Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Amaretti Biscuits - guilt free and moreish

amaretti biscuits (cookies) recipe

I can't decide what it is that I love the most about amaretti biscuits (cookies). It could be the way they melt in my mouth or it might be the fact that they are gluten free, have no added fat and are packed with the goodness of almonds or maybe it's that they are just so easy to make and I can whip up a batch in no time at all. Whatever it is I cannot resist them!

These little almond biscuits are Italian in origin, have an intense almond flavour and are crisp and dry so they can be dipped into coffee or (even better) sweet wine. They are traditionally flavoured with amaretto which is an almond liqueur and are usually sold in delis and specialist food stores. The most famous brand in the UK is Lazzaroni, who started manufacturing their Amaretti di Saronno biscuits back in the 19th century. 

Since I discovered just how bloomin' easy it is to make these dainty little biscuits I've stopped buying them and whenever I fancy a sweet (but fairly guilt-free) treat, I reach for the ground almonds, sugar, eggs and almond extract knowing that in 45 minutes I'll be tucking into them.

Don't keep them all to yourself though! Share the love and tie some homemade amaretti biscuits up neatly in a clear cellophane bag and give them to someone special as a fabulous foodie pressie.  

Amaretti Biscuits

amaretti biscuits (cookies)

Notes: While amaretti biscuits are traditionally made with an alcoholic amaretto liqueur, I like to keep mine as guilt-free as possible so I use almond extract in place of amaretto which results in a milder flavour. If you would like to use amaretto, replace the almond extract with 2tbsp of amaretto.

These biscuits have a crisp exterior and a chewy centre when they are eaten soon after they have been baked. They will become crisper after a day or so. For a softer biscuit, reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes.

I use my food processor for this recipe which makes the mixing process really quick but if you don't have a food processor, a bowl, a wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease will do just as well.

Makes 30 biscuits.

275g ground almonds
275g caster sugar
½tsp vanilla extract
1tsp almond extract
3 egg whites
extra sugar for sprinkling

1. Put the almonds and sugar into a food processor with a chopper blade and blend for a few seconds until well mixed.

ground almonds, sugar, eggs

 2. Add the vanilla and almond extract and blend again to combine.

3. Add the egg whites one at a time and blend until the dough is smooth.

amaretti biscuit dough

4. Cover a baking tray with parchment / greaseproof paper and place teaspoons of the mixture onto the tray. Sprinkle with the extra sugar.

amaretti biscuits
5. Place in a preheated oven 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2 for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden. Remove immediately from the parchment paper and place on a wire rack to cool.

6. Store in an airtight container.

Inspired by Simply Recipes

Monday, 28 April 2014

Summery Vanilla and Lemon Rice Pudding with Blackcurrant Jam Sauce - comfort food at its best

Love it or hate it? Rice pudding is like Marmite in that it elicits very strong feelings in us Brits - there are those of us who absolutely adore it and those who can't stand the sight of it but there are very few of us who fall in between. I have a theory that this emotional response is somehow related to the old days of school dinners when bowls of luke-warm gloopy mush were served up with a dollop of (usually cold) jam by terrifying dinner ladies who would stand over you and make you eat every last disgusting grain of the stuff.  

Although the thought of those days still makes me shudder I have to say that I now fall into the love it camp but that's only because I've found out that rice pudding can be a yummy, creamy and comforting dessert that seems light years away from the revolting, grey and lumpy mass I was served as a child. 

This version is made as you would expect with milk, cream and sugar but has vanilla and lemon added which gives the rice a lovely summery, cheesecake-like flavour. I like to top it off with a simple sauce made from blackcurrant jam.

It can be eaten warm or cold but does firm up quite a bit if allowed to cool so more milk / cream may be needed when serving.

Summery Vanilla and Lemon Rice Pudding

Notes: This recipe is for a stove-top version of rice pudding but if you'd prefer to bake it, after stage 1 pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish and place it in a preheated cool oven at 140°C/ 275°F/ Gas Mark 1 for 30 minutes, take it out and stir it then put it back in for another hour. 

I've included the instructions for the blackcurrant sauce at the end of the rice pudding recipe - this really can be made with any kind of jam / preserve you choose.

