In Season: Chestnut and Chocolate Mousse Cake

There is definitely more to chestnuts than stuffing however one of the problem is the preparation of the nuts, so fiddly, just impossible. This is why I was delighted when the Merchant Gourmet PR approached me and asked if I could come up with a Christmas chestnuts recipe. They offered to send me one of their Chestnut product. Whole Chestnuts are roasted, peeled and vacuum pack so ready to use and when you think about it, this is a little marvel.

I agreed to enter their Blogger Chestnut Challenge which will be judged by chef Alex MacKay and I have got my big brown eyes on the prize: a hamper.

Choosing the recipe was not a problem. Every Christmas, my friend Pat make this perfect Chestnut and Chocolate Mousse Cake. It is light, moist and just the kind of thing you can't help eating even after a 10 courses, so delicious it is.
It is as easy as  one, two, three therefore takes the stress out of the cook on a busy day.

  • 200g (7 oz) dark chocolate
  • 200g (7 oz) unsalted butter
  • 200g (7 oz) peeled cooked chestnuts
  • 200ml (7 fl oz) milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 150g (3.5 oz) caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 170°c/Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a 23cm-diameter springform cake tin.

1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan over a very gentle heat. In another pan, heat the chestnuts with the milk until just boiling, then mash thoroughly with a potato masher (or process to a rough purée in a machine).

2. Put the egg yolks in a bowl and mix with the caster sugar. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the chestnut purée until you have a smooth, blended batter. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter. 

3. Transfer the mixture to the greased, lined tin and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the cake is just set but still has a slight wobble.

Serve hot or cold with or without double cream

Swedeaphobia Cure

People talk about their favorite food but you ever heard somebody say "I could live on swedes only"....likely not. And if someone came up with this line ever, you would possibly turn on your heels as fast as you could and leave that quidam standing there without further ado.

I never bothered with that ugly root until I found a traditional Finnish recipe in The Able & Cole Cookbook and that day, I felt really adventurous, so I went for it. It is described in the cookbook as creamy, slightly spicy and delicious, promise it is exactly that. It might not make you one of the weirdos wanting to live on swedes but it will brilliant dish to add to the house menu. The dish keeps in the fridge so it can be made in advance and only 30 minutes to reheat. 

 Swedeaphobia Cure
◦1 big swede
◦1 mug of dried breadcrumbs
◦1½ mugs of cream (or a mixture of cream and milk)
◦45ml (3 tbsp) golden syrup, maple syrup or honey
◦½ tsp white pepper
◦1 tsp ground ginger
◦½ tsp grated nutmeg
◦Salt and freshly ground black pepper
◦2-3 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C/356°F/gas 4).

2. Cut the swede into large chunks and boil in lightly salted water until just tender, about 15 minutes. Pour half the breadcrumbs into the cream and set aside. When the swede is ready, drain it, reserving the water, and mash it roughly with a fork or potato masher. Add about half a mug of the cooking water to get a slightly smoother texture. Now add all the ingredients except the potatoes and remaining breadcrumbs to the mashed swede and mix well, seasoning with salt to taste.

3. Grease a large baking dish and line the bottom and sides with the sliced potato. Gently add the swede mixture to the baking dish, taking care to spread it evenly. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the top and bake for 1 – 1½ hours, until the potatoes are tender and the breadcrumb topping is golden brown.

Guess where I was ?

After 30 years travelling, I still look at places in awe and amazement, I love the feeling of discovery, meeting new people, elliciting their stories. But I have to say that the element of surprise is thin on the ground.

Last week, he and I took a week away. A week is such a short time so he looked for a place where there is sun, wine, swimming and came up with Tenerife. Wooow far flung from the Yemen or Mongolia but why not? Afterall it is one of the most popular tourist destination; there bound be something in it. So we flew to Tenerife South and immediately took a couple of buses to the middle of nowhere.
Yes, the middle of nowhere exists on Tenerife and the very next day we experienced the most fantastic 3 hours trek from the perched village of Masca through stunning scenery down a gorge to a small bay on the coast reputed to have been a Pirate hideaway, only accesible by boat onto another bus back to the middle of nowhere and the most gorgeous restaurant experience, I have had in a long time.

To cut it short. The local wine is very palatable, the fish croquettes were superb, the turned over pizza looked great but what stroke me was the dish without a name, the house speciality which I recreated for you, it is just a delight, it is so good, amazing.

Description: A filo tartelette lined with crushed sweet pepper & palm honey at the bottom, topped with beef meat and a bechamel.

