2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - W is for White chocolate cheesecake oreo cookie brownie

Saturday, April 26, 2014
Whatever diet you are on it's fine to eat these on Sundays - calories don't count on Sundays!

We actually served this for a weekday business lunch party though - that kept them energised through the afternoon session!

This started off as Henry's Oreo cookie brownie, but I had to go one step further and add white chocolate cheesecake mix in there as well and finished it with white chocolate and toasted coconut on top - if you're going to do something it's worth doing properly!

1. The cookie layer

250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g unsalted butter, melted
150g dark brown soft sugar
150g caster sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
325g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 170 C / Gas mark 3. Grease baking tray and line with parchment - we used a 24cm square foil tray (no washing up afterwards) 

Sift together the flour, bicarb and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and caster sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. 
Press the cookie dough mix into the tray so you have about a 12 - 15mm layer. You will have some cookie dough left. This is intentional! Roll it into a sausage shape and chill - you can slice into cookies and bake them (15 mins in over) at a later date. Beware though - they are highly addictive!

2. Oreo layer - well that's easy!

 3. Brownie layer 

Should I give away which brownie recipe I use? Probably not - you'll have to use your own!

Put the brownie layer on top of the oreos so it almost goes to the top of the baking tin.

4. Cheesecake layer

An adaptation of the master cheesecake recipe.....

250g      Cream cheese/ quark
50g        Caster sugar
1            Egg
75 ml     Creme fraiche
1 tbsp    Cornflour
1/2 tsp   Vanilla essence

Mix all these ingredients together till combined - quite easy enough to do by hand than wasting time with mixing machine. 

Drop bits of the cheesecake mix into your brownie mix and swirl it round. 

Bake for about 45 minutes - depending on how gooey you like it. Allow to cool before you cut. I topped it with white chocolate and toasted coconut.
You must serve at room temperature - if it's fridge cold you lose the whole effect!
Go on - you're worth it! I'm sure Elvis would approve.......


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - T is for Tarragon poached chicken

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Tarragon poached chicken on the barbecue
http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/The host of an event we did at the beginning
of this month had initially wanted a barbecue but then changed her mind to a more dinner party style event inside due to the english weather, but still wanted the tarragon poached chicken that we have done for a few barbecues since we created it 2 years ago, so we served it bistro style inside instead.
I was cooking elsewhere that night so didn't get the final dish, but this is how they were put together...

Free range corn fed chicken supremes batted out flat and filled with chicken mousse and chopped tarragon.Then they're rolled, tied and poached in chicken stock with herbs, spice, lemon

Maybe they looked something like this chicken balmoral dish we did for an irish theme party last year.

"I am surprised in your choice of music" said my dad as we were making these at 11pm on a Friday night. YES! I've waited all my life to hear this! Most people get this reaction from their parents in their teens but I was more into Grieg, Handel, Bach, Byrd, Purcell etc then. These days that hasn't changed but it's joined on the music shelf with French jazz, trashy 90's pop, 50's doo-wop, obscure Scandinavian sounds, a bit of Bjork, the minimalist composers (big fan), a bit of rock (great to get you going in the morning), electro punk, a bit of Brazilian samba and my current obsession with Jewish music.  The list could go on. There is the occasional youtube skrillex session for old times sake for instan. 
As we were making these there was a bit of country music going on - gets you going when you're tired but there's still loads of work to do. There's quality in everything I say - it's a shame so many people have narrow listening habits.....


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - R is for Rhubarb vodka

Monday, April 21, 2014
If rumtopf was available by doctor's prescription I'm pretty sure it would save the NHS a lot of money - it is a cure to so many ills. 
Rhubarb vodka
My Dad has experimented with many things in the liquid form - home brew wines of many kinds, sloe gin with sloes from Dartmoor (don't pick after rain!), home brew beer, raspberries in brandy (along with the rumtopf) are another Christmas specialty. This is the latest from this recipe which we made up this morning with the rhubarb from my garden.
It's called rhubarb and strawberry vodka - you add the strawberry when you serve it. This would also make a great sorbet.
Should be ready in a month!

Related posts

Elderflower liqueur


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - Q is for Quinoa and sesame crusted squid

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Nothing like this for a late night snack!
Quinoa and sesame crusted squiddly diddly  with soy and lime
Ever since I discovered the salt and pepper squid I've been hooked - such a simple & quick way to cook squid and it tastes fresh rather than covering it in batter as some do.
If people have heard of quinoa most people aren't sure what to do with it. It's nice to use like cous cous as a side or salad. But you can also use it as a crust like this - you can also sprinkle uncooked quinoa on top of fish before grilling/ baking - it goes crispy.

