Chocolate cherry coconut squares

I am working my way through the ingredients in my baking cupboard, some quite a long way past their best-before dates – the glacé cherries ‘expired’ in 2012, according to the lid, but they are still absolutely fine. They’re preserved, for pete’s sake!

I found a recipe for Indian-spiced chocolate squares, a riff on the Rocky Road / fridge tart of my youth (the thing mom used to make when somthing sweet was needed in a hurry) and realised I had enough of the ingredients to get going and then add a few of my own.

There is no cooking here, unless you count boiling the kettle and zapping the chocolate in the microwave. Which I don’t.

They’re a winner from virtually every flavour perspective, sweet and chocolatey, fruity and chewy with enough textural interest and, crucially, a slightly bitter edge to the finish that balances the sweetness. The key to the bitter edge is black tea, and the cheat here is chai teabags – readily available in most corner shops and supermarkets. If you don’t have Chai tea bags then half a teaspoon of ground and mixed chair spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves can be added along with an ordinary black tea bag.

Extremely moreish, the chocoholic in the house (not me) was both relieved and saddened that he only got the off-cuts, as the box of squares were destined as a treat for local night shelter guests. He actually pleaded with me not to share the recipe with you.

So, the recipe that inspired me is from Thermomix, A Taste of India cookbook, and although I have a Thermomix, you don’t need one for this.

The essential ingredients to make a 20 x 20cm tray (I used my brownie tin) are:

3 vanilla chai tea bags, or 2 normal tea bags and half a teaspoon of ground mixed spices eg cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove with a splash of vanilla paste

200ml boiling water

150g glacé cherries, halved

50g dessicated coconut

50g stem ginger (or crystallised ginger,roughly chopped)

100g dried dates, halved (or you can use dried apricots or sultanas)

150g digestive biscuits or suitable substitute (I used milk chocolate Hobnobs), roughly broken up

50g nuts – you can use peanut, pecan, almond, walnut, cashews etc, roughly chopped

200g dark dark chocolate (I use Callebaut 70% callets)

50g golden syrup

A big pinch of sea salt

Method

Line your square baking tin with parchment.

Place the cherries, coconut, ginger, dried fruit and tea bags in a medium-sized bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the teabags and discard.

Put the chocolate, golden syrup and salt in another bowl and micrwave on full power for 30 seconds. Stir and give it another 10-20 second blast, you want the chocoalte melted but not boiling.

Add the chocolate mix to the bowl with the fruit and tea, add the broken up biscuits and nuts, and stir really well to combine. Tip into your prepared tin and refrigerate for 20 minutes, until set.

Cut into squares and dust with cocoa powder. They won’t last long, and when you make them again there’s the option to vary the ingredients for a slightly different result.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Half an aubergine roasted with star anise, Chinese rice wine and sesame

Miso aubergine

Half an aubergine roasted with star anise, Chinese rice wine and sesame

We all need more ways to cook aubergine, right? It absorbs flavour like a sponge, and these flavours are deeply savoury and umami without being overtly Asian so you can serve this as a meat-alternative for a roast dinner, or drizzle with a tahini dressing and serve with salads.

They cook slowly so will happily sit in a small dish at the bottom of the oven while other things are cooked above.

Ingredients

Serves 2

1 medium/large globe aubergine

1 tbsp brown miso paste (I like the Clearspring organic one)

45ml boiling water

100ml Shaoxing rice wine (This is the one I use, and it’s great for cooking pork belly and lots of other recipes. Or you could  substitute dry sherry, mirin or cooking sake)

1 teaspoon zingy Szechuan peppercorns, bashed or ground with a pestle and mortar

1 tbsp light soy sauce

4 star anise

1 tbsp sesame oil

Method

Cut the aubergine in half lengthways (top to bottom) and make some criss-cross incisions in the cut half, being careful not to slice all the way through to the skin. You want slits so the flavours can penetrate.

In a ramekin mix the miso paste with the boiling water, then use a pastry brush to paint the cut half generously with the mixture.

Place the aubergine in a small oven-proof dish, pour over half the Shaoxing, half the soy sauce and half a cup of water and add the star anise to the dish. Sprinkle with the Szechuan pepper.

Place in a low oven (160C / 350G / Gas mark 4) for 90 minutes.
After 45 minutes paint another layer of miso mixture and turn the aubergine over to lie ‘face down’.  If a lot of the liquid has evaporated, top up with more Shaoxing, soy and water.

For the last 5 minutes of cooking time, turn the aubergine back over, spoon over the cooking juices and pour over the sesame oil. Check the seasoning – despite the miso and soy sauce it may need a little salt.

These can be served hot, warm or at room temperature.

 

To add a tahini dressing, mix together 2 tablespoons of tahini with the juice of half a lemon, 1 teaspoon of garlic paste, a pinch of salt and 4 tablespoons of boiling water.

 

© Linda Galloway 2020