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Double chocolate brownies
These delicious brownies are very easy and quick to make for a treat.  Use good chocolate with 70% cocoa solids to get a really good chocolately taste.  They should be fudgy and slightly gooey in texture so keep an eye on the timer!

Ingredients:

250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
3 free range eggs
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/gas 3. Line a rectangular baking tin with baking parchment.  Make a bain marie, by putting a few centimetres of water in a saucepan and use a mixing bowl that fits well on the top of the pan, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bowl.  Bring the water to a simmer.

  2. Break up the chocolate and melt it with the butter in the bain marie. Stirring occasionally to ensure it is melting evenly and becoming a glossy mixture.

  3. In medium sized bowl whisk the sugar and eggs together until it is smooth and creamy. You can either use a balloon whisk or an electric hand whisk.

  4. Add the chocolate mixture to the eggy mixture, using a spatula to get every last bit out of the bowl! Mix together well with the spatula.

  5. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder into the eggy chocolate mixture, and stir well until it is incorporated and there are no flecks of flour visible.

  6. Pour into the prepared baking tin, smoothing the mixture so it fills the tin.

  7. Bake in the oven, on the middle shelf, for 20 minutes. A skewer or knife should come out a bit smeared with mixture.

  8. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares and enjoy.


  

Cook’s Tip 1: When melting chocolate, don’t over heat it or stir too often as it will “seize” and split.

Cook’s Tip 2: The brownies are delicious served warm with ice cream. They will keep in a tin for a few days...if they last that long.

#thecookingacademy #chocolatebrownies #darkchocolate #fairtradechocolate
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Caponata
Caponata is a typical Sicilian dish, where a simple local ingredient,  in this case the aubergine, is taken as the basis of the dish, and is then embellished and enriched until the end result is an opulent and almost baroque achievement.

Ingredients

1 Aubergine (about 300g), cut into 2cm dice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
120g ripe tomatoes, diced ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
3 tbsp (50g) green olives, stoned and quartered (1tbsp finely chopped)
1 tbsp honey 150ml passata or tinned chopped tomatoes
30ml (2tbsp) red wine vinegar
1 tbsp grated dark chocolate
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 stalk of mint - leaves only – torn

Cooking Instructions: 

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the aubergine chunks and gently fry until golden brown and tender (don't over crowd the pan; you may have to cook them in batches).

  2. Next add the onion, celery and salt, cook gently for 10 minutes or until the celery has softened and beginning to colour.

  3. Now add the diced tomatoes, chilli, fennel and cumin seeds and fry for another couple of minutes.

  4. Stir in the, olives, honey, passata, vinegar and chocolate and bring to the boil. Check the seasoning; adjust according to your palate.  Turn the heat right down, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes checking towards the end of cooking and taking the pan off the heat if it seems to be drying out.

  5. Take off the heat, add the toasted pine nuts and garnish with a few mints torn mint leaves at the point of serving.


Cooks Tip 1: This dish can be served hot or cooled at room temperature the roughly torn mint, just before serving. Serve with Crostini, Cous Cous, Pilaf rice or on toast.

 

 

 
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Blackberry Gin Gimlet Cupcakes
Blackberry Gin Gimlet Cupcakes, a perfect recipe for summer, with a twist!

FOR THE CAKE BATTER

Ingredients

175 g (6oz) unsalted butter, softened

175 g (6oz) caster sugar

175 g (6oz) self-raising flour

3 large eggs at room temperature

3 tbsp gin

Finely grated zest of 2 limes

FOR THE SYRUP

Ingredients

2 tbsp gin

40 g (1 ½oz) Juice of 1 lime

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients

200 g (7oz) blackberries, plus 12 to decorate

2 tbsp Chambord

125 g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened

400 g (14oz) icing sugar, sifted

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together using an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs, beating well between each addition. Sift over the flour and a pinch of salt and fold in, then fold in the gin and lime zest.

  2. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases (an ice-cream scoop is useful for this) and bake for 20-25min until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

  3. Meanwhile, make the syrup by gently heating all of the ingredients in a pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil and simmer for 1min. When the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and poke holes all over with a skewer or cocktail stick. Brush the cakes with the gin syrup and leave for 5min; remove the cakes from tin and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

  4. For the buttercream, put 200g (70z) blackberries into a pan with 1tbsp water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10min, stirring occasionally, until the berries are soft and the juice has thickened. Blend until smooth, then pass through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the Chambord, if using. Set aside to cool.

