Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Chestnut Chocolate Truffle Cake

After making my own chestnut puree for the chestnut tofu burgers I made a little while back I had quite an excess taking up space in my freezer so thought I had better find another use for the stuff. That was when my friend Poppy dug out a recipe from her collection of old Good Food magazines for a chestnut truffle cake which I decided to give a go. The result was a rich, delicious mousse type cake, that was easy to make and gluten free as well, so a perfect addition to this blog!

400g chestnut puree (see chestnut tofu burger recipe for method to make chestnut puree)
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into cubes
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons milks
Seeds scraped out from half a vanilla pod


100g dark chocolate
25g butter
1 tablespoon single cream

Put the chestnut puree into a food processor with the sugar, and whizz until smooth.

Put the butter and chocolate in a pan with the milk and heat gently, stirring, until they have melted forming a smooth sauce. Stir in the vanilla seeds, then add the sauce to the chestnut mix in the food processor, and whizz again until well combined.

Line a lightly buttered loaf tin with cling film and pour in the chestnut mix. Smooth the top, cover with cling film and chill for 24 hours.

To serve turn the truffle cake out onto a flat plate or board and peel off the cling film.  Then return to the fridge to firm up a little while you make the topping.

Gently melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a saucepan over a gentle heat until smooth and well combined. Remove the cake from the fridge and spread the topping over the top and sides of the cake spreading evenly with a palette knife or spatula. Return to the fridge to set before serving.

The cake will keep in the fridge for another 6 days. To serve cut into thin slices and serve with a little single cream or mixed forest fruits.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Mince-Custard Pies

Well Christmas really is fast approaching and my homemade mincemeat has been maturing nicely for the last month so I thought it was about time to make some mince pies. Other than using my suet-free mincemeat there isn’t anything missing from this recipe, but Christmas is the time of year when we all indulge a little so I thought I could get away with it this time! In fact there is a little hidden extra in this recipe, with a custard layer hiding below the mincemeat in these mini pies.

250g plain flour
150g butter, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 large jar of homemade mincemeat (about ½ the quantity made in my original recipe…although if you haven’t got time to make your own a jar of shop bought mincemeat will be fine)
Birds Custard Powder (I’ve cheated slightly on this one! You could make your own custard from scratch….or cheat a little more and buy ready-made custard)
½ pint of milk
1 tablespoon caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degC/ 400 degF

Start by making the pastry.

Put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Put the butter, salt and egg into the well and use your fingers to gently bind these ingredients together, gradually drawing the flour into the centre of the bowl, producing a dough with a slightly grainy texture.

Add the milk and continue to gradually incorporate this into the mixture with your fingers until the dough begins to hold together. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes to create a smooth texture. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make the custard. I cheated a little and used birds custard powder, following the instructions on the back of the tub to make a pint but halved the amount of milk added to the mixture to ½ a pint to make an extra thick custard.

Grease each dip in a muffin tray (I like to make mini mince pies so used in mini muffin tin).

Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface and cut out circles to line the muffin tin. Gently work each circle into the muffin tin and place a large teaspoon of the custard into each. Then top with the mincemeat.

You can now add a pastry lid to each pie. Although I find adding a full lid to a mini pie can result in a bit too much pastry compared to the filling making them a little heavy so I cut out little stars and added one to the top of each pie. Then brush the pies with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven sprinkling each pie with a little extra sugar and transfer to a wire rack to cool.          

Any extra pastry can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days until you find another use for it, or popped into the freezer for use at a later date.                

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I have learnt in the past week that it is quite difficult to take a decent picture of a bowl of gnocchi. First of all there is the issue of avoiding the steam from the food fogging up the camera lens. Then because gnocchi are essentially little lumps of dough it is quite tricky to get a photo which manages to distinguish all of these little lumps from each other. I also found that as I watched the lumps of gorgonzola added to my dish slowly starting to melt and go all gooey I became an increasingly impatient photographer and just wanted to sit down and eat. So eventually I gave up the pursuit of achieving the perfect gnocchi picture and just got on with enjoying my dinner! But hopefully the pictures below give you enough of a rough idea of what to aim for when making this gluten free recipe.

1 large baking potato
1 large sweet potato
Gluten free, wheat free flour blend (available from most health food shops)
Salt and pepper

This is quite a basic gnocchi recipe using just the two varieties of potato and flour. Some recipes also use egg but I chose not to making this a vegan as well as gluten free recipe (as long as you don’t add the cheese at the end that is!).

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C/390 deg F.

Bake the potatoes in the oven until they are easily pierced with a fork (approximately 45 minutes, although the sweet potato will probably cook quicker than the baking potato).

Once cooked remove the potatoes from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Once you can handle the potatoes remove the skins and then weigh the potatoes and make a note of their weight.

Then use a cheese grater and grate the potatoes into a large bowl. You can just mash the potato but grating provides a finer texture which is required for gnocchi. Alternatively if you have a potato ricer use this instead…unfortunately I’m yet to invest in a ricer so use a grater to do the job.

Now add the flour to the potato mixture. For every 100g of potato you have you need to add 40g of flour. Season the mixture well and use your hands to combine together into a fairly stiff dough. The dough mixture will be fairly sticky at first but keep working at it until it all comes together, adding a little extra flour if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for 5 minutes.

