Delice de chocolat with apricot sauce

I made this for dessert on New Year’s Eve. It was a bit time-consuming but well worth the effort. Continue reading


Chicken, apricot and almond pilaf

This is, I suppose, a Persian-influenced dish rather than anything actually Persian. Chicken and apricot is a nice mixture and I added in some sautéed almonds for texture.

First I skinned, jointed and part-boned a chicken, using the carcass for stock, which I made with an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery, plus water. This would be used to cook the rice later.

The legs were cut into thighs and drumsticks, the wings were separated into two pieces and the breasts were cut into three. All the meat was coated lightly with flour.

First I sautéed some skinless almonds in olive oil in an oven- and hob-proof casserole. These were set aside to be used later.

Then I softened three sliced shallots and three crushed cloves of garlic in the same oil, with the addition of a large knob of butter, together with three bay leaves and a cinnamon stick.

When the shallots were softened and lightly coloured I added the meat and sealed it all over. I deglazed the pan with some white wine – not very Persian, I suppose, but a good thing for the overall flavour of the finished dish.

At this point I added in one lemon, cut into eighths, and enough Basmati rice to fill a measuring jug to the 300ml mark. When the rice was coated with oil, I seasoned with salt and pepper and added in 600ml of stock and brought this to a simmer.

This was them covered and the casserole placed into a 160C oven for about 30 minutes.

I steeped some saffron threads in milk. This would be added at the end of the cooking period together with some chopped semi-dried apricots and the almonds.

Once the rice was done, I added in the fruit and nuts and dribbled the saffron-infused milk over the rice and returned this to the oven for a further five minutes.

This was served from the casserole at the table, garnished with chopped parsley.

Quails with apricot and pistachio pilaff

Quails are lovely little birds to work with, they have a good flavour and don’t take long to cook.

They are best spatchcocked, which means taking out the backbones and serving them whole, which I think is what the French call en crapaudine, because they look a bit like flattened toads.

I cooked them in butter and a bit of olive oil in a frying pan, until the skin was golden and then finished them off in the oven on top of the pilaff I was making at the same time.

For the pilaff, I sautéed some finely chopped red onion in olive oil with a piece of cassia bark, a couple of bay leaves and a few green cardamom pods. When the onion was soft, I added some pistachio nuts and flaked almonds and Basmati rice. When the rice was coated, I added chicken stock and some chopped semi-dried apricots and a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper flakes and cooked the rice until it was nearly done.

The rice and quails were then finished off in the oven, covered with some foil to prevent the rice from drying out too much.

That was it, served with some chopped parsley.

Frangipane tart

This is a kind of Bakewell tart, but isn’t exactly the same.

Frangipane is made from ground almonds as follows;

225g ground almonds
150g golden caster sugar
200g softened unsalted butter
100g plain flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Whole almonds

You will need a 10 inch pie dish that is about an inch and a half deep, one with a removable base is useful. Grease it with some butter.

Cream the butter, almonds and sugar together, then add in the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and the flour.

Make a shortcrust pastry shell and spread some jam on the bottom and then fill the shell with the frangipane and decorate the top with whole almonds.

Bake at 180C/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to 160C/Gas Mark 5 and continue baking for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Serve with cream, ice cream or custard.

I think you can see from the picture that I should have left the tart in the oven for a bit longer, because the inside is very soft and squidgy. For a more finished and professional look, the filling needs to be more set and cake-like in texture. However, it tastes fine like this and I think that it comes down to personal taste really.