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Chocolate Amuse-Bouche

Today I have been in the enviable position of having to try to use up things in my refrigerator as I am off on my summer hols this afternoon!

Yes, three weeks in the Costa Del Canada . . . fun, sun, and relaxation, and lots of family times with my children, grandchildren and parents. I can't wait!!! It's been three years since I have been to Nova Scotia, so it will be really nice to catch up with my loved ones.

Anyways, I had some eggs to use up and butter, and cream . . . oh and chocolate . . . ahem . . .

Ok, so I didn't really need to use up the chocolate. I wanted to use up the chocolate.

These are perfect little decadent party cakes. Small amuse-bouche . . . well . . . technically an amuse bouce is an hors d'ouevres, but . . . well . . . who says a tiny two bite, rich and dense chocolate cake covered in chocolate ganache can't be amusing???? or a bouche for that matter!!

Not to quibble, a rose by any other name and all that . . . these are fabulous!

Ideally you should also wait for at least two hours for them to set up, but . . . umm . . . I just couldn't wait. Patience is clearly not one of my virtues, but I'm working on it.

Chocolate . . . it's my only weakness . . .

*Chocolate Amuse Bouche*
Makes 24 mini cakes
Printable Recipe

Delicious little two bite mouthfuls of rich chocolate cake. Rich and satisfying and topped with a lucious chocolate ganache. Pretty little summertime party favours.

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces unsalted butter (1 cup)
11 ounces of caster sugar (1 1/2 cups plus 1 TBS)
3 3/4 ounce of plain flour (3/4 cup)
2 TBS cornflour
1/4 tsp salt
4 large free range eggs

Chocolate Ganache
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
150ml of heavy cream (2/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/Gas mark 4. Line two 12 cup patty tins, or mini muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.

Place the chocolate for the cakes into a bowl. Melt the butter until it is very hot, and then pour it over top of the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes and then whisk until smooth. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. Add to the chocolate mixture in three batches, whisking well after each addition. Beat in two of the eggs, whisking them well and then add the remaining two eggs, whisking just until incorporated. Try not to over mix.

Pour the batter into a large measuring cup and the pour the batter into each muffin cup, filling them 3/4 full. Bake in the heated oven just until the cakes start to crack on the top, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack and then remove from the tin to finish cooling completely.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a glass heatproof bowl. Place the cream into a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Pour all at once over the chocolate. Let sit for a couple of minutes and then stir gently with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Dip the tops of the cakes into the chocolate ganach, allowing any excess to run off the side. Return to the wire rack and allow to set. This will take about an hour. Don't be tempted to place them in the refrigerator as this will cloud the ganache.

If you like you can melt some white chocolate or milk chocolate to drizzle over the top to decorate.

I'll be back in about 3 1/2 weeks!! Try not to miss me too much. I promise to make up for my absence in August . . . with a lot more delicious recipes, good cooking, and fine food!
Marie Rayner
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Sponge Drops

I just bet that some of you have made oodles and oodles of strawberry jam by now, using the fresh strawberries that are in abundance at all the farm shops and in our gardens. Ohh, strawberries, the very essence of summertime, are they not?

I have many fond memories of picking strawberries when I was a girl . . . both wild ones and cultivated ones . . . I think I was one of those naughty people that ate more than I picked, but oh well . . . who could blame me?

Does anything on earth taste any better than a strawberry just picked and warm from the sun? I think not!!

I always made scads and scads of strawberry jam each year when my children were growing up, both freezer jam, which was pretty easy and the cooked, which was also a bit of a doddle for me. I always ran out before the end of the year too . . . it seemed that I never quite made enough.

I never make it anymore . . . there is only the two of us in this house and we would never get it eaten . . . so I just buy it now. My favourite is Bon Maman . . . I like the one that has the wild and regular berries mixed. Tiptree is also a real favourite.

Anyways, if you have some freshly made strawberry jam that you are wanting to showcase in a very special way. Look no further!!!

