World famous chocolate recipes

OK, everyone, it’s time to pull on your legwarmers, leotards and headbands: it’s the We Should Cocoa Fame round-up. Since I’m writing this post with the Fame theme going round and round my head, here’s the link so you can listen along at the same time. Catchy, isn’t it?

We Should Cocoa usually asks participants to match chocolate with a special guest star ingredient, but this month I thought it might be fun to try something different. Instead, I asked everyone to come up with a ‘famous’ chocolate recipe – whether it was from a famous person, world-famous in their street, or just deserved wider recognition. Here’s what they came up with…

We Should Cocoa newbie Nicole Bremner dived in at the deep end and managed to reinvented the world-famous Oreo cookie not once, but twice. She’s made a vegan and a fructose-free version – and both look amazing. Nicole’s blog is new to me and it’s full of lovely things. You should check it out.

The always-inspiring Karen of Lavender and Lovage is famous enough in her own right (did you know she was a World Baking Day ambassador?) and she whipped up a treat with her usual joie de vivre. Her Famous Drinking Chocolate Cake took me back to the days of eating drinking chocolate out of the packet… come on, I know I’m not the only one to have done that!

And the similarly famous Dom of Belleau Kitchen, a legend in Lincolnshire, acquitted himself nicely with this Gluten-Free Chocolate Fudge Cake. Put this on your must-make list if you a) need something kosher for Passover next year and b) need to eat more vegetables (because it’s got potato flour in it. Cool, huh?)

Meanwhile, Craig of The Usual Saucepans chose a sachertorte by the lesser-known Delia Smith. And he made it for his Mum. Isn’t that cute?

Some guy called Nigel Slater, who apparently keeps some sort of kitchen diary (like Bridget Jones, do you think? Or Adrian Mole?) inspired Camilla of Fab Food 4 All to make this Pear, Ginger and Chocolate Crumble. Well played, Nigel old chap.

Mr Slater also inspired Kate of Turquoise Lemons – check out his (and her) Hot Chocolate Puddings. The man himself even tweeted her about them!

We Should Cocoa co-founder Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog was also inspired by a famous figure – and her post about Garibaldi Biscuits is a must for anyone who ever thought the Italian revolutionary had time to stop and bake along the way.

Phil of As Strong As Soup was inspired by some folks from a bit closer to home – the mysterious Debdens who apparently created this luscious Chocolate Pudding. Rumour has it the Debdens now own a weight-loss empire. Or they invented Photoshop.

Elizabeth at The Law Students Cookbook chose Nigella’s Chocolate Muffins – a recipe that certainly deserves wider fame. If you haven’t made these yet, add them to your repertoire, quick.

Caroline at Caroline Makes certainly deserves wider fame and fortune – she gets the prize for the cutest entry this month with her fabulous Pigs In Mississipi Mud Pie. Isn’t it brilliant? Check out her blog for close-ups of those pigs, which she made with her own fair hands.

Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe also slaved over a fabulously decorated cake – a Pirate Treasure Chest – for her daughter’s fourth birthday. Johanna is famous among her friends (and blog followers) for her incredible novelty cakes (last year she made THREE cakes for her daughter’s third birthday!) and this one deserves its place in her hall of fame. Read her post first if you’re considering making a cake of this nature in a heatwave as it may make you reconsider.

I wonder what Johanna, who hails from Melbourne, would make of the next entry – Caroline of Cake, Crumbs and Cooking took on Dan Lepard’s Double Chocolate Lamingtons. A version of his recipe drew a bit of flack when it was published on Australian website Good Food (some readers sniffed that these fancy pants variations weren’t real lamingtons) and Caroline did have a few issues with it. I wouldn’t say no to one though.

Suelle at Mainly Baking approached the task in a clever way – she chose a famous ingredient as the starting inspiration and poured a cup of Guinness into this Chocolate Guinness Cake. Just look at that icing!

Ness at Jibber Jabber UK had a similar idea – she also made Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake, but adapted it to suit a thrifty budget. We all need one of those, don’t we?

Claire of Under The Blue Gum Tree was among those who cursed me for my choice of theme, but after a few false starts she rose to the challenge brilliantly by making this Layered Cappuccino Mousse, apparently the dessert served at this year’s Golden Globe Awards.

Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery was also inspired by the screen – she made this incredible Twin Peaks Tart after a bout of illness saw her confined to the sofa with Agent Cooper and his pals. Worth getting sick for, I’d say!

