The Fruits Of My Labour

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The summer’s been quiet on Molly’s Kitchen. Don’t worry, we have been eating. We’ve just been outside in it, rather than inside, writing about it.

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Oh, that and there have been two big changes in our life. Firstly, we got an allotment in April, and secondly we had a baby in June. They’re both hard work. But are just beginning to pay off. So, today’s recipe is all veg from either the garden or allotment, minus the alliums. Apparently today could be the last day of summer, so you’ll forgive the brevity of this post…

Borlotti bean and goats’ cheese salad with barbecued escalopes and roasted vegetables – Serves 2

Borlotti bean and goat’s cheese salad

A bowlful of borlotti beans, cooked (simmer for 40 minutes)

Chunk of goats’ cheese, cubed

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Handful of torn basil leaves

Simple dressing of a few good glugs of olive oil, juice of half a lemon and pinch of salt

Roast Potatoes and Courgette

Enough potatoes for two people, peeled and diced

1 courgette, chopped into small chunks

3 small red onions

Small handful of garlic cloves

Sprinkling of rosemary, thyme and savoury

Seasoning

Parboil the potatoes for 8-10 mins (you want some fluff to them). Drain and shake. Super-heat a roasting tray with a few generous glugs of olive oil and salt at 190-200c. Pour in all the veg, season. Shake a bit, then whack in the oven. Shake / stir around after about twenty minutes (gives you time to go outside and start the barbecue / have a glass of wine). Roast for about an hour (until crisp and golden).

Pork Escalopes (thanks to Jamie who was on meat duty tonight  – makes him feel all manly)

Marinade

Garlic 2 cloves peeled, halved thrown in the mortar or pestle (whichever one is the bowl)

Bunch of Thyme (probably about 8 sprigs) thrown in twigs and all

Large glugs of olive oil – probably about 6 tbsp

A healthy grind of pepper (hold off on the salt as we add just prior to cooking to avoid moisture loss)

Grind together.

Meat

Pork – in this case leg escalopes but chops, ribs, whatever as long as its pig (but not Longpig)

Lay it out on the board (you should probably cover with cling-film but I never bother) firstly bash with something heavy and flat (the flat side of the meat hammer). When at the desired thin-ness hit a little lighter with the angry tenderizing side of the hammer

Marry meat with marinade, cover, refrigerate for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Make Fire – add salt to meat – add meat to fire – eat meat – watch fire.

To Serve:

Few spoonfuls of greek yoghurt.

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Smoked Salmon Scotch Eggs

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We’ve been without an oven for well over a month now. Luckily the change in the seasons has meant that we don’t need quite as many pies and roasts as before. But my god I miss my bread. Shop-bough bread sucks. It’s light and airy and burns in the toaster. It’s over-priced. Posh bread is expensive and disappointing. Anyway, this isn’t about bread, but I obviously needed to get that off my chest. This is about some lovely little (enormous really) smoked salmon scotch eggs that were great as a dinner, perfect for picnics and just pleasing to have around. They’re lighter than the traditional sausagemeat ones, but equally delicious, and require no oven. Hurrah.

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I first came across the idea at The Boot Inn, which is a fantastic pub that serves slightly unusual yet reasonably priced food. This was the first time I’d tried making them and I pretty much made it up, although I did steal the idea of adding mashed potato from James Martin as they goop didn’t stick enough around the hard-boiled eggs. So I guess it’s a bit like a fish cake, smothering a hard-boiled egg, coated in breadrumbs and deep-fried. Yum. I served it with new potatoes, spinach and a chive and red onion creamy sauce. I had thought we’d manage two each, but my god these turn into beasts, so just one sufficed. So the dinner that night was delicious, but I think they’re actually better the next day, cold.

Smoked Salmon Scotch Eggs – Makes 4

240g smoked salmon, finely chopped

1 tblsp dill, finely chopped

½ red onion, finely diced

Zest of 1 lemon

25g grated parmesan

1 tspn horseradish cream

1 large potato, mashed

4 hard-boiled eggs

Mix together all the ingredients and mold around each egg.

The Coating

Small bowl of seasoned flour (plus 1 tspn mustard powder)

1 egg, beaten

200ml breadcrumbs (thank you oven)

1 litre of vegetable or sunflower oil

Dip each covered egg in the flour, then egg and then a healthy coating of breadcrumbs.

