Tuesday, 15 June 2010

UCB (Ultimate Chocolate Brownie)

There are hundreds of brownie recipes available and everyone has their personal preference.   I like mine heavy on the chocolate flavour, gooey and a touch of vanilla.

I have had the pleasure of teaching a German student in one of my business classes this year.  We have a cake day every two weeks where a student or I bakes and shares for the rest of the class.  For my week I made some chocolate brownies and Max has badgered me for the recipe ever since.

Max - Danke für eine großartige Schüler in diesem Jahr und ich wünsche Ihnen alles Gute für die Zukunft!


• Plain chocolate (preferably using one with 70% cocoa solids) - 400g

• Unsalted butter (for recipe) - 200g

• Unsalted butter (for greasing) - 10g

• Light muscovado sugar - 225g

• Vanilla essence - 1 tsp

• 3 large eggs, beaten

• Self-raising flour, sifted - 75g

• Cocoa powder, sifted - 25g

• Some additional cocoa powder for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven) or gas mark 3.

2. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, beaten eggs, flour essence, flour and cocoa.

4. Using non-stick baking parchment, grease and bottom line a 20 cm/8" square cake tin, making sure you use one which is at least 5 cm/2" deep.

5. Place the mixture into the tin and level with the back of a spoon.

6. Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until set to the centre on the surface, but still a little soft underneath.

7. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 2 hours (DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO TURN IT OUT EARLY).

8. Turn out, dust with cocoa and cut into squares.

I personally think that brownies are best served a little warm but can be left to cool completely.  They are also great served with ice cream or custard.

Additions to the mixture can include pecans (about 150g); raisins (120g) or for indulgence some rum soaked raisins mixed with pecans (total weight 120g).  These are mixed in at stage 3.

Asian Asparagus Spears

I made some Thai crabcakes the other night and was debating what to serve them with in regards to a vegetable accompaniment.  Without wanting to go shopping it was a case of fridge and cupboard raiding and the net result was this easy to do, light and tasty asparagus side.

Ingredients (serves 2)

• Asparagus - 1 bunch/pkt

• Tamari/soy sauce - 3 tbsp

• Lime juice - 2 tbsp

• Mirin (sweet sherry alternative) - 2 tbsp

• Fish sauce - 2 tbsp

• Garlic, finely chopped - 2 cloves

• Minced ginger - 1 tsp

• Chilli flakes (optional) - 1 tsp

• Salt and ground black pepper - to taste


1. Combine all ingredients apart from the asparagus mix well (use an old jar or a 'Flavour Shaker' to shake well).

2. Steam the asparagus until cooked

3. Toss the cooked asparagus in the sauce and adjust with salt and pepper to required taste.

This is best served warm but can be served cold if required.  As usual, play about with the sauce combinations until you achieve your desired levels, some prefer it a little sweeter whilst others prefer it with more fish sauce or chilli 'punch'.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Southwest Chipotle Sauce

I have posted this after a Facebook conversation with some old colleagues at Beaumont School (happy birthday Danny).  A versatile sauce which goes well with most subs, sandwiches and wraps.  Add some fresh Jalapenos or hotter chillies for a kick!

The chipotle in adobo (adobo = sauce/seasoning or marinade) is a specialist ingredient and many of the major supermarkets are selling it in their bigger stores now.  If you can't find it then use the following link to go to an excellent online supplier called MexGrocer - MexGrocer.


• Mayonnaise - 250 ml

• Dijon mustard - 1 tbsp

• Lime juice - 3 tbsp

• Chipotle chilli in adobo (pureed) - 2 tbsp

• Garlic (pureed) - 3 cloves

• Salt - to taste


1. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice, chipotle and garlic.

2. Add salt to taste

3.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge

You can thin this down with a little white wine vinegar and use as a salad dressing but be careful not to use too much vinegar.

Monday, 7 June 2010

A bit of an Eton Mess!

This was dessert for a family party last weekend and it also doubled up as a treat for a good friend at work to help celebrate her birthday.  Despite the relatively heavy nature of the ingredients it actually comes up light and airy with same sharpness from the raspberries.

