Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake

I have quite a few vegan friends and am very grateful for baking books such as Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (written by the super talented vegan team of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero) which mean I can make my vegan friends some treats. This recipe is actually from a book of teatime treats from Beas of Bloomsbury, Tea With Bea. It's my favourite vegan chocolate cake to make, as it uses cocoa powder rather than vegan chocolate (which can be quite expensive) so has a yummy dark rich taste and all of the ingredients are things I usually have in the kitchen anyway. The filling that Bea uses is a vegan chocolate mousse which requires a lot of mixing, a lot of ice and a fair bit of patience so I've included a lighter alternative mousse which uses soya cream.

Bea of Bloomsbury's vegan chocolate cake with raspberries.
If you don't want to add cherries to the mousse, it smooths
out well and pipes beautifully.

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake

Cake ingredients:
275g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
450ml soy milk
2 tsp red wine vinegar
320g caster sugar
320ml sunflower oil
2 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Grease a line the bottom of a 23cm/9 inch round cake pan and preheat the oven to 160C, gas mark 4.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the soy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
4. Spoon the lot into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes. A wooden skewer (or toothpick in my case) inserted in the middle should come out with almost no crumbs attached, and the middle of the cake, when pressed, should spring back slightly instead of sink. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slide a table knife all around the edge to loosen the cake, then remove from the pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Cherry Mousse V.1
Note: This is quite messy so try to use the largest, tallest bowl you can find.
800g vegan chocolate, chopped into small squares
600ml hot water
lots of ice, about a trays worth
1 jar/tin of pitted cherries in syrup/juice, drained or a punnet of pitted fresh cherries

1. Put the chocolate in a very large, wide heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Don't let the base of the bowl touch the water. Leave the chocolate until it is melted, then stir with a wooden spoon until smooth and glossy.
2. Pour the hot water into the bowl of chocolate and mix until nice and smooth.
3. Sit the bowl in a dish filled with ice cubes. Using an electric whisk, quickly whisk the chocolate and water mixture thoroughly and quickly until a stiff mousse forms. If the mousse is too stiff, add a tiny bit of warm water, or better yet, some rum or espresso. If the mousse is too wet, add some more melted chocolate and quickly whisk up again.
4. Gently fold in the well drained cherries. Try to use as soon as possible or store in the fridge until needed.

Chocolate Cherry Mousse V.2
200g vegan chocolate, chopped into small squares
1 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
1 1/2 tbsp rum
300ml soy whipping cream
1 jar/tin of pitted cherries in syrup/juice, drained or a punnet of pitted fresh cherries

1. Melt the chocolate, golden syrup and rum together carefully in a pan on a low heat. Stir until you get a smooth mixture and then remove from the heat, do not let the mix get lumpy or overcook. Pour into a large bowl and allow to cool to nearly room temperature.
2. Whilst the chocolate mixture is cooling, whip the cream with a whisk until you get soft peaks.
3. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture
4. Gently fold in the well drained cherries. Chill for 30 minutes and store in the fridge until needed.

To assemble the chocolate cherry mousse cake:
1. Cut the cooled chocolate cake horizontally into three layers
2. Put one layer on a plate. Spread one third of the mousse over the cake in generous dollops.
3. Repeat this process with a second and third layers.
4. Decorate the cake with fresh cherries or berries, or curls of vegan chocolate.

Friday, 9 December 2011


Kanpai is Edinburgh’s latest addition to a growing number of Japanese restaurants. Having opened around the same time as Wagamama, it’s the antithesis of their buzzy noodle bar style. With a limited sushi-based menu and cherry blossom trees outside the doors beckoning you inside, it’s an elegantly designed space where you can happily spend a few hours ordering dish after dish of beautifully presented sushi. Situated opposite the Lyceum Theatre where the Stac Polly once was, it is the sister restaurant to Sushiya, based in Haymarket. Sushiya is widely regarded as one of the best Japanese diners in Edinburgh and Kanpai happily lives up to these high expectations.

