Monday, 10 February 2014


It's been a while coming, and so, with a heavy heart, I've decided to stop blogging. I don't know (yet) if this is temporary or permanent but I will keep you posted. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

A plethora of desserts – chocolate fondants and white chocolate and cranberry cake

I have a very sweet tooth, which I’m trying to keep in check, but that is a post for another day. I fell off the wagon this weekend when the family was over, and I made three desserts – I really like having a selection to choose from.
My SiL is allergic to cinnamon, so she couldn’t eat the red fruit and apple crumble I made. She loves chocolate fondants, so I decided to try making some for her, which gave me the opportunity to test out some new molds I’d bought. Aaaand dessert #3 came in as I figured the kids wouldn’t eat either the crumble or the fondants, so I made a white chocolate and cranberry cake for them. Well, in the end, only the adults ate the cake, the kids were the biggest consumers of the fondants and only four portions of crumble went.

Felicity Cloake did the legwork on the fondant recipe – this is from her ‘perfect’ series. I doubled it to make four. This recipe makes two.

60g butter
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
60g dark chocolate
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
60g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of plain flour

Heat your oven to 200°. Grease the inside of 2 small ramekins or pudding molds, and then put the cocoa in one and turn it to coat the inside, holding it over the second mold to catch any that escapes. Do the same with the other mold.
Put the butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Allow to cool slightly.
Whisk the egg, yolk, sugar and a pinch of salt until pale and fluffy. Gently fold in the melted chocolate and butter, and then the flour. Spoon into the prepared molds, stopping just shy of the top – at this point the mixture can be refrigerated until needed, or even frozen, as the puddings will not wait around once cooked.
Put on to a hot baking tray and cook for 12 minutes (14 if from cold, 16 if frozen) until the tops are set and coming away from the sides of the molds. Leave to rest for 30 seconds and then serve in the ramekins or turn out on to plates if you're feeling confident – they're great with clotted cream or plain ice cream.

Chocolate fondant - still in the mold

The cake I made was the one we tasted at the last Clandestine Cake Club. I used this recipe – here is the UK/gram equivalent. It actually looks really festive, so it would be great for a Christmas party. It looks as good as it tastes too.

Cranberry and white chocolate cake

For the jam
350g of fresh cranberries
150g sugar
the rid and juice of an orange
a teaspoon each of ground ginger and cinnamon
a couple of cloves – just remember how many you put in
(if all this is too much, just use a jar of cranberry jam – Carrefour does a delicious cherry, cranberry and red currant (I think…) jam)

For the cake
225g of white chocolate
300g of plain flour
a small sprinkle of salt
140g of soft butter
270g of castor sugar
4 eggs
a good teaspoon of vanilla – I use a jar I got in Ireland of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste. I’ve seen the same brand, but not the vanilla, in the International Home of Cooking at Rue Léopold 3, 1000 Brussels (its near Sterling Books).
A good dash of milk

For the icing
170g white chocolate
100g of soft butter
50g icing sugar
another good teaspoon of vanilla

You start off by making the filling. In a saucepan, mix all the filling ingredients for it and bring to the boil. Once boiling, simmer for 10 minutes and then remove from the heat. Once its cool enough to not scald yourself on, go through it and fish out all the cloves you added. Then, whizz it through a food processor for a few seconds.

For the cake, melt the chocolate in a bowl over some boiling water until it is fully melted.
Pop your oven on to 190° and grease and line two 20cm cake tins.
In another bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light n fluffy and its gone white, or at least a lot paler. This will take about 5-7 minutes of mixing. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition and add the vanilla with the last egg. Finally, mix though the flour, baking powder and salt until it’s just about combined and then mix though the melted chocolate. If your mixture is a bit thick, add a few dessertspoons of milk to loosen it. It should be the consistency of honey.
Spread the batter into the prepared cake tins.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing them and cooling completely.

