Apple Ricotta Cheesecake Brownies for National Chocolate Week

Brownies & Blondies | 10th October 2012 | By

It’s National Chocolate Week 2012 and I fancied some brownies. I had a tub of ricotta to use up and some Cornish apples from my mother’s garden. So to celebrate this most auspicious week, I decided to experiment and make some apple ricotta cheesecake brownies.

This is how I made them:

  • Peeled, cored and sliced two medium apples weighing 200g (unspecified Cornish variety) and placed in a pan.
  • Added 50g vanilla sugar (caster) and a tbsp of water.
  • Simmered for 5 minutes until the apples were soft and no longer wet. Allowed to cool.
  • Stirred in 250g ricotta.
  • Beat in 1 medium egg.
  • Melted 100g unsalted butter in a large pan on low heat.
  • Broke up a 100g bar 85% dark chocolate (G&B) and added to the pan.
  • Added 200g dark muscavado sugar and stirred well until all smooth, then left to cool.
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Stirred in 75g wholemeal spelt.
  • Spooned half of the batter into a 9″ square mould, covered this with the cheese and apple mixture and then topped with the remaining batter.
  • Dragged the end of a teaspoon through the mixture to try and swirl it a bit, but it stubbornly decided to stay a sandwich rather than have a marble effect.
  • Baked in the middle of the oven at 180C for 25 minutes when the top had set but the middle remained slightly squidgy.
The chocolate gods must have been smiling on me because these turned out to be a fitting tribute to National Chocolate Week. They had a crusty sugar top, which turned deliciously chewy in a toffeish sort of way. They were soft in the middle and would serve equally well as a pudding eaten with a spoon. They retained their shape, however and could be eaten perfectly well using fingers, as CT can testify; I did have to shoo him away from the tin. The cheese was sandwiched elegantly in the middle and acted as a foil to the dark richness of the brownie. The 85% dark chocolate combined with the slight tartness of the apple, helped to counteract the sweetness, making for a very pleasant eating experience.

As these brownies contain local and very seasonal apples, I am entering this into Simple and in Season, guest hosted this month by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen.

I’m also entering this into Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays as it is all made from scratch – of course!

The Hidden Hut Revealed

I have great pleasure in welcoming CT to my blog for his annual guest review. Crafter of language, food pioneer, gardener, botanist extraordinaire and eater of cakes, he can now be found at From our Owen Correspondent as well as at his well established blog Radix. From our Owen Correspondent is a new blog featuring various tracts from his writing career on such varied subjects as fermented foods, travels around Australasia and garden visits.

In spring, a young man’s thoughts are said to turn to love. In autumn, I find a good stroll along the Cornish coast path serves just as well as a means of delighting the senses and stocking up on joie de vivre before the winter sets in.  So when Choclette suggested a walk along the Roseland Peninsula one sunny and calm day recently, I jumped at the opportunity.  Roseland is a pleasant, beckoning finger of land that juts out into the sea on Cornwall’s south coast between Falmouth and Mevagissey.  The coast path here has less of the patella-pummelling ups and downs which characterise some sections. I hardly know this area at all, so it seemed like a good chance to make its acquaintance.

Rather than portray this as a gentle trek for the middle aged across the beaches and along the cliffs, my vanity dictates that I dress things up in slightly more heroic garb; let’s call it another in a series of impromptu ethnobotanical walks – where I brush up on my floral identification skills and try and recall the various uses made of the plants in days gone by. I occasionally nibble on a leaf or two, but anyone who knows me will confirm that this is hardly sufficient inducement to persuade me to drag my frame on a forced route march of several miles, no matter how stunning the scenery. No, I prefer to combine some foraging with at least one stop in a well-appointed tea room or café for proper refuelling. I mean, have you actually tried raw seakale shoots? Choclette is astute enough to know, that like snakes and numerous armies, I too march on my stomach, so she mentioned that a café stop, at a place called the Hidden Hut was part of the deal; she’d heard good things about it.

We parked up at Pendower, not far from the Nare Head Hotel and duly set off. The sky was cloudless and the sea had that strange glassy quality that seems to come with calm conditions; the waves lapping on the shore made scarcely a murmur.   There were few other walkers around and we enjoyed the sensation of peace and isolation in a majestic setting. It was hard to imagine a better way to work up an appetite. 

After walking steadily for some time, we rounded a headland and before us, a few hundred yards away was Porthcurnick Beach, the home of The Hidden Hut. Indeed, we could see a squat wooden structure with a few chairs and tables placed around it just above the strand.  More alarmingly, as I was beginning to suffer pangs of hunger and my throat was distinctly dry, the shutters seemed to be closed.  We both exchanged anxious glances as we continued down the path and approached the beach. Then, with impeccable timing, as we crossed the sand, the shutters lifted and so did our spirits.