Quick. Easy. Ethereal. Delicious little clouds of summertime joy. The perfect teatime treat.

*Sponge Drops*
Makes about 10
Printable Recipe

Delicious little sponge cake mounds, filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberry jam.

For the sponge:
2 medium free range eggs
3 ounces of caster sugar (scant 1/2 cup)
3 ounces of self raising flour (scant 2/3 of a cup)

To finish:
strawberry jam and whipped cream
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Grease several flat baking sheets. Set aside.

Measure the eggs into a bowl, Whisk lightly. Add the sugar and then whisk well (an electric whisk is helpful here) until thick, creamy and almost white in colour. The mixture should leave a trail when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. Fold in the flour.

Drop by small spoonfuls, leaving lots of space in between on the baking trays. (It will spread) Bake for about five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to sit on the pan for several minutes before scooping off to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Once completely cold, put together in pairs with oodles of strawberry jam and whipped cream in the middle. Dust with icing sugar and serve.
Marie Rayner
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Angel Pie

Hot summer days call for light and refreshing meals and desserts. Just as soup warms the bones on a cold winter's day . . . there is nothing like lemon and a fresh chilled dessert to cool you off on an ultra hot summer's day!

We are getting really warm temperatures here in the UK right now. So hot, it's difficult to sleep at night . . . and the air lays still and close about you . . . nary a breeze stirring. You lay atop the covers. Sleep comes . . . finally . . . but it's not easy.

We have no appetite for cakes and hot pies . . . we crave something cool and refreshing . . .

Something light . . .

Like this delicious Angel Pie. A deliciously sweet meringue crust . . . light and ethereal . . .

Filled with lovely rich whipped cream with a tasty lemon layer in the middle, that is tangy and refreshing.

If you have lemons, eggs, sugar and cream in your kitchen. You have the makings of this wonderfully scrummy dessert. Perfect . . . just perfect!

*Angel Pie*
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

Easy, delicious and light. The perfect dessert for these hotter days of summer!

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
200g of caster sugar

100g of caster sugar
the freshly grated zest of one lemon
the juice of one lemon
4 egg yolks

350ml of double cream

Prehet the oven to 120*C/250*F/ Gas mark 2. Butter a 10 inch pie dish very well. Set aside.

Whip the egg whites until stiff. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat, slowly adding the sugar. Beat until thick and glossy. Turn the meringue into the prepared pie dish, spreading it over the bottom and up the sides, allowing for edges at least 1/2 inch taller than the dish. Bake in the heated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Turn the oven off at the end of this time and allow it to cool on it's own in the oven slowly.

Whisk the egg yolks, 100g of sugar, zest and lemon juice in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until thick. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Once the meringue and lemon are totally cold, place the cream in a cold bowl. Whip until stiff. Place half of the whipped cream in the meringue shell. cover with the lemon and then top with the remainder of the whipped cream. Chill for several hours before eating.

You can top this with additional lemon zest, or grated chocolate, or sprinkles. Delicious, light and refreshing!!
Marie Rayner
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Broccoli Delight Salad

Talk about feast and famine . . . we're having a heat wave here in the UK! Yayy, it's about time!!

Everywhere you look people have donned their shorts and tank tops, sun hats and sun glasses. The parks are loaded with sun worshippers toasting their bodies . . .

And the seasides are overfun with people looking to escape the temperatures of hot concrete in exchange for cool sea breezes!

This is barbeque weather! Time to light the coals and crack open the lawn furniture! Pop a few cool bevvies, and toss a few salads.

Tonight with barbequed cheddar and red onion burgers we are having this tasty salad. Nothing new to some of you I am sure, but a real favourite of ours.

I always blanch the broccoli first as my body doesn't tolerate completely raw broccoli very well. It also makes for a lovely bright green colour of broccoli, which looks so very pretty. I like to use roasted salted nuts, and you'll be glad to know that tender stem broccoli works just as well as the other kind.

