Menemen (scrambled eggs Turkish style)

Over Here.

My second attempt at cooking Turkish food. And a rather successful one at that. Not that there is much that can go wrong with scrambled eggs (tell that to all too many British ‘greasy spoon’ cafes that think microwaving is a legitimate form of cookery). Menemen is a rather delicious take on scrambled eggs, a meal that can be quickly thrown together for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Peppery, tomatoey eggs, served here a bit too wet for my liking (I am instinctively repelled by eggs that are just cooked), I have made and adjusted this to my taste (as with anything), this dish is usually served juicy, so be careful not to let the eggs dry up too much.

I forgot to take a picture, this image is true to my version of the dish, found on google images via universal-mixer.blogspot.com.

Menemen

4 Large Eggs

4 Tomatoes

2 Long Green…

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Stove Top Borek

Over Here.

My first attempt at cooking something Turkish, this is a version of Borek concocted on the hob, a blessing for those like me who are lacking in the oven department. The original recipe was posted on the page of the facebook group Ex-pats Cooks Corner Turkey, a fantastic group offering a wealth of food related information and recipes, a useful resource for the ex-pat who when food shopping, only comes back with chicken and tomato paste.

Borek is one of my favourite dishes out here and I am delighted to know that I can cook a delicious version on my hob in about half an hour. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, its like a magical, hob conjured pie. And who doesn’t love a pie.

The magic of this, as with any pie, is that you can fill it with whatever you want. I shall endeavour to…

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Spiced Pumpkin Soup

It’s that time of year again. Time to bust out the coat, scarves and gloves, turn the central heating on, curl up into a ball and eat warm comforting food. I love this time of year. It makes me feel homely.  A time to use hearty, comforting recipes to metaphorically wrap up warm in. With an arsenal of seasonal vegetables acting as the coat, hat scarf and gloves, time to get as snug as a bug in a rug. Apples, pears, beetroot, turnips, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, oh my! The list goes on.

I have recently moved from my native land to Istanbul, a last minute move that saw us packing up our life within a week and flying out to this most interesting of places. The food here is amazing and deserving of a dedicated post, it is hard to resist the temptation to eat out daily when it is so damn cheap. A carnivores dream.

Eating in has been another matter entirely. Our new home lacks my weapon of choice, the oven. I have had to adjust to cooking everything we eat on the hob, getting creative to avoid culinary boredom. Disheartened, my blog has been neglected because of this, even though I have to say, I have been doing more than making do, coming up with some rather good dishes. And I do say so myself.

The weekly shop has been a challenge. Converting the exchange rate in my head to work out what is value for money (I have always been a thrifty shopper), working with the ingredients that they have and those that they don’t has been a challenge. In the UK our diverse culture is reflected in our food and our supermarkets, you can pretty much get anything you could possibly dream of from all corners of the globe. I have found shopping here pretty limited compared with what I am used to, but perhaps it is just me mentally limiting myself, looking for the familiar and coming back with chicken. Every time.

The fresh produce on the other hand, is wonderful and reasonably priced. You can guess my elation to find a healthy amount of peeled, chopped and pre-prepared pumpkin for just under one pound sterling. A steal.

I am ashamed to say before this I had never tried pumpkin, or at least not in my adult life, so this soup was  made according to my usual formula for butternut squash soup, lots of nice spices to balance the sweet flavour of the squash.

Usually I would roast the pumpkin in the oven with olive oil and two gloves of garlic (in its skin) and would recommend this for those endowed with an oven. Nothing beats the taste of sweet, oven roasted garlic.

As with all things like this I didn’t use precise measurements for the spices. I just throw in and alter and taste as I go. I have given approximate measurements, tweak as necessary.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Pack of pre- preparedPumpkin

1 1/2 tsp Ground Coriander

1 1/2 tsp Cinamon

2 tsp Ground Ginger

1 tsp Chili Flakes

1 Chicken Stock Cube

1 tsp Dried Thyme

1 Onion (sliced)

1 Clove of Garlic (chopped)

1 tbsp Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Boiling Water (enough to cover and to add later according to the desired thickness).

