26 October 2014

Halloween


So today didn’t quite go according to plan.
I had the best intentions- to have a leisurely morning strolling the shops and buying ingredients and then spending all afternoon baking, styling and shooting- with Sam Smith on full volume, a cup of earl grey and the beautiful Spanish October sun peeping through the window on a Sunday afternoon.  
What actually happened was a panicked manic run through the streets of Malsana, realising just how little baking equipment I had in my flat and questioning how I was ever going to make a cake without weighing scales!
(Who am I kidding- this cake looks as though its been made with a wooden spoon, a mixing bowl and not much else!)
Coco powder just doesn’t really seem to exist here in Spain and double cream is even more of a mystery!
But eventually I tracked them down and set about turning my little Spanish kitchen into an absolute bomb-site!
I was aiming to create a chocolate extravaganza, perfect to celebrate Halloween.
The original plan was to fill the cake with a chocolate orange buttercream and then to top with chocolate ganache and a white chocolate cobweb pattern.
However, today it was just not meant to be and so I ended up with a very messy (but still delicious) chocolate cake topped with a whole array of icing attempts!
Therefore if like me, you are a messy pup in the kitchen- this recipe is for you. The basis of the cake is a super moist chocolate orange sponge made with dark chocolate. And then the rest is up to you- I filled mine with fresh cream and topped it with layer of melted milk chocolate, white chocolate swirls and grated dairy milk! If you have small children around- leave them to it!
I know I'm a bit early for Halloween but in my opinion, it's a good reason for anything chocolate and sweet related. It's not really celebrated in Spain - it took me a good few hours just to find a pumpkin!
But if you're back home and looking for some inspiration for a dinner party or something to take to a friends this halloween then look no further. 


The truth is, living in a new country is hard. I'm not going to lie and pretend that I'm eating paella every night, dancing Flamenco every weekend and enjoying an afternoon siesta. 
Speaking a new language 24/7, making new friends and just adapting to a completely new culture is a real challenge- I'm exhausted. But I'm also learning to relax into a completely different style of living and frame of mind. Everybody here is just so chilled!! 
Baking is one of those things lets me stop for a minute and think. It's time for myself and something that reminds me of home and cosy Autumn nights. Plus Spanish people just really don't do cakes like us British!

Ingredients:

125g dark chocolate (70% minimum cocoa solids)
200g butter
100ml water
Juice of 1 orange
225g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
50g cocoa powder
400g caster sugar
3 large eggs (or 4 small)
Zest of 1 orange

Double cream
Chocolate


Method:

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. 

Put the butter, chocolate, fresh orange juice and water in a medium-sized saucepan over a low heat and melt until smooth and combined. 
Remove from the heat and leave to cool. 
In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder, cocoa and caster sugar, 
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the orange zest and then gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture. 
Fold in the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon until you have a smooth cake batter. 
Pour into two greased and lined 23cm circular cake tins and then bake in the centre of the oven for 25-35 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before tuning them out of their tins and onto a wire cooling rack. 

Fill the cake with your choice of fresh cream, chocolate buttercream or whipped orange flavoured frosting. 
Top with whatever you fancy! I made a simple milk chocolate ganache by melting 300ml cream over a medium heat until simmering. Pour the hot cream over 150g milk chocolate and stir until smooth. I then pop this into the freezer for half an hour or so to firm up before spreading over the top of the cake. 




Have a great Halloween!





9 October 2014

Roast chicken with lentils and brandy



I've moved to Madrid. 

Yep, I'm still not sure its really hit me- I'm not here just for a holiday. I'm actually here to live in Spain, talk Spanish and eat Spanish food for a whole year! Of course me being me, I packed so badly and ignored the idea that Spain ever gets cold but it definitely does and as its started to chuck it down with rain today, I'm starting to question whether sandals and dresses will be sufficient for the next few weeks! I think a trip to Zara might be in order (after all it's a Spanish company and therefore much cheaper out here- such a good excuse!)

One thing that's proved very hard to get used to out here is the timings. Last week someone asked me if I'd like to go for a drink. I thought great but had to think again when they suggested having supper at 10 and going for a drink at 12!! way past my bed time! The clubs here don't even open till 2 and most people stay out till 5 or 6 in the morning. I think it's definitely going to take me a while to adjust! 

This week, I've just about got the hang of my new flat and although I couldn't bring any of my cooking equipment or books with me, (I only had a precious 35kg worth of clothes allowance for a whole year!) I've already scouted out some shops where I can buy my cooking essentials and loads of funky restaurants and cafes that I can't wait to try. 

However, until I've established myself a bit better in my little spanish kitchen, here is a recipe I made before I left for Spain, when the leaves were just starting to turn back home. 

I originally intended to make this recipe with guinea fowl. I've never cooked guinea fowl before and as a gamey board with a much meatier and richer taste, I wanted to try it roasted with this combination of smokey bacon and earthy lentils. However, as I was just a bit too early for guinea fowl- another week or so and it would have been right in season,  I had to rethink my recipe to chicken. If you are able to get hold of some guinea fowl from your local butcher, then have a go at the recipe I've linked to at the bottom of this post. 
Whatever meat you serve this with, the lentil mixture is really wholesome, tasty and great even eaten just by itself or added to soups. 
It's the perfect autumnal supper and involves minimal washing-up!



Ingredients:

1 large free range chicken
1 large pack bacon lardons/pancetta
4 medium garlic cloves
2 carrots
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
2 big mushrooms
1 tin of cannellini beans (246g drained weight)
Large handful fresh tarragon
200g green lentils
50ml brandy
700ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Double cream (optional)
Extra brandy (optional)


Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (fan.)

Put a large heavy-bottomed casserole dish over a high heat and add a good glug of olive oil and a large knob of salted butter.

Season the chicken and put it breast side down into the pan. Brown the chicken on all sides and then remove it from the pan and onto a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the bacon lardons to the same pan. Fry until they start to turn golden brown. Finely chop the garlic, onion, carrot and celery and add to the pan. Continue to fry the mixture for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables begin to tenderise. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan.

Add in the brandy and stir the mixture for a few minutes- letting the alcohol evaporate. Then add in the drained beans, finely chopped tarragon and the lentils.

Season the mixture well with salt and pepper and then add in two thirds of the chicken stock. Stir the mixture well and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add in the remaining stock and then place the whole chicken back in the pot on top of the lentil mix. Cover the dish with a lid and put into the oven.

Roast the chicken in the oven (covered) for 45 minutes. (You may need to add in a little more stock throughout if the lentil mixture looks a little dry or as if it might catch on the bottom of the pan.)

After 45 minutes, remove the lid from the dish and brush a little butter over the top of the chicken. Return the dish to the oven and roast for an extra 15-25 minutes until the chicken is golden brown on top and the juices run clear and then remove from the oven.

If you want to, you can also stir a little double cream and brandy through the lentil mixture at this stage before serving.

Serve the chicken on a large plate, seated on top of the lentil mixture. I served mine with purple sprouting broccoli.






Inspired by: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2875670/potroast-guinea-fowl-with-lentils-sherry-and-bacon