Despite many attempts to oust it in popularity, it seems the cupcake is here to stay. To celebrate its Fine Cooks’ chocolate range, Dr Oetker have issued a new cupcake challenge – The Great Chocolate Bake. Apart from the fun to be had in creating your own cupcake design, there is quite an incentive to win. The prize is a trip to the home of the cupcake itself, New York. You have until the 17th of October to make some sort of chocolate cupcake and enter it on the Dr Oetker Facebook page by submitting a photograph of your masterpiece.
If ever anyone asks me what my favourite dish is, I am most likely to say Granny’s shepherd’s pie. This, a true British dish, has become a legend in our family and often comes up in conversation at family get togethers. It’s been many years now since I’ve eaten it; my grandmother is no longer alive and I’ve been a vegetarian for the last twenty years or so. I don’t even know how she made it, except for one thing, Granny always added baked beans to her pies. This is the legacy she has left, so although I make my shepherd’s pie with lentils rather than lamb and tend to use whatever vegetables I have to hand, I always add baked beans.
I’ve not made a shepherd’s pie for quite a while as it is not a spring or summer dish; now autumn is upon us, it feels like the right sort of time for something warm, comforting and bathed in nostalgia. As it is now British Food Fortnight which celebrates the glory of good British food and runs from 21 September to 6 October this year, I give you my take on Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie. My magic ingredient is … chocolate.
As always, it’s good to get tooled up for the job. Our tin opener has been faltering of late and I have never had a decent sized serving spoon. Luckily, OXO have come to the rescue – just in time to make this dish. The OXO Good Grips range of utensils are specifically designed for comfort and ease of use. I needed the tin opener for the baked beans. What a joy to open the tin without a hitch. It was easy to use and to quote OXO has “an oversized knob” which does indeed turn with little effort. The handles have a particularly comfortable grip too. The large spoon was perfect for scooping out a whole portion intact and it dished up the pie beautifully. The stainless steel makes it particularly durable and again the handle is very comfortable. Both implements are sturdy and stylish and are welcome additions to my kitchen utensils.
As well as a large plate of cake, I came away from our Clandestine Cake Club meeting last week, with a bottle of Mrs Middleton’s Oil. Our CCC organiser, Ellie Michell, has many strings to her bow and this cold pressed rapeseed oil, grown on the family farm in Bedfordshire, is one of them. It is nutty in flavour and has a beautiful golden colour. It’s fabulous used as a salad dressing or as a simple dip for bread. I was certainly happy to use it in my shepherd’s pie.
Oh, this was so good, I can’t tell you. It gave the two of us three substantial dinners and if we weren’t so greedy would have done four. Last night, I arrived home from work, soaking wet, tired and hungry. CT had the mini version in the oven and the smell when I opened the front door was not only mouth-watering but so comforting too. My mood quickly changed from despondency to delight. The chocolate is not detectable as such, but it adds richness, thickness and colour which turns a good dish into an exceptional one. A mouthful of this takes me right back to Granny’s house and I can’t help feeling that my shepherd’s pie is nearly as good as hers.
Of course being British, you’d hope that most of the ingredients involved would be not only British, but as local as possible. Whilst I can’t claim that the lentils are British, most everything else was either grown in Cornwall or bought from small local shops. I buy the lovely organic milk I use from our local market and it comes from Ayreshire cows from Helsett Farm on the north coast of Cornwall. The potatoes, garlic and courgettes were grown by my own fair hands, so you can’t get much more local than that. I am thus submitting this to Shop Local over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen.
As I used sprigs of fresh thyme from the garden as well as bay leaves, I am entering this into Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.
National Vegetarian Week runs from 19th to 25th May 2014. Betta Living are running a recipe competition to win £750, so as this is such a classic I am entering it in the hope of winning. #BettaRecipe
- 8 oz Whole brown lentils
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 large Carrots – chopped
- 1 large stick Celery – chopped
- 3 tbsp Rapeseed oil
- 1 Onion – chopped
- 1 Courgette – chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 8 Chestnut mushrooms
- several sprigs Fresh thyme
- 2 tsp Shoyu (soy) sauce
- 1 tin Baked beans
- 20g Dark chocolate (I used 100%)
- 5 large Floury Potatoes – scrubbed and chunked
- 4 tbsp Milk
- 120g Cheddar Cheese
- to taste Salt & Pepper
Yield: 8 servings
When I was asked if I’d like to review an Experience Day, I was quite excited. Going out for a posh afternoon tea or having the chance to attend a chocolate course are the sort of things that top up my joie de vivre. Sadly, when I checked out the website, there was nothing particularly local to me in the far flung region of Cornwall and at that time, I wasn’t really in the mood to travel far. So – I’ve decided to offer up the opportunity to one of my readers instead.
|A chocolate course I attended in 2012|
Reading the various chocolate experiences on offer now, I can’t quite believe that I turned the opportunity down, what was I thinking of? The Chocolate Workshop Experience, for example, starts with a history of chocolate, which I find fascinating, involving as it does all sorts of bloodthirstyness, plots and intrigue. You then get to try a range of chocolate – that in itself ought to be worth a trip. Next up you make and decorate lots of truffles which you then take home with you, all wrapped up and looking lovely – whether they’ll last the journey is entirely up to you. The nearest location to me was Bristol or Bath but there are eight others to choose from. This one is currently on offer at £50 (although there are no guarantees it will remain at this price) so if you won, you could always top up with another £25 and take a friend with you. Alternatively, there is a retro chocolate making workshop in Bristol for £75 where you can make those chocolates from yesteryear which are just so hard to find nowadays.
If making chocolates and truffles is really not your thing (though I’m not sure I can believe it), there are plenty of other food experiences on offer. Other workshops include cake making, barrista training and patisserie. If you’d rather just eat the food than learn how to make it, there are a number of leisurely dining experiences including afternoon tea for two, dinner for two and a classic Thames lunch cruise for two.