11 May 2015

Heroically Fudgy Cheesecake Brownies

If you're having a crap time, these are the goods you want. Cheesecake Brownies save the day!

Some people turn to vigorous exercise while others turn to addictive substances. I like to turn to delicious, sleazy baked goods. I don't think it is a terrible thing at all. I certainly wouldn't judge you for eating an entire batch of baked goods to yourself - been there, done that - but these cheesecake brownies are the best way to share good feelz with everybody around you!

There are days when my sweet tooth is really messed up. I often find I just want sweetness in general, and there are many ways to take care of that. My two greatest naughty sins are dense, fudgy brownies or a huge slice of cheesecake - so why not have both? Some days can be so defeating, that you won't have any reservations towards packing your face with so much sin.

These cheesecake brownies are the best of two delightful worlds. You have a darkly-sweet, fudgy brownie striated with thick streaks of creamy vanilla cheesecake. It's like a well-written erotic novel.

They can be as deluxe or as simple as you like - I will show you how to do both - so everybody can whip up instant joy. My recipe is a pretty practical one compared to a lot of brownie recipes I've seen. There is no double boiler/Bain-Marie involved - none of that BS. There are no raising agents used, which makes a denser brownie that 'cuddles' the cheesecake batter like a pillowy duvet. Finally by adding ground almonds, there's no chance of your brownies becoming dry or cake-like - every brownie-maker's worst embarrassment.

So come on, let's save the day!
What You'll Need:
For a 24-strong army of instant-action joy...

Brownie Batter
150g of Dark Chocolate
125g of Butter
3 Eggs
50g of Plain Flour
125g Light Brown Sugar*
50g Dark Muscavado Sugar*
1 teaspoon of Cocoa Powder
50g of Ground Almonds**

*if you don't have these sugars in, just use 175g of White Sugar.
**replace with 50g of flour if you don't have any Ground Almonds.

Cheesecake Batter
200g of Cream Cheese
1 Egg
3 tablespoons of White Sugar
2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract

STEP 1. Firstly, line a square dish with some oil or some greaseproof baking paper.

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Now let's crack on with the fun!

STEP 2. Break your dark chocolate into a mixing bowl, and microwave it in 10-second bursts until it is melted.

Measure out your butter. It's better if your butter is room temperature and not fridge-cold. It makes life so much quicker!

Cut your butter into small-ish chunks and add it to your melted chocolate.

Mix everything until the butter has completed melted into the chocolate. If there are a few persistent lumps of butter, just microwave the whole mixture for 10 seconds to help it along.

You should end up with a smooth, glossy, chocolatey mix.

STEP 3. Time for some sugar!

Scatter in your Brown Sugar and Dark Sugar (or White Sugar if best for you.)

Add in your 50g of Ground Almonds and mix everything together until well-dispursed. As much as I recommend you to add ground almonds, I'd hate for you to go out and buy a bag especially. You can replace them with an extra 50g of flour in the next step)

STEP 4. Now add in your 3 eggs.

Your mixture may seem like it is seizing up and it will start to look fugly. Just keep mixing and eventually you'll have your glossy mixture back.

STEP 5. Weigh out your plain flour, and mix your teaspoon of cocoa powder into it.

Add this dry mixture to your batter, and we can start folding it in. It's best to use a metal tablespoon for this, as it will cut through the batter much more smoothly.

Folding in is just a mixing technique that allows you to gradually mix the dry flour into the wet batter without it clumping up. There are a few ways to fold in: my cookery teacher at school taught me to stir the mixture in a figure-of-8. At first it'll seems like it's not working, but after a dozen '8's' you'll begin to see the magic of it!

STEP 6. Once you have a creamy brownie batter, we can transfer it to our greased/lined dish.

Spread your brownie batter out so it is flat across the surface. Then set it aside while we take care of pressing issues...

Oh, we need to make our cheesecake batter!

STEP 7. The cheesecake batter is unbelievably easy!

Whole packet of cream cheese. 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. 3 tablespoons of sugar. 1 egg.

Mix everything together, in any order, and you will have a gleaming, liquid vanilla cheesecake.

Please please please try a spoonful! It will blow your mind!

STEP 8. Splodge a few dollops of your cheesecake batter randomly around your brownie batter.

Be random but fair! You don't want some poor sod getting a corner slice with no cheesecakey benefits.

