Carrot cake loaf: A slice of seasonless happiness

Come rain or shine (and I think it’s fair to say we’ve had a lot of both recently) there is always a good time for carrot cake. Although bursting with vitamins, antioxidants and fibre we all know the healthiest thing about a carrot cake is its name and the minuscule amount of cardio that goes with grating carrots – which frankly is the worst part about making carrot cake. But there is a reason this sweet vegetable deserves its place in the cake hall of fame, and that’s because it’s utterly delicious and worth grating your finger nails for. So why not whip up this seasonless classic and enjoy slice after slice with numerous cups of tea, because that is how carrot cake should be gobbled up – by the wedge load. Although I’m pretty sure Bugs Bunny would have a few words to say about that and not all of them so savoury.

Carrot cake loaf
Carrot cake loaf

Carrot cake loaf
Make 1 loaf / Hands on time 35 mins / Total time 1 hr 45 mins / V
You’ll need: 2 lb loaf tin, electric hand whisk
Juice of 1 orange
45g sultanas
150g carrots, peeled and grated
150g soft brown sugar
80g self-raising flour
80g wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
50g pecans, roughly chopped
Pinch of salt
150ml rapeseed oil
2 eggs
For the icing:
130g cream cheese
30g soft unsalted butter
65g icing sugar


Method
1. In a small saucepan, heat the juice of an orange over a low to medium heat and add the sultanas. Warm through for 10 minutes before putting to one side to cool.
2. Meanwhile, grease the base and sides of a loaf tin with a bit of extra rapeseed oil and line the bottom with baking paper. Put to one side and preheat an oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ 350°F/gas mark 4.
3. Peel and grate the carrot before weighing out the sugar, self-raising flour, wholemeal flour, cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and a pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the roughly chopped pecans and give it a good mix before incorporating in the grated carrots using a wooden spoon.
4. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the rapeseed oil and the eggs until combined. Pour into the carrot mixture and mix thoroughly. Spoon into the loaf tin and bake on the middle shelf for 1 hr or until a skewer comes out clean.
5. While the cake is baking, make the cream cheese icing by whisking the butter and the cream cheese together in a bowl with an electric whisk. Fold in the icing sugar with a spoon before whisking again for a couple of minutes. Cover loosely with cling film and refrigerate.
6. Allow the carrot cake to cool completely in the tin before turning out and topping with lashings of cream cheese icing.
7. To store, keep the cake refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container or wrapped in cling film. Ideally, allow the cake to come up to room temperature before serving.

Carrot cake loaf
Carrot cake loaf

If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.


 

Broccoli fusilli with kale & walnut pesto

Broccoli fusilli with kale & walnut pesto

In the back of the vegetable crisper it waits patiently. Its bushy green head turning ever so slightly yellow, it’s pine coloured leaves wilt and shrivel whilst its branches begin to soften. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Liberate your head of broccoli by chopping it up (stalk and all) and serving it al dente stirred through wholemeal pasta with a vibrant kale and walnut pesto. Delish! Alternatively, leave the dish to cool fully before refrigerating and serving as a summery accompaniment to any barbecue. Adding crumbled feta or parmesan shavings add a bit of extra indulgence or leave it as it is to please any plant-based guests you may be entertaining.


Broccoli fusilli with kale and walnut pesto
Serves 2 / Hands on time 15 mins / Total time 20 mins / V Vn Df
You’ll need: A food processor
50g walnuts (about 2 handfuls)
½ regular sized garlic clove, peeled and roughly sliced
1 handful of kale, heavier stems removed and discarded
20-30g fresh basil
4 tbs Pomora extra virgin olive oil
150g wholemeal brown fusilli
1 head of broccoli