The vanilla bean paste I use

For the icing, melt the white chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Leave it to cool for about 20 minutes (I didn’t pay attention to this, and added the warm chocolate to the rest of the icing, and well, the whole lot curdled. Bin!). Even after 20 minutes, it hadn’t started solidifying again, so no worries in that department.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, vanilla and the icing sugar until fluffy. When the chocolate is cool, mix it through the icing.
To construct the cake, slice each of the cakes in half horizontally and slather the jam on layer 1, put the other half on, slather that, then layer 3 – more jam – and then the lid of the cake. I only covered the top of the cake with the icing.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Venison casserole

I was a bit late to the table regarding the annual game season, and when I eventually got to the supermarket last Tuesday, there was not a whole lot left. I picked up a filet of venison, which was a bit more expensive than I would have liked to have paid for dinner (+/-350g for €15.52!).

Venison casserole

I used this recipe from the BBC. It fed three of us well. 


·     a knob of butter
·     1 chopped onion
·     4 crushed garlic cloves
·     1 packet of lardons
·     500g of wild mushrooms
·     350g filet of venison
·     a glass of red wine
·     200ml water and a couple of stock cubes
·     1 good tablespoons redcurrant jelly

Melt the butter in a casserole dish and cook the onion for a few minutes, until softened. Add the diced venison and brown the outsides of the meat. Once they are browned, add the garlic, bacon and mushrooms and cook for a further minute.
Add the red wine, water, stock cubes, redcurrant jelly and salt and pepper.
Heat all of this until it begins to bubble and then lower the heat until the liquid is just simmering. Cook the casserole for about an hour or so, until the meat begins to break easily under a fork.
If the sauce is too liquid, you can thicken it by mixing a dessertspoonful of the sauce with a teaspoon of cornflour until it forms a paste. Pour the paste into the casserole and heat until it bubbles and thickens.

I served this with potato and celeriac mash.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Butternut squash and mushroom lasagne

After a lull in the kitchen over the past month or so, I was back with a bang this weekend.
I began on Friday night, with a butternut squash and mushroom lasagna from last week’s Irish Times. As usual, there were two recipes in the paper, and I’d made the roast chicken all-in-one during the week (for the record, it’s very simple and good. I’d add a bit more herbs and/or spices next time).
I bought two butternut squash last week (I got the two for €4.16). I’d never prepared them before and sweet janey mac, I gave up after about 30 mins. I even YouTubed videos of what to do. It all looks so easy! I got the cylindrical bits off and peeled no problem (I sliced off the skin with a very sharp knife), but it was another story when it came to the bulbous end. I used a vegetable peeler, which removed the thick skin but left the kind of paler tough inner layer – are you supposed to peel them twice??? And what about the hairy bit that holds the seeds – how do you get the hairs out without scraping the edible flesh away too??? It’s a minefield.
In the end, I put all the pieces, peeled and unpeeled, into two roasting dishes and covered them liberally with olive oil and seasoning before roasting them in the oven at 190° for 30 minutes. The flesh was then a lot easier to scoop away from the skin.
I used one of the squash to make this Mary Berry soup for the weekend.
The second squash went into the butternut squash and mushroom lasagne.

Butternut squash lasange

·     1 butternut squash, peeled, diced and seeds removed
·     olive oil
·     salt and pepper
·     bacon – about a packet, so 10 slices of the ones you get in Belgian supermarkets
·     500g button mushrooms, sliced
·     4 cloves of garlic, crushed
·     2 balls of mozzarella
·     1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
·     6 lasagne sheets
·     chopped parsley to serve
While the squash were in the oven, I made the rest of the lasagne.
First off, I cooked the bacon in a frying pan until it was crispy. Cook the sliced mushrooms in the same pan in the residual bacon grease with the crushed garlic. It will all cook down. I cooked this for about 5 minutes before adding the tin of tomatoes and a stock cube. Heat all of this until its bubbling and cook like this for about 10-15 minutes until some of the tomato juice evaporates.
Mushrooms for the lasagne

Once the squash is cooked and de-skinned, mash it a bit so there are no big lumps.
To assemble the lasagne, place half the soft squash at the bottom of the dish and then cover with half the lasagne sheets. Pour the mushrooms and tomatoes over this. I forgot to add the bacon but if you are adding this, this is the moment to do so. Add another layer of lasagne sheets and the rest of the squash and the chopped mozzarella. Bake this in the oven for 30-40 minutes, at 190°.

We got three dinners from this and we had enough for a light lunch with soup on Saturday.
a close up of the butternut lasagne