Death by Chocolate Cherry Cream Pie

I have been doing my best lately to be a bit more health-conscious.  Having spent the best part of this year totally immersed in cooking lots of rich, buttery, salty food (a.k.a. ‘fine dining’), taking a step back and making a concerted effort to eat better seemed like an appropriate summer resolution.

However, there have been some notable set backs.  Like this chocolate cherry cream pie.  Yes, all those things, together.  In a pie.  I brought this along to a friend’s dinner party recently and accidentally put everyone into a food coma and lugged myself home with a renewed commitment to leafy greens.  

Having said that, it was pretty tasty, so do give it a go.  After all, life really is too short not to eat pie and sometimes an indulgence is just what the doctor ordered.  Just maybe serve a salad first.

By the by, heart-shaped dish, below, was a birthday gift from my cousins and is made by the Swedish company, Bruka.

Chocolate Cherry Cream Pie
 as ludicrously decadent as it sounds…

You will need:

Pastry:
200g flour
35g cocoa
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
110g butter, fridge cold and cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling:
200g cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
60g caster sugar
200ml double cream
Cherry or raspberry jam (I used sour cherry jam, you could also make your own compote*)
1 punnet black cherries, pitted
Small bar of very dark chocolate

Method:

1.  Sift flour and cocoa into a large bowl.  Add the sugar and salt.

2.  Work in the butter to consistency of breadcrumbs, either by transferring to a magimix or by hand.

3.  Add yolks, cream and vanilla and mix well.  Bring dough together on work surface, shape into a flat round, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate.  If dough seems very dry and like it won’t come together add a little more cream (1/2 teaspoons at a time)- be careful not to add too much cream, though, it should not be sticky or it will be impossible to work with. 

4.  Preheat oven to 200 C.  Dust work surface liberally with cocoa.  Roll out pastry to the thickness of 1/2 cm.  Line a x cm pastry or flan tin.  A loose-bottomed cake tin will also do.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.  

5.  Blind bake your pastry case- approx 15 min** and allow to cool completely.  Meanwhile, make your filling.  Beat cream cheese with vanilla and sugar.  Add cream and whisk to form soft peaks. Refrigerate until needed.

6.   To assemble, spread jam over the base of the pastry case.  Add the cream cheese mixture.  Arrange cherries over the top and finally grate over some dark chocolate. 

* Simply pit a large handful of cherries and place in a pan over a low heat with a little lemon juice and sweeten to your liking.  Simmer until soft and oozy. 

**At the risk of sounding patronising, but just in case- Place a crumpled circle of baking parchment into the case/on top of the pastry.  Fill with beads, beans, lentils, rice, whatever you have to hand.  Bake in the oven until pastry is almost cooked and the sides have set.  Remove the parchment and beads/beans/lentils/rice/whatever you have to hand and continue to bake until bottom has cooked too.  The exact timing of this will depend on your oven and thickness of the pastry.

 

Cocochoc cherry

I was working as an assistant on a shoot for M&S recently, using ingredients from their Simply range.  It was a digital campaign and so really fascinating to watch as it came together- the results are coming to a website banner near you soon.  

I particularly enjoyed the wonderful food from the caterers they use on their shoots, but totally forgot to get their names.  Apart from a glorious array of salads and nibbles, there were some absolutely beautiful flapjacks with coconut, oozing dark chocolate and dried cherries.

As the shoot coincided with the end of the cherry season, I decided to make the most of it and re-create the golden little beauties using fresh cherries.  The results are rather worth a crack, I think.

Cocochoc Cherry Flapjacks
You will need:
A large handful of cherries
150g bar of dark chocolate 

125g butter, plus a bit more
1 tbsp golden syrup
125g porridge oats
50g dessicated coconut
125g sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/ gas mark 4.  Grease the baking tray with a little extra butter. 

2.  De-stone the cherries and chop roughly.  Be careful not to get their deep purple juices on your clothes as they stain like a mother.

3.  Roughly chop the chocolate.

4.  Melt the butter and syrup in a pan over a low heat.  Combine the oats, coconut and sugar in a large bowl.

5.  Pour the melted butter and syrup over the dry and ingredients and mix to soak all the oats completely.  Mix in the cherries and the chocolate. 

6.  Pour into your prepared tin and bake for about 20-25 minutes. 

7.  Cut into squares while still warm and leave to cool before tucking in. 

Sugar, Spice… Rice

Rice pudding wouldn’t be my last meal, put it that way.  So I was surprised to find myself craving it particularly as I don’t really have any previous experience of making it.  And although my Dad likes to make a traditional rice-based porridge for Christmas Eve, I can only ever manage a mouthful of the rich, sticky-sweet goop. 



