Chocolate Brandy Slices

Chocolate Brandy Slices

 

A very decadent chocolate dessert to serve with a special dinner. This velvety brandy enriched chocolate slice is filled with cherries, walnuts, and crushed biscuits.

 

Chocolate Brandy Slices
Prepares: 6 slices
 
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Chilling time: 1–2 hours

  • Ingredients
  • 10 digestive biscuits
  • 115g (4 oz) good quality, plain/dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 115g (4 oz) butter, cubed (½ cup, or 1 stick)
  • 1 egg
  • 85g (1½ oz) caster sugar/superfine sugar (3 tbsp)
  • 40g (1½ oz) glacé cherries (¼ cup)
  • 40g (1½ oz) walnut halves (⅓ cup)
  • 2 tbsp brandy

  • You will also need a rectangular mould about 22 x 11cm (8½ x 4¼ inches), a small loaf tin/pan is ideal.


  1. Method
  2. Line the mould with a piece of cling film/wrap, long enough so it extends over the edges.

  3. Now put the digestive biscuits in a plastic food bag and crush coarsely with a rolling pin. Set aside.

  4. Next rinse the cherries and leave to dry.

  5. Then break the chocolate into small pieces and put in a pan along with the butter. Melt over a very low heat, stirring frequently. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat.

  6. In a small bowl, beat the egg and sugar together until light and creamy. Beat this into the melted chocolate and butter until the mixture is smooth.

  7. Halve the cherries and reserve 6 halves.

  8. Now reserve 6 walnut halves and chop the remainder.

  9. Fold the cherries, chopped walnuts, crushed biscuits, and brandy into the chocolate mixture.

  10. Spoon this into the prepared mould and decorate the top with the reserved cherries and walnut halves.

  11. Refrigerate for 1–2 hours to become firm and then remove 30 minutes before serving to allow to come up to room temperature.

  12. To serve, remove from the mould by using the edges of the cling wrap/film to help lift it out. Then cut into 6 slices.

 

Mincemeat and Apple Tartlets

Mincemeat and Apple Tartlets

 

Delicious little tartlets made of puff pastry, mincemeat, and slices of apple. Quick to prepare and also a great way to use up any leftover jars of mincemeat from Christmas.

 

Mincemeat and Apple Tartlets
Prepares: 4 tartlets
 
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 250g pack ready-rolled frozen puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 8 rounded tbsp mincemeat (or, 1 small jar about 250ml (8 fl oz))
  • 1 dessert apple
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • ½ tsp caster/superfine sugar
  • icing/powdered sugar for dusting

  • Can be served with whipped cream, thick double cream or ice cream (optional)


  1. Method
  2. Thaw the pastry as directed on the packet.

  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6).

  4. Unroll the pastry onto a large baking sheet. Now mark 4 squares, roughly 12cm (4½ inches), leaving as much space around the squares as the pastry allows. Remove the excess pastry.

  5. Next, using the tip of a knife mark a 1cm (½ inch) border around the edge of each square. Then brush the border with the beaten egg.

  6. Now spoon two rounded spoonfuls of mincemeat onto each square and spread it out, keeping within the border.

  7. Quarter each apple and remove the core. Then thinly slice each quarter and lay the slices in a row over the mincemeat, overlapping them to fit. Brush the apples with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

  8. Bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

  9. Just before serving dust all over with icing/powdered sugar.

  10. A spoonful of cream or ice cream can be dolloped in the centre of each tartlet.

 

Salmon and Prawn Fish Pie

Salmon and Prawn Fish Pie

 

Flaked salmon and prawns/shrimp with broccoli in a creamy wine sauce, topped with mounds of mashed potato, and sprinkled with a crusty topping, make this a delicious fish pie.

 

Salmon and Prawn Fish Pie
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: About 40 minutes
  • Cooking time: 45 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 800g (1¾ lb) potatoes, peeled (5 medium)
  • 565g (1¼ lb) salmon fillet, skinned
  • 115g (4 oz) cooked prawns/shrimps
  • 240ml (8 fl oz) dry white wine (1 cup)
  • 60ml (2 fl oz) water (¼ cup)
  • few sprigs dill
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemon slices
  • 55g (2 oz) butter (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
  • 55g (2 oz) flour (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp)
  • 5 tbsp single cream/table cream
  • 120ml (4 fl oz) milk (½ cup)
  • small head of broccoli
  • 2 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • sprigs of dill for garnish (optional)

  • For this recipe you will need a large frying pan/skillet with lid and a 2.25 litre (4 pint) ovenproof dish


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) (gas 5).

