21 May 2012

And Now For The Big Finale

Now it is time to temper chocolate. The teacher recommended starting with milk chocolate, it is the easiest one to temper.

The teacher also recommended that chocolate buttons are used. The reason for this is that they are all the same size and will melt at the same rate.

Since the cake I was decorating was supposed to look like a present with a bow, I selected a chocolate transfer sheet which would serve as the ribbon and bow around my present shaped cake. Before starting with this, take a good look at the cake and determine which side is the nicest looking one and remember it, this will be the front of the cake, the side that should be presented to the viewers.

A transfer sheet is an acetate sheet, which has coloured cocoa butter printed very thinly in a pattern on one side. From this I cut out two strips that would form the ribbon around the present. I made mine about 3 cm wide and measured so that they would be long enough to go from one bottom edge of the cake, across the top and down to the bottom edge on the opposite side. And two of them would form a cross. But, that would mean that one of the two strips would be covered by the other and would not be possible to remove! So I left one of the strips as it was and placed it over the cake where I was planning to place it. Then I took the second strip and measured up where it would cross the first one. Then I cut out the segment that crosses the first strip. That sorts out the ribbon part. But a present should really also have a bow. For this, I cut out four strips 3 cm wide and about 15 cm long. Then a further four strips at 3 cm by 10 cm. Then finally cut out one strip of 3 cm by 5 cm. This should still leave enough of the transfer sheet, in case you make mistakes. Now cut out a largish piece of baking paper and place the transfer strips with the chocolate side up and make sure to remember which strip is for what purpose. This piece of baking paper is your "clean area".

For the tempering, divide the chocolate into 3 equal parts. Place two of them in one bowl and keep the last one aside. Place the larger amount in the microwave and heat on maximum for 10 - 15 s at a time, taking out between each and stirring. The microwave time may vary, depending on its wattage, so better be careful, if the chocolate burns it will need to be thrown away and it will smell up the kitchen. At first it may appear that noting is happening with the chocolate buttons, but looks can be deceiving. Also keep checking the bowl temperature, it should be pretty much at body temperature. When the chocolate has melted fully, add the last part of the chocolate buttons and "massage" them in, they'll start to melt a little from the warmth of the already melted chocolate. This is called "seeding" the chocolate, meaning the already melted part has lost its tempering and you use the seeding chocolate buttons to start the tempering process. Now do a "paper test". Basically take a small strip of baking paper and dip one end and one side of it in the melted chocolate and set it aside, while continuing to stir the chocolate. If the chocolate is tempered, it should start setting within the minute. Look at it at different angles, there may be some streaks on it, like oil slicks. This means it's not fully tempered, but close.

One thing to keep in mind, if you see that the chocolate along the edges of the bowl begins to set, don't be tempted to scrape it off and try to blend in with the melted chocolate at the bottom of the bowl. Try to get as far as you can with the bit that is melted. Only then scrape down the bowl and repeat the tempering procedure if needed.

When the final lot of buttons stop melting and just appear like lumps, heat up the chocolate again in the microwave, this time in 5 s bursts or even less and keep checking and making the paper test until the lumps are completely gone. Do the paper test on the chocolate to make sure it's tempered still and wait until you are sure. I managed to ruin my tempering in the last melt and although I did the paper test, I didn't wait to see if it had set, but went ahead and spread a thin layer on my two transfer pieces and placed them onto the cake. If the chocolate isn't tempered, the pattern won't stick to the chocolate, at least not well. If this happens, quickly remove the ribbons from the cake.


Then cut out two new ribbon strips, slightly wider than the initial ones and repeat the process with cutting out the section of where they cross.

Cut out a second largish piece of baking paper. This will be the "dirty area" and should be placed next to the clean area. The bowl of melted, tempered chocolate should be placed on the other side of the dirty area.

Take the three strips for the ribbon and place on the dirty area, pattern side up. Drizzle some of the melted chocolate and spread it with an angled palette knife, thinly but not so that it is see-through. Then pick up a strip at a time and run two fingers along the two long edges to remove excess chocolate. Then carefully place with the chocolate side down over the cake and leave to set.

