Sunday, 30 September 2012

We Should Cocoa - the Cocktail Round-up

Hooray, We Should Cocoa is two this month. When Chele of the Chocolate Teapot and I started this challenge, I don't think we had any idea it would be as successful as it has turned out to be. Time has flown by so fast, it hardly seems possible. When I look back at all of the challenges though, there are a phenomenal number of amazing entries. I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who has participated over the years and to all those who have said such nice things about the challenge - it's all very heart warming and gives me the will to go on.

Having set the challenge as cocktails this month, I was at a bit of a loss. My inspiration was pretty much used up creating chocadoodledoo and rhubarbarella earlier in the summer. I know very little about cocktails really; Sloe Comfortable Screw is the only one I remember from the odd one that passed my lips back in my glory days as a student - not because of what was in it, but because of the rather shocking name. This challenge has made me feel like a student all over again; it's been a journey of discovery and I now want to try all those cocktails and liqueurs I've never heard of before.

Thank you so much to those who helped celebrate this birthday month by coming up with ingenious and beautiful to behold cocktail inspired offerings. The usual burst of creativity has struck once again and we have a wide array of cocktail interpretations including cake, cupcakes, desserts, macarons, truffles, tarts and even cocktails. Pina colada, a well known cocktail combining rum, pineapple and coconut proved to be very popular - hmmm, I wonder how many nights have been spent propping up bars in tropical locations? But even with these, no two interpretations were the same.

Natalie has kindly agreed to host next month's We Should Cocoa, so do head over to the HungryHinny tomorrow to find out what she has in store for us in October.

Painkiller cupcakes, don't sound that much fun to me, but Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker thought these were just the thing to get the party started with a swing. When I found out they contained rum and pineapple and orange curd and coconut and white chocolate and then saw how luscious they looked, I was of course won right over and couldn't care less what they were called.

Managing to wean herself off cocktails and onto beer as a student, Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe nevertheless consumed a goodly number. Pina colada was one of her favourites. Wanting to share the cake with her young daughter, she came up with this alcahol free pina colada cake. Johanna also used the cake as an opportunity to try out a new green icing pen to good effect.

Claire at Under the Blue Gum Tree was also drawn to a pina colada cake. The creativity of bloggers never fails to impress me. Two cakes inspired by the same cocktail, but both totally different. Claire's most definitely contained alcohol and is quite a splendid affair. The white chocolate, cream cheese and yogurt icing sounds so very good and is something I am going to have to try very very soon.

Mistress of macarons and cocktail inspired bakes, Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves, came up with these spectacular green swirled mojito macarons. Because I'm just a little bit jealous of her skill and flair, I can't help letting on that in her enthusiasm she forgot to add the lime to the mint and rum.

Maria from a Box of Stolen Socks decided she wanted the real deal and rather than making a cocktail inspired creation, she would make a cake inspired cocktail. Black Forest Gateau was transformed into a Black Forest Manhattan. Single malt whisky, cherry liqueur and chocolate of course combined to pack, what I imagine to be, a very powerful punch.

Rum, pineapple and coconut come together again in the form of pina colada cupcakes this time. Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen used fresh pineapple and had a funky new pineapple gadget she wanted to try. To see how she got on, check out her post which features a video of her endeavours.

Moufle anyone? Suelle of Mainly Baking has created a brand new type of layered dessert designed to resemble a cocktail in appearance. This version, Autumn Dream, contains pear, hazelnut cake,  chocolate mouse and chantilly cream. It's also flavoured with Amaretto and Tia Maria - dreamy indeed.

Oh goodie, another cocktail. This time raw chocolate and cocoa butter combines with Polish honey liqueur to form this rich but elegant looking raw chocolate cocktail. Ren of Fabulicious Food assures us that she is not in the habit of drinking during the day, but with a raw chocolate kit to test, what is a girl to do?

Janine of Cake of the Week has noticed a gap in the cocktail repertoire so has decided to fill it with a brand new one - a Chocolate Russian. Consisting of chocolate, vodka and coffee, Janine has translated the idea into these Chocolate Russian macarons.

