Pear and Chocolate Pudding

Pear and Chocolate Pudding (9407)

This blog should be called Chocolate and Thyme or something on those lines. Seriously. I just ran through all the chocolate entries: the amount of recipes and photos that include the marvellous ingredient is almost absurd. And I could still refer to it as C&T as I do sometimes! It would be an easy change. I wouldn’t even feel that guilty about it. I know of very few people who dislike chocolate – and here I mean, chocolate as a whole. If there are more out there please leave me a message, and give this chocoholic your I-don’t-like-chocolate list of reasons, and perhaps a few pointers on how you manage your waistline.

Even though I love a good challenge, baking complicated desserts when you have friends or family over for supper is out of the question. You want to be cool, calm and collected when you have people round your kitchen. This recipe and other versions of it, is a staple – well, at least back in Surrey, and I hope to make it often enough in my sunny Maltese kitchen.

Pear and Chocolate Pudding (9409)

Now, if you would rather avoid tinned fruit, (in this case we have pears) I warn you that possibly this could not be for you, although I would suggest you give it a try. At least once. Just go for the ones in juice not syrup. I was not a big fan either but I’m now convinced. I recently bought some fresh pears from the veggie market and I was so disappointed with the texture. This is foolproof and pantry ready when you have the genius idea to invite people over on a whim. It happens, and when it does it can be one of the best highlights of the week. There’s something homely about this recipe – I would even dare to add the word ‘old-fashioned‘ as in coziness, without any contempt, especially because it reminds me of an upside-down cake. Add simplicity and Nigella to the mix and I’m sold. Simplicity aside, I wouldn’t attempt this during the summer months, and believe me – in Malta it’s still summer, but I look forward to any kind of temperature drop to bake this!

  • 2 x 415g cans pear halves or quarters, in juice
  • 150g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 150g butter, softened plus a bit more for greasing the pan
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, to make the batter slightly runnier if you see you need it

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon of soft butter

Grease a 22cm ovenproof dish and preheat the oven to 180C/Gas mark 6. You can either go with pyrex or ceramic, but I wouldn’t suggest using a non-stick tin here.

Pour the pears through a sieve and arrange the halves or quarters on the base of your dish. In a medium-sized mixing bowl sieve the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.

In another bowl, cream the soft butter together with the caster sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, then add the flour mixture to the lot. If the mixture apprears lumpy, try adding a tablespoon or two of milk. Always remember not to overmix. You want the pudding to be soft.

Pour the pudding batter over the pears and bake for around 35 to 40 minutes. When a skewer or knife is inserted in the middle you will get a slight squidginess, for want of a better word. Do not panic. This is the way it should end up, and the pudding will continue to cook for sometime anyway, even when you take it out of the oven.

To make the chocolate sauce simple melt the chocolate and soft butter together in a bowl over simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl isn’t touching the water. Occasionally give this a mix with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has totally melted.

Serve the pudding as warm as you can, slicing it between 6 people with a generous helping of chocolate sauce on top of each individual bowls.

Heaven. Enjoy!

One year ago: Sweet Potato Pasta Bake

Two years ago: Spice Cake

Three years ago: Oven-baked Potatoes with Mushrooms and Herbs

Rob x

(Recipe roughly adapted from Nigella Express, Chatto and Windus, 2007.)

Yogurt with Cucumber, Garlic and Dill

Cacik or Yoghurt with Cucumber Garlic and Dill (9560)

So I promised you I would be back in September. A little later than I had planned originally before J and I moved back to Malta, but better late-ish than never. I am so happy to be back with my blog. I missed writing and I missed cooking. I still miss it to a certain degree to be honest, because only yesterday we managed to set the kitchen up properly, so until then meals were modest and simple. Not that I regret that. The produce here is generally very good and the heat doesn’t make me that enthusiastic to be in front of the stove! I am still getting used to the markets and shops, and the best places to buy ingredients, so I’m finding planning meals to be one of the many little challenges since the big move. I won’t bore you with the details. All I can say is this: it was stressful and I can almost promise myself not to do it again. Ever. Almost! I cannot count how many times we did that and it becomes tougher every single time. Change can be a good thing though.

Having said that, I miss living in the UK. I recently got an email with an invite to a food fair in Woking. You might get my disappointment at not being able to go when I read that one of the guests at the fair was none other than Sabrina Ghayour. I am beyond disappointed actually; I would have so liked to meet her in person. I count myself lucky – I have met my share of legends during my years in Surrey, but I am still sad to have missed Sabrina.

To get myself reacquainted with C&T once again (it takes me ages to get into a good writing routine) I have this little gem, great for the warm Maltese weather, from Sabrina’s book Persiana. I wrote all about it earlier this year. This is the recipe for Cacik, a concoction between tzatziki and raita. The garlic and fresh dill really give it a nice kick. I found that grating the cucumber by hand rather than using a food processor makes all the difference in reducing the amount of water. (I grate carrots by hand when making carrot cake too. It makes such a difference in the cake batter.) Squeezing the excess water through a sieve also helps but trust me on this one.

