Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

At the end of November I made several cakes to feed friends at a church event, settling on a Mixed Fruit & Ginger version of our favourite (never known to fail) Knock Up Fruit Cake, a double sized Fragrant Marmalade Cake, made in two sandwich tins with more marmalade spread in the middle plus, as a nod towards Christmas and having come across the recipe the previous week, these White Christmas Slices.  They proved to be very ‘moreish’ and I am thinking of making some more batches to give away at Christmas.

I discovered this competition winning recipe by Caroline Richards for White Christmas Slices in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket: one of many free cards available, in this case giving new ideas for Christmas food.  It appealed because, not only did I have everything available at home (apart from the inexpensive and easily bought coconut biscuits and the white chocolate), it also looked quick, easy and did not require baking.  I rarely make a recipe exactly as written and adapted this just a little.  Firstly, I cut the amount of butter by one third as I do not like to add too much unnecessary fat.  Secondly, I felt the original recipe was lacking something and decided the something was fruit, or similar.  To compensate I added dried cranberries to give one of the flavours of Christmas: glacé cherries, sultanas/raisins, dried apricot, fig or date or even crystallised ginger could be added instead.  In fact I have decided that this successful – and useful – little recipe is highly adaptable, so variations may be posted here.  I have my eye on a gingery version, which I know would be a great hit here!  These slices are quite rich so do not make them too large:  I cut mine into bite sized squares.

Update 22.12.12:  I have just made my third batch of these this year – they go like hot cakes, or should that be hot slices!  I have also made Nigella Lawson’s Sweet & Salty Crunch Nut Bars, from her new book Kitchen, but the post will have to wait for another occasion.

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White Christmas Slices
(Makes 20-24 small pieces)

200g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter
400g coconut cookies
2tbsp runny honey
200g white chocolate
50g desiccated coconut
50g dried cranberries or alternative (see my suggestions) – optional

1.  Gently heat the dark chocolate, butter and runny honey together in a pan, stirring with a spoon until the chocolate and butter are melted.

2.  Crush the biscuits in a bag until they are large chunks and crumbs.  Do not crush too much.  Add to the melted chocolate along with the dried cranberries, if using. 

3.   Carefully stir, continuing for about 5 minutes until well coated and so the mixture starts to cook.

4.  Using a spoon, press the mixture down well into a 30cm x 20cm baking tray lined with foil (or cling film as suggested in the original recipe, but foil is easier to handle).

5.  Gently melt the white chocolate over a low heat.  Do not overheat as the white chocolate spoils very easily. Drizzle over the biscuit base and spread out. (The base may be unevenly covered and dark patches may show through, but this does not matter.)

6.  Sprinkle over the desiccated coconut.  Place a layer of cling film on top and chill for 4 hours.  If you are short of time then the covered tray can be placed in the freezer for about an hour, but do not leave too long as chocolate is better if it is not frozen for an extended period.  Do not cut from frozen as it will shatter. 

7.  Once it is set, place the block on a board and while it is still cold cut into small squares with a sharp knife.  If it warms up it is more likely to crumble, and should be returned to the fridge to harden before cutting.   I cut my block 6 squares by 4 squares, giving 24 bite sized pieces.


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At our regular church Sunday lunches, a roast dinner with all the trimmings has been followed by a ‘proper’ pudding: a selection of fruit crumbles, which are both easy to make and tasty.  It has been interesting to see what variations people have brought and one of the most unusual and popular has been a chocolate and banana crumble with a nutty topping.  (I have previously written about crumbles and have been collecting ideas for alternative toppings: see Basic Recipe: Sweet Crumble Mixtures.)

