Confusing the Palate

Confusing the Palate

Once again I have been possibly slightly unwittingly coerced by my friends to cook for them in what can only be described as basic cooking conditions. This time it was marginally easier, only 4 to cook for, no dietary restrictions and a more free day leading up to it. Plus I had further enticement as the three dinner guests agreed to match my menu with wines for each course. As per usual the menu was possibly a little obsessively planned – excel, timetable, price itemised shopping list….. If only I gave my degree this much attention.

Unfortunately that day the time I had allotted to finishing my coursework so I felt slightly better about jet setting to the Isle of Man on choir tour ( yes we did fly and it was a very exciting tour) was spent trying in Vain to save my degree, I accidentally wiped my computer hard drive, hopefully this can be remedied – watch this space. Most people in this circumstance would most likely be in hysterics, alleviating anger by throwing heavy objects at the wall, or immediately degrading from their degree and moving to anguished exile in Siberia to escape the pain of the disappearance of half a years worth of coursework. I’m afraid I did none of these things. The excitement of cooking a dinner party made up if my favourite foods, with some of my favourite people and a copious amount of good wine somehow managed to inspire such a cloud of optimism – I am still living in the sphere of it and am still convinced this will be ok- my mother on the other hand is despairing, possibly mostly at my casual attitude….
Anyway back to dinner – if anything can distract me from a possible career ending mistake it would be confit chicken, truffle jus, peanut butter parfait…. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We began with prosecco and walkers crisps. However these wakers crisps tasted especially good because I’d stolen them from the snack basket of the current bane of my life, the college fundraising campaign. If you have ever had to persuade people to give you money when they are trying it tell you that they’ve just been made redundant/had a baby/ bought a house so can’t afford it right now you will understand the soul draining experience that is telephone campaign. (Disclaimer – the crisps were meant for workers like me so it wasn’t so much stealing)

 I wanted to challenge our taste buds by starting with a sweet course and ending with a savoury while still trying maintain some sort of style and complexity within my ‘having to reboot the oven every 15mins’ limitations. So we began with a Roasted tomato and caramelised onion Tarte Tatin with Ricotta quenelle. This is a surprisingly easy dish, particularly with the aid of Lakeland disposable foil pudding dishes – effectively the basis of this meal.

Serves 4
2 large tomatoes
Thyme
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 onions
1tbsp butter
Bay leaf
2 tbsp sugar + 2tbsp sugar
Salt
Pepper
Drop vanilla essence
White wine vinegar (I shamefully had to use fish and chip vinegar)
Ready rolled puff pastry

Roast the tomatoes, cut in half and garlic still in its skin with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt and thyme leaves for about 10-15mins at 180oC.
Meanwhile chop the onions and then sweat over a medium heat in the butter with a good sprinkling of salt (add water if the onions look like they will burn).
When translucent add the bay leaf, a splash of vinegar, pepper, drop of vanilla and half the sugar. When sticky and caramelised, set aside.
Finally melt the remaining sugar with 2tbsp water till a golden amber colour .
Place 1tsp caramel in the base of 4 foil pudding pots. Top with the tomatoes, flat side down and a garlic clove, squeezed out of its skin. Then add a spoonful of onions. Finally top with a disk of puff pastry.
Bake in the oven for 15 min or until golden – turn over – make a quenelle with a spoon of ricotta and serve.

The main used one of my favourite ingredients. I can’t stress enough how amazing a few drops of truffle oil is in most dishes! Some of the best examples include in mash potatoes, mushroom risotto, in butter for steak or even (if you’re feeling adventurous) white truffle and black pepper ice cream with strawberries. It is most definitely worth the £3.99 I paid for it – this bottle is going to last me for about a year, even the smell of it is pretty satisfying.
Other than the truffle oil, all the ingredients in this main are pretty cheap which just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a lot to throw a great dinner party (this is one of the many tips I tend to shout at the TV screen when watching Come Dine with Me, along with why do you start cooking when your guests arrive???). I do agree that you can taste a great cut of organic meat, especially with steak where the better the quality the less you have to do to it, I barely cook mine, BUT I used sainsbury’s basics chicken leg pieces for this dish, at the grand total of 4 for £2.69, and it came out absolutely beautifully.
So here it is Confit Chicken leg, buttered cabbage with nutmeg, butternut squash dauphinoise, toasted hazelnuts and truffle jus. Again relatively easy, just prep the hazelnuts, chicken, dauphinoise and chop the cabbage in advance and you can pretty much just leave it to cook while you can go and drink with your guests (take notes Come dine with me contestants).

