Chocolate fridge cake three ways

Chocolate fridges cakes

I have been making a version of these easy, no-bake chocolate ‘cakes’ for a long time, sometimes Rocky Road (which to my mind is specifically marshmallows, glace cherries, digestive biscuits and occasionally extras, but never substitutions), sometimes a different version more akin to the traditional British ‘tiffin’ with crushed biscuits and dried fruit. When I saw these three variations in the September Sainsbury’s magazine I knew I wanted to try them all, and a recent bring-a-plate style feast at a friend’s wedding provided the perfect opportunity. These are ideal party food – made in advance, transportable (although I did use a cool bag, just in case) and most importantly delicious. These also seemed like slightly more grown-up versions of the traditional fridge cake, what with their macadamias, pistachios, amaretti and crystallised ginger. The marshmallow ones went first, of course.

The butter and honey added to the chocolate stops it from setting hard like just chocolate alone would, and the honey helps give a glossy finish. The honey flavour is not particularly pronounced, although it is perhaps slightly noticeable in the white chocolate ones. If you don’t like honey or were perhaps, perish the thought, making these for children, you could substitute the same amount of golden syrup, which is what I have used in previous incarnations of these. Indeed, if you were making these for children, I would perhaps go with the first variation, leaving out the macadamias and adding a couple of handfuls of cornflakes to replace the crunch, and maybe altering the amounts of dark and milk chocolate, although still including both – either half and half or 300g milk and 100g dark.

Each recipe, set in its 20cm square cake tin, will slice into 16 good size portions, or as part of a party feast, 25 smaller, but by no means too small, ones, and perfectly proportioned if you were serving more than one version, since everyone will want to try them all.

Chocolate fridge cakes

Recipes adapted from September 2011 Sainsbury’s Magazine

Marshmallow and macadamia chocolate fridge cake

300g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

100g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons clear honey

100g digestive biscuits (about 6)

100g mini marshmallows

100g macadamia nuts

Break the chocolate into squares, cut the butter into cubes and place both, with the honey, in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir everything occasionally until melted, smooth and glossy, being careful not to overheat. Meanwhile, chop the biscuits into small pieces, and roughly chop the macadamias, so some are halves and some are smaller pieces. Take the melted chocolate mixture off of the heat as soon as everything is melted, and add the chopped biscuits, nuts and marshmallows. I tend to try and scoop the biscuits and nuts from the chopping board, leaving behind most of the crumbs so that the finished bars aren’t too grainy. Stir everything gently to combine, making sure that everything is well coated in the chocolate mixture.

Line a 20cm square cake tin with cling film, pushing it into the corners and making it as smooth as you can. I am aware this is more easily said than done, but if I can manage it, you can. Tip the cake mix into the lined tin, pushing it into the corners and levelling the top (which of course will never be smooth, but I mean ensuring the overall cake is a similar thickness all over) with a spatula. Leave it to cool, cover the tin and chill for at least a couple of hours, longer won’t hurt, until set. (If you’re anything like me, you’ll know when it’s set from opening the fridge door every twenty minutes to check.) Once set, remove the fridge cake from it’s tin, carefully peel off the cling film, and cut into slices. Mine kept well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Almond and ginger chocolate fridge cake

300g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

100g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons clear honey

100g amaretti biscuits (the crunchy sort, not the soft ones)

100g crystallised stem ginger

100g almonds

First of all, toast the almonds by tipping them into a dry frying pan over a medium heat, and, watching vigilantly since they will go from raw to black the second you turn your back, cook, tossing them around frequently, until they start to turn golden. Remove from the heat and tip them out of the frying pan onto a waiting plate to stop them from cooking further. Then continue as for the first recipe, melting the chocolates, butter and honey slowly in a bowl over barely simmering water. While this is doing, chop the biscuits, toasted almonds and the crystallised ginger into pieces, the ginger into smaller pieces than the nuts and amaretti. Stir everything together, tip into the lined tin and cool, chill to set, remove and slice as before.

Pistachio and cherry white chocolate fridge cake

600g white chocolate

2 tbsp clear honey

100g shortbread fingers 

100g glace cherries

100g shelled pistachios

The method here is similar again, so do read the first for more details, although this one contains no butter. Gently melt the chocolate with the honey, and while that’s doing, chop the biscuits, cherries and nuts. Stir everything together, and tip into the lined tin. Cool, chill in the fridge until set, and slice into bars.