It keeps for several days in the refrigerator, which is a good thing and makes it very handy for snacking on!! Hmmmm . . . I wonder if I'll be able to talk Todd into chasing down the Icecream Truck after tea time . . .

*Broccoli Delight Salad*
Serves about 6 people
Printable Recipe

Delicious salad filled with lovely colours, textures and flavours. Crisp broccoli, sharp red onion, sweet sultanas and crunchy toasted nuts, in a tangy buttermilk dressing. Delightful!

2 to 3 heads of fresh broccoli
(or equivalent amount of tender stem broccoli)
120g of chopped roasted nuts
(I use a mixture of almonds and pecans)
1 handful of sultana raisins
1/2 of a small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

For the dressing:
4 ounces buttermilk (well shaken before measuring)
1 heaped dessertspoon of mayonnaise (I use nonfat)
2 TBS cider vinegar
1 TBS caster sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Trim and chop the broccoli, discarding any woody stems. (You can use the stems if you peel them) Place them into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for about 45 seconds and then drain well and rinse in cold water. Drain well again. Place in a dry bowl. Add the chopped nuts, raisins and onion. Toss together well.

Whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour this over top of the salad, and again toss well. Cover and chill for several hours before serving.
Marie Rayner
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Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Oh how I love strawberry season . . . especially when it comes in conjunction with rhubarb season.

The two combined together is a flavour match made in heaven! What a happy co-inky dink that they ripen pretty much at the same time in our garden!

Lovely sweet berries, soooo fresh and tasty. Nothing could possibly taste better. I reckon if you put two berries side by side, one from a store bought punnet and one from my garden . . . I'd be able to pick the garden grown one every time. Freshest is bestest!

Lovely tart and mouth puckering rhubarb . . .

A short buttery topping . . .

Just the perfect balance of flavours. Sweet, tart and buttery.

I think I've about redeemed myself with Todd, don't you think?

*Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

Delicious warm out of the oven or at room temperature, with the perfect mix of tart rhubarb and sweet strawberries beneath a wonderfully crunchy and buttery topping.

For the filling:
600g of rhubarb, cut into one inch pieces
(about 2 cups)
400g of fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
(about 1 quart)
the juice of one lemon
100g of sugar
3 TBS cornflour (cornstarch)
pinch of salt

For the topping:
200g of flour
(about 1 1/3 cup)
1 tsp of baking powder
3 TBS caster sugar
3 TBS demerara sugar
the zest of one lemon
4 ounces butter, melted
(1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon

First make the topping. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, both sugars and the lemon zest. Stir the melted butter together with the vanilla and the cinnamon. Stir this into the flour mixture and mix together with a fork until it clumps, making both large and small bits.

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.

Place the fruit into a bowl along with the flour, sgar and salt. Add the lemon juice and toss together. Dump into a large square baking dish.

Cover the fruit thickly and evenly with the crumble topping. Place on a baking tray and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crumble topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling beneath. Cover with foil if your topping starts to brown too quickly without the fruit cooking.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lashings of custard, or cream, or not! (As you prefer!)
Marie Rayner
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Cheeseburger Double Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Poor old Todd . . . First I torture him with Chocolate Fudge Brownie Pie . . . and then I torture him with Pasta.

Poor old Todd . . . altogether now . . . awwwwwwww . . . *sniff *sniff

It's a sad old life it is . . . made to eat yucky things like Chocolate Fudge Brownie Pie . . .

And pasta . . . in the form of the gooiest, scrummiest macaroni and cheese . . .

Topped with delicious burgers, sliced tomatoes, fried bacon and cheesy bread crumbs . . .

Poor old Todd. Didn't stop him from having two helpings though . . .

*Note* . . . no husbands were injured in the creation of this post. Any semblence to real life torture is only in his mind. Truly he did not suffer all too much.

