Chocolate, Chilli and Cinnamon Fondants with Cardamom Chantilly Cream

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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.

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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.


Vietnamese inspired Salmon, Cucumber, Red Onion and Grapefruit Salad

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Up in my old neck of the woods there is a fantastic restaurant that I love to visit whilst catching up with friends. It goes by the name of Granger & Co, owned by the Australian chef Bill Granger. Bizarrely I have never purchased or been given any of Bill’s cookbook (sorry Bill – take note friends and family ;o) but if any of the dishes at his restaurant are to go by I really ought to get my hands on some copies. The restaurant is always heaving and it’s important to note that they don’t take reservations, so it is always best to go with plenty of time in hand as there may be a wait – max I have ever waited was 20 mins.

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The other day my lunch companion and I were seated to a table immediately – we were in luck – and then cast our eyes over the menu, which quite frankly has all the types of dishes that I would like to eat in a restaurant. Delicate, fresh, exotic, great flavour combinations and healthy, the menu appeals to anyone with a love of food and flavours.  I actually found it hard to make a decision as there were so many things that appealed. I opted for a Vietnamese inspired salmon salad – mainly for two reasons: firstly I have a bit of a ‘thing’ going on for Vietnamese cuisine at the moment which you’ve probably noticed and secondly I was curious to see how the dished compared to those I actually ate in Vietnam recently. It was also light and healthy, which was a bonus!

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It is no exaggeration but every mouthful was an utter delight. Making a mental note of what I was eating I was determind to replicate a similar dish at home and share it with you. I don’t know exactly what Bill used in the dressing but I have made my own twist on the dish. I have cooked it many times since and the response has been really positive. Aside from the red grapefruit, even my seven year old  really loves the dish. As alternative you could always replace the red grapefruit with fresh mango.

Vietnamese inspired Salmon, Cucumber, Red Onion and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 4

4 salmon fillets

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp sesame oil

*****

2 cucumber, sliced at diagonal angles (see photos)

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 red grapefruit, chopped into bite sized pieces

200g trimmed fine green beans

1 large handful of fresh coriander

*****

2 tbsp mirin

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

2 limes, juice only

1. In a bowl place the salmon fillets and add the soy sauce and runny honey and using your hands coat the salmon pieces and leave to marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees.

3. In a frying pan heat the sesame oil and when hot add the salmon skin side down to begin with. Literally allow to bronze slightly for a minute and then turn over gently and leave for another minute. You want to have it so the outside is delicated bronzed but not cooked all the way through. It can begin to turn a lighter pink but you want the remainder of the cooking to take place in an oven gently.

4. Spread out a large piece of  tin foil and place the salmon pieces in the centre, making sure not to break them up. Add the remaining marinade from the bowl over the salmon.  Now you need to create a Papillote effect. It’s very straightforward – all you need to do is create a salmon parcel making sure all the foil edges are closed up so that no air can escape and there is some space above the salmon so don’t enclose it too tightly.

5. Place the salmon parcel in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, by which stage it will have be cooked through and ready to crumble gently on the salad.

6. Whilst the salmon is cooking steam the green beans for a minute or two. You want to make sure they continue to have a good crunch but that the bite is taken off a little with the steaming. Equally you could boil them for a minute and then drain under cold water.

7. Add the green beens to the cucumber, red onion, red grapefruit, fresh coriander and place a good helping on eat plate.

9. Add the mirin, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, caster sugar and lime juice to create the marinade. Taste to check you have the right balance for you.

8. When the salmon is ready remove from the oven. Gently remove the skin, which will come away easily and place a salmon fillet on the top of each salad, allowing it to crumble slightly. Pour a little of the marinade over the fish and salad and serve immediately. Place the remaining marinade in a small jug for guests to add more should they wish.


Croissant Bread and Butter Pudding

Have you ever been in the situation of having croissants in your bread bin slowly going stale over a couple of days and not wanting to simply discard them?

I was in this very dilemma recently so thought that the best option was to either:

(a) feed them to the birds

or

(b) make croissant bread and butter pudding.

I opted for (b)…………..sorry birds you’ll have to make do with normal bread crumbs!!

Lardy? Most definitely.

Decadent? Well just a little bit.

Healthy? We’ll just pass on that one shall we.

Bread and butter pudding is a much loved British dessert that we can all fondly (well for the most part!) remember eating as children. Today there are so many varieties of the dish to tempt and inspire. As well as stale bread or croissants you can also use brioche or panetonne – the possibilities are limitless. I stumbled across a rather interesting and amusing website called ‘The British Bread and Butter Pudding  Appreciation Society’ when looking into the exact origins of the pudding. Do check it out here to find some interesting facts about the dish.

