17 Jun 2017

Dark Sugars Cocoa House Review

I've recently been wandering the streets of London, in search of delicious and interesting things, and I stumbled across Dark Sugars Cocoa House in Brick Lane. Here, similarly to what other chocolate shops have done such as Hotel Chocolat and Godiva, it's a shop selling chocolates as well as a coffee shop. Sadly I didn't go for the coffee or hot chocolate, but went straight forth to the chocolates.  



The shop itself has its own character, and part of its charm is that the shop reflects the true natural origins of chocolate, large shells holding chocolate pearls, huge pieces of wood that hold dark cocoa dusted truffles and cauldron like pots bursting with heaps of cocoa dusted almonds. It's fascinating and inviting and you can either fill a box with your chosen chocolates, or fill a bag. 

There's certainly quite an array to chose from, I decided to go for the 'overdose' truffle, chocolate orange rinds and chocolate cherries. And below, a separate bag of chocolates: coconut milk chocolate, limoncello chocolate, pistachio pearls, passion fruit pearl and mocha nougat. It came to a hefty £12.45 and so for that price I was expecting something special. And if you're wondering why these weren't photographed properly out of the bag, it's because half of them melted in the heat of the day on a humid train journey home and the pearls burst. 








So anyway, the verdict. What did they taste like?

Of course, taking to account that this review is more than a little unfair since the hot weather did affect the chocolate, but still only a couple were melted and it would not have had an impact on their flavour.  

So the first bag. The 'overload' truffle, which is vegan, had a strange, dry texture. Claggy. Not smooth, melt in the mouth as you would expect, and very, very bitter. I did not enjoy it. The chocolate orange rinds were fine. Very sweet as you'd expect, covered in dark chocolate. The chocolate cherries were far too sweet, and quite uninteresting to eat. So in that way, I'm not sure that Dark Sugars needs such a huge selection of chocolate dipped fruit and nuts. All in all, disappointing. 

Onto the other bag. The limoncello chocolate was awful and filled with some rather artificially tasting dark chocolate ganache. I don't believe dark chocolate and lemon work particularly well together. I nearly broke a tooth on the mocha nougat which was far too hard (I was expecting soft and chewy, this was pretty hard to eat). 

The pistachio pearl was average, the smooth gooey filling more reminiscent of almond than pistachio, but pleasant nonetheless. The passion fruit pearl had an graininess to it, and lacked a deep fruity flavour that I was after. 

The best chocolate of the bag was the coconut milk chocolate, sprayed metallic bronze and had a creamy fragrant coconut taste. 

More style over substance sadly, the chocolates did look so beautiful but are not really all that great. I'd take Hotel Chocolat over this any day of the week. 

9 Jun 2017

Fondant Fancies

These really are such dainty little cakes and are just gorgeous to look at....pale white icing adorned with vivid roses, like something from a fairy tale. Here in the UK, when you think of fondant fancies, chances are you are thinking of those Mr Kipling cakes, which aren't that bad at all but obviously these are on a whole new level. 



These weren't without their fair share of difficulties, I did try to make more of a traditional fondant icing that the fondants could be dipped into, however, the consistency was certainly troublesome and it didn't cover the layers as nearly as sufficiently as I wanted it to. Therefore, each fondant fancy was covered in a layer of fondant icing that I rolled out. 

I love these looking so simple and understated, but of course, you can customize your icing to have pink, yellow, green, blue, purple etc colour fondant fancies. As well as this the filling can easily be altered to suit your taste. Traditionally there is no jam filling inside, but I think it's simply delicious and cherry and almond are just heavenly together. You could have a layer of lemon curd or chocolate ganache! 


I have plenty of advice to give in order to make this easier. 

The first is: use old sponge. No, not stale or moldy obviously, I just mean use sponge that is at least two or three days old. Not only does it cut better, it doesn't crumble so easily and it means you can get neat, tidy squares. There's no need to worry about your cakes being dry, after all they will be adequately filled with butter cream and jam. 

