Tag Archives: Chocolate

Banana goodness

3 Jan

So, most weeks I’ll buy some bananas at the supermarket, as I know he’ll take a banana to work each day, and it’s a way of getting towards that 5-a-day of fruit and veg.  I hadn’t really thought through the whole Christmas/New Year thing and how it might interrupt his banana consumption.  So, this morning I decided to do something with the three blackening bananas left on the side in the kitchen.

Banana loaf was the obvious choice.  Or I have a good foolproof and adaptable banana muffin recipe. But if I’m going to make muffins in the next 24 hours, it’s going to be vodka-soaked-cranberry muffins, using the cranberries from my vanilla cranberry vodka which are currently in the freezer waiting to be enjoyed.

So, I turned to the internet for inspiration and good old Nigel Slater came up trumps again. He calls it black banana cake.  And I’m not sure if that is a reference to the state the bananas are in before you start, or the fact there is plenty chocolate in there, so the cake will be darker than you might expect for a banana cake.  I figure it’s probably the former.  As ever, I vaguely modified the recipe as I went along, but you can find his original here.

Banana choc nut cake

175g/6oz unsalted butter, softened in the microwave as it’s so cold in the kitchen.  In fact it was softened so much that some of it was melted, and I had to beat it back together again

175g/6oz sugar (half golden caster, half light soft brown muscovado type sugar)

75g/2 ½ oz mixed nuts (Nigel wanted hazelnuts but I had mixed in the cupboard so that’s what I used)

2 free range eggs

175g/6oz SR flour

2 very ripe bananas (Nigel asks for about 250g/9oz in weight, but all I know is I used two ENORMOUS bananas)

About ½ tsp vanilla essence (Nigel only wanted a single drop)

175g/6oz good quality dark chocolate chopped into rough chunks

A little Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 170C/325F/GM3

Line the base and sides of a 20cm x 12cm / 8in x 5in loaf tin.  I used a 1lb loaf tin – cake is still in the oven so I’ll find out soon if it was big enough (it was!)

  1. Toast the nuts.  Rub them in a tea towel to remove their skins if you can be bothered (I didn’t) and then grind them in a food processor, or with a zizzer or whatever implement you have to grind nuts. You’re looking for a pretty fine consistency – a bit like sand. I used a hand held zizzer, you know the kind of thing you’d usually use to blend soups.
  2. Beat the butter with the sugar till light and fluffy
  3. Add the eggs one by one and beat into the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Mix in the nuts and SR flour.
  5. Peel the bananas and chop them into small pieces into the bowl with the sugar/butter/egg mixture.
  6. Gently fold in the vanilla, bananas and chocolate nuggets into the cake mixture. Don’t overmix.
  7. Shlop into the prepared loaf tin. Dust with a little Demerara sugar (I forgot to do this, and doubt it will matter too much).
  8. Bake for 1hr – 1hr 10 mins, covering the top with foil if the top looks like it’s about to burn.

Oh my world, it’s amazing!  Lovely light texture, strong zing of chocolate when you get a nugget of it.  And gentle banana flavour running through it all.  Scrum.  Eat with a cup of Earl Grey tea, in a china teacup of course.

Banana choc nut cake anyone?

Hilda Gerber’s Chocolate Sauce

20 Dec

Hilda Gerber’s chocolate sauce is amazing.

It’s amazingly naughty and amazingly rich and for me an amazingly strong memory of Christmas and Hogmanay from my childhood.  It’s also ridiculously easy to make.  And once you can make Hilda Gerbers (the sauce is always just called Hilda Gerbers in our family) you can make the infamous Meringue Mountain, all gloriously seventies.

Hilda Gerber was a cookery writer in the 30s and 40s in South Africa.  But I knew none of this back when I was a child. A quick google and I discover that her manuscript for Traditional Cooking of the Cape Malays was found and published after her death in 1954. The Cape Malays were the descendents of slaves and political exiles, mostly from Indonesia and Bengal, who were brought to the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th and 18th century by the Dutch East India Company.  Their name derives from the trader language they spoke, called Malayu.  During the apartheid years any Cape Malay who converted from Islam to Christianity was reclassified as Cape Coloured. Their spices and condiments from the East, which arrived on the ships on their way back to Holland, pepped up the blander Dutch recipes in their colonial kitchens.