Ingredients (serves 12-16)

• Double cream - 2 pints

• Morello cherries (frozen or jar) -500g

• Raspberries (fresh or frozen) - 500g

• Icing sugar - 100g

• Raspberry essence - 2 tsp

• Lime juice - 1 tsp

• Meringues - 8 (individual size/3 inch)

• Mini marshmallow - 1 pkt (I use the Fiddlers Payne brand from the baking section in the supermarket)


1. Drain the fruit separately retaining the cherry juice

2. Combine the cream, sugar, essence and lime juice then beat until a stiff peak is achived

3. Using a metal spoon combine the fruit, crumbled meringues and 3/4 of the marshmallows into the cream mix

4. Place in an appropriate serving bowl I used a deep red Lalique fruit bowl!) and chill

5. Just before serving use a skewer or thin knitting needle and make holes in the mix, then pour a little of the retained cherry juice into the holes (it will spill over onto the top of the mix but this adds to the finish) and dot the remaining marshmallows on the top.

Traditionally this dish is made with strawberries but most soft fruit will work, again it is a personal choice.  You could also nappe some kirsch/cherry brandy over the top for a bit of a boozy effect or pre-soak the fruit in it!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Thai Beef Salad

This is a staple dish that I produce a lot for either a quick, easy dinner or for a dinner party.  One tip to save time is to make a shedload of the sauce and then freeze it in batches for future use.


• 3 shallots, finely diced
• 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
• 3 birdseye chillies (use more or less to suit taste), chopped with seeds retained
• Teaspoon brown sugar
• 2 limes, grate the rind and squeeze the juice
• 75ml fish sauce (Nahm Plah)
• ½ cucumber, thin ½ slices
• 3 salad or 4 vine or 2 beef tomatoes, cut into small wedges
• 3 spring onions, finely sliced
• Bunch coriander, roughly chopped
• 6 radishes, thinly sliced

Main protein:  1 fillet steak (6-8oz), seasoned with oil, pepper and salt to taste. Substitutions can include grilled chicken breast, tiger prawns, glass noodles or squid.

To make the sauce

1. Add the shallots, garlic, chillies, sugar, zest and juice of limes and fish sauce together in a screw-top jar. Close lid tightly and shake well
2. Refrigerate until needed

To make the salad

1. Heat a pan or griddle and sear beef on all sides – rare is best for the dish to be authentic. Place to one side to rest
2. Place the cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, coriander and radishes in a bowl
3. Take rested steak and slice as thinly as possible
4. Add steak to the salad ingredients and toss
5. Add sauce to salad and toss quickly to coat all ingredients

The quantities of ingredients used in the sauce are highly personal.  I have used what I consider to be the 'normal' amounts although I prefer more chilli and fish sauce in mine.  Experiment until you find the right blend.

This dish goes really well with an asian beer such as Tiger, Singha or Tsingtao, or if wine is preferred a good Alsace Reisling or Gewurztraminer such as those produced by Wunsch & Mann (Click here for the Wunsch & Mann website).

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Sticky Gingerbread Cake

This is a real crowd-pleaser.  If you can't wait for the stickiness to develop then eat it warm as a dessert with a good dollop of custard or cream!

Plain flour – 280g
Bicarbonate of soda – 1 tsp
Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp
Ground ginger – 1 tbsp
Stem ginger, chopped – 4 tbsp
Salt – ¼ tsp
Unsalted butter, softened – 170g
Light muscovado sugar – 90g
Golden syrup – 220g
Egg - 1
Milk – 200ml

1. Heat the oven to 170°/gas 3-4.

2. Line the base of a 20 cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper (buttered sides).

3. Sift the flour with the bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt.

4. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.

5. Whisk in the golden syrup, then add a heaped tablespoonful of the flour mixture followed by the egg.

6. Whisk in the remaining flour, followed by the milk, until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Stir in the stem ginger.

7. Scrape into the prepared tin. Bake for about 50 minutes until firm to the touch.

8. Test by inserting a skewer deep into the centre. If it comes out clean then it is done.

9. Allow the gingerbread to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

Tip: If you wrap the cooled cake in greaseproof paper, then foil and store in an airtight container for a couple of days it develops into an even stickier gingerbread cake.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A word about cookbooks

Like many of you I have a plethora of cookbooks, ranging from the 50p markdown ones in garden centres and charity shops through to my old Cesarini and Kinton ones from the good old days! I may occasionally grouch about Mr Oliver but I still have his books.

