Possession by the Madeleine.

Madeleines. Patisserie lover? I think so! We should know what we eat, but when I made these little cakes nobody had an inkling as to what the blip they were! I say Madeleine and they say “what a lin?” We can’t let this continue, or I can’t. They were tortured, bribed and coerced into learning the art of the madeleine- my role in this? I am the torturer, briber, and coercer – and not necessarily in that order.

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The art of the madeleine is not simply learned, but one bite and it becomes a repetitive affair. They are light but moist, chocolate but oh-not-so-much, indulgent but… yes just indulgent. These little cakes aren’t dunked in heaps of flavour or filled with something or the other, they are simply chocolate. Chocolate that’s not too sharp, not too sweet, but that chocolate that makes you crawl back for just that little bit more.

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It’s an easy affair; after all, nirvana is hard for anybody to turn down.

Recipe + Method

80g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

½ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

100g unsalted butter

2 large eggs

Cocoa powder, to dust

Sift the flour and cocoa power together along with the baking powder. In another bowl combine the salt and sugar then whisk in the butter and eggs. Add the dry mixture into the wet and continue whisking until it is fully combined. The mixture may need some fridge time to set to better consistency. I left mine for a few hours but it could be left for longer and even prepared to make the next day or so.

The next day(s) (or hours) preheat the oven to 180C (fan assisted), and butter a madeleine mould, divide the mixture evenly, and make sure not to over fill the moulds. I filled mine a little less than ¾ full. Bake for 12-15 minutes. They will appear plump and will bounce back when touched. Once they are cool dust them in cocoa powder.

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You bring the drug, I’ll wrap it in something sweet.

IMG_6441Coffee is almost intrinsically addictive that you believe it to trigger something innately programmed when deficient. It’s not. Coffee is addictive, yes, but unfortunately it’s also socially predominant. People love to say “let’s meet for a coffee”; they love it so much that that simple request is a habit to unlearn. So then what happens when you couple the beast that is coffee with the smooth talking chocolate? It’s the paradise of stimulant and comfort, that’s what.

This takes us to the creation of the Mocha, the epic Macaccino, a drink for the sweet hearted, only faintly addicted- or a ploy? And I’ll admit I do not drink coffee; heck! Even my green tea is decaf! But the thought of chocolate flavoured coffee has my knees buckling. So what’s a non-coffee addict to do? You cook with it, and it becomes the sole inexplicable exception. Coffee flavoured desserts are sublime, and bound to chocolate- It’s a wonderful thing indeed.

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IMG_6432So this here is my take on one of the most loved, hated and needed drugs of many humans, a combination of the sharp, the sweet and the French. The ever versatile choux pastry filled tightly with mocha cream and topped with intensely dark chocolate ganache.

Recipe + Method

For the choux pastry

70g butter, cubed

115g plain flour + pinch of salt, sifted

3 eggs, beaten

For the mocha cream

200g white chocolate

8g instant coffee granules

460ml double cream, 260ml whipped to soft peaks

For the chocolate ganache

170g dark chocolate

70ml double cream

10g dark chocolate, finely grated

Start by making the choux pastry, combine the butter and 200ml water in a pan until the butter has melted and the water begins to boil- take off the heat and add the flour and salt, stir rapidly until it forms a soft smooth ball. Once cooled slightly, about 3-5 minutes, add half the beaten eggs and stir until it comes together, then add the remaining, ( it’s a judgement call) until the dough is glossy and holds its shape. Pipe 12cm ovals onto a baking paper and leave a 5cm gap between them, they should be no wider than 3cm. Bake them for 10 minutes on 180C (fan assisted) then increase the heat to 200C and bake for 15 minutes until nicely firm, risen and golden. Leave them be for a few minutes, then place them on a baking tray to cool completely, and slice horizontally.

For the mocha cream, warm 200ml of the double cream until just boiling and then pour this into a bowl with the coffee granules and whisk together until combined, leave to cool. Melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. The remaining cream should be whisked to soft peaks. Then whisk the chocolate into the coffee cream until smooth; add the whipped cream until just combined. Refrigerate until needed.