That was back in early February and a short while later I discovered a small recipe card in Sainsburys supermarket with a fairly similar recipe called Choc-banana Crumble, (also here) recommended as a Mothering Sunday treat. It was also part of the 2010 Fairtrade fortnight campaign (22 February – 7 March) encouraging consumers to change one or more shopping item in their basket to a Fairly Traded alternative, as the recipe includes Fairly Traded ingredients: chocolate powder, bananas, sugar and nuts. (The Fairtrade Foundation seeks to promote justice and sustainable development, encouraging consumers to buy Fairly Traded items to give a fair deal to marginalised producers in developing countries.)  When I made the Sainsbury version we found it rather dry but the second time I improved this by adding orange zest and juice, which also stopped the bananas from browning.  The orange, along with dessicated coconut, also added much more depth to the flavour.  Pineapple juice (not very popular in our house, which is why I did not choose it) would make a good alternative to the orange juice, making this crumble even more tropical.  The bananas need to be fairly ripe: I have used underripe bananas but they did not soften properly and made the dish seem flavourless.

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Tropical Banana & Chocolate Crumble
(Serves 6) 

6 Fairtrade bananas, fairly ripe – reserve a few slices to decorate
100g/3½ozs plain flour
80g/2½ozs chilled butter, cut into small cubes
40g/1½oz Fairtrade drinking chocolate
25g/1oz Fairtrade Demerara sugar
50g/2ozs Fairtrade Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
50g/2oz Fairtrade Dessicated coconut
1 large orange, juice and zest – reserve a few strands of zest to decorate

1.  Preheat the oven to 190ºC/170ºC Fan/370oF/Gas 5.

2.  Put the sifted flour, chilled butter, drinking chocolate and sugar in a bowl. Using fingertips, rub the mixture together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in the nuts and half of the dessicated coconut.

3.  Peel and slice the bananas and reserve a few slices for decoration. Arrange them in the base of a large shallow ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle with orange zest (reserving a few strands to decorate), the remaining dessicated coconut and pour over the orange juice.

4.  Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the bananas.  Decorate with the sliced banana and zest strands

5.  Bake the dish for about 20 minutes or until piping hot.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

6.  Serve with crème fraîche, cream or warm custard.

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On Good Friday we make Hot Cross Buns to remember Jesus’ death on a cross and it therefore seems appropriate to mark Easter Sunday and beyond with the symbolic use of eggs to represent the resurrection and the new life that Jesus brings.  I bought some little pastel coloured sugar coated eggs to decorate my Simnel Cake in a ‘take a bag and scoop and do-it-yourself’ shop.  Then, on a whim, I bought a few more: I, or perhaps my daughter, could make some little chocolate cereal nests.  Most people with children are likely to have had these brought home from school and may even have made them in a family home cooking session.  However I realised that the last time I made them it was with a special kit that came with a packet of Rice Krispies so I did not really have a recipe.  Searching online was simple and there seem to be two methods.  One includes butter/margerine and golden syrup.  The quick and simple method, the one I have chosen, is just melted chocolate and cereal, with the optional  of adding extra ingredients such as coconut, raisins or cherries.  Cornflakes can be substituted for Rice Krispies as can, I understand, Shredded Wheat: I have not tasted this last, though it could look rather like the twigs in a nest.

An internet search led me to the Netmums site and a recipe called Chocolate Crispies.  There are two or three other simple recipes (including one for Banana Flapjack, which is a good way of using a glut of ripe bananas).  We included some sultanas for good measure, finishing with sugar eggs – a hen and chicks were also added as Easter decoration.  The original recipe is for a larger amount of chocolate but we scaled it down for the one bar of chocolate that I had bought and found 24 nests to be ample (I was more generous with the raisins than the original). There is also a suggestion that cornflakes or other cereal could be used if you don’t have rice crispies and that the nests could be served with chopped bananas.

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Chocolate Rice Krispie Nests
(Makes  24)

150g/5ozs chocolate (I used dark: Green & Blacks Fairtrade 72% Chocolate for Cooks)
80g/3ozs Rice Krispies
50g raisins
Mini eggs: sugar coated, foil coated or jelly type – 1 per cake
Alternative extra ingredients: coconut, glace cherries, dried cranberries, chopped nuts – amount may be more or less than 50g depending on personal preference.)

1.  Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of water on a low heat. (Alternatively use a bowl and quick bursts of heat in the microwave.)

