Milk Chocolate Brownies – For Loneliness and Sweet Teeth

I find brownies fascinating. When I was about six or seven years old, my kind-of-godmother (who was and is one of my childhood heroes of the kitchen along with my mother) got me and my brother an American cookbook for youngsters. It was illustrated with awesome drawings and had all the classic recipes from corn on the cob to mini sausage rolls. You even got these colourful measuring spoons with the book to make cooking even easier.
Unfortunately my English wasn’t quite there yet at that age, and so my first attempt at brownies was a complete failure. We scraped that sweet, burnt, collapsed mess from the bottom of the pan for weeks.
A couple of years have passed since though, and making these milk chocolate and cocoa brownies was my second attempt (well, that is if we can count my blondies from last year as brownies). It was a blast. I’m not a fan of cake – in fact I hate cake if it consists of anything else but icing – but these brownies are nothing like sponge. With a thick, gooey consistency, they literally melt in your mouth.
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This day also marked the first trial of my year-old silicone ‘tin’, which I absolutely adore – I just never had a chance to try it. I love the heart-shape, although I must say that for transferring a liquid batter in it into the oven, it is absolutely useless.
Anyway, for these delicious and crumbly brownies, you’ll need:
200g unsalted butter
200g milk chocolate for cooking
85g plain flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
250g brown sugar
3 eggs
So to start off, prepare. Butter your tin and line with parchment paper.
Put your sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk for about 7-8 minutes. Seriously. This has to rise in volume and look gooey and light brown. When that’s done, set aside.
Sift your flour and cocoa powder into a bowl and add a pinch of salt.
Finally, melt your chocolate and butter in a bowl above hot water until no lumps remain and you get that beautiful, shiny liquid consistency. Let this cool to room temperature before you proceed.
When the chocolate is cooled, add it to your egg and sugar mixture and fold the two together gently, so as to keep the volume in the mix. When  nicely encorporated, add your flour and cocoa to the bowl, sifting again, and mix everything together gently – don’t overdo it! It may look very liquid and lumpy, but don’t worry about that.
Transfer the mix to your tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 35 minutes. It is ready when the top has formed a kind of papery film and is slightly risen. Take the tin out and leave to cool completely. It may look soft and not at all brownie like – but this is when the magic happens. When you come back after your long stroll to distract yourself, you will see that the brownie has hardened and shrunk in the middle, and you may now cut into it.
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Honestly, these are so very simple and are good anytime, anywhere. I kept them refrigirated because I wanted them to firm up a bit, but they’re awesome when still kind of warm and gooey in the middle too.
Trust me. It’s worth it.
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 PS. Happy 1st anniversary to the blog!
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Sole Meuniere, or Close – Discovering the Fishmonger

For the past three years, I have always shopped at supermarkets. In the area where I was based, there wasn’t really a nearby opportunity to buy fresh stuff – no butcher, no market, mainly just quick stop stores and superstores. Which was perfectly fine at the time. Standard Friday night dinner was usually pasta, frozen pizza or, my guilty pleasure, canned chicken korma.
Nowadays though, with the lovely kitchen and all, that’s no longer the norm. (Well, I’m not going to lie, there’s nothing wrong with a quick supper every now and then.) But when I can, I prefer spending some quality time in the kitchen, and ever since I did a little discovering in my new area, I’ve had some very pleasant suprises coming my way.
I discovered the six-day fruit and veg market that functions just two tram stops away from me, where I can get a massive bunch of coriander for 50p, or a bunch of asparagus for only a pound, and where they sell things that often I can’t even identify. And just near the market is the local butcher, where a bunch of jolly men, for some reason, tend do give me big smiles every time I walk by; and right next to that, the fishmonger, which is the shop that provided the base for this here blog post.
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I bought this beautiful lemon sole for the low price of £5 (would have been more than £10 presumably, had I gone to Waitrose), and they cleaned the skin and removed the head for me. It was fresh, very tender and it deserved good treatment – hence why I decided to cook it as a classic sole meuniere (or almost).
For sole meuniere, one needs:
1 lemon sole (whole in restaurants, filleted otherwise)
Lots of butter
Flour
Yep, c’est tout. Rachel Khoo had the lovely idea though of adding capers to the sauce, so I got a little jar of that too. This time I also decided to invest in butter that costs a little more than normal (in my defense, it was reduced) because this recipe really deserves it. Here’s what I used:
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Basically, the method goes: coat the sole in flour and fry in a pan with oil and butter, about a minute on each side. Now, me being me, I completely forgot the coating part; so I kind of just went with the flow and after more or less successfully deboning my first sole, I fried the fillets.
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After frying, wipe out the pan and melt a generous nob or two of butter. This needs to be cooked until it turns nutty brown, then it has to be immediately removed from heat. I was too scared of this, so I don’t think I cooked my butter long enough – but butter is always delicious, no matter what the colour.
Away from the heat, whisk in a couple of table spoons of lemon juice and you are ready to serve! I also added my capers at this point and it made a delicious, savoury and sour sauce that was heavenly with the fish. I served the sole with buttered parsley potatoes (so much butter!) and it certainly made a fantastic dinner.
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Despite its big reputation, this dish isn’t super complicated or expensive. Now, of course, I would have loved to fry the fish in whole and then have a French waiter bone it for my whilst I watch and sip my white wine, as they do in France… but if you’re a “servantless American cook” like me (minus the American part), this is a good method too.
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Chilli Beef Lettuce Wraps – Impressive!

