Monday, February 25, 2008

Warm Chocolate and Raspberry Tarts

From the moment I first flicked through Claire Clark’s "100 Perfect Desserts" I have wanted to make these. It’s a well-known combination but there is just something special about chocolate and raspberry. I just needed a dinner when there would be more than just me and The Doc. Once we had been invited to his parents for Sunday dinner I immediately offered my dessert making abilities.

My previous experiences with chocolate pastry have been a bit hit and miss, it can be very delicate and prone to breaking but this pastry crust is a dream to work with. I managed to roll it out really thin with ease, resulting in a crisp crust (you really do have to get the pastry thin when making individual tarts in order to get the optimum crust to filling ratio).

The chocolate filling is really a variation on chocolate mousse and I can confirm that it tastes good all by itself. It doesn’t set firm, as you break the crust with a spoon there is an unctuous flow of chocolate, so I wouldn’t advise scaling this up to a big tart. I served mine with crème frâiche which I much prefer it to cream with rich chocolate desserts; I just feel that it cuts nicely through the richness.

This would make a really wow dessert for a dinner part, all the constituent parts can be assembled well in advance and the tarts then just need 8 mins in the oven to finish them off.

100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
1 large egg
¼ tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
25g cocoa
Pinch salt

  • Cream together butter and sugar
  • Beat together egg and vanilla
  • Add in stages to butter/sugar mix, beat well between each addition
  • Sieve in flour, cocoa and salt
  • Bring together with your hands
  • Rest in the fridge for 30 mins
  • Roll out on a lightly floured surface
  • Cut out 8 15-cm diameter circles to line 10-cm individual tart dishes
  • Rest again in the fridge for 15 mins
  • Line tartlets with greaseproof paper and baking beans
  • Bake @ 160°C for 15 mins
  • Remove beans and bake uncovered for a further 10 mins

400g raspberries
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
300g good-quality 70% chocolate

  • Whisk together eggs, egg yodlks and sugar until tripled in volume (you really need an electric whisk for this unless you are looking for a sore wrist)
  • Melt together butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water
  • While it is still warm fold the chocolate mix into the eggs
  • Place 6-8 raspberries in each tart shell
  • Spoon over the chocolate filling and level with the back of a knife
  • Bake @ 180°C for eight minutes until the middle still retains a little wobble

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gooey Chocolate Puddings

No pics for these - I had guests and couldn't really intrude with my camera. There must be hundreds of different recipes for this kind of chocolate dessert, firm on the outside with a molten, oozing centre. I saw an episode of Masterchef last week where they said that 'the route to the final is scattered with failed chocolate fondants'. I think one of the keys to this recipe is to resist the urge to open the oven to check on them. Once the top starts to crack the centre should still be liquid.

This recipe comes from Nigella's 'How to Eat', I'm not a fan of her books that go with the TV series but this one is a gem. I've bought a few copies as presents as I think it's a great introduction to cooking.

125g dark chocolate
125g unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
35g plain flour
  • Gently melt together chocolate and butter
  • Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and flour
  • Stir in the chocolate mix
  • Grease four ramkins
  • Bake at 180 degrees for 12-15 mins
I served mine with the last of Kieran's orange ice-cream, yum.

Gnocchi di ricotta e salsa di gorgonzola

Ricotta and nutmeg dumplings with gorgonzola sauce - sounds better in Italian doesn't it?

The Doc gave me a copy of Ursula Ferrigno's 'Complete Italian Cookery Course' for Christmas. On my first glance through these jumped out at me but I took a while to make them as I was wondering what to serve them with. In the end I decided a simple lemon roast chicken would be best - the gorgonzola is such a strong flavour I didn't want it to be overwhelmed. It was the right decision, although the dumplings themselves are quite light the sauce is rich and you will only eat a few.

The original recipe is for 6, I halved it but mine was still to sloppy to be called a paste and I ended up adding twice as much semolina flour in order to make it possible to roll out. I suspect the reason for this is something to do with the difference between supermarket pre-packed ricotta and that available in Italy.

250g ricotta
1 tbsp grated parmesan
2 medium egg yolks
5 tbsp semolina flour
fresh ground nutmeg - a pinch
salt and pepper
  • Mash all ingrediants together to form a paste
  • Roll into a log 1cm thick
  • Cut into 2cm pieces
  • Place in a pan of boiling water - after about 2 mins they should rise to the surface
  • Gice them another 30 seconds in the pan then remove and drain
10g unsalted butter
2 tbsp cream
100g gorgonzola, mashed
  • Melt together butter and cream
  • Add cheese and blend well
Place dumplings in an ovenproof dish, pour over the sauce and bake for 15-20 mins at 180 degrees.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Afternoon Tea

My friend S was visiting for tea and a chat on Saturday afternoon so of course I had to provide something to much on. The kind of cake that goes with tea at 3pm is quite different from the kind you have for dessert, something simple yet tasty is what is called for on these occasions. Clotilde's Gâteau au Yaourt has been on my to-bake-list since I got my copy of her book last summer, however I felt that it need some addition. Then I remebered that Caroline at Bibliocook enhanced hers with pistachio nuts and lemon zest and I decided that this was the way to go, I went with Clotilde's quantitites as she has them in metric in her book.

