Chocolate Espresso Cake

I was experimenting with different kinds of chocolate for a tray cake and this was the outcome, a very dark, very intense chocolatey cake. Almost a bit too crumbly for my liking but everyone else seemed to like it.

Ingredients:

250g plain flour (2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp good cocoa powder (unsweetened!)
175g light brown sugar (2/3 of a cup)
100g Espresso Chocolate
50g dark chocolate chips
250 ml milk (1 cup)
90ml vegetable oil (1/3 of a cup)
1 large egg
1 tsp real vanilla extract
100g of pine nuts
100g of pekan nuts
1tsp of instant coffee powder dissolved in  a few table spoons of hot water

Preheat the oven to 200° C and line a baking tray with some parchment paper. Roast the pine and pekan nuts in a pan until they are hot and golden. Don’t burn them!
Take them out of the pan and roughly chop them with a big knife.
Chop the bar of Espresso chocolate into small pieces.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder into a bowl, add the sugar and stir to make sure it’s all evenly mixed. In a bigger bowl mix the oil, egg, milk and vanilla extract together then add the dry ingredients and the chocolate and nuts. Carefully fold everything together.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Check with a wooden skewer if they are done (if it comes out with no crumbs on it they are ready!).
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Beef and Ale Stew

I am sure you do the same, when you cook something that you’ve made many times before you just throw the things together and ignore the original recipe and the listed amounts of ingredients.
Same with this beef and ale stew… I’ve made it many times before but every time it tastes different. Last time I used the wrong ale, it tasted too bitter. So this time I opted for an ale that was described to have “fruity and nutty flavour”, the Double Dragon Ale. It was also on offer 😉

Here is my recipe (for 4-6 people):

500 gram diced lean beef (stewing beef for example)
5 carrots (chopped coarsely into chunks)
half a parsnip (cut into small chunks, I use them only for flavour in this recipe
about 10 peeled shallots (depends on the size, I used the long ones not the round ones)
1 pack of brown mushrooms (cleaned and left whole)
1 table spoon of brown sugar
1 table spoon of concentrated tomatoes
1 bottle of ale
about 1 pint of vegetable stock
freshly ground pepper
salt
1 dried chilli
3 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
a good handful of small new potatoes
potato flour for thickening
bunch of flat parsley

Brown the beef in a big pot (I use my pressure cooker) in some olive oil (or vegetable oil, it doesn’t matter), add the carrots, shallots, mushrooms and potatoes. Add the brown sugar and tomato mark as well as the garlic cloves and the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper; add the bottle of ale and the vegetable stock.
Since I cook my stew in a pressure cooker it doesn’t take long to cook it. Once the little “nipple” is up, I turn the cooker down to the lowest heat and let it simmer for about half an hour.
Once it is ready just thicken it to your liking. Dish up and sprinkle some chopped parsley over it. We like our stew quite hot so I also serve sour cream with my stew.
Enjoy!

World Cupcakes

We were invited to watch the England vs. USA match at our friends’ house and I thought I’ll bring along some chocolate chip muffins and fitting to the occasion I decorated my muffins with the English flag.
These are the best chocolate chip muffins I’ve ever eaten and I don’t say that because I made them!

Ingredients:

250g plain flour (2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp good cocoa powder (unsweetened!)
175g light brown sugar (2/3 of a cup)
150g dark chocolate chips (and some more if you want them on top)
250 ml milk (1 cup)
90ml vegetable oil (1/3 of a cup)
1 large egg
1 tsp real vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200° C and fill a muffin tray with paper cases. Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder into a bowl, add the sugar and stir to make sure it’s all evenly mixed. In a bigger bowl mix the oil, egg, milk and vanilla extract together then add the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips. Carefully fold everything together but don’t overwhisk it!
Spoon the batter into your paper cases (about 2/3 ).
If you don’t want to decorate them with butter cream now is the time to sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Check with a wooden skewer if they are done (if it comes out with no crumbs on it they are ready!).
Lastly decorate them with good vanilla butter cream icing. I use the Betty Crocker one because it has that slightly fake American taste to it which I love. I can’t explain this taste… non Americans who’ve been to America know what I’m talking about.

Greek Salad

Eating this salad makes me feel like I’m on holiday! I used crunchy salad leaves, cucumber slices, tomato slices, red onion slices, cubed feta cheese, green pepperoncini and green olives. The dressing was simply half malt vinegar, half white balsamic vinegar, one crushed garlic clove, salt, pepper and sugar. All mixed together and drizzled over the salad.

Prosciutto and mozzarella salad with nectarines

One of my favourite summer salads… and so easy to make!
All you need is:

2 good handfuls of rocket salad
4 ripe nectarines, stoned and cut into eight pieces
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into pieces
4 slices of good Italian ham, be it Parma or San Daniele or even Culatello (although this is considered a salami), torn into pieces
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 handful of fresh basil leaves

Arrange the rocket on a large plate, add the rest of the ingredients, scatter toasted pine nuts over the plate and lastly drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad.

I like a dark balsamic vinegar dressing with this salad:

5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Maldon salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp dark balsamic vinegar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp garlic salt