We plonked our bags on one of the large wooden tables, decorated with vases of flowers and proceeded to the counter.  Choclette opted for a reviving mug of chai and the inevitable chocolate brownie, while I went for a more prosaic Earl Grey which I followed up with a Roskilly’s ice cream – from the lovely Jersey cows not so far away on the Lizard. 

It was abundantly clear that this was no ordinary beach hut café.  Not a single all day breakfast featured on the menu. In fact, al fresco gourmet dining seemed more like it – quite a surprise given the unadventurous fare walkers often have to endure when tramping the coast path.  

The hut itself is owned by the National Trust and has apparently occupied the site since WWII.  Hidden may be pushing it somewhat – it doesn’t look as though it would have presented any difficulties for a U boat captain intent on target practice.

In its current incarnation it is run by Jemma and Simon, a local couple, with Jemma’s mum, Maggie offering logistical support on the cake front.  Their policy is a simple one: the best local food, prepared with love and care, for a reasonable price. And the punters have voted with their feet – literally – there’s no parking at the Hidden Hut, so everyone has to walk there, either from Portscatho, about half a mile away, or from nearby Rosevine Hill. And after the relative isolation of the walk, there did seem to be quite a few people gravitating towards this rather unpromising looking shack.  Simon is a trained chef and in addition to the fare served during normal hours, he also cooks up a storm in summer (when the weather doesn’t) with great paella pans for summer evening feasts. 

Jemma started to chalk up the lunch menu on the blackboards and we exchanged glances once again. The weather was lovely, the location superb and the offerings very tempting. Hang it, we thought, let’s stay for lunch now we’re here.    

Choclette opted for a delicious vegetarian option, a salad of tangerine, feta, Spanish olives, mixed leaves and toasted almonds with warm pitta bread; I went for Italian meatballs with mozzarella. Both were truly delicious and consumed with gusto. Eating outdoors is a real delight and is in fact the only option here.

Refuelled, we proceeded to march on to St Anthony Head, stopping at the fort to take in views of Falmouth and St Mawes, before returning via the inland route to Portscatho. If truth be told, I was feeling pretty weary by this time and longed for a sit down. Descending to the Hidden Hut once more, I prayed that this last homely house would be open for refreshments before we lugged ourselves over the last leg of our journey. It was indeed, so I had another pot of tea and an ice cream chaser before carting my weary bones back to the car and home.

When the weather is with you, as it was on the day we visited, I can think of no better place to work up an appetite and eat some first class food in a lovely setting. In fact, if the wind and rain hold off, we’re going back this weekend with some friends. 

I’m sure my mum told me that you shouldn’t judge a book by the cover; in future I will avoid doing the same to any hidden huts on the Cornish coast – because at least one of them is a real gem.

PS The wind and rain did hold off, we did go back with our friends yesterday and we had a celebratory birthday lunch in bright sunshine; everyone was as impressed as we had been.

Ohso – a review

Chocolate Reviews | 6th October 2012 | By

A handful of teeny tiny bars of chocolate recently arrived in the post. Little bars of 53% dark Belgian chocolate, but they contain a small dark secret. They are not hand crafted artisan bars featuring single origin estate chocolate, although that would be nice, no, you eat these bars for your health. Some of us have been deluding ourselves for years that this is our main reason for eating chocolate. The Ohso claim? Weighing in at 13.5g and containing 72 calories a bar, they are packed full of healthy gut probiotics and these good bacteria last three times longer in chocolate than in milk products. This means that they arrive in better shape at the part of your gut where they do their good works. Plus chocolate is well known for its antioxidants and vitamins including D and E. These are, therefore, perhaps the ultimate chocolate detox.

Packaged in packs of seven, the idea is that you have one for each day of the week, providing your daily probiotic requirement. The mini bars have 24 mini squares, which enables the bar to be savoured slowly if wished. Retailing at £3.99, these are available online at Ohso and also in health food shops and other independent retailers.

OK, so enough of the health benefits, what do they actually taste like? The bar certainly smells chocolatey, with a sweet aroma emanating as soon as the wrapper is removed. Those first impressions are confirmed as the chocolate enters your mouth. It is pleasant with fruity notes, but is a little too sweet for me and resembles some of the mainstream dark chocolate bars which are widely available.


Beetroot, Goats Cheese, Chocolate & Walnut Brunch Muffins

Lunch, Savoury Chocolate | 3rd October 2012 | By


That goat, otherwise known as Ethel, has filled my head with thoughts of goats cheese and chocolate and I can hardly think of cooking with anything else. The fig and goats cheese tarts still have my mouth watering at the thought of them. At the weekend, rather than making my normal loaf for my work sandwiches, I thought I’d try something a little different to take in for lunch. Some lightly vinegared baby beetroot was in the hamper I received for the #capricornchallenge.