Treat me: Chocolate pumpkin mousse

We have a bit of a joke in our house about ‘rich and compelling content’. It’s the sort of journalistic cliche used to describe a piece of work that’s often anything but ‘compelling and rich’.
A couple of nights ago, while proofreading something the Boy Wonder was working on (and grumbling to myself about it being no wonder that Shakespeare’s wife never got any praise), I consoled myself with a rich and compelling pudding that really does deserve the name. If you like the sound of a soft-set pumpkin cheesecake with a lid of chocolate ganache, then this is the pudding for you.

Pumpkin mousse puddings
Halloween doesn’t make much sense in the southern hemisphere – the days are lengthening and there’s not the same sense of lighting bonfires to chase away the darkness. Worst of all, there are very few pumpkins around. But I did manage to get hold of one for the sake of this month’s We Should Cocoa, which is being guest hosted by Nat at Hungry Hinny. Nat, who is looking after the blogging challenge baby of Chele and Choclette, has chosen pumpkin as the special guest ingredient.
There are three stages to this pudding, but none of them are terribly difficult or time-consuming and the end result is SO worth it. Leave the egg yolks out if you are concerned about eating raw eggs, but be advised that they do add a certain richness.

800g pumpkin, skinned, seeded and cut into 2cm chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 tsp cinnamon
120g cream cheese, at room temperature
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt

For the topping:
120g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100ml cream

Heat the oven to 200C. Line a deep baking dish with baking paper. Put the pumpkin in the dish and drizzle with the olive oil, then dust over 2 tsp of cinnamon (reserve the remaining 1 tsp for later). Mix well with your hands, then cover the dish with foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft. Set aside to cool.
When the pumpkin has cooled to room temperature, put it in a food processor with the cream cheese, egg yolks, golden syrup, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Blitz until it is a bright orange puree (you may need to stop and scrape down the sides several times). Divide this mixture between six small ramekins (or espresso cups), then cover and put in the fridge for at least two hours.
When the mousse is cold, put the cream in a small pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until it melts and it forms a smooth, glossy sauce. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pour a layer of sauce on top of each mousse. Return to the fridge to set. Serves six (or one, depending on greed).

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Chocolate martini

I’m not in the habit of cocktails on a Monday morning, so let me assure you I made this last night. I’m not in the habit of drinking cocktails on a Sunday night either, but it seemed a fitting thing to do after a very good weekend. The sun shone, I got an unexpected windfall from the tax man, I got an unexpected VIP ticket to WOW and – most exciting of all – the dishwasher man finally turned up.
From where I am sitting (even with a slight pounding in my head), the glass is most definitely half full.

Chocolate Martini
Cocktails were the theme for September’s We Should Cocoa and I have been watching cocktail-themed recipes pop up all over the blog world, unable to come up with anything clever myself. So, rather late in the piece, I have gone back to basics with a chocolate martini. I’ve based the recipe on something an old friend used to make when I was a beginner journalist (with a far greater tolerance for alcohol), but substituted vanilla syrup for creme de cacao.

90ml (2 shots) good quality vodka, ice cold
45 ml (1 shot) good quality vodka syrup (I like this one or this one)
1 chocolate – or square of dark chocolate

Shake the vodka and vanilla syrup together over ice (a jam jar will do, if your cocktail shaking days are behind you). Put the chocolate into a chilled martini glass and pour the vodka and vanilla mix on top. Drink slowly, remembering the words of Dorothy Parker:

“I like to have a martini,

Two at the very most.

After three I’m under the table,

after four I’m under my host.”

Have a great Monday, everyone. Cheers!

Treat me: Chocolate cherry cake

Last year I made a decision: I was going to stop buying cookbooks. I was going to avoid the cookbook section at charity shops, I told my husband that I didn’t want the latest (insert title here) for Christmas or my birthday and I banned myself from lurking on Amazon late at night. I resolved to use the books I had (not to mention the bookmarked recipes from blogs) and go to the library.
That worked well – for a while. But then a few books came across my desk at work, I read blogs about upcoming titles and I couldn’t pass up a few opshop treasures. Before long I was in collection mode again. Oh well, I did try.

