas. I cannot ignore it any longer (though in real life I've been embracing it) on this blog. I've got lots of wonderful things to post about but it's all been about preparation so far. I have rounds and logs of cookie dough in my freezer waiting to be baked, I have things cooling on racks, hiding in tins and wrapped in paper and foil. I'm really not ignoring Christmas... I'm just waiting for the right time.

So I'll begin with these simple chocolate truffles to ease you in gently to the multitude of yummy things soon to be coming your way. Chocolate truffles are deliciously rich and smooth. They have an intense chocolate flavour and they melt as soon as you put them in your mouth. There isn't an easier recipe than this one I assure you.

450g good quality dark chocolate (preferably no higher than 65%)
240ml double cream

Chop the chocolate into small even pieces and place in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Pour the double cream into a saucepan and warm on a medium heat until it just reaches a boil (this is called "scalding"). You'll need to stir it to prevent it from burning and forming a skin.
When the cream has been scalded, pour it onto the chocolate and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Stir the cream and chocolate together until smooth and creamy and the chocolate has melted. If the chocolate doesn't melt completely, place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until melted.
Leave the mixture to cool and then place in the fridge until firm.
Once firm, scoop the mixture using a melon baller or two teaspoons and place on greaseproof paper. Roll in cocoa, icing sugar or chocolate strands.

These will keep for a few weeks at room temperature in an airtight container, they can also be frozen for longer term storage.


Chocolate Custard Muffins

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Dan Lepard is an award-winning baker and he publishes many recipe through his Guardian column "How to Bake." I regularly trawl through the archived recipes and bookmark those that look delicious (most of them) and easy to recreate at home. I have had this recipe for chocolate custard muffins bookmarked for ages and, in a desperate need for a chocolate fix, decided to make them to share with my family one evening.

The muffins were delicious and decadent. They had a wonderfully rich chocolate flavour thanks to the cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate. When served warm these were moist and sweet and when cold were still tasty and soft.

The recipe is really rather simple. A warm chocolate custard thickened with cornflour is made in a saucepan and the flour is added to the mix. The batter is then baked and comes out amazingly moist but still light. Dan boasts that this is "the best chocolate muffin you'll ever eat!" and I must say that I'm inclined to agree.

The original recipe is posted here along with links to the whole series. I've reprinted it here for ease of use.
50g cornflour
3 level tbsp cocoa
100g dark soft brown sugar
225ml cold water
75g unsalted butter, cubed
125g dark chocolate, broken small
75ml sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
2½ tsp baking powder

First make the custard: put the cornflour, cocoa, brown sugar and water into a saucepan and whisk together over a medium heat until boiling, very thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, beat in the butter and chocolate until melted and absorbed, then add the oil, vanilla and one of the eggs, and beat again until combined. Add the remaining egg and the caster sugar, and beat again until smooth and thick.

Measure the flour and baking powder into a bowl, stir together, then sift directly on to the custard and beat through until combined. Spoon into a dozen paper muffin cases sitting in the pockets of a muffin tray; heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for 25 minutes.


The Parmo Pizza

Monday, 30 November 2009

Remember the epic post about Parmos? Well, I've taken things a step further and recreated another Teesside favourite of ours. This is the Chicken parmo in pizza form and it's truly delicious.
When we were living in Middlesbrough, there was only one take away that we knew of that made parmo pizzas. A place on Linthorpe Road that otherwise wasn't really worth a visit somehow came up with the genius combination of bite size pieces of breaded chicken, an unhealthy amount of grated cheese all atop a pizza base covered with cheese. Beautiful.

These are pretty simple to make really. All you need to do is make some chicken nuggets, one quantity of basic pizza dough in your bread machine and a pint of cheese sauce. you then just assemble everything together and bake in the oven.

For the chicken:
400g diced chicken breast
1 egg, beaten
Generous helping of golden breadcrumbs
Oil for frying

Bash the diced chicken with a rolling pin until flat. Coat in the egg and follow with breadcrumbs. Fry in the preheated oil until crispy and cooked through. Drain on kitchen roll while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

For the white sauce:
14g (1/2 ounce) butter
14g (1/2 ounce) plain flour
1/2 pint milk
Salt and pepper
Generous handful of grated cheese

Place the first three ingredients into a pan and bring up to the boil whisking constantly until smooth and thick. Season to taste and stir in the cheese until melted.

For the pizza dough:
235ml water
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
350g white bread flour
1 tsp yeast

Place the ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order listed and set the machine to "dough." Roll the dough into two medium pizza rounds and place each on a baking tray.

Spread the white sauce over the pizza bases evenly making sure to go close to the edge of the crust. Tear the chicken pieces and spread evenly over the bases. Cover the pizzas with plenty of grated cheese and any extras you may like (herbs, chillies, pepperoni - whatever you can think of) and place in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and saliva inducing. Enjoy.


Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

As you may be aware I was responsible for making some gorgeous cupcakes for my brother's birthday last weekend. I was really unsure which flavours to go for so I had a bit of a think and decided I needed a chocolate, a fruit and something else.

The fruit came in the form of lemon. I really like lemon in desserts. The sharp citrus matches perfectly wit the rich butter and counteracts the sweetness of the sugar.

These were a bit of an experiment actually. I used the Red Velvet recipe and tweaked it to make a lemon cheesecake flavoured cake. I used good quality lemon curd in the middle of the cakes and topped them with a lemon cream cheese frosting that was to die for. The lemon curd did sink a bit in the batter but it didn't really matter. There was a lovely lemony gooey centre/bottom to these cakes and they were a big hit at the party!

195g plain flour
85g butter, softened
225g sugar
1 large egg
Grated zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons (you'll use the other half a lemon in the frosting)
3-4 drops yellow food colouring (optional)
1 jar (400g) of good lemon curd (you may not use it all)
3/4 tsp salt
175ml milk + 2 tbsp lemon juice (or 175ml buttermilk)
3/4 tsp cider vinegar
3/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 180C and line muffin tray with 12 paper liners.
In a small bowl, sift the flour and set aside. Combine the milk and lemon juice in a cup and set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat well.
Add the lemon zest and a little yellow colouring if desired.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat.
In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Place a generous spoonful of batter into each muffin case and top with a spoonful of lemon curd. Cover the lemon curd with more batter so that it is sealed in. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting I used this recipe as I needed it to be pipeable (is that a word?) and this guaranteed that it would be. As has become the norm I've converted the measurements to metric and added my alterations. This is also for 12 cupcakes rather than 24.

65g butter, at room temperature
115g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g icing sugar
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp lemon curd

Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
Add the zest and lemon curd and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.)


Red Velvet Cupcakes

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Red Velvet Cake is a rich, moist cake with a distinctive red colour popular in the Southern United States. Traditionall it got its colour from a chemical reaction between cocoa and vinegar. Due to the modern processing methods now used to make cocoa, this reaction doesn't occur so red velvet is now much more likely to include red food colouring to get its rich colouring.

You don't really find red velvet cake in the UK unless you're at an American bakery. I've been spying it on blogs for years and figured now was a good time to have a go at making it myself. I chose to do it for the cakes I made for my brother's birthday and did some research into recipes. I didn't manage to get a decent picture of the colour of the cakes so you'll just have to believe me until I make them again.
This recipe from Epicurious came highly recommended. I halved the batch and frosted with a simple vanilla buttercream though a cream cheese or cooked roux frosting appears to be more traditional. This is the halved batch with metric measurements and my alterations.

WARNING - Wear an apron when you make these or you WILL get covered in red colouring, no matter how careful you are.

195g plain flour
85g butter, softened
225g sugar
1 large egg
3 tbsp red food coloring
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt
175ml milk + 2 tbsp lemon juice (or 175ml buttermilk)
3/4 tsp cider vinegar
3/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 180C and line muffin tray with 12 paper liners.
In a small bowl, sift the flour and set aside. Combine the milk and lemon juice in a cup and set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat well.
In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat.
In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

There is quite a lot of washing up to do after this recipe but it really is worth it. The cakes are tender and moist and come out a beautiful shade of red. Top these with a bright white frosting to enhance the colour of the cake.


Mocha Cupcakes with Chocolate Kahlua frosting

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

This is the first of the three cupcake recipes from my brother's birthday. I realise they're a bit late in coming on to the blog but I've been busy with work things and haven't really had a chance to update. While I've got some free time, I thought I'd get the ball rolling.

I've made these cakes before but this is the first time I've been able to use instant espresso powder and get a true mocha flavour. It was amazing. These cakes are actually pretty simple to make and they bake with a flat top so they're extra easy to frost afterwards. The chocolate flavour is rich and deep and the espresso adds a lovely bitter coffee edge. The frosting works perfectly to create a creamy chocolatey and slightly boozey flavour that complements the cupcake perfectly.
The original recipe can still be found here at Culinography, but I halved the batch as I only needed 12 cakes and changed the measurements to metric to make things a little easier.

225g granulated sugar
75g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
120ml natural yogurt
110g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
175ml water
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin.
On medium speed, cream together the sugar, butter, and eggs until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in the yogurt.
In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt.
In a measuring cup combine the water, coffee and vanilla.
Alternate adding the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/sour cream mixture with the coffee mixture. Mix thoroughly.
Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Remove cupcakes to wire rack and cool before frosting.