2.  Put in the rice crispies and raisins (or alternative extra ingredient if you have chosen one) and stir until well covered with chocolate.

3.  Place individual paper cases into small tart or muffin tins and put spoonfuls of the mixture into these. 

4.  Place 1 or 2 mini eggs on top while still the chocolate is still soft (number depends on size of eggs/nests and personal choice). Leave to cool and set – can be put in the fridge for a short time.

5.  Lovely for tea-time on Easter day decorated with a small edible egg, or at any time of the year replacing the sugar egg with half a glace cherry.  At Christmas a piece of cherry and two pieces of green angelica give the seasonal look of holly.

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Chocolate and orange complement each other so well (think Terry’s Chocolate Orange, although don’t try to copy the TV advert and knock the cake on the table to break it into segments!).  This recipe arises from an experiment and is the second version I have made.  The first reason for the experiment was to see if I could replicate a good Chocolate Orange flavour successfully in a cake.  I decided that with two flavours this was the ideal candidate for a marble cake, where the batter is divided into two (or more) portions each coloured and/or flavoured separately and then randomly placed in the tin.  The result is a very attractive patchy cake where every slice is unique.  The chocolate part was easy: cocoa  powder supplemented with some good quality chopped chocolate.  I used Green & Black’s Fairtrade cocoa (I had been itching to open a newly bought tub anyway) and wonderfully rich Dark Cooks Chocolate (72% cocoa – silver & brown wrapper), available from the baking sections of most larger supermarkets.   Getting a good orange flavour, however, proved less easy.  My first version of the cake just did not have enough juicy orange flavour.   Even though I used orange zest and orange juice (in place of milk) throughout the cake and not just in the orange half, adding some mixed peel as well, the flavour was overpowered by the chocolate.  This started me thinking: I could not use any more orange juice as it would make the cake too wet.  How about using marmalade, I reasoned? ….. Then I had an epiphany!  I made the Fragrant Marmalade Cake and realised that what this cake actually needed was a good hit of Orange Flower water.  Scent and taste are so closely linked that this lifts the orange flavour to a whole new level: the first warm slice, eaten with my eyes shut was heavenly!   Next time I might just add the marmalade and/or try chopped orange flavoured chocolate as well:  I will update the recipe, if necessary, to include any more improvements.

As for the cake mixture recipe, I used one handed down in our family, which I have dubbed The Adaptable Sponge.  The other half of the experiment was to try making this adaptable sponge recipe in a loaf or deep round cake rather than for the shallow sandwich style ones we usually made. (It can also be quickly made to top a helping of stewed fruit, then baked to give a sponge topping for dessert.)  This second experiment was also successful and I think this versatile sponge mixture will be used again and again in a variety of disguises: one of the beauties being that you never have to look up the recipe as long as you are able to weigh the eggs.  (See entries at the bottom of The Adaptable Sponge page, where more links will gradually be added – currently just this recipe!)

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Chocolate Orange Marble Cake

The Adaptable Sponge mixture using 3 eggs – I used a loaf tin

Additional ingredients:
2tsp Cocoa powder – but more/less if you wish
25g/1oz cooking chocolate (chopped block or chips) – plain or orange flavour
Zest of 1 large orange, but no pith
1tbsp orange flower water
1tbsp marmalade or mixed peel (optional, again adjust to taste)

1.  Mix the cake as above adding the zest to the undivided mixture before the flour and the milk. 

2.  Once the flour has been added, divide the mixture into two bowls.  To one bowlful add 2tbsp sieved cocoa powder, the chocolate chips and about 1tbsp milk.

3.  To the second bowlful add the mixed peel or marmalade (if using) and mix in 1tbsp orange flower water.

4.  The mixtures need to be of a similar consistency, but not too runny, so add a little more milk if needed (or gently stir in a tablespoonful more flour if absolutely necessary and the mixture seems too  runny)

5.  Alternately and randomly put tablespoonfuls of the different coloured mixtures into the prepared tin.  When all the mixture is finished up, using a skewer going down to the bottom of the tin, carefully make a zig-zag through the mixtures to give a random pattern.  (If using a round tin try using the skewer to make radiating spokes from the centre, either in one direction or alternately middle to rim and then rim to middle.)

