Advent Calendar 8: Stoverij

Hasn’t the weather turned super chilly of late? All I want to eat is warming soups and stews and live under a duvet. Alas, I have to, you know, work and such, so this ideal is not feasible 24-7, but eat least when I have the time I can whip up something warming and delicious.

Stoverij is a belgian comfort and/or drunk food that is well loved. It’s traditionally served with chips, which makes it probably the best stew in the world. It’s also full of rich beef, beer and chocolate. Does it get any better?


  • 1 carrot
  • 1 leek
  • 1 small onion
  • 400g stewing beef, cut into inch cubes
  • handful of plain flour
  • knob of butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • 500ml ale
  • Beef stock cube
  • 25g dark chocolate

Heat some oil in a pan, and brown the beef in 2-4 batches. Try not to over-crowd the pan, or the beef will stew rather than brown off nicely.


Chop the veg into small pieces and fry off in the butter for approximately five minutes, or until soft.

Sprinkle over the flour, sugar, seasonings and herbs. Deglaze the pan with a glut of the beer and stir the ingredients through.

Crumble in the stock cube, add the rest of the beer and return the meat to the pan. Stir through, then cover and lower the temperature pretty much as low as it will go. Cook for 2 hours until the meat is soft and the sauce thick. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, remove the lid, raise the heat and give it a good blast for 10-30 minutes.

Finish with the chocolate, stirring it into the sauce to melt it down. This will leave you with a rich, cocoa scented stew. Serve with chips if you want to go full Belgian, or mash and vegetables.


I love this stew- it is pure and indulgent comfort food. It goes great with any veg (particularly my candied carrots) and potatoes, and the silky, rich gravy is addictive. If you haven’t, for any reason, access to beer, you can replace it with stock, cider or wine, though this will affect the flavour/authenticity.

Stay warm, kittens!



Sexed up Tiffin

Tiffin is the British answer to Australia’s Rocky Road- a no-bake delight full of tasty morsels bound together in cocoa-y goodness. It was invented in Scotland in the early 1900s. Though traditionally filled with a mix of raisins and biscuits, this is the twenty first century, peeps. We can do better than that. Also, loads of folks don’t like raisins, so there’s that.

My adorable pal Davi introduced me to his version of this delight a few months when he had me over for his birthday. I was hooked. When Valentine’s day came round a few weeks later, and I wanted to make some chocolatey treats for my nearest and dearest, and this sprang to mind.

A traditional tiffin is pretty basic, and can be serves as is or topped with dark chocolate. One, I think we can all guess which option I chose. Two, I decided to step things up with some extra fillings. I take my confection-making pretty darn seriously, after all, and nothing is more serious than gosh darn mini marshmallows.

Sexed Up Tiffin

  • 110g butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 tsp cocoa
  • 225g digestive biscuits
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 2-3 handfuls mini marshmallows
  • 300g bittersweet or dark cooking chocolate (you can use any chocolate really, but I think cooking chocolate sets better)

Line a 9×9 pan with parchment. If you trust your non-stick, you’ll probably get away with just a sheet across the bottom and up two of the sides.

In a milk pan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa into a delicious, dark paste. Take off the heat when combined.

Crush up the biscuits into roughly 1-2cm pieces. Retain all the crumbs and shards, as these will give the tiffin bulk.

Add your biscuits and fruits (the cherries can be chopped if you like, but they look gorgeous sliced through whole in the finished product) to the paste and mix, mix, mix. It will cover everything, I promise, you just have to be patient and mush up those biscuits as you go.

Add your marshmallows and mix through a few times. You can add them with everything else, but I like to leave them only half incorporated.

Spread the mix out into your tin to an even thickness.

Melt your chocolate, either in a bain marie or in the microwave, taking care not to burn it. Spread the chocolate out over the top of the tiffin to almost seal the top of it. FYI, You will need more chocolate than this if you use a pan with the larger surface area than the recommended 9×9, and depending on your taste, you may wish to use more anyway.

Pop the tin in the fridge for 1hr or so, until the confection is set. Chop up into inch squares and serve in a glorious mound of joy.


This stuff lasts well in an airtight container out of the fridge or in, and tastes awesome. Of course, it is super customisable with different biscuits, chocolate, fruits, nuts and even jelly beans or sweets if you like- just stick in what you like, leave out what you don’t. It’s also very rich, so even a chocoholic like me can’t trough the lot in one go, so that 9×9 worth of mix will go a really long way.

This recipe is so easy, too. If you have a microwave, you can make this. You can do the first step in a microwave if you need to, just melt everything in short bursts and stir in between.

I hope you’ll give this a go. It’s ‘civilised’ enough for a picnic or party, but relaxed enough for a night in with friends too. And it goes great with tea.