  5. In a bowl, beat the butter until soft using an electric whisk, then whisk in the icing sugar in 2 batches; continue to beat until light and fluffy. Whisk in the cooled blackberry purée.

  6. Pipe the buttercream onto the cakes and top each one with a blackberry.


This recipe previously appeared in Good Housekeeping magazine October 2017.
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To cake or Crumble

Plum Cake & Crumble


If  you happen to like a bit of both then this recipe is a real treat for you.  With juicy plums now in season in the UK, what better time to 'eat the seasons' and make this delicious cake that will last for days, if you can keep your hands off it!

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

200g of plain flour

50g of sugar

125g of butter

1 egg yolks

A pinch of salt

1tsp baking powder

500g of plums- quartered and stoned

 

For the crumble:

50g of butter

100g of plain flour

50g of icing sugar

Cooking Instructions:

 Preheat the oven to 180°C.

  • Make the crumble by mixing together the butter, plain flour and icing sugar until crumbs form, then place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, line a square pastry tin with parchment paper.

  • Mix together the flour, sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt and baking powder until a dough forms.

  • Knead the dough for a few minutes to ensure all the ingredients are well combined.

  • Transfer the pastry dough into a baking tin and spread it over the base of the tin with your fingers, ensuring the entire base is well covered.

  • Place the plums onto the pastry, skin side down.

  • Take the crumble from the fridge and sprinkle in between the plums.

  • Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.

  • Serve with cream or ice cream.


 

Cooks tip: Place any leftover crumble on to a baking tray and bake at 180°C  for 20 minutes. Use this crumble as a topping for desserts, ice cream, yogurt or even granola!
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Tropical Smoothie
Tropical Smoothie

Breakfast time can be such a rush and it’s all too easy to grab something convenient on the way to work, such as a muffin.  The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) and Action on Sugar conducted research into blueberry muffins available on the high street. Shockingly, over 61% contained over six teaspoons of sugar. The recommended daily allowance is 30g which is about seven teaspoons!  In other words, one muffin takes uses up almost all of you your daily recommended amount of sugar.

To help combat the breakfast dash we have made a Tropical Smoothie, full of antioxidants and vitamins. The spinach in this smoothie really ramps up the nutritional benefits. Spinach is full of folate, iron, potassium, calcium and vitamins A, B2, C and K. Iron is fantastic for boosting brain power, so this recipe is great for anyone who’s revising for their exams or in a demanding job.

You can prep a weeks’ worth of smoothie and freeze them in ziplock bags. Once frozen, simply place the ingredients in your blender add the milk and water and blend before heading out. Or if you’re really pressed for time (or just want that extra few minutes in bed!) then you could even blend the smoothie the night before and keep in the fridge until morning.

 

Ingredients:

25g spinach

100ml milk of your choice

125ml water

200g pineapple or mango (frozen is fine)

½ banana sliced into chunks

1 tsp ground linseed

1 tsp honey (only use if your spinach is a little bitter)

Instructions:

  1. Place the spinach, milk, water, pineapple or mango, banana and ground linseed into your blender. Blend until smooth.

  2. Taste the smoothie, if you feel it needs the honey add it to the blender and blend again.

  3. Serve immediately and enjoy!

  4. To freeze for future use, place all the ingredients (whole not blended!) except the honey into a ziplock bag and place in the freezer. This can be kept for up to 3 months.


Food for Thought:

  • Bananas are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, folate, and vitamin B6. These all contribute to the proper functioning of your body and your health. They are also an immediate energy booster.

  • Pineapple can boost the immune system, and respiratory health, aiding digestion, strengthening bones, reducing inflammation, curing coughs and colds, and weight loss.  If you feel like a sweet treatEat pineapple chunks instead of a chocolate bar for a sweet treat.

  • Mango is full of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, A and C. They are rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium, and copper, and they are one of the best sources beta-carotene. These powerful antioxidants have the power to neutralize free radicals throughout the body fighting heart diseases, premature aging and cancers.

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