The best brownies ever

Here’s another recipe from Toll House that I grew up on. This means that for me, a brownie must contain chocolate chips or chunks. Without them, it’s a sorry squidgy half-cake. These brownies are a little fudgy, moist in the middle, slightly crisp on the outside, and just rich enough. The chocolate chips add bite and sass.

100g plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
75g butter
150g sugar
2 tbsp water
350g chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Combine flour, bicarbonate of soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Combine butter, sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, adding half the chocolate chips and the vanilla extract. Stir until melted and smooth, and transfer to a large bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then stir in the remaining chocolate chips. Pour into a baking pan (approx 20cm square) and bake for around half an hour.

Once cooled (if you can wait that long!), cut into generous squares and eat all by yourself. Erm, I mean invite some friends over to help you eat them…

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Hot chocolate

Such cold, wet, miserable weather on a June summer’s day calls for warm, comforting hot chocolate.

The best thing about this recipe, and making it yourself, is that you can easily adapt it to suit your own tastes. I made mine with spices that you might find in a masala chai to make a masala hot chocolate, but you could leave these out, or just use cinnamon for example.

I also used a chocolate with 50% cocoa solids for a rich but milky taste – however, you can use any kind of chocolate you like, as long as it’s good quality.

And finally, I used semi-skimmed milk, but you could use soya milk, almond milk or even water for a vegan option. Sometimes I like to use mint tea in place of the milk for a lighter, minty hot chocolate. You can get really creative here!

2 cups (550ml) milk or other liquid
100g chocolate, chopped finely
½ cinnamon stick (optional)
6 cardamom pods, cracked (optional)
1 clove (optional)
¼ tsp fennel seeds (optional)
¼ tsp ground ginger (optional)

Heat the milk over a low heat (with all the spices, if using) until almost boiling. Let infuse for at least 10 minutes if using spices. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bain marie. Pour over a third of the spiced milk through a sieve onto the chocolate. Whisk briskly from the centre out to emulsify the chocolate with the milk until smooth, then pour the rest of the milk in and whisk well to combine. Pour into pretty glasses and dream of sunnier days.

Serves 2.

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Market stall

It was a swelteringly hot but enjoyable day at the Ritherdon Road street party. It was great talking to the friendly people of Balham, getting feedback and generally enjoying the relaxed, summery atmosphere. There was even a local ukulele band! The best bit though was watching people’s faces as they tried a salted caramel for the first time, or tasted an earl grey chocolate, or marvelled at the combination of chocolate with lime as it melted in their mouths.

My gooey fudgey bites went down a treat with both kids and adults (recipe here). They were the first thing we sold out of – so fast, in fact, that there was no time to take a picture. I must admit I snuck one or two for breakfast while we were setting up. They are a little bit irresistible.

Here’s me and the stall just before the day kicked off:

And here are some of the new products I developed in the run up:

Chocolate-covered toasted almonds, rolled in golden caster sugar

Chocolate lollipops (left to right: dark chocolate and ginger, dark chocolate and cocoa nibs, dark chocolate with golden beads, white chocolate with black cherries and cocoa nibs, milk chocolate with golden beads, dark chocolate with purple glitter)

Chocolate bars (milk chocolate with toasted sesame and ginger, dark chocolate with sea salt, white chocolate with black cherries and cocoa nibs, dark chocolate with caramelised toasted almonds)

We also had a selection of truffles and chocolates including ginger truffles, earl grey chocolates, hazelnut and sea salt hearts, lime chocolates, raspberry chocolates, mint creams and sea salt caramels. The sea salt caramels were the bestsellers – I think personal taste will dictate the popularity of the others, but who could turn down a sea salt caramel?

Big thanks goes to everyone who helped out or came down to support Kokopelli’s!

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Here we go ’round the mulberry bush…

I found these dried mulberries in a Turkish cornershop. I remember discovering them in a dried fruit mix once, and wondering what they were but liking them so much that I picked them all out and ate them first. They are really delicious, soft and chewy, with sweet honey flavours and an almost floral taste. The tiny seeds give them a little crispiness. They go wonderfully well in my amaranth snack bars, generously drizzled with tempered dark chocolate.

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Chocolate-rolled toasted nuts

These beauts are addictive, and actually pretty easy to make. They are toasted almonds and walnuts, covered in a dark milk chocolate and rolled in golden caster sugar. Simple and delicious.

Toast the nuts by placing them on a tray in a 180°C oven for about 7-10 minutes. You will smell them when they are ready! Mm… toasty.

Let the nuts cool and transfer them to a large bowl. Drizzle a tablespoonful of tempered chocolate over the nuts and quickly mix with your hand until they are all lightly coated. Drizzle again and repeat until the nuts (and your hand!) are chocolate-covered to your desired thickness. After your last drizzle, quickly drop the nuts into another bowl containing about a cup of sugar. Do what you do best and mix them all up again. Free the nuts from their bowl of sugar and leave to set for twenty minutes or so. YUM. Crunch crunch crunch.

