Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Heavy Little Pick Me Up


I’ve many favourite desserts; depending on the time of day that you ask me the answer could be different every time. But one of my favourite favourites is tiramisu, that heavenly Italian dessert which never fails to pick me up. That’s probably got a lot to do with the strong coffee, dusting of chocolate and pillowy gorgeousness of a mascarpone cheese and fluffed up egg white mixture. When done right, tiramisu is like a gift from the heavens. The only problem with said dessert is that it contains an impressive amount of sinful ingredients and yet inexplicably gets away with it and tastes light as a feather. I can’t order tiramisu in a restaurant because the calorific sliver presented is never enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and yet I know just how bad that tiny piece is for me. I once ordered tiramisu at Jamie’s Italian and was almost inconsolable at the tiny smear on a plate that was supposed to constitute dessert. I guess this is what happens when chefs who campaign against unhealthy eating and obesity serve dessert – judgement on your lifestyle choices. “Sure, you can have dessert but you did have a big bowl of pasta and some polenta chips, so this tiny portion is all you’re getting for dessert. You greedy pig”. Never mind the fact I’M OUT FOR DINNER AND TREATING MYSELF, Jamie knows best. Regular readers know about my mixed feelings towards Mr Oliver, and safe to say recalling this unfortunate run in with his tiramisu has put him back in my bad books.

So I save tiramisu for when I can eat lots of it, preferably behind closed doors and with the curtains fully drawn (the Waitrose Essential tiramisu is a favourite of mine, and yes, it does qualify as an essential item in my eyes). I’m not proud of it, but it’s the only way I can satisfy the craving for it without ordering four portions in a restaurant and feeling thoroughly judged (as I rightly should be).
But hold on a second there Hayles, I might have come across a solution, for I have found a tiramisu recipe that not only contains sinful amounts of everything but also tastes as if it does too. Problem solved! The recipe I found was for tiramisu brownies and combines two great loves of mine. A warm, gooey brownie topped with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle of chocolate sauce is another favourite favourite dessert of mine after all, so how could this combination let me down? Well, as it turns out it did a little, although with a bit of tweaking it has the potential to be stunning.

It’s a fairly simple recipe, you throw together a basic brownie recipe, top it with coffee soaked sponge fingers then smother it with a mascarpone, cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and egg white mixture. Bake in the oven and then voila, tiramisu brownies at your service. I should warn you now that the cheese and egg white mixture was absolutely divine raw and would be perfect simply on its own as a milkshake with only a straw to accessorise. Of course, the problem with this advice is that were you to take it up, your arteries would fur up instantaneously and your trouser buttons would pop off within seconds, but taste wise you can’t really knock it. Tis the way with mascarpone, it’s insanely good in a dessert but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s cheese and therefore loaded with saturated fat. Decadent. And before you ‘tsk’ me at the notion of a pregnant woman eating a mixture containing raw egg, let me tell you I’ve done my research. When someone tells me I can’t eat something, believe you me I want to know why. So I’m definitely keeping away from the pate, the stilton and the wine, but when it comes to raw eggs I’m a little more cavalier. The reason pregnant women are advised not to eat raw or undercooked eggs is because of the risk of salmonella (which by the way does not harm the baby but can make the woman very ill), which it turns out has practically been eradicated from eggs in the past decade. Check your box of eggs and if you see a red lion stamp on the box or the eggs, it means the chickens have been vaccinated against salmonella and the risk of catching it is extremely small. Turns out the UK has the safest eggs in the world (but don’t take my word for it, get the lowdown here: and you are more likely to get food poisoning from your local takeaway or imported eggs, yet no one tells pregnant women to avoid a chicken chow mein. Obviously don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with doing, but if you buy British eggs with the red lion stamp on them, you’re probably not going to get salmonella. I’ve been eating cake mix and dipping soldiers into runny yolks since I was tiny and I’m still here!

These brownies once out of the oven are just OK. The brownie itself is more cakey than it should be, and the lack of chocolate chunks that I’d normally throw in a brownie are really noticeable for their absence. The cream cheese mixture loses a lot of taste once baked (I was gutted, the raw mixture promised so much more) and I needed a much stronger and better quality coffee to soak the sponge fingers in. Saying all that, I think with a bit of tweaking I could really improve these. The brownies need to be cooked for a lot less time to ensure they’re gooey not dry, as well as needing some white chocolate buttons to give it a bit more texture and complement the creamy cheese topping. In fact, I’d probably use a completely different brownie recipe for the base next time, a Nigella one. I definitely need to be more generous with the coffee as well as possibly adding a splash more vanilla extract to the cheese mixture to really boost the flavours. Whether I will actually ever make these again I can’t say, all these brownies made me want to do was eat a really good tiramisu followed by a warm brownie and ice cream. Perhaps there is something to be said for sticking with the classics and leaving well alone. Still, there was no danger of me eating four portions, these are heavy little things, so if you also have willpower issues these will nip that in the bud. Like I said earlier, problem solved!

