Gastronomically Terrific

February 28, 2010

Caramel Crunch Cheesecake

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 4:35 pm

In the interests of fairness, I should say that I’m a recovering Cheesecake addict.  Well, I was recovering.  Now I’m simply an addict again.

This is possibly the least healthy cake (measured in increased death probability per mouthful) that has ever existed.  It is also the reason that I feel passionately that the humble digestive earns its place as the spiritual leader of the biscuits.

Here, have a look:

The most delicious death you could ever imagine.

What you are looking at there is almost solid sugar and dairy produce, tainted only by cocoa.  The top layer is dark chocolate, mixed with a little cream.  The base is a rather simple but extremely delicious mixture of chocolate coated digestives and butter, which when baked tastes divine.  The cheesecake mixture is cream cheese, sugar and eggs, mixed with a home made caramel sauce.  There are even pieces of crunchie in there.

As with all real cheesecakes, its baked in the oven, which concentrates the flavour and gives a cake-like consistency.  This is, to my tastes, an essential feature distinguishing cheesecake from a simple mixture of cheese related ingredients – unbaked cheesecakes just don’t do it for me.

The end result is simply awesome.  The best things is that it gets better with time – sitting in the fridge actually seems to open up the flavours in a way that I don’t fully understand.  It will take us a week to eat this guy – it should take a month by calorie count – and I know from delicious experience that today’s awesome piece will be matched or beaten tomorrow.

Who made it: Anna did the hard work, Dan helped with the “cleaning the bowls” (no actual washing up was necessary, strangely…)

Recipe: Cheesecakes, pavlovas & trifles, by the Australian Women’s Weekly (!), page 8.



Filed under: main — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 4:31 pm

Crespelles are wholemeal pancakes stuffed with stuff, covered in more stuff and roasted in the oven.

The Crespelles are hidden under a pile of sauce, which is sad because they looked pretty good on their own. Yes, those sad things on the left are flattened souffles, which really do need a pot to keep them raised.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that these are Burritos, but they are quite different in taste and ingredients.  The main ingredient is wholemeal pancakes, which are just ordinary pancakes made with wholemeal flour.  These are filled with cooked chard (we couldn’t get chard, so used spinach which works great), mixed with cheese and cream.  The tomato sauce on top is made from passata (basically pureed tomatoes), onion, garlic and bay leaf, cooked for ages to concentrate the flavour.  It has yet more cream mixed in and cheese grated over  – yum!  Then the whole lot is baked to crisp it up.

This is a dish which sadly doesn’t look as great as it tastes.  The creamy spinach mixture gives it a really interesting and surprising taste, nothing like the burrito it so resembles, and the homemade sauce is great (I bet its the same base recipe as the supermarket jars).  We had rice from this recipe as a side and it worked amazingly.  The cheese flavour luckily didn’t drown out the subtle egg taste of the soufflé, although the giant mushroom would have made a better companion and the soufflé a better starter.

All in all, a great main course and I’d thoroughly recommend  it as a way to cook pancakes for a large number of people, as you don’t have to keep them warm.  However, presentation is difficult so not a dinner party recipe!

Who made it: A joint effort between Anna and Dan.

Recipe: “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 189.


Herb Souffle

Filed under: side — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 4:13 pm

For a three course meal, we made 3 “light dishes” and had two as a main course.  This soufflé was part of the main course.

Herb Souffle

They do rise, but we obviously didn't fill the dish quite high enough...

After we tried a soufflé-like Broccoli and Stilton Roulade we thought we’d try the real thing.  I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint.  Soufflé is a subtle dish, with most of the flavour and texture coming from the egg (beside the herb flavouring it only contains egg with a small amount of butter, flour and milk).  Of course a fair dash of fresh herbs provide a great taste, but the texture isn’t a million miles from scrambled eggs.  Baking, and folding in stiff egg whites leads to a slightly more interesting experience, and its not really that hard.  Ours rose nicely but flattened a little when we took them out of the oven.

Worth a try sometime – I’d have these again!

Who made it: Joint effort by Dan and Anna.

Recipe: “the  complete vegetarian cookbook”  by Sarah Brown, page 171.

Giant mushrooms with rice and roasted onions

Filed under: side — Tags: , , , , — thinkingdan @ 3:59 pm

This was the starter to our three course meal this weekend.  The recipe calls for wild rice (which is very long, thin, black, and looks nothing like normal rice) but we couldn’t get hold of it so we used brown rice.

Giant Mushroom

Like an ordinary sized mushroom, only bigger, and filled with rice and roasted onions.

Basically, all you do here is roast some onions, shallots and leeks, roast  the mushrooms (separately, to get them to cook properly), whilst boiling the rice.  Then pile everything on the mushroom and throw it back in the oven.

The end result is… a bit dull.  The only flavour here is coming from the vegetables themselves, which are good roasted but not enough on their own.  As a starter we thought this was just OK.  However, we had some of the rice and vegetable mixture left over and had it with our main course, and it tasted amazing – a really flavoursome rice dish.  I think the general idea would make an excellent alternative to risotto, but the poor mushroom doesn’t have enough flavour on its own for this recipe.

We will definitely be trying something like this again, but will be tweaking the recipe beyond recognition.  This would have gone well as part of a main course.

Who made it: Dan and Anna jointly.

Recipe: “the Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 173.