6.  Bake in the centre of  the oven: 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 for 50-60 minutes, or until well risen.  A skewer inserted into the centre of the baked cake should come out clean.

7.  Turn out onto a rack. 

8.  Optional:  Before the cake cools, for a pronounced orange flavour, blend together 1tbsp hot water and 1tbsp sugar until dissolved and add 1tsp orange flower water.   Use the skewer to make a number of deep holes in the surface of the hot cake and gently pour over the mixture allowing it to soak in.  It will leave a fragrant sticky sugary crust.

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Chilli con Carne is one of our most popular family recipes.  The name comes from the Spanish chile con carne, meaning ‘peppers with meat’, but it is actually the official dish of the State of Texas in the USA, making it ‘Tex-Mex’ rather than Mexican, as is sometimes thought.  My version is not taken from any particular book but has been adapted and improved whenever I have discovered a new ‘twist’.  Some years ago we had an excellent Chilli con Carne for lunch in a pub, leading me to experiment with adding cumin as well as chilli powder, which adds extra depth to the spice flavours.  More recently I discovered that Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast, adds cocoa powder to her Chilli con Carne.  What a good idea!  Chilli can be added to chocolate recipes, after all, so why not chocolate to chilli recipes?  It really does enrich the sauce and you do not detect the flavour at all.   Smoked bacon similarly adds good background flavour, with diced red and green peppers (capsicums) adding colour, as well as vegetable content.  If you wish to make the dish a little healthier by reducing the red meat content per head, add finely diced aubergine which will cook down to be almost invisible.  The amount of chilli powder to be added is optional, of course.  When my children were young I used to cook the mixture without chill, divide it between two pans and then add the spices later (not ideal, I know).  One pan had the full (adult) quantity of spices and the second had some cumin and a very little chilli, just enough for the children to get used to the taste: one was known as Chilli con Carne and the other as Carne non Chilli!  My ruse obviously worked as we all now eat food cooked in the same pan!  

As with the Lasagne al Forno I posted a few weeks ago, this method is my own tried and trusted recipe and special because it has been adapted and improved .  It is worth making a double quantity as the recipe can be frozen for later use, as can individual portions of leftovers.  Chilli con carne is lovely finished with a spoonful of cool and soothing soured cream.

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Special Chilli con Carne
(Serves 6)

15ml/1tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
½-1tsp (or more) chilli powder, depending on taste
1tsp cocoa powder (optional, but recommended)
1tbsp water
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
125g/4ozs diced bacon, smoked or unsmoked
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, quartered (or larger ones, sliced)
1 medium aubergine, diced (optional)
15ml/1tbsp mixed herbs
500g/1lb minced beef steak
30ml/2tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
150ml/¼pint water (about ½ tomato tin) 
1 red pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 green pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
Salt & black pepper

1.  If using aubergine it is usual to sprinkle it with salt, place it in a colander, cover it with a plate and place a weight on top of it for at least 30 minutes, to let the juices can run out.  You can cut out this step if you are short of time: I have never noticed much difference in taste.

2.  Mix the cumin and chilli with the water to make a paste.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan, stir in the spice paste and fry briefly (no more than 30 seconds).  Reduce the heat, stir in the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the diced bacon, mushrooms and mixed herbs (at this point the diced aubergine should be added, if using), put a lid on the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

3.  Add the beef mince, stir to break up and cook for 1o minutes, stirring occasionally so the meat cooks through.  Stir in the cocoa powder, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and water, stir and bring to the boil.  Season and taste.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for a further 10minutes.

4.  Add the chopped peppers and red beans, stir well, cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending  on how well cooked you like your pepper. Check seasoning.

5.  Serve on a bed of white rice or as a filling for a jacket potato, flour tortilla or pancake along with a spoonful of sour cream.  A small side salad makes a good accompaniment along with a few tortilla chips if serving with rice.