I intend to seek out some Malay recipes – I think the only one I have is Bobotie from my Aunt Joyce.  But surely I can get a Bredie recipe from my Aunt Astri?  And I’ve wanted to make mebos (delicious nuggets of salty-sweet dried fruit) for AGES but I suspect Scotland does not have the climate for drying fruit.

Anyway, allegedly Hilda Gerber used to ask local Malay women for recipes, so she could record them for posterity and compile a recipe book.  Some of the Malay women silently sabotaged her efforts to create an indigenous cookbook, and would miss out a key ingredient, such as the milk in potato pudding, so any efforts to make it will end up with potato scrambled eggs.  Hmmm, I’ll bet you’re not wanting to make this chocolate sauce now?

Anyway, all of that I have discovered in the last 24 hours, but Hilda Gerbers (the sauce) has been known to me all my life.  I wasn’t exactly weaned on it (although if I was it would go some way to explaining my current size) but it was always there on special occasions.  I suspect the recipe came via my grandmother who lived for many years from the 30s through to the 80s in South Africa.  So, here we go:

Hilda Gerbers Rich Chocolate Sauce

4oz dark chocolate

4oz icing sugar

4 eggs

8oz butter

  1. In a bowl over a pan of water, melt the chocolate.  Make sure the bowl is big enough to take everything, as all the other ingredients will be added to this later.
  2. Once melted, add the icing sugar.  You’ll think it’s all gone badly wrong, when it turns into rubble, but trust me, it’s ok.
  3. Add eggs and beat in, one by one.  Keep warm, but do NOT boil. It’s looking a bit better now, huh?
  4. Now take off the heat and cut the butter into chunks into the mixture.  Stir a bit, but leave to melt in and then stir a bit again
  5. That’s it.
  6. Leave it somewhere cool. Then eat.

Or, instead of just eating it by the spoonful, make a Meringue Mountain.

Make some meringues, the more the better.  Big ones, little ones, medium ones.  Crunchy ones and chewy ones.  Just lots.

And beat some cream, with a wee bit of sugar and vanilla if you want, but it’s not really necessary.

Now make the mountain. Stick some meringues to the bottom of your dish with a dab of cream.  Now squidge some cream on top of the meringues, so you can add another layer.  And keep going with layers of meringue and cream until you have a mountain.  Then pour the chocolate sauce over the top.  You’ll need to have taken it out of the fridge a while before pouring, or it just won’t pour.  Think about it, it’s mostly butter and chocolate which are quite solid in a fridge.

You can do all manner of other things with it other than the Meringue Mountain, but remember it is incredibly rich – so you won’t need much of it.  I suspect it would be good with a teeny tiny chocolate brownie and some vanilla icecream.  Or have I just gone too far?

Oh, and don’t even think of giving this to pregnant women. Or getting pregnant while you’re eating it.  DANGER.

I’m about to go make a batch to have on Christmas Eve.

Bacon maple brownies

11 Dec

Thank you Nigella.  They’re in the oven, so I don’t know yet if they are to die for, or a waste of some perfectly good ingredients.  The constituent parts were scrummy (well, I had to lick the spoon after scraping the brownie batter into the tin, and the baconny-syrupy scraps on the plate were just asking to be licked up).

But really?  Bacon in chocolate brownies?  I totally see where you came from with this – bacon and maple syrup pancakes are divine.  And as a child I remember the treat that was bacon with fried bread and honey. Now, whatever happened to fried bread?  Did the health Nazis get rid of it for good? Possibly not the worst decision ever made, but still divine in my childhood memory.

