Friday, 24 September 2010

We Should Cocoa Monthly Challenge - Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

When I heard that two other food bloggers were organising a new monthly baking challenge AND it involved chocolate my ears pricked up immediately (in the virtual, online sense anyway). Chocolate is one of my most favourite ingredients to work with and provides a base for so many fantastic recipes.

The challenge, We Should Cocoa, is being hosted alternately by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot and the idea is to make something using chocolate each month. The most important rule is that it should include the special ingredient(s) selected by the host for that month.

This month Chele is hosting the challenge and she has chosen raspberries as the special ingredient. No problem for me here - if you want to combine chocolate and raspberries into one recipe then this one is just perfect.

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies
(adapted from a recipe found in delicious magazine)

200g/7oz quality dark chocolate
200g/7oz unsalted butter, softened
400g/14oz caster sugar
5 eggs
110g/4oz plain flour
400g/14oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g/4 1/4oz fresh raspberries

1) Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 30 x 20cm rectangular cake tin.

2) Please the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

3) Cream the butter and 250g of the caster sugar until pale, then add 3 of the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Stir in the melted chocolate then fold in the flour. Spread three quarters of the mixture into the lined pan.

4) In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese, remaining sugar and eggs and the vanilla extract until smooth, then spread over the chocolate base. Dollop the remaining chocolate mixture over the cream cheese layer and use a fork to swirl the chocolate. Push the raspberries into the top and bake for 40-45 minutes until just firm on top. Allow to cool then cut into squares.

Makes about 15

Thanks to Chele for hosting this month's challenge. To have a look at all of the other entries this month make sure you visit her Chocolate Teapot blog after the 26th of September.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Byron Bay Cookies - a Review

When I heard that the people from Beyond The Bean were looking for people to review the Byron Bay Cookies that they supply to various coffee houses I was more than happy to oblige. A few days later the lovely box full of goodies you can see above arrived on my doorstep. I was expecting one little pack but instead I received a lovely selection box of cookies of various flavours.

Originating, not surprisingly, in Byron Bay in Australia these cookies are now baked in the UK using locally sourced ingredients. And I was very pleased to see that for the most part they do not contain palm oil (the exception being the fudge pieces used in the 'Dotty' Smarties cookie). For reasons why you should think twice about using products containing palm oil have a look here. The range has been fully approved by The Vegetarian Society and the Gluten-Free cookies have been approved by The Coeliac Society.

When I first opened the box and saw the individual packets I couldn't help but be reminded of those uninspiring little packets of biscuits that you so often find on hotel tea-trays. A closer inspection, however, put my mind, and stomach, at rest. These are no ordinary biscuits. As you can see from the picture at the bottom of the post these are biscuits and then some. Each one weighs in at approximately 60g and with a calorie content of around 450 per 100g this is a snack to be taken seriously.

So, the different flavours...

Strawberry & Clotted Cream Shortbread - My first thought when I tried this one was "a bit too sweet". I find things with white chocolate often are and the addition of dried strawberries only added to the sugar hit. Funnily enough though this didn't stop me guzzling the whole pack of six cookies like I was trying to break some sort of record.

Fig & Pecan Cookie - This one was really nice. Not too sweet with a wholesome chewy, crunchy texture. They reminded me of the classic Fig Roll only much more interesting.

Lemon Macadamia Nut Shortbread - Lovely crumbly shortbread with a zingy lemon flavour.

Triple Choc Fudge Cookie - Mmmm....seriously chocolatey these ones with big chunks of chocolate and fudge throughout. Lush.

Gluten-free "Dotty" Triple Chocolate Cookie - The colourful packaging for this one suggests that it is aimed at children. However I can't imagine my children getting through a whole one of these in one sitting or, should I say, I can't imagine me letting them. This one had quite a dry texture possibly, I guess, because it was gluten free. It was still very nice though and the smarties on top were a welcome addition.

White Choc Chunk & Macadamia Nut Cookie - Sweet crumbly shortbread with generous chunks of white chocolate. Very nice.

White Choc Chunk & Macadamia Nut Cookie (Gluten Free) - Apart from a slightly drier texture this tasted just the same as the non-gluten free version - sweet and chocolatey.

Sticky Date & Ginger with Walnut Cookie - I really liked this one a lot. Chewy dates, crunchy nuts and a warming hint of ginger and cinnamon in the background. I could eat these all day long.

And my favourite? Well, depending on my mood I think that would have to be either the Sticky Date & Ginger or the Triple Chocolate Fudge. Both winners in my book.

Thanks to Beyond the Bean for giving me the opportunity to try these. They were a real hit and I will definitely be looking out for them in my local coffee shops in the future.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Simple Scrambled Egg Supper

There's nothing complex at all about this recipe - just a nice little supper dish when you fancy something quick and easy. The soda farls make it filling enough to have for tea which is great for those evenings when you don't want to spend any longer than necessary standing at the stove.

Cheese and Watercress Scramble
(adapted from a recipe by Sarah Buenfeld in Good Food Magazine)

2 soda farls (usually sold in packs of two, alongside the bread and rolls)
4 large eggs
4 tbsp milk
50g/2oz mature cheddar cheese
generous knob of butter
10 cherry tomatoes
generous handful of watercress (I don't always bother with this if I don't have some to hand)

1) Split the soda farls and put them in a toaster or under the grill to toast on both sides. Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and milk with a good sprinkling of salt and some black pepper. Grate the cheese.