For the ganache heat the chocolate and cream over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate has melted and it is fully combined. Refrigerate until it is at coating consistency- this won’t take too long, keep checking on it.

To assemble, start by dipping one half of an oval in the chocolate ganache and then leaving it to set. Then pipe the mocha cream onto the second half of the oval (I used a round tipped nozzle, but it’s pretty versatile). Place the chocolate ganache covered oval over the mocha cream oval once set and dust in chocolate.

Succumb to the French… dessert.

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Some time, some place, somewhere, someone is saying “khla -foo-tee” over and over and over again… a moment ago that was me, in London, in my kitchen– I make no excuses for the rest of those people, but I was simply perfecting its pronunciation. When it’s not London orientated it’s a thing to learn, I’m terrible with accents, in fact everything I ever attempt to pronounce in another tongue seems to always roll out American, or my version of. Not very impressive for an aspiring patisserie chef but if it can be learned then it can be mastered to precision.

So this looks (modestly) amazing right? It only calls for a few of those cupboard essentials and a few fresh produce to make it taste the masterpiece that it is, and in this case looks are not one bit deceiving because it looks just as good as it tastes. These lovely little blue dollops make the heart of this recipe with the remaining ingredients making it beat erratically. Luckily for those who aren’t the baking powder or cookery keeper, this recipe will call out your on-a-whim baking, and simply raid your condiments for some flour and sugar, topped off with blueberries, milk and eggs. Its actually that simple and takes less than 10 minutes to put together before cooking, perfect for dinner parties.

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I made this for no special occasion, but when you see it, and sample (inhale) it, you can see the appeal. It’s lovely golden brown top slices into a lovely juicy burst of freaking good simple food. And I would even go so far as to say that you can use ice cream on the side or even a glass of cold milk. And the best part about using blueberries is that when they are heated they are sensitive to bursting, so when they hit your palette and you take that bite, they literally burst into a gazillion drops of sweetness. Unlike a normal clafoutis made with cherries, this one is ideal for the blueberry lover- yet I am not that, I just like them to an appropriate degree; saying that, this is made amazing because of the blueberries.

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For those of you who do not know the clafoutis, it is a French dessert made of fruit (typically cherries as I mentioned before) and its texture is rather silky and flan-like, served with cream; it’s simple and it’s full of flavour.

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Recipe+Method

300-400g blueberries, rinsed

80g plain flour

80g caster sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 eggs + 1 egg white

300ml milk

Icing sugar to dust and/or cream to serve

Grease a 20-22cm flan tin or dish (you can also use a sandwich tin of the same measurements) and add the in blueberries, ensuring they are spread evenly. Mix together the dry ingredients of flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a jug whisk together the egg white and eggs until frothy, then add this to the dry mixture whilst continuing to whisk, and then adding in the milk in a smooth trail. The mixture will be thin and smooth. Pour this in the dish and bake on a preheated oven at 160C (fan assisted) for 35 minutes. Once cooked serve warm dusted with icing sugar and puddles of cream, or even eat it cold.

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Comfort for the Conformist.

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We relish in a bubble of safety when we do things that are acceptable or common, but what’s so wrong with that? So many times we simply crave something safe, secure and, commonly indulgent. These have been very popular, or so I like to believe; they satisfy those inevitable cravings all we common people suffer. Because really, if you don’t crave such things in life, then you aren’t very common are you?

IMG_5593 An irresistible chocolate cake makes the base for the comfort, and a rich layer of salted caramel frosting topped with sticky toffee popcorn and drizzles of sharp dark chocolate brings this baby home. During just the first completed comfort cupcake however my comfort cravings reached its peak and demanded satisfaction- needless to say I acquiesced. This isn’t a sickening cupcake, it’s a toe-curling cupcake, so darn good it’ll make you moan.