Do take the time to measure the squares out. These are a fairly precise thing to make, but your patience will be rewarded. 

Fondant Fancies

Makes 25

For the sponge: 

8oz/225g sugar
8oz/225g self raising flour
8oz/225g softened butter
4 eggs 
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream and jam layer: 

125g/4oz softened butter
100g/3oz icing sugar, sifted 
3 tbsp cherry jam 

For the marzipan topping: 

200g natural marzipan 
2 tbsp apricot jam 

For the fondant icing:

500g fondant icing, plus a little icing sugar to roll 
Rose decorations (optional)
Edible glue/royal icing to stick 

1. Okay, let's start with the easiest thing to make. The sponge. This can be made well in advance to when you need it, so it should be the first thing you do. Preheat the oven to 180C/160c Fan/Gas Mark 4/ 350F. Grease and line a 20cm/8in square tin. 

2. I've used the all in one method for this purely for the sake of convenience, so using an electric mixer, beat all the ingredients together until smooth. Level this off nice and evenly into the tin, tapping a bit to even the surface. Bake this for 30-35 minutes, until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

3. Leave this to cool and invert onto a wire rack to cool further. I wholeheartedly suggest that you now leave this sponge at least a day or two before assembly.

4. Using a serrated knife, slice your cake length ways so that you end up with two halves. Go slowly and carefully here. Remove the crusty brown layer so that you have an even surface to work with. To make the buttercream, mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Save a few tablespoons for later to help the fondant icing stick to the cake. Put this on the bottom half and spread evenly in one equal layer. 

5. Now heat the cherry (or other preferred flavour) jam up briefly in a saucepan. Pass through a sieve to make sure it's smooth and put this on the other half. Sandwich the two carefully together. It should look something like this. 




6. Brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam (warmed up and sieved) and roll the marzipan out to the exact size of the cake. It should be fairly thin. Place this over the top of the cake and trim any excess. 

7. Cut into 25 squares. You may need to trim the edges to get a more even square. Cover the sides of each square in a little buttercream and roll out the fondant icing so that it is about 5mm in thickness. Cover each cube of sponge in fondant icing (I did insist on doing each one individually, but this is impractical and it's far easier to do many at a time). Smooth the icing so that it doesn't rip or tear, and there you have a beautiful fondant fancy! 

8. Adorn with decorations of your choice. Voila! 

29 May 2017

Hazelnut Blackberry Torte

Baking this reminds me that I really need to have a visit back to Paris. This is the exact kind of cake you would find in a patisserie in little slices to have with your coffee outside. It's rich with chocolate and hazelnut, studded with juicy blackberries - the perfect dessert with softly whipped cream and homemade blackberry compote. 



It's very straight forward to make and keeps beautifully and becomes easier to slice a few days after its baked. The absence of flour in this makes it deliciously fudgy and moist. Now, more than ever, I crave simplicity. Cakes that are pure and combine a few key flavours to achieve something sublime. 




























*For the ground hazelnuts, these can easily be done by buying blanched hazelnuts and processing them until well ground. Otherwise, you can buy them ready ground in some supermarkets. 

Hazelnut Blackberry Torte 

Serves 10 

Ingredients: 

75g/3oz butter , in cubes 
75g/3oz dark chocolate, chopped
4 eggs, separated
100g/3 1/2oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g/1oz cocoa powder, sifted
125g/4oz ground hazelnuts* 
8 blackberries, halved 
Icing sugar to dust

For the blackberry compote: 

7oz/200g fresh blackberries 
2 tbsp caster sugar 

Whipped cream/creme fraiche to serve (I insist) 

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and flour a 24cm/9 inch spring form pan. Place the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a simmering pan of water. Melt over a medium heat and remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. 

2. Combine the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until thick and pale. Mix in the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Rather like making brownies. Add in the cocoa and ground hazelnuts and stir until well combined. 

3. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until firm peaks form. Stir in a quarter vigorously (this is to slacken the mixture off so more can be added easily, so don't worry at all about being gently to avoid knocking air out). With the remaining egg whites, fold these in gently but thoroughly, scraping down to the very bottom of the bowl to ensure the mixture is streak free. 

4. Pour in the prepared tin, dot the blackberries in a pattern in the cake and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with a little icing sugar for that freshly baked look. 

5. To make the compote: cook the blackberries with the sugar over a high heat in a small saucepan until the berries begin to release their juices. Turn the heat down to medium, ut a lid on a cook until the blackberries soften. Mash this with a fork (or strain through a sieve if you like it smoother and more coulis like) and allow to cool before serving with little slices of your torte. 

26 May 2017

Mint and Lime Syllabub with Langues de Chat

Syllabub is one of those desserts I think a lot of people have heard of, but not so many know what it is. That obviously is one massive generalization of the culinary knowledge of the British public, but I think my point is fair. 

Syllabub is insanely easy to make. It's a delightful meld of sweet wine (such as white wine or sherry), softly whipped cream and a little sugar and lemon juice (and often zest) to sharpen. Syllabub itself has been around since Tudor times, with early versions being spoonfuls of thickened cream floating on top of sweet wine. It's a pure dessert for long summer days, both refreshing and sumptuous. Just dreamlike. The perfect end to a summer evening. 





























To get a deep, concentrated mint flavour you must (yes, this is crucial, please do not skip it) infuse the cream with the mint over night. The effect is absolutely magical, and once strained you end up with a syllabub that tastes just like fresh mint, natural and earthy. No mint flavouring or extract will give you this wonderful taste. 

Langues de Chat (or Cats tongues) are the perfect long, crunchy, buttery biscuit to dip into the light airy syllabub. But of course, you can buy wonderful biscuits too, such as shortbread (or literally anything from Jules Destrooper). Make sure you allow your syllabub some time to be nice and cold before you serve (an hour or two should be fine). It's all well worth a rummage round the cupboards to find some pretty ornate glasses to serve this is. It just feels right. 




Another point to add is that you can easily interchange your flavourings: orange, lemon, limoncello, rosemary or indeed a Turkish Delight inspired syllabub with pistachio, rose water and orange blossom a la Nigella





























Mint and Lime Syllabub with Langues de Chat 

Serves 4 

Ingredients

For the syllabub: 

1 medium bunch of mint 
300ml double cream 
1oz/50g caster sugar
50ml white wine 
Juice and zest of one lime (plus a little extra zest to garnish) 

For the Langues de Chat: 

Makes 21-22 biscuits 

50g/2oz softened butter 
75g/3oz icing sugar
2 egg whites
50g/2oz plain flour
2-3 drops vanilla extract 

1. Pick the mint leaves off the stem and chop finely. Add this to the cream, put in a jug and leave in the fridge to infuse overnight. 

2. Strain the mint leaves from the cream using a fine sieve and whip with the sugar until soft peaks form. Stir in the wine and the zest and juice. Whip a little until a tiny bit thickened (but do over do it or it will split). It won't be really thick, but will set in the fridge more. Spoon into glasses and leave to chill for a few hours. 

3. On with the cats tongues. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/350F/Gas Mark 6. Use a silpat to line a large baking sheet. 

4. Cream the butter and sugar together lightly until pale. Mix in the vanilla extract. 

5. Add the egg whites gradually, mixing quickly in between each addition, carefully not allowing the mixture to curdle. 

6. Gently sift in the flour and fold until incorporated. The batter should be nice and smooth. Put this into a piping bag and pipe 7-8cm long biscuits about 2 1/2 cm apart. You should be able to fit them all in on one large baking tray. 

7. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until golden brown on the edges, yet pale in the middle. I like mine quite crisp. When cooked, remove on to a cooling rack using a palette knife. Add a little extra zest on your syllbubs and serve with your langues de chat. 