I love Asian food. I love the taste, the fragrance, the texture, the versatility – I could honestly live on it. And by Asian food I do indeed mean everything from Indian to sushi. But I especially love it when some cuisines coincide and mix, because that’s when all kinds of magic is born.
This dish, as seen on Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course, is probably one of his best in the show. Not only does it look incredibly impressive, it smells and tastes fantastic, and the dipping sauce really is something else. It is not perfect, for sure – but it is really worth a shot. Not to mention it will make you feel like an Asian chef, even though you’re just chopping and frying.
In his original recipe, Gordon uses beef mince mixed with pork mince – but if you’re on a budget like me, one of them will do just fine. The mince turned out rather dry for me and not at all crispy – I’m not sure if the added pork would help that. Then again, it seems to me that crispy texture creation and me are just at constant war. I love eating it – cannot recreate it.
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Here’s what you need:

For the beef:
1 pack of mince beef
1-2 red chillies, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
A piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
1-2 gem lettuce

For the dipping sauce:
Brown sugar
Soy sauce
Olive oil
Sesame seed oil
Bunch of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1 chilli, deseeded (unless you like your food super hot) and roughly chopped
Fish sauce
Lime juice

So to start off, heat your pan until it’s almost smoking. With a dash of olive oil, fry the mince until crispy (well, if you can – I can’t). Remove and drain in a sieve.

Wipe the pan with a piece of kitchen towel. In a dash of sesame oil, fry the garlic, the ginger and the chillies for a minute or two. Add a spoonful of brown sugar to caramelise, then add your mince back to the pan.

To the mix, add your lime zest and a generous squeeze of juice. Ramsay also suggests spring onions, added at the last minute for some crunch, but I didn’t have any this time.

Mix your dipping sauce in a separate bowl and serve your mince in gem lettuce leaves to impress anyone.

Now smell your kitchen… That’s something, isn’t it?

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Note about the dipping sauce: it doesn’t taste anything like I imagined. But don’t let that discourage: it is actually very nice with the beef. I served the dish as a main course, but when you have guests over, this could pass as a lovely party nibble as well as a starter. Attention: it is super spicy, so if you don’t like it hot like some, cut back on either the chilli or the ginger.

Love the texture of the dish, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a taste for the exotic :) Just try and keep your beef moist!

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Peanut Butter Cookies – Baking Still Gets Me Mad