Next do the bow. Take two of the strips at a time, place on the dirty area, drizzle chocolate and spread in the same way as for the ribbon. Take up a strip at a time, run your fingers along the two long edges, to remove the excess chocolate, then carefully fold the strip into a loop so that the two short edges meet and stick together. Looking at the strip from the side, it will be a shaped like a droplet. Place it on it's side on the clean area to set, then repeat with the second strip. Then proceed with the other six strips. The reason these should be done two at a time is that by now the chocolate in the bowl should start getting thicker and begin to set. Once spread on a transfer strip, it will set even faster and can only be folded while still setting, after that it will just snap. Finally do the last small piece.

This concludes the main work with the tempered chocolate. It takes practice, as you need to work fast in a home environment. Temperate chocolate sets quickly. In fact as a comparison, you can do the paper test before you add the last third of the chocolate buttons and observe how it behaves. For starters it will take a long time for it to set, more than 10 minutes perhaps. Professionals have equipment that can maintain melted tempered chocolate indefinitely, in fact when I went to the Chocolate Festival in Stockholm in October 2010, they demonstrated what appeared to be an industrial sized, stand-alone double sink, but where the taps were producing dark and milk chocolate respectively, all tempered and ready to use. Now that's something!

Give the transfer sheets some more time just to make sure the chocolate sets and in the mean time, choose an actual fabric ribbon which will match the colours in the transfer sheets. It should be of the same width as the cake board and be long enough to go all the way around it. You will also need narrow double-sided sticky tape. Now glue the sticky tape along the side of the cake board, then peel it to reveal the second sticky side and glue on the fabric ribbon. The best way to do this is to keep the cake and board on the work surface and use it to help ensure that the fabric ribbon sticks on level. Also make sure that the edges of the fabric strip end up at the back of the cake, not the front.

So it is time to carefully peel off the acetate from both the three pieces of ribbon on the cake and all the pieces for the chocolate bow. The acetate has also the advantage of making the chocolate surface extra shiny, so investing in a few plain acetate sheets may also be well worth it.

How to assemble the bow? Well, a little more melted tempered chocolate is needed and a small paper cone for piping it and glue the pieces together. Once you have this ready, cut out a tiny hole at the tip of the cone, then start with the four larger bow parts, one at a time. Place it on the cake to see where it makes contact with the cake surface, then pick it up and dab a little melted chocolate onto the bow loop and place back on the cake surface. Repeat with the other three and it's OK to allow the flat edges overlap a little and place them in a cross.

Then take the smaller four bow loops and repeat carefully the procedure above, but this time shift them so that each small loop ends up between two large loops. Try to use as little of the melted chocolate as possible, but use the paper nozzle to get into the trickier places to make sure each loop is in contact with one or two others underneath. Finally glue on the smallest loop in the middle of the bow and allow the whole thing to set. If some of the strips have set in a funny way, you can carefully trim them with sharp scissors before fixing to the cake. And you end up with something like this.


With some of the left-over covering, I made a twisted rope to go around the bottom edge of the cake and hide a few things I wasn't happy with. This is actually a general trick to keep in mind - anyone can make mistakes. If it happens, don't try to cover it up and hide it, instead make a feature that will disguise it instead. For example you can see where I got some corn flour on the chocolate covering of my cake in the last photo of yesterday's blog entry. I offset the chocolate ribbon to cover it. I also didn't measure the length very well, the twisted rope around the cake hides this.

It's best to try and have a continuous twisted rope around the whole cake, but make sure that the ends meet at the back of the cake. As it is a twisted rope style, cut the two ends at an angle, then it is easier to disguise them where they meet. Also brush a little of the piping jelly along the cake edge before placing the rope there, so that it doesn't move or fall off even.

At this point I was quite happy with my cake, I was the slowest one in the class, but given that I've only covered two cakes with icing in the past and then not at all well, I did quite well and had very little to hide actually.

