French Savoury Cake

 

French food was a revelation to me. I was expecting all the cream and butter and richness that is a hallmark of French cooking – and I was wondering how my lactose challenged tummy was going to deal with it.  Avoidance for my tummy’s sake was not an option, and I ate cheese almost every day without issue. The difference being, I suspect, that the cheese I was eating in France was locally produced, fresh and, quite often, made using raw milk.

That aside, my revelation came not so much from the food itself – and the fact that I could happily indulge in local cheese without my tummy complaining – but from the attitude to food. Each region has a style of its own, but one concept each has in common is that of wastage. Very little is thrown out. I’ll tell you more about this when we get to Dijon and Alex Miles’ cooking class, but here leftovers are elevated into something new and delicious.

Take this savoury cake for example. Glenis (at Aupres de l’Eglise in Oyes) served it as an aperitif with champagne before we all sat down at the long table for dinner (see the pic above). Although she was kind enough to send me the recipe, at its heart this cake is a very clever use of leftovers. What goes in it are leftover vegetables, herbs, cheeses – whatever happens to be in the fridge. The eggs, yoghurt, oil and flour are just there to bind it all together.

I served it last weekend when we had friends staying – also with champagne as an aperitif. We’d made up a platter for lunch of produce from that morning’s market – fresh baguette, goats cheese, a washed rind cheese, some olives, capsicum, and cherry tomatoes. What we didn’t eat was wrapped up and used later in this cake – along with the last couple of rashers of bacon that I had in the fridge, and some parsley I’d bought in during the week.

The recipe is below, but you really can put anything in it. Just remember, though, if you’re using zucchini to squeeze out the liquid in a cloth first.

What you need

  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 150g unsweetened plain or Greek-style yoghurt
  • 3 eggs
  • Whatever vegetables you have to hand – chopped peppers, halved (or quartered) cherry tomatoes, a small handful of chopped (and stoned) olives, chopped fresh herbs.
  • Whatever cheeses you have to hand – a handful of grated cheddar, chopped blue or goats cheese.
  • Fried diced bacon, chorizo…if you have it. Otherwise, don’t bother with the meat.

What you do with it

Preheat the oven to 180C and generously grease a loaf tin. If you have them, sprinkle poppy seeds in – if you don’t, don’t bother.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and make a well in the centre for the wet ingredients.

Drop in the eggs, yoghurt, oil and some salt and pepper and whisk to blend – but don’t overmix. If you want, whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl before stirring into the flour. Your call, but I can’t be faffed dirtying another bowl.

Gently mix in your vegetables, herbs, cheeses, bacon…whatever… and put it into your prepared loaf tin.

Bake in the oven for around 35 mins – until well risen, golden and firm to the touch. Depending on the types of veg and quantity of cheese you’ve used, you might need to pop it in for an extra 5 minutes or so.

Let it cool in its tin on a rack and then turn out onto a board to serve. It’s best cut with a bread knife and served in small slices. With champagne…it’s that special.

 

How to make pho – a cheat’s version…

Every culture has one – a dish that makes you feel so good inside, it can’t possibly be wrong. A dish that tastes like it should be good for you, that it should be able to beat anything that ails you into submission. Folk food, family food, street food.

Pho, (pronounced “fur” or “fuh” for the uninitiated) is one such dish. It started life as a labourer’s breakfast and is now a lunchtime favourite.

It sounds simple enough- flat rice noodles, thinly sliced raw beef, a few herbs and spring onions, and then an aromatic boiling broth is poured over the lot to cook the meat. How hard could it be? But all pho is not created equal.

Good pho has hidden depths of flavour, enhanced by the chilli, lemon, basil and whatever you add to it. It’s the noodle soup of the Gods, and just by eating it you’re treating your body as a temple.

Whenever I feel as though I need a little self-care, as if the sniffle could possibly be threatening to turn into my annual head cold, as if I’ve been spending too much time doing tasks that I don’t find in the least rewarding and my brain is tired and my soul empty – that’s when I go for this soup.