For some reason, to me, ultimate nuisances come from baking – even though I am the kind of person who gets angry pretty easily. But honestly, nothing gets me as much as when the sweet pastry doesn’t stick, or the cookie mix is too liquid, or when a perfectly shaped cake puffs up too much. Why? I don’t know. But I suppose this fact is going to interfere quite  a lot with my dream of getting the Grand Diplome at the Cordon Bleu.
Despite this though, I too often forget how annoyed I get when baking, and still try. And then again, when something turns out absolutely delicious, it erases the bad memories of desperately trying to get cookie dough off my fingers.
So yesterday, I picked another recipe from Gordon’s which I had all the ingredients for, and went for it.
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Originally in the recipe, there’s supposed to be both jam and peanut butter on the top of each cookie, but first of all, that’s quite the effort – and second, I love jam, and my boyfriend loves peanut butter. So it’s actually better this way.
Here’s the issue with this recipe: the proportions are ridiculously out of measure. I mean, if I didn’t know that Gordon tried this on national television, I would assume he has never even tested this recipe. Or if he has, there’s a massive typo in the cook book.
Here’s how the original measurements are:
185g flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
125g butter, softened
325g peanut butter
185g light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1 large egg, beaten
125g jam
(Instead of muscovado I used simple brown sugar, and instead of a vanilla pod, I used essence)
So the first issue is: 325g of peanut butter is a lot. I mean a lot lot. Which all by itself wouldn’t be an issue, but the fact that to this only 185g of flour is asked is ridiculous. I don’t know if I’ve done something terribly wrong, or whether it is truly not okay, but when I mixed all the ingredients, this was as far of being shapeable as it can be. I had to add at least double the amount of flour, little at a time, until I could kind of shape cookies of the dough. Other than that though, these cookies are extremely delicious, so here’s the method:
Start by sifting your flour, salt and baking powder into a ball. (You might as well start with more flour than said…) Set this aside. In a separate bowl, add your sugar, softened butter and peanut butter and mix until smooth. Here, the book suggests a whisk, but I think it meant an electric one, because with a hand held whisk, I didn’t get very far.
Once smooth, add the egg, the milk and the vanilla and you may now whisk until all is well combined. Finally, add your flour mixture little by little. This was the critical part: try forming a golfball of your mix, I dare you. If you can’t, like I couldn’t, add flour until you can :-)
With floured hands, form little dough balls and place on a lined baking sheet. With the tip of your finger, make a little indent in the middle and scoop in any filling you like. I used jam, peanut butter and chocolate spread (these were the ultimate hit) – but you could use anything you fancy really.
Bake in a 180 degree oven for only about 12 minutes, and even though they may be a little soft, take them out and let cool. They will harden just enough to hold, but the middle will stay soft and crumbly, even a day after the making.
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Delicious-looking, aren’t they? Totally worth a bit of experimenting, and honestly, they are delicious. I’m not even mad about the flour kerfuffle.
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White Chocolate Mousse With Lime Zest – Zing Baby, Oh Yeah

I hardly ever eat chocolate, and that is the truth. The reason behind it is usually I’d feel very gulity if I bought chocolate in a store, just like that, to eat. But a few weeks back I decided to go against myself and I bought an amazing dark chocolate bar seasoned with sea salt and it was so good that I only allowed myself a cube per day, so as to keep it going for as long as possible.
That little purchase opened a door though – at least temporarily – and so the second thing I decided to cook from Gordon’s new book ended up being a lime-flavoured white chocolate mousse, and oh boy.
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Now, I know what you’re thinking – that’s not lime zest. No, I’m not senile, I just ran out of lime zest by the end of the show, and so I went with a lemon decoration.
Anyway, for those not friendly with mousse, it is basically the same process as if you were making a soufflée. (So helpful, I know.) To clarify: the mousse is made so soft because of egg whites, whipped until stiff peaks are formed. So if you have an electric beater, this recipe really shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes – but seeing as I am still set on whisking by hand and buliding incredible muscles only in my right arm, it took me about half an hour. Totally worth it though.
For four portions of this deliciousness, here’s what you need:
(Once again, I’m just passing on this recipe, credit goes to Mr Ramsay)

3 large eggs (white only)
100g white chocolate
300ml double cream
1 lime, zest only
50g sugar

To start, break up your white chocolate into little pieces and put it into a heatproof bowl. Next, pour half your cream into a saucepan and heat until it begins to boil. (Don’t keep it on the stove after that, otherwise it will thicken and you don’t really want that.) So as soon as it’s bubbling away, pour the cream over the white chocolate and mix with a spatula until the mix is completely smooth.

Now comes the harder part that I always mess up: whisking cream. You need to whip the other half of the cream in a separate bowl along with the lime zest until soft peaks are formed. I think I may have whipped it a bit too long though, and so from time to time, whilst eating the mousse, one could feel little lumps of double cream. It’s annoying, but it’s not a catastrophe – but you might as well just learn from my mistake and stop whipping a bit earlier.

Add your whipped cream to the chocolate mixture, folding one into the other, then set aside.

Finally, whip your egg whites until they form soft peaks. This is so much fun. I love watching the consistency of that slimy, disgusting-looking liquid turn into bigger and bigger foam until suddenly it looks like a liquid meringue.
When you have soft peaks, start adding your sugar, bit by bit, and keep whisking until you have stiff peaks. (I like doing this – you can’t over-beat.) Once all the sugar is incorporated, fold your whites into the chocolate mixture gently, and you are ready to portion!

In the original recipe, Gordon puts some crashed raspberries into the bottom of the glass, but I didn’t have any, so I just took four glasses and portioned the mousse evenly between them. After a tiny bit of decorating, let chill for at least two hours, but more is always better, and voilá – dessert is served!

