Friday, 18 February 2011

Forever Nigella - Seduced by Chocolate

This is the second Forever Nigella blogging challenge, a monthly blogging event using recipes from Nigella Lawson's many books based on a different theme each month. You won't find the ingredients or instructions for the recipe selected here as the aim of this event is to encourage people to go out and buy Nigella's books which I'm more than happy to support - I think every kitchen should have at least one of Nigella's books on the bookshelf.

This month's theme is "Seduced by Chocolate" and I found selecting a recipe particularly tough this time. Frankly, you could win me over with a slab of Dairy Milk, however I thought I should make the effort to find a recipe with that little extra something. But which one of the many, MANY chocolate recipes that Nigella has written about over the years should I choose? I spent a lot of time searching through all of her books and narrowed down the field to maybe half a dozen. I then agonised over the shortlist and made my decision. Then changed my mind. Then bought the ingredients I needed. Then changed my mind again.

I was going to use one of my favourite recipes that I've used many times before (her Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies in How to be a Domestic Goddess, if you're interested) but, in the end, and at the very last minute, I decided to make the Devil's Food Cake from her latest book, Kitchen:Recipes from the Heart of the Home. I have been salivating over this recipe ever since I saw her make it during her recent television series and this was the perfect excuse to try it out.

The method for making the cake is quite unusual. The cocoa powder and brown sugar are mixed with boiling water before being added to the cake mix at the end. This gives a particularly runny cake mix but it's this that gives the cake it's dense, moist texture. Making the icing is also an exercise in faith as Nigella explains in the recipe. While still warm the icing looks delicious but way too runny to be spread onto the cake. As promised, though, when left for an hour or so it firms up and becomes perfectly spreadable. Be warned though, left too long and the icing becomes quite stiff. I left mine for over two hours and it was almost too stiff to spread.

And the verdict? Well this cake is unquestionably delicious. Rich and incredibly chocolatey. There is a lot of dark chocolate in the icing (350g) which results in a correspondingly dark, intense flavour so if you're looking for something sweet and sugary this might not be for you. I thought it was fabulous and a real indulgent treat.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Griddled Halloumi with Spiced Couscous

If you want a simple, quick, inexpensive and filling weekday dinner then you can't get much better than this. I actually tried this several years ago and wasn't too impressed but I think that was because I'd never tried halloumi before and was a bit bemused by it's unusual texture and flavour. Fast forward to this year and my taste buds are now accustomed to the squeaky cheese and I was happy to give this recipe another try. I'm really glad I did as I enjoyed it much more this time. The spices add a subtle flavour to the otherwise plain couscous and the halloumi adds texture and a hint of saltiness.

Griddled Halloumi with Spiced Couscous
(taken from Good Food Magazine January 2005)

1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
handful of sugarsnap peas
175g/6oz couscous
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, cumin and coriander
300ml/1/2 pint hot vegetable stock
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
250g pack halloumi cheese
juice of half a lemon
olive oil

1) Steam the broccoli for 6 minutes, add the peas and steam for 2 minutes more.

2) Mix the couscous with the spices in a bowl, pour over the hot stock, then cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

3) Heat a non-stick frying pan or griddle pan. Cut the halloumi into 6-8 slices and cook quickly on each side for 2 minutes until lightly tinged brown.

4) Mix the vegetables and tomatoes into the couscous, fork in the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Pile onto plates and top with the halloumi.

Serves 2

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Blackberry & Plum Streusel Tart

This is a lovely autumn/winter pudding to warm you up on a cold evening. I know blackberry season has come and gone but if you happen to have any stashed away in your freezer then I recommend you give this a try. The plums were a nice combination with the blackberries but I think pears or apples (softened in a pan a little before adding to the tart) would work just as well. This is wonderful served with just about anything - cream, custard, ice cream, yoghurt - whatever you like best.

Blackberry & Plum Streusel Tart
(taken from Good Food Magazine September 2003)

375g pack dessert shortcrust pastry
250g/9oz blackberries
300g/10oz plums, halved (or quartered if large) and stoned
85g/3oz golden caster sugar
1 tbsp fine semoline, polenta or dried breadcrumbs

For the streusel topping
200g/8oz plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
85g/3oz golden caster sugar
85g/3oz butter

1) Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured board to form a circle large enough to line a 23cm round metal flan tin, about 2.5cm deep. Prick the base with a fork, then chill for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190c/gas mark 5.

2) Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper or foil, and weight down with baking beans. Put on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove the beans and paper or foil then return to the oven for about 8-10 minutes to dry out.

3) Toss the blackberries with the plums and sugar. Sprinkle semolina, polenta or breadcrumbs over the bottom of the pastry case. Pile in the fruit and smooth down.

4) To make the topping, mix the flour with the cinnamon and sugar. Melt the butter and pour over the flour mixture while still hot. Using a knife, cut the mixture repeatedly until you have a mass of lumpy crumbs. Scatter thickly and evenly over the fruit, so that it is completely covered. Bake, still at the same temperature, for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Serves 8

Friday, 4 February 2011

Rock Cakes & Hot Chocolate

When I received my delicious box of treats from Hotel Chocolat last year they also included a jar of their Liquid Chocolat drinking chocolate.
Not surprisingly I have thoroughly enjoying putting this to the test over the last few months. I was sent the Classic Milky version which has lovely rich, but not overly sweet, chocolatey flavour. Dark Chocolate fans might prefer the Classic Dark version, or, if you have a sweeter tooth, the Caramel might be the one for you. This has done a great job of warming me up through this chilly grey winter served, as you can see below, with the obligatory squirty cream and marshmallows.

I've served it here with one of my favourite afternoon teatime treats - the humble rock cake. If I fancy something quick and easy to rustle up I often turn to these, using a recipe from my old reliable Dairy Book of Home Cookery.

I'm not so fond of the traditional raisiny recipe and more often than not substitute them with the more indulgent chocolate chips.

Rock Cakes
(adapted from The Dairy Book of Home Cookery)

225g/8oz self raising flour
100g/4oz butter
75g/3oz caster sugar
100g/4oz mixed dried fruit
1 egg, beaten
10-20ml/2-4 tsp milk

1) Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6. Grease or line a baking sheet.

2) Sift the flour into a bowl and rub the butter into it until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3) Add the sugar and fruit (or chocolate chips) then mix to a stiff batter with the beaten egg and milk.

4) Place 10 spoonfuls of mixture, in rocky mounds, on the baking sheet, allowing room between each one as they spread slightly).

5) Bake for 15-20 minutes then cool on a wire cooling rack.

Thanks again to Hotel Chocolat for supplying me with these lovely samples to try out.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Chorizo & Chickpea Stew

This recipe is a lovely winter warmer for a grey winter's day and is another winner from the latest addition to my cookbook shelf (ok...bookcase), Nigella Kitchen. This is turning out to be a great book, full of loads of accessible, inventive and, most importantly, tasty recipes.

This particular recipe was a breeze to make. Once I had prepped the ingredients it only took 15-20 minutes to cook, and much of that was hands-off.

The chorizo, tomatoes and apricots provided lovely colourful and contrasting flavours and the chickpeas added substance and turned it into a really filling meal (the portion sizes are generous to say the least). I have to admit I was a little mystified by the fried spaghetti as they didn't really add much to the dish flavour-wise but they looked quite nice!

Chorizo & Chickpea Stew
(adaped from Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)

2 x 15ml tablespoons regular olive oil
50g spaghettini or vermicelli, turned into 3cm lengths (I used regular spaghetti)
500g bulgar wheat
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or 1 teaspoon pouring salt
1 litre water
2 bay leaves
250g chorizo, cut into coins and then halved
4 x 15ml tablespoons amontillado sherry
100g soft dried apricots, snipped into pieces with scissors
2 x 400g cans chickpeas or mixed beans, rinsed and drained in a sieve
2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes, plus 1 1/2 cans water
salt and pepper to taste
fresh coriander to serve (not in this house!)

1) Warm the olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan on a medium heat. Fry the pasta bits in the oil for a minute, stirring, until they look like slightly scorched straws

2) Add the bulgar wheat and stir for another minute or two. Stir in the cinnamon and salt, and then pour the water into the pan. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil, then turn down to the lowest heat, add a lid, and leave for 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

3) Put another thick-bottomed saucepan on a medium heat, add the chorizo pieces and fry until the orange oil runs out. Then add the sherry and let it bubble away for a minute before adding the apricots, chickpeas and canned tomatoes. Half-fill each empty tomato can with water and swill out into the pan. Put on a high heat to bubble for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4) Serve with the bulgar wheat and chopped coriander if you're that way inclined.

Serves 4 (generously)