The problem is, the really good pho – the pho that you get at really good pho places – involves making a stock from beef bones and simmering it for 4 hours. Of course, you get the benefit of the bone broth, but it’s not exactly a quick fix for a craving.

To this end, I’ve come up with my cheatie pho – the one that you go to after a long day when you don’t have time to think but you want to be healthy and feel warm and cosy on the inside. And there’s nothing to be guilty about here.

Ingredients

Yes, it’s quite a list but the aromatics tend to be ones we usually have on hand and the whole thing goes together quite quickly. As with all my recipes, this is a combo of a few ideas and the quantities are, shall we say, inexact. Taste the stock as you go and adjust to your own taste. This quantity feeds the 3 of us with leftover stock for lunch the next day. We find 1 225-250g steak is ample for the three of us for dinner.

If you want you can do this with chicken as well – just substitute good chicken stock for the beef and a couple of thinly sliced chicken breasts that you poach in the soup before serving.

For the stock

  • 2 litres beef stock
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • a good size knob of ginger – I use a piece about the length of my thumb – sliced but don’t worry about peeling it
  • 4 cloves garlic – smash with the back of a knife but don’t worry about peeling it
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 5 cardamon pods, bruised
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (you can add more later if it needs the salt)
  • a few whole cloves
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves (or some peeled lime rind)
  • If you have one, a stalk of lemongrass (bruised)
  • Optional: 1 tbsp grated palm sugar (or caster sugar)

For the soup

  • Noodles – you can use 200g rice vermicelli or fresh rice noodles – it’s up to you.
  • 250g beef fillet
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 long red chilli, de-seeded and sliced

To serve

  • 2 small chillies, sliced
  • fresh basil
  • lime cheeks

Making the stock:

  • Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in a couple of tablespoons of oil (I usually use rice bran) in a large saucepan. You want them to soften and colour just a little.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Once the stock is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 mins. Check for seasoning and add more fish sauce or some grated palm sugar to taste. We tend not to use the sugar. Squeeze in some lime or lemon juice if required.

Putting the soup together:

  • Place your noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Vermicelli normally needs about 10mins soaking.
  • Slice your beef as finely as possible. It will cook in your broth so needs to be as thin as it’s possible for beef to be. A good trick is to put it in the freezer for an hour or two – it’s much easier to slice when you take it out.
  • Strain your stock and return it to the pan, bringing it back to the boil.
  • Divide the noodles between the bowls, top with the onions, then the beef and pour over the hot soup. If the beef is thin enough, the stock should be enough to cook it to medium-rare.
  • Garnish with the spring onions and chillis.
  • Serve with the basil, sliced hot chillis and lime on the side.

Lemon, Lime and Bitters Scones

 

lemon lime and bitters scones

I’m taking a teeny break from all things French to bring you up to date on the progress of the novel – and bring you a recipe for scones.

The structural notes are now through from my editor and a deadline has been set as for when I’ll have it back to her for another read. To be honest, there’s not a whole lot of work involved so we’ve even set a date for when copy edit will happen.

I’m still umming and aahing about the title. My editor thinks that my original title, Happy Ever After, suits the content – and it absolutely does. There’s just something that’s niggling at me about it. I quite like One More Dance – which is a line in an Abba song, but I’m not sure that it fits more than one scene.

What I am sure about is that this book will feature some of the recipes that I’ve used in the writing of it. One of those is these scones.

I’ve been making scones since I was little. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I even won prizes for my scones at Bombala Show. Just putting that out there. Mum always used to say that it was because I have cold hands and that helps with the whole rubbing butter into flour thing.

These days I can’t be faffed with all of that palaver – besides, these can be on the table in less than 20 minutes. From go to whoa. Seriously. Including the clean-up.