I also went for something inspired by the small screen – adapting English actor Martin Clunes’ recipe for Cold Dog Biscuits. I got so addicted to this I had to take it to work to stop myself eating it slice by tiny slice.

Meanwhile, Katharine of Leeks and Limoni delved into the fascinating history of the humble chocolate chip cookie, coming up with these gorgeous Chocolate Chip and Pecan Oat Cookies.

But if cookies seem too wholesome and you have a taste for the dark and rich, you’ll love this Mississipi Mud Pie, chosen by Cookbooks Galore

… Not to mention this incredible Better Than Nutella Cheesecake from The Taste Space – believe it or not this is made from raw ingredients (so hot – but not too hot – right now). I want some.

I also want a big slice of Susan of The Spice Garden‘s Peanut Butter And Chocolate Mud Pie. No, scratch that, I want two. Susan pays homage to Debbi Fields (of Mrs Fields’ Cookies fame) in her post, but one look at this pie and you’ll want to pay homage to Susan. Or at least find out her address.

I don’t know about you but I need a lie down and a cup of chamomile tea after all that lot. Oh, go on then, maybe I’ll have a hot cross bun too.

Have a great Easter weekend, everyone x

Blue cheese, pear & walnut scrolls

Last week I struggled to get motivated in the kitchen. I looked at cookbooks, I read blogs, I stood on a chair and peered into the recesses of the pantry and still nothing worked. Then, on Friday morning, while I pushed the Small Girl on a swing in the sunshine and made that weird small talk you make with other parents at playgrounds, I had a flash of inspiration. We raced home – as fast as you can race with a three-year-old who has an elastic concept of ‘this is the last swing, ok?’ – and by afternoon tea time these delicious scrolls were cooling on the windowsill.


Blue cheese, pear and walnut scrolls
Don’t be put off by the instructions here – I’ve specified the ‘fold and leave it’ method of kneading but you can do it whatever what you like. I’ve come to think of this way of kneading as the Pilates of breadmaking. Vigorous kneading is a bit like step aerobics – you get all sweaty and red-faced – where upon this method achieves the same, if not better results by using muscles you didn’t know you had. Or something like that. Perhaps it’s too early in the morning to be mixing bread and exercise metaphors.

400g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
50g butter
150ml milk
300ml hot water

For the filling:
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
150g firm blue cheese, diced
150g walnuts, broken into quarters

1 egg mixed with 1Tbsp water – for egg wash

Put the flours, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl and stir well. Grate in the butter and rub through with your fingers. Mix the milk and hot water together – it should be tepid – and pour in to the dry ingredients. Mix well to a soft, sticky dough, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled worksurface and fold it in on itself, one corner at a time. Cover with the upturned bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, then wash and dry the bowl before greasing it with a little oil. Return the dough to it, cover with plastic and let rise for about 80 minutes.
Don’t clean the worksurface, you’ll need it later.
Grease a 30cm round cake tin and heat the oven to 200C.
When the dough has risen, tip it out onto the worksurface and press it out to a rectangle about 1.5cm thick. Scatter over the pear, blue cheese and walnuts, then roll up tightly, as if making a Swiss roll or sushi. Slice into rings about 2.5cm thick – you should get about eight or nine – and place them in the tin, allowing about a finger space between each one. Set aside for 30 minutes to rise, then brush gently with the egg wash. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the scrolls are golden and your house smells wonderful.

This is my entry for November’s #TwelveLoaves project, a baking challenge run by Lora at Cake Duchess. This month is all about baking with apples and pears – and I think apples and another cheese would work equally well in this bread. Apples and feta, maybe? Pear and Parmesan?

Be my guest: Belleau Kitchen

Like many people I follow more blogs than I can ever hope to keep track of on a daily, or even weekly, basis. But there are some I check in with nearly every day because I’ve come to think of them, however embarrassingly, as my friends.
Top of this list is dear Dom from Belleau Kitchen. I ‘met’ Dom through Choclette (another favourite) and I fell in love with his blog instantly. Now I’d like you to meet him – but I have to warn you that his blog will lead you to more lovely people and their various projects. There’s no way you’re going to be on time for anything once you start reading it…

Chicken thigh Yakitori      Image: Belleau Kitchen

What’s your blog about?I guess my blog is really about my life but with hefty helpings of what I cook thrown in. I’m hugely influenced by where I live, in the heart of the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds, as I’m surrounded by a plethora of wonderful fresh produce and some very inventive producers.

When did you start it? Why?
I started in May 2010 after watching Julie and Julia on the aeroplane back from visiting my dad in California. Belleau Kitchen was born the next day.