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I love Lebkuchen, the spiced Christmas-time biscuits from Germany which are slightly soft rather than crisp.  They are often called German Gingerbread with the most famous type originating from Nuremburg. The German Food Guide gives more information on the different types of Lebkuchen.  This recipe is for the most well known type: Brown Lebkuchen, but there is a lesser known White Lebkuchen made with almonds and candied fruits. Brown Lebkuchen can be either iced or chocolate covered.  It was not easy tracking down a brown Lebkuchen recipe.  There was nothing on my extensive cookbook shelves or in the library, and although there are lots of references to Lebkuchen online the recipes I found were written for US cups rather than UK or European measures.  (I know there are conversion tables but I find them rather confusing and baking is a precise art!)  My only comment on the finished biscuits, which were lovely, was that we would have liked some other spices.  Other online recipes included cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cardamom.  I will definitely make Lebkuchen another year and I will try adding a bit of one or two other spices to see whether they improve an already good recipe.  If they do I will update this post. (By the way, you really cannot detect the chilli heat, so don’t worry about including it as an ingredient.)

I had almost given up my hunt until a chance conversation with a cookery loving friend – thank you Jo – who lent me a delightful little book, a charity shop purchase.  In the book: Making Gingerbread Houses and other Gingerbread Treats by Joanna Farrow, was the Lebkuchen recipe I had been seeking, plus instructions for decorating the finished biscuits.  Truly this is a book for those who like to mess around in the kitchen, also giving recipes for golden and chocolate gingerbread and how to form them into the most amazing Gingerbread creations, including ideas for using crushed boiled sweets as stained glass windows.  (As the gingerbread bakes the sweets melt and form a brittle coloured shell.)  Wish I had visited the charity shop first!

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(Makes 40-50 biscuits, depending on the size of your cutters)

115g/4ozs unsalted butter, softened
115g/4ozs light muscovado sugar
1 egg, beaten
115g/4ozs black treacle
400g/14ozs self-raising flour
5ml/1tsp ground ginger
2.5ml/½tsp ground cloves
1.4ml/¼tsp chilli powder

1.  Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale in colour and fluffy.

2.  Beat in the egg and treacle.

3.  Sift the flour, ground ginger, ground cloves and chilli powder into the bowl.  Using a wooden spoon gradually mix the ingredients together to make a stiff paste. 

4.  Turn this paste onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead until it is smooth.

5.  Wrap and chill this dough for at least 30minutes.  (I left mine in the fridge overnight.)

6.  Grease two or three baking sheets. Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4

7.  Divide the dough into equal portions, one for each cutter you are using.  I used three different shapes of about 4.5cm/1¼inch: heart, square and round, each of which was differently decorated.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a  thickness of ¼in/8mm.  Cut out the shapes and place on the baking sheet with a space between each to allow for a very small amount of expansion.  The dough can be re-rolled and cut, using a little additional flour to stop it sticking, until it is all used up.

8.  Chill trays of uncooked Lebkuchen for 30 minutes.

9.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Once cool the biscuits can be stored in a well sealed container until you are ready to decorate and/or eat them.

10.  Decorate each shape in a different way.  When they are finished, leave in a cool place to set, but do not refrigerate as this will spoil the shiny appearance of the chocolate.  Suggestions include:

a)  Make an Icing Glaze: mix together 1tbsp lightly beaten egg white and 1tbsp lemon juice with enough sifted icing sugar until you have a mixture which is like thin cream and thinly coats the back of a spoon.  Use this to cover the biscuits, tapping the wire tray as in a) to evenly distribute the glaze.  This lemony glaze is a lovely complement for the ginger flavour as well as being very traditional.

b)  Melt dark chocolate in a dish over a pan of boiling water (or very carefully in the microwave) and coat the biscuits.  Do this on a metal rack over a tray.  Tapping the tray slightly will help the chocolate run evenly over the biscuit.  Add a decoration of chocolate sprinkles while still wet.

c)  As a) but melt a little white chocolate in the same way in a separate bowl. Once the first dark coat is dry, pipe a decoration of white chocolate stripes or carefully drizzle with chocolate. (This could be reversed with dark stripes on a white coating for those who like white chocolate.)

d)  As a) using dark chocolate and a dusting of sifted icing sugar while still slightly wet.

e) As a) using white chocolate and a dusting of cocoa powder while still slightly wet.

f) A thin layer of marzipan under a coating of chocolate.  Other decoration if you wish.