IMG_5595You see, comfort promises not just that safe, homely feeling but it insists on the feelings of contentment and in this case, it’s very much blushingly akin to sexual pleasures, or so I was told. I was surprised nevertheless that the cake was so moist, it seems to me that using cocoa instead of melted chocolate or milk in substitution of oil brings richness to this cake, or perhaps the complete synchronisation of the recipe? Either way, it is undeniably very moist and moreish!

IMG_5596It’s so typical and acceptable I dare you to try something so very common.

Recipe + Method

For the Chocolate cupcake

60g of cocoa powder

1tbsp baking powder

2 eggs

215ml milk

½tsp salt

180g plain flour, sifted

80g unsalted butter, at room temperature

260g, caster sugar

For the salted caramel frosting

130g caster sugar

90ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

220g icing sugar, sifted

150g butter, at room temperature

Sea salt, to taste

For the sticky toffee popcorn

60g popping corn

1tbsp oil

60g salted butter (unsalted if you do not have salted on hand)

3tbsp golden syrup

60g light brown muscovado sugar

+

100g dark chocolate, melted

For the cupcakes, start by whisking together the butter and sugar until combined, and then gradually add the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder- it will be rather dry; this is when you whisk together the milk and eggs in a a separate bowl and then pour into the crumbly mix and whisk this until it is smooth and fully combined. Then scoop them into the cupcake cases, about two thirds full. Place it to cook in a preheated oven at 160C (fan assisted) and cook for about 25 minutes, and once baked leave on a rack to cool.

For the frosting, start by heating the sugar with 4 ½tbsp of water on a medium heat and stir this until it begins to thicken and you can see a caramel colour taking effect. This process usually takes about 5+ minutes. Once it has reached its peak remove from the heat and pour in the cream and stir in the vanilla. This will be very hot so let it cool to tasting temperature and then add salt to taste- I added about a 1 ½tsp. Then leave this to cool completely. It will start to thicken and even harden slightly but the cream will stop it from setting. In a bowl, whisk together the butter and icing sugar until it is thick and creamy, then pour in the caramel and whisk away until smooth and combined.

For the sticky toffee popcorn (prepare a sheet of baking paper), start by heating a large pan with oil and add in the popping corn and cover, let this pop on low heat and ensure to leave it for a few minutes after the heat is turned off to allow all the corn to have popped. Whilst this is popping make the sticky toffee by throwing in the butter with the sugar and golden syrup and stirring this on a medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Then pour this over the popcorn still in the pan and stir until all the popcorn is coated equally and then tip this on the baking paper and separate the popcorn.

To assemble, get the cupcake and pipe on the salted caramel frosting (I used a simple round nozzle), if this isn’t your best skill then don’t worry because the popcorn will hide any flaws. Top the frosting with the sticky toffee popcorn in a sort of pyramid shape and coat with the melted chocolate. Best eaten straight after they are put together whilst the chocolate remains gooey, but also great the next day!

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I am the knight in summer’s armour.

Wet. Dreary. Cold. Not quite everybody’s most beloved forecast but then again you could do what I did… the humbly incredible, the previously-uninventable, the just-about-salvageable! You see, instead of my very realistic plan of flying to the sky and seducing the clouds into playing nice, I decided to retreat to my kitchen, where I created my very own sweet slice of sunshine. Warm. Fuzzy. Bright. I set the temperature and made it shine!

Summer seems to be a rather beautiful but hazy memory, for me however, I have a sweet love for winter but even I understand the need for a pick me up, a sort of edible high, a summer stimulator if you must- so I opened my mouth to the neglected fruits of the Sun. They seemed to be my lifeline for the intensely craved summer levity.

Now of course, like on a summer’s eve you do not want to labour away, so the hard work here simply comes from the opening and closing of the mouth and then repeating the motion until the food placed inside is of adequate consistency ready for the swallow. The pastry is amazingly versatile, and I made so much because pastry can be quite unnerving at times, and in every attempt made it isn’t ever the same. But after many a trial and error it was so pliable and soft to work with, in fact, I’d say it was my most easiest and joyful pastry yet. The better part is that when layering the tart with the delectable compote and creamy Chantilly the pastry remains steady and strong, it’s tough so it can carry the beautiful burden of cream and fruits without a ripple of pastry muscle crumbling. Oh yeah, sexy!

