Nigel Slater’s Chocolate Espresso Cake

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012


I’ve been in a bit of a baking frenzy this week. I do try to be healthy during the week, but when the weekend comes around I can’t resist a bit of a treat. A friend had raved about this Nigel Slater recipe, and when she mentioned the words ‘dense and fudgy’ I needed no further convincing.

It was quite easy to make but I did end up using every available pan and bit of work surface in my kitchen. I was also a bit eager with the mixer while whisking my egg whites and ended up having to give the walls (and myself), a wipe-down – boy, can that stuff travel!

The finished cake had a crisp top, a soft sponge and was delightfully fudgy inside. To be honest, it was quite rich and more like the sort of cake I’d serve in thin slices after a meal, perhaps with a bit of cream or ice-cream. It was still very delish though.

There’s a link to Nigel’s recipe here.

I’m just working on another baking post, this time with a bit of a vintage theme. Watch this space…

Forced rhubarb, mascarpone and ginger semifreddo

Forced Rhubarb:  available January – Feb/March

I really like rhubarb but hadn’t ever tried the ‘forced’ variety before, so I eagerly bought a big bagful when I spotted it in my local fruit and veg shop.

Forced rhubarb, as the name suggests, it is literally forced to grow. The plants are grown in long sheds where they are subjected to heat and darkness so that the young shoots grow quickly in a desperate search for light. Apparently, it was originally cultivated to fill a gap in the vegetable calendar when there wasn’t much else available.

I wanted to try something a bit different from the usual rhubarb crumble (yawn), so decided to have a go at making a semifreddo. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

The ginger is the first of the flavours to come through, followed by the rhubarb – it’s almost like they politely take it in turns to tickle your taste buds.

The rhubarb flavour is a lot stronger in the sauce and balances the richness of the mascarpone cheese well.

PS: fellow Brightonians, I got my rhubarb from Taj in Western Road.

You will need
For stewing the rhubarb
200g forced rhubarb
Juice and zest of 1 large orange 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g caster sugar
2 pieces of stem ginger (about the size and thickness of a 2p piece), finely chopped


For the semifreddo:
4 eggs, separated
500g mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

1.) Roughly chop your rhubarb and place in a saucepan with the orange juice, orange zest, 100g caster sugar and chopped ginger. Then add enough water to the pan to just about cover your rhubarb.
2.) Bring to the boil and simmer for about 7 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.
3.) Sieve the rhubarb over a clean bowl.  Set the juice aside and pop it in the fridge when it’s cooled.
4.) Next, whip the egg whites into soft peaks with a pinch of salt.
5.) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla for a few minutes and then add the mascarpone cheese.
6.) Whisk the cheese and egg yolk mixture for a couple of minutes until smooth, then stir in your stewed rhubarb (not the juice).  Add one tablespoon of the egg whites and stir in with a metal spoon.
7.) Carefully add the cheese and rhubarb mixture to the egg whites and stir gently. Take care not to knock the air from the beaten egg whites.
8.) Line a freezer-proof container with cling film and pour in the mixture. Freeze for around 4 hours (or overnight).
9.) Remove the semifreddo from the freezer and leave to stand for around 5 mins while you make the sauce.
10.) For the sauce, pour the chilled rhubarb juice into a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook down until it thickens.
11.) Carefully lift out the semifreddo using the cling film, place it upside down on a serving plate and remove the cling film.
12.) To serve, cut even portions of the semifreddo and drizzle each the sauce. To finish, sprinkle with crushed amaretto biscuits (optional).

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2014

Chicken and leek risotto

Here’s the final recipe in my ‘Give life to your leftovers’ series. This recipe not only makes good use your remaining roast chicken, but also includes delicious leeks, which are currently in season. And the addition of parsley and lemon zest (optional, of course) really brings this dish to life.

The secret to great risotto is to take your time over it, adding the stock gradually and stirring slowly to allow it to be fully absorbed by the rice. This recipe serves 2.

You will need
Your remaining chicken meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
175g Arborio risotto rice
600ml of chicken stock
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ large leek, diced
2 tbsp of crème friache
1 small onion, chopped into small pieces
A generous handful of finely grated parmesan cheese
Handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
A teaspoon of grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

1.)Heat the stock
2.)In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and add the onions, garlic and leeks. Fry very slowly for about 15 minutes until softened.
3.)Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes until the rice is coated and glossy.
4.)With the heat on a simmer, carefully add your chicken stock, one ladle at a time, to your saucepan of rice and stir using a wooden spoon.
5.)Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, allowing each to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. You’re aiming for your rice to be soft but with a slight bite.
6.)When all of your stock has been used and absorbed by the rice, add your chicken, stir, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the parmesan, 2 tbsps of crème fraiche, stir and season to taste.
7.)Divide the risotto between two bowls, top with lemon zest, parsley.

Chicken noodle soup

In my last post, I promised recipe ideas for leftover roast chicken. So, here goes with the first, ideal for this time of year when you want something warm, satisfying and healthy. This recipe serves two people.

You will need:
2 pints of chicken stock (read my last post for a how-to)
1 tsp caster sugar
half a red chilli
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 tbps of dry sherry
2 portions of dried egg noodles (thick, thin, or whatever you prefer)
½ small leek, shredded
Leftover roast chicken, cut into small slices or bite-sized pieces
2 tsp sesame oil
A handful of fresh coriander

Add the stock, a mug of cold water, soy sauce, chilli, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and sherry to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down and allow to simmer very gently. In a separate pan, cook your noodles, drain and then toss in the sesame oil. Remove your soup mixture from the heat and sieve it over a bowl or pan.

Divide your noodles between two big bowls, ladle the soup over the noodles and then add chicken. To finish, add shredded leeks and coriander and, if you’re feeling adventurous, some thin slices of red chilli too.

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for the final roast chicken recipe.

I almost forgot to mention that I was really chuffed to be featured on Fiona Beckett’s (Guardian food and wine columnist) lovely blog recently. Thanks Fiona!

 

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