For the love of Lava cakes…

Mmmmmm…. why is it that I haven’t tried this recipe before, given how incredibly divine the result is and the ease by which they are made? Lava cakes (or Chocolate Fondants) are little puddings of liquid chocolate bliss.  They are also brilliant the way you can prepare them up to 2 days before, sitting in the fridge, all ready to go into the oven. For a stress free dessert with preparation done the day before….TICK. All you need to serve them with is some homemade ice cream or double cream and some sweet fresh strawberries. Just the sort of thing to send a friend home with a take home pack for ‘RON’. James I hope you enjoyed them!

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Lava Cakes

makes 12 small individual cakes

butter for greasing the tins
2 tbsp. cocoa
220g (3/4 cup ) caster sugar
5 eggs. at room temperature
125g (2/3 cup) plain flour. sifted
340g dark chocolate (at least 45-60%)

170g butter, chopped  
1/2  cup heavy cream (I actually used thickened)

Prepare the cup cake pans by coating the inside with melted butter (I usually use softened butter and use my hands to spread it around) Then sprinkle the cocoa into the pans and shake the tin to coat evenly.

To make the batter, place a bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water and place the chopped chocolate inside the bowl. Then place the cream and the chopped butter on top. Gently melt all the ingredients and continue to stir until the chocolate is smooth.

When the chocolate has cooled slightly, stir in the eggs, sugar and flour. The mixture will be very runny!   Pour into 12 cupcake pans. Refrigerate for an hour or up to 2 days!

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When you are ready to finish the cakes, preheat your oven to 230°C.  Place in the heated oven for about 11 minutes. The tops should be slightly set and the centres still runny. let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes then invert onto a tea towel covered cooling rack. They don’t stick and they should all come out of their tins easily. Turn them over straight away as they will tend to be very sticky in the centre and stick to the tea towel.

Serve them with a dollop of thick cream or ice cream and some fresh berries. I used strawberries and blueberries along with home made raspberry ice cream.

Even cooled the next day these little cakes are totally delicious. The centre isn’t as gooey but they are still soft and pudding like.

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Warm Pear and Coriander Cake…

As the name suggests… this cake is best eaten warm! Not that you need much persuasion after it leaves the oven. And, another great feature, is the fact that it doesn’t need to be iced. The whole thing emerges from the oven looking rather chuffed with itself, with its generous sprinkling of pine nuts dotted amongst the slices of beautifully fanned pear, encircling the top of the cake.

I was taking this cake to my sister Marianne’s… a little something with which to swig down multiple cups of tea!  What I find particularly interesting about this cake, is the amount of ground coriander in the mix. It may seem excessive, but it blends so perfectly with the pears. Don’t be tempted to add less because it might be too strong. You could substitute pecans for pine nuts and even apples for the pears (but I personally feel the coriander and pears are the perfect match.) You will also find this cake not overly sweet, which of course means, serve with a generous dollop of ice-cream!

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Warm Pear and Coriander cake

1/4 cup pine nuts (or pecans)
165g butter, softened
200g (3/4 cup ) caster sugar
3 eggs. at room temperature
250g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour. sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 cup milk
1 pear, peeled & diced plus 2 extra for top of cake, peeled & sliced finely

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a sponge tin (200mm) and line the base and sides with baking paper.

Beat the softened butter and caster sugar till light and fluffy. (Make sure your butter is softened or this will be difficult to ‘cream’ the two ingredients together). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift the flour, baking powder and coriander together. Fold  this into the mixture alternatively with the milk. Do not over mix.

Dice one of the pears and gently stir into the mixture. Pour this into the prepared cake tin. Flatten the top with a spatula and arrange the finely sliced pear in concentric circles over the surface. Finally sprinkle the pine nuts over the cake and press gently into areas where the cake mix is still exposed.

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Place on a tray in the middle of the oven and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours. My oven is not particularly flash.(gross understatement!!!) The original recipe said  to cook for 1 hour. I started checking then, but, my cake needed another 35 mins longer. If you find the top is starting to brown too quickly, just place a piece of foil over the top, while it finishes the cooking. When a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean it is done!  Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack for 10mins. Take out of the tin and complete the cooling on the rack.

Serve warm with cream or ice-cream.

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Pork & Noodle Soup…

I have to give full credit to my friend Kristina for this marvellous soup recipe. This is one of those soups that is easy to prepare and makes for an incredibly tasty meal. With its clear broth like base and stunning green coriander floating on the surface, it is hard to not be entranced by this soup. And I haven’t even got to the smell yet….