For the Kahlua Frosting I used this recipe from Group Recipes. This is a half batch with metric measurements.

Pinch ground cinnamon
3 tbsps boiling water
1 tbsps Kahlua
450g confectioners' sugar, sifted
40g cocoa powder
4tbsp butter, softened

Place the cocoa powder In a large-ish mixing bowl & pour in the boiling water & Kahlua.
Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the cocoa comes together into a soft mass.
Add the butter & mix with an electric mixer on lowish speed until the mixture is soft & well mixd, 30 seconds.
Stop the machine.
Add the confectioners' sugar & cinnamon & beat with the mixer on lowish speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 min.
Increase the mixer speed to medium & beat until the frosting lightens & is fluffy, 2 mins more.
Pipe or spread onto cupcakes and enjoy!


Spiced Root Vegetable Soup

Thursday, 12 November 2009

It's November. It's autumnal outside with the leaves turning red and gold, the clouds turning grey and the air turning damp with fog. It's most definitely comfort food season.

All I could think about for the past few days is how much I wanted some soup. Seriosuly. On Monday I nearly bought a soup when I went to see my brother in Norwich. I settled on sharing a panini with him but he said the soups are excellent (so I might have one next Monday). Al and I went food shopping yesterday and I seized the opportunity to buy loads of vegetables. I could have used the slow cooker to cook the soup overnight so that people could take it to work for lunch but I wasn't organised enough last night. Instead I decided to make it fresh for lunch and ensure there are enough leftovers for my dad to take to work tomorrow.

The soup is warming and hearty. The spice is subtle and allows the vegetable flavour to come through. The carrots and parsnip make it sweet and aonce blended it is think and substantial. Perfect with crusty rolls or bread.

4 medium carrots
1 large onion
2 medium parsnips
A chunk of swede (it's impossible to tell how much I used. I just hacked a chunk off and chucked it in)
1-2 tbsp oil
2-3 tsp cumin powder
2-3 tsp ground coriander
1-2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp turmeric
1 heaped tsp balti paste
Enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables in your pan (I used home made chicken stock as I had some in the freezer to use up)
Plenty of black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

Chop all the vegetables into similar sized chunks (so they cook at the same rate) and place in a large saucepan with the oil. Fry gently for 5-10 minutes.
Add the spices and paste and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Pour the stock over the vegetables until it mostly covers them.
Put a lid on the pan and let the soup simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Take off the heat and blend with a stick blender or liquidiser until smooth.
Add plenty of black pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Ladle into bowls and serve with bread and real butter.

It really is that simple. It takes about 30 minutes tops to get this soup ready to eat and it's delicious.


Cake Decorating

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It's my brother's 30th birthday today (Happy Birthday!) and we celebrated on Saturday with lots of beer and cake (of course). I had said that I'd make him some cakes as a present and set to work thinking what to do for decoration.

Chris is a metal head. He has been for as long as I remember. I figured I needed to include this somewhere in the cake designs. I had a bit of a search on the internet for images and I went to my local cake decorating warehouse to see what I could find.

I used black muffin cases which I actually really liked. They don't get greasy like the paper ones can and they held their shape really well. I bought some ready made black sugarpaste bats as a something simple to add to 12 of the cupcakes and they turned out great.

I then decided that I'd use lettering on 12 of the cupcakes and rolled out some red fondant icing and cut the letters out using cutters. I did this a couple of days before baking the cakes so that they'd have time to dry out a bit before I put them on the cakes.

Finally I decided to make little fondant hands for decoration on the final 12 cakes. I found a hand template online and resized it before printing. I coloured some white fondant with some pink and yellow colouring to get the skin tone I wanted and then rolled it between two sheets of parchment paper. I lay the paper hand template down and pressed it into the fondant to make sure it stayed put. I followed the outline with a sharp knife and then bent the fingers down to make the right shape. I also tried to add a little detail with a cocktail stick and it kind of worked. I had also thought of adding some black nail varnish with a food marker but, having tried it on a spare hand, I didn't think it looked great. I left the hands plain and let them dry over night.

I transported the cupcakes 160 miles on public transport. I would never have been able to do that until I bought a Cupcake Courier. It holds 36 cupcakes or muffins in a strong and sturdy plastic casing. There is limited movement and enough height allowance for icing and decorations. I'm actually really pleased with how well the cakes held up and very pleased with my purchase. My model also has flat inserts so that you can carry other treats like brownies and bars in it too.


Slow Cooker Recipes: Steak and Kidney Pie

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Every week we make a list of what's on the menu for the days ahead. We then write a list, take it shopping and only need to top up on things like milk, bread and chocolate during the week. My mum had written that we'd have meat pie one day that week. We normally buy two separate pies for the family so I decided I'd make one that everyone would like.