Heat a pan with the oil, until when you drop a breadcrumb in it boils vigorously (careful not to overdo it as I have done before) and turns golden.

Then cook the coated eggs in the oil for about three or four minutes (until each has turned a deep golden colour).

Remove and drain on kitchen paper whilst you cook the remaining eggs.

The Sauce

3 tbslp crème fraîche

½ red onion, finely diced

Bunch of chives, chopped

Juice of half a lemon

Seasoning

In a knob of butter, gently cook the onion until golden. Add the cream and chives at  the last minute, remove from heat squeeze in the lemon and season.

To Serve:

Buttered, boiled new potatoes

Wilted spinach

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Reckless Ravioli

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When the washing up takes way longer than the eating, you’ve got to question yourself. And I did momentarily, but would happily repeat, and so the recipe below. I wanted to use the dried portabello mushrooms I’d had for a while, and it seemed fitting to use fresh homemade pasta; thus using the hens’ eggs. I perhaps should have stopped there, but the mascarpone in the fridge was calling to me, and so the pasta became ravioli. I then did other flourishes because I was enjoying my time in the kitchen, whilst Jamie was doing time on Molly’s bathing routine. I love being left alone in the kitchen. It’s time to relax. Sometimes I’ll happily admit that I go overboard with the ingredients (was there really a need to roast the red pepper or use toasted pine nuts?). So tonight I was using a lot of pans, a lot of ingredients, all resulting in a lot of swift, happy munching. Yum.

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The Pasta – serves two (it’s basically 100g and 1 egg per person)

200g Tipo ‘00’ flour

2 eggs

In a bowl, make a well in the centre of the flour, and crack the eggs into it. Using a fork, beat the eggs, whilst slowly incorporating more and more flour. Then start using your hands, and once the dough is roughly formed into a ball, start kneading on a suitable flat surface. Once the dough feels really silky then it’s done, usually takes five to ten minutes. Then cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge whilst you make the pasta sauce (dough needs at least 15 minutes).

After the resting period, divide the dough in half and squish half into the pasta machine, on the widest setting, fold in half and repeat a couple of times. Gradually reduce the thickness until the pasta is silky and thin. It’s probably best to cut the pasta in half, otherwise it will become unmanageably long. Repeat with other half of the dough.

To Make the Ravioli:

Lay down one sheet on a floured surface, and every five centimetres or so, do a teaspoon dollop of filling, along the length of pasta. Then lightly brush with water around the sides of the pasta, and then lay another pasta sheet over the top. Cup the pasta with palm of hand, expelling any air, and press down to make the ravioli. Cut off any excess pasta (just want to leave a bit along the sides so the ravioli don’t leak.

As the pasta’s fresh it only takes two to three minutes to cook (in boiling water). Use a large saucepan to avoid the ravioli sticking to each other.

The Filling:

1 red pepper, roasted until blackened. Cool, peel off skin and cut into small chunks

200g mascarpone cheese

Few grates of parmesan

1 small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Squeeze of lemon

Few grates of nutmeg

Seasoning

Mix all together in a bowl.

The Sauce:

4 rashers smoky bacon, chopped

1 red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 packet of portabello / porcini dried mushrooms, re-hydrated as per instructions (keeping the liquor)

Dash of dry sherry

3 dollops of crème fraîche

In a pan, fry the bacon in olive oil. When crispy, add the onions, shortly followed by the garlic. I then made the ravioli at this point, to resume on the sauce nearer the time (would only take 10 minutes).

Next fry the mushrooms for five or so minutes, then add the sherry and about 250ml of the mushroom liquor. Reduce down ‘til it’s almost gone, then remove pan from the heat and add the crème fraîche. Season to taste.

To Serve:

Handful of toasted pine nuts

Sprinkling of flat-leaf parsley

Few grates of parmesan

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Pear and Almond Cake for Alan

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This cake is adapted from Aunty Di’s recipe and I made it for Uncle Alan. Except Di isn’t my Aunty and Alan isn’t my Uncle.  But this is what we do when we develop a deep affection for people isn’t it?