  3. Peel and cut potatoes into large chunks. Cook in boiling, salted water for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

  4. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets, about 115g (4 oz) (1 cup). Not all the head of broccoli will be needed.

  5. Remove the stalks from the dill and reserve. Chop dill leaves and put to one side.

  6. Now lay the salmon in the frying pan/skillet and pour over the water and wine. Add the seasoning, dill stalks, and lemon slices. Cover the panskillet. Bring the liquid slowly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.

  7. Remove from the heat and discard the dill stalks and lemon slices. Using a slice, lift the fish and lay it in the ovenproof dish. Flake into chunks using a fork and check for bones.Then strain and reserve the cooking liquor.

  8. Now scatter the prawns/shrimps and broccoli over the fish.

  9. Next melt the butter in the frying pan/skillet and stir in the flour to form a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and slowly add the reserved cooking liquor, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth. Return to the heat and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and cook for a further minute, while continuing to stir, until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the cream. Add the chopped dill leaves and season. Now pour the sauce over the fish.

  10. Mash the potatoes, adding just enough milk to create a creamy mash. Season well. Cover the fish with spoonfuls of the potato. Don’t flatten the spoon shapes out as you are after a bumpy look.

  11. Then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and pour the melted butter over the top.

  12. Bake for 40–45 minutes until piping hot and lightly browned.

  13. Serve garnished with sprigs of dill (optional).

Updated: January 25, 2019

Crossover Pancakes

Crossover Pancakes

 

Small English-sized pancakes that are made with a thicker North American-style batter. These are served one on top the other with sweetened butter and maple syrup poured generously over the top.

 

Crossover Pancakes
Prepares: 12 pancakes
 
  • Preparation time: about 10 minutes
  • Standing time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: about 45 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 250g (9 oz) plain/cake and pastry flour (2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2½ tbsp caster/superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), lightly beaten
  • 475ml (16 fl oz) milk (2 cups)
  • 115g (4 oz) butter (½ cup, or 1 stick)
  • pinch of salt

  • To serve
  • 85g (3 oz) butter, softened (³⁄₈ cup)
  • 1 tsp icing/powdered sugar, sifted
  • maple syrup to pour

  • You will also need a 20cm (8 inch) nonstick frying pan/skillet.


  1. Method
  2. Melt 85g (3 oz) of the butter and set aside to cool.

  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Then mix in the sugar.

  4. Next make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the eggs, milk, and melted butter, incorporating flour from around the edges. Using a rubber spatula, push down any remaining flour from the sides of the bowl and whisk again until there is a smooth, thick batter.

  5. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

  6. Preheat oven to 140°C (275°F) (gas 1) and place five plates in the oven to warm.

  7. Meanwhile prepare the sweetened butter In a small bowl beat the softened butter together with the icing/powdered sugar and set aside.

  8. Now to cook the pancakes. Get the frying pan/skillet really hot. Remove from heat and melt the remaining 28g (1 oz) (2 tbsp) butter. Pour the butter into a small bowl which should leave the pan with a lightly greased surface. After cooking each pancake, smear the pan with a little melted butter, using a wodge of kitchen paper, to keep it lightly greased.

  9. For each pancake you will need about ⅓ cup of batter. A ladle makes it easy to scoop out the batter and pour into the pan. So for the first pancake, scoop ⅓ cup of batter into the ladle and this will be a guide for the rest.

  10. Now return the pan/skillet to a fairly hot heat. Quickly ladle the batter into the centre of the pan, lift the pan from the heat, and tip it from side to side to even out the batter. The batter won’t cover the surface of the pan but should make an even round pancake. Then return to the heat and cook the pancake for 1–2 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface and the underside is starting to turn golden in colour. Flip it over using a palette knife and cook the underside for another 1–2 minutes. Now slide onto one of the warmed plates and cover loosely with foil. Return to the oven to keep warm. Repeat using the rest of the batter, overlapping the pancakes on the warmed plate.

