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?

Stoverij

  • 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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

Enjoy!

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