A similar recipe using lemonade (I think) has been doing the rounds of Tupperware demonstration parties for years, but I found the recipe for these scones on the Bundaberg Brewed Drinks site. It has just 3 ingredients.

What you need:

  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup Bundaberg lemon, lime and bitters
  • 1 cup fresh cream

Oh, and a pinch of salt…but that hardly qualifies as an ingredient.

All you do is:

  • Preheat the oven to 220C (and ignore your husband when he tries to tell you that it’s way too hot for scones). Grease or flour the base of the scone tray while you’re at it.
  • Put the flour and salt into a bowl and mix through.
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in the cream and lemon, lime and bitters and mix together.
  • Turn it out onto a floured bench and – I use my hands rather than a rolling pin for this – press it out into a 4-5cm slab. No, you don’t need a ruler.
  • Using a round cookie cutter – or a small glass if you don’t have a round cookie cutter – cut discs in the dough. As an aside, remember when vegemite and cheese spread came in jars that you could use afterwards as glasses? They were the perfect size for cutting scones…just saying.
  • Bring what’s left of the dough back together and pat it out again so you can cut more scones. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  • Place the scones closely together on your prepared tray and brush the top with a little milk….does that qualify as another ingredient?
  • Pop in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. The tops should be golden.

These are best served with an orange marmalade as you can taste the citrus in them, but we only had berries. I love them just with good butter as well. The Gympie Cheese man at Kawana Markets does an amazing French-style butter.

Alternatives…

Mum and Dad came back from the Buderim Ginger Factory at Yandina the other day and told me about the ginger scones that they do there. I’m going to give those a go using ginger beer and some cut up stem ginger pieces. With the Buderim ginger jam, they’d be pretty scrummy.

Anyways, these scones are super tasty, super easy, and super quick. Plus, it’s scone making weather, right? Yes, even here in Queensland.

scones with jam and cream

 

 

Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

My daughter goes mad for these cookies and while I totally understand why she does, they’re such a palaver to make that I really need to be in the mood – and I’m not in that mood as often as she’d like me to be.

So why are they a palaver to make? It’s the whole waiting thing. You mix them, then you wait for the dough to be firm enough to work with, then you roll them into balls, then you wait some more, then you bake them. I can’t be doing with all of this waiting around.

Anyways, this is a seriously, sinfully, chocolatey, fudgey biscuit that answers every possible urge you may have around indulgences – if, of course, you’re inclined to an occasional indulgence or three. As such, they’re worth the waiting around for. Besides, sometimes it’s a good thing for gratification to be delayed…just a tad…

What you need:

235g dark chocolate (at least 55% cocoa solids), chopped roughly

150g plain flour

40g unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons bicarb (baking) soda

½ teaspoon salt

100g unsalted butter

240g soft brown sugar

2 eggs

85g dried sour cherries or unsweetened cranberries

What you do with it:

  • Preheat the oven to 165C, and line some oven trays with baking paper
  • Melt the chocolate in the usual way (I do it in a stainless steel bowl over, but not touching, simmering water)
  • Sift flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a bowl
  • Cream butter and sugar in your mixer
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating each in well
  • Add dry ingredients in 3 batches, beating well after each
  • Mix in the melted chocolate
  • Fold through the cherries or cranberries
  • Hand the mixer blade to the waiting “helper” for cleaning
  • This is a seriously sticky dough so you’ll need to pop the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes or so – until it is firm enough to work with
  • Take large teaspoonfuls of the mix and roll into balls. Place on the tray, allowing room to spread and put the trays in the fridge for 30 mins, or until firm.
  • Hide the bowl so that the “helpers” who miraculously emerge don’t eat all the cookie dough.
  • Bake for 15-20 mins, or until risen and cracked on top. You’ll know they are done by the rich chocolatey smell.
  • Cool on the trays. They should be quite fudgey in the centre and are best eaten within a few days.