My daughters asked me to omit sultanas, which would normally be my go-to fruit of choice to put in the pudding, and asked for chocolate drops. The closest thing I could find in my pantry to little chocolate drops were giant chocolate buttons, so as a treat I scattered a few of these in the pudding. You can basically add any fruit to the mix – summer berries would be delicious and colourful or even blackberries in the late summer, early autumn. If you do end up using sultanas do remember to soak them first in warm water or the ones you scatter on the top will become hard and rather burnt.


I had a couple of almond croissants getting stale so added these with my regular croissants.

Croissant Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8

5 stale croissants, sliced into thin segments

3 eggs, whisked

400ml semi-skimmed milk

150ml double cream

2 tbsp caster sugar and an extra sprinkling to go on top

pinch of cinnamon powder

pinch of nutmeg

1 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp of vanilla extract

handful (or two!) of chocolate drops

1. Preheat an oven at 180 degrees (I use a fan oven). Slice the croissants evenly and line them in a greased ovenproof dish.

2. Whisk the eggs and then add the milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, vanilla extract and some of the chocolate drops. Whisk/stir the ingredients into the eggs.

3. Pour the mixture over the croissants and leave for 10 minutes to let the mixture soak into the croissants.

4. Before putting in the oven scatter with a few extra chocolate drops , along with a sprinkling of extra caster sugar.

4. Place in the oven for 30 minutes and serve immediately.

Naughty but very very nice!


Classic Lemon Tart

Sometimes in life I think it is best to get straight to the point…….

COOKING A CLASSIC LEMON TART IS NO EASY FEAT

However,  I have been fine tuning this recipe now for sometime (I had a few disasters on the pastry front) so I think that if you follow my instructions carefully you should be rewarded with a delicious dessert that will wow your friends into thinking you a natural patisserie chef in the making.

My blog has been up and running for one year now (….jumps for joy…) and after looking through all the recipes I have shared with you I realise that I have tended to ignore the sweeter things in life. This is largely because I rarely eat puddings – I just don’t really have a sweet tooth and I guess part of it stems from the fact that, for the most part, I don’t think they are massively healthy. Then again the old adage of ‘everything in moderation’ is so true, so perhaps over the coming year you may find a few more sweet recipes to tempt you.

So to the recipe in hand. Scroll through the photos below and read the tips I have added to prepare a perfect lemon tart. Let me know if you find any other tweeks necessary that you would like to share with the wider community. I would always love to hear from you.

I prepare the pastry a day ahead and leave it in the fridge. Bring it out of the fridge at least an hour before rolling so that it can acclimatise to room temperature.

Thoroughly grease the loose bottom tart tin with butter. This is really important as you want the tin to come away easily from the pastry after cooking. Failing to do so will result in the sides of your tart breaking.

Sprinkle flour on the surface that you are going to roll the pastry. I have found that to transfer the rolled pastry to the tin is virtually impossible as some of it breaks off. Do not be alarmed. Place as much of the pastry in the tin as you can and with the bits that have broken off simply piece together.  Also make sure that the pastry is sufficiently up the sides so that it is evenly spread.

Remember the bottom of the flan is not going to be seen by a wider audience as you have the lemon mixture going on top of it.

Make sure you have enough ceramic baking beans/and or mixed beans to cover the whole of the tart dish. You want to make sure that they are evenly spread.

Do not whisk the eggs so that they are frothy. A gentle whisk, using a hand whisk is suffice.

Don’t forget to strain the creamy lemon mixture before transferring into the tart base. You want the mixture to be smooth.

I added some raspberries to compliment the lemon tart in both appearance and taste. Strawberries would also be a great addition.

A scattering of icing sugar adds the finishing touch. I noticed a little hand popping into the frame of my photo just as I had taken the shot. Clearly too irresistible not to eat!

Classic Lemon Tart

Serves around 12 people

Adapted from the recipe in Red Magazine April 2012  

I use an 11 inch (29cm by 4cm) tart dish

For the pastry

300g plain flour

45g ground almonds

pinch of salt

200g butter, keep at room temperature and cut into cubes

4 tbsp caster sugar

3 egg yolks

1 1/2 (one and half) tbsp cold water

For the filling

300 ml double cream

zest of 2 lemons

juice of 8/9 lemons (so that it measures 200ml juice)

6 eggs

200g white caster sugar

1. If you can make the pastry a day in advance. If not make the pastry and leave to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Ideally using a food processor, pulse the flour, ground almonds and pinch of salt and then add the butter followed by the caster sugar. Add the add yolks and water and whizz together until the mixture forms a large clump. Work the pastry into a neat ball and wrap in clingfilm and place into the fridge, either over night or for around 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees if using a fan oven or 200 degrees if not or gas mark 6.