Serves 4
For the Chicken
4 chicken legs
2l sunflower/vegetable oil
1tsp truffle oil
8-10 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
few sprigs of thyme
50g sea salt flakes
pepper
For the Cabbage
1 savoy cabbage
2tbsp water
50g salted butter
pinch of nutmeg
pepper
For the Jus
1-2tsp truffle oil
1 stock cube
small knob of butter
rosemary
2 garlic cloves
sprig thyme
bay leaf
pepper
splash lemon juice
For the Dauphinoise
1 butternut squash
pepper
8 cloves or so garlic
sea salt flakes
thyme
bay leaf
300ml cream
(milk)
For the Hazlenuts
100g blanched hazlenuts finely chopped (or bashed)

Rub the chicken with the salt, crushed garlic cloves, pepper and herbs, set aside for about an hour or so. Meanwhile toast the hazelnuts in a dry saucepan over a medium heat NB keep tossing to try and prevent burning, set aside.
Chop the squash into slices and layer in a shallow dish, studding every couple of layers with garlic cloves, a good sprinkling of salt and some pepper and the herbs. Pour over the cream, you may need a bit of milk to bring the cream/milk to the same level as the top layer of the squash, alternatively you can top this up with cream, the dish will be more stodgy but richer and really delicious.
Chop the cabbage into strips (the best way to do this is cut out the centre and chop all the sides into strips). Place into a saucepan with the butter, water, nutmeg and pepper, set aside.
Wash most of the salt off the chicken, reserving the herbs, half of the garlic and about 5-10g of the salt (this is approximate, the idea is you need a bit left). Place in a shallow dish and cover the chicken and herbs etc with the oils.
Put the chicken in the oven at 150oC for about an hour and a half. Forty minutes before you want to eat put the squash in the oven, when ready the squash should be starting to brown on top.
Meanwhile for the jus, chop the garlic and place in a small saucepan with the butter and sauté for 2-3mins. Pour over the lemon juice and add the herbs and 250ml water. Add the stock cube and stir to dissolve over a medium heat. Reduce to about half then add the truffle oil. Remove from the heat.
5mins before you want to eat, put the cabbage on the heat and cover, cook for 5mins and then remove from the heat.
To serve, place a handful of cabbage in the middle of the plate, top with a chicken leg and sprinkle with hazelnuts, finally spoon over some jus. Serve the dauphinoise separately, trust me a normal sized portion may not be enough for each person.

Now since I had done a sweet starter I decided to counter expectations with a salty dessert based on the american classic snack, a PBJ sandwich. My sister will tell you how obsessed I am with peanut butter, so much so that she promised to make me a giant peanut butter cup in lieu of a cake for my 18th birthday (if you’re reading this it’s 3 years down the line and I’m still waiting on that). When we went to America the excitement of every single chocolate bar having a version in peanut butter not to mention every restaurant meal. While in San Francisco last year I remember having a peanut butter cheesecake slice for lunch rather than the more nutritious savoury burritos my friends have. I do try and limit my addiction as too much of a good thing (at least in this case) would make me end up morbidly obese, but since I got to choose the menu for this party, it was inevitably included. This isn’t for everyone (my haribo addicted dinner partner would’ve preferred a sweeter dessert) but for me it encapsulates heaven


