Christmas chocolate truffles – two ways

I just love Christmas. Basically, it’s a great big excuse to bake and make all the things I love to eat, but don’t normally allow myself to have. But when Christmas rolls around there is NO holding me back – I am going to indulge!!

Normally I make the Christmas Pudding truffles that Nigella Lawson calls Puddini Bonbons, and they are lovely, in fact they are just about the only way you are ever going to get me eating Christmas pudding (I despise dried fruit… but don’t get me started on that!).

This year however, I’m kindly giving Gordon Ramsey a turn. I took his Chocolate Mint Truffle recipe and divided it up into two basic recipes – a mint version, and an orange, brandy and pecan version.

chocolate mint truffles
My truffle tin runeth over… thanks Gordon!


The truffles get their flavour from steeping fresh mint in gently heated cream. I did the same for the orange version by adding orange zest to the cream and gently heating it. Once the flavoured cream was hot (but nowhere near boiling) I poured it over chopped chocolate, butter and honey. For the orange version I also added brandy and chopped pecans.

Once the chocolate, butter and honey have melted into the cream, the whole lovely smooth dark mess goes into the fridge to firm up. It took about two hours before the mixture was firm enough to roll into little balls. Then I rolled the balls in good quality dutch-processed cocoa, and voila – these little balls of deliciousness are ready for eating!

Helpful Mr Ramsey suggests keeping the truffles in the fridge and warns they won’t keep longer than a few days… but with me around, slyly popping one into my mouth each time I pass by the fridge, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.


Christmas peppermint brownie

I wanted to try baking something a little festive today, and had seen some really lovely pictures on Pinterest of Peppermint Brownie. So after a bit of searching, I came across this lovely recipe from The Galley Gourmet that had three layers: the brownie (flavoured with peppermint), as well as the white peppermint icing, AND the chocolate peppermint topping decorated with crushed candy canes. Some recipes I saw left out the white peppermint icing – but what’s the point?! You might as well go all out if you’re going to bother.

Peppermint brownie
It turned out pretty well. It’s nice and easy to slice, and the soft fudgy texture of the brownie combined with the crunchy chocolate topping is totally delicious. It would be great for children’s Christmas parties, or any one’s party for that matter!

The 80’s called… it wants its entree back!

Last night was a special occasion here in our house, so to celebrate I stuffed eggs! Yes, that’s right. We really know how to party.

My husband has a particular (peculiar) love of very retro food. Custard squares, asparagus rolls, club sandwiches… all the sort of stuff you’d find in what I call an ‘old lady tea room’. You know the kind of place – sausage rolls, shabby decor with plenty of crocheted doilies, tea by the gallon.

But there’s something quite comforting about food that’s gone out of fashion. It’s the kind of food you ate growing up, seeing it again takes you back in time to when you were young and carefree… who wouldn’t want to feel like that? Stuffed eggs just scream fancy 80’s dinner party to me – I’m not entirely sure if that’s what smart and cultured people were eating back then, but if my old cookbooks are anything to go by, it was probably on menus everywhere.


To make my eggs, I hard boiled them then ever so carefully shelled them. I didn’t know this for a very long time, but ever since we’ve had chickens (and fresh eggs) and I hard boil their eggs I’ve noticed it’s particularly hard to peel fresh eggs, the whites just don’t hold together. The older the eggs are, the easier they are to peel – the shells just come right off. Which is kind of funny… because for many years I’ve discarded eggs that were really hard to peel, thinking they were old! PRO TIP

I halved the eggs, scooped out the middle and mashed the cooked yolk with diced cornichons, capers, some chopped parsley and chives, and a few tablespoons of good mayonnaise, a dash of white wine vinegar, and a half teaspoon of mustard. And a pinch of salt, and plenty of fresh black ground pepper.

I would have piped the egg mix back into the whites with a fancy nozzle (just like they would have in the 80s) but I hadn’t chopped the cornichons up quite as finely as I should have – they would have blocked the nozzle. So I just stuck it all into a small zip lock plastic bag, with a corner cut off, and piped it back in that way. Not quite as pretty, but still good!

P1020485A little dust of sumac on the top, and they were ready to eat! And as an endorsement of just how good they tasted… my daughter, who normally runs away at the sight and smell of egg, happily polished off three of them.


That awkward moment when someone asks you for your recipe…

Today a friend asked me outright for my recipe for chocolate brownies. No big deal, right?