IMG_5448It’s your choice whether you make this in a pretty tart tin with the crimped edges, a muffin pan, a sandwich tin or even a very square tin. The decision is yours, I opted for the mini tart tins, a large one, and even a sandwich one – what can I say? Summer has been sorely missed – or the tastes of, and I hadn’t the frosty heart to throw away perfectly tasty pastry dough. So on account of the layers of summer in this lovely thing, it holds the sandy vanilla pastry, a fruity jam followed by a substantial layer of sunny Chantilly cream and a summer fruit of your choice (I used blueberries and strawberries).

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Recipe + Method

For the Pastry

2 egg yolks

250g plain flour

1 ½ tbsp cold water

3tbsp caster sugar

2tsp vanilla extract

180g unsalted butter, cold and chopped

For the compote

300g blueberries/strawberries (or try both)

75g caster sugar

1 ½tsp vanilla extract

For the chantilly cream

200g white chocolate, melted

500ml double cream, whipped

200-300g strawberries or blueberries (or both)

To begin the assembling of summer, start with the pastry. Mix in the sugar and flour followed by the cubes of butter- combine with your fingers until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Then add the vanilla, egg yolks and water. Once it forms a soft dough turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead until properly combined, then wrap the ball in cling film and refrigerate for about 45minutes. Next, take the dough out and roll out and line your chosen tins, ensuring they are all lightly greased beforehand, and prick with a fork and refrigerate again for about 30 minutes. After, line the tins with baking paper and beans and bake in a preheated oven (fan assisted) on 160C for about 8-10minutes for small tart tins or muffin tins and 12-15minutes for larger tart/sandwich tins. Then remove the paper and beans and bake the pastries further for another 5 minutes for small tart/muffin tins and 7 minutes for larger tins. Then remove from the oven and allow it to cool whilst making the jammy filling.

For the strawberry filling, thinly slice strawberries and chuck in a pan with the sugar, on a medium heat stir until it has thickened and then remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Leave to cool. For blueberry filling, add blueberries in a pan with the sugar and 2tsp water and stir on medium heat until thickened. Then remove from the heat and add vanilla, leaving it to cool after.

To make the cream, melt the chocolate and leave to cool, whip the cream and fold half into the chocolate, when combined, gently fold in the remaining cream- do not over-fold. Then put the tart together, spread with the jammy filling, smother on the Chantilly cream and finish with the sliced fruits on top.

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See? You don’t need summer to see a gorgeous tart, just fruit it up and it’ll warm you like summer on a winter’s eve.

Tis the Christmas extension…

Isn’t it rather odd the marvel of meringues? They require only one crucial ingredient with sprinkles of sugar, but then they can be turned into little wonders right? I mean meringue is used on top of cakes, with pies, and simply piped out into perfectly plain little dollops; but amazing is the charm of these dollops! I used their simplicity here and turned them to what I hope they are perceived to be, marvellous.

They are also festive, because we all know Christmas isn’t quite over until the New Year begins. It’s a festive extension!! I made this during Christmas when I was researching festive ideas, looking for that creative streak, I found many; then I came across those plain piped dollops of meringue which, look brilliant… But they lacked Christmas colour and lustre. I wanted something more together-some, nothing individual. So here you have a layered meringue surprise. The surprise lies within the meringue itself.

We all know meringues are not always those angelic pure white creations they appear, but temperature and time can really make them somewhat hellish. Yet here I am, ever the daring one, and decided to add some chopped hazelnuts in the mix! Well they were incredible!! Bite into it and it’s got this special crunch to it and this lovely nutty flavour.
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I’ve layered them together with a creamy filling and drizzles and drizzles of chocolate and scatters of fresh raspberries! This beauty goes by the name of Vacherin, a lovely French dessert.

