Thursday, 26 November 2009

Snow-Flecked Brownies

The subject of this month's Sweet and Simple Bakes challenge is the much-loved chocolate brownie and the recipe we have used is Nigella Lawson's Snow-Flecked Brownies, as seen in Feast.

The chocolate brownie must be one of my top five all-time favourite cakes. It's a classic and surely epitomises everything the perfect cake should be - simple but indulgent, a rich combination of cakeiness and fudginess that is as at home on a dinner party table as it is served up for afternoon tea.

I've come across a number of brownie recipes in my time, some of which are merely slightly embellished chocolate cake recipes. Don't be fooled - a brownie recipe should contain substantially more eggs and chocolate (dark, 70% of course) than your average cake otherwise you are not going to get that dark squidgy centre.

So does this recipe beat my previous favourite? Nigel Slater's brownie recipe, from his Kitchen Diaries, has been my first choice for some time now and I have to say it stills just wins the day by a small margin. The recipes aren't dissimilar however Nigel cuts back on the proportion of eggs and flour and adds a bit of cocoa so you end up with a more chocolatey brownie. Don't get me wrong though, these brownies more than satisfied my need for something indulgent and I do like the aesthetically pleasing addition of icing sugar, especially at this time of year, when anything even faintly festive rings my bell.

The recipe can be found here. You should note that this makes a LOT of brownies. I halved the quantity and ended up with 14 perfectly sized squares. Oh, and if you want your pieces of white chocolate to maintain their shape and not melt into slushy streaks then you might want to leave the mix to cool a while before mixing it in.

Thanks go to Maria and Rosie for hosting the Sweet and Simple Bakes website and choosing another great recipe for us.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Saucy Banana and Caramel Pudding

Now this is my kind of pudding. A Pudding with a capital P. A rich, sticky, seconds-for-me-please, where-did-all-the-leftovers-go? sort of pudding. Fantastic.

Thanks and praise for this little gift of a recipe should be directed towards Jo Pratt whose first book, In The Mood for Food is fast becoming my recipe book of the year. You can find three more of her recipes here, here and here but I do recommend you try and get hold of your own copy. It will provide you with inspiration for all occasions and will be a very attractive addition to your bookshelf!

Puddings like this are notoriously hard to photograph (particularly for a novice like me, short on props and good lighting) and this photo really doesn't do it justice. Just try to picture the dish beneath the spoon filled with a golden banana sponge floating on a lake of caramel sauce....tempted yet?

So, the next time you have a couple of bananas browning in the fruit bowl don't even think about making yet another banana cake....make this!

Saucy Banana and Caramel Pudding
(adapted from In the Mood for Food by Jo Pratt)

Serves 6

For the pudding
125g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon or cinnamon
125g light muscovado sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 large egg, beaten
200ml milk
75g unsalted butter, melted

For the sauce
4 tablespoons golden syrup
125g light muscovado sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4

2) Mix the flour, baking powder and mixed spice or cinnamon in a bowl then beat in the sugar, mashed banana, milk and butter until well combined.

3) Pour into a buttered 1.5 or 2 litre ovenproof dish (the bigger the better to avoid it bubbling over and making a mess of your oven) or six individual dishes (about 300ml or 400ml each).

4) Place the golden syrup, sugar and 250ml water into a pan on a medium heat. Stir until dissolved and bring to the boil. Pour immediately over the top of the pudding (don't be alarmed by the resulting cake-mix soup, it will turn out fine!). Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden and just firm in the centre when pressed.

5) Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving with ice cream, cream or creme fraiche.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Fragrant Chicken & Spinach Curry

Ever since I dug out my copy of Bill Grainger's Everyday and lavished a bit of attention on it as part of my Unloved Cookbooks project I've been promising myself that I would come back to it at some point and try out the other recipes that caught my eye.

So the next recipe on the list was Bill's Fragrant Chicken and Spinach Curry. This recipe was fairly simple and straightforward and the result was everything I've come to expect from Bill Grainger - fresh, light and healthy but with good flavour - an ideal weeknight supper.

Fragrant Chicken & Spinach Curry
adapted from Everyday by Bill Grainger

Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
pinch cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
750g/1lb 10 oz boneless chicken thighs, cubed
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
90g/3 1/4 oz baby English spinach, chopped
Large handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped

1) Heat the oil, add the onion and cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes until softened. Add the spices, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

2) Add the chicken and increase heat to medium-heat. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the chicken is browned.

3) Stir in the tomatoes and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

4) Add the sugar, lime juice and spinach and stir until the spinach has just wilted. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A Christmas Trifle

I recently came across a request on the UKFBA website calling for volunteers willing to get creative and come up with an alternative use for the traditional Christmas pudding.

The competition was set by Matthew Walker Christmas Puddings, who are reputably the World's Oldest Christmas Pudding Maker and have trademarked their 'Recipe 13' 'The Perfect Christmas Pudding Recipe'!

So my puddings arrived, handsomely packaged in brown, gold and green and I set to thinking what to make. The Christmas pudding is pretty much the complete package really and apart from a jug of custard it doesn't really need anything adding to it. So my thoughts turned for possible uses for leftovers. Cake....leftovers......trifle! I can't say I've considered putting christmas pudding in a trifle before and I can't recall anyone else doing so either but it was worth a go.

Trifle is a pretty simple combination of cake, fruit, custard and cream but what fruit to use? Well, this is a Christmas trifle and nothing says Christmas to me like citrus fruit so oranges seemed the best option. It's also traditional to add a swig of something alcoholic to the layer of cake, however as Christmas puddings are alcoholic by design I decided not add anything extra. Don't let that put you off adding a little splash of something if you fancy it though.

So, decision made....I was ready to go.

Well, the result was delicious! It was far better than I'd hoped and I will, without question, be making this again at Christmas. I may well even buy an extra pudding in case I'm not left with sufficient leftovers on the day. I assembled the trifle while the pudding and the custard were still warm to great effect however the small amount that I somehow managed not to eat straight away was still gorgeous a while later from the fridge.

Here's the recipe...

Christmas Pudding Trifle

Serves 1 (but can easily be scaled up)

100g Christmas pudding
1 orange, segmented
50-100ml custard
50-1ooml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
Mixed peel or flaked almonds to decorate

1) Break the pudding into bite sized pieces and line the bottom of a small dish or ramekin

2) Place the orange segments in a layer on top of the pudding

3) Layer the custard over the orange and top with cream

4) Decorate with mixed peel or flaked almonds.


Sunday, 8 November 2009

White Chocolate and Orange Cookies

The October Sweet and Simple Bakes challenge was a recipe for White Chocolate and Orange Cookies. To my great frustration I didn't have the chance to make these in time for the deadline but they sounded so tempting that I was determined to crowbar them into the schedule as soon as possible.

So here they and they absolutely lived up to my expectations. Packed with orange flavour and plenty of chocolate, they had the perfect cookie texture - crispy at the edge but with a soft chewy centre. Mmmmmm!

You can find the recipe here - give them a try!