I found some ready cut stewing beef and pigs kidney in the butchery department of Morrisons. They were packaged together and I grabbed a couple of packs to make sure I had enough. I'd never cooked with kidneys before and wasn't entirely sure what I was letting myself in for but I was keen that I could work it out. I've made fruit pies hundreds of times before so I was sure it would be a pretty similar adventure.

Stewing steak likes long, slow cooking. The handy hint on the package of meat said it needed 2-3 hours so I decided I'd stick the filling in the slow cooker and save myself some work. It smelled awful. There was a strong scent of urine from the kidneys and I was really worried we'd need to go and get a take away if this didn't work out. I decided to persevere and used the usual seasonings and herbs for a decent stew.

The result was amazing. I used a cake pan in order to squeeze loads of filling in and have an awesome filling to pastry ratio. I used ready made puff pastry that had been sitting in the fridge waiting to be used and it was a little difficult to work with. It all turned out perfectly and I'm keen to make more meat pies in the future. My dad said it was the best steak and kidney pie he'd ever tasted (and he's tasted quite a few!).

700g stewing steak and kidney mix (cubed)
1 onion, roughly chopped
10 button mushrooms, quartered
1tbsp mustard powder
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
2 bay leaves
Worcester sauce
Salt and pepper
Enough boiling water to come halfway up the meat - though you could use a good stout for a different flavour)
Puff Pastry (you can also use shortcrust)

Place the onion and mushrooms into the slow cooker.
Brown the meat and kidneys (in a well ventilated area) and add to the pot.
Follow with the rest of the ingredients.
Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8-10
Taste for seasoning, remove the bay leaves and place the mixture into a wide dish to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180C
Roll the pastry out and lay into a loose bottomed cake tin (make sure there's enough left for the lid)
Fill the pastry with the cooled meat mixture - don't be afraid to cram it in there!)
Egg wash the edge of the pastry, cover with the lid and seal tightly.
Egg wash the top of the pie, cut a cross in the centre to let out the steam and then place the pie onto a baking sheet to minimise mess.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and piping hot throughout. Slice carefully and serve with chips or potatoes and the vegetables of your choice.


The Parmo (aka The Parmesan)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

As many of you know, I lived in Middlesbrough for several years. I studied there and became familiar with the Parmesan (more commonly known as the "Parmo"). The parmo is Teesside's regional post-pub take away and is actually quite simple to make.

It's a fairly simple premise. Chicken breast or pork escalopes are flattened out, covered in egg and breadcrumbs and fried. The crispy meat is then covered with bechamel sauce and grated cheese and grilled until melty and golden. It is usually served with chips and salad, but there is also the option to add extra toppings too, some of the more popular variations being mushroom and onion, or pepperoni and chillies.

Al and I have been making parmos for a while but have been generally quite lazy. We settled for slightly soggy breadcrumbs as our grill was unreliable in Middlesbrough. We now have working appliances, a bit more space and extra hungry mouths to feed so we felt like we should do an ode to this wonderful beast that nursed us in our alcohol fuelled nights and still stayed good enough for breakfast the next morning (too much info?).

4 chicken breasts
1 beaten egg
Golden breadcrumbs
Sunflower oil
1oz butter
1oz flour
1 pint milk
Salt and pepper
More grated cheese than is reasonable to consume in one sitting

Make up a white sauce by putting the milk, flour and butter into a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Season well with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place a chicken breast in a sturdy food bag or between sheets of cling film and bash with a rolling pin until flattened and even. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Dip the chicken breasts in the beaten egg and follow with plenty of breadcrumbs. The amount you need will depend on the size of your chicken.

Heat some oil in a frying pan until quite hot. Fry the chicken on both sides until crispy. We did ours one at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. It's not necessary to make sure the chicken is cooked through at this point as it will get cooked through in the oven.

Place the crispy chicken onto a rack above a baking tray and place in the oven for around 10 minutes.

Preheat the grill to a medium heat. Take the chicken from the oven and cover each piece with the white sauce. Sprinkle with plenty of cheddar and any additional toppings you fancy (Al's favourites are chillies and pepperoni or chorizo).

Place under the grill until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden and melted. Serve with chips (and salad if you want to).

It's really quite a simple recipe but one that is quite close to our hearts. These taste like authentic parmos but are slightly healthier (lower fat milk, not so much cheese, not deep fried).

Parmos can be found under many guises around the world;

Wiener Schnitzel is the closest thing found in Germany and Austria and is traditionally made with veal.
Italian equivalents are Chicken Parmigiana which is served with a marinara sauce rather than a bechamel and Milanesa
In the USA, Chicken Fried Steak is a similar dish though made with beef steak coated in breadcrumbs.