Method
1. Put a full kettle on to boil and pour the pasta into a large saucepan (big enough to accommodate an entire chopped head broccoli).
2. Meanwhile, make the pesto by peeling and roughly chopping the garlic before adding it to a food processor, along with the walnuts and a handful of kale (heavier stems removed). Blitz on full for about 10 seconds or until you have a rough paste.
2. Add the fresh basil, a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and give it another blitz – this time for a bit longer until you have a slightly smoother paste.
3. Lastly, add 3 tbs of extra virgin olive oil before blending for a final time (how long you blend is up to you depending on how smooth you like your pesto). Put to one side.
4. Pour the boiling water from the kettle over the pasta and add a half a tsp of salt to the water. Use more water than you would usually as you will need to boil the broccoli in it too. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until 4 mins before the end of the cooking time. Meanwhile, pull he florets off the broccoli with your fingers and chop into big chunks include the stalk and the leaves.
5. Four minutes before the pasta is cooked add the broccoli florets to the pasta pan and boil for the remaining cooking time.
6. Strain the pasta and the broccoli well before transferring back into the saucepan off the heat. Add the pesto and stir well until evenly distributed. Divide onto plates and serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a crack of black pepper.

Broccoli fusilli with kale & walnut pesto

If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.


V – Vegetarian    Vn – Vegan     Df – Dairy free



Better feta

Feta isn’t just for crumbling over salads, this ewe’s cheese is much more versatile than you may have originally thought. Softly brined, tangy, salty and ever so slightly sour and sweet in flavour, feta can add a welcome depth and texture to a number of dishes. Whipped, baked or even fried, this pleasing block of ‘white gold’ deserves to be centre stage to bring the taste of Greece to your dinner table.


Whipped feta and avocado dip

Whipped feta and avocado dip
Add 100g of feta to a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a handful of fresh mint leaves and blitz again until combined. Add the flesh of a whole avocado along with 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Blitz for a final time until you have a smooth creamy consistency. Serves 2.


Fried feta on toast with honey & thyme

Fried feta on toast with thyme and honey
On a small side plate, add a heaped tbs of flour. Slice 100g of feta into two even slices and dust well in the flour. Beat an egg in a small bowl, season well with salt and pepper and pour onto a plate. Dip the cheese into the egg and cover evenly. In a small frying pan on a medium heat, add a tbs of oil. Once hot, carefully place the cheese in and fry gently on each side for a couple of minutes or until golden. Serve on a piece of toasted sourdough, drizzled in good quality honey and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves. Serves 1.


Baked Feta

Baked Mediterranean feta
Preheat an oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400F/gas mark 6. Slice 1 red pepper along with half a red onion, 8 cherry tomatoes (halved) and 2 handfuls of black olives (halved). Smooth out 2 large pieces of kitchen foil and divide the chopped red pepper and arrange in the centre of each piece of foil. Season well with salt and pepper. Slice 200g of feta in half and pop each slice on top of the bed of sliced peppers. Top the feta with the onions and the cherry tomatoes (it doesn’t matter if a few fall off, just leave them at the side). Scatter over the olives and sprinkle with dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper before folding up the sides of each parcel and scrunching the top until sealed. Place both on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 mins. Once cooked, carefully remove from the oven and open the parcels up just enough to drain away any excess liquid before sliding onto plates. Serve with warm pita bread and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Jamie’s Feta & Cherry Tomato Rigatoni

Feta and cherry tomato pasta sauce
Half 20 cherry tomatoes and put in a large saucepan with 1tsp olive oil and 1 tsp of oregano. Cook on a medium heat for 5 mins until softened. Add 3 tbs tomato purée, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 1 grated courgette and season with salt and pepper. Cook on a medium to low heat with the lid on for a further 10 mins. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water (follow packet instructions). Drain the pasta and pour straight into the sauce. Stir well before adding the chopped basil and 150g of crumbled feta. Stir again until combined and the cheese begins to melt. Serve topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good crack of pepper.


For more foodie blogs, recipes and course, visit learningwithexperts.com.