Once you're out of cheesecake batter, take a narrow stick (a skewer, back of a pencil - anything) and stream your cheesecake clouds through the brownie batter. It's important not to overdo it, as the cheesecake will just mix into the brownie batter and will cease to exist. See if you can stream it in one go, without going back on yourself.

STEP 9. Slide your brownies into the oven, on a middle shelf, and bake for 20-25 minutes. It's good to keep an eye on them throughout, as ovens can vary. Don't be frightened if the cheesecake batter browns very quickly, this is just a 'cheesecake skin' and it's totally fine.

When your brownies come out of the oven, you may find them quite wobbly in the centre. Once your brownies are left to stand for 30 minutes before cutting, they will firm up be oh-baby-so dense and fudgy.

What's more, you may find that, like mine, the top is cracked and ripped. Don't worry, this is simply because brownie batter expands during cooking while cheesecake batter shrinks. Once your brownies are left to cool for 30 minutes, they will sink down (once again, completely normal) and the cracks won't be too noticeable.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Get stuffing your face!!!

Hope you enjoy!

Anthony :)

1 May 2015

25 Questions - All About Food!

I got 25 questions...

I talk about food a lot on my blog. I have some explaining to do!

1. What is your favourite breakfast?

Fresh watermelon with coconut yoghurt. My fave breakfast during the summer!

Or if I wake up and feel filthy, I make a giant stack of American-pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. Best. Sunday. Ever.

☁ 2. How do you have your coffee? 

With cream and two spoons of brown sugar. Naughty - I know - but I don't really drink coffee all the time!

I used to adore a cup of coffee in the morning with a pastry and a cigarette - a French breakfast - but I'm smoke-free these days.

☁ 3. What is your favourite sandwich? 

A crisp sandwich. Whoever made the first crisp sandwich has revolutionised the sandwich-eating experience 4EVA.

Thick, white bread, buttered, with a slice of ham, and a whole bag of chunky McCoy's Salt & Vinegar crisps. I dread to say it, but it's my 'manwich'.

☁ 4. Soup or salad? 

Soup! Soup! So tasty. Soup! Soup! So spicy! Carrot and coriander. Chilli chowder. CROUTON! CROUTON!

In all seriousness, I adore a bowl of soup in the winter! I like to make a huge pan of soup to last me a week, so that every time I go back to it, the flavours become more and more intense and delicious! 

Fresh tomato soup with plenty of added chilli, a swirl of green pesto and eaten with a toasted cheese sandwich; it totally gets my furnace roaring!

5. Do you love mother's cooking?


My mam has a very 'Irish' diet - potatoes, meat, starchy vegetables, bread, etc. They're all things I like, don't get me wrong, but when you eat it all the time you feel kinda stuffy and bloated.

She's not very fond of exotic or 'continental food'. She has very old-fashioned tastes. She doesn't usually like any of the things I cook, but I don't take it personally really!

☁ 6. Sweet or Savoury? 

Sweet. You need sweetness in your life.

☁ 7. Which world food is your favourite? 

I love trying food from all over the world! I tend to go through phases, but I always find myself going back to Lebanese, Greek or Moroccan food. It tastes so wholesome, healthy yet has tonnes of flavour. *drool*

☁ 8. What is your favourite food movie? 

I hate talking about this film, because it makes me sound like one of those cliché, 'Namaste' traveller hippie types (I dunno, maybe I am), but my best food film 'Eat Pray Love'.

I first watched that film at a pretty mixed-up time in my life. I was in my final year of university, in an unhappy relationship and was feeling trapped and a bit directionless. This film was about a woman who was in pretty a similar situation to me, who escaped into the world to reawaken her senses. It taught me the idea that food ties in so much culture and exploration in its own right, and eating the right food can transport you anywhere! 

It's an idea I still live by today, and probably will for a long time.

☁ 9. What is your ultimate guilty pleasure? 

Easy! Sweet BBQ Pulled Pork, stuffed into freshly-baked baguettes with pickled onions. I usually make a huge pan of it and I will eat it all to myself. It's a naughty pleasure indeed, but I never feel too guilty about it! 

☁ 10. What was the worst meal you've ever had? 

I was studying for my A-levels, and a school friend invited me to her house for the afternoon to revise for our final exams.

After studying for a little while, she made us some lunch. She sat down with a chicken kiev, vegetables and fries, and gave me a bowl of plain penne pasta with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Was I her war hostage? I ate the whole thing and pretended to enjoy it. I would never ever treat a house guest like that - if you come to my house, I'll always share my food with you, even if I actually have very little.