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Pork and Noodle Soup

500g pork fillet, cut into thin slices/strips
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup of sliced spring onions (3-4)
400g fresh button mushrooms
fresh coriander, leaves and roots
2 tbsp.  fish sauce
80-100g  dried vermicelli noodles

1 cup bean shoots, (optional)
9 cups chicken stock
2 tsp.  Massel chicken style stock powder
2 -4 tbsp. olive oil

Fry the garlic and the pork in 3 -4 batches in a large heavy based pot  till the meat has nicely caramelised.( I used my Le Crueset).  Set aside.

Now add the mushrooms and spring onions to the pot and gently fry. Add the chicken stock, fish sauce, coriander and vermicelli noodles and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning by adding pepper and salt to your taste. ( I added a splash of soy sauce at this stage.)

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You can add the bean shoots at this point and continue to cook for  further 5 -10 minutes. ( I didn’t have any, so omitted them this time.)

And there you have it… the completed soup in less than 30 minutes! To serve,  add fresh mint to the steaming bowls.

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Variations on a Vacherin….

Given the plentiful supply of cherries this summer, I have included cherries along with strawberries in this recipe from Valli Little’s Five of the best – Delicious cookbook.  I can imagine any berry being suitable to adorn the top of this decadent dessert. What is particularly good about this recipe is the way it keeps so well in the fridge.  I like a dessert I can make up and prepare before my guests arrive, as my dexterity declines as the evening progresses, given the flow of wine! Many a dessert I have had to finish at the end of the evening has a certain distinctive freestyle fluidity in its overall design. I’ll just leave it at that!

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Strawberry (& Cherry) Vacherin

175g whole blanch almonds
5 egg whites
225g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
110g unsalted butter, melted & cooled
70g plain flour
300ml thickened cream, whipped
100ml crème fraiche

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g Toblerone chocolate
250g punnets of strawberries & cherries

Preheat the oven t0 120ºC

Lightly roast the almonds in the oven for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process till a fine powder. (You can in fact buy almond meal toasted, but, I think doing it yourself gives a better result.)

Meanwhile draw 3 x 20cm circles on baking paper, then turn the paper over (otherwise the pencil comes away with the vacherin when you peel the paper away.) Grease them and place on baking trays.

Beat together the egg whites and half the caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff. (I always add the caster sugar spoonful at a time, sprinkling it in on the egg whites as they are being beaten.) Add the ground almonds and remaining sugar, and stir to combine. Gently fold in the cooled melted butter and flour. Spread onto the prepared baking paper to make 3 circles about 1 cm thick. Bake for 50 minutes, then peel off the paper and set aside to cool.

Beat together the cream, crème fraiche, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until thick. set aside.

Melt the Toblerone chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place one meringue round on a plate, spread with half the melted chocolate and top with a  third of the cream mixture. Repeat, then top with the third meringue round and pile the remaining cream mixture on top. (I actually piped the cream on top) Cut the strawberries lengthwise  into quarters and cut two cheeks from each of the cherries ( so as to remove the pip).  Arrange these on the top and dust with icing sugar to serve!

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Fanfare for flatbread…

Spiced Flat Bread

I came across this recipe in a Marie Claire Food + Drink cookbook. I just want to wax lyrical about this bread, which could take centre stage without the dips and antipasto it is generally served with. It is a little fiddly and messy to make, but, well worth the effort. I have posted a flat bread recipe previously which I serve with home made labna, but, this bread is equally delicious with this cheese. I even tried to modify my yeasted version but found it much more difficult to roll out. So, here  it is…Spiced Flat Bread to die for!

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Spiced Flat Bread

1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup of sliced spring onions (3-4)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/2 a red capsicum, char grilled or roasted. (skin  & seeds removed)

1 tsp fresh red chilli, finely chopped
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp. peanut oil ( I used olive)

Place 1 teaspoon of sea salt, the olive oil , garlic, spring onions, cumin, parsley, ginger, capsicum and chilli in a food processor and blend to form a smooth paste. Set this aside.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl of a mixer. With the machine running on low speed, add 1/3 cup each of hot and cold water in quick succession. Given the unpredictable nature of flour I tended to add a little more hot water to get a soft dough. As soon as the dough comes together transfer it to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece out into a rough circle of approximately 20 – 25cm. Brush the surface with 2 tablespoons of the spice mix.

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Roll this up into a fat log then form into a spiral tucking the tail end underneath, and slightly flattening. Now do this with the remaining pieces of dough. At this point you could cover them and put them into the refrigerator for a couple of hours, till you are ready to cook.