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Recipe + Method

6 egg whites

280g caster sugar

160g hazelnuts, toasted (5mins)

½ tsp vanilla extract

2tsp corn flour

110g dark chocolate

200ml crème fraiche, beaten down to soften

400g raspberries

500ml double cream

1tbsp icing sugar, sifted

In this lovely dessert, first you much ensure the hazelnuts are toasted for about 5 mins on a frying pan (no oil) and then let them cool before you chop them roughly. Then I used a large plate and a smaller plate (the sizes are of your own preference, baring in mind they will be layered on top of each other, so the bigger underneath the better for the smaller top, I used 1 large plate to draw 2 large circles, and 1 smaller plate for 1 small circle). Draw around the plates on separate sheets of baking paper, placing them on greased baking trays.

Whisk together the egg whites until stiff but not dry and then gradually mix in the sugar until it’s all finished and then the corn flour and vanilla extract. Whisk this until it is thoroughly combined. Then fold in ¾ of the toasted hazelnuts and once incorporated spoon this out onto the drawn disks up to the edges, (the larger disks should use about 2/3 of the mixture so divide it equally) then do the same for the last disk, using all of the remaining mixture. Place these in a preheated oven at 120C but turn this down to 100C when you place them in, and cook for 1hour and 30 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool and make the filling.

Whip the cream with the icing sugar, but only until its reaching the consistency of soft peaks, then fold in the crème fraiche. Then melt the chocolate and leave to cool a little. To finish, first smother with the creamy filling, scatter the raspberries and then drizzle chocolate- do this to all layers and then sprinkle the nuts on tops and dust with icing sugar.

Work with it. Win. Dominate it. It’s a Red Velvet Glory.

Red velvet is an absolute wonder, it seems rather overrated but then you bite into it… and it justifies its exasperated, most loved, reputation. I made my first red velvet cake for a birthday and it was absolutely, beautifully red! Now I make it for another birthday (for a friend’s boyfriend), more of a lover’s cake really. So I prepared my ingredients and set to it. After my first attempt however my red velvet endeavours were not the beloved lustrous red that I once succeeded in, and its disastrous adventures made me take a back seat in future productions. Then of course I decided I had to master it!! I just had to; I needed to take the drivers’ seat and tour all the way around the world with my red velvet front-of-the-race act in the back seat, carefully lulled in its mighty delicate packaging of soft, fluffy cream cheese with a pit crew of white chocolate to defeat those prying flecks of dirt and those inevitably tempted finger-lickers.

But alas! Here in another world where things are morosely ordinary, I decided to embark on a kitchen escapade and made lumps and bumps of messes in every direction. I will never regret my joyful time. My mum saved me here, twice might I add. My mum was my saviour, she uses this crazy red-red when she makes tandoori chicken, and it really boots my red velvet cake into gear. You can add profuse amounts of red food colouring and copious heaps of gel but then you must consider the consistency, which suddenly drowns in the pothole of colour. The worst part is that even when you create such folly you aren’t left with the gleaming red you deserve, and I won’t lie I always accused the cocoa to be the culprit of my losing in the colour department here. The red that saved me is in the form of a powder, and regardless if you are booted in the sports car gear to match the challenge of the lustful red of velvet, you will not escape without a smudge of red somewhere on yourself – it’s that good!!

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So then I thought, I conquered my race with red, won it with one hand on the steering wheel and one on my mixing bowl, and I’m left pondering my new challenge. The velvet. Red velvet is not just known for its beauty, that is red, but it’s the moistness of the cake which makes it a cake worth driving round the world for. You could consider the moistness a defined feature of consistency, of colouring, of the flour, of the pinch of salt, or you could see that none of those are distinctive enough to leave something famous right in its name. Buttermilk is the moist factor in this beauty, beetroot was a has-been but we’ve come to see that not many recipes call for this as a necessity any more, it’s a shame really. I love to eat beetroot and I have seen and tasted the wonders it does to a cake but unfortunately it has a mighty fine substitute where food colouring takes a first for the red and the buttermilk running right next to it for a lick of moistness. I am never one to have buttermilk on hand however, I have never needed it for anything unless a recipe calls for it, and only then do I use it. In my case I have discovered countless substitutes so I make my mix of lemon and milk and throw that in instead, it always works.