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Cheat’s chocolate fudge

This is a super-quick fudge recipe, without any butter and with little sugar (none added), so I’m telling myself it’s ‘healthy’. It’s also very tasty and I keep finding myself tucking in to yet another cube of the sweet stuff. It’s firm and smooth with that chocolate hit you need on a long afternoon. My little brother Daniel calls it ‘heaven in a box’.

250g good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used 60g of 85% and 190g of 65%, but this is totally up to you)
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of sea salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk (around 395g)
½ tbsp vanilla extract

Line a square or rectangular pan with foil, leaving enough to hang over the edges a little to make for easy removal later. Lightly grease the foil.

Mix together chocolate, bicarb and salt in a large heatproof bowl and stir in sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Set the bowl over a saucepan containing 2 cups of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is almost melted – if the chocolate stays over the heat for too long, it may separate and produce a greasy fudge. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Transfer the fudge to the prepared pan and spread until even. Refrigerate for around 2 hours, or until set. Cut into squares and leave to sit out for an hour or two to develop a bit of a ‘skin’. Store in an airtight container. Note: the fudge will become drier the longer it is stored, so eat it up within 2-3 weeks. Shouldn’t be too difficult – it’s rather moreish…

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Gingerbread

I love gingerbread, especially when its a little chewy on the inside and has a small kick.

350 g plain flour
3 – 4 tsp ground ginger (depending on how much you like ginger!)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85 g butter, cut into small chunks
175 g brown sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 190° C. Sift together the flour, ginger and bicarb of soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the small chunks of butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. In a small bowl, beat together the syrup and the egg, then stir this too into the “breadcrumbs”. Mix everything together really well until you have a dough.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and put the dough onto it. Knead it a bit, stretching the dough by pushing it away from you. Fold the dough in half, turn it and push it away again. Continue this kneading until the dough is really smooth. Now use half of the dough at a time to make it easier to roll and cut. Sprinkle a little more flour on your work surface and roll out the dough until it is about ½ cm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out lots of shapes from the dough (I like animal shapes). Bake the gingerbread for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool, but make sure to eat at least one while they’re still warm and a bit gooey. Mmmm…

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Quince sweetmeats

The quince is an intriguing fruit. Looking like a cross between large apple and a pear, it is inedible when raw and turns from pale yellow to a rich amber colour when cooked. I’d never tried one before, so when I spotted a handful in the local greengrocers, I knew an experiment had to commence. I decided to make quince “cheese”, which is not a cheese at all, but more like a set preserve. This works well with quince due to its high pectin content. It’s wonderfully fragrant, tasting a bit like a pear, a bit like a guava, but totally unique. This recipe was adapted from Preserves by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew.

1 quince
160g sugar

Wash and chop the quince, and place in a large pan, seeds, skin and all (to extract maximum pectin, aiding the gelling process). Pour in enough water to nearly cover the fruit and put a lid on the pan. Bring up to boiling point and simmer for around two hours, or until the fruit has turned very tender and orangey-red. Stir every once in a while.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, extracting as much juicy pulp as you can. Pour the purée back into the pan, adding the sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up a little and cook for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture is very thick. Pour the quince purée into a small oiled tin or dish and leave to set for a few hours.

Cut into pretty shapes, such as diamonds (you could even use small cookie cutters), and store in an airtight container between layers of baking paper.

They make great little nibbles.

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Paneer

I had been fancying saag paneer for ages, so had a go at making it at home. It turned out to be surprisingly quick and simple. The result was a slightly chewy, but still fairly soft and melt-in-your-mouth, mild, lemony cheese.

1 litre milk
2–3 tbsp lemon juice

Bring the milk to the boil, stirring constantly. Take it off the heat, adding the lemon juice slowly, stirring all the while until it curdles. Pour into a muslin-lined colander to strain. Save the whey – I hear it’s good for making soft bread or to use in soups. Squeeze out as much whey as you can from the curds by twisting the top of the muslin to make a parcel. Sit the parcel in the colander with the weight on top for around two hours. After this time, unwrap the parcel, and you should have a nice spongy cheese about the size of a hand. Dice and use in a variety of delicious Indian dishes.

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Sweetcorn soup

Such a simple, yet delicious recipe! One for those sweet-toothers like me. There’s something hugely comforting about this soup.

4x 340g tins sweetcorn (make sure you get a really good kind, like ‘naturally sweet’)
Knob of butter
850ml stock

Fry the sweetcorn in a generous knob of butter, say a couple of tablespoons, for 5-10 minutes. Add the stock and blitz with a blender. Now comes the hard part – extracting all the yummy juice from the pulp. Push the soup through a sieve, little by little, until you have a smooth, creamy-looking liquid. Pour the soup back into the pan to heat through. That’s it! The world’s simplest, sweetest soup!

Serves 5.

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