Melt the butter in the pan. Add the onions and cook on a lowish heat until the onions are translucent and emitting lovely smells. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add pumpkin, water, stock cube and spices. Let it bubble, turn down to a medium heat and cover. Cook for around 20mins or until the pumpkin is tender. Blend. Taste. Add more spices if necessary (I kept it on the heat and covered for another 5 mins to incorporate my preference for this soup is to have ginger as the predominating spice). Enjoy with crusty bread.

nom

nom

Soup is a great way to ingest goodness, pumpkin with its beta-carotene (an important anti-oxidant that is converted to Vitamin A in the body), vitamin B, vitamin C and calcium to name but a few is no exception.

Nutty Mocolate Cake (Gluten free)

This wonderful interpretation of the chocolate cake came to me thanks to the lovely, genuis of Indigo whole foods, an independent health/organic food shop in my native Moseley. Full of healthy non chemically tampered with goods, this shop is but one of the independent food shops in this wonderful part of Birmingham.

Upon perusing the shop and all of its wonders I came across convienience food at its finest, in the form of ground hazlenuts. Something I have never set eyes on (sold in this form) before, I snapped them up, dreaming of the lovely incarnations this ingredient would become. Time to put on my thinking cap.

Hazelnut and chocolate is a no brainer, Nutella anybody??? With chocolate cake for me being oh so drab, what better remedy than a generous helping of nuts to impart their wonderful, nutty, natural oiliness to the dry and dreariness that can all to often be, chocolate cake. I decided to use a combination of ground almonds and ground hazelnuts in the place of flour, meaning this cake is gluten free (egg whites whipped within an inch of their life are the raising secret agents). This being  a happy by product of me wanting the nutty texture, hence gluten free being in brackets. I did not set out to make a gluten free cake, it just turned out that way, which is great for everyones stomach, too much wheat cannot be a good thing!  Gluten free does not automatically spring delicious to mind, but trust me this is.

By the way this is called a Mocolate cake because I’ve sneaked in a bit off coffee, giving a lovely balance of flavours.

Nutty Mocolate Cake

125g Ground Hazlenuts

75g Ground Almonds

4 Eggs (seperated)

200g Chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

125g Unsalted Butter

125g Golden Caster Sugar

3 tbsp Coffee dissolved in 3 tbsp Hot Water

Turn oven on to 180 C. Melt chocolate in a bain marie (bowl over simmering water- water must never touch bowl!!) Cream butter and sugar until lovely and fluffy. Add yolks, nuts, chocolate, coffee. Mix, mix, mix!! Whisk egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in. Cook for around 20 mins (or until done).

Serve with whipped up cream. This is a cake that doesn’t have to be tarted up to be good (and it is on more than one level). Oh yeah and did I mention, high in protein!!! Nom, nom!!!

Please note- the picture is not my own, I had guests when this was made so, caught up in the excitement,  I stupidly forgot to take pictures ! This picture is courtesy of google images- a true likeness of the cake and its wonderful texture.

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Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus pie!!

Way aye man!! Back in the UK and desperate to cook myself a good bloody meal, whilst being knackered through being thrown straight back into my day job. Urgh!

Italy reignited my passion for prosciutto (crudo) and sun-dried tomatoes, but after two weeks of it, I was craving the diversity and wealth of flavours that English cuisine has to offer.

During my stay in the lovely La Spezia, I failed to consume a single vegetable. Something that seemed to elude the Italian diet,  or should I say the diet of those my colleagues and I were staying with. Living on a diet of meat, carbs and dry sandwiches (butter anyone?!) I craved something a bit more saucy than olive oil and balsamic dressing.

Don’t get me wrong the food was great, it just lacked the sauciness that I am beginning to associate with British food. Gravy on a Sunday dinner, Birmingham’s native Tikka Masala, stews, shepherds pie, baked beans.. in England I do believe we like our food with that lil something extra. As for Italy, I can only speak from experience to say that this is something we all found wanting in the dishes we were offered.

So I endeavored to cook something lovely, non dry and British, with some lovely vegetables sneaked in to nourish my wanting body. Nothing spectacularly creative here, just simple, hearty loveliness. I also wanted something as easy as pie (mind the pun). Exhausted much!  I did the bad thing and bought ready made and ready rolled pastry (I will not be concocting a flaky crust with any success after a hard days work)! Along with ready sliced mushrooms! They were reduced what can I say!!! Booo!!!

