Chocolate Ganache with White Chocolate Mousse

A few days back, I shared the recipe for chocolate tart dough, which turned out pretty amazing. Today, I’m going to go for something similar – the chocolate ganache with white chocolate mousse.

chocolate ganache and mousseThis fancy looking chocolate dessert is surprisingly easy to make and isn’t as rich as it looks (believe it or not).  You might also want to try it with different flavoured mousses, something with a hint of citrus perhaps with the dark chocolate ganache, or something a touch of spice like coffee or black pepper with the white chocolate mousse.

Note, that while it is not the most difficult of recipes, it will take some time as some of the components take a while to set. For example, the white chocolate mousse will take at least 4 hours and it is better if you can leave it overnight. Oh, and excuse the picture of my soggy looking mousse, a very poor example of a quenelle I know, but I think we’d had quite an alcoholic dinner by the time we got to mains.

And I promise that I will post a non-chocolate dessert some time soon!  Serves 6

Ingredients

For the white chocolate mousse

400ml of double cream

3 egg yolks

25g caster sugar

3 gelatine leaves

500g white chocolate

For the dark chocolate décor

250g bitter chocolate (64% cocoa), chopped – I used Valhrona

120ml walnut oil

For the dark chocolate ganache

200ml of double cream

50g unsalted butter

400g dark chocolate (75% cocoa) chopped – I used Tanzanian for this recipe, I forget which brand, but I bought if from Wholefoods in London.

Method

1. White chocolate mousse:

Whip 300ml of the double cream in a standing mixer and whip until it forms soft ribbons on the surface.

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl.  Whisk continuously until thick and creamy and then take it off the pan.

Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water until soft, usually around 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from the water and squeeze out squeeze out all the water by hand.  Gently bring the remaining 100ml of cream to the boil in a small saucepan.  Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatine sheets until dissolved.

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water or blast it on high in the microwave for 30 seconds at time stirring regularly.  Stir in the cream and gelatine mixture and then slowly fold in the egg yolk mixture.  Allow to cool for five minutes then fold in a third of the double cream, making sure it is completely incorporated before folding in the remainder.  Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight if you have the time.

2. Dark chocolate décor:

Put the chocolate in a bowl and set over a pan of simmering water or blast it on high in the microwave for 30 seconds at time stirring regularly.  Stir in the walnut oil a third at a time.  Pour onto a sheet of acetate, spreading it over evenly and thinly with a palette knife.

Leave to set, then cut it in to 18 equilateral triangles to form the layers in the dessert and 6 thin strips to top the white chocolate mousse. I used a craft knife and ruler for this.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place until needed.

3. Tanzanian chocolate ganache:

Put the double cream in a saucepan, gently bring to the boil and then remove from the heat.  Whisk in the butter until completely dissolved then pour this mixture on to the chocolate and stir until melted and leave to cool.

When cold, place in the fridge for about 10 minutes then remove and beat well, it should be stiff enough to pipe but not so cold that it has set.

4. To serve:

Melt a little of the chocolate ganache and brush a stripe or pattern on to 6 chilled plates.  Put the remaining chocolate ganache in a piping bag and pipe in lines across 12 of the chocolate triangles. Make 6 stacks by placing one on top of another and then top with the remaining triangles.  Very carefully lift them on to the plates and top with a quenelle of the white chocolate mousse and finally a strip of the chocolate.

Which Electric Toothbrush Should You Buy?

If you’re out on the hunt for an electric toothbrush then the current bestseller across the UK marketplace is the 4000 CrossAction model by Oral-B. Regardless of whether you’re new to this type of product or not, the Oral-B brand should be well known to you. This is simply because it is a name that has long been associated with some fantastic quality products. However, this doesn’t mean that all of their products are going to be suitable for what you’re looking for.

electric toothbrushSome Oral-B products are known for their hefty price tags and this is especially the case for their electric toothbrushes. However, they also produce some high quality stuff that is more affordable. The thing is that we know that the highly priced products are going to be great but a lot of the time, these just have minor improvements due to a couple of features that we probably don’t even need.

This is the reason that I steer clear of the high-end rechargeable toothbrushes. I know that the product is going to try and lure me in with a feature that sounds cool but is more of a gimmick than anything else. This is one thing that I usually avoid because I’m looking for performance more than design. On top of that, a toothbrush that is associated with a good value for money is better for me than one that is just too expensive.

