Tag Archives: Chocolate

In Praise of Batty Bristol and Beetroot Chocolate Muffins

Bristol’s a fabulous place to live, I never feel trapped like I do in so many other cities; virtually every where you look there is a glimpse of countryside beyond the buildings. You’re a stone’s throw from wild Wales, Devon and Cornwall and yet you can be in London in under two hours. Better still is the fact that Bristol itself has such a dynamic heart – there’s the great food scene that seems to lack the ponce and showmanship of most big cities, there’s the earthy vibe that has earned Bristol the title of  European Green Capital 2015 and then there are the offbeat, quirky community events that just seem to flourish here.

On Saturday evening we set off on a “magical walking trail to light up winter” in Bishopston  (that’s just North of the city centre to any non-Bristolians). I’d chatted to a “balloon artist” in the sauna at The Lido earlier in the day (it’s where all the best conversations seem to take place) who was on her way to dress a shop window for the event. Shops and, better still,  households were lighting up their window displays between 5 and 8pm. There were over 150 random exhibits at Winter Wanderland– we saw about 40 of them, including meticulously crafted mini cinemas, a shadow puppet show, The Queen and Obama enjoying angel food cake and gin in the back of a camper van, a “live show” – dog lying on a sofa, lego displays, a pompom solar system – the sheer diversity was incredible. We snapped a couple of shots but you’d do so much better taking a peek here here.

Today I took the long way round to my local greengrocer Reg the Veg, walking along the glorious Georgian sweep of Royal York Crescent soaking up the sunshine. What a city! (Clifton pic’s coming soon) I was going to buy some fruit for the muffins that I’d promised to make with Imi after school but settled on some beetroot instead.

I’ve been meaning to play around with that great chocolate/ beetroot partnership in a muffin recipe for ages. I’m well chuffed with the results – still a hint of beetroot flavour, but hopefully not enough to scare off the kids, and some chunks of luxurious chocolate.

Beetroot Chocolate Muffins  – 12

200 g light muscovado, or soft brown sugar
100 g melted butter (use oil if you prefer)
2 medium eggs
100 g  (4 tbs) natural yoghurt
200 g  self-raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
170 g beetroot
100 g dark chocolate

Pre heat the oven to 170 C,  Gas 3 and grease a 12 medium -sized muffin tray or line with papers.

Take a big bowl and mix together the sugar, butter, eggs and yoghurt.

Weigh out the flour and cocoa powder into another bowl.

Grate the beetroot on a coarse grater otherwise the mixture can become a bit too wet and sloppy (you could do this in the food processor but that’s a lot of pink washing up).

Chop the chocolate up roughly or use drops (I find it virtually impossible to get small domestic quantities of decent quality chocolate in the cooking drops)

Throw the flour mix, beetroot and chocolate in with the wet ingredients and stir it all together. Don’t be too zealous, it really doesn’t matter if there are a few lumps and too much stirring leads to solid, chewy muffins.

Spoon the mixture into the greased/lined muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen and baked through when tested with skewer (no gloop on the skewer – you’re done)

Leave to cool on a wire rack and eat as soon as possible.

 

Chocolate Dipped Figs and Pop Up Suppers

Every once in a while it’s good to push your professional self a little and get out of your comfort zone (you can translate that as – terrify the living daylights out of yourself, hopefully glide through the process and then feel on top of the world because you’ve achieved something).

I’m feeling both apprehensive and excited about cooking for my first pop up at The Bertinet Kitchen in Bath tomorrow. It’s odd because I used to do lots of catering but it’s been a while and nowadays I’m more used to teaching and doing demo’s than “cheffing”. I’d be just a little more relaxed if I wasn’t following in the footsteps of the über talented Nathan Outlaw (oh yes, Mr 2 stars) and Monsieur Bertinet himself, who’ve cooked up the pop up feast for the last 2 weeks. I’ll give you an update in a few days time (that’s assuming I don’t cremate the food and totally cock-up and then I’ll obviously go underground)

Anyhow, today I decided I’d get a couple of jobs done, one being these chocolate figs – they really are spectacularly tasty so I thought I’d share the recipe. There’s nothing new about these – they’re an Italian classic. I learned to make them decades ago when I was working in a cookery school in Umbria with Ursula Ferrigno. They follow in the tradition of the Italian biscuits called brutti ma buoni (ugly but good); they’re not much to look at, but you just taste one.

Chocolate dipped figsChocolate Figs with Almonds –  Begin a day in advance

12 soft, dried figs
100 ml brandy
12 whole blanched almonds (ideally plenty so that you can eat the rest with a glass of fino sherry)
100 g dark (at least 70% cocoa solids) chocolate
Zest of 1 orange

Slice the tough little stalk off each dried fig and soak for as long as you have in the brandy, preferably overnight. (A quick zap in the microwave or warming through in a pan will help things along if you’ve forgotten)

Roast the almonds in a hot oven for anything between 5 and ten minutes until they smell nutty and heavenly. Watch them like a hawk, giving them a shake in their roasting tray from time to time.

Melt the chocolate – in a bowl over a pan of hot water or as I do on the very lowest microwave setting.

Now get a production line going.
Take a fig (you can drink the left over brandy later or use it for cookin)  -Push an almond into the fig – Dab the fig in the orange zest – Dip the fig in the warm chocolate- Place on a sheet of greaseproof paper to firm up – Sample with a cup of espresso.

And just one tip when cooking for large numbers or performing any repetitive kitchen tasks – it’s time to crank up the music.  E.L.O or Earth Wind and Fire make the jobs fly by.