Fresh cherry & lemon drizzle

Fresh cherry drizzle cake

I love cherries but hate cherry cake. Nearly always made with horrid glacé cherries and with an amaretto after-taste I can’t think of anything worse. But I  do love fresh cherries and guess what? Cherries are currently in season and I’m in the mood for something sweet so I thought I’d have a go at making a fresh version with added lemon drizzle – because who doesn’t love a lemon drizzle? This cake is sweet,  fruity and perfect for yet another wet July afternoon – seriously what is up with the weather? I’m wearing a wooly jumper!


Fresh Cherry & lemon drizzle
Serves 8-10 / Hands on time 25 min / Total time 1hr 30 mins + cooling / V
You’ll need: 20cm cake tin, tin foil, electric hand whisk, cherry pitter (optional)
250g pitted fresh cherries
225g caster sugar
2 eggs
115g unsalted butter + extra for greasing
140ml semi-skimmed or whole milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
185g plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Drizzle
85g caster sugar
1 lemon


Method
1. Preheat an oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ 350°F/gas mark 4. Grease the cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Put to one side.
2. Pit and de-stork the fresh cherries. If you have a cherry pitter (lucky you) keep the cherries whole. If you don’t (like me) you can click here to watch a very smug man pit cherries using a chopstick and bottle – which is what I’ll do next time. However, I didn’t know this at the time, so I used a sharp knife to cut the cherry all the way around from top to bottom, then twist the two halves apart in opposite directions – like you would with an avocado. If the cherry pit doesn’t pull away neatly from one half (mine didn’t) just roughly cut around the stone. You’ll be left with a mixture of cherry halves and smaller chopped cherry pieces which is fine.
3. Put the butter and the milk in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Once melted take off the heat to cool slightly.
4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the caster sugar for at least 2 mins until you have a very pale, creamy mixture and the whisk leaves a trail behind it.
5. Add the vanilla essence and the melted butter and milk slowly to the egg mixture and mix well with the electric whisk until combined.
6. Measure out the flour and the baking powder in a seperate bowl before sieving over the top. Fold in with a wooden spoon until just combined with minimal lumps – be careful not to overwork the mixture.
7. Pour into your cake tin (the mixture will be quite runny) and sprinkle all the cherries over on top – don’t worry, they will sink durning baking.
8. Bake in the oven for 35 mins. At this stage the cake will have formed a crust on the top. Carefully top the cake with a loose sheet of foil whilst still in the oven and continue to bake for a further 25-30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 30 mins Meanwhile, make the drizzle by combining the juice of one lemon and the caster sugar.  Turn the cake out, prick all over with a skewer and evenly pour over the drizzle whilst still warm. Leave to set and cool fully before serving. This cake will last up to 5 days wrapped up in the fridge.

Fresh cherry drizzle cake

If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.


V – Vegetarian


 

Roasted miso aubergine salad

Roasted Miso Aubergine Salad

Oh look, a recipe! Sorry for the lack of recipe blogs in recent weeks chums, but like everyone, I’ve had to cut back and tighten my belt. So instead of choosing a recipe to create, I let the recipe choose me and before I knew it, this little blighter jumped up and kissed me full on the mouth – figuratively speaking.

Armed with two aubergines and a giant bag of salad, I raided my fridge and small jar of miso gave me a suggestive wink and a wave. Blushing (and feeling slightly delusional), I emerged with this rather delightful salad recipe… Has anyone else found themselves flirting with inanimate objects/condiments? Yeah me neither… I need a lie down.


