Chocolate Brownie

Delicious as a snack with a cup of tea or coffee, or as a dessert with cream and berries, everyone needs a good chocolate brownie recipe. The last time I made this with my granddaughter Natalia, we swapped the chocolate chips for M and Ms, at her suggestion. She rushed off on her bike to buy a packet.

½ cup butter (125g)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1¾ cups self raising flour (or plain flour and 2 tsp BP)
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts (e.g. walnuts, macadamias, pecans) or a mixture

Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 9 inch or 22cm square tin and line with baking paper. Or use a silicone pan which doesn’t need greasing.

Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix well, scraping down the sides halfway through. Or use electric beaters in a bowl. Add eggs, mix, then gradually add the sifted flour, salt, vanilla and cocoa, scraping down the sides again halfway through.  Add chocolate chips or nuts and process very briefly, just enough to mix them in.

Scrape into tin and smooth the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Don’t overcook as it’s better undercooked than overcooked.

Cut into 16 squares

Roasted Peas with Brown Butter & Garlic

Yotam Ottolenghi has taught me that all vegetables taste better roasted rather than boiled in water, the way our mother’s and grandmothers cooked them. Maybe not yours, but certainly mine. They knew how to roast potatoes, parsnips and pumpkin, but anything green went into boiling water. Roasting Brussels sprouts, asparagus and cauliflower takes them to a whole new level.

This recipe didn’t come from Mr Ottolenghi but from Pinterest, where you can find quite a few versions. I’m not going to give exact quantities. I used less butter than the recipes called for, so I’ll leave it up to you. Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic because the roasting makes it soft and sweet.

I served the peas with salmon topped with a mixture of finely chopped ginger and Thai sweet chilli sauce, baked in the oven on a tray lined with baking paper for for 8-10 minutes at 200°C.

Frozen Peas
Butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peeled cloves of garlic (about a dozen?)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the peas in a sieve and run hot water from the tap over them, drain and put in a bowl. Heat a large knob of butter in a saucepan until it turns golden brown. How much butter is up to you and depends on how many peas you are doing.

Add the butter, garlic cloves and seasoning to the peas. Line a baking tray with baking paper and tip the peas onto it, spreading them out into one layer. Bake for 10-20 minutes, turning once or twice. Time will depend on the size of the peas.

Variations: add some finely diced bacon or frozen corn kernels.

Kaiserschmarm

This torn apple pancake is an Austrian speciality. The name translates as “Emperor’s mess”  after the Emperor Franz Josef, who apparently liked it so much he ate his wife’s serving too.

I first tried this on a skiing holiday in Kitzbuhel in Austria, many moons ago. I couldn’t remember the name, so it’s taken me until now to find a recipe. My first attempt was out of balance, with too much pancake and not enough apple for my taste, so I’ve adjusted the proportions. After a bit more research I found some recipes include raisins soaked in rum and so I’ve added them to the recipe as an optional extra.

75g butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3 large eggs, separated into two large bowls
2 Tbs sugar (to taste)
1 cup plain flour
Pinch salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 Tbs raisins soaked for an hour in 3 Tbs Rum (optional)
Icing sugar to serve

Heat 25g butter in a medium to large non-stick frying pan (25-30cm) and cook the apples, stirring, until softening and starting to colour. Add the soaked raisins, if using, then tip out into a bowl and wipe out the pan. With electric beaters, whip egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and continue to whip until you have a thick, glossy meringue.

Using the electric beaters, gradually add the sifted flour, salt, milk and vanilla to the bowl containing the egg yolks. The beaters need to be clean for the egg whites, but  there’s no need to wash them before you do the egg yolk mixture. Using a spatula, gradually fold the meringue into the egg yolk mixture.

Heat 25g butter in the frying pan. Tip in the pancake mixture and cook for 3 minutes, or until the base is golden, then turn over and cook the other side. It’s not easy to turn a large pancake, so an easy solution is to cut it into four while it’s in the pan and turn each quarter separately. Don’t worry if it breaks a bit.

When golden on both sides, tip pancake onto a plate and using two forks tear it into bite-size pieces. Wipe out the pan and put it back on the heat with the remaining 25g butter. Add the pancake pieces. Cook, stirring, until golden, then add the apples and raisins and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Divide between 4 serving plates and dust with sifted icing sugar.

Serves 4

 

Brussels Sprouts with Black Garlic & Pasta

Black garlic is sweet and pungent. Ottolenghi calls it “licorice meets balsamic meets essence of garlic.” I have heard it called  Poor Man’s Truffles.

Like all vegetables, Brussels sprouts, which our mothers and grandmothers loved to boil to death, are completely transformed by roasting in a hot oven. This is a delicious recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi which I have adapted with the addition of pasta and a couple of tweaks to turn it from a vegetable side dish into a vegetarian main course for four. By the way, I used Orecchiette pasta shapes which look a bit like mushrooms in the photo!

A friend lent us a black garlic-making machine. It looks a bit like a rice cooker and you just put the garlic heads in for 270 hours on a very low heat. We had to banish it to the garage because it was stinking the house out, but now we have plenty of black garlic. You should be able to find black garlic at your local farmer’s market.

