29 January 2014

{Indulging} Sea Salt Caramel Brownies

As I am writing this post, the rain has been pouring over London for the last 24 hours and it doesn't look like it is going to stop. I have a strong brew (the coffee kind) to keep me company. Some beautiful daffodils blooming away. And a little trip to South Africa to plan for the first two weeks of March. So life is good.

It is made even better with these brownies. Remember last week when I made caramel from condensed milk? I made two jars and quickly ate one (with some sliced apples for snacking, and smothered on toast and topped with bananas for breakfast - if you were wondering). But I wanted to do something useful with the second jar. Brownies seemed a safe bet. And adding sea salt seemed even better.

My husband didn't like the sea salt. But if I am being honest here, I didn't bake those brownies for him. You see, I truly believe that there comes a time, in a women's life, like a coming of age if you will, when you discover a flavour combination that makes your inside dance the samba. Well chocolate, caramel and sea salt does the trick for me.

Next time I get this flavour craving, I will try adding some expresso powder to the batter. Can't hurt.

These brownies are super dense. Not really the gooey kind. But more like fudge. I think the soft brown sugar did that.

To make them you will need:

250g butter
200g dark chocolate (I used choco that had 70% cocoa solid)
275g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
200g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
Caramel Sauce (I used a jar of my Easiest Caramel Sauce, but any dulche de leche or Bonne Maman Caramel Spread would do)
Sea Salt (I use Maldon)

Preheat your oven to 180 C / 375 F.

Prepare a rectangular 12" x 9" tin by greasing it, and then lining it with baking paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Take off the heat and add the chocolate, broken in pieces. Set aside for 5 minutes. Stir and make sure all the chocolate is melted.

Stir the soft brown sugar and stir until all incorporated. Now whisk the eggs into the mixture, one by one, beating well until the mixture appears a little "frothy" in texture.

Now add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin. Dollop your caramel sauce over the mixture and spread around a little, but not too much otherwise it will just disappear into your brownie. Sprinkle with as much or as little sea salt as you want. I used a good teaspoon.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until you reach the brownie consistency you like. I like mine to wobble a little when I take them out of the oven as they will firm up considerably once they cool down.

I waited until the brownies were a room temp to cut into, as the caramel would have spilled out everywhere if I wasn't as patient. But that was only because I wanted to take nice pictures. Caramel spillage would definitely be a good thing otherwise…

I'll leave you with that.

26 January 2014

The Weekly Round-up #03

Busy week! And I even had the time to do my certificate in Food Safety and Hygiene for some 2014 baking goals… let's see how that pans out in the next month or so!

The Week in LRB Posts: Easiest Caramel Sauce // Cranberry. Honey and Brie Grilled Cheese

Foodie Outing of the Week: I went to the Brunel Museum last weekend, for a Wassail event they were holding. Wassail is a traditional ceremony in the South West and South East of England were you sing and drink the health of the trees in hoping they will bring a good harvest next year. I couldn't stay long as I was meeting some friends for dinner, but it was a delight to see the community come together. I drank a very strong mulled cider with rum mixed by the plant-based cocktail maker Lottie Muir from the Midnight Apothecary and had a chat (or disturbed!) the lovely Julie Friend, BBC Masterchef winner, who catered the event. I love small, organic events like these.

Product of the Week: Spelt flour. I have been trialing some bread recipes made with spelt flour this week. Definitely more dense, but much more nutty in taste. Delicious with some almond butter, or some mushed avocado on top. Yum, but healthy.

Foddie Blog of the Week: I have been a little self obsessed this week, and given my blog a little makeover. Nothing too drastic. Just added the Instagram on the sidebar as well, and I like it! I am working on a conversion tool as well, to make switching from a US cups/Fahrenheit to weight/Celsius more convenient when following a recipe. Bit more complex than I thought but I want it to be visually easy and quick, so it might take me longer than expected!

Must-Watch of the Week: New series addiction: Hostages on Channel 4. I think the husband and I are now watching 5 various TV series simultaneously. We can't help ourselves, so much good stuff lately.