But there was one more technique to try - moulding. The teacher brought out a large box with small silicon moulds in various different shapes - flowers, butterflies, bees, sea shells etc. I selected a mould with ladybirds and one with flowers and took a walnut sized piece of white modelling chocolate and a similar piece of milk modelling chocolate. Kneaded each of the pieces until soft. Then I used a little trex (transparent vegetable fat) and greased up the inside of each mould. Then I pressed in modelling chocolate and made sure it filled the mould, before carefully wringing it out and set the shape aside to dry a little. This way, I created a few ladybirds and flowers.


Once they had dried a little, I brushed them with edible glue and stuck to the cake.


And this is how a lot can be hidden away. One thing to keep in mind though is that the different forms of chocolate will have slightly different colour, so be careful not to use too many of the techniques. I was happy with my cake before I stuck on the moulded decorations and would have stopped there, but this was for training purposes.

To round up, the sponge was very good and had a very dark brown colour and fine and moist texture. I was very careful with the butter cream. Unfortunately whoever made it had used salted butter and had not mixed it well, there were lumps of butter here and there and it did have a distinct savoury flavour, but not like a salt caramel piece, but just salty.

I had had a big dinner just before tasting the cake, so was not able to appreciate it fully, it felt too sweet, but Lundulph thought it was very well balanced. The in-laws had a lot of nice words to say about it too, which made me happy.

So, next steps are practice, practice, practice. Particularly on the tempering of chocolate and here is an interesting fact - tempered chocolate can be stored for a very long time in an air-tight container away from light and extreme temperatures. Untempered starts going off in a couple of weeks or so.

The other very important thing about the clean and dirty areas I mention above. Just let the chocolate set, then scrape it together and use again, don't throw away. The teacher explained that chocolate takes a lot of effort to produce, it would be terrible to waste it unnecessarily. This also means that it's sort of easy to practice - keep melting and tempering over and over again. So also avoid disposable piping bags, but use ones made from baking paper, so that left-over chocolate can be saved and used again.

20 May 2012

Learning To Chocolate...

While browsing food blogs, I stumbled over a website of a sugarcraft supplier that also offers a variety of courses, among others a Chocolate Day. Basically it said, bring a cake and we'll teach you to decorate it. So how could I resist, I've been looking for chocolate courses for some time without any luck.

So last Saturday was a very longed for day. The cake recipe arrived in an e-mail and I made the cake on Thursday evening.

Rich Chocolate Cake


65 g cocoa powder
250 ml boiling water
a little grapeseed oil
125 g unsalted butter
275 g caster sugar
200 g plain flour
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.25 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

  1. Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water well, then allow to cool completely.

  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Brush lightly a 5 in (13 cm) square cake tin with grapeseed oil, both sides and bottom. Then line it with baking paper - first cut a 15 cm wide and 52 cm long strip. Fold one of the long sides at 2 cm in from the edge, then snip this strip at 2 cm intervals. Place this strip along the sides of the cake tin so the folded part is at the bottom of the tin. Then cut a square piece and place at the bottom of the tin.

  3. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

  4. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.

  5. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk them together with a fork a little.

  6. Add alternatively a little of the eggs and a little of the flour mixture into the creamed butter and sugar. Once the eggs are in, continue with the cocoa mixture and mix thoroughly until everything has been well incorporated and has an even colour.

  7. Pour in the mixture into the cake tin and bake until ready, about 1 h 15 minutes. Check with a skewer - it should come out clean.

  8. Take out the cake and let it cool down in the tin for 40 minutes.
    Then remove it from the tin, if there is damp on the baking paper, wipe it, then wrap the cake, along with the baking paper, tightly with cling film or put in a bag and seal so that it is airtight and allow to cool completely.

I didn't quite follow the instructions, by the time I had the cake batter ready, it looked like it would be way too much for a 5 inch cake, so I ripped everything up and rigged up for a 6 inch cake. Indeed, the batter filled up the 6 inch tin to just above the middle.