Now, who other than Phil from As Strong As Soup, has a bottle of creme de pamplemousse sitting at home? I didn't know there was such a thing, but it sounds right up my street. Based on one of his favourite tipples, Grapefruit Kir, Phil has created these inspirational pamplemousse financiers complete with caramalised grapefruit.

Laura of How to Cook Good Food has a secret side that was just waiting for this challenge to reveal it. She is a Campari devotee. Her Campari and orange dazzle cake was inspired by the cocktail Campari Orange Passion, another one I have yet to be introduced to. If truth be told I'm not sure I've even tasted Campari. Anyway, Laura's cake has dazzled me, I'm itching to try it.

My education into the world of cocktails took another leap with these Cosmopolitan truffles. Natalie of HungryHinny explains that the Cosmopolitan is a mix of vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry juice and a twist of lime. Her truffles echo these ingredients in a white chocolate ganache which is itself covered in white chocolate - pure indulgence.

Now margarita I have heard of - phew! Introduced to these whilst hanging out in Las Vegas (as you do), Jean of Baking in Franglais has been addicted ever since. She used her favourite tipple to make Nigella's chocolate margarita cake using the margarita combination of tequila, triple sec and lime - my new found confidence immediately took a knock as I had to google triple sec. Jean was so impressed with the cake that it is now her favourite flourless chocolate torte.

It must be the sophistication of cocktails that has inspired so much elegance in this round-up. Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery has brought along some more, with these French martini macarons. French martini is Hannah's favourite cocktail and guess what? I had to google this one too. It's a mix of vodka, raspberry liqueur, pineapple juice and lemon. In honour of WSC's 2nd birthday, Hannah has produced perfect chocolate macarons filled with a chambord chocolate ganache (which she chose in recognition of its presence in the first ever WSC challenge) and topped with dried pineapple.

Kir comes to the fore again but this time with the very classy Kir Royale from Jill of Lapin d'Or and More. Jill has made the most beautifully rolled kir royale Swiss roll and filled her sponge with homemade blackcurrant jelly and a white chocolate champagne ganache.

We are all very lucky to see this stunner from Lisa of Parsley Sage & Sweet. Whilst putting the finishing touches to her chocolate champagne floats, the glass broke and she had to take the shots with the contents pouring out. Chocolate ice-cream, raspberry sorbet topped up with champagne has now been added to my "100 things to do before I die" list.

Having had all sorts of grand, if somewhat vague, plans for this event, I ended up running out of time. I wanted to use some mint schnapps I'd made so I came up with these chocolate mint rum cocktail cupcakes. This is, apparently, a real cocktail mix, but I couldn't find a fancy name for it.

In celebration of her first Blogiversary and after a little, err, gentle persuasion on my part, Juliet of The Crazy Gypsy pulled together a very last minute but remarkable cocktail concoction. She gives us Tuesday Tumble - a mix of Agavero (another one I had to google), Amaretto and bourbon with the chocolate component cleverly attached to the rim of the glass. Thank you Juliet, a great way to celebrate two birthdays :)

For complete dedication to the cause, Caroline from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking is unlikely to be beaten. She's been studying for exams all month so has had little time for baking. With only a few hours to go before the deadline she decided she wanted to be part of the WSC birthday celebrations - she was one of the founding participants after all. So after six hours of exams and a one and a half hour commute home, these magnificent mojito cocktail cupcakes were envisioned, created, photographed and eaten. I hope these lime drizzle cupcakes with a mint and white chocolate icing helped alleviate some of the pain of a very stressful month.

Inspired by various whisky cocktails from a recent trip to Scotland, Eira of Cookbooks Galore created these chocolate and whisky tartlets. I was very pleased to see another take on the challenge and these tartlets layered with pastry, whisky chocolate and cream sound rather tempting.