So what is the best electric toothbrush that performs well but provides a good value for money? I would have to say it’s the 4000 CrossAction and if you read reviews, they will suggest the same. In my opinion, this rechargeable toothbrush comes with all the essential features and certainly a design that is perfect for efficient cleaning of your teeth. This is proved by the 3D cleaning functions that are associated with this model. When you use this, you will notice how effective it is and this is partly due to the number of rotations and the pulsations, which are both quite impressive.

There are lots of other features that are impressive too. For example, there is a protimer that will lead you to adopt the correct cleaning technique and it will also advise you to keep cleaning your teeth until the recommended time is up. In simple terms, this rechargeable toothbrush has been optimised to clean your teeth in the best way possible.

This is further enhanced when you learn that there are different cleaning modes as well. These will be suitable for different conditions of teeth and gums. For example, if you have sensitive teeth, you can use the cleaning mode for this. And if you have problems with your gums then you can use the appropriate for that as well. So, taking this into perspective, this is the best electric toothbrush when versatility is concerned.

The good thing is that alongside all of these features, the battery life is pretty good too and on a single charge, the toothbrush is bound to last over a week. So this is my experience with the 4000 CrossAction electric toothbrush. I think that this is a top quality toothbrush and one that has lots of different features that are going to appeal to a person who wishes to clean their teeth more efficiently when compared to a manual toothbrush. In my opinion, the best part about it is the price tag, which is reasonable.

Chocolate Tart Dough

This pastry holds its shape really well and is great for blind baking.  It is ideal for any kind of of cream or custard tart filling.

chocolate tart

Ingredients

141g (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

150g sugar  (3/4 cup) sugar

Sea/coarse Salt

1 large egg

1 large white

310g (2 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

50g (1/2 cup) unsweetened coca powder (I prefer Valrhona)

4g (1 tsp) baking powder

Method

Put the butter, sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle/scraper attachment and beat until pale.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and egg white together. Add gradually to the butter, scraping the bowl often and beating until smooth.

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together.  Add to the wet ingredients and and mix on low speed only until blended.

Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half. Shape each half in to a small brick and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling.  The dough will keep for a week in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.

To EpiPen or not to EpiPen?

The following is a story about our quest to get Charlotte’s allergies properly diagnosed and our seven month quest to get a prescription for a potentially life saving EpiPen via our local surgery.

I’m not a doctor, and can only speak from experience, but after going through what we did, and learning what I have about nut allergies, I would strongly suggest that you push for an EpiPen even if you or your child’s reaction was mild…

When Charlotte first had an allergic reaction to peanuts (peanut butter) it was a pretty frightening experience; seeing her face swell-up, having difficulty breathing and rushing to hospital, all in all, not something that I would want her, or us to have to go through again.

Of course, that episode had a happy ending, she received prompt treatment and was back to her usual self within a couple of days.  We were advised at the hospital to see her GP and get an EpiPen as soon as possible. For those of you not in the know, an EpiPen is a basically an emergency adrenaline shot that can be used to keep someone alive who is having an anaphylactic reaction to something (a severe reaction to an allergen that can quickly lead to death). It being Christmas and Doctors apparently get holidays like the rest of us, it was a couple of weeks before we got to see the doc.  She was great, but not having previously proscribed an EpiPen to someone as young as Charlotte (she was 15 months old at the time), she referred us to a paediatrician.

Two more weeks later we got to see him, and to be honest, I kind of felt we got the brush of.  He was very nice, and we had seen him before regarding Charlotte’s eczema, but after I told him what had happened a month or so before and described Charlotte’s reaction to having a finger-nails worth of peanut butter, his response was that “it didn’t seem like a severe reaction so she didn’t need an EpiPen, not to worry and just to avoid nuts.”

He did suggest that we have a blood test done and he’d get back in touch with the results.

So off we went had her blood test done, got the results, which told us what we already knew, that she had an allergy to peanuts and make sure she avoided them and nuts in general.

Fast forward seven months and several visits to two GPs and one paediatric specialist regarding a completely different matter (Charlotte’s constant diarrhoea, which is another story in itself) we ended up at another paediatrician.  In passing I mentioned her peanut allergy, and I’m so glad I did.

A whole new world of understanding opened up to me.  The first thing he said was that she should DEFINITELY have an EpiPen and was clearly bemused why three previous doctors had failed to do so.

He stated that is was standard guidance to prescribe and EpiPen to anyone who has any kind of allergy to peanuts, no matter how mild as you never know how severe the next reaction might be.

He also explained about how little is known about these sorts of allergies, how some people do grow out of them and how rare that is.

After seeing Dr. Frischmann (who I would highly recommend if you happen to live in London) I walked out actually feeling that I finally knew what was going on with my child’s health and how to better manage it – shouldn’t all visits to the doctor be like that?

