26 October 2008

Chocolate & Beetroot Brownie Cake with Chocolate Frosting
































A few days ago I was given a bag of freshly dug beetroot. I love beetroot and I wasn't stuck for ideas of what to do with it, especially after reading the gorgeous recipe for Beetroot Brownies that Jules posted. I had a real craving for these after seeing the scrumptious photos on her blog.

Jules was experimenting with a recipe shown on River Cottage Autumn, a tv cookery show hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Hugh is not a chef I normally follow because his recipes are usually more suited to carnivores, but this recipe made me sit up and notice him for the first time. I think I am going to have to make a trip to the library now.

Roast Beetroot



  1. Wash your beetroot (I used about 8 beetroot for this recipe), to remove any of the garden that is still clinging to it. 
  2. Trim down the beetroot, so that there is a little stalk and root left on before wrapping each beetroot in tinfoil. 
  3. Place on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven (180c/350f/gas 4) for 1 hour. 
  4. Allow the beetroot to cool in it's foil for 10 minutes or so before peeling the beetroot. Watch out for stained hands, worktops or clothes. (I peeled my beetroot over tinfoil on the baking tray and that seemed to work well. The beetroot juice washed off my hands ok, but you would be better to wear gloves)


















Chocolate & Beetroot Brownie Cake with Chocolate Frosting






























Brownie

250g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter -cubed
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
150g self-raising flour -sieved
250g fresh beetroot - grated (weight after peeling)


Frosting

50g butter (softened)
100g cream cheese
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa
½ cup cadbury's drinking chocolate
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.

Line an 8 inch/20cm cake tin.

Simmer a couple of inches of water in a pan and place a bowl over the top. Make sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water. Now break the chocolate into the bowl and add the butter. Stir until the mixture is melted and glossy, then set aside to cool for a few minutes.

In another bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until combined and then beat in the chocolate mixture, before folding in the flour and then the beetroot. Do not over mix as this will make the brownies tough.

Pour into the lined tin and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. Insert a skewer after 30 minutes and check. It will be ready once the skewer comes out with a few crumbs still attached to it. It the skewer comes out covered in wet mixture it is not ready and if it comes out clean then it has moved on from being a brownie into a cake and won't be as moist.

Leave to cool in the tin.
































Meanwhile, make the frosting. Whisk together the butter, cream cheese and milk until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla essence and mix in well. Keep whisking and gradually begin to add the icing sugar, cocoa and drinking chocolate until the frosting begins to thicken. You may add more icing sugar until you reach a consistency you are happy with.

Remove the cake from the tin and finish cooling on a rack before spreading on the frosting.

Slice and devour, ah, I meant to say share!

I cooked beetroot from fresh for my brownie cake, but alternatively, you may like to buy the vacuum sealed fresh beetroot sold in supermarkets.

Graham and I both took a brownie cake into work and they were very, very popular! Graham wouldn't tell his friends what the secret ingredient was until they had tasted a slice and guessed, he is mean! The cake was pronounced "the best brownie I have every tasted!" by quite a few of those indulging in a slice.


update: Ricki from Diet Dessert and Dogs has quite rightly pointed out that I never said what I actually thought of the brownie cake. Well, I thought it was divine, a slice of chocolate heaven and I want to eat slice right now as I type this!

23 October 2008

Apple & Raisin Crumble with Cinnamon
















I made this one especially for Graham. He loves baked dishes, be they savoury or sweet. He especially loves the crispy bits around the edges.

I actually prefer the crumble cooked a little longer, but there was such a gorgeous smell permeating the house and Graham got to the oven before me. He just couldn't wait and declared it ready.

We had a bit of a debate around whether we should have our crumble with custard or ice cream. I really didn't mind, because I knew it was going to be delicious, so I let Graham choose and ice cream it was.