Roasted miso aubergine salad
Serves 2 / Hands on time 15 mins / Total time 45 mins / Df V Vn 
50g bulgur wheat
125ml cold water
½ vegetable stock pot/cube
1 medium aubergine, sliced into 4 quarters lengthways
Dressing
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs miso paste
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 garlic clove, peeled, grated or chopped
Salad
2 large handfuls salad leaves
2 spring onions, finely sliced lengthways
1 medium red chill, deseeded and sliced (optional)
Handful cashews, whole or roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzle


Method
1. Preheat an oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400F/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with baking paper and put to one side.
2. Measure out the bulgur wheat and pour into a small saucepan along with 125ml of cold water and half a vegetable stock pot/cube. Place over a medium to high heat until boiling before turning down and simmering for 4 mins. Once the water has absorbed, remove from the heat, give it a quick stir and cover with a lid. Put to one side.
3. Slice the aubergine lengthways into 4 quarters and criss cross the flesh. In a small bowl, make the miso glaze by combining the miso, maple syrup, soy sauce, sesame oil and crushed garlic together (if the miso paste you’re using is quite firm, add a small dash of boiling water to it first to help it loosen).
4. Brush the aubergines generously with all of the marinade, all over. Place skin side down, before covering the tray loosely with foil. Roast for 20 mins.
5. Meanwhile, finely slice the chilli, spring onions and roughly chop the cashews. After 20 mins, remove the foil from the aubergines, give them a turn and roast uncovered for a further 10 mins. Turn the aubergines one final time and add the cashews (I like to keep mine whole). Continue to roast for a further 5 mins.
6. Once the aubergines have softened, turn the oven off but leave the aubergines inside while you assemble the salad. Dress the leaves lightly in extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide between two large plates and sprinkle over the bulgur wheat, spring onion and chilli. Finally, remove the aubergines from the oven and add to the salad along with any remaining sticky miso residue from the baking tray and roasted cashews. Delish.

Roasted Miso Aubergine Salad

If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.


V – Vegetarian.    Vn – Vegan     Df – Dairy free



Do the can can – Part 2

Now we’re all stocked up and bored of beans on toast, it’s time to have a look in the cupboard and create something a bit more inspiring with those cans.


Sweetcorn and black bean nachos

Healthy-ish loaded nachos

Believe it or not, you don’t need nachos to make nachos. Full of salt and deep fried, I prefer to make my own out of a few sliced tortillas. Preheat an oven to 200°C/180°C fan before stacking up 4 flour tortilla and slicing them down the middle into eighths. Spread over 2 baking trays, sprinkle with smoked paprika, season and spray with oil. Bake for 10 mins, turning halfway through. Put to one side. Meanwhile sweat 1 chopped onion and 2 garlic cloves in a saucepan in 1 tsp of oil. Cook over a medium heat for 5 mins before adding ½ tsp of cumin, ½ tsp smoked paprika. Add a dash of water and cook for a further 2 mins before adding 1 can of drained sweetcorn, 1 tin of black beans and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Put a grill on a medium to high heat and continue to cook the beans for 5 mins. Transfer the tortilla chips into a deep casserole dish and top with the bean mixture along with a handful of sliced cherry tomatoes, 2 chopped spring onions and sprinkling of grated cheese. Place under the grill for 3-5 mins before serving topped with fresh coriander, avocado slices and jalapenos. Serve with a squeeze of lime and plain yogurt.


Kidney bean and tomatoes eggs

Spicy Bean & Tomato Eggs

A bit of beany twist on shakshuka, this healthy breakfast is filling, delicious and a great way to get a bit of a fibre boost. In a frying pan, fry sliced 2 spring onions in tsp of oil over a medium heat for 2 mins. Add 2 freshly chopped tomatoes, ¼ tsp of smoked paprika along with a couple of drops of Tabasco (optional). Season well and add ½ a can of drained kidney beans. After a few minutes of cooking, make 2 wells in the mixture and crack an egg into each. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 2-4 mins or until the eggs are set but with a runny yolk. Serve in the pan drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and toast for dunking.


