Chocolate fondant

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It’s either the saviour or the downfall of Masterchef contestants everywhere. If perfected then in the words of Gregg Wallace “Ah, mate, I tell you what, that’s the sort of thing I would dip my head in”. If it doesn’t work then there’s no bigger disappointment and a contestant’s dream will be fading fast. But! I’m here to tell you that it need not be the downfall of the home cook. Sure, it takes a bit of time, and you need to stick to the recipe instructions meticulously, but this is my go-to impressive pudding for a dinner party and it has worked every time. I really hope you give this recipe a go, and please let me know if you do – it’s such a satisfying dessert to make. Good luck!
Ingredients for melt-in-the-middle chocolate fondants
Ingredients (serves 4)
25g butter, melted
4 tsp cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate
100g butter
Large shot of chocolate liquor (or any liquor of your choice)
2 medium eggs, plus two extra yolks
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
Double cream or ice-cream to serve

Method
1. Brush the inside of four small pudding tins or ramekins with the melted butter.
Pudding tins to be prepared for chocolate fondants
Use upward strokes with a pastry brush to line the sides – this helps the puddings to rise nicely.
Brushing the inside of the pudding tin in upward strokes 1
Brushing the inside of the pudding tin in upward strokes 2
Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, or in the fridge for 30 minutes, and brush on a second layer of butter when the first has hardened. Chill again.
Double line the pudding tins with melted butter
2. Put a teaspoon of cocoa powder into each tin, shake and tip out in order to completely coat the inside – this stops the puddings from sticking to the tins and will guarantee your little cakes will tip out easily after cooking.
Sprinkle cocoa powder onto the butter to line the tins
3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Melting dark chocolate and butter in a bain-marie
Melted chocolate and butter cooling to room temperature
4. Add a shot of your chosen liquor to the chocolate mixture and stir well.
Adding chocolate liquor to the melted dark chocolate and butter 1
Adding chocolate liquor to the melted dark chocolate and butter 2
Chocolate liquor will result in a deeper, richer chocolate flavour, but coffee or mint liquor, Cointreau or brandy would all work as well.

5. Use an electric whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together.
Eggs and sugar to be whisked for chocolate fondants
You need to achieve a really thick, bubbly texture so keep whisking until the mixture turns considerably lighter in colour and the batter leaves a trail from the whisks.
Beating the eggs and sugar to form a thick fluffy mixture
You can of course use a hand whisk, but be warned, you will need guns of steel.

6. Sift the flour into the egg mixture and beat to combine.
Sifting plain flour into the eggs and sugar mixture
Plain flour sifted into the eggs and sugar mixture
Beating the flour into the eggs and sugar
7. Add the chocolate a bit at a time, beating well to ensure that it incorporates evenly into the batter.
Starting to add the chocolate mixture to the fondant batter
Chocolate and butter fully combined into the fondant batter
8. Now you’re ready to fill the pudding tins or ramekins. I find that the easiest and most mess-free way to do this is to transfer the batter into a jug and then pour the mixture into the tins from there.
Chocolate fondant batter ready to be poured into tins
Fill the tins evenly and then chill in the fridge until ready to cook – wait at least 30 minutes, but you can leave them overnight if you’re preparing ahead.
Pudding tins filled with fondant batter
9. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Place the puddings on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes. I have always found that this timing works perfectly, so I trust it every time and don’t let myself be tempted to take them out sooner or leave them in longer.
Chocolate fondants after baking
The puddings should rise out the tins slightly and be well cooked round the outside, but soft in the centre.

10. Gently tip the fondants out onto small plates or bowls (this should be easy due to the double layer of butter and the cocoa powder in steps 1 and 2).
Double chocolate fondant
Serve with lashings of double cream or good quality vanilla ice-cream.
Chocolate fondant served with double cream 1
Chocolate fondant served with double cream 2
Sit back and revel in the ooh-s and aah-s that will ensue as your guests cut into the fondants and the chocolate centre oozes out. To. Die. For.

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche
It feels like there’s always a long gap between my latest blog posts, since I’ve only been posting one recipe a week for a while now. Life has been busy, especially what with a certain political event happening in my country next Thursday (oh, and I guess there’s that PhD thing to be getting on with too). As much as a healthy dose of democracy is wonderful (and necessary) in life, at times what you really need is a respite from excessive politics. And what is the greatest antidote to politics? No, not alcohol: that is fuel of politics (or at least, “politics” around the dinner table with friends and family). Chocolate. Chocolate is the answer.

