Sunday, 11 January 2015

Chocolate Mousse Tart

The book I found this recipe in advises "The only chocolate tart. This you must make".Well ok then, you don't have to tell me twice. And the truth is, this is the best advice you'll have been given for a while.

I love a chocolate tart and it will often be my first choice off the menu. They can be extremely rich though and not something you can eat much of. This one, however, has all the chocolatey depth and richness but at the same time it's as light as a feather and is, in my humble opinion, pretty close to perfection.

No it's not a super simple recipe but with a bit of patience it shouldn't cause you too many problems. Adding the egg yolk to the pastry makes it very easy to work with and the tip below about using leftover scraps to fill any cracks is worth remembering. The filling is also pretty easy as long as you're prepared to be a little patient when whisking up the eggs.

In short, this is a dinner party classic and any effort put in is more than rewarded at the other end.

Chocolate Mousse Tart
(from Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken & Other Stories but also published in Books for Cooks Favourite Recipes from Books 1, 2 & 3)

for the pastry case
175g/6oz plain flour
45g/1 1/2oz sifted icing sugar
a good pinch of salt
90g/30z very cold butter, cubed
1 organic egg yolk plus 1 tbsp cold water

for the filling
150g/5oz butter
200g/7oz plain chocolate, broken into pieces
3 organic egg yolks
2 organic eggs
3 tbsp caster sugar

1) Lightly butter a 24cm/9 1/2inch tart tin and put it into the fridge to chill.

2) Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to aerate. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the yolk and water (if necessary) and process until the pastry just draws together. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead briefly to form a flat round.

3) Unless it's a very hot day you can roll the pastry out straightaway without chilling it first. Line the chilled tin, trim the pastry (although leave a centimetre or two above the rim as it will shrink - you can trim it some more later) and put into the fridge to rest for at least an hour (I left mine overnight with no adverse effects). Do not through any leftover pastry away, but wrap it in some cling film for later (see below).

4) Put a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 190c/375f). Line the chilled pastry case with baking parchment, fill with baking beans and cook for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the beans and paper and cook for another 10 minutes or until the pastry is a light biscuit brown. Any cracks can be filled with your spare pastry - the residual heat will cook it.

5) For the filling, melt the butter and chocolate together either in a microwave or in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Leave to cool slightly.

6) Whisk the egg yolks, eggs and sugar until very thick and pale (this is the key to this dish - using a hand mixer I did this for at least 10 minutes). Pour the melted chocolate mixture on to the egg mixture and fold together until well mixed.

7) Pour into the pastry case and bake in the oven for 8 minutes when the tart filling will look just set but still a little wobbly. Leave to cool completely before trying to cut it. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar and serve with fromage frais, creme fraiche, cream or ice cream.

Serves 6-8

Monday, 5 January 2015

Meal Planning Monday - 5 January 2015

After a long and very lazy couple of weeks off over Christmas I'm now dragging myself back to reality and that means getting back to meal planning. I haven't taken part in Meal Planning Monday for months and months but with only half an idea of what we're going to eat this week, I thought this would be a good way to get motivated.

After an entirely no-holds-barred attitude to food over Christmas any meal planning in January will require a little bit of restraint. A bit of a New Year cliche I know, but less emphasis on chocolate and more on fruit and veg can only be a good thing. So here's what I have in mind...

Monday - Pasta Bolognese

Tuesday - Fish Cakes with Rice and Veg

Wednesday - Spicy Bean Burgers with Sweetcorn Couscous

Friday - Fish & Prawn Lasagne & Chocolate Tart (cooking for friends)

Saturday - Undecided but maybe some sort of stir fry

If you would like to submit your own meal plan or find some more inspiration then have a look at Mrs M's blog, At Home with Mrs M, and add your own link. You can also find us on Facebook and on Twitter using #mealplanningmonday.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club - 6th December 2014

This month the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Clandestine Cake Club returned to a previous venue - the very welcoming Six Bells. The Six Bells is located in the pretty village of Horringer, just a short distance south of Bury St Edmunds and has a well-deserved reputation for serving good quality local food.