500g brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthways
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
12 black garlic cloves
2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves or 1 Tbs dried
30g butter
2 Tbs pumpkin seeds
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs Tahini
250g pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
Sesame seeds, toasted, to garnish

Preheat oven to 200°C and put the water on to boil for the pasta.

Place sprouts in a bowl with 1 Tbs of the oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well then spread out in one layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-15 mins until golden brown but still crunchy.

Meanwhile lightly crush the cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar, then place in food processor with the black garlic, thyme and the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil. Blitz to form a paste.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. In a large wok or frying pan heat the butter until it turns a nutty brown. Add the black garlic paste, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice and tahini. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins, then add the cooked pasta and a little of the cooking liquid. Check seasoning.

Serve in 4 individual bowls sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Serves 4

Kladdkaka – Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake

Crisp on the outside, with a soft and gooey centre, this traditional Scandinavian chocolate cake is a bit like a brownie. Kladdkaka means sticky cake in Swedish.

Serve it on it’s own, with a dusting of icing sugar and a cup of coffee, or with whipped cream or ice cream and a few berries as a delicious dessert.

In the photo it’s served with homemade strawberry ice cream, using a very quick recipe and substituting frozen strawberries for the frozen raspberries.

2 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
pinch of salt
125g butter, melted
1 Tbs vanilla extract
Extra cocoa powder
To serve:
Icing sugar
Fresh berries such as strawberries or raspberries
Whipped cream or ice cream

Prepare an 8 inch (20cm) cake tin by lining the bottom with baking paper, then buttering the bottom and sides and giving a good coating of extra cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a large bowl with electric beaters whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Fold in sifted flour, cocoa and salt and lastly the butter and vanilla. Scrape into cake pan and bake for 20 minutes. The top of the cake will be firm, but it will still be soft in the centre. The cake will sink as it cools.

Cool cake then dust with sifted icing sugar. Serve as it is, or with berries and whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 8

Eggplant in Red Lentil and Coconut Sauce

This delicious recipe is adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi. He used an Indian soft cheese called paneer as the filling. I used halloumi but you could use feta or ricotta.

I first discovered red lentils when watching a Nigella Lawson TV show, in which she said they are great because they only take about 20 minutes to cook. Be careful as overcooking results in mushy lentils.

3 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise ½ to 1 cm thick
About 100 ml vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped (or 6 shallots)
2 Tbs finely chopped ginger
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
Strips of peel from 1 lime removed with veg peeler
200g red lentils
400ml can coconut milk
800ml water
100g spinach leaves
220g feta, halloumi or ricotta cheese
To garnish:
Juice from 1 lime
Fresh chopped coriander

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line two large oven trays with baking paper. Arrange the eggplant slices on the trays, brush both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 mins or until cooked and golden brown. Cool.

Put 2 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions over medium heat, for 2-3 mins, stirring. Add ginger, chilli, spices, tomato paste, sugar, strips of lime peel and lentils and continue to cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Add coconut milk, water and a teaspoon of salt. Turn down heat and simmer 20 mins, stirring from time to time, or until lentils are al dente and sauce is thick. Pour into an oiled baking dish large enough to take the eggplant rolls in one layer and put aside.

Arrange spinach leaves all over the eggplant slices in one layer, then a piece of feta or halloumi. Roll up from the thinner end so the cheese is enclosed. Arrange the packages seam-side down in the lentil sauce and press them in a bit. You should end up with 16 to 20 rolls in one layer. Bake 20 mins or until golden brown on top. Drizzle with the lime juice and garnish with the fresh coriander.

Serves 6

Substitutions: use lemon instead of lime

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Nigella Lawson made this ice cream on her TV series some months ago and I made a mental note to give it a try. She says it’s the ice cream she makes (and eats) the most.

It’s very quick and easy, using roughly equal quantities of Dulce de Leche or Nestlé’s Caramel Top ‘n Fill and cream. A splosh of bourbon, rum or brandy is optional – and best left out if you’re serving this to kids. There’s no churning required and when ready to serve the ice cream is not rock hard, so you don’t need to take it out of the freezer ahead of serving time, the way you do with most home made ice creams.

Dulce de Leche (known as Manjar in Chile) is basically condensed milk cooked until it turns into a thick brown caramel. It’s not difficult to make from condensed milk in a pressure cooker and this is what you had to do in Australia before Nestlé’s Caramel Top ‘n Fill came on the market.

Nigella says this ice cream goes well with Sticky Toffee Pudding. She also suggests adding brandy instead of whisky and serving it with Christmas Pudding. I have served it with Sago Plum Pudding.

1 can Nestlé’s Caramel Top n Fill (380g) or equivalent in Dulce de Leche*
300ml whipping cream
1-2 Tbs Bourbon, rum or brandy (optional)
½ tsp Maldon sea salt flakes, or to taste
To serve (optional):
½ cup pecan nuts or walnuts, roughly chopped
Maple syrup or golden syrup or honey

Place dulce de leche or Top ‘n fill in a bowl and mix with electric beaters until smooth. Add the cream and continue whipping until thick and smooth. Gradually mix in the alcohol, if using and salt to taste. Scrape into a container with a lid, then freeze for 8 hours or overnight.

