These falafel were the inspiration that kick-started me into planning a six course chocolate themed Middle Eastern menu for a dinner party last week. I saw a recipe for falafel salad in the summer edition of the Co-operative’s Share magazine and it immediately appealed to me. I decided to separate the falafel from the salad and add raw chocolate and almond spread. The falafel recipe I have from the Vegetarian Cookery School used tahini, so I couldn’t see why a nut butter wouldn’t work instead of a seed one. I mixed and matched between the two recipes and came up with a version I am really happy with.
When issued with a challenge by MoneySupermarket to stay at home and have a fun night in, rather than a fun night out and be given £50 to make this happen, there was simply no resisting. CT and I are homely bods and rarely spend that sort of money on a night out, but given this opportunity, my thoughts quickly turned to a rather indulgent night in. I would host a dinner party, not just any old dinner party but a six course chocolate themed dinner. I expect this comes as no surprise to anyone, the only wonder is, why haven’t I done it before?
Following the publication of Diana Henry’s latest book, Salt, Sugar, Smoke, I noticed a flurry of tweets about her fig and pomegranate jam. Having become a bit of a fig addict recently whilst they’ve been selling reasonably cheaply, I was intrigued. I didn’t have all of the ingredients required but I did have figs, pomegranate molasses and apples from my mother’s garden. Being a bit of a purist, I didn’t want to use sugar with added pectin, so I adapted Diana’s recipe to omit the ingredients I didn’t have and use more apple & lemon than she had stated to help set the jam. I was going to add chocolate, but at the last minute decided I wanted to taste the fruity flavours in all their purity.
This is how I did it:
- Washed 12 fresh figs (600g), then removed the tops and quartered them.
- Peeled, cored and chopped 3 cooking apples.
- Placed in a pan with 12 fl oz water.
- Grated in the zest of two organic lemons, then added the juice of both.
- Added 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses.
- Brought to the boil, then simmered for a few minutes until everything was soft.
- Added 600g golden granulated sugar and stirred until dissolved.
- Boiled for about 15 minutes until setting point was reached. I tested this by placing a saucer in the freezer, spooning in a bit of jam and seeing if it wrinkled when pushed with my finger.
- Poured jam into warm sterilised jars. I made 4 standard jars and 4 mini ones to be used as Christmas presents.
The jam came out a beautiful jewel like deep pink and tasted fantastic: figgy, but tart. The consistency was just right, not too runny and not too solid. I am glad this turned out as well as I’d hoped and I will be able to use it as Christmas gifts. I’m not yet sure how I will combine this with chocolate, but I surely will at some stage.
Susan over at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate is running her Home Made and Well Preserved Challenge again this year. Last year I entered apple and lemon curd, which I have made several times since as it is so good. There are two categories, Chutney and Jam and both will be judged with a lovely prize for the best in each category. I am, of course, entering this into the jam category which is, rather scarily to be judged by Vivian Lloyd, WI judge and author of First Preserves.
Laura of How to Cook Good Food has chosen pomegranates as this month’s One Ingredient, so I am happily submitting this to it. One Ingredient is co-hosted by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen.
The letter for Alpha Bakes happens to be J this month, so I am submitting this as J for Jam. Alpha Bakes is a monthly challenge hosted alternately by Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker.
When Ethel the Goat first came into my life and tempted me with the #capricornchallenge, I was really excited at the prospect of creating some savoury chocolate and goats cheese dishes. When the hamper arrived full of good things, including olive oil, onions, peppers, tomatoes, thyme and goat’s cheese of course, the very first thing I thought about was a chocolate version of Shakshuka.
Random recipe maybe in the title of this post, but it’s actually a random ingredient we had to select this month for the Random Recipes challenge over at Belleau Kitchen. CT got the joy of sticking his arm in the cupboard and pulling something out – a half used packet of hemp flour! Hemp is a gorgeous green coloured flour, but it has a slight bitter edge and goes off fairly quickly. The whole point of the challenge was to use up things that tend to hang around at the back of the cupboard unnoticed, so the box was truly ticked on this score.
The next step was to enter hemp flour onto Eat Your Books. Not surprisingly, I only had one result and that was for Dan Lepard’s Marrakesh express loaf cake from Short and Sweet. As there was no chocolate in his recipe, I had to adapt it and what with one thing and another, it got adapted more than I’d originally intended.