Serves 2-3

500ml milk
150ml double cream
Zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod
15g caster sugar
150g short-grain pudding rice

1. Put the milk, cream and lemon zest into a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and add this to the pan. Heat gently to a simmer then add the caster sugar and rice.

2. Simmer for approximately 25 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Try to squeeze most of the seeds from the vanilla pod into the rice as it cooks. When it is ready, the rice should be thick with a creamy consistency.

3. Remove the vanilla pod and serve either on its own or with the blackcurrant jam sauce below. If serving cold, spoon the rice into a bowl, cover with cling film and allow the rice to cool before chilling in the fridge.

Blackcurrant Jam Sauce

1tbsp blackcurrant jam
1tsp lemon juice
2tsp water

Put the jam, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan and heat until the jam has melted and the lemon juice and water have combined with the jam to make a fairly thin sauce. Drizzle over the rice pudding before serving.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Pesto Swirl Bread

white bread swirled with pesto

I came across the idea for swirl bread while flicking through my recipe books yesterday. It was raining outside and I didn't really want to go out in it so thought a nice spot of bread-making would be a great way to pass the time on a wet afternoon. 

While searching for inspiration among the images of loafs, buns, baps and flatbreads, a tantalising photograph of a cinnamon loaf that had a swirl of chocolate and pecan nuts oozing through it caught my eye. It looked amazing and I was even tempted to go shopping (and get soaked) to buy chocolate and pecans so I could make it. Fortunately, my conscience got the better of me and I decided against it - after the amount of chocolate I'd consumed over Easter it probably wasn't such a good idea!

After searching for an alternative I decided on pesto. Okay, I know this might not sound quite as scrumptious as sweet and sticky chocolate and pecan but I love to spread pesto on bread or toast and slap it into sandwiches so I guessed it would be a tasty (and healthier) option. Also, I had a few tablespoons of wild garlic pesto left over from a batch I'd make earlier this week so didn't need to go out in the pouring rain to buy ingredients.

The whole thing was really easy to make and I was pleased with the finished result. The bread was very light and had a nice (but not overpowering) garlicky flavour from the pesto. It looked great too with a bright green swirl running right through the bread - a bit like a bread swiss roll! 

I think the possibilities for swirl bread must be almost endless - cheese, sun-dried tomato paste, cinnamon and sugar, peanut butter, Nutella or tapenade would all make great fillings and different flavours could be added to the dough too. I'd would love to hear of other ideas you might have.

Pesto Swirl Bread

pesto swirl bread

white bread ingredient - bread machine

white bread dough

 Notes: I used my bread machine to make the dough but I've put the methods for making the dough both by machine and by hand below.

Basic white bread:
475g strong white flour
1tsp caster sugar
1½ tsp salt
1½ tsp fast action dried yeast
2tbsp oil
250ml warm (not hot) water

3 tbsp pesto

1tbsp grated parmesan cheese (optional)

If using a bread machine:
1. Add the water, oil, sugar and salt to the tin of the bread machine.

2. Spoon in the flour and sprinkle the yeast on top. 

3. Set the machine to the 'dough' programme and start the machine.

4. When the dough is ready, continue from stage 3 below.

If making the dough by hand:
1. Put the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar, salt and yeast. Gradually mix in enough of the warm water until it forms a soft dough.

2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead well for 5 minutes - the dough should be smooth and stretchy. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel or oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for approx 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. 

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is a fairly thin round that measures approximately 27cm in diameter.

4. Spread the dough generously with pesto and then gradually roll up the dough from one edge, when it is rolled up turn the dough so that the seam is on the underside and tuck the edges underneath. Place on an oiled baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel or oiled cling film and leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.

white bread dough spread with pesto

rolling dough to make pesto swirl bread

5. If using the parmesan cheese, sprinkle this on top of the loaf before poping the tray into a preheated oven at 200°C/ 400°F/ Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes until the loaf are well risen and golden. Carefully transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool.

pestobswirl bread before baking

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pesto made with foraged wild garlic

wild garlic pesto

To say that I'm not a great forager is an understatement! Of course I've picked the odd blackberry in my time and, when I was little, I used to collect winkles from rock pools at the beach to take home to cook but I've always felt a bit nervous about helping myself to anything from a field, forest or hedgerow when I am not one thousand percent sure that what I'm picking is what I think it is. So I usually do my 'foraging' in the safety of a Pick your Own farm shop!

