Rocky Road: Eat and Get Fat

When I asked my friend Venessa for her recipe for Rocky Road she sent it by email and at the bottom she wrote “Eat and Get Fat”.  So I thought that was an appropriate title for the New Year, when many people are resolving to lose weight!

According to Wikipedia, Rocky Road was invented in Australia in 1853 as a way of on-selling confectionery spoiled by the long journey from Europe. Gold miners in towns outside Melbourne, such as Ballarat, were wealthy but uncultured. Unscrupulous businessmen took advantage of these men, mixing the spoiled confectionery with low quality chocolate and other “filler” ingredients, such as locally foraged nuts. The name Rocky Road is derived from the rocky road travellers had to take to get to the gold fields.

Here’s Venessa’s recipe which I have doubled and added a few substitutes in brackets. I left out the coconut in deference to someone who doesn’t like it. This is an adaptable recipe, so quantities are approximate. I added a few more marshmallows to make up for not including the coconut.

Rocky Road

400g block of chocolate, broken into squares
1 cup snakes (or other chewy jelly-type sweets), cut up with scissors
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup marshmallows snipped in half with scissors
1 cup roasted salted macadamia nuts (or other nuts), roughly chopped

Grease and line a slice tin or square cake tin (approx 25 cm) with non-stick baking paper or use a silicone pan which doesn’t need to be lined. Melt chocolate in microwave, approximately 1 minute on high or until melted. Stop to stir halfway through. Add all ingredients and mix well. Tip the rocky road into the tin and smooth the top. Refrigerate for half an hour or until firm, but cut into squares before it sets rock hard. Eat and get fat.

Variation: for White Rocky Road use white chocolate.

Coffee & Halva Ice Cream Cake with Hot Chocolate Sauce

This cake makes a great dessert or birthday cake to serve a crowd.  It can be made a few days ahead and is always popular.  The coffee and halva flavours might be a bit sophisticated for small children, although our two and a half year old granddaughter Natalia loves olives, artichokes, radicchio and rocket, so you can never tell.  The recipe is adaptable – instead of coffee you could add chocolate chips and instead of halva you could add crumbled honeycomb or violet crumble bars.  Use your imagination.

Halva is a dense, crumbly Middle Eastern sweet containing nuts – a bit like a cross between fudge and nougat.

The chocolate sauce uses ingredients everyone has in the pantry (so you don’t need to rush out and buy a bar of chocolate) and keeps for at least a week in the fridge.  If preferred you can make a sauce by heating a cup of cream to boiling point, then removing from the heat and adding about 200g chocolate (milk or dark), broken into squares.  Stir till dissolved.

Coffee and Halva Ice Cream Cake with Hot Chocolate Sauce

4 large egg whites at room temperature
pinch salt
250g caster sugar
½ cup slivered almonds (optional)
Coffee Ice Cream:
2 litres good quality vanilla icecream (bought or home-made)
2 Tbs instant coffee powder dissolved in 1 Tbs hot water
Halva Ice Cream:
2 x 300ml sour cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup icing sugar
250g (approx) halva (from delis and specialty shops)
Chocolate Sauce:
½ cup sugar
¾ cup water
4 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs golden syrup
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup cream
To serve:
Cocoa powder

Meringues: Line two baking sheets with baking paper and turn oven to 150°C.  Draw a 20 cm diameter circle on each sheet of paper.  With an electric mixer whip egg whites with salt until they hold their shape, then gradually add the sugar, beating constantly, until you have a thick glossy meringue.  Spread meringue evenly onto the circles you have drawn, leaving a little space all around as they will expand in the oven and you want them to fit into a 20 cm tin.  If liked, sprinkle almonds over one then bake the meringues for about an hour until firm but pale in colour.  Turn off the oven and leave them to cool in there.

Coffee Ice Cream: Remove ice cream from the freezer and let it soften for about 10 minutes then tip into a large bowl and stir until smooth.  Thoroughly mix in coffee mixture, then put back into container and refreeze.  Halva Ice Cream: Mix sour cream with icing sugar, vanilla essence and roughly crumbled halva.  Tip into a plastic container with a lid and freeze.

