chocolate

Indian with Love

Valentine's Day is round the corner and the pressure to make it the ultimate romantic day of the year hangs in the balance. Or does it? I'm not convinced that it deserves the reverence and sense of occasion bestowed onto this day. Partners are under duress to exhibit their love with flowers, dinner, champagne and clichéd gifts, but really it's the over-commercialised cheese that I personally loath, not the notion of romance per se. I'm not a killjoy but there's so much more to love than a mere twenty-four hours of imposed romance. 

Being a self-confessed foodie, I love eating out, but the idea of dining out on Valentine's Day in a restaurant full of awkward couples, fills me with trepidation. In fact I think cooking a meal for someone is a significant act of love, now that's amore and as that old adage cites, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Or to a woman's for that matter. It's all about the effort and about making it deeply personal.

Valentine's Day falls during that post-Christmas time of year, when everything is a grey blur! I guess that February is only redeemed with the whiff of love in the air. I suggest that if nothing else, we celebrate this day with some delicious food and definitely some decadent desserts. I believe in making life easy, so if you're going to make a beeline for the kitchen to set the mood for love, keep it simple. Sharing-food is the obvious answer to heighten your romantic experience. By all means indulge in those traditional aphrodisiac foods, but I just want to draw your attention to a few ingredients that have proved to spark romance. Avocados, chillies, pine nuts, olive oil and rocket are all known to have 'lustful' properties, so let your imagination run riot and create some magic with these 'in the mood' foods. Of course don't forget to cook with love, the food always tastes better.

Chocolate and Valentine's Day go hand in hand. Apparently, chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a chemical stimulant, which is released by the brain during a passionate exchange. So I think it fitting to end a Valentine's Day meal with a chocolate dessert. I want to share a chocolate fondant recipe, that is not only luxurious, extravagant and indulgent, but is also sophisticated and uber sensual. This recipe is very simple and it ticks every check box. Whether you're making this for a potential partner, lover, spouse, parent, sibling, child or family, it's sure to put a smile on everyone's face. And even if Cupid hasn't sharpened his arrows you'll definitely fall in love with this dessert! XOXO

Chocolate Fondant Dessert

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 90g Caster Sugar
  • 150g Unsalted Butter plus extra for greasing
  • 150g Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa Solids)
  • 3 Free Range Egg Yolks
  • 3 Free Range Eggs
  • 1 tbsp Plain Flour

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 165 degrees celsius (fan-assisted oven), or equivalent.
  • Using the extra butter, grease four large ramekins, or dariole moulds and set aside.
  • Chop the butter into small cubes and break up the chocolate.
  • Place the caster sugar, butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl, over a pan of simmering water. The water must not touch the bowl.
  • Simmer gently, until the butter and chocolate have melted and then remove the bowl from the pan.
  • Whisk the melted ingredients together.
  • Add the egg yolks and the whole eggs and beat well, into the chocolate mixture once it is cool.
  • Fold the flour into the chocolate mixture with a metal spoon.
  • Pour the mixture into the ramekins, or dariole moulds and fill up to three quarters of the moulds.
  • Place the moulds into the fridge for about 20 minutes and once chilled remove from the fridge and place onto a baking tray. 
  • Cook for 10 minutes and then remove from the oven.
  • These can either be served straight in the ramekin, or if you have made them in a dariole mould, you can turn them out onto individual plates.
  • Serve with double cream, whipped cream or clotted cream.

Tips

  • If you want to make these in advance, just keep them in the fridge and then remove 30 minutes before cooking them in the oven.
  • When you place your spoon into the chocolate fondant, it should have a melting molten middle.
  • If you're making this dessert for just two people, then by all means halve the recipe, alternatively, have the extra two for breakfast!
Photo 11-02-2016, 16 20 59.jpg


One for Dad

For the last few days Dad has been nibbling on chocolate, the 85% cocoa variety. He's been quite excited after reading about the health benefits of chocolate recently published in the BMJ journal HeartA trial conducted over several years has concluded that people who regularly eat chocolate are less likely to develop strokes and cardiovascular disease, compared to those who don't eat any chocolate. This is a trial that I would have happily participated in, and sacrificed my body in the name of medical science! It is apparently all to do with the bioactive plant compounds found in cocoa beans. The researchers have found that by eating a daily dose of 100 grams, the risk of heart disease is reduced by 14 per cent and a 23 per cent reduction in the risk of a stroke. Other studies have also shown that eating chocolate lowers the 'bad cholesterol' in the body and another advocates that chocolate can help prevent memory decline. So now we don't need an excuse to eat chocolate; its all in the name of good health! 