I think my craving can probably be traced to all the reading up I’ve been doing on Indian cooking recently- I keep coming across the famous rice pudding, Kheer.   I find that there’s an unexpected crossover between many Swedish and Indian puddings,  as they both rely heavily on spices like cardamon, saffron and, of course, cinnamon.   For example, Swedish ‘vetebröd’ ( literally ‘wheat-bread’) is the cardamon-packed basis for the cinnamon buns and other varieties of sweet, bready cakes that we couldn’t do without.

So this rice pudding is really an homage to those spices and that unlikely cultural meeting of flavours.   I felt it needed something else, though, so made some cherry compote to accompany it.  Leftovers of which work particularly well with Greek yoghurt or bircher muesli for breakfast.  Or slathered on croissants, of course.  



Scandi Rice Pudding
(serves 2)


You will need:

For the rice pudding: 
300ml whole milk
40 g shortgrain or pudding rice
pinch of salt
1 small egg
25g dark brown sugar (muscovado)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
20g raisins
handful flaked almonds
2 cardamon pods





For the cherry compote:
250g cherries
juice of half a lemon
sugar
splash of brandy


Method:

1.  First off, get started on the cherry compote.  You need to get rid of all the cherry pips- a tedious and messy business.  Turn on the radio and get started. Remember, cherry juice stains like a mother, so don’t forget an apron. 

2.  Put the pitted cherries into a saucepan and turn on a low heat.  Add the lemon juice and leave to quietly bubble away for about 20 minutes.



3.  Meanwhile, get started with the rice pudding.  Use a wide pan to maximise the surface area.  Add the milk, rice, pinch of salt and slightly crushed cardamon pods and bring to a simmer slowly.  Turn down the heat and leave for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender, stirring frequently.

4.  Your cherries should be cooked through by now, so it’s time to add the sugar.  Pour the contents of the pan into a measuring jug to get an idea of how much cooked fruit you have.  You want to add 3/4 of the same amount of sugar (so the ratio of cherries to sugar is 4:3).  So if you have about a cup of cooked cherries, add 3/4 of a cup of sugar. 

5.  Return to the heat and let simmer for a further 20 minutes or so, until you have a thick, jammy consistency.  The best way to test if it is ready is to put a spoonful on a plate, leave for a minute and then see if it ‘wrinkles’ when pushed with a finger.   Add a splash of brandy, if desired (and when isn’t it?) and stir before transferring to a bowl if eating straight away, or a sterilised jar.  Store in the fridge for up to a week.

6.  While you are waiting for the jam to come together, return to the rice pudding.  In a separate bowl, stir together the egg, sugar and vanilla.  Take the pan of milky rice off the heat and add a large spoonful of this to the egg mixture and stir vigorously.  Add all of the contents of the bowl to the pan and stir to incorporate.

7.  Put back onto a very low heat and add a pinch of the cinnamon, the raisins and finally the flaked almonds.  It should be properly thick and oozing by now.

8.  Serve in a bowl with a scoopful of the cherry compote, then sit back and enjoy. 

Cheery cherries


This is a gorgeously moist, very simple loaf cake that is just the thing to accompany a cuppa.  It’s a bit of a contemporary, lighter twist on the traditional fruit cake, with  retro glacé cherries sitting, gleaming, in the moist sponge.  I know they are a bit marmitey (you either love them or…), but I  had quite a lot of glacé cherries left over from making mincemeat and this is the ideal way to use them up.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with all those currants and raisins… 

Cherry and almond cake

You will need:

150g glace cherries
175g self-raising flour
160g butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 drops vanilla essence
70g ground almonds
4 tbsp milk

Method:

A small loaf tine, lined and buttered. 

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C/gas mark 3.  Halve the cherries.  Some may prefer to give them a quick rinse under the tap to get rid of some of the syrupy stickyness.  Either way, toss them in some flour to give them a protective coat.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs and add them to the mixture, along with the vanilla.

Fold in the flour and the almonds before adding the cherries and milk.

Pour the batter into our loaf tin and bake for about 1/2-3/4 hour, until a cake-tester comes out clean.  Don’t go off and watch the news and forget about it as I did, so that it burns a bit.

Leave to cool before tucking in.  Good with a glass of cold milk or dunked into hot tea.