Rich Chocolate Cake

There are certain times when chocolate will only do.  Valentines Day or a birthday are such occasions.  However, I also use this cake as a dessert by adding, cream, ice cream and even custard.  It is one recipe you should master, so that you can use it time and again!  It gets better after a couple of days kept in a dome…. that is if you can keep people away from it that long.

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Ingredients

320 g of very soft butter
260 g self raising flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
260 g caster sugar
3 heaped tbsp of good quality cocoa powder
280 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs beaten
180 g icing sugar
3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
2 Extra tbsp of milk

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  Grease and line a 24 cm cake tin.

Beat only 260 g of the butter and sugar together until pale.  In a separate bowl sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the cocoa powder together.  In a jug mix together the milk, vanilla extract and eggs.  With the mixer running slowly (or by folding if by hand) alternate adding a couple of tablespoons of the dry flour ingredients, and then a good slug of the milk and egg ingredients.  Keep alternating until both sets of ingredients have been used up.  Run a spatula around the bowl, to check everything has been combined.

Pour into the cake tin and place into the oven for around 40-50 minutes.  After 40 minutes just check with a skewer in the middle of the cake, to make sure it is cooked.  If any mix sticks to the skewer just place the cake back into the oven, to cook for a little longer.

Once cooked, leave to cool firstly in the tin and then on a wire rack.  It is important that the cake is cool for the next stage with the buttercream topping…. Or you will end up with a mess.

To make the buttercream topping, whip up the remaining 60 g of butter, 180 g of icing sugar, cocoa powder and additional 2 tbsp of milk.  Whip it up until smooth.  Then you can either divide the cake into two, and input a small amount of the buttercream before sandwiching the two halves together, then use the remaining buttercream to coat the top and sides.  Or, you can leave the cake whole and just coat the top and sides with the buttercream.

I also like to add decorations like more flaked chocolate, sprinkles or with mini eggs at Easter time.  This cake is also great as a pudding and birthday cake.  It is so versatile and delicious.

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Toad In the Hole

It’s jolly well freezing here in the UK, and so I wanted to give you a recipe that should warm you up, and which children love.  You could substitute meat sausages for vegetarian ones too.  Check out the next recipe for Colcannon which goes fabulously with this dish!

toad in the hole

 

Ingredients

8 pork sausages
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
225g plain flour
4 eggs
250ml milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

Pour the oil into the bottom of a baking dish, and arrange the sausages over
in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs and half of the milk until smooth. Gradually mix in the rest of the milk until a smooth batter forms. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the sausages from the oven, and pour the batter over them until the sausages are 3/4 covered. Return to the oven, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the centre is risen and golden.

Great with onion gravy and colcannon.

 

Low Calorie Section

I have added a new section that I am adding to my site called ‘Low Calorie,’ as I am being asked by people almost on a daily basis, to give them recipes and ideas to eat healthier.

I would like to stress at this point, that although the recipes are ‘low calorie’ I do this with health, rather than weight loss in mind.  Many will enjoy a loss of weight naturally when they eat well and ditch the junk.  Just testing some of my recipes over the last week, I have lost well over half a stone in weight, yet I do not feel deprived.  It is important to eat well and make sure that you get the right calories in your body for your height/sex/age/weight and activity level.  With that in mind, I have a few useful suggestions for you.

 

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First I purchased a pedometer quite cheaply from Argos for around £14.00.  It simply straps to your waist and you can forget about it and get on with your day.  I always aim for 10,000 steps per day but often it will end up being 12,000.

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Second, I placed the nutracheck app on my phone, which enables me to find out what my calories should be.  It also allows me to check food calorie/fat levels and I can add the food either from a bar code scan or manual input.  I also get control over how much weight I may wish to lose, whether I wish to stay at my weight or if I want to gain some weight.  It gives me lots of useful data and some of which has been surprising.  Simply swapping dairy yoghurt to a soya alternative reduced my calories by quite a substantial margin.  The biggest shock was that I really enjoyed the soya version, and do not find it in any way a sacrifice.  The next myth I wish to dispel is that fruit and veg are ‘free food’.  I need to be clear that they DO contain calories.  For instance 1 large banana is around 92 calories, whereas a nectarine is 36 calories.  Little swaps and changes can make a huge difference.  The app also gives you information on how many of your 5 a day you are eating, plus how much water you have drunk and still need to drink!

Third, I purchased a good set of digital scales as portion control is the biggest issue many people have.  Weigh out 30g the recommended amount of Special K cereal, and be truthful as to whether or not that is the amount you usually place into your bowl?

