Chocolate Truffles Part 1 – “NO! Don’t do it!”

Uh oh. I’m half way through making like a chocolate factory, and the situation is tense. Whose idea was it to give homemade chocolates as gifts? I would never be so stupid!

unset ganache, glossy ad perfect ... if you want to ice a cakeThe kitchen has a liberal coating of dark chocolate drips. A silicone mini-muffin tray sits to the left of the chocolate-covered breadboard. I’m sitting in an aftermath. The silicone tray was the second disaster.

The first involved taking a lot of expensive ingredients and not using a recipe for some items. Oh. Dear. Cue ganache that never, ever stiffens sufficiently. More chocolate didn’t help. Turns out the method used for milk and white chocolate truffles is different from that of dark, because those two create a more runny consistency. I didn’t know that until after the ganaches didn’t set.

The silicone tray was an experiment, and didn’t work even though the little fairycake style sweety papers fitted perfectly. I put chocolate on the bottom, then ganache, then swathed it in chocolate … yeah, swathed … And now the effect is one that a five-year-old child might have left.

The idea

milk chocolate orange truffle coated in white chocolate
white chocolate orange truffle coated in dark chocolate
dark chocolate truffle coated in some kind of chocolatemilk chocolate praline coated in dark chocolate with roasted hazelnuts
dark chocolate praline coasted in dark chocolate. Or milk. Or probably a mix of the three because I’ve no idea what chocolate will be left.

I got 27 pralines out of 75 hazelnuts and 150g milk chocolate, using a half-tsp measuring spoon, and coated them in less than 100g dark chocolate. My guess is that in the morning, the second batch of dark chocolate pralines, and the dark choc truffles should go well, with a likely result of around 64 finished sweets. None of them with orange.


Super-simple chicken pasta salad for lunch

This may seem a little industrious for Soulsubsistence, but while waiting for the snow-sleet-hailstone nightmare to stop (perhaps stupidly, this is Cumbria) before the dog gets her daily gallop, I thought I would share this rocking chickeny salady thing.

chicken pasta salad

Quick twine about ingredients

Chicken doesn’t have to be breast. It really, really doesn’t. Anyone who read the 13 banned foods post from last night should have been thoroughly put off all artificially-reared chicken anyway, and breast doesn’t just contain all those yummy growth hormones, it also gets the added delight of injected water. That’s to make it look fat and lucious. Because of course, size is all that matters. (You can tell men run the world, can’t you?! (sorreeee, guys …)

There’s better flavour in on-the-bone meat anyway, so picking up the cheaper thigh and drumsticks is a great way to get organic and free range chicken without having to save for them.
The other bugbear that gets me wrapped up in a rant is people who think about what they would like to eat, and then go out to buy it, leaving a refrigerator stocked high with all kinds of perfectly servicable ingredients. The best (and most economic) way to cook is to stick your head in the fridge and see what you’ve got. That’s what happened here, but it mainly occurs every night in this house.

I was told recently that it’s more of a skill than I realise; that ‘normal’ people don’t always have the ability to concoct what they want to eat from an array of leftovers and vegetables, but I think it’s more about practice than anything else. It’s a mindset, and it can be broken to great effect.

Rant over.

Chicken, chorizo and anything-goes-with-pasta salad

Take a couple of cooked chicken drummers, strip the meat and throw in a suitably-sized bowl. Thinly slice a generous handful of spinach, and mix with the chicken.

Get the pasta on to cook – I picked orzo as a shape; little rice-shaped pieces, but really, any shape will do. Quantity? How hungry are you?

Slice up or dice a small onion, chop some sun-dried tomatoes, a piece of red pepper, and cut up a handful of black olives into halves.

Slice – super-thin – about an inch of chorizo. More if you’ve made enough pasta for the 5,000.

Wang the well-drained pasta into the chicken and spinach while it’s still hot, because it will wilt the spinach ever-so-slightly.

Add in the rest of the chopped ingredients (and remember that other additions will work beautifully too) and mix until it’s all looking pretty even.

The Dressing

I love vinaigrette dressings to a fault. I’m sure a creamy, mayonnaisy dressing would be lovely with this, but since I’ve eaten almost a kilo of mayo in the past month (oh, glorious King Edward potato salad, how do I love you, let me count the ways …), I decided to go with vinaigrette.

Using the almost empty jar of English mustard, I tipped in a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, a hefty pinch of dried basil, about a clove of grated garlic, a large pinch of Maldon salt, and added EVOO at the rate of approximately three-times the quantity of red wine vinegar (the balsamic is more ‘to taste’).