Diane is in fact Aunty Meg’s mum. Megan is of course not my Aunt but my besty in Australia but, owing to the fact that I now have children, she’s referred to as Aunty Megs. Both Megs and Di are Domestic Goddi. Megs served a version of this cake for us in Australia with ice-cream AND cream and it was divine.  I’ve made a few tweaks (namely the ground almonds, flaked almonds and lemon juice but only so as not to completely copy). This cake deepened my affection for Diane, now known as Aunty Di.

But back to Alan. We are in the process of doing up a house and Alan is my builder. I love Alan. Not in a sexual way, but in a Dad/Uncley kind of way. Alan is of a Dad-ish age, has a kind face and solves problems. His main concern seems to be saving me money and he never ever patronises me even when I most deserve it (like this week when my eyes went funny with disinterest over the steel joist and I let the sex down by asking when I could start testing paint colours on the walls).

To make matters worse, I’ve just baked him a heart-shaped cake.  Giving it to him yesterday was mortifying and the exchange went something like this;

Siobhann gets out of car, Alan leans forward to move an object out of Siobhann’s way. Siobhann misinterprets the gesture:

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  • S: “Oh, were you about to kiss me on the cheek?”
  • A: “er, no” >laughs nervously<
  • S: “Oh god sorry. Um, I baked you a cake” >laughs nervously< (rummages around on front seat)
  • S: (presenting heart-shaped shaped cake). “Oh, sorry. It’s a heart. It was the only tin that worked. Don’t get the wrong idea…” >laughs uproariously at an unnecessarily high pitch<
  • A: >laughs nervously and starts retreating to the safety of a pile of rubble< “Shall we discuss the latest on the steel…?”

I went back to the house today. Alan wasn’t there. The cake only has two slices out of it. I think it’s because he’s been busy with the steel thing.

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Ingredients:

  • 185g Butter
  • 410g tin of pears (or apple or any other tinned fruit for that matter. And in fact very ripe pears would work for this)
  • 3/4 cup of caster sugar (I used soft brown as it was all I had in and it was lovely)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon.

Method:

  1. Drain pears into a sieve and drain thoroughly whilst you squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl. Pop the drained fruit into the bowl of lemon juice.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together and add the eggs one and a time, beating thoroughly in between.
  3. Add sifted self raising flour and almond flour. Combine with a spoon without overworking.
  4. Add a pinch of salt and the lemon juice from the pears
  5. Scrape the mixture into a cake tin, push the fruit into the mixture.
  6. Sprinkle flaked almonds on top.
  7. Bake in a moderate oven for about 25minutes. In my oven (which overcooks EVERYTHING), I baked it for 20mins and it was slightly underdone at the bottom. The skewer came out clean but it was the mixture underneath the pears that wasn’t quite done so watch out for that.

Choc Chip Oatmeal Cookies

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So, a few weeks into preschool and things have started crumble. Molly absolutely loved it to begin with, and had no problem with me leaving her and didn’t have a bad word to say about it. Then she had quite a nasty virus over her birthday, which meant she missed a week of preschool and since then she’s not really wanted to go. She keeps complaining that it’s too loud there, and on Monday I was called up as she was apparently inconsolable. I stayed for the remainder of the session, and she was OK, but hasn’t exactly been looking forward to today’s class. So that brings me to today, we arrived a little later (hoping to avoid any loud excitement), and I tried getting her to play with things there and to play with the teachers. She would do that a bit, but as soon as I started to back away, she’d fling herself around me and her little face would start to crumple up with a new emotion. That of abandonment.

She did however, try and resign herself to being left, and so now I am at home worrying about how she’s getting on.

Anyway, this brings me back to today’s recipe, which is to replace the peanut butter biscuits as apparently we’re not supposed to smuggle nuts into preschool for fear of allergies. So, given that, what Molly would really like is chocolate, but I’m still holding on to the vague notion of mid-morning health (soon I’ll just send her along with a Mars bar), I thought I’d try my friend Meg’s recipe for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Meg made these for us well over a year ago, and they were the best cookies I’d ever tasted. I’m afraid to admit that even though she gave me the recipe ages ago, this was the first time I’d tried it – think I was put off by the American measurements (what the hell is a stick of butter anyway?).

