Category Archives: vegetarian

Chocolate Viennese Sandwich Biscuits

You could be genteel and call these Chocolate Viennese Sandwich Biscuits, or you could be my husband and ask me how I made the Bourbons.

Either way they are really good.  They manage to be very light and very chocolatey all at the same time.  Viennese biscuits are usually piped but I tried and failed on that score.  The mixture refused to come out of the piping bag.  I think the nozzle might have been too small, or the mixture too stiff, I couldn’t decide.  So plan B was put into action and teaspoonfuls were flattened by the tines of a fork.  Maybe not so beautiful but perfectly adequate.

I was feeling in need of an indulgent treat (to be fair it’s not often that I don’t feel the need for an indulgent treat) so I made a frosting to sandwich the biscuits together, but you could just make the biscuits and they would still be delicious.

They were a big hit with Mr OC and the girls and so will be regularly produced from now on, of that I have no doubt.

For the biscuits:

110g (4oz) butter
50g (2oz) icing sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g (1oz) cocoa powder
110g (4oz) plain flour
25g (1oz) cornflour

Method
Cream the butter and the icing sugar together until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.  Sift together the cocoa, plain flour and the cornflour over the mixture and mix well to form a dough.

If you can pipe it, then pipe it into pretty rosettes, or if you are like me, then drop teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet and flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or on the middle of the Baking Oven of the Aga for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire tray to cool completely.

For the frosting:

50g (2oz) butter, softened
110g (4oz) icing sugar
25g (1oz) chocolate, melted

Method
Beat the  butter until smooth and then add the icing sugar and beat together well.  Add the melted chocolate and beat again until smooth and fluffy.

Use this frosting to sandwich two of the biscuits together for a proper indulgent treat.

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Cherry Cheesecake

Staying with the cherry theme…

I can’t really take the credit for this as Mr OC made it.  I did however hover nervously, not quite in the background, interjecting occasionally.  I am the back seat driver of the kitchen it seems.   I did make the cherry sauce for the top though, as I needed to have some contribution to the proceedings ( a control freak – moi?).

250g digestive biscuits
150g soft butter

400g cream cheese (room temperature)
60g icing sugar
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp lemon juice

For the topping:

1 can of cherries in fruit syrup
2 tsp arrowroot, dissolved in 2 tbsp of water
Glug of cherry brandy (optional and to taste)

Method

Put the biscuits in a food processor and whiz until crumbs.  Add the soft butter and whiz again until combined. (If you don’t have a food processor then place the biscuits in a freezer or sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin until crumbs.  Melt the butter and pour in the biscuits and stir to combine.)  Press the crumbs into a loose based springform tin measuring 20cm.   Using the back of a metal spoon is the easiest way of doing this.  Place in the fridge whilst you prepare the cheese part.

Place the cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Softly whip the double cream and then lightly fold it into the cream cheese mixture.  Spoon this onto the biscuit base and smooth with a palette knife.  Chill in the fridge until just before serving.

Make the sauce ready to pour on top just before serving.  Empty the cherries and the syrup they are in into a saucepan.  Add the arrowroot and water solution and stir well.  Place on a gentle heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened.  Add a glug of cherry brandy to taste.  Pour into a bowl and chill until you are ready to pour over the cheesecake before serving.

When you are ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake and release the springform tin.  Keep the cheesecake on the base of the tin and place on a serving plate.  Spoon the cherries and as much of the sauce as the cheesecake will take over the top.

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Chocolate roulade, with a touch of the Black Forest

This was another of my contributions to my Dad’s birthday pudding bonanza.  It’s a flourless creation, which means that my gluten-intolerant sister can enjoy it.  I really like Black Forest gâteau, and anything with cherries and cherry brandy in it is always a big hit with me.  So I opted to add these, but you could add Marron Glaces for a chestnutty treat or just opt for the simpler (but nearly as delicious) chocolate and cream combo.

When I rolled it, I had as usual added far too much filling and it all oozed out.  But, actually I like it this way, it makes it look a lot more decadent and that can never be a bad thing, surely?

For the roulade (recipe from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course):

6 eggs, separated
150g (5oz) caster sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa powder

A swiss roll tin (a shallow sided tray) measuring 29cm x 18cm, greased and lined with baking parchment.

Whisk the egg yolks until they begin to thicken, then add the sugar and whisk again until the mixture thickens a little more, but you don’t want it to be too thick.  Add the cocoa powder and mix until combined.  In a very clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they make soft peaks.  Add one-third of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture to loosen the mixture and then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites, retaining as much air as possible. Carefully pour this mixture into the tin and lift the tin to spread the mixture evenly.

Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or on the middle shelf of the Aga’s Baking Oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until the cake is springy to touch. Leave it in the cake tin to cool.