And sipping her chocolate martini last thing on Sunday night comes Lucy of The Kitchenmaid. I really like this idea of Lucy's: a combination of vodka and vanilla syrup poured over a square of chocolate. I'm left wondering just how luscious a square of vanilla vodka soaked chocolate is.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Fennel & Ginger Chocolate Tarts - Random Recipes #20

This month the wonderful Dom of Belleau Kitchen has teamed up with Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. The plan is to combine his Random Recipes challenge with Karen and Kate's Tea Time Treats. This is a grand plan as far as I'm concerned: having been away on holiday for the first part of September, I have even less time than usual to fit these challenges in, so two combined into one suits me perfectly.

The idea is to pick a book that you think most represents tea time treats and then pick a random recipe from it. Following Dom's lead, I took the two baking books that had British in the title from my bookshelves: British Baking by Petyon and Byrne and The Great British Bake Off by Linda Collister. CT did his usual trick and randomly selected one of them. GBBO it happened to be and page 189 was the number he picked, giving me Fennel and Ginger Chocolate Tarts. I was intrigued by the idea of incorporating fennel and slightly concerned it might overpower the tarts, but very willing to give it a try. The pastry part of it, I was less thrilled about: I have yet to grow into enjoying pastry making.

This is how I made them:
  • Weighed 30g spelt flour and 150g plain white and poured into a bowl.
  • Threw in 100g of cold unsalted butter and cut it into small pieces with a knife (the book said to cut into pea size peices with two knives, but I didn't understand what was meant by this and also didn't have the patience to cut it quite that small).
  • Rubbed butter and flour between my fingers until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Added an egg yolk and 1 1/2 tbsp cold water.
  • Stirred this in with the knife, then brought the mixture together with my hands to form a ball.
  • Placed this in the fridge for 1/2 an hour.
  • Rolled the pastry out to about 2 mm and cut into rounds to fill four 9 cm tart tins and 4 foil cases of varied size (eight 9 cm tart tins would probably be just right).
  • Pricked the bottoms with a fork and baked at 180C for 10 minutes.
  • Ground a pinch of fennel seeds with a pestle & mortar (the recipe said to put them in whole, but ours were home grown and rather large and I preferred the idea of having them ground).
  • Chopped 20g crystallised ginger into slithers.
  • Melted 100g unsalted butter with 100g soft brown sugar.
  • Simmered for 3 minutes then added 100g double cream.
  • Continued to simmer for a further 4 minutes.
  • Added 100g broken dark chocolate (G&B 85%) and stirred until smooth.
  • Stirred in the fennel and ginger.
  • Poured the ganache into the pastry cases and left to set.
  • Served with raspberries.
These proved to be very popular with CT, who claimed they were the best thing I'd made in a while, not he hastened to add, that he hadn't enjoyed everything else. I was particularly pleased with the pastry cases, which were firm and crisp without being hard or solid. Having no added sugar, they were a good foil to the sweet fudgy filling, which really was rather mouth-watering. The filling was easy to make and set to a nice firm yet smooth and soft consistency. Thankfully, the fennel was subtle but still discernible against the warmth of the ginger and the two flavours came together gave an interesting but welcome synergy.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Devnaa Chocolates & Cookbook - Review & Giveaway #13

If you haven't heard of Devnaa chocolates yet, you are just about to. Founded in 2006, Devnaa is a sister and brother team based in London. Roopa and Jay Rawal have taken a modern approach to traditional Indian sweets and produce a range of Indian-inspired chocolates and confectionary. With their distinctive Indian flavours, these are for the more adventurous palate, but if you like the combination of chocolate and spices, these are for you. I happen to be a fan of this combination and was recently sent their signature box to review along with a signed copy of their recently published cookbook, Indian-Inspired Desserts by Roopa Rawal. I also have the same set to offer as a giveaway.

Immediately, the vibrant packaging alerts you to the fact that this is not your average box of chocolates. Lime green, fushia pink, purple and gold all combine together to create a thoroughly exotic feast for the eyes and transports you from grey old Blighty to a place where the sun shines with more intensity and regularity. With my penchant for bright colours, I am in love with their boxes. The box is also cleverly designed to look like a tiffin tin, the standard lunch box used in India. The Devnaa logo, a distinctive gold tear drop, appears in all sorts of forms.