Remove the two ice creams from the freezer about 10 minutes before assembling the cake.  Place the meringue layer without the nuts in the bottom of a 20 cm springform cake pan, bottom-lined with baking paper.  If too big, carefully trim off the edges with a sharp knife and keep testing, till it goes in.  Spread a layer of coffee ice cream over the meringue.  There will be more of this ice cream than the halva one, so you may decide not to use it all.  Sprinkle the meringue trimmings over the ice cream – unless you’ve already eaten them – then spread evenly with the halva ice cream.  Top with the other meringue, nut side up and trimmed to fit.  Press down gently.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for up to 3-4 days.  Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving so it’s not rock hard.  Run a knife dipped in boiling water around the outside of the cake to enable you to remove sides from cake tin.  Dust top of cake with cocoa powder through a sieve.  Slice cake with a knife dipped in boiling water and serve with the sauce.

Sauce: Choose a large pan because this recipe will boil over if the pan is too small.  Place all ingredients except butter, vanilla essence and cream in pan.  Mix then simmer for 5 mins without stirring.  Cool for 10 mins then stir in butter and vanilla.  When almost cold mix in the cream.  Serve warm with ice cream.  Keeps for at least a week in the fridge – reheat in the microwave and allow to cool a bit.  If piping  hot it will be too runny.

Serves at least 12

Variation: if preferred divide meringue into three to make three thinner layers.  This allows you to put one between the two flavours of ice cream.

Raspberry Cake with Raspberry Coulis: leave the first layer of ice cream plain vanilla, leaving out the coffee.  For the second layer place the two packets of sour cream in food processor with 2 cups frozen raspberries, 300ml cream and icing sugar to taste.  Blitz enough to combine but leaving the raspberries a bit chunky.  Serve cake with Raspberry Coulis instead of Chocolate Sauce.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake with Hot Chocolate Sauce: Instead of slivered almonds on one meringue layer, use skinned and lightly toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped.  Instead of the coffee and halva ice cream layers, use three 470ml tubs of Connoisseur Murray River Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Chocolate Coated Hazelnuts.  Remove from the freezer to soften slightly then mix them in a bowl then spread over the first meringue layer.

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

Someone gave my daughter Catherine a Panettone for Christmas.  As they don’t like Panettone very much, she gave it to me.  I have to admit I’m not mad about the Italian answer to Christmas cake either, but my “war mentality” doesn’t allow me to throw good food away.  So I stuck it in the freezer.  Catherine laughed when she saw me do this and admitted she had inherited my “waste not want not” approach to food and if she hadn’t been travelling she would have frozen it too.

This weekend I used just over half the Panettone to make a delicious chocolate bread and butter pudding, adapted from a recipe by Delia Smith.  She uses ordinary white bread with the crusts cut off.  You could use bread, panettone, croissants, brioche – anything which needs using up – which is how this traditional British dessert was first invented – to use up stale bread.

9 slices of day old white bread – or the equivalent in panettone, brioche or croissants
150g dark chocolate (I used more like 175g to make it really chocolatey)
75g butter
425ml cream
4 Tbs dark rum
pinch ground cinnamon
4 Tbs caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
To serve:
Icing sugar
Thick pouring cream

Butter a rectangular lasagne-type dish.  In a large bowl place chocolate, broken into squares, butter, cream, sugar, cinnamon and rum.  Microwave until melted which will take 2-3 minutes.  Stop every 30 seconds or so to stir the mixture and stop as soon as it’s melted.  Delia does hers the traditional way over simmering water which is safer.  Using the microwave is quicker, but you need to keep an eye on it.  Whisk in the eggs with a hand whisk, until well-combined.

Pour about 2cm of the chocolate cream over the base of the dish, then arrange about half the panettone slices or bread slices, overlapping if necessary to cover the base of the dish.  Panettone slices are large so you need to cut them into about three and use them like a jigsaw puzzle.  Pour in half the remaining chocolate cream and push all over with the back of a fork so the panettone soaks it up.  Arrange the rest of the panettone or bread over the top, pour in the remaining chocolate cream, push with a fork so there are no dry bits left.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap, leave for a couple of hours at room temperature then refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

Remove cling film and bake at 180°C for 35 minutes or until the top is brown and crunchy and the bottom is cooked but still soft.  Remove from the oven, allow to stand for a few minutes then serve dusted with icing sugar.  Pass a jug of thick pouring cream separately.