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The mousse is light and delicious – and the zest just takes it to a whole new level. While it may sound like it’s time consuming and difficult, I promise you that it’s not. I mean, I was even surprised to look at the clock afterwards and see that I only worked for half an hour. It’s impressive and super good – have fun trying it out!

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Veggie Patties – Weekly Vegetable Portion, Done

For a while now I felt like I have ran out of inspiration in the kitchen. I mean, it has been chicken and potatoes for quite some time, and I started missing the challenge and the new in dinners. The best thing to do in such a situation for me is to buy a new cook book. And of course, what better way to refresh my love for cooking if not through Gordon Ramsay’s most recent, Ultimate Home Cooking?
While I hate watching the TV show because of all the forced camera happiness in the Ramsay family, the recipes are naturally mouth-watering. I’ve also had a serious vegetable craving for the past few weeks (I mean I am constantly munching on cherry tomatoes!). And since my boyfriend, who is probably the most anti-vegetable person I know, is working late this week, I decided to go with this delicious mix of vegetables and halloumi to catch up on my crunchies.
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(Recipe taken from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Home Cooking, edited to what I did and used)
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 courgette, grated
250 g halloumi, grated
Bucnh of fresh coriander leaves
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Put the grated courgette and carrots into a colander, season with salt generously and let drip for a while. The salt helps to get rid of the liquid – which you will definitely definitely need. Try and squeeze out all the liquid to make your patties stick together more.

Put your vegetables into a bowl. Add your grated cheese, shredded coriander and season well with pepper (don’t add too much salt as the cheese is very savoury anyway). Note: Gordon also uses some fresh mint in this recipe, but I’m not a fan. Add your eggs and mix well; finally, add the two tablespoons of breadcrumbs and mix again. The mix should now form into patties easily (squeeze out the remaining liquid whilst you do that). Place them on a plate and cool for 20 minutes until they firm up a bit.

Shallow-fry the patties until the two sides are lightly browned and they are warm thoughout… and you are ready to serve!

I had these with a bit of watercress, dressed with a honey and grainy mustard dressing which went perfectly with the salty patties.

These are so fun to do (or is it weird that I like grating?) and are so good to get some vitamins in. I mean, the weather is getting colder and all that…

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Over-Simplified But Time-Saving Paella – I’ve Made Peace With Jamie

I’ve always, always preferred Gordon Ramsay over Jamie Oliver. I mean, you just have to take sides in the epic chef-off when you live in England, don’t you? Ramsay is, no doubt, the god of cooking for me. Well, the side of him you don’t see on Hell’s Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares, but the one you see on his Ultimate Cookery Course for example.
On the other hand, having watched a whole minute of Jamie, I decided I didn’t like him. After Gordon’s dead-serious, prof cooking, you’ve got this ligh-hearted, easy come easy go guy with his simple omelettes and his 30 minute meals… I wasn’t used to this kind of slacking off.
But now that I have a TV licence and I get to see his shows from time to time, I have to admit, Jamie kind of grew on me. Also, a friend of mine got me a Jamie cookbook for my birthday, which was kind of like getting someone a mug (no idea what they like but good intentions) – and having flicked through time and time again, last week was the first time I found something I wanted to try.
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This chicken and chorizo paella is a sweetly simplified and cheaper version of the true Spanish dish – but when you don’t want to spend too much and feel like cooking something out of the ordinary, this is perfectly satisfying. (By the way, I call the little afro-man Louie, and he is a washing up sponge officially. I think he looks better just standing there though, next to the red microwave.)
Since the recipe isn’t mine, you can view it Here. Honestly though, give it a try – it doesn’t take much skill and it is so delicious.
Something I don’t usually do is take photos of the mise en place, but this recipe was so pretty to prepare that I decided to take a quick picture.

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The only thing to remember about this dish is A, season very well, because I swear, no amount of salt and pepper is enough; and B, use a big, shallow dish. I used my Le Creuset casserole since that’s my only dish that seemed suitable for this recipe – but alas, the lowest layer of rice still burned, no matter how hard I kept stirring. It burned so bad and left such a black grease layer that I had to soak the poor thing for 3 days, and even then I had to do some serious scraping to get all of it out from the bottom.

Here’s the result by the way:

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All that water got quickly absorbed by the rice (in fact so quickly that you have to keep feeding it water all the time. It’s like the Kraken), and then you’re left with this delicious mix of chicken, chorizo, prawns, peas, carrot and rice. I highly recommend trying this recipe.
Oh and Jamie – my apologies for my lack of trust.
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