Give it a good shake so it emulsifies, taste it, adjust if necessary (good luck with that, I don’t have any tips for dressings, they’re my nightmare) and add cautiously to the salad, tossing it as you go.


Legendary Cheese ‘n’ Onion Pie

This amazing recipe for Cheese Flan is remarkably relaxed about being bastardised. It takes to it really well. In this house it has not once been made true to the recipe, and every time it’s come out excellent. This is an epic pie.

Today’s effort happened because I forgot I already had a bag of spinach and bought another. I hoyed the green stuff into the mix and it worked. What’s left to say? Chop it roughly, that’s all.

Cheese flan - yummier than it looks.

Take some ready-made pastry (I stole some off my dad) and line a dish with three-quarters of it. Mine is round, I’m guessing 9″ diameter; the official size is 12″ x 9″, rectangular. Don’t trim it too well, you’ll need an edge. Don’t put it in the oven yet. It’s not a blind bake.

Get the oven on! 200 deg C or Gas Mark 6 (I don’t understand deg F except for weather).

Chop up an onion (or 2-3 littler ones) and get them boiling in a pan for five minutes. Grate about 8oz strong cheese into a bowl, (spinach went in now), and drain the onions well. Combine the lot, drop in an egg on the top of the mix and beat it a little before you stir it in.

Tip the doughy mix into the uncooked pastry shell and roll out the remaining lump of  pastry to about 3-4 mm thickness. Slice it in strips, about 1 cm width, and brush some milk around the edge of the pastry.

No brush? Just dribble it on with a teaspoon. It doesn’t matter if a little bit gets in the mixture.

Lay the strips of pastry over the pie in one direction. Paint milk across them and lay a few strips in the opposite direction, making a lattice. Paint those too. The milk helps everything stick better, and gives the pastry a bit of a glow after it’s cooked.

Sling it in the oven for 28 minutes. About half an hour, but I would check at 25.

Caution: this is a bloody good way to accidentally eat 8oz of cheese in one day.

Cathartic ruminence; or, the lessons you learn from afar

I recently had the chance to discuss the demise of a relationship from 15 years ago . Something I had given no thought to for years and years.

Being able to talk through the confusing relationship issues which happened so long ago has been cathartic and useful. Understanding 21-year-old angst with a 35-year-old’s head is illuminating, and confirmed for me once more that I was and still am glad to see the back of my 20s. No other age group behaves with such autonomous I AM. I AM the only one. I AM in love. I AM in pain. I AM allowed to do anything I want because of all those things. Oh yeah, and YOU ARE wrong. YOU ARE hurting me. YOU ARE letting me down.

Everything is always in present tense when you are twentysomething.

Thirtysomething still has those urges, but with any luck, remembers what happened another time (probably in the twenties) and manages to turn it around so that the situation doesn’t get any worse; doesn’t keep going; doesn’t become an endless circle of pain and destruction (self- and otherwise). The past tense really can help.

Some of the things you do in your twenties are cringeworthy pain-fests, where there wasn’t any need, but you kept on doing it. As I cast my mind across the people that I know – then and now – I can see that wherever strong emotion takes place, what happens isn’t about intensity, it’s about control. Those who have control over their emotions don’t feel less than the others. But the upsetting scenes are fewer, and in some happy cases, even nonexistent.

However, there’s a flip-side to the coin of emotional control. My observation – right or wrong – is of the twentysomethings I have personally known: some of those that display emotional control also show how the feelings still have to come out. They manifest in bizarre behaviour, deviancy in lots of areas of life, secretive obsessions, or terrifying, unexpected, emotionally-charged outbursts. Not everyone, and I doubt it’s a majority – you couldn’t possibly generalise; but it does happen.

So now, this view of the ‘twenties’ gives you three types of people. Those who spend a lot of time angsting; those who spend most of their time holding it all in, and indulging in occasional nuclear-strength angst; and those who are well-adjusted (probably from an early age).

By the time everyone gets to their thirties, they’re either fixed in the patterns they established in their twenties, or on their way to well-adjustment. Or they’re already there.

I don’t think I’ll ever make it to well-adjustment, but I’m definitely not fixed in the same patterns, thank goodness.

A cathartic ruminent. Maybe.
A cathartic ruminent. Maybe.


Image c/o Paul Stevenson under Creative Commons.