For chocoholics in the family, this is a delectable chocolate cake. The chocolate flavoured sponge is very light and and the chocolate icing is a little fudgy and is used as a filling too. Of course, you have to finish it off with more chocolate, and slivers of chocolate are used decorate the top. The only non-chocolate addition is apricot jam that is used before adding the icing and this makes it more moist.
good quality plain/dark chocolate for the decoration
You will also need 2 x 20cm (8 inch) sandwich tins, base-lined and greased.
For the sponge
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (gas 4)
Blend the cocoa powder with the hot water in a small bowl and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and baking powder together into a large bowl. (Either use a free-standing mixer or electric hand mixer.) Add the butter, sugar, and eggs. Then drizzle the cooled cocoa mixture over the top. Beat for 2 minutes until creamy.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans and level the tops. Bake towards the top of the oven on the same shelf for 35–40 minutes. The cakes should have shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin and will spring back when lightly pressed with a forefinger.
Leave in the tins for 2 minutes then carefully remove, peeling off the lining, and cool on a wire rack.
For the filling, icing and decoration
Place the chocolate for the decoration in the refrigerator to become cold as it will be easier to work with.
Now for the filling and icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl.
Put the butter in a medium-sized pan and melt over a low heat. As soon as it has melted, mix in the cocoa powder and cook over a very low heat for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the milk. Add the icing/powdered sugar a couple of spoonfuls at a time, beating well between each addition. You may not need all the sugar. Just add enough to make a coating consistency.
Leave to cool a little while preparing the apricot glaze.
You can buy apricot glaze in a jar in the U.K. which is ready to use, so just warm through about 6 tablespoons. In Canada, not being able to find apricot glaze, I use apricot jam. Add 1 tablespoon of hot water to 6 tablespoons of apricot jam to thin it a little, and gently heat to warm through. The jam will now be of a consistency to pass through a sieve to remove any pieces of fruit.
Invert one of the sponge layers and place on a serving plate. Using a palette knife, carefully coat the top with about a quarter of the glaze, then top with two good tablespoonfuls of the icing. Spread evenly over the jam.
Place the second cake on top and gently press down. Spread the sides and top with the remaining glaze using just enough to coat. Then spread the remaining icing over the whole cake.
Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator and, over a plate, pull a potato peeler along the long smooth edge. This will make tiny slivers of chocolate. You will need about 28g (1 oz). Scatter these on top of the cake to decorate.
Here is a lovely dish to use up that leftover chicken or turkey. Chicken chunks are combined with cauliflower florets, baby spinach and penne in a flavoured cheese sauce which is topped with a crisp, cheesy, breadcrumb topping.
340g (12 oz) cooked chicken or turkey cut into small chunks (3 cups)
115g (4 oz) baby spinach leaves (4 cups)
2 tbsp sage, chopped
1 tsp thyme, stems removed
45g (1½ oz) fresh breadcrumbs (1 cup)
You will also need a 3 litre (12 cup) casserole dish, greased.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) (gas5)
Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling, salted water for 6 minutes.
Next, break the cauliflower into small florets and once the pasta has cooked for 6 minutes, add the florets to the pan. Bring the water back to the boil then cook for 2 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pan. Add the onion and stir to coat with the butter, then cook gently for about 3 minutes until the onion begins to soften. Now stir in the flour and season. Next, gradually whisk in the stock until there is a smooth sauce. Then bring the stock to the boil, reduce the heat and continue to cook until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and add three quarters of the cheese, stirring until it has melted.
In a large bowl combine the pasta mixture, meat, spinach, sage, thyme, and sauce. Pour into the casserole dish.
Now toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining cheese and sprinkle evenly over the top,
Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling around the edge and the top is golden.
A firm favourite with children of all ages. These lamb meatballs flavoured with oregano and Parmesan cheese are cooked in a passata based sauce. Usually served with spaghetti but any pasta you choose will work.
2 slices, about 55g (2 oz) white bread, preferably one day old
120ml (4 fl oz) whole milk (½ cup)
450g (1 lb) lamb mince/ground lamb
14g (½ oz) flat leaf parsley/Italian parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 egg, beaten
28g (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated (¼ cup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tomato sauce
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small stick celery, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
14g (½ oz) butter (1 tbsp)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 x 700ml bottle passata
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
120ml (4 fl oz) whole milk (½ cup)
Pasta and a green salad or Caesar salad
You will also need large sauté pan with lid and a large frying pan/skillet.
Heat the butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan and, when hot, add the onion and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally. Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess fat and leave to cool.