Speaking of good health, where is George Clooney, our favourite ER doctor? Evidently, he's busy enjoying one of life's great pleasures, drinking coffee! Nespresso has revolutionised my life. No longer do I crave a designer coffee. My swanky machine awaits me each morning and once my pod is in and at the touch of a button my perfect, luxury coffee is born and boy does it deliver. So the smart 'suits' at Nestlé have tapped into a lifestyle brand and I admittedly have fallen for it, hook line and sinker.

Using these two incredible ingredients, chocolate and coffee, with an added tipple of Tia Maria coffee liqueur, I've decided to treat Dad to a delectable dessert for Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day!

Tiramisu

Serves 4-6

  • 250g Tub Mascarpone, full fat
  • 3 Egg Yolks, large, free range
  • 2 Egg Whites, large, free range
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 160ml Intense Espresso
  • 2 tbsp Tia Maria
  • 12 Sponge Fingers (Savoiardi)
  • 50g Dark Chocolate, 70% cocoa, finely chopped 
  • 2 tsp Cocoa Powder

Method

  • Place the egg yolks and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat. (I use an electric hand whisk). Beat together until it looks very pale and thick. This usually takes a couple of minutes.
  • Add the mascarpone into the pale egg and sugar mixture. Beat on a slow speed. Initially it will look curdled, but keep beating until it is incorporated and smooth.
  • Place the egg whites into a medium bowl and whisk with clean beaters, until the egg white forms stiff peaks.
  • Gently fold the egg white into the mascarpone mixture and then set aside.
  • Put the espresso and Tia Maria together into a mug.
  • In a medium-sized glass serving bowl, place half of the sponge fingers at the bottom and spoon over half of the coffee mixture onto the sponge fingers.
  • Cover the sponge fingers with half of the mascarpone mixture and top that with half of the chocolate.
  • Repeat this whole process, layering the sponge fingers and spooning the remaining coffee mixture onto them. Cover with the remaining mascarpone mixture and sprinkle the remaining chopped chocolate on top. Sift the cocoa powder all over.
  • Place the dessert into the fridge for several hours until the dessert is set and chilled. It is better to leave it overnight if you can.
  • Serve the dessert straight from the fridge.

Tips

  • Make sure you use very good quality free range eggs.
  • I chop the chocolate in my food processor to minimise handling.
  • I make the espresso in my Nespresso machine using the Indriya capsule. This is an intense coffee with spicy notes, from India.
  • If I make this dessert for a dinner party, I just double all the ingredients and serve it in a large glass bowl for everyone to help themselves.
  • You can also make individual ones, in small glass bowls, or in large martini glasses.

White Chocolate isn't really Chocolate.....

So here's the deal. We all know that white chocolate isn't really chocolate, that it's just cocoa butter with added ingredients which turn it into white chocolate and blah, blah, blah. Although, I'm no chocolate connoisseur, I'm also not a 'Milky Bar Kid!' not that Milky Bars ever purported to being chocolate.  

When my boys were younger, they often tried to convince me to buy them a bar of white chocolate as an after-school treat, claiming that it wasn't even chocolate! How do children even find these facts out at such tender ages? There were days where I would relent under pressure, three against one, so my compromise would be a bar of Lindt white chocolate to share, as long as I was included in the division!

Now we all know that every cook's repertoire has to have a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Everyone claims that theirs is the best cookie recipe, so I'm also going to jump on the bandwagon. Yes I think once you've had my cookies, 'you ain't goin' nowhere.' That's for all you Bob Dylan fans.

White Chocolate Chip & Pistachio cookies

Makes 18 Cookies

  • 200g Plain Flour, sifted

  • 1 tsp Baking Powder

  • 100g Butter, softened

  • 100g Light Brown Muscovado Sugar

  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract 

  • 1 Egg

  • 100g White Chocolate Chips, good quality (I use a bar of Lindt White Chocolate)

  • 85g Pistachio Nuts, shelled and unsalted

method

  • Pre heat the oven to 165 degrees C. (My oven is fan assisted, so a moderate oven).
  • Break up the bar of white chocolate into the smallest pieces you can, (I use a rolling pin), and place them into a large mixing bowl.
  • Chop the pistachio nuts finely and add them to the chocolate in the bowl.
  • Place all the remaining ingredients into the bowl and beat until they are all thoroughly combined. (I use a hand held electric beater).
  • Use two baking trays and cover each with baking parchment.
  • Place 9 mounds of the mixture onto each tray, so 18 in all. Make sure that they are spaced well apart to allow for spreading during cooking. 
  • Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are slightly golden. (They may look underdone, but don't be tempted to leave them in. This is why they have the soft gooey centre).
  • Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack before serving.

tips

  • You can make any variation of cookie, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cranberry and pecan, chopped apricot and almond and so on.
  • I often place the cookies in batches of 9 into a cellophane bag and tie up with ribbon to give to my friends. Enjoy the whoops of joy!