Make the chocolate ganache:

225g (8oz) good quality dark chocolate
225ml double cream
Cherry Brandy (to taste, I tend to put a good swig in, I know that isn’t very scientific, but keep on tasting until it suits you)

Chop the chocolate finely and place in a shallow and long dish. Heat the cream in a saucepan until just under boiling point. Pour the cream over the chocolate and leave to melt for a few moments.  Stir gently until well combined and then add the cherry brandy to taste.

Softly whip 200ml of double cream and drain a can of cherries.

Place a fresh piece of baking parchment on the worktop, it should be a little bigger than the cake.  Dust this with cocoa powder and turn the cake onto it.  Peel off the baking parchment from the bottom of the cake.  Spread the chocolate ganache over and then dot with the cherries.

Spread the softly whipped cream on top and then taking hold of one the shorter edges of baking parchment use this to roll the cake over to make a log.  If the filling oozes out, don’t worry just use a knife to spread it back onto the ends of the roulade.  If the cake cracks then that’s a bonus part of its appeal.

Enjoy in thick slices.

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Toffee Apples

They might not look perfect but they got the thumbs up from my two girls and the girl next door.

Toffee apples always remind me of Bonfire Night and as that night is nearly upon us I felt the need to make toffee apples.  Also, we recently took the girls to the annual Apple Day at The GreenWood Centre and there were toffee apples on sale, however by the time we had fought our way through the crowds there weren’t enough toffee apples left.  So I promised to make them some and last week I managed to find the time.

Actually, it takes surprisingly little time to make these, especially if you don’t mind how haphazard they look when they are finished.

PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL , BOILING SUGAR IS EXTREMELY HOT.  It is best to do this in a quiet kitchen unaided by small children.

3 eating apples
3 lolly sticks
100g (4oz) granulated sugar
50ml (2 fl oz) water
15g (½ oz) butter
1 tbsp golden syrup

Silicone sheet or non-stick baking parchment, a pan of boiling water

Pour the sugar and water into a heavy-based pan and heat over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the butter and syrup and bring to a fast boil.  Use a sugar thermometer and bring the mixture to the hard crack stage (150°c).  If you don’t have a sugar thermometer then boil for about ten minutes until a deep golden colour and drop a small amount into a cold glass of water.  It should form a hard ball straight away.  If it clouds the water at all it isn’t ready. Boil for a few more minutes and test again.

Whilst the toffee  is boiling, bring a pan of water to the boil and drop the apples in for a few seconds.  This will remove any waxy coating and  help the toffee stick to the apples.  Remove from the water and dry well.  Stick the lolly sticks into the apples.

When the toffee is ready, take it off the heat and working quickly dip each apple into the mixture until well coated and place on the silicone sheet to harden and cool. If the mixture starts to harden before you are finished then place back on the heat for a minute or so.

To clean the pan, fill it with water and place back on the heat until it cleans itself.

DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO LICK THE SPOON.

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Tomato Ketchup

As you may know we have a glut of tomatoes.  I have wanted to make tomato ketchup for a long time.  My mum made us a big batch of it when we were little and of course being kids we all tucked into expecting it to taste exactly like the famous stuff and we were all bitterly disappointed and voiced our opinion of this to our poor mother. I often think back to that moment now and feel very sorry for my mum.  I have special empathy for her now, of course, as my own children often voice their disappointment with what I have just placed in front of them, mostly by exclaiming ‘yuck!’

As you grow older though your tastes change and this tomato ketchup tastes much better than the famous stuff.

This recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe in The River Cottage Cookbook (ISBN 0 00 220204 2)

1.5 kg tomatoes
1 large onion (I used red as that is what we have grown in the garden)
1 small red pepper ( or half a big one)
50g soft brown sugar
100 ml white wine or cider vinegar
A square of muslin or tea towel, boiled for a few minutes to sterilise and then filled with the spices listed below and tie with string to make a spice bag.
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cumin seed
½tsp mustard powder
piece of cinnamon stick
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground mace
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, bashed once to bruise
1 ½ tsp black peppercorns

½ – 1 tsp paprika and salt to taste at the end of cooking

Method

Chop the tomatoes, onions and pepper and then place in a pan over a medium heat and cook until really soft.  I cooked them for about 25-30 minutes.

Rub the tomato mixture through a sieve over a bowl to achieve a smooth skinless purée.

Place the purée back in the clean pan and add the vinegar and the sugar and the spices in the bag. Bring the mixture to a boil and the reduce the heat and simmer gently until the mixture is a good tomato ketchup consistency.  Keep tasting as you will need to remove the spice bag when they have infused the mixture to your taste.  I removed my spice bag after about 15 minutes and simmered the ketchup for about 40 minutes.

Add paprika and salt to taste. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.  This made 1¾ jar fulls for me.

