Cheese. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best foods ever invented. There are so many different varieties with so many different uses. From tiramisu to pizza to cutting out the middle man and going straight in for a fondue, a small amount of cheese can lift a dish from good to truly sublime.
The methods of making cheese have been refined a lot over history with the earliest record of cheese being over 7500 years ago! Cheese evolved differently in different areas of world depending on the climate. Hotter climates gave rise to hard, salted cheeses as it prevented the cheese from turning however in Europe, the climate was much milder so cheeses could be aged for longer and with less salt resulting in cheese that could grow moulds leading to stronger flavours.
In terms of sweet dishes made from cheese, the most common is cheesecake however even this has changed dramatically over the years. 200 years ago – you couldn’t buy cream cheese to use and would have to make your own curds every time you made the cake. This lead to it having more of an eggy, ricotta-like flavour and texture rather than the luscious smoothness of today’s cheesecakes. Cream cheese frosting is another example of a savoury item being used for a sweet dish. The bizarre thing about this icing is that cream cheese varies massively by country. The standard recipes use American block cream cheese which is very thick however here in England, the most widely available brands are far softer and turn very runny when they are beaten making the icing turn to liquid!
Macaroni cheese has been a family staple for as long as I can remember. It has been a tradition on Yom Kippur to break the fast on cauliflower cheese however my mum would make macaroni cheese for the children – me included. Hunger is definitely the best condiment because no matter how amazing this tastes normally, when you haven’t eaten for 25 hours, it is just that little bit better! Since then I have taken the recipe up to university and continued breaking the fast on in when Yom Kippur falls during the university term. The macaroni cheese keeps well and also freezes but it isn’t often that there is enough left for that to ever be an issue!
Preparation time – 20 minutes Cook time – 40 minutes
Serves – 4-6 Cost per portion: about 90p
200g Cheddar – grated
200g Red Leicester – grated
40g plain flour
1 pint milk (full fat gets the best flavour but I will use whatever I have around!)
500g dried macaroni
Cayenne Pepper (a pinch)
Nutmeg (a few grates)
One Bay Leaf
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C)
Boil a pan of salted water.
Place the flour, butter, milk, salt, cayenne pepper, bay leaf and a little grated nutmeg into a heavy based pan.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about a minute less than the packet says
Heat the sauce mix whisking continuously until it has thickened and is almost boiling – this should take about as long as the pasta.
Drain the pasta and stir in a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent it sticking during the next stage.
Stir three quarters of the grated cheeses into the sauce (off the heat) and season with black pepper to taste.
Stir the sauce into the pasta and make sure it is all evenly coated.
Pour into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese over the dish.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is starting to brown and the macaroni cheese is bubbling.
Spoon onto plates or into bowls and serve immediately!
Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo across or tag me on Instagram at harryshomebakery! I love seeing what you guys create at home.
Let’s talk about birthdays. I love birthdays – not just my own! I always find it incredibly stressful buying presents, especially at university. It’s really easy to get presents for your good friends as you know them but if you don’t know the person as well, what do you do? I have found that baking someone a personalised birthday cake just for them is a perfect replacement as it shows you are willing to put in a lot of effort for the person and you can tailor the cake to that persons tastes. The chocolate and orange cake in this recipe is a perfect example of this. I first made this cake during exam season last year during a large gap between exams when I was stress baking. I ended up giving most of it away as not only do I stress bake but my appetite goes down so I don’t want to eat what I make! One of my friends has just turned 22 and I ended up remaking it as his birthday cake as he really liked it last time.
This cake is wonderful as the syrup keeps it nice and moist and can give a bit of a kick if that’s what you want. It is also super adaptable as you don’t have to add the ganache which does make the whole cake a little easier to make or alternatively, you can cover the entire cake in the ganache for a beautiful shiny finish. You can also just not include the chocolate for a lovely orange cake which you can decorate with candied peel and piping work.
