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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

This weeks free recipe HOME MADE PARTY CHOCOLATES and a tale of two cheeses

Hello again everyone!

Today's nattering starts with cheese. Not just any cheese mind you, a lovely selection of Swiss cheese.

On returning from a stock buying mission today, wifey and I decided to create some cheesy breads.

My favourite method is to incorporate some hard cheese into the dough, then top it off with some good quality mature cheddar 15 minutes before the cooking's up.

Wife's strategy is to use a much smoother, creamier cheese, such as a Swiss Appenzeller both in the dough and to top off the finished loaf.

So we both set to work.

It became apparent from the smells drifting out of the oven that I had made a mistake.

Although the hard cheese was making a lovely cheesy steam, the Swiss Appenzeller shone through to our hungry nostrils.

Please don't get me wrong, a good hard Cheddar is as good an accompaniment to lots of dishes as anything, but the subtle creaminess of a good quality Swiss cheese certainly takes some beating.

So, my advice to all you cheesy bakers out there, try letting a little Swiss into your life! (And the super soft cheeses of Switzerland are incredible. Try Vacherin Mont D'or).

And so to today's free recipe which this week is.... drum roll please......

FANTASTIC SIMPLE PARTY CHOCOLATES RECIPE

Be warned, at some point during this recipe I will use the phrase 'Bain Marie'. Please don't hurl your computer into the dustbin in disgust, it just means to place a glass bowl over a gently simmering pan of water so you can use the heat of the steam but not the moisture to melt your chocolate.

Just like all of the Fantastic recipes, the ingredients list can easily be tweaked and changed to suit individual tastes and dietary requirements.

Ingredients

Chocolate (For this selection, use white, dark and milk. One large bar of each.)
Almonds
Dessicated Coconut
Jelly (choose your flavour, you won't need the whole pack)
Icing sugar (to dust the tops)

Equipment

Bain Marie - Glass bowl, pan smaller than glass bowl, a little water

Ice cube tray(s) - These will be the moulds for your chocolates so choose wisely. The silicone variety is best as your chocolates will peel out of them much easier than a rigid tray

Method

Visualise your finished chocolate. Yes, that's right, visualise it. Is is made of three layers of white, milk and dark chocolate? Perhaps it has a jelly centre? Maybe a pinch of coconut between each layer? Why not dust the top with icing sugar or hide an almond inside?

Ok, that's the zen bit over. Now for the method.

It's pretty obvious you're going to have to melt the chocolate so begin by setting up the Bain Marie (sorry). Put about an inch of water in the pan and, when it is close to simmering, turn down the heat a little and place the glass bowl on top as shown below;



Break up the chocolate bar of your choice into the bowl.


Move the chunks around until they melt together to form lovely silky melted chocolate.

Now, decide which of your party chocolates require this type of chocolate and begin filling the appropriate ice cube pots.



If you would like to create a simple solid chocolate, just fill a pot all the way to the top, easy!


If you want to hide a nut inside, fill about a third of the pot and allow to cool a little. When the chocolate is beginning to go tacky and thicken, press the nut into the third-full pot and leave to set completely (we find almonds work a treat, hazelnuts too).


Now, to finish the nut chocolate outlined above, when the base with a nut in it has set completely, continue filling the pot. If you are making a triple layer chocolate with a nut inside, don't make the middle layer too thick, allow plenty of room to finish the chocolate off with the third layer.



The jelly containing version above works in just the same way. The only difference is that a well cut piece of jelly (straight from the packet, don't bother making it into jelly proper) will stand on the first layer of chocolate when it has set completely.

I hope the illustrations help a little. Trying to photograph the process whilst racing setting chocolate is no fun at all! However, I do apologise for the quality. I am a cook, not an artist!

There are many different ways you can personalise these party chocolates.


If you are brave try hiding a chunk of hot chilli inside. If you are feeling fruity, why not try hiding some crystallised ginger or orange inside?

Now to finish your party chocolates;

When they have set completely, turn them onto a piece of baking parchment and use one, all or none of the methods below to add the final pizazz to your Fantastic Party Chocolates;

  • Dust with icing sugar
  • Dust with dessicated coconut
  • Decorate with edible gold leaf
  • Make child friendly with 100s and 1000s
  • Carefully cut patterns into the tops with a sharp knife
  • Gently push a favourite sweet into the top
Ok guys, hope you enjoyed the blog.

Do check out our latest offerings on the kindle.

And please feel free to contact us via the Fantastic Cook Books Fan Page.

Until next time, enjoy your chocolates!

The Fantastic Team




Friday, 24 February 2012

A free favourite family sandwich recipe and battling with boiled eggs

Hello cooking fans,

This is the first post since the fan page went live and the response has been wonderful so thank you all very much for liking and following us. We even had a member join from Oz so please continue to spread the word!

Today has been all about eggs. Boiled eggs mostly as our chickens have decided to break all records and are currently producing around a dozen eggs a day! Even allowing for eggs every breakfast, we simply can't keep up and we don't want to even toy with the idea of cracking an egg and finding it has gone off. NOTHING in this world smells as bad as a rotten eggs gently frying away (usually beside five perfectly serviceable eggs that you then have to throw away).