 

Baked Lemon Cheesecake

mine wasn’t styled this nicely…

This baked lemon cheesecake appears in my next book – which, of course, means that it gets tried out on my family first, and you guys second. I can’t tell you who bakes it in the book as that would be a spoiler alert, but feature it does.

The recipe comes originally from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, with, naturally a few tweaks here and there – not that Rick’s version wasn’t perfect to start with, just that when I was making it, I didn’t have quite enough of a few ingredients so had to improvise. The result was a slightly lighter texture which my husband said he preferred. As an aside, he’s a tough marker when it comes to cheesecake – he doesn’t like anything overly sweet and he doesn’t enjoy a coconutty base.

Likewise the berry compote. I’ll give you the recipe for it, but really I just used some fresh blueberries from the market and the remainder of a punnet of raspberries from the previous week. Later on in the week I melted down some good raspberry jam and drizzled on top – that’s what I’ve used in the photo below.

Anyways, here’s how you make it…

Before you start

  • Line the base of a 20cm springform tin – one of those ones with the clips on them that makes them spring open – with baking paper and grease or butter the tin lightly.
  • Preheat the oven to 150C.

For the base

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 200g plain biscuits. If you can get them plain digestives are good.
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Pop the biscuits into a large sandwich bag and smash them with a rolling pin – or a tin. You want them crushed, so feel free to bash away a bad week on them.

Once the biscuits are crumbs, mix through the sugar and the melted butter. Tip it into the tin and press firmly into the base. The back of a spoon does this job well.

For the cheesecake

  • 500g cream cheese – don’t even be tempted to consider low fat
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 300ml crème fraiche. (I used 200ml crème fraiche and 100ml natural unsweetened yoghurt)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat together the cream cheese and the sugar until its silky smooth. Add the eggs – one at a time – and beat well between each addition. Add the cornflour, crème fraiche (or crème fraiche and yoghurt), lemon zest and lemon juice and beat well.

Pour the mix into the tin and place into the oven. You’ll need to bake it for 50 minutes to an hour. The top will be set, but there should be a slight wobble still in the centre. Turn the oven off, but resist the urge to open the oven door too often. You want it to cool gently as the oven cools – it helps minimise the risk of the cheesecake splitting – but doesn’t guarantee that it won’t! If it does split, don’t worry too much – you can always cover it with berries…and yes, this is not the dessert that you make at the last minute!

For the berry compote

225g raspberries

50g caster sugar

Finely grated zest of ½ and orange

350g mixed berries

We usually have berries of all types in the freezer – I buy up big at the markets when they’re in season and freeze in little bags for Sarah’s smoothies during the week – and it’s ok to use frozen ones.

Put the raspberries, sugar and orange zest into a bowl and crush into a puree with the back of a fork. Push it through a sieve into a clean bowl and mix the other berries in. Chill until you’re ready to serve.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.


Apple and Cinnamon Scrolls

 

I could almost call this little series of posts “What Kate Cooked,” but that’s a tad restrictive.

This recipe was made by Kate Spence, the protagonist in my current novel (working title) Happy Ever After. She baked a batch of these for an afternoon tea to celebrate the return of a friend who’d been travelling around Europe. More happens – of course, it does – but, you’d need to read the finished product for that.

Anyways, my husband, who loves his pastries – even though he shouldn’t be eating them…which means I shouldn’t be cooking them – gave this the seal of approval. They were perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon tea.

Now, if you’re so inclined you can make your own rough puff pastry – after all, they do it all the time on Masterchef and make it look seriously easy. I’ve never tried and have no burning desire to do so. Life’s too short for complications like that – and my husband is usually too impatient for the end result.

So, assuming that you’re not going to be making your own fresh puff – rough or otherwise – here’s what you need:

  • 3 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • Cinnamon sugar made from mixing 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon together. Of course, you could just use the pre-mixed cinnamon sugar, but I like doing it this way.
  • 50g melted butter
  • 2 green apples – peeled, cored, and cubed into a tiny dice
  • 1 cup flaked almonds – I used a big handful of slivered almonds because I had some left over from the Christmas cake, but pecans or walnuts would also work well. Your call.