Later days!


BEDA: Chocolate Crispy Nests

Over this Easter weekend, I have been very lucky in that I have been able to hang out with some of the worst, and therefore best, people I know, plus be visited by family. I think Easter, whether you celebrate it religiously or not, is a time we should spend with those we love, toasting the rebirth of the sun and the coming bounty of spring.

It’s also a great time to stuff your gob with chocolate, but hey.

I baked a lot this Easter, and expect post upon post about it, but there is one classic that just has to be made at Eastertime: Chocolate Crispy Nests. This is barely a recipe, more some microwave action and some mixing, but still, here are the requirements for 30 nests. You should probably double this recipe if you are going to share these treats, because they vanish fast.

Chocolate Crispy Nests

  • 1/2 standard box of corn flakes (approx 170g)
  • 450g Milk or Dark Cooking Chocolate
  • 300g Cadbury’s Mini Eggs

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or Bain Marie, taking care not to burn it. Use 30-45 second blasts in the microwave.

In a large bowl, stir the chocolate and the corn flakes together, almost completely coating every flake. Smush up the flakes as you go for the best consistency.

Line a muffin pan with pretty cupcake or muffin cases.

Spoon a heaped dessert spoon or so of the mix into each case, and push three mini eggs into the middle of each, to create a nest shape.

If you have several muffin pans, carry on as above until all the mix is used up. This will give the best shape. If not, gently remove each nest and set on a flat surface.

Scoff mercilessly.
For extra brownie points with these, you can roll out some yellow or teddy bear brown fondant icing really thin, and slice into thin slivers, like straw. Rough them up a little with your fingers and leave to set at room temperature for at least a few hours before making your nests. You can top each blob of crispy/chocolate mix with ‘straw’ before pushing in the eggs.

If you don’t like corn flakes, various other cereals can be used, including rice crispies, shredded wheat (crushed, of course), all bran… Most options will work!

Happy Easter!


BEDA: Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Fun fact, kittens: I’m not a big fan of beetroot. Yes, it has incredible colour and it’s really good for you… but it smells funny.

However, I never skip it in my veg box for one simple reason: Chocolate Beetroot Cake.


Chocolate Beetroot Cake

  • 200g Beetroot (about 3 medium beetroot, or 1 large and one small)
  • 125g Plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150g Caster sugar
  • 200g Unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 3 Free range eggs
  • 150g dark chocolate, finely grated
  • 200g icing sugar
  • A few drops of water

Cook the beetroot. If in doubt, check online for a method that suits you (read: microwave). I did mine by topping and tailing them, then boiling them 40 minutes-1 hour, until they fell off the fork when pricked through. For larger beets you’ll need longer, obviously, and if you are using multiple small beets, you’ll need less time.

Peel off the beet skin (your fingers under a cold tap works- washes the skin away and keeps you from getting scalded by those toasty beets) and grate or chop the beet flesh. Now, this is important: reserve some beet juice- about a tablespoon or so. You can get this by squeezing the grated/chopped beet.

Puree the beets into a pulp, as smooth as possible. A few lumps and bumps won’t matter.

Preheat the oven to 190 c and grease your cake tin. I used a bunt tin, because bunt tins are fun, but a 8 inch cake tin works fine too. At this time, melt the chocolate in a microwave or on a bain marie, taking care not to burn it.

Separate the eggs, and beat the soft butter, egg yolks and sugar together into a sunshiny paste. Whisk the whites to stiff peaks separately.

Sieve the dry ingredients together (or, if you are lazy like me, use a whisk- does the same job in minutes), and then fold in the yolk mix and chocolate until mostly combined.

More gently this time, fold the whites into the mixture third by third. When almost combined, stir in the beet pulp until the mixture is uniform, but not over beaten.

Pour out evenly into your bunt tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. I would check at 35-40 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer comes out clean, or ideally with a couple of damp crumbs attached.

While the cake cools, mix your icing sugar and the beautiful purple beet juice to make a gorgeous pink glaze for your cake. You can add more icing sugar, or more water, should you need to in order to achieve the runny consistency you need. It should be a free flowing glacé icing, but not too thin.

When the cake is cool, turn it out and pour over the glaze. Serve in generous slices or chunks.


Considering that carrot cake doesn’t really do it for me, I didn’t have the highest hopes for this bad boy. Thankfully, I was SO wrong. Delicately crumbed, super moist and full of dark earthy flavours from the chocolate and ‘roots, this cake is such a keeper. Alas, it doesn’t last so very long, and needs to be polished off within a couple of days if kept out of the fridge, perhaps within 5-7 days if kept in the fridge. What a chore that’ll be.