White Lebkuchen

As mentioned above, there is another type of Lebkuchen made with ground almonds and decorated with candied peel.  I plan to try this recipe for White Lebkuchen from the Good Food Channel website another year.

Thick Chocolate Fruit & Nut Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen can also be cut twice as thick (making half as many finished biscuits, of course) giving a softer more chewy biscuit/cake.  These thick Lebkuchen are covered with a coating of dark chocolate as in a) above and then decorated with glace cherries, almonds and walnuts. 

These are both something to try another time and I will make a separate post if they are successful.

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In her novel Chocolat, Joanne Harris writes a little about the Mexican background of the history of chocolate and the novel’s heroine, Vianne, serves her customers hot drinking chocolate flavoured with chilli. It may seem unusual, but cocoa has also long been used to complement the flavour of meat and is a key ingredient in the Mexican dish ‘Mole Poblano’. Chocolate and chilli are surprisingly good together, the heat of the peppers blending beautifully with the rich dark flavour of cocoa.  The Basque country of South West France, the city of Bayonne in particular, is well known for its fine chocolate and on holiday last year we enjoyed sampling a chilli flavoured variety. The chilli was surprisingly subtle but with a definite hot spicy ‘kick’.

I was delighted to discover this recipe for a spicy marinade for roast lamb which contained chocolate – and it was every bit as delicious as I hoped it would be. I made a few adaptations, using fresh orange in place of orange juice and squeezing some of this juice over the rice to give it a citrus flavour. The recipe would work equally well with some good thick lamb steaks or slow cooked lamb fillet.  The original recipe for Leg of Lamb with Chilli Sauce comes from Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.

100_7613 Lamb with Chilli Sauce

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Roast Lamb with Chilli Sauce
(Serves 4)

1kg/2¼lb leg of lamb (or replace with lamb steaks or fillet)
5ml/1tsp cocoa powder
125ml/½tsp Cayenne pepper
125ml/½tsp Ground Cumin
125ml/½tsp Paprika
125ml/½tsp Ground Oregano
140ml/¼pt water
140ml/¼pt orange juice (2/3 oranges depending on size – includes garnish)
140ml/¼pt red wine
1 clove of garlic, crushed
30g/2tbsp brown sugar
15ml/1tbsp cornflour
Pinch of salt
Orange slices and fresh coriander to garnish

1. Trim the paper thin skin and any large pieces of surface fat from the lamb with a sharp knife. Place lamb in a shallow dish.

2. Cut one orange in half and remove a slice or two. Place in a covered container to reserve as a garnish. Squeeze the juice from the remaining pieces of orange and take enough from other oranges to make up to a generous ¼pint.

3. Leaving aside the cornflour, mix at least half of this orange juice with the remaining marinade ingredients. Pour this over the lamb, turning well so it is completely coated. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

4. Drain the lamb and place in a roasting pan. Reserve the marinade. Cook in a pre-heated 190oC/370oF/Gas 5 oven for about 2 hours or until meat is cooked according to taste basting occasionally with the marinade juices.  (If you usually leave the joint to roast while you are out then put most of the juices in the roasting dish and cook on a lower setting, turning the temperature up and basting the joint for a final 10 or 15 minutes before resting and serving the meat.)

5.  Remove lamb to a serving dish to rest and keep warm.  Add any remaining juices or a little water to the pan, stir to loosen the sediment, strain and put aside for a short while.  Skim off any fat that rises to the surface.  

