Rocky Road or Tiffin Bar?

Rocky Road or Tiffin? Strictly speaking it’s a matter of interpretation, though some sources suggest the difference it is the addition of marshmallows that turns a Tiffin bar into a Rocky Road one. Whichever is your preference, these sinfully rich fridge cakes of chocolate, biscuit and other assorted goodies are super easy to both make AND eat.

I’m placing the blame for this post squarely at the door of Daisies & Pie (@DaisiesandPieUk), a great blogger about food and family life who I follow on twitter. She recently posted a link to her recipe for Salted Pistachio Rocky Road Bars, complete with mouth watering pictures – go to www.daisiesandpie.co.uk for her recipe.

This got me thinking about fridge cakes and my favourite combinations. I’m not a fan of marshmallows but I do love salt and sweet together, so I was resolved to make a tiffin bar version.  I also wanted to have a go to see whether I could make this treat without breaking the bank. Toddling off to Sainsbury’s (it is literally opposite my house), I picked up their value range dark chocolate (still 52% cocoa), value range salted peanuts, value range unsalted butter, value range rich tea biscuits and found two bars of Walkers creamy toffee (not so much creamy, more toothbreaker but more of that anon). Total spend on ingredients £3.20. I already had golden syrup in my cupboard, but in the interests of costings, let’s add another 20p for that. £3.40 so far then. Once made, this quantity yielded 18 pieces, but could have easily been cut slightly smaller to get round 25. That works out at about 15 to 18p per piece. Cheaper than a chocolate bar and a lot tastier!

So the recipe below is for the salted peanut/ toffee combo I trialled, but I think I might change the toffee for chopped apricots next time. Despite being billed as “creamy”, this toffee needed serious bashing with a rolling pin to get the shards I wanted and even then, I’m a little wary of biting into the bar and losing a filling! I think I’d like to explore making my own caramel or using some of my vanilla fudge in this recipe too. I’ve also started thinking about cherries, almonds and coconut ice….

Totally Terrific Tiffin

Ingredients:

125g unsalted butter

300g dark chocolate

4 tbsp golden syrup

100g salted peanuts

180g rich tea bisuits

100g toffee shards

1/2 tsp of sea salt flakes

Method:

Line a baking tin with foil – 9 inch square ideal but if not a rectangular one of similar dimensions will do.

Put peanuts into a metal bowl or pan and bash with the end of a rolling pin or use a pestle and mortar to smash them up. Set half aside for topping the bars.

Add the rich tea biscuits to the bowl and batter them into rough chunks and crumbs with the rolling pin (or put in a plastic bag and batter). Great anger therapy this process!

Same with the toffee pieces – I found this was best done with the pestle and mortar. Toss peanuts, biscuits & toffee shards together. Set aside.

Break chocolate into squares into a glass or microwavable bowl. Add the butter, cut into slices, and the golden syrup. Pop in microwave on high in 30 second bursts until the chocolate and butter has melted together. Remove from microwave when there are still a few lumps of chocolate visible and stir well, they will melt. Alternatively, use the bowl over hot water method.

Pour half this molten chocolate sauce over the broken “bits” and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth out using the back of a spoon. Press down well and don’t hang about – it’s already setting as you work. Pour over the rest of the chocolate and tilt the tray to get all the surface covered. Scatter with the reserved peanuts from earlier, and sprinkle with the salt flakes.

In theory, at this point, this goes in the fridge for 2 hours to harden before cooking. In reality, I stuck it in my freezer for 20 minutes before turning out and chopping… Greed is a marvellous impetus for improvisation!

Can honestly say that they are fantastic. Thank you Daisies & Pie for the inspiration and sudden expansion of my dress size…

picture of single tiffin bar

Terrific Tiffin

 

Celebrate Welsh food!