In my experience, Indians generally have a very sweet tooth, so I was pleasantly surprised to find these chocolates, although sweeter than I would prefer, are not overly sugared. The box contained sixteen chocolates, two of each flavour and they were a good mixture of chocolate, fillings, textures and flavours.

Chai Masala Caramel - This was the one I made a beeline for. I love chai masala and I love caramel. The caramel was delicious, salted and with a good chai flavour, but without being overpowering. The milk chocolate shell was thick and I would have preferred a higher ratio of caramel to chocolate, but I still wouldn't hesitate in consuming an entire box of them. CT agreed on how delicious they were, but liked the thick shell which cracks satisfyingly in the mouth. These have won a Gold in the Great Taste Awards and if they hadn't they would certainly get a gold from me.

Rose and Ginger Cream - Enrobed with a thick plain chocolate shell which worked well to take the edge off the sweet rose cream. The rose makes an immediate impact, evoking exotic locations. Later, a subtle warming taste of ginger comes through and lingers nicely on the palate. Being a big fan of rose, I found this to be delicious, if a trifle sweet.

Saffron and Ginger Fudge - I was expecting the ginger to take centre stage on this one as ginger pieces are contained within, but it was the saffron that dominated. I found this interesting, but it didn't have me running back for seconds. Strange as I like saffron cake, which is a Cornish speciality. Covered in a thin skin of milk chocolate.

Almond and Orange Praline - A very nice nutty praline which has a slight crunch to the texture and is delicately flavoured with orange. Covered in a thin skin of milk chocolate, it was delicious. It reminded CT of a peshwari naan, but in a good way. He has a bit of a thing about overly strong orange flavours, but thought this was very nicely balanced and would have eaten several, given the chance.

Honey and Cardamom Fudge - Covered in a thin shell of dark chocolate, this has a powerful and persistent taste of cardamom. The more delicate flavour of honey comes through after the initial spicy surprise. I found the dark chocolate a little too bitter, the cardamom needed toning down a bit and milk chocolate might have been a better choice. CT, however found them invigorating and enjoyed the experience.

Saffron and Pistachio Caramel - Covered in a thick white chocolate shell with a nice vanilla flavour, the saffron was once again the dominant flavour. Although the pistachios added a nice crunch, the flavour was rather lost. The caramel was just the right consistency, liquid but not runny. I find the flavour of saffron rather overwhelming and a bitter aftertaste persisted on my palate. It also left a dry sensation and would probably be better taken with a nice cup of tea. Again, I found this one to be interesting, but not one I would pick out for preference.

Cinnamon Praline - As a cinnamon and praline lover, I was looking forward to trying this one and I was not disappointed. This has a good cinnamon flavour, but is not too strong. It has crunchy pieces of crisped rice within a smooth hazelnut praline and is enrobed in a thin layer of milk chocolate. Both CT and I thought this was delicious.

Coconut and Cardamom Caramel - Another thick dark chocolate shell with a distinctive bitter note which works really well with the sweet but delicious caramel filling. The caramel has a delicate but distinctive flavour of coconut with a persistent note of cardamom.

As soon as I heard that Roopa had published a book, I was keen to have a look at it. Indian sweets are deeply reminiscent of my student days up in the big and exciting cosmopolitan world of London where I indulged in them with, err, more than seemly regularity. That together with my mother's love of curries have given me a passion for the exotic flavours of India.  Indian-Inspired Desserts is a lovely collection of exotic egg free cakes, biscuits, sweets, traditional and fusion desserts, drinks and frozen desserts. I'm not a Sanskrit scholar, but the name Devnaa may well have a similar meaning to our Divine, which is certainly how I would describe this book.

