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You’ll have to excuse me for this blog post. It slightly pains me to post it if I am being honest as the photographs are all wrong…in the sense that I took them in the evening with no light. This is a major no no for food photographs and normally I always shoot in daylight but for this post I could not reheat the dish and as much as I love scallops I really did not want to eat them for lunch and supper. So please overlook these dark shots and believe me when I tell you this is a seriously quick, tasty and stylish dish that is guaranteed to please anyone you present it to.

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Fresh scallops are wonderful, but I sometimes buy frozen from my local fishmonger and they work pretty well and are relatively good value. I am also a HUGE fan of black garlic. I wrote an article about black garlic for Country and Townhouse Magazine which you can read here. It will tell you all about them so have a peek at the article. Black garlic is beginning to pop up in some supermarkets but I sometimes just order it directly from either The Garlic Farm,  Merchant Gourmet or The South West Garlic Farm.

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Some people are squeamish about black pudding, but please people seriously there is nothing to get worked up about, unless you are vegetarian/vegan then I apologise. The fact is the saltiness from the black pudding works brilliantly with the scallops and the black garlic adds a umami (I wrote an article about this too – read here) sweetness that bursts in a flavour explosion in your mouth. I have added a balsamic jus to bind it all together and then added little quenelles (oval shape mounds of food) of pea and mint puree.

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The colours and flavours are magical. I think it probably works best as a starter or you could just add a few more scallops and black pudding to turn it into a main.

Scallops with Black Garlic, Black Pudding a Balsamic Jus and Pea & Mint Quenelles

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil

16 1/2 inch slices of black pudding

1 tbsp butter

16 scallops

16 slithers of black garlic

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp boiling water (optional)

300g frozen peas

8 mint leaves

salt and pepper to season as required

1. First place the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot add the black pudding slices and cook on both sides for a couple of minutes, by which time they will have darkened in colour and crisped up slightly. Set aside in a warm place.

2. In a separate pan boil the peas and add the mint to infuse. After 5 minutes, drain and then puree using a blender. You can add a little chicken stock at this stage if you want a smoother more runny puree. Set aside in a warm place.

3. Using the pan that you cooked the black pudding heat the butter. Once it is melted and hot, but not burnt, add the scallops and gently heat for max 2 minutes on each side, so that a slight bronzing occurs on both sides. Add the black garlic once you have cooked one side of the scallops and then add the balsamic jus just before you take the scallops out of the pan. Ladle the balsamic jus over the scallops and then place them on a warm plate.

3. Raise the temperature slightly and add the boiling water if you want more of a jus and boil for a few minutes so the jus reduces and thickens slightly.

4. To plate up (use pre-warmed plates) add the black pudding followed by the scallop and then the black garlic. Next create quenelles with the pea and mint puree. They are easy to do. Watch the quick video below to show you how to do them.

5. Finally pour the jus over the scallops and around the plate.

Serve immediately so that it is still hot.

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This recipe is for all of you lovely people out there who claim you don’t have time to cook. It is super quick, satisfying and great for cold winter nights. It literally takes no longer than 15 minutes to cook from beginning to end. To be fair it is very similar to this dal of mine although it differs in that it has a tin of tomatoes in it, loads of fresh whole garlic (great for ridding those horrible colds and coughs we pick up in winter), and a sprinkling of cumin powder.

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I had a bunch of friends over for lunch the other day and as well as cooking some tasty winter salads had a huge pot of this on the stove. It seemed to go down a treat as there was very little left over once they had gone, another sign that it’s worth giving it a go.

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I like to add a splash of lemon juice liberally at the end, but it’s up to you. Like with all dals they can be made more soupy or firmer depending on personal choice. For this dal I like to make it more soupy so that I can spoon it out of a bowl. If you are cooking it with rice and another dish then maybe you want to add less water. I never really measure the water that goes into it. I always go on how it looks, so my advice is to put in enough water so that it covers the dal by half an inch and then keep adding more boiling water once  the water has soaked up. It’s a winner and so simple. Give it a go and leave me a comment below.

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Tomato and Garlic Red Lentil Dal

Serves 4-6 (4 as a main 6 as a side dish)

300g red split lentil

water, enough to cover the red lentil

1 tbsp groundnut oil

5 (or more) garlic cloves, gently crushed but kept whole

1 tsp panch phoron

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp salt (to taste)

400g tin of tomatoes

1 lemon, quartered – optional to serve

1. In a deep pan place the red lentils and cover with cold water. Gently wash the lentils using your hand and pour out the murky water. Repeat three times.

