Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Chilli Chocolate Madeleines - We Should Cocoa #51

Some old friends rang the other day to say they were coming to Liskeard and could they call around for a cup of tea. Well of course. But I had no cakes or biscuits in the house. It was time to whip up a batch of something fast. Madeleines sprang to mind. Fresh from the oven, they are delicious treats indeed.

With not a lot of time to think about it, I suddenly realised that I hadn't yet decided what I was going to make for this month's chilli themed We Should Cocoa. I had some Steenbergs chilli drinking chocolate in stock and thought this would give a mild but obvious chilli and chocolate hit to the madeleines. A little honey to add flavour and texture and I was off.

Well, what a revelation; I reckon these were the tastiest madeleines I've yet made. The chilli was mild  enough to be enjoyed by those less hardened to its fieriness than me, but with enough presence to be felt. I was also pleased to note that the chocolate flavour was not so rich as to overwhelm these rather delicate little sponges. The honey did what I hoped too and gave a certain plump softness to these classic French cakes. My friends were very impressed that I'd whipped up a batch of cakes so quickly. And there was the added bonus of the house smelling delicious when they arrived.

Naughtily, I served some of them with a mixture of Cornish clotted cream and the last bit of salted caramel that was taking up space in the fridge. This sauce was sublime and I'm now keen to make another batch of salted caramel, just so I can make some more.

This is my entry to this month's We Should Cocoa which is being hosted by the talented Shaheen of Allotment 2 Kitchen. She has chosen chilli as this month's theme. And for those of you who may remember, yes, we have had chilli before, but it was quite some time ago and there's plenty of room for further exploration.

The warmth of chilli in these little cakes makes them perfect for Winter Warmers, this month's theme for The Biscuit Barrel over at I'd Much Rather Bake Than ...
I am also sending these off to Credit Crunch Munch which is being hosted this month by Alida over at My Little Italian Kitchen. These cakes are very economical to make as the ingredients aren't particularly expensive and the time needed in the oven is minimal. I also used up the last of the chilli drinking chocolate as well as the salted caramel. This challenge belongs to Camilla at Fab Food 4 All and Helen over at Fuss Free Flavours.

Cooking with Herbs is unusually taking in sugar and spice for both this month and next. Well sugar and chilli are in these spicy little madeleines, so with no further ado, I'm sending them over to Karen at Lavender and Lovage.

I'm also sending this off to Lucy for #CookBlogShare over at Supergolden Bakes.











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Chilli Chocolate Madeleines
Soft spongy moreish madeleines flavoured with mild chilli chocolate - best eaten on the day they are made.
Ingredients
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 2 duck eggs or large hens eggs
  • 50g cardamom sugar (golden caster)
  • 75g flour (half wholemeal, half white)
  • 20g chilli drinking chocolate powder
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp baking powder
Instructions
1. Melt butter in a pan over gentle heat, then allow to cool a little.2. Place sugar, honey and eggs into a mixing bowl then whisk until pale and thick.3. Pour the butter down the side of the bowl and fold in gently.4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and drinking chocolate and fold in lightly, but thoroughly.5. Spoon the mixture into a 12 hole silicon madeleine mould (or muffin cases).6. Bake at 180℃ for 10 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and firm to the touch.7. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Details
Prep time: 20Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12

Saturday, 15 November 2014

An Italian Feast - Grazie Ufuud

There is no doubt about it, Italians are proud of their food heritage and they have every right to be so. With its fresh flavours, vibrant colours and simplicity, Italian cuisine ranks as one of the world's best and is one of my personal favourites. It's had a massive influence on British food. Where would we be without our pizza, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, risotto and more recently the panini? But there is far more to it than these familiar dishes. The truth is, of course, that there is no such thing as Italian cuisine: every region has its own specialities. The result is a wonderful diversity of styles, ingredients and flavours. Even though I'm a vegetarian, there is plenty to keep me happy: pesto, polenta. tomato sauce, beans, cheeses, olives, foccacia - the list goes on and I haven't even started on the drinks and sweet stuff. I remember when I was growing up and travel was not nearly as prevalent as it is today, my mother would wax lyrical about gelato - the wondrous ice-cream she fell in love with when an au-pair in 1950s Italy.