Anyway, Nigella sent me a recipe for Bacon Brownies.  Well, she didn’t just send it to me, it was sent out to anyone who subscribed to whatever style thingy she’s guest editing this week.  And now I’m wondering if it was all just a big hoax, to see what muppets would actually make it.  Well, here I am, prize muppet! I give you Bacon Maple Brownies, inspired by Nigella, but not exactly the same.

Bacon maple brownies

Preheat oven to 190C / 375F / GM5

(OK, now I see why my finished brownies seem even gooier than they should be, I had the oven not quite hot enough).

Grease and line a 25cm square brownie tin.  Or Nigella does it in a throw away tin, of course she does.  Her hands aren’t made for washing up.  And it’s so much easier to take a gift of brownies when you pop in to your neighbours if they are in a throw away dish!

100g thin rashers of streaky bacon, snipped or chopped into teeny weeny pieces

2tsp maple syrup (or golden syrup)

150g unsalted butter

250g soft light brown sugar

75g cocoa powder

150g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 large eggs, beaten

150g chopped chocolate (dark, or milk)

  1. Heat a heavy frying pan and then add the bacon bits, and fry till they are just going crispy
  2. Add the syrup, and mix quickly, then pour the whole bacony syrupy mixture onto a plate to cool
  3. In a large heavy pan melt the butter over a low heat.  This is the pan the whole batter will be made, so make it big enough
  4. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and stir in the sugar with a wooden spoon.  Bash out the sugary lumps (unless you anticipated this and sifted it in advance).
  5. While the butter was melting you should have put the flour, cocoa and bicarb into a bowl and mixed it.  And cracked the eggs into a bowl and beaten them.
  6. Once the sugar and butter are mixed, add the flour mixture and stir it in
  7. Add the beaten eggs, and stir all together
  8. Throw in the chopped chocolate, and then use your finger to nudge all the bacon off the plate into the chocolate batter. Lick your fingers.  And wonder if this was all a hoax and you should have just made ordinary brownies, and had maple syrupy bacon bits as a separate snack.
  9. Mix all together
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 25 mins or so.  It will still be slightly wobbly, so you have ultimate gooeyness in your brownies.  But if you cook it at the right temperature it shouldn’t be too gooey.
  11. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and cut into pieces.  Not too small, but not too big pieces.  You know, a couple of decent mouthfuls.

Don’t tell anyone what is in them

Mine are out of the oven now and I’ve decided it’s not a hoax – they are divine.  That sweet yet salty hit of a wee nubbin of bacon is just perfect in the rich gooeyness of the brownie.  They may not be glamorous, but oh my god they are tasty.

Melting moments

30 Oct

So, this is a recipe I used to make years ago, when I was a teenager.  The original recipe is from Rosemary Wadey’s Cakes and Cake Decorating which I think I bought with either school prize money, or a Christmas book token when I was about 14 years old.  It has some of my favourite biscuit recipes: Grantham Gingers, Oat Crisps, Viennese Biscuits and the easiest of all: 1-2-3 biscuits.  But perhaps my favourite was Melting Moments – they are easy to make, look as though you might have bought them and taste scrumptiously delicious.

And they can be adapted. The basic recipe is for vanilla biscuits, rolled in scrunchy cornflakes before they are cooked, and with a nub of glace cherry on top.  When I made them recently I realised we only had chocolate weetabix in the cupboard, no plain cornflakes.  So, I made chocolate melting moments, rolled in scrunchy chocolate weetabix, still with a nub of glace cherry on top.

Chocolate cookies

Anyway, here we go:

Melting Moments

6oz butter (or half and half, butter and lard – oh yes, this recipe is so old that it uses lard.  But in reality, lard can create a shorter texture for biscuits). Soften the butter before you start cooking (so you might want to leave it out in the kitchen for a while before you start)

5oz caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

10oz self raising flour, sifted

1 tsp vanilla essence

about 2oz cornflakes, crushed (use a small plastic bag and scrunch them)

