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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Coconut Mocha 'Frapp'

Last week I broke up for the summer holidays and as tradition goes I always treat myself to something yummy on the way home from work.  Last year it was a strawberries and cream frap from Starbucks and this year it was one of their coconut mochas.  I was really in the mood to try one before however at the time I wanted a hot drink and had it in my head that the new drink I had seen on a billboard somewhere was for a hot chocolate with coconut, at the time I really wanted a hot drink not ice cold so I passed on it.  But last week, Wednesday, was super hot and very sunny and an iced drink really hit the spot.

I love coconut and chocolate.  This drink tastes like a bounty bar whizzed up with ice.    I passed on the cream topping but they did sprinkle it with toasted coconut.  It was very yummy!  The coffee hit worked well with the chocolate and the coconut isn't too sweet.  This isn't the same consistency as the strawberry and cream frap though, this one is more liquid than slush.    

After trying it I knew I had to try and make it at home.  I watched as they made my drink and all they put in the blender was coffee shot, a few pumps of coconut syrup, some ice and the all important chocolate frap mix.  So my first task was to locate the correct ingredients.

First I knew where I could get coconut syrup.  I always keep a stock of hazelnut in the house and still have gingerbread left over from Christmas.  My local Makro store sells all the monin range, but you can get it online if you don't have Makro membership.  Ice and espresso, tick done.  The chocolate frap mix can be brought online from specialist coffee shops that sell for industry.  The stuff I came across was a powder that you mix with milk and store ready to use - a bit like Starbucks.  It was rather expensive though so I decided to experiment.

First I tried this with cocoa powder.  It worked but was rather bland.  Next I tried chocolate milkshake mix (Nesquik) and found it far too sweet.  Finally I decided to try ready made chocolate milkshake, the bottle I used is from Sainsbury.  Just like Goldilocks this was just about right.  So my recipe follows...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Simple Lemon Bars

I have always loved lemon flavoured cakes, biscuits and puddings.  Lemon Tart has to be my all time favourite, as I have said before, I can quite easily eat a whole tart to myself over a weekend.  Today's recipe is inspired from my 'Leon' cookbook.  Lemon bars are simple to make and consist of a shortcake like base topped with a lemon tart egg mixture.  Baked in the oven and dusted with icing sugar you end up with a tray of sharp but sweet tasting bars.  Perfect with a cup of coffee eaten outdoors.

I have slightly adapted the Leon recipe to make the tarts a little more sharper, simply reducing the amount of sugar does this.    You do need to make sure you have a tin with high sides or you might struggle to get all the mixture in.  I used my 'Delia Silverware' swiss roll tin as it was the correct measurements for the recipe and the height is good although could have been a little taller.

Best to chill and then dust with icing sugar just before serving.  You will find that the icing sugar is absorbed when these little goodies are left overnight so you may need to dust again before serving if you don't intend to eat them all in one go.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Ina's Potato Salad

Its been a while since I posted anything savoury.  In my last post I mentioned that I went to a day at the races and, in my  opinion, the main event wasn't a horse race but instead the picnic.  This potato salad is a recipe I have seen Ina Garten make a couple of times and since I own pretty much all her cookbooks I knew that I had to have it somewhere.  

I am not a massive fan of potato salad.  The thick gloopy stuff I have tried from supermarkets has always put me off.  Cold mushy potato and lots of mayo isn't really my thing.  This recipe however is so much better and once I made one batch for the picnic it wasn't long (two days later) I was boiling up another pan full of potatoes to make some more to keep in the fridge as my daily side to whatever I decide to put with it. 

The dressing is so good I even found myself pouring it over gem lettuce and adding a few baby tomatoes as a quick snack salad.

In the recipe Ina suggests buttermilk or white wine.  I have only ever used buttermilk but I guess the wine would add an extra dimension and is something I would try another time.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Cherry Chocolate Brownie Tarts

I have finally broke up for the summer holidays and already Marks & Spencer have back to school items in their windows - depressing or what!  Hopefully this summer will be filled with plenty of baking, lots of gym and days of sunshine.  I hope to finally get my back garden sorted out, it currently looks like a scene from 'Lost', and host lots of alfresco dinner parties.  