I like to make my own decorations for cakes which can be themed to the event the cake is for. For the cake in this recipe, I made mini orange meringues. This was more to test out the new Aga than to use meringues as decorations but luckily, they worked really well so I was able to use them on the cake. The other decoration (the chocolate nest) was made by piping tempered chocolate into a glass of Bacardi which had been in the freezer for a few hours. This meant that the chocolate set immediately into beautiful winding 3D shapes which I could then place on the cake.
The recipe below doesn’t include the decorations however I will do a post about different types of decorations in the next few weeks.
For the Cake:
280g (10 oz.) Butter
280g (10 oz.)Sugar
280g (10 oz.) Plain Flour
5 tsp baking powder
Rind of 1 Orange
1 tsp Orange Extract
For the Syrup:
Juice of one orange
50 g sugar
¼ cup water
Triple sec/Cointreau (optional)
For the Icing:
375g Icing sugar (sifted)
150g Dark Chocolate
2 tbsp Cocoa
1 tsp Orange Extract
For the Ganache
150g Dark Chocolate
150ml Double Cream
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C) and line three 8 inch baking trays.
Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the grated orange rind and the orange extract and beat again.
Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each egg beating after each addition.
Pour in the rest of the flour and beat until just combined.
Pour into the baking tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
While the cakes are cooling, you can make the syrup and the icing.
For the syrup, combine all the ingredients – excluding the alcohol – in a pan.
Bring to a boil making sure that all the sugar has dissolved and then remove the pan from the heat and leave the syrup to cool. Then add the triple sec.
For the icing, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.
Add the sifted icing sugar a bit a time and beat until the icing is smooth and glossy.
Add the orange extract and cocoa and beat again.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave remembering to stir every 20 seconds to prevent it burning!
Pour the chocolate in and beat again. Do not do this with the beaters running as they will just knock the chocolate onto the sides of the bowl which is not particularly useful…
To assemble the cake, attach the first layer to the cake board or plate with a tiny amount of icing.
Brush a layer of syrup onto the top of the cake to keep it moist and then add a layer of buttercream
Repeat with the next two layers adding them upside down to give a smooth top to the cake.
Cover the entire cake in a thinnish layer of buttercream – there should be just enough left to do this without the cake peeking through too much!
Place the cake in the fridge for a few hours to firm up the buttercream before adding the ganache
For a raindrop look, heat up the cream in a pan and add to the dark chocolate in a bowl.
Leave for at least two minutes for the chocolate to melt and then stir until combined.
When the ganache is at room temperature, pour it into the centre of the cake and spread it evenly over the top of the cake.
Using a spoon or a piping bag, pour some extra ganache over the edges of the cake and let it run down the side.
To coat the cake completely in ganache, double the quantities in the recipe.
Decorate the cake with chocolate and orange decorations.
Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo across or tag me on Instagram at thatcookingthing! I love seeing what you guys create at home.
I first came up with this recipe a couple of years ago at uni when I was introduced to the wonderful world of dumplings by one of my housemates at university. The dumplings that she makes use pork as their base meat and because I don’t eat pork, I ended up using turkey and beef instead. The recipe is adapted from the recipe for turkey dumpling filling which I use. I will get onto dumplings in a later blog post because they are just amazing! I definitely benefited from living with such an accomplished cook at university. One of my favourite dished that I was taught was for sticky salmon and you can check out the recipe for that on her blog Yan and the Yums. I would recommend it as the recipe is super simple and will wow your friends and family!
Back to the turkey burgers, I tend to get several meals out of each recipe. If I eat them with a bun, I will eat one burger per serving but if not using a bun, I would recommend serving two burgers per person. Obviously, the larger you make the burgers, the fewer you will get out of the recipe! I love spices in food and as you will notice as this blog goes on, many of the recipes have a base of spring onions, ginger and almost always garlic.
On a separate note, I have just moved into my house for the fourth year of university so don’t be alarmed if my photos suddenly have a different background! We have and Aga this year and I am used to cooking on a gas hob and a fan oven. I will continue giving all my cooking times and such as if I was using a standard oven and hob like at home as the Aga cooks faster than I am used to!
Spiced turkey burgers
Makes 6-8 Burgers Price per Portion – around 75p per burger
Finely chop the spring onions and put into a bowl.