The instructions said bake at 180 degrees C. When I checked the cake after 40 minutes, very little appeared to have happened, then at 1 h, the cake had risen like volcano, which I believe means it's baked at too hot temperature. Thus I state 160 degrees C above. As there is such a small amount of rising agents, this cake won't rise much and the 5 inch square is enough.

Now here comes the interesting bits. Unwrap the clingfilm and remove the baking paper from the side of the cake, but leave the bottom one on.

Slicing the cake. There are several ways to get the cake layers. If using a knife, try to keep the cutting hand and arm as steady as possible and gently make a sawing movement. With the other hand, turn the cake around in a circle, so that the knife makes a shallow cut around the cake at the chosen level. As you turn the cake, make the cut a little deeper and continue turning until the cake has been sliced. This way, a cleaner cut will be achieved overall. But a knife has two surfaces, which generate friction when the cake is cut. This makes it a bit harder to cut and increases the risk of creating crumbles in the cake. So it may be worth investing in a cake slicer, which has a wire. This means very much smaller surface to generate friction, and so much easier to cut, in addition to resulting in even cake layers. I suppose using a long filleting knife with some sort of spacers on either side of the cake should also give even layers. I removed the peak at the top of the cake, then sliced it in 3.

We were given chocolate butter cream to use as filling and the first thing to do is to place a little in the middle of the cake board and spread it thinly with a palette knife. To have a nice stable base for the cake, the middle cake slice should be used. The butter cream on the board will ensure that the cake won't move around while decorating it.

Next I added a layer of butter cream, not too much, as butter cream can be quite rich. Use the top cake slice for the second cake layer, if it is a little uneven due to baking, this can be levelled out with butter cream. I then added a further layer of butter cream and finished with the bottom slice of the cake, making sure to keep the bottom with the baking paper on top of course.

Now it is time to cover the sides and then the top with a thin layer of butter cream. This works as glue for the final covering and also allows getting a nice, even and regular shape. So, remove the final piece of the baking paper, then spread butter cream on the sides. The idea is that you can place your hand on the top while you do this. Finally do the same with the top of the cake. Try to get everything as smooth as possible.


For the icing we would use 2 parts of a Belgian covering paste (also known as chocolat plastique or modelling chocolate) and 1 part of chocolate regal ice. The reason for this is that the modelling chocolate tastes better, but can be a bit hard to work with, so adding some chocolate regal ice makes it more pliable. First knead through each of the two, then put together and knead until they are well blended.

Using a little corn flour on a clean table, roll out the covering. And here is a new trick I learned. Always roll away and towards yourself, this ensures that both hands will exert an even pressure on the rolling pin. Never be tempted to roll diagonally or sideways, then one arm will invariably press harder on the pin and the covering will become uneven. This of course means that the covering piece will need to be rotated regularly in order to roll it out into a roundish shape. This also serves the purpose of avoiding the situation when the covering is nicely rolled out and is stuck to the table. The corn flour doesn't soak in like icing sugar would do, but it is still important to use as little as possible, but whenever needed, rather than loads at the start. And be careful not to get any corn flour on the top surface, as it will leave stains. When turning the covering, use the rolling pin and flap one part of the mass over the pin, then lift the pin up and make the turn. Aim for a thickness of just under half a centimeter and make sure that the piece of covering is big enough cover the cake, the sides and out to the edges of the cake board.

Before placing the chocolate covering over the cake, make sure the sides of the cake board are clean and brush them with piping jelly (or gel). This will ensure that the covering sticks.

Again lift the covering with the help of the rolling pin, make sure that the clean side is on top. Then carefully, starting from the edge of the cake board, carefully place the covering over the cake. Start by making sure that the covering fits the top of the cake, then carefully make sure that the covering fits over the edges and then the sides. This takes some rubbing and wiggling. Finally smooth out the covering over the cake board. Trim along the board edge with a sharp knife, then use an icing smoother to get a nice finish. Because this is a chocolate covering, rubbing with the hands means that some of the cocoa butter will melt and give a nice shine on the surface, but careful not to over-do it and melt the covering.