2. Add boiling water to the red lentils and cover so that all the lentils are submerged by 1/2 inch. You can add more boiling water once this has soaked up if need be. Boil on a gently heat, skimming off any white residue that comes to the surface. Stir at intervals so that all the lentils cook through and turn from orange to a more yellow colour. Add more boiling water if you prefer it to have a more soupy consistency.

3. In a separate pan heat up the oil and then add the panch phoron. Once they start sizzling add the garlic and move around the pan. After a minute add the turmeric and cumin powder. Keep on a low heat, making sure the garlic and spices do not burn.

4. Add a spoonful of the now yellow lentils to the panch phoron and stir into the spices. Pour the contents of this pan into the pan with lentils and stir in throughly. Add a little water to the saucepan to make sure the spices pan is now clear of spices.

5. Add salt to taste and the tin of tomatoes and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, or until the garlic has softened.

Voila. That simple. Enjoy.

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Mexican food is perfect when the chill sets in and yet it also lends itself well to hot, humid weather. So wherever you are based in the world at this point in time this Mexican chilli beef is a must. The warm, smokey taste from the pasilla and ancho chilli add a wonderful, addictive, depth to this dish that are well suited to the adult and child palate.

 

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If you can cook it a day in advance the flavours really open up, but if you don’t have the time or inclination try and cook it in the morning if you are going to eat it later in the day.

So you may be wondering where on earth do you get Mexican chillies? I tend to buy mine online and I personally find Melbury & Appleton have a good selection and are quick and efficient to deliver. They also provide 1kg catering packs for the serious Mexican chilli aficionados, which is perfect for when I want to make my chipotle en adobe, it also works out far more cost effective in the long run.

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This is cosy, comfort eating at it’s best and perfect to feed a crowd. Washed down with one of my brother’s ales – check out Wiper and True  (he is the True part of the name!) then you have yourself a knock out meal. Don’t go putting his ale in the dish though, it’s too good for that – use any old lager you have to hand.

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Just take a look at that tasty morsel of meat with the smokey gravy working it’s magic and the wonderful combination of dry roasted pumpkin seeds, butternut squash, raw red onion, avocado and sour cream. A match made in heaven. Seriously give it a go. You won’t regret it and I can guarantee it will become one of your firm favourites going forward.

 Mexican Chilli Beef with Butternut Squash

Adapted from a recipe ‘Beef and Squash Chilli’ in the December 2014 issue of Bon Appetit

Serves 4

1 large dried pasilla chilli (2 if it is small)

1 dried ancho chilli

700ml chicken broth/stock

2 tbsp olive oil

1kg boneless stewing steak/beef chuck, cut into bite sized pieces

 1tsp rock salt and black pepper

1 large white onion, finely chopped

8 garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp tomato puree

350ml lager

1 small (500g) butternut squash skin removed, cubed into bite sized pieces

1 lime, juice only

******

To serve

2 avocado, diced into 1 inch cubes

3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, dry roasted

1 tbsp of sour cream per serving

1 red onion, finely sliced

1. First dry roast the dried chillies in a frying pan for a couple of minutes on both sides so that they darken and soften. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl with 500ml of boiling water for up to 30 minutes. Then drain and remove the stork and the seeds and place the chillies in a blender along with the chicken stock, and blend until smooth.

2. In a heavy based pan – I use my Le Creuset Pot – heat the oil and then add the seasoned stewing steak and stir at intervals until the redness has gone and the meat becomes brown. This will take around 5-7 minutes. When the beef is brown take it out of the pan using a slotted spoon and place on a plate. There will be a fair amount of liquid that has come from the beef. Once the beef has been removed, turn up the heat so that the liquid evaporates. This will only take a couple of minutes.

3. Once the pan has become dry, add the onion. You may find you need to add a little more oil at this stage. Stir the onion so that it becomes coated in the remnants of the beef juices, add a pinch more salt at this stage. After 4 minutes add the garlic and stir well into the onions. Let the onions and garlic cook together for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the oregano, ground cumin, tomato puree and stir together for a minute before returning the beef to the pan along with the lager. Increase the heat so that the lager begins to be absorbed. After a couple of minutes add the chilli puree that you made to begin with. Increase the heat so that it boils and then reduce it and leave to simmer gently for around 30 minutes.

5. Add the squash and continue to simmer for a further 15-20 minutes or until the squash has softened. Add the lime juice and stir gently. Leave to rest before serving.

6. Place the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and then add 1 tsp of olive oil over the pumpkin seeds. Place in the oven for no more than 10 minutes, being careful to check they do not burn. Let them cool before serving.