You will need individual ramekins or any small dish, tart mould whatever you can find
sheets of filo pastry cut and stacked to fill the ramequins
Sweet peppers
palm honey but since we don't have that treacle or honey will do
200 grs of mince meat
1 chopped onion
make a bechamel with butter, flour and milk


  • Cut your peppers in stripes and sweat them in a table spoon of oil, when they are soft, blend them and add a good teaspoon of honey
  • Cut your filo and line the ramequins or tartelettes moulds. Spread the pepper mixture onto the filo.
  • Do not wash your pan, you are going to cook the onion until soft and the mince until brown when this is done top the pepper mixture.
  • Make a bechamel and top the lot with it
  • Now 20 minutes in an oven mark 180 and enjoy

And the next day we left for La Gomera, an even smaller island to experience more food, sun, sea.

Haricot de Mouton or the Power of Twitter

How long does it take to become addicted to a new form of communication?
answer: in my case no-time.
Never thought about twitting until "the book" pre-launch. I was offered a Westwood Rocks necklace for a twitty. A fortnight later, I am cooking by twitter.
Not knowing how to use twitter, I mistakenly joined Jamie Oliver, who twits a recipe a day. Haricot de mouton was on the menu a couple of days back. Straight away, I spotted the grammatical mistake, shouldn't it be Mouton aux Haricots?. You see, Jamie is an alumni of my ex-place of work and as we know teachers talk so I knew that French studies were not well attended....However, I was intrigued by the fact that there were 2 mistakes in a 3 words sentence and blow me with the kitchen torch.

Haricot derives from an ancient word "halicoter"which means cutting in pieces so this was right. 20 out of 20 Jamie. But there is a twist in my twit, traditionally "le haricot aux mouton" is prepared with potatoes and turnips no haricots in the pot.

As we know, eating words is not palatable when Haricot de Mouton was simply a huge win- pot left clean- time in the kitchen 30 minutes. brilliant.

here is my take on the recipe Haricot de Mouton
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 lamb shoulder or breast (500g) cut in roughly in cubes
  • 2 tins of white beans
  • salt, pepper, parsley
  • little bit of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbs of flour
and wait for it....... 3 sausages (very optional)
In the pressure cooker, heat oil throw in onions and garlic, cook until soft
Add the lamb and cook until brownish, add salt, pepper, parsley
Add flour, 2 or 3 tumbles of water, stir
Put the lid on high heat until the pressure starts to come out turn the heat down and cook for 15 minutes.
Let the steam off, open, add the beans and cook under pressure for a further 10 minutes.

Week-End Pictures: Kent on Bonfire Night

I wish upon falling stars, I wished upon fireworks' bright stars too. On Bonfire night, I wished for more, I wished my time wasn't counted, I wished I knew the speed of dark so that I would know when light will sparkle bright.

He took these great photos at the Tenterden Bonfire and Fireworks. 2010 marked the 50 year anniversary of the 2nd Tenterden Scout Group and it was really a family affair with lots of little heads turned to the sky, their faces warmed up by the biggest bonfire I have ever seen.

We stayed in really nice B&B if you are looking for a great place to stay, I would highly recommand Bishopsdale Oast. Coincidence have it that the owner's daughter is a cookery writer so I may have a give-away for you soon.
One could do worse than getting a pint and some nice though a little pricy food at the three chimneys, an old pub full of character .

Is Purple the New Green?

One would think that the colour purple at the dinner table is rather unconventional. Let's see: grapes, blueberries, blackberries, plums and aubergines are possibly the only fruits and vegs, I could have named before this summer when out of the blue, the food he and I were consuming had a sudden mystic and royal air, qualities attached to the colour purple.

In the space of no time, I came across two new (to me) purple vegetables. I harvested purple potatoes from the planter in the garden and bought a purple cauliflower at the local farmers' market. So would purple be the new green on the menu?

Now pay attention, this is the scientific bit: what does make food, purple?
answer: flavonoids. They are natural chemicals which make blood vessels healthier, help with memory loss and might be useful in the first stages of cancer. So all together rather friendly thingies.
But is purple food popular? Certainly not with kids, judging by the reaction of the 7 years old who lives next door. She looked disapprovingly at my purple cauliflower and refused point blank to taste it. In France and in Thailand, that hue is associated with death sooo, may be not exactly what you would like to see in your plate.

Taste verdict: the Arran Victory potatoes once cooked turned normal potato colour and were not very different from any other potatoes. The cauliflower's flavour was much more delicate than its creamy-white counterpart.
Next year, I will not be considering planting purple carrots.
Now for the purple song .


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