Flourless Chocolate and Pear Cake

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Flourless chocolate cakes fascinate me. Soft peaked egg whites give the cake air and structure and the ground almonds create a delicious texture. In this recipe, pears are rested gently on top of the light cake and it is baked in the oven. The cake come out moist and delicious with a good chocolate flavour. The pears bake until soft but still hold their structure well.

I found this recipe on BBC Good Food. We've got a glut of pears at the moment since we harvested them from our pear tree and even though this only uses a couple; every little helps!

85g butter , plus 1 tbsp extra for tin
85g golden caster sugar , plus extra for tin
85g dark chocolate , broken into pieces
1 tbsp Sailor Jerry rum
3 eggs, separated
85g ground almonds
4 pears, peeled, halved and cored (I only used 3 as that's all that would fit)
icing sugar, for dusting

Cut a circle of baking parchment to fit the base of a 25cm loose-bottomed tin. Melt 1 tbsp butter and brush the inside of the tin, then line the base with the parchment and brush again with more butter. Spoon in 2 tbsp caster sugar, swirl it around to coat the base and sides, then tip out any excess.

Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water, remove from the heat, stir in the brandy and leave to cool. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick; fold into the chocolate with the nuts.

In a separate bowl, with a clean whisk, beat the whites until they reach a soft peak (try not to whisk them too stiffly or you'll have trouble folding them in). Stir a spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mix, then carefully fold in the rest of them in 2 additions. Spoon into the prepared tin. Level, then arrange the pears over the mixture, cut-side down.

Bake for 30-40 mins until the pears are soft and the cake is cooked all the way through. Leave to cool in the tin slightly before releasing it, then place on a rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and serve


Lentil Bites

Saturday, 17 October 2009

I'm slowly getting better and decidedly less snotty. My nose has stopped glowing red in the night. I've stopped needed afternoon naps (much to my dismay).

I found this recipe on The Hungry Tiger while looking for something different to go in lunch boxes. I get bored with sandwiches and cold pasta salad just doesn't do it for me. I also make my mum's lunches sometime and she's much fussier than I am with regards to what she will have for lunch.

These little beasts are similar to falafels but have a softer centre and a nice crispy outside. For me these are a little under-seasoned so I think next time I'd go ahead and add a mixture of spices rather than just cumin and I'd include some bombay spice, ground coriander and plenty of salt and pepper. I couldn't get hold of "fine bulgar" which was stated in the original recipe and my processor wouldn't crush the bulgar so normal went in. It didn't make much of a difference I'm sure.

These were fine but there is definitely room for improvement. Plus sides are that these are pretty easy to customise and are vegan (no egg to bind).

I've modified this recipe in order to make it easier to follow. I've added my changes and also converted to metric.

200g red lentils
600ml water
115g bulgar wheat
1 1/2 tsp tomato puree
2 tsp chilli sauce
2 tsp chilli powder
2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
(also add other spices e.g. bombay curry mix, ground coriander etc. to taste)
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of lemon juice

Put lentils in a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off the foam that collects on the surface. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are yellow and very mushy, 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put bulgar in a large bowl.
Stir the tomato paste and chilli sauce into lentil mixture, turn the heat back up to high and bring this mixture to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn off the heat and pour it over the bulgar. Stir well and set aside for half an hour.
Meanwhile, chop the onion quite finely and saute in the olive oil. When it begins to get golden brown, add the garlic, cumin, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cook about two minutes more.
Once the bulgar and lentils have sat for their full half hour, add the contents of the skillet, oil and all. Mix very well, kneading everything together. Add the coriander, chilli powder and lemon juice. Mix again and adjust for salt.
Preheat the oven to 350. Shape the mixture into an small rounds and arrange on a baking sheet, preferably one lined with parchment.
Bake for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in the tray then transfer to a wire rack.
Serve warm or cold with raita or dip of your choice.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Status Report

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I'm ill. I've been struck down with a terrible cold and sore throat. My taste buds are shot and I've little energy to cook. I've got a recipe ready to post in the next few days from my sick bed but that's about as far as it goes.

I'll hopefully put together a post of Tasty Morsels from other blogs to keep you all engaged while I plough my way through endless packets of tissues.

I'll be back soon with proper food.

Stay well!


Vegan Banana Oat Muffins

Monday, 5 October 2009

This was a recipe of necessity (no, really). Okay, so maybe one doesn't have to eat or even make muffins but they're yummy. These muffins include some wholemeal flour and some oats so they have some vague healthful properties (I try to kid myself...). The necessity came from the need to use up some ingredients. We had a selection of sad looking, browning bananas in the kitchen just begging to baked with, there's a carton of soy milk in the fridge waiting to be baked into a delicious treat (yes, my ingredients talk to me).

