chilli orange chocolate cake

April 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

I should be studying. I am trying to write an essay. But every time I attempt it, I find myself wanting to throw my computer across the room. In an effort to relax, I have been dreaming up cakes and pottering in the kitchen.

So here is the result, a cake with bite. Inspired by a traditional brownie, it comes out crusty on top and soft, dense and moist in the middle, the chilli and orange a reflection of my mood. I have only used a subtle amount of chilli but if you want more kick you can add up to 1 tsp.

Ingredients
100 g butter
250 g brown sugar
200 g good quality dark cooking chocolate
2 free  range organic eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
rind of 1 orange
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
100 g plain spelt flour (or normal flour if you would prefer)
1/2 tsp baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange, chilli and cinnamon.  Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the chocolate mix, stirring until just combined. Transfer to a lined and greased 20 cm diameter cake tin. Bake for 20 -30 minutes or until crusty on top but still moist inside.

homemade fig and pear semi-freddo

April 3, 2011 § 13 Comments

Over our back fence there is an overgrown lane-way. The grass is knee-high littered with old televisions and garden clippings sneakily dropped out of neighbours lives. This place seems long forgotten. Certainly no one seems to go there. And I wouldn’t either, if it were not for the huge fig tree that hangs beyond one lucky neighbours back-yard, the branches reaching deep into the lane. Once a week I have been jumping our fence, braving the long grass with the hidden electrical appliances and checking on the figs, waiting for them to turn soft and blushing purple. I’m glad I have been watching so closely, because all of a sudden they have hurriedly begun to ripen and split, the purple blush revealing delicious pink softly wrapped in white. My recent visits have had me returning with a wide sticky smile and pockets juicy and bulging. I have needed careful restraint in order for them to make it all the way to the kitchen with me. Luckily the idea of fig ice-cream has kept me determined to save a special few.

Semi-freddo is a lovely way to get the idea of ice-cream without all the bother, fluster and equipment needed to produce it.  Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe in this book I have changed the quantities a bit, and adapted it to my own flavourings.

It’s probably obvious, I am making fig and pear semi-freddo because I want to impress someone. What could be especially delightful for my sweetheart just back from 5 months in Africa. This recipe is both seductive and gentle with the comfort of pears and flirtation of figs.

What you will need
400 g fresh figs
1 ripe pear
2 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
pinch cinnamon
100 g brown sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 free range organic eggs separated
600 ml thick organic cream
pinch salt
1 Tbsp raw organic honey

Remove the stalk from the fig and cut into quarters. Remove the core from the pear and roughly chop. Place the fig, pear, lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar in a saucepan and stew until soft and caramelised. Allow to cool before pureeing.
Whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla.
In a second bowl whisk the cream until soft peaks form.
In a third bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until very firm peaks form.
Gently fold all ingredients together. Transfer to an old ice cream container or tupperware and drizzle with honey before placing in the freezer for about 4 hours or until partially frozen. Otherwise, freeze for longer and place in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. Semi-freddo is Italian and literally translates to semi-frozen.
Serve in a bowl with fresh figs or a drizzle of honey.

Enjoy!

Other very tasty combinations:
Banana and cardamom
Apricot and almond
Chocolate and chili

What it Means to be Perfect: Chocolate coated dried plums marinated in white wine and a hint of thyme

February 11, 2011 § 9 Comments

Chocolate coated dried plums

When in Belgium I went to visit my great aunty and uncle Yvonne and Jos in the small town of Bellingen. Oom Jos just turned 90 and Tante Yvonne isn’t far behind. We ate cake with a fork and knife before a dinner of witlof wrapped in ham and baked in snowy white sauce. This is a very traditional Flemish dish. As a child I was always glad witlof was so hard to find in Australia so it rarely ended up in my mother’s kitchen. But now I enjoy it in small amounts provided there’s plenty of ham and sauce to go around.

During the Flemish conversations around the dinner table I mostly daydreamed at the paintings on the wall and marvelled at the young spirit of my aunt and uncle gossiping and laughing about the local goings on. At one point, the conversation briefly turned to English and my uncle proclaimed,

Tante Yvonn and Oom Jos

‘No one is perfect.’

Then after reflecting on this statement for a while he continued,

‘Except for my wife! She is Perfect. She cleans and cooks all day. She is perfect… only problem is she has no time for making love. She is too busy. She never has time to kiss me.’

I am always struck when I see an old relationship full of humour, love and adoration like this one, a little reminder that life can indeed be great, full of warmth and happiness.

So because the conversation here is about love and perfection and because it is almost Valentines Day and because I am sadly alone with my darling still in Africa, I have decided it is most suitable I share this recipe so perfect and delicious it will make you weak at the knees and your heart melt. Well at least I hope so.

I got the idea of chocolate covered prunes from Stephanie Alexanders book The Cooks Companion. She stuffs them with almonds and soaks them in brandy. I have adapted it some by using white wine and adding a few little bits and pieces for extra freshness. I think the thyme and lemon zest brings something unique and light to the richness of the chocolate. I also changed the terminology a bit because for something with a valentine spirit ‘prunes’ doesn’t really have the right um… connotations in regards to some of its well known uses. Dried plums on the other hand….

Recipe for Chocolate Coated Dried Plums

You will need

30 pitted prunes

30 almonds

3/4 cup white wine

Juice of an orange

Sprig of thyme

Zest of 1/4 of  a lemon

200g dark cooking chocolate

Stuff an almond into each prune where the pip would have been and place in a bowl along with the white wine, orange juice, thyme and lemon zest. Allow to soak for 1 – 2 hours then drain well.

drain well

Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

Melted chocolate

Dip each prune into the chocolate. Allow to cool in the fridge on a tray covered with baking paper until the chocolate sets.

Allow to cool on baking paper

Serve on a pretty plate and eat with someone special.

Enjoy!!

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