Traditionally this dough should now be rolled into a long rope and then cut into 2cm pieces to form the gnocchi but I find it easier just to take small pieces from the dough ball (about the size of a lumped teaspoon full of mixture) one at a time and form into a small ball. As you finish each gnocchi place onto a floured plate in a single layer to avoid them sticking together.

To cook the gnocchi bring a large pan of water to the boil and gently add the gnocchi, making sure the pan isn’t too full otherwise the gnocchi may stick together. After cooking for a few minutes the gnocchi will rise to the top of the pan and begin to float. Continue cooking for another minute or two and then remove from the water and drain well.

Then serve the gnocchi with your chosen accompaniment. I gently fried up a finely chopped red onion adding a crushed clove of garlic and a handful of walnut pieces as the onions began to soften. I seasoned this generously with lots of freshly ground black pepper and added a large handful of fresh spinach. Once the spinach had wilted I added the freshly cooked gnocchi to the pan and mixed so the gnocchi was coated with the onion, walnut mixture. I then transferred the gnocchi to bowls and topped with generous lumps of gorgonzola!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Jaffa Cakes

It has become a bit of a tradition at work that anyone chairing the monthly team meeting provides treats for everyone who attends. These treats normally take the form of cakes or biscuits so I decided to experiment with making jaffa cakes for my final stint as the chair recently. This also gave me an excuse to use up the packet of vegetarian jelly crystals that had been lurking at the back of my cupboard for a while, making these gelatine free so suitable for veggies.

2 eggs
50g sugar
Zest from 2 oranges
½ teaspoon orange blossom water (can be ommitted if not available)
50g plain flour, sifted
An 85g packet of vegetarian jelly crystals
125ml freshly squeezed orange juice
200g dark chocolate

Set the oven to 180 degC/350 degF

Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Place a heatproof bowl over the water ensuring the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water, then add the eggs, sugar, orange zest and orange blossom water to the bowl and whisk for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

Add the flour to the mixture and beat until well combined, producing a thick smooth batter.

Grease each well in a 12-hole muffin tin with a little butter and then half fill each well with the batter. Put the tin in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cakes are a light golden brown colour. Then remove from the oven, turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

Meanwhile heat the orange juice in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat and add the jelly crystals stirring until dissolved. Then pour the mixture into a shallow sided baking tray  forming a 1cm layer of jelly. Set aside until cooled and then place in the fridge to set. (If you can’t get hold of jelly crystals you can replace the crystals with 1 normal 135g packet or orange jelly, chopping it into small pieces before added to the hot orange juice).

Once the jelly has set use a biscuit cutter to cut out discs of jelly the same diameter as the cakes. Sit a jelly disc on top of each cake.

Again bring some water to the boil in a saucepan and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Suspend a heat proof bowl over the water (again ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the bowl, stirring occassionally until melted. Pour the chocolate over the cakes (I find it best to put the cakes on a wire cooling rack with a baking tray placed underneath to catch any extra chocolate that pours off the cakes)and set aside until the chocolate has cooled and set.

Adapted from homemade jaffa cakes

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ginger Beer and Molasses Bread

Did you know that a lot of real ales aren’t suitable for vegetarians and vegans? I recently found a jar of molasses lurking at the back of a cupboard so did a bit of scouting around for a recipe to use it up and discovered a Guiness and Molasses sweet bread recipe. The recipe didn’t require any eggs or dairy products so I thought it would be a perfect vegan recipe for the blog but after a little research on Google I discovered that Guiness isn’t vegan friendly…isinglass is used in its production, which is a substance made from the dried swim bladders of certain fish!

You may wonder why there is a need to add isinglass to ale, well here comes the science bit…isinglass is used to remove the residual protein and suspended yeast cells left at the end of the fermentation process preventing ale from becoming cloudy. The collagen in the isinglass carries a positive charge, attracting the negatively charged yeast cells forming a precipitate that settles out of the beer. Isinglass is mainly used in cask ales as beer stored in smaller quantities in cans or bottles is often just filtered instead. This isn’t always the case however and canned and bottles Guiness is produced using isinglass.

CAMRA the campaign for real ales provides information on ales that are definitely vegan/vegeterian . But I thought to save confusion and to guarantee that this recipe is definitely vegan I would replace the Guiness with ginger ale (of the non-alcoholic variety) producing a lovely sweet, malty gingery bread recipe!

3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup molasses
A pinch of salt
360ml of ginger beer (of the non-alcoholic variety)
Margarine for greasing the tin
2 tablespoons of marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180degC / 350degF

Grease a 9x5-inch loaf tin with margarine

Put the flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl and mix until combined

Slowly pour the ginger beer into the flour and start to mix together. Once the dry ingredients start to combine with the ginger beer add the molasses and continue to stir until all of the ingredients are mixed together, there are no lumps and you are left with a batter like consistency.

Pour the mixture into the greased tin and bake for 50 minutes. Check that the bread is cooked by inserting a knife into the deepest part of the loaf and ensuring it comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Then melt the marmalade in a small saucepan and brush on top of the loaf to give a sticky, shiny glaze.

(Recipe adapted from Guinness Bread with Molasses ... And here is a little more information on isinglass alternatives)