Many a chicken pie recipe calls for a cooked roast chicken with all the meat taken off and made into bite sized, pie filling chunks.  All well and good but when your after a quickie, skinless and boneless chicken thigh (or breast) will do.

As always my measurements are a bit scatty, I do things by eye a lot, something inherited from my mom and dad, (much to the annoyance of my partner when giving recipe instructions), I have done my best to quantify the ingredients here, feel free to do what feels and looks right, I find that often works for me :).

I used garlic powder here because I had run out of garlic. Always great to have on standby. Feel free to use fresh garlic, although it is nice sometimes to have the flavour without the bits, especially in a saucy pie, I guess it would help if I had a garlic crusher!!

All purpose seasoning again rears its lovely flavoursome head in this recipe, I use it instead of salt due to its high salt content (roughly around 75%) . By all means use salt or even celery salt in its place.

Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus Pie

Chicken Thighs (I used about 4)

Button Mushrooms (About 50g)

1 Onion

Garlic Powder (I’d say a bit but for those who like to measure half a teaspoon).

2 tbsp Wholegrain Mustard

1 pack of Asparagus

25g Butter

25g Flour

175 ml chicken stock

2 tbsp Elmlea Light (or double cream, I like to use the light stuff so I can use and abuse the calories elsewhere)

Sprinkling of Sage

1 pack ready rolled Puff Pastry

Olive oil (for frying)

Black Pepper

All Purpose Seasoning (or salt)

Cube chicken. Coat with black pepper and all purpose (or salt).

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Fry onion in olive oil until translucent. Add chicken. Cook for a bit. Add mushrooms. Cook it all down until chicken and mushrooms cooked through. Steam asparagus for a couple of minutes. (I made a makeshift steamer with a colander over a saucepan of simmering water and a lid).

Snapshot 2013-09-28 18-16-31

Make sauce in separate pan. Melt butter. Add flour. Roux it up (cook slowly over low heat until colour of straw). Pour in chicken stock a little at a time.  Turn up heat and stir until simmering. Add cream and mustard and lower heat. Cook until reduced and thickened. Sprinkle sage. Pour sauce over the chicken. Add asparagus. Stir it up. Transfer to pie dish. Add magical ready rolled pastry lid. Cook for around 30 minutes. Serve with mash and broccoli. Nom Nom!!

piiiiie

Do not start watching Breaking Bad in the midst of making this pie, may cause one to forget about it resulting in burnt pastry disaster.

Easy peasy! My partner said this was the best pie he ever tasted. I do often think he says such things with ulterior motives… That is quite the accolade! I am forever the cynic!!

Sun, Sea and Spritzer

I have been absent without leave not through a lazy lack of blogging, but through a real absence from the UK for a two week teaching stint in Northern Italy.

La Spezia

La Spezia

As interesting as the food and eating habits have been I have merely been far too tired to do anything other than teach, plan and slot in the odd visit to here and there in those golden snatches of free time not spent sleeping. Not to mention my lack of a computer and limited wireless connectivity. Luckily being backwards with my choice of mobile technology I can freely type this post on the qwerty keypad on my phone. This post is brought to you courtesy of Blackberry (or not as the bloody thing would not let me post it for some odd reason but here it is, regurgitated from my drafts folder).

The aforementioned moments of freedom have consisted of visitations to some of the most beautiful, awe inspiring sights in the world. Italy of course being a place of flagrant natural beauty, you do not have to go out of your way to find something worth seeing, unless visiting  mediocre Milano. In fact, merely waking up here in beautiful La Spezia and looking out of the window instils one of the purest feelings of joy known to humankind, the philosophical acknowledgment that you are alive and truly living in a beautiful world. Something that one often takes for granted in industrial Birmingham.