Here is a good point to take a break.

15 May 2012

Dinner Party

To celebrate that I am back in the UK and frankly to thank our dear neighbours who have been so kind to take care of Lundulph in my absence and have him over for dinner on several occasions, we invited them over to a dinner last Saturday.


Dinner parties are great - you get to clean the house thoroughly and put away the various bits and pieces that invariably lie around and you get to cook something fancier than the normal stuff to eat in front of the TV.

Not to mention that last Saturday was finally PYO premiere for asparagus. It is a bad year this year, the asparaguses are some 2 weeks late, but as I saw the announcement of the grand opening on the PYO web site, I decided on the steamed asparagus with the Bavarian egg sauce I've made before. I read the recipe before I started and opted for the second version. But instead of adding everything together and blending, I put together the dry ingredients (i. e. everything except the oil and vinegar) in the food processor and whizzed until things were chopped relatively finely, but where you could still make out the different bit - eggs, something nut-like and some green stuff. Only then did I add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and ended up with something that looked a bit like coarse mustard. But it was sort of dip-able and still had some texture to it. Super!

But the main thing was the dessert - New York Cheese Cake, something I've wanted to do for a long time. The original recipe is here.


85 g melted butter + a little more to brush the cake tin
140 g digestive biscuits
1 tbsp caster sugar
50 g toasted chopped hazelnuts

900 g full fat Philadelphia cheese
250 g caster sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1 pinch salt
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
zest from 1 lemon, finely grated, about 2 tsp
1.5 tsp lemon juice
3 medium eggs + 1 yolk
200 ml sourcream

225 ml sourcream
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Line the bottom of a 23 cm springform with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

  2. Melt the butter on a gentle heat, just enough to melt it, not to boil.

  3. Place the digestive biscuits in a food processor and blitz until they are down to fine crumb.

  4. Remove the cutting blade from the processor, then stir in the sugar and hazelnuts.

  5. Work the melted butter into the dry mixture, then press the blend into the bottom of the springform, then smooth out, so that the layer is as even as possible. This will be about half a cm thick.

  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then take out and let cool. Turn up the heat to 240 degrees C.

  7. Using a mixer and a big bowl, first soften up the Philadelphia cheese. This may require stopping and clearing the mixer whisks a few times.

  8. On low speed, gradually add the sugar, flour and salt. Make sure they are well incorporated.

  9. Continue with adding the vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice.

  10. Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time and mix them well in.

  11. Finally add the sourcream. The filling should be smooth and light and not too airy.

  12. Brush the sides of the springform with a little melted butter, then pour in the cheese filling.

  13. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 150 degrees C and bake for a further 25 minutes. If you shake the springform a little, the cake should wobble in the middle.

  14. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to cool down inside for a couple of hours. The surface may crack on top, that's not a problem.

  15. When the cheesecake is completely cooled down, stir together the final sourcream, sugar and lemon, then pour the glazing over the cake and with a spatula spread it all the way out to the edges.

  16. Cover and chill the cake in the fridge for at least 8 h before serving.


I thought to compensate for adding hazelnuts and used 100 g of butter, this turned out to be an extremely bad idea, as I had butter oozing out while the cake was baking and it kept oozing out afterwards as well, despite that I tried to soak up as much as I could with kitchen tissue. I have a bad feeling that even if I used 85 g, it would still have oozed out.

I also didn't use a springform, but my adjustable cake ring placed on top of a baking sheet lined with baking paper. This meant that not only did the surplus butter ooze out, but also some of the cheese filling, a lot more than I would have liked in fact.

But it baked OK and took a bit longer than 2 h to cool down completely. But I'm proud to say that the surface didn't crack.

I poured the glaze over the cake and spread it to the edges and into the fridge the cake went for its designated 8 h of chilling.

Although one of the neighbours blatantly declared that pudding was not for him, he was not able to resist having a piece. Lundulph had two, before I confessed that there was Philadelphia in the cake. So needless to say, the cake was fantastic, so creamy, not too sweet and with a lovely tinge of lemon and the sourness of the cream. The texture was quite fantastic too, I'm thinking it might be suitable to use for macaroons.