Finely chop the garlic, ginger and chilli and add to the spring onions. I like the taste of the garlic and ginger to be quite strong but if you prefer them to be more subtle, just use a little less! The same applies for the chilli as I like my food quite spicy.
Add the eggs and if you are using them, the salt, pepper and soy sauce.
Mix together until the egg loses its gelatinous quality and is a little foamy
Add in the turkey mince a bit at a time and mix until everything is just combined. Do not over mix or the mince will turn to mush!
If you wish to add a handful of breadcrumbs, they will help absorb any excess moisture from the meat.
Heat a frying pan with a little oil in it (maybe half a centimetre or so)
Take a large dollop of mixture and using moistened hands, shape it into a burger patty and place it in the pan. I tend to be able to get two or three in the pan at a time.
Make sure the burgers don’t stick but other than that try not to touch them for about five minutes until the meat and egg starts to cook which will give the burgers structure.
Flip the burgers and cook for five minutes on the other side. If they brown too quickly, turn down the heat. Make sure the burgers are fully cooked before eating.
I serve the burgers with a sweet and spicy sesame sauce made with two tablespoons of tahini, a healthy teaspoon of Sriracha (chilli sauce) and two teaspoons of runny honey. Obviously you can play with proportions to how you are feeling at the time. There’s nothing like trial and error to work out what you like!
Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo across or tag me on Instagram at Harryshomebakery! I love seeing what you guys create at home.
See here for the last recipe from my Cooking from Basics series – deliciously perfect homemade pizza or here if you fancy trying you hand at making a death by chocolate tart with 4 types of chocolate and a salted caramel layer!
Have a good one and I’ll see you next Monday with a recipe for an orange and chocolate layer cake with a shiny ganache coating and fragrant orange scented booze soaked layers!
As promised last week, I return with the most amazing chocolate tart you will ever make. It contains not one, not two but four types of chocolate and a hidden layer of caramel. To be honest, this tart should probably come with a myriad of health warnings and possibly an ambulance on speed dial but it is 100% worth it!
I love making caramel. It can be a little bit daunting the first time and you do need to be careful as the melted sugar is very hot however homemade caramel is just so superior to shop bought that in my opinion, it is very much worth a little extra time making the filling instead of buying it. WARNING – melted sugar will burn instantly. If you do get any on you, immediately stop what you are doing (the tart can wait –you can not) and hold the area under cold water for at least 5 minutes if not more. It will hurt but isn’t too serious.
You have a couple of options when it comes to melting sugar for caramels or decorations. The slower but more controlled method which I use if I need a specific temperature of sugar or don’t want a deep golden caramel involves melting the sugar with a small amount of water and then boiling the sugar syrup until it achieved the desired temperature. This is particularly useful for making a large batch of caramel for things like a croquembouche. The other method, the one used in this recipe, involved holding your nerve a bit and directly melting the sugar in a pan. I am unashamed to admit that it took me about 5 years to become confident enough in my culinary skills to attempt this method instead of the syrup one.
Caramel is produced when you drive water away from sugar by heating it. If making large amounts, you will quite often add glucose syrup or a small amount of vinegar as it helps invert the sugar preventing crystallisation which will ruin your dish. This is where the caramel will suddenly turn solid and brittle again and no amount of heating can save it. You just have to start again! To prevent crystallisation, you should never stir the boiling sugar syrup once the sugar has all dissolved in the water and if making it via the more direct approach, treat the sugar incredibly carefully as it is a real diva in the kitchen. Inverting sugar is not always necessary as you can buy Invert Sugar Syrup in some areas however you don’t need it for this recipe! It occurs as glucose and fructose are isomers (they have the same chemical composition, just in a different formation. Think of them as anagrams of each other). The colour of the caramel comes in part from the long chain carbohydrates contained (24, 36 and 80 carbon atoms long!) and also from by products produced when the sugar is heated.