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lo

looo

Anyway, the whole point of this post and something worth mentioning in my food blog before I get back and write up a backlog of recipes, is the much deserved after work aperitivo in the form of the delightfully refreshing Spritzer. This drink is according to a colleague alike the Campari but thankfully less bitter, I believe made from Aperol (something not so easy to come by back home). Something to be enjoyed after a hard day of the cattle herding or crowd controlling kindly given the euphemism of teaching. For 6 euros each we were not only blessed with a huge glass of the stuff, it came with an accompaniment of snacks and light bites. Nuts, crisps, olives, foccacia, fries and not to mention the classic fish finger, seemingly thrown in as an afterthought as the waiter brings this out last, but certainly not least.

hello1

hello

Quite bizarrely (to my obviously ignorant English brain) this is all brought out before the drink, which makes its way over to us after an expectant and impatient wait. A salty fix to make the palate all the more ready for the Spritz to come? Who knows, but a pleasant surprise to apparent ignorant brits who only bargained for a cheeky after work Spritz. Reminiscent of the free tapas with alcoholic beverage offered in Madrid.

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So for all who choose to venture to idyllic Italy for work or for pleasure be aware of this thrifty, refreshing beverage made only sweeter by the food that accompanies it.

Chicken Pelau (Trinidad Style!!)

I have to admit something that I am rather ashamed of. I have heretofore been ignorant of Caribbean cuisine except that from the island of Jamaica. Being lucky enough to have a father hailing from said island means I have been blessed with the gift of traditional  Jamaican food along with what I like to call a Jamaican/ British fusion (being my moms wonderfully interesting interpretation of the cuisine).

My dads cooking style is very traditional and not very experimental, home cooked food passed down through generations is at the heart of his cooking.  Just the other week he asked my mom and I how to roast a chicken and what to accompany it with. Something that astounded me coming from a 60 year old man who is a wholly competent cook and has resided in this country for over 40 years, surely cooking a roast comes with the British package. I guess he has always had my mom for that.

The Islands of the Caribbean are actually very diverse. They each have their own varying culture, cuisine, music and are even seperated by different languages, which explains our previous lack of Caribbean cuisine creativity (excepting my mothers mixed bag that is our family personified in food). Each island is distinct from the other yet can be linked by certain factors, the cricket team being a perfect example of this.

The inspiration for this dish stems from a lazy day off at my mothers house with nothing to do aother than flirt with the different T.V channels searching for a companion for the afternoon (somewhat a novelty for me due to the lack of such a device at home). Flicking through channels I naturally landed on the Food Network with Jonathan Phangs camp take on Trinidadian cuisine.

It opened my eyes to a cuisine I had never previously considered, with ingredients that are familiar friends (thyme, coconut milk, scotch bonnet) but with a refreshingly different approach.The Chicken Pelau caught my eye due to its delightful simplicity as a one pot wonder, using ingredients that I mostly already own, keeping my purse at a weight I could handle at this time of the month.

To start me off on this culinary adventure of tasty proportions, the back bone of my Pelau (and so it seems to many a Trinidadian dish) is the somewhat refreshing,  green seasoning. This is something so versatile it can be used in anything you fancy, from soups to stews and one pots for that extra depth of flavour (this is through personal experience having already used it a fair few times).

I have found a magical formula for making this now indisposable seasoning paste (as no two recipes for it are the same).  This can be used as a rule and adjusted to your tastes.

O + G + GH + E = GS

Onion + Garlic + Green Herb +  Extra ingredients  = Green Seasoning

It is worth noting, the onions tended to be of the spring variety in many a recipe I happened upon. I choose to go one further and use a mixture of onion and spring onion for extra oniony freshness. The green herb section can be made up of as many as you choose, the very nice lady Mr Phang visited used sage and tarragon as well as thyme. I would say thyme is a must as it is an essential ingredient to many a Caribbean dish- it would be rude not to! I added coriander leaf alongside this for its fresh, cooling citrussy notes and due to previous existence in my fridge,  quite frankly I do not have the money to be throwing around indulging in a catalogue of herbs that are not readily available in my house, convenience anyone! Note to self, must plant herb garden!!

The extra ingredients are, but not limited to,  hot chilli pepper (Scotch Bonnet being the chilli pepper I choose due to its prevalence in Caribbean cooking and distinguishable flavour) and celery (used to lend to the seasoning a lovely peppery dimension). Many recipes include the addition of a sweet pepper (Pimento pepper being the usual suspect) to the seasoning as an extra ingredient. I left this out a) because I have no idea where to lay my hands on the elusive pimento pepper (it was nowhere to be found in my locals) and b) because I was feeling too stingy to buy any of the sweet peppers ASDA had to offer, roll on payday for unrestrained pepper purchases!! Pumpkin also seemed to rear its orange head in many a recipe, but not being the season I didn’t bother to open that can of worms.