What you do with it

Before you start, hold out a tablespoon of cinnamon sugar. I always forget to do this, but you need this for the top. It’s probably a good idea to pre-heat your oven at this point – to 200C.

Brush one sheet of puff with butter – be generous, this is all about buttery flaky goodness. Scatter with one-third of (what’s left of) the cinnamon sugar.

Lay the next sheet on top of the first and do it all again…and then again with the third sheet.

Scatter the apple pieces and then the almonds over the top of the sugared third sheet of pastry and then roll it up tightly like a swiss roll. Don’t worry about the bits of apple and almond that come out the sides – you can scatter them over the top at the end.

Brush the long open end with some water to seal the pastry, and brush the log with egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon milk).

Using a super sharp knife, carefully slice the log into slices about 2.5cm (an inch) thick and even more carefully transfer the slices to a baking tray that you’ve lined with baking paper.  You’ll be laying the spirals flat. Although it’s tempting to lay them against each other so they won’t open up, where they touch each other they won’t crisp up as well. You have been warned.

Brush the tops with more of the egg wash, and poke the leftover appley bits into the scrolls. Now pop the tray into the oven for about 40 minutes.

While they’re doing their thing in the oven, heat a few tablespoons of honey with a half teaspoon of vanilla extract in a small saucepan. Keep an eye on it though – you don’t want it to boil.

When the scrolls are crisply golden, brush them with the honey glaze and scatter over about a tablespoon of caster sugar. Pop them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes – until the sugar is melted and it’s all quite golden and sticky.

 

 

 

How to make honey madeleines…

Two things are consuming most of my thoughts at the moment – planning my upcoming road trip in France (I’ll tell you about that another time) and finishing the first draft of my current manuscript (working title Happy Ever After). As an aside, if you’ve ever wanted to know the mechanics behind writing and publishing a book, I’m blogging this one week-by-week on a Wednesday. The series is here.

As things tend to do with me, the two have combined a little with my protagonist Kate Spence making a batch of the honey madeleines I baked last weekend.

These happened quite accidentally and coincidentally. You see we’d been watching the first episode of Bake-Off on telly earlier in the week and I happened to mention that madeleines (the subject of that week’s technical challenge) were something I’d always wanted to have a go at, but couldn’t because I didn’t have a madeleine pan.  Then I forgot all about it – as I tend to do.

On Saturday I was all set to make a ginger and pear frangipane style tart, so decided that I absolutely needed a long fluted tart tin. I couldn’t find one, but I did come home with a Madeline tin – and we had madeleines instead.

Although madeleines look simple, they’re actually not. You really do need the tin and you really do need to take the butter to just this side of burnt – it needs to be nutty brown.

Speaking of the butter, rather than creaming it with the sugar and then adding the eggs and finally the flour as you do with most batters, with madeleines the butter is added last.

Finally, the batter needs to sit in the fridge for at least an hour but preferably longer. Some people would say to pop it in the fridge overnight. Kate, my character, made hers in the morning so that when her friend dropped by in the afternoon she could simply pour the batter into the trays and pop them in the oven. I allowed it to rest just a few hours.

Why does the batter need to rest? At the risk of making your eyes glaze over, it’s about allowing time for the gluten to relax and the flour to be hydrated – it makes the batter thicker and gives the madeleines their distinctive little hump. Some people say that chilling your buttered (and floured) tin also helps with this. I’m not sure about that.

Anyways, this recipe is for honey madeleines. It’s a touch of sweetness that works perfectly with the lemony syrup that you spoon or brush over the top of them. For the pic I dusted a couple with icing sugar.

And the recipe? You’ll find it here. It’s from Darren Purchese’s book “Lamingtons and Lemon Tarts.”