Last night, with the able assistance of both Molly and Jamie (the chocolate chips seemed to be a bit less than a cupful, though Molly), we set to making the cookies. Amazing. Washed down with glasses of milk. Just hope the cookie will help de-crumple and crumble her little face today…

Ingredients – Makes 28 – 30 Cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened (this is just shy of 200g)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (all I had was golden caster sugar so only used this)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups oats
1 cup chocolate chips

To Make:
Heat oven to 350°F (this is 176.6c – I just had to guess as our oven isn’t terribly accurate, and they needed four minutes more baking time). In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and chocolate chips; mix well.

With hands, form little balls, then squish down into rounds and place on baking paper on a baking tray.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on tray; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered. Eat with milk!

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Pack To Preschool

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Tomorrow marks a milestone for both myself and Molly. It’s her first day of preschool, and although I’m going with her for her first session, it marks the beginning of independence. I’ve been fortunate enough to have balanced motherhood with work, and work from home when she naps. So she’s never been to nursery, and therefore I’ve never left her with anyone other than close family and trusted friends. It’s probably just as big a day for me as her, and although I’ve been subtly talking to her about it for weeks now, not wanting it to be a shock, I’m not too sure how I feel about it yet. I’m hoping we’ll both take it in our stride.

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So, along with the failed attempts at name-tagging her clothes, other preparations were to provide a snack for mid-morning. Long gone are the days of having emergency cheesy poofs, as I’m loath to admit that pretty much most week days we frequent a café, and I treat her to something chocolatey. However, when I was checking the preschool out, I noticed that most children seemed to have fruit or other healthy snacks lovingly prepared. Not wanting Molly to miss out on her mid-morning pick-me-up, but also not wanting to provide brownies or the like, thus ensuing jealousy, thieving or disapproving looks from key-workers, I thought I’d create some peanut butter biscuits, which could be mistaken for health food, or at least aren’t eye-catchingly chocolate coloured.

These were based on a Paul Rankin recipe, but I used dark soft sugar for a more caramel taste, and I also added vanilla to compliment the peanut butter. These biscuits are soft, buttery and melt in the mouth, and luckily were not disapproved of by the beneficiary.

Makes 16

8 tbsp plain flour

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter

1 egg yolk

50g soft butter

½ tspn vanilla essence

Icing sugar for dusting

To Make

Preheat the oven to 180c.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, bar the icing sugar. Then using your hands, bring together on a board (no need to flour), and divide in half, then keep rolling and dividing until you have 16 balls.

Place on a baking tray on baking paper (no need to grease), and with a fork, press down to leave a flattened indent.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and dust with icing sugar. They’ll keep in an airtight container for a week, but best eaten fresh.

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Merry Christmas!

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Yuletide greetings from us all at Molly’s Kitchen!

This year I decided to pay homage to my Grannie’s chocolate log cabin, that she would make for my brother and I.

Looking back, we must have been spoiled, as she knew we weren’t particularly fond of Christmas cake or pudding, so she’d make us a delicious chocolate log cabin cake, that was both enchanting and delicious (particularly the chocolate butter icing).

This Christmas, we’re spending it in Whitby, renting a cottage with Jamie’s family, so we can all be under one roof. Knowing that Molly thinks that any cake that’s not chocolate is a waste of good butter and sugar, I thought I’d spoil her with my version of Grannie’s cake.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have Grannie’s recipe, all I had was the image in my mind and the memory of rich, dark chocolate. I decided upon a fairly straightforward chocolate fudge cake recipe, after much googling.

With Jamie’s auntie Jill as sous-chef, and Jamie as chief architect, we managed to fashion together quite a respectable looking house.

The Cake – taken from Tana Ramsay’s on Red Online – I made twice the amount for two round 8 inch sponges. The icing I didn’t double, and it was just the right amount to cover and sandwich the whole house. We did everything by hand rather than electrically, so have changed the method accordingly.

Serves: 6-8
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 55 minutes

You will need

For the sponge:
175g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
150g self-raising flour, sifted
30g cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
175g soft dark brown sugar
3 large free-range eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
55g plain dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped

For the fudge icing:
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sifted
200g plain dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/392°F/ gas mark 6. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the base with parchment paper.

2. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs, and add gradually, adding a tiny bit of flour whilst you do so stops it from curdling (thanks Jill!). Next add the cocoa, and vanilla essence, and then fold in the flour and chocolate pieces.