And I'm very proud of thinking of adding toasted hazelnuts to the biscuit mixture, it added an extra dimension to the cheesecake.

The Third Card...

The third card I picked out from the Ye Olde Recipe Collection was Slow Cooked Venison with Red Wine and Rosemary. In the past I generally have been successful when cooking with wine and this dish read simple enough, so why not?

An early hurdle was to get hold of venison. Sadly neither of the local supermarkets had any, nor did I manage to get to the butcher's before they closed to ask. Thus the Chantenay carrots and huge button mushrooms got to sit in the fridge for a few days on their own, until Lundulph suggested we use the moose roast we had in the freezer. One of the trophies I brought home from Sweden, Lundulph had not been able to think of a way to cook it. And it's game too and it's a fairly near relative of the deer that provide venison.

Said and done, moose was thawed and the casserole finally cooked last Friday. Against instructions on the card, I kept the carrots whole (that's why I bought Chantenay) and I added mushrooms, since only carrots and onions would not be enough.


1 kg moose roast cut in 3 cm chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
500 g Chantenay carrots
1 large onion, coarsely cut in 2 cm pieces
300 g large button mushrooms, peeled and quartered
75 cl (1 bottle) red wine
5 dl chicken stock
the leaves of 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
4 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper

  1. Pat the meat chunks dry, then heat up the olive oil on high heat in a large pan.

  2. Brown the meat chunks in the olive oil, in 2 - 3 batches, so that they don't crowd each other in the pan. Turn now and then so they get a nice colour all over and remove when done to a large casserole dish with a lid.

  3. When all the meat is done, add the carrots, onions and mushrooms to the pan. Fry until they start to soften a little. Remember to stir from time to time.

  4. Transfer the vegetables to the casserole dish as well and stir in to mix with the meat.

  5. Add the wine, chicken stock, rosemary and tomato puree and bring to the boil.

  6. Cover the casserole and let simmer on low heat for 1.5 h. Stir a couple of times.

  7. Remove the lid and let the casserole simmer a further 30 minutes to reduce the liquids.

  8. Finally add salt and pepper to taste.

  9. Before serving, use the stirring spoon to shred the meat a little.

The casserole looked pretty and smelt very nice, but when we tasted it, it tasted very strongly of tomato and was very sweet, so we were disappointed. In general it could have done with more herbs and spices, the way it was, it felt like there were gaps in the overall flavour palette.

The meat on the other hand was fabulously tender and shredded very nicely.

The above amounts should be enough for 6 people. Looking at the comments people have left on the Waitrose website, I think that it would do better with mashed or boiled potatoes, rather than pasta.

So not a recipe to keep, in fact I think Lundulph may already have tidied it away to the recycling bin.

I didn't take any pictures either, though given that we didn't like this dish much, it's not a big deal.

8 May 2012

Lundulph's Surprise

Heading for the early May Bank Holiday, I thought I would make a nice surprise for Lundulph by making Scotch Eggs.

Normally he will go quite poetic about these things and we always buy a pack for various family outings and I've long been thinking about trying my hand at them. I wouldn't dream of eating shop-bought ones, they just look scary to me. Would I brave trying the ones I made myself?

So I went for Heston's Scotch Eggs, the second card I picked out from Ye Olde Recipe Collection, in my latest search for food inspiration.

Swapped out ingredient is the chives, I skipped them, since I had a perfectly nice bunch of salad onions at home ready to be eaten.