Ambrosia Salad

It’s Australia Day tomorrow and these days the concept of Australia Day is – to me and many other Australians – a complicated and conflicted one…so we’re not going to talk about that.

Anyways, given that this is a politics-free site, and given that it was my Mother’s birthday just 2 days ago, I want to chat about a classic Aussie dessert. I use the term “classic” in its loosest possible reference – in that it’s been around for a while. I also use the term “Aussie” loosely as (ahem) extensive research on the subject has taught me that this particular recipe probably has its origins in the southern states of the US. I like to imagine it was picked up by the Australian Woman’s Weekly in the 60’s as being seriously exotic and a dessert that could proudly take its place on the buffet table of the hostess with the mostest – right beside the punchbowl.

I know what you’re thinking: not another variation on the lamington, the iced vovo or the pavlova – or even the iced vovo lamington. No, this is pure Aussie 60s/70s kitsch – and it was the height of hostessing fashion for a time. From the same decades that brought us devon slices filled with potato salad and skewered with a toothpick, little toast boats filled with creamed corn, vanilla slice made with sao biscuits, and tablecloths decorated with hobbytex, I bring you…ambrosia salad – a sickeningly sweet pina colada in dessert form.

I can still see Mum preparing this dessert at our red brick house in Carlingford in suburban Sydney when I was a kid. At one point she had four of us under seven (I was the eldest), so I imagine anything that was quick and easy would have been at the top of her list. Ambrosia salad requires no cooking (so no need to turn the oven on and heat the house up), has no fiddly icing or fancy ingredients, no complicated processes, and can be served in the same bowl it’s prepared in – so no extra washing up. It’s no wonder that it was Mum’s go-to dessert for so many years.

a pic of Mum and me – when I was at my most photogenic

Of course, Mum didn’t call it ambrosia salad. To her, it was (and still is) Five Cup Salad – because that’s what the recipe was:

  • 1 cup marshmallows
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup (canned) pineapple pieces
  • 1 cup (canned) mandarin pieces
  • 1 cup sour cream

It’s all then mixed together and popped on the table as is.

I remember thinking that it looked a little bit like…well, let’s not go there. The pic below will give you an idea – although Mum doesn’t put glace cherries on or in hers (thank goodness for small mercies).

A random pic I found of someone else’s ambrosia salad

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t enjoy it – it’s way too sweet for me and I really dislike the texture – but kids love it and it still brings a smile to my face when I see it. It’s as much a part of my childhood as Mum rocking a bikini with a book in hand (which she still does at 76), Dad watching the cricket (and listening to it on the radio at the same time), and sao biscuits for afternoon tea. (Thanks to my sister for those words…)

Although I wasn’t there for her birthday dinner on Tuesday evening, Mum put together a five cup salad for the occasion. In deference to the season, she used mango instead of mandarin. Very enterprising of her.

Have you ever had (or heard of) ambrosia salad?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

How to make chocolate olive oil mousse

My protagonist, Kate Spence, makes a batch of these chocolate olive oil mousses in a scene in my new novel (working title Happy Ever After). It’s one of those scenes, you know, the ones where the story changes direction, and these little mousses are partly responsible for that change.

My daughter, who has never read a word I’ve written – and probably never will – nevertheless agrees that these have the power to create a change in direction. They really are that luxuriously good.

The recipe comes from Nigella’s At My Table, but I’ve also experimented with adding some orange rind to the melting chocolate. It makes the finished result a little like a Terry’s chocolate orange.  I’d encourage you to play around with them. I haven’t tried it yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if chilli wouldn’t also work – just a touch, mind you.

These are quick and easy to make, but I’d urge you to make sure that you use the good olive oil in them – you know how you have your cooking olive oil and the one you use for drizzling? It’s the drizzling quality one that you want – just not too peppery. I know, I’m getting picky. You also want to make sure that your chocolate is the good stuff – 70% cocoa solids – and have your eggs at room temperature. Oh, and sea salt flakes – don’t be tempted to use the stuff in your salt shaker.

