Monthly Archives: April 2011

It’s over

The long hot summer that seemed like it would never end, has departed.  It is amazing how quickly it went away.  One day it was balmy and hot,   I would stand at the stove  and run to open the back door and then the front door because the heat was insufferable.  Anything for a breeze…

And then, all at once, it descended.  Last Tuesday I woke up and there was an eerie mist hanging in the sunlit air.  At first, I thought it must be smoke from a bush fire but then, as I walked into the garden, I realised it was fog.  Autumn was knocking at the door and a few short hours later the rain was clattering on the tin roof.  Unless you have lived under a tin roof, you cannot imagine the noise.  It is all-encompassing.  It is loud enough that if you’re on the phone, you will struggle to hear, if you’re watching tv, you will struggle to hear.  If you had Slipknot playing in your sitting room, you will struggle to hear.  You get the idea. 

Season changes affect us all differently but I am pretty sure that everyone I know has gone into hibernation this week.  The blustering winds and deafening rain are here to stay and buying your groceries has turned into an all day battle of wills, it was between me and the heavens.  I had my list, I had my shopping bags, the only thing missing was the courage I needed to walk out the door.  Finally, there was a break in the weather and the sun came out.  Actually, it tricked me.  It was all bright and twinkly one minute and then in the blink of an eye, the rain came in sideways and suddenly the umbrella in my hands seemed superfluous.  Luckily, I had already done most of my shopping and I only had the butcher left before I was home free.

Lots of people are scared to ask their butcher for help but I am not one of them.  They are there to cut up the meat, that’s their job, so if you want something special, just ask.  Which is exactly what I did when I needed chicken on the bone for a Malaysian Chicken Curry.  Being a poor apprentice, I have realised that buying a whole chicken is a lot cheaper than buying it in bits and bobs.  My chicken cost me $16, it weighed 2 kilos and the butcher cut it into eight chunks for me.  He also gave me the carcass so I could make chicken stock.  Not a scrap of waste.  So, after I fought my way through the horizontal rain (after hanging out in my dear friends shop for a bit), I finally made it home. 

Many curry recipes tell you to pound your paste as apparently it tastes better than shoving it in the blender. Generally I ignore them and shove it in the blender anyway but I decided not to this time.  After chopping my ginger, garlic, chilli etc etc, I then proceeded to pound away at the fragrant mess in my mortar and pestle.  I was awakened and revived by the spiced paste I was creating.  Several hours later, my curry had been ticking away quietly on the stove whilst I pottered around, doing the chores and watching the odd movie.  The meat was slipping off the bone and it had reduced nicely, the last-minute additions of coconut cream and fish sauce were the final flourishes.  Mr T walked in the door after rugby training, looking like a man in need of 2 kilos of chicken curry.  I made an attempt at making roti, which when done right, are wonderfully greasy, rich, flaky pancakes which are perfect for sopping up curry juices.  However, unlike my last attempt at roti, these were a disaster.  I have made them once before, at college and they were lovely but this new recipe left me with a dry, biscuity excuse of a thing.  I added about half a tonne more ghee (clarified butter) but alas, twas too late to save them.  The boys scoffed them down and declared them a hit but they were far from good, in my eyes. 

So, as the rain battered down on the roof, we got stuck in to a wonderfully flavoursome, unctuously moist bowl of spiced chicken, sucking the meat off the bones and wiping up the mess with my sad little roti’s.  The chill of outisde, the damp of outside evaporated from my mind as I let myself give in to the change of season and give in to the inevitability of much more cold to come…  Luckily I have stews, broths and curries in mind to get us through the cold spell.

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Best chocolate cake ever…

Chocolate is the harlot of the culinary world.  Many have worshipped at the altar of all things cacao.  I worship at the very same altar most days.  That luscious, viscous, cloying mass that is so integral to people’s lives.  The french do it in the morning, enveloped in the wispy, chiffon like folds of buttery pastry that is Pain au chocolat.  The Aztecs did it spicy and hot, typical of the Aztecs.  And the rest of the world seem to do it, whenever they feel like it and generally that seems to be, often.

I was always a bit of a purist when it came to chocolate, I just liked a bar of chocolate, but then; I grew up.  Now I have been enlightened to the world of warm chocolate puddings filled with pear puree, courtesy of my dear friend Miss M, bitter chocolate that is close to savoury and the power of chocolate in all things, including Chilli con carne.

There is a whole wide world of chocolate out there, just waiting to be discovered.  My darling Sis was never much of a junk food girl but if you put a chocolate cake or (even better) a festive chocolate log in front of her, she will be jousting you with a fork to get to the first slice.  As a child, chocolate cake always seemed to be too dry and really tasted more like bland cocoa powder than chocolate and so I left it well alone.  But, as i mentioned earlier, I grew up.

One of the recipes which helped bring me out of my childish denial of chocolate cake was a recipe from my ex head chef.  It was a scrawled recipe in the back of a battered handwritten cookbook.  He knew exactly where the recipe was, he’d obviously referred to it many times.  The reason for me first making the cake was a last-minute request from a customer for a birthday cake for dinner that evening, in less than 3 hours.  Instantly, my chances of getting a break that day, disappeared into thin air.  I was now going to make that cake.  It looked simple enough, almost too simple.  And it was.  And it is.  Really, really simple.  So simple in fact that I felt confident enough to make it for my Sister and her 100 or so wedding guests.

Here’s the part where I tell you how good it is.  Ironically there is no actual chocolate in the cake, its flavour comes entirely from cocoa but I use good cocoa, expensive cocoa.  When I can, I use Valrhona, when I can’t, I use dutch process cocoa.  If not, it doesn’t really matter.  I’m the food snob, not you.  So, anyway, back to the cake.  It is rich and moist and decadent and just to reiterate, really, really simple.  You don’t even have to cream your butter and sugar…

And finally, here it is, the recipe, courtesy of me, via ex head chef CC and I think he got the recipe when he was working in France.

In my handwritten recipe book this cake is listed as ‘Bloody good chocolate cake’ but I will always think of it as my sister’s wedding cake…

My Sisters wedding cake

375 g Butter     (yes, I know that’s a lot)

125g Cocoa

12 Eggs

750g Sugar (also a lot)

150g Self raising flour (I used gluten free self raising flour and it worked wonderfully)

  • Melt the butter, then whisk in the cocoa until combined.
  • Beat your eggs and sugar together but don’t try to create volume, it will only flop, you just want them well mixed.
  • Whisk the cocoa/butter mix into the egg and sugar mix, just until combined.
  • Gently fold in the flour
  • Pour into a greased and lined cake tin and have another tin lined as back up because this is a big recipe. You’ll probably get one medium sized cake and a few cupcakes.
  • Bake at 180 degrees, check after about half an hour, it won’t be cooked but it might need rotating, my oven has a hot spot.
  • To check it is cooked, give it a wobble, if it is solid then you’re getting there.  If it has a puddle in the middle then it will be a while.  Poke a skewer into the middle, if it comes out clean or crumby, it is cooked, if it’s goopy, it needs longer.  Don’t overcook it though, it is a wonderfully moist cake.

See, I told you it was easy.  Sorry about the vague tin sizes and timing, I’m just a beginner at this recipe writing business.  I promise to be more diligent in future.  If you have any queries, send me a comment and I will try to help.

So, make the cake, eat the cake, then send me a comment and tell me how yummy it was!

By the way, this cake is not healthy, but it is bloody good.

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