20 May 2017

Elderflower Macarons

Elderflowers, to me, are the complete taste of summer. They really are such a beautiful plant; their flowers tiny and delicate, their perfumed, sweet smell quite unlike anything else. 

What better way to pay homage to this gorgeous flower than to combine it between chewy macaron shells of palest green? 

Ironically as I write this, a mass of darkest grey clouds has amassed and I'm sitting with a cup of tea perched on my lap, watching the thunder and lightning from my window. 



I've seen elderflower growing everywhere, springing up at garden fences and at laybys on motorways, and it makes me sad when I think of the fact that I hardly ever see anyone picking them. It seems blackberries get all the attention, and it's not commonplace in the UK to see anyone helping themselves to bundles of elderflower to make use of. 

Saying that though however, there was no way that I would have been able to achieve such a deeply concentrated elderflower flavour than if I hadn't used elderflower infused vodka. St Germain is the perfect liqueur to use, and it's what makes these macarons so fragrant and heady with elderflower. 


I've made enough macarons to say that I'm pretty well versed in the problems that can occur. I had a stage of making macarons that were literally empty. Completely hollow shells that shattered as I tried to peel them off the paper. That's because I overbeat the egg whites. Or the macarons cracked and looked more like amaretti biscuits....I didn't allow a skin to form long enough. It was frustrating to say the least but I'm all the wiser for it.

My top tips for great macarons are: 

- *Sieve your almonds and icing sugar, but especially the ground almonds. Ground almonds, unsieved, can give your macarons a grainy texture. Sieving them ensures you get a smooth appearance, but you can use almond flour instead. 

- Ensure your sugar syrup reaches 115C and take it off immediately, THEN beat your egg whites to medium stiff peaks and pour this in straight away, all in one. If you hang about adding it gradually, it will start to harden in the pan. 

- Bang the tray a few times to get rid of any air bubbles and ensure a flat smooth surface (no little peaks or bumps) as soon as your macarons are piped 

- Leave your macarons to 'skin' for 15-30mins. It's not that important about timings, but you want to be able to touch the macarons and for them not to feel sticky, they should feel dry on top. 

- Bake at a low temperature. I put mine in at 150C because the oven I have it particularly hot (a fan oven)

- Don't remove them from the tray as soon as they are out. Leave them to cool enough so that they can be easily lifted off. 


Elderflower Macarons 

Makes 20 sandwiched petit four size macarons 

Ingredients: 

For the macaron base mixture: 

125g/4 1/2oz) icing sugar (sieved)
125g/ 4 1/2 oz ground almonds* (sieved, see above)
40g (1 1/2 oz) egg whites 
Dark green food colouring paste 

For the Italian meringue: 

110g/4oz caster sugar
50g/2oz egg whites 
2-3 tbsp water 

For the elderflower buttercream: 

75g/3oz softened butter 
175g/6oz icing sugar (sieved) 
3 tbsp St Germain or other elderflower liqueur 

Pearl lustre spray to finish (optional) 

1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130 fan/300F/Gas Mark 3. Line two large baking trays with baking paper or a silpat. 

2. Put the icing sugar, ground almonds and egg white into a large bowl (as we'll be adding all the meringue mix into this later) and mix to a paste. Mix in a tiny amount of food colouring to achieve a medium green which will lighten considerably when we add in the meringue. Beat well to ensure no colour streaks. 

3. For the Italian meringue: put the water and caster sugar in a small pan. If when swilled about in the pan, the water does not cover the sugar, add the tiniest bit more. You want just enough water so that the two combine. Put this over a high heat, boiling until it starts to go syrupy and thickens. This will read 115C on a thermometer. Take off the heat as soon as it reaches this and set aside. 

4. Immediately whisk the egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form, then pour in the sugar syrup all in one go. Whisk well until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny and makes peaks. Fold this into your macaron base mixture with a spatula, going to the bottom to make sure all ingredients are combined together. Stop as soon as they are all mixed though. 