You need to pop them in the fridge to set for at least 20 minutes, but if you’re making them ahead, it’s best to have them at room temperature to eat. You want them to be smooth, not hard set…if you know what I mean.

Finally, because they’ve got raw egg in them, don’t eat them if you’re pregnant or immune challenged…I’m sure that you know the drill about raw egg.

One last thing – I know I’ve only just finished posting my wellness goals for 2018, but these are quite rich so a little bit really does go a long way…

What you need

150g chopped dark chocolate

100ml extra virgin olive oil

4 large eggs, separated

50g caster sugar

sea salt flakes

What you do with it

Melt the chocolate in the way you normally would. I do it in the microwave at 30-second intervals, but you can also do it over simmering water if that’s the way you normally do it. However you do it, take it off before it’s completely melted and stir until the last of the chocolate is melted. Leave it to cool for about 10 minutes and then stir in the olive oil.

Whisk the egg whites and a pinch of sea salt until you get firm peaks. As old as I am I still love turning the bowl upside down over my head to make sure it doesn’t fall out.

In another bowl whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt until it’s pale and fluffy and almost doubled in size.

Gradually pour the chocolate and olive oil mix into the eggy mix and fold until it’s all combined. Now take 1/3 of the egg white and fold it in. You can smash this about a bit until it’s all smooth, but you’ll need to be gentler with the rest – which you’ll do in two more batches.

Once it’s all folded through and there are no white streaks, spoon it into your ramekins or espresso cups. I also put some into a sherry glass – just so I can have a taste.

 

How to make corn and ginger soup…

Ok, I know that corn is one of those starchy vegetables that’s probably best moderated, but I absolutely love it. Plus, it’s in season now – I bought four huge  – and I mean huge – cobs the other day at the markets for $3.

I was going to make sweetcorn fritters for breakfast with them, but when Sunday morning came along I couldn’t be faffed. Instead, I stripped the cobs off the kernels and used half of them in this soup. In case you’re wondering, the other half has gone into the freezer for when I can be bothered to do the fritters.

One of my favourite dishes in the world is really good Chinese takeaway sweetcorn and chicken soup. I like making it at home too – to avoid the MSG and seriously salty aftertaste – but Miss 19 doesn’t like the gloopy texture from the cornflour and eggs.  She does, however like this one.

You’re seasoning this with shaoxing wine and soy sauce so it still has a vaguely Asian taste to it, but is much lighter in taste and texture than the Chinese takeaway version. Plus, you get the fabulously sunny yellow from the corn still shining through.

We had some stock left over from when we had Hainanese chicken rice the other night, so that went in as well and added another layer of gingery flavour – I usually add a knob of ginger, a heap of garlic cloves and the green spring onion ends to the water I poach my chicken in.

Anyways, to the soup…

What you’ll need

  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • About a tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 litre chicken stock or water
  • Finely sliced spring onions – about half a cup
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (sometimes it’s spelt shao hsing)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste) – use tamari or gluten-free soy sauce if you’re gluten intolerant
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 or 2 finely sliced thai chillis – if you have them lying around and want to spice things up a tad…purely optional

What you do with it

Heat some vegetable oil (we use rice bran oil) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, spring onions, and chillis (if you’re using them) and stir-fry for a minute or so, before tossing in the corn and doing the same for another minute. Pour in your stock (or water) and bring it to the boil. That’s pretty much it – except for the seasoning ie the Shaoxing, soy sauce and salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so and you’re done.

If you want to make it look a tad more spesh, drizzle over a couple of drops of sesame oil, sprinkle some more sliced spring onion, and maybe toss in some chopped coriander.

To take it to another level, add some sliced poached chicken into the bowl before pouring the soup over it. That turns it from lunch into Sunday dinner.