The end result was something fresh and green that gave the dish that extra somethin’ somethin’. My own recipe is just a guideline, it really is just down to your own taste. I may tweak and change it for my next batch  and for research purposes but this one worked a treat.

Green Seasoning

1 onion (chopped)

1 bunch Spring Onions  (chopped)

2 Scotch Bonnet Chilli Peppers (chopped)

12 Garlic cloves (chopped)

1 stalk of celery (chopped)

A handful of coriander leaves (chopped)

As many thyme leaves as you can be bothered to pick mine was about two handfuls

Blitz in food processor till nice and pasty.

Out of focus picture courtesy of Blackberry

Out of focus picture courtesy of Blackberry

This can be refrigerated for about a week (or until it looks fousty), or frozen, I try to freeze in portions so as to not have to take an ice pick to break off individual chunks.

On to the Pelau. This was inspired by Mr Phangs recipe with a few tweaks, he uses curry powder, whereas I choose not to, as from what I can gather it is not traditionally included in the dish.

Hot pepper sauce can be found in the Caribbean section of your local Tesco, Sainsbury’s or shop self respecting enough to include this wonderful ingredient. I keep it in my cupboard to add a subtle or not so subtle kick to any dish, including cheese on toast. Nom Nom!

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Scotch bonnets are also widely available and are very hot! When selecting remember that the red peppers are the hottest with the greens the least fiery (I don’t know if this is really obvious but it wasn’t to me)! Caution to be advised when handling these beasts as with all chilies.  I had really tingly, oddly burning skin post hand washing after using these. Need to wash thoroughly. And then do it again! Keep away from eyes!

Trinidadian Chicken Pelau

2 tablespoons veg oil

2 table spoons brown sugar

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into sizeable chunks

1 onion (chopped)

2 garlic cloves

Sprinkling dried thyme

Hot pepper sauce (about 1 tsp or to taste)

1 tsp worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 carrot (chopped)

Fresh thyme

A good bit of ginger

300g easy cook long grain rice (sorry another of my approximations I used enough for 3 people)

250 ml coconut milk

375mi chicken stock

2 tomatoes (chopped)

Can of gungo peas (or kidney beans if you so wish)

Heat oil in (large) pan. Add sugar. Cook until bubbly and dark brown. Add chicken. Stir to coat. Cook for approximately 2 mins. Stir in green seasoning. Add onion, garlic and season with both types of thyme, hot pepper sauce worcestershire sauce, dark soy sauce and hot pepper sauce. Add rice and ensure each grain is incorporated with lovely stuff. Now add coconut milk, chicken stock, gungo peas and tomatoes. Bring to the boil then bring down to simmer. Put lid on pan and listen to stomach rumble as lovely smells fill house. Cook until rice absorbs liquid and chicken is cooked (about 25 mins).

Lovely fun

Lovely fun

The result is fresh and wonderful. One pot dinners are a weekday winner, when work has whittled away the will to wash up.

Watch Fire in Babylon for an excellent insight into the West Indies cricket team!!

Chocolate crunch/Chocolate concrete!!!!

Another school classic! My food over the last week or so has been the closest I will get to a time machine, transporting me back to those innocent years prior to adulthood corruption . This was the crowning glory of school dinners, served with pink, strawberry flavoured custard, chocolate crunch was the treat that defined those treasured formative years.

Understandably, I underwent feelings of pity, shock and dismay when I found that my manfriend  had never heard of the stuff! Scandalous! Being 3 years younger than myself I thought that perhaps this was one of the things that Jamie got rid of in his butchering of the typical canteen style school dinner. Upon further investigation (in the form of words had with colleagues, friends and family about said subject), I found this to be an invalid conclusion. Those of a similar age to my partner had also experienced chocolate crunch at school with its famous pink partner in crime, some even mention a green peppermint custard companion, something I was never bestowed with.

