Oreo Brownies

Oreo-Brownies-(4447)

I don’t know if I mentioned this earlier on in another post but I’ve got another confession to make: I’m a chocoholic. I love chocolate in everything sweet and given the opportunity, I’d love to try that with something savoury too. Until that happens it’s so easy to get your chocolate fix once in a while. (Should I say “without overdoing it” next?) So here’s one of my favourite recipes. Once again it’s taken from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy, with some slight changes here and there. I made this very recently and it was approval all around. Oh….and if you love Oreos then this one’s for you! If you’d rather use something else instead of Oreos you could substitute them either with toasted walnuts or pecans.

For these brownies Lorraine uses a mixer, but if you don’t have one (or if it’s way at the back of your kitchen cupboard and feel to lazy to reach for it) then it’s not a problem to mix everything by hand. This recipe makes approximately 16 brownies. Enjoy.

  • 165g butter
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 165g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 154g pack Oreo cookies, broken into quarters
  • icing sugar for dusting
  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 6. Grease a square baking tin and line with baking paper with the sides overlapping. (Don’t leave out the paper as it will make it easier to take the brownies out of the tin when cooled.)
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the chocolate. Lightly stir the mixture and leave this to stand for a few minutes.
  3. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla essence until they start to become light and fluffy. Add half of the sugar and whisk, then add the rest and whisk again with the egg mixture. Then pour the buttery chocolate into it slowly around the sides (to keep as much of the fluffiness as possible in the batter).
  4. Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt if you’re using that and approximately half of the Oreos. Stir until well combined and pour the batter into the prepared baking tin. Scatter the rest of the Oreo cookies over the top, pressing them in slightly but not too much. Bake the brownie mixture for around 30 minutes. At this point check it with a skewer or a knife: it should not come out totally clean. You want that squidgy-ness around the middle.
  5. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin. The top should sink and crack a little so don’t be alarmed. Slowly pull the brownies out using the overlap of the baking paper, dust with some icing sugar (a little less than my photo please!) and cut into squares.

    Enjoy!

    Rob x

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Strawberry Crumble

Strawberry-and-Almond-Crumble-(4492)

Crumble is one of the easiest desserts I can think of. Recently I needed to prepare an easy supper but at the same time I wanted to feel very accomplished! I wanted a meal that wouldn’t really take much work but still felt like a feast. This was the best excuse for my favourite roast chicken but I just couldn’t think of something sweet after that. Out came Nigella’s Kitchen – one of my must-have books. Not only does it have great ideas for leftovers, but I would say that almost half of the recipes in it are desserts. And really good ones! I also treasure my copy because it’s signed.

Crumbles are great because you don’t really have to follow the exact measurements. You can use either one type of fruit (fresh or frozen) or you can just mix and match. Easy. So the following is a scrumptious Strawberry and Almond Crumble. (You will find that at the moment strawberries will look good but will not be as ripe.)

I will give Nigella’s recipe as it is in her book. I have tried it and it’s great. I will then tell you what I did which worked well too. Nigella says that this will serve 6, but in my experience it will serve up to 4. If you have more people coming round for dinner just make one more dish. There’s no effort.

For the fruit mixture you need:

  • 500g hulled strawberries
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the crumble topping:

  • 110g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 75g butter, cold & diced
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 75g demerara sugar

And double cream, to serve (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6, and put the strawberries into a round pie dish. Sprinkle over them the sugar, almonds and vanilla extract. Give the dish a good shake to mix the ingredients.
  2. For the crumble topping put the flour and baking powder in a smallish mixing bowl and rub in the cold butter between your thumb and fingers. You could use a mixer for this if you wish. Then stir in the flaked almonds and sugar with a fork.
  3. Tip the topping onto the strawberry mixture and cover the fruit evenly, also giving it a little press at the edges of the dish. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for around 30 minutes. The crumble topping should turn a golden brown and you could also see some red juices peaking out and bubbling at the edges.
  4. Before serving leave it to stand for 10 minutes. This tastes great without cream but having a jug of cold cream on the table is comforting! Single cream will also do.

Now the first time I made this I didn’t have all the ingredients as shown in the recipe. So I had to make do with what I actually had. The following is what I did:

For the topping all I had was 45g flaked almonds. I didn’t even have half the amount suggested but turned out good – not great but it was ok. The mixture just felt more doughy so I left it for an additional 10 minutes in the oven for it to crisp up a bit. The second try with the full 100g was much much better though. I also used light brown sugar instead of demerara, but lately I decided to have this type of sugar as a pantry staple. So I’ll use that next time.

For the fruit mixture I had 350g strawberries and 250g raspberries in the fridge. That worked wonders because I love the tartness of the raspberries. Also 2 to 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract is enough.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Butternut Squash and Rosemary Muffins

Butternut-Squash-and-Rosemary-Muffins-(4400)

Back to baking. This is the first recipe I tried from Baking Made Easy. It’s also one of the reasons I bought this book. Now if you read one of my previous entries you will know the story behind this, so I won’t bore you again with it. What I will say is that recipes on television almost always look better and/or easier than in real life, and this was one of those instances. However I must say that with some little tweaks here and there these muffins will be some of the best you’ve ever tried. I really really like them. They are also the first sweet and savoury muffins I ever tasted or made. I think this is also one of the rare occasions where I used self-raising and wholemeal flours, but you will see more of these in future posts.