  11. To serve, stack three pancakes on each of the other warmed plates and top each stack with a spoonful of the reserved sweetened butter.

  12. Serve with maple syrup.

Updated: January 23, 2019

Fruity Orange Jelly

Another cold day today with temperatures down to -12 degrees C, 10 degrees F PLUS windchill. It was colder first thing this morning and even Shandy, our dog, reacted to it. However, once wrapped up for the cold it has been a lovely walk this afternoon. It looks gorgeous out there. Sunny with a totally blue sky and no clouds and still virgin white snow everywhere. We had a foot of snow over the weekend.

So being that this time of year calls for a lot of heart warming casseroles, it is good to follow them with a light refreshing dessert. Here is one that certainly fits the bill.

 

Fruity Orange Jelly

 

A refreshing dessert of homemade orange jelly with the surprise of pieces of orange and grapefruit inside.

 

Fruity Orange Jelly
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Refrigeration time: 5–6 hours

  • Ingredients
  • 4 gelatine leaves*, or
  • 1 pkt Knox powdered gelatine*
  • 540ml (18 fl oz) orange juice, without pulp (2¼ cups)
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 Florida pink grapefruit

  • *In the U.K. gelatine leaves are widely available. In Canada the powdered form of gelatine is used. I have given instructions of how to use both types below.

  • To serve
  • crème frâiche

  • You will also need 4 x 300ml (10 fl oz) (⅔ cup) glass dessert dishes.


  1. Method
  2. If using gelatine leaves, warm all the orange juice in a pan.

  3. If using powdered gelatine, pour 2 fl oz of the cold orange juice into a small bowl. Then warm the remaining juice in a pan.

  4. For gelatine leaves
  5. Put the gelatine, sheet by sheet, in a bowl of cold water. Leave for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Remove from the water and squeeze out the excess water. Add the sheets to the warmed orange juice and stir until they have fully dissolved.

  6. For the powered gelatine
  7. Pour one pouch of gelatine over the cold orange juice. Add 50ml (¼ cup) boiling water and stir until the gelatine has fully dissolved, about 2 minutes. Then slowly stir into the warmed orange juice until the gelatine is fully mixed in.

  8. Now stir in the lemon juice.

  9. Peel the orange and grapefruit, making sure all the pith is removed. Separate into their segments and remove any pips. Cut each orange segment into four. Using an equal number of grapefruit segments cut these into similar sized chunks. There will be some grapefruit left over. Divide the fruit evenly between the dishes.

  10. Pour an equal amount of orange juice over the fruit in each dish and then leave to cool. Refrigerate for 5–6 hours until the jellies are set.

  11. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

  12. Just before serving, dollop a spoonful of crème frâiche on the top of each jelly.

  13. Note
  14. lemon should yield about 3 tablespoons.

Updated: January 22, 2019

 

A Great British Coffee Cake

A Great British Coffee Cake

 

This is truly a great cake for coffee lovers. The sponge is very light and full of coffee flavour, and the rich coffee buttercream is so creamy and fluffy.

 

A Great British Coffee Cake
Prepares: 8 large slices
 
  • Preparation time: 35 minutes
  • Cooking time: 25 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the sponge
  • 170g (6 oz) butter, softened (¾ cup, or 1½ sticks)
  • 150g (5¼ oz) caster/superfine sugar (⅔ cup)
  • 3 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), beaten
  • 40g (1½ oz) golden syrup* (2 rounded tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp coffee extract (or Camp coffee)
  • 170g (6 oz) self-raising/self-rising flour, sifted (1⅓ cups)
  • ½ –1 tsp baking powder

  • *I buy my golden syrup from a British store here in Canada. If you are unable to find golden syrup then substitute it with liquid honey.

  • For the filling and decoration
  • 150g (5¼ oz) unsalted butter, softened (⅔ cup, or 1¼ sticks)
  • 300g (11 oz) icing/powdered sugar (2¾ cups)
  • 2 tbsp coffee extract (or Camp coffee)
  • 1 tbsp warm water

  • 2 tbsp icing/powdered sugar, for sifting
  • 24 chocolate buttons OR
  • 40 milk chocolate chips

  • You will also need 2 × 18cm (7 in) sandwich cake tins/pans, greased and base lined. Also a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized star nozzle.


