21/08/2011

Chocolate Cherry Cake for a hardworking husband

My poor Tall and Handsome Husband has been working dreadfully hard of late. He got home at way past 1am last Friday and he had to work on Saturday just gone as well. It’s just not right having to go to work on a Saturday after working a full week. As I waved him goodbye at 8.30am I thought “There’s a man who deserves a cake.” I’d already bought some big, fat British cherries from Marks & Spencer on Friday as they had a half price sale on selected fruit, so I went to the shops and got a few more to add to the pile.

I wasn’t sure what cake to choose first of all, I just wanted a cake with cherries in it. I looked at Madeira cake recipes, but I also wanted cinnamon in there because Tex likes that very much. I looked at Marble Cake but that wasn't right and then...Chocolate Cake! Yes, that would do nicely but what kind?

After a few internet searches, most of which led me to American sites with cakes seemingly made entirely of sugar with a few added cherries, it slowly dawned on me that I was sitting right next to a pile of cookery books. Doh! 

I looked in Rachel Allen’s ‘Bake’ and there it was. A plain and simple recipe for a chocolate cake using melted chocolate and cocoa. I had all the ingredients so off I went.

De-pipping the cherries was laborious, but fun. The cherries were a bit too big for the de-stoner, so they splattered and my sink - and my hands – ended up looking like there had been an awful massacre in my kitchen. Dark purple cherry juice was all over the place, but the cherries were finally rendered pipless. They went into the freezer while I made up the cake part, as a friend had told me that if you partially freeze them, they don’t sink in the batter.

The recipe is for a cake cooked in two sandwich tins. I, of course, being the contrary mortal that I am, didn't want to do a layer cake, so there was a flurry of checking on Twitter about baking a two tin cake in a single, deeper tin, (thank you @josordini and @sarahbakes_uk) then there was the melting of chocolate, creaming of butter and sugar, the adding of eggs and the folding in of flour. Then the cherries went in. Pour the lot into a prepared tin, and bake at around 160C for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.

It worked, and Tall and Handsome likes it! Yay! Thank you Rachel Allen, for making my cake a success. I’m sorry I tweaked it, but it did actually work.


Chocolate Cake

125g/41/2 oz dark chocolate

3 tbsp milk

150g/5oz very soft butter

150g/5oz caster sugar

3 medium eggs

200g/7oz plain flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder (I used Green and Blacks)

1 tsp baking powder (oops, I forgot this!)

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 level tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

Approximately 300g big, fat cherries, destoned

Chop some of the cherries in half, and leave about 6 whole, if you have any whole ones. Place in a bowl in the freezer, as if you partially freeze them they don't sink in the batter.

Preheat the oven to: Moderate/ 350F / 175C / 160C (fan) Gas 4

Grease and flour the sides of a cake tin. I used an 8" x 3.5" round one.

Line the base with non-stick parchment or liner. I lined the sides as well because I'm paranoid that nothing I bake will ever come out of a cake tin.

Melt the chocolate with the milk in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Try not to eat the melted chocolate with a spoon.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. This went like a bowlful of marshmallow fluff, which took me slightly by surprise. 

Fold in the melted chocolate. I used a spatula to do this, much easier than a metal spoon.

Sift* in the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarb and salt and fold in with the aforementioned spatula. Try not to eat all the cake mix with a spoon.

Take the cherries out of the freezer. Arrange the whole ones at the bottom of the cake tin, mix the chopped pieces into the batter, then pour the batter gently over the cherries in the tin. (You really don't need to do this, you can just chuck them all into the batter. It was just me being pretentious.)

Scrape the bowl out with the spatula so no cake mix gets left behind and so you can lick the spatula.

Smooth the top with a spoon, lick the spoon, and pop the cake into the oven. 

I baked mine for about an hour at 160C fan. The centre stayed liquid for a long time, which I suspect was due to the cherry juice.

It’s a very nice cake. Not overly sweet at all, which pleases me, and would go very nicely with some ice cream or crème fraiche. One for the @Make This Again’ folder.

Close upSlice close upSliceThe finished cake

Oh and, by the way, it is quite nice for breakfast…

*I don’t sift flour. That comes under the heading of Can’t Be Arsed. What I do, however, is out the dry goods into a bowl and aerate with a balloon whisk. No lumps, no sifting required.

15/08/2011

The Marvellous, Non-Mechanical Food Urchin Supper Club!

  • Venue: Food Urchin Towers
  • Address: Only the people in the know need to know.
  • Food: Mediterranean influenced, tasty meat based dinner. Also bloody gorgeous, that's what.
Sometimes I feel like a real food blogger. Only sometimes, mind, as most of the time, when I haven't updated at all due to Life, or I'm not feeling the passion, coupled with the problem that I just do not have the time to attend all of the fabulous things that others seem to do, then I think I'm only playing at it. I am also very aware that this food preoccupation is very much a first world thing, and I feel quite self-conscious about it.