Peanut butter parfait, cookie crumbs, chocolate squares and homemade strawberry jam
Makes 6
For the parfait
200g peanut butter
300g cream cheese
75g sugar
vanilla extract
200ml cream
3/4 sachet powdered gelatine
1 packet chocolate chip cookies
50g butter
For the chocolate squares
masking tape
dark chocolate (60% or more)
For the jam
400g strawberries
150g sugar
1 sachet powdered gelatine
black pepper
vanilla extract

Beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract. Add the sugar, beat, then whisk together the gelatine and cream to combine before adding to the mix and beating further. Meanwhile make the cookies into crumbs, best done in a food processor. grease 6 pudding dishes (see above) well and then cover in cookie crumbs. (the best way to do this is place a large spoonful in the bottom and then pour out, turning as you do to cover all the sides). Fill the moulds with parfait and leave to set in the fridge. Reserve the remaining cookie crumbs
Meanwhile make a grid on a parchment lined tray with the masking tape. Melt the chocolate and spread over the grid, leave at room temperature to set, when still soft but not liquid, peel off the masking tape carefully, you should be left with perfect chocolate squares, place in the fridge to set.
Macerate (cover) the chopped strawberries in the sugar and black pepper. After about 30mins, place over a medium heat and liquids using a hand held blender. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3-5mins. Add the gelatine and stir to dissolve, leave to cool. Ideally you would then put this in a piping bag, I didn’t have one 😦
To serve, place a chocolate square on the plate, release the parfait and place on top, finish with a second chocolate square. Use the piping bag to pipe dots of jam around this (again I couldn’t do this) and scatter with cookie crumbs.

 

For finishing touches to the perfect evening, add wine and good company.

The Student 3-course meal

The Student 3-course meal

You know those days when you feel like celebrating (in my case recovering from the flu) but have no money and have left it a little too late to organise stuff with friends? Or perhaps you have just finished an essay and are only just realising that you want food and celebratory food? (or perhaps to speed the essay on its way?) Or maybe you forgot it was your anniversary, but the budget is limited….

Poor mans G+T
so you have no ice, the college accommodation you’re in only provides a paltry fridge the size of a shoebox which of course you have stuffed half of with beverages rather than food… In my case I’ve chosen to refrigerate the tonic, but refrigerating the gin works just as well, especially if your G+Ts tend to be Gin with a dash of tonic…..
I like using Sainsbury’s ‘London Gin’, one above the basics so it tastes slightly better (or if you have parents visiting stock your cupboard with something nice, my personal favourite being Tanqueray, don’t mean to sound like an advert but I can really taste the difference – can’t wait till their visit in two weeks….)
Tonic wise, the basics is fine, but again if you can afford it schweppes is nicer – slimline for the calorie conscious.
To really pimp up this drink, i like to use a dash of lemon juice, one of the squeezable lemons will do, I find my G+Ts are so far and few between any lemons I buy tend to turn a nasty shade of green before I get round to including them in my drink…..
Not quite Gourmet but highly passable.

Starter from the Cupboard
A starter made from a student store cupboard is tricky… but i managed to create one with virtually no prep as well.
Starting point, some sainsbury’s basics chopped tomatoes and some crisp bread.

Chopped tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 chopped cloves garlic
vinaigrette made with 1/2 oil, 1/2 vinegar (balsamic if possible)
salt and pepper
(if you have basil even better)

Mix altogether and top the crisp bread

In pizza express they would charge you £4.80 for that (and this serves a lot more than one)

Main Course
I always tend to have cooked chicken (mostly because I don’t trust my fridge to not give me food poisoning if I keep raw meat in there constantly), and I try and keep onions, carrots and sweet potatoes in my cupboard because they always come in useful.
So Supper today is…Mashed Sweet Potato Balsamic roast and ricotta cheese

Chop onions and carrots, toss in oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Place in a microwave proof dish and cover with cling film, pierced in various places. Cook on high for 7-10mins. Remove. Prick a sweet potato and place in the microwave for 6mins on high. Remove and replace carrots and onions in uncovered, cook for 2mins, then stir in chicken and cook for a further 2mins. Meanwhile scoop the mash out of the sweet potato skin, season with salt and pepper and butter (sometimes I add a spoonful of pesto but it’s fine without)
Serve all with a dollop of ricotta cheese on the side.

