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The world’s best brownies December 30, 2009

Posted by Helen in cakes, chocolate, cookies, dessert.

Brownie recipes are like men. You go through a lot of them in a lifetime, searching for that perfect one. Along the way, you find some that are quite good and some that are so dreadful you never want to see them again. Most fall somewhere in between – they’re pleasant enough, but you probably wouldn’t bring them home to your mother. No matter how many disasters you come across, you’re still willing to put yourself out there and search for the elusive “one.” You read coookbooks and surf the web in desperation – the cook’s equivalent of online dating. But then … then … all of a sudden one comes along that completely changes your life. That’s how it was for me when I encountered Nigel Slater’s Very Very Good Brownie recipe a few years ago. It was lust at first sight. How could I possibly resist a recipe which fed me such smoothly seductive lines as, “This isn’t just gastroporn, this is positively pay-per-view,” and “What I want is the mother of all brownies – pure, dense and unapologetically raunchy.” Swoon. I know now that I’ll never ever look at another brownie recipe again. I’m a changed woman. A one-recipe woman.











300g golden caster sugar
250g butter
250g chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 large eggs + 1 extra egg yolk
60g flour
60g finest quality cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder

You will need a baking tin, about 23cm x 23cm, preferably non-stick, or a small roasting tin.

Set the oven at 180°C/Gas 4. Line the bottom of the baking tin with baking parchment. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a food mixer and beat for several minutes till white and fluffy.

Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces, set 50g of it aside and melt the rest in a bowl suspended over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. As soon as the chocolate has melted remove it from the heat. Chop the remaining 50g into gravel-sized pieces.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix in a pinch of salt. With the food mixer running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time, speeding up in between additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer to the work surface, then mix in the melted and the chopped chocolate with a large metal spoon. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa, gently and firmly, without knocking any of the air out. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes. The top will have risen slightly and the cake will appear slightly softer in the middle than around the edges.Pierce the centre of the cake with a fork – it should come out sticky, but not with raw mixture attached to it. If it does, then return the brownie to the oven for three more minutes. It is worth remembering that it will solidify a little on cooling, so if it appears a bit wet, don’t worry.

I’m in love.


Pumpkin fillo triangles December 24, 2009

Posted by Helen in nibbles, Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

I normally make these little triangles with goat’s cheese and wild mushrooms, but as I was serving stuffed mushrooms alongside them this Christmas Eve, I decided to try a different filling. They’re called pumpkin triangles, but I cheated and used sweet potato instead. Actually, it wasn’t so much cheating as improvising as I was unable to find any pumpkin purée. I just baked one quite large sweet potato, and it yielded enough mashed contents for this recipe.











300g pumpkin or sweet potato purée
200g feta cheese, crumbled (next time, I think I’d add more feta for an extra zing)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp dried red chili flakes
Ground black pepper
Frozen or fresh fillo pastry
Lots of melted butter
Olive oil

Mix together the sweet potato, feta cheese, egg, salt, chili flakes and black pepper.

If using frozen fillo, make sure it’s thawed completely. Put one sheet of the pastry on your worktop with the long edges facing you. Brush it with melted butter. Top with a second sheet and brush with more butter, then top with a third. (Make sure that you keep the fillo you’re not working with covered with a damp teatowel so it doesn’t dry out!)

Cut the three-layered fillo into six strips the short way. Put a small spoonful of the sweet potato filling about half an inch from the top of each strip. Don’t overfill, or the triangles will split. Then the complicated folding begins. This is the fun part. Gently lift the pastry corner and fold it tightly diagonally over the filling to create a triangle (take care not to tear pastry). Continue folding, keeping the triangle shape. I’m probably not explaining it very well, but this website has some better instructions, along with photos to demonstrate the technique. It’s very easy once you get the hang of it.

Spray the triangles or brush them lightly with olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes at 200C.

Smoked oyster puffs December 24, 2009

Posted by Helen in fish, nibbles.
1 comment so far

These were the easiest things in the world to put together, yet looked rather impressive and tasted wonderful! They were less about cooking and more about assembling!










100g cream cheese
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tin smoked oysters
10-12 frozen puff pastry vol-au-vent cases
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, pepper and one of the smoked oysters in either a blender or food processor. Bake the vol-au-vent cases according to the directions. Put a spoonful of the cream cheese mixture in each case and top with a whole smoked oyster.

Bourbon balls December 18, 2009

Posted by Helen in chocolate, confectionary, cookies.
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I’d forgotten all about bourbon balls until I was given a cookbook published by my old school in Louisiana. Then it all came back to me! Back then, you couldn’t go to a Christmas party anywhere (in Shreveport, at least) without seeing a huge platter of bourbon balls on the table. I think there was some sort of a rule about it. So, I give you – the bourbon ball.










1 cup (109 g) vanilla wafer crumbs (I used Marie biscuits)
1 cup pecans (109 g), finely chopped
1 cup (100 g) icing sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp (11 g) cocoa powder
1/8 cup (30 ml) bourbon
7 ½ Tbsp (111 ml) light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
More icing sugar for rolling the balls in

Mix together the biscuit crumbs, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Blend in the bourbon and golden syrup. Shape into 1″ balls and roll in the icing sugar. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Cranberry sauce December 9, 2009

Posted by Helen in christmas, miscellaneous.
1 comment so far

I’ve been making this every Christmas for as long as I can remember, and it just smells and tastes like Christmas to me. It’s great with dinner on the big day, but also fabulous with cold turkey or in turkey sandwiches. Although, to be honest, I’d be perfectly happy eating it with a spoon straight out of the jar.













2 cups (475 ml) water
2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
1 orange, peel and juice (+ a little more orange juice if needed)
1 lb (455g) cranberries
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier

Put the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Peel the orange using a potato peeler, making sure to only get the peel, not the pith. Slice up the orange peel into thin matchstick-length pieces. Juice the orange and try to get ½ cup (118 ml). If your orange didn’t yield enough juice, just top up with some ordinary orange juice. Add the juice and orange peel to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a good 20 minutes until it’s thick and syrupy.

Rinse your cranberries and add them to the saucepan. Put the lid on and wait about 5 minutes until the berries have finished popping – like popcorn, but not as noisy.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a bit before stirring in the Grand Marnier.

That’s it! Then just pop it in some sterilised jars and try not to eat it all before Christmas. Mine yielded about 4 ½ jam jars-ful.

Oat, apple and cinnamon cookies December 3, 2009

Posted by Helen in cookies.
1 comment so far

I get a bit bored with the ubiquitous chocolate chip cookie and I find oatmeal raisin cookies overly sweet, so I loved these spicy, apple-y cookies. They didn’t last long, and I think I’ll have to double this Delicious magazine recipe next time!










100g unsalted butter, softened
70g granulated sugar
50g light muscovado sugar
1 large egg
140g plain flour
50g porridge oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g dried, ready-to-eat apples, roughly chopped
Icing sugar for dusting (I skipped this)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Lightly grease 2-3 nonstick baking sheets. Put the butter and sugars into a large bowl and cream together using an electric hand whisk until pale, light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg until mixed together.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, oats, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and a good pinch of salt. Lightly fold this into the butter and egg mixture, along with the dried apples, until just combined into a dough.

Put tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough onto the baking sheets, spaced apart to allow for some spreading. Bake for 12 minutes, then remove from the oven. Leave on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar and eat immediately. Or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.