*Cheeseburger Double Cheese Macaroni and Cheese*
Serves 4-6
Printable recipe

This double-cheese macaroni with tasty burgers on top will win you over. Under the crispy crumb topping is a robust, creamy blend of ingredients. Spring onions give it a tasty zing!!

2 ounces butter (1/4 cup)
45g flour (1/3 cup)
750ml milk (3 cups)
10 ounces strong cheddar cheese, grated (2 1/2 cups)
75g freshly grated Parmesan cheese (3/4 cup)
4 to 6 thinly sliced spring onions
dash of tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained
3 slices of firm white bread, blitzed into crumbs
4 to 6 medium sized burger patties
2 to 3 ounces of additional cheddar cheese grated

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ Gas mark 4. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Melt 2/3 of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk. Cook and whisk over medium heat, stirring until the sauce boils and thickens. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, to cook the flour. Add the cheddar, Parmesan, spring onions, tabasco sauce, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste, stirring until the cheeses have melted. Fold in the cooked macaroni and remove from the heat. Scrape into the prepared baking dish.

Lightly brown the burger patties on both sides in a lightly greased nonstick skillet. Plate over top of the macaroni and cheese. Melt the remaining portion of butter. Mix into the bread crumbs along with the additional cheddar cheese. Sprinkle evenly over top of all. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Note - You can add several tomatoes sliced, placing them on top of the burgers before baking and before adding the cheese/crumb mixture. I added some sliced fresh tomato and some streaky bacon on top of the burgers, beneath the cheese crumbs before baking. Delicious!!
Marie Rayner
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Fudge Brownie Pie

Fudge Brownie Pie

I was sitting here today and I thought to myself . . . I want something scrummy . . . something rich . . . something chocolatey. And then I thought . . . what if I bake my favourite brownies, in a tart pan and then cover them with marshmallows and a fudge frosting . . . I wonder what it would taste like

I have only three words for you.

OH - - - MY - - - GOODNESS!!!

Fudge Brownie Pie

Have you ever eaten anything so incredibly scrummy that the very first bite sent you into spasms of delight . . .

so incredibly moreish that you can't utter any words . . . only sounds . . .

Sounds like . . . . mmmmmm . . . . ooooooohhh . . . . nnnngggghhh . . . .

and in between . . . . only the sounds of your fork hitting the plate . . . again and again????

Fudge Brownie Pie

Imagine a fudgy mouthful of rich moist chocolate brownie . . . stuffed with toasted pecans and then topped with oooey, goooey, sweet marshmallow . . . all smoothed over with a rich chocolate fudge frosting.

Yes . . . this is heaven in every bite. Okay, so this has been a bit more than three words . . . but well, I am sure you'll forgive me.

Fudge Brownie Pie

Now, go make this NOW!

Fudge Brownie Pie

*Fudge Brownie Pie*
Makes one 9 inch pie
Printable Recipe

Delicious fudgy brownie bottom topped with marshmallow and a tasty chocolate fudge icing. Gorgeous!

105g of flour
(3/4 cup)
200g of caster sugar
(1 cup)
1 ounce of unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
(1/4 cup)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 ounces butter, melted
2 large free range eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
60g of chopped toasted pecans (1/2 cup)
2 handfuls of mini marshmallows
For the frosting:
2 ounces butter, melted
(1/4 cup)
1 ounce cocoa powder, sifted
(1/4 cup)
2 ounces evaporated milk
(1/4 cup)
8 ounces icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 9 inch flan pan with a removeable bottom well and then set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Beat together the butter, eggs and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Stir in the toasted nuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake on a middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Immediately sprinkle the marshmallows on top and return to the oven for a few minutes to melt the marshmallows. Remove from the oven and carefully spread the chocolate frosting over top.

To make the chocolate frosting mix all ingredients together in a bowl, beating with an eletric whisk until smooth and thick. Spread on the hot marshmallows.
Let cool completely. Cut into wedges to serve.

Bon appetit!

Marie Rayner
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