Dessert
Ok so it would be really easy to buy a pot of Gu and heat that up in the microwave and all that but this is cheap and chocolatey and easy, and you can even call it molecular gastronomy because it has an element of science….

Dark Chocolate and water. Melt over a pan of water in a bowl without stirring. Cool. Once Cool whisk together. To pimp it up add a little orange zest and top with creme fraiche.

A cheap and easy 3 course meal, using mostly store cupboard ingredients. Add a large glass of red wine for real celebration.

Chocolates: The Christmas Collection

Chocolates: The Christmas Collection

Brazil Nut Brandy Butter A milk chocolate shell with a brazil nut butter ganache filling garnished with gold
Mexican Hot Chocolate Dark chocolate encasing a cinnamon, cayenne pepper, vanilla and salty centre
Orange Meringue Pie Orange and basil ganache surrounded by white chocolate and rolled in meringue
Gingerbread Milk chocolate, studded with biscuits, with a centre infused with the classic flavours of gingerbread
Olive Oil and Strawberry Olive oil ganache, smothered in white chocolate and studded with freeze dried strawberries

Green Tea and Lime A green tea and lime centre with a dark chocolate shell streaked with white chocolate


Fudge salted caramel brownies (ie orgasm in a tin)

Fudge salted caramel brownies (ie orgasm in a tin)

So I am writing this from my iPhone because my computer didn’t survive the weekend that needs 3 blog posts to replicate. I am strongly in need of an early night, liver detox and green veg but it was definitely worth it. This first post is solely for the cast of the magic flute many of whom have asked for the recipe and how I make them so gooey despite the fact they had to sort of be eaten with a spoon out of the tin ( although I strongly recommend anyone not in the magic flute to try making these too) I for one credit them with helping me get through the get out which lasted till 2.30am, not helped by my apparent hangover from lunch (see the next blog post on midsummer house). I also should admit that the success of these brownies wasn’t necessarily down to my skill at cooking, but partly due to the fact I over-bought in terms of chocolate and under-bought in terms of eggs, so the result was a fudgy gooiness which nevertheless proved pretty popular amongst the singers (although of course only after the show – they would never eat chocolate before singing……maybe) also I apologise there is no picture of these…they were eaten before I remembered to take one, it’s alright though because they were more tasty than pretty anyway

300g caster sugar
250ml double cream
2tsp salt (sea salt)
Knob of butter
600g dark chocolate (sainsburys basics is fine)
350g butter
6 eggs
300g caster sugar
Vanilla extract
1tsp salt
250g flour

1. Melt the sugar over a medium heat without stirring till it turns an amber colour WATCH it is easy to burn. Take off the heat and add the cream and salt mixing vigourously then stir in the butter, leave to come to room temperature.
2. Meanwhile melt the butter and chocolate till smooth, add the salt and leave to cool to room temp
3. Beat in the eggs one by one, then the sugar, add a tsp of vanilla then stir in the flour
4. Pour half into a lined rectangular deep tin. Top with caramel and then the remaining brownie mix
5. Bake in the oven at 180oC for 25-30mins
6. Meanwhile wash up, it will take a while

The Chocolate Box

The Chocolate Box
            When I was at home I rediscovered chocolate making. Many reasons, mostly a lack of funds for any real presents for people (plus let’s be honest people always tend to prefer homemade gifts for some reason). So for the final two weeks before uni I turned are kitchen into a pseudo-chocolate factory, completely monopolising one of the surfaces and the entire fridge. The brilliant thing about making chocolates is that once you’ve mastered the basics it is remarkably simple and easy, yet people seem to be incredibly impressed with what you produce, just invest in some good chocolate moulds and that is pretty much all you need.
Simple Ganache
2 parts dark chocolate to 1 part cream (e.g 100g chocolate, 50ml double cream). Heat the cream with an infusion of your choice (have sometimes ranged from earl grey to black pepper) then pour over the chocolate that has been chopped, leave for a minute, then stir to combine. You should be left with a smooth combination.
                                                    