You can probably tell where all this is leading. When I was asked if I'd like to review Ufuud, a company specialising in sourcing and supplying genuine top quality Italian products, I didn't need to think about it for long. One look at the Ufuud website and I was hooked. It's a food lover's dream.

Two Italians, Cipriano Moneta and Christian Prazzoli, were somewhat surprised to find when living abroad that genuine Italian products were hard to come by. Their solution to this was to found Ufuud. It aims to supply real Italian products from their source to the customer in the shortest time possible. Most of the products are certified organic, DOC or DOP. Even perishable products are on offer and are kept cool and well packaged to keep them fresh. Delivery is guaranteed to take  between 48 and 72 hours outside of Italy. Deliveries are free for orders over €95.

I found the website simple to navigate and easy to use. There is a range of really good quality foods, but not vast arrays of them; it's really easy to both browse and go to the exact item you are looking for. Ingredients are listed, as is information on how long the product will last and advice on how to use it. There is also information given on the provenance of the products which I found, not only reassuring but also interesting. Online assistance is available and indeed I conversed with a very helpful individual when I was placing my order. The parcel of goodies was well packaged and arrived within the specified time. It came in an insulated box with cool bags to keep the fresh produce at a steady temperature. All of the glassware was well wrapped to avoid breakage and everything arrived in a satisfyingly good condition.

I was delighted to see a section on organic food and immediately picked out a bottle of olive oil and some unusual pasta. Getting my hands on a whole kilo of 24 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano was too good an opportunity to miss. Some authentic Italian tomato sauces were a must. The ones stocked were all simple and elegant, made with good ingredients and no unnecessary additives. The spicy sauce I ordered for example, had tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, chilli peppers and salt - nothing else. I also spotted some unusual products I'd never seen before and a couple of these found their way into my basket too.

I was not going to let this opportunity pass without getting my hands on some Italian chocolate. As it happens the chocolate bars that Ufuud stock are from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, one of which I have tried and reviewed before.

100% chocolate
This was surprisingly smoothy and mellow and sweeter than one would expect for 100% chocolate with no added sugar. It had spicy cinnamon notes with a hint of oakiness. I had a hard time stopping CT from demolishing the bar before I got to use it. I think this might be the nicest 100% chocolate bar I've ever tried.

Dark Chocolate 45% with Cinnamon - sugar, cocoa mass, cinnamon
This chocolate has unmistakable individuality. It is a granular bar with a sandy sugary texture not dissimilar to Kendal mint cake. This may sound as unappealing as a seaside sandwich, but it gives added interest and a surprising crunch in the mouth. It reminded CT of a Mexican hot chocolate disc, when I read the packet, I discovered it was indeed designed to emulate the Aztec Xocoatl, so he wasn't far wrong. The flavour was good, being rich and not too sweet. The cinnamon was pleasantly understated and we managed to demolish the bar with unseemly rapidity. You can see what I thought of the cardamom version I reviewed a while back.

When it comes down to it, there is nothing quite like a hearty bowl of pasta and when you have a good quality ready made chilli tomato sauce with nothing in it except tomatoes, chillies and olive oil, it makes for delightful fast food. It wasn't quite as fast as it might otherwise have been as I wanted to add a few vegetables from our plot - namely the last courgette, some carrots and garlic. This melding of good Cornish food with sun kissed Italian fare seemed, somehow, rather apt. I sautéed the veg in a little of the olive oil, which was golden with a fruity fragrance and a fresh peppery flavour. I then added the sauce and warmed it gently. At the last minute I grated in 100% chocolate to give some additional richness and umami, although with some of the fabulous Parmesan cheese grated on top, this wasn't strictly necessary.

The pasta I chose was tortilli made with wholegrain Kamut, which I was particularly excited about. It was really substantial and cooked to a good al dente texture. It was very tasty with a slight nutty flavour. The crevices made it brilliant for picking up the sauce. The sauce itself was spicy warm rather than red hot, which we find just right for pasta. The chocolate worked just as I'd hoped.

CT summed it up succinctly "almost instant food that not only tastes delicious, but tastes like it's good for you too".

I'm really looking forward to trying the farina per polenta taragna which is a mixture of ground maize and buckwheat - not a combination I've come across before. I've also yet to try the chocolate chestnut purée and jar of dark chestnut honey; I'm rather excited about both.