2) Heat the butter in a small-to-medium sized frying pan (preferably non-stick) and when melted add the tomatoes and cook them for about 3 minutes over a fairly high heat, shaking the pan occasionally until they start to soften and the skins split.

3) Pour the eggs into the pan and leave them undisturbed for about 10 seconds. Stir and leave to settle again, then stir again until the eggs are almost scrambled. Sprinkle in the cheese, roughly chop and add the watercress if using, then remove the pan from the heat. Butter the farls and put on serving plates, pile the scramble on and serve straight away.

Serves 2

If you're looking for another way with scrambled eggs have a look at the Curried Scrambled Eggs I posted about last year.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Rhubarb Yoghurt Jelly

This recipe has been on my pending pile since the summer and now the evenings are drawing in (and aren't they just at a rate of knots?!) I'd thought I dig it out and post it as a reminder of warmer days. This was one of the things I made as part of my Big Fat Greek Yoghurt Experiment when the lovely people at Total supplied me with a VERY large quantity of Greek Yoghurt to play with.

Anyway, this recipe wouldn't get anyone through to the final of Masterchef, in fact it's a bit of a stretch to even call it a recipe. It's an old favourite, though, and certainly worth a mention. To be honest I don't think the greek yoghurt worked as well as regular natural yoghurt as it didn't mix in particularly well. Still tasted good though.

I should say that the following recipe is merely a rough guide - it doesn't matter in the slightest if you have more or less of any of the ingredients.

Rhubarb Yoghurt Jelly
(My Mum passed this recipe on to me - original source unknown)

Approx 400g rhubarb
Caster Sugar
1 pack of jelly - I usually use Strawberry or Raspberry
Approx 150g - 200g plain yoghurt

1) Start by chopping up the rhubarb and stewing it in a saucepan over a low heat until soft. You can a little sugar if you like or if the rhubarb is particularly sharp but the jelly will add its own sweetness later on. Leave to cool.

2) When the rhubarb is cool, make up the jelly in a large dish. Leave it in the fridge for a short while to cool down and begin to set (probably half an hour to an hour).

3) When the jelly is cool just mix in the rhubarb and yoghurt and then return it to the fridge to set completely.

Makes one largeish bowlful.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Roasted Pepper, Pancetta and Mascarpone Risotto

Risotto isn't something I make very much. Yes, it's pretty straightforward to make and, on some level, the amount of stirring involved makes the process quite relaxing I suppose. However, I have small children and at the end of the long day if I have to choose between standing at the hob for 30 minutes attending to a saucepan or leaving something to it's own devices while I slump into a chair then I'm afraid the second option is going to win. Having said that, if I'm feeling in the right frame of mind I will dig out the arborio and get stirring. And this recipe in particular really makes the effort worthwhile. The salty pancetta and creamy mascarpone really lift it to another level and turn it into something special.

Roasted Pepper, Pancetta and Mascarpone Risotto
(adapted from a recipe by Valentina Harris in Good Food Magazine)

2 red or yellow peppers (if you're in a rush use sliced roasted peppers from a jar and start the recipe from step 3
50g/2 oz unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
175g/6 oz risotto rice
1 litre/1 1/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock, kept just below boiling point in a pan
50g/2 oz diced pancetta
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley
3 tbsp mascarpone
50g/2 oz freshly grated parmesan
1 tbsp snipped chives for garnishing

1) Preheat the grill to high, then grill the fresh peppers whole for 10-15 minutes, turning them frequently, until the skins are blackened all over. While they are still warm, put them in a heatproof bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes until cool enough to handle.

2) Peel the skin from the peppers - their flesh will be quite brown in patches. Cut them in half, remove and discard all the seeds and membranes, then cut the peppers into thin strips and set aside.

3) Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, then fry the onion very gently for about 10 minutes until soft and transparent. Add the garlic and three quarters of the peppers. Stir together gently over a low heat for about 3 minutes, then add the rice all in one go. Stir until the grains are coated and toasted all over, about 5 minutes. The add the first ladleful of hot stock and stir it in. Cook slowly adding stock until the grains are plump and swollen.

4) Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the pancetta with the olive oil until it is brown and crisp. When the rice is cooked to the right degree (in other words neither chalky nor mushy, but just chewy), take it off the heat and stir in seasoning to taste, plus the remaining ingredients. Cover and leave to stand for about 3 minutes before spooning onto serving plates. Sprinkle with the chopped chives and offer extra parmesan at the table.

Serves 2.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

I've received an award!

Thanks so much to Sarah at Sugar & Spice for passing on this award to me.

And now, as per the rules of the award, I have to give you the following information:

1) The name of the person's blog that gave me the award - Sugar & Spice

2) 10 things I love (these are off the top of my head and are in no particular order):

1. Chocolate
2. Cook books
3. Being by the Sea
4. Friends (the TV show)
5. Technology (my laptop, my digital camera, my ipod)
6. Fish & Chips by the Southwold ferry
7. Colston Bassett Stilton
8. Shopping
9. Foodie Trips to London
10. Geocaching (a new hobby!)

3) Now I have to pass this award on to 10 other blogs I read regularly