To plate up add the Mexican chilli beef, a dollop of sour cream on the side, the roasted pumpkin seeds over the chilli beef and sour cream, a scattering of thinly sliced red onions and then a few avocado cubes. The combination of all these flavours makes for a really memorable meal.

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This past week I have been avoiding the kitchen. Don’t worry I am not on some crazy January diet that involves me starving myself or anything, goodness no. For those of you who read my last post you’ll know that my boiler died a death over a week ago, which has resulted in my house becoming rather Baltic. The kitchen is the coldest room in the house so instead of pottering in there as I normally would, when the heating works, I have been hibernating in one of the smallest rooms in the house – the study, with an electric heater going at full blast. It’s fairly roasty toasty so I try to avoid leaving it for long periods of time.

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However, when my mother in-law (aka my culinary spy) recently came back from a trip to Sri Lanka, she handed me a piece of paper with a very short ingredients list for a tamarind noodles dish that she has eaten and adored by a chef called Anura. If you are out there Anura and are reading this then this dish is in honour of you.

The recipe was for the sauce itself and I just got creative in turning it into a dish that my whole family will adore. If you don’t love tofu then you could always replace it with chicken or pork by following the same steps, but crispy five spice tofu – what’s not to like folks!

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Take a look at those crispy tofu bites, with sweet red peppers, soya beans and tamarind noodles, which have been coated in yet more tamarind sauce.

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Tamarind Noodles with Five Spice Tofu

Serves 4

tamarind sauce

3 tbsp tamarind paste

4 tbsp jaggery (palm sugar)

3 tbsp coconut milk

2 tbsp caster sugar

75ml chicken stock

2 lemongrass, chopped very finely

*****

350g firm tofu, bite sized cubes

2 tsp Chinese five spice

2 tbsp cornflour

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 sweet red pepper, cut julienne

200g frozen soya beans

4 nests of medium egg noodles

1. First cut the tofu into bite sized cubes. Place the cornflour and Chinese five spice into a shallow bowl and then add the tofu so that the cubes are all coated in the flour.

2. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is hot add the tofu in batches, turning at intervals so that it browns and crisps slightly. Place on kitchen roll to soak up the oil whilst you are frying the next batch.

3. Boil all the ingredients of the tamarind sauce until the sauce is smooth. Transfer to a pouring jug.

4. Using the same pan as the tamarind sauce, gently fry the sweet red peppers so that they soften. This will only take a couple of minutes.

5. In another pan boil some water and add the soya beans. After 3 minutes add the noodles and cook according to packet (usually a couple of minutes). Strain and place in a mixing bowl along with the sweet red peppers and 2 tbsp tamarind sauce. Mix together well.

6. Place the noodles into bowls and add the five spice tofu on top along with a little more tamarind sauce.

Serve and eat whilst hot. Enjoy.

Any leftover tamarind sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. 

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Snow is forecast for London this week and our boiler has decided that this is the week to completely pack up on us *weeps*. Whilst we wait for a new one to be found and fitted, a small fan heater keeps me from freezing in the study. To keep mood and spirits up I have decided that comfort food is what is needed. Step forward ‘chicken and egg kati rolls’.

They are the perfect lunch time (or anytime come to thing of it) snack to perk you up and give you a feeling of happy blissful contentment.

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My husband is originally from Kolkata and these rolls, or wraps if you will, are very popular in the city. They are a cross between a Mexican burrito and a Lebanese chicken shawarma. In short, they are ridiculously delicious and one is never enough. Take a look at the locals in action on this little YouTube clip below.

I have seen some have a little egg omelette inside as well as the chicken, but I find the way that I prepare them below (and also in the video clip) works efficiently and quickly and allows you to wrap the Kathi roll more easily.

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 To save time you can buy your chapatis (or you could use paratha) but I find that making your own is pretty quick and easy and whilst not as circular as the store bought ones are equally delicious. I use a tawa, which is a flat disc like frying pan, which I picked up at my local Indian store, but if you do not have one a regular frying pan will work equally well.

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There are three steps to making these rolls – 1) the chicken filling, which can be made in advance, 2) the chapatis with the egg coating on one side, 3) the coriander and mint chutney, which can also be made in advance.

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They are best eaten straight away when they are hot. You can make a number of the chapatis with the egg topping and place them in a low warm oven to keep warm, whilst you prepare the rest or you can serve them as and when you prepare the chapatis.

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 My coriander and mint chutney is great with any of my curries and can be stored in the fridge for a week. I like to pop a couple of teaspoonfuls in my kathi roll to give it that extra kick. With a squeeze of lime on top then you have yourself a truly delicious treat.