This tart is particularly good at a dinner party. Wow your guests with a delicious homemade dessert which looks like you’ve just picked it up from a professional patisserie. Serving it with fresh fruit like strawberries can give it some semblance of health even though we all know it’s only for show! You can also use this recipe to make mini tartlets which is what I do if I have enough excess pastry
Quadruple Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart
Preparation:1 hour 10 minutes
160g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
1 Large egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla
225g caster sugar
100ml double cream
125g salted butter
300g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
100g white chocolate
50g unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla
For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, cocoa and butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it appears as fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour and stir in the other dry ingredients.
Make a well in the centre and add the vanilla and the egg yolk.
Mix until just combined, pour onto a worktop and knead until a homogenous dough is formed but do not overwork the dough!
Put the dough into the fridge to rest for an hour.
Preheat your oven to gas mark 5 (190oC).
Roll out the dough and line a 9 or 10 inch tart pan preferably, one that has a removable base – you may have to wait a few minutes for the dough to soften up.
Trim the excess dough leaving a little hanging off round the edge – this is so that if the dough shrinks, the excess dough will make sure the tart doesn’t lose height. Alternatively, you can trim all the excess dough off and then place the lined case in the freezer for another half hour to make it really firm which should prevent shrinking altogether.
Prick the bottom of the pastry case with a fork so it doesn’t crack, line it with foil and pour in baking beads (or rice/pasta/lentils if you don’t have them) – this prevents the case from bubbling up and keeps the base nice and flat.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beads and bake for another 10 minutes so the pastry case if fully cooked.
If you still have bits of pastry overhanging the tin, use a sharp knife to trim off the edges and neaten it up.
To make the caramel, place a third of the sugar in a heavy based steel pan – non-stick pans encourage crystallisation which ruins caramel.
Heat the sugar on a medium heat and as it starts to melt, use a wooden spoon to gently move some of the unmelted sugar into the melted areas. Move the pan on the hob so no area gets too dark when melting. You don’t want to burn the sugar. Turn the pan onto a medium to low light for the rest of this.
Once about half of the sugar in the pan has melted, sprinkle on half the remaining sugar and gently stir the melted areas. The sugar may start to clump but don’t worry!
As more of the sugar melts, sprinkle on the remaining sugar and continue to agitate the melted areas in the pan to prevent burning and to bring the unmelted sugar into contact with the heat.
Once the sugar has all melted, you should have a light caramel. If it is cloudy, that means not all the sugar has melted! Swirl the sugar in the pan a little to help stir it but at this point, do not use the spoon as it will make the sugar crystallise.
When the caramel is clear, continue heating slowly until it is a deep golden colour. Swirling it gently will help mixing it in the pan so it doesn’t burn.
The moment the caramel is a rich golden brown, remove it from the heat and immediately pour in the double cream. BE CAREFUL – the cream will bubble and steam vigorously so make sure you are using a big pan so it doesn’t spit out of the pan. Stir the caramel to make sure it is all mixed. The area with the cream may be thicker than the melted sugar as it is cooled a little but it will remelt and everything will mix together nicely.
Let the caramel cool for a couple of minutes and then add in the butter chopped into cubes or slices.
Stir in the butter as it melts and once it has all melted and mixed together, pour it into the pastry case – you don’t need to wait for it to cool!
N.B – if you are unlucky, the caramel may split when you add the butter and you will end up with an oily layer on top. If this happens, let the caramel sit for a few minutes to separate out and then spoon off the oil that appears at the top.
Chop your chocolates and place in bowls – make sure the dark chocolate is in a large bowl as the others will be added at a later point!
Add 30g of butter to the dark chocolate, 20g to the milk chocolate and half a teaspoon of vanilla to the white chocolate.
Heat the cream until it’ just about to boil and then add 275ml to the dark chocolate, 150ml to the milk chocolate and 75ml to the white.
Let the chocolate stand in the cream for 2 minutes and then stir each bowl until it is filled with a smooth chocolate ganache.
Take a little of the dark chocolate ganache and put it off to the side – this is for decorating later.
Pour the milk and white chocolate ganaches into the dark chocolate making sure not to scrape the bowl out as the leftovers in the bowls are used for decorating.
Use a skewer to mix the ganaches – BUT ONLY A LITTLE – you want the variation in ganaches inside the tart.
Pour the filling into the tart filling it but not quite to bursting!