I keep my jar in the fridge and intend to use it within a few weeks but Hugh FW says that it should keep for about a year. I can testify that it is great on a bacon sandwich.

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The best tomato soup

We have an abundance of homegrown tomatoes at the moment. Every year at this time I make tomato soup, because, really, is there anything better?

Anyway, yesterday was deemed tomato soup day and we agreed that this was the best tomato soup I have ever made.  It tasted like cream of tomato soup, but no butter or cream had been added.  I can’t really explain where that creaminess came from, other than maybe the roasted garlic, but it was delicious. Roasting the tomatoes and the garlic first makes a big difference to the flavour, so don’t leave this stage out.

Serves 4 or 2 greedy people

500g fresh tomatoes
4 cloves garlic unpeeled
olive oil
2-3 rashers of bacon
1 small onion or a couple of shallots
550ml (1 pint) vegetable stock

Method

Put the whole tomatoes and the unpeeled cloves of garlic onto a baking sheet and drizzle with a good glug of olive oil and place in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6) or the roasting oven of the Aga for about 20 minutes until nicely roasted and starting to brown a little around the edges.

In the meantime, slice the onion and dice the bacon and fry in a large pan with a little olive oil over a medium heat until the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked.

Add the roasted tomatoes, with all the lovely juices, to the bacon and onion and squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and add to the tomatoey mixture.  Add the vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and whizz with a hand-held blender or in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Place back on the heat to warm through and serve in warmed bowls, with lots of bread for dunking.

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Aubergine and tomato salad

This post has been waiting for me to write it for a while.  I made this dish probably about ten days ago, but it’s been the end of the summer holidays and we have been making the most of our time with the girls.

This was the harvest from our polytunnel:

We were very excited as this is the first time we have had success with growing aubergines.  Mr OC planted a mixed seed collection and these beauties were the result. We kept them in the house on the windowsills until the fruit appeared and then transferred them into the polytunnel and this, I think, has been the secret of our success.  The ones planted directly into the polytunnel have produced flowers but no fruit, which was our experience last year.  Our tomatoes have been brilliant this year, supplying a constant stream of ripe fruit and our basil is beautifully scented.  I think this particular harvest is from a supermarket plant that I had pretty much used up in the house and so put it in the greenhouse and it has survived and gone from strength to strength.

I wanted to do something which made the most of both the aubergines and the tomatoes.  Sometimes, the aubergine gets a bit lost when baked with a tomato sauce when I do an aubergine lasagne thingy.  That is OK (and really quite delicious) when the aubergines are from the grocers, but when you have looked at them growing every day for a few months you really want them to be the centrepiece.  I do minted aubergines quite a lot, but the mint is over and cut back in the garden now.  Michele at Cooking at Home posted a wonderful and very inspiring pomodoro crudo the other week and so this seemed perfect to adapt a little for an aubergine and tomato salad.

So the tomatoes were diced and thrown into a bowl with some crumbled feta, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil and the basil and left to marinate whilst I got on with roasting the aubergines.

This picture doesn’t compare with Michele’s, so pop over to her site for a more beautiful image, where she uses mozzarella with her tomatoes.

I sliced the aubergines, sprinkled them with olive oil and seasoned generously with salt and pepper.

I then roasted them in the baking oven of my Aga, which is the equivalent of 180°c (gas mark 4) for about 20 minutes until soft and golden.

I placed the aubergines on the serving platter and placed the tomatoes and the lovely juices all over.

It’s best to leave it to stand for five minutes or so for the juices to be absorbed into the aubergine and then serve with lots of bread to mop up the juices.

This was a dish which definitely made the best of our polytunnel harvest.

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Boiled fruit cake

With it being the summer holidays, the girls and I have done lots of picnics on our days out and this cake is excellent for picnics.  It’s easy to make, is very moist, lasts for ages and is absolutely delicious.  In fact Mr OC loves it so much he moans with joy when eating it!

I have adapted it from Jill Brand’s version in Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute Cakes and Biscuits (ISBN 0 74322 111 7) and reading through her introduction for this cake now she also says it’s ideal for picnics, so I must be right.  Jill uses half and half wholemeal plain flour and self-raising flour.  I use half spelt flour, half plain flour and two teaspoons of baking powder instead.  The spelt flour gives it a lovely nutty flavour and texture.

Because I am lucky enough to have an Aga I make this cake in the evening and then leave it to cook slowly in the simmering oven all night and then check with a skewer when I get up and if I think it needs it I bake it for about 10 mins in the baking oven just to finish it off. It is deliciously moist this way and has the added bonus of filling the house with the scent of fruit cake with a generous dollop of mixed spice all night. But I have also cooked it the normal way and the way I will tell you about in the method below and it is almost as delicious.

For the mixed fruit I use whatever I have in the house, but it normally includes equal measures of raisins, sultanas and cranberries.  I have tried dates but I didn’t chop them finely enough and I found them a bit mealy.