St David’s Day is the 1st March, and a great day to celebrate the glories of Welsh food & drink. Whilst perhaps not having the most well known cuisine in the world, Wales can be justifiably proud of the quality of its produce. Welsh lamb is legendary, and their beef is pretty spectacular too.  A great chunk of Wales is coast, so not surprisingly, the seafood is excellent, often served with Laverbread – a type of seaweed, which is also added to a traditional Welsh breakfast. Sea salt, harvested in Anglesey, was recently given protected status by the EU, lining it up beside Champagne, Prosciutto di Parma and Stilton as a product  only allowed to be identified as genuinely originating in that region. Check out www.halenmon.com for details of their lovely sea salts, including  smoked, vanilla, celery & plain.

Cheese is another fabulous Welsh product – Gorwydd Caerphilly – a citrussy, mild cheese; Organic Perl Las – softly blue and creamy; Cenarth Brie – a buttery brie ; Snowdonia Extra Mature Cheddar – rich creamy & salty; & Harlech  – flavoured with horseradish and parsley; are just some of the delicious cheeses produced here. Have a look at www.liverpoolcheesecompany.co.uk for details of their Welsh selection. Of course, cheese leads me onto the wonderful Welsh dish – Welsh Rarebit aka posh cheese on toast.  I make it old school style, melted in a pan and then poured over the toasted bread and browned – see below for the recipe.

What would St David’s Day be without a leek? A traditional symbol of Wales, this lovely onion relative has a milder flavour and is the main component of the velvety textured Vichyssoise soup, made with leeks & potatoes and served chilled in summer. As summer is yet some way off, I’ve given a recipe for a hearty leek & potato soup instead!

Bara Brith is a traditional Welsh tea bread, made with dried fruit and tea, and sometimes yeast but I confess to a weakness for Welsh cakes, a sort of griddle scone with spices and fruit, best served warm with lashings of butter…

Recipes:

Welsh Rarebit

Ingredients:

25 g butter

25g plain flour

100ml strong dark beer (Welsh)

150 g mature Cheddar, grated (try the Snowdonia)

1 tsp English mustard (yes, English.. sorry!)

1 egg

Melt butter in a small pan, add the flour and cook over a gentle heat until it’s starting to go golden. Slowly add the beer, stirring well to prevent lumps, and then add the grated cheese. Take off the heat and stir until all the cheese has melted into the beery sauce. If it’s not melting, put back on heat but don’t let it boil. Add the mustard and mix well. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then add the egg, well beaten.

Toast 4 slices of bread on both sides, then spread the cheese mixture over the bread and put back under the grill until golden and bubbling.

Hearty Leek & Potato Soup

Ingredients:

50g butter

1 small onion, chopped

3 large leeks, cleaned well (!) and chopped into quarters, then slices

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

900ml of chicken stock

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (1/2 tsp if using dried)

salt & pepper

100ml double cream

Melt the butter in a large pan, and add the onion and leeks. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring to keep from browning, until the leeks and onions are softening. Add the thyme and chopped potatoes, stir well and add the stock and bring to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. Take off the heat and use a potato masher to break up and thicken the soup (you can use a hand blender if you prefer a smoother texture). Add the cream and adjust seasoning to taste.

Welsh cakes  (recipe from: www.visitwales.com/explore/traditions-history/recipes/welsh-cakes)

Ingredients:

225g plain flour

100g butter

75g caster sugar

50g currants (or mixed dried fruit)

½tsp baking powder

¼tsp mixed spice

1 egg

A pinch salt

A little milk to bind

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mixed spice) together into a mixing bowl. Cut up the butter and rub into the flour. Stir in the sugar and fruit, pour in the egg and mix to form a dough, use a little milk if the mixture is a little dry. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a biscuit. Use a pastry cutter to cut out rounds. Cook the cakes on a greased bake stone or griddle until golden. The heat should not be too high, as the cakes will cook on the outside too quickly, and not in the middle. Once cooked sprinkle with caster sugar and serve with butter.