The book is beautifully presented with Indian inspired motifs and colourful pages. The cover is a distinctive saffron yellow and is a good solid hardback. Unusually for modern cookbooks, there is an illustration for each recipe, giving a good idea of what you are aiming to achieve. The book starts with a section on key ingredients and includes some useful information about each one. I for one didn't realise that eggs are often not used by some groups in India due to cultural and religious sensibilities. Caution is given about using good quality spices, especially when it comes to saffron. Recipes for three basic building blocks are included at the beginning: Devnaa's signature chai masala, an egg-free sponge and paneer, a fresh curd cheese which I find particularly delicious. I couldn't wait to try something out and no sooner had I received the book than I was knocking up my first ever barfi. I was thrilled with the result and served it up at a dinner party the next day. I am looking forward to trying out more of these recipes with pistachio and coconut biscuits being next on my list. Other recipes I'm keen to try include: chocolate seera, apricot and saffron scones, white chocolate kheer, carrot halwa and a mixed nut and chocolate brittle (chikki). Further recipes can be found on the Devnaa blog.

I was sent a copy of the book and a box of chocolates for review purposes and as always, any opinions expressed are all my own, unless stated otherwise.

Giveaway
To have your chance of winning a signature box of Devnaa chocolates together with their cookbook, Indian-Inspired Desserts, please complete the Rafflecopter below. You will need to leave a comment on this post which then gives you additional chances to enter if you so wish. Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries. Any automated entries will be disqualified. This giveaway is only open to those with a UK postal address.

Closing date is Saturday 20 October


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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Chocolate Mint Rum Cocktail Cupcakes - We Should Cocoa #25

Having set the challenge to celebrate We Should Cocoa's 2nd birthday with cocktails, I was subsequently completely flummoxed as to what to make. I know nothing about cocktails, except that I'm usually happy to drink one when it's offered. I wanted to do something other than cupcakes, not because I don't like cupcakes, but I thought there might be a proliferation of these and it would be fun to do something different. However, the days flew by and I was no nearer deciding what to make and then it was time to go back to work after my lovely three week break. Needing something to take back to work with me, I thought cupcakes would probably work best as they are less messy than a cake which needs to be cut with a knife. And it was National Cupcake Week too. So, my cocktail entry has turned out to be cupcakes after all.

Following on from my Chocadoodledoo, I quite fancied making a cupcake version of the cocktail, using the peppermint schnapps I made earlier in the year. Seeing Jacs's post for her After Eight cake, confirmed my decision - it looked so good. A little googling came up with a Chocolate Mint Rum cocktail which was similar enough for me and also meant I could enter these into Baking with Spirit, which happens to be rum this month. I based my recipe on the one I made for chocolate peppermint cupcakes a couple of years ago and tweaked it to make way for the rum and mint schanpps. I also changed the frosting by adding cream cheese and mint liqueur.

This is how I did it:
  • Melted 85g unsalted butter with 100g dark peppermint chocolate (Co-op Fairtrade 51%) in a large pan over a low heat.
  • Added 175g dark brown sugar and stirred until smooth.
  • Beat in two large eggs.
  • Sifted in 180g flour (1/3 wholemeal, 1/3 white, 1/3 buckwheat) with 2 heaped tsp cocoa powder, 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp yogurt.
  • Poured 2 tbsp rum into a jug with 1 tbsp mint schapps and topped up to 150ml with water.
  • Mixed this in until just incorporated.
  • Spooned into 15 cupcake cases and baked at 180C for 17 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.
  • Left to cool for 10 minutes then turned out onto a rack to cool completely.
  • Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 130g sifted icing sugar.
  • Added 3 tsp peppermint schnapps to soften and beat until well incorporated.
  • Beat in 50g cream cheese.
  • Topped the cupcakes with the icing and added Elizabeth Shaw mint batons to give a cocktail effect.
I was really pleased with this experiment;  I was aiming for subtlety with the mint and rum and this is what I got. CT described them as blowing hot and cold. The warmth of the rum came through like a tropical breeze to be quickly countered by a cooling menthol blast. In a moment of verbosity, he went on to say that the mint intensity had three stages: a hint of mint in the sponge, distinctly minty in the icing finished by a powerful burst from the chocolate baton. He recommended that the cake be eaten from the bottom up to enjoy the full experience. The sponge was moist and light and the cream cheese icing was delicious as was the rum chocolate sponge. Yum.