This time we were given a lovely big table in the sunny conservatory which was perfect space for us and our many cakes.

This month the theme was Fun, Festive and Fabulous and attendees were invited to bring a cake with a little extra something to get us all in the mood for the festive season. All the cakes really were fabulous as you can see below...

Trish's Orange, Fig and Pecan Cake

Hannah and Ian's Gingerbread Cake with Orange frosting

Lynda's Christmas Honey Cake

Ruth's Gingerbread Bouche Noel

Sophie's Christmas Fruit Cake

Nicola's Apple Pavlova

Ed's Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone Frosting

Megan's Christmas Pudding Cake with Mulled Wine Icing

Siobhan's Chocolate, Orange and Cranberry Cake

My Peppermint Chocolate Cake

Huge thanks again to the Six Bells for being so helpful and welcoming. For more details of the Clandestine Cake Club and to find upcoming events have a look here.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Toffee Apple Waffle Pudding

Well, this one had me at hello.

The recipe popped up in an email from Tesco containing a variety of ideas for autumn and Halloween but I only had eyes for this one. It was destiny.

There's not really much else I can say except for goodness sake make this as soon as feasibly possible. You can find the recipe here.

It all came together pretty easily but I would add the following:

* Don't worry if you don't have a dish that can be used on the hob and in the oven. I just cooked the apples in a large frying pan and then transferred them to an ovenproof dish.

* The caramel sauce didn't bubble up when I added the cream like the recipe said it should. I just turned up the heat and let the sauce bubble for a bit to reduce it and it turned out fine.

* I halved the recipe but found I didn't have enough of the egg/milk/cream mixture so ended up using almost the amount specified for 8 portions. If I ever make it for 8 I'll have extra cream to hand just in case.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Nigella's Curly Pasta with Feta, Spinach & Pine Nuts

I love a simple pasta recipe (don't we all) and this is another successful addition to my weeknight easy dinners rota. When I first came across it in Nigella Kitchen I wasn't sure what to expect and wasn't convinced it was a dish that would have a huge amount of flavour. I'm pleased to report that I was most definitely wrong on that score and it's certainly a recipe worth trying.

The big plus is that I almost always have all of the ingredients to hand so it doesn't require much in the way of forward planning. The allspice might seem a bit of an unusual addition and it does smell quite strong when you add it to the pan, however by the time the dish is ready that strength disappears and you're just left with a savoury hint in the background.

As I've halved the original recipe you only need to use half a pack of feta. If you don't have any plans for the rest of it then Jamie Oliver's Greek Chicken or Jo Pratt's Bulgar Wheat Salad are two fetatastic recipes. You can find them here.

Curly Pasta with Feta, Spinach & Pine Nuts
(adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)

25g pine nuts
1 tablespoon garlic oil
1/2 onion, peeled and sliced (tip - chop up the rest, wrap in cling film and keep it in the freezer for another time. You can fry it straight from the freezer)
250g curly pasta or other short pasta of your choice
1/8 teaspoon allspice
250g frozen spinach
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1) Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta

2) Toast the pine nuts in a hot, dry pan (you can use the same one for the sauce later) until golden, then remove to a cold plate

3) Heat the garlic oil in the pan and add the onion slices (although if you've just used the pan for the pine nuts you might want to leave it to cool down a bit first to avoid burning the onions). Cook on a lowish heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft. If they look like they're getting too brown, sprinkle with a little salt to help draw out the water and slow down browning.

4) When the water comes to the boil, add salt and the pasta.

5) When the onion is ready add the allspice. Then add the frozen spinach. Keep stirring to help the spinach melt consistently.

6) Just before you drain the pasta, scoop out a small cupful of the cooking water and add to the spinach sauce.

7) Crumble the feta into the spinach sauce, stirring as the feta gradually melts. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of the parmesan and the taste to see if you need to add any more (unless, like me, you follow the can't-have-too-much-parmesan school of though, in which case you'll probably just throw it all in at once. And then add some more).

