GBBO bake along: chocolate mousse and white chocolate cheesecake pots

This time on the Great British Bake Off bake along it was time for dessert week. My options were something called Marjolaine (which I’ve never heard of!), a roulade or mini mousse cakes. My first thought was to make some kind of chocolate mousse topped brownie thing, which seemed like a lot of effort for something that’s meant to be fun (and I’m definitely not in this to win it!), so I decided to go with something much easier.

If you make white chocolate cheesecake and top it with chocolate mousse, it totally counts as a mousse cake, right?

This is so easy a five year old could make it! Obviously I don’t recommend leaving said five year old to melt chocolate unsupervised, but with a little adult help a five year old could totally do it.

First of all, you make the base. For this you will need 55g biscuits (okay, cookies if you insist) and 20g butter. Digestive biscuits (I believe you can replace them with Graham Crackers in the US) or – my personal favourite – ginger nuts – work best, but I have never seen a ginger nut here and I wasn’t at the one supermarket that I know sells Digestives so I just bought any random biscuit. They worked well enough, but if any German or Swiss person happens to be reading, could you tell me what kind of biscuit you normally use for a biscuit base? Thanks!

biscuits
Random biscuity rings

Anyway, you need to crush the biscuits to form crumbs and melt the butter. Mix the two together well then put them on the bottom of your glass pots (or mini baking tins, whatever you’re using) and press down firmly to form a base. Now into the fridge with them to chill.

Next up is the cheesecake layer. For this I used 95g of cream cheese, 65 ml whipping cream and 60g white chocolate, which ended up being way too much so I ate the leftovers. What? Like you wouldn’t do the same!

Melt the chocolate in a Bain-Marie… or a bowl over a saucepan with some water in it. Let’s not pretend I’m posher than I am here! Beat the cream cheese until it’s soft then whip the cream. My cheesecake recipe tells me to whip it “until it’s about to form peaks”. How on Earth am I supposed to know when something is about to do something? What is this, baking for psychics? What I usually do it whip it until the beaters start to leave trails when I move them but no peaks form when I lift the beaters. It’s always worked so far. Now fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese then stir in the melted chocolate. You can use any chocolate. I chose white so this layer would contrast with the mousse. Thanks to the cream cheese, the cheesecake layer isn’t horribly sweet despite being white chocolate. Sprread the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base then place the pots back in the fridge to chill some more.

cheesecake
Cheesecake layer

Finally, the mousse. I took this from a recipe by Mary Berry herself – celebration chocolate mousse cake, and it is easy peasy. Literally whipped cream and chocolate. I used 75g of chocolate and 112 ml of cream. First melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool (confession… I just took mine off the heat and placed it to one side, forgetting the water in the saucepan was still steaming, so I’m unsure whether cooling even happened. Oh well, I melted the chocolate slowly so it wasn’t that hot to start with). While the chocolate cools, whip the cream. This time whip until it “forms soft peaks”. Thank goodness… actual peaks I can cope with! Stir the chocolate into the cream, making sure they’re evenly blended (no random darker streaks of chocolate!), layer the mousse on top of the cheesecake and place the whole lot back in the fridge to chill some more. The mousse needs to chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight) to firm up properly. Other mousse cakes I saw used gelatine, which would probably firm up quicker, but the little shop I was at most definitely did not sell gelatine!

I made two cake pots, but have only photographed the one that looks slightly nicer 😉 Later, I took my desserts back out of the fridge and decorated them with some gold balls… because who doesn’t like a bit of sparkle?

chocolate-mousse-cheesecake
Chocolate mousse and white chocolate cheesecake pot

And that’s it. Not much of a show stopper (I mean, just look at the beautiful desserts everyone else has produced), but it’s easy and tasty, which is really what I want from something that Jan and I actually have to eat!

Spiced apricot couscous salad

Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet
Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so here’s what I had for tea last night. This tastes best if you use fresh apricots, but if you plan on making it any time soon you’ll need to use dried ones or tinned ones (if you’re lucky enough to be able to find the type that are in juice instead of syrup!).

This amount serves around 2-4 people, depending on appetites and what you serve with it (probably 2 if you just have the salad by itself, 3 or maybe 4 if you have something substantial on the side).

It’s really more of a dish for summer, when fresh apricots are around, but it was still pretty tasty with the dried kind.

Spiced Apricot Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

180g couscous
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground ginger
80g apricots
1 small red onion
15g fresh mint
Approx. 15g fresh ginger
Handful of cashew nuts
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook the couscous in accordance with the packet instructions. Add the spices, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then fluff slightly with a fork and set it to one side to cool. Either place the pan lid on or cover with cling film while cooling.