My box cost £83.40. Whilst this is not cheap, I do believe it is really good value. If you want to treat yourself to some excellent quality Italian food or create a top notch hamper for a food loving friend, then go take a look.

Thanks to Ufuud for allowing me to sample some of their products. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

Family Foodies is all about veggies this month, so I am sending this chocolatey vegetarian pasta off to Lou of Eat Your Veg and Vanesther of Bangers & Mash.

Sneaking some of our carrots, courgettes and garlic into the mix makes this eligible for Extra Veg with Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle of Utterly Scrummy Food for Families.

With a green courgette as part of the pasta sauce, I am entering this, for the very first time, into Shaheen's Eat Your Greens.

Well carrots and courgettes may not be on the BBC Good Food list, but the season is late this year and astonishingly it seems as though they are - or at least they were a week or so ago. I am entering my pasta in a veg chocolate tomato sauce to Simple and in Season, which is being hosted this month over at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter on behalf of Ren Behan.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Matcha Marmalade Cakes and a Sushi Feast

It's been a while since I did any baking with matcha. Last week provided the perfect opportunity. We'd been invited to eat sushi with a Japanese colleague of CT's which I was hugely looking forward to. A few little matcha cakes, I thought, would make a suitable post prandial snack. As I mulled over what flavour I should pair the matcha with (mostly in the early hours of the morning) I kept coming back to citrus which I thought would give a fresh and zingy high to the bitter notes of green tea. But, unusually for me, I had no fresh citrus in the house, not even lemons.

With time fast running out I made a last minute decision to add some of my mother's marmalade to the mix. Two bitters together can work really well - think coffee and chocolate. I was hoping this would also provide some of the zing I was looking for.

Well I couldn't have been better pleased with how these mini matcha marmalade cakes turned out - well maybe they could have been a bit greener in colour. They were light in texture, greenish, had a mild matcha flavour and a delicious marmalade hit. CT and I were hard pressed not to snaffle one on the train on our way to our hosts. Just as well we didn't as they all disappeared with remarkable rapidity.

How anyone managed to fit them in is a miracle. We had the grandest sushi spread I've ever come across. It was a self-assembly job; nori seaweed was provided along with what seemed like hundreds of fillings. As the only vegetarian there, I was still well catered for - omelettes, mushrooms, cucumbers, natto, asparagus, okra, radishes, beans, cress and all the usual accompaniments and condiments. Four hours of eating and sake drinking and we were still able to knock back a few cakes and lashings of a flowering green tea. Mine were not the only cakes: there was a lush chocolate cake as well as a banana tarte tatin. How we managed to stagger back to the train station and home I'll never know.

I've named this year Super Sushi. I reckon I've eaten more of it this year than all the other years combined. It all started with our bloggers session at Yo Sushi and snowballed from there. Only two days after this sushi feast I got a surprise phone call from a friend who was dashing through Plymouth on his way back to Italy. "Can you make it to Koishii for a Japanese blow out in two hours time?" I dropped everything, so did CT.

I'm sending these off to Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary for Shop Local as the wholemeal flour is Cotehele Mill's own, the eggs are local as is my mother's homemade marmalade.

As these were sort of made as a thank you for inviting us over for sushi, I am sending this off to Treat Petite with CakeyBoi and The Baking Explorer.

It's been a while since I submitted anything to #recipeoftheweek over at A Mummy Too, so off these go.







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Matcha Marmalade Cakes
Mini cakes flavoured with healthy green tea powder and marmalade, these are not only delicious but are quick and simple to make.
Ingredients
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 50g white chocolate (G&B)
  • 100g cardamom sugar (golden caster)
  • 150g flour (half wholemeal, half white)
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 3 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2 duck eggs or large hens eggs
  • 2 heaped tbsp marmalade
Instructions
1. Melt butter and chocolate in a pan over gentle heat. Stir to combine then allow to cool a little.2. Place sugar into a mixing bowl then sift in the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre and break in the eggs. Pour in the butter mixture.3. Stir from the inside out until just combined. Stir in the marmalade.4. Divide the mixture between 24 silicone mini muffin moulds.5. Place a shred of marmalade on top of each one.6. Bake at 180℃ for 15 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and firm to the touch.7. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12


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