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I used cooking rings to shape and bake them, but if you’re not someone who has a number of them on hand, like myself, then it just takes a bit more patience. I sliced them to smother the tiers with cream cheese and then piped over the whole of it. You can use any kind of technique, nozzle, or fancy artwork you like, the end result is brilliant.

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So these are the epitome of my win of the red velvet 2013 championship race, I hope you win yours this season!

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Oh and I did dominate, the colour gleams, and the moistness was irrevocably ingrained into its flesh.. Just as it should be.

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Recipe + Method

130ml butter milk

2 eggs

180g plain flour, sifted

2tsp white wine vinegar

280ml sunflower oil

1tsp red food colouring (powder)

1½ tbsp red food colouring (liquid)

1tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp baking powder, sifted

½ tsp salt

10g cocoa powder, sifted

230g caster sugar

Frosting

90g white chocolate, melted

180g butter, at room temperature

2 ½ tbsp milk

400g, icing sugar, sifted

To prepare, either butter the cooking rings or as I did, spray with cooking oil, then cover with baking paper and place on a baking tray lined with paper or a silicone sheet. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt together, then place aside till needed. After, cream together the sugar, eggs and oil, once its thoroughly combined,  add the buttermilk, liquid colouring and vanilla. Then fold in the dry ingredients and then the vinegar. Once this is complete, add in the powdered colour and gently fold, keep adding until it has reached the peak of red you desire. Pour into the cooking rings until ¾ full and bake in a preheated oven at 30-40 minutes on 160C (fan assisted). To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar and butter, then add in the white chocolate and the milk as needed.

When the cakes are baked leave them to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack and peeling away the paper. Once completely cooled, slice them horizontally and swipe with frosting (I used a plain piping nozzle) but coat as you wish.

Something simple, sinful and delightful!

This one here is just marvellous, it doesn’t require hours and hours slaving in the kitchen (as much as we love being those slaves); it doesn’t require expensive, fancy ingredients or even a hefty amount of them. I don’t make this often enough I think, especially since it hardly takes much time to put together and even less to eat!

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Just a quick fact, it’s not a Swiss roll! And not because roulade sounds much fancier but more so because it’s not rolled up from the shorter end, instead roulades are rolled from the longer (landscape) end. It’s absolutely perfect for Christmas, looks stunningly impressive, and the taste? Oh its ineffable!

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This here uses lots of egg whites so the roulade has a delicate outer meringue-like layer – oh yeah, it’s that good! 

Recipe + Method

6 eggs

180g dark chocolate, melted

180g caster sugar

2 ½ tbsp cocoa powder

300ml double cream, whipped

Icing sugar, to dust

First separate the eggs and whisk together the caster sugar and egg yolks in one bowl until it’s all thick and creamy, do the same with the egg whites until they have reached stiff but not dry peaks. Then pour in the melted chocolate, which should be rather cool by now, and fold it into the creamy egg mixture gently, keeping the volume. Once combined thoroughly, fold in the egg whites gently and then sift in the cocoa powder and fold again. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined Swiss roll tin then bake for about 20 minutes in 160C (fan assisted). Once it’s cooked, let it cool and then turn over onto a baking sheet sprinkled with icing sugar, spread the whipped cream and roll up long-ways.

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Spices make extraordinary cakes extraordinary.

This cake is truly unique; it’s not an ordinary chocolate or pumpkin cake with flecks of spice. It’s got a kick like no other! The secret? Cayenne pepper! Cakes tend to call for the usual cinnamon, and though I love cinnamon, cayenne pepper adds heat in the most special toe-curling way possible! The pecans added in this cake have been roasted with cayenne pepper and then chopped up roughly. The pumpkin was finely grated and then folded into the batter with the roasted pecans. I will also mention for all you health-aware folk, that cayenne pepper is super good for your health, being super high in vitamin A it also supports a healthy energy balance. A little added bonus to the… Um active, is that it is also claimed to be an aphrodisiac!