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Coriander and Mint Chutney

1 handful of fresh coriander, washed and chopped

1 handful of fresh mint, washed and chopped

1 (or 2 if you prefer it hotter) small green chilli, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp fresh ginger roughly chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp sugar

salt to taste

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

  1. Place all the ingredients into a small blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Taste and add more salt/sugar as necessary.
  2. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.

 

******

Indian Chapatis with an egg coating

 Makes around 6-8 depending on the size of your chapatis

 200g chapatti (wholemeal) flour

 1 tsp sea salt

 2 tbsp sunflower oil

 125ml warm water

3 eggs, whisked

  1. In a large bowl place the flour, salt and oil and rub together with your fingertips. Gradually add the water so that a dough forms and all the flour is gathered up into one large dough ball.
  2. Place the dough ball on a floured surface and kneed for around 8 minutes so that the dough is soft and springs back when you poke it with your finger.
  3. Cover the dough with cling film and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Kneed once again for a couple of minutes, before breaking the dough up into smaller dough balls the size of large ping pong balls.
  5. Roll out the small dough ball so that it is circular and thin.
  6. Heat your frying pan or tawa on a medium heat and when it is hot add the chapati (do not add any oil). When you begin to see the chapati form bubbles, after about 30 seconds, you can have a look underneath to see if it is beginning to lightly bronze in places. If it is turn over carefully and using a folded over tea towel press down on the chapati and it will begin to puff up. Press down where the puffing occurs to help the air circulate around the chapati. Do not worry if yours does not puff up every time, it will still taste good.
  7. Gently pour a little of the whisked egg mix onto the side of the chapati that has bronzed slightly and using the back of a spoon swirl it around the whole of the chapati and  then carefully turn it over so that the egg cooks onto the chapati.
  8. Place the chapati onto a warm plate and keep in a low heated oven whilst you prepare the rest of the chapatis.

******

Spiced Tomato Chicken filling

2 tsp vegetable/sunflower oil

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp chat masala

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

300g boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces

1/4 tsp garam masala

To serve

1 red onion, finely sliced

2 limes, quartered

2 tsp coriander and mint chutney (see recipe above)

1. In a pan heat the oil and add the onion and salt and allow the onion to soften for around 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and ginger and stir with the onion so that it does not burn.

3. Add all the spices, aside for the garam masala and mix well with the onion, garlic and ginger.

4. Add the chopped tomato and allow to soften for another 5 minutes.

5. Add the chicken and stir into the other ingredients. Place a lid on the pan and allow to cook, stirring at intervals for 15 minutes.

6. Remove the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes so that all the sauce is absorbed and the dish looks dry.

7. Before turning off the heat add the garam masala and stir. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.

My fan heater now seems to have broken. I seem to be jinxed. Right I am off to fill up my hot water bottle – something I can usually rely on.

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As an alternative to a typical English Sunday roast I thought I would tempt you with a Chinese spiced alternative that is sticky, sweet and balances perfectly with the saltiness from the pork and crackling. It’s a real family crowd pleaser and I can guarantee you all the plates will be completely clean after everyone has devoured their portion. This time I served mine with pak choi and some white fluffy rice, but you can equally serve with mangetout, green beans, Chinese greens, noodles – the list is endless.

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Take a look at these close ups and you can almost smell the five spice and the honey from looking at these glorious hunks of meat. With the juices from the meats you can quickly make a little sauce to run all over the meat and rice (the sauce was made just after these photos were taken so you are going to have to imagine the meat with a little bit of dark sauce running all over it).

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The meat requires as much marinading as you can manage. This time I only managed about an hour – kept at room temperature, but if you are super organised you can prepare it the night before and leave it in the fridge over night and then bring it out in the morning so that it is at room temperature when you place it in the oven.

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Before marinading the meat make sure your butcher, or you, has scored the meat so that there is a deep lattice effect running along the top of the fat. Once this is done you can then cover the meat in the marinade. Make sure you use your hands to massage the meat and skin.

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After cooking don’t worry if the crackling looks a little black (see photo below) – it’s meant to. The sauce has darkened the meat and the crackling to perfection. Let it rest for 10 minutes under foil before cutting up.