3. Turn the sponge mixture into the prepared tin and lightly tap on the work surface to level it out.

4. Bake in the oven for 55 minutes to one hour, until the sponge springs back to the touch of a fingertip and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Remove the cake from the oven, allow to cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

6. Meanwhile, make the icing. Put the butter and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and mix together. Add the melted chocolate and stir to incorporate it evenly.

The Construction

As I had forgotten the square tin I’d borrowed off Mum, I had to make do with the round tin at the holiday house. After seeing the height, I decided I didn’t really want a bungalow, and after much deliberation, baked a second sponge. Next I brought in Jamie’s architectural skills, and after many plans and diagrams we came up with cutting the sponges into squares and sandwiching together, and then using the leftover crescents to roof the house (mortaring with more icing). Laying a beam of sponge perpendicular to the attic, and then covering the whole house in the chocolate butter icing. I then lay down the timber roof (chocolate flakes), snapping off one to make a chimney.

The house was then presented on premade white icing, which I also used for snow on the roof (which acted as cement for the timbers), and windows (the frames were black piped icing). The door was leftover sponge, with yellow piped icing for doorknob and letterbox. Lastly I dusted with icing sugar for a further snow effect.

The only thing left to do was to present it to Molly and her cousin Danny. The looks on their faces was well worth the effort, and I can now see why Grannie loved to make it so. Happy birthday Grannie!

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In which we suffer extreme Parma disappointment

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December 8th 2012 was an extremely sad day for ham.

It went something like this.

Having waited for an entire year for our pig legs to mature to something resembling Proscuitto (see Proscuitto style home part 1 and part 2 for the back story), Minnie, Jamie and their Molly, plus me, Tom and our Molly gathered to cut down our hams and feast. With beer.

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We cut down the hams, unravelled the muslin and unveiled a tolerable level of maggotry. This is to be expected, especially on the outer hard layers. In the warmer months, fly lay their eggs on the muslin and these very clever and very hungry wrigglers weasel their way through the layers to the ham. Quite often, they only make it to the hard outer layer and their progress can be halted with a knife.

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So, upbeat and all optimistic, we just cut off the maggoty bits.

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However, we encountered more problems further in. If you’ve read the first posts you’ll know that we had our pork legs tunnel boned (to remove the bone). The cavity that is left needs to be thoroughly salted in order to prevent the ham from rotting from the inside out. All told, we thought we’d done a pretty fine job all those months ago. The ham thought differently and both legs showed evidence of rotting.

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We tried to slice our way out of it but, when it came down to it, we were left with such a small portion of proscuitto that we didn’t think it worth holding on to. Plus the visuals of boring maggots and memories of Tom’s smelly finger (from when he plunged it into the rotting porky tunnel and sniffed it) kind of put us off a bit…

It didn’t stop us trying to feed it to the kids though.

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My Molly turned her nose up at it and munched warily on the cucumber with suspicious eyes. Clearly a born gastronome, Minnie and Jamie’s Molly devoured a fairly decent amount of the stuff. As of 19.12.12 she’s still with us. I should say at this point that what we did slice off and sample was very very good. Enjoyed wafer thin, it had a lovely delicate flavour and would have made great vacuumed-packed presents for friends (which is what Minnie and Jamie did with theirs last year).

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Both Minnie’s butcher Mr Finn and my new butcher reckon we need to hang the hams in a cold fridge. Both butchers have other suggestions for protecting the hams other than muslin too so, next time we might try an altogether different approach. The reality is, if we’d salted the inside cavity as thoroughly as we thought we had then we’d both probably have some delicious proscuitto to tuck into as the maggots weren’t the main problem. Let’s call it parma karma for not doing the job properly at the outset.

So, we are sad about ham. But we will learn. We will move on. And will try again.

Until then, it’s bog standard ham and turkey for us this year.



Gateau Manque

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This feels a bit like I’m resurrecting myself from the dead. I haven’t posted since July. JULY!! In the food sense, I might as well have been dead. Pregnancy had a terrible impact on my pallet, food choices and even my ability to cook.

In the first instance, ordinarily delicious food tasted like dog food. Cue cassoulet, slaved over for four days that I couldn’t even look at by the time it was served. It gave me the dry heaves.

