Monday, 26 October 2009

Old School Chocolate Crunch

When you think back to your school days and the school dinners, what is the first thing you remember? I think for a lot of people it is the Chocolate Crunch or Chocolate Concrete as is was often referred to.

I loved school dinners, thankfully I was at school a long time before the dreaded Turkey Twizzlers and chips with everything farce. We had well balanced, freshly produced food, none of this processed frozen ready to slam in a microwave crap. School dinners where were you learned to love food and expand your palate. At home if you whinged enough your Mum would end up giving you fish fingers, but at school, especially infants & primary you ate what was before you and you did it because your peers were eating it. So you had dishes like liver and bacon, ragout and baked fish on a Friday, but what you really, really looked forward to were the puddings - Jam suet pudding and custard, ginger cake with icing and of course chocolate crunch and green custard.

Once those schools days were gone, so were the meals contained within. A distant memory thought of fondly over time. Well I have a confession, my Grandmother was a head cook at a school in Perry Barr, Birmingham and when she retired she took with her the 1970 School Meals Handbook, chock full of nutritional tips, food plans and of course the recipes!

So without further ado here comes the recipe to re-live your childhood to.

Chocolate Crunch

8oz Plain Flour
6oz Fat - This recipe works better if the fat is margarine or a mix of butter and marg.
6oz Sugar
1oz Cocoa Powder
1 Egg
Dash Vanilla Essence

Melt the fat in a pan, don't get it too hot. Add it to all the dry ingredients and mix. Pour in the beaten egg and mix well.

Press the mixture into a baking tray so it is about 3/4" thick.

Draw a fork over the top to create a checked patterned the brush over with a little water and sprinkle a little extra sugar on top.

Place in an oven at approx 150oc for 15 mins approx.

To test if the crunch is done press the top and it should still be fairly soft and slightly crisp at the edges. If you wait until the entire cake is firm then you have gone too far and you will end up with 'concrete' once it is cooled.

Remove from the oven and scored the cake into slices and leave to cool before removing from the tin, don't forget until the fat has re-solidified it will be extremely friable.


Friday, 23 October 2009

Slow Baked Lamb Hearts & Stuffing

I want to talk offal today! Really, it is so underrated and can give you such a cheap and delicious dish if cooked right. Take lambs hearts 4 for £2.
Ok they look a little scary and a little too much like our own but, once you have cut out the tubing you are left with a perfect pouch for stuffing.

I like to make up a batch of sage and onion PAXO stuffing (if you wish, make your own with whatever grabs your fancy, but I am a girl all who like the easy way of life so good old PAXO for me) I add in to the mix a lightly fried chopped onion, just because I can and lots of pepper. Leave the stuffing to cool and then stuff it inside the hearts.

There will be leftover stuffing so either make up balls to add to the dish or to baked them separately.

Take an OXO beef stock cube and make up some stock, arrange the hearts in a tight fitting oven proof dish, pour the stock over, till it covers the hearts about halfway up. Season a little more and then cover with foil or a lid. Pop into the oven at 160oc and cook for approx 2 hours, occasionally turning the hearts so the don't burn and all parts get a chance to bathe in the gravy.

The sauce will reduce and thicken with the stuffing that falls out, but that just makes it super unctious.

The hearts will be tender, but still firm, like liver. Utterly scrummy and packed full of flavour and certainly a hearty winter dish (excuse the pun). So get your heads around offal and give it a try.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Luscious Lemon Baked Cheesecake

Hubby with low tolerance levels was rather miffed when after three days I had still not told you all how wonderful and thoughtful he is. Well he is.
He and his colleagues are having a bit of a hectic and tough time at work and with us leaving for a holiday in Menorca this Friday, I can imagine that there was more chaos than usual as he tries to palm his workload off onto others.

So Mr. Thoughtful took over and decided on feeding the colleagues with unctuous grub to cheer them up. Now Hubby does not enter into the kitchen that often, he claims he does not enjoy cooking that much, this from the only guy in his Home Ec. class at school - he claims he only took the class as a way to get all the juicy gossip from the girls - I am not so sure.

Anyway, you may have noticed that I rarely make any sort of desert or cakes - I find the the fact that most sweet recipes need to be followed closely - rather like chemistry in order to create the desired dish, I am much more from the chuck it together and see if it works school of cooking, but Hubby with his finely honed engineering mind likes the precise quantities, concise instructions to be followed to achieve the desired result so when he does venture into the kitchen it is usually to produce a cake. Monday night was one of those occasions.
He had received requests for a Lemon cheesecake and chose this baked one from the BBC Good Food website.

Well, pictures were taken, but I have not got the camera with me to download them, but will rectify this at a later date, but I can assure you it looks just like the piccy taken from the website. Now rectified and actual piccy posted, still in the tin, but he didn't want it to spoil on the jouney into work!

The Cheesecake was taken into work and scarfed down by appreciative colleagues, leaving a couple of portions to come back home for me to enjoy.

He is now under orders to bake a couple more for the Christmas period as I know my family will adore this lovely lemony, cheesy, firm pudding. Total Yum!