Almost one for hen parties...... the tentacles of this one went on for miles
Quinoa crusted squid - for 1 portion I used:

1 squid, prepared, cleaned and dried
handful flour
1 egg
20g quinoa
20g sesame seeds
20g black sesame seeds
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed sea salt

1. In a mixing bowl mix together the quinoa, sesame, salt & pepper.
2. Cut the squid into rings (leave the tentacle part whole).
3. Dip the squid rings and tentacles into the flour, then egg, then in the quinoa and seed mix.
4. Shake off excess and place on a tray. It is best to refrigerate them for an hour or so before use - helps the quinoa/ seed crust to stay on while cooking. Although if you are in a rush you could just go ahead and fry them anyway.
5. Heat oil in a wok to 180 oC - you can test the temperature with a temperature probe. If you are using gas to cook on be very careful - hot oil can start fires.
6. Fry till golden - probably only 1 minute.
7. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon on to a tray with kitchen paper to mop up any excess grease and serve straight away!
Wok fried - sitting next to the aubergine cooking for the next but one #AtoZChallenge entry
Soy and lime dip

Light soy sauce (has to be light - dark soy is too strong)
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Rice wine

You can read fascinating facts about quinoa here - there's also a link to 25 quinoa recipes.


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - P is for Picnic loaf: ham, egg and tomato filled tiger loaf

Friday, April 18, 2014
The local business we regularly make lunch buffets for always look forward to our arrival and fight for first place in the queue. They're never sure what they'll get - it depends what recipes/ ideas we fancy trying out. 
Ham and egg picnic loaf
I had wanted to try out a picnic loaf for years - just never got round to it till last year. You cut the very end off the bread and scoop/ tear out the insides of the loaf. Then dice a bit of the bread inside and mix it with whatever you like. I did this with ham, egg, tomato, pepper, onion, rocket bound with mayo. You need to bind your ingredients with either cream cheese or mayo to make it stick together. 
Fill the inside of the loaf with your filling making sure every space in the loaf is filled & almost overflowing. Place the sliced end of the loaf back on and place on a tray/ plate and cover with cling film. Refrigerate for at least an hour to help the filling 'set'. Then you can slice it - use a very sharp serrated knife. 

This looks impressive for a picnic or summer buffet. 


Stromboli is a similar idea - the filling is added to raw bread dough and baked inside. Ideally it should be pinwheel in appearance - should have rolled out the one below wider.......
A fusion of Caribbean and Italian ideas? This was Caribbean style chicken and fresh coconut in the middle of bread dough.

Caribbean style chicken stromboli 


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - Onion pie

Thursday, April 17, 2014
Mini caramelised red onion pies with cheese scone style topping/ base

This is my current bedtime reading - only 14 years after it was realeased....

Most cookery books you get one or two recipes which you want to try and will make again and again. With Nigella's books it's most of the recipes you want to try. Like this onion pie - which probably should be a more winter thing, but I had caramelised red onions to use up so it seemed rude not to......

As I didn't have much onion I made them as a canape size - would make a good canape! See recipe here


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - N is for Naan bread - Peshwari naan

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today's installment of the A to Z blogging Challenge was going to be nettle cordial using this recipe & nettle cocktail but it all suddenly got very busy with 3 fully booked weeks back to back. 385 covers in the next 9 days!

Seems like there's a lot of different versions of peshwari naan. This was mine - basic naan bread recipe with sugar, chopped pistachio, flaked almonds and sultanas.

Found this great method for making the tear drop shapes.... needs working on ;)

Peshwari naan on the griddle
Indian theme menu nights are one of my favourite - it's the flavours. The hens at this hen party said it was the best Indian meal they had ever had - makes such a difference when you make everything from scratch including the naan.
The dark bits = flavour - it's an essential part of the taste!
Homemade chapatti. We served these with yogurt dip & hoummous along with the starter. You really need high heat for these to work & puff up in the middle. Again the dark bits = flavour.


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - M is for Madeleine, Apricot Madeleine

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The secret to a good madeleine is all in the lightness of touch!
Assiette of 5 Desserts;
Almond and Apricot Madeleines (at back on top of caramelised oranges)
Shotglass of Elderflower and Prosecco Jelly with Berries
Strawberry and Cream Tartlets
Mini Chocolate Éclairs
Heart Shaped Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam

Madeleines are traditional French small shell shaped sponge cakes. They are lighter than normal sponge cakes.
The original madeleine recipe I use comes from here. I don't add the coffee, but fold in almonds and apricots. The secret is to fold the flour & butter very carefully into the well whipped egg and sugar mix so you don't lose the air. This ensures they are light and fluffy and seriously addictive!

See more assiette of desserts we have served here.


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - L is for Layered meringue pavlova with Flavor King plums

Monday, April 14, 2014
Heating the sugar before you make meringue? A new idea, but turned out very well:
No recipe for this one.... yet. You'll have to wait till this book is out as I was testing out the pav recipe from there before it's printed. You heat the sugar in the oven till it goes golden at the edges then mix it into the whipped egg whites - not so different from Italian meringue really. Adds a slight caramelised flavour & look - nice!

You make 3 meringues and layer them up with whipped vanilla cream and fruit. I did it here in January for a lunch party with South African Flavor King plums which were in season at the time - they're a cross between plums and apricots and very morish!

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - K is for Kale - Gluten free vegan kale pizza with grilled vegetables

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Yes - gluten free and vegan food can taste amazing! 

