April 18, 2011


Earlier in the year a new face appeared with her own series of cooking programmes on the TV.

Lorraine Pascale is a trained pastry chef and she set about telling us how easy baking is – well she would, wouldn’t she !! If you see anything done by an expert it always looks easy.

Anyway, I liked the look of some of her recipes so I lashed out on the book that goes with the programme and decided to have a go.


I have never made brownies before and thought Lorraine’s recipe looked unusual so this is what I made :

brownies 1

Cookies and cream fudge brownies

The recipe uses lots of eggs, sugar, surprisingly little flour, chocolate and something I had never come across before, Oreo biscuits.

You can see the recipe on the BBC website here.


As it happens, I picked up the ones with the chocolate cream filling rather than the white filling by mistake, not realising there were two types.



You have to break the biscuits into pieces, mix some into the batter then sprinkle the rest on top before putting it into the oven.

The recipe said to put 1/3 of the biscuits in the mixture and 2/3 on top.  I decided to do half and half.


I was a bit concerned that the ones on top would bake dry and become too crunchy, but they didn’t.

My very first brownies, looking exactly like the ones on the telly and the picture in the book.  They were delicious and definitely very easy.

Cookies and cream fudge brownies


165g butter

200g good quality dark chocolate

3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla extract

165g light soft brown sugar

2 tbslp plain flour

1 tblsp cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1 pack of Oreo biscuits, dark with white cream filling


Preheat the oven to 180°fan/gas mk 4.  Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.  Leave some paper overlapping the sides.

Grate or chop the chocolate.  Gently melt the butter in a medium pan.  Then take it off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, eggs and vanilla using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the sugar in two halves.  Whisk until the mixture starts to stiffen then pour in the chocolate and whisk again.

Add the flour, salt and cocoa powder and stir in.  Break the biscuits roughly into halves and add half of them to the mixture.

Tip the mixture into the tin and level the surface gently so as not to lose your whisked-in air.  Scatter the other half of the broken biscuits on top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  They should be just set but soft in the middle.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin.  It will sink and crack on top.  Remove from the tin and cut into squares.  Dust with icing sugar.

Makes 16 brownies, or thereabouts.

April 15, 2011


There has been an interesting TV series recently about reviving certain British foods.  A number of TV chefs have adopted something traditionally British that is in decline and attempted to stimulate interest in it.


It was a very good series, not least of all for reminding us of the stranglehold the major supermarkets have on determining what food is available for us to buy. 

One of the foods presented was the crab.  We harvest tons of beautiful crabs from our shores but most of them go abroad for consumption.  We decided we would rally to the cause and have a go at dressing and cooking a crab for ouselves.  But first we would have to find one to buy.

Here in Derbyshire, we are about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK.  I couldn’t think of anywhere I had ever seen a crab for sale other than our visit to Cromer some years ago.  We Googled fishmongers in Derbyshire and found they are a dying breed.  However, we dropped lucky in Tesco’s.  How it pains me to say that, but for the princely sum of £5 we could have our own cooked, but in one piece, crab.  They just had the one for sale and the lady on the fish counter told us that when that was sold they would order another one so they always had one.  Just the one (at £5).  I wondered fleetingly how long they might have had that one but dismissed the idea just as quickly. When we got it home we discovered it wasn’t entirely in one piece as it had three legs missing.


Meet Cyril the crab.



On the programme, Angela Hartnett showed how easy it was to dress a crab, if a bit fiddly and time consuming.  She was right, it was easy.  Nick did it as it is obviously very much a man’s thing – something primeval in a man makes him want to be the one to dress the crab, gut the fish, skin the rabbit, light the bbq and disappear when the washing up needs doing.

You can see how it’s done here, thanks to Delia.


Our crab produced 100 grams of meat.  The recipe calls for white meat only so we discarded everything else.  Next time we will be a slightly braver and keep the brown meat for something, too.


From it we made four small fish cakes with chilli and spring onion, using home-made breadcrumbs, too.  They were delicious and well worth the effort.  They made a lovely starter and we will definitely make them again, especially if we have guests we want to impress !!

The next week, Nick had a wander round the indoor market in Sheffield in his lunch break and discovered you can buy any number of really fresh crabs in all sizes, none of them more than £3 each.

To see the recipe for CRAB CAKES click here.

April 10, 2011


I sometimes borrow cookbooks from our local library.

rachel allen book

I recently borrowed this book by Rachel Allen.  I have never seen her on TV myself but the recipes in the book looked good.

Browsing through, I spotted one for a fruity twist on one of my favourite puddings, tiramisu.  Instead of the usual coffee, chocolate and brandy (or Amaretto, as per my favourite tiramisu recipe), Rachel uses strawberries, white chocolate and crème de cassis.  The picture looked so pretty and scrumptious that I just had to give it a try.  You can see the recipe on Rachel’s website here.

The only strawberries in the shops in April seem to be the large Spanish ones.  They always look a lot better than they taste and can be rather limp on flavour I find, but they worked quite well in the recipe.

tiramisu 1tiramisu 2

You make the cheese mixture in the usual way, then stir in the melted chocolate, fold in the egg whites and begin constructing the pudding.  You can make it in a gratin dish, a trifle bowl or a number of individual glasses.

tiramisu 5tiramisu 7

Getting your ducks in a row.

You dip the sponge fingers in the syrup and layer up the pudding according to the instructions.  the quantities worked out perfectly – there were only 4 sponge fingers left over using my size of bowl and a tiny dribble of syrup which I poured on top of the second layer of fruit.

tiramisu 6

The recipe said to melt 150g of the 200g of white chocolate into the mixture and grate the remaining 50g on top of the finished pudding.  50g sounded like a lot of grated chocolate to me so I just reserved a couple of squares to grate on the top and put the rest into the mixture.

tiramisu 8

I used crème de cassis but next time I think I might try it using crème de framboise and raspberries.  I also used my big trifle bowl to make a large dessert but I bet it would look lovely served in pretty glasses.

It was absolutely delicious and as with all the tiramisus I have ever made, it was even better the next day.


This is what you need

200g caster sugar (in two 100g halves)

400g strawberries (halved if large)

50ml crème de cassis or framboise

200g white chocolate

250g mascarpone cheese

4 eggs

1 box of sponge fingers (also called boudoir or savoyard biscuits)

This is what you do

Begin by making the strawberry syrup.  Put 100g of the sugar in a saucepan with 150ml water, bring to the boil slowly and simmer for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes then add the cassis or framboise and strawberries.  Put on one side to cool completely.

Melt all but 2-3 squares of the white chocolate, either in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave in 30-second blasts.  Allow to cool slightly.

Separate the eggs.  Whisk the egg yolks with the other 100g of sugar until thick and pale, using an electric whisk.  Beat in the mascarpone until smooth then stir in the melted chocolate.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to the stiff peaks stage and then fold into the egg mixture.

Strain the cooled strawberries over a flat dish suitable for dipping the biscuits into.  Then assemble all your bowls of components in a row to build up the dish as follows: biscuits on the left, next to that the dish of syrup, then your serving bowl or glasses.  Have the strained strawberries and the egg mixture to hand.

Dip the biscuits one by one into the syrup and use them to line the base of the bowl or dishes until about half have been used up.

Place half the egg mixture on top then half the strawberries.

Dip the remaining biscuits and use them to make a second layer.  There may be a few left over.  Then put the rest of the fruit on top of the biscuits and pour any remaining syrup on top of them.  Finish off with the other half of the egg mixture. 

Grate the last few squares of white chocolate and sprinkle over the top.  Chill for at least 6 hours before serving.  Chilling overnight is recommended.

Serves 8-10