Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Homemade Salted Caramels Recipe

 I've wanted to have a go at making my own chocolates for a while (especially after the Godiva Challenge!) and salted caramel is one of my favourite flavours. So using some of the callets I got from Godiva, and a mould I got free with Something Sweet magazine, I attempted my first ever homemade salted caramels...

I took the five that actually came out of the mould without being squished along to a girlie night at a friend's house and they were received with moans of delight, and much disappointment at only having one each!

Making them was of course trial and error, but I eventually got the hang of actually using the moulds without breaking the chocolates when taking them out, and of course the tempering is an acquired skill, but for a first attempt, I was more than pleased with the results.

Makes: 15 (depending on your mould)

Prep time: 3 hours minimum (including setting time) 


200 g dark chocolate pearls/callets (I used Godiva 70% cocoa)
150 g Demerara sugar
3 tbsp cold water
75 g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp rock or sea salt
4 tbsp double cream


Bain-Marie (or microwave)
Silicone chocolate cup mould
Flat paintbrush


Temper your chocolate, either by heating in a microwave for 1 minute, stirring, then giving it another 30 seconds - don't allow it to melt completely, and then stir the remaining unmelted pieces until it is all smooth. Or use a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water to melt 75% of the chocolate, and then remove from the heat and stir in the remaining. Ideally the temperature should be about 32 degrees to work with - if you have a sugar thermometer you can check this. Otherwise, like me, just wing it!

Use a small spoon to transfer enough chocolate to the mould to cover the bottom of each well. Then using your flat paintbrush, paint the chocolate up the sides. I found that a nice thick base and reasonably thin sides worked well. A thin bottom not so good. Allow the chocolate in the mould to set in the fridge, this could take up to an hour, depending on the thickness.

To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear. Bring to the boil, and allow it to boil for a few minutes, without stirring, until it turns a golden caramel colour. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Carefully stir in the butter and some of the salt until the butter has melted.

Next, whisk in the double cream gradually until you get a glossy smooth caramel.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the rest of the salt, then leave to cool completely.

Once the chocolate has set, and the caramel has cooled, spoon the caramel into the chocolate cups, but not to the top, leave a few millimetres at the top (this will prevent a LOT of spillage!!). Let it settle and then use some more melted tempered chocolate to seal the top - use a piping bag if you would like a really clean cut top, or you can use a spoon for a nice rustic look. Either way, try to 'seal' the top around the edges so you don't get leakage of caramel which you will then have to lick off your fingers...

Allow to set again in the fridge, and when it is solid, gently push them out of the mould. Decorate with some more rock salt if you wish.

And eat... preferably with some Prosecco...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

One Direction Birthday Cake

A chocolate cake for a gorgeous little girl, turning seven, who LOVES One Direction.
one direction
 Chocolate cake recipe by Annie Bell.
Sugarpaste icing from Decorative Supplies Enfield.
1D logo adapted from official One Direction TM.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Beef and Feta Galette Recipe

A galette is a type of freeform pasty or pie. This is a great recipe for using up leftover ingredients from my Vegetarian Dinner Party. It was relatively quick, easy, and served four of us, pre-pub! 

The pastry is surprisingly simple for a time when you haven't got any ready-to-roll handy, and seems healthier by using olive oil instead of butter. I would probably blind-bake it next time though, to make sure it was cooked through thoroughly, although this may detract from the lovely shaping. 
A lovely Greek-inspired rustic looking dish!

Beef and Feta Galette

Serves: 4

Prep: ~1 hour (including chilling the pastry)

Cook: ~1 hour 15 mins


For the Pastry:
1 cup (~130 g) Flour
1/4 cup (~55 ml) Olive oil
1/4 cup (~60 ml) Water
pinch of salt

For the Filling:
500g minced beef
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
100g feta cheese, roughly chopped
4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp stuffed olives, sliced
100 ml double cream
1 egg white


To make the pastry: sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre and slowly add the olive oil and mix it until it becomes crumbly. Add in the water and mix until it becomes a soft dough. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

For the topping, heat the oil in a pan to moderate and stir fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the mince and oregano and cook for 10-15 minutes until browned all over and even slightly crispy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Heat the oven to 180 C. 