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What’s even better is that it’s so moist!! Incredibly moist that even I was surprised, and it didn’t last long till it was gone either. I was lucky to get a few snaps right after the dusting of the cocoa powder. I really hope you can see how moist it is in the pictures, though it doesn’t do it enough justice.

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I do adore a good old chocolate cake, so moist and fudgy, but I think it’s eventually deemed a tad ordinary as comforting as the ordinary is. Spice things up and I do mean more than the ½ tsp the recipe calls for. It’s a great combination, truly, especially with all the left over pumpkin waddling around.

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Method + Recipe

100g grated pumpkin

3 eggs

230g dark chocolate

150g unsalted butter

255g self raising flour, sifted

130g pecan nuts

280ml water

280g dark muscovado sugar

1 ½ – 2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your taste)

3 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

3tsp vanilla extract

cocoa powder, sifted to dust

In a bowl mix in the pecans and sift in the cayenne pepper, then place on a baking tray and roast for about 10-12 minutes on 150C (fan assisted). Then roughly chop them after leaving to cool a little; place aside until needed. Melt the butter with the chocolate over simmering water. Then whisk the eggs and sugar together, once combined pour in the melted chocolate and then the vanilla extract and water. Fold the flour in and then the pecans and pumpkin. Bake for 1 hour 15-20minutes on 150C (fan assisted). Once Cooked, leave it to cool for 10-15 minutes before placing it to cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with cocoa powder to serve.

“.. It’s a pumkin’s life for me!”

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Pumpkins are the “It” factor right now, so I was in full procession of posting this lovely little recipe I cooked up the other day. It’s easy as any of the others I’ve posted so far and it will warm you to your twiddly toes!

Pumpkin soup was a primary dish served for prisoners of war in North Vietnamese prison camps during the Vietnam War. It’s so delicious I can imagine it going down a treat after a hard day’s work. I wanted to steer away from the lovely sweet dishes, and something perfect to warm you up after a long day or even after a much needed lazy one.

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Pumpkins are quite watery, so of course they disintegrate fairly easily. I’ve used this to my advantage by roasting them with drizzles of olive oil to soften them up even more. This is a brilliant recipe for anybody who is particularly keen on hearty soups, it’s slightly thick with enough spice to tingle the taste buds yet with a cool wisp from the lemon grass to tone it down. So here it is… (Please feel free to alter spice content)

Recipe + Method:

500g pumpkin sliced, 1inch strips (peeled + deseeded)

½ tsp mixed herbs

3tbsp olive oil

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Green chilli, thinly sliced

1 lemon, juiced

1 ½ tbsp curry paste

1 lemon grass stalk, halved

500ml coconut milk

3tbsp soy sauce with a squeeze of lemon

600ml lamb stock, or chicken or vegetable if you’d prefer

Rosemary sprigs, to serve

Salt, to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C. After chopping up the pumpkin into slices, place it in a roasting dish and sprinkle on 1tbsp of olive oil and mixed herbs, and then cover with foil. This will prevent it from burning under the high temperature. It will need to roast until its soft, usually about 1 hour but check on it as ovens will vary in cooking times. Pour the remaining oil in a frying pan and throw in the lemongrass, curry paste, garlic and in a few minutes pour in the coconut milk too. Let this simmer for a few minutes before putting in the pumpkin and the stock. Set the heat low and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Once that’s done, sieve the soup and pick out the lemongrass and puree the pumpkin in a blender. Use some of the soup to ease the process of blending, then put it all in the pan with the remaining soup and the soy sauce. Serve it hot with rosemary sprigs to decorate, or even add some chilli or spring onions.

Also the pumpkins I have used as bowls are simply baby pumpkins and easily acquirable in local supermarkets, being in season of course.