Nigella’s Chocolate Cloud Cake

Serves: 8

I haven’t watched much Nigella, though the impression I get from the snippets I have seen is that when it comes to desserts, Nigella is all in.

Melted chocolate being poured into more chocolate, whipped cream being folded into egg yolks, zoom in, zoom out, chocolate.

This cake therefore perfectly embodies Nigella and it really couldn’t be any easier a dessert, qualified for a dinner party.

Cook the base in the afternoon, whip the cream and refrigerate and prep just when you’re ready to serve.

Ingredients

250gm dark chocolate
125gm unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs, 2 whole, 4 separated
175gm caster sugar
500ml cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cocoa powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and butter and line a 23cm springform pan with paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate and stir through the butter until it melts.
  3. Beat the two whole eggs and 4 yolks with 75gm of the caster sugar and then gradually add the chocolate mixture.
  4. Beat the 4 egg whites until foamy and then gradually add the remaining 100gm of sugar and continue beating until the whites hold their shape but are not too stiff.
  5. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until the cake has risen and cracked and the top is no longer wobbly.
  6. Beat the cream until soft and then add rather vanilla and continue beating until the cream is firm but not stiff.
  7. Fill the crater of the cake with the cream and then dust the top with cocoa powder.

Ashes Family Brandy Sauce

Serves: an entire pudding and then some

Christmas pudding wasn’t one of my family’s Christmas traditions growing up.

I recall that puddings were purchased and even cooked, though Christmas pudding was a sideshow at best and one attempted some hours after the main meal had come and gone.

In the Ashes Family – Nat’s family – Christmas pudding is a load-bearing part of their tradition.

Served with “Grandma’s” brandy sauce.

This sauce is a sort of dial-it-to-11 sort of sauce. A Christmas special.

Your heart would stop if you had this every day for a week.

Thank God then there is just one Christmas Day and this sauce.

I didn’t know you well, though thank you Nat’s Grandma. I like tradition and your tradition is now part of mine.

Ingredients

30gm butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup water
50 mls cream
2 tbsp brandy
Cornflour

Method

  1. Heat the butter, browned sugar, water over a low heat heat and combine.
  2. Add cornflour to thicken as necessary.
  3. Once thickened, add the cream and brandy. Whisk until combined and thickened. (And more brandy as you feel fit:)
  4. Enjoy… it’s Christmas!

Green Pistachio Muffins

Yields: 10 muffins

We went through a bit of a phase last winter of doing a weekly batch of muffins.

These pistachio muffins were particularly popular and so here they are for you to try.

Certainly a great way to get rid of that stubborn bag of pistachios that’s been sitting in the pantry for 5 months!

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp rum extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and grease the muffin tins well.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients including the zest and finely chopped pistachios in a large bowl.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat the eggs – one at a time – unto the creamed mixture until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and rum extracts.
  4. Slowly add the dry mixture and the milk to the batter, ensure not to over-mix the batter.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops with the coarsely chopped pistachios.
  6. Place the muffins in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the muffins test done.

Banana Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Makes: 12

I made these muffins a while ago and they prove once again that a good muffin – like these – are a no brainer when it comes to little boys and their lunchboxes.

Tom of course ate three off the bat and by the next day, they were all gone; only two making it to school.

No doubt there is a revolution in muffin technology I am missing out on because they are pretty simple.

Keep it to the basics however and you’ll have a hit on your hands.

Ingredients

1 cup wholemeal self raising flour
1 cup self raising flour
3 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp bicarb soda
3 apples, peeled and grated
1 banana
¼ cup honey (or brown sugar)
2 tbs maple syrup
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
Extra apple slices to top

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180c and grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. Sift flours, cinnamon and bicarb soda into a bowl. Stir in the grated apple, banana and honey.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, eggs, maple syrup and vanilla essence. Add into the flour mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Spoon into the muffin pan, top with apple slices and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Grand Marnier Soufflés

Serves: 6

And now for a little something fancy…

Nat whipped up these delicate, Gabriel Gaté (remember him?) soufflés as part of a dinner party we had a few weeks back and they were a triumph.

It had been a while since I had had a soufflé and they did not disappoint.

Soft, airy, a wonderful flavour served with a dollop of cream.

I guess there are some people that don’t like quiches or avocado. For the rest of us, assume that soufflés are a big wow and two steps up from your usual dinner-party dessert.

Plenty of reason why you should serve these at your next dinner-party.

