The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

This is what happens in our house when one of us goes ‘I really feel like some chocolate cake.’ I never go by half measure when chocolate is involved and this is no exception.

chocolate cake 1

The basis is a chocolate chunk sponge, filled and covered with a  dark chocolate ganache. This is then decorated with a selection of chocolates – in this case matchmakers, minstrels, malteasers and mixed chocolate balls. You can’t go wrong.

chocolate cake 2

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cake:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 80z self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2oz cocoa powder
  • 200g dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp coffee essence

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces.
  • 300g double cream
  • chocolate decorations, as preferred.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5, and line an 8in round cake tin.

Beat together the butter and sugar, before beating in each egg, one at a time. Add the flour, cocoa powder and coffee essence and mix thoroughly. Add the chocolate chunks, and stir through the mixture. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour, until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean. Remove from the tin and leave to cool.

Whilst the cake is cooling, heat the cream in a pan until almost boiling. Pour over the chocolate chunks and stir until melted. Leave to cool, which will also allow the mixture to thicken.

Using a large serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally, and sandwich with  the chocolate ganache. Spread the rest of the ganache on the top and sides of the cake, and decorate with the chocolates and sweets of your choice. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes and serve with cream or ice cream.

Pancakes, Herring Sandwiches and How to Improve a Chocolate Croissant

For the next post discussing the foods we ate during our recent trip to Amsterdam, I’ll be taking a short trip around some of the smaller foods we ate, some dishes traditionally Dutch, and some less so, but still delicious. Firstly, a visit to the famous Pancake Cafe.

This really needs no explanation. What I particularly liked was the international pancakes – a pancake filled with a combination of national flavours served with a salad garnish. This example was the particularly delicious Greek version, filled with minted lamb, feta, kalamata olives, garlic and pine nuts. Accompanied with salad – both Greek and regular mixed leaf – it was an extremely filling but delicious lunch!

pancakes

Max’s pancake was also delicious, filled with ham, cheese and mushrooms – again very generous in size! But his favourite lunch by a mile was the traditional herring sandwich with gherkin. (The gherkin undoubtedly made it for him!) A white roll, filled with pickled herring and gherkin, it was described as being like a ‘healthy thick smoked salmon sandwich. Along with the numerous portions of chips (minus mayonnaise – I’m not going that far!), we ate very well, albeit unhealthily everyday!

Amsterdam 2013 195

And lastly, Amsterdam have fixed the problem with the chocolate croissant (not enough chocolate!) How to do this? Dip it in chocolate. Problem solved.

chocolate croissant

waffle

Also, bitterboren. Don’t bother. Particularly when they come from a vending machine.

bitterboren vending machine

A Lack of Fried Ice-Cream

Netherlands flag outline

Night two in the lovely city of Amsterdam, and despite the copious amounts of chips (without mayonnaise – I will never go that far. I know its a traditional food, but still no) we were hungry and ready for supper. After our traditional Dutch meal the night before, we decided to sample the second largest cuisine in the country – Indonesia. Historically a Dutch settlement, Indonesian cuisine has become a staple in Amsterdam and there are many restaurants, many serving the famous rijsttafel. This Dutch colonial dish originated amongst the wealthier Dutch settlers, and whilst the dishes are undisputably Indonesian, the combination of several dishes into the ubiquitous rijsttafel is a tradition rooted in show-offery. The Dutch colonial leaders would produce this banquet of little dishes to show their wealth, and this became so popular that the tradition was brought back over to the Netherlands.  However, after the collapse of colonialism, the Indonesian people rejected all elements of the Dutch settlements, including the famous rijsttafel. This dish is very rarely seen in Indonesian restaurants these days but is famous all over The Netherlands.

For our meal we visited Puri Mas, a restaurant in the same area as The Blauwe Hollander, where we ate last night. Again we were eating in a lovely setting, comfortable and with very helpful staff who were more than happy to cater for our dietary requirements (Max being allergic to banana, we had to ask to have that aspect of the dish removed. However the staff happily replaced it with a spicy cucumber salad which I as happier with!) We ordered the Rijsttafel Special which for €20.50 gave us enough food to keep us full until the next morning!

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rijstafell2

The dishes we sampled were:

  • Rice – egg fried and plain
  • Egg in Balinese sauce
  • Salad with peanut sauce
  • Chicken satay
  • Spicy stewed beef
  • Seasoned pork with soy sauce
  • Chicken in curry sauce
  • Haricot beans in a spicy sauce
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Spicy cucumber salad
  • Fried potatoes
  • Fried coconut powder

It was all delicious – there was nothing I didn’t like! The egg in Balinese sauce was a particular favourite, particularly as this was something I was a bit uneasy about at the start. The pork was divine, simply melting in the mouth and the added cucumber salad was a perfect palate cleanser to a large meal.

This was a enormous meal, and one of which we left feeling very full and happy. However, you cannot hand me a dessert menu and not expect me to sample them. I looked, read the menu and looked again. Fried Vanilla Ice Cream. Well that was sold – we had to try it! Sadly though they were out of vanilla ice cream (a slight problem…) However this was only a tiny blip in an otherwise excellent meal. Would we go back? Oh yes!

The Amsterdam Food Adventure

Netherlands flag outline

Over the recent break Max and I went on a short break to Amsterdam, giving us a break from the English storms. (Actually, we nearly didn’t make it as a result –  we found ourselves in Peterborough with no way of getting any further down the country and a plane to catch the next morning. All I can say is thank goodness that Max’s mum is amazing and drove out to pick us up!)

amsterdam

But anyway, we made it and after breakfast at the airport (which incidently, you can get a much better breakfast at Luton Airport than Schiphol Airport – who’d have thought?) we landed in Amsterdam. Now we had a lovely couple of days of which I could fill lots of posts with, however I’m going to focus on one of the main planned elements – the food. We always get very excited about planning the differnet meals we are going to eat, researching local delicacies, traditional foods and more often than not, the best place to eat them on a budget.

canals

For the main meals we went straight for the local cuisines – traditional dutch and Indonesian (one of the largest minorities in the country). One the first night we went out on the trail of  a restaurant thrown up by the guidebooks and the internet, Des Blauwe Hollander. This small restaurant was centred in a side street full of eateries, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that unlike so many of the other nearby restaurants, this one did not have members of staff outside trying to drag in hapless customers (this always has two effects on me – either they are too highbrow or just not very good.). Added to the mix were a pleasant interior and helpful staff and we were on a winner.

We chose two dishes; Max had stamppot, a traditional hearty dish similar to bubble and squeak. Mashed potato is combined with kale and bacon and served with a large smoked sausage and gravy. Sounds bland perhaps, but the result was well-flavoured and very tasty. You cannot accuse the Dutch of stinginess with regards to portion size – these were enormous! (the couple at the table next to us barely made an inroad into it!)

stamppot

My meal consisted of meatballs wrapped in bacon, served with boiled potatoes, gravy and red cabbage flavoured with apple and orange. Now initially I was almost slightly disappointed – whilst tasty, well-flavoured and well cooked, the results almost seemed a little tame. However then I put all the components on the fork and ate them together – the spark was lit! Whilst separately quite simple ingredients, together they became a brilliant combination, moist, full of flavour but without any of the components being overshadowed. Quite brilliant.

meatballs

Now we had to try the desserts, obviously. However, this was in itself so wonderful they deserve a whole post of discussion, as a few sentences just will not do them justice. I leave you then with a menu item that made us smile, and want to ask what on earth was in ‘Heavenly Coffee…’

coffee