Double layer chocolate cake

Recipe by Ina Garten. Incredibly easy to make and absolutely delicious. I think this will be my standard chocolate cake from now on. I only made slight changes to it. Here’s a good website for conversions if you don’t have cups at home.
Ingredients for the CAKE
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup sugar
1 cup soft light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs (or three normal sized ones)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
½ cup of dark chocolate chips (optional)
Ingredients for the FROSTING
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C or gas mark 6. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess. (I only have one round cake pan so my cake baking took a while)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
Note: I don’t have a kitchen machine. I only have electric whisks. In this case, I used good old fashioned elbow grease and just mixed it together with a cake spoon.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. I sprinkled chocolate chips into the pan I wanted to use for the bottom layer. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
MAKE THE FROSTING: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.
I don’t have any comments to the frosting above as I haven’t really been able to quite manage good frosting for some reason. So, I went the express way and bought
2 x 450g pots Betty Crocker Chocolate Butter Cream Icing
100 grams of dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. instant coffee granules
Melt the chocolate chips over hot water in a bowl (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water). I don’t believe in melting chocolate in the microwave, sorry. Dissolve the instant coffee in a little hot water and add to the melted chocolate. Add the vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Let it cool down to room temperature. Empty both pots of icing into a bowl. Add the chocolate coffee mixture and mix it all together.
Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge. Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Noodle salad with prawns and spicy peanut butter dressing

We had the first nice day in ages on Saturday and I felt like making something summery. This is a really nice salad (courtesy of Ina Garten but slightly changed by me with the addition of prawns) that doesn’t take up too much of your time and tastes wonderful! The salad is supposed to be warm.

Ingredients for the salad:

1/2 pound thin spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles
1 pound of raw tiger prawns
1 pound sugar snap peas
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds, divided into 2 and 1
½ cup smooth peanut butter
1 red peppers, cored and seeded, and thinly sliced
4 spring onions (white and green parts), sliced diagonally
1 red chilli, finely sliced
a handful of basil, roughly chopped

Marinade for the prawns:

1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of ketchup

Cook your noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Cook the sugar snaps in boiling water for about four or five minutes until they are tender but still have bite. Take them out of the water when they are done and throw them into a bowl with ice water to stop them from cooking any more. Drain.
In a bowl, combine all ingredients for the prawn marinade, add the prawns and stir. Make sure all prawns are covered by the marinade.
For the salad dressing, whisk together the oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and peanut butter.
Combine the noodles, sugar snap peas, peppers, chilli and spring onions in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the noodle mixture.
Heat up a frying pan and fry the prawns until they are pink on both sides. Add the marinade for the last half a minute, then empty the pan into the noodle salad.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and the basil and toss together. Enjoy!