Optional topping: Place pecans or walnuts in a small frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted.

Serve ice cream topped with the nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup, golden syrup or honey.

Serves 8

*or Bonne Maman Caramel Spread

Caramel Slice

I was staying at Hill House, a dairy farm in County Durham in my early teens when I learnt to make this recipe. They called it Triple Decker Slice and everyone loved it. There are heaps of versions online, often called Millionaire’s Shortbread, but this is my version. I’ve added the salt flakes, which weren’t in the original recipe, but appeal to anyone who likes salted caramel.

This slice is high in sugar and calories, so I don’t make it often, but when I do it always puts a smile on Matthew’s face.

If you can find dulce de leche or Nestle Top n Fill, make Filling (1). If not then make Filling (2).

Shortbread:
125g butter at room temp
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
Filling (1):
250g dulce de leche or Nestle Top ‘n Fill
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Filling (2):
1 can condensed milk
2 Tbs golden syrup
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Topping:
250g dark chocolate
2 Tbs Copha or butter
To finish:
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Mix butter and sugar in food processor. Add flour and cornflour and process till mixture sticks together into a ball. Press into a greased shallow rectangular baking tin measuring about 25x30cm, lined with greased baking paper. You don’t need to roll it out, just drop lumps evenly over the tin, then press with your fingers till you have a more or less even thickness. Bake 15-20 mins. It should be very lightly coloured, not brown.

Heat filling ingredients (1 or 2) and when bubbling cook gently for 2-3 mins, stirring. If using Filling (2) you will need to cook it a bit longer, say 5-7 minutes, to achieve the caramel colour. Pour over the shortbread and spread evenly. When caramel has cooled, melt chocolate with Copha or butter, pour over and spread evenly. If liked sprinkle with salt. Cut into squares when cold.

Makes about 20

Hummus

Hummus is available in every supermarket, but when I first learnt to make it, while we were living in Israel in the late 1970s, that wasn’t the case.

This recipe is quick and easy and, like anything homemade, much cheaper than the bought variety. With tahini and canned chickpeas in the pantry you can whip up a batch any time, as the other ingredients such as lemon juice, garlic and olive oil are part of most people’s everyday supplies. I’ve been using canned chickpeas for quite some time. They’re so convenient but, if preferred, by all means soak and cook some dried ones.

While hummus makes a delicious dip to serve with drinks, it’s also good as a spread in sandwiches, instead of butter, or as a component in several of the recipes on this blog, such as Roasted Veggies with Hummus or Baked Eggplant with Hummus Lentils and Pine Nuts.

Hummus keeps in the fridge for up to a week, but if preferred why not make half the recipe first time.

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup tahini paste, stirred
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Garnish: (optional)
Chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika

Place chickpeas in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process, adding enough water to give the consistency of a dip. Keep in the fridge, covered, until needed.

To serve, add a little water if Hummus has become too stiff, then spread in a swirl onto a shallow dish and decorate with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. The garnish is optional, but it looks and tastes great. Serve at room temperature with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and cauliflower.

 

Makes about 3 cups

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne (pronounced Carnay) means Chili with Meat and was invented by working class Mexicans living in southern Texas. Often referred to simply as Chili this dish has lots of variations, a bit like Spag Bol which we’re all familiar with.

In this version, the sun-dried tomatoes give extra tomato flavour to the sauce. If preferred use tomato paste instead, or some of each. This recipe is enough to serve a big family, or a smaller family with some leftovers, which go down well for lunch on toast or in a wrap.

500g minced beef
2 medium onions
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
200g sun-dried tomatoes, drained (or 4 Tbs tomato paste)
1 fresh red chilli, seeded & finely chopped (more if you like it hot!)
2 tins tomatoes
2 cups water and more as required
2 tins red kidney beans, drained (or white beans or a mix)
Stick cinnamon or 1 tsp of powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
3 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Sour cream (or thick Greek yoghurt)
2 finely sliced spring onions or 1 small red onion, chopped
Grated cheese
Corn chips or corn tortillas
Shredded iceberg lettuce
1 ripe avocado, roughly mashed and seasoned (optional)

Chop onions and garlic and fry in olive oil in a large deep frying pan until softened. Add the chilli powder and cumin with the meat and cook, stirring, until browned. Place the sun dried tomatoes, water and the chilli in a food processor and blend to form a paste. Add to the beef with the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar, stock cubes and another cup of water.

Bring to the boil, cover then turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1½ hours. Stir often and add more water as necessary. Add the red kidney beans 30 minutes before the end of cooking time. Check for seasoning. This meat sauce will keep for several days in the fridge and can be frozen. When reheating add a little water.

Serve with corn chips or tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese and sour cream mixed with spring onions. Put all the elements in individual bowls and let everyone help themselves.

Serves 8

Low Carb Variation: use whole iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap instead of corn Tortillas.