So I have been looking at this gluten free cauliflower pizza base for a while. Could you do the same with kale, and make it vegan as well? Why not!


200g   Raw weight kale with large stalks removed
50g     Silken tofu
25g     Pine nuts
1/4tsp Nutmeg
1/2tsp Salt
Crushed black pepper to taste

1. First wash the kale then steam for about 4 minutes till wilted & soft. I do this by removing from the water it has been soaking in to remove any dirt. There should be enough water left on the leaves to steam it when you put a lid on the pan. Once it is cooked leave to chill. 
2. Place kale into a tea towel and squeeze out the water left inside - this helps the pizza base bind together. 
3. Whizz the strained kale in a food processor with the other ingredients till you have a fine texture. 
4. Form into a pizza base shape on a baking tray and non stick baking mat. 
5. Bake the base in a pre-heated oven @ 180 oC for 35 minutes (yes it really does take that long to dry it out). 
6. Take the base out of the oven and add your toppings. 
7. Replace in oven for 5 - 10 minutes to cook the toppings. 
8. Remove from oven and delve in!

For my topping I added neapolitan sauce, caramelised red onion, grilled butternut squash, asparagus, olives and roasted peppers & sprinkled with pinenuts.
Next time I'll try adding a little tapioca flour as well to firm it up a bit more.......


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - J is for (Cheesy) Jalapeños wrapped in pancetta or with crispy breadcrumbs

Friday, April 11, 2014
This should spice up the wedding breakfast!
Cheesey jalapeno peppers wrapped in pancetta & topped with breadcrumbs
Originally we were going to do these as a canape for a wedding this coming June. But the wedding couple instead decided on serving them as a side dish for the main course. Why not! This will spice up the lamb & chicken dishes they chose. I am a new fan of jalapenos after making these jalapeno poppers for a Mexican theme menu last year. 

Cheesy jalapeno peppers

Cream cheese or quark
Red onion diced
Lime juice
Coriander (cilantro in US)
Ground cumin
Jalapeno peppers

Slice the jalapeno peppers in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Mix all the other ingredients together and stuff inside the peppers.
You can roll them in pancetta, or for vegetarians top them with  mix of breadcrumbs, herbs & grated parmesan. Both versions can be baked in the oven for c. 15 - 20 minutes @ 180 oC till peppers are soft and either pancetta is crisp (for pancetta version) or breadcrumb mix is crisped up and brown for the other version.

Related posts:
Jalapeno poppers for a Mexican theme menu


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - I is for Italian veal rolls (involtini) with stuffed aubergine: Chef in Venice #11

Thursday, April 10, 2014
There's nothing better than getting away from cooking 24/7 and going on holiday..... and cooking! 
Involtini of veal
My excuse is it's more relaxed cooking - and food shops and markets in other countries are always so much more exciting!
We're going back to 2011 now - seems a long time since my last holiday....
Been to Venice a few times - the Biennale keeps dragging me & my friend back - I've been told I'm going next year (yay!).

Cooking for yourselves rather than eating out in Venice (along with a few other canny tips) means you can get by on a shoestring - I'm only a poor chef after all.
I also try out new things. Right then I was trying out roasted whole aubergines. We served them at a few weddings afterwards - a great vegetarian alternative for hog roasts I find.

Roasted aubergine

1. Cut aubergine in half lengthways.
2. Slash the aubergine flesh with a sharp knife in centimetre wide cuts so you almost get down to the skin, but not quite. Then turn it 90 degrees and cut the other way so you end up with diamond shaped cuts.
3. Cut garlic cloves in half and place these in random places in the cut aubergine. Do the same with rosemary and oregano sprigs.
4. Drizzle olive oil over generously, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven @ 180 oC for about 20 mins.
5. Once cooked you can either leave to cool and scoop out the flesh and use for aubergine caviar or you can chop the flesh and mix it with.. say... parmesan, oregano, salami, tomato and cooked onion and place it back in the aubergine shell and re-bake it to let all those flavours melt together. Tasty!
Involtini veal raw with mozzarella, roast peppers & capers
With the involtini of veal you can either roll it in pancetta like I did with this one or secure it with cocktail ticks like the one above. You can be all healthy and bake it in the oven or fry it in butter with lemon juice added in at the end.
A trip the the Veneto hills is definitely recommended! (It really is that blue!)

Random figurine with parasol on the backstret walk early morning. Get to know the back streets & shortcuts - saves fighting your way through the grockles! 
Besides the 2 main exhibition centres of the Biennale (Giardini & Arsenale) other countries have their pavillions scattered in random palazzos, churches and tumble down buildings across the city - and it is these which by far provide the best experience... maybe because you have a break in between finding each one, or that actually finding some of them is a mission in itself!

For the 2011 Anish Kapoor offering you had to travel by vaporetto as Basilica di San Giorgio sits on its own island. Less is more they say. It is a work he has done apparently in other venues, but this was the first time in a sacred place - and the symbolism sure got everyone thinking....

Related posts 

Other Chef in Venice posts