5. Spoon this mixture into a piping bag, piping a little into the corners of the baking paper to stop it sliding around. Pipe into 3.5cm flat circles (that's the measurement I used, but you can use a slightly bigger template if you want) about 2cm apart. 

6. Give the tray a good few bangs on a flat surface to make sure they all will have a smooth finish. Leave to form a skin for  15-30 mins, then bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven, lift the paper off the baking tray, and leave the macarons to cool on the paper. 

7. To make the buttercream: beat the butter, icing sugar and elderflower liqueur together to form a thick, creamy filling. It should be thick enough to pipe, but not too thick or stiff. Taste a bit to make sure it is elderflowery enough for you. If it seems a bit slack, add more icing sugar. 

8. Pipe this filling into the macarons and spray each one with pearl lustre spray. 

15 May 2017

Baklava Inspired Danish Pastries

Bakalava is Turkish in origin and combines nuts and honey in between layers of flaky pastry, which usually would be paper thin sheets of filo. Recently I have been baking like mad.....in the mornings making flaky Danish pastries and then in the sunny spring evenings fervently making glossy Italian meringues for macarons (my fourth batch). I'm beginning to think that macarons are cursed, because tray after tray has come out like eggy pancakes or ones where the feet have blown. I am still currently investigating the causes of their demise, rather like the chef version of Poirot and will do a post on macaron problems at a later date. 

The one thing that has been going well however, has been my Danish pastries. I made savoury Danish pastries using the exact same dough in March which you can see here


The dough is perfectly flaky and inside lies a gooey, sweet, nutty baklava inspired filling. I used all the traditional Turkish* baklava: pistachios, walnuts, almonds, honey and a bit of melted butter. I added my own little extras, rose water (a bit more of an Persian addition) and orange zest which went wonderfully. The only small error I made was going a bit heavy on the orange. 


*There seem to be many regional variations of baklava..the Black Sea region of Turkey using hazelnuts in their baklava, as well as in other countries like Armenia adding cloves and cinnamon and Iran using cardamom and a rose water. 

If you want to fill these with something more traditional, I'd recommend using small balls of marzipan on which you can place an apricot (ones from the tin in syrup are best), or you can go for mincemeat or chocolate or simply jam or conserve. 

Baklava Inspired Danish Pastries 

Makes 8

For the Danish dough: 
110g/4oz strong bread flour
110g/4oz plain flour
110ml warm milk 
110g/4oz butter
1 egg, beaten (plus extra egg wash to seal and glaze) 
15g caster sugar 
15g fresh yeast (or dried yeast) 
A pinch of salt 

For the baklava filling: 
50g pistachios
50g walnuts
15g flaked almonds
3 tbsp honey
Zest of half a small orange
1 tbsp melted butter
A few drops of rose water 

To glaze: 
3 tbsp apricot jam 
Glace icing 

1. Sieve both flours into a bowl along with the salt. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk, whisk the egg and sugar together and add both liquids into a well in the flour. 

2. Mix to a soft dough and roll out onto a try lined with clingfilm (approx 15 X 30cm)  and cover with another layer of clingfilm. Leave to rest for 15-20mins. 

3. Put the butter in between a sheet of grease proof paper and roll with a rolling pin until it is able to cover two thirds of your dough. Turn this upside down and adhere it to your dough by pressing and ensuring contact of the butter, smoothing the grease proof paper down. Put any butter still clinging onto the grease proof paper onto the dough. 

4. Fold the top flap down into the center, followed by the bottom flap, and then into half again. So, bold flaps to the middle and then half again. Pinch the edges in to seal in the butter and put in the fridge for 20 minutes. If you want some more information about laminated doughs, check out my post here

5. Repeat the above process by rolling out the dough again into a rectangle as before, and fold into three. Do this two more times, giving a total of three single turns, resting for 20 minutes in between. 