8 glace cherries, quartered

Pre-heat oven to 180C / 350F / GM4. Grease 2 baking sheets

  1. Beat the butter until soft, then add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  This is the most important step in this recipe – if the butter and sugar isn’t creamed properly the mixture won’t be light enough
  2. Beat in the egg and vanilla essence
  3. Work in the flour to give a fairly stiff dough
  4. Take dessertspoonfuls of mixture and roll them into balls
  5. Roll each ball in crushed cornflakes and place fairly well apart on the baking sheet
  6. Flatten the balls of mixture slightly and press a piece of cherry into the centre of each ball
  7. Bake for 15 – 20 mins or till golden brown.
  8. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.
Alternate versions:
Replace 1-2 oz of flour with 1-2oz of cocoa powder and about 1/2 tsp baking powder.
You can also replace some of the flour with custard powder to give a smoother and creamier biscuit.  Again, just swap some of the flour for custard powder, and add a wee bit of baking powder.
I think they would be nice with a wee bit of chopped ginger (you know, the stuff out of the jar) in them.  But then I love gingery things.  You would probably want to replace the glace cherry with a nubbin of ginger too.  Yum.

Sophisticated chocolate brownies

25 Sep

Brownies seem to be endlessly adaptable.  I’ve made them with ginger, with nuts, with more and more and more chocolate. I think I must try them with mint.  And possibly orange, although I’m never quite sure about chocolate and orange, and thoroughly disapprove of orange anywhere near milk chocolate.

But this weekend it’s all about the sophisticated flavour combo of cardamom and chocolate.  I have to credit both The Times and West London’s favourite provider of baked goods: Cocomaya. So, thank you.  And I hope you don’t mind me re-producing your recipe here.

I’m looking after my nephews this weekend, so am cooking in a less familiar kitchen, although having a Rayburn to bake in is a delight and reminds me of happy happy childhood weekends, baking scrumptious goodies for the family.

Posh chocolate brownies in a Le Creuset dish

Cardamom chocolate brownies

250g unsalted butter (I used slightly salted as that was what was in the fridge)

15 green cardamom pods

100g plain flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

350g dark chocolate (at each 70% cocoa solids)

250g muscovado sugar

50g caster sugar (I used a combination of soft dark brown and soft light brown sugar)

4 large eggs

1/2 tsp salt

15 x 20cm cake tin… I couldn’t find the right size, so ended up using a le creuset oval lasagne style dish, approximately the right size

Oven 130C, GM2.  The Rayburn was on medium, which is probably slightly higher than recommended

  1. Grease the baking tin
  2. Slightly bash the cardamom pods and extract the black seeds, throw away the green dry husks
  3. Put the butter and the cardamom seeds into a small pan and melt.  Set aside for a few hours.  If you have an Aga or a Rayburn  then leave it on the side where it can remain liquid.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl
  5. Place the chocolate in a bowl and strain the butter onto it. Place over a pan of simmering water to melt
  6. In a large bowl mix the sugars together and squish out any lumps.  Add the eggs and mix.  Don’t beat, you don’t need to add air to this mixture (although I was reading a Hugh Fearnley Whatsisname recipe last night which says you beat for 4-5 minutes at this stage to incorporate lots of air. I didn’t and it worked out REALLY well).
  7. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and stir through
  8. Fold in the flour, followed by the salt
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin – spread into the corners if you need to.
  10. Bake for about 45 minutes.  The recipe states only 20 minutes, and in the end I baked it for just over an hour and it still has the lovely squidgy gooey-ness.
  11. Leave to cool and then cut into pieces.  I note that Cocomaya decorate theirs with gold leaf.  Feel free to do the same if you have any spare gold leaf hanging about in your cupboards.

Triple chocolate ginger brownies

6 Jun

This recipe is a bit of an amalgam of several other recipes.  I had decided it was a chocolate brownie weekend.  That was after it had already been a garlic bread, asparagus & parma ham pizza, carrot soup and granary bread weekend.  More on the savoury stuff later, this is all about the chocolate.