This led me to thinking. Is chocolate crunch a regional phenomenon? Is it just a Brummie thing? With my manfreind being from Nottingham, further probing of friends from outside of Birmingham found that they had also never heard of it. This explanation was beginning to seem more and more likely. Eventually, further investigation exposed this as an untruth (a friend from the same side of Birmingham had also never heard of it).

Curiouser and curiouser!

This travesty in the form of the depravation of one of childhoods most treasured puds could only be fixed through an accurate dedication to chocolate crunch replication.  I was too lazy to make my own custard so the plain (non pink) tinned stuff would have to do.

In all honesty my friends deprivation was a mere excuse for rustling this up. The truth of the matter is, I wanted something easy and chocolatey that could be whipped up in the time it took for my dinner to go down, this literally takes 30mins from start to finish!

A four ingredient wonder, that is too easy to be true. For those who have never tried it, is not unlike an amalgamation of a cake and a biscuit. I assume granulated sugar should always be used to boost the crunchy texture.

Best eaten warm with custard, but can also enjoyed as a cold crunchy snack!

Chocolate Crunch/ Concrete

200g plain flour

200g granulated sugar

100g butter (melted)

50 cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180.  Line tin with baking parchment (I used 20cm square tin). Mix flour, sugar, cocoa. Finger mix (scrunch) until crumbly. Pour mixture into tin. Pack it down until compact (as with shortbread I like to punch it down because its fun). Cook for 20 mins. Once removed sprinkle with a little granulated sugar.

Bad quality photo courtesy of Blackberry

Bad quality photo courtesy of Blackberry

Please note, this is more crunchy when cold, if you like it softer eat straight from the oven!!!

Fuss Free Strawberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake is another sweet marvel discovered in my school days. The notorious turkey twizzler school dinners of my generation have had much bad press, although, I must say that I was never one to complain. The highlights of these joyous years being, 18p double chocolate cookies fresh out of the oven for breakfast (yes breakfast), chips, chocolate concrete and a surprisingly delightful and light vanilla cheesecake. Luckily for my health, I had  a pittance to play with and thus could not indulge my every desire, but, when cheesecake was on the menu, I would skimp on the main course to ensure I would not miss out. Chips and cheesecake it is. I have to admit the light as air, heavenly smooth texture of this is still something of a mystery to me,  l marvel at how and where their recipe was devised. Divine intervention seems the only clear answer.

This particular recipe came about when looking for a suitable answer to the challenge presented to me in the form of my brothers birthday. A health conscious, gym face who rarely gorges on anything as gluttonous cake, it needed to be special! Who knows when this boy is going to eat cake again!  He is so unacquainted with the stuff he cannot even put his finger on what he likes. So it was my job to create something that would be pleasing to a palate so ignorant to the joy that cake can bring to ones soul.

This cake is not for the health conscious, but if you are going to do cake, you need to do it properly. Especially on a landmark occasion, turning a quarter of a century is a big deal and something that must be celebrated without restraint.

I have a confession to make also. I went for the easy no bake option due to bring pressed for time and tired from another soul melting week at work. My intention was to go for the grand gesture of the baked cheesecake but, from experience and much research I believe that this cake is birthday worthy, sweet, smooth and heavenly without the fuss of creating a water bath to retain the smooth texture that I so desire (a cheesecake baked without the water bath does not a happy Louise make)!

Nobody need know that it took a fraction of the time and effort of its baked cousin mwahahahaha.

Strawberry Cheesecake 

600g soft cheese

250g double cream

100g Icing Sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod if you want to be fancy)

400g strawberries hulled, chopped

2 tbsp caster sugar

For the base;

100g butter (melted)

250g digestive biscuits

Line bottom of 23cm loose bottomed tin with baking parchment. Whizz biscuits in food processor, alternatively place in food bag and bash violently with rolling pin or other suitable blunt object (i find the meat tenderiser works after a long day at work). Mix with melted butter. Pack down into baking tin. Refrigerate.

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Mix cream cheese with vanilla extract. Whisk double cream and icing sugar in separate bowl to stiff peak stage (until it is stiff and can stand up without flopping down on itself). Fold cream mixture with cream cheese mixture. Fold in half of chopped strawberries. Pour onto biscuit base. Refrigerate.

