Brownies

While I definitely have a sweet tooth, chocolate desserts and cakes aren’t really my thing. My sister, on the other hand, would be devastated to go out for a meal without a piece a chocolate fudge cake to finish things off. Brownies were another thing I didn’t really get, but making these (for my sister in fact!) definitely made me give brownies another chance. These are really easy to make dairy-free by using dairy-free dark chocolate, cocoa powder and dairy-free spread.

Chocolate Brownies (makes 12 – 16 pieces)

300g dark chocolate
200g butter or dairy free spread
3 large eggs
275g caster sugar
100g plain flour
30g Cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 9 inch square baking tin with parchment.

2. Melt 200g of the dark chocolate and 200g butter or spread. I do this in a pan over a very low heat, stirring constantly. Cool for a few minutes.

3. Whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until they are pale, thickened and mousse like. It will make a trail that lasts a couple of seconds when you lift the whisk out of the mix.

4. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs/sugar. It’s important not to knock the air out.

5. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder, folding carefully.

6. Chop the remaining 100g of chocolate into chunks and delicately stir in. Pour into the tin, and bake in the oven for about  25 minutes. The bit I struggle with when making brownies is getting the cooking time just right, you don’t want then to be over cooked, but make sure you don’t get take them out while they’re still raw inside!

7. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

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Jimmy’s Spritz

I’d saved a Facebook post from Hendricks, the gin company, before Christmas, for one of their cocktails suggestion, a St James Spritz.

This is my version; Jimmy’s Spritz.

1 part gin
1 part Grand Marnier
1 part orange juice
Topped up with lemonade.

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Sweet and spicy cashews

These are very moreish. I recommend making them in small batches, as you’re likely to want to sit and eat them all!

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Sweet and spicy cashews

50g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
50g cashew nuts
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Put the sugar and water in a small pan and heat over a medium heat to make a caramel. Don’t stir it!
2. Once the syrup is a dark golden colour remove from the heat and stir in the nuts. Let the mix cool slightly before adding the sesame seeds, chilli flakes and cayenne pepper.
3. Spread out over greaseproof paper and allow to cool fully.

Festive fruity compote

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but my vague aim for the coming year is to be more frugal and make sure our home is only filled with items we love and use regularly. In the spirit of using things up, this recipe is great for jazzing up leftover fruit from Christmas.

Fruity compote with port
The base for this is 2tbsp port, the zest and juice of one orange, 1 tbsp caster sugar and 1 cinnamon stick. Add these ingredients to a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the fruit you want the use up; plums and blueberries are particularly good, but anything goes here. If you’re using things like pears or apples, make sure they’re chopped into bite sized pieces. Simmer for at least one minute, or longer if you want the fruit to be softer. Serve while still warm.

Bonfire toffee blondies

I know we’re hurtling towards Christmas, but I’m just not ready for the festive season to begin so I’m clinging on to November. This recipe used up the last of the bonfire toffee I had in the house.

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Bonfire Toffee Blondies (makes 9)

250g butter
300g golden caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100g bonfire toffee, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and prepare a 20cm square baking tin by greasing and lining.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and set to one side.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until the mixture is frothy. Stir in the melted butter. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and add 50g of the toffee pieces and stir until just combined.

4. Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle the remaining toffee shards on the top. Bake for 25 minutes. Don’t overlook the blondies. The top should be set but it should still be a little bit gooey in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

Lychee sorbet

728A35CD-57ED-4AF5-8EA0-1382480ADF1AIt’s not really ice cream making season, but this is so easy if you have an ice cream making machine and it’s just delicious.

I’m so enamoured with this sorbet that I’m thinking of having a Chinese themed dinner party just so I can serve this for dessert.

Lychee Sorbet (serves 2)

1. Tip a 425g tin of lychees, including the juice, into a blender with a splash of lime juice and purée until smooth.

2. Sieve the mixture to get an nice smooth consistency.

3. Freeze the sorbet in the ice cream maker, following the instructions for the machine.

4. Allow to soften at room temperature for a while before serving.