Use the leftover dark, milk, and white chocolate ganaches to spoon blobs and lines over the top of the tart.
Use a skewer to swirl the chocolate filling to give a beautiful and professional finish – don’t catch the caramel layer when doing this!
Let the tart set in the fridge for a couple of hours or even overnight to fully harden up.
When serving, place your knife in a jug of hot water and then wipe it off on a tea towel before cutting. This helps make the cuts incredibly clean and prevents the filling sticking to the knife too much.
Serve with a little cream and a selection of berries.
This is one of my favourite desserts and I hope it will be one of yours too! As an added bonus, this tart also freezes really well – assuming you have any left!
Let me know if you try this at yourselves and give me a tag on instagram (@thatcookingthing)! I love seeing what you guys create at home.
See here for the last recipe from my Baking series – the gooeyest chocolate brownies you can find or here if you fancy making a delicious dinner of homemade pizza!
Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with an exciting recipe for spiced turkey burgers. Fab for using up odds and ends and wonderful as a filling for other dishes too!
As a student, I don’t often get the opportunity to make pizza from scratch as I just don’t have the time to make the dough. Of course you could buy in bases or even just pop down to the local take away but the difference in quality is phenomenal! Not only is it far, far cheaper to make yourself, but you can make sure you have the toppings you want on it without having the faff of spending 10 minutes deciding what you want off the menu. This recipe does take time – there are no two ways about that however like all recipes with bread involved, you will have a couple of hours in the middle in which to do what you want.
I have only done this a couple of times at university because of the time constraints however homemade pizza is a good home recipe too – especially in the holidays. Be careful though as it is very easy to overeat these as they are just so delicious! I like to have mine with chilli, sweetcorn, chicken and I’m getting into onions too. Whilst personally, I am very much against pineapple on pizza, I do appreciate that for some people, it is a fantastic topping and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make personal pizzas that don’t need sharing so no one can complain! I would always advise using precooked meats just in case as you don’t want to eat raw meat and get ill – especially if you have to study for exams.
This is a particularly good recipe for house meals as you can just make the pizzas larger and share them around and they are genuinely so much better than the ones you would buy on the way home from a night out. I love a good greasy take-out pizza however these can be far healthier – using low fat cheese or even cheeseless pizzas can be a good way of using up leftover vegetables and meats without too many calories.
The recipe I use includes a technique I have not yet covered on this blog – rubbing in. This is where you combine flour and fat in a way which keeps the fat from melting and makes sure the mixture is light and airy. Using the tips of your fingers, take a little of the mix in each hand and lift them above the bowl. Use you thumbs to brush the mix back out of your hands and into the bowl rubbing the fat into the flour as it falls through your fingers. Repeat this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It may look like nothing is happening at the start but trust me, it will all come together in the end. Just remember, if you really can’t get a technique to work for you, YouTube it! I have learnt a lot of new techniques by watching videos because I find it far easier to understand when I can see what is going on.
The dough also freezes nicely so if you are cooking for two, the third portion can be popped in the freezer – just make sure to defrost it fully and let it warm up to room temperature before using – or it can be used to make a garlic bread (spread over butter, minced garlic and parsley if you have it) or doughballs! If you want to cook for 4 people, multiply the recipe by one and a half but don’t increase the yeast! Once sachet can be used for up to 750g of flour – it might take a little longer to rise but it will still have an amazing flavour.
50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)
1 sachet instant yeast (7g)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
Grind of pepper
Grated hard cheese like parmesan
500ml Tomato Passata/ 1 tube of tomato paste
A few cloves of garlic
375g Mozarella grated
If you are using passata, heat it in a pan and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of sugar.
Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.
While the passata is cooking, place the flour in a large bowl, cube the butter and rub it in until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. (If you wish to flavour the dough, stir in the extra ingredients now!)
Make a well in the centre, pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the outside of the bowl at even intervals.
Pour in the water and oil and mix to combine.
Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
Turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).
Pour out the dough and divide into portions.
Roll the dough out until it fits the pizza pan you are using or until it has a radius of about 10 inches.