    Spiced couscous
    Spiced couscous
  2. While the couscous is cooling, chop the onion, mint, fresh ginger and apricots and juice the limes.

    Chopped ingredients
    Chopped ingredients
  3. Add all the chopped ingredients plus a handful of cashew buts to the couscous. (I chopped the cashews in half, but you can leave them whole).

    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous...
    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous…
  4. Stir everything in well, then add the lime juice and stir that in as well. Taste test the couscous and add extra salt/pepper/spices to taste.

Tada – done! So quick and easy. I served mine with smoked salmon fillet, but it also goes well with grilled salmon or other types of fish. Chicken would probably be good with it as well, although I’ve never done that. And obviously whatever vegetarian/vegan alternative suits you.

For variations, you could add sultanas as well as the apricots (this is really nice – I just didn’t have any last night), replace the cashews with pine nuts or even add in pine nuts as well as the cashews. It’s really quite a versatile dish 🙂

Apple, walnut and cranberry salad

Salad

With all the ridiculously hot weather we’ve been having lately, the idea of cooking full meals is just not pleasant. The result: lots of salads for dinner! This one is probably technically more of an autumn salad as it uses apples, but since they’re available all year round these days it’s an easy one to make at any time and the fruit is lovely and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Here’s the recipe:

Apple, Walnut and Cranberry Salad

Ingredients:
100g lettuce leaves (I use lamb’s lettuce – I find it goes well with the walnuts)
1 apple
100 g walnut halves
75 g dried cranberries
2 dessert spoons walnut oil
2 dessert spoons apple cider vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method:
1. Toast the walnuts by placing them in a hot frying pan for around 5 minutes (or do them in the oven), then set aside to cool for a while. While they’re cooling, core and slice the apple.

2. Wash the lettuce and place it in a salad bowl, then add the walnuts, sliced apple and dried cranberries and toss everything a bit to mix it evenly.

3. For the dressing, mix together the walnut oil, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt plus black pepper to taste.

4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss so everything is covered in dressing. This amount serves 2 as a side dish. We had it with marinated grill cheese, but I imagine it would also go well with pork (thanks to the apples) or grilled chicken.

Food

Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

DSCN0692At this time of year, all I want to eat are hearty, warming, comforting foods, like cottage pie, stews, pasta bakes and chilli. (This “phase” usually lasts from October until around Easter). This particular dish combines three of my favourite things: leek, potatoes (in the form of gnocchi) and cheese. It was actually supposed to be a recipe for gnocchi with vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce, but somewhere between doing the shopping and starting to cook, I managed to lose my courgette! It’s on the receipt, but it’s not in my kitchen. How on earth does one lose a courgette?! So I had a rummage in my fridge and improvised with a packet of Wiener-type sausages instead. Sorry vegetarians – my original recipe would have been for you!

Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)
Butter (for frying)
400 g gnocchi
1 garlic clove
1 leek
4 Wiener (or Frankfurter, if that’s what you want to call them) sausages OR one large courgette/zucchini
1 pot of cream
Cheddar or other strong cheese (I used Swiss mountain cheese this time, because that’s what I had)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper

Method

1. Heat some butter in a frying pan. While it’s heating, chop your garlic into smallish pieces then fry it in the butter.

garlic

2. Put some water on to boil in a pan. Chop the leek – I usually cut off fairly thick slices then quarter the slices – then place the it in the frying pan with the garlic. (If using courgette/zucchini, you should also dice that it this point and put it in the pan at the same time as the leek).

leek

3. Chop the sausages into bite-sized pieces.

4. Once the water has boiled, pour in the gnocchi and boil it for as long as the instructions for your brand say to (usually until bits start to float)

5. Drain the gnocchi then add it to the frying pan along with the sausages. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

food

6. Pour the cream into the frying pan, stir it in and heat for a bit until it and the sausages are warmed though. Grate the cheese over the mixture, pausing every once in a while to stir it in. Keep adding cheese until the cream/cheese mixture forms a thick sauce/you think there’s enough (personally, I like a lot of cheese!). Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper. Also add more salt/black pepper if you think it needs it.

