Dark Chocolate and Caramel Tart

I love having family and friends over for dinner… or using my mums kitchen to bake for them. I find it so therapeutic and love seeing them devour the food I’ve made them. As I’ve not been home lately, I’ve been on the hunt for a new recipe to wow them with over birthday season. This is September for us with four of us born in the month plus my sister in law is at the end of August and now my niece at the beginning of October! It’s nice to find some new desserts to test on them!

I can’t wait to get back and make This for them. It’s super easy to do and can be made the day before. It lasts about 4-5 days in the fridge but is best on the day it’s baked.

Use the caramel sauce from Salted Caramel Sauce – aka Heaven in a Jar!

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

225g Plain Flour

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150g Chilled Butter

25g Icing Sugar

1 Large Free Range Egg

Chocolate Ganache

175ml Double Cream

 

175g Good Quality Dark Chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids

 

15g Unsalted Butter

1Tbsp Golden Syrup

Method

Make your caramel sauce first using and leave to cool.

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a large bowl and add the cubed, chilled butter. Rub together using your finger tips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Sift in the icing sugar and lightly stir in. Add the egg and mix to form a soft dough. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, till it is about 3mm thick! Line a rectangular 30cm fluted tin, press the pastry lightly to the corners and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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Heat your over to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Blind bake your shell – do this by lining the pastry with baking parchment and filling with ceramic beans or rice if you don’t have any! Back for 10-15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 7-10 minutes or until golden. Set to one side and leave to cool.

While the pastry is baking make the ganache. Chop the chocolate into small chunks and Place into a heat proof bowl and pop to one side. Place the cream into a sauce and put on a low heat until simmering. Pour over the chocolate and stir until melted. Add the butter and golden syrup and continue to stir until fully incorporated. Set to one side to cool, but not set!

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Once the pastry shell is cold and the ganache cool, spread over the Salted Carmel Sauce.

Ensure you get into the corners. Follow this by pouring over the ganache, till to the top of the pastry case. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

Serve straight from the fridge! Add a little sea salt on the top to bring out extra flavours!

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ENJOY!! 

Hoppy Beer Pickles

With the boy as a brewer and endless amounts of beer that comes into the flat I decided to do something other than just drink it, much to do his disappointment.

Beer Pickled Pickles!

These are so easy to do and really taste fantastic. I recommend a hoppy beer, here I used Lagunitas IPA but I’ve also done it with one of the boys brews for my sister wedding! Use whatever beer makes you happy, though I wouldn’t recommend a stout!

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As it’s just two of us here I made this into a smaller recipe, but you can easily double or triple it! Just up the quantities and jar size!

Makes one 500ml Jar 20170729_164747.jpg

Ingredients 
100g Beer
150g Apple Vinegar
100g Granulated Sugar
15g Yellow Mustard Seeds
10g Whole Peppercorns
20g Pink Himalayan Salt
1tsp Chilli Flakes
400g Snacking Cucumbers

Method
Place the beer, vinegar and sugar into a pan. Place on a medium heat and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, bar the cucumbers and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Sterilise your jar. Do this by filling up with hot, soapy water, rinse clean and place in the oven on a low heat for 10 minutes. Or wash in the dishwasher. Your jar needs to be warm when you fill it though.
Top and tail your cucumbers. Slice into quarters and put them into your jar standing up right. Try and wedge in as many as you can.
Pour over the pickle mix, covering the cucumbers. Knock out the air bubbles by lightly tapping on the surface and seal.
Leave for at least 4 days before devouring. I recommend a good cheese board with some hard cheeses or in a cheese toastie!20170806_141524.jpg

Salted Caramel Sauce – aka Heaven in a Jar!

When I first started making caramel sauce I was told never to stir it, to just let it caramelise on its own. And what I’ve discovered through the years is that it’s so wrong! You can stir it, I encourage it. I find that if you don’t you can end up burning the sugar. This is more so if you are using larger amounts.

I eat this by the spoonful when it’s still ever so slightly warm, I’m too impatient to wait for it to cool! This is an incredibly versatile recipe and can be used in so many ways. The sky is the limit.

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Salted Caramel Sauce

500g Caster Sugar

1 tbsp Water

180g Unsalted Butter, room temperature

1 tsp Vanilla extract

250ml Double Cream

1tsp Pink Himalayan Salt

 

Method

Put the sugar and water in a large, heavy bottom pan and place on a medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar starts to dissolve.

While this is happening, cut up your butter into cubes. Place the cream into a microwave able dish and heat for 30-45 seconds until warm, but not hot!

Once the sugar has completely caramelised and is light brown in colour take off the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter has melted.

Slowly add your cream and salt and place back onto the heat on a low temperature. This will help you as the cream with form a lump in your pan. Keep stirring until a lowly smooth caramel sauce forms.