  1. Method
  2. For the sponge
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) (gas 5).

  4. Cream the butter and sugar together with a hand held electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  5. Now gradually add the beaten eggs, golden syrup, and coffee, together with 2 tablespoons of the flour.

  6. Fold in the remaining flour and ½ teaspoon baking power.

  7. OR put everything in a mixing bowl or food mixer, but adding 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and whisk until the mixture is smooth, light, and fluffy.

  8. Divide equally between the two cake tins/pans and level the tops.

  9. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are firm and spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. The sponges will also have slightly shrunk away from the sides of the tins/pans.

  10. Leave for a couple of minutes and then turn out onto wire cooling racks and remove the lining paper. Leave to cool completely.

  11. For the filling and decoration
  12. Meanwhile beat the butter, icing/powdered sugar, coffee, and water together until the mixture is smooth, light, and fluffy.

  13. Put a quarter in the icing bag and put to one side.

  14. Place one of the sponges on a flat surface and spread evenly with the remaining coffee cream. Then place the second sponge on top and sift heavily with icing/powdered sugar.

  15. Now lightly mark the top of the cake with a knife through the icing/powdered sugar into 8 equal portions. (This will be used as a guide for the piping.)

  16. Now starting from the outside edge of the cake, pipe a line of buttercream on each marked portion but only take it up within an inch of the centre. Then pipe a ring of stars to join the lines in the centre.

  17. Arrange the chocolate buttons or chocolate chips in the lines of piped buttercream.

  18. To finish, lightly dust over the whole cake with a little icing/powdered sugar.

  19. Note:
  20. The cake can be frozen. Put in a rigid container with a cover and freeze. To thaw, allow 2–3 hours at room temperature.

 

Apple Clafoutis

Apple Clafoutis

 

This French dessert of apples cooked in a brandy syrup, and covered with a sweet batter, is then baked. Just dust with icing sugar and serve this clafoutis warm, ladled with cream, to make a delicious dessert.

 

Apple Clafoutis
Prepares: 6 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Standing time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 4 small dessert apples
  • 40g (1½ oz) butter (3 tbsp)
  • 115g (4 oz) caster/superfine sugar (½ cup)
  • 1 tsp caster/superfine sugar
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • about 240ml (8 fl oz) whole milk (1cup)
  • 3 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 70g (2½ oz) plain/cake and pastry flour, sifted (½ cup + 1 tbsp)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 heaped tsp icing/powdered sugar sifted

  • You will also need a large frying pan/skillet and a round 25.5cm (10 inch) diameter ovenproof dish with a depth of 5cm (2 inches), greased with a little butter.


  1. Method
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) (gas 4)

  3. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Then cut each quarter into wedges about 1cm (½ inch) thick.

  4. Melt the butter in the frying pan/skillet and, when it begins to foam, add the apple wedges. Toss to coat with the butter and then cook the apples over a medium heat, turning occasionally, until they begin to soften and turn golden in colour, about 5 minutes.

  5. Lower the heat and add 55g (2 oz) (¼ cup) of the sugar, cinnamon, and brandy and stir to coat the apple wedges. Cook for a further 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved, creating a golden sauce. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the apples to absorb some of the liquid.


  6. Now using a slotted spoon, pile the apples into the prepared dish and scrape the juice into a measuring jug. Add milk to the jug to make the liquid up to 300ml (10 fl oz) (1¼ cups). Whisk to combine the milk and the juice.

  7. Pour into a blender along with the eggs, remaining sugar, vanilla extract, flour, and salt. Blend on high for 1 minute, scraping the sides down with a spatula until the batter is smooth. (The ingredients can also be whisked together until there is a smooth batter – it is just easier with a blender.)

  8. Pour the batter over the apples, sprinkle the extra teaspoon of sugar on top and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 1 hour, until the batter has puffed up and is golden. To test whether the batter is cooked, pierce in the centre with a skewer and it should come out clean.

  9. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes then serve warm with a dusting of icing/powdered sugar.

Updated: January 17, 2019

Hearty Beef Casserole with Herb Dumplings

Hearty Beef Casserole with Herb Dumplings

 

The addition of Guinness makes this a hearty beef casserole on a cold winter’s day. The beef is cooked very slowly with carrots, swede/rutabaga, and onions in the Guinness and beef stock. Soak all this up with herby dumplings.

