Cauliflower Again !

Having bought a cauliflower when the family were due for the Christmas period it was yet to be used. Fortunately Cauliflower stays fresh in the refrigerator reasonably well, but it had to be used. Therefore it was time to experiment with the latest incarnation of cauliflower in an anchovy based sauce.

As it was snowing really hard ( I’m not in the UK, but incarcerated in the French Alps, having beaten Macrons ban on Les Brittaniques). The family, many who had also made it here, beating the ban by a few hours had now left and so it was time for the Choux Fleur, to be cooked.

I’m not sure if this is true or not, having only looked in 2 Supermarkets. Carrefour, here on the Route des Grands Alps, and Super U, 30 minutes drive DOWN the Route des Grands Alps, BUT little tins of anchovies ( the little flat ones with rounded corners) are impossible to find ! Willowy brunette found before she left a jar of anchovies at vast expense €4.50, but tiny tins, absolutely nowhere to be found.

However, I already had a couple of tins in the store cupboard and so it was to be a vegetable ( not vegetarian) dinner . I’ve come up with a couple of alternatives to my original post, one is really quick making use of the microwave to cook the cauliflower and the other, part use of the microwave and then an oven. I think on balance the combination version gives a better result, but both work and the microwave version, if you are short of time!

  • Using a whole cauliflower
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • A medium sized onion ( white or yellow but not red) chopped
  • At least 3 cloves garlic squeezed or chopped
  • Some chilli flakes, to taste
  • A tin of anchovies
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 50 mls stock, I use quiet simply a stock cube or,powder usually a vegetable based one.
  • Sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  • 100 mls double cream
  • Heat the oven to 180C ( fan), 200 C non fan, #6 gas
  • Re move the leaves from the cauliflower, rinse under running water, shake off excess and either boil for about 5 minutes or place in a dish, cover with cling film and microwave for about 3 minutes. It should not be cooked through .
  • Put into an ovenproof dish and drizzle with the oil and bake for about 30 minutes.
  • Add some oil to a saucepan, add the onions, garlic andc chilli flakes, sauté gently so that they do not brown or worse still burn. Add the anchovies and stir well, they will seem to dissolve . Add the tomatoes and stock. I prefer a smooth sauce so at this point I blitz the sauce with a hand blender .
  • Taste and season according to taste.
  • Pour the sauce over the cauliflower,
  • Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese and pop under a grill just to melt and colour.
  • Serve at once, but will also reheat very well in a microwave.

Christmas is Here, Best Time of Year and Semi Fredo!

My French Christmas Tree with an assortment of red and gold decorations collected on our travels

Yes Christmas is here, but I can guarantee that I have NEVER cooked roast Turkey, with all the trimmings. WHAT !! I really find Turkey quiet boring, usually dry, compensated by smothering in gravy, ( and I’m not over fond of run of the mill gravy),along with overcooked Brussels Sprouts, Ugh! Not for me.

No , absolutely not for me. My first Christmas dinner as a wife, I bought a suckling pig, not counting that even though he was a skinny little thing, he was still too big for my oven. Consequently we cut him in half and there he was, little piglet nose pressed up against the glass door, apple in mouth and tears ( juices) running down his face.

In subsequent years, all the time we lived overseas,(30 years) we had a Christmas Eve party ( for all waifs and strays, like us), which meant that I was not about the start all over again the very next day. And so it came about that we had a very different Christmas Day menu, one in which I did not have to spend the whole day in the kitchen. In Texas, Gulf coast shrimp, they call them shrimp,but large, fat and juicy, crawfish, oysters , all the wonders of the Texan gulf coast. One exception to the Turkey was Cajun Turkey. At first thought, it was “ Oh My God”! But deep fried Turkey, the boiling fat seals, the Turkey inside and out, it cooks fairly quickly and is succulent. A word of caution, only cook on a boiler in the garden! ( not much good for a central London Flat !)

This year, as Nickinlaw is allergic to shellfish an amendment to menu was required, hence along with the foods that we love, Parma ham, Serrano ham, Fois Gras and Salmon en croute were added to our menu.

For the real grown ups we had oysters, shrimp, scallops with lardons, potted shrimp, some toasted bread, black bread, wasabi mayonnaise, Carolina reaper sauce ( read very hot sauce) and beurre blanc sauce to go with the salmon en croute.

For dessert, no Christmas pudding as only Himself is a fan, but an alternative mince pie/ tart, nut Semi Fredo and Chocolate crunch.