Coconut milk dhal

Coconut Dhal with Homemade Flatbreads

What could be better than curling up on the sofa with a hearty bowl of fragrant dhal in front of your favourite boxset? Exactly. Start by chopping 1 white onion, 3 garlic cloves and adding it to a large cooking pot with a tsp of oil. Stir in a knob of grated ginger and sweat over a medium heat with the lid on for 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile break open 4 cardamom pods, discard the shells and add the seeds to the onions along with ½ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp garam masala, ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp turmeric and a pinch of chilli flakes. Add a dash of water and cook the spices for 2 mins. Add 1 can of coconut milk along with 1 litre of vegetable stock and 300g of red lentils. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for 25 – 30 mins, stirring regularly. Serve on its own or dressed up with charred corn, wilted spinach and brown rice.


Bean burgers

Cannellini bean burgers

Cannellini beans, kidney beans, chickpeas or even butterbeans make an excellent bean burger. So, grab a can and treat yourself to a ‘stay at home barbecue’. Preheat an oven to 220°C/200°C fan and fry 1 chopped onion and 2 garlic cloves in a tsp of oil, along with ½ tsp smoked paprika, ¼ tsp mild chilli powder and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Sweat over a medium heat for 10 mins until soft – adding a dash of water to help the onions steam if the onions start to catch. Meanwhile blitz 2 slices of bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. In a bowl, add the drained can of beans along with a handful of fresh coriander. Blitz with a hand blender to a firm paste before stirring in the breadcrumbs, fried onions and 1 tbs of plain flour. Scoop up a half the mixture with your hands and mould into a patty before transferring to a lined baking tray. Repeat until you have 2 large or 4 small burgers. Bake in the oven for 20 mins, flipping halfway through. Serve in buns topped with your favourite burger sauces and relish.


Thai green lentil soup

Thai green lentil soup

Another hug in a bowl but this time using green lentils and fragrant Thai flavours. Sweat 1 chopped onion in a tsp of oil in a big pot over a medium to low heat for 10 mins with the lid on. Once soft, add a knob of grated ginger, 2 chopped garlic cloves, a 50g of Thai green curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes. Add 150g of chopped sweet potato, a can of coconut milk, 1 litre of vegetable stock, 150g dried green lentils and a bashed lemon grass (optional). Bring to the boil before turning the heat down and simmering for 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Cut the storks of a handful of coriander before adding to the soup and cooking for a further 5 minutes. Finally, fish out the lemon grass and blend the soup with a hand blender until smooth. Serve topped with the remaining coriander leaves.


So keep calm and carry on cooking in these strange uncertain times. For more foodie blogs visit learningwithexperts.com.



Do the can can – Part 1

It’s all very well stocking up on canned goods, but they’ll be of little use unless you know how to get the best out of them – because watery pasta sauce and stew is going to get old pretty fast.


Roasted vegetable hummus bowl

Chickpea hummus bowls with roasted vegetables

A can of chickpeas can be thrown into pretty much anything. They’re great for bulking out recipes and adding additional plant-based protein to meals. However, chickpeas are rarely celebrated as the star ingredient, so wanted to push the humble chickpea centre stage. My recipe for hummus bowls not only encourages the use of surplus vegetables, but it’s easy to throw together and tastes delicious. In a large roasting tin, add a mixture of surplus veg, sprinkle with smoked paprika and season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200°C/180°C fan. Meanwhile make the hummus, by blending 1 can of drained chickpeas, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1.5 tbs of tahini, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbs of water and 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. Once blended, spoon generously into bowls and top with the roasted vegetables, along with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with toasted pita bread.


