chocolate tarte

the (mis)adventures of an aussie girl in a kitchen somewhere in europe

22 November 2006

retro fare

You can take the girl out of the 70's but can you take the 70's out of the girl? A few choice Abba songs excluded, I can't say I have a real weakness for anything much from the era that made flares fashionable. So shoot me. But as soon as the mercury sinks towards the big zero, I change my mind. At least about the food. Not about those flares though. Tonight's meal is a typical time warp example. Stew and pudding. Because nothing but nothing is more comforting.

Beef Stew
serves 4
800g shin of beef, cubed
olive oil
salt and pepper
4 carrots, roughly chopped
4 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 red onions, diced
1 tablespoon flour
rosemary sprigs, leaves plucked
350ml white wine
800g can tomatoes
to serve:
fresh pasta (e.g ravioli) and fresh herbs

Over a high heat fry the beef in batches in a casserole. Season with salt and pepper and when browned, reduce the heat and add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic and rosemary leaves and sweat for about 10 minutes. Add the flour, then pour in the wine and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.
When the meat is tender and almost falling apart boil the pasta in water or stock, drain, then season the stew to taste and top wth pasta, drizzle over some olive oil and scatter with herbs.

Individual apple puddings (adapted from Bill Granger's Open Kitchen)
serves 2
50g butter
50g sugar
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced

60g butter, room temperature
60g sugar
1 egg
35 g almond meal
35g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of cinnamon

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease and line two 250ml-ramekin dishes. Place the butter and sugar in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Add the apple slices and and cook for about 10 minutes til the mixture is caramelized.
Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar for the dough. Add the egg and combine well. Stir in the almond meal, flour, baking powder and cinnamon and mix until well combined.
Spoon the apple mixture into the ramekins and cover with dough. Place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the puddings are golden. Invert the puddings onto plates and serve with cream or ice cream.

19 November 2006

upside-down pear cake

I am clearly what the French term a chocodependante. But here is proof that I eat other sweeties too. And anything with the words "upside-down" in the title grab my attention as much as my current drug of choice - chocolate. Well, almost.

Tarte tatins just seem the stuff of virtuosic baking but this upside-down baby from Fran Warde's "eat drink live"cookbook is simple- just make, bake and flip. And if you're not a pear appreciator or poiredependante (?) like me then you could just as easily use other fruits such as apples, peaches, pineapples, plums or bananas. Whatever the case, it's bottoms up!

Upside-down pear cake (adapted from Fran Warde)
3 pears
175g butter
175g sugar
3 eggs
175g flour
1 and a half teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons milk
icing sugar to dust

Heat the oven to 180 degreesC or gas mark 4. Using an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, adding one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold until just combined, then stir in the milk.
Meanwhile, peel, core and quarter the pears and arrange on the bottom of a lined and greased 20cm cake tin. Spoon the mixture over the pears and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the cake lightly comes away from the edge of the cake tin. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out of the pan and on to a serving plate, dust with icing sugar and enjoy either hot or cold.

11 November 2006

chocolate jam cake

Hot on the heels of one chocolate cake comes.... yet another chocolate cake. I don't need an excuse. It is simply not possible to overdose on this food group.

This choccy cake is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe. But in true domestic goddess fashion I have used apricot jam (still sitting patiently in the fridge from the Halloween marzipan muffin glaze) rather than frivolously investing valuable euros for the cherry jam in Nigella's version. The goddess of today is miserly. But this cake is fabulous.

Chocolate Apricot Jam Cake (adapted from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess)
125g soft butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g apricot jam
100g sugar
pinch salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g plain flour
1 and a half teapsoons baking powder

100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100ml double cream

Heat the oven to 18o degrees C or gas mark 4 and grease a 20cm springform cake tin. Melt the butter in the microwave (or on the stovetop) then add the chocolate and continue melting. Stir together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the jam, sugar, salt and beaten eggs and stir until well combined, then add the flour and baking powder.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45-5o minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out dry. Cool for 10 minutes then take out of the tin and continue cooling on a wire rack. When the cake is room temperature, melt the chocolate and cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat, let cool in the fridge for about 20 minutes, then whisk until thick and smooth.