Sticky Ginger Cake

For those of you unfamiliar with the word, parkin refers to a soft textured cake flavoured with ginger, treacle or golden syrup and brown sugar. Particularly Northern in origin, parkin is made in Yorkshire – where it tends to be slightly drier in texture and is made with black treacle; and also in Lancashire, where it tends to be stickier and made using golden syrup. Here in Merseyside I’m really a Lancastrian plus I’ve only got golden syrup in my cupboard so that’s the version I’m going to make.

golden syrup tin, jug with milk, oats

ingredients

I’ve adapted this recipe from The Camper Van Cookbook by Martin Dorey & Sarah Randall.

Ingredients:

200ml milk
3 tbsp golden syrup
100g butter
75g plain flour
200g dark brown sugar
125g porridge oats
4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

Preheat oven to 150C/ GM2. Lightly butter a shallow square cake tin, approx 20cm diameter.

Put milk, syrup & butter in a small pan and gently bring to the boil, stirring until all the syrup and butter has melted.

Sieve flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix in the oats, sugar, and spices. Pour over the melted butter & milk mixture and mix well into the dry ingredients.

cake batter

Pour into tin

Pour/ scrape into the prepared cake tin and level the top. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool in the tin until completely cold. Cut into 16 pieces and put into an air tight tin or box. They will keep very well for at least a week, and actually improve in flavour and stickiness after a day or two!

parkin in tin cooling

Sticky ginger parkin cooling

 

 

Meantime your home, like mine, will be deliciously scented with sweet ginger baking. An instant mood improver!

pieces of parkin

Put the kettle on!

Paprika Beef

blue casserole dish with paprika beef

Paprika Beef

January is drawing to a close, but it’s still a bit chilly out there. This is a perfectly good reason to indulge in a hearty stew that will fill and cheer.  Lovely beef shin from www.forsterorganicmeats.com is slowly simmered in the oven in a rich smoked paprika sauce, and then served on a pillow of creamy mashed potatoes with a side of winter greens. I often make beef stews that can sit in a slow oven, it’s such a simple way to add flavour to an economical cut of meat and really doesn’t involve a lot of complicated preparation. I had it in mind to go a bit Spanish – thinking chorizo, paprika, peppers etc but surveying my fridge contents I found I had some Hungarian smoked sausage left from my trip to the Fatherland before Christmas. So this is my Hungarian/Spanish beef stew, paprika & peppers being common denominators in both cuisines!

 

Paprika Beef Stew

Ingredients:

1 kilo beef shin, cut into 1 inch cubes.

2 tablespoons of plain flour

1 dessert spoon of smoked sweet paprika

1 large onion, sliced into half and then into half moons

1 ramiro pepper (the long sweet red kind), halved and sliced into thin strips

1 stick of celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

200g smoked paprika sausage (use chorizo), skin removed and chopped

568ml of tomato sauce (I had some in the freezer,  but you can use chopped tinned tomatoes)

1 glass of red wine

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

salt and pepper

Method:

Toss beef cubes in the flour and paprika and set aside.

Heat a heavy based casserole dish (which can go into the oven, or use a heavy pan and transfer before adding the dish to the oven).

Add the chopped sausage and cook over a gentle heat until the fats begin to release their oils into the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and pepper. Stir well to coat in the oils and cook for 10 minutes over a gentle heat until softening. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.

There should still be some juices left in the pan, but if not add a splash of olive oil or a tsp of lard. Turn the heat up and add the floured beef cubes, turn them to brown for five minutes in the pan, but be careful not to let the paprika burn.

Add the glass of red wine and allow it to simmer a little. Put the vegetables back into the pan, along with any flour and paprika that’s left behind from earlier.

Add the chilli flakes and tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes., season with a pinch of salt and pepper and give everything a good stir. Bring to a simmer then transfer, covered, to the oven, heated to 140C for 3 hours. Check occasionally to see if more liquid is required.

Once cooked through, the beef should be meltingly tender in a rich smoked sauce with a little spicy kick. Serve with mashed potatoes or plain rice or flat wide pasta ribbons and some greens on the side.