Excuse the radio silence, nothing's wrong, on the contrary, I just spent a fantastic week in Morocco, Marrakech, to be precise.
Wonderfully exotic, definitely a destination I would recommend. Unfortunately, I missed out on a cookery session with the cook of the Riad we stayed at (which I can thoroughly recommend not only because the place is absolutely beautiful and has its own spa/hammam, but also because the local food we had there surpassed everything we ate elsewhere, even the top restaurants in Marrakech, Dar Moha and Le Tobsil, both of which lie in spitting distance of this boutique hotel.)
I had read before that Morroccan food was best enjoyed in someone's home and it proved true, this was not a private home, of course, but the small size of the Riad (read: boutique hotel) allowed for cooking like you would at home. And this woman certainly knew her stuff! Alas, I was not meant to be learning how to prepare a wonderful tagine au poulet et au potiron because I was hugging the toilet pretty much constantly on that last day... not quite sure where I got it from, I very much doubt that it was food poisoning, as I had been extremely cautious, not eating from stalls, only bottled water, etc - I suspect I might have picked it up when I bought spices at the market where a lovely vendor insisted he needed to spead something that looked like chalk and a bit of spit on the back of my hand. And of course I know about the right hand - left hand rule in these countries, but when someone reaches out for your hand, you can't very well say "No, because I know exactly where that's been!", can you?
But on to more pleasant things. Just before we whizzed off, I finally found some time to cook again after all the studying I've been doing. God knows the family deserved a little treat after all those long nights and weekends spent without me and resorting to either quick fixes or even (shame on me!) the odd take-away. High up on my pile of "recipes-I-need-to-try-some-time-soon" was an issue of Wienerin Kochen Spezial and it contained an intriguing dessert. Now, readers of this blog will know that I cannot resist chocolate, but I've recently developed a craving for gooey steamed puddings as well. Imagine a combination of the two and you'll know why nothing could keep me from making this.
The combination of the chilli and the vanilla reminded me of the rather short-lived fame of a certain pop-duo in the 80s - would this dessert live up to its name or would it all be a load of hot air? The little chocolate puds were as indulging as I had imagined and felt incredibly light at the same time. The chilli-vanilla-banana combo was interesting and certainly edible, but not something I'd rush to make again tomorrow. It looks dramatic, though, and they are gluten-free chocolate cakes and can be conveniently prepared ahead, so once again, I am torn - I might make it again for a dinner party just for the show effect and feel as fake as Milli Vanilli...
I have noticed over years of buying "Wienerin Kocht", then called "Wienerin Kochen Spezial" and now sold as "Wienerin Food & Style" that their publications can be a bit hit and miss - in the last issue my Mum brought, I didn't earmark a single recipe, the one I took these chocolate cakes from has another fifteen or so in there to try... look forward to roast onions filled with polenta and truffle, jerusalem artichoke soup with langoustines and morrels, fried pears with chocolate pesto and roast beef with plums - I just hope I the recipes are as good as they sound and I manage to present the dishes half as beautifully as they do in the magazine - but there you go, something to look forward to before I become too entrenched in uni work again ;-)
Chocolate cakes with chilli & vanilla bananas*
120 g good quality dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
40 g butter
5 medium eggs (80 g yolks, 150 g whites)
40 g caster sugar
3 large bananas
50 g caster sugar
50 g butter
1 vanilla bean
40 ml rum
1 red chilli
white chocolate or vanilla icecream to serve (optional)
Melt the butter and the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water or in a bain-marie. Leave the mixture to cool slightly, meanwhile beat the egg whites with the sugar until very stiff. Add the yolks to the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk one third of the egg whites into the chocolate, then fold the chocolate mixture under the remaining egg whites. Don't overbeat - this will ensure that as much air as possible stays in the mix and the chocolate cakes will be light und fluffy.
Butter the inside of four salad/crumpet/dressing rings and sprinkle with caster sugar. Place on a non-stick baking tray and divide the chocolate mass between the four rings. Freeze for about 2 hours.
When ready to serve, pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Prepare the bananas. (These can be mae in advance, then re-heated as you bake the chocolate cakes)
Melt the butter, sugar and butter in a small saucepan until foaming. Run a sharp knife along the side of the vanilla pod and scrape out with a small spoon. Add seeds and pod to the pan. Slice the bananas and cook in the mixture for a minute or so, then deglaze with the rum.
Add the chilli and cook until the bananas are soft, but still holding their shape. Set aside until ready to serve (re-heat as necessary).
Bake the chocolate cakes for 17 minutes until risen and browning on top, but still soft in the centre.
Gently run a knife around the cakes to release them from the rings, place on individual plates and top with some of the bananas. Drizzle with the syrup and chilli remaining in the pan and serve with some icecream on the side.
* Based on a recipe by Austrian chef Gerhard Fuchs of Kreuzwirt, am Pössnitzberg, in Wienerin Food & Style, December 2007, p. 24.