  • For the Semi Fredo enough for at least 8
  • 4 large eggs separated
  • 100 grams caster sugar
  • 500 mls double or whipping cream
  • 125 grms skinned hazelnuts/ pistachios
  • Some runny honey
  • Grease a loaf tin and line with cling film
  • Put the nuts into a dry frying pan, heat and toss so that become toasted, leave to cool and then chop, but not too finely
  • Put the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy
  • With a clean whisk and a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff
  • In another bowl, whisk the cream until stiff
  • Carefully combine the three whisked ingredients using a metal spoon, and then add most of the nuts.
  • Carefully pour into the prepared loaf tin, cover the top with more cling film and freeze for about 6 hours.

To serve carefully in mould, drizzle over some honey and some nuts, if you have remembered to save some ( I didn’t.).

A really nice simple dessert, quick to make. I bought a spring form loaf pan, which actually proved useless for cake making, it leaked, but lined with cling film for the semi Fredo, it worked and therefore was very simple to unmould . ( note the British version of “To Unmould”)

Watch this space for Chocolate Crunch and the Mince Pie Tart.

Indian Venison ( and then Lamb)

Having given Himself a course of Michelin starred ( Atul Kochar, Ex Benares London ) cooking classes for his birthday, somehow or other we/ he got a bit behind. So here we are on lesson #4 having skipped, for the time being #3 which is in the freezer.

Therefore this past weekend was designated His cooking day, which turned out to be Saturday. After his insistence, some Christmas decorations were done and he duly watched the video for his lesson.

On the whole, he is a very diligent pupil only occasionally going a bit left field, having been a scientist he mostly follows rules, but then again doesn’t always engage brain! “Why is my sauce a bit runny?” Um, because you used 750 mls of white wine and not 75 mls ! But, Hey Ho, onwards and upwards.

This week, the menu, was Venison, with mushroom rice, chocolate curry sauce and hispi cabbage. I almost never, in-fact change that to NEVER cook Cabbage, but that is about to change as I absolutely loved this cabbage and have done some research and have found a couple of more ways to cook and serve it.

The package arrived with everything needed to cook this meal Except the cabbage and so it was to my surprise that the following day , it arrived in a separate parcel. My only real complaint about this company ( Banquist) is sometimes for a novice in the kitchen there is a lot of guess work needed in deciphering what exactly is in each of the packets. Whereas the delivery of the Ottolenghi meal from a company called Dispatch, absolutely everything was well labelled or numbered.

For 2 people

  • 250 grams Venison fillet ( and Lamb Fillet or Pork fillet can be used)
  • 1 tabsp oil
  • For the spice coating
  • 1tabsp crushed dried juniper berries
  • 2Tabs Garam Masala
  • Cut the fillets into 2 and wrap tightly in cling film, refrigerate
  • Sauté the juniper berries in a dry pan until they smell wonderful. Tip them out and crush ( use a coffee grinder if need be) and mix with the Garam masala and some salt
  • When ready to cook the meat, heat some oil in a solid pan, roll the meat in the spices and sear on all sides, move to an oven proof dish and cook for about 4-6 mins at 200C (180 fan) Gas #6.
  • Leave to rest covered in foil for 5 minutes)

Hispi cabbage or baby gem lettuce

  • Take one baby gem per person and cut into half
  • or a small hispi cabbage for two, cut into 4
  • Wash drain and dry on paper towel
  • Melt some butter in a frying pan and quickly sauté the cabbage/ lettuce on both sides, then transfer to the oven for about 4 mins to soften, so EASY and yet so NICE.
  • The meat was served with a very nice Mushroom Rice, almost like a mushroom risotto with ooodles of mushrooms and Indian flavours!
  • I think you can make your own version of this rice as Himself found it to be quite time consuming. Use most of the following
  • 2 crushed green cardamom, 1/2tsp each of ground coriander, chilli powder, Garam masala and cumin seeds, a crushed clove of garlic 20 grms or so of butter, and assortment of mushrooms about 200grms ,100 grms basmati rice, 2 onions finely sliced, a dollop of cream and the same of tomato purée.

Boil some water, and pour it over the rice and leave for about 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

Melt the butter add the cardamom pods, spices, garlic and onions. Sauté add the chopped mushrooms, sauté until the mushrooms are cooked. Add the cream and tomato paste, stir well to mix. Add the rice stir and keep warm.

This was all served with a chocolate curry sauce, all a bit longwinded but simplification is at hand.