Spread out the thickened passata onto the pizza bases leaving about half an inch around the outside. Alternatively, if you are using paste from a tube, squeeze it into a bowl and add some water to thin it out a bit so you can spread it over the pizzas.
Sprinkle on the mozzarella trying not to get it on the dough around the edge of the bases
Add toppings of your choice.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
This meal is so amazingly yummy, I wish I could have it more often but it isn’t economical. It is however, perfect for a special event like having friends over or a date night or even if you just deserve a treat!
Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo in the comments! I love seeing what you guys create at home.
I love chocolate brownies. They are some of the most amazing things to have been created in the kitchen however they still cause dispute between people who make them. Should they be cakey? Should they be fudgy? Personally, I fall very strongly on the fudgy side of the argument. If I wanted something chocolatey with a cake like texture, I would make a chocolate cake, not a chocolate brownie! These brownies are about as fudgy as you can get. You need to watch out though as with such a high butter and chocolate content, they are liable to soften up in the heat if you make them in summer and whilst not an issue if you are at home, this can cause problems if you are taking them on a picnic! Try adding an extra minute or two to the cooking time if you know they brownies will be in the heat for an extended time before you eat them as they will stay fudgy but won’t melt everywhere which from experience, is incredibly messy (but really, really yummy)!
The fudgy chocolate brownie is generally accepted to be a descendent of the Bangor Brownie. This came about after the creation of brownies in the late 1890s and in the 1900s, the Bangor Brownie with its fudgy, dense texture was created. It differed from the original brownies by adding extra chocolate and eggs to the mixture. The recipe I am using today is a take on the Nigella Lawson recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess – a book I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who enjoys baking. Unlike Nigella, I do not put walnuts into the brownies and have been known to add chocolate chips to them.
They are very simple to make too requiring minimal experience and always go down well. Not only that but you don’t have to eat them just as brownies. If you are hosting a dinner party or having friends over, chocolate brownies make a wonderful base for a dessert or can be warmed up and served with ice cream. Baking times really do vary dramatically by oven so making something like brownies a couple of times is a good way to get to know your oven and also leaves some rather nice leftovers.
If you are feeling adventurous, why not try adding a swirl of caramel or peanut butter (thinned down with a little milk and sugar to make it smooth) into your batter in the tins to make the brownies a little more exciting? You could also add small pieces of fudge, candied orange peel, chopped nuts or a tiny amount of coffee to add to the flavour and texture.
Prep time 25 minutes, cook time 25 minutes
375g dark chocolate
375g unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
100g white chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)
100g dark chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180oC)
Line two eight inch square pans with baking parchment
Place the butter and dark chocolate into a large, thick based pan together and heat on a low light until it has all melted and combined. Keep stirring to prevent the chocolate from burning. I have also found that putting the butter into the pan first helps prevent the chocolate from catching.
Measure out the sugar and the eggs into a jug
Add the vanilla to them and beat until they have all come together
Once the butter and chocolate have melted together, remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute if it feels hot to prevent the egg from curdling when it is added.
When the chocolate mixture is slightly warm, slowly pour in the eggs and sugar whilst stirring to combine it all together – depending on the temperature of the chocolate at this point, the combined mixture may thicken slightly as the egg is added
Once all the other ingredients are combined, slowly stir through the flour in two or three batches making sure that there are no clumps left over. I tend to do this with the balloon whisk that I use for beating the eggs and sugar earlier
Add in the chocolate chips and stir through and immediately divide the mixture between the baking pans to make sure the chips don’t melt into the rest of the batter
Bake for about 23/24 minutes or until the surface looks cracked and there is a slight wobble. The brownies will still cook a little after they are removed from the oven but make sure they are not raw in the middle!
Once the brownies are cool place them in the fridge to firm up before cutting as they can be really fudgy if they aren’t quite cooked enough for the flour to set.
Let me know how these went for you in the comments – I love seeing what you guys have been making at home! See here for last week’s Cooking from Basics recipe for Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake and here for the last recipe in the Baking section, Artisan Loaves.
