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Friday, 27 March 2015

Simple Speedy Mocha Tart

I think it's fair to say that chocolate tart can be a bit blah! And as good as it can be, because yeah of course it's's chocolate for goodness sake, sometimes I just want that little bit of extra something to take it to that next - not so ordinary level. (Cringe...just realised that sounds so cliche soz guys.) 

I mean I know adding a tablespoon of coffee isn't exactly out there and revolutionary...but it gives it that mocha flavour which brings me very happy thoughts of sitting in my favourite coffee shop watching the world go by (usually after a hard shopping spree, loaded with as many bags as possible!!) 

I also wanted the tart to be 100% committed to the title and do what it says on the tin. It's simple to make because once you've made and baked the pastry case, it is a matter of melting chocolate, coffee and cream, and throwing on some chopped brazil nuts. 

An impressive patisserie treat without the fuss, making it seem like you've spent hours in the kitchen (when you've really not shhhh!) Sneaky.  With Easter on the horizon it would make the perfect Easter dessert after that family Sunday roast. If you can manage anymore chocolate that is! Plus being quick to make, you can enjoy spending more time with the family which is what the joys of this celebration brings (or as it happens...not - if you want to avoid them, just stay in the kitchen, lie and pretend it takes hours and hours - sorted!!)

Simple Speedy Mocha Tart


[makes 1 x 8 inch fairly deep tart]

For the pastry:
55g icing sugar
170g plain flour, plus more to dust
110g butter, chopped
½ of a lightly beaten egg

For the filling:
300g milk chocolate (broken into pieces)
200ml double cream
30g salted butter
1 ½ tbsp coffee/espresso powder (adjust quantity depending on preference)
40g brazil nuts


Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/ gas 6. To make your pastry, mix the icing sugar and flour together then mix in the butter, either pulse-blending in a food processor or rubbing it in with your fingers, until the mixture has the consistency of crumbs. Add the beaten egg and mix the dough until firm and smooth. Wrap in cling film and let it rest for 10 minutes in the freezer. 

Roll out the pastry so that you can line your loose-bottomed tart tin (preferably about 8 inches in diameter), cut off the overhanging pastry and then line with greaseproof paper and baking beans to blind-bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 6-8 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely. 

When the pastry case has cooled, place the chocolate squares, cream, coffee and butter in a saucepan over a low heat and allow to melt together, stirring constantly. When you have a smooth chocolatey liquid pour into your pastry case and top with roughly chopped brazil nuts. Place in the fridge, uncovered and allow to set for at least 2 hours or overnight before serving. 
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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Jamie's Salmon Fishcakes recipe

Fishcakes can make for a tasty tea time meal. Crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside- they're easy, relatively quick to make and involves getting your hands messy which is always fun! My mum first introduced me to this recipe from Jamie Oliver,  and I have loved them ever since.

One of the beauties of the fishcake is how easy it is to play around with: once you've suited the basics to your satisfaction, the choice of icing on this particular 'cake' is very much up to you. In theory, your choice of fish with such a dish is entirely dependent on your leftovers – fishcakes are, as you will see, very flexible things (well, until you try to keep them together in the pan, that is). 

So be experimental and try whatever fish you fancy, but bear in mind you many need more or less binding agent- in this case, the wetness of the fish together with the egg, so that your fishcakes remain sturdy.  But to be on the safe side, if you're feeling in a Heston Blumenthal sort of mood, then pick a 'solid' fish - whitefish or tuna work well. 

I believe homemade fishcakes taste miles better compared to any of your traditional shop-bought equivalents and this way you'll be able to know exactly what goes into them (which you can't always guarantee when they are cheap-factory made versions.) 

I enjoy having these fishcakes with some sweet thai chilli sauce (as you can see from my photos) and garnished with coriander, but I have also added a little extra recipe of Jamie's for a tomato, olive, basil and chilli sauce which he recommends as a little bit of extra zing! 

Be sure to chill your mash potato before using as this makes forming into little patties a piece of cake. (excuse my pun...

Salmon Fishcakes with optional tomato, olive, basil and chilli sauce 

A recipe slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver


sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
600g potatoes
500g salmon fillets, skin on, scaled and bones removed
olive oil
a bunch of fresh coriander
1 tablespoon flour, plus extra for dusting
1 large egg
2 lemons

Note: you could prepare the salmon and mash potato the day before you want to eat them, chill them overnight in the fridge, and then use as normal. This makes for sturdy fishcakes which are easier to handle.


Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Peel your potatoes and chop them into even-sized chunks. Rub the salmon fillets all over with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the potatoes to the pan and bring back to the boil. Put the fish into a colander, covered with foil, and place it over the pan of potatoes. Turn the heat down and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the potatoes and fish are both cooked then remove the fish from the colander and put on one side. Drain the potatoes in the colander, then return them to the pan and let them steam dry. Pick the coriander leaves and finely chop them. 

Mash your potatoes, and then place into another bowl or plate and leave to cool completely. Remove any skin from the fish and when the potatoes are cold, put them into a bowl and flake the fish into it with a tablespoon of flour. Add the egg and chopped coriander with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Then finely grate over the lemon zest, and mash all together to mix it up well. 

Dust your work surface with flour, divide the fishcake mixture into 8 and lightly shape and pat into circles about 2cm thick, dusting them with flour as you go. Get yourself a plate or tray, dust it with flour and place your fishcakes on top. Pop them into the fridge for an hour before cooking or in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes for speed. This will allow them to firm up slightly.

Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a couple of lugs of olive oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add your fishcakes and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden - you may need to cook them in batches, keeping the others warm in the oven on a very low heat. Serve straight away, with lemon halves for squeezing over, and some peas, broccoli, greens or salad. 

Tomato, olive, basil and chilli sauce


2 cloves of garlic
a small handful of black olives
a few sprigs of fresh basil
1 fresh red chilli
olive oil
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
sea salt and black pepper


Peel and finely slice your garlic, squash the olives, using the base of a jar or something heavy, and remove the stones. Roughly chop the olives. Pick the basil leaves off their stalks, ripping up any larger leaves then deseed and finely slice the red chilli. In a large frying pan on a high heat add a lug of olive oil followed by the garlic, olives and chilli. When the garlic is lightly golden add the tomatoes, season with just a small pinch of salt (as the olives can be salty) and pepper and leave to simmer for 4-5 minutes. Serve while still hot with your fishcakes.

What I was ' Baking to...'

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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Danish Custard Pies (Linser) from Scandinavian Baking

It's embarrassing to have to say how many cookbooks I have on the subject of baking, but let me tell you, I can never have enough! I was recently in that well known bookstore just looking in the cookbook section as you do, and came across Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann, I was instantly hooked just from reading the title - never mind the beautifully styled berry-spectacular layered cake on the front cover. So of course that's why I put it onto my birthday wishlist immediately. 

Luckily, my boyfriend bought it me (thanks by the way!) and this was the first recipe I decided to make after much deliberation, because a custard pie is, for me, just irresistible. Timely fitting for a Mother's day treat eh?

Now here goes the running commentary so you know exactly what was going through my mind whilst making these custard pies. (Your welcome!!)

WELL firstly I'd like to point out to you all that this recipe rocks due to the pastry. It's soooo good. Definitely worth just having the sweet shortcrust pastry recipe for any tart you make. I certainly won't be forgetting it. So easy to work with and doesn't even need chilling for long. The recipe states chill for 1 hour but I think I did 30 minutes and it was ready to go! (As you know I'm a bit impatient and will cut corners where possible- this is one of them.)

I felt the recipe was bit too vague for my liking when regarding 12 hole-fairy cake tins. Trine says just place the pastry circles in the holes but I wasn't taking any risks there! I stuck to my gut instincts and decided to give a quick greasing with a spray of sunflower oil. (I had the disastrous visions of custard tart technical challenge week on The Great British Bake Off at this point.)   Thankfully after letting the pies cool in their tin for about 10 minutes they popped straight out, no problem! I decided to use a 7cm cookie cutter for the base but a 6 cm cutter for the lid as I don't think it would have worked with the edges overlapping the top of the tin and that could have been another danger zone for getting the tarts out afterwards. This also made it much easier to press lightly around the edges so it stuck, since there was no call for brushing the edges with egg wash or anything of the sort... 

Lastly, you'll notice that my pastry lids cracked on top, primarily I think this is because the custard expands (and you think "oh no I've overfilled them" but when cooling the custard then deflates) so what I'm trying to say is - don't panic! It's just rustic... nothing a little icing sugar won't hide here. Plus this isn't really a bad thing but, the recipe dramatically makes a lot more than the 12 intended by Trine...I'm talking an extra 7! Obviously nothing to complain about there. Just more for me. Yum!