In closing, I’ll reiterate what I said at the start of this post, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been led to believe by those that are that you should always push for an EpiPen, no matter how mild your first allergic reaction to peanuts has been, it could save a life.

Spiced fish soup with scallops, fennel and olive tapenade

This was a starter I served up as part of our light-hearted “My Kitchen Rules” (think “Come Dine With Me” for those of you not in England) competition amongst some good friends here in London – okay, we ended up taking it pretty seriously but it was great fun, if very alcoholic, but more of that another day.
This is a recipe adapted from one by Jason Atherton, Jason used to run the Michelin starred kitchen at Maze in London until he set out on his own a couple of years ago.

It’s a great way to start a dinner party and the majority of it can be made a day or two in advance so you spend more time with your guests and less in the kitchen.

spicy fish and scallops

For the soup

45ml (3 tbsp) olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped

200ml dry white wine

500g plum tomatoes, roughly chipped

handful of coriander stalks

large pinch of saffron strands

2 star anise

6 cloves

1 piece of cinnamon

sea salt and black pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper

500g of red snapper (or trimmings)

600ml water or good fish stock

squeeze of lemon juice to taste

6 scallops

For the pan-fried red snapper and scallops

2 snapper fillets

30ml (2 tablespoons) of olive oil

knob of butter

4 medium scallops For the fennel purée

2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and chopped

150ml (3/4 cup) double cream

sea salt and black pepper

For the olive tapenade

200g pitted black olives

40g anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained

20g capers, rinsed and drained

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 tbsp olive oil

1. Spiced fish soup.  Warm up your olive oil, add the vegatables, put some seasoning and stir over a high heat for 4 to 6 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the white wine, stirring to deglaze and let bubble back until the pan is almost dry.

Add the tomatoes, coriander stalks, spices, fish and scallops. Pour in the stock or water to cover, bring to a simmer and gently cook for 20 minutes.

Remove the hard spices and put in a blender and blend until smooth, then pass though a coarse sieve into a dirt-free saucepan.

Simmer to thicken a little more. You can add more spice at this stage if you want to increase the flavour, but don’t forget to remove them if you do.  Once you have the consistency you require, use a little salt and pepper to season and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

2. Pan-fried red snapper and scallops. Ensure you have removed any bones from the snapper (I missed a couple, oops.) and cut them into 4 portion sizes, one for each serving and score the skin. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan until hot.

Season the fish and add them to the pan, with the side of the skin being placed down first.  Fry for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until you get a gold appearance and crispy texture.  Flip the side and cook for a another minute or so, until the flesh is just firm.  Remove and keep warm.

Add a knob of butter to the pan.  Season the scallops and fry for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side.

3. Fennel purée. Put all of the ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and cover, cooking for 8-10 minutes until the fennel is very soft.  Transfer to a food processor and blend to a fine purée, passing through a sieve if you need to.

4. Olive tapenade. Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.  Spoon into a clean jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil which will help to preserve it.  This should keep in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks.

A small not, I’ve found that here in the UK all the supermarket (and most of the deli) bought olives I’ve tried have been incredibly salty when compared to those that I’ve had elsewhere in the world.  I don’t know what they do to them here (well, I can guess), but I means I always end up rinsing them for a while before using them.

5. To serve.  Reheat the soup if necessary and froth up with a stick blender.  Spoon some fennel puree in to each warm serving bowl.  Add a pan fried scallop and a piece of snapper.  Dot with a little of the tapenade and garmish with some fennel shoots or baby herb leaves.

Finally, I then put the bowls on the table in front of our guests and poured the soup from a jug for that little bit of extra wow factor.

Mulberry jam

Until two weeks ago, I don’t think I had even seen a mulberry in the flesh before, let alone eaten one, now I am a fully paid up member of the Mulberry Jam Appreciation Society.

mulberry jamWhat could be better than some home-made jam on some freshly baked bread (that has already been smothered in a generous helping of butter) for breakfast in the morning?  Collecting wild fruit and berries seems to be a local past-time around here, and one that I’m completely supportive of.  I’ve been here for eighteen months now and loved all the free mangoes we had last summer.  What I didn’t know about until recently were the two large mullberry bushes at the end of our street.

The great thing about wild berries (apart from the free of charge aspect) is the fun you have and mess you can make while collecting them.  My wife, daughter and I had a great time climbing amongst the branches trying to find the ripest, juciest ones.

Actually, Charlotte spent all of the time cramming as many of them into her mouth, ears and hair as possible.  Note to self, next time you go collecting berries with a two year old, don’t put them in a white t-shirt.

