An easy chocolate pudding made with neither dairy nor egg, but don’t let that fool you – it’s rich, chocolatey and delicious. You can prepare it a day or two in advance, making it a perfect dish for entertaining.
- 100 g good quality dark chocolate (dairy-free of course) such as Green and Blacks
- 300 ml coconut cream
- 1.5 tbsp cocoa (or to taste)
- 2 tbsp caster sugar (or to taste)
- 2 heaped tbsp freeze-dried raspberries (optional)
- a handful of fresh summer fruits (optional)
Put a bain-marie (easily made by putting boiling water into a saucepan and placing a smaller saucepan inside it so it’s sitting in the hot water) on the hob on the lowest heat, and melt the chocolate and coconut cream together. Give it a stir every few minutes until all the chocolate is melted. Taste it at this point. If it needs to be more chocolatey, sift in the cocoa, so that it doesn’t make lumps. If the mixture needs sweetening (which it probably will unless your dark chocolate is very sweet) add the sugar. Stir for a few more minutes on the hob. Remove from the heat when you’ve got a smooth mixture that tastes right to you.
The next step of the recipe will ensure the mixture stays smooth as it comes down to room temperature. For this, transfer to a mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously by hand (or equivalent speed in a mixer) for 5 minutes. Cover and leave to cool in the fridge (this speeds up the process), whisking again every 10 minutes or so, as it cools down. This should take about 30–45 minutes.
When the mixture has come down to room temperature, you can add the freeze-dried raspberries, whisk one last time and your work is nearly done. By this point, it should have taken on a slightly lighter colour, and be about the consistency of thick cream. Pour into ramekins, and place in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Remove from the fridge just before serving, top with a handful of fresh raspberries and blueberries or other summer fruits, and tuck in!
This is heavenly food, and healthy too, involving nothing more than dark chocolate, dried fruit, and nuts (it is taken, with minor changes, from Food for Think, a source of good things).
The fruit and nuts may be varied as you please, for example, with candied peel or chopped almonds or something more radical such as salted cashew nuts. High-quality dark chocolate is essential – ensure it doesn’t contain lactose or skimmed milk. For another idea, try Orangettes in our book.
- 60 g dried apricots
- 60 g hazelnuts, shelled
- 60 g walnuts, shelled
- 60 g sultanas or raisins – or a mixture
- 200 g dark chocolate (e.g., Lindt 70%)
Chop the dried apricots and the nuts and mix together along with the other dried fruit.
Soften the chocolate gently in a bain-marie, that is, one saucepan, containing the chocolate roughly broken into shards, sitting in a larger pan containing water that is kept simmering over a low flame.
Meanwhile, line a baking tray with non-stick greaseproof paper. As soon as the chocolate has melted, pour it carefully on to the centre of the paper (it has a natural tendency to spread in a neat circle if you keep pouring in the same place). Starting in the middle, spoon the fruit and nut mixture evenly over the chocolate, pressing it down lightly both to embed it and to spread the chocolate out more.
Refrigerate just until the chocolate has hardened. Cut or break off wedges as required. It keeps well – if you are strong-minded.
One of the incentives to walking in Provence is the prospect of finding goodies along the way, a handful of rocket leaves to jazz up a salad, say, or white mulberries from the trees whose leaves once provided sustenance to insatiable silk worms, the basis of many people’s livelihoods here in the late nineteenth century. With summer come more substantial pickings, wild pears and figs and, later on, plums.
A recent discovery was a stray damson tree which we re-visited two or three times. Some of the plums we ate as they were, some got popped into jam pots after fast boiling with sugar, and some got baked as follows, according to Elizabeth David’s recommendations in French Provincial Cooking.
The fruit doesn’t need to be ripe: the amount of sugar can be increased if necessary, along with the cooking time.
To have vanilla sugar to hand, simply keep some sugar in a jar with a vanilla pod. The latter will perform for years and provide a much more subtle perfume than vanilla essence.
Kirsch can apparently replace 2–3 tbsp of water quite successfully (any comments on this would be interesting).
• 1 kg plums of any type
• 4½–6 tbsp vanilla sugar or sugar + a vanilla pod
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C.
Wash the fruit and make an incision in each one along the natural divide.
Arrange in a pyramid in a baking dish, says Elizabeth David, but it works perfectly well with the fruit quite tightly packed in a single layer.
Sprinkle with up to 6 tbsp sugar, depending on the fruit, and up to 5 tbsp water (less if very ripe plums) or water and kirsch.
Bake until fruit is soft but has not lost it shape, 30 min – 1 h, and serve hot or at room temperature, in which case a sorbet goes well.
It’s a common misconception that a good tomato sauce requires a multitude of ingredients, and I often hear people talk about a “secret ingredient” that will magically turn a bland and watery concoction into tomato-ey perfection – ketchup, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, even Marmite (!) – and I’m rarely, if ever, convinced.
There is a secret to great tomato sauce, and it follows the “less is more” principle which applies to some of the best recipes I know – Italian in particular. Forget the dried herbs. Forget the condiments. And, for the love of god, forget the Marmite. This recipe consists of only a handful of ingredients, and we have the brilliant Marcella Hazan to thank for it.