3. Grease the tart dish throughly. On a cold surface sprinkle some flour and roll out the pastry and transfer, as best you can, to the tart dish. If it breaks simply press the remaining pastry pieces together to cover the gaps. Make sure the pastry has sufficiently gone into all the grooves of the dish. You will probably find that you have a little pastry left over, which you can either use to make a mini tart or use as you see fit.

4. Place baking paper into the tart dish and cover with baking beans. Place in the oven for 20 minutes to bake blind. Take out of the oven and discard the baking paper and save the baking beans for another time.  Brush the pastry with egg yolk and return to the oven for a maximum of 5 more minutes. Then leave to rest before putting in the lemon mixture.

5. Put the cream in a pan with the lemon zest to infuse gently. When small bubbles appear turn off the heat.

6. Break the eggs into a bowl along with the caster sugar. Using a hand whisk gently stir together – you do not want to make them frothy so do not over do it here. Stir in the lemon juice and very slowly, so as not to cook the eggs, add the warm lemon zest cream.

7. Place the tart shell onto an oven tray and then sieve the lemon mixture into bowl/jug and gently pour into the warmed pastry tart shell. Transfer to the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 18 minutes. Keep checking for the lemon mixture to set (it becomes nicely firm and does not wobble when you move the tray!!) as you may find you can bring it out of the oven a touch sooner than this.  I left mine in for 20 minutes (as the Red Magazine recipe states) but found that it darkens some of the pastry too much (have a close inspection of final photo !).

8. Place on a wire rack to cool completely. Gently remove only the outer part of the tart dish. Serve at room temperature.  Add icing sugar, raspberries to decorate as required.


Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango – it’s totally addictive BEWARE!

It’s always a joy cooking for a foodie friend who eats everything and shares a similar enthusiasm for exciting flavours, textures and foods. Said friend is off to pastures new in California so I wanted to prepare a simple and yet interesting lunch that he may not have tried before, but that he was hopefully going to remember fondly.

In the last couple of years my love for tofu has grown exponentially, on average I would say I eat it once a week as a main meal. One of my all time favourite recipes – Ma Po Tofu – I  sometimes cook without the pork mince and add loads of spinach to compliment the tofu instead. I would really recommend you give this dish a go if you haven’t already, it’s absolutely superb.

Another dish using tofu, which I discovered more recently, is the one that I want to share with you today. It’s a perfect spring/summer dish bursting with colour and if the truth be told, totally addictive. Between the two of us we almost saw off a portion which Yotam Ottolenghi says ‘serves 6’. I know, I know, it  makes us sound rather piggy. Look we were hungry and it is so delicious I bet you too would have seconds or maybe thirds ;o). I think that as a main dish it’s serving is better suited to 4 than 6, unless your guests have sparrow appetites that is!

 Don’t be shy, once you’ve cooked it do write a comment below to let me know how you got on and  that you too had seconds/thirds.

Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango

Adapted  from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4-6

120 ml rice vinegar

40g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 lime, zest and juice

300ml sunflower oil

2 aubergines, cut into 1cm dice

396g firm tofu, cut into small cubes (a little more or less is fine so don’t worry about getting exact amount)

250g soba noodles

2 ripe mangoes, cut into strips or dice

small handful of Thai sweet basil, chopped

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 small red onion, finely sliced

1. To prepare the dressing warm the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan for a minute so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the chilli, garlic and sesame oil and leave to cool. Once it is cool add the lime juice and zest.

2. In a frying pan heat up  half the sunflower oil and gently fry the aubergine in batches. To save time I cooked the aubergine in two frying pans cooking simultaneously. When they have bronzed place on kitchen paper to cool.

3. Using the remaining sunflower oil (if necessary – you may have enough left from cooking the aubergine!) gently heat up the tofu and cook until it has a crispy light brown appearance. This should take 6-8 minutes. Similar to the aubergine place on some kitchen paper to soak up some of the oil.

4. Heat a pan of boiling salted water and cook the soba noodles for around 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water, shaking off as much excess water as possible. Place on a tea towel to dry.

5. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, herbs (save a few to scatter on top when serving),  red onion and tofu. Transfer to another serving plate/dish. You can eat immediately or set aside for a couple of hours.

The dressing resting whilst I prepare the rest of the ingredients (above)

The final result (below)

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