Anyway, these were delicious. They stored very well for several days but the topping lost its crunch during storage. The oats gave the muffin a lovely texture and the wholemeal flour gave some depth to the overall flavour. I used 3 1/2 bananas as they needed to be used up. You can use more or less depending on what you've got. Just make sure your bananas are really ripe to get the best flavour.

I originally found this recipe here but as I made some changes I'll convert it to metric and rewrite it here.

85g plain flour
90g wholemeal flour
25g rolled oats
170g white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
80ml vegetable oil
120ml soy milk
3 1/2 mashed bananas

For the crumb topping
50g brown sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp wholemeal flour
3 tbsp vegan margarine
1 tsp ground cinammon
3 tbsp rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with liners.
In a bowl ix the flours, rolled oats, white sugar, salt, and baking powder together.
Whisk the rest of the ingredients in a measuring cup. Mix on low and slowly add the wet to the dry.
Now fold the bananas in and fill the muffin liners about 3/4 full.
For the topping cream the butter with the brown sugar. Then add the rest of the ingredients until it becomes easy to sprinkle.
Sprinkle mixture evenly over all 12 muffins and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.


Damson Jelly

Sunday, 4 October 2009

We've been on a bit of a preserving rampage recently. We've pickled shallots, vodka-d some sloes, curded some grapefruit, cooked up some mincemeat and jellied some damsons.

I've not had a lot of experience with jams and jellies. I have memories of my mum and my gran both making big pans of jams and marmalades, checking the setting point on a chilled saucer and carefully lifting hot jars from the oven. I have fond memories of unusual jams (marrow and ginger being a personal favourite - I must find a recipe for that) and the ubiquitous jar of tomato chutney lurking at the back of the cupboard.

My mum came home from work with two bags full of damsons from her friend's garden. They sat in the kitchen for several days until we finally decided what to do with them. Jelly. Jelly is not the same as jam. the fruit is simmered and then put into a straining bag (a specific jelly bag or muslin) and the juice is collected underneath. This sits for several hours (ours sat overnight) to make sure all the juice is extracted. The juice is then boiled until it reaches the setting point and then poured into hot jars to create a smooth, clear, set jelly. It's perfect on toast or fresh bread and even goes well with roast meats as an alternative to cranberry or redcurrant.

We found a simple and easy recipe here at BBC Good Food.

1.8kg Damsons
Juice of 2 lemons
Preserving sugar

Wash the fruit, then tip into a preserving pan with the lemon juice and 300ml/1⁄2 pint water. Bring slowly to the boil, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the fruit is soft.

Carefully pour the contents of the pan into a scalded jelly bag with a large bowl set underneath to catch the juice (see the Step-by-step photo). Leave for several hours.

Measure the juice back into the pan, then add 500g of sugar to every 500ml of juice or 1lb sugar for every pint of juice. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and rapidly boil until setting point is reached. Test this by spooning a little on to a chilled saucer. Cool slightly then push with your finger - if it wrinkles it is ready. If not return to the heat, boil for 5 more minutes and test again.

Pot into warm sterilised jars and cool before sealing. Can be eaten straight away, but keeps for up to a year.


Slow Cooker Recipes: Christmas Mincemeat

Friday, 2 October 2009

I've been thinking about christmas. I know, it's too early but I can't help it. The supermarkets are stocked up with decorations, advent calendars and more. I can't help but notice the sparkling tinsel. To be honest it fills me with hope that this christmas season will be a healthy, happy time. I like being organised and have already started making plans. Stir up Sunday will soon be upon us and with it comes the baking of the christmas cake and (if I get organised) the christmas puddings. I'm sorry to put this christmas talk onto you but I have to share this recipe.

Mincemeat is a staple at christmas time. I make my own mince pies every year but have never attempted mincemeat. I thought about it last year and decided that this year was the time to go for it. Usually the ingredients are mixed cold and then placed into jars or tubs to mature a little before the season but this recipe struck me because it is cooked (in the slow cooker no less). I liked the idea of cooking the apple and spices and warming the fruits in some alcohol. The smell while this was cooking was amazing. There was a real warming scent that permeated the kitchen and the recipe was so easy to make. I'm contemplating making another batch before christmas so that we have plenty to go around and give out. It lasts in sterilised jars for 6 months is deliciously boozey and bursting with fruit. This made several jars of varying sizes.