BEDA: Chocolate Kissed Honey Flapjacks

Whilst they weren’t the first thing I ever learnt to bake, Flapjacks evoke strong and nostalgic memories for me. I remember in year four or five bringing home a tin of flapjacks I had made in cookery class at school, and presenting them to my parents. They were mostly stuck to the greaseproof paper, and I remember the sweet gooiness of them, between picking out bits of chewy tacky paper. I think my father snuck most of them.

Valentines Day holds no happy memories for me, so every year I have two choices- stay very busy, or wallow. Either way, I eat my weight in chocolate. This year I arranged days out and visiting with friends, and, erm, a date for the inauspicious weekend, and baked up a storm of choccy drenched treats for my friends. This included my first venture in perhaps twenty years into flapjack making. Which is ridiculous, really, because they are sickeningly simple and damned delicious.

The ingredient breakdown for this recipe is so easy to remember, it’s become a staple bake for me. You can substitute the honey for golden syrup, but unless you do this for diet reasons I will judge you quite a bit. Honey is infinitely tastier. That being said, should you be of the Vegan persuasion, then of course, substitute in syrup for honey and any Vegan friendly spread for the butter (I recommend Pure).






Chocolate Kissed Honey Flapjacks

  • 200g Butter
  • 200g Local Honey
  • 200g sugar (approximately half dark brown and half caster provides the best flavour, but use what you have)
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g dark or bittersweet chocolate

Line a Swiss Roll tin, or any 13″ x 9″ pan with a strip of greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 180 c.

In saucepan, melt together the butter, honey and sugar. Do not allow to boil- just heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved, the butter melted, and the whole glorious mixture is combined.

Next, dump in your oats in roughly half batches and stir in until the liquid coats the oats and you have no dryness of spare fluid.

Mix the cranberries in, and spoon out the mix onto your tray, pressing down and flattening with your spoon into the corners.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. If you over bake don’t worry, they’ll just be more cookie like than chewy.

Cool in the tin.

Once cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a bain marie, taking care not to burn it. Kiss the surface of the flapjacks with trickles and drizzles and blobs of cocoa-y goodness, and let it set at room temperature.

To serve, lift the sheet of paper to remove the flapjacks in one fell swoop, and chop into generous bars or squares. Store in a airtight container for up to 10 days… if they last 10 minutes, that is.


Obviously you can omit the chocolate if you hate yourself, or substitute in any fillings you like (including, of course, chocolate). However the sweet, bright tartness of the cranberries is perfect with the comforting, sweet and rich oaty base. Whatever you do, be sure not to skimp. Never go under 60g of filling, or else it’ll be too sparse in the mixture.


Let me know how you make yours!



Secret Ingredient Brownies

… before we even begin, I want to make it clear that NO, the secret ingredient is NOT anything dubious. Or at least illegal.

I developed my Bare Cupboard Brownies several years ago when I was looking to create a super chocolatey hit with store cupboard essentials. I wanted a treat I could turn out quickly for friends or guests without last minute dashes to the shops for extra ingredients, which meant extra costs.

However, some times you have a different set of ingredients in, including the dark chocolate that the Bare Cupboard Brownies lack, but are short on other staples, like eggs. When I reached for my trusty old recipe, I found myself in the lurch, with just one egg instead of the required two. And since I had dark chocolate in the house, and I’d had an idea at creating a baked good with this ‘secret’ ingredient, I figured, why not give it a go?


This is my take on making brownies with mayonnaise. Yes. Mayonnaise. Seriously, mayonnaise. It’s basically egg and oil, the same as is used in many a muffin recipe. Its a fridge staple in most homes, and the fat content replaces butter in this recipe. Many would say that this makes these brownies a healthier option, but I’m not buying. They’re still packed to the gills with chocolate and sugar, after all. Even so, they are a tasty treat that, like their Bare Cupboard cousins, satisfy without the need of specialist ingredients. Maybe these should be called the Bare Fridge Brownies?

Secret Ingredient Brownies

  • 125g Dark chocolate
  • 100g Caster sugar
  • 65g Dark soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup/60 ml buttermilk (or 1 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice topped up to the 1/4 cup with milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 free range egg
  • 65g mayonnaise
  • 85g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/2tsp Bicarbonate of Soda


Line a 9×9 square cake tin with baking parchment, and preheat your oven to 180 c.

If you are making your buttermilk yourself, add the milk to the vinegar/juice now and let it sit for approximately five minutes whilst you get on with the next step.

Melt the chocolate in a bain marie or the microwave, taking care not to burn it. Once melted, allow it to cool a little, and then mix the sugars into it until a uniform paste comes together.