Added to the Wish-List this Week: An ice cream maker! In January you say? Well yes, I am weird like that. But I want to make lovely homemade ice creams and sorbets with no nasties in it. Don't think I will be able to afford one for a while, but here's to hoping…

24 January 2014

{Comforting} Cranberry Sauce, Honey and Brie Grilled Cheese

Oh sweet baby. Life can give you a bit of a slap in the face sometimes, doesn't it? A dose of reality we like to call it. Not going into too much detail here but sometimes, you get lost in between that person you really aspire to be, and who you truly are. It's like a personality vortex. And it can be a consuming experience, as well as a confusing one. But you can't help it. Wouldn't life be that much better if you were more confident like that colleague of yours/owned those awesome new trainers that hipster on Instagram keeps sporting/booked that holiday you can't afford/dated that guy who really-is-a-moron-but-it's-better-than-being-alone-surely? Wouldn't you feel more complete? Wouldn't you just be happier?

But then life serves you a serving of the good ol' humble pie. Ground control to Major Tom style.

I like it when life does that. It says: you are just you. Enjoy it. Stop pretending. Be you. Be true. And have a sandwich.

Well ok, life doesn't tell you to have a sandwich, but I do. The humble grilled cheese sandwich nonetheless. A sandwich for one. A sandwich to tone things down a little. To help you reflect on things while you slice that bread, think about which cheese you are going to melt in that bad boy, and then buttering those slices of bread and smelling all that gooey-buttery goodness sizzle in the pan. Does that sound good?

Make a grilled cheese sandwich that will bring you back to what is important in life, feed your mind with good thoughts. Melted cheese will do that to you, I promise.

I made mine with two thick slices of no-fuss bread, some leftover cranberry sauce, a drizzle of honey and some Cornish brie (at room temp).

Stack it up. Butter it up. Put on a heated pan. Wait 3 minutes. Flip over. Wait another 3 minutes. Slice and eat.

Simple, no need to think about what you're making. It's all about feeding your soul. And then go back to believing that life is a pretty little thing. She really is.

20 January 2014

Easiest Caramel Sauce

I know, I know, January is all about being healthy. We all make lists of things like Eat more green food and Eat less sugar and Exercise more.

I used to do this too. Guilty as charged.

But this year, I realised that it is no fun setting myself high, unattainable targets and then giving up on them only a couple of weeks down the line.

One thing I really want is to generally be more healthy. I mean, I turned 30 last summer and let's just say, I don't spring back as quickly as I used to. Losing a bit of weight seems a tad harder and those morning-after are oh so more difficult, just to name a few. So this year, I decided to embrace a new ratio in my lifestyle. The 70-30. I'll be good 70 percent of the time. And then there will be the other 30 percent dedicated to naughtiness.

It's all about getting to know myself a little bit better, i.e. knowing that cutting sugar out of my diet completely is something I can't sustain long term (why did I ever thought this possible??)

That being said, here is the easiest sugary little recipe ever know to men kind. Definitely in the 30 percent naughty bracket.

It requires one can of sweetened condensed milk. That is the only ingredient.

And for equipment: a crockpot. Or a slow-cooker, depending on which part of the world you are from.

My dad's family used to make caramel like this, but on the stove-top. I have heard this is very unsafe… so here enters this slow-cooked method.

To make it you will need:

1 can of condensed milk, transferred into a glass jar with a lid on (I made 2 jars! So used 2 cans.)

Then pop your jar in your crockpot (slow-cooker) and pour some water so it reaches the milk level in the jar. Cover with the crockpot lid, put on low and let cook for 8 to 10 hours.

My jars were a bit too tall for my crockpot, but fear-not if this is your case too! I covered my crockpot with a layer of foil and a tea towel and then put my crockpot lid on (askew). All this to prevent that too much water evaporates away.

Keep an eye on it, making sure the water level is not getting any lower. Add more water if needed.

This caramel, on some toast in the morning (with bananas on top, just an idea), on some ice cream, on fruits, on a spoon…

Genius idea: pimping the flavour of your caramel sauce. Yes! In one of my jars, I put a teaspoon of sea salt to make a salted caramel. I left the other plain, but I am thinking a tablespoon of brandy could possibly be a wise idea too... or some good quality vanilla extract... until next time.