To fill a chocolate mould
Fill each mould up to the top with chocolate and flatten the tops with a palate knife, then turn upside down and tap the top (you can do this into a bowl if you have a wide enough bowl or if, like me, you don’t, just use a piece of greaseproof paper, the chocolate with set and you can reuse it). Then scrape the top again with a palate knife for a clean finish.
To finish
Fill the moulds with the ganache leaving a rim around the edge, leave to set. Spread a layer of chocolate over the top, scraping round the sides of each mould.
Few important details
       white chocolate ganache will always need more chocolate to cream ratio than dark or milk
       I like to use a freezer to set each stage because I’m inpatient
       If you want to use a liquid flavour (orange juice/alcohol etc) reduce the amount of cream and replace with the liquid (for juices reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency but not for alcohol unless you want a boozefree hit)
       You can stir in crunch/ other textures into the ganache for new layers
       Praline/ peanut butter can be mixed with chocolate on its own to create a thicker ganache filling
       To put decoration on top the best way is to paint the bottom of the mould
       Caramel is another winner usually. Boil sugar and liquid glucose to amber colour with some salt, straight away add a dash of cream and a  knob of butter, then leave to cool a little before putting in the moulds.
– water is the enemy BUT if you do get some water in your chocolate, the best deal is to add fat, so oil or melted butter and hopefully your pro blame will be solved
Some of my biggest successes have either been simple (earl grey, salted caramel) or themed (biscuit box, Christmas inspired) or even just boozy, I also like using herbs and spices mixed with sweet flavours like raspberry/wasabi (using real raspberry pulp for intense flavour). This years selection seemed to go down rather well anyway. 
  
                                                                 


Birthday Brownies

Birthday Brownies

My birthday this year was all about food (you are only 21 once). Eggs Royale, Pain au Raisin and a surprise slice of strawberries and cream gateaux (soo bad for you) with a candle in the top is quite a good way to start the day. (Thank you U8,U4, U7 and the soprano) I have to say Patisserie Valerie was surprising amazing – I wasn’t expecting a chain to come out so well but their patisserie (the pastry and cake) were the best I’d had outside of france, the poached eggs were lovely and runny, the hollondaise was nice and salty and the brioche was a surprise interesting addition to the eggs royal, if only i’d been able to fit in some macaroons…. http://www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk

This cake was absolutely amazing – the sponge was really light, the cream was also light (whipped and sweet and the nuts added crunch. The cream on top was possibly a bit much but the whole thing just floated away in the mouth, sugary creamy fluffiness.

Barely finished breakfast when I had to move into lunch. It’s surprisingly difficult to keep eating when you let yourself eat everything you want, it almost becomes an effort (I say almost). but when the comedy girl took me out for a champagne lunch at Harriet’s tea room I couldn’t refuse. Harriet’s was upmarket pub food. The sweet potato fries were lovely if a tad under seasoned, the salmon fishcakes were good if a little overcooked but peas were a little boring. It was tasty food, and my grandma would have loved it but the food wasn’t the most exciting I’ve tasted. Having said this the company was excellent (I mean the comedy girl not the other couples average age 70), the staff were amazing – they suggested champagne and brought out a candle in the lemon meringue pie we shared for dessert without asking! Plus the meringue pie was pretty tasty and the menu was affordable and the atmosphere was quiet enough to chat. I would take parents (or get them to take you) for champagne tea there sometime. http://harrietscafetearooms.co.uk/cambridge-city-centre-tearooms/