Duck à l’orange

Last year in October my friend Fay asked me if I wanted to come to Brighton for a indulgent evening. Intrigued by the indulgent bit I enquired further and she told me she organised a Goddess of chocolate evening. You’d learn how to make chocolate, there was a cocktail bar where you could create your own cocktail, all containing chocolate of course and when I arrived there I saw that there were also two ladies who smothered your body – ok, in this case only your arm – in chocolate to massage you and make your skin incredibly soft.
The icing on the cake was that Heston Blumenthal was coming to join us for some time with his camera crew for his new series called “Feast“. And indeed, half an hour into the evening Heston came and all the ladies went crazy over him.
Anyway, last Tuesday the first episode of the “Feast” series was aired on Channel 4 and I actually forgot about it until luckily I caught the repeat on Channel 4 plus 1 an hour later. The subject of this episode was Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. Heston went wild! He managed to bring so many fascinating things from the book to life, be it the lickable wallpaper as an amuse bouche or the chocolate waterfall for dessert. And for his main course he wanted to flavour his duck with an orange explosion (but sadly, this didn’t go so well).  
His magic mushroom starter was simply out of this world – and I’ve not even tasted it! – and his Duck à l’orange take on was equally crazy and incredibly charming and ever so creative.
And ever since I saw this episode I had such a craving for duck with orange sauce. So I defrosted the duck I bought a few weeks ago when it was on offer and went and bought oranges.
Here’s my take on of a Duck à l’orange. You’ll need:
1 duck with giblets, weighing approximately 5-6 lb (2.25-2.75 kg)
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the glaze:
1 heaped teaspoon fine-cut Seville orange marmalade (although it works equally fine with coarse cut marmalade and the one I used was especially good, it was homemade by my friend Gilly!)
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons marsala
8 fl oz (225 ml) stock made with the duck giblets (which is really easy to make while your duck roasts in the oven, all you need is a pint of water, add a few bayleaves, some crushed thyme, some dried sage, two  juniper berries, some cumin seeds, three roughly chopped garlic cloves,  three carrots cut into small chunks, one onion quartered and a few spring onions, just roughly chopped, salt and pepper and of course the duck giblets. Put on the stove, let it boil and then simmer it for two hours.)
grated zest and juice of 1 medium orange
3 level tablespoons Seville orange marmalade
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (220°C).
Place the duck breast down in a roasting tin and prick the bird all over with a fork. Rub in salt and season with freshly ground pepper. If you have rub in some mugwort, it gives an incredible flavour to the duck. Quarter an orange and place the pieces around the duck. Do the same with an onion.
Put the duck in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Then turn the duck around and reduce the heat down to gas mark 4 (180°C) and continue to roast for a further 2½ hours. From time to time take the tin out and press a spoon down on the onions and oranges to release their juices. Drain the duck fat and the juices into a gravy/fat separator and once the liquid fat has settled pour the juices into a bowl. I usually keep the fat in a tall glass in the fridge and use it up over the next few months.
Ten minutes before the end of the cooking take a spoon and spread the orange marmalade all over the skin of the duck and return it to the oven for its final cooking. Once the skin is nicely brown and glistening remove the duck to a carving board to rest while you make the sauce.
Take the duck giblets out of the stock and drain the pot through a sieve into a bowl. Mash the vegetables and press through the sieve to get all the juices and flavours.
Take the roasting tin and add the orange juice to the excess fat and orange and onion pieces. Scrape off all the brown bits in the tin, then empty the tin into a fine sieve over the bowl with the duck stock and press through all the juices.
Now pour the sauce into the fat separating jug, wait until the fat has settled and then pour the sauce into a small pot. Add the orange zest, Seville orange marmalade and the Marsala. Season and simmer gently for 15 minutes. You can thicken the sauce by adding some potato starch or a couple of spoon fulls of Bisto (only if your sauce lacks salt. And most people will add “and only if you are lazy”).
I served the duck with green asparagus, green beans and roast potatoes (boil peeled potatoes until they are just done, drain off all the water, put a lid on the pot and shake the pot a few times so the potatoes are roughed up. While the potatoes are on the stove, I put olive oil (quite generously) on a baking tray and place it in the oven with the duck. When the potatoes are done I take out the tray and put the potatoes on. A bit more olive oil drizzled over the potatoes, some salt, pepper and mixed herbs and back into the oven for 1.5 hours. I then like to take them out and place them into their own oven for the final hour at gas mark 5. In between I turn them a few times to ensure they brown evenly!).
While the duck tasted absolutely divine it looked nothing like Heston Blumenthal’s duck treats!

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

I’ve been watching so much Barefoot Contessa recently that I found myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen. She made a lemon yoghurt cake the other day and it turned out to be so easy and the cake wonderfully moist and lemony.


 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
3 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the syrup:

Same amount of sugar as lemon juice. I use 1/3 of a cup of each.

Preheat the oven to 160° Celsius.  Grease and flour a loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, 2/3 of the lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the (1/3 cup) lemon juice and (1/3 cup) sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and poke it all over with either a wooden skewer or a spaghetti noodle.

Poor the the lemon syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in. Let it cool in the tin. Take it out and prepare the icing.