6. In between turns, make the filling. Blitz the pistachios and walnuts in a food processor until fine (not a paste or powder, but in small pieces) and mix in the other ingredients. 

7. Preheat oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas Mark 6. Cut the dough into half and roll one half to 1/8th inch thick/3mm and cut into 8cm squares, adding a little flour if it is sticking. Egg wash around the edge of each one. 


8. Shape as you wish, and put on a large baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Repeat with the second half of dough. 

9. Egg wash again before baking and bake for 10 minutes, before lowering the over temperature to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4 for a further 15-20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. 

10. To finish, heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan until hot and runny, pass through a fine wire mesh to get rid of any lumps and brush your danishes with this. This will make them look infinitely better and shinier if you thought they looked a bit plain at this stage. Finish off by drizzling glace icing over (simply icing sugar and water mixed until thick but not too thick that it cannot be piped over).  



11 May 2017

Honey Cake

When I was little, I wrote almost every night, (or at least until she replied, for she was a very busy person), to my tooth fairy - Fairy Annabel. She wrote back in a curly slanted writing on scraps of paper burnt at the edges, rolled in a tight scroll and told me all about the world that she lived in. Of course, being food obsessed from birth, I fondly remember her mentioning the foods of the fairy world, one of them being honey cake which I imagined would taste like the most glorious thing on earth. A wonderful cake seeped in sweet golden honey that would taste like flowers and sunshine. 




Much time has passed since then and I'm still as fond of honey now as I was when I was younger. To me honey is one of those old-fashioned, primal, rustic ingredients that make me feel at peace with the world, a comfort to me in a time when so much is changing, when we can we forget our humble beginnings and how much pleasure can be derived from the simplest of things. 





Although honey is a great flavour on its own, I do feel it benefits from the addition of zesty orange and some spices (cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon) to enhance it, as well as a little bit of whisky too. This recipe is also very inspired by Lekach - a Jewish honey cake made to celebrate the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) in the hopes of ensuring a sweet New Year. 

This is one of those cakes that can be an afternoon tea cake, or my favourite way - as a pudding cake with some ice cream or double cream, or creme fraiche. It's perfect, sweet sticky cake with toasted almonds and I'm very sure that Fairy Annabel would be proud (did you notice the letter of hers I included in the first photo?) 

Honey Cake 

Ingredients: 

Makes 1 1lb loaf cake

Ingredients: 

1 large egg 
100g/4oz caster sugar
75ml light vegetable oil
125ml honey (plus 2 tbsp extra to glaze) 
1 tbsp whisky
75ml black coffee (2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in the water should do it) 
150g plain flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Zest of one large orange
25g/1oz flaked almonds


1) Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line your tin with baking parchment. Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and creamy, then beat in the oil, honey, whisky and coffee. 

2) Mix the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest with the flour. Gradually add this to the egg and honey mixture, beating thoroughly to make a smooth dark batter.

3) Put this into your loaf tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds to cover the cake. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until firm and brown on the top and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. 

4) Leave to cool in the tin for about fifteen minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack. Heat up the honey in a small saucepan and brush liberally over the cake. Cut once cool enough and serve with whatever you wish (clotted cream, ice cream etc) 

5 May 2017

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread

Oh shortbread, how I do love thee. And all the better if said shortbread is dipped in bitter, dark chocolate and sprinkled with a smattering of sea salt. 

I rarely really eat biscuits, so when I do they're usually homemade or those wonderful stroop wafels perched over a hot cup of coffee or a buttery galette from Bonne Maman. And nothing does beat a chocolate digestive from time to time either. 




These aren't the most dunkable of biscuits, but still they are a wonderful treat to bake and very quick and easy to do. You don't even have to bother chilling the dough beforehand, just simply cream the sugar and butter together, add the dry ingredients and shape and flatten into small rounds. 

This recipe only makes a small amount because I live in a small family...and they are rather rich too and unfortunately go stale so very fast as well. 


Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Shortbread 

Makes 7-8 hobnob sized biscuits 

Ingredients: 

3oz butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 oz light soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz plain flour
1 oz cocoa powder
1 1/2oz ground almonds

To coat:
75g/3oz dark chocolate, melted 
Sprinkling of sea salt (Maldon is best) 

1. Line a large baking tray with Preheat over to 180C. Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale, light and fluffy. 

2. Mix together the plain flour, cocoa powder and ground almonds and stir this together to make a dark rubble. Using your hands, work this to come to a dough (don't overmix or your dough will be tough) and shape into seven or eight balls, flattening with your hand to get the biscuits reasonably thin. 

3. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes and allow to cool enough to handle before transferring to a cooling rack. 

4. Once cool, dip individually in the dark chocolate (either half or whole dipped, the choice is entirely yours) and sprinkle with sea salt. 

28 Apr 2017

Not Food Related: April

A new addition to the blog, a segment dedicated to all the non food related loves of the month! 

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: A charming collection of short stories by one of my all time favourite authors, one of the best stories, I think, is 'Chivalry', all about old Mrs Whittaker, who seems to have a fairly mundane life until she purchases The Holy Grail from her local charity shop and wondrous out of the ordinary things seem to occur involving magical objects like The Philosopher's Stone and Knights of The Round Table. 



Selected Poetry, Derek Walcott: A beautiful collection of poems to read. It's evocative and incredibly descriptive, the poems just flow so smoothly. I love 'Castiliane': 

Why should she hide against the dirty lace
Which stirs so still, its drift scarcely seen
From the hot street? Why is that haunted face,
Dim as an antique faun's, fin de siècle style, 
Imprisoned in the grillwork's leafless green 
Who can evoke Alhambras with a smile? 

Tale of Tales Film (2016): A lot of people will think this film is very weird and probably doesn't make any sense. But I have to say that it is my current favourite film to watch. It's a dark, surreal collection of fairy tales based on the book 'The Tale of Tales' (translated from Neapolitan) by Giambattista Basile. The film centers around three Kingdoms: Longtrellis, Strongcliff and Highhills, each with their own intriguing tale to tell. 

Here we have Queens eating the hearts of sea monsters in order to conceive children, a King who looks after a giant pet flea (and stupidly decides it would be a good idea, after it's death, to devise a tournament whereby whichever man guesses the hide of the dead flea correctly will win his daughter, Princess Violet's, hand in marriage) and old women pretending to be young maidens to fool a lustful King. 


17 Apr 2017

Best Irish Soda Bread

I've never been able to recreate the amazing brown bread that I enjoyed in Ireland, but after after six attempts, this is the best recipe that I've tried. I've never been much of a fan of the tasteless white loaves that are standard in the UK, and I don't much like the way that they are produced either (often with acid accelerators so that large quantities can be made quickly, but this has the consequence of making the bread harder to digest and far less delicious)






This is a very quick bread to make as no yeast is required, but the only downside to homemade bread is that it invariably spoils quicker, so it's best to eat it the day it is made, or the day after, toasted. 

I really do think that soda bread is my favourite bread of all, (perhaps apart from ciabatta). It's wholesome and filling, with a splendid nuttiness and earthiness that is hard to find in other breads, it's a bread with character and sustenance. Here's the recipe:

Irish Soda Bread

Recipe from Farmette

Ingredients

275g/10oz  coarse wholemeal flour
175g/6oz plain white flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 
25g/1oz butter, at room temperature, diced
3/4 pint/ 400ml buttermilk 
1 large egg
1 tbsp runny honey
Rolled oats to sprinkle 

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Sieve the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the wholemeal. 

2. Rub or cut in the butter until the mixture becomes crumbly. Whisk the egg, together with the buttermilk and honey. 

3. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the liquid in and mix together. Pour into a greased loaf tin (I used a 4lb tin greased lightly with some vegetable oil) and cut a line down the middle. Sprinkle with a handful of oats if you want. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Slice once cool enough to cut.