450g cooking apples
115g candied peel (I used homemade candied pomelo peel)
115g glacé cherries
115g dried apricots (unsulphered apricots have a lovely flavour but use whatever you like)
115g blanched almonds
150ml Sailor Jerry rum (you can use whatever rum/brandy/booze you have)
225g dried cranberries
225g sultanas
450g raisins
225g brown sugar
225g suet (I used vegetable suet)
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange

Peel, core and chop the apples, chop the peel, cherries, apricots and almonds. Place into the slow cooker.
Put half the rum and the rest of the ingredients into the pot and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
Stir the mixture well then recover and reduce the temperature to low. Cook for a further 2 hours stirring halfway through to prevent the mincemeat from sticking to the sides of the cooker.
Remove the lid and leave the mixture to cool completely stirring occasionally.
Stir the reserved rum into the mixture and spoon into sterilised jars. Cover and store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Label and give as a gift or keep for your own mince pies!


Vegan Red Grapefruit Curd

Sunday, 27 September 2009

I love red grapefruit. I prefer the sour sweetness of red grapefruit to any other kind of grapefruit (though in all honesty, I'll eat whatever you put in front of me) and happily scoff them for breakfast on their own. I also just love the flavour of red grapefruit. The tart but somehow sweet juice and the beautiful colour of the flesh. Give me a grapefruit and I'll be happy.

I came across this recipe while browsing the Vegan Visitor blog. As you might have guessed I'm really getting in to vegan cookery and baking and have been doing some research. I've never made the more traditional lemon curd which involves egg yolks and butter but it's been on my to-do list for an age. I think I'm just scared I'll mess it up. This vegan version uses no scary possibly-scrambling eggs and no heart slowing butter (two of my favourite ingredients despite their propensity to do bad things if you let them) and was simply a mixture of that beautiful ruby juice, some sugar and some cornflour. The magical properties of cornflour thicken this sweet citrusy syrup into a gelatinous and spreadable curd. Divine.

The recipe is available here on Vegan Visitor where it is put into doughnuts (yum!) I've reprinted it here in metric with the addition that I poured mine into sterilised jars and am storing it in the fridge.

235ml Freshly Squeezed Red Grapefruit juice
225g Granulated Sugar
115ml Cold Water
4 Tablespoon Corn Starch
1/8 teaspoon Salt
Zest of Grapefruits, well washed before grating
60ml Soy milk
2 Tablespoons Margarine

In a large saucepan, whisk together the juice and sugar, heating through over a medium high setting
Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and salt.
Once the juice and sugar have just come to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture.
Reduce the heat to medium and whisk, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full boil.
Add zest.
Allow to boil for 1 minute, without stirring; it should be quite thick.
Remove from heat.
Blend in the margarine, then soy milk, with the whisk.
Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Store in the fridge.


Marshmallow Toasties

Thursday, 24 September 2009

I was at my brother's house last weekend and spied (from across the room) a book called "The Cookie and Biscuit Bible." I just had to go and have a look through it. Within moments I'd asked if I could borrow it and sure enough it is now in my possession.

I had a look through and decided that practically everything looked delicious. With colour photographs of each recipe and easy, clear instructions too I found this to be an excellent quality recipe book. Not only are there recipes for biscuits and cookies there are also muffin, brownie, bar and cracker recipes too. It really covers all the bases!

I was looking through the pages and came across an interesting recipe where a fairly plain biscuit base is baked and then topped with strawberry jam and marshmallows. The marshmallows are then toasted under the grill until the melt and brown. Yum. I love toasted marshmallows. I was the one at camp that used to set theirs on fire to make sure they were really toasted and melty on the inside before extinguishing and eating. I had to make this recipe for its sheer novelty value.

It was quite simple. The mixture includes ground almonds which make the base have a delicious texture and a hint of nuttiness. I subbed the lemon zest for lime as it's all we had in but it gave a delightful citrus note that cut through the sweetness of the marshmallows. I should have used the required 9x9 pan but we don't have one. Using a 9x9 would mean that the base would be more biscuity and less cakey. I think this would be much nicer even though the cakey one was quite good. You need the texture contrast between crispy biscuit and soft chewy marshmallow.

130g butter
75g caster sugar
Zest of a lemon or lime
2tsp vanilla
75g ground almonds
1 egg
115g self raising flour
150g strawberry jam
200g marshmallows

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the citrus zest, vanilla, almonds and egg and mix well.
Place the mixture in a lined 9x9 pan and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then spread with strawberry jam.
Cut the marshmallows in half horizontally and place on top of the jam.
Brown the marshmallow top under a moderate grill for 2-3 minutes. Gently press the marshmallows down to form an even layer and then grill for another minute.
Allow to cool before slicing.


Lamb and potato pasties

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Leftovers. There seems to be a lot of talk lately about using up leftover and not letting food go to waste. I come from a family that uses up their leftovers. They're reheated for lunch the next day, made into something new (bubble and squeak made from leftover vegetables is a favourite) or just used until there's nothing left (we make stock from the carcass of a roast chicken to be used for soups and broths). I like leftovers.