While my hubby and I were out and about over the Easter weekend, though, we came across a lovely crop of wild garlic and, having recently seen some fabulous recipes involving this ingredient, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pick some. Wild garlic grows everywhere in Northumberland at this time of year - it flourishes in damp, forested areas and we've got just the right conditions for it so it's really common. I was certain that what I was harvesting was wild garlic as the foliage had a characteristic garlicky smell so I felt confident that wouldn't do me any harm if I ate it. 

wild garlic - sometimes called ramps

After a half hour of scrambling and picking that included a scary encounter with a couple of spiders, my hubby and I arrived home with a few good handfuls of pungent smelling leaves. I hadn't cooked with wild garlic before but felt like I needed to make something delicious to repay our efforts. After a bit of research I found that I could make pesto with it which sounded great - I make pesto regularly with basil so I decided to follow my normal pesto recipe but substitute the basil for wild garlic instead. 

The result was pesto that tasted very like that made with basil but with a stronger garlicky edge to it. I served mine stirred into pasta but it could be used just like any other pesto - spread on crostini (or toast) or as a flavouring for soup or vegetables, for example.

We managed to collect quite a bit of wild garlic so have made enough pesto to last us a few weeks but, for me, the best bit is that the wild garlic didn't cost us a penny! How good is that? Also, the experience of foraging then preparing it to eat was really fun and has given my confidence a slight boost. I think I'll take myself off now to buy a book and research other foraging possibilities!

Wild Garlic Pesto

pesto made with wild garlic

Notes: We picked 150g of wild garlic so have listed the quantities of the other ingredients to fit with this. As you can see from the picture above, this makes quite a lot of pesto so the ingredients can be scaled down according to the amount of wild garlic being used. I used rapeseed oil but olive oil would be good too.

The pesto will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, but if storing, ensure it is in an airtight jar and that the pesto is completely covered with oil to keep it fresh.

75g pine nuts
150g wild garlic leaves
2 cloves of bulb garlic
200ml rapeseed oil (plus extra if storing - see above)
75g finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat a frying pan and toast the pine nuts until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. 

2. Put the wild garlic leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts and 100ml of the oil into a food processor with a chopping blade and blitz to a paste.

3. Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the remainder of the oil, the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.

4. Store in an airtight jar and pour in additional oil to ensure the pesto is covered with oil to retain its freshness. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Chocolate or Vanilla Cupcakes? Why not have both?

chocolate cupcake, vanilla cupcake

When my daughter and I decided to do some baking yesterday we were both in agreement that we'd make cupcakes with lashings of butter cream. The only problem was that we couldn't agree what flavour they'd be. I had two new ingredients that I wanted to experiment with, vanilla pod powder and lavender and I'd found a few ideas to suggest that these two ingredients work very well together so I was thinking that vanilla and lavender cupcakes would be perfect. My chocoholic daughter, though, had other ideas and was envisioning some rich, dark cocoa-laden creations instead. 

Now, I know that I could have insisted that it would be vanilla no matter what but my daughter is, and always has been, very strong willed and single-minded and I wasn't at all in the mood for a debate on the merits of chocolate cupcakes over vanilla. So, in the interests of keeping the peace, I decided to take the diplomatic approach and make half and half. We made up a batch of vanilla cupcake mix that was enough for 12 cakes and split it in two. We left half of the mixture as it was and added cocoa powder and a bit of chilli (one of my favourite additions to chocolate cake) to the other half. They were spooned into cupcake cases and then baked in the oven at the same time. 

chocolate cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes

We took the same approach with the butter cream - made up a full batch then flavoured half with vanilla and half with cocoa. We finished them off by piping the butter cream on the top of the cupcakes and then decorated the vanilla ones with a sprinkling of lavender flowers and added some edible glitter and sugar decorations to the top of the chocolate cakes.