The reason for all this egg related sweating is twofold.

In the first instance, we want to make pickled eggs. Pickled eggs are easy. Look out for the recipe in 'Fantastic Pickles', coming soon.

The one thing that makes a pickled egg look terrible is if it's skin isn't perfectly smooth. Now, we have a problem. The fresher the eggs, the less likely you are to be able to peel them without breaking the skin. And some of these eggs are still warm from being laid!

So, what to do with all those torn skinned eggs?

Well that's easy. Simply grate them into a bowl and mix them into some mayonnaise for a delicious egg salad. This will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3 or 4 days and is the perfect accompaniment to baked potatoes, as a BBQ side or simply spread on sandwiches.

Ah, speaking of sandwiches, here's today's free recipe;

Dan's Fantastic Triple Decker Salad Surprise

Ingredients;

3 slices of bread
Half a tin of tuna
2 large spoonfuls of mayonnaise
3 or 4 leaves of lettuce
1/8 of a cucumber (about 7 or 8 slices)
1/8 of an onion
Butter (salted) for spreading
Tomato puree
Fresh parsley or coriander leaves (small handful)
Half a lemon

Method;

Mix the tuna, mayonnaise and finely chopped onion together. Squeeze in some lemon juice and mix well. This will form the main body of the sandwich filling.
Roughly chop together the cucumber, lettuce and either parsley or coriander.
Add a small squeeze of lemon juice to this salad to stop it browning.
Toast one piece of bread on both sides.
Toast the remaining 2 slices on one side only (We tend to put them together like an extra thick slice and use the toaster for this).
Now, butter the un-toasted sides of the 2 slices and, without getting too messy (good luck!), butter both sides of the remaining slice.

Construction;

Place a one-side-toasted slice, un-toasted side up, on a plate.
Fill base layer with salad, remembering to add the occasional 'mine' of tomato puree as a surprise later.
Place a small amount of the tuna mix on top of the salad and place the fully toasted slice on top.
Now, add a couple more 'mines' of tomato puree then pile on the rest of the tuna mix.
Top off with the remaining half-toasted slice, un-toasted side down.

Turn the whole thing over to stop the salad making the base layer soggy.
Chop it in half if you dare and get stuck in.


The tuna/mayo mix can easily be substituted for your favourite sandwich filling, just make sure it's moist enough to counter all that bread.

The 'mines' mentioned above make sandwiches interesting for us. Garlic puree, tomato puree,  a well hidden chilli, a cheeky gherkin. Anything will do for a 'mine' as long as you're not expecting it!

Hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to contact us about your cooking conundrums.

Until next time.

The Fantastic Team


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Free gravy recipe and a chance to check out our brand new facebook fan page!

Hello everybody!

We do hope you didn't miss us too much. We've been very busy you see.

We now have 3 e-books published on the Kindle;

Cookies
Bread
Bread 2

So get out there and buy our books!

Also, we now have a Facebook fan page so please go and check it out!

Today we have decided to give you all a lovely, easy recipe for a beautiful beef/veggie gravy.

This is a very simple but delightfully flavoursome sauce that compliments beef and chicken beautifully (apologies to any vegetarians reading, it compliments soya based stuff beautifully too as the flavour penetrates things like Quorn mince and rissole fantastically).

Fantastic Beef/Veggie Gravy

Ingredients;
2 tablespoons of flour (we find strong white bread flour best)
3 tablespoons of either beef fat or good quality rapeseed oil (the veggie option)
Boiled water from the kettle
1 tablespoon of Marmite (No, it's not cheating, and it doesn't matter if you don't like it in sandwiches, you will love it in this, guaranteed!)

Ok. Get a frying pan painfully hot and heat either your oil or fat until it is almost starting to smoke.
Take the pan off the heat and vigorously mix in the flour, stirring it up into a creamy sludge.
Take a small amount of the kettle water and drip mix it into the sludge until it begins to smooth out (it will, it just appears like it won't for a while, be patient).
Now add the Marmite and continue to stir.
When the mixture looks far too thick and gloopy to ever become a beautiful gravy, add a little more water from the kettle and keep stirring.
When you have a very thick, smooth gravy, place back onto a LOW heat and stir in more water.
When you have the consistency you require, simmer whilst stirring for at least 12 minutes (to cook the flour), adding a little water where necessary to maintain the chosen consistency.
And you're done!


The choice of when to stop adding the water is, like so many things in home cooking, yours to make.
We prefer our gravy to be thick enough to cut slices off, others like theirs thin enough to drink as a winter warmer. The choice is yours.

At our thickness, this recipe makes about half a pint but of course, if you like it thinner, it could make a pint. Experiment. That's what cooking is all about.

This is the basic recipe. The flavour can always be enhanced by adding a little salt, pepper and even mustard.

We love the fact that with most of our recipes, we leave a little room for maneuver as far as final flavourings and personal twists are concerned.

We feel you should be able to make any dish we give you your own so enjoy and happy cooking everybody!

The Fantastic Team