Making it mine.

I don’t always feel like blazing a trail.  Every now and again, it’s nice to follow in the footsteps of those who share a passion for similar things and are willing to create and share with the kind of gusto that I secretly hope I have.  My thanks, then, to Nigella Lawson for her commitment to artery-blocking sweet treats and flavours that pack a punch.

Not many Christmas’s ago, the plucky, self-acclaimed domestic goddess shared her recipe for Christmas rocky road bars.  I enjoyed making them and have adapted them each year since to suit my own taste.  This year, I’ve been most happy with the addition of glace ginger.  I knew it would come in handy at some point!  The following recipe is extremely simple, in the same way that the no bake chocolate cake was.  A great one to make with children and so quick to put together.  With only a day or so before the big day, you could easily empty your cupboard of fun stuff and combine it in syrup, butter and chocolate!

Festive rocky road bars (Adapted from Nigella Lawson)

300g dark chocolate

170g butter

125g milk chocolate

100g glace cherrries

100g glace ginger

100g amaretti biscuits

100g almonds

100g marsh mallows

4 tblspoons golden syrup

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate in a deep saucepan over a low heat.  Stir in the vanilla and the syrup.  Pour in the almonds, cherries and ginger and stir until coated.  Next, crush the biscuits, but not too finely, and mix into the chocolate.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the marsh mallows.  Tip the mixture into a tin lined with baking paper and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set.  Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.  Sneak into the kitchen at every opportunity to stuff one into your mouth.

Tomorrow, my sausage and apricot terrine!

Natural sugars don’t count- part 2: Raspberry & almond smoothie.

Some foods should not be tampered with.  Fresh, juicy tomatoes; a little salt, maybe some olive oil, but nothing more should detract from them.  Freshly made sweet pancakes; fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar to make them perfect.  Freshly baked bread; some good butter is all you need.

My problem, is that I mess things up by over-complicating them.  I look for new ways to enliven familiar dishes.  Putting twists on classic meals gives me a secret buzz, but inevitably ruins the meals I’m trying to bring to life.  There’s a reason that some things become “classic”.  They were good in the first place and they don’t require a tune up.  Why can’t I just leave things alone?

You know what I’m talking about, right?  That unnecessary topping on an otherwise perfect pizza.  One ingredient too many in the smoothie that would have been fine.  It’s sad to say, but I’m so guilty of messing up perfectly good combinations that it’s a wonder anybody in my family is still willing to try my creations.

There is, however, one bit of tampering that I don’t feel guilty about and one that yields good results every time.  It’s what I could refer to as “The Excess Sugar Technique”.  Spotting a legitimate opportunity for sugar, I simply crank up the amount until it is sweet enough to qualify as a dessert and therefore sweet enough for me.  Exhibit A; my raspberry and almond smoothie.

I realised that smoothies could be enjoyed in a way that is not really intended or endorsed by those with an interest in health.  It wasn’t long before I was having a ‘treat smoothie’ every now and again, instead of the usual healthy glass of fruit and yoghurt.  Far be it from me to recommend this as a regular alternative to your protein-packed blended wonders.  Instead, the next time you are feeling subversive, reach for the caster sugar and load up.

Raspberry & almond smoothie

300ml semi-skimmed milk

2 scoops raspberry ripple ice-cream

150g frozen raspberries

4 tblspoons caster sugar

2 tblspoons Greek yoghurt

1 tspoon almond extract

Blend everything together until smooth.  I sometimes add a couple of soft Amaretti biscuits before blending, but this is optional.