7. Enjoy carbs covered in melty, cheesy goodness (see photo of the final product at the top).

Carrot and ginger soup with coconut milk

soupAs regular readers will know, I have recently been having some problems with my stomach. For over a week, the only foods I could eat without immediately being in pain were plain porridge made with water (yuk!) and plain couscous with a bit of spinach stirred in. Exciting, no? Towards the middle of week two, I started to feel able to introduce slightly more flavourful foods to my diet, so I decided to make some soup. Being already blended, I thought it would be easy enough to digest while allowing my taste buds to get some action again! I enjoyed the soup so much that I knew I would have to make it again. So  when my stomach started playing up again yesterday (apparantly greasy fish and chips at the Irish pub weren’t its friend), I did, and this time remembered to record it for my blog. So here is my recipe for Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk (completely made up by me – if there are similar soups already on the internet it’s entirely coincidence!). I apologise in advance for the crappy photos (even more crappy than usual that is). My camera is in the process of dying a slow and painful death…

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk

Step 1: Gather your ingredients
Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main meal with bread)
5 or 6 carrots (750g)
1 medium potato (200g)
Fresh ginger
1 tin of coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Put some water in a pan and set it on to boil (or boil some water in the kettle and pour it into a pan)
2. Peel the potato and all but one carrot (two if they’re small ones) and dice them into small pieces, then place them in the boiling water and cook until soft.

Dicing

3. Drain out the water then place the potatoes and carrots in a blender (or back in the pan if using a hand blender) and blend to a purree.

Blending

4. Return the purree to the pan and grate in about a teaspoon of fresh ginger – sorry I can’t be more precise with the measurement. I just chopped a chunk off and grated it! – (or stir in some powdered ginger if that’s all you’ve got – I won’t tell anyone), then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
5. Place the pan back on the hob on a low heat and stir in the tin of coconut milk
6. While the mixture is heating, peel the remaining carrots then grate them into the pan. Once all the carrot is grated, stir it in and immediately remove the pan from the heat.

Grate in the remaining carrot

7. Check the seasoning, add more if required, then serve the soup along with some bread.

The step with the grated carrot is optional – if you prefer, you can purree all the carrots. Personally, I like the texture the grated carrot adds and I like to kid myself that it makes the soup more healthy because it ends up practically raw so none of the vitamins can have been cooked out yet 😉

This soup is gluten free, dairy free and both vegetarian and vegan, so basically perfect for almost everyone.

Chicken, leek and bacon mashed potato topped pie

I made this delicious pie for the second time the other day, and this time I remembered to take photos, which means you, my lovely readers, get a recipe (and I can actually look up how to do it next time instead of guessing and hoping it comes out as nice as the time before… always a danger with made up recipes!). This is perfect as a comfort food or for a warm, hearty meal on a cold day.

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Mashed Potato Topped Pie

You will need:
450 g chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large leek, chopped fairly small
1 packet bacon pieces
1 tub crème fraîche
4 large potatoes, diced
About 1 tsp tarragon
Salt and black pepper
Nutmeg
Butter, for mash
Optional: Grated cheese

The above amount serves two, but could be stretched to more if you add a side dish of salad or vegetables.

What to do:

1. Heat some oil (I use olive oil) in a pan and fry the bacon bits for about a minute. Meanwhile, place some water on to boil in a saucepan.

2. Add the chicken to the pan and continue frying, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost completely cooked through.
Also, put the diced potatoes in the water as soon as it starts to boil.

Chicken and bacon

3. Add the leek to the pan with the chicken/bacon and fry until soft, stirring occasionally.

Pie filling

4. Drain the potatoes then place them back in the pan and mash them with some button and about a teaspoon of the crème fraîche.
Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg.

5. Stir about a teaspoon of tarragon into the frying pan with the chicken, bacon and leek (fresh is best, but you can use dried if that’s all you’ve got…
I use a a jar with fresh tarragon in oil), then stir in the remainder of the crème fraîche. Add salt and pepper to the mixture to taste.

Tarragon in oil

6. Place the chicken, leek and bacon mixture into two small or one medium-sized oven proof dishes and spread it out so it covers the bottom.

Pie filling

7. Cover the chicken, leek and bacon mixture with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to complete cover the chicken, etc. layer.
You can then add some grated cheese to the top if you want I did – I used Cheddar).

8. Place the pie in the oven on around 180°C (350°F) until the cheese has melted, then sit back and enjoy your pie. Caution: It will be very hot!

The finished pie

A taste of home: Sausage rolls

I’d been living in Germany about 5 years, buying sausage rolls every time I went home, before it finally occurred to me that I could make them myself! I’ve made them a few times since (Jan loves sausage rolls!) so when I was trying to think of something to bring to a party on Saturday, sausage rolls seemed like the obvious answer… easy, fairly quick and I knew nobody else would be making them! I thought other ex-pats who are craving sausage rolls might like to know how to make their own, too, so I decided to share mine. There are loads of recipes all over the Internet, of course, but mine comes with instructions on what to do if you live in Germany 😉

Vegetarians and others who are disturbed by the sight of raw meat might want to look away now…

You will need the following:

  • These are the sausages you need
    These are the sausages you need

    1 packet of pre-made puff pastry – Blätterteig in German (yes, I’m that lazy!)