As mentioned, their menu is not extensive – it’s short but comprehensive, focussing primarily on sushi and sashimi with a small tempura and ‘classics’ menu. There’s still quite a decent variety for sushi lovers and the quality of the fish is outstanding, with fresh fish used from Eddie’s seafood market. Not only that but the rice is perfectly cooked and seasoned Japanese style and the presentation of food is stunning too.

We decided to order a few sushi classics – some nigiri, cucumber maki (£4.20) and a spicy salmon handroll (£4.50), and we decided to ask the waiter for some more interesting options from the classics menu. The waiter recommended deep fried octopus balls (£5.20) and a miso marinated grilled half aubergine (£5.90), and with green tea and an Asahi beer to accompany our meal we were delighted with these choices – everything was fresh and delicious. Particular highlights were the spicy salmon handroll – delicate but with a definite chilli kick to it. The aubergine flesh was sweetly soft and more-ish and the octopus balls had a crispy crunch with a salty chewy centre. Other interesting choices for our next visit would be the sesame chicken wings (£4.90), asparagus and prawn handroll (£4.50), surf clam nigiri (£4.90) and the futo make with Japanese pickle, avocado, sweet egg, cucumber and kampyo (£7.90).  There's also a sashimi platter of 20 pieces (for 2-3 people, £20.90). There’s also a decent choice of wines, beers and sake – only fitting for a restaurant named after the Japanese version of “cheers!”

The only small thing I would change would be the availability of a few varied sushi platters. I would be delighted to have some chefs selections or recommendations on a range of sushi and tempura and I’m sure they would produce something colourful and visually stunning with larger dishes. But that aside, with it’s faultless service and chic surroundings it is perfect how it is – a supremely elegant place to dine on some of Edinburgh’s finest sushi.

8-1 Grindlay Street
Edinburgh EH3 9AS
Tel: 0131 228 1602
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12-14:30, 17:00-22:30

KanPai Sushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, 5 December 2011

Let's Make Christmas! Easy Chocolate Speculoos Fudge

Christmas is a bit of a foodie's dream.  There are so many foods and flavours specific to the season that can be enjoyed, it's practically licence to stuff oneself silly with mince pies and mulled wine because let's face it, it's pretty much frowned upon in every month other than December (with the possible exception of an early start in November - "I'm just getting into the holiday spirit!" and a festive food hangover in January - "Someone has to finish off all these reduced Christmas puddings we bought on Boxing Day." Every other month is frowned upon). 

I absolutely love making homemade Christmas gifts for people and Vanessa Kimbell of Prepped! fame has put together an amazing list of edible gifts from other food bloggers.  There's a huge variety there from pickles to sweets to boozy gifts, showing the full range of festive indulgences.  I was thrilled to read it as I've now got plenty of inspiration for foodie gifts for my pals.  I'm not the most eloquent person and so being able to take the time and effort to make something is important to me.  Hopefully it shows that I've tried to make a meaningful gift that they'll love and enjoy!

This is a really simple to make recipe for Chocolate Speculoos Fudge.  What is speculoos you may ask?  It is a deliciously spiced caramelised cinnamon biscuit that is popular on the continent but only seem to be available at Christmas in Britain and I always pick some up at the German markets on Princes Street in Edinburgh.  The market's one of my favourite things about Christmas - wandering around eating potato pancakes and bratwurst, buying sticks of marzipan, warming up with gluvine and watching the ice skaters.  With it's rich cinnamon spices I can't help but associate speculoos with the festive season and mixed with dark chocolate it's a winning combination.  I based this upon Nigella Lawson's fudge recipe and spices from The Boy Who Bakes speculoos blondie recipe.  If you happen to have speculoos biscuits too they are delicious broken up and mixed into the fudge, otherwise increase the amount of walnuts to 150g.