Roll out your pastry to about 30 cm round. Lightly grease a 25 cm tin and lay the pastry inside letting it flop over the sides, but don't press it in. You can bake the pastry for about 15 minutes here if you like, to ensure it's cooked through - cover in baking paper and ceramic beans. It will mean it won't fold over your topping so well later though, so shape it nicely now. Crumble the feta over the pastry base (cooked, or not), then smooth over the beef mixture and sprinkle with the sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Fold the (non-cooked) pasty over the edges now in a rustic, uneven, carefree manner. If you've pre-cooked it, it will stick up in a jaunty fashion, which is also lovely!

Finally beat together the cream and egg white and pour it over the filling. 

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Serve with green salad, and/or crusty bread. And plenty of red wine...

Monday, 31 March 2014

The Vegetarian Pantry - A Veggie Indian Supperclub

One of my Christmas cookbooks this year was, by my own request, The Vegetarian Pantry, by Chloe Coker and my friend Jane Montgomery, who teaches at the School of Wok and also runs pop-up events with Waste Not Want Not. Chloe grew up in a vegetarian kitchen, her mum has been vegetarian for over 40 years, and Jane was inspired by her quest for more interesting meat-free recipes for her clients. Both are passionate about fresh, healthy, seasonal, meat-free cooking and in this book share this passion with those of us who often entertain vegetarians and need ideas that will satisfy carnivores as well!

Anyway, I had my vegetarian friends around again (one is actually a pescetarian but we won't hold that against him), so I chose two Indian recipes from the book to satisfy our chilli-love. Incidentally, they also brought some new Mr Singh's Chilli Sauces (now stocked in The Larder N21!), which fitted perfectly into my plans.

We began with poppadums and the chilli sauces (top ingredient: Scotch Bonnet!) and my homemade Indian mint sauce.

Butternut Squash with Spinach and Pine Nuts Samosa
Courgette with Feta and Sundried Tomatoes Samosa
Homemade Mint Sauce

Samosas look difficult to make but the way they are made here are quite manageable. Baked rather than traditionally deep-fried, with two delicious vegetarian fillings. A bit of nifty filo-pastry folding, topped with poppy seeds, served with mint sauce and Mr Singh's Chilli sauces... authentic!

Main Course: 
Roasted Aubergine, Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry
Served with steamed basmati rice and honey/coconut naan bread

Simple, light and healthy, the vegetables are roasted with some cinnamon and then stir fried with mustard seeds and spices, with a tomato base. A touch of lime and perhaps an extra chilli, and this gives even meat-lovers a curry of substance.


I found this recipe in the Metro as I was heading into work, wondering what to make for dessert. Even though the Italians would probably be abhorred, I thought it perfectly appropriate to finish off an Indian evening.
A very successful vegetarian evening, and I'm looking forward to getting these friends round again so I can get stuck into a few more recipes from The Vegetarian Pantry - I like the look of the courgette fritters with minted yoghurt, vegetable dumplings with soy dipping sauce, and the vegetable tempura with wasabi dipping sauce... and that's just for starters! 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Godiva Chocolate Challenge - The Finals!

And no, I wasn't in the Finals! I did, however, attend the event as press, representing Fabric Magazine (you can read my article here). As I arrived, the four finalists were beavering away (since 2pm apparently) with their creations, looking relatively calm and in control. The Boffi Kitchen showroom, where the event was held seemed a rather appropriate venue - luxurious and contemporary.

 Godiva Chocolates tasked the finalists with creating 'a chocolate dessert whose presentation, creativity and texture reflects the craftsmanship and excellence of Godiva'. My own Citrus Chocolate Cups didn't make the shortlist, but when you see what did, you will see why!

Heather, the winner, with Victoria, Danny and Natasha
  Danny's Candied Bacon & Chocolate Tartlet with Pork Scratching Snap, Heather's A Conference of Chocolate, Victoria's Chocolate Praline Mousse Cake, and Natasha's Praline Mousse Coeur

Heather Bennett is a budding chocolatier who works full time in the City. Her winning recipe, A Conference of Chocolate was "inspired by Godiva’s use of the finest quality ingredients and by Mark Hix’s love of British seasonal produce. Kent Pears and locally sourced honey combined with dark chocolate, compliments the dish that like Godiva’s namesake, needs no frills and laces. It is easily scalable for commercial kitchen production with no compromise to presentation or flavours."