Have you ever made caramel this way?

18 January 2014

The Weekly Round up #02

This week I didn't have much time to cook, or blog for that matter. But I bought tulips. Pink tulips. Spring is coming, right?

The Week in LRB Posts: Nutty Smoothie

Foodie Outing of the Week: The rain was pouring on and off in London this week. One minute it is all sunny, the next there is a deluge. I took refuge in Gail's Bakery in Soho on one of those occasion, and ended up staying way after the rain had stopped, with for company a blueberry and apricot scone and a good old cup a joe.

Product of the Week: Cauliflower. Can't get enough of it. Either as an alternative to rice as demonstrated by Rosie from The Londoner, or in a delicious creamy sauce by Pinch of Yum. I told my mum on Skype of my love for it. She was dumfounded... "You hate cauliflower!" Well yes, I do. Or I did. All part of growing up! I mean I still hate it when just boiled and put on a plate. You gotta dress it up a bit...

Foddie Blog of the Week: Beautiful photography on the Call Me Cupcake blog of sweet food. I love the dark background and simple colours. Very scandinavian. And looks all very delicious too.

Must-Watch Read of the Week: I am rediscovering the Honestly Healthy book I purchase last spring about eating the alkaline way. I have been feeling a bit sluggish this week, so will be cooking lost or recipes from the book in the coming weeks to get back on track and help with my digestive system and energy levels. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to make healthy changes to their lifestyle that make sense.

Added to the Wish-List this Week: Steak. I haven't eaten a decent steak in aaaages. And considering I have a Le Creuset skillet, I should really just get to it already.

13 January 2014

{Breakfast Post #01} Nutty Smoothie

I got inspired by some beauty blogs out there that have series of posts under the same category and are numerated which makes it really fun, and kind of like a story with multiple short stories. Am I making any sense? Anyway I though why not do it with food? Well breakfast. Which is my favourite favourite favourite meal of the day.

Now don't get me wrong. My loving breakfast does not make me a morning person. Because well, I love my sleep. Like really love my sleep. My husband can testify.

But I need breakfast to start the day right. Quick and healthy is the norm, during the week at least. And treat time during the weekend - I am quite impartial to a full English brekkie... or a croissant, hot from the oven with extra butter and jam... Bliss. Right, back to this nutty little smoothie of a recipe.

This kind of reminds me of the breakfast I used to love as a kid. Peanut butter toast with slices of banana. Yum. I still love it now. But this is a tad healthier.

It gets wizzed up in a blender or a food processor in a matter of seconds. You can sip on it whilst getting ready, or put in a to-go cup and sip on your way out. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as they say in these parts of the world.

To make it, you'll need:

250 ml unsweetened almond milk
1 banana, frozen and in smallish chunks (do this the night before)
2 heaped tablespoons almond butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
to sweeten, a squirt of raw honey
1 scoop protein powder (optional)

Put everything in your blender or food processor and blend away until smooth.

This might just transform me into a morning person. What do you think? Yeah, let's not push it too far...

11 January 2014

The Weekly Roundup #01

Bit of a random post which will serve as a bit of an online diary for me.

The Week in LRB Posts: Galette des Rois // Winter Warmer Roasted Carrot Soup

Foodie Outing of the Week: Viet Grill on Kingsland Rd in Shoreditch. Went there with the husband on Thursday night. I had the best cocktail ever, made with passion fruit and vanilla vodka. Nuff said.

Product of the Week: I received a food processor at Christmas and I have been giving it a fair amount of work since then. Might be a bit early to say this, but I think it will be my most loved bit of kitchen equipment for 2014. Big statement.

Foddie Blog of the Week: I have been drooling all over Foodgawker this week, which not only gave me massive food envy, but made me discover new food blogs. One of which is The Fitchen. Ridiculously beautiful photography is just a bonus to all those amazing healthier recipes.

Must-Watch of the Week: Bit of a recent discovery for me: cooking/baking videos on YouTube. I have been loving watching the two sisters at Crumbs Food this week. Their recipes are super simple and their Lemon Drizzle Cake looks just yum.