  • 500g sausage meat or pork sausages that you can easily remove the filling from (in Germany, you need to buy the fresh “grobe Bratwurst” type… Nürnberger and things like that won’t work!)
  • About a teaspoon of dried parsley (or chopped fresh parsley if you have that stuff around. I never do, unless I buy it specially)
  • About a teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A dash of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. If using sausages, remove their skins then place your skinned sausages or sausage meat in a large bowl. My bowl contains a lot of sausages because I tripled the above ingredients to make sure there would be enough…

Skinned sausages
Skinned sausages

2. Add the crushed garlic and mash/stir it into the sausage meat until it seems evenly spread.

3. Add parsley, thyme, a small dash of cayenne pepper (seriously… just a small dash, unless you want spicy sausage rolls, in which case feel free to add more) and as much freshly ground black pepper as you like and combine everything together well.

The sausage meat mixture
The sausage meat mixture

4. Unroll your pastry and place a thick line of sausage meat close-ish to the edge, leaving a gap slightly larger than the width of your sausage strip for rolling.

sausage meat and pastry
sausage meat and pastry

5. Fold the edge of the pastry over the sausage meat and cut the pastry just past where it comes to, then roll the pastry around the sausage meat. If the end doesn’t stick by itself, use a tiny bit of water. Repeat this step until you run out of pastry (hopefully you will also run out of sausage meat at the same time).

Rolled

6. Cut the rolled-up, sausage-filled pastry into whatever sized pieces you would like. I tend to make mine fairly small because I’m paranoid about poisoning people and think if they’re small they’re more likely to cook through properly.

All ready for the oven
All ready for the oven

8. Brush the top of the sausage rolls with a little milk, if you want (I didn’t because I knew at least one person attending the party is lactose intolerant) and bake them at the temperature shown on your pastry packaging for about 15-20 minutes.

The finished article...
The finished article…

9. Leave the sausage rolls to cool for a bit before enjoying. I’m serious… they may look tempting, but those things are hot when they come out of the oven!

My first ever Banoffee Pie!

Two food posts in a row seems like a bit of a cop out, but to be honest I haven’t been doing anything else worth blogging about… and I have been promising you this one for a while, so here you go.
There are more banoffee pie recipes on the Internet than you can shake a stick at (not sure why you would want to shake sticks at recipes?), but I actually ended up using a combination of three to get my amounts/ingredients/methods, so I thought I would add my recipe to the mix… including a pointer or two on how to find said ingredients in Germany.

Banoffee Pie

Ingredients
1 tin of condensed milk (you need sweetened condensed milk, gezuckerte Kondensmilch in German; Nestle do one under the brand name Milchmädchen.)
300g chcolate digestives (if you can’t find actual digestives, DeBeukelaer does some called Granola that work just as well)
75g butter
400 ml whipping cream (some recipes use double cream, but the closest equivalent here is expensive so I decided to go with plain old Schlagsahne. It works for the Germans…)
2-3 bananas

Method

The scary part... please don't explode!
The scary part… please don’t explode!

1. Lie the tin of condensed milk on its side in a sauce pan of water – make sure the water is covering the whole tin! Apparantly if the tin becomes exposed, explosions will happen!
2. Bring the water to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer the tin in the hot water for 2-2.5 hours. After that time, remove the water from the heat and leave it to cool for about half an hour before removing the tin from it.
3. While the condensed milk is still heating, crush up your biscuits (use a blender if you have such a thing, or place them in a food bag and hit them with a hammer/rolling pin) and melt the butter in a sauce pan.
4. Mix the biscuit crumbs and butter together, then use the mixture to line a 23 cm cake tin. The biscuit crumbs base should go across the bottom and part way up the sides. Tip: Use a metal spoon to press down the biscuit crums – they’ll only stick to a wooden spoon and refuse to spread out properly! Once the base is firmly pressed down, stick the cake tin in the fridge until the condensed milk is ready.
5. Open the tin of condensed milk. The contents should be a pale brownish colour (caramel colour!). Take your biscuit crumb base back out of the fridge and spread the caramel over it.

Wiaitng to be decorated
Wiaitng to be decorated

6. Slice 2 bananas and use them to make a layer of banana slices on top of the caramel. Save the rest of the banana.
7. Whip the cream until it stands up in soft peaks when you pull up your whisk, then gently stir in as many slices of banana as you think appropriate
8. Cover the sliced banana layer of the pie with this cream/banana mix and then place the pie back in the fridge.
9. Shortly before you want to serve the pie, remove it from the fridge again and decorate it with more banana slices and some chocolate flakes.