This is how I made it:
- Placed a tsp of instant coffee in a large pan and poured 300ml of boiling water over it and stirred until dissolved.
- Added 150g chopped dried dates and left to simmer gently for a few minutes whilst I added some other ingredients.
- Added 130g molasses sugar, 1 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp pomegranate syrup.
- Stirred and removed from the heat.
- Added 75g unsalted butter and 100g Maya Gold (G&B dark orange spiced chocolate) – chopped.
- Grated in the zest of a lemon and then added the lemon juice as I thought the additional tartness would help cut through the richness of the cake.
- Beat in 2 small duck eggs (medium hens eggs).
- Sifted in 150g spelt flour, 75g hemp flour and 2 tsp of baking powder.
- Stirred this in followed by 100g chopped walnuts and 2 tbsp of sesame seeds.
- Poured into a 2lb loaf mould and baked for 45 minutes at 180C when a skewer inserted in the middle came out more or less clean.
The result was a dense but moist cake with a lovely fruity flavour. Overall it was quite tart and worked particularly well spread with a good layer of butter. It was hard to detect the dates specifically, but the walnuts had their usual delightful crunch. I felt I made the right decision not to include further spices, as there was plenty going on already. The hemp flour gave a distinctive nutty flavour, but also had a hint of bitterness about it. So if you happen to get the munchies on the night train to Marrakesh, CT reckons this is the ideal antidote – inadvertantly revealing some of his dark past.
When I saw this cake in Bake & Decorate, it was only a matter of time before I set to with a gusto and a wooden spoon. The cake sounded so delicious and really interesting with the combination of those delicate flavours. It just needed a bit of time to get hold of some pistachios. As I’m now addicted to using yogurt in my cakes and have been lucky enough to receive another fridge load of TOTAL Greek yogurt, some of that was going in no matter what. As I was hoping for the green of the pistachios to come out in the cake, I used caster sugar rather than my normal dark brown. I also had some green tea and white chocolate ganache left over from the green tea cupcakes I’d made the previous week and it needed using up. I thus decided to use this rather than the mascarpone and orange topping described in the book – although this did sound rather good.
This is what I did:
- Roasted 100g pistachios (unsalted) in the oven at 180C for about 5 mins. Left to cool then ground in a coffee grinder.
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter together with 180g caster sugar and the finely grated zest of an orange until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 4 duck eggs.
- Sifted in 70g flour (50g white spelt and 20g coconut), 1.5 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.
- Mixed in 2 tbsp TOTAL Greek yogurt.
- Folded in the pistachios, 70g ground almonds and 2 tsp orange flower water.
- Spooned into a 21 cm cake thingie and baked for 35 mins at 180C (gas4).
- Meanwhile simmered the juice from the orange with 20g granulated sugar for about 5 minutes until syrupy. Allowed to cool a little then added 1 tbsp orange flour water.
- Pricked cake all over with a cocktail stick as soon as it was out of the oven and poured syrup over.
- Left to cool, then spread the white chocolate and green tea topping over the cake.
- Scattered a few coarsly ground pistachios over the top.
I was really pleased with the result and thought it quite delicious as well as unusual. It wasn’t as green as I’d hoped, but the sponge was dense and moist with a pleasant firmness. It had a Middle Eastern quality that reminded me of my days in Egypt, although Levantine confections are usually much sweeter. Rather unexpectedly, I thought the green tea topping worked well with the pistachio and orange blossom as all were quite subtle flavours. I keep hearing about the wonders of mascarpone so I will be using it next time. CT reckoned it was the nearest thing to pistachio kulfi in cake form. That is a compliment indeed as he loves pistachio kulfi. He also said, tucking into his third slice, that you would be hard pressed to buy a cake this good – luckily he doesn’t have to.
I am going to have to go cold turkey on the blogging front as I’m just off to Ghent in Belgium for a week. This is another work conference, but as I don’t really know Belgium at all I am taking the opportunity to stay an extra couple of days to explore Ghent. Unusually, CT is accompanying me as one of his root friends lives nearby and he can enjoy comparing notes and swapping seeds and tubers. Thanks to VegBoxBoy I go armed with a list of chocolatiers to visit whilst I’m there, so my withdrawal symptoms shouldn’t be too severe. I’ve also been advised not to miss out on the famous Belgian beer whilst we’re there. Look forward to catching up when I get back.