Serves 6-8

Chocolate Cappuccino Mousses

Ever since our daughter Catherine decided that the plural of chocolate mousse should really be mice, the name has stuck.  In our family everyone loves chocolate mice.  I make them in small glasses and if they’re not for a special occasion I put them in the fridge in a flat dish with a shower cap over the top.  Over a few days they quietly disappear.

I usually make them with dark or white chocolate, but decided to create one with a cappuccino flavour.  Nigella Lawson makes a chocolate mousse using marshmallows instead of eggs, so I used her recipe to develop one with a coffee layer on top of a dark chocolate layer.  The 250g packet of marshmallows I bought had both pink and white, so I divided them in half.  There were uneven quantities, so I had to put a few pink ones in with the white ones.  I think using mainly white ones for the coffee layer you end up with a nicer colour.

Chocolate Layer:
125g pink or white marshmallows
½ cup boiling water
75g unsalted butter
250g dark chocolate, broken into squares
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup (250ml) cream, lightly whipped
Coffee Layer:
125g white marshmallows
½ cup boiling water
2 Tbs instant coffee powder
75g unsalted butter
250g white chocolate, broken into squares
1 cup (250ml) cream, lightly whipped
To serve: whipped cream and grated or piped chocolate

Place all ingredients for chocolate layer, except the cream, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat gently, stirring until melted.  You don’t want the mixture to get too hot, so once the mixture is hot but not boiling, turn the heat off and let everything continue to melt in the residual heat.  By the time the marshmallows and chocolate has all melted the mixture should be fairly cool and beginning to thicken.  If not, wait until it is then thoroughly fold the lightly whipped cream into the mixture and divide between about 10 half-cup glasses.  They should be about two thirds full.

Dissolve coffee in the boiling water, then place all ingredients for the coffee layer, except the cream, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat gently.  Again turn off the heat before the mixture boils and let the ingredients melt in the residual heat.  When mixture is fairly cool and thickening, thoroughly fold the lightly whipped cream into the mixture, then divide between the glasses.

Refrigerate several hours.  Serve decorated with some extra cream, whipped, or grated chocolate.  In the photo they are decorated with piped melted chocolate in the shape of a treble clef, as they were for a musical evening.

Serves about 10 or 12, depending on the size of the glass

Chocolate and Orange Gateau

Friends hosted a New Year’s Eve party where everyone brought a plate.  I’ve heard lots of funny stories about new Australians not understanding this concept and turning up with just a plate.  Indeed my Greek teacher Michael Kazan told me that when he first arrived in Canberra from Athens and someone asked him to bring a plate, he thought to himself that if his hosts didn’t have enough plates, they probably didn’t have enough cutlery or glasses either.  So he took those as well.

As my contribution to the New Year’s party I took an Orange, Almond and Chocolate Dessert Cake – another recipe from the December edition of Delicious magazine.  I’ve renamed it Chocolate and Orange Gateau and made my own chocolate-covered orange slices rather than buying them.  My fan-forced oven is too hot at 180C for some cakes, especially ones which require longer cooking, so I set it at just under 170C which worked perfectly.

Chocolate and Orange Gateau

Chocolate-covered orange slices:
2 oranges
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
150g dark chocolate
2 oranges
150g dark chocolate
5 eggs
400g caster sugar
350ml sunflower or canola oil (just under 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1 cup thickened cream
350g dark chocolate broken into squares
To serve:
Whipped cream (optional)

For the chocolate-covered orange slices, cut oranges into 1/4 inch slices, discarding the ends which have no flesh in them.  Heat sugar and water in a large frying pan, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Add orange slices, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, turning them from time to time, until the syrup thickens and disappears.  You will need to pay attention towards the end so they don’t stick or burn.  Remove orange slices with tongs to a cake cooling rack.  You can either leave them as whole slices or cut them in half.  They are best made the day before or several hours before serving so they have time to dry out a bit.  When they are dry enough, melt chocolate and dip half the orange slices into the chocolate, then leave to set on baking paper.