The usual note before we start: Lorraine’s recipe calls for pumpkin. Now I guess this will be ideal for my Maltese friends because you can find pumpkin all year round in Malta. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) In the UK it’s only in season in October/November, so I made these muffins with butternut squash instead.

I also would suggest to roast the pumpkin or butternut cubes on a baking tray, whichever one you choose. Please do not boil or steam them because you will end up with soggy muffins (I was about to write “soggy mess” there for a minute.) You want to dehydrate them first. Take my word for it: I really wished I did that for my first batch!

This batter will yield around 12 muffins. Do not worry if they will not rise while baking – they are not being temperamental, they are meant to be somewhat flat. You can substitute the bicarbonate of soda with more baking powder if you like. Ms. Pascale uses fresh rosemary. I had to use the dried version.

  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 130g wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, finely chopped
  • 240g pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 0.5cm cubes and dry-roasted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100ml plain yoghurt
  • 275 ml milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and insert 12 paper cases into your muffin tin. You could also cut squares of baking paper and push them into each hole. The finished product will look like you bought them from a pastry shop.
  2. In a large bowl sift both flours, the baking powder and bicarb, and stir in the rosemary.
  3. In another bowl put 160g of the pumpkin/butternut cubes, eggs, yoghurt, milk, honey and vegetable oil and stir until well combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and use a large spoon to mix: not more than 12 mixes. It’s important not to over-mix as you will end up with a dense muffin at the end. Leave the mixture to stand for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Then pour the mixture into the individual muffin cases. Now sprinkle the remaining pumpkin or butternut cubes and the pumpkin seeds onto the batter. Bake for 25 minutes at which point always insert a skewer at the centre of the muffins to check if they are cooked.

These muffins taste great at any time of the day!

Rob x

Falafel with Tahini Yoghurt Dressing

Falafel-(4406)

Last year I had a couple of hours to spare on an unusually busy day and headed for the local library. The automatic pilot in my brain directed me, as usual, to the food section where I saw a little book trying to grab my attention. I looked at the cover: Spice It….it said. As usual, I filled the pages with post-its for everything that I wanted to try…and still want to try (because to be fair I haven’t cooked that many things from it). So one evening, when I had no idea what to cook for the next day, J suggested one particular recipe that caught his eye. It was one of those times when we cooked together, and what a treat that was! I was sous-chef and kitchen cleaner simultaneously but everything worked.

The only thing that you may find tricky to get hold of is the tahini paste. These days you don’t need to go to speciality shops for it; your local supermarket will probably have it. Unfortunately I don’t think you can replicate the taste by using peanut butter as a substitute for tahini, but you could try that out if you’re up for an experiment.

Falafel-(4402)

Now before you read the ingredient list I tell you this: don’t be frightened because of the frying bit. You won’t eat these that often and they’re a doddle to make. There’ll be some washing up but nothing you cannot handle. May the force be with you! (I just had to put something sci-fi in there. Sorry but the temptation was too strong.) This serves 4 and is ideal as party food, snack food or part of a meze.

For the falafel you need:

  • 250g dried chickpeas
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • some vegetable oil for frying

For the tahini yoghurt dressing you need:

  • 100ml yogurt
  • 100g tahini paste
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover them with cold water. Leave them to soak overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas, put them into a food processor and grind them coarsely. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, coriander (both fresh and dried), cumin and baking powder and blitz until smooth to give you a bright green mixture.
  3. For the tahini dressing, put the yoghurt, tahini paste, crushed garlic clove, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl and whisk. Season to taste.
  4. Now comes the fun part: using slightly wet hands shape the chickpea mixture into around 20 oval shapes. Feel the fear (as Nigella would say) and heat about 3cm of vegetable oil in a deep pan. To make sure the oil is hot enough slowly drop a small cube of bread in the pan. If it starts to get brown immediately then you can start frying the falafel. Fry the falafel in batches until golden brown on all sides. Drain them on a paper towel and try to keep them warm while you book the next batch.
  5. Place them on a serving dish and drizzle the dressing on top.

Serve with some side salad if you wish. You will miss these little guys when you’ll eat them all.

Rob x

Chorizo and Thyme Bread

Fougasse-(4392)

Now that’s a great combo. That’s why I’ve chosen it for the name of this blog. And if you try this combination, you’ll know – it’ll be a bit of an a-ha moment. You see, to be honest this blog post was a long time coming and I know I will be relieved once it’s published. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you might already know that recently I bought a cook book which I didn’t like that much at first. I thought it was a total waste of money really. Having baked some recipes from it as the weeks passed by, I must now say that although I still have some lurking doubts, I am warming up to it slowly. First of all I must thank this book for this blog’s name. I have cooked with chorizo before and it has become a staple in my pantry. Lorraine Pascale made me want to try it with thyme. It turned out to be a perfect marriage.

