Friday, 22 October 2010

A dark affair: chocolate, stout, and raisin cake

half choc stout cake

I have always loved chocolate cakes - more so even than chocolate itself, or at least until recent years, in which time I've had the pleasure of discovering real chocolate. (The sickly stuff of my childhood never did it for me. And yes, I probably was a strange kid.)

But you'll never, ever wean me off chocolate cakes, and for that reason, I hereby confess to spending a shocking proportion of my time seeking out the best chocolate cake recipes.

For the most part, I'm a purist. I don't my my chocolate and/or cocoa messed around with too much. But when I spied a Dan Lepard recipe for a chocolate cake which also incorporates stout and raisins, I couldn't help but be tempted. It was the stout that got me, doctor.

Purist, be damned.

And so, I baked. It's an incredibly easy recipe, and pretty foolproof, so long as you don't heat the chocolate over a fierce flame. Chocolate is a fickle mistress, and likes to be treated gently. Overdo things, come on too strong, and - like most affairs of the heart - it'll all go horribly wrong.

Regard patience as a virtue, and you'll soon enough end up with a generous slab (the recipe doesn't say as much, but you'll need an 8" square tin) of a moist and seductively dark cake, with just a hint of bitterness to offset the richness.

whole choc stout cake

I used London Porter instead of Guinness, but I think - to give Dan his due - Guinness would indeed be better. If you're wary of stouts, or think you don't like them, there's no need to be afraid of the bitter tones in this cake, because (a) they are gentle, and (b) there is, in any case, plenty of sweet chocolate frosting to counter them.

In fact, I thought the recipe made rather too much frosting - I left about a quarter in the bowl. And even doing that, there was plenty on the cake. Mr Lepard clearly has a sweet tooth.

Overall verdict? A real heart stealer, and one that you can enjoy on the side without anyone else knowing... Oh, and it goes well with cream and/or crème fraîche, too, just in case you feel like upping the pleasure levels. Just saying.

slice choc stout cake

Monday, 18 October 2010

impressions of Norway: some sights

I've been away from this blog for so long that I'm going to have to ease myself back in gently. Excuse me while I get the harness dusted down and sorted out.

In the meantime, some of you (particularly those of you on Twitter) may recall that I spent a couple of weeks in Norway - well, Oslo and Bergen, at any rate - in the summer. To be brief, I loved everything about it. And, needless to say, the food was one of the many highlights. I'll come on to that in my next post - which, I promise, will follow shortly.

But for now, I'll try to give you an idea of some of the sights, including the good, the bad, and the frankly bizarre...


let's start with the blindingly obvious...

Bergen Norway flag


spectacular fountain in central Oslo...

Oslo fountain


Oslo old town...

Oslo old town


cute scooter...

Oslo scooter


view from Oslo harbour...

Oslo boats


another of Oslo harbour's assets...

Oslo pissoar


Oslo concert hall/opera house...

Oslo concert hall


chef resting after service...

Oslo resting chef


Oslo flower market...

Oslo flower market


view from Oslo castle...

Oslo view from castle


the Ice Bar...

Oslo ice bar


out for a paddle...

Oslo swans


friends...

Oslo friends


Oslo Nobel peace museum...

Oslo peace museum


Oslo flower market: the reprise. With added pigeons...

Oslo pigeons


Whiter than white: walking on Oslo opera house...

Oslo concert hall 2


view from Bergen hotel window...

Bergen hotel view


Bergen public sculpture. Lots of it there....

Bergen public art


view from atop the funicular...

Bergen view atop the funicular


erm, a rose...

Bergen rose


typical Bergen weather...

Bergen menacing clouds


the handsomest fish, Bergen fish market...

Bergen fish market ugly fish


more of that public art I warned you about...

Bergen public art 2


the funicular cafe. Great location, shame about the cafe...

Bergen funicular cafe


erm....

Oslo graffiti