Put remaining strawberries in bowl with 2 tbsp of caster sugar. After 30 mins puree in food processor (or mash with potato masher as I did, getting the food processor out seemed like a chore, although, I don’t think I got as much from the strawberries as a result). Pass through sieve and add to top of cheesecake. Leave to set  (I left the cheese cake overnight but a few hours will do).

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Voila, a deceptively easy, beautifully smooth cheesecake minus the risk of a cracked top or curdled texture. Simplicity at its finest!

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Chocolate and Chilli Brownies

Chocolate and chilli. All the rage with food fashionistas, a combination which, at first glance seems a teeny bit ridiculous (why taint something as perfect as chocolate with something as aggressive as chilli?) but, once the surface has been scratched this is a wow flavour pairing that seems so natural one wonders why everyone isn’t doing it. All the time.

Chocolate brownies are a product of my dreams. An American export worth keeping. My lust for these ungodly specimens aroused by my American exchange Year 7 maths teacher Mrs Butler. What a battle axe she was. We all sat to attention for this one, no throwing of paper or hurling of spit in her lessons, for her we all stood to attention, sitting in fear of the time she was to call us up to the board for the ritual humiliation that was writing the answers, which were (in my case) inevitably going to be wrong. Her effictiveness as a maths teacher aside, the lasting effect she had on me was the memory of her American treats. Chocolate brownies were to me an unknown gem, a little taste of gluttonous heaven flown over directly from the states into my humble, deprived lap. In these short snippets of joy, the light was shining down upon my measly brummie soul. Made from the fabric of heaven itself, fudgy, gooey, melt in the mouth indulgent, rich chocolate squares of unadulterated pleasure. Where had these been all my life?

Ever since this defining moment I have set to work finding the perfect brownie recipe. A labour of love of mine it has taken many non perfect (cakey) attempts to come out with what is for me the perfect brownie. This recipe really does work every time (providing you don’t overcook them), a shiny crisp top layer with dark, sensual, gooey under bits. I do believe this is achieved through the whisking of the eggs with the sugar, incorporating the secret ingredient to brownie perfection, air. Knock this out in the later stages and your brownies will be a goner. Treat these with tenderness and affection and with careful folding and attention these will not disappoint. (I cannot take credit for this recipe it can be found here

As a rule it is safe to say one should use best quality dark chocolate. 70% cocoa solids preferable. Look for chocolate that does not contain vegetable oil (although if and when strapped for cash I do have to admit to using Tesco’s no frills 30p dark chocolate and getting good results).

Chocolate and Chilli Brownies

185g Dark Chocolate (broken into small pieces)

85g Plain Flour

185g Unsalted Butter (cut into cubes)

40g Cocoa Powder

100g White Chocolate/Milk Chocolate or mixture of both cut or bashed into small chunks

3 large eggs

275g Golden Caster Sugar

Put dark chocolate and butter into bowl (big enough to fit over top of saucepan without touching the bottom). Fill saucepan quater full with water and put over low heat until reaches a simmer. Place bowl over pan and stir until melted (make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the pan).

Bain marie

Bain marie

Turn oven to 160 (fan), 180 (conventional). Line 20cm square tin. Sift flour and cocoa butter into bowl. Break eggs into bowl. Add Golden Caster Sugar. Whisk until light and creamy (I recommend an electric whisk, although if alike me one is not to hand the resulting dead arm is worth the end result). It should be double it’s original size and should leave a trail for a few seconds when the whisk is wiggled. Pour cooled chocolate over egg mixture.

Food art!

Food art!

Fold (carefully) with spatula using figure of 8, plunging  in at one  side, taking it underneath, bring up at opposite side and again at the middle. Move bowl round after each folding. This part is crucial so as not to knock the air out that you spent all that blood sweat and tears to incorporate!! Sift already sifted dry ingredients mix into wet ingredients. Fold carefully to incorporate. Carefully add chopped white/milk chocolate. Bake for 20 mins.

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Cool in tin then foist out carefully trying best not to crack perfect shiny top bit.

Please note it is always better to under cook brownies than over cook, when removing from the oven they will still have a slight wobble, this is a good sign. They should still be shiny and crisp at the top.

Enjoy!!

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