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Chicken Kievs

Chicken Kiev

‘This is so much better than something shop-bought’ is often a compliment proffered by eaters and gratefully, sometimes smugly, received by cooks. No doubt well intentioned, perhaps here this is a somewhat back-handed compliment, since the something shop-bought will generally be a mass produced, perfectly formed hump of spookily coloured ‘chicken’ mince and other ingredients of dubious provenance, frozen and reheated. Not that this sort of convenience food is always a bad thing, but here home-made is definitely better. Home made here is also necessarily different, unless you own some sort of contraption that can churn out the kievs described above. These are whole chicken breasts – one of the advantages of home made being you can have a say in what exactly goes into your food – crumbed and filled with garlic butter. So definitely a chicken kiev, but a bit different. Good different.

The garlic butter will probably mostly leak out onto the baking tray during cooking (you can just pour it back over, if you like) rather than stay sat in its little pocket (and, if anyone knows how to help it stay put, by all means leave a note in the comments below), but this just means you get moist, tender chicken breast packed with flavour. To go with these, I like creamy mash with a little of the leftover garlic butter. Rice to soak up the garlic butter would be equally good, as would some new potatoes and vegetables. Unashamedly low-rent as I sometimes like to be, I used to always have my shop-bought chicken kievs with pasta in some garlicky tomato sauce from a jar. And it was good.

I won’t deny this is a little fiddly – and, like anything breadcrumbed, generates a disproportionate amount of washing up during the preparation stage – but it’s worth it. They’re so much better than you can buy in a shop.

Chicken Kiev

50g butter, slightly softened

juice of half a lemon

a tablespoon or two chopped fresh (flat-leaf) parsley leaves

2 cloves garlic

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

couple of tablespoons of flour

1 egg

two good handfuls fresh breadcrumbs

vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan. Put the butter, lemon juice and parsley into a small bowl and mince the garlic cloves in. Mash and mix everything with a fork to combine. With a sharp knife, make a deep slit, but not all the way through, along the fattest part of each chicken breast. Open it out slightly and stuff the garlic butter inside. Depending on the size of the chicken breasts, you may not get all of the butter in (and you could freeze the leftovers to spread onto some grilled ciabatta another day), but what you’re aiming for is to get in as much as you can while still being able to close the slit up again.

Put a couple of tablespoons of flour onto a plate and spread it out a little. Crack the egg into a shallow bowl and lightly beat it, and put the breadcrumbs into another bowl. Lay the first stuffed chicken breast onto the flour, turn it over and then shake off the excess so that the whole thing is lightly covered with flour. Next, lay the chicken piece into the beaten egg, and again turn it over so it is fully coated. Finally, lay the chicken into the breadcrumbs, and again turn it over so that a layer of crumbs sticks to the egg on both sides. Shake off any excess crumbs, remove to a plate and repeat the whole process with the second chicken breast.

Heat about a centimetre of oil in a frying pan until it sizzles when a few breadcrumbs are dropped in. Carefully lay the chicken breasts into it, and then carefully spoon oil over the top of the chicken breasts, so that the breadcrumbs on the top have all been drizzled with hot oil. Once the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, carefully transfer the kievs to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Serve as you wish, and see introduction for suggestions.

For 2, but easily doubled.


Cheddar and onion bread

Cheddar and onion bread

This is one of my favourite breads to make, delicious soft white bread topped with strong cheddar and onions. It started off as a homespun version of a lazy treat, those pappy white cheese-topped rolls from the supermarket in-store bakery, but it goes without saying this is infinitely better. A loaf is easily a meal in its own right, and I often just eat this, still warm from the oven, sliced, with plenty of butter, or perhaps with some caramelised onion chutney and maybe some extra cheese. It is also the bread I, not always but often, make to dunk in and soak up the sauce from a tomato-y pasta, lasagne, and, my favourite for this bread, these meatballs. It’s really a simple adaptation of my basic white bread, and you could use any relatively hard cheese, but my favourite is a strong, mature cheddar, and that’s what I most often have to hand at any rate.