Roasted butterbean traybake

Sweet Potato & Butterbean Traybake

Butterbeans are often overlooked by shoppers, but this kidney shaped pulse generally makes itself at home in a big hearty stew. These mealy yet mild flavoured beans, can be tossed into soups, casseroles and even blended into mash. However, I prefer to roast them in a bit of stock along with sweet potatoes, to make a hearty traybake for two. Preheat an oven to 200°C/180°C fan. In large casserole dish, add a roughly chopped sweet potato along with a can of drained butterbeans and half a sliced red pepper. Pour over 175ml of stock and season well with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Give it a good stir and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and make two wells using a spoon. Crack a free-range egg into each well and bake for a further 6-8 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. Finish by topping with chopped fresh coriander and serve with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Tinned plum tomato sauce al’arrabiata

Penne al’arrabiata

Pasta sauce is a great way to eat tinned tomatoes but to avoid a watery disappointment, follow my simple pasta sauce recipe. I often opt for tinned plum tomatoes, as I prefer the chunkier texture they bring, but ordinary will also work. Add 2 chopped garlic cloves to a tbs of warm (not hot) oil in a large saucepan along with a pinch of chilli flakes. Allow to infuse over a low/medium heat for a few minutes. Add one can of plum­ tinned tomatoes and a tbs of tomato puree. Break the plum tomatoes up with a spoon and stir. Season well with salt and pepper, up the heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and your sauce is ready. Serve with your choice of pasta and top with either mozzarella or Parmesan.


Black bean tostada bowls

Mexican Tostada Salad

A can of black beans in my house inevitably ends up either in a smoky chill, wrapped up in a burrito or squashed into a quesadilla. Although as the weather heats up over the coming months, I’m more likely to throw them into Mexican tostada salad. To make the tortilla bowls, simply place each tortilla into a heatproof bowl each, with a ball of foil in the centre to prevent them from falling in on themselves. Bake in an oven for 15 minutes at 200°C/180°C fan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 1 can of drained black beans with, 1 can or drained sweetcorn, half a chopped cucumber, 3 chopped spring onions, 2 handful of cherry tomatoes, 1 chopped cos lettuce, half a deseeded chilli (finely diced) and 50g of grated cheddar. Mix well and put to one side. To make the dressing, combine 1 tsp of homey, 1 tsp of Tabasco, the juice of 1 lime and 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well, before spooning into the edible tortilla bowls.


Thai green lentil soup

Thai green lentil soup

Okay so not a canned good, but still a store cupboard staple that could do with a creative injection. Red and green lentils are superhero’s when it comes to adding a bit of bulk to stews, soups and even Bolognese. My Thai green lentil soup not only adds a bit of fragrant flare to the humble lentil, but it’s a hearty meal that will see you through self-isolation. In a large cooking pot with a lid, sweat 1 chopped onion in a tsp of oil, over a medium to low heat for 10 mins. Once soft, add a piece of grated ginger, 2 chopped garlic cloves and 50g of Thai green curry paste. Give it a good stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add 150g of chopped sweet potato, 1 can of coconut milk, 1 litre of stock, 150g of dried green lentils and a bashed lemon grass stork (optional). Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Cut the storks off a large handful of coriander and add them to the soup. Cook for 5 more minutes. Finally take off the heat, fish out the lemon grass and blend. Serve topped with the remaining chopped coriander leaves.


Join me next time for part 2. In the meantime, visit learningwithexperts.com for more foodie blogs. 



Something beginning with ‘C’…

CHOCOLATE. Why? What did you think I was gonna to say? Wrote this lovely blog for Learning With Experts about the history of chocolate – and let’s be honest, we could all do with a bit of distraction right now.

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

From sugary white to bitter dark, chocolate is the sweet treat we simply can’t get enough of. But where does it come from and what is its history?

Chocolate can be traced back the ancient Maya of Mesoamerica (what we now know as South America). Cocoa was a household staple to the Mayans readily available to everyone. This thick and bitter drink accompanied most meals and was often teamed with honey or chili peppers – a far cry from the sweet confectionary we’re used to today. Later on, in the 13th century, the Aztecs moved in and dominated Mesoamerica. They believed cacao was a gift from the gods and was considered more valuable than gold and was even used as currency. As the status of chocolate reached new heights it began to be enjoyed mostly by the wealthy.