Funnily enough, me and this girl are no longer friends!

☁ 11. Home cooking or eating out? 

Eating out is great. It's nice to get dressed up, go out and try something new that you probably wouldn't have at home. However, I think home cooking is so underrated. That's why I like sharing recipes! People should be enticed to try new food, with recipes that are straight-forward, require no massive amount of technical skill and that use easy-to-access ingredients. I reckon so many people are intimidated by cooking and think of it as something that should be left to the professionals. NO.

Cooking should be relaxing, experimental and fun. Be playful with it. You don't have to know everything about food. I love cooking, but I don't know how to fillet a fish and I don't know the difference between the many cuts of steak. That's what Google is for!

(sirloin...ribeye...tender?...is 'tender' one of them? I dunno.)

☁ 12. What is your favourite restaurant? 

Blue Sky Cafe, in Bangor, Wales. 

I lived there for 4 years while I attended university, and 'getting a Blue Sky' was the ultimate, indulgent treat when I was a student (not for the calories, but the money!) It was a small cafe, hidden away in a back alley that served fantastic food, coffee and cakes. They would offer one-off specials every now and again so there was always something new and exotic to try. 

I miss that place SO much.

☁ 13. What is your favourite ice cream flavour? 

I like allllll flavours of ice cream! Ice cream is my all time favourite thing to eat, even in winter!

If I had to pick one flavour, it'd have to be pistachio! Delicately nutty and eye-catchingly green!

☁ 14. What is your favourite cooking utensil? 

My rolling pin!

It's a very old rolling pin. It might have even belonged to my great-grandmother! There are a lot of memories attached to that rolling pin. One time, there were two lads stealing clothes from our washing line, so my mam ran out and chased after them with said rolling pin. 

☁ 15. What is your favourite cocktail? 

Anything that reminds me of holidays! So I'd go for Piña Colada or a Strawberry Daiquiri.

☁ 16. What is your favourite snack? 

I love to snack on anything that is small and nibbly. I like to cut up a pitta bread into little triangles, toast them, and eat them with houmous and some black olives. It's a pretty big snack, but it doesn't feel too naughty. ;)

Or when I can't be arsed: a whole packet of chocolate chip cookies!

☁ 17. What is your favourite pizza topping? 

I've always loved Hawaiian (Ham & Pineapple). I really dig fruit on pizza.

The best pizzas I've ever eaten were Fig & Ham (Greece) and Rabbit & Banana (Spain)

☁ 18. Which foods do you hate? 

Seafood - unless it's covered in chilli - that's a whole other story!

Pears. If you locked me in a room with a bomb, and the only way to escape was to eat a whole pear, I'd be so dead.

Also, liquorice. Cannot stand the stuff. I'd rather eat my own belt (I saw a woman do that on MTV once - anything is possible.)

☁ 19. What is the most difficult thing you've ever cooked? 

A soft-boiled egg.

Seriously bro, that shit is fucking HARD!

☁ 20. What is the craziest thing you've ever eaten? 

Alligator! There is a restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya called 'Carnivore', an all-you-can-eat buffet which serves all kinds of weird stuff, from giraffe to ostrich.

Alligator was kinda alright. Bit like eating a shoe.

☁ 21. How much do you spend on food shopping each week? 

I spend about £30-40 on food just for me. I find it very hard to scrimp on food! Even when I was a skint university student, I would rather have skipped a night of clubbing than had an empty fridge!

☁ 22. What is your favourite cup of tea? 

I love green tea. I tend to buy the one that is blended with jasmine because I find it pretty therapeutic to drink. It's really nice with a splash of pomegranate juice too - which makes it very soothing and very Persian!

☁ 23. What is your favourite flavour of crisps? 

Salt & Vinegar.

I'm obsessed with salt and vinegar. If I were captured by cannibals, I'd demand to be rubbed with salt and vinegar before they chow down on my soft, fatty flesh. I would be really delicious.

☁ 24. What would be your last meal on Death Row? 

Starter: Bruschetta with baby tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto and gallons of balsamic vinegar.
Main: Chocolate gateau, with all the cream scraped out and whole bars of chocolate slid between the layers.
Dessert: Dozen-box of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

(No lie, I just had a HUGE heart palpitation-thing writing this answer! Now I have a headache.)

☁ 25. What is the most embarrassing thing you like to eat? 