  • You will need
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • A chopped onion and 2 chopped cloves a bit of ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp each of ground coriander, chilli powder, turmeric, Garam Masala and cinnamon
  • A tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 40 grams good plain chocolate
  • A litre of stock ( fond de veau, chicken or vegetable)
  • Sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, add the spices and cook for about a minute. Put all in a blender, blitz until a fine paste
  • Add the stock bring to a simmer and add the paste along with the tomato paste and chocolate, simmer gently until it reaches a pouring consistency.
  • Can be made well in advance and reheated gently. I would probably make a much larger quantity, cool and freeze in usable amounts, so it is there whenever it is needed !

He DID Good, it was a very lovely dinner.

Over the river To The Piano Boat we go !

Today, we trekked out of London, albeit not very far. We headed out west on our all too familiar route, where the speed limit starts off at 30 mph and then 40mph, for what seems for ever. Everyone is very compliant, because there are speed cameras, about 12 of them all along the route.

Himself, hadn’t a clue as to where we were headed, it was the Grand Union Canal. The original canal was built in 1810 and had 18, manually operated locks. It now runs from London to Birmingham, for 137 miles and has a mere 166 locks! Some and perhaps many are from the original canal and judging by the state of some of the lock gates we saw today, have to have been.

We have been on the Grand Union Canal before, as part of it is very close to home. There is the Paddington Basin arm, which is about a 15 minutes walk from us. Depending on the route , part of it becomes the Regents Canal and the rest branches off into the Grand Union. Just after one of our Lockdowns #1 daughter rented a small electric canal boat for an interesting but short ride, part of which was on the Grand Union, which then became the Regents Canal ( presumably after the Prince Regent as in The Regents Park)

But why am I rambling on about canals. Simply because we went to a classical concert and brunch on a type of Dutch barge. Not any old Dutch barge but one that was especially constructed and is just beautiful. And on this barge is a hand made Steinway grand piano, which had to be lowered through the skylight!

It is run by the lovely Rihana, piano teacher and now cook ( and deck hand and hostess) and her partner Masayuki Toyama , who is a renowned concert pianist, with Rachmaninov being his specialty. The boat is also called Rachmaninov!

The boat is just beautiful, wooden floors, brass fittings, air conditioning and / or dehumidifiers. As Masa said, the piano requires certain conditions and as such he will arise in the middle of the night to check on his “Baby”.

We meandered along the canal, heading north with Masa and Rihanna, operating the locks, the boat, the drinks, the food and of course the concert! Who handled the boat whilst navigating the locks? Mr. Remote Control of course !

We moored, listened to our concert, and then a lovely brunch prepared and served by Rhiana. After lunch we, decamped and set sail once again, back down the canal, through the locks to their At Home Mooring.

What wonderful different experience it was. There were just 8 of us as guests on the boat but it is possible for private hire for up to 10 guests or for a really really different experience a cruise for just two of you, for 3-6 nights! Will have to think about that one !

Dispatch and Ottolenghi

I’ve never been a “Take Away” kind of Gal, but during Lockdown I gave it a whirl and I have to say with mixed results!

For Himself, a recent birthday gift was 4 cooking classes complete with a home delivery of all the food stuffs along with a video course. As he loves good Indian food ( not your corner shop type of curry) this seemed the perfect answer. The only problem was, well there were a couple, a) upon ordering the course one had to choose the dates, so these were picked at random by me, and b) fitting it in with our not so busy schedule. I say not so busy, but nonetheless it seems difficult, compounded by the fact that I got carried away and found another “Take Away” that we just had to try !

Yotam Ottolenghi who grew up in Jerusalem, with a German grandmother and an Italian one and learnt to cook by way of London and his partner Sami Tamimi a Palestinian who grew up also in Jerusalem, so a complete melange of Arab, Jewish, German and Italian and a mutual love of food. Both of them arrived in London in 1997 and realised that they both wanted the same thing. Looking at their list of restaurants and takeaways, it was an obvious step to do a Cook It Yourself type of menu. This was ordered via a company called Dispatch, one of many which sprung up during our various Lockdowns.

Since then, they have opened 7 restaurants/deli’s/ takeaway venues.

They are :-

  • Rovi in Mayfair
  • Nopi in Soho
  • Spitlefields, which is their largest, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Islington
  • Belgravia, which is small and mostly a takeaway
  • Notting hill
  • And the last is Marylebone my neighbourhood, which is small but open for breakfast and lunch. Must make a mental note to try it for breakfast.