It’s a simple dish, so attention to detail makes all the difference: you should use good quality extra-virgin olive oil (and lots of it), the garlic needs to be as thinly sliced as you can manage and should not burn in the oil, and the dish must cook until the olive oil separates from the tomato.
Simple tomato pasta is now a dish I look forward both to cooking and to eating – and I hope you will too.
Marcella’s perfect tomato sauce
Serves three to four people.
- 2 tins of whole plum tomatoes (400g each)
- 2-4 cloves of garlic
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- fresh basil
- salt and black pepper
Cut the garlic into wafer thin slices (see photo), and place in a heavy bottomed pan with the olive oil. Place on a moderate flame on the hob, and fry the garlic until it starts to turn a nutty brown. Make sure it doesn’t burn, as this will give the whole dish the slightly bitter flavour of burnt garlic. (This method of heating ingredients in olive oil from cold is known as a crudo in Italian cooking.)
While the garlic is frying, drain the excess juice off the tomatoes in a colander. As soon as the garlic is done, add the tomatoes and break them down. Leave to cook on a moderate heat for half an hour to forty minutes, stirring from time to time to break the tomatoes down further. Gradually, you should start to see the olive oil separating from the tomatoes, and the sauce will be ready when the two are quite separate. The olive oil will take on the colour and flavour of the tomatoes and garlic, and the tomatoes will become smooth, rich and sweet.
A couple of minutes before turning off the heat, add generous pinches of salt and pepper, and stir. Taste the sauce now – as with all pasta sauces, on its own it should be a little over-salty (though not inedible!) to compensate for the relative blandness of the pasta.
Immediately before serving add the fresh basil leaves, carefully torn so as not to bruise them. Serve with spaghetti (though farfalle and penne also work well) and a fresh green salad on the side.
Once you’ve got the hang of this dish, you can experiment with variations such as the addition of olives, capers, anchovies, etc. Avoid adding fresh vegetables or mushrooms, as the additional water content will upset the chemistry of the sauce.
The quality of chicken can vary so much, from the delicious and succulent to the bland and dry, and the much-loved traditional roast can so easily fall into the latter category for want of a flavoursome chicken.
The beauty of this Kubab Chicken dish is that it can salvage even an inferior chicken – thanks to a potent spice mix and the use of the pot-roasting method, it will be neither bland nor dry. Elizabeth David actually used this spice mix for fish as well as chicken, and the exotic aromas of the spices complement the subtle flavours of each in different ways.
I like to serve this as an alternative to the ubiquitous Sunday roast (which my family has gradually phased out of its culinary routine), as it’s a dish that carries sufficient gravitas to warrant inclusion on a serious Sunday menu.
The recipe is simple and quick to make, but the chicken does require marinating, so make sure you allow time for this – the temptation is always to cut corners here, but it’s not worth it!
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2.5 cm piece of ginger
- 6 cardamom pods
- 12 black peppercorns
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 cloves
- vegetable ghee or olive oil
- a roasting chicken, weighing 1 – 1.4 kg
- lemon quarters and fresh coriander for serving
Heat the coriander seeds gently in a small thick pan for 3 to 4 minutes. Peel the ginger and chop it coarsely, and shell the cardamon seeds. Grind these spices with the peppercorns, salt, and cloves, in a pestle and mortar until you have something approaching a rough blend. A little ghee or oil can be added to ease the process.
Now pull back the skin of the chicken from between the wings, without tearing if possible, and with a small sharp knife make incisions under the skin in the leg and the breast meat of the bird. Press the spice mix into these and spread it as evenly as possible wherever you can get to between the skin and the flesh. Put the skin back in place.
Leave for 1 – 2 hours.
Set the oven to gas mark 4/180°C about 10 minutes before you want to put the chicken in. On top of the stove, heat 1 – 2 tbsp ghee or oil in a casserole in which the chicken fits quite closely, and put it in on its side. Cover and bake in the oven, turning the bird over after 30 minutes. Remove the lid after 1 hour, turn the chicken breast upwards and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Serve with the juices poured over the chicken, lemon quarters around it, and a sprig or two of fresh coriander if you can get it. Accompaniments could include aromatic basmati rice, and a couple of colourful vegetable dishes to break up the off-white tones.
Dairy and egg-free cooking for pleasure – this is the raison-d´être of both this food diary and our book. And the emphasis is on pleasure, because cooking and eating should never be a chore, even and especially when the range of ingredients is limited by dietary needs. This is the challenge that many of us face, if we, our families, or our friends are dairy- or egg-intolerant.
But let us not give the impression that this is about “diet” cuisine – on the contrary, this is about real food, home-cooked dishes that have evolved to tempt palates and satisfy appetites through the use of natural, high quality ingredients. No suspect soya substitutes, no attempts to emulate any of the forbidden ingredients – just delicious, honest food.
This diary comes to you mostly from a village in the craggy hills of the Vaucluse in Provence, occasionally from the UK where we have family, and anywhere else our culinary curiosity takes us. Wherever you may be and whatever your interest in reading, we hope you will join us in our exploration of the almost limitless possibilities available to anyone who can get their hands on a bottle of unctuous extra virgin olive oil, a handful of crunchy cloves of garlic, and a bunch of fresh green parsley…