It was so easy to do and we ended up with two types of really delicious cupcakes - vanilla and lavender and chocolate and chilli and, more importantly, peace and harmony continued to prevail in the Brass household!

vanilla and lavender cupcake

A note about my two new ingredients. Vanilla pod powder is made from pure vanilla pods that are ground down to a powder. It can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract and should be replaced on a like for like basis (1 tsp vanilla extract = 1 tsp vanilla powder). I thought it worked really well both in the cake and the icing and a positive side-effect was that it gave the icing a nice speckled effect, a bit like using vanilla seeds from a fresh pod.

The lavender flowers on the top of the vanilla cupcakes gave the finished cake a nice hint of perfume but I have been warned to use it sparingly as it can become quite overpowering. It's important to ensure that lavender flowers used in cooking are suitable for eating. Lavender bought at garden centres is most likely not due to pesticides / chemicles previously sprayed onto the flowers so it's wise to check!

Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes made in one batch

Basic cake batter:
110g (4oz) soft butter
110g (4oz) caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp vanilla powder)
110g (40z) self-raising flour
1-2 tbsp milk

Basic Buttercream:
150g (50z) soft butter
300g (10oz)icing sugar
1-2 tsp milk

For Vanilla and Lavender cupcakes add:
¼ tsp vanilla extract (or ¼ tsp vanilla powder) 
¼ tsp edible lavender flowers

For Chocolate and Chilli cupcakes add:
50g plus 1tbsp cocoa powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until the mixture is smooth and pale in colour. Gradually add the eggs bit by bit and beat the mixture to ensure it is well combined. Add the vanilla extract or vanilla powder and stir this well into the mixture.

3. Fold the flour into the mixture, adding milk to ensure a smooth, dropping consistency. 

4. Spoon half of the mixture into another bowl and fold in the 50g cocoa powder (make sure it has been sifted first), cayenne pepper and chilli flakes ensuring it is well blended into the mixture. Add more milk (or some water) if the mixture seems a little dry.

5. Spoon both mixtures into the paper cases so they are roughly half-full and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes until well risen. Allow to cool fully.

6. To make the butter cream, beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add the icing sugar gradually, beating the mixture well to ensure it is fully blended. Add milk as required to ensure the mixture is smooth and creamy.

7. Put half of the mixture into another bowl.

8. In one half of the mixture add the vanilla extract or powder and mix well. In the other half of the mixture add 1 tbsp of sifted cocoa powder and mix well.

9. Pipe or spoon the butter cream over the top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle the lavender flowers over the top of the vanilla cakes and decorate the chocolate cakes with chocolate chips or sugar decorations.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Homemade Herb-marinated Olives

herb marinated olives

Before I found out how to make my own marinated olives I lost count of the number of times I'd open a jar of olives, use half a dozen in a recipe then put the jar with the leftovers at the back of the fridge and forget about them. More often than not, the jar would sit for so long that by the time I needed olives for something else the contents would be fit for nothing! So they'd go in the bin and off I'd go to the shop to buy some more, only for the whole cycle to start again. 

Now, if I've got half a jar of olives left I like to marinate them in a mixture of herbs, spices, garlic, oil and vinegar and, as they're so delicious, they get eaten quickly and don't get the chance to go off! 

This recipe works well with all kinds of olives - green, black, pitted, whole, stuffed, kalamata. I think it's best with those that have been packed in brine but if they've been canned or jarred in oil they are great too - just use some of the oil from the jar in place of the olive oil in the recipe.

Homemade Herb-marinated Olives

olives with herbs and garlic

Notes: What I've outlined below really is just a suggestion. The oil and vinegar are essential but beyond that there are no rules. You could add a little bit of chopped chilli or some rosemary in place of the thyme, sprinkle in some dried herbs if you don't have any fresh ones or omit the garlic if you'd rather. The quantities are based on a 340g jar, including brine, so just adjust the amount of ingredients based on the amount of olives you are using. Don't worry too much about being precise.

¼ tsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 340g jar of olives in brine

1. Drain the olives and place in a bowl.

2. Crush the coriander and fennel seeds to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Add the herbs, garlic, vinegar and oil and mix together. 