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 Chinese Roast Pork

Serves 4

800g boned and rolled pork shoulder

*******

pork marinade

1 heaped tsp Chinese five spice

2 tsp garlic paste

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

*******

Sauce

all the gooeyness from the baking tray post cooking the pork

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp boiling water

*******

for the park choi

4 garlic cloves, sliced

4 bundles park choi

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1/2 tbsp sesame oil

rice or noodles to serve

*******

1. First marinade the pork with the ingredients above either for an hour or if you are super organised, overnight. If you are marinading for an hour, leave the pork marinading at room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees if using fan) and when the oven is hot place the pork on a roasting tray in the middle of the oven. Cook for 1 hour turning the pork over after 30 minutes of cooking time.

3. If after about 50 minutes the crackling has not crackled sufficiently increase the temperature of the oven to 200 degrees and cook for 10 minutes by which time the fat will have crackled to perfection.

4. Remove from the oven and then cover with foil for 10 minutes to rest on a warmed plate.

5. Prepare the rice or noodles so that they are ready to serve in 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile to make the sauce, scrape all the gooeyness from the bottom of the roasting tray and add the honey, soy sauce and water. Stir so that all the ingredients mix well together. Simmer for a minute and then pour into a warmed sauce jug.

7. In a separate large pan, gently fry the garlic in the sesame oil for 2 minutes and then add the washed pak choi. The pak choi will wilt slightly within a couple of minutes, but which time it is ready to serve.

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Happy New Year everyone. As January strides forth I know that everyone sets out with very good intentions to exercise more, drink less, read more, be more sociable, cook more, be healthier and I honestly  think that to rebalance and set goals is a good thing. I am realistic though and I know that by February some of our old ways will have crept back.

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This pudding is probably the last thing you feel like eating in January after all the excesses of Christmas, but I think it is definitely a good one to have up your sleeve if you are having guests over. It is rich and decadent (I have to share a pot) and can be made well in advanced. I often make up a batch and then freeze them until I am ready to use them. From frozen, it’s simply a case of putting them in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 15-17 minutes and then they are ready. If you bake them without freezing them they only take  10-12 minutes.  Sponge like on the outside and rich molten larva on the inside. How easy is that?

Cardamom Chantilly cream is the perfect companion to the fondants and again very quick to whip up, literally. The cream takes the richness off the fondants and I personally love the taste of cardamom so think it works really well with the chocolate. I hope you agree.

So when you are back to eating chocolate give this a try and let me know how you get on. I can guarantee you will impress your guests.

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Chocolate, Chilli and Cinnamon Fondants

makes 8

2 tbsp butter, melted

cocoa powder, for dusting

200g cooking chocolate, broken up – I like this one (sometimes I use 100g dark and 100g milk)

200g unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

4 egg yolks only

200g plain flour

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp cinnamon powder

icing sugar for dusting

*******

Cardamom Chantilly Cream

250ml double cream

2 tbsp caster sugar

7 cardamom pods opened and then the seeds grounded

*******

1. Using the 2 tablespoons of melted butter brush the inside of the fondant moulds and then place in the freezer for 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the freezer and coat once again and immediately after coating one fondant mould add a little cocoa powder so that you completely cover the inside of the mould.

3. Preheat your oven (I use a fan oven) to 180 degrees.

4. In a pan gently boil some water and then place a bowl in the pan with the broken cooking chocolate and butter. Let the butter and chocolate gradually melt, stirring at intervals.

5. In a mixing bowl whisk (I use an electric whisk) the eggs, egg yolks and sugar so that it thickens slightly. This will take a couple of minutes. Add the flour and then gradually pour in the melted chocolate and butter. Continue to whisk. Add the chilli flakes and cinnamon. Taste to check on flavour. I sometimes add more chilli flakes at this stage, but it’s up to you!

6. Pour the chocolate mixture into a measuring jug and then pour into the moulds so that they are 3/4 full.

7. You can either put them in the freezer at this point, ready to use at another time or you can place in the oven immediately. If cooking from frozen place them on the centre shelf for 15-17 minutes. If cooking immediately cook them for 10 minutes. I like them really soft in the middle but if you prefer them less runny in the middle then leave them in the oven for an extra minute or two max.

8. Once cooked leave to rest for a minute before placing a plate on top of the mould and turning upside down so that it is the right way up. The mould will easily come away from the chocolate fondant. Should it need a helping hand gently shake making sure to hold the plate firmly in place.

9. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve with cardamom chantilly cream, which perfectly balances the richness of the chocolate with the smooth subtle tones of the the cardamom and cream.

********

Cardamom Chantilly Cream

1. Pour the double cream into a mixing bowl and whisk so that it firms up and peeks are created.

2. Add the caster sugar and grounded cardamom and continue to whisk so that it become light, thick and fluffy.

Store in the fridge until ready to use.

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