The other three, no less inspired, finalists' recipes could also easily have won the competition, based on their presentation alone. Danny Kingston is a renowned food blogger (Food Urchin) whose love of chocolate started with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at a young age and his creation Candied Bacon and Chocolate Tartlet with Pork Scratching Snap was certainly daring to be different with the salty sweet addition of something salty you would expect for breakfast, rather than dessert.

Victoria Glass made a Chocolate Praline Mousse Cake which was elegant and luxurious with layers of flavour coated with chopped hazelnuts. Victoria was slightly panicked at one point as the failure of the freezers to work in this beautiful-but-maybe-not-so-functional showroom meant her mousse wasn't setting. She pulled it all together though just in time and this bunny ear-topped mousse cake was just the right balance between mousse and cake, according to William Sitwell.

Natasha Cohen (Tashcakes) was accompanied by her very proud parents, and was happy to chat while she worked on (my favourite) heart shaped chocolate mousse cake. She made five of these beautifully tempered cakes, and was happy for me and Vikki from @ChefMag to taste test some of the caramelized hazelnuts. We chatted together afterwards and Natasha is a genuine star, with modesty and talent in abundance, and I'm sure this will lead to great things for her, and for all of the contestants. Incidently, she mentioned she liked the look of my recipe, and it's on her 'to try' list! Woohoo! And in return I'm going to attempt hers...

Caramelized hazelnuts... mmmm.

Meantime, Vikki (@ChefMag) and I sampled the delightful chocolate covered strawberries...

...spied on the judges judging...

...admired the displays around the showroom...

...scoffed numerous delicious canapés... goat's cheese with balsamic jelly, beef carpaccio with truffle oil...

...Salmon curls with creme fraiche blinis...
...Miso black cod... 
...Tuna with soy and ginger on chopsticks...;

The finalists were finally given their de-briefing before Mark Hix announced Heather as the winner.

We could finally taste one of Thierry's exclusive creations, a rich luxurious chocolate mousse topped with pomegranate 'caviar', and dip into the four desserts, and roll our own truffles...

Chocolate Mousse with Pomegranite Caviar
And of course, check out our own tweets on the big screen!

Well done to all four finalists, particularly Heather, who must be absolutely thrilled to see her recipe on the dessert menu at Hix Selfridges! And a big thank you to Godiva Chocolates for a fantastic evening.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Arsenal 40th Birthday Cake

A last minute request for a 40th birthday cake - well, ok, I had a week - but being short of time, I had to keep it simple. Birthday boy is an Arsenal fan, and it was rather a little ironic that his party was on the day Chelsea beat them 6-0. Oops! It was hard to resist the temptation to change the '4' to a '6'...
football cake
Square Victoria Sponge (Annie Bell recipe) filled with buttercream and jam.
Sugarpaste icing  and edible gold pen from Decorative Supplies Enfield.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

3D Space Cookie Cutters - Starfighter!

 I often peruse the Science Museum Shop in search of a gift for one of the many parties that the kids go to, and I love to browse the kitchen stuff in there. If only I had the time and the space, I'd love to play with the Molecule R Mini Cocktail sets, the Wobble Wine glasses and even, in the name of Science, of course, the Kitchen Chemistry Set!
They sent me a set of 3D Space Cookie Cutters - Starfighter to try out at home. Nice packaging (we kept thinking it was a DVD lying around in the kitchen), and good solid cookie cutters. I made some orange and almond cookie dough, rolled it out and cut out several of each shape. When baked they are supposed to slot into each other so that you can make a space ship, or indeed, in this case, a star-fighter. I'm no cookie dough expert, but I followed my recipe as diligently as ever (ok, so not very!) and used the cutters, as instructed...
cookie cutters
3D Space Cookie Cutters
They didn't 'slot' exactly... perhaps it was my cookie dough - rolled out too thick perhaps, or they may have self-raised a little more than was intended.
But it was fun to play with, and they tasted good!
 We tried gluing them with some melted chocolate... that helped!
Overall I think they are a very good idea, and if you can get your dough just right I'm sure they would piece together nicely. Other sets available are Rocket, Shuttle and Space Buggy (that one does look tricky!). A few scientific experiments to test a variety of conditions, perhaps are in order? Chocolate chips anyone?
Available on the Science Museum Shop online.