Food for Fireworks
PUBLISHED: 15:11 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:05 20 February 2013
Amber Locke cooks up some warming treats for colder nights
These two recipes make ideal bonfire party dishes as they are rich, warming and satisfying and taste so much better after youve spent a couple of hours outside in the freezing cold! Tartiflette is a traditional Savoyarde dish, often found in Alpine ski slope restaurants and is made from a few simple hearty ingredients: waxy potatoes, Reblochon cheese, cream, onions, lardons and sometimes mushrooms. Reblochon is a rich, melting mountain cheese with a nutty and faintly sweet taste and herbal aroma; if you cant find it then try Vacherin or Taleggio instead. You can of course use any cheese but these gooey mountain cheeses fit so well with the dish, which is essentially a kind of enriched, glorified potato gratin. I find a good starting place for tracking down speciality cheeses in Derbyshire is The Cheddar Gorge in Ashbourne and the Old Cheese Shop at Hartington also has a wide range of cheeses. Here is my version of the dish. Its very filling, comforting and high in calories so although delicious its not a dish to indulge in every day of the week.
These gleaming brownies are chilli chocolate flavoured and the mixture is warmed with a shot of brandy. The walnuts and pecan nuts provide a good crunch and the slightly unusual toppings of sweet, candied chilli and crackle crystals give firstly a gentle kick of heat and then an unexpected popping sensation as you bite into them.
Crackle crystals are carbonated sugar crystals, which have been coated with cocoa butter which protects them from moisture. When the crackle crystals are eaten the cocoa butter melts and the crystals pop and crackle, giving the same tongue-tingling effect as the retro Space Dust sweets, bringing a smile to the face of almost everyone who tries them. They come in a variety of flavours including plain (a neutral flavour) and chocolate. Ive used both here. Crackle crystals are normally only available to buy in the restaurant trade but Chesterfield-based specialist ingredients supplier, MSK Ingredients also sells on-line to the general public and has a whole host of amazing ingredients available, including these amusing fizzy wonders. Chilli is a flavour thats well-known to pair favourably with chocolate but these brownies only have a subtle chilli hint which adds an element of mystery and spice to the moist, intensely chocolate flavour rather than being overpoweringly hot. If they do turn out fierier than you expected, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to temper and cool the heat. If youre serving them to children leave out the brandy and possibly the candied chilli topping. The crackle crystals will go down a treat though.
Alpine Tartiflette This dish is bubbling and piping hot when it comes out of the oven and is best left to stand for half an hour before eating, or even better when its cooled down to just above room temperature. I dont tend to add any extra salt when seasoning this dish as the potatoes are cooked in salted water and the cheese and lardons both contain salt. Serves 6-8 as a main course.
1.25kg charlotte potatoes 300g Reblochon cheese 300g lardons or cubetti pancetta 2 medium white onions 300ml double cream 200ml crme fraiche 150ml white wine 1 large clove garlic Small handful fresh thyme leaves tsp sugar
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
2. Cut the potatoes into 1cm thick slices lengthways and cook in boiling salted water for 5-7 minutes or until they are just starting to soften slightly.
3. Drain well and lay the slices out onto a large plate until ready to use.
4. Very finely slice the onions, finely chop the clove of garlic, chop the thyme leaves and slice the Reblochon.
5. Frazzle the lardons or pancetta in a wide heavy based pan until beginning to brown and crisp (you might need to do this in two batches, draining any excess fat as you go) then add the onions, garlic and the sugar and cook gently until the onions have softened and are beginning to caramelise.
6. Add the wine and bubble for about 5 minutes or until thick and syrupy then remove from the heat.
7. Assemble the tartiflette in a large gratin dish or ovenproof saut pan by layering the potatoes, lardons and onions, chopped thyme and sliced Reblochon.
8. Finish by pouring over the double cream and crme fraiche, grind over a little black pepper and add a final few slices of Reblochon and a scatter of thyme leaves over the top.
9. Place in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the potatoes are softened and the tartiflette golden brown and bubbling.
10. Serve with a crisp green salad dressed with a sharp citrus-based vinaigrette to balance out the richness of the dish.
Bonfire Brownies I dont normally have chilli powder to hand so rather than bother grinding up chilli flakes or a whole dried chilli I usually just tip the contents of a jar of dried chilli flakes into a sieve and shake out the super-fine particles (which are normally resting in the bottom of the jar) into the flour, judging by eye how much I think I need. Makes 20-40 brownies, depending on how you cut them.
400g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) 150g pecan nuts 150g walnuts 225g plain flour 375g unsalted butter 450g plus 2tbsps caster sugar Large pinch of chilli powder or ground dried chilli 6 medium eggs 2tbps brandy 1tbsp apricot jam 2 medium fresh chillies 25g chocolate covered crackle crystals 25g plain crackle crystals
1. To make the candied chillies, deseed and chop into thin strips.
2. Fill a small saucepan with a couple of inches of water and bring to the boil, then tip in the strips of chilli and blanch for 2-3 minutes then drain in a sieve.
3. Put the 2tbsp of caster sugar in a saucepan and add 1tbsp of water, bring to the boil, tip in the chilli strips and boil for 2-3 minutes.
4. Remove the chilli strips with a slotted spoon and scatter over a cooling rack, dredge with a little extra caster sugar and leave to dry out.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5 and line the base and sides of a roasting or brownie tin, approximately 24 x 35 x 4cm in size, with greaseproof paper.
6. Roughly chop the walnuts and pecans and separately chop the chocolate (or blitz in a food processor) into small pieces.
7. Place the chocolate and butter into a heavy based pan and melt over a gentle heat then set aside to cool a little.
8. Mix together the eggs, sugar and brandy then stir into the chocolate mixture with the flour and chopped nuts. Mix well until it forms a thick, glossy paste then pour into the lined tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is speckled and slightly cracked and the cake is just coming away from the sides of the tin.
9. Place on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before unmolding and removing the greaseproof paper.
10. Gently melt the apricot jam in a small pan over a low heat until thin and runny, then set aside to cool slightly.
11. Using a pastry brush coat the top of the cake with a very thin layer of apricot jam then sprinkle over the crackle crystals and strips of candied chilli which will adhere to the sticky jam.
12. Cut the brownies into squares or triangles and serve on their own or with some cream or vanilla ice cream.