6.  Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water in a sauce pan and then stir in the skimmed, strained marinade juices.   Heat gently, stirring all the time, until thickened. (This can also be done in a jug in the microwave by alternately giving short bursts of heat and stirring until thickened.)  More orange juice, wine or water can be added if necessary. Keep a little orange juice back to stir through the rice, if you would like.

7.  Garnish with the reserved orange slices and sprigs of coriander.  Serve with white boiled rice, stirring through just a little reserved orange juice to give a zesty flavour, the sauce and mildly spiced vegetables curry (so it does not overpower the lamb dish, but including more coriander which complements the citrus flavours).  The original recipe suggests you could also serve this with boiled potato and conventionally cooked vegetables.

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One of our favourite French desserts is Tarte au Citron or French Lemon Tart and it is surprisingly easy to make.  It is one of those food items that we cannot leave France without having at least once. Tarts of varying quality can be found across France in supermarkets and patisseries and often have the word ‘Citron’ drizzled on top in chocolate or gold wording on chunk of decorative chocolate.  This recipe is for a much simpler version without the chocolate but you could add that if you wished as well.  I just served a summer fruit accompaniment of blueberries and strawberries with my Tarte au Citron and gave it a dusting of icing sugar.  For those who wished, pouring cream was available at the table.  It makes an excellent dessert when entertaining friends.

This recipe came from The French Kitchen by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde: Joanne Harris is a well known novelist many of whose books I have enjoyed (including Chocolat which was also filmed).   I would certainly repeat this Tarte au Citron recipe and next time would very much like to make it with authentic Pâte Brisée pastry as suggested in the recipe.  This soft but often difficult to handle pastry, made with butter, egg and sugar, is regularly used for French patisserie.  On this occasion I substituted the simpler shortcrust for the recommended pâte brisée (see basic recipe post for information on how to make these).

100_2336 Tarte au Citron with berries

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Tarte au Citron (French Lemon Tart)
(Serves 6)

Quantity of Shortcrust or Pâte Brisée pastry using basic recipe

Lemon filling:
2 eggs
100g unrefined sugar
150ml double cream (I used Elmlea half fat)
zest & juice of 2 lemons
50g butter

1.  Heat the oven to  200oC/400oF/Gas 6 for blind baking if you are using a shortcrust pastry shell. 

2.  Make pastry case (either Shortcrust or Pâte Brisée) using basic recipe and chill for at least 30minutes. For the shortcrust pastry shell only, blind bake for 10minutes (I fill the empty pastry shell with dried beans).

3.  Heat oven (or reduce temperature) to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4

3.  Place the eggs, sugar and cream in a bowl with the lemon zest and juice and whisk until creamy.

4.  Melt the butter gently and whisk into the lemon mixture.

5.  Pour lemon mixture into the chilled pastry case.

6.  Carefully place tart into the centre of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

7.  Reduce the oven temperature to 160oC/Gas 3 and bake for a further about 20minutes or until the filling has set.

8.  Leave to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

9.  Decorate with a dusting of icing sugar or chocolate shavings.  Can be served with summer berries or slices of orange and if needed, some pouring cream.

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A simple and delicious dessert of cherries with cream and custard which can, apart from adding the cream and decoration, be made ahead of time. Chocolate cake is best for the sponge layer – if I use chocolate swiss roll I lessen the sugar in the custard slightly, otherwise the trifle can be very sweet. To soak the base I use a generous sherry glass of Carina brand Cremandorla: Crema aux Amandes, a Sicilian almond flavoured aperitif made with Marsala wine, which we buy when on holiday in France and can be found in many French supermarkets: Leclerc, Super-U, Carrefour, Intermarche…  (I suppose it really should be Kirsch but I have never tried it – I find the combination of almond and cherries works well together.)  I have never managed to find cherry flavoured jelly, but would use it if I did, although a full sugar type could make the dessert over sweet. (Another alternative would be to set the cherry syrup with gelatine.) Even though they are supposed to be pitted it is worth double checking the cherries as I always find one or two stones – laborious but necessary and much better than damaged teeth!  Grated chocolate can be frozen for later use.