Now remove the crusts from the bread and tear into pieces. Put the bread in a shallow dish and cover with the milk.
Next for the tomato sauce, put the carrot, celery, and garlic in a food processor and blitz. Put the butter and oil into the sauté pan and, when hot, add the vegetables and stir to coat. Cook over a medium–low heat until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then stir in the passata and add the bay leaves and seasoning. Cover and gently simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the meatballs. Put the lamb in a large bowl. Squeeze the milk from the bread and discard adding the bread to the lamb. Put half the parsley on a chopping board, sprinkle over the dried oregano and chop the parsley finely. (This will activate the oregano.) Now add the herbs to the lamb with the egg, Parmesan, cooled onion, and some pepper. Mix together until well combined. Make into 20–24 meatballs, flattening them slightly, and place them on a baking tray lined with clingfilm/cling wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm up.
When the tomato sauce has cooked for the 20 minutes, stir in the milk and continue to cook gently, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Once the meatballs have firmed up, put two tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan and brown the meatballs all over, about 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce. Cover and cook for a further 20–30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
Chop the remaining parsley and, just before serving, sprinkle over the meatballs.
I have two recipes for chicken cacciatore. One I have already posted (see Chicken Cacciatore) and this one I call Chicken Hunter’s Style. We like both recipes although they are slightly different. As cacciatore means hunter in Italian, it seemed an appropriate way to be able to identify the two.
Chicken Hunter’s Style – breasts of chicken are cooked with diced bacon and onions, sliced mushrooms and plum tomatoes in a seasoned tomato sauce.
You will also need a large sauté pan with lid and a medium-sized serving dish
Warm the serving dish in the oven.
Now heat the oil in the pan over a medium heat, add the chicken and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and set to one side.
Put the bacon in the pan and sauté for 1 minute, tossing frequently. Then add the onions and mushrooms, reduce the heat a little, and cook until the onions are soft and the mushrooms are golden, about 5 minutes. Stir through the garlic and cook for a further minute.
Next stir in the wine and tomatoes, then return the chicken to the pan and sprinkle with the parsley and seasoning.
Cover and gently simmer for 30 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through. Add the basil during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Remove the chicken to the warmed serving dish and pour over the sauce.
Serve with buttered, baby potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli/broccolini.
You will also need a large frying pan/skillet with a lid for this recipe.
First, warm a plate in the oven.
Then trim any fat from the pork and slice into 2.5cm (1 inch) slices.
Peel and finely chop the onion.
Next, quarter, core and slice the apples (do not peel).
Now, heat the oil in a pan and then fry the pork slices over a medium–high heat for 2–3 minutes on each side until nicely browned. This will probably need to be done in two or more batches. Once the slices are brown, put them on the warmed plate and cover with foil.
Add the onions to the pan, reduce the heat, and then gently cook them for about 5 minutes to soften.
Stir in the flour until it soaks up all the juices in the pan, then gradually add the stock, stirring continuously, until the sauce is smooth.
Next stir in the mustards and the cream. Then add the apples, thyme and seasoning. Return the pork to the pan along with any juices.
Stir everything together, cover the pan, and then gently cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened.
For that time when you need something quick and simple to prepare, this British favourite fits the bill. A gammon steak, topped with a soft poached egg, and roasted baby potatoes instead of fries, makes for a very enjoyable meal.
Wash the potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic cloves, and seasoning. Toss together to coat the potatoes.
Tip into a small roasting tin/pan and roast for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender, turning a couple of times to make sure they brown evenly.
Preheat the grill/broiler.
Remove any rind from the gammon steaks, then brush with the remaining olive oil. Grill/broil for 3 minutes on each side until they are starting to brown and are crisping at the edges.
While cooking the gammon, also cook the eggs. Pour some boiling water into a non-stick frying pan/skillet to a depth of 2.5–3.75cm (1–1½ inches). Gently heat the water so that it produces just a trace of tiny bubbles over the base of the pan. Next stir the white wine vinegar into the water, which will prevent the whites from spreading as they cook.
Now, holding the cracked eggs as near as possible above the water, slip them gently into the water and cook for exactly 1 minute to let the eggs settle.
Cook for a further 3 minutes, occasionally basting the top of the eggs with the water.
Once the eggs are cooked, lift them out of the water with a flat slotted spoon, resting the spoon on a sheet of kitchen paper to absorb any water before slipping the egg off the spoon onto the top of a gammon steak.
I have two recipes for chicken cacciatore. One I have already posted (see Chicken Hunter’s Style) and this one is called Chicken Cacciatore. We like both recipes although they are slightly different. As cacciatore means hunter in Italian, it seemed an appropriate way to be able to identify the two.