February 15, 2010


Filed under: Sweets — Tags: , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:12 pm

First up: acknowledgements.  Huge thanks to Anne for making these for us at Christmas, and putting up the recipe!

There is only one word to describe these truffles: divine. It might be blasphemous, but the only way I can describe the taste is as a Mars Bar made personally by God.

Home made truffles come in all shapes and sizes yet just one awesome favour. Trust me, you don't want them to taste of anything else.

Making your own truffles is a way of turning some tasty chocolate into loads of even tastier chocolate (again with the divinity thing – except that chocolate tastes better than loaves and fishes!).  It’s a fair amount of effort, and it matters which chocolate you start with, because “all” you do it melt it in with some condensed milk, refrigerate, and coat in chocolate.

Of course, that’s some “all”. Anne details all the clever tricks that make it easier, but at the end of the day warm melted chocolate goes on cold balls of truffle that melt at room temperature.  Its a very tricky business!  We don’t have Anne’s “truffle-fu”, so got a little more “variation” than would be ideal.  Still, the taste is all there.  After the ordeal of making them, we were wondering why we bothered since chocolate tastes so yummy anyway.  But the next day when I tried the first one…

Oh.  My.

I won’t be making them as a present – they are tricky, and I couldn’t get them as perfect as Anne did – but if anyone is reading this – I’ll take it as a present any time!  And getting the taste right is thankfully easy, and oh so worth it…

Who made it: A joint effort, though I’ll claim responsibility for the decoration!

Recipe: See Anne’s post, and the pioneer woman‘s post, which is two links in the industrious history of this magnificent recipe.

February 14, 2010

Carrot and parsnip soup with coconut and tamarind

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:04 pm

Warning: this soup is not safe for work…

The best part of this tasty soup is the making.  Its an olfactory orgasm.

Perhaps I should explain.  To make this, you take cumin and coriander seeds and dry roast them in a frying pan.  This smells great.. but then you crush them with a pestle and mortar… and I’ve never smelt anything so good.  The house filled with it, a smell that knocks you back, makes you stop and say, “Wow.” I now want to roast every seed I can, crush it, and try to distil its essence.

And the taste doesn’t let you down.

Real butter on the bread is great too. Mmm.

OK, so it doesn’t look too exciting – soup never does.  But its what’s inside it that counts.  Start by roasting the seeds, then frying onion and garlic, then adding carrot and parsnip and sauté for 10 minutes, then simmer in stock for an hour.  Then add tamarind and coconut milk and purée.

The cumin seeds add a deep roasted flavour, and the tamarind adds a spicy, lemony zest.  The coconut milk gives finishes with a smooth creamy texture.  This is a great soup and I suspect will lead to other many tasty soups with a little variation.  Its definitely a recipe to remember for a substantial starter or a standalone lunch.

Who made it: Dan and Anna jointly.

Recipe: “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook”, by Sarah Brown, page 151.

Love Heart Fairy Cakes

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 4:54 pm

For Valentines Day Anna surprised me with

Love Hearts

Which are fairy cakes coated in icing and decorated with, well, hearts!  We all know how yummy fairy cakes are when fresh, and the presentation here adds something a little special.

The Marks and Spencers Chocolate Hearts on top are really tasty!

Anna actually made two types: the chocolate heart and silver ball design above, and a red marzipan heart:

Anna had to keep me out of the kitchen whilst making them, so she couldn't wait for the red food colouring to dry...

We’re never that successful at using food colourings to make things look professional – here the problem was that the red colouring in the marzipan wasn’t dry.  To get it right it needs to have a couple of hours in the fridge but of course Anna couldn’t keep me out of the kitchen that long 🙂

These are tasty as you’d expect, and extremely moreish. For “research” purposes we had shop bought cakes at lunchtime, and they weren’t a patch on these!  Fresh fairy cakes are a magical thing.

Side note: I figured out how to use manual focus on our camera, producing better results I think (top picture).  This is my first food photography that I’ve been happy with.

Who made it: Anna.

Recipe: “Fairy Cakes” by Joanna Farrow, page 31.  Though really you don’t need a recipe because google knows how to make fairy cakes and the decoration has to use whatever you have!

February 3, 2010

Baked Creamy Vegetables

Filed under: side — Tags: , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:45 pm

We had some cream to use up, so we did some experimenting with

Baked creamy vegetables

Inspired by a blog post about baked creamy brussel sprouts I thought it might be fun to do this with the random veg that we had in the house.  It turns out to be an excellent idea – baked vegetables are the best sort, and by pre-browning the vegetables in a frying pan, the dish was done in about 30 minutes from start to finish. This makes it is a very handy side to go with potatoes, pies, sausages, etc instead of boiled veg and gravy.

Ingredients (serves 2)

Vegetables (any will do, but we used these):

  • half an onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • a few runner beans
  • 1/3 courgette

150 ml cream (anything from single to whipping cream is fine)

Knob of Butter (or oil if you prefer)

Flavourings (we put in a small amount of salt, pepper, garlic, and fennel seeds)


  1. Chop up the vegetables (and garlic) and shallow fry in butter until browning and softening.  Add the flavourings.
  2. Lay shallowly in a baking pot, and cover with the cream.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 200 degrees, until golden on top.


Who made it: Dan did the planning, Anna helped with the cooking.

Recipe: Our own creation!

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