Added to the Wish-List this Week: Everything at SCP. My wish-list is endless and waaay above my budget. I love their upholstery section. Makes me wish I had a huge flat to furnish. And no limit on my credit card.

9 January 2014

Winter Warmer Roasted Carrot Soup

I don't know about where you are in the world, but here in the UK, it is wet! And cold! I am having a constant inner battle about whether to stay inside and therefore warm and dry, or poke my nose outside and go jump in puddles... I think a bit of both is in order!

And so to help warm my cockles after running around in the rain, soup it is.

I'm a big believer that any veg and stock can make a wonderful soup. But I also like to have a depth of flavours, so I thought why not roast some veg and then make soup? Winner.

This soup is super quick to make, less than half an hour and hop you have a nice big ol' bowl of soup in your hands.

Plus it's super healthy too as it's loaded with skin-friendly beta carotene from the carrots (which will help me get clearer skin after the holidays... ahem too many chocolates anyone?).

To make it you'll need:

600g of carrots
1 onion
2 big cloves of garlic, whole in their skin
glug of olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1.5 L of veg stock (or chicken could do too)

Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C and prepare your veg. Peel and chop the carrots into smallish cubes (this will help cook quicker) and the onion in big chunks.

Place half of the carrots, all of the onion and whole garlic cloves in a roasting tray. Pour a little olive oil and rub it in all over. Then sprinkle the ground cumin, and pop in the oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every now and then to make sure nothing is burning.

In the meantime, bring the veg stock to a boil with the other half of the carrots and simmer for around 10 minutes or so. You want the carrots to still be firm, not all mushy.

When the roasted veg are ready, pop them in a blender or food processor (remove the skin on the garlic cloves first!) and also add the stock and carrots that were simmering away. Add a bit of sea salt and some pepper too. And blend till smooth.

Then ta-da! Soup! Homemade! It wasn't hard now was it?

I like to pimp my soup a little with some tabasco. A skirt of lime juice is also super refreshing. And some herbs are always a nice addition. Maybe a drizzle of olive oil? All up to you.

Have you been making soup this winter? I'm always on the lookout for new soup recipe, so do share!

Note: I have entered this recipe in the Winter Warmer Recipe Competition held by the Co-operative Electrical. In my defence I chose the name of my recipe before I was aware of said competition, but the coincidence hinted towards my participation don't you think? If you are a blogger and have a winter warmer recipe too, head over to www.coopelectricalshop.co.uk to look over the details. Good luck!

6 January 2014

Galette des Rois

The festive season is well and truly behind us as of today. Not only was it the first back-to-school (work!) Monday after 2 weeks off for most of us, but it is also Epiphany, or the twelfth day after Christmas. Which means we have one last excuse to a festive sweet treat: the galette des rois.

So as I (sadly) took all the Christmas decorations down this morning and hoovered away the needles the Christmas tree left on my carpet after being dragged onto the balcony, I busied myself baking little individual galette des rois.

Traditionally, the galette des rois is a puff pastry filled with a dense almond frangipane. But the best bit is the little trinket hidden inside the galette, usually a dried bean. The one who finds the trinket in his slice of the cake is then crowned king or queen for the day. How is that to start off the new year?

To make it you'll need:

1 recipe for all-butter puff pastry (I sneakily used ready made)
110g of butter, room temperature
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
2 large eggs
60ml double cream
1 teaspoon almond extract

Mix the butter, sugar, ground almonds and eggs with an electric whisk until the mixture is smooth. Then add the cream and the almond extract with a wooden spoon and mix. Don't use the electric mix for this as it will make the frangipane rise too much when it cooks. Refrigerate the mixture for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry to about a quarter of an inch thick on a floured surface.

You could make one big cake, or about 6 or 8 individual ones. To make little individual cakes, use a 4 inch cutter to make disks. Fill half of the disks with about 3 tablespoons of the frangipane (and only with the lucky trinket - I used a penny that I covered in foil), cover with another disk and press the edges together and fold. Egg wash each cake and bake for around 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Don't worry if the filling spills out a little. It only makes it look more homemade. Plus you can trim it off and snack on it - chef's treat.

Happy New Year!