For chocolate-lovers only

Perhaps practice makes (if not perfect) them look better...These cookies pack the most intense chocolate punch. They are not for people who think that white stuff is “chocolate”, even people who believe real chocolate can advertise how much milk it contains may balk, but those who love real high cacao solid dark chocolate should love them. They don’t look like much before they are cooked and are even less appealing when baked, but the taste and texture… Try some on a chocolate-lover near you πŸ™‚

They are soft and crumbly, but so chocolatey…

  • 250g shortening (I used a mix of margarine and rice bran oil)
  • 140g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50g cacao made up to 300g with plain flour (use less cacao for a milder chocolate hit)
  • 0.5-1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate cut into fragments and cacao nibs (again for those who want milder could try all chocolate fragments)

Each time you add an ingredient mix. (The easiest way is straight into the food processor and zap until the last item.)

Make into balls, smaller than golf balls (unless you want giant cookies). Place on baking sheet well apart, squash with two fingers or the base of a tumbler. Cook at 180 C for 12-15mins. They will still feel soft, but will harden on cooling.

They look dreadful (that’s why there are no photos), so you may want to do what we do to make brownies look respectable drench with icing sugar…Β  personally I leave them nude and hope that will put other people off, sadly Barbara was still happy to scoff half the last batch πŸ™

PS Can anyone tell me a source of Fair Trade cacao nibs in NZ – googling suggests they are available in the USA but not here πŸ™

Guilt free baking :)

There are even recipes with pictures for beginners :)
There are even recipes with pictures for beginners πŸ™‚

OK, I’m sorry, this post is not about how to eat loads of fat and sugar yet not lose your youthful slenderness (or indeed any other “first-world problems”) it’s about baking with reduced oppression.

Most trade allows the rich and powerful to oppress the poor and weak. Trade ensures that the rich get richer, and (being impersonal) does not care if the poor get poorer. It is quite clear if you track almost any product grown in the Majority World that the price paid to the producer is peanuts compared to the profit paid to the sales and distribution entrepreneurs (i.e. “middle men/women”), it’s even peanuts compared to the wages paid to factory workers in richer places that convert the product into goods we buy.

FairTrade (and other schemes but they are the best known) seek to redress this balance by ensuring a decent price gets paid to producers.

Now to the “guilt free baking” part πŸ™‚ The Big Fair Bake is a competition that is promoting Fair Trade.Β  Here’s what to do:

  • If you are a baker – enter.
  • If you eat and enjoy other people’s baking – get them to enter.
  • If you have a blog, website, use Facebook, Google+ etc. – make a link so your ‘friends’ can see.
  • If not – email a few people…

Quick delicious cookies

IMG_8820Here’s a basic, quick but delicious cookie dough.

  • 110g butter, ideally at room temperature (Vegans use margarine)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (yes, that is 1.5 tsp don’t stint the vanilla if like me you make these with nuts, of course if you use chocolate chips you could substitute almond essence)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Zap in food processor till well mixed, then add:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Briefly mix (very briefly in the machine or a bit more vigorously if by hand πŸ˜‰ Then mix these in by hand, or use other “extras” (choc chips, other nuts, crystalised ginger…)

  • 1 cup wallnuts chopped

Roll into small balls and squash them on a lined baking sheet, they won’t rise or spread much in cooking. Bake at 170C for c.15 mins turning the sheet at half-time.

Be patient, though they are delicious warm and crumbly they are almost better when (nearly) cool. Since this is a quick recipe it only makes a few, to eat at one sitting. So you had better not copy me and be home alone whe you bake them, I said they were quick, easy and delicious, I did not say they were healthy πŸ˜‰

Clotted cream and scones for a real Devon Cream Tea

Of course, though clotted cream is delicious on its own, on biscuits (especially slightly soft ginger nuts) or with just about anything sweet or semi-sweet you care to name, the absolute best way to eat it is as a Devonshire Cream Tea. No! Any Kiwis reading this who believe a Devon Cream Tea can be approximated using whipped cream, thickened cream or some other Ersatz product – forget it! It can’t for a Devonshire Cream Tea (or even its rival and near approximation a Cornish Cream Tea) you must have proper clotted cream. (Even the stuff they sell in tins and jars that comes from factories is a mere approximation to the real thing.

Here’s how you make a quick modern version. (The real thing is made in big enamel basins over a water bath, using fresh raw cream.)

Making clotted cream

  • Take a bottle of “Fresh Cream” from the supermarket.
  • Pour it into an oven proof bowl or casserole that will allow the quantity you have to fill it 3-6cms deep
  • Put it in the oven at 80C (or if you are not sure of your thermostat maybe 70C for longer)
  • Be patient
  • …be very patient
  • Gradually the delicious “clots” will form as a skin on the cream
  • When you can be patient no longer (or after 8 hours or so) scoop off the clotted cream into a serving bowl

Nb. don’t worry if some ordinary cream is mixed with the clots the variability of texture and taste is part of the joy (part that mass-produced cream, in these days of standardised homogenised industrial dairying, cannot really deliver).