Janine over at Cake of the Week has just started a new challenge, the most appropriately named Baking with Spirit whereby a different alcoholic drink is chosen to cook with each month. This inaugural month happens to be rum, so I'm putting these cakes forward.

In honour of National Cupcake Week, the theme for this month's Calendar Cakes, hosted alternately by Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly Bakes is cupcakes, so I can't resist entering this one too.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Honeyed Fig & Goats Cheese Tarts with Walnuts & Chocolate Balsamic Sauce

When I first started this blog, I envisioned creating a number of savoury recipes using chocolate, but somehow my sweet tooth got the better of me and not many savoury dishes have in fact appeared. So when I made contact with a certain talented and loquacious goat called Ethel (how many goats do you know on Twitter?), I bucked my ideas up. Ethel kindly invited me to join in the #CapricornChallenge and I was delighted. The idea is to come up with an exciting recipe or three using Capricorn Cheese and a number of ingredients provided as inspiraton. There is no rule to say that the results have to be savoury, but I wanted to expand my culinary horizons.

Goats and I go back a long way. When I was a child I spent many a happy week on a remote Cornish smallholding where I went to bed by candlelight and drew water from the well. As well as feeding the steaming pot of mash from the range to the chickens and moving the sheep from field to field, I spent much of my time with the goats. Taking Starlight and Moonlight out each day to keep the brambles down was one of my duties as was collecting branches from the hedgerows to feed them with. Sadly my attempts at milking were less than successful, but I did get to drink a lot of goat's milk and try my first ever goats cheese. I also learnt that the front end of a goat can be somewhat dangerous; on occasion Moonlight took exception to being moved around and would butt to get her point across.

I'm sure Ethel is much better behaved. She must be because a hamper filled with good things including some of her own wonderful cheese duly arrived from her home in Somerset, over the border in England. Plenty of ideas immediately sprang to mind. Some friends were the unsuspecting guinea pigs for one of those ideas: a Mediterranean inspired creation which I turned into a starter. This would also work well as a light lunch. To give the starter its chocolate hit, I started by making some chocolate balsamic vinegar.

This is what I did to serve four as a starter:

Spiced Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
  • Dry fried 1/2 tsp cumin seeds in a small saucepan for a few minutes until a delicious warm aroma arose.
  • Poured in 100ml of a good quality balsamic vinegar.
  • Added 25g caster sugar and stirred until the sugar had dissolved.
  • Simmered mixture for a couple of minutes.
  • Poured over 25g of 70% dark chocolate (G&B) and stirred together until melted.
  • Poured into a bottle, left to cool then capped.
Honeyed Fig & Goat's Cheese Tarts with Walnuts and Thyme
  • Rolled half a block of all butter puff pastry into a 9" square then cut into four square pieces.
  • Placed these onto a lined baking tray.
  • Cut a cross into four fresh figs, cutting to about 3/4 of the way down.
  • Placed a fig on each square of pastry.
  • Scattered a sprig of thyme over each one.
  • Cut 50g Capricorn Goats Cheese into eight pieces and stuffed the centre of the figs with two pieces each.
  • Drizzled each fig with 1/2 tsp honey. 
  • Scattered a few chopped walnuts over the top.
  • Baked in the oven for 10 minutes at 200C until the pastry was risen and golden, the cheese had melted and the walnuts had toasted.
  • Drizzled with the chocolate balsamic.
  • Placed onto 4 plates and served immediately.
Everyone was really impressed with these tarts, both with the looks and the taste. Sadly their appearance was not captured very well on camera. The sweet sticky figs complemented the salty melted cheese and the crunch of walnuts added another dimension to the texture. The flavour of thyme completed the Mediterranean feel. The chocolate balsamic was the crowning glory and brought out the flavours of everything else as well as making its own distinct contribution: rich, fruity and chocolatey with the sour vinegar cutting through both the cheese and sweet figs.  These worked particularly well for a dinner party as they were quick and easy to make, but looked and tasted rather classy.