This chocolate mousse recipe could not be simpler if it tried – in fact, it comes from a children’s cookery book that we absolutely loved as kids. Posh it up with berries and cream if you want to serve for a fancy dessert, but really this can be whipped up in an instant (barring the chilling time in the fridge) if life is getting just a bit much and you need a large dose of comfort.
Ingredients for homemade dark chocolate mousse
Ingredients (serves 2)
60g good quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)
2 eggs
Sea salt
Berries, or other fruit, to decorate
Crème fraiche for serving

Method
1. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place in a bain marie (a bowl placed over a pan of water, without the bowl actually touching the water) over a low heat. Heat slowly until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and set aside to allow the chocolate to cool.
Dark chocolate in a bain marie
Melted dark chocolate
2. Separate the eggs and beat the two yolks together well.
Seperating eggs for homemade chocolate mousse
3. Pour the yolks into the cooled melted chocolate and mix well to form a thick, glossy mixture.
Adding egg yolks to melted chocolate for chocolate mousse
Dark chocolate and egg yolk mixture for` chocolate mousse
4. Add a large pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until the whites are fluffy and make stiff peaks when you lift the whisk.
Egg whites whisked until stiff
5. Now the whisked whites need to be combined with the chocolate mixture – this is the trickiest step as you want to retain as much of the air that you just whisked into the whites as possible, so that the mousse has a lovely light texture. A good technique is to add about a third of the whites to the chocolate and stir fairly briskly to combine well and loosen the chocolate mixture. Now add another third of the whites, but this time fold gently with a large metal spoon until just combined – this should be a lot easier since the first batch of egg white went in. Finally fold in the remaining egg white, again folding gently.
Chocolate mousse to be spooned into dishes
6. Spoon the mixture into two small dishes or glasses and chill for at least a couple of hours before serving.
Dark chocolate mousse to be chilled
When you’re ready to serve, top the chocolate mousses with your chosen fruit and a small spoon of crème fraiche.
Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche 1
Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche
This is a rich pudding, with quite a bitter taste from the dark chocolate. You can use a lower coca content if you don’t like that bitter edge, but some gorgeously sweet berries will balance everything out otherwise. Comfort eat away!

Strawberry Fool

Homemade strawberry fools
Today we’re talking about a quick, easy, straightforward dessert. The kind that you can rustle together in 20 minutes with just a few simple ingredients, and leave in the fridge until dinner time. This is the ideal dinner party pudding, especially during the summer months when you can get hold of perfectly ripe, juicy strawberries. I may be biased, but I think it’s hard to beat Scottish strawberries. Usually the smallest strawberries are actually the ones with the strongest, sweetest flavour, despite the enticing look of the larger, perfectly-strawberry-shaped fruits.

I loosely based this recipe on one from BBC Good Food (my go-to website for recipe guidance and inspiration). I finally got to use a splash of the delicious elderflower liquor that I was given for my birthday. We only added one shot of the liquor, and actually our strawberries had such an intense flavour that they overpowered the elderflower taste. If I was making this again I would definitely add another shot, but of course this will depend on what type of liquor you are using and how flavourful your strawberries are. My advice would be to taste the fool as you go along, to make sure you get the balance just right.
Ingredients for homemade strawberry fool
Ingredients (serves 6)
300g ripe strawberries, plus 100g extra chopped into small pieces
300g Greek yogurt
3 tbsp icing sugar
300ml double cream
1-2 shots of elderflower or fruit liquor

Method
1. Place 300g of your ripest strawberries into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Strawberries for blending to make strawberry coulis
Strawberry coulis
Homemade strawberry coulis
2. Beat together the yogurt and icing sugar.
Greek yogurt and icing sugar for a strawberry fool
3. Add the double cream and whip until thick. You want the mixture to form stiff peaks, but not have that over-whipped consistency.
Adding the double cream to the fool mixture
Whipping the cream and yogurt for a strawberry fool
4. Fold through the liquor and most of the chopped strawberries.
Folding the chopped strawberries through the strawberry fool mixture
5. Very gently fold through the strawberry coulis a little at time so that the mixture is rippled and not completely combined.
Folding strawberry coulis through the fool mixture
6. Spoon the fool into small tumblers or wine glasses, top with the remaining chopped strawberries and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
Spooning the homemade strawberry fool into cups
We had these little puddings after Sunday dinner, served with amoretti and ginger biscuits. They had a light, but rich consistency and a really intense sweet strawberry flavour. We didn’t actually use all of the strawberry coulis, but it kept in the fridge for the next couple of days and was amazing drizzled over vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt.
Homemade strawberry fools