06 November 2006

chocolate beetroot cake

Beetroot is not the most widely appreciated of all vegetables in this household. But I have come to love its deep red colour and iron-y taste and simply adore it either fresh or roasted in a salad. Not so my Mr. Big, who while good-naturedly putting up with all of this healthy eating, has said on more than one occasion "just don't come to me with broccoli or beetroot".

So when I saw this recipe from Jill Dupleix, featuring beetroot in a chocolate cake, it was like a deep red rag to a bull. The beetroot keeps the cake wonderfully moist and lends it an earthy tone but it is no way overpowering, in fact had I not baked it myself I wouldn't possibly believe it was just so darn good for us. And Mr. Big enjoyed his beetroot for the very first time.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake (courtesy of Jill Dupleix's New Food)
200ml sunflower oil
75g cocoa powder
180g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
250g sugar
250g vacuum-packed cooked beetroot in natural juice, drained
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar (to dust)

Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius (gas 4). Sift the cocoa, flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the sugar and set aside. Blend the beetroot in a food processor, then add the eggs separately, blending after each addition. Pour in the oil and vanilla extract and blend until smooth. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the beetroot mix and stir until just combined. Pour into the cake tin and place in the oven for about 50 minutes (or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean). Leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then remove the cake from the tin and continue to cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

(The cake won't rise very much and will crack on the top. Jill suggests also serving as a pudding with hot chocolate sauce and a dollop of ice cream)

01 November 2006


For the past few months we have been confronted at every turn with the strangest looking little pumpkins. They are sadly inedible, but by all accounts a must-have for the autumn apartment decorations. I took this snap at the Düsseldorf Market about 6 weeks ago and since then we have had one of these pathetic pygmy pumpkins gracing our coffee table.

So I was keen to finally cook something inspired by our little pumpkin friend and came across a recipe for Pumpkin-Potato Rösti, a fitting companion to the Zürich Chicken. Struck fervently by the holiday spirit, I over-adapted the side dish to my purpose, leaving out the potato and discovered that they refused to bind. A mistake I won't be making next Halloween.

These apricot muffins were baked in the event that some delightful little children might ring our doorbell politely requesting sweets. But since we live on a road affectionately referred to as the Beer Mile, I may have been tricking myself there. In any case, the apricots I used came courtesy of my shopping spree in Strasbourg, and had been marinating in amaretto, a real treat for us. Happy Halloween.

Zürich Chicken
serves 2
1 onion, diced
125g brown mushrooms, quartered
1 small cooking apple
2 chicken breasts (approx 175 g each), sliced
75ml white wine
100g chestnuts (vacuum packed)
200ml cream
salt and pepper

Season the sliced chicken breasts with salt and pepper and brown in a hot pan for about 2 minutes, then remove. Fry the mushrooms for about a minute, de-seed the apple and cut into eighths and add to the mushrooms along with the diced onion. Cook for a further minute, then pour in the wine and then let bubble for 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts and cream, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer til the sauce becomes creamy. Put the chicken back in the pan, season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh marjoram.

Pumpkin-Potato Rösti
serves 2
2 potatoes (400g)
200g pumpkin

Grate the potatoes and pumpkin and season with salt. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the grated vegetables and after 5 minutes form into rösti shapes. Over a medium heat fry for 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and absorb the excess oil on paper towels.

Apricot and Marzipan Muffins
makes 12
100g marzipan
150g soft butter (or margarine)
100g sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar (7g)
1 teaspoon amaretto
3 eggs (medium)
100g plain flour
50g almond meal
25g corn starch
1 and a half teaspoons baking powder
12 canned apricot halves
2 tablespoons apricot jam
75g dark chocolate
pinch salt

Heat the oven to 175 degrees. Finely chop the marzipan. Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, amaretto and salt. Add the eggs separately. Stir in the flour, almond meal, starch and baking powder, then add the chopped marzipan to the mixture. Spoon the dough into a muffin tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove tray, place an apricot half over each muffin (so that the round curve faces up) and bake for a further 10 -15 minutes.
When the muffins are at room temperature, heat the apricot jam, strain through a sieve and brush over the muffin. Chop the chocolate finely and melt over a bain-marie. Pour into a plastic bag, cut off a tiny corner and decorate each muffin.