Pasta bakes have been a staple of my lunches since going to university. They are relatively economical, can be made with pretty much anything you have (including leftovers) and are delicious. You can use them to make a small amount of meat go very far which I have found to be a life saver when you are living off a student loan. They tend to freeze well and are also quite sturdy so once cooked, portions can be cut and put either in boxes or just wrapped in Clingfilm before being put in the freezer as the pasta has enough structural integrity to hold its shape when cool. This meant taking a slice of it in my bag to lectures was a simple task and provided me will a filling lunch during the day.
One of the things I find really interesting about this dish in particular (and to be honest, any dish involving mushrooms) is how they cook. As the fruiting bodies of a fungus, mushrooms hide beneath the soil and once ready to produce spores, they absorb liquid – rain in the wild – and sprout. They can appear out of nowhere overnight but this property is also what leads to them being very easy to burn when cooking. When you first add the mushrooms to an oiled pan, they absorb all the oil up too resulting in basically dry frying them. This can cause them to burn if they aren’t stirred constantly which is a faff if you are trying to get on with another part of the meal. To avoid this, small amounts of water can also be added which again, will be absorbed but if you manage your proportions well, can leave just enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms get to a certain temperature, the heat breaks down the cells holding in the liquid resulting in the mushrooms releasing any water, juice and oil which is contained in them also causing them to shrink which is why the reduce down so much in volume whilst cooking.
The other interesting part of this dish (from a science perspective) is the cornflour. When I was younger, I used to be allowed to play with cornflour as a treat if I was well behaved. Whilst this was a messy, messy endeavour for all involved it did have the benefit of being an introduction to quite a complicated bit of science, the non-Newtonian fluid. As a small child, few things were more exciting than this bizarre mixture that ran through my fingers and I could sink my hand into but if I tried to jerk it out again, the mixture would turn solid and shatter with enough force. Even now as a 21 year old, I find it fascinating! In this recipe, you can only have this fun before the cornflour is added to the sauce as the moment it is mixed in, it thickens up massively giving the sauce a smooth texture.
Mushroom Chicken Pasta Bake – about £1.90 per portion, makes 6 portions
2 Large Onions (or three medium/small)
500g mushrooms roughly chopped
2 chicken breasts – cubed
½ cup of milk (125ml)
4 tbsp of cornflour
400g pasta shapes – I use spirals normally
Salt and pepper
Dice up the onions and sautee in a pan with a small amount of oil.
Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and a small amount of water (I would go for about two tablespoons). This helps prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their liquid. (Should you wish to add garlic, one or two cloves either diced or minced should be added at this point)
Add the chicken and stir until it is sealed (that is to say that the outside of all the chicken has gone white.
Add the milk and bring to the boil
Add the stock – if powder, just sprinkle it in and if it is a cube, crumble it up into the mix and stir it through
Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to create a slurry and add it a bit at a time to the mixture making sure that you stir well after each addition and wait for the sauce to thicken up before you add more. If there is more liquid in the sauce, you will need more of the cornflour but you may not need it all!
Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and then remove from the heat.
Season with salt and pepper and add the basil or parsley at this point
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC) and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the bag.
Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour it all into an ovenproof dish pushing any exposed pieces of chicken down below the surface
Add a layer or grated cheese over the top and place in the oven. Personally I use cheddar for this but you could use any cheese that you like (though I would avoid blue cheese in this scenario as I don’t think it would go with the chicken and mushrooms particularly well!)
Bake for half an hour or until the cheese has melted and the top layer has gone crispy.
For a vegetarian alternative, use more mushrooms instead of the chicken! It is still delicious and will reduce the price too.
This can be eaten cold and freezes well.
Whether batch cooking for yourself or making dinner for friends, this recipe is wonderful for many occations and is super versatile. You can add or take away ingredients or even change up the sauce completely to keep things fresh. Personally, chicken and mushroom is a favourite of mine so I tend to make this one quite a lot!
Let me know in the comments if you try this one yourself and pop a picture in if you can!
See here for the last recipe in the Cooking From Basics series – a delicious bolognaise sauce – or if you fancy trying your hand at some bread making, why not have a look at my recipe for Artisan Bread from last week.
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a super chocolatey recipe that you do not want to miss!!!