Our Takeaway menu was for starters copious, it was meant for two, but we actually had it over two nights. It consisted of lamb and Portobello mushrooms, Flatbreads, caramelised onions with green herb dip, Smokey marina feta cheese, burnt aubergine with tomato and tahini, smooshed carrots, coriander and pistachio pesto and pickled onions, Chaat masala, chickpea and polenta chips. Dessert was Muhallabieh, burnt honey orange syrup, with Kataifi and pistachio sugar. Phew that was a lot and even better, everything, was extremely well labelled, or rather numbered so the instructions very easy to follow. This has not always been the case with the Atol Kochar. For example in the first delivery there were no instructions to keep the spices for the following weeks ( not a problem here as I waste not want not). Ottolenghi even provided the skewers and rubber gloves.

So as yet, I have not delved into my various books and recreated this menu, bottom line, it was indeed simple to do but 18 packages of this and that, means that one needs maybe a sous chef as well, one negative , and a little on the greasy side !

Keralan food including some very yummy Beetroot.

We have been on our travels for the past two weeks. We started off on the French Alps, our home from home. Autumn was in full swing, the colours were just amazing. Autumn in the mountains ( and in a lot of France) life almost comes to a standstill. Of course most of the population still go to work and kids go to school but cafes, bars and restaurants take a break and this was so with what we consider our local in Morzine. However all that were open, even outdoors scanned our Pass Sanitaire! I now have three versions and the simplest to use is the Irish version and scans well!

We were there for only a few days but found time to do a mammoth shop ( mask wearing of course, after all it is mandatory in France). Why the shop? We were heading to the South of France to meet up with the rest of our family for a long overdue Wedding Anniversary. Twice cancelled we now wanted somewhere warmer than the UK, so wine was needed.

We rented a renovated 16 C farmhouse in the Luberon which would be big enough for 12 of us, and it was. The downside was, the Pool was closed, but the upside was Chantel who appeared and cooked our evening dinner.

Two vegetable dishes have recently come my way. The first was something that is very very French and I have known and have eaten many many times but had forgotten just how lovely it is. Grated Carrot salad. Actually the previous last time I ate this salad was in Brasserie Zédel, one of Corbin and Kings restaurants in London. Here they offer a Prixe-Fixe menu and the starter is listed as shredded carrot. I think the average Englishman might not understand this as being a salad, but it is indeed.The lovely Chantel served this as one of our starters on evening.

To make this very simple but very delicious salad, grate some carrots ( quantities do not matter as any extra can be refrigerated for the next day) add a chopped green onion ( scallion) and if you like some chopped walnuts or pecans along with some chopped parsley. Make a vinaigrette ( or use shop bought )using sone oil, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt. Mix well with the grated carrots and serve.

The other, vegetable which we have both decided is a really quiet delicious, is basically curried beetroot. Himself had taken delivery a few weeks ago, of the second of his cooking class meals. This time it was Kerala Sea Bass with a coconut sauce, Rice and Beetroot.

The beetroot is simplicity itself, especially as it can be bought ready cooked.

Very simply, take a pack of cooked beetroot and roughly chop ( I prefer smaller bits but whatever suits you). Chop about an inch or so of ginger, and a green chilli . Heat a pan and add some oil either coconut or sesame is best. Add 2 tsp of yellow mustard seeds and cook until it pops! Add the ginger and chilli along with a pinch of salt, 1 tsp of turmeric 1/2 tsp chilli powder and the beetroot. Cook for a few minutes until the beetroot is heated through. To give it a bit more umph I added 1/2 tsp of English Mustard powder. One could also add a lump of creamed coconut. I recently served it with some grilled salmon. Will now be on my list of must eat vegetables.

A Devils Chicken ( Poulet Grillé à la Diable)

In French cuisine it is well known that any meat or poultry that has a mustard and pepper coating followed by breadcrumbs, is called à la Diable, or in simple terms, Devilled. Take a simple hors d’oevres of boiled eggs, the yolk when mixed with something spicy, they then become devilled eggs! Hence anything that has a spicy coating can be called devilled.