It’s widely disputed how chocolate made its way to Europe, but it is generally thought it first arrived in Spain, where it was adored by the Spanish who swiftly began importing it in the 1500’s. Before long, chocolate fever had swept across Europe and was in high demand with the upper classes. Europeans, however, didn’t care for the bitter Aztec version so began adding sugar and spices, making it a fashionable luxury.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that chocolate become readily available and affordable to the masses. In 1828 a Dutch chemist developed the cocoa press that inexpensively separated the cocoa butter from the roasted cocoa beans, making cocoa powder accessible to all. The powder was mostly enjoyed as a hot drink with milk until 1847, when British chocolatier J.S Fry and Sons moulded the first chocolate bar made out of sugar, cocoa butter and chocolate liquor. But it was Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter who thought to add dried milk to cocoa to create the chocolate we all know and love today, milk chocolate. A few years later he teamed up with his friend Henri Nestle and the rest is history.

So why not raid the cupboards and rustle up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Or better still, master the art of tempering, moulding and (let’s be honest) eating chocolate in the comfort of your own home with The Art of Chocolate Making, taught by Paul A Young. This four-week course begins anytime from the 27th of March and could be a great way to see out the current Corona crisis.


Dark chocolate chip cookies
Makes 16-18 cookies / Hands on time 20 mins / Total time 30 mins / V 
125g salted butter, at room temperature
125g golden caster sugar
2 heaped tbs condensed milk
50g Green and Black’s Organic 70% Dark Chocolate, roughly chopped
½ tsp vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour
Sea salt flakes


Method

My original cookie recipe

1. Preheat an oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4. Using an electric whisk in a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the condensed milk and the vanilla extract and continue to whisk until incorporated.
2. On a chopping board using a large knife, roughly chop the chocolate. Add to the mixture and sift the self raising flour over the top. Using a wooden spoon, mix together by hand until you have a well incorporated cookie dough.
3. Line two baking trays with baking paper and using a teaspoon, scoop up a ball of the dough, roughly the size of a walnut. Roll the dough in your hands until you have a ball and place on the baking tray. Space the cookie dough out evenly (be sure not to over crowd the baking trays, the cookies will expand in the oven).
4. Using the back of a tablespoon, press down on each ball gently to squash it out a little to help form a round disk. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly on the tray, before carefully transferring to a cooling rack using a spatula. Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of sea salt flakes and serve with a good cup of tea.


If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.


V – Vegetarian
 – The cookie dough is suitable for home freezing. Roll into a sausage shape and wrap in a few layers of clingfilm. Consume within 3 months.



Cracked it: My fool-proof guide to cooking eggs

Healthier Scotch Eggs

Boiled, fried, poached… Well that’s kind of it, but however you like to eat yours, eggs are rich in protein, nutrients and if cooked correctly, can be darn tootin’ tasty. But alas, over-cooked, chalky yolks and runny whites are destroying breakfasts across the land, so perhaps it’s time to go back to basics this Easter.

Before we get onto cooking, let’s discuss storage and freshness. It may surprise you to know that older eggs can sometimes be the superior choice, depending on how you are planning to cook with them. If hard-boiling, slightly older eggs are easier to peel – if you’ve ever tried to peel a fresh egg, I feel your pain. The white comes away with the shell and you’re left with a knobbly pot-holed mess. However, older eggs cook with a more robust white, making them considerably easier to peel, so save fresh eggs for poaching, frying and scrambling.

To refrigerate or to not refrigerate. This has been long debated but generally, comes down to the climate you live in. As a general rule, it’s best to keep eggs in the fridge, as constant changes in temperature can cause the eggs to spoil. If in doubt, refrigerate. However, room temperature eggs can be better for cooking with, so it’s best to remove the eggs from the fridge and allow them to come up to temperature before cooking.