As an alternative to Cherry, a Chocolate Orange Trifle can be made using sliced fresh Orange or tinned drained Mandarin Oranges in place of the cherries and orange jelly, with sherry or orange liqueur to soak the base.  These recipes are my own invention.

100_3485 Black Forest Trifle
‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’ www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Black Forest Trifle
(Serves 6-8)

1 small Chocolate Cake or Swiss Roll or Trifle sponge fingers/Boudoir biscuits to cover base of dish
2-3 tablespoons Almond Liqueur or dry sherry (optional) – see above
680g (350g drained) jar of pitted Cherries in light syrup (Harvin brand – Lidl)
1 Double pack of Raspberry sugar free jelly (powder)
1 pint of custard made with custard powder and milk – sugared to taste
284ml/10fl oz carton Elmlea whipping or double cream
about 6/8 squares Fairtrade bitter Dark Chocolate, grated (for decoration)

1.  Line the base of a transparent glass dish with slices of cake, swiss roll or trifle sponge fingers and soak with the almond liqueur or sherry.

2.  Drain the jar of cherries, reserving the syrup and reserving 8 good shape cherries for decoration. Place the remaining cherries in the dish in an even layer on top of the sponge.

3.  Follow the instructions on the packets of jelly powder using the syrup from the cherries, topping up with water as necessary. I find it best to initially heat about 150ml/¼ pint syrup, then stir in the powder until well dissolved and finally add the remaining syrup and water. Adding ice cubes rather than water helps to set the jelly quickly.

4.  Pour most of the jelly liquid gently into the bowl, leave to set, add the remaining jelly liquid and leave this to set as well.

5.  While the jelly is setting, make up a pint of custard, varying the amount of sugar used according to the sweetness of the base layer. Leave to cool.

6.  When cool and the jelly set the custard layer can be added on top of the jelly. If it is too hot, or the jelly not fully set, you may get a striped or marbled effect: not so pretty but it will taste fine.

7.  To serve: Whip the cream and add evenly on top of the custard. Grate the chocolate using a cheese grater (for larger curls use a potato peeler) and add in a broad band on the cream around the edge of the bowl. Place the 8 reserved cherries evenly round the edge on top of this layer.

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Under this nutty topped chocolate sponge pudding hides a gooey mocha fudge sauce. Delicious, yet simple to make, the sponge is mixed by the very quick ‘all in’ method and then you simply pour over strong black coffee which ends up underneath the pudding. A mocha/chocolate lovers dream. (This recipe is quite sweet and you could experiment by slightly reducing the demerara sugar in both the topping and the coffee – I suggest that no change is made to the sugar in the sponge.)

This is another excellent recipe from The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook. (Original recipe by Pat Dixon, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire)


‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’ http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chocolate Up and Over Pudding
(Serves 4-5)

75g/3ozs self-raising flour
1 rounded tablespoon cocoa
125g/4ozs soft margerine
125g/4ozs granulated sugar
2 eggs
Topping & sauce
1 rounded tbsp cocoa
40g/1½oz chopped nuts – I used 1oz rough chopped hazelnuts & ½oz flaked almonds
125g/4ozs demerara sugar
300ml/½ pint hot, strong black coffee (pour water onto 3tbsp coffee, if using instant)

1. Grease a deep ovenproof pudding dish – 1.2litre/2pint capacity.

For the pudding:
2. Sieve flour and cocoa into a bowl with the other pudding ingredients.

3. Mix together well, either for 2 minutes with a wooden spoon or ½ minute with an electric mixer.

4. Tip mix into the greased pudding dish and level the top.

For the topping & sauce:
5. Mix together cocoa, nuts and 2ozs of the demerara sugar and sprinkle over the pudding.

6. Sweeten hot coffee with remaining 2ozs demerara sugar and pour over the pudding.

7. Bake in a moderate oven Gas 4/350oF/180oC for 50minutes to 1hour. During cooking the sponge rises up and over and the coffee mixture forms a thick fudge sauce underneath.

8. Sprinkle over a few more toasted nuts to serve, if you wish. Serve with cream or ice cream.

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