Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Midnight Macaroon Bars

10pm this evening. "Mum don't forget I have to dress up in World War 2 clothes and take in a World War 2 packed lunch and sweets tomorrow to school"
And incidentally, yes I had forgotton. I called my mum for a chat (which I have been meaning to do since the WW2 packed lunch idea was first mooted) and quizzed her about rationing and wartime food. And, other than nipping down to the shop for spam or corned beef, this was the best idea we came up with... and I am so glad we did.

These wee Scottish sweeties are made of mashed potato and sugar - basically it was a way to make a little bit of sugar go a long long way - then tossed in dark chocolate and finished by rolling in toasted coconut. A very special treat when there were few treats around but no less one today. These could easily become a staple with coffee after dinner. Apologies for the dodgy photographs but as I said - it is nearly midnight and I need them for school tomorrow.

Almost a recipe for Macaroon Bars
As much mashed potato as you have left over (at least 3 tbsp)
A big bag of icing sugar
A small bar of chocolate
Some dessicated coconut

Whisk the icing sugar into the mashed potato until you have a firm but pliable dough, don't be surprised that it goes almost runny before it starts to firm up, just keep adding icing sugar until it reaches the right consistency.

Shape into long thin bars or small squares.(squares are best to serve with coffee... bars are best as wartime snacks for hungry 10 year olds)

Chill in the fridge for 30 mins.

Melt the chocolate.

Toast the dessicated coconut under a grill for a few minutes until golden, watch it carefully as it burns very quickly.

Remove the squares of fondant from the fridge, coat in the chocolate and then roll in the coconut. This is a messy business, I found it helpful to have lots of spoons and a jugful of hot water to clean them off handy.
Chill for 30 mins till the chocolate sets hard.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Almond Citrus Cake

Soaked in sugar syrup flavoured with cinnamon, oranges and lemons, this cake is unbelievably luscious, glossy and moist. I first ate cake like this on holiday around the Middle East, where tooth-meltingly sweet desserts rule and almonds grow wild. It makes your whole house smell of summer sweetness and christmas spice all at the same time.

Over the past few years, I have tried out various almond cake recipes (and burnt off the bottom of my two favourite le creuset pots by boiling whole oranges dry for one in particular.) I have begged details from Dubai cafe-owners, old English ladies and gleaned hints from all sorts of cookbooks. This recipe has been kicking around my friend's kitchen since the 80's where it first appeared in the London Evening Standard, I've rejigged it a little to make it completely gluten-free.

Don't miss out the sugar syrup, it is the whole point of this cake but do serve it in little squares as the sweetness may overwhelm those with more delicate sensibilities.

Almond Citrus Cake
50g gluten-free breadcrumbs
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder 
200ml vegetable oil
4 eggs
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
85g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 tsp orange flower water (optional)

Grease and line a square (22cm) cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, sugar, almonds and baking powder.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and zest together.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly.
Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 30 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a skewer dipped in comes out clean.

While the cake is cooling, heat all the syrup ingredients in a small heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time to ensure the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency. Pierce holes all over the cake and pour the syrup evenly over the top of the still warm sponge.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Split Pea Soup with Spiced Butter

(Aka my favourite soup in the whole wide world ever).
So simple, so luscious, and quite bizarrely - given the frugal nature of the ingredients - so decadent.  Based on a Nigel Slater Moroccan soup recipe but with alternative spicing, this has been a staple of my winter kitchen for years. 

I make this soup at least once a week, it is perfect for small children and anyone who hates spicy food as the spice mixture is added fresh at the end.  Although the soup is elevated to a new level with the zing of fresh spices, omitting them altogether still leaves a rich, comforting and nourishing soup.

Split Pea Soup
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g yellow split peas
2-3 pints chicken or vegetable stock 

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, add the garlic and onion and saute till transluscent and aromatic. Add the split peas and stock and simmer for at least an hour. Keep an eye on the level of stock and top up with water if required. Split peas can absorb an astonishing amount of liquid on their way to tenderness. When the peas are beginning to soften and break up, blend the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.

Spiced Butter
100g soft butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
4cm fresh ginger, grated
2 fresh red chillis, chopped finely
2 spring onions, chopped finely
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped finely

Squash all the ingredients together till well combined. 
Roll into a log shape, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to harden.
Serve the soup just a little too hot with a slice of spiced butter melting luxuriously on top.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Beetroot Brownies

It's been too long, I have not written for weeks... my cafe hours have extended and the workload seemed to double overnight and something had to give..... unfortunately it was the thing I love to do most! Blog I missed you, I won't leave you alone again. I just needed the inspiration of my big sister turning up and nagging me to get back to it.

The good thing is that I have huge, long list of recipes all waiting to be photographed and written up so back to business. This recipe is based on a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall article from a newspaper clipping years ago and is now one of my absolute favourites. Rich. luscious, more chocolaty than you can imagine, these brownies don't taste of beetroot any more than carrot cake tastes of carrots but the sweetness of the beet adds an extra depth of flavour and somehow exaggerates the flavour of the chocolate. 

Beetroot Brownies
250g dark chocolate
250g butter
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
250g beetroot, boiled until tender or a  250g pack of vac-packed beetroot

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease a brownie tin (20 x 30) and line with greaseproof paper.
Grate the beetroot on the finest setting of a grater and set aside.  
Break the chocolate up and chop the butter into small cubes. Place in a double-boiler or in a microwave for 30-45 secs until just melted.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until light and thick, then add the chocolate and butter mixture and beat together until smooth.
Fold in the flour then stir in the grated beetroot.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and tap gently on the counter top to eliminate any bubbles and give a smooth finish.
Bake for approx 20 minutes until a skewer pushed into the middle should comes out sticky but clean.
Remove the tin from the oven and leave on wire rack to cool.
slice into bars and dust with icing sugar to serve.