Walnut and Chocolate (Gluten Free) Cake

This is what I call a ‘good-for-you’ cake. One-quarter cup of walnuts, for instance, provides more than 100 percent of the daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amount of copper, magnesium and biotin.  Dark chocolate provides you with energy, fat, minerals and antioxidants. Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12. Ok there is some sugar in a cake, but you can replace it with honey and it is a cake after all, not a medicine. So, I say… Eat more cake!

walnut & chocolate cake

WALNUT AND CHOCOLATE CAKE

(An adapted recipe from Jul’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

140 g shelled walnuts

140 g caster sugar

140 g dark chocolate

4 eggs

butter to grease the cake tin

cocoa powder or chocolate for dusting (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Place the walnuts and sugar in the blender and pulse it until the walnuts are finely chopped, resembling a coarse flour.
  3. Transfer it to the bowl and add finely grated chocolate.
  4. Separate the eggs. Leave egg whites aside. Add the egg yolks to the nut mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Whip up the egg whites until they form the stiff peaks, then gently fold them into the walnuts.
  6. Butter a round tin and line it with the parchment paper, then scrape the batter into the tin.
  7. Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and set.
  8. Let it cool down completely before slicing, dust with cocoa powder or more chocolate.

Perfecting the Brownies

Defining what are the perfect brownies is a constant source of debate. People tend to fall into two camps: those who prefer a crumbly, cake-like brownie and those who enjoy the chewy and rich variety. Mark and I definitely fall into the chewy and rich camp and we’ve been hunting for a perfect recipe for a long time.

At last, after many failures and attempts at allegedly foolproof recipes, I found this one, which works! Well, because brownies can be difficult – too short a cooking time, and they are far too runny and thick, too long and they’re dry and cakey. Plus there is the infamous and sometimes elusive cracked glossy topping.

This recipe is a slightly tweaked famous Leith School of Food and Wine and they are describe as ‘decadent, indulgent and deliciously excessive’.

Rich Dark Chocolate Brownies

LEITH RICH DARK BROWNIES

Ingredients:

(Makes 20)

200g good quality dark chocolate

140g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

85g plain flour

handful of roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Break the chocolate into the small pieces and place in a large heatproof bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the chocolate. stand the bowl over a pan of just-boiled water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water, to melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally.
  3. Set aside to cool for 2-3 minutes, then whisk in the sugar using an electric whisk until well combined.
  4. Gradually whisk the eggs one by one into the chocolate mixture and beat until smoothly combined. Sift the flour and whisk in well for about 20 second until the colour begins to lighten. Stir in the chopped walnuts (or any extras you chose to add).
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until a stick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs (not wet batter!) clinging to it. It s better to slightly undercook then overcook brownies, as they should still be fudge in the middle and will become less moist as they cool.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for 2 minutes before lifting carefully from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool. Remove the paper before the brownies is completely cold. Cut into 20 squares using a sharp knife. These are delicious cold or warm, served with cream, ice cream, creme fraiche or, if you want to be really indulgent, a fudge sauce.

A Little Extra:

Any extras should serve to enhance, rather than mask a brownie’s fabulous chocolate taste.

Go nuts – A handful of toasted pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts add a pleasing textural contrast.

Get fruity – Dried berries (sour cherries, cranberries, raspberries) or orange zest all go well with chocolate.

Lace with spice – For a Mexican-style brownie, add a pinch of cinnamon or a dash of chilli.

Top tipple – For adults-only indulgence, add a slug of bourbon or a tot of a rich, dark rum.

Perk it up – Coffee and chocolate are natural partners: so try adding a dash of espresso or choc-coated coffee beans to the batter.Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies

Baked Apples with Walnuts and Ginger Biscuits

IMG_6360

Summer is over (although I do enjoy the continued good weather, which it is at the moment), I’ve been busy lately and completely neglected my blog. I’ve been cooking a lot and collecting recipes to share, but some of them are not relevant anymore,(think strawberries, and I do try to be as ‘seasonal’ as I can). Also my mind is already set on Autumn, so I’m going to forget, well I mean to file some of my summer recipes till later and jump straight into the Autumn audition..

One of the things I absolutely love about this time of year,  is the APPLES! I love them as they are and I love anything with apples.

Here is one of the simplest ways to enjoy apples. Baked apples are so easy to prepare, but my filling makes them more exciting.

BAKED APPLES WITH WALNUTS AND GINGER BISCUITS

Ingredients:

4 good-sized eating apples

25 g butter

50 g brown sugar

2 handfuls chopped walnuts

3-4 ginger snap biscuits

zest of one orange

Plus: Cream or custard to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Use an apple corer or a small knife to remove the cores from your apples.
  3. Place the apples in a slightly buttered baking dish.
  4. Crush the biscuits, using the rolling pin until the mixture resembles wet sand, add butter, brown sugar, chopped walnuts and orange zest, mix until everything is incorporated.
  5. Stuff this mixture into the hole in each apple (where you removed the core) and rub the outside of each fruit with some of the leftover mixture.
  6. Place in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and soft.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool down for about 5 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve it meanwhile still warm with custard or cream, also spoon over the lovely caramelised juices from the pan!