Chicken is sautéed and then cooked with chopped onions, sliced mushrooms and chopped tomatoes in a seasoned sauce. Rocket/arugula is then stirred through before serving.
You will also need a deep-sided sauté pan for this recipe.
Heat half the oil and half the butter in the pan, and when the butter starts to foam, add the chicken. Over a medium heat brown the chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes, then remove and put to one side.
Next add the remaining oil and butter to the pan, and once the butter starts to foam, add the onions and mushrooms to the pan. Reduce the heat and gently cook for about 8 minutes, until the onions begin to soften and the mushrooms turn a golden colour. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock, then add the oregano and bay leaf. Now return the chicken to the pan. Bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened.
Remove the bay leaf, then season well and stir through the rocket/arugula.
This chicken dish just takes 20 minutes to cook – one to choose when time is short. The chicken breasts, chunky potatoes and garlic are sautéed in olive oil and butter until crisp and then covered in a white wine sauce.
You will also need 2 large frying pans/skillets and a medium-sized serving dish.
Warm the serving dish in the oven.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small chunks. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and simmer the potatoes until just tender, about 15 minutes.
Now divide the butter and oil between the two pans/skillets.
Next season the chicken breasts. Heat the oil and butter in one of the pans and, when the butter is foaming, add the chicken breasts and brown for 5 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through. Reduce the heat and continue to cook the chicken for about 15 minutes until it is cooked through, turning once.
Meanwhile, drain the potatoes when they are just tender and leave for a couple of minutes to dry out. Heat the oil and butter in the other pan and, once the butter is foaming, add the potatoes with the garlic. Turn to coat and continue to cook over a medium heat until the potatoes are golden and crisp, turning occasionally.
When the chicken is ready, transfer it to the warm serving dish and keep warm in the oven. Add the potatoes and garlic once they are ready.
Pour the chicken stock and wine into the pan the chicken was cooked in and let it bubble over a high heat until reduced by half. Stir occasionally and scrape all the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.
Pour over the chicken, potatoes, and garlic and serve immediately garnished with the parsley.
Buttered baby potatoes and sautéed courgettes/zucchini go well with this dish.
Warm a plate in the oven.
In a shallow bowl, mix the oil, crushed peppercorns, rosemary leaves, and a little salt. Add the lamb noisettes and turn to coat.
Next melt the butter in a large frying pan/skillet and cook the lamb over a medium to high heat for 2–3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the chops. The lamb should still be slightly pink in the centre. Remove the lamb, place on the warmed plate and cover with foil while making the sauce.
Pour away any excess fat from the pan/skillet, then add the red wine and chicken stock, and stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring, while scraping up any residue from the bottom of the pan/skillet. Let the sauce simmer for 5–10 minutes to reduce, until it is slightly syrupy.
Pour over the lamb and serve garnished with rosemary sprigs.
A lovely, tasty meal to embrace the joys of spring and the growth of the first fresh vegetables of the season. The sweet meat of boneless lamb chops are roasted with garlic and rosemary, and served with roasted asparagus and baby new potatoes along with glazed carrots.
450g (1 lb) asparagus (16–20 small spears or 12–15 large)
2 olive oil
450g (1 lb) new carrots (about 8)
300ml (10 fl oz) vegetable stock (1¼ cups)
knob of butter
1 tsp soft brown sugar
You will also need 2 roasting tins/pans. One large enough to just take the noisettes of lamb and the other for the potatoes and asparagus.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)
Wash the potatoes and halve any that are large. Add them to a large pan of boiling salted water and parboil for 7 minutes.
Wash the asparagus and snap off the any whitish, woody parts at the end of the stems. Add them to the pan of potatoes during the last 2 minutes Drain everything well.
Next make a bed of rosemary sprigs in the roasting tin/pan for the meat. Now lay the lamb on top and add the halved garlic. Season well and sprinkle over the olive oil. Roast in the bottom half of the oven for 20–25 minutes until the lamb is cooked through.
Put the potatoes in the second roasting tin and coat them well with the olive oil. Roast on a racak above the lamb for 10 minutes.
Now add the asparagus to the tin/pan with the potatoes and baste them with the oil. Roast for 10–15 minutes, turning the potatoes and asparagus a couple of times.
While everything is roasting in the oven, wash and trim the carrots. Put the carrots, vegetable stock, butter, and sugar in a pan, bring to the boil and then gently simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
Add the cooking juice from the carrots to those left from roasting the lamb and use to make a gravy.