Apple & Raisin Crumble with Cinnamon

Crumble:

200g/1 ½ cups plain flour
100g/1 cup porridge oats
200g/1 cup demerara sugar
200g/1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
1 cup raisins
pinch of salt
1 knob of butter for greasing


Fruit Base:

4 large apples, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp demerara sugar
2 tsp cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

In a bowl, mix the sliced apple with the flour, sugar and cinnamon, until the apple is well coated.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, porridge oats and sugar. Add the butter and rub between your fingers until it is the texture of breadcrumbs. Stir in the raisins.

Butter a large ovenproof dish. Place the apples evenly across the base of the dish and top with the crumble mixture.

Bake for 30 - 40 mins until the crumble mixture is starting to brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling!
















The recipe is a bit mixed in calculations. I much prefer using cup sizes when cooking now, it just makes sense, it is so much easier. However, I got to the butter and was stuck, because we don't measure butter in sticks and it is awkward to do.

Our packs of butter come in 250g blocks, which makes it easy to cut the portion you want. Sometimes there are even guide marks on the butter pack itself, showing you where to cut. If we need a trickier measurement, then we weigh the butter. So stick with me through the double calculations :)

19 October 2008

Adopt a Blogger - Part 3

Kristen from Dine and Dish has set the ball rolling for another round of Adopt a Blogger.


This time I have been paired up with Joan over at Foodalogue.

Joan is an experienced foodie, who has a catering company called The Pleasure of Your Company. Joan is a food writer and photographer, but just took up her blog seriously earlier this year.

Here are a few questions I set for Joan:


1. Where are you based Joan? Is it a good location for foodies?

As you’ll see in my post today where I tell a little about my family, I am former New Yorker now residing in South Florida. Palm Beach County to be exact (the southeastern part of a very big state.) Coming from one of the foodie capitals of the world, I am very pleased to say I miss nothing by living here with the possible exception that my area has limited Indian or exotic food like Ethiopian. But it is definitely a foodie destination with a very high occurrence of dining out.


2. How long have you been blogging and why did you decide to set up a food blog?

I’ve been sporadically blogging for a couple of years but only recently became serious a couple of months ago. For me, it was the inevitable collision of my life’s passions...food, writing, travel and photography.

3. What kind of cooking do you enjoy? Do you eat differently when you go out for a meal?

I have a Mediterranean palate and most enjoy cooking, entertaining and eating something that has the flavor or style of food from Italy, Spain, and Greece. That is not to say, that I don’t enjoy an appreciation for other cuisines, including good old American meat and potatoes. I do, however, have an aversion to heavily sauced or too rich food and prefer a lighter approach - simply prepared, well-seasoned, aromatic. I do not bake or fry for practical reasons (I don’t have patience and can’t stand the mess in the kitchen.)

4. Where do you find inspiration for the dishes you create?

I find the inspiration for dishes I create from my personal preferences mixed with a common sense approach to promoting (or at least not tearing down) good health and a nod to calories and fat content. And, a huge measure of “what can I do to make this more interesting”.

5. Can you tell us about four of your most creative or successful dishes that you have blogged?

Since I’ve only been at this a couple of months, I would say that based on comments generated, I think the series I ran on Veggie Pastas was well-received particularly the Cauliflower Oreganata Pasta and Pasta Fagioli. I think the most useful post I did was called Finishing Touches Finishing Touches.














Cauliflower Oreganata Pasta


















Pasta Fagioli


















Finishing Touches

6. Would you blog about a dish that has gone disastrously wrong?

Yes! I think that would be a lot of fun.

7. You have some lovely photos on your blog, Joan. Do you have any good tips for anyone starting out in food photography?

Thanks! This has been a process for me. I have a ‘good eye’ but lack the skill and patience required. Since I don’t have the temperament for a serious camera, my shots are currently made with a Cannon SD 1100 (point & shoot). I’m learning natural light rules and to get in close (sometimes I get too close).

8. Do you think good photos are very important ingredient of a good blog?

For me, it’s an unequivocal YES! It’s critical. I’m a visual person. A catchy name will draw me to a blog but it’s the overall look, design, color palate and photos that will keep me there for a while or make me come back. I immediately click off a black background or busy blog. Again, it’s that patience thing. I don’t want to have to work at it.