 

Hearty Beef Casserole with Herb Dumplings
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 40 minutes
  • Cooking time: 3 hours 20 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the casserole
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 575g (1¼ lb) stewing steak, cut into 5cm (2 inch) chunks
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 225g (8 oz) swede/rutabaga, cut into small chunks) (half a small rutabaga)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 150ml (5 fl oz) Guinness (⅔ cup) (optional)
  • 300ml (10 fl oz) good beef stock (1¼ cups)
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme

  • For the dumplings
  • 140g (5 oz) plain/cake and pastry flour (1 cup)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 40g (1½ oz) butter (3 tbsp)
  • 120ml (4 fl oz) milk (½ cup)
  • 1 tbsp mixed dried herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme) OR
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped and a pinch of black pepper

  • You will also need a deep sided sauté pan with lid for this recipe.


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) (gas 2)

  3. For the casserole
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan and brown the beef over a medium heat. Set aside.

  5. Add the remaining oil to the pan, reduce the heat, and gently cook the onions and carrots for 10 minutes until softened. Then add the swede/rutabaga and cook for a further 2 minutes.

  6. Return the beef to the pan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the hot stock, stirring continuously, until there is a smooth sauce. Then stir in the Guinness. (If omitting the Guinness, just add extra stock.)

  7. Now stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Cover and cook in the oven for 3 hours.

  8. For the dumplings
  9. Make up the dumplings 10 minutes before the casserole is ready.

  10. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the herbs. Then using a flat-bladed knife, gradually stir in enough milk to make a soft but not sticky dough (you may not need all the milk). Divide the dough into 8 balls.

  11. Drop the dumplings onto the top of the casserole, spaced evenly apart. Cover and cook the casserole for a further 20 minutes until the dumplings are puffed up.

  12. To serve
  13. Accompany with creamy mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Updated: January 17, 2019

Banana and Honey Brûlée

Banana and Honey Brûlée

 

A tasty twist on a classic crème brulée. Quick to prepare and just chill until needed.

 

Banana and Honey Brûlée
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 10–25 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1 minute
  • Refrigeration time: 2 hours

  • Ingredients
  • 2 small bananas, well mashed
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 500g carton Greek yogurt

  • For the topping
  • 2 tbsp hazelnuts or almonds, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp golden caster/superfine sugar, if using a chef’s blowtorch
  • 75g (2½ oz) caster/superfine sugar (⅓ cup), if not using a chef’s blowtorch

  • You will also need 4 × 150ml (5 fl oz) heatproof ramekins


  1. Method
  2. Divide the mashed bananas between the four ramekins and smooth the top.

  3. Then drizzle over the honey to completely cover the bananas.

  4. Carefully spoon an equal amount of yogurt into each ramekin and smooth the top.

  5. Now sprinkle over the nuts and gently press down.


  6. For the topping, using a chef’s blowtorch
  7. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over the nuts and yogurt in one ramekin. (The sugar needs to cover the yogurt completely.)

  8. Caramelize the sugar under a direct flame.

  9. Now repeat with the other 3 ramekins.

  10. Leave to cool and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.

  11. For the topping, without using a chef’s blowtorch
  12. First, have a piece of baking paper ready on the counter top. Next, put the sugar in a stainless steel pan and add just enough water to dampen the sugar. Place over a low heat and stir the sugar until completely dissolved. Then increase the heat to medium–high. Without stirring, leave the sugar to bubble fiercely. When the bubbling lessens and the sugar has turned a pale straw colour it will be ready. Carefully pour the caramel onto the paper (it will be extremely hot) and leave it to become cold.

  13. Now turn the grill/broiler to high and leave for 5 minutes to get really hot.

  14. The caramel will have hardened on cooling. Break it into small pieces and blitz in a food processor or blender until there are really fine granules (finer than caster sugar). Sprinkle evenly over the nuts and yogurt in each ramekin, right to the edge, so that the yogurt is completely covered.

  15. Put the ramekins on a baking tray as close to the heat source as possible. Cook for less than a minute, not letting the sugar burn. The heat just needs to melt the sugar.

  16. Leave to cool and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Updated: January 17, 2019