Add the vanilla and buttermilk and mix to loosen the paste. Beat in the egg until the mixture is even.

Mix through the mayonnaise until just combined and glossy.

Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat together into a perfect smooth batter. Pour into your tin and spread into the corners.

Bake the brownies for 25 minutes, or until a crisp top yields to damp crumbs when skewered. Cool in the tin, and chop into bars or squares when almost cool.


These beauties have a different consistency to their Bare Cupboard cousins, as the real chocolate content gives the traditional flaky top to the finished product. Don’t ask me why, I’m a Domestic Demigoddess, not a scientist. However, even without the butter to make them moist, the oil content of the mayo and moisture and richness from the eggs and the buttermilk leaves them moist and fudgey in the middle. These are a great cheat if you’re down to your last egg and need to whip something up, and no one will ever twig at the secret ingredient… unless they read this blog, that is.

Enjoy, and let me know how you got on!


Chocolate Nibbles and After Dinner Mint Fondants : Recipe Advent Calendar 20th and 21st

EEK. It’s almost Christmas! If you are anything like me you aren’t nearly ready and nothing is wrapped and the kitchen is covered in washing up and cook books and your cat is on you shoulder…

Seriously. She does that. She’s a bit odd, my DeeDee.

Anyhoo, if there’s anyone you’ve forgotten to buy for, or you need to whip up some petit foursfor an impromptu gathering, or even the big day, worry not! I have you covered.

The idea is very simple, but the result delicious, and for me at least, somewhat traditional. To start with, here are some ideas for chocolatey nibbles to save the day.


Chocolate Pretzels, Marzipans, Gingers and Florentines

You will need:

  • 300g+ Dark or milk chocolate
  • Salted Pretzels
  • Crystallised Ginger
  • Marzipan
  • Dried cranberries and other fruits, sliced almonds, honeycomb, biscuit and sprinkles for the florentines.

Melt your chocolate. I recommend milk chocolate for the pretzels, and dark for marzipan, but you can use dark or milk for ginger and florentines.

For pretzels, ginger and marzipan cubes: Using a fork, drop then roll the piece of filling in the chocolate. Shake of the excess gently and set on a sheet of greaseproof paper to cool and set. Ideally put the whole sheet in a cool, unheated room to set when you have filled it up.

Once set, peel the snack off the paper and store in an airtight container or jar. Keep cool.


For the florentines, it couldn’t be simpler. Spoon out puddles of your favoured chocolate, and top whilst still wet with your choice of fruit, nuts, biscuit etc. These make wonderful gifts as you can personalise them. I made these for someone who loves milk chocolate and honeycomb, and embellished with pretty sprinkles and white chocolate stars.


As far as setting and storing the florentines, the same rules apply as for the pretzels etc. Packaged up in a jar with a pretty ribbon, these make lovely gifts.

Moving on… traditional peppermint creams, which I love, are made with egg white, and whilst with a fresh egg you are almost certainly safe, it is better to be safe than sorry if you are likely to feed these to children, the elderly or pregnant women.

If you know someone with a seriously sweet tooth, or you yourself  love the candy cane peppermintyness of after dinner mints, then this is the chocolate coated treat for you. It’s really easy to make at home, and great to do with kids. You can use this method to make Sugar Mice, and vary the flavours to make Rose or Violet fondants… and this recipe is completely safe for sensitive parties. It will also keep for weeks in the fridge if you need to make it in advance.

I know, I know, one of the ingredients is a premix. These recipes are designed to be super quick and easy, after all. You can buy Fondant Icing Sugar in almost all supermarkets. If you simply can’t it, there are lots of tutorials online, or you can buy pre-made fondant icing or sugar paste from supermarkets or craft shops. I prefer to make it, even if it is just with a premix, as you avoid lots of additives and preservatives that way, which can colour the flavour.

After Dinner Mint Fondants

  • 500g Fondant Icing Sugar
  • 3-4 tsbpWater
  • 1 tsp Peppermint extract
  • 200g Dark chocolate


Add half the icing sugar to a bowl and mix with 3 tbsp of water and your peppermint.

Add more icing sugar until all of the sugar has been added and you have solid, dough like ball. You can use a further tablespoon of water more if you need it.

At this point, you can make little balls of fondant with your hands, or dust a surface with icing sugar and roll out the dough to be cut. Use small cutters.

Dip the balls or shapes  in chocolate with a fork, shake off the excess and set on a sheet of greaseproof paper to set. With shapes, you can dip half the shape in and leave half uncovered, or drizzled in chocolate for a ‘fancy-er’ effect.

Store in airtight containers in a cool place. They will last up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

I hope these petits fours can help you out of a tight spot!