If you’d like to give these a go, you can find the recipe here, hopefully you’ll do a better job than I did:

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


Totally Tropical Curry


Once an idea has wormed its way into my head and lodged itself in there, there really isn’t much more I can do about it except act on it as soon as circumstances allow. It’s how I end up baking cookies on a stiflingly hot day when really I should be reading in the garden, how I end up putting that tub of Ben and Jerry’s in my basket when I’d only popped in for milk and cat food, and how I ended up heavily pregnant in the midst of an uncharacteristically hot British summer. Of all the miserable, rainy, chilly summers that we’ve had over the last few years, and yet of course this year was the one I decided to get broody in. Once my mind is made up on something though, that’s it, it’s happening.

That bloody minded-ness is what led me to cook up a Jamaican classic, curry goat with rice and peas (admittedly, I didn’t go out of my way to find goat meat and settled for using up some lamb I had in the freezer). A colleague had been raving about some Jamaican food she had had from a local takeaway at the weekend, it sounded delicious and therefore I knew that I had to have some. At first I was determined to get this food to go from this haven of Jamaican deliciousness but then thought I should give making it a go myself. I’ve never been to Jamaica, have very little knowledge of the place and the closest I’ve ever come to eating the nations food before was from a Tesco jerk seasoning blend and a can of Lilt. Not exactly what you would call the most qualified of cooks to try and knock up some authentic Jamaican food, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

I trawled the internet for some decent looking recipes and decided to pair it with another Jamaican classic, rice and peas. Here’s how little I knew about the famous dish: I thought it was made with garden peas when in fact authentic versions use kidney beans. Luckily being the chilli addicts that we are there is always a tin of kidney beans in the cupboard. While on the subject of kidney beans (a thrilling subject!) am I stating the obvious when I say what is the point of buying any other tin of kidney bean than the supermarket value tin? I will admit I can be a terrible snob when it comes to food, and I’m fortunate enough in this world of food banks and benefit cuts to be able to afford to buy brand names and not walk around the shops with a calculator working out every penny spent, but if you can tell me how a ‘brand name’ kidney bean is in anyway shape or form better than a value bean I will give you a prize. It’s a bloody kidney bean. Cover up your value tin with a big fillet steak if it makes you feel any better. I’ll put my 50p saving towards a nice big tub of Haagen Dazs thank you very much.

The recipe itself is pretty simple to follow. I was a little taken aback at the amount of curry powder needed and only just had enough but if you give this a go yourself there is no need to be alarmed. The bulk of the heat in the dish comes from the scotch bonnet chillies, which I deseeded because I’m not a masochist. When I cut them open my eyes quickly started watering, I don’t think my eyes have ever recovered from their previous close encounters with chillies and the mere sight of a cut open scotch bonnet got them weeping. It took me a good few hours and several very thorough hand washes before I felt confident in taking my eye make up off, I can tell you that. The lamb needs a good couple of hours bubbling away in the curry before it’s ready to eat as you want the meat meltingly tender and falling apart when touched. Much like a Thai massamann curry, potatoes are added for the last half hour which bulks up the curry and helps to thicken the sauce with their starchiness. The rice and pea element of the dish is ridiculously simple, you just cook the rice in coconut milk, allspice, garlic and thyme and chuck in the kidney beans for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Could not be simpler.

For a first time attempt at a Jamaican dish, I don’t think I did too badly. While the curry wasn’t particularly hot or complex it had a good flavour, if a little bit simple. It was creamy from the coconut with a little bit of spice, although next time I might add one more chilli to the mix just to give it that little bit more heat. The curry isn’t that dissimilar from an Indian curry, although a little bit more mellow and less fiery, surprising considering the inclusion of a scotch bonnet chilli. I had the leftovers for tea a couple of days later and like any decent curry the flavours had intensified. This would be really good to cook a couple of days before you actually wanted to eat it, if you’re more organised and efficient than I am, anyway.
I drowned the rice and peas in the curry sauce so unfortunately can’t really comment on them, next time I make them I’ll accompany them with a dry dish like jerk chicken so they aren’t swamped in curry flavours.

I’d imagine the curry goat at the local Jamaican takeaway puts my version to shame (or at least I hope so). I will have to give it a shot one day, perhaps passing off my takeaway splurge/greed as a ‘craving’. I’m definitely more interested in Jamaican food now, and with the weather being so pleasant recently it’s fun to cook up something with a Caribbean flavour so you can at least pretend you’re in the tropics and not in an English market town, keeping your fingers crossed that that dark grey cloud hovering over you passes without incident.

PS- you can find a lot of different versions of these dishes online, but these are the recipes that I tried:,,10000000523888,00.html

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Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Uncategorized