Danish Custard Pies (Linser) 

From Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann (Quadrille, £25)


[Makes 12]

For the pastry:
110g icing sugar
340g plain flour, plus more to dust
pinch of salt
225g butter, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the custard:
1 vanilla pod
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour

To finish:
I added a dusting of icing sugar


Mix the icing sugar, flour and salt, then mix in the butter, either pulse-blending
in a food processor or rubbing it in with your fingers, until the mixture has the
consistency of crumbs. Add the egg and mix the dough until firm and smooth.
Wrap in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

Meanwhile, make the custard. Split the vanilla pod lengthways. Heat the cream
and vanilla pod in a saucepan until steaming hot, then turn off the heat. Whisk
the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together until fluffy and pale yellow. Pour
a little of the hot cream into the egg mixture, then pour all the egg mixture into
the saucepan. Set over a low heat and whisk until the custard starts to thicken.
Take care not to boil the mixture and whisk continuously to avoid burning.
Leave to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3.

Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a floured work surface
to 5–8mm thick. Cut out rounds with a 7cm cookie cutter and place them in
a 12-hole fairy cake tin. Spoon in the custard. Roll out the remaining pastry and,
with the same cookie cutter, cut out the lids. Place on top and press lightly
around the edges. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to
cool before serving. These will keep in an airtight container for four or five days.

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Friday, 6 March 2015

My 17th Birthday! Strawberry and White Chocolate Cake

In case you didn't pay much attention to the title of today's was my birthday this week. And as per usual - time to make myself a big old cake (well sometimes my friend has made it in the past) That's just not how I roll, so I went with 2 of my favourite things - white chocolate and strawberries. 

Well actually, if I had to pick the best chocolate, I think I would probably go with milk chocolate, but in the case of making buttercream, white chocolate is always best. It's just so creamy, rich and velvety and a perfect match with little specks of vanilla dotted throughout. It's irresistible, anything iced with this one is always quickly devoured and can be used generously for the ultimate treat. 

Between the layers of white chocolate sponge cake I spreaded some good-quality strawberry jam with the buttercream. But if you perhaps prefer another fruit I feel this would be equally good with blueberry jam and fresh blueberries on top, or raspberries. Go with whatever is in season! Mmmm can't wait to try them all just thinking about the endless possibilities. 

Anyway, back to my birthday... I went to pizza express with friends and family. I had doughballs (of course you have to get them, that's like their speciality) then the Il Padrino pizza - that's embellished with all manner of chargrilled vegetables and chicken - for my main which was big to say the least. I really don't get why they just don't buy bigger plates, it was inches hanging off the edge and they always do! But not really a complaint as such because your getting lots for your money. Then for the grand finale I had the leggera chocolate cheesecake! I'm not a cheesecake sort of girl but it's actually more like a chocolate mousse cake then anything else. The best thing of all was when I got another complementary cheesecake because it was my birthday - complete with a candle. How sweet of pizza express!! 

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cake 
(where the buttercream recipe is adapted from the Primrose Bakery Cupcakes book)


150g good-quality white chocolate
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, beaten
250g self-raising flour

For the buttercream
175g good quality white chocolate
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon semi-skimmed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g icing sugar, sifted

To finish
about 4 tablespoons good-quality strawberry jam
3-4 large strawberries


Preheat the oven to 170°C/ 325°F/ gas 3. Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn and go grainy (this can happen very quickly if not watched). Leave to cool until needed.

Put the butter into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then add the vanilla and beat until the mixture is very light in colour and fluffy in texture scraping down the bowl from time to time. Gradually add the beaten eggs, beating well after each addition and adding a tablespoon of the weighed flour with the last portion of egg (to prevent curdling.) Sift in the rest of the flour and fold in using a large metal spoon. Add the cooled white chocolate and fold in until all the ingredients have been incorporated.

Spoon the mixture equally into two 8 inch/ 20cm cake tins that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and just firm to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean in the centre. You may need to place a foil covering over the cakes in the last 5 minutes of baking time to prevent from browning too much. Then leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. 

Meanwhile, to make the buttercream melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then leave to cool. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, milk, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth - this can take several minutes with an electric hand mixer. Add the melted chocolate and beat again until thick and creamy. If it looks too runny to use just keep beating - this will thicken it and improve its consistency. 

Once the cakes are completely cold, place one sponge on a plate or board that you can ice on, preferably a turning cake stand will make it easier. Spread your jam onto the sponge and spread about 1/4 of the icing onto the bottom side of the other sponge and then place this iced side down onto your jammed sponge. Lightly press down and then coat the sides and top with the rest of your buttercream, smoothing as you go with a pallette knife. Then, to finish place your fresh strawberries in the centre of the iced cake. 

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