Tuna & Sweetcorn Mayonnaise with pasta. 

People seem to think it's revolting but I just LOVE it. It's not attractive. It has the sex appeal of a prostate exam. I take tinned tuna, sweetcorn, full-fat mayonnaise, wholegrain mustard, tonnes of vinegar, tonnes of black pepper and pickled onions, mix it all up and spread it over huge tubes of rigatoni pasta. I enjoy eating this out of a mixing bowl when nobody else is around. They never have to know. Until now. ;)


I hope you enjoyed these answers! Let me know if there is anything you agree on. I like knowing about people with similar tastes. It makes me feel a little less of a freak!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony :)

29 April 2015

Pharaoh's Pudding (Egyptian Umm Ali)

The lovechild of baklava and bread & butter pudding, born in the land of the pyramids.

Pharaoh's Pudding is a pudding fit for, well...

... a Pharaoh!

We take buttery croissants, strew them with pistachios and almonds, drench it all in thick milk spiced with vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom, before finally roasting it all in a hot oven. It's deluxe, exotic and it feels like the warmest embrace in the mouth!

This pudding is inspired by Umm Ali - the national dessert of Egypt - which has been around since ancient Egypt. Modern Umm Ali is typically made from puff pastry, various nuts, dried fruits, milk and spices. There are many ways of making 'Umm Ali', and an Egyptian may well have a freak-attack at my take on it. My recipe is no way a traditional Umm Ali, but I have taken the best flavours and essences of that dessert and made it much friendlier and quicker for you to make.

Traditional Umm Ali normally asks for puff or filo pastry, but I've replaced it with croissants! It's just easier to use croissants, and it's so much quicker as you don't need to fanny around with rolling out and baking puff pastry. Umm Ali also asks for raisins. I decided to leave raisins out of my recipe simply because they remind me of the nasty ones you get in bread & butter pudding. Bread & butter pudding was a hugely popular dessert in the UK at one point, but is now considered 'retro' and a bit gauche. I like bread & butter pudding really, but I don't tend to shout about it. I completely resent snobbery when it comes to food - but let's be real - bread & butter pudding is the 'sweatpants + no underwear' of the dessert world. By leaving out the dried fruit, this Pharaoh's Pudding is a far cry from that trashy, grubby stigma!

Unfortunately, this Pharaoh's Pudding doesn't keep for long - it becomes very dense once it cools down - so I definitely wouldn't recommend making this in advance for anything. However, I would totally recommend making it at a moment's notice, in a small batch just for yourself and a couple of others to enjoy for supper, in a bowl with some vanilla ice cream.

What You'll Need:
(To serve 3-4 or people)

5-6 Small Croissants
1 can of Evaporated Milk
75g of Pistachios
50g of Flaked Almonds
2 tablespoons of White Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 pods of Cardamom
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

STEP 1: Find a small roasting pan/dish - anything that's at least one-inch deep and will make a snug home for 5-6 needy croissants

Tear up your croissants into chunky nuggets, and tuck them into your dish so that they're snug but not squashed.

STEP 2: Prepare your nuts!

Sprinkle most - but not all - of your flaked almonds and rubbled/chopped pistachios over the croissants, and poke around a bit to tuck the nuts between the cracks and crevices.

 Keep a few nuts back to sprinkle over your creation when it emerges from the oven.

STEP 3: Let's make our spiced milk - it's very easy!

Empty your can of evaporated milk into a saucepan and start heating it on a low heat.

In the meantime, add your cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom (make sure you burst the cardamom pods first) into your milk.

Add your two tablespoons of sugar; I used brown sugar to add some richness, but white sugar is perfectly fine!

Heat everything for about 10 minutes on a low heat so all of the spices can infuse. Remember to remove the cardamom pods afterwards! Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180C/350F.

STEP 4: Pour your spiced milk over your pan of croissants, making sure to coat every nugget of croissant so nothing stays dry.

Take a spoon and gently pat everything down to soak in the milk.

Sprinkle a little sugar over the top to make the surface nice and crisp!

STEP 5: Place your pan of goodness in the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes until it is golden brown and toasted on the surface, then take it out.

STEP 6: Sprinkle over the leftover almonds and pistachios from earlier, and you're good to serve up straight away!

Get your plates and cutlery ready!

Serve it with splash of cold milk (so good!) or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The hot'n'cold thing is one of the best things about life in my opinion!

Hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Anthony :)