Do you know how hard it is to get a babysitter at this time of year? Trust me, it’s more difficult than getting your hands on the latest Marc Jacobs handbag or sending all your Christmas cards on time. It’s been touch and go, but The Boy Wonder and I are off to a Christmas bash on Saturday night, thanks to dearest Sally stepping into the breach. I’ve promised her dinner, wine, season six of Peep Show, and a shopping mission on Sunday in return. The cherry on top is a box of this dreamy fudge – which also doubles as my entry in this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge.
Without a doubt, this is the easiest thing I have made all year. It requires about as much effort as making a cup of tea or opening a bottle of wine. In fact, with just three ingredients and a little bit of melting involved, you can probably make it while you’re boiling the kettle or looking for the corkscrew. The hard thing is knowing when to stop eating it…
Dreamy Date Truffle Fudge
250g dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), roughly chopped
1/2 cup date syrup
1 cup peanut butter
Put all ingredients in a pot and melt together over low heat. Stir well, then pour into a lined dish. Smooth the top (put another piece of baking paper over the top of the mixture and smooth with your hand for the neatest result). Let cool for 10 minutes, then put in the fridge to set (about 20-30 minutes). Turn out and cut into squares. Dust with cocoa if the mood takes you, then pack into a pretty box. Store in the fridge.
Do you have a sweet treat for the end of the week? Post a link here to spread the sweetness of Fridays…
I don’t know about you but at this time of year I seem to exist on a diet of sugar and toast. In times of old this was supplemented by canapes and champagne (sigh) but those days are long gone. There is plenty of early summer produce about and our miniscule garden is beginning to earn its keep, but there’s no escaping the, err, sweeter side of pre-Christmas.
|Alfalfa, flax and fennel sprouts, looking like they’re about to do the dance of the seven veils
Luckily, I’ve rediscovered one of my favourite kitchen magic tricks, sprouting. It took me ages to hunt out some sprout-able beans and seeds (not because it was difficult but because it was way down on the list of Important Things To Do). Then I scoured our local charity shops for the right sort of jar, which took another few outings.
Sprouting the seeds themselves was too easy. It’s a brilliant way to get nutrient-rich greens in an instant – to scatter over a salad or tuck into a peanut butter sandwich – no matter what the weather’s doing.
1.Put 2-3Tbsp of seeds of your choice in a large glass jar.
2. Half fill the jar with water and cover it with a piece of muslin (or tulle, or other thin fabric that water can drain through easily) and a rubber band.
3. Soak for 10 minutes (for small seeds like alfalfa or fennel). Medium-sized ones such as mung beans will need to soak for four hours and larger ones such as chickpeas should be soaked overnight.
4. Drain the water and leave in a cool, airy place out of direct sunlight. Rinse the seeds twice a day.
Your sprouts will be ready to eat within four to seven days. When they’ve grown enough for your tastes, store them in the fridge where they will keep for a week.
Is it just me or is everyone in need of a little bit of time out at the moment? I mean, it’s not even December yet and most people seem to be hitting their pre-Christmas meltdown already.
Before you reach for the gin, sit down and take a deep breath (remember to let it go afterwards). Then put the kettle on and brew yourself a cup of soothing lemon balm tea.
The calming properties of lemon balm (melissa officinalis) have been recognised since the Middle Ages. Lemon balm is a member of the mint family (and grows just as voraciously). Its leaves have an intense lemony scent that is both reviving and soothing. Our new house has a tiny bush of it growing in the tangled weeds edging the vegetable patch, but I know it won’t be long before it becomes a thriving monster.
To make lemon balm tea, I just shove a few handfuls of leaves and stems in a teapot and add freshly boiled water, then let it steep for a while. If that sounds too wholesome, Choclette has a recipe for lemon balm ganache which sounds like heaven. After all, lemon balm may help you calm down, but nothing is quite as soothing as chocolate.
Now, I know you’re going to think I’ve lost the plot when I tell you that you should whip up a batch of flatbreads to mop up your next curry or wrap around that collocation of cold meats and salad bits lurking in your fridge. But really, you should. If I can do it while the Small Girl is doing her python impersonation (ie, entwining herself around my legs in an effort to be picked up because it’s getting close to dinner time and what the hell, she just feels like it) and the Boy Wonder is getting a slew of work phone calls culminating in him putting on his superhero cape and fleeing the house, then you can do it too.
This recipe is from Hugh F-W’s River Cottage Everyday. The Boy Wonder bought me this for Christmas last year and I can confirm that it just makes me love him more every time I open it. Hugh, that is. I mean, how could I love the BW any more than I already do? (*rolls eyes*)
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Flatbreads
Honestly, this post took longer to write than making these little babies. I think we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of them.
250g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
150ml warm water
1 Tbsp olive oil
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix the oil and water together, then pour into the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon or your hand until a slightly sticky dough forms. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about five minutes, until it feels smooth and plump. Cover the dough with the upturned mixing bowl and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to cook and eat the flatbreads, place a heavy non-stick or cast iron frying pan over a high heat. Roll the dough into a sausage and cut into eight pieces. Roll each out into a round (ish) shape, about 2-3mm thick. I used my hands at this point to stretch the dough like a piece of wet material. I would roll one out, then cook it, rolling out the next ones as I went.
To cook, lay a flatbread on the hot pan and let it sit for about two minutes, until it’s lifting off the bottom of the pan. Turn it over and let it cook for a minute, then remove it to a plate lined with a clean teatowel. Cover the cooked flatbreads with the teatowel to keep them warm and soft.
These are best eaten as soon as they are cooked, but any leftovers can be reasonably successfully reheated in the toaster. See, told you it was easy!
The inspiration for this week’s sweet treat came from Emma at Frog, Goose and Bear. A couple of weeks ago she posted a recipe taken from a Bible Society cookbook which sounded so refreshingly old-fashioned and wholesome that I just knew it had to be good. But, you know, I couldn’t resist fiddling with it a bit, especially as I had a little bag of wholemeal spelt flour in the pantry just waiting for an outing. Spelt is an ‘ancient grain’ that’s kinder to the digestive system than wheat, so a lot of people find it easier on their tummies. It also has a slightly nutty flavour that I think lends itself well to baking.
Anyway, I dutifully copied down Emma’s recipe but as I was mixing it I started wondering if I’d copied it down wrong. Surely it needed an egg? By that stage of course I’d turned the computer off, so I was flying blind. Instead, my eyes lit upon a ripe banana languishing in the fruit bowl and I remembered something I’d read earlier in the week about using bananas as an egg substitute in baking. So the end result probably bears no resemblance whatsoever to Emma’s original version, (which doesn’t contain any eggs!) but I think it’s pretty good. Why don’t you make both and see what you think? Have a sweet sweet Friday and a very happy weekend…
125g butter (or non-dairy equivalent)
1 Tbsp date syrup (or golden syrup)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or ordinary wholemeal flour)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped dates (or sultanas)
1 ripe banana, mashed
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a slice tin. Melt the butter and syrup in a large pot over a low heat. Let cool for a few minutes and then add all remaining ingredients. Bake for about 20 minutes, until your kitchen is filled with warm, sweet smells. Let cool, then slice into bars. Store in an airtight container.
Do you have a favourite end of the week baking treat? Link in to spread the sweetness of Fridays.