I was wanting something different to make using simple chicken thighs. If you can buy them deboned so much the easier, but it simple to remove the bone, all you need is a sharp knife and maybe a bandaid/ plaster or two. And for this dish DO NOT remove the skin ! I know that, we all know that the skin is calorific but when crispy it is the tastiest bit. So don’t remove the skin ! ( and when I want some spicy chicken I will use this mixture on chicken breasts)

I like to make this dish with a combination of Dijon mustard, English mustard powder and some hot chilli powder. You will also need some fine dry breadcrumbs , homemade is best but a bit of a pain really so use shop bought ( non coloured) breadcrumbs, or panko crumbs, but these will have to be smushed some as they tend to be rather chunky. ( do this by putting the crumbs into a polythene bag and rolling with a rolling pin.)

  • Serves about 3
  • heat oven 180 C
  • 6 chicken legs or thighs, deboned
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons of English mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 4 Oz / 120 grms breadcrumbs
  • 2 Oz butter

Mix together the mustards and chilli powder. Pour the eggs into a shallow dish. Put the breadcrumbs into another dish. Smooth the mustard mixture over the chicken ( it does gets a bit messy), dip into the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Place the chicken into an ovenproof dish. Dot each bit with a knob of butter and bake for about 30 mins. Put the chicken onto a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Food Glorious Food!

Having spent the past 18 months or so being confined to quarters, it all changed this last week. We seemed to have dined out on a more or less continuous basis. And not just a trip to the local hangout ( some have closed anyway) but to some really good places. Himself said, there goes our dining budget for the next 6 months !

We started off at a Mexican restaurant, here in Marylebone. Mexican food often gets a bad rap, because the average person associates it with TexMex, which it certainly is not. TexMex obviously has its roots deep in Mexican cuisine, and in the UK we have our own version of Tex Mex in a chain called Wahaca. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Wahaca, and the founder fell in love with Mexican food, but eldest daughter who lived in Mexico City for 5 years would probably dispute its authenticity.

Our visit to KOL was superb ( except maybe the ££££) the basic menu of 6 courses was not over the top expensive, it was just the add ons or more likely the Mescal which Himself and son-in-law drank. ( they could have had the Mescal pairing, but did not!)

SEIS
CHILPACHOLE
Fermented beetroot, arbol chilli and mezcal broth
Enoki and Cornish crab chalupa, pistachio, fermented gooseberries
CALAMAR
Squid, cashew mole, cauliflower, beach herbs
TACO
Lobster, smoked chilli, cucumber limes
MOLE (supplement course)
Purple carrot cecina, fermented blackcurrant truffle – black +£25 white +£65
TOSTADA
Chalk stream trout, pasilla Oaxaca, courgette, berries, pine
MAINS
Served with condiments and fresh tortillas to share for the table
Carnitas – Confit pork cheek, cabbage leaves,
gooseberry and pear salsa, black beans
or
NIEVE
Sunflower seed ice cream, flowers, mezcal cajeta
Pulpo – Whole grilled octopus, bone marrow, potato, seaweed macha
Menu 70.
Drinks pairing 55.
Mezcal pairing 85

This wonderful meal was quickly followed by another in Nottingham ! Nottingham is the home of Sat Bains ( Satwant Bains, whose parents were Sikhs who had recently migrated to the UK)

He has won two Michelin Stars with his restaurant RSB which is housed in an old farm house on the edge of a small industrial estate on the outskirts of Nottingham. On our first visit several years ago we did wonder where we were going, but after eating at the chefs table in the kitchen we have rated the whole thing highly. It has 8 rooms and although obviously not necessary to stay over, if dining at night it is well worthwhile as the breakfast is equally good as the dinner. More recently one of his chefs won the Master Chefs the professionals and his during the pandemic, he teamed up with his mother to cook Vegan Indian takeaways !

And if you decided to visit, be it for lunch or an overnighter, take the train! ( travelling from London that is!)

And finally, we ate at Din Tai Fung in Covent Garden London. Din Tai Fung, was started in Taiwan, where we ate many years ago, not realising that it was iconic. Fast forward to 2017 and whilst in Hong Kong I discovered that there was a branch, which indeed held a Michelin star. It is absolutely nothing to look at and is more like a cafeteria, but the dumplings are what makes it extra special. Indeed I was so impressed that on a more recent visit ( pre-pandemic) to Hong Kong I dragged himself along . Since back in London we sampled the establishment in Covent Garden, maybe a little smarter in appearance but food equally good. And so it was that we went there again, this time for our grandson, who had just turned 14. The highlights of his day was a visit to Daunts books to order his years supply of books ( his annual present from us), a visit to Foyles bookshop and then to Din Tai Fung, where he took charge of ordering as he is very much a fan of Dim Sum, and noodles.