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
No, I regard myself as a cook, not a chef and I think that anyone can make the stuff I make – although I did once go on a ‘Cooking for Money’ course, learning how to run a catering business.

Pumpkin, walnut and white chocolate loaf cake           Image: Belleau Kitchen

Who are your food heroes?
My Mum – naturally – then Delia Smith, Keith Floyd and Dave Smith who makes cider at Skidbrooke Farm in North Lincolnshire. He is my hero because he works so damn hard to make such a lovely product.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
My first-ever post– it’s embarrassingly naïve.
My wild garlic and mushroom quiche– I love quiche – and my post about a very large birthday cake. It gets the most views every week, even now.

Wild garlic and mushroom quiche       Image: Belleau Kitchen       

Tell us about another blog you love.
I want to live with Susan in her Spice Garden.

Masterchef and TV food shows: hot or not?
Do not get me started on food programmes – they are a pile of s**t at the moment and if we’re not careful they will die a death… I HATE food programmes and I’ve been on some of the s**t ones, so I should know!

Who do you cook for?
Me, The Viking, the neighbours and anyone who heaps praise on me.

A very large birthday cake                                          Image: Belleau Kitchen

 What’s for dinner tonight?
Cake – I’m at mums and it’s late and I forgot to eat but she always has a slice of cake on the go somewhere…

Be My Guest: Foodopera

I am currently caught in a frustrating battle to figure out what exactly has gone wrong with the connection between my camera and computer. I can’t imagine anything so basic happening to Vanessa and Ingrid Opera, the sister act behind New Zealand food blog Foodopera.
These two juggle blogging with babies, magazine shoots, day jobs and photography – but Vanessa still found the time to fill in the blanks for this week’s Be My Guest.

Vanessa and Ingrid Opera (Image: Gemma Cathcart Neuendorf)

What’s your blog about?

Our blog is about food, recipes we love, recipes we have created and beautiful photography. It also features some behind-the-scenes posts relating to lighting and how to get published, as well as a list of child-friendly cafes.

When did you start it? Why?

Our blog started when we created a few sets of recipe gift cards sold in boutique gift shops. We wanted a place to share our recipes and photographs and, over time, wanted to create a portfolio of work.

We are busy working mums so our food reflects things that are relatively easy, not too heavy on your wallet and of course delicious to eat. We have also added a few posts that feature behind the scenes of our photoshoots and tips on becoming a published food blogger. One of the best things that has come from our blog has been the chance to meet other bloggers and attend the first New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference.

Peach Pastries (Image: Foodopera)

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?

Nope, neither of us are professionally trained. Our father, who is Italian, probably sparked our interest. I have been really keen on cooking from a young age, while Ingrid has found her feet in the last few years.

Both of us have spent time working in hospitality, ranging from a fish and chip shop, bakery, rib and wedge joint, brasserie-style restaurant, a Pizza Express in Dublin, running a cafe in a golf course in an English village and finally cooking in an upmarket French ski resort.

Who are your food heroes?
I know Ingrid quite likes Bill Granger, his simplicity and freshness. I used to be really into Nigella Lawson, I just loved her appetite for everything food. Rick Stein is also a bit of an old favourite too. However currently I am into anything Asian, I love Kylie Kwong, her books and TV show.
I own HEAPS of cook books so its actually really difficult to have just one hero. My aunty recently gave me the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi that has amazing ways with vegetables and I picked up “Dinner at Matt’s” by Matt Moran at the library. It features fancy pants food that you could cook at home. The photography is great too.

Chilli choko chutney (Image: Foodopera)

Masterchef and TV food shows: hot or not?
Ingrid’s not too fussed on Masterchef, however I LOVE it. I have a series link booked on MySky and watch it most nights. I actually auditioned for New Zealand’s second series but nerves got the better of me and I told one of the judges (Ross Burden) how to make scrambled eggs instead of custard.
The food channel is one of my favourites too. I will watch anything food-related.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
The balsamic mushrooms one, in which we try to recreate the mushrooms at Dizengoff café in Ponsonby, Auckland.
How to love brussel sprouts – they really are delicious done this way.
And for pizza and pie lovers, our sister vs sister cheese food fight.

Brussel sprouts sauteed in wholegrain mustard (Image: Foodopera)

Tell us about another blog you love.
This is a hard one as there are so many awesome food blogs.