In the second, all I pretty much wanted to eat was carbs and butter. Ideally fried. Very trailer-park. Not very ‘on-brand’ and somewhat limiting.

Lastly, when I did attempt to cook anything slightly more ambitious or interesting, I overcooked it. In fact, there have been many a dish over the last few months that I’ve cooked and intended to blog but, fucked it up. It felt a bit like I had dodgy wiring. But Minnie’s ‘Happy Birthday’ post gave me a virtual slap around the face. Her blogging hand reached out and plunged my sleep-deprived head into a bucket of ice-cold water and reminded me to stop bloody whining and crack on. So, bearing in mind I’m breast feeding and I NEED CAKE, I thought I’d post my favourite chocolate cake recipe in the world.

This is a recipe I have married into as it’s a family recipe on Tom’s side. It’s dished up for everyones birthday and is completely sublime.

Cooked to perfection, it will be light as a feather on the outer edges, slightly gooey in the centre all the while so rich and fudgy you won’t know yourself after the first bite. The idea is to deliberately undercook it, hence the name Gateau Manque, which literally translates to a ‘missed’ or ‘lack’ cake in French. True to form, I overcooked it. Twice. So I couldn’t even fuck it up, without fucking it up (yes, it’s taken me a month to get this post out despite having cooked the cake umpteen times before with no problems.)

And the best thing about it is the recipe is so easy to remember. THE WEIGHT OF FOUR EGGS IN BUTTER, SUGAR AND CHOCOLATE, HALF THE WEIGHT IN FLOUR. Did you get that? That’s it. And, if you’ve ever made a cake at all, the method will be in your head too. Simply cream the butter and sugar til pale and fluffy, add beaten eggs and whisk til combined, add melted chocolate and fold in sifted flour. Use best quality dark chocolate and unsalted butter. The only real change I’ve made over time is to use dark brown soft sugar instead of white but both work.

Enjoy and share the recipe. It’s a goodun’.

ADDENDUM: Well, it would be nice to know how to cook the bloody thing wouldn’t it (she says amending the post having published already). The annoying short answer is,  it does depend on your oven. Long answer; pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees celcius. Then start checking after about 20mins. The cake is done when a clean metal skewer comes out clean when inserted at the outer edges of the cake, but has cake goo on it when inserted in the centre. With my fan assisted electric oven (which I am finally beginning to understand cooks hotter than I realise) it was taking 25 minutes. 

Autumnal Tart

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I’ve been eating a lot of boeuf bourguignon recently. Can’t get enough of it. Anyway, it means that I have a constant supply of chestnut mushrooms and lardons. It’s that time of year, where all I want to eat is salty, earthy, soupy dishes. However, even I got fed up with having soups and stews for dinner, and as the chickens are almost threatening to stop laying again for a few weeks over winter; I thought best to honour their eggs with a toothsome tart.

The Tart – Serves 6 – 8

Shortcrust pastry

1 fennel bulb, chopped

Dozen or so small chestnut mushrooms

Handful of lardons

Half a dozen cherry tomatoes

4 whole garlic cloves, gently squashed

Large sprig of thyme

Glug of olive oil

Glug of balsamic vinegar

200g ricotta cheese

3 eggs

100g double cream

½ block of goats’ cheese, cut into cubes

To Serve:

Watercress, rocket (thank you garden) and avocado salad

Firstly, pre-heat the oven to 150c. Then in a wide, shallow baking dish, throw in the fennel, mushrooms, tomatoes, lardons, garlic and thyme. Pour over the oil and vinegar, season and roast for about 45 minutes (until caramelised and sticky).

Meanwhile, fifteen minutes before the vegetables and lardons are ready; prepare the pastry. Roll it out to just bigger than your tin (about 3-4 mm thickness), and press into the tin. Push a fork into the pastry all over. Then line with baking paper, and pour in baking beans. Leave in the fridge for fifteen minutes, and in the meantime turn the oven up to 180c.

Remove the tin from the fridge and bake blind for ten minutes. Then remove the baking paper and beans, and bake for a further ten minutes.

Next, beat the eggs into the cream and ricotta, and season (heavily). Then tip the vegetables and lardons onto the pastry, then pour over the cream mixture, and finally dot with the cubes of goats’ cheese. Bake in the oven until just set (about twenty to twenty five minutes). Serve either hot, warm or cold!

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