2 fat salad onions
450 g pork sausagemeat stuffing
1 heaped tsp of dried thyme
45 g French's mustard
0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp water
salt and pepper
10 medium eggs
50 ml milk
4 tbsp plain flour
125 g dry large breadcrumbs
grapeseed oil for frying

  1. Slice and then finely chop the salad onions.

  2. Mix the onions together with the sausagemeat stuffing, thyme, mustard, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and water thoroughly, then weigh the lot and divide into 8 equal patties.
    Cover with cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

  3. Place 8 of the eggs in a saucepan, cover up to 2 cm above with water and place on a high heat and bring to the boil.

  4. As soon as the water boils, set a timer for 1 minute 45 seconds. Once the timer runs out, remove the saucepan from the heat, pour out the hot water and pour cold water over the eggs. Let it pour for a few minutes until they have cooled down enough to handle.

  5. Carefully tap the eggs with a knife to break up the shells, then peel off. Rinse the eggs to remove any small pieces of shell sticking to them, then pat dry.

  6. Break the remaining two eggs in a bowl and gently whisk together with the milk. Place the plain flour in a second bowl and the bread crumbs in a third bowl.
    Line up flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. Season the flour with salt and pepper.

  7. Pour the oil in the saucepan and heat up on medium high heat. The idea is to simulate a deep fryer, so there should be oil to about 3 cm depth. Heat up the oil on medium-high.

  8. Prepare a grill pan with a rack, by placing aluminium foil at the bottom, then several layers of kitchen tissues and the rack on top of the tissue.

  9. Prepare a small bowl of water, then take out the meat patties from the fridge. Wet your hands, then take a patty at a time and flatten it along the palm of a hand.

  10. Place one egg in the mince mixture, then close the hand to cover the egg. Gently and carefully keep moving the mince so that the egg is completely covered with it.
    Don't be tempted to roll between the palms of the hands like with buns or meatballs, this will only break up the coating.

  11. Now, roll the first Scotch egg in the flour, then in the egg mixture and finally in the breadcrumbs, then carefully place in the small saucepan to fry.

  12. The oil should be very hot and start bubbling as the Scotch egg goes in. With a slotted spoon, carefully maneuver the egg around so that it fries all around.

  13. Fry only until the egg gets a nice golden brown colour all over, shouldn't be more than a minute.

  14. Take out with the slotted spoon and let drip off as much as possible over the saucepan, then place on the rack of the grill pan. The kitchen tissue will soak up any leftover fat drips.

  15. Repeat with the other Scotch eggs. The dipping procedure is quite messy, so try to do it with only one hand, leaving the other one clean for the frying.

  16. If you need to top up on the oil, do so, but wait until it has heated up well before resuming the frying.

  17. When all 8 Scotch eggs are done, clean off your hand, then remove the kitchen tissue from under the roasting rack.

  18. Replace the roasting rack in the roasting tin, then put the eggs in the oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes.


The idea is to serve these hot and freshly cooked and hopefully with the yolks still a little runny. This didn't quite work out for me, next time I might try a different approach to boiling the eggs - not from cold, but from hot, that is place the eggs in the saucepan and pour boiling water on them from the kettle.

I served with boiled Jersey Royals which are now in season, some lovely wine ripened tomatoes and mini pickled gherkins, the last of which worked particularly well with the Scotch eggs. Yes, this is definitely a keeper as recipes go, though given the amount of fat required, I won't be making it too often. Possibly I can get away with even less fat than I used too. The trick of using a small saucepan and doing one at a time was quite good. I was just about able to prepare the next egg, while one was frying.

I had some flour, eggs and breadcrumbs left over afterwards and mixed them all together, then dripped into the fat, while it was still on the hob. Then I kept stirring for a couple of minutes, before removing onto more kitchen tissue. This was just an experiment, since I would be throwing away both the fat and the dipping bits. And a good thing I did too, it turned out rather nice, though it remained quite pale. With the seasoning I had something that can be compared to savoury French toast in the shape of popcorn. It could make an alternative to croutons in a salad or just as a snack. Well, I liked the taste of it anyway. Health-obsessed Lundulph just tut-tut-ed at me.

Back in the UK

So, after a year and a half in Sweden, I have returned to the UK. Not really how I had planned it, but things don't really go that way anyway.

On the plus side, I get to work from home and I thought this would mean I get a bit more time to cook.