Ingredients

60ml Grand Marnier
310ml Crème pâtissière, chilled (below)
6 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for preparing moulds
Icing sugar for dusting
Double cream

Crème pâtissière

500ml milk
½ vanilla pod, split lengthways
4 egg yolks
100gm caster sugar
50gm plain flour, sifted

Method

  1. For the Crème pâtissière: place milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and whisk well.
  2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar into a heatproof bowl for 2 minutes. Whisk in sifted flour. Remove vanilla pod from milk and pour hot milk into the egg-yolk mixture, whisking well.
  3. Return to the saucepan and bring to the boil over medium-heat, whisking constantly. When mixture is just boiling and has thickened, transfer to a heatproof bowl. Whisk for a few seconds more and set aside to cool in the refrigerator. Stores up-to 4-days.
  4. For the soufflés: Preheat the oven to 150c. Butter 6 185ml ramekins and dust with caster sugar.
  5. Whisk Grand Marnier into crème pâtissière. Using electric beater, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until almost stiff. Add caster sugar and beat until firm.
  6. Using a spatula, mix a little of the egg white mixture into crème pâtissière; gently fold in the rest. Spon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, making sure it doesn’t touch the rim. Smooth the tops with the spatula.
  7. Back for 5 minutes then increase the temperature to 205c. Bake for a further 5 minutes then increase the temperature to 230c and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven, dust with the icing sugar and serve immediately with a dollop of cream (or ice cream).

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

Serves: 6 – 8

We are still on the homemade ice cream train and after a very successful strawberry ice cream with a side of balsamic strawberries, we are much closer to a favourite I used to make when I was a kid.

(My parents also had an ice cream machine.)

Maple and walnut.

(I used to make honey and walnut.)

It is a sweet ice cream though that is the point: the boys of course, absolutely love it.

Serve it however and with whatever you want. This is the American dream.

Ingredients

1 ½ cup walnut halves
¾ cup maple syrup
1 ⅓ cup heavy cream
1 ¼ cup whole milk
5 large egg yolks, beaten
¼ salt

Method

  1. Over a medium heat, toast the walnuts in a fry pan, stirring and toasting for about 5 minutes until they are fragrant and turning golden. Set aside to cool and chop.
  2. Put the maple syrup in a large saucepan and bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced to ½ cup: 8 – 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cream, milk and salt to the pan and stir.
  4. Drizzle a cup of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add another cup and then return to the saucepan and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Do not boil.
  5. Strain through a fine mesh into a bowl and cover with glad wrap. Refrigerate until completely cold.
  6. Process the chilled mixture according to your machine’s instructions and add the walnuts during the last minutes of churning.
  7. Enjoy.

Rich Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter

Makes: 1.5 liters

So, we’re on the ice cream train with the recent acquisition of a proper ice cream maker.

And so where do you start?

Personally, I think that Rum and Raisin or Pistachio are the creme da la creme though I am dismissed by Nat and the boys as being old and old-fashioned.

Which meant opening the floor to alternative ideas.

The boys adamantly want a Coke Sorbet which we might try; though that left Nat’s suggestion of chocolate and peanut butter the sole entry and winner on our first bout of ice cream making.

And here it is.

She is a rich one this one and if you paired it with some salted caramel, you would be sent to sweet heaven.

As an accompaniment to a dessert fitting of such an extraordinarily rich and opulent ice cream, this is definitely a recipe you should try.

I guess I can do my Rum and Raisin late at night when everyone is asleep.

Ingredients

Rich chocolate ice cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
7 large egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
200gm bittersweet chocolate (70% or above), chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract

Peanut Butter
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup icing sugar
¾ cup crunchy peanut butter
3 tbsp heavy cream

Method

    1. For the chocolate ice cream: in a heavy saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Warm over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until you have a simmer.
    2. Separately, in a heatproof bowl over a water bath, combine the egg yolks, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk vigorously until the mixture doubles in size: 2 minutes or so.
    3. Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1 cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture until smooth. Pour the combined mixture back into the remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly and heat over a medium heat; add the chopped chocolate and vanilla to the saucepan and stir until the chocolate is melted and combined. Cook until it forms a custard thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, ensuring it does not boil.
    4. Pour the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl and cool.
    5. For the peanut butter: in a bowl, combine the butter, icing sugar, peanut butter and cream. Using an electric beater on medium, beat for 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
    6. Churn the rich chocolate ice cream until almost done. Pour the peanut butter mixture in just before setting and allow to churn.
    7. Kaboom.