80ml vegtable oil
250g whole milk natural yoghurt (I used Glenisk, but be careful as the packaging for the whole milk and low fat versions is very similar)
200g sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
a handful of shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
240g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp bread soda pinch of salt
  • grease a 22-cm springform pan with some of the oil
  • beat together yogurt and sugar, add the eggs one at a time
  • beat in the remaining oil and the vanilla
  • gently fold in the lemon zest and the nuts
  • sieve together the flour, baking powder, bread soda and salt
  • fold gently into the cake mix
  • bake at 180 degrees for 35-40 mins
As you can see from the picture above mine was a tad overcooked even though I did a bare 35 mins at 170 degrees (turned it down ten as I have a fan oven). My oven is brand new so I must remember to bear it's efficiency in mind in the future!

I've been tagged

This is the first time that I've been tagged

First, the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

2. Share five random and/or weird facts about yourself on your blog.

3. Share the five top places on your “want to see or want to see again” list.

4. Tag a minimum of five random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment in their blog.

Firstly I was tagged by Rachel at Fairy Cake Heaven

5 random and/or weird facts about me
1. I swam competitively until I left school
2. I have more than 50 pairs of shoes
3. In my day job I work as a physicist
4. I have an uncanny ability to remember numbers - this can be dangerous when it means that you know your VISA card off by heart!
5. When wearing heels I'm more than 6ft tall

5 top places on my "want to see or want to see again" list
1. Italy: I've been once, on a family holiday as a teenager and it whetted my appetite (literally!) for more. But we're June.....on our honeymoon. I can't wait, we're going to Tuscany and are going to move around over the two weeks. A few days lounging by the pool in a villa, a few days exploring the towns and cities and we may even sneak in a cookery course for a day or two.

2. India: We love Indian food, one of our best friends is Indian and we have had the pleasure of his cooking here in Ireland. But also five years ago we went with him to visit his parents in New Delhi, from this base we took day trips to Jaipur and Agra as well as a few days up in the Himalayas. Visiting a country such as India with a native is just fantastic experience, eating in roadside stalls that you wouldn't be brave enough to try yourself, going to the restaurants that tourists never hear of. We had dinner in the houses of a number of his relatives, the Indian way of dining involves a selection of dishes placed in the centre of the table from which you select what takes your fancy. This is a great way to try a wide variety of dishes, although we both came away with the view that there is no such thing as a good Indian dessert (they are all far too sweet). On our last night, on the way back to the airport, we had dinner in Bukhara in the Shereaton Hotel - that year it was voted one of the top 50 (and best in Aisa) restaurants in the world by Restaurant Magazine. We got to go into the kitchen and see them putting the family-sized naan in the tandoor - one man puts it in while another holds his legs so that he doesn't fall in. It was an absolutely fantastic meal, classic North Indian dishes but just really well done as well as the best dahl I've ever had. India is hot, noisy, chaotic but magic and we can't wait to go back.

3. London: because I've never been. I know it seems odd to say that, I've been in all London's airports but always on the way to somewhere else. It's just that when it comes to a weekend away it seems so expensive compared to Paris or Barcelona.

4. Dubrovnik: I spent less than 24 hours here last summer and I really want to go back and explore it further, it's gorgeous and all around this region you can get fantastic fresh fish for dinner.

5. Wexford: my hometown. Now I have no particular desire to move back there but there is something special about Wexford in the summer, fabulous beaches, buying strawberries on the side of the road. Oh and in "La Dolce Vita" it has what Tom Doorley described as "some of the best Italian food in the country".

5 people I'm going to tag
Jen from Little Bird Eats
Caroline from Bibliocook
Valerie from Val's Kitchen
Sarah from Stuff Yer Bake
Brett from Educated Nobody

Definitely not Muesli

When I saw this recipe on Kieran's site I knew I just had to make it. What's not to like about orange ice-cream complete with little bits of Jaffa cakes? I made just two small alterations to his recipe, a 1/2 tsp of orange extract in the milk and I put in 2 extra Jaffa cakes - less left for me to scoff then.

btw the container is from Stable Diet Toasted Muesli, my breakfast staple. This company from Wexford (my hometown) makes lovely mueslis and flapjacks - you can get them in Superquinn. My freezer is full of soup and ice-cream in these empty containers!