Allow to cool before use.

This sauce will keep for up to one month in an airtight jar in the fridge. Use at room temperature.

 

Exploring Lisboa

I have to say Lisbon wasn’t on my top places to visit until very recently…mainly when I discovered it was one of the most consistently warm places in Europe and I had a Hen Do to plan! I didn’t think much of it. I just thought of it as “just another city” and oh man, was I wrong! I think I fell in love the second I got a taxi from the airport. I don’t normally get a taxi from the airport but the three bridesmaids were waiting for me to arrive so I wanted to get there ASAP. A quick note on that, if you can book a taxi in advance, I ended up waiting for about 15 minutes. And yes, at this point I realised it would have been quicker to get the metro but we live and learn.20170430_130655.jpgIn the morning, I popped down the road and get some freshly made pastries to take back to the apartment and all the girls. I did take a mini detour as it was so quiet I couldn’t resist seeing the Arco da Rua Augusta and Terreiro do Paço empty! Though it’s beautiful at anytime of day it’s great to see it so early. I would recommend getting up early on one of your days just to see the city in silence – there really is something beautiful about it.IMG-20170502-WA0044I love to walk (something my family still can’t believe having ones loathed it!) so I organised a good walk around the city. Starting at Carmo Convent, which is ruin of a church. Founded in 1389 it was the largest church in Lisbon but in 1755, an earthquake off the coast of Portugal caused significant damage. Today, it is a roofless nave open to the heavens, a gorgeous piece of history. The square on which it looks on to, Largo do Carmo, has some great little bars so we grabbed a seat, quite literally pulling them into the sun and some sangria – after all when in Lisboa… It was lovely just to sit, chat and watch people coming and going, a mixture of tourists and locals. IMG-20170729-WA0019Not long after we headed up to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, the gardens to Palacio Foz. They have the prettiest views! When we arrived there was a little market going on with food, drink and knick-knacks. It was incredibly touristy but still nice to look round and grab some food. It was so cheap! A massive ham and cheese sandwich with a beer for €5! Plus it tasted fantastic!IMG-20170502-WA0036After a nice chilled out lunch looking over Lisbon we headed on to Park Bar…it was pretty cool. Again touristy – but let’s be honest all rooftop bars are but we all still love them. Park is located on top of a multi-story car park. They don’t take reservations and they make it super clear that they don’t!! It was packed but we managed to squeeze onto a table! It overlooks the city, the river and the bell tower of Santa Catarina. It’s safe to say it was pretty spectacular. The booze wasn’t actually too pricey either and guess what, we had sangria!! Have you noticed a pattern here, views and booze.Screenshot_20170729-113747After a while we left to continue walking around the city. It is just beautiful to meander around, to look up, all the different tiles, the different floors, something different on every street. This is why I fell in love. It was genuinely such a gorgeous city. At this point though we realised were reminded as to why Lisbon is known for its seven hills…our calves were definitely feeling it! We headed back to our apartment to relax, shower and play some hen do games. Check out my blog here if you are looking for inspiration on Hen Do Activities. After much squealing, laughing and drinking we headed out. Drinking out was good fun, there is so many places to explore. Head over to FXFactory where there is a lot going on.Screenshot_20170729-113937The following morning a couple of us walked up to Castelo de S. Jorge. A Moorish Castle, approximately 1500 years old, with parts of the structure being built in the 6th Century! Though we didn’t realise you had to pay so we abandoned that and got Pastéis de Nata from Nata Lisboa which I have to say are a must! They were incredible. I want to move to Lisbon just for these!20170430_125626-e1501325157447.jpgJust around the corner from here is the best wine and food tasting! It worked out at about €35 pp. With this you got a bottle of red, white and wait for it…port…between…FOUR people!! Not just the the food was great and the service even better! We were there for about 2 and a half hours just taking it all in.IMG-20170502-WA0069Make sure you check out “Time Out Market”. It opened in May 2014, and has 35 kiosks selling regional specialities, such as Azeitão sheep’s cheese, flowers, Alentejo ham, sardines, wines and chocolates. Grab some food, some souvenirs (note – you can’t take sardines in your hand luggage, apparently they are classed as a liquid!) and take a load off your feet!

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There was still so much to see! I want to head back just to wonder down the small streets, take it all in all over again.

 

 

Caramelised Pecans

Caramelised pecans are such a treat in our household! I love them but they aren’t exactly the healthiest thing I make. But they are perfect for movie nights, girls nights in, or even just a Friday night snack!

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Ingredients

200g Pecans

5 tbsp, Light Brown Sugar (firmly packed)

1 tbsp Golden Syrup

1 tbsp Unsalted Butter

 

Method

Pre heat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan)

Roast your pecans for about 10 minutes, until you get that lovely roasting aroma.