**Before I give you the recipe I want to send all my kind and lovely readers a huge thank you through the blogosphere for putting up with my absence. I know I have not lost you and you cannot imagine what that means to me. Now before we get all emotional, enjoy!

  • 1 large cucumber, grated
  • 500ml Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g fresh dill, both stalks and leaves finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling over the dip

Grate the cucumber, preferably by hand. Don’t bother to peel it, just wash it thorougly and start grating away. Then squeeze it to remove and discard all the excess water.

Tip the cucumber in a large mixing bowl and add the yogurt.

Crush the garlic or chop it very finely, and add this to the yogurt mix. Chop the dill, set aside some of it for scattering on top if you want, and add the rest to the bowl. Mix everything together and taste for seasoning. Drizzle on the olive oil and strew the remaining dill over the dip.

Such an easy recipe to prepare for a gathering of friends and family, and it goes with almost anything. Enjoy!

One year ago: I am back…

Two years ago: Spice Cake.

Three years ago: Easy Breezy Pasta and Rice.

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond, Mitchell Beazley, 2014)

Fusilli with Mandarins and Basil

Mandarin and Yoghurt Fusilli (9088)

Before coming across this recipe in Jack Monroe‘s book, I would never have thought of pairing pasta with mandarins. (There’s no need to tell you again how much I like Jack’s book. You can read all about it in a previous post.) I was almost about to say that I never had anything sweet with pasta. Then I remembered I actually did! I’m getting older…

Mandarin and Yoghurt Fusilli (9081)

Apart from not spending too many of your precious pennies, this recipe is ideal for those balmy summer months when everyone, including myself, would rather be relaxing than spending hours in the kitchen. There is some cooking involved of course, but nothing too major. All you need are some simple ingredients, a few minutes of your time and you’ll have have summer on a plate.

Mandarin and Yoghurt Fusilli (9086)

You can find tinned mandarins in supermarkets, but if you prefer you could chop up the equivalent amount of peeled fresh oranges. Though you’ll have to promise to keep me posted if you try it with fresh fruit. Come on, give it a go!

Mandarin and Yoghurt Fusilli (9087)

**Before I leave please note there will be no posts for the month of August. It’s going to get really hectic around here, plus I also need a recharge. Please bear with me for now, but I’ll be back in September with some new photos and recipes. In the meantime, I’ll be on Twitter and Facebook if you need to message me. Thanks to all and have a wonderful summer!**

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
  • 250g fusilli
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped, and more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, and some more for serving
  • 250g drained weight tinned mandarins
  • 200ml natural yoghurt
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of white pepper
  • grated pecorino

Bring a pan of water to boil, adding a little salt to the water, and cook the fusilli or any other pasta of your choice as per packet instructions.

Heat up a shallow pan on medium and pour in the oil. Add the chopped onions to the pan. Add the drained mandarins, basil and parsley. Stir and let the onions cook for a few minutes. When the onions turn soft, remove the pan from the heat.

Pour in the yoghurt and give everything a whirl with a wooden spoon. Taste for seasoning. Add a pinch of salt and white pepper if necessary.

Drain the pasta, but reserve some of the pasta water. You may need it to thicken the sauce slightly if you prefer. Tip the pasta into the sauce and toss.

Serve immediately with some grated pecorino and more basil and parsley. For 2 hungry people.

A great summer lunch. Enjoy!

One year ago: Blueberry Muffins

Two years ago: Some more good reads…

Three years ago: Easy Cupcakes

Enjoy the rest of your summer and see you in September! (Please refer to my previous posts for updates.)

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from A Girl Called Jack, Penguin Books/Michael Joseph, 2014.)

Cinnamony French Toast

French Toast (8080)

I don’t know about you but I find that weekend mornings are great for a more relaxed breakfast. One of my very favourite breakfast treats is pancakes, absolutely winning hands down. That said, sometimes I dread doing the prep, even though there’s nothing complicated about it. So when I wake up with a pancake crave but don’t want the extra work I make French toast. There’s still some whisking involved but it’s much easier on the nerves I think! Nothing is more peaceful than waking up a little early and pottering around in the kitchen doing minimal work while everyone is still fast asleep.

French Toast (8086)

In general, I don’t do leisurely breakfasts. My mind goes into overdrive in the morning and I don’t have the patience to sit down except for coffee. Having said that, when the opportunity arises for a good meal I take it all in my stride. Even if it means taking some extra time to faff around. When there is actually time to do so, that is! But for me there’s something so attractive and simple about this recipe that makes the easy prep all worth while. And I love the way the sugar caramelizes around the bread and almost makes it crispy. Thinking about it makes me want it now.