It is the dumplings that are the best, the xiaolongbao that are the piece de resistance. Delicate with 18 folds and in fact there seems to be an army of cooks making them.

Chicken Salad.

Sometimes the old ones are the good ones. I have recently Culled some of my cook books. I may live to regret it, but went on the principle of, “ if I haven’t ever used that book, or it’s been a very long time since I used that book, or simply it has really gone out of style” then it was time for them to go! Especially as I had several new ones ready to take their place. But as I have said before, I also have a filing system on a totally separate iPad just for recipes, ideas and information. Today, I needed to have dinner/ supper ready before we went out. And so it was on one of my very rare trips to a very small supermarket that I spied green grapes! Bingo! Chicken salad with grapes.

I was given this basic recipe many years ago from a dear friend, who has since died. She made it one day for me for lunch and at times it is the perfect, lunch or supper dish. Make ahead, chill, serve, eat and leftovers for lunch the following day! I’m sure that you have made a variation of this as with Coronation Chicken was popular several years ago, but in case you have forgotten, just like I did, then here it is, one more time.

For 4+ servings

  • 3 cooked skinless chicken breasts, cooked, I cooked mine in some chicken stock, as that way they are juicier. Leave to cool and either shred or cut into chunks
  • 2/3 cup ready made mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
  • Small bunch green grapes cut into halves
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1tablespoon French mustard
  • A teaspoon or so of prepared English mustard ( according to taste
  • A splashed or two of Worcestershire sauce.

Very simply mix together the sauce ingredients, then carefully add the chicken, grapes and nuts. TASTE, add sal and pepper to taste.

This keeps well boxed until ready to use , serve on a bed of lettuce.

Healthy Chocolate Cake? Well Gluten free at least!

I have to admit that I am not a baker. I love to cook but baking is not my forté. However, as a Mom, I did always turn out birthday cakes be it for the kids or for Himself.

A chocolate train for my youngest first birthday, a Barbie doll or an igloo. But my go to cake for all such occasions was a chocolate cake, almost bordering on a Saccher Torte from Vienna. Rich to say the least covered in chocolate Ganache. And as such, it was in demand from my eldest for her wedding cake and 8 years later by my son for his.

This actually was a real conundrum, multiplying up the quantities, in huge amounts and how to stop layer upon layer sinking into each other. Masters of invention, stiff plastic discs were imported from Houston, holes drilled and metal rods inserted along with washers to keep them in place. A Herculean task to transport cake from home to reception, but succeeded we did.

The recipe which was used without fail over several decades was from from Elizabeth David in her 1960 publication of French Provincial Cooking. Hers was always the “Go to” book for she was the authority on French cooking, no pictures or photographs but somehow she inspired a generation, me included.

However, this year I have sinned, I have deviated from my self imposed routine and made a different cake. My mind was elsewhere but had seen a recipe which I thought was rather nice and so proceeded to make the cake ( chocolate of course). It was perfect, it rose some but not too much, when tested, the skewer came out clean. But when I released the spring form pan, DISASTER, the cake became cracked as in a crevasse ! OH No! To remove the cake from the base of the spring form also proved to be challenge, fortunately I have a large flat kind of pizza pell and this came in very useful. I cut a circle of cardboard and managed to manoeuvre cake onto it. Fast forward enough chocolate ganache was made, chilled and whipped to save the cake from total disaster. After all, when covered with chocolate, crackes and crevasses could no longer be seen!

The basic recipe for this is:-

  • 150 grams ground almonds
  • 225 grams of good dark chocolate ( 75% cocoa)
  • 225 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 200 grams fine caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated

Method is simple:-

  • Heat oven to 300F/150C, slightly less for fan ovens
  • Grease a 9” round spring form pan
  • In a food processor or with an electric whisk beat the eggs and sugar until pale and light, add the egg yolks and marry well
  • Gently melt the chocolate, this can be done in a microwave, one quick burst at a time
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff
  • Pour the molten chocolate into the egg/ butter/ sugar mix and again, marry well
  • Then carefully fold in the egg white, until there are no white peaks.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake for +/- 45 minutes. A skewer will come out clean when the cake is cooked.

Leave to cool before attempting to remove the spring form and care must be taken. This is where I came a cropper as I didn’t expect the cake to be so fragile, but it is!

Do not despair as melting good dark chocolate in equal quantities of double cream, mixing well, leave to cool and refrigerate, beating until a thick chocolate coating that can be piped/ spread onto the cake, will come to the rescue !