9. Which food blogs do you really enjoy visiting?

I recently wrote a piece giving a shout-out to the blogs I visit with frequency. Of course, now I’ll have to add tinned tomatoes.

Here are some of Joan's favourite blogs:

We Are Never Full
Spanish Recipes
La Cocina Nathan
Bren's Flanboyant Eats
Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond
The Leftover Queen

and a special mention to Joan's son who runs a photo blog called Foodfight, where the family fight it out in the kitchen with some delicous results. Definitley a spot of food porn.

Thanks for the interview Joan. I am very excited to have such a talented and incredibly sweet new friend.


__________________________________________________________

Joan has kindly posted an interview with yours truly. You can read it here.

16 October 2008

Cinnamon Ice Cream for Peter

This recipe is for Peter over at Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond.

Peter makes some gorgeous Greek food, which is always popular with his readers, but now and again he ventures into the world of desserts and I have to say, he is the King of Desserts! Have a look at some of them and you will see what I mean. There is his ....













Creme Caramel,














Apricot & Pistachio Cake














and my personal favourite, the Ultimate Cheesecake.

And then there is the one that inspired this recipe .......















Plum Tarte Tatin!

Peter made this tatin with an almond pie crust, instead of puff pastry and it worked out a treat. The plums looks beautifully unctuous and you can just imagine how good they tasted alongside that almond base, but the piece de resistance is the cinnamon ice cream that Peter had the genius to serve with this tarte!

Peter doesn't have an ice cream maker, so he mashed some vanilla ice cream up with some cinnamon. Fabulous!

So, just in case Peter succumbs and buys an ice cream maker, I have made for him, cinnamon ice cream from scratch. It is just so good that you have to try it, even if you don't make it from scratch, then whip out that tub of vanilla in the freezer and mash in some cinnamon. You won't be disappointed. It is a delicious, warm and spicy ice cream. The best I have tasted this year!

Cinnamon Ice Cream














1 1/2 cups milk
1 vanilla pod
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
1 cup double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
2-3 tsp ground cinnamon


Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds. Heat the milk with the pod, seeds and extract. Do not allow to boil. Leave to stand for half and hour. This will allow the vanilla to infuse into the milk.

Whisk the eggs, sugar adn salt until pale and creamy. Add the milk, after removing the pod. Heat gently and whisk until the mixture had thickened. Whisk in the cinnamon. Taste at this stage, to see if you would like to add more cinnamon.

Whisk up in your ice cream maker. Remove when velvety smooth. I think it is best served at this point with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon.





12 October 2008

Chunky Plum & Apricot Chutney
































Chunky Plum & Apricot Chutney

8 plums, stoned and chopped
30 apricots, chopped
3 apples, peeled and chopped
4 onions, finely chopped
3 cm piece of ginger, grated
1 fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tin chopped tomatoes
5 cups red wine vinegar
2 ½ cups caster sugar


Place all the ingredients in the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about an hour and a half until the chutney has thickened.

Spoon the chutney into sterilised jam jars and seal.

Makes 6 x 1 lb Jars






























Try to remember to remove the cinnamon sticks before you jar up the chutney!

I ran out of time while making this batch of chutney and had to leave the finishing off and jarring up in Graham's rather astonished hands. He did a grand job, but forgot to take out the cinnamon sticks. I apologise to anyone who gets a crunchy bit in their batch LOL!

p.s. thanks for the cinnamon sticks Davimack and Tadmack :)


------------------------------------------------


Just remembered I had some rather nice photos from the chutney making, so I am going to add them now :)







09 October 2008

Carrot, Spinach and Lentil Soup

Curtains shut, lamps on, cat curled up beside you, whilst you dunk crusty bread into a bowl of really delicious soup.

Autumn is here!























Carrot, Spinach & Lentil Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 carrots, grated
150g spinach
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup lentils
juice of ½ a lime
salt & freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper


Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, until softened. Add the grated carrot and cook for a few minutes. Add the spinach and let it wilt. Next add the vegetable stock and the lentils. Stir well. Cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes before blending to a smooth consistency. Add the lime juice and season. Sprinkle each serving with a little cayenne pepper to spice things up.