If I'm lucky, one of my recipes might get picked as a #CapricornChallenge finalist which gets my recipe included in the Capricorn Kitchen.

As thyme was an important constituent of these tarts, I'm including them in Herbs on Saturday - a lovely challenge run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage. As I don't use herbs in my chocolate creations very often, I don't get the chance to enter very often either.

Although I've already entered this month's One Ingredient with my figgy flapjacks, I used dried figs. However they are nothing like fresh figs, so I am entering this one too. Laura of How to Cook Good Food and Working London Mummy alternate hosting this monthly challenge.

Figs are in full season right now, so I am also entering this into Simple & in Season, hosted this month by Katie Bryson of Feeding Boys and a Firefighter. This monthly challenge is the brainchild of Ren of Fabulicious Food.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Blackberry, Coconut & Rose Barfi - Best of British, London

To me, food in London means two things and takes me straight back to my student days. Firstly, high end treats for special occasions like birthdays and graduation. I remember the excitement of tea at the Ritz &amp tea at the Grosvenor, not something a girl from a remote Cornish village had ever experienced before. Secondly and much more frequently, I made use of the abundance of good cheap Indian eats in and around the back of Euston Station - this may account for my occasional lateness to lectures. It was here I was introduced to Indian sweets and was smitten by their exotic flavours. So when Fiona of London Unattached set this month's Best of British challenge as "what does London food mean to you", Indian sweets were the first thing that sprang to mind.

I was dying to have a go at making some Indian sweets after receiving Indian-Inspired Desserts by Roopa Rawal (watch this space for a forthcoming exciting giveaway). So leafing through the book, it was just a matter of picking which one. Because I still have some rose syrup left, the coconut and rose barfi caught my eye. That was the one I wanted to start with, but with the addition of some fruit to offset the sweetness a little and to give some natural colour. Hmmm, what's in season? Well it's been a while since I last got scratched arms and purple stained fingers, but blackberries it had to be. I managed to pick a tub full from the hedgerows and made my way back home with glee.

This is how I made my first ever barfi:
  • Pureed 300g blackberries with a stick blender & rubbed through a sieve to extract the juice into a medium heavy based saucepan.
  • Added a 387g tin of condensed milk and warmed it up on a low heat, stirring all the while.
  • Added 4 tbsp rose syrup.
  • Increased the heat a little and added 200g of milk powder. Whisked until all lumps had disappeared.
  • Added 40g desiccated coconut and continued to stir.
  • Cooked for about an hour, stirring every few minutes until the mixture looked fairly dry and as though it might be thick enough to set.
  • Spooned into a 2 lb loaf tin lined with baking paper and smoothed down with the back of a spoon.
  • Crossed fingers and hoped it would set.
  • Bingo, after a few hours it had well and truly set.
  • Melted 30g dark chocolate (G&B Cook's 72%) in a bowl over hot water.
  • Turned out onto a board.
  • Drizzled teaspoonfuls of the melted chocolate over the barfi.
  • Cut into 32 squares
I was thrilled at the result; my barfi tasted like a true Indian sweet, despite the fact that blackberries may never have been used before. The texture was perfect too. The blackberry flavour was very much present and the rose though subtle, did not go unnoticed. The chocolate drizzle added another flavour dimension and helped counteract the sweetness. Having said that, they weren't as sweet as I had imagined they would be. They featured at a dinner party I recently held for friends and were well received.

Best of British is a monthly challenge showcasing the best of what British food has to offer in various counties or regions around the UK. The challenge is sponsored by The Face of New World Appliances and currently has a £50 Amazon voucher prize to give to a winning entry each month. Here are the previous regional entries: Cornwall, Scotland, Yorkshire.

As I used freshly picked blackberries, I'm also entering this into Simple & In Season, a monthly blogging event created by Ren of Fabulicious Food and this month hosted by Katie Bryson of Feeding Boys and a Firefighter.

I'm also submitting this to Javelin Warrior's Made with Love Mondays - a challenge embracing the whole concept of making everything from scratch.

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