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Finally , roll out the spirals to form a thin 20cm circle. This is the messy part, as the fill tends to split out from the dough and cover your rolling pin. Don’t let this deter you. (look at my picture!)

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Now they are ready to cook. Heat a heavy based frying pan with the peanut oil (or olive) and cook over medium heat for 3 -4 minutes, or until the bottom is golden. Flip and fry the other side. Do this with the remaining pieces of dough. Serve them warm, cut into triangles!

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Dreaming of Dream cake…

I was feeling guilty for not having blogged any cooking adventures of late…until I came upon this recipe from the SBS magazine Feast.  Drømmekage (or Dream cake) is a Danish cake with that irresistibility factor.  The cake consists of a caramelised coconut topping with a soft buttery sponge base. The two distinct layers complimenting each other so well that that dob of crème fraîche often accompanying it, is almost superfluous! My husband is not a sweets lover, so when I received his thumbs up, I had to smile. At last, a cake that even he can’t resist.

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 Dream Cake (Drømmekage)

115 g unsalted butter, softened
185 g castor sugar
 185 ml milk
185 g (1 1/4 cups) self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs 
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Coconut topping
150g unsalted butter
250g (1 cup) brown sugar , firmly packed
60ml (1/4 cup ) milk
200g shredded coconut

Crème fraiche  or double cream to serve
 

 Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease and line with baking paper, a deep 20cm x20cm cake pan. Set aside.

Place the chopped butter and milk in a saucepan over low heat and cook until the butter has melted. Set this aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and the eggs for 8 minutes or until very thick and pale in colour. Add the scraped vanilla seeds and beat for a further 2 minutes.

Sift the flour and baking powder together 3 times. Then, using a metal spoon gradually fold the flour and butter mixes into the egg mixture gently, in 3 batches. You want to make sure you don’t over mix!

Pour this batter into the tin and bake for 22 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the coconut topping, place the butter, brown sugar and milk in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil then add the coconut and simmer for about 1 minute or until quite thick. Remove from the heat.

After the sponge has cooked remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 210ºC.  The cake will be slightly browned on top and quite firm to touch. Spoon the coconut topping evenly over the cake.

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Return to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crisp.  Remove for the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack.

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When cool, turn out onto a serving plate and serve with cream and maybe fresh berries or perhaps poached pears!

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Oranges and Chocolate…birthday challenge

Rachel set me the challenge…Can you make an orange and chocolate cake? So with that inspiration, trawling though my old recipe book, I came across an Orange Cake with Chocolate Sauce. This was a cake I hadn’t made for years and a great recipe that used no flour. What I wanted for this birthday treat was individual cakes with chocolate sauce and a candied orange garnish. Now there would be take home packs of cakes and sauce, to devour in the privacy of your own home!!

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 Warm Almond Orange Cakes with chocolate sauce

2 medium sized oranges 
2 cups almond meal
1 1/2 teasp baking powder
60g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
6 eggs 
 
Chocolate sauce
200g dark chocolate
200ml whipping cream
 
Candied oranges
1 cup caster sugar
75ml orange juice
zest of 1 orange
1 small orange thinly sliced

Place the oranges in a heavy based saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 1 hour or until the oranges are really soft. Let the oranges cool a little and then blend in the food processor until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line 2 muffin trays with cupcake papers or grease with butter and flour. ( I filled 18 cup cakes with this recipe)

Combine the almond meal and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at  a time, beating after each addition. Continue to beat till the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar is almost dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.

Add half the almond mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Now add the pureed oranges and beat until combined. Add the remaining almond mix and beat till combined.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake papers, filling each one to about 3/4 full. Turn the oven down to 160°C and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Cakes should be slightly browned and a skewer inserted will come out clean. Allow cakes to cool on a rack.

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Chocolate sauce: Chop the chocolate roughly and place in a bowl along with the cream. Place the bowl on a saucepan of gently boiling water and heat till the chocolate  is melted and blended with the cream. Set aside in  jug.

Candied orange slices: Combine the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the orange juice and zest and simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes or until the fruit is translucent. Using a slotted spoon, remove the orange slices and drain on a wire rack over a tray and cool to room temperature.

To serve, I reheated the cakes in a microwave (for 2o seconds each) then placed in a champagne glass. Position a candied orange slice on each one and then pour warm chocolate sauce around the edge. To finish, insert a shaft of chocolate. Extra sauce can be brought out in the jug for those who need a little extra chocolate hit!

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