For the final cake of the day I had made myself exactly what I wanted Cheesecake Brownies. Pizza Express may seem like a basic restaurant for a massive foodie to go on their birthday but great service, free bottle of prosecco for the birthday girl and 25% off mains is a bit of an incentive. Plus I can confidently say the Calabrese pizza is the best pizza on the menu – there is a reason it is the most expensive. Spicy Calabrese sausage D.O.P, hot soft n’duja sausage, finely chopped red chillies, roquito peppers, red & yellow peppers, mozzarella, rocket, pesto, oregano, grana padano. I had panicked about these brownies because I had cooked them in S staircase which meant running back and forth as I failed to work out how to use the oven twice…. But turns out the combination of a classic Nigella brownie base with basic cheesecake topping is a good one

Cheesecake Brownies

Brownies
375 g soft unsalted butter
375 g best quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
500 g caster sugar
225 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt

Cheesecake Topping
300g low fat cream cheese
150g sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract 
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Line your approximatley 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm brownie pan with foil or baking paper.
3. Mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract till smooth, beat in an egg

4. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan.
5. In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.

6. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
7. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the flour.
8. Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan.

9. Top with the cheesecake mix and using the base of a fork, swirl for a marble effect
10. Bake for about 25 minutes. (this can vary on the oven)
11. When its’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle with white splattering  but the middle still dark and dense and gooey.
12. Keep checking the brownies as they cook; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.\


They taste good warm from the oven or slightly cooled…. In fact they just taste very very good


The Accidental Brownies

The Accidental Brownies
            On the last day of Croatia I was in using up mode. I saw eggs, chocolate and what I thought was flour and immediately thought of brownies. (Plus I had been told off earlier that day by one of the boys for not providing enough between meal snacks – you would have thought with all that food….-) I also saw some mascarpone so decided to add them in too. I melted chocolate, a little salt and butter together in a pan. Meanwhile I whisked the eggs with sugar and added in vanilla and the mascarpone. I mixed this into the chocolate mix. At this point I realised that the flour was not actually flour, but cornflour. I debated throwing the whole mixture away but decided it was a waste of perfectly good ingredients. So instead I added the cornflour tentatively. I was so nervous that I only cooked the brownies for 15mins at 140oC before checking every 5mins to see if they were done. 10mins later they passed my test and I took them out and let them harden up.
            They were a surprise success, more morish even than Nigella’s brownies (the recipe I would usually swear by). They proved useful again when my sister was baking for a gluten intolerant friend; I had accidentally invented my own recipe for the perfect snack for her. 

Ferraro Rocher Cupcakes

I admit that I do not post enough sweet recipes to this blog despite having an intensely sweet tooth (I would always pick pudding over starter). I love making desserts – desserts is my favourite part of the meal because they give you the scope to be the most creative. You can mix sweet and savoury, you can shape almost anything (see the cake section), there are never constraints what you have to put on the plate and most of all it can have chocolate in it. Desserts are works of art and taste bloody good – I’m afraid this is why I believe food is a much higher form of art than a one off effort on a painting in the Tate modern. Plus I am pretty sure someone will soon come out with proven scientific research that baking is the most effective form of stress release and antidepressant.  So here is a decadent cake for a chocolate lover, not only is it beautiful but it combines probably every good thing god created (minus peanut butter and champagne) plus it has gold leaf on it, who wouldn’t eat anything with gold leaf on it?

Ferraro Rocher
Vanilla Cupcakes, Filled with hazelnut cream, a layer of chocolate, boiled milk nutella frosting with hazelnut pieces, drizzled with white and milk chocolate, sprinkled with wafer and topped with gold leaf.
For the Cupcakes
225 grams granulated sugar
1 vanilla pod
175 grams cake flour, not self-rising (Available in the UK only from American food shops)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
57 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
75 grams full-fat sour cream
60ml vegetable oil
1Tbsp vanilla extract
160 ml whole milk
1.Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C.
2.In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla pod.
3.Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure
to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.
4.In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together
cake flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt.
5.Add the vanilla sugar and mix until well combined.
6.Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because
there is so little butter, you’ll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
7.In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and
vanilla extract until smooth.
8.Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed
until just combined.
9.Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter
will be liquid. 
10.         Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
11.         Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They
are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
12.         When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the
tins and leave them on a cooling rack to cool.