These pasties were made using the leftover bits from a delicious lamb roast on Sunday (thanks mum!). You could use any meat you have leftover and a mix of vegtable too. The pastry can actually be filled with whatever takes your fancy whether it's sweet or savoury.

I also cheated and used shop bought puff pastry as it was a Sunday night and it was getting late. Feel free to make your own pastry - you can use shortcrust if you want or you can make rough puff for a flakier texture. Use as much or as little of the ingredients as you want as it's all down to personal taste. If you don't like something then leave it out or substitute something else. These are bound to be delicious whatever you decide to put into them! you must make sure that the filling is cooked and cooled before you put them into the pastry. That it pretty much the only rule.
Filling ingredients
Roast lamb cut into small cubes - you might even want to mince it if you have the means.
Cold potatoes cut into small pieces
Cooked carrots finely chopped
Dried rosemary
Mint Sauce
Mustard Powder
Worcester sauce

Mix all the ingredients together until evenly dispersed.
Roll the pastry out on a floured surface and cut discs of about 12cm/4inches with either a cutter or the back of a pasty press (link below).
Place a small amount of filling into the centre of the disc or press and brush the edge with beaten egg to create a tight seal.
Fold the pastry in half over the filling and seal the edge tightly.
Repeat with the remaining mixture and pastry until it is all used.
Place the pasties onto a baking tray and brush with egg to create a golden top.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and piping hot.
Serve warm or cold with salad and pickle.

I used a dumpling/pasty press to make these which made the process quick and easy. They are available from Amazon here


Cowboy Cookies

Friday, 18 September 2009

Bakerella. Oh Bakerella you tease me with such delicious looking, beautifully crafted treats. I really wish I had the time to make cute little sheep shaped cake pops but I just don't. I wish I could take the time out to create tiny little hamburgers from brownies and cupcakes but at the moment I'm pretty pushed. I do however have the time to chuck everything into a bowl and mix it up to make some simple and delicious cowboy cookies.

I'd never heard of them before. They're simple enough with a good mix of chocolate, oats and brown sugar. This particular recipe included M&Ms, chocolate chips and pecans (which I chose to leave out) and were the perfect mixture of chewy and crunchy and were delicious straight out of the oven. I'm amazed that when I open the biscuit tin there are still a few left! They were a real hit. The only problem I had was that my M&Ms didn't maintain their shape at all.

I was actually trying these out as a test run for making the layered mix for christmas gifts. They are definitely worth making and so simple to make. I'll pretty these up in jars just like in the original post and send them out in the holidays.

150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
90g cooking oats
100g(ish) M&Ms
150g semi-sweet chocolate chips
50g brown sugar, packed
100g white sugar
A handful chopped pecans (optional)
1 egg
115g softened butter
1tsp vanilla

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and stir until totally combined.
Roll the dough into even balls and place, well spaced, onto baking sheets.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10-12 minutes.
Leave to cool for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

I told you they were easy.


Vegan Chocolate and Stout cupcakes

Thursday, 17 September 2009

I told you to expect more vegan treats. I've got soy milk that needs using up and a baking bug that just wont go away. These cupcake were absolutely delicious. They were springy and soft, deeply chocolatey and would go great with a glass of the milk of your choice. The crumb topping adds a nice bit of texture and dryness to combat the moistness of the cakes. Oh I wish I had one fo these left...
The important thing for this recipe is finding a vegan stout. There are plenty of them available. I'm lucky enough to have the Spectrum Brewery fairly locally. All their bottled beers are totally organic and vegan friendly as are several of their cask ales. I can't really recommend them highly enough.
So once you've found your vegan friendly stout (a Google search should help you if you don't already have a favourite) you will be good to go. As with the last vegan cupcake recipe it looks like there are a lot of ingredients. They all come together very easily and the resulting cupcake is so decadent. Please give these a try. I converted the recipe into metric measures again.

Crumb topping:
30g all purpose flour
30g cocoa powder
55g granulated sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil

175ml soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
200g all purpose flour
40g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
60ml stout
170g granulated sugar
80ml sunfllower oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl sift together the cocoa and flour and stir in the sugar. Slowly drizzle the oil in while tossing flour mixture with a fork. Crumbs will form. Stir with fingers and make as many crumbs as possible.
In a large bowl whisk together soy milk and vinegar.
In a seperate bowl, sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and mix.
Add stout, sugar, oil, and vanilla to soy milk mixture and beat till foamy.
Add dry ingredients to wet in 2 batches, mix 2 min. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and sprinkle with the crumb mixture. Make sure the crumbs rest on top and don't sink into the batter.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 18-20 minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Once again this recipe is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World which is available from Amazon


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