Friday, 13 February 2009

Roses are red...

Actually, in this case they're yellow and orange. Much better.

In a fit of anti-Valentine-romance-is over-rated-not-to-mention-over-commercialised-pique I toyed with the idea of ignoring Feb 14th altogether and staying in to watch old Marilyn Monroe movies. Having decreed to my other half that we are not going out for dinner, nor anything remotely schmaltzy, we decided to spend a day together doing the following:
  • roller-skiing in Hyde Park
  • buying a wheelie bin at Homebase (it's on sale, or so I'm told by Casanova, otherwise known as the boyf)
  • raiding the pastries at Ottolenghi (as retribution for said wheelie bin purchase)
  • going to an exhibition at the V&A 
  • cooking spaghetti alle vongole
Aside from no.2 the rest of our activities are perfect. No schmaltz in sight.

Seriously though, why do we make such a fuss about Valentine's Day? Having grumbled at length about it to anyone within earshot (and pity them listening) I relented and baked a few Valentine's-themed muffins today: almond and vanilla flavoured with chunks of white chocolate, then soused in a tart passionfruit and lime syrup, topped off with a generous sprinkling of tropical coconut (see my earlier post about coconut. I love coconut, I put it in my porridge, and even added some to a prawn and coriander noodle dish I made the other night)

I also have a penchant for passionfruit, but that's another story.

Anyway, here's the recipe. Happy Valentine's!

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 75g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
* if you want to make these plain without the passionfruit & lime syrup, try adding other flavours to the muffins, such as cardamom, cinnamon, orange zest, coffee, cocoa...all go well with white chocolate


Preheat oven to 190C, line a 12x muffin-hole tray with paper cases.

In a medium bowl sift the almonds, flour, salt and bicarb and stir through to distribute the raising agents. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar til light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time to the butter mixture, beating each time to incorporate the egg. Then add the vanilla and yogurt, followed by the dry ingredients. Fold through with a large spoon til the mixture is even and no major lumps remain. 

Scoop the mixture into each muffin case is 3/4 full (if you don't want them to rise above the case then just fill halfway) and place on an upper-middle shelf of the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes til they're golden brown and feel firm to the touch.

For the syrup:

Take the pulp of 1 passionfruit and stir through some lime zest, along with a bit of lime juice, then add a couple of sieved tablespoon-fuls of icing sugar and stir through. If you have the time and inclination, make a sugar syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water and then boiling until it's a syrup consistency, I just went for a sloppy syrup this time...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

More chocolate - this time with cherries...

Cherries and chocolate: I know, this is turning into the chocolate blog, but I couldn't resist. Being a chocolate snob I normally don't go for Green & Black's dark chocolate - too bitter and the texture is powdery which is, frankly, a little unsettling. Thankfully a former flatmate, Sophie, introduced me to Green & Black's cherry dark chocolate bar, and I've been hooked ever since so I hereby apportion credit to the lovely lady for breaking me of my snottiness about Green & Black's. Or at least the cherry version of G&B.  

Having decided to make a cake out of said chocolate, I then happily discovered the cake actually improves with age. Make sure you keep it in an airtight container for a few days and taste for yourself. Must be the yogurt and wholemeal flour. Also, try making this with extra cherries (see suggestion below) if you like very tart things. 

I certainly do.

  • 100g bar of Green & Black's cherry dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g butter
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 125g plain self-raising flour
  • 85g wholemeal plain flour
  • 2 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp instant coffee mixed with a splash of boiling water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin. Boil some water and pour in a small-medium saucepan.

In a medium bowl, place the butter, chocolate and cocoa powder. Place this over the saucepan of hot water and allow to melt. The water should simmer so you may want to turn the hob on.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar in another bowl til they reach a light, mousse consistency. Sift the flours, bicarb and salt in and stir very gingerly with a large metal spoon. Then add the melted chocolate mixture, the coffee, vanilla and yogurt. Stir again, and add a little more water if the mixture looks thick and unmanageable. You should be able to drop the mixture from the spoon within 1-2 seconds.

Finally, place this delectable chocolate mixture into your cake tin and bake on the centre oven shelf for 25-30 minutes. The cake's ready when you insert a skewer and no wet mixture remains when you take it out. The cake will keep for a few days, it's quite moist.

* mmm, cherries and chocolate ;-) If you have a real hankering for lots of cherries then get a pack of dried sour cherries and soak them for 10 minutes in boiling water before adding to the cake mixture. Mmm...