For the cake, place oranges in a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil then simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife.  Drain and process to a smooth puree in a food processor, then cool.  Preheat oven to 170C.  Grease and line a 24cm spring form cake pan with baking paper.  Place chocolate in a bowl over simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water) to melt, then cool a bit.

In a large mixing bowl whisk eggs, sugar and oil then gradually mix in the orange puree, almond meal and melted chocolate.  Add flour, baking powder and cocoa through a sieve and fold in thoroughly by hand. Pour into cake pan and bake for an hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cover top loosely with foil if it’s browning too quickly.  Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a wire rack.  Drizzle with liqueur then cool completely.

For ganache heat cream to boiling point in a saucepan, then add chocolate, turn off the heat and stir until smooth.  Allow to stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread over the cake, stirring from time to time.  Spread ganache over top and sides of cooled cake with a palette knife and decorate with chocolate-covered orange slices.  If liked serve with whipped cream.

Serves 16

Note: if you don’t have any almond meal you can make your own by blitzing some blanched almonds in the food processor.  If you don’t have any almonds you can substitute walnuts or even pine nuts.  You could substitute self-raising flour for the plain flour and baking powder.

Big Mary’s Mexican Bombe

Our offspring are all married and running their own households.  They all love to cook and we spend a lot of time discussing recipes and things we have made.  James went to a Mexican-themed dinner party the other evening and made an impressive meringue-based dessert called Big Mary’s Mexican Bombe.  I gather everyone went back for seconds and there was none left for breakfast!

You may wonder how the Bombe got its name.  Well one of my father’s cousins from the Hill House clan in the north of England was called Big Mary, to distinguish her from Little Mary, wife of one of her brothers who was much shorter.  Big Mary gave me this recipe which has always been a winner.  The optional cream around the sides (not shown in the photo) gives the Bombe more of a gateau look and the longer you leave it in the fridge, the more the meringues will soften into a cake-like consistency.  I know the recipe seems to have a lot of sugar in it, but with a few unsweetened raspberries on the side, it just hits the spot!

Big Mary’s Mexican Bombe

4 egg whites
250g brown sugar
2 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tsp water
125g caster sugar
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs water, extra
125g dark chocolate
2½ cups cream
To garnish (optional):
1½ cups cream, extra
50g praline, roughly chopped (optional)

Fresh berries to serve (optional)

Line 3 baking sheets with foil or non-stick baking paper and draw a 20 cm diameter circle on each.  Set oven to 120°C.  Whip egg whites until stiff.  Gradually beat in brown sugar and continue beating until sugar has dissolved and meringue is stiff and shiny.  Fold coffee mixture into meringue and divide amongst the foil sheets, spreading it evenly into three round discs.  Bake for 1 to 1½ hours or until crisp.  If your oven heats unevenly, swap the tins around halfway through cooking time.  A fan-forced oven helps avoid this.  Turn oven off and leave until cold.

Filling: melt chocolate and cool.  Whip cream and divide in two.  Heat sugar and water gently until dissolved.  Increase heat and cook, without stirring, swirling pan from time to time, until you have a rich caramel.  Quickly add extra cold water, being careful to protect your arm from the steam.  Swirl the pan to dissolve the caramel, then cool.

Gradually beat caramel into half the cream and fold cooled chocolate into other half.  Peel meringues from foil.  Place one on a large flat plate, flat side down.  Spread evenly with chocolate cream.  Place another meringue on top and spread with caramel cream.  Place remaining meringue on top and gently press down.  Refrigerate for several hours.

Optional garnish: An hour or two before guests arrive, whip extra cream and spread around the sides of the bombe, filling in the holes to create a smooth surface.  If liked, press roughly chopped praline into the cream.  Refrigerate until serving time.  Serve the bombe in thin slices, accompanied, if liked, by fresh berries.

Serves 12