That awkward moment when...
You want my WHAT???

I can’t help but feel a little protective of my recipes. Afterall, I’ve put in the hard yards, making them time after time, tweaking them ever so slightly with each baking to eventually reach near total perfection. So of course I’m going to be a little resentful if you want to come along and claim all my hard work as your own.

Does that sound mean? Spiteful even? Or worse… petty! Whatever happened to the collaborative community approach to baking… where everyone willingly swaps and shares recipes for the greater good of bakers everywhere. Oh HANG ON – maybe that’s what the sticking point is. I was asked for a recipe, but I wasn’t given one in return. If I was receiving some real gem of a recipe I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about giving up my own baking intellectual property for you pass off as your own.

So, now I’m really interested to know – do you share recipes willingly, or keep them just for yourself? Are you one of those audacious people that ask others for THEIR own recipes? If so, do people give those precious recipes to you, or do you think they give you a slightly different version (not the carefully tweaked one that took years to perfect) so when you make it, it just isn’t quite the same? Now, that really would be petty!


A Christmassy take on the no-bake biscuit slice

My coffee walnut slice was so good, I decided to try a Christmas version – so here it is!

For the biscuit base:
450 gm plain crushed biscuits
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
180 gm butter
100gm chopped pecans
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange

Crush the biscuits in a food processor until you have a mix of chunks and crumbs, then add the spices and quickly combine. Gently melt the butter with the sweetened condensed milk and fruit zest, then add to the biscuit crumbs and mix well until all of the biscuit has been moistened. Turn out onto a tray lined with baking paper, and spread out evenly then press down firmly. Refrigerate until while you make the icing.

For the icing:
2 cups icing sugar
50 gm softened butter
Zest from one orange and 1/2 lemon
Juice from orange and lemon

Sift and icing sugar, then add the butter and zest and stir in until the softened butter is rubbed in (like making pastry). Gradually add a little bit of the juice and mix well after each addition until you get a good thick spreading consistency. Spread the icing evenly over the cooled slice then refrigerate again to allow the icing to set. Remove from the fridge and cut into squares.


Slow cooked chili con carne from somewhere

I’ve always thought Chili Con Carne was Mexican, but today my assumptions were challenged…

I dug out my Thomasina Miers cookbook called ‘Mexican food made easy’ and as the title suggests it contains a whole lot of Mexican recipes. In my family we eat Mexican often – but I suppose it’s a New Zealand take on Mexican. I haven’t been there yet, so I don’t really have much of an idea of what’s authentic. So when Thomasina writes that chili con carne is not Mexican, I’ll take her word on it. Wherever it comes from, Texas, Spain, somewhere else entirely… it’s damn good! (And the recipe is IN a Mexican book – so there must be some influence?)

Thomasina Miers chili con carne
Slow cooked chili con carne ready to eat – finally!

The recipe uses stewing steak rather than minced beef, along with a whole lot of spices, kidney beans, and a few different kinds of chili, which then gets cooked in a very low oven basically for as long as you can control yourself from eating it – then, when you can’t wait any longer you take it out and serve it on rice, with a simple salsa and a squeeze of lime.

Slow cooked beef chili con carne
This is what you get for 6 patient hours of slow cooking.

As you can imagine, after all that slow cooking (6 hours!) the meat is falling apart, the sauce has thickened beautifully and there is a real depth of flavour.

But… what does it taste like in Mexico? When recipes demand specific types of chili I always feel a bit peeved – here in New Zealand it’s hard to get any kind of chili other than just your garden variety, run-of-the-mill chili (every now and then I manage to find chipotle and can barely contain my excitement) so I can’t help but wonder how that effects the finished product. Right now though, with a stomach full of delicious hot chili, it doesn’t bother me all that much.

What fondue do you do?

I’ve been thinking about fondue lately… you know, that crazy thing they used to do in the 70s where people dipped bits of food into hot, cheesy sauce, then ate it?

So I have a couple of fondue sets sitting in the back of my cupboard, gathering dust, and I can’t for the life of me think of what to make with them. Cheese and chocolate are the obvious choices, but I’m after something a bit different… but WHAT?!

I thought of a pesto… could work. Or a wine/cream sauce… a bit too much like cheese sauce. A tomato sauce… maybe, not all that exciting though. What about caramel? Or butterscotch… now that’s a bit Christmassy.

What fondue sauce would you like to try? All suggestions gratefully received!