Once it’s cool (be patient again!) eat with jam (traditionally strawberry, but your favorite is probably OK) on scones.
[PS the comment below asking about clotted cream icecreams prompts me to add this note: If you are careful in scooping off only the skin you will end up with a very hard homogeneous product like commercial clotted cream. The ideal is to scoop up some of the runny cream as well each time, giving a good approximation of the texture of real farmhouse cream πŸ™‚ and the extra benefit of both greater spreadability and a slightly more economical product!]
There is considerable debate between those who put the jam on top of the cream as decoration, and those (perhaps because they value lower calories over taste, heretics!) who use the cream as decoration – provided there are approximately equal loads of cream and jam (in this ecumenical and tolerant age) either can be permitted πŸ˜‰
If you don’t have a good recipe for scones, and I had no need of one before I discovered the secret of making clotted cream πŸ™‚ here’s one adapted from Allyson Gofton.
sconesScone recipe
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
50 grams butter (or if you must margarine)
ΒΎ-1 cup goats whey or milk (ideally slightly soured – I remember my granny saving “off” milk for making her famous scones)
  • Heat the oven to 230C
  • Put the flour, baking powder and salt into the food processor, zap briefly to mix and airate.
  • Add the butter and zap till it becomes crumbs.
  • Make a well in the centre, pour in the whey or milk (start with 2/4 cup
  • Mix quickly with spatula to make a soft dough.If you need to add a little more liquid.
  • On a floured surface roll to 2-4cms thick (depending how big you like your scones).Β  Do not flatten be gentle!
  • Cut into 5cm rounds (or squares) and put on a greased baking tray. Left over whey or Brush with milk to glaze.
  • Bake at 230ΒΊC for 10-15 minutes until cooked, turning the tray round at half-time.
  • Cool on a rack till you can comfortably eat them. They can be crisped and warmed if you make them ahead of time.

Really quick and easy chocolate muffins

This recipe is as quick and easy as it gets. Just turn the oven to 170C, get a muffin tin (I love the bendy silicone ones, so easy to get the muffins out πŸ™‚ and/or some paper muffin cups.Β  Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 5 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 1/2-1 cup cacao (depending on how chocolatey you like them)
  • 1 cup sugar (I use dark brown for a lovely warm sweetness)
  • 1/2-1 cup chocolate chips or cut up chocolate bar

Then mix lightly and make a “well”. Pour in:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 egg

Stir, as gently as possible, till mixed. Spoon into the baking tin/cups. Makes 12 middling size muffins. Sprinkle with sugar or almond slivers. Bake about 15-20 mins till dry but still soft (not moist and squishy). If this batch are dry try again cooking less, till perfect or till you need a break from chocolate πŸ˜‰

Do use FairTrade cacao and chocolate, so they don’t depend on slave (or near-slave) child labour.Β  And try to keep some for tomorrow (for the sake of your own weight)!

Emergency chocolate cake

  • 75g butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Throw these in a food processor and zap till well blended (it is easier if the butter is at room temperature (but for Emergency Chocolate Cake it usually isn’t πŸ˜‰

Grease a middling size microwave-proof bowl, if you want to use a cake sized bowl then make double quantity.

Then add to the food processor:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Zap into a thick batter consistency, if it is solid add a little more milk (you can use soya etc. milk or water and milk powder).

Pour into bowl, and microwave on high for 2-3 mins till the top is firm. Cool then release onto a plate, eat while still warm, if you need a topping make extra mixture and use that (uncooked).

Chilli Beetroot Chocolate Cake

Gooey chilli beetroot chocolate cake

This moist chocolate cake with a twist of chilli is delicious and economical. 1 Though see below, there are mixed opinions in our house on how to treat the beet πŸ™‚ Β  The chilli adds a touch of interest, the beet adds colour, texture 2 Too much according to one critic πŸ˜‰ and moistens the cake. The recipe is adapted (to make it more economical and lower fat (so I can excuse eating it with cream) from one in Lifestyle Block magazine from last year..

  • 200ml cooking oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tsp Vanilla

Zapped together in the food processor, or by hand.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp (yes really!) Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Chilli powder

Sifted and mixed.