I generally make two smaller loaves, rather than one larger one, or eight rolls. For the batch I’ve photographed, I made one loaf and four rolls, as I made it to have with meatballs, the loaf for slicing and dunking, and the rolls for meatball sandwiches with the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Sliced cheddar and onion loaf

500g strong white bread flour

1 sachet (7g) easy blend yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

glug of good olive oil

300ml warm water

a little milk, to glaze

150g mature cheddar, grated

2 smallish or one large onion, halved and sliced, and a little oil for cooking

Put the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and 50g of the cheese into a bowl and give it a couple of turns with a spoon to mix everything up. Add a good glug of olive oil. Tip in the water, and mix everything together with a table knife or wooden spoon, trying to get as much of the flour mixed in as you can. Tip the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured worktop, scraping out any bits of dough stuck to the bowl. Knead the bread, either by hand for 10 minutes or for around 5 in a freestanding mixer with a dough hook. When the dough is smooth and springy, it’s ready. Shape the dough into a ball. Quickly wash up the bowl, drop a little oil into the bottom and smear it up the sides. Plop the dough into the oiled bowl, then turn it over so the entire surface of the dough is lightly oiled. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a clean tea towel, and leave until doubled in size, either an hour or so on the kitchen side or overnight in the fridge, letting it come back to room temperature before you proceed.

Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan. Heat a glug of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, tip in the onions and a pinch of salt (which will stop them from browning as they fry) and cook the onions, stirring now and again, until softened. Put to one side to cool a little. Deflate the dough by pushing it down with your fingers, then on a very lightly floured surface, divide the dough into two even sized pieces, and shape into round or oval shaped loaves. Place each onto a very lightly oiled baking tray dusted with flour. If you would rather have rolls, at this point divide the dough into six or eight smaller pieces, forming them into either round or oval shapes. Place these onto, again lightly oiled and floured, baking trays, spaced slightly apart so they have room to rise. As they rise and subsequently cook, they will join together, but be easily pulled apart, giving you lovely soft sides.

Brush the tops of your loaves with a little milk, scatter over the remaining 100g grated cheddar and then the slithers of onion. Cover loosely with a piece of lightly oiled cling film or a clean tea towel, and leave to rise until doubled in size again – this can take anything from half an hour to an hour and a half. Once risen, stick in the oven and bake for 25 – 35 minutes. Check at 25 to see if it is done, by (carefully) knocking on the underside of the loaf – if it sounds hollow, it’s finished. If not, put it back for another 5 minutes. Rolls may need slightly less, loaves slightly more. If you do choose to make one big loaf, it might need upwards of 40 minutes, but do start checking before then.

When out of the oven, cool on the tray, under a clean tea towel – this will keep the crust nice and soft. Eat fairly soon. As if you wouldn’t.

Cheddar and Onion Bread Rolls


Meatballs

Meatballs

This is one of my favourite meals, ever. This is real comfort food, rainy weekend afternoon in the kitchen type stuff, although I just as often make this on weekday evenings, or in the middle of summer. In fact, I should probably be embarrassed at the frequency with which I present this, as though for the first time, to friends and family visiting for dinner, but everyone loves it, and it’s easy, although takes a little time, to put together. I’ve tried various different recipes for meatballs, but always revert back to this, based on those from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites. I make meatballs small enough to be cooked right in the bubbling tomato sauce, rather than larger ones which might need extra cooking first, so these are soft and tender, no crunchy outside, and the cheese, garlic and oregano mean these little nuggets of deliciousness are full of flavour.

Most often, I like to serve these with tagliatelle, sometimes pappardelle, those wider flat ribbons, but any long pasta would be good. The amount of meatballs here will easily feed four, with pasta, and would likely do for six. For six, fearing under-catering more than over-carbing, I would add bread for mopping up the sauce. For four, I would probably still add it anyway, and to that end would go with 75g pasta per person, cooked in well salted boiling water for the time directed on the packet, but checking for doneness a minute or two before that. And, whilst on the topics of bread and portion sizing, the last time I cooked this there were only three of us eating, but I made the same amount anyway, reheating the rest the following day and serving, sauce and all, in bread rolls. A triumph – now, I would cook these and keep them in the fridge just to make meatball sandwiches.