Meanwhile, in a large pan add the sugar, golden syrup and butter. Melt on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until it bubbles. Stir in the toasted pecans. Make sure they are all covered.

Place back onto the roasting bad and spread out evenly. Place back in the oven for 7-10 minutes. Remove and allow to completely cool before breaking into pieces.

These should last 2 weeks in an air tight container!

Pergola on The Roof

What I love about London is all the unique pop ups you get in the summer! As I don’t actually live there now it’s hard to squeeze them all in, but don’t worry I do find away! 

With an afternoon free when visiting my family for a weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with a friend and go to one of these lovely places! 

First on the list was Pergola on the Roof. Situated just past Westfield Shopping centre in West London and both of us based that way it was meant to be! Also helped by the fact it was a gorgeous sunny day (annoyingly though sunglasses were forgotten!) we headed up. We didn’t have a reservation but they do have a few seats available for walk ins. They obviously aren’t as swanky as the reserved ones, just being garden folding chairs but still in did us perfectly. Like I said annoying we forgot the sunnies, the stones reflected a lot of light so I did spend a lot of time squinting at my friend! Thankfully she didn’t take too much offence to it – well I hope she didn’t!! 

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Obviously the first place to start is the bar! After lots of debating we ordered two frozen margaritas…what they don’t mention is you can only get that from the main bar, frustrating but as it wasn’t busy not too irritating. They were pretty good, alcoholic slushes, what’s not to love?! Down side though, and yes we know why it’s the case, but they were served in plastic cups. When it’s around £8 a drink you would think that you would get at least a hard plastic glass but unfortunately not. This bugs me not because no one really likes drinking out of them but they aren’t exactly great for the environment. Maybe something they should think about for next year…or even their winter event! But let’s move on from that, they were refreshing which was exactly what you want on a warm summer day in London. 

After drinking and chatting food was going to happen. Starting with Breddos Tacos, we ordered a couple of Tacos (obviously haha) to share. And man, they were good! We didn’t look amazing while we ate them, but what are friends for but not to mock you while you try not to drop your food everywhere.

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With the second drink in hand we then moved on to 8 Horton Square. Describing 20170507_143625themselves as Mediterranean Food Shack, you really can’t go wrong. If we are honest though, we wanted chips, picky food is what we were after but with Salt n Sauce only serving them with their fish – I don’t think they had prepared for being so busy as they did have just chips on their menu! And with Patty &a Bun being so busy we went to 8 Hoxton Square. And oh we were delighted! With them doing deep fired baby potatoes with probable the best mayo ever we felt like we had landed the jackpot. Safe to say we got our own massive bowls and polished them off easily. I think we will actually need to head to their actual restaurant to try some more of their food soon…maybe when pop up season is over! 

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The atmosphere was perfect – lots of young people with friends, family lunches and definitely some first dates going on. It felt relaxed, yet energetic. There was a buzz that you only get with day drinks in the sun. 

Head up, and don’t forget those sunglasses! 

 

Curried Sea Bass

Summer looks like it is here (for now!) which makes me want to eat light evening meal. I don’t know what it is but the sun is out and I want fish and greens. Fish in general is full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, all a great for the body. When purchasing your fish though, make sure it is sustainably sourced – talk to your fish monger or read the labels. It doesn’t feel like it makes a difference but in the long run it will, we need to care about our environment as much as we care about our own bodies. Sorry to go all eco on you but it is something I do feel passionate about.

Ingredients 

Paste

1tsp Lemon Juice

1tsp ground ginger

½ tsp chili flakes

1tsp gram masala

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp double cream

 

2 fillets of Sea Bass, skin on20170522_200257

 

2 White Potatoes

1 Clove Garlic

1 Spring Onion

2 tbsp Olive Oil

 

3 florets of broccoli

4 large handfuls of Spinach

 

Coriander

Mango Chutney

 

Method

In a bowl mix together the all the ingredients for the paste and stir together until smooth. Spread evenly over the two fillets of fish, place on the baking tray and set aside.

Chop the potatoes into quarters or bit sizes pieces. Place into a large pan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for approx. 15 minutes or until tender. Drain (but keep the water) and leave to steam dry. This is useful to get them to a crisp on them later.

Heat up the oil in a frying pan, add the potatoes, garlic and spring onion and fry. Cook the broccoli in the potato water, approx. 7-10 minutes. With the spinach place in a large pan with 2tbsp of water onto a medium heat, place the lid on and cook until wilted.

Meanwhile, heat the grill and place the seabass underneath, cook for around 6-8 minutes, until tender. Be careful to not overcook it or catch the paste!

Time to plate up – sprinkle over the coriander and a dollop of mango chutney! Enjoy