3. Pour the marinade over the olives and stir to ensure the olives are well coated.

 4. Cover, or put in a jar, and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.

The olives will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Cauliflower Cheese - a great British classic

Cauliflower Cheese - a great British Classic

I don't think we Brits have a fantastic reputation when it comes to our culinary prowess. I seem to remember, not that long ago, a French president was allegedly overheard saying 'one cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad' - and he was talking about us! I don't know why he held this view - perhaps he'd had the misfortune to have a British school dinner at some point! But I don't agree that our cuisine is that bad. In fact it's really, really good! 

I originally wanted to use this post to share some of the food classics that we do very well in Blighty but when I started my list one particular item kept coming back to the top time and time again - cheese! 

Lots of countries across Europe have their own great cheeses such as Camembert from France, Feta from Greece, Mozarella from Italy...all delicious. But in Britain we have created some of the most fantastic cheeses of all - Stilton, Cheddar, Wensleydale, Red Leicester, Cheshire, Cotherstone, Stinking Bishop, Shropshire Blue and Sage Derby to name a few. There are so many that I couldn't list them all here - the British Cheese Board website claims that there are over 700 different varieties! 

So, I decided to share one recipe that is typically British and includes, in no small part, one of our best foodie offerings. Here it is! Cauliflower Cheese made with classic, mature Cheddar cheese. Delicious with a good dollop of English Mustard!

Cauliflower Cheese

cauliflower with cheese sauce
Cauliflower Cheese with a cheesy, rich cheese sauce

Notes: For me, cauliflower cheese is best when it's made with a strong mature Cheddar but any strong-tasting cheese would also work. A combination of Cheddar and Stilton is also fantastic. 
The servings from this dish will vary depending upon the size of the cauliflower. The one I used was quite small so would serve 4 as a side dish or 2 as a light lunch dish with some crusty bread. 
The cauliflower can be broken down into florets rather than kept whole - this is better for larger cauliflowers. Florets will need slightly less cooking time so it should be reduced to 5-10 minutes.

1 whole cauliflower
40g butter
40g plain flour
400ml milk
½ tsp English mustard 
100g strong, mature Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and white pepper to taste


1. Remove the outer green leaves from the cauliflower and remove as much of the central stem as possible without allowing the florets to become detached.

making cheese sauce
Once the flour and  butter have been combined, the milk can be
added gradually...
2. Bring a pan of salted water, large enough to fit the cauliflower in it, to the boil and place the cauliflower in it. Boil for approximately 10-15 minutes, depending upon the size of the cauliflower. The cauliflower should be tender but not too soft. When cooked, remove from the pan and place in a colander to drain.

3. While the cauliflower is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Mix together and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes.

4. Take the flour mixture off the heat and gradually stir the milk into the mixture bit by bit. After each addition of milk stir well to ensure the milk is combined and there are no lumps.

cheese sauce
...until it looks like this!
5. Once all the milk has been combined, put the pan back onto a low heat and, as the sauce heats it will begin to thicken. It is important to keep stirring continuously during this time, until the sauce has thickened, to prevent lumps from forming.

6. Once the sauce has thickened add the mustard and most of the cheese and continue to stir until the cheese has melted. Keep some cheese back for sprinkling over the top at the end.

7. Place the cauliflower in a heat-proof serving bowl. Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place under a preheated grill for a few minutes until the top is golden.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Crunchy and Aromatic Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger Crumble

rhubarb apple and ginger crumble

I love to eat rhubarb at this time of year. As it's one of the first fruits to appear in spring it reminds me that winter is behind us and summer is on it's way (hooray!). It also has to be one of the easiest fruits to grow too - although it's not the most attractive. 

When we had our house in France we had a large rhubarb plant in the garden and although we didn't really look after it at all it would spring to life every year from nowhere, give us tons of fruit and then disappear back into the ground again as the summer went on. This meant we had a short window to use as much of it as possible before the supply ran out. Jams, jellies, tarts, compotes, sauces, cakes crumbles, trifles - you name it and I've probably made it with rhubarb!

I like to stew rhubarb with some sugar and a splash of orange juice which makes a really simple compote to have with yoghurt or rice pudding (or just on its own) but, for me, the most delicious complement to rhubarb is ginger. It doesn't matter if it's fresh, crystallised, ground or bottled, I just love the gorgeous aromatic and tongue-tingling effect of these two ingredients when they're put together.