On Friday I went to the races, horse races, at Uttoxeter for a friends birthday.  Although I don't gamble it was an excuse to put together a cracking picnic and bake something yummy for dessert.  This recipe is slightly adapted from 'Smart Tart' by Tamasin Day-Lewis.  I say slightly adapted, basically I baked it as mini tarts instead of the large one she presents.  I have halved the amount of brownie mixture however due to there being far too much for 8 mini tarts - I could have filled at least 16!  The recipe does require cherry brandy, 2 tablespoons, and it can be costly but I managed to get a bottle half price (think it cost me £6)  or Tamasin states using any brandy and adding a teaspoon of almond extract to 'cherry it up'.

It is a bit of a pain to stone the cherries but actually it does not take long.  I didn't bother with any fancy cherry stoner gadgets and just used a sharp knife to cut round the stone, I was done in less then 10 minutes.

Make the pastry in the processor, it takes seconds, and rest it well in the fridge.  I found it much easier to cut it in to 8 equal sized pieces and then rolling out, instead of rolling out the whole lot and cutting to fit the mini cases.  If necessary warm the pastry in the hands before rolling out.

These tarts are great warm from the oven, or chilled (expect more fudge brownie)  I found that they warmed up in the picnic basket and when served where just about right!  I ate them without cream but maybe whipping up some cream with a dash of cherry brandy would really make these special.

Please note that in my photographs I made the original amount of batter - far too much!  So I have scaled it back.  Please ignore the amounts in the photographs.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Lime and Coconut Cake

I was given a coconut last week...I know, not the sort of thing that gets given as a present often.  Along with the nut was a post-it setting me a challenge to cook something with it.  I flicked through a couple of my cookbooks - thai curry? ice cream? I wasn't sure.  Then I came across 'Fresh Lime and Coconut Cake' in Delia Smith's Cake book.  

I remember watching her make it on her 'Summer Collection' TV series.  

In the recipe she uses desiccated coconut and soaks it in lime juice for an hour to soften.  I thought I would give it a go with fresh coconut and it works!

My first challenge was cracking open the nut.  I wasn't too bothered about saving the water inside (I tried it once in Thailand and didn't really like it).  So I just took the nut outside and gave it a good whack with a rolling pin.  SMACK! It broke perfectly in two.  I was half expecting a crumbled mess on the floor but a perfect split I got.  Then it was just a task of running a sharp knife around the white of the coconut to loosen and remove it.  I cut off any bits of shell still attached.  A quick whizz in the processor and I had tiny pieces of fresh coconut ready to make the cake with.  

This cake uses the 'all in one' method that Delia seems to like in almost all her cake recipes.  Personally I enjoy the process of making a cake and simply putting it all in a bowl and mixing does not cut it for me.  There is something about creaming the butter and sugar for ages, adding the egg a bit at a time, the risk of splitting and all rest that goes with it.  However, this recipe did give me an excuse to use my handheld mixer again!

This cake does not rise that much, its rather flat.  However its very moist and looks fresh and inviting.    The icing is simply lime juice and icing sugar mixed with some coconut milk powder.  

I brought the milk powder from Tesco, but I am sure you can get it cheaper from smaller Chinese supermarkets.  In the brief to the recipe Delia does suggest that nothing else worked and the coconut milk powder is very much required - I would advise getting some if your going to make this recipe, don't try and sub for something else.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Elderflower & Blackcurrant Eclairs

Summer seems to be finally here.  Today the sun has shone all day.  This morning I ventured out for a walk with Kate and her dog, then we nipped to a local coffee chain for hazelnut lattes before playing with all the dog toys in 'Pets at Home'.  When I returned home I decided to try out a recipe that I have been thinking about for a while.  This recipe, Elderflower & Blackcurrant Eclairs, is one of what I am calling my 'summer flavours that go together' collection.  

Over the next flew blog post I will be presenting a range of recipes where fruit is the theme.  Seasonal fruit would be my ideal choice however I will be travelling the world a little - you will see.

The last time I made eclairs was at school.  I remember well watching my home economics teacher demonstrating how to make choux pasty.  I remember she used a handheld mixer to beat the eggs in to the flour, so did the same (any excuse to use my newest gadget, another Kitchenaid to all to the collection.  Delia states to use strong plain flour, however Raymond Blanc just says use plain.  This recipe uses plain because I happened to have it in.  Next time I will give strong flour ago.  This eclairs turned out well and as you will see from the photos I created small 'two bite' pieces and a few larger 'three bite' ones.  

Elderflower cordial is quite easy to get hold of, my local coop stocked it in their bottle juice section.  The blackcurrant preserve was also from the coop.  My tip is to use a pastry brush to apply the glaze, it gives a more uniform finish and stops excess dripping.