That’s it! Easy, peasy! And once you’ve made the caramel, it doesn’t even take that long.
I had never made this before, but it turned out delicious and the Germans I served it to loved it. Success!

The finished article, chilling in the fridge (sadly, I forgot to take a decent photo of it once we arrived at the party so this is all you're getting..)
The finished article, chilling in the fridge (sadly, I forgot to take a decent photo of it once we arrived at the party so this is all you’re getting..)

Tuna Pasta Bake – for days when you REALLY don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen!

I had plans to make some elaborate meal involving chicken and garlic sauce for tea, but my local supermarket foiled me by having no chicken breasts left – the supermarket running out of things is a common occurence when I’m forced to go shopping after work! I had no plan B, and after dragging my disappointed self all the way round the supermarket then carrying the far too heavy bags home in the dark I really wasn’t in the mood for slaving over our evening meal anyway, so we’re having my usual “can’t be bothered to cook properly but don’t want to just shove some crispy chicken in the oven (plus there is no crispy chicken in the freezer)” fallback meal: Tuna Pasta Bake. Here’s how to make it:

The ingredients:
Pasta – something like penne or farfalle works best
Whatever vegetables you have to hand and can be bothered to deal with (I used courgette and leek today. On less lazy days, I might chop an onion. Lazier days involve a tin of peas or kidney beans)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of tuna (in water/juice, not oil)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mixed herbs
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Cheese (preferably Cheddar, but any strong cheese will do. The mild type where you need practically a whole block just to be able to taste anything won’t work here!)
Ready salted crisps

The method:
1. Place enough pasta for the number of people you are in a pan and add boiling water. Cook for about half the time the packet says to – it will continue cooking in the oven later and you don’t want it to go mushy!

2. While the pasta is cooking, chop up your vegetables – or just open the tins if you’re going for the really lazy method – and place them in an oven-proof dish.

Vegetables
Vegetables

3. Add the tinned tomatoes and tuna and stir everything together, then add herbs and spices.

4. Add the pasta and stir until most of the pasta is covered with tomato. If there isn’t enough tomato for all your pasta, add another tin (I make pasta for 2-3 people and one tin is enough for that)

Pasta
Pasta

5. Grate cheese all over the top of your pasta/veg mix. Or use ready-grated stuff.

Cheesy!
Cheesy!

6. Crush a handful of ready-salted crisps and sprinkle them over the top of the cheese.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

7. Place the dish in the oven at around 180° for about 20-30 minutes, until the cheese has melted and top is starting to go golden brown.

8. Dish out and enjoy

If you’re vegetarian or just don’t like fish, you can leave out the tuna and add extra vegetables for a vegetarian version – I’ve done it before and it works well. Oh, and the usual reaction I get when I mention the crushed crisps is a look of disgust, so if you’re currently sitting pulling faces at your computer then I would like to say try it first! It’s nice, honest!

Autumn eats: Pumpkin and Potato Stew

StewNot exactly a quick meal this one with the amount of peeling and chopping it requires, but it’s colourful and warming on a dark autumn evening. All times are very rough, based on what I seem to remember doing – basically it’s a case of going by what you think seems right. We got four large-ish bowls out of the ingredients below, but amounts will differ depending on the size of your pumpkin and how much water you put in.

Ingredients

Olive oil
1-3 cloves of garlic (depending on size of cloves and how garlicky you like things), chopped or crushed
1 leek, chopped
1 pumpkin, cubed (I used Hokaido)
2-3 potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
350 ml vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Method

  1. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan then fry garlic for about a minute.
  2. Add the chopped leek and continue to fry for another 2 minutes or so.
  3. Add the cubes pumpkin and fry for 3-4 minutes. In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes.
  4. Add the potatoes to the pan and continue frying for another 3-4 minutes. If stuff starts to stick to the bottom at any point, add a tiny bit of water to the pan and use it scrape the stuck bits back into the mixture.
  5. Add the sliced carrots to the pan and fry for another 2-3 minutes, then season with black pepper and a bit of cayenne pepper (if using).
  6. Pour 350 ml of chicken stock into the pan and stir well, scraping anything that’s stuck to the bottom back into the mixture.
  7. If the vegetables aren’t submerged in liquid, add water to the pan until they are then place a lid or cover on the pan and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes
  8. Taste your stew and add extra seasoning, if desired, then serve.

Bowl of stew