This recipe for rhubarb, apple and ginger crumble is really simple and produces a lovely crunchy crumble to top off the soft, sweet, fragrant fruit.

rhubarb sugar ginger

rhubarb apple ginger crumble

Crunchy and Aromatic Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger Crumble

Notes: Serves 4. I've kept this really simple as I don't think it needs anything else but if you want to you could add orange juice in place of water when stewing the fruit. For extra gingeryness (if such a word exists) add ½ tsp ground ginger to the crumble topping.

6 stems rhubarb
3 eating apples
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp water
1 inch (2½cm) piece fresh ginger (or ½ tsp ground ginger)
100g plain flour
75g butter
50g porridge oats
100g demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/ Gas Mark 6.

2. Cut the rhubarb into chunks approx 1½ inches (approx 3½cm) in length. Peel and core the apple and cut it into chunks approx ¾ inch (approx 1½cm) in size. Peel and grate the ginger.

3. Put the fruit into a medium sized saucepan with the caster sugar, water and ginger. Heat over a medium heat until the sugar  has dissolved and allow the fruit to stew gently for approx 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fruit should be soft but still retaining its shape. When done, put the fruit into an ovenproof dish.

cooked rhubarb4. To make the crumble topping, put the flour and butter in a food processor with a chopping blade and process for a few seconds until the butter has been chopped finely and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the oats and demerara sugar until well combined and sprinkle over the fruit to completely cover.

5. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.

Serve with custard, cream or as it is. 

Ready to pop into the oven.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Chilli Chocolate Muffins

chilli chocolate muffins

 One of my all-time favourite books is called Chocolat written by Joanne Harris. It's a half-amusing, half-sad tale centred around a mysterious woman who descends on a small village in rural France and causes a commotion when she opens a chocolaterie (chocolate shop / cafe) opposite the local church at the beginning of Lent. Joanne Harris gives the whole business of chocolate making an exotic and magical feel and her descriptions of the chocolate concoctions the woman creates in her shop always make my mouth water even though I've read the book about ten times! 

It was in this book that I was first introduced to the concept of chocolate and chilli - the rich, dark, hot chocolate with a pinch of chilli pepper that was served in the cafe sounded delicious! Chocolate and chilli are two ingredients that I'd never thought to put together before but it seems to have become really popular of late and I have to say that it works!

This recipe uses a combination of dark and milk chocolate as well as cocoa to create a really chocolately muffin that has a nice hint of chilli, which gives the muffins a bit of a kick. 

muffin ingredients
Sifted ingredients - flour, baking powder, cocoa and
cayenne pepper
chilli chocolate muffins

Chilli Chocolate Muffins

Notes: Makes 12 large muffins. I use a combination of dark and milk chocolate in my recipe but if you like it really rich use all dark. Fresh chilli could also be added - replace the cayenne pepper and dried chilli flakes with 1 tbsp of chopped fresh chillli.

70g plain chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids)
70g milk chocolate
375g self-raising flour
1tbsp baking powder
50g cocoa powder
1tsp cayenne pepper
85g caster sugar
1tsp dried chilli flakes
2 eggs
375ml milk
6tbsp sunflower oil
2tsp vanilla extract
100g chocolate chips 

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/ Gas Mark 6. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.

2. Place a bowl over a pan of simmering water (don't allow the bowl to touch the water though) and add the chocolate. Melt the chocolate, stirring continuously until smooth. Don't overheat the chocolate - remove as soon as it's melted. Put it to one side to cool slightly.

3. Sift together in a large bowl the flour, baking powder, cocoa and cayenne pepper the stir in the sugar and chilli flakes.

4. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Add the melted chocolate and stir well - if it separates don't worry just keep stirring.

5. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and fold them together adding 50g of the chocolate chips - be careful not to beat or overwork the mixture.

6. Place the mixture in the muffin cases and sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips. Place in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes until well risen. 

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

eggs and milk
Mixing the milk with the eggs, oil and vanilla

chocolate muffin batter
Chilli chocolate muffins - ready to pop in the oven

chocolate Joanne harris
The book that inspired me!

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