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Friday, 4 April 2014

Chocolate Pecan Praline Tart

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I'm really into using praline (nuts and caramelised sugar) at the moment and it plays a part in one of our favourite desserts, a chocolate pecan praline tart. It is my re-vamp of a recipe that has been around for a while - I've changed the quantities to make it a more family-sized dessert and have used pecans instead of hazelnuts. Serve it with some clotted cream or the praline cream and this tart will be elevated to OMG levels.

Pecan Praline on iPhone Chocolate Swirls on iPhone
Pecan praline and chocolate decoration

Chocolate Pecan Praline Tart
A chocolate tart case filled with a chocolate pecan praline filling, topped with dark ganache and served with praline cream. Heavily adapted from a Gourmet Traveller recipe.

Serves 8-10 people.

Notes: You need a loose bottomed tart tin that is approximately 23cm in diameter and 3.5cm deep. You must use double cream to prevent the filling and ganache from splitting. Instead of microwaving the chocolate, you can melt it in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Warm a knife under hot water and dry it before slicing the tart, repeat before cutting each slice.

Chocolate pastry for tart case
100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
30g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter, diced
1 egg yolk
1-2 teaspoons of cold water if needed

Put the flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar, pinch of salt and the butter into a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the mixture is combined, you may need to add a couple of teaspoons of cold water at this point to get it to bind.
Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and gently knead it together. Rest in cling film for at half an hour. Roll the pastry out to fit the tin (see note above) and prick the surface with a fork. Freeze the tart shell for an hour and then heat an oven to 200ºC. Brush a piece of foil with butter and lay it tightly onto the pastry. Bake for about 12 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-12 minutes, until crisp and dry. Leave to cool.

Chocolate pecan praline filling
100g roasted pecans
100g caster sugar
200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
150ml double cream

Lay a Silpat or silicone sheet onto a baking tray and put the pecans onto it. Put the sugar into a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and turns a caramel colour. Pour the caramel over the pecans and leave to cool. When cold, grind the sugar and nuts in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Reserve one-third of the praline crumbs for the praline cream.
Put the chocolate and the double cream into a microwavable glass mixing bowl and place in the microwave. Heat for 30 second bursts on high and stir in-between until the chocolate has melted and combined with the cream. Add two-thirds of the praline crumbs and stir to combine. Pour into the tart shell and refrigerate until set.

Chocolate ganache topping

100g dark chocolate, broken up
80g double cream

Put the chocolate and cream into a small microwavable glass bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Spread evenly over the tart and leave to set in the refrigerator.

Praline cream
300ml Double cream
1/3 of the reserved praline

Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in the reserved praline. Serve with slices of the tart.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2014 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Currys in the Kitchen!

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Table set for #currysinthekitchen event

Being a big fan of kitchen gadgets, I was pleased to be invited to an event showcasing some of the latest kitchen appliances. The evening was hosted by Currys, the electrical store, and was held at a lovely little cookery school in London, the Underground Cookery School. The theme of the evening was making a curry (!) and some pear soufflés, as well as a couple of delicious cocktails.

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Finished chicken curry

It was a busy evening with around 21 food bloggers all snapping away with their phones and cameras. The hashtag for the event (on Twitter and Instagram) was #currysinthekitchen, and many photos were posted during the evening - you can do a search to see them.

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Vegetable smoothies (carrot & ginger, celery & spinach) plus canapes

We were treated to canapes, freshly whizzed vegetable smoothies and flowing glasses of bubbly before splitting into two groups to make the curry and soufflés.

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Part of the kitchen area

After de-boning some chicken legs, we cooked the coconut sauce for the curry. When finished, it was popped into the ovens and we moved on to soufflé making. This involved plenty of egg cracking and whisking, before the mixture went into individual soufflé dishes. Cocktail making followed, caipirinhas and pina coladas - very refreshing! Then it was dinner time, with much snapping and admiring of the food we had made before tucking in.

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Mixing the spices with the fried onions, before adding the coconut milk - the aroma was fabulous!

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Add some potatoes & carrots

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Cracking the eggs and whisking the whites

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Mixture is poured into sugar dusted ramekins

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The Kenwood kMix blender even crushes ice! Chef Carlos with his creation

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Dinner is served!

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A little eggy for me, but light, airy & well risen

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Kenwood kitchen appliances

The appliances were used to make the different parts of the meal, although we didn't actually get to use them ourselves as the pastes and sauces were already made for us!

Currys were very generous and gave away the appliances to happy bloggers who had tweeted and posted the best tweets/photos. I got to meet some lovely new foodies and had a most enjoyable evening.

The Underground Cookery School is available for private hire, hen parties and corporate group sessions, they also have recipes and cooking videos on their website.

Currys have written their own blog post on the evening which you can read here.

bloggers at Currys event
Bloggers in the kitchen!
 Photo credit: Greenlight Digital

Currys in the Kitchen Event
One of my Instagram photos from the night

Disclosure: I attended the event as a guest of Currys, all views are my own.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2014 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Chocolate Truffle Masterclass

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An invite to a chocolate truffle masterclass with leading chocolatier Paul A Young is a no-brainer! I do like playing with chocolate and I'll take any help going, especially if it's from one of the world's best. The event was organised by Pinterest UK and held at The Cookery School in central London, with help from Great British Chefs.

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Paul A Young

We learned about the different kinds of chocolate and cocoa beans, and also how to temper chocolate correctly at home. You don't need expensive equipment - a bowl set over simmering water to melt the chocolate, a granite or marble slab (cheap from a builders' merchant), plus a scraper to spread and scoop the chocolate up will do. Something you won't be able to buy are cold hands, which are essential for rolling the truffle mixture into little balls! Apart from cold hands, you also need a cool kitchen, and when you've made the truffles or chocolates, don't store them in the fridge. Properly tempered chocolate shrinks slightly, which helps to remove chocolates from a mould.