Oh, and second note to self, don’t try and climb a tree in thongs/flip-flops when you’ve had a knee reconstruction in the last six months…

Ingredients

1kg mulberries

500g sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp pectin (if you want the jam to be thicker and reduce cooking time)

Method

Before you get started with the actual jam making, you will want to sterilise the jars that you will be using.  There are a number of ways of doing this, some dishwashers have a sterilise function, or you can use boiling water.  We used the steriliser that we used to use for our daughters feeding bottles when she was a baby.

Wash the mulberries and remove any stems, then place them, the juice and the zest in a saucepan.  I lightly crushed them at this stage, making sure that there were plenty that were still whole to give the jam plenty of texture.

Gently bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and continue to simmer, stirring constantly until all of the sugar has dissolved.

Add the pectin and stir until it has dissolved and remove from the heat, the mixture should begin to thicken and will continue to do so as it cools.

Spoon the jam in to the jars, screw on the lids and then leave to cool, then refrigerate.

So that’s it.

Also, if you guys haven’t done it already, be sure to check out the blackcurrant sorbet recipe that I shared a few days back!

Blackcurrant sorbet recipe

I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion that the reason it is so hard to buy blackcurrants in the UK is that Robinson’s buy them all to make Ribena with.  I don’t know whether this is true or not, but Robinson’s did used to claim that “nearly all of British blackcurrants are used in Ribena” and that it’s rare to see them on the supermarket shelves.

I love blackcurrants and  I love sorbet, and on a couple of occasions over the years I’ve been lucky enough to find some in a decent restaurant (usually overseas) but had pretty much given up hope of ever being able to buy some blackcurrants and make my own.

blackcurrant sorbet recipe

So imagine my surprise and delight about two years ago when I walked in to my local Tesco and saw a huge display of them!  It was 2010 and there must have been a bumper crop that year.  Now I don’t remember how much they cost but I’m sure I bought about four or five kilos which I thought indulgent at the time, although even now I wish I had bought ten times as much as I’ve yet to see them since.

Making sorbet is so simple, especially if you have your own sorbet/ice cream maker.  You can pick these up pretty cheap these days, I bought mine on ebay for not much more than £40 about  four years ago and it is still going strong.

Another tip is to keep the bowl part in the freezer all the time so that you can just take it out and use it whenever you need it.  It’s pretty frustrating to have to wait twenty-four hours for it to chill down if you keep it in the cupboard.

I also run the ice cream/sorbet maker in the freezer, hang on, there is a good reason!  I do this as the quicker the mixture freezes, the smaller the ice crystals that are formed are, thus making the finished product smoother.  I run an extension cord to the freezer door then plug the maker in to this (ensuring the extension cable is kept outside of the freezer itself), then simply put the maker in the freezer and close the freezer door/lid.  Pretty much any modern day freezer will have a soft enough seal to mold around the cable.

Ingredients

1kg blackcurrants

500g caster sugar

Lemon juice to taste

Handful of mint to garnish

Method

Carefully remove the stalks of the blackcurrants and wash them thoroughly. Remember that blackcurrants can easily stain clothes/work-surfaces/chopping boards etc., so handle accordingly.

Reserve a handfull of the blackcurrants for serving.

Place the blackcurrants and the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly until they soften and just start to burst open, then remove them from the heat immediately and place them straight in to a blender to cool. Be careful that you don’t overheat them during this first stage as you don’t want to cook them.

Blend the mixture and then strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.  You are trying to balance the acidity with the sweetness, remembering that both the taste of the blackcurrants and the sweetness will be dulled the colder the temperature that they are served at.

Pour the mixture into an ice-cream/sorbet maker and churn until frozen.  If you don’t want to put this is your freezer like I do, put the air-con on if you live in a hot climate, or stick it out the back door if it’s the middle of winter and cold outside (I also do this), yes, this does help!

If you don’t have a maker, pour the mixture into a small baking tray and place in the freezer, taking it out every 10-15 minutes to give it a good mix with a fork until it is creamy and evenly frozen with small ice crystals.

Scrape the sorbet into a container and gently press some cling film/plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent the top ‘burning’ and store until you are ready to serve.

Depending on how warm your house is and how frozen/melted you want to serve it, take it out of the freezer 10-20 minutes before you want to plate it up.  The warmer it is, the sweeter it will taste and you’ll also get a richer, fruitier flavor coming through.

Sorbet can be served as an accompaniment to all sorts of desserts, hot and cold, or you can just serve it with some of the reserved blackcurrants and a couple of mint leaves on top.