Adapted from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson

For the meatballs

500g organic minced beef

1 egg

50g cheddar cheese, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons semolina (or, if you don’t have semolina, the same amount of breadcrumbs made from slightly stale bread)

For the tomato sauce

2 onions

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon olive oil

680g bottle tomato passata 

pinch sugar

Put all of the meatball ingredients into a big bowl, seasoning with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, and smoosh them all together with your hands until well mixed. I like to really squeeze everything together, until you can see that the flecks of cheese are fairly evenly distributed, and the mixture doesn’t feel too wet. The end result is something like sausage meat.

Break off small pieces of the meat and roll them into little balls, about, if you were to measure, 2 cm across. As you finish each meatball, place it onto a cling film lined plate or tray, and once you have filled a plate pop it into the fridge. Letting them rest in the fridge for the twenty minutes or so it will take you to make the sauce will help keep them firm and avoid them breaking up when cooking. The last time I counted, I got about 40 meatballs out of this mixture.

To make the sauce, first blitz the onion, garlic and oregano to a green speckled mush in the processor, or chop as finely as possible by hand. Heat the oil in a big pan, and dump in the processed onion mush, cooking over a lowish heat and stirring often, not letting it catch, for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the passata, then half-fill the bottle with water, swill it out and add this to the pan too. Add the pinch of sugar, season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Drop the meatballs, one by one, into the sauce, and let everything simmer gently for twenty minutes, or until the meatballs have cooked. Resist the temptation to stir until the meatballs have turned from pink to brown, otherwise they may break up in the pan. Once the meatballs are cooked, if you aren’t quite ready with the pasta, it won’t hurt to stick a lid on and turn the heat down, letting them cook for a little while longer.

Serve with pasta, bread or both (and see intro).

Meatballs


Roasted smashed new potatoes with tomato chutney and cheddar

Roasted smashed new potatoes

I was tempted to call this ‘roasted smashed new potatoes with red stuff from a jar and cheese’, but that somehow didn’t seem quite as alluring, it didn’t quite set the tone, because I really want you to try this and not skip past it. Let me explain. I’ve been making this with tomato chutney, from a jar (and, for the record, specifically Marks & Spencer’s The Collection Sticky Tomato and Chilli Chutney, which I have been eating with all manner of sandwiches, burgers and anything else I can spread it on for the last week), and strong mature cheddar, which is both the cheese I most often have in the house and also the cheese that, I think, goes best with a good tomato chutney. However, this would work just as well with red pesto and mozzarella, or salsa, again with cheddar or perhaps monterey jack. You get the picture, this is less a recipe and more an enthusiastic suggestion – red stuff from a jar plus cheese. Just a final note about the name. Potatoes cooked this way are generally called smashed, but actually, assuming they are cooked properly, you just want to gently crush them with a blunt instrument – the end of a rolling pin is ideal – to break them up a little, and to burst open the whole potatoes. Taking the smashing too literally will mean you end up with messy mash flecked with skin, and you’ll be picking chunks of potato out of your hair.

This dish can called into service as a side, but works equally respectably as an easy weeknight dinner all by itself. The first time I made this (and this was actually The Other Half’s idea), it was for dinner, and it was so good I immediately made it again. Not the next day, you understand, but straight after eating, so ate it twice in the space of an hour. But for normal eaters, which we are most of the time, the amounts below will feed two for dinner, as is or with salad, or four as a side.

About 600g small new potatoes

Olive oil

Tomato chutney, from a jar (probably about 4 tablespoons, but don’t worry too much about measuring!)

Grated cheddar cheese, perhaps 50g or a couple of handfuls 

Preheat the oven to 200C. Bring a pan of well salted water to the boil. Quickly wash the new potatoes, and cut any larger (say above 5cm) ones in half, to make sure they all cook at a similar speed. Carefully tip into the boiling water, and let it come back to the boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are just cooked, and tender to the point of a knife. Drain well, and tip them back into the hot empty pan to allow them to dry for a minute. In the pan, gently squash the potatoes with the end of a rolling pin or with the bowl of a wooden spoon, breaking them up a little and bursting open the whole ones (think baby jacket potatoes).

Drizzle a little olive oil into the bottom of a roasting dish and tip in the potatoes. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Place in the hot oven and cook for 15 – 20 minutes until the skins are starting to crisp up just a little.

Remove from the oven and, using a small spoon, dot with the chutney, trying to get a little onto each larger potato piece. Sprinkle over the grated cheddar, and return to the hot oven for 3 – 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Roasted smashed new potatoes with tomato chutney and cheddar