To be healthy and to lose weight is not rocket science.  What it does require is discipline and commitment.  Exercise (even brisk walking) and eating well, will not just help you shift a few pounds but will make you feel more alive and well.

Over time, I shall be giving you some recipes for low-calorie foods to help you.  These will be rough calorie guides and of course depends on your portion sizes.

Here is to health for 2016!

Tomato Soup

This went down a storm in my cookery demo this morning, and is a favourite soup in our house.  Quick to make and utterly delicious as well as not costing you much, so you cannot go wrong.  Always try to buy premium canned tomatoes where possible.  You can also substitute a couple of items should you wish.

 

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Ingredients

1 Can of tomatoes ( I use a real good quality brand)
Glug of olive oil
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Garlic clove crushed
Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Sugar
400 mls of vegetable or chicken stock
200 mls of milk
Handful of fresh basil leaves
(Optional) Good dollop of creme fraiche or a swirl of cream

In a medium saucepan add the olive oil, onion and garlic and sweat gently until the onions go translucent looking. Add the tomatoes, sugar, stock and pepper then cook gently with a lid on for ten minutes. Then add the milk and basil leaves and continue to simmer for five minutes. Then use a food processor or hand blender and whizz until you have the consistency you like. If too thick for you, just add a little hot water from your kettle to loosen it. You can also put it through a sieve to get an extra silky smooth soup. Eat this as it is, or add some creme fraiche or cream.

Lasagne

One of my lovely facebook followers has asked if I would let her have my lasagne recipe.  So even though this is in my previous book ‘Midweek Meals Made easy,’ I thought I would place it on here for all of you.  You can get a copy of my book from the following link:-

Midweek Meals Made Easy Link

You can also be part of my facebook group ‘Cooking With Emily’ which can be joined by following the link here:-

Cooking With Emily Facebook group

Lasagne

lasagne

This does take a bit more cooking time, but you could always make it ahead and even freeze it. If using from frozen, please ensure you defrost it properly and bring to room temperature before cooking. If you do have time, then I like to make this dish in the morning, ready for the evening.  This allows the mixture to settle into the pasta sheets, and then makes the pasta that bit more softer and delicious. Serve in one large dish or in individual dishes.

Ingredients for the ragu sauce

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
500 g Minced Beef/Lean Minced Steak
1 Large Onion Chopped
2 Garlic Cloves Crushed
1/2 Glass of Red Wine
1 Tbsp Plain Flour
80 ml Beef Stock
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Heaped Tbsp of Tomato Puree
1 Tsp Mixed Herbs
1 Can of Chopped Tomatoes
Ingredients for the white sauce

30 g Plain Flour
30 g Butter
380 ml of Milk
1 Tsp Mustard
30 g Parmesan Cheese Grated
Salt & Pepper

Remaining ingredients 

6-8 Lasagne Sheets
30 g Cheddar (Mature) Grated
1 Ball of Mozzarella Cheese
Extra Parmesan Cheese Grated

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan (with a lid), add the olive oil and brown the mince well.  If you are doubling up this recipe for a larger dish or family, please ensure you brown the mince in batches.  Add the onion and garlic and carry on frying until the onion is softening.  Then add the wine and allow to cook off for a minute or two.  Stir in the flour, then add the stock, sugar, tomato puree, mixed herbs and chopped tomatoes.  Bring to the boil and then simmer gently on the stove, with the lid on, for around 45 minutes.  Keep your eye on it, ensuring that it does not catch the bottom of your pan.  The ragu wants to be fairly thick though, so if it is at all runny then take the lid off and continue to cook, until the excess liquid has evaporated.

To make the white sauce, you need to melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and cook it through for a couple of minutes.  Do not overcook, the roux should be a light beige colour.  Add the milk bit by bit, whisking well.  If it is a bit lumpy to start with, just keep whisking away.  Add the mustard and parmesan cheese, stir well, then add a little salt and pepper.  This sauce also wants to be of a thicker consistency.

You now need to prepare your dish.  I like to try and imagine I am dividing the ingredients roughly into three, so that I get fairly even layers. First place some of the ragu sauce on the bottom, followed by a little of the white sauce.  Then dot a few mozzarella pieces over, then lay the lasagne sheets over.  Keep following the process until your ingredients are used up.  On the top lasagne sheets, sprinkle on the cheddar, parmesan and any remaining mozzarella you may have, along with a good grinding of pepper.

Leave for a few hours.  When ready to cook, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade.  It will need to cook for anywhere around 30 minutes and 45 minutes.  The cheese should be bubbling and the pasta soft.

Serve with a nice crisp salad and garlic bread.