Turkish eggs with pita

Frying: Frying eggs can be a daunting task to many due to copious amounts of hot oil used for basting. However, this technique is out-dated and unnecessary – but you will need a non-stick frying pan with a lid. Add a tsp of cooking oil or butter to a non-stick saucepan and place over a medium heat. Meanwhile, crack the egg into a ramekin – cracking the egg directly into the pan gives you less control and can occasionally break the yolk. Once hot, move the oil around the pan before sliding in the egg. Allow to cook for about a minute, or until the white has started to set, before covering with a lid. Fry the egg for around 2-3 minutes, checking regularly as to not over-cook the yolk.


Perfectly Poached Eggs

Poaching: Poaching is possibly the most feared of all the egg cooking methods, due to the confusion around vinegar and swirling water vortexes. It’s true that a drop of vinegar helps coagulate the egg but it’s only really necessary if your eggs aren’t all that fresh. Personally, I don’t bother with vinegar or swirling the water around – it’s Sunday morning and I want my poached eggs with as little faff as possible. l simply fill a small frying pan nearly to the brim with boiling water and bring to a simmer. Crack the egg into a small ramekin before lowering carefully into the water and tipping out. Simmer gently for two to three minutes for a soft, runny yolk. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve.


Healthier Scotch Eggs
Healthier Scotch Eggs

Soft and hard boiling: My childhood favourite. From slicing off the cap to dunking in hot buttered soldiers, a soft-boiled egg evokes happy memories and joy. How long you boil the eggs for depends on how old they are  – older eggs tend to need less time, so boil for 5 mins. Fresh eggs need longer, so keep them in the water for 6.5 mins. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and turn down to a simmer. Gently lower in two eggs and set a timer between 5–6.5 mins – depending on how old your eggs are. For hard boiled eggs, it’s best to use older eggs to ensure an easier peel. Simmer in boiling water for 8 mins before transferring to an icy water bath. Leave to cool fully before peeling.


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St David’s Day Bara brith

Bara Brith
Bara Brith
Bara Brith

Happy St David’s day! Admittedly this is an old recipe but I didn’t have time to make Welsh cakes this year, so you’ll just have to make do with this rather delicious tea loaf. I’m off to play with llamas – don’t ask. 🦙


Bara brith
Makes one loaf / Hands on time 25 mins / Takes 1 hour 20 mins + cooling / V
You’ll need:
21cm x 12cm loaf tin
180g sultanas
300ml boiling water
2 black tea bags
2 tbs orange juice
1 tbs honey
2 medium eggs
140g soft brown sugar
125g unsalted butter
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ ground ginger
260g self raising flour
Pinch of salt


Method
1. Preheat an oven to 160°C/140°C fan/325°F/gas mark 3 and grease a loaf tin with butter. In a large saucepan, add the 
sultanas, tea bags and 300ml of boiling water. Give it a stir to allow the tea to infuse and bring to the boil. Reduce and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
2. Meanwhile measure out the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and add 2 tbs of the tea liquid. Drain the sultanas, discard the rest of the liquid and add to the butter and sugar. Stir well until the butter has melted. Add the orange juice and the honey and mix well.
3. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs with a fork before adding to the mixture. Stir until combined before putting to one side. 
4. In a medium sized bowl, measure out the dry ingredients and mix together. Add to the wet mixture a bit at a time and stir until fully incorporated. Once combined, pour into the greased loaf tin.
5. Bake for 30 minutes before carefully and quickly, covering the cake loosely with tin foil in the oven by draping it over the cake and securing it by crunching the sides (do this quickly to avoid the temperature dropping in the oven and to prevent the cake from colouring too much – you want it to stay a nice golden colour). Bake for a further 25 minutes.
6. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving warm with salty butter.


TIP: To keep the cake moist, while it’s still warm wrap in clingfilm and store in a cool dry place. Consume within 3 days.




 

Bara Brith
Bara Brith

If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.


V– Vegetarian
– Suitable for home freezing once cooled. Wrap in a few layers of clingfilm and consume within 3 months.


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