A favourite from when we started is Cannelle et Vanille – it’s pretty, romantic and it looks like she is living the dream.
We like the simplicity of Spoon Fork Bacon and the great styling and design.
I have also been checking out Sips and Spoonfuls recently – it’s lovely.
What’s for dinner tonight?
You have me on this one. I don’t know what Ingrid is having but it’s got to be healthier and more exciting than dinner at our house tonight. It’s oven chips (if you try hard you can imagine they are hand-cut and fried in goose fat!) and pork sausages with a good squirt of tomato sauce and mustard. There is a glass of chardonnay in my hand too.

Crispy fried calamari (Image: Foodopera)

What are your day jobs? What else do you do?
I am a teacher at a North Shore intermediate school, currently teaching graphics/design and English to mostly Korean students.

Ingrid is a graphic designer/art director for a large publishing company. We are both currently on maternity leave having had our second babies nine days apart – how convenient is that?!

We are currently juggling our time looking after our kids, writing our blog and growing Foodopera the brand. We are currently writing our third food fight spread in New World’s REAL magazine and have just finished the Christmas shoot.

Who do you cook for?
We both cook for our boys, both little and big. We get a list emailed at every family gathering saying who’s cooking what and Ingrid is stoked to be elevated from the regular ‘green salad’ to more complicated fare. We also cook for our nanny (Nana Val) whenever she is around helping us out (always). She loves her coffee and often specifies exactly what she would like for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I used to mix dried herbs into our family cat’s jellymeat and would always bring her treats home from a restaurant I worked at. She would hear my car down the drive and come running.

The write stuff for bloggers

I did something pretty scary on Friday afternoon. I stood up in front of a group of very dedicated and fervent bloggers, who had gathered for the second annual New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference, and told them what was wrong with their writing.

First I risked my life by quoting the author Stephanie Johnson, who has described blogs “as the compost of your life”, then I told them I didn’t like blogs about cats. I told them to take their fingers off the exclamation mark key (!) and that there would be trouble if I saw one more blogger describe anything as ‘devine’ (for the record, it’s D-I-V-I-N-E).
But I also told them that I loved being part of the blogging community and that I saw food blogs as an important way to communicate the joy of cooking and eating. The sharing of recipes and stories – especially those shared during the preparation of food or over a meal – is an intrinsic part of human life and culture. The internet and cheap technology have made it possible for anyone with a camera and a keyboard to connect with strangers and friends from thousands of miles away – and that has to be a good thing.


However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that some blogs aren’t written very well. Of course, what I think is good writing and what you think is good writing may be completely different. That’s fine. I think good writing is about knowing your audience and engaging them in what you have to say. It’s about finding a voice and knowing that less is often more. Good writing is about pace. 

One of the main differences between bloggers and ‘real’ (ie, paid) writers, is that bloggers don’t have editors. Writers have sub-editors, who correct grammatical errors and typos, who know the difference between palate and palette and pallet. Writers have editors who tell them exactly what they want from a story. Writers are told how long a piece should be. They don’t have to worry about html or formatting or taking photos while the light is still ok.

Bloggers have to do all of those things, all in their own time. So that means the onus is on you to remember where to put an apostrophe. It’s up to YOU to take your finger off the exclamation mark and to run a spellcheck before you hit publish.

You might think that’s boring or feel that it stifles your creativity. Too bad. Cleaning up after your writing is like doing the dishes after you’ve been cooking. Tedious, but necessary. If you want to be a better writer, if you want people to continue to read what you have to say, then you have to get that noise out of your work so we can hear the music of your voice.

Bloggers can become better writers the same way as anyone gets better at something. It’s called practice. And experience. Even good writers have to work to become great writers. And I’ll let you in on a secret: there are lots of ‘real’ writers who are terrible at their job. Honestly. Even some really well-known ones whose bylines you see in your newspapers or online every day.

It’s fine to pour out your heart about something, but that doesn’t mean you have to click publish immediately. Let it sit for a bit. Have a think about it. Go back and polish it up. Your first draft isn’t necessarily your best.
Whatever kind of writer you are, you’re only as good as your last sentence. So if you really want to be a writer, you may as well make sure that last sentence is a good one.

There were lots of questions I couldn’t answer afterwards – nerves and a hacking cough rendered my brain a bit feeble – but there are lots of amazing resources about writing and blogging available.
Make sure you check out Dianne Jacob’s great site and read this piece by Amanda Hesser. Thanks too to Lauraine Jacobs (no relation to Dianne) and Sarah Nicholson for their wise words. Drop me a line if you have found any other links that might be useful and I’ll paste them in.

Lastly, huge thanks to Alli and Shirleen for organising such a brilliant event. You can put cats on your blogs any time!