Chocolate Speculoos Fudge

350g dark chocolate, at least 70 per cent cocoa solids, chopped
1 x 397g condensed milk
30g butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom pods
1/8 tsp ground coriander seeds
100g walnuts, chopped

150g speculoos biscuits, broken into pieces

1. Line a brownie pan or square tray with foil and grease lightly.
2. Place the chopped chocolate, condensed milk, butter, salt and spices into a heavy-based pan over a low heat and stir until melted and well combined.
3. Add the nuts and to the melted chocolate mixture and stir well.
4. Pour the mixture into the tray, smoothing the top with a wet palette knife.
5. Let the fudge cool, then refrigerate until set.
6. Cut into small pieces approximately 3cm x 2cm/1¼in x ¾in. 
7. Once cut, the fudge can be kept in the freezer - there's no need to thaw, just eat straight away.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Baking Sunday: Heartache Chocolate Aubergine Cake

This cake tastes nothing like aubergine and everything like a super rich dark chocolate mousse cake. It's from Harry Eastwood's "Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache" cake book, which uses vegetables to replace fats (like butter and oil) and rice and spelt flour instead of wheat flour. In Harry's words, this is the ultimate feel-good book of natural cakes that taste naughty. These are recipes for healthy cakes which don't compromise on taste and are low in fat. Unlike similar 'healthy' cakes you can buy, these also have food benefits of vegetables rather than mystery chemical-laden ingredients. It's a truly inventive book, using ingredients like butternut squash, courgette, carrot and potatoes as the foundation of cakes and there's no lack of imagination in the variety: orange and rosemary drizzle cake, ginger sticky toffee pudding, peach and poppy seed muffins and caramel swiss roll with passion fruit cream are some of the delicious sounding options. 

Using this cookbook will mean you'll become great pals with your grater, blender and microwave as the vegetable need to be pureed or grated before use, however once this is done most of the recipes are quite straightforward. This chocolate aubergine cake has all of the ingredients mixed in one bowl, after the aubergines have been pureed and chocolate melted within. There's no trace of aubergine taste and it's worth using good quality dark chocolate as the flavour will really shine through. Baking the cake made the house smell absolutely divine with its dark chocolate and honey scent. The recipe itself says "your kitchen will sing with the smell of hot chocolate." Which brings me to my only negative about the book. The language used is simperingly twee to the point of irritation. Each of the cakes has a 'personality' so for instance, here is the description for this Chocolate Heartbreak cake: "This cake is sad. It's dark and drizzling down the window panes. She puffs her chest in hope when she goes into the oven; she then breaks, like a chest heaving a sob. This is why Aubergine (the Eeyore of the vegetable world) is the right kind of friend to hold your hand." Perhaps I'm made of cynicism, but I can't help but cringe at thinking of a sad old donkey aubergine trying to hold my hand. The ingredients in this recipe include "salt (or tears if you have them in the kitchen)" and "brandy (for moral support)". I've tried to edit out the worst of this from the recipe itself, but sadly it infects pretty much every page. But if you ignore all the twee nonsense, it's a beautifully photographed book with interesting recipes for guilt-free cakes that you won't find the like of anywhere else.
Chocolate Heartbreak Cake

2 small whole aubergines (weighing roughly 400g)
300g best dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into squares
50g good quality cocoa powder
60g ground almonds
3 medium eggs
200g clear honey
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp brandy

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Line a 9"/23cm loose bottomed tin with baking parchment and lightly brush the base and sides with a little oil.
2. Cook the aubergines by puncturing the skins here and there with a skewer, then placing them in a bowl covered in cling film. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and limp. Discard any water at the bottom. Leave the aubergines to stand in the bowl until they are cool enough to handle.
3. Next, skin and puree the aubergines in the blender. Note: I peeled the aubergines before microwaving them with a regular peeler, or you can use the tip of a knife once they are cooked. Once the warm aubergine is pureed and smooth, add the chocolate, which will mingle and melt slowly. Set aside, covered once again in cling film, until all the chocolate has melted. Note: I need to microwave this again for 1 minute covered in cling film, on the lowest setting on the microwave, for the chocolate all to melt.
4. In a large bowl, whisk up all the other ingredients for a minute until well introduced to each other and slightly bubbly. Fold the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl with all the other ingredients.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes by which time your kitchen will just sing with the smell of hot chocolate.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in its tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack and peeling off the parchment. Quickly turn it the right way up again and sit it on a plate to avoid any scars from the rack.
7. Sieve a little cocoa powder over the top of the cake before cutting yourself a slice.