Treat them as an aid to your culinary skills not as the 'be all and end all'. They should inform and guide you not rule with an iron fist. yes, some recipes need more careful following (such as baking) but be brave and EXPERIMENT!

I do have some favourites however and one of these is Jun Tanaka's 'Simple to Sensational'. Quite simply it is outstanding. It is the only cookbook I have bought that has prompted me to email the chef/author to congratulate them on their work (and he did reply, before you ask!).


Monday, 24 May 2010

Roasted Beetroot, Shallots and Carrots with Honey and Mustard

This one comes via a conversation I had with my sister tonight who has become beetroot obsessed!  A taste sensation of an accompaniment to a main course or spectacular cold with some crumbled feta or Blacksticks Blue cheese on top.

Serves 4

Fresh beetroot: peeled/scrubbed and cut into quarters - 6

Shallots: peeled and left whole - 8

Carrots: peeled, halved and cut into inch long sections - 6

Mustard (wholegrain or Dijon) - 2 tbsp

Honey - 3 tbsp

Sunflower oil - 2 tbsp

Salt and pepper 

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 and place a suitably sized (see step 4) roasting tin in it.

2. Place the oil, honey and mustard in a microwave proof container.

3. Heat this mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds (based on an 800 watt microwave) or in a saucepan over a LOW heat for 2 minutes.  You are seeking to loosen the viscosity of the mixture.

4. Place the vegetables in a pre-heated roasting tin which comfortably accommodates them - neither cramped nor too spread out.

5. Pour over the oil, honey and mustard blend.

6. Add the desired amount of salt and ground black pepper and toss the vegetables until fully coated.

7. Place in the pre-heated oven and roast for approximately 35 minutes, turning the vegetables once halfway through cooking.

An alternative flavour to add here is some chopped rosemary.

Indian Cauliflower Soup with Chickpeas

Multi-season soup - warming on a cold day and just magic in the summer!

Cauliflower, cut into florets - 1 large

Onion, diced - 1

Chickpeas - 1 tin

Cumin seeds - 2 tsp

Coriander seeds - 1 tsp

Garlic granules - 2 tsp

Black peppercorns - 1 tsp

Garam masala - 1 tsp

Turmeric - 1 tsp

Ground cumin - 1 tsp

Vegetable stock - 1500ml

Sunflower oil - 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

1. Finely grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, garlic granules*, garam masala, turmeric and ground cumin and sea salt in a pestle and mortar (* if you don't have or can't find garlic granules use 3 cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced).

2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.

3. Add onions and sweat until translucent (do not brown).  Add a little water if they begin to brown or if you are avoiding oil for dietary purposes.

4. Add spice blend and a little water then cook the onion and spice paste through, adding extra water if necessary.

5.  Add the cauliflower florets and stir through, ensuring all of the vegetables are coated until they begin to take on some heat.

6. Add the stock.

7. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat until a rolling boil is achieved.

8. Cook until the cauliflower is cooked through. Remember to not overcook as this will reduce the flavour of the cauliflower.

9. Blend with a hand blender until desired consistency is achieved.

10. Add the chickpeas and place back on the heat on a low simmer for 15 minutes, periodically skimming off any resulting scum from the top.

11. Adjust seasoning to taste.

This one is rather nice served with a warmed or even toasted pitta bread.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Carrot and Coriander soup with Szechuan Peppercorns

One of the easiest soups to make with a nice peppery twist!

Carrots, sliced - 1 kg
Onion, diced - 1
Coriander seeds - 20
Szechuan peppercorns - 15
Herb sea salt - 2 tsp
Chopped coriander - 1 bunch
Vegetable stock - 1500ml
Sunflower oil - 1 tbsp

1. Crush the coriander seeds, peppercorns and sea salt in a pestle and mortar.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.

3. Add onions and sweat until translucent (do not brown).

4. Add carrots and stir through until they begin to take on some heat.

5. Stir in the spice blend and coat all of the vegetables.

6. Add the stock.

7. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat until a rolling boil is achieved.

8. Cook until the carrots are cooked through.  Do not overcook as this will reduce the strength of the carrots.

9. Add the chopped coriander.

10. Blend with a hand blender until desired consistency is achieved.

11. Place back on the heat on a low simmer for 15 minutes, periodically skimming off any resulting scum from the top.

12. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve with a good hearty spoonful of creme fraiche or soured cream (optional).