Serves 6
















I am entering this thick autumn soup into this month's No Croutons Required challenge.

Lisa is hosting this month and would like us to make a hearty vegetarian soup that will warm the body and satisfy a hungry tummy.

If you would like to enter a hearty vegetarian soup into the challenge, then post your entry and email Lisa at nocroutonsrequired@googlemail.com by the 20th of October.

05 October 2008

Castle Campbell

Graham & I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, as many of you know. It was such a glorious day, that we decided to go walking. We spent the day clambering around Castle Campbell and the small glen it is situated in.














The castle, which sits in Dollar, was built in the late fifteenth century and was originally called Castle Gloom. What a name to give such a handsome castle! The castle originally belonged to the Stuart Clan, but passed by marriage to Colin Campbell, who was the first Earl of Argyll and the Lord Chancellor of Scotland. He was later executed for treason, but we won't go into that!

I thought you might enjoy some photos of the castle and surroundings. If you look carefully you will spot Graham having a snooze! It was such a crisp, cold day and he was so cozy in his warm coat, well that is his excuse anyway!


























In the evening Graham & I enjoyed a lovely meal in a little Italian restaurant in Perth. As usual, I forgot to take my camera out until the meal was nearly over, at which point it was too late to get any good shots. We both had crispy fried mushrooms, which were coated in a tempura style batter, flavoured with turmeric. These were amazingly good! For main course, Graham had a oven baked Penne Quattro Formaggio and I had Penne Arrabiata. They were both good and Graham's only complaint was that there were not burnt crispy bits around the edge of his dish. He likes the crispy bits.

03 October 2008

I would like to introduce ...... Audrey's Truffles
















Breaktime at work usually heralds some water and fruit or yoghurt for me and a cup of tea and a biscuit or a piece of fruit for others, but now and again the staff room gets interesting.

If this happens there is usually a reason, somebody's birthday, a thank you or somebody's leaving (this one is happening more and more often). If we are really lucky and I mean, really really lucky, then we stand before a hallowed treat - Audrey's Truffles. People will hear whispers about these truffles and make a special trip up to the staff room to have one. They are truly held in awe and I now know what Audrey's secret is, well apart from all the lovely ingredients such as chocolate, coconut and rum (lots of rum).

She sieves the biscuits! And therein lies the secret to a lovely smooth richness that cannot be rivalled. I have to tell you at this point, that is takes blooming ages to sieve a whole packet of biscuits. But, mmmmmmmm, it's worth it :P

Audrey’s Truffles

1 packet of McVities Digestive Biscuits
1 tin condensed milk
2 oz/ 4 tbsp margarine
12 tbsp desiccated coconut
10 tbsp Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate
10 tbsp dark rum (optional)


topping: chocolate vermicelli or dessicated coconut

Bash and sieve the digestive biscuits for a fine consistency. Melt the margarine. In a large bowl mix together the melted margarine, condensed milk, crushed biscuits, coconut, cocoa powder and rum. Once the mixture is well combined, place in the fridge for half an hour, to firm up. Remove the mixture from the fridge and roll into balls. Audrey says that it is difficult to persuade the vermicelli to stick to the truffle mixture, once it has been in the fridge. Her tip is to wet your hands slightly before you roll the balls in the vermicelli.

Makes - quite a lot. I filled two dinner plates, but I didn't count them.
















Audrey adds rum to her truffles, which makes them taste divine, however Graham hates the taste of alchol in anything sweet, so I added orange juice to mine instead of the rum for a more subtle flavour. I could have perked this up a bit with some finely grated orange rind, but I didn't think of this until later. Also you could use cocoa instead of drinking chocolate for that slightly bitter flavour of dark chocolate and roll them in cocoa too, but I would recommend trying them this way first, just to experience how good they are!


p.s. It is Graham & I's first wedding anniversary today!
Where did the year go?