After 3 weeks, I can tell you, this is not the case, I work also during the time I would have used for travel to and from the office. And developing a new routine, I haven't felt any inspiration in the kitchen at all. Just remembering my old ropes takes an effort and stopping Lundulph from behaving like he's still living on his own requires overtime.

Thus, to kick-start things, I thought why not go through Ye Olde Recipe Collection? And I did, picked out 3 cards and went shopping.

The first card I selected was Sliced Oriental Duck with pomegranate sauce.

Now, I'm a bit divided when it comes to duck - I've had both good and bad experience with it, but it would make a difference to our regular staple protein source. Being an old recipe card, the duck pieces listed in the recipe were not in stock, I went for the duck breast and with skin.

There was a new spice involved - Sichuan pepper, very exciting!

And of course, I doubled the recipe, so that I wouldn't have to cook again in the next couple of days.

2 fresh pomegranates
2 tbsp redcurrant sauce with port
4 duck breasts
2 tsp Sichuan Pepper
2 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
2 tsp caster sugar
4 tsp olive oil
200 g fresh thin rice noodles

  1. Cut the pomegranates in half, then carefully tease out the seeds, discarding the pith and membranes. Careful, they are full of bright red juice that happily squirts a lot further than is necessary and that stains even more.

  2. Save a handful of the seeds for decoration and place the rest in a food processor or blender and whizz for a couple of minutes.

  3. Place a sieve over a small saucepan and pour the pomegranate pulp into the sieve. Using a spoon, stir the pulp and push through as much of the juice as possible and discard the rest.

  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C and place a small roasting tin inside to heat up as well.

  5. Remove the skin and the fatty layer from the duck breasts, this should be relatively easy, if a bit icky. Then place thee meat on a plate.

  6. Crush the Sichuan pepper in a mortar and pestle or grind coarsely in a spice grinder, then mix with the Chinese Five Spice and caster sugar. Rub into the duck breasts.

  7. Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan, that's large enough so the duck breasts aren't crowded. Brown the duck breasts for a couple of minutes on each side, to get a nice colour and to seal the meat.

  8. Place the duck breasts in the pre-heated roasting tin and let roast in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, depending on how done you want them.

  9. In the mean time, bring the pomegranate juice to the boil and let it simmer down to a syrup, about 10 minutes.

  10. Place the rice noodles in another saucepan, boil up water in the kettle, then pour over the noodles to cover. Simmer gently for a few minutes to warm through.

  11. Clean, trim and slice the onions, use also the green parts, they are just as tasty and will add nice colour to the dish.

  12. When the pomegranate syrup has formed, add 2 tbsp of the redcurrant sauce and stir in well and let simmer for a further 2-3 minutes.

  13. When the duck breasts are ready, take out of the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

  14. Pour off the water from the rice noodles and lay up as base on four plates.

  15. When the duck breasts are rested, slice each thinly and layer over the noodles. Drizzle pomegranate sauce over and sprinkle the spring onions and pomegranate seeds and serve.


To be honest, this didn't quite work for me and Lundulph. On the whole the combination of fruit and meat is tricky, unless it is something sour and tannic like cranberries or lingonberries. So I don't think this will be a repeat recipe.

In repeat meals, I poured the jus from the duck into the sauce, I think that may have helped a little, but still the whole thing was too sweet. Maybe it was because of the redcurrant sauce, who knows.

The Sichuan pepper was interesting - it smelt quite strongly in the jar, though not unpleasant. It seemed very dry, but was quite difficult to crush with the mortar and pestle, I added the caster sugar to help with that, but it didn't seem to make much difference.

I also over-cooked the duck I think, it wasn't as pink as I would have liked it, but I followed the original recipe, and started with the duck breasts first and the sauce later, so all of the roasting time was wasted on dismantling the pomegranates.

I recommend using pomegranates as a sweet snack in front of the TV. Just cut a lid off at the "crown" end and place in a large bowl lined with kitchen tissue. Then you can sit and watch a movie while slowly peeling the outer skin and prising off the seeds one or two at a time.