My little iPhone calendar thingy says ‘June’. I have a little giggle to myself, because Steve Jobs’ technology has clearly gone madly and horrifically wrong. Looked outside recently, little iPhone? No, clearly not. Because anyone with even half a sense of perception can see it’s obviously October. So, a Saturday afternoon on a schizophrenic day that is half gorgeous sunshine and half bonfires and drizzle. This presented me with quite a quandary about what to bake, as clearly neither a bright and breezy pavlova OR berry-based spicy confection would fly at all.
I scanned the bookcase groaning under the weight of a myriad cookery books, my eyes flicking along until I saw the woefully underused Green and Black’s ‘Ultimate Chocolate Recipes – The New Collection’. Now, who am I to argue with something calling itself the ‘Ultimate’? I actually very rarely fancy chocolate, but today was one of those rare occasions. It took me a while to locate the recipe I wanted, but once I spotted the right one, I knew. Deep in my heart, I knew that this was the cake I had to make. ‘Chocolate and chestnut soufflé cake’.
It seemed perfect – a bit of Autumn in there, with that chestnut (not to mention that I’ve long coveted those little tins of chestnut pureé in Waitrose), but light enough with the soufflé element.
Don’t be scared. This was my first ever soufflé, and it went perfectly. It can for you too.
Green & Black’s Chocolate and Chestnut Soufflé Cake
25g soft unsalted butter
125g unsalted butter
125g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate, broken into pieces
A pinch of salt
250g can Clement Faugier vanilla chestnut spread (Waitrose stocks this!)
100ml semi-skimmed milk
3 large free-range eggs
75g caster sugar
Good-quality cocoa powder, for dusting
Creme fraiche, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/gas mark 3. Does anyone actually use the gas mark thingy? I might just stop putting it in. Anyway, smear a 20cm tin with butter (with a removable base if you have that luxury). Line it with parchment paper. I personally put the tin ON the paper, trace a line round it in pencil, then cut to size. If you’re super cautious, you can put this tin on a baking tray too.
2. Meanwhile, in a universe far, far away…heat up the chestnut puree with milk in a separate pan. I’d tell you to take it out of the can first, but you’re a clever bunny, aren’t you? Stir until smooth again…I already used the Chippendale joke didn’t I?
3. Separate eggs and yolks, and whisk the yolks and sugar in a bowl.
4. Pour the chestnut mixture into the chocolate, and make sure you stir it well. Stir it until you think you’re done, then stir it one more time. Make a wish if you have to.
5. Stir it into the egg yolks, and mix to make a smooth batter. Yes, this recipe is sponsored by the words ‘stir’ and ‘smooth’.
6. In a new bowl (by this time your kitchen should look like a bombsy tit, as Adam and Joe say), whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks. You have to test this in the traditional way – pick the bowl up, turn it upside down, and lift it over your head. If it all goes wrong, egg whites make an amazing hair mask, so don’t worry.
7. Now for the chance-y bit. Use a metal spoon to stir in one spoonful of egg white into the chocolate mixture. Fold in, gently.
8. Bit by bit, stir the rest of the egg whites in, folding lightly. You’ll need to make sure it’s properly mixed, but just don’t stir too vigorously.
9. Pour the mixture into the tin, then pop into the oven for 25 minutes. It’ll rise, go a bit wobbly in the middle, then sink towards the end, as cracks start to appear – like Cheryl Cole’s career.
10. Take it out, leave it to cool, then slide it out of the tin. I left the parchment paper on, to give it a little support, but you can peel this away. It’s very satisfying.
11. Cover with clingfilm for 2 hours, then dust with cocoa powder.
….well, Harwich, actually. Which is on the Essex/Suffolk border. But that’s not quite as catchy, is it?
And so it was that on a sunny afternoon, I piled into my friend Nanna’s little car with inordinate amounts of shopping bags and two VERY glittery Lola’s Cupcakes for sustenance. We slipped on a little bit of ‘Slammin’ & Jammin’ (Nanna is nothing if not a BRILLIANT CD namer) and off we steamed.
Now, before I tell you what happened next, I must explain a little something. Before ‘Made in Chelsea’ came into my life, I was something of an avid ‘The Only Way is Essex’ viewer. I know, they were unenlightened times – but I had yet to be introduced to MiC, where the pale skins, white Blackberries, copious amounts of fur and friends with silly names made me feel infinitely more at home…Anyway, Nanna and I were delighted to find out that with a little tweaking, our journey to take us right through the Towie Motherland – Brentwood.
Feeling a bit like bold explorers crossing into a brave new world, we ventured into the town. Practically quivering with excitement, and with Kelis’ ‘Bossy’ blaring out of the speakers (our travel anthem of choice), we peered out of the car, looking for any perma-tanned pneumatic women, and their Ken doll counterparts. An old woman eating a sandwich on a bench, a bunch of 10 year olds, and some perfectly respectable people was what our eyes did in fact alight on…
Still, we were bubbling over with excitement, and doing our very own brand of ‘car dancing’ (pointy arm, pointy arm, wiggle, double dream hands), we shrieked with excitement as we pulled up round the back of Sugar Hut (as I’m sure all the worthiest Brentwoodians have), and proceeded to take photos in the middle of the road, nearly killing ourselves in the process. I bought some fake eyelashes, we cranked up ‘Bossy’ again, and then it was time to get back on the road and head to our real destination.
I’m sitting here, facing a blank page, as Saturday morning dribbles away into Saturday afternoon, just me and my blog. Part of the reason I’ve made endless excuses and avoided the world of hyperspace is that I felt the pressure of writing something GOOD. I’ve had so many lovely and encouraging comments about my writing, and this blog, that I didn’t want to jot down anything half-hearted. But, being afraid of not being good doth not a writer make (as any Guardian journalist will tell you….oh yes I did.) Often, writing is about is just about consistency, of just sitting down and blocking something out.
So, in an attempt to get up to date, I’m going to have to do a bit of Doctor Who worthy time travelling. Let’s start with April, shall we?
Someday my prince will come…
Since my birthday in January, I’ve developed a taste for hostessing. As a result of this, I promised (threatened) to hold a Royal Wedding party. And just as well – I got a bit fed up of all the wedding-bashing that led up to the event itself. While I may find sarcasm funny, cynicism isn’t really a word in my vocabulary. Thus it was that, on the morning of the 29th April, a gaggle of friends descended on my house – some so early that they caught me with my rollers in…oops!
We were terrifically lucky with the weather. After a rainy week, we were able to take the party outside. I’ve never done anything like that before, and it was pretty marv – we provided our own commentaries for the ceremony, my friend Colin played The Sex Pistols over the Beeb’s coverage; my friend Laura followed the entire thing on Twitter and stood up for Jerusalem, and we almost all got terrifically drunk on my Earl Grey infused vodka.