I don’t have this every weekend, far from it! So please spare me the usual this-is-not-good-for-you speeches that I’m getting these days. All the recipes you see here are rarely repeated – it’s not because they’re not good, it’s because food blogging is what I do and it’s almost impossible for me to cook the same things over and over again after I’ve written about them. I would drown in my books if I did so. I do make this over and over again though, not every weekend, but close enough!

French Toast (8089)

The quantities given in this basic recipe are for 2 to 3 people, and you will have no problems in scaling it up. Having said that, I would advise you not to cook this when you have a large group of people coming over. You will be by the stove all morning if you do and instead of enjoying your friends as you should, you will only feel frustrated by the time they leave!

Don’t let this sway you away. A bit of solitary indulgence is good for you once in a while and in my book this also makes a perfect romantic breakfast for two.

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk*
  • 6 slices white bread (day-old bread is even better)
  • knob unsalted butter
  • maple syrup, to serve**

Place a flat non-stick griddle or pan on the hob and wait for it to heat up. In the meantime, whisk the cinnamon, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and milk in a shallow bowl.

Drop the butter in the pan, let it melt and dip the bread into the eggy mixture and coat it on both sides. Leave the bread in the liquid a few moments. Eyeball it depending on the type of bread you’re using.

Place the bread on the griddle and cook until the bread turns a golden brown.

If you start running out of liquid, add some milk to the egg mixture.*
Repeat the process until all the bread is cooked.

I like to eat mine with maple or golden syrup, but you can serve them with honey, fruit and/or yoghurt.**

What a wonderful thing to wake up to! Enjoy!

One year ago: Blueberry Muffins

Two years ago: Stir-fry

Three years ago: Penne with Chorizo

Rob x

Greek Salad Revisited

Greek Salad Revisited (7367)

There are many versions of this out in the blogosphere, which of course includes the one found here on C&T. I’m a big fan of feta; its creaminess and texture is great for any salad. When I don’t have it I use halloumi, but for me, that just doesn’t make the cut. It’s too chewy and tough, though mind you, it still has it’s uses. It grills well, for example.

The following recipe will not be much different than the one I posted before. However I love it and it makes such a good main meal during the summer months, and it is something special when sharing during a BBQ with friends and family. Here is what you need for 2 hungry people. Scale up the quantities for bigger crowds.

  • 1 large cucumber, washed, partly peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 150g feta cheese, cut into cubes
  • 250g baby plum or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 50g kalamata olives
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
  • around ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • a handful of fresh parsley, washed and chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a large salad bowl and you’re good to go. Eat in good company as a main, or eat as part of a meze and/or a BBQ with a crisp glass of white. Enjoy!

One year ago: Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta and Chilli

Two years ago: Chicken Marinade

Three years ago: Easy Cupcakes

Rob x

London: until we meet again

London Eye (9443)

I’m flying back to Malta this afternoon. You might be reading this while I am on my way to the airport. One thing’s for sure: I will be sad to leave. J and I lived in Surrey for these past seven years, but London was, is and always will be one of my favourite places to visit. J doesn’t totally get it I think; London is expensive, dirty, and brimming with people. I love the brimming-with-people part. Surrey is beautiful and J thrived there, especially while taking walks in the countryside. One one hand I loved it too, while on the other hand many times it just got too quiet. Thank goodness for Guildford town centre. Now that’s lovely, and it’s another place I will greatly miss.

Parliament Square (9466)

The shots you see here were taken on a beautiful sunny day in the capital. We were with one of J’s friends and his wife, who were great company. I love meeting new people. We had a great day with them. We had lunch at Borough Market and then walked along the South Bank. After that we met up with bro-in-law a.k.a. J2.

Bridge on Bridge (9437)

I still have a few sets of photos from other places outside London; in the meantime I’m leaving you with these memories. London, I will miss you. Until we see each other again….

Hope to meet up with my lovely readers in Malta. I’ll be in the land of sundried tomatoes and lemons.

1 year ago: Banana Milkshake 

2 years ago: KitchenAid prices in Malta

3 years ago: Moving Day

Rob x

*A little reminder: I will be posting on here until the end of July, with a month-long hiatus during August.*

Photo: Fresh Herbs

Fresh Herbs (8182)

This is a simple photo taken while I was sadly parting with my Greek basil plant. It was the picture of health for months and months. Then suddenly parts of it started to dry up on me. I didn’t want it to go to waste, and instead of trying to save it and knowing that I would fail miserably, I decided that the best thing here was for me to keep the majority of it by cutting it, washing it, using some up and freezing what was left. I took the photo as a sort of souvenir. Those tiny baby leaves are too cute! And I couldn’t get over the basil-y smell on my hands. Ahh.

One year ago: Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Fools

Two years ago: A little Nostalgia and Fun…

Three year ago: Tea Time Cakes Continued: Banana Bread

Rob x

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