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Chocolate ready for melting

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Chocolate & cream for the truffles

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Tempering the chocolate

We rolled out our own Port and Stilton Truffles ***YES!*** which were absolutely gorgeous. If you want to have a go at making them yourself, the recipe is on the Great British Chefs website, Port and Stilton Truffles. You can read Pinterest's own blog post here and see more photos on the Pinterest board Paul A Young recipes.

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In case you're not familiar with Pinterest, it's a pinboard-style photo sharing website allowing users to create and manage theme based image collections including events, interests, and hobbies. You can search other pinboards and re-pin images to your own boards for safe keeping. I like to think of it as my creative inspiration boards, somewhere I can come back to time and again, to drool, gaze or just get fabulous ideas. I have 53 boards - mostly food boards - one is devoted to chocolate! Have a look, but don't blame me if you become addicted!

Pinterest boards
My boards

More photos from the evening:

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Rolling the truffles

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Finished truffles

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Nicely equipped cookery school

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We even got fed!

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Lovely canapes

Thank you to Pinterest, Great British Chefs and to Paul A Young for the fabulous chocolate masterclass.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2014 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Pecan Raspberry Meringue Torte Recipe


One of my favourite things to make with leftover egg whites are meringues. I made up this easy 3 layer raspberry meringue torte for the husband's birthday. If you like your meringue crunchy, eat on the day you make it because it will go soft due to the double cream filling.


Pecan Raspberry Meringue Torte

4 large egg whites
200g caster sugar
100g chopped, roasted pecans
300ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur
150g fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon freeze-dried raspberries

Line three baking trays with baking parchment and use a 23cm round plate, or tin, as a template to draw a circle on each piece of parchment. Turn the paper over so the circle marks are on the underneath.

Put the egg whites into a clean, large, grease-free bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Gently fold in the chopped, roasted pecans, reserving a tablespoon for serving.

Spread the meringue equally onto the three baking sheets, keeping just inside the circle. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 150ºC/300ºF/Gas Mark 2, for about 1½ hours, until the meringues are pale and crisp. Remove from the oven and place the meringues onto wire racks to cool.

Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in the raspberry liqueur.

To assemble the dessert, place one of the meringues onto a serving plate and spread a third of the whipped double cream over. Scatter half of the raspberries over the cream and place another meringue on top. Add another third of cream and the rest of the raspberries, followed by the last meringue disc. Top with the remaining cream and scatter the reserved pecans and freeze-dried raspberries over the top.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2014 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Pairing Côtes du Rhône Wines with Chinese Food

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My latest wine challenge was quite interesting and very timely (given we're in the middle of Chinese New Year!) - can Côtes du Rhône wines be paired with Chinese takeaway food?

I have to admit that I've not eaten Chinese takeaway food for years - after all, you can make a fabulous stir-fry at home, and Chinese ingredients are easily accessible in all supermarkets nowadays. I asked around on Twitter to see where I might find a good restaurant in my part of the woods and there were some good recommendations, but had to go to the closest one in the end due to never-ending poor weather. I cannot lie, I was a little disappointed - thank goodness for the wine!

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I was sent two wines to try with the food, a red one - La Chasse Côtes Du Rhône Reserve (Sainsbury’s, £7.99) and a white - Saint Maurice Côtes du Rhône Villages Blanc de Rouville, Domaine de l'Echevin 2012 (The Wine Society, £12.50).

The Côtes Du Rhône wine area in southeast France has been producing wines for at least 2000 years, with the hot and sunny climate producing a more constant temperature than that of other French wine producing regions. Over 450 million bottles of wine are produced each year (14% of French wine production); with 80% red, 14% rosé and 6% white.

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The La Chasse Côtes Du Rhône Reserve was a light, fruity, red, and matched the less sweet dishes. It perked up the prawn crackers and was a great accompaniment to the king prawn delight - a spicy Szechuan style dish. It's also a good wine to serve with mature cheeses as I discovered the next day!

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The Saint Maurice Côtes du Rhône Villages was a very refreshing and zesty light white wine, excellent with all the Chinese dishes, but particularly the sweeter dishes of crispy shredded seaweed and sweet & sour chicken. A great all rounder of a wine!

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There was nothing terribly wrong with the food, it felt like stepping in time by 20 years with exactly the same sickly sticky sauce on the sweet & sour, same flavour gravy on the vegetables.... I don't really know what I had been expecting! I was thinking that the food would be as good as mine and hoping that it would be better. Having said that, we were hungry and most of it got eaten.

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I know it's a bit slobbish not to put the food into serving dishes, but it's a takeaway and I did get out the chopsticks and decent wine glasses!  My favourite dishes were the plain chow mein noodles, which bought out the lovely aromatic scent of the red wine and the crispy shredded seaweed - a great match for the sweeter white wine. The most disappointing dish were the spring rolls, nice and crisp on the outside but quite mushy non-descript vegetables inside.

Next time you order a Chinese takeaway, don't reach for the lager or tea, try some fabulous affordable Côtes du Rhône wine. Dare I say to pop the red wine in the fridge for half an hour, especially if you're not ordering the sweet dishes, a chilled glass of Chasse Côtes Du Rhône Reserve is the perfect partner for your food!
Happy Chinese New Year!

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Disclosure: I was sent two bottles of Côtes du Rhône wines to see how they pair with Chinese takeaway food, all views are my own.
Please drink responsibly, visit Drinkaware for more information.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2014 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.