Chocolate Cake Help

One of my S6 pupils makes the best chocolate cake in the world.  She bakes one and brings it in each time a class member has a birthday and we greedily devour it whilst discussing Janice Galloway’s novels or our latest creative writing task.  I’d love to be able to make such a chocolate cake but, much like the muffin lady, this pupil firmly refuses to share her secret recipe.  I tried begging shamelessly, I tried to catch her off guard and I even, in a moment of madness, considered bribing her.  It’s not going to happen though – I have accepted that now.

And so I turn to you guys.  I’m looking for a fabulous chocolate cake recipe.  A sponge rather than a flourless recipe.   Do you know where I could find one?  Would you be willing to share one?  Would you?

Let me try to bribe you with this super-cute picture of Marco’s wookie friend, Bo…   :)

Redemptive Hot Chocolate Pudding

I lost my cooking mojo last week.  And I hated it.

My “wee” cousin, Scott, was up visiting, celebrating his 30th birthday.  We haven’t seen each other much in the the past five years and so it was really lovely to have time to catch up and laugh and get to know each other’s partners and chat about rubbish.  As it was Scott’s birthday and as he is a notoriously fussy eater, I decided to make all his favourites: a very simple dinner of steak, chips and salad followed by chocolate cake.

Simple.  Plain.  Easy, right?  Wrong.  The chocolate cake didn’t rise and was binned.  The steak was unspectacular.  The chips were dry.  I am, it seems, rubbish at “plain”.  Added to this, earlier in the week my fail safe vegetable lasagne failed and my vegetable curry tasted like nothing.   Bah.

Thankfully, one thing went right.  Having been unable to produce a birthday cake for my cousin’s birthday, I whipped up some chocolate pudding mixture which rose perfectly.  Like a moister, heavier soufflé, these puddings are genuinely simple to make, gorgeously rich and utterly delicious.  Spongy on the outside, melty on the inside.

Hot Chocolate Pudding (adapted from Delicious magazine – not sure of date…)

makes 8

150g unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces

100g good dark chocolate

100g good milk chocolate

125g plain flour

Pinch of salt

175g caster sugar

6 eggs

  • Break up the chocolate and place in a glass bowl with the butter.  Melt gently over a pan of almost simmering water.
  • Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
  • Whisk the eggs and sugar together until fluffy.  Stir into the flour.
  • Add the chocolate and fold until combined.
  • Spoon into 8 buttered ramekins and place in the fridge until ready to bake.
  • Heat oven to 180 oC.  Bake the puddings for 12-15 mins until risen and looking like a volcano.
  • Eat.  With Cream.  Or ice cream.

(Me & Scott)

Savoury Muffins

Mum and I had lunch at a little organic cafe in Inverness recently.  Along with the simple and rather lovely bowl of vegetable soup I ordered was a savoury muffin.  An outstandingly good savoury muffin: moist and airy and full of  flavour.  When paying for the meal later I commented to the owner that they had been particularly good and said “I’d love to bake these at home.  How do you make them?”

She hesitated a moment then responded, “I can’t tell you that, I’m afraid.  People come from all over for these muffins.”

And so they should, I thought, and bought another one to take home with me.

Savoury Muffins (a reasonable but not perfect imitation of the one eaten in the Riverdale Centre cafe)

(makes 6 – easily doubled)

1 green pepper

1 onion

Olive oil

120g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

¼ tspn bicarb

1/4 tspn salt

2 tblspn pumpkin seeds

10 basil leaves

½ cup parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

125ml buttermilk

  • Preheat oven to 200 oC
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan.  Add the onion and pepper and cook until just beginning to soften.  Set aside to cool.
  • Sift together the flour, baking power, bicarbonate of soda and salt.  Stir through the pumpkin seeds, basil leaves, parmesan and cooked onion and pepper.
  • Briefly mix the egg, buttermilk and a tablespoon of olive oil together.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture has just combined.  Do not over stir – I don’t know what would happen but every muffin recipe I’ve ever followed has told me this.
  • Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tin.  Bake for 15mins until golden and risen.

Brussel Sprout and Bacon Salad

We went to Eden Court last month to listen to Ray Mears talk.  For those of you who don’t know him, Mears is a bush-craft expert with a TV programme which I’ve never actually seen.   In his show, apparently,  he goes to remote, inhospitable places and learns from locals how eat when you’ve got no food and make/find shelter when you’ve got no roof.  He was a pretty interesting guy to listen to.

Towards the end of the night Mears took questions from the audience.   Expecting an answer of “maggot stew”, “yak testicles” or “dung-beetle kebab”, a very excited young lad asked, “What’s the most awful thing you’ve ever eaten?”

“Brussel sprouts,” said Ray Mears.

:)

Brussel Sprouts and Bacon Salad (adapted from The Flavour Thesaurus)

(for 1)

A very thick slice of country bread, torn into pieces

A big  handful of baby Brussel sprouts or normal ones halved

2 rashers of back bacon, chopped roughly

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 spring onions, chopped roughly

1 tspn balsalmic vinegar

Parsley

  • Preheat oven to 190oC.  Add the sprouts and torn bread to a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss to coat.  Roast in the oven for 12 mins until bread is golden and sprouts are soft and coloured.
  • Meanwhile, add the bacon bits to a small hot frying pan with a tiny amount of oil.  Cook until crispy then add the garlic and spring onions.  Cook for another couple of minutes then remove from pan.  Add the vinegar, a splash of water and some pepper to the frying pan and let bubble for a moment.
  • Mix the sprouts, bread, bacon etc in a bowl and dress with the juices from the pan.

Smoky Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Traditionally we Scots are supposed to hollow out turnips on Halloween and make them into lanterns with scary faces.  Have you ever tried to hollow out a raw turnip?  It’s not easy.  Not easy at all.   So, I for one am glad that the North American version, using a softer and already partly hollow pumpkin, is becoming the lantern of choice over here too.

There was very little swearing to be heard as I carved this year AND I was left with a heap of seeds and flesh to play with.  Fantastic.

Here’s what I did with the seeds.

Smoky Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Smoked Salt

Smoked paprika

Cayenne pepper

  • Scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin and rinse to get rid of most of the stringy bits.  Pat dry.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180 oC .
  • Drizzle a little olive oil on a baking tray and toss the seeds in it to coat.
  • Sprinkle generously with smoked salt and smoked paprika.  Go easy on the cayenne.
  • Roast in the oven, tossing occasionally, until dried out and crisp (about 15 mins).
  • Eat in private so you don’t have to share. ;)