The following recipe is my take on her Chorizo and Thyme Fougasse (click here for the actual recipe). I am grateful to Ms. Pascale for this and for some other recipes in her book which I will try very soon. I made this bread after a long walk in the beautiful Surrey countryside and loved it. So here it goes.

A very important note for this recipe: I used my bread machine to make the dough instead of a mixer with a hook. This was less messy and it worked really well for me. I will also include the traditional method later on.

For the bread machine dough method will need:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons yeast dissolved into 250ml warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin if possible)

Have 50g of finely chopped ready-to-eat chorizo and 2 tablespoons of dried thyme at the ready, to add after the dough cycle is ready, and some milk for brushing the dough.

  1. If you have a bread machine then choose the pizza dough option which will take approximately 45 minutes. Remove the dough from the container.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
  3. Work the chorizo and thyme in the dough. When these are well combined leave the dough to rise in a warm place, preferably covered with some oiled clingfilm or a warm damp clean cloth for around 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  4. Brush the dough with the milk.
  5. For the crust to remain nice and golden place two handfuls of ice cubes at the bottom of the oven (you can also either spray the oven with some cold water before closing or fill a small roasting dish with water in place of the ice cubes).
  6. Place the dough on a lightly oiled roasting tray in the oven. Bake for around 40 minutes but keep an eye on it and check its colour every once in a while. I know this is fiddly, but it’s worth it. I’m already smelling the freshly baked bread in your kitchen!

And now for the other method, all you need to do is to replace Step 1 with the following:

  • Mix the dough ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured surface.
  • Knead for 15-20 minutes. I know you have to work at it and use some muscle power but this will develop the dough’s elasticity. So please, please have patience.
  • Put the dough back in a bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Continue from Step 2.

    Enjoy!

    Rob x

J’s Pancake Recipe

Blueberry-Pancakes-(4418)

I introduce to you my lovely husband J. I’ll be cheating today because this is his recipe! J likes to cook and he takes over the kitchen once in a while to whip up some tasty treats. I hand over the baton very graciously during these moments especially during weekends when I mainly bake anyway. I never regret it.

One of my personal favourites is pancakes. He makes a mean stack and they’re always special. Being a perfectionist, he worked and worked on this recipe till he got it right if I may say so myself. He thinks so too I guess but he’ll never admit it. So without further ado here it is. This recipe makes around 6 large thick American style pancakes, and of course if you have a waffle-iron you can make lovely waffles instead of pancakes.

Just a note before we start: instead of buttermilk, you can use the same quantity of milk and leave it at that. You can also add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for around 15-30 minutes. Also feel free to leave the salt out completely. I prefer a salt-free batter personally but I know that J likes a slightly salty flavour. For extra taste and colour contrast J likes to add some blueberries.

  • 175g plain flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt – optional
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk
  • 35g butter, melted
  • 250g blueberries – optional

If you don’t have buttermilk start off by preparing the milk as suggested above. If you’re using only milk then read on.

Measure the flour, baking powder, salt (if you’re using it) and sugar and mix them in a bowl.

For the waffles, or for fluffier pancakes, separate the eggs and use some muscle power to beat the whites into soft peaks.

Mix the milk/buttermilk with the egg yolks and melted butter. Pour these into the dry ingredients but try not to mix the batter too much.

Fold the soft beaten egg whites into the mixture and use a ladle to pour a bit of the pancake batter on a preheated and greased griddle (or a good non-stick pan). Sprinkle in some blueberries if you want at this stage.

Cook on one side until you see bubbles forming throughout the surface and the edges have solidified. Then turn the pancake over on the other side. Repeat until you have used all your batter.

Serve alone with some golden syrup or honey, or with fruit. Or however you want for that matter! Enjoy!

Rob x

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate-Chunk-Muffins-(4414)

A couple of weeks ago I wanted something sweet but which was not going to take the best part of the afternoon to prepare it. When it comes to that I turn to one person. You know who…don’t you?

I bought Nigella Feast recently. (About time…it was published in 2004!) In it is a lovely muffin recipe which I adapted just because I didn’t have all the ingredients. It turned out really well. The only thing is that I’ll have to buy chocolate chips the next time I try it. Chocolate chunks seem to be too heavy for these muffins to handle. But they’re great anyway. This is quick and really easy so give it a go. You will not be disappointed.

Two notes before you start:

What I do for the chocolate chunks is to take a plastic freezer or sandwich bag, put a bar of chocolate inside, close it and bash it with a rolling pin. (See? I said this was quick. Brutal but quick.)

If you want these to be extra chocolatey Nigella suggests adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder with the dry ingredients. Makes 12.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 100g chocolate chunks (or 1 bar)
  • 250ml milk
  • 90ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and fill a muffin tray with paper cases or line each one with baking paper cut in squares.
  2. Put all the dry ingredients, including the chocolate chunks in a large bowl.
  3. Pour the liquids in a smaller bowl, or better still in a medium measuring jug. Pour these into the dry ingredients till all is combined and just moistened. Don’t mix too much to so that the end result will be light and fluffy muffins.
  4. Spoon the mixture into their muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes until the muffins are risen and golden. Check if their completely cooked by inserting a skewer or knife.

Enjoy!

Rob x

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