  • 1 big cooked beetroot

Either: Tim’s preferred version, grate the beet and add to the wet mix. Or: Barbara’s preference, zap the beet while you are zapping the rest of the ‘wet” mix. 3 The difference is the presence or absence of distinct soft red bits of beet in the final cake. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Pour into an oiled floured cake tin. 4 I use one with a removable bottom to make getting at the cake quicker once it is baked πŸ˜‰ Bake at 180C for about 30 mins (or maybe 35 in a non fan oven. I think it is best to remove it while the insides are still a little gooey, because that’s how I like to eat it, with cream πŸ™‚ 5 But then I’m not Vegan, Vegans should top with frosting to make up for the lack of cream πŸ˜‰

Notes   [ + ]

1. Though see below, there are mixed opinions in our house on how to treat the beet πŸ™‚
2. Too much according to one critic πŸ˜‰
3. The difference is the presence or absence of distinct soft red bits of beet in the final cake.
4. I use one with a removable bottom to make getting at the cake quicker once it is baked πŸ˜‰
5. But then I’m not Vegan, Vegans should top with frosting to make up for the lack of cream πŸ˜‰

Chocolate muffins (non-Vegan)

Chocolate muffins on a sunny Spring day πŸ™‚

Not Vegan because they use eggs, but then our freely ranging chooks produce several a day…

  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 2-3 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 cup sugar (at least some brown is nice)
  • 175 ml milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten (three if they’re from our quasi-bantam πŸ˜‰
  • 100 ml vegetable oil (soya or sunflower are good)
  • 75 g plain chocolate chunks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Set oven to 160ΒΊC (a bit more if not a fan oven, c375 in the USA).
  2. Prepare a deep muffin tin (with paper cases or if you are stuck grease) it should make a dozen
  3. Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder
  4. Add sugar mix then make a well in the centre
  5. Pour in the milk, eggs, oil, chocolate, and vanilla
  6. Gently mix
  7. SpoonΒ  into the muffin tin
  8. Bake for approximately 15 mins or until springy
  9. Cool for 10 mins then transfer to a wire rack and leave any that remain uneaten until cold before putting them away in a tin for later πŸ™‚

I made these because I needed a break after finishing the course notes, I’ve eaten three while uploading this recipe, the only changes I’d make next time, apart from making sure we had paper cups so they could stand properly tall, would be to add more vanilla (we got some proper vanilla extract and it is so much better than imitation “essence”) and to use real dark chocolate instead of Bin Inn’s best chips.

Mushroom risotto

Photo by tristanf

1 Tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions
3 garlic cloves
300g fresh mushrooms (I used half button, half portobello for cheapness and variety)
350g arborio rice
150ml white wine preferably dry
1+ litres hot vege stock
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chives, spring onions or fennel
a little more oil, Avocado is nice as well as good Extra Virgin Olive (non-Vegans can use c25g Butter)
Salt and pepper
Non Vegans can top with grated Parmesan


Cover the dried mushrooms in hot water and soak (c15 mins), drain them.

Chop the onion and garlic finely. In a heavy saucepan big enough to take the full recipe, heat the olive oil and fry chopped onion and garlic (use a low heat, the idea is to sweat them until soft, not turn them to carbon). Chop the fresh mushrooms and fry them also for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add wine and simmer, stirring often. When it has been absorbed add stock a little at a time. Keep stirring! Add stock (Remember it is important that this is hot, we don’t want to shock the poor little rice grains do we?) till the rice is tender.

Chop and add the porcini and parsley. Season and add the extra oil (or butter and Parmesan).

Lower fat vegetable oil pastry

This recipe (as well as being truly vegan 1 apart from the egg glaze – for which vegans will substitute soy milk. has no saturated or hydrogenated fat) for a lower fat pastry works well 2 Actually I’ve only tried the savoury version, but I imagine the sweet one does too πŸ˜‰

I found it on UK site “Grow your own Fruit and Vegetables” here. The writer does not give a name but developed the technique themself. I’ve tried it and it works.

Low fat pastry for a 20cm pie

  • 225g (8oz) flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs sugar (for sweet pastry omit this for savoury dishes)
  • 50g (2oz) vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
  • 4-5 Tbs water
  • 1 egg to glaze (Vegans use soy milk)

Whisk the water and oil in a small bowl with a fork, it will quite soon turn to a cloudy emulsified mixture.

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl add salt (and for sweet pastry sugar).

Pour liquid into flour and pull together till it binds. If the mixture is too dry, add a little cold water. Do not overwork it or the pastry will become tough. (Barbara has been watching Britain’s Bake-off on TV so this lesson was drummed into me πŸ˜‰

Roll out thin and place (roughly half) onto the bottom of a well oiled pie plate. Patch any holes, brush with egg (this helps it become waterproof). Bake blind for 15 min at 210 C.

Add the filling and use the rest of the pastry to cover the pie, this time brush the outside with egg to glaze. Bake at 210 C until the top is brown and crisp πŸ™‚


Regular pastry uses lots of saturated or hydrogenated fat which makes it crisp and acts as waterproofing to keep the filling from making the pastry soggy. There are two things you can do to reduce this problem with low fat pastry:

  1. brush well with egg (yes, not just the top for decoration but the base of the pie too, to seal it)
  2. bake the base “blind” 3 Which means you bake the case before putting in the filling with ordinary (high fat) pastry this step is optional, while you can avoid it here you risk a soggy bottom πŸ˜‰


Notes   [ + ]

1. apart from the egg glaze – for which vegans will substitute soy milk.
2. Actually I’ve only tried the savoury version, but I imagine the sweet one does too πŸ˜‰
3. Which means you bake the case before putting in the filling