450g (1lb) mixed dried fruit
200g (8oz) caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g  (4oz) butter
200ml (7 floz) water
2 eggs
100g (4oz) spelt flour
100g (4oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground mixed spice
50g (2oz) glace cherries, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°c (gas mark 3) and line the base and sides of a 18 cm round cake tin.

In a large pan place the mixed fruit, sugar, butter, bicarbonate of soda and the water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes and then take off the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Beat in the eggs.  Sieve the flours, baking powder and mixed spice into the boiled fruit.  I add the cherries to the flour whilst I am sieving them so that they get a good covering of flour in the process and this helps to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake when cooking.  Add the cherries and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the tin and either cook in an Aga in the way described in the introduction or in the preheated oven for 1¾ – 2 hours until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

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Chocolate Nut Cake

The name for this cake could indeed have a double meaning.  I get asked if we can make a chocolate cake at least once a week, and it is very often more regular than that.  Well, the request was sounded at about 6.30 am on Sunday morning, something along the lines of  ‘Can we make a chocolate cake that we can ice and decorate’.  The request was, of course, answered with a bleary ‘Later, maybe’.  Well, I am afraid my children are determined little creatures and so after a trip to the garden centre and before making sunday lunch for my parents and our neighbours, this chocolate cake was made and iced.  It was then decorated after dinner and before pudding – very extravagantly I have to say, and there was no time to take pictures, it needed to be eaten. Needless to say it involved a lot of sugared orange and lemon slices, hundreds and thousands and silver balls.

Here is a slice I finished off about mid-morning today.

The recipe is based on Rachel Allen’s Italian Hazelnut Cake in her Bake book (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725970 0), with the added chocolate and the addition of ground almonds as I didn’t have 200g of hazelnuts in the house. Then it was iced with a fudge frosting, which is not entirely necessary but does make a very good addition.

If you use gluten-free baking powder, then this makes a delicious gluten-free cake.

For the cake:

100g whole shelled hazelnuts
100g almonds (ground or whole, depending on what you have available or go for 200g of hazelnuts should they be available to hand)
50g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 tsp baking powder
100g softened butter
5 eggs separated
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Butter and line the base and sides of a 20 cm springform tin.  Preheat the oven to 170°c (gas mark 3) or use the baking oven of a 3 or 4 oven Aga.

Whizz the hazelnuts, almonds, baking powder and chocolate in a food processor until they are fine crumbs.  Add the butter and pulse until just combined.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric whisk until the mixture has a mousse-like texture. Add the nut and chocolate mixture and the vanilla extract and mix until combined.

Whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl until they are stiff.  Add one-third of the egg whites to the mixture and mix in well to loosen the mixture.  Add the rest of the egg whites in two batches, folding in very gently to retain as much air as possible.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 45-60 minutes.  I placed mine on the oven rack placed on the bottom rung of the baking oven of my Aga and it was cooked in 40 minutes, so do adjust according to your oven.  The cake is cooked when it is firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Leave the cake in the tin for 15 minutes, then take the side off, leave for another 15 minutes and then remove the base and then leave to cool completely.

For the icing:

25g good quality dark chocolate
100g icing sugar
25g butter
1 ½ tbsp milk
½ tbsp vanilla extract

Method
Place all of the ingredients into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently until melted and stir well to combine.  Beat for a minute or two until cooled and spread onto the top of the cake.

Decorate, or not, to your heart’s desire.

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Chunky chocolate biscuit

Quite a lot has been happening in this household lately and I felt in need of some serious comfort and restorative baking.  These biscuits are an adaptation of my chocolate, oat and almond cookies that I posted some time ago.  This time spelt flour comes into play and gives the biscuit a delicious crumb.

My eldest is now off from school for the summer and so we baked these together, the three of us, piled up at the worktop.  I was very happy indeed when she shouted “Yippee, this is fun, and I am not at school this time”.  A reference, I have no doubt, to the fact that since she started school she usually comes home to something that her younger sister and I have baked together,  but the three of us haven’t had much time in the kitchen together lately.

Making these biscuits went a little way to righting that wrong.

Makes about 12 large biscuits.

100g softened butter
100g soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g plain flour
50g spelt flour
50g ground almonds
25g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
100g good quality dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4, or use the baking oven of a three or four oven Aga.

Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light.  Add the egg and the vanilla extract and beat well.  With a large metal spoon stir in the flours, baking powder, almonds and cocoa powder.

Place heaped dessertspoonfuls of the mixture onto lightly greased baking sheets and cook in the centre of the oven for 12-14 minutes.  Take out of the oven and leave to cool for a minute or two before lifting onto a wire tray.  They are delicious eaten still warm from the oven but they taste good the next day too, should you have any left.

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