Chocolate Cherry Cake
One of the first acquisitions – the thin end of the wedge, if you like – was the Triple Tested Recipe Book by Thelma Christie, published in 1959 as a fundraiser for the Lower Hutt Plunket Society. I seized this as if it was a first-edition Elizabeth David, mostly because it was full of annotations and cut-out recipes from the previous owner. I was drawn to this recipe for lots of reasons, not least because whoever owned this tattered collection before me had crossed out various parts of it and added new things. I’ve continued this tradition, adapting it further to fit in with August’s We Should Cocoa, hosted this month by Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen. As much as I love glace cherries (and whatever they are made from), I’ve used dried cherries here instead.

200g soft butter
220g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp brandy or rum
4 eggs, beaten
110g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
220g ground almonds
150g dried cherries, chopped
100g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a loaf or ring tin (lining a ring tin is easier than you might think and removes much of the anxiety of turning the cake out afterwards).
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then stir in the almonds, cherries and chocolate. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the essences and brandy. Add the eggs, a bit at a time, beating constantly, then fold in the dry ingredients until combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Let sit for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Dust icing sugar over the top before serving with a nice cup of tea, just like Thelma would have done.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Does anyone know what glace cherries are made from? Do I really want to know?

Sweet sweet Friday: Blackcurrant Icecream

To keep my brain occupied when I’m running on Saturday mornings I often try to plan meals in my head. Last Saturday, as I waddled around the south coast, I thought about the large bottle of cream sitting in the fridge, the half-jar of blackcurrant jam in the pantry and the fact that there was nothing for the babysitter to eat that night. Then I thought about the July We Should Cocoa challenge. By the time I’d made it around the coast, up the hill and down to the village I knew exactly what I was going to do. I nipped to the supermarket, picked up a tin of condensed milk and ran home. Funny how food is a good motivator, isn’t it?

Blackcurrant Icecream
As well as qualifying for We Should Cocoa, this is also my first entry for the charmingly-titled ‘Bloggers Scream For Icecream’ challenge. You can read more about it here, but all you need to know this month is that the challenge involves making icecream with condensed milk. This recipe uses about a third of a tin, which leaves plenty for eating with a spoon while no one is looking. If you don’t trust yourself with a tin of the stuff, you can see how to make your own here.

300ml cream
125ml condensed milk
1 dsp orange/lemon juice
1/2 cup good blackcurrant jam
100g good quality white or dark chocolate, chopped

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the condensed milk, orange or lemon juice, jam and chocolate. Pour into a container, cover and freeze. It should be ready in about four hours.

Have a great weekend, everyone. We’re off to a birthday party that’s just turned into a wedding!


We Should Cocoa: Queen of Puddings

There is a lot – and I mean a lot – of talk in this house about kings and queens and princesses. I used to be the queen but lately I’ve been relegated to mere princess status (finally, that anti-aging cream is working!). To win favour from Her Little Majesty, I thought I’d make an old-fashioned Queen of Puddings for a regal finish to the week. Unfortunately a domestic crisis meant I was required elsewhere in our castle at the precise moment when this lovely pudding, with its cloud-like meringue topping, should have been photographed. You’ll just have to take my word for how pretty it was.

Chocolate and Blackcurrant Queen of Puddings
To satisfy Choclette, the queen of all things chocolate, I fiddled with this old favourite to make it the requirements for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, in which the guest ingredient is blackcurrants. Finding some chocolate cake in the freezer was the first step, then a jar of plum, blackcurrant and lime jam made by a friend sealed the deal. If you don’t have chocolate cake in your freezer (and frankly, I am at a loss to explain why I did), then you could use fresh breadcrumbs and a spoonful or two of cocoa and sugar.

100g chocolate cake, crumbed
350ml whole milk
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup blackcurrant jam
40g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C and grease an ovenproof dish (like a souffle dish). Heat the milk to simmering point, then remove from the heat and tip in the cake crumbs. Let stand for about 15 minutes, then stir in the egg yolks.
Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until set. Remove from the oven and spread the jam on top.
Beat the egg whites and sugar until glossy and stiff and swirl over the jam. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until the topping is set and golden. Serves four.

Have a great weekend, everyone x