For the Filling
240ml Whole Milk
2.5 Egg Yolks
55g Sugar
55g Cornstarch
2 teaspoons Hazelnut Liqueur
1.    In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
2.    Place over a low heat whisking gently just until the mixture bubbles, about 15 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Stir in hazelnut liqueur.
3.    Press plastic wrap directly on the top of the cream and place in fridge to cool completely, approximately 2 hours.
4.    When cupcakes are cool, cut a small hole in the centre of the cake and fill with the filling.
For the Chocolate Layer
100g melted milk chocolate
1. When the cupcakes are filled, pour over a thin layer of melted chocolate and leave to set, meanwhile make the icing.
For the Frosting
240ml Whole Milk
3 tbsp Plain
A pinch of Salt
225g unsalted Butter
225g Granulated Sugar
1tbsp nutella
2tbsp hazelnuts, finely chopped
1.    Whisk flour into milk and place over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Cook mixture until thickened, whisking constantly.
2.    Remove from heat and whisk in the Salt.
3.    Pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap on the surface. (This will stop the cooking and the plastic will prevent crusting) Set aside to cool slightly.
4.    In a stand mixer, begin creaming the butter and sugar until fluffy.
5.    When milk mixture is slightly cooled; add 1 TB at a time to the creamed butter mixture while the mixer is running on medium speed. Slowly but surely the gluten will pull in the butter into a pseudo emulsion. Add the nutella and mix again.
6.    You should have an extremely fluffy, light and buttery frosting when completed
7.    Toast the hazelnuts dry. When cooled, stir through the frosting
8.    Place in a piping bag and pipe onto the set chocolate
To finish
Wafer crumbled
Melted milk chocolate
Melted white chocolate
Gold leaf
1.    Top the cupcake with the wafer pieces
2.    Drizzle the melted milk chocolate and white chocolate over the cupcake in lines
3.    Finally dab a piece of gold leaf on top

A Dean’s Dinner

A Dean’s Dinner
            ‘The Dean is coming to dinner on Saturday’ my mother announces walking in to the kitchen on Thursday, ‘would you mind???” I know my place. I also know I would not be keen for the reputation of the cooking in this household to be totally ruined, especially because the Dean is a fellow foodie. The limitations are as follows, I have two days only, I would like to join in the fun and chat and we need little to no leftovers because we leave for Lincoln the next morning. Challenge accepted. So I do my research on the Great British Menu website and find three manageable recipes that appear to fit all my restrictions.
            I find recipes can be adapted as to how you feel, but sometimes they can be useful. When following recipes I tend not to measure things out and often if I think extra herbs or spices should be added I do. For the first course – Scallops with celeriac and truffle puree, apple caramel and apple jelly- http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/scallop-celeriac-recipe– I learned the best way to cook scallops perfectly. 30secs on a searing heat before flipping them and putting them in the oven for 1 min, every time.

            The Duck course was the biggest success, further proof that often the simplest dish can be the most effective if the flavours are right. Duck with braised lettuce, pea and bacon. If anybody is planning on going on come dine with me anytime soon I strongly advise you take a similar view to me and always slow cook, because the most irritating thing to do during a dinner party is frazzle your hair, melt your make up and set the fire alarm off while overcooking a piece of meat. http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/slow-cooked-gressingham-duck-legs-recipe
For the carb garnish I turned to Nigella, a women who taught me that butter is the answer to everything with her really quick roast potatoes, another cheat. The only thing I did different from her simple method of deep frying gnocchi was use a dash of truffle oil and add garlic to the oil for flavour, delicious.
            For the final course I wanted to do something unusual (although I’m not sure anything can top the pigs ears I once insisted upon serving up for one of my parents dinner parties, thank you so much to them for putting up with that). I chose an Avocado mousse with dark chocolate ganache but decided that that simply wasn’t enough. http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/avocado-lime-chocolate-parfait-recipeSo I accompanied the dish with a raspberry coulis, chocolate shard and pine nut brittle for added crunch, surprisingly delicious. (although it did melt a little in the heat of the kitchen).