My icing contains icing sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. And for extra crunch I sprinkle some normal sugar over the icing.

Beef stew – slow cooked

Just before Easter the supermarkets had all kinds of meat on offer. I didn’t fancy lamb again (we had lamb steaks the other day) so I bought a beef roasting joint, weighing about 1 kilo. Since the weather wasn’t really spring like as it should be at this time of the year I thought, why not make a beef stew in my slow cooker? I tried out Parker’s Beef Stew, a recipe by Ina Garten.  I didn’t have any sun dried tomatoes, only sun blushed but they work equally nice (I assume of course!). I also used brown mushrooms instead of white and I also added some ketchup as I think this recipe can do with that little bit of vinegar and sugar! 
1 kilo good quality beef, cut into fairly large cubes
About 3/4 of a bottle of good red wine
3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
3 bay leaves
all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
2 onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 punnet of brown mushrooms, halved
1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
about half a litre of beef or vegetable stock
1 large (or 2 small) branch fresh rosemary
2 twigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped sun blushed or dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of Ketchup
1 small package of frozen peas
Put the beef in a bowl with the smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves and pour the red wine over so that the meat is covered. Marinate in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight).
Combine some flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Lift the beef out of the marinade with a slotted spoon onto some paper towel and pat dry. Take the bay leaves and garlic out of the marinade and put them into the slow cooker. Save the marinade. In batches, dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Place the beef into the slow cooker and continue to brown the remaining beef, adding oil as necessary. (If the beef is very lean, you’ll need more oil.) Place all the beef into the slow cooker.
Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil to the large pot and add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Put all of the vegetables to the beef in the slow cooker. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade to the empty pot and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the beef stock, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables, set the slow cooker to low (for all day) or high (for half a day), cover the pot and you’re done!
About ten minutes before you want to eat stir in the frozen peas. Serve with crusty bread to mop up the sauce on your plate!
Ina Garten’s recipe is done in an oven pot. So if you don’t have a slow cooker, then preheat the oven to 160° Celsius. Once you’ve put everything into your pot simmer the stew over medium heat on top of the stove. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to cook it for good 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking. If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower your oven heat.
We had this for the second time last night and I served green beans and noodles with it. As with every stew you heat up it always tastes better the next day!

Quick and easy tenderloin of pork

I really don’t understand why people in the UK don’t eat more pork, it tastes so nice and is so cheap.
I picked up a tenderloin of pork the other day and made it with a creamy mushroom sauce, green beans and boiled potatoes. I know I’ve made it before and blogged about it… but my mushroom sauce is slightly different this time 😉

All you need is:

tenderloin of pork
1 punnet of brown button mushrooms (or any other ones you like) – sliced or halfed
a handful of dried porcini mushrooms – soak for ten minutes in hot water, then drain.
½ bunch of spring onions – chopped
1 clove of garlic – chopped
1 red chilli – chopped
about 125ml of single cream
salt and pepper
a pinch of smoked paprika
a slosh of madeira
olive oil
green beans
1 tsp. of dried savory
knob of butter

Put water on for your potatoes, I don’t peel them but just cook them in boiling salt water until they are done and then take the skin off.
I cook my beans in boiling salt water with dried savory. Cook them al dente, drain and throw a knob of butter into the pot and close the lid.
Cut your tenderloin of pork into inch thick slices, salt and pepper them and fry them in a pan with some olive oil a couple of minutes on each side until they are nicely browned. Take them out and wrap into tin foil and keep warm in the oven. Add some more olive oil into the pan you just used and gently fry the chopped spring onions, chilli and garlic. Add the mushrooms and fry them for a few minutes.
 Add the porcini mushrooms and deglaze with a slosh of Madeira.
Add the cream and season to your liking. Put the pork (and the meat juices) back into the pan and give it a good stir. Reduce the heat and put a lid onto your pan.
In the meantime put potatoes and beans onto plates, then the pork with the mushroom sauce. This is such an easy and quick dish that tastes delicious everytime.