IMG_6363

Walnut Cake

Walnut Cake
It’s the ‘British Bake Off’ time again! I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see what new things they are going to introduce this year, what sort of technical challenges to expect, what trends will arise? But, as always, as soon as you watch the episode, you’re just itching to get in the kitchen and bake something. So I did. Inspired by their bakes of Classical Walnut Cake, I’ve made a less traditional, simpler, but never the less, delicious version of Walnut Cake. This recipe came from one of my absolute favourite blogger Mimi Thorisson. Her blog Manger is amazing and inspiring. So is she. I’ve been her faithful fan for years and am so pleased that she has her book out now, and her pop-up restaurant is just about to open its door. I doubt I’ll be able to visit her restaurant just yet, but I look forward to continue to cook her delicious, unfussy and proper French recipes. This cake is one of those recipe – simple, modest, flavoursome, perfect!

WALNUT CAKE /Gâteau aux noix

(Originally came from here)

Ingredients:

150 g/ 1 cup walnuts, chopped finely + at least 5 walnuts halves for decorating the cake
3 tablespoons dark rum
80 g unsalted butter
130 g sugar
1 tablespoon honey
40 g plain flour
30 g cornstarch
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of fine salt

Dash of icing sugar & honey

Whipped cream for serving (optional)

IMG_4897

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Chop walnuts finely (alternatively place walnuts in a food processor and pulse until you get coarse crumbs).

3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, walnuts, and mix well. Add the butter, honey, eggs and rum. Add a pinch of salt and vanilla extract.

4. In another bowl, combine sifted flour, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Mix well.
Fold in dry ingredients into walnut mixture.

5. Butter the baking tin and line it with baking parchment, pour in the batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes (you can test-knife and check – if it comes out clean it’s ready).

6. When cake is cool, sprinkle it with the icing sugar and decorate with the walnuts halves, securing each of them with a dash of honey.

7. Serve with whipped cream (optional).

This one I baked earlier for a Friend

This one I baked earlier for a Friend

Cheesy Christmas Trees

IMG_4518

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, today is the day when a lot of people celebrate Orthodox Christmas. To commemorate the continuation of the festive period (for some people) or just an excuse for some fun, here is the fun starter I made a few times recently. It is so easy and quick to prepare and assemble, you can also vary it according to your taste.

CHEESY CHRISTMAS TREES

Ingredients:

For 10-12 trees:
10-12 crackers (any you prefer)
dill (approx 150-200g), finely chopped
150-200 g of cottage cheese (preferably this one)
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
salt and pepper
a handful of walnuts, finely chopped
a pinch of Italian herbs
1-2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
cranberries for decoration

Method:

1. Simply place all chopped ingredients in a bowl and mix it all up, using the fork or hand blender. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Mixture should be quite stiff to be able to roll a ball.

2. Then, with your hands form the curd mass 10-12 balls, then form each ball into a cone. Put the chopped dill on a flat plate. Roll each cone in chopped dill (try to keep the cone shape).

3. Arrange the crackers on a plate or board, plant one tree on each cracker,  as a tree topper use the fresh cranberry. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour (alternatively you can make it the day before, but if you do, hold back from putting it on the cracker until you actually serve, as the cracker will absorb all the moisture from the cheese). Serve as an appetiser or as a part of a cheese board.

IMG_4516

 

New Forest Walk & Aubergine Rolls

IMG_3544

IMG_3543

IMG_3542

IMG_3546

IMG_3547

 

 

What sort of thing do you think about when walking through a beautiful  rolling wilderness with its vibrant moss carpet, rolling green hills, burnt colour trails and different hues of purple? Call me crazy, but a recent walk we took through the New Forest brought only one thing to my mind – my Dad’s Aubergine Rolls. I think the same colour pallet gave me a hint, or I was just hungry…

 

AUBERGINE ROLLS WITH COTTAGE CHEESE STUFFING

Ingredients:

2 aubergines, sliced length ways

400 cottage cheese

3 cloves garlic, crushed

150g walnuts, finely chopped

salt/pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

handful of basil leaves

Method:

1. Cut the aubergines length ways, brush it with olive oil on both sides and fry on a pan until cooked through and pale golden. Set aside on a paper tower to absorb excess of the oil.

2. In a bowl mix together cottage cheese, crushed garlic, finely chopped walnuts, salt and pepper.

3. Take an aubergine slice, place the scoop of the cottage filling closer to one side and carefully roll up. Continue the same process with the rest of the aubergines and filling. Place the rolls on a plate, decorate with the basil leaves.

IMG_3482

IMG_3481