So, the amalgam.  I looked at a few recipe books, and the recipe in Leon is the only one which stood out.  It was very particular about the order in which things were added, and also that the melted chocolate and butter should be allowed to cool slightly before mixing with other ingredients, to prevent it seizing up – this makes perfect sense to me now that it’s been mentioned.  They also whipped together the eggs and sugar to make a frothy loveliness before combining with flour/chocolate/butter/whatever else (I seem to recall a lot of orangey stuff, but I’m not a great fan of orange and chocolate).

So, I had some technique to think about from Leon.  And I had an old favourite recipe written out in my old cloth-covered Liberty recipe book.  I wrote it out years ago, and didn’t note where the original recipe came from, I suspect a Good Food magazine.

And on the opposite page from my old tried and tested brownie recipe I have scribbled in the ingredients for Triple Chocolate Brownies.  I made these for the first time when I was looking after my nephews about 2 years ago, and the recipe was either in a book (possibly Delia’s latest?) or ripped out and pinned up on the wall next to the rayburn.  Anyway, I made it, loved it and kept the recipe.

So, I wanted ginger chunks, and found an opened bag of crystallised ginger, you know the stuff all covered in granulated sugar that looks like a cross between a mis-shapen sugar lump and a pineapple chunk.  And I wanted deep chocolatey-ness.  And not too much squelch, more lightness than you might normally associate with a brownie.  And I didn’t want too much sweetness – my original recipe has LOTS of sugar and I felt sure I could lose some of the sugary sweetness without losing any of the nomminess.  I think I succeeded.  But you decide.

Triple chocolate ginger brownies

Grease a 20cm square tin and line with greaseproof paper.  Oven: Gas Mark 4 ish.

150g butter

200g dark chocolate

175g light muscovado sugar

3 eggs

75g plain flour (or use wholewheat if you have it in the cupboard, for a pretendie health improvement, with no associated loss of loveliness)

75g white chocolate

75g milk chocolate

75g crystallised ginger – use ginger in syrup if you can’t find the crystallised stuff, but I think the crystallised is less likely to sink.

  1. Melt butter and dark chocolate over a double boiler.  Use a microwave if you have to, but I prefer being able to heat it gently over water.
  2. You can take it off the heat before it is all melted, especially if you chopped it into smallish chunks before you started.  The residual heat will melt the remaining lumps.
  3. Leave to cool for a wee while, while you get all your other ingredients prepped.
  4. In another bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar together (Using electric beaters) until light in colour and creamy.  It won’t fluff up like egg whites, but it will hold quite a good heavy frothiness.
  5. Chop the remaining chocolate and the ginger into chunks about the half the size of your pinky finger nail.
  6. Now, keep the electric beaters running and gradually add about half of the not-quite-so-hot-now chocolate-butter mixture.  Then mix in the flour, and finally the remaining chocolate-butter mixture. You should have a batter thick enough to fall off a spoon, but not so thin that it just runs off in a liquid stream.
  7. Now stir in the chocolate and ginger chunklets.
  8. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for around 45 minutes.
  9. Cut into teeny squares – I can generally get 16 -20 squares out of the tin.  It’s extremely rich and you only need a wee square to get that chocolatey hit.
For further gingeriness, you could replace some of the sugar with some syrup from a jar of ginger, and even add some ground ginger.  Or grate some fresh ginger and add the juice to the mixture.  Although I possibly only suggest that last one as I recently acquired my mother’s old ginger grater (it is a glass implement, slightly reminiscent of a lemon squeezer gone wrong).
And you could adapt this in many other ways such as:
  • omit all ginger and replace with vanilla paste
  • or omit all ginger and replace with the zest of an orange; use a terry’s chocolate orange cut into chunklets for further orangey-ness
  • add chopped nuts – I think pecans would work well
  • or hazelnuts, and you could replace some of the flour with ground hazelnuts – perhaps a couple of TBsps
  • omit the ginger and instead of adding ordinary chocolate, break in some mint chocolate matchsticks, or whatever they are called – you know the chocolate sticks that look a bit like a chocolate twiglet
  • wee nubbins of marzipan instead of ginger – and replace a couple of TBsps of flour with ground almonds, and add a few drops of almond essence
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