However, on Saturday 13th August I dragged Mr Tall and Handsome Husband to the house of the lovely Mr and Mrs Food Urchin. Having dinner at an actual supperclub made me feel part of the food blogging crowd again, as I was surrounded by people as passionate and as obsessed by food and cooking as me. It was gratifying to meet other people who read cookery books like novels. My wonderful Tall and Handsome Husband puts up with the house and the bedside table being liberally sprinkled with all of my books, and for that I am very thankful. He also puts up with my food and cooking fetish which, seeing as he is a man who has quite simple food needs, I am unbelievably grateful for. He's not a great one for crowds of people, preferring the quiet life, and I am still astounded that he puts up with me, being the significantly more noisy and sociable person that I am. Yes, yes, I know, I don't shut up unless I'm asleep.

After a small tussle with the SatNav, we arrived, late, at Food Urchin Towers. We wandered up and down for a bit, wondering which was the right house, until a nice neighbour took pity on us and said "You want the 'ouse party?" We nodded a lot. "Next door but one mate!" We said thank you, being the well brought up people that we are. As we approached the front door I could smell lovely cooking aromas, so figured we were definitely at the right house. The door was opened by the stunning Mrs FU. Drop dead gorgeous she was, in a beautiful floaty dress and wearing a Calm and Patience of a Saint aura around her shoulders. She made us both feel utterly welcome, and I presented my bounty of some Turkish bread that we'd brought along, plus a small tupperware with two halloumi mini quiches in it. They already had bread, but, as Mrs FU said, now they got to have some too! I was very happy to oblige.

Onward to the garden, where the Digging Up of the Lamb was about to start. I was very glad we hadn't missed the start, as the idea of watching Danny try to dig out the hole that he'd already had to dig through concrete and then fill in was oddly appealing, but then I’m horrible like that.

Look. Danny. Innahole. Essex Man at Work!

Twisted Firestarter

Danny in a hole
Essex Man at Work 
Photos courtesy of Mr FU himself.


Our very own Heston waved from the bottom of the garden, gave us a brief history of where kleftiko comes from, and soon a most valiant effort was going on, with the help of Dad, to exhume the two shoulders of lamb that had gone into the pit six hours earlier. The smell of the meat and the smoke was gorgeous. Suddenly one of the cats appeared out of nowhere but then thought better of it, so sat patiently on the trampoline instead, watching with avid interest as the lamb was raised. A quick carry of the two baskets up to the top of the garden and the Unveiling began. Even more smells wafted around the gathered peoples, and stomachs started to rumble mightily.

Danny and the Lamb

The Unveiling. Photos from hereon courtesy of sarahbb1, whose fab review is here:
http://eatsdrinksandsleeps.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/the-food-urchin-supper-club-buried-lamb-night/

It was nearly time. We all made our way into the house, and were seated by our hosts. Mrs FU is definitely the hostess with the mostest.

The starters came out, and soon we were all tucking into delicious home made baba ghanoush, taramasalata, houmous and tzatziki, accompanied by grilled halloumi and a lorra lorra bread.

Starters!

Please note, the taramasalata (inbetween the two slices of halloumi) is NOT PINK. This is right and proper and as it should be. It was all just perfect, and I happily scraped at my plate then stole what Tex didn't eat as well. This was my kind of meal, but then you probably already know that.
Next up, the star of the show, the kleftiko. Greek salad to accompany, and roasted potatoes with capers and onions.
Mains!

Beautifully flavoured lamb, tender to eat, and it all just worked. Us Greeks did know a thing or two about food. Just don’t ever lend us money. Unless you get a kebab in return for it. Perhaps. Danny did my ancestors proud. He’d probably have ended up promised the Favourite Daughter or something in gratitude for his lamb cooking skills.
We were nearing a state of Fullness, but we bravely ploughed on and OH MY GOD I am so glad we did for what came next was one of the nicest, most satisfying desserts I have had in a long while.

OH GOD Dessert

Pears poached in a delicate rose water syrup, with praline, pistachios, crispy filo strips and a beautifully silky ice cream. There was silence as bowls were scraped clean. It was heavenly, and I want to make it myself. Inspired by a recipe from the Tessa Kiros cookbook Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes, it was just bliss in a bowl. Yes, I drooled over the beeyootiful cookbook. No, I haven’t bought it. Yet.

There followed an evening of nattering, and discussion, and swapping food memories, plus a huge amount of cat fussing. Much enthusiasm was shown for ‘eating the whole animal’, but as we were sat in the very kitchen where The Pig Head Massacre took place, this is hardly surprising.


A few people had to leave early to catch trains, and I admit to feeling very happy that we only lived a short drive away, because I was having such fun.

I didn’t manage to catch everyone’s Twitter/blog names, but I’m sure we’ll catch up at some point.

HUGE thanks to Danny and Holly for hosting a bunch of reprobates, and also showing such enthusiasm for it all, and such kindness to us. I do believe a bloody good time was had by all, and I will definitely be going again if they’ll have me. I think Mr and Mrs FU have captured a place in my heart.

Oh, yes, and someone was brave enough to try the marrow rum – as written about here:
http://foodurchin.blogspot.com/2011/08/marrow-rum-update.html

Don’t worry, I think Paul aka @nonsenspipe is okay. If he doesn’t blog for a while I shall be checking up…