8) Drain the pasta and toss into the feta spinach sauce to mix, the season to taste. Add the pine nuts and mix through.

Serves 2 (this is half of the original recipe which was supposed to serve 6 so I guess you could split it between 3 of you. If you really wanted to. We didn't)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - 13th September 2014

This month's event was held at location we had visited last year, The Cadogan Arms in Ingham, just outside Bury St Edmunds. As before they were very welcoming and helpful and it proved once again to be a great venue for us.

The theme this month was "Anything Goes" which was as simple as it sounds - members were free to bring any cake they liked. We had a lovely selection of cakes to choose from although by chance most of us had chosen cakes with some sort of cream cheese icing. Nevertheless they were all delicious, even though several of us had experienced some sort of technical hitch in the process of making them!

Here's what we had to choose from...

Trish's Carrot Cake

Amelia's Chocolate Guiness Cake

My Cocoa Courgette Cake

Rene's Lemon Cake

Hannah's Red Velvet Cake

Ian's Chocolate Fudge Cake

Charlotte's Courgette & Lime Cake

Thanks again to The Cadogan for letting us hold our meeting there. For more information about the Clandestine Cake Club and details of our next event have a look at the website here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Hairy Bikers' Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

A week or so ago I was in our local library and happened across the Hairy Bikers Diet book (The Hairy Dieters) and, as I was about to embark on one of my try-not-to-eat-like-a-horse phases, I though it would be worth a look. That turned out to be a good decision as everything I've tried so far has turned out really well.

The book is full of the usual recipes - breakfast dishes, pasta, stews, baking etc - but every recipe is written with the diet-concious in mind. The focus is on portion control and reducing fat where possible and the calorie content per portion is listed in each case.

This particular recipe turned out really well and had bags of flavour. Risottos always take a little time to make and this was no different but otherwise it was pretty straightforward. I particularly liked the suggestion to poach the chicken in the stock as this saved the trouble to having to cook it separately. The only issue you might have is when you're cooking for someone else who isn't trying to cut back on food as the portions are not generous. In this case the original recipe was for four people so for two of us I reduced everything by half but only reduced the rice and stock by a quarter. I then took a third of the final dish and gave the rest to my hungrier husband!

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
(adapted from the The Hairy Dieters)

5g dried wild mushrooms
750ml just boiled water
chicken stock cube or bouillon
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 tbsp olive oil
75g small chestnut mushrooms, wiped and sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
110g risotto rice
1-2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
salt & pepper

1) Put the dried mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl and pour over 50ml of the just-boiled water. Pour the rest of the water into a medium saucepan and add the stock cube/bouillon. Leave the mushrooms to soak.

2) Put the chicken breast in the stock and place over a medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cook for 10 minutes, turning after the first 5 minutes. The liquid should just simmer gently - don't let it boil. Lift the chicken breast out of the stock and leave to cool a little.

3) Place a large non-stick saucepan on the hob over a medium-high heat and add the oil. Fry the sliced chestnut mushrooms for 3 minutes until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook with the mushrooms for 3 minutes until pale golden brown, stirring. Stir in the rice and cook for a minute with the vegetables, stirring constantly until the grains look translucent.

4) Reduce the heat to medium-low, add a large ladleful of the hot stock to the pan and stir well. As soon as it has been absorbed, add another ladleful. Continue gradually adding stock to the pan until it has all been used and the rice is looking swollen and creamy but isn't quite tender. This will take around 25 minutes and you need to keep stirring.

5) Just before the rice is ready, drain the dried mushrooms through a fine sieve placed over a bowl and reserve the soaking liquid. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan with the rice. Stir in the mushroom soaking liquid and cook for a couple of minutes while you prepare the chicken. The risotto should look fairly saucy at this point but if not you may need to stir in some extra water.

6) Cut the chicken into strips and stir them into the rice. Add the parmesan and heat through for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat and check the seasoning. Stir in the creme fraiche, cover with a lid and leave the risotto to stand for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Serves one person on reduced rations and one person with a bigger appetite.

1/3 = one portion of 317 calories