Saturday, February 13, 2016

Rebooting Sour Cherry Rocky Road - the Silver Lining!

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It's not Valentine's Day anymore. It has been rebooted as Generosity Day - it's the day you make Sour Cherry Rocky Road, cut it into bite-sized bits, and take it to wherever there are people you love (or simply like).



Sometimes ...  often  ... ok ... practically all the time, life doesn’t go according to plan. The road ahead usually has a few lumps and bumps lurking, ready to trip us up as soon as we cast our attention elsewhere...
... Like last month: I dropped my ice cream maker (my priceless €1 machine – maker of strawberry and rose petal ice cream); totalled my food processor (Note to self: remove the sheath from the blade before attempting to use the machine); and annihilated my electric whisk – don’t ask!  
... Like last week, when my sister Catherine made pizza from scratch... It took a detour on the way to the oven and belly-flopped onto her cat... the bad-tempered one... with the six-inch claws and the kleptomaniac tendencies (cat, not sister!). I foresee a shredded sofa and further apologies to the neighbours as the evil creature wanders home with yet another gold trinket clenched in its teeth...
... Like this morning, when a daydreaming commuter – yay, not me for a change - scurried onto an escalator clearly marked OUT OF ORDER - and stood there with an expression of utter bewilderment as he went nowhere fast and hundreds of cackling commuters sailed past him on the one that was actually working...
The good news is that life’s little wrinkles can often work out for the best. Most lumps and bumps can have a silver lining... like when I drop my heavy cookery notebook on my foot (bump, lump) and a little scrap of cardboard falls out. It’s my sister Veronica’s incredible Rocky Road recipe (silver lining).
In general I HATE marshmallow, I HATE desiccated coconut, and I’m not particularly fond of milk chocolate either. However when these ingredients get together with crunchy salty nuts and chewy sour cherries and go skinny dipping in dark chocolate, magic happens. I will happily eat this version by the kilo – leading to further lumps and bumps if indulged too often.  

Here is Veronica's original recipe...
When simple ingredients go skinny dipping in melted chocolate, magic happens!

This translates as...
300g milk chocolate (decent stuff, not cooking chocolate)
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
90g mini marshmallows (or large marshmallows, snipped into pieces with a scissors)
80g white chocolate, roughly chopped
80g dried sour cherries (dried cranberries are good too)
75g salted jumbo peanuts
75g salted almonds
50g desiccated coconut, toasted* 

1                    First, line the base of a 30cm x 20cm baking tin with baking parchment.
2                    Then, break the milk chocolate and dark chocolate into pieces and place together in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (the base of the bowl mustn’t touch the water or the chocolate can turn grainy). Stir occasionally until melted.
3                    Add the rest of the ingredients to the melted chocolate and stir until everything is well coated. Transfer to the baking tin and leave to cool. When the chocolate is set, remove from the tin and cut into pieces - bitesized or boulders – that bit is up to you.
* I toasted the coconut in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. This task only takes a few minutes but requires a close eye because as soon as you look away, the coconut will burn in an instant.
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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vanilla Orange Caramel Pancake Sauce – Mardi Gras for your mouth!

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Pancakes and crêpes are nothing on their own. Left to their own devices they would never go out. Savoury or sweet, they depend on fillings and dressings to give them a social life.

Though I’m a fiend for maple syrup, sometimes something as simple as a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice is just the thing to make a pancake interesting. However, for a real taste of Carnival, my current favourite is this zingy vanilla orange caramel sauce.  Pour the hot syrup over pancakes or crêpes and feel your taste buds samba!

The sauce thickens as it cools and if there is any left over, it’s delicious, cold, on ice cream.



For approximately 150mls of sweet, zingy caramel sauce you will need…
150g caster sugar
10g salted butter
zest of one orange, finely grated or cut into shreds
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
100mls fresh orange juice

You will need to exercise a little caution – melted sugar is extremely hot.

You will also need a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed, light-coloured saucepan (light-coloured so you can see the sugar change colour as it melts and judge easily when to take it off the heat.)



Put the sugar in an even layer in the pan and place the pan over a medium heat, supervising it constantly until the sugar has melted. You will need to swirl the pan occasionally so that the sugar melts evenly. I prefer to swirl rather than stir as over-stirring can cause the sugar to clump, however a little gentle poking at the melting mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula won’t hurt.

Another swirl or two will capture those sugar crystals on the side

Once the sugar has melted, keep it over the heat until it has turned a rich amber colour and starts to smell like caramel. Watch the pan like a hawk as the melted sugar can burn quickly and become bitter (if that happens, start again).


The caramel is ready when it smells like caramel and is a rich amber colour
Now add the butter, stirring until it has melted into the caramel, then add the orange zest, and vanilla and stir to incorporate.



Add the orange juice in a steady stream, stirring until you have a smooth syrup. It will bubble furiously and the cold juice may cause the caramel to solidify in places.  If this happens,  just keep stirring over the heat and any blobs of caramel will eventually melt back in to the sauce.

Bubbling furiously

Once you have a smooth sauce, remove from the heat.

This sauce can be made ahead and served hot or cold. If using hot, remember that it is super hot and warn people accordingly. As it cools it thickens up and is delicious with ice cream.

To serve hot, reheat in a saucepan over a medium heat and then pour over hot pancakes. You could also prepare (or buy) your pancakes ahead and reheat them in the sauce as in the picture below.


Pancakes ready to party!

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