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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake with Whisky Prunes and the Ultimate Green Tea Ice Cream

I have been serving this deliciously rich, gooey and flourless dark chocolate cake with a quenelle of green tea ice cream at my supper club, and have received so many requests for the recipe I decided to post it here.

My recently acquired Cuisinart ice cream machine has also inspired me to make more ice cream at home.  I would not attempt this recipe without it, Cuisinart's ice cream maker has opened up a whole new world of dessert possibilities for me and is one of my most prized kitchen appliances right now.

Green tea and dark chocolate is a wonderful (and classic) combination. Both cake and ice cream can be made days before being served, which make them an ideal dessert for a large number of people or for entertaining at home.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whisky Prunes

  • 280g good quality dark chocolate (at least 55% cocoa solids)
  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp whisky
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 20 ready-to-eat prunes
  • Icing sugar for dusting

You will also need a 9 inch (23cm) springform cake tin, greased, and lined with baking parchment.


1. The prunes will need to be soaked preferably overnight in whisky. Before soaking, place them in a saucepan with 275ml water or until they are completely covered, bring them to a simmering point, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Pour the prunes and their cooking liqueur into a bowl and stir in 4 tablespoons of whisky while they are still warm. Leave to cool, cover the bowl with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight (or for a few hours if you forget to start a day earlier!)

2. When you are ready to make the cake, pre-heat the oven to 170C. Start by breaking the dark chocolate into small pieces into a bowl, add the butter, and melt them over Bain-Marie with some simmering water, it will only take a few minutes (place some kitchen paper in the water to stop the bowl having direct contact with the heat and burning the chocolate!). Stir it to a smooth, glossy mixture. Off the heat, add 2 tablespoons of whisky, mix well and leave to cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Using an electric hand whisk, whisk the yolks and sugar for a few minutes until the mixture has partially whitened and once the whisk is lifted, leaves a ribbon-like trail, known in patisserie making as "ribbon-stage".

4. Cut the soaked prunes in half, combine them with the whisked egg mixture and the melted chocolate.

5. In another large bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks (use the electric hand whisk for this but ensure that it is completely clean and with no trace of water or yolks or else your egg whites will not form soft peaks!). Fold it into the chocolate mix.

6. Spoon this mixture into the prepared tin and bake the cake in the centre of the pre-heated (170C) oven for about 30 minutes or until the centre feels springy to the touch. Allow the cake to cool in the tin (it will deflate quite a bit so don't be alarmed). When it is completely cool, cover the tin in cling film and chill for several hours (or it can be made and chilled 2 or 3 days ahead if more convenient).

7. Cut the cake into small slices as it is very rich, and serve it dusted with icing sugar and a quenelle of green tea ice cream (recipe below).

The Ultimate Green Tea Ice Cream

I have tried many recipes for green tea ice cream but the one below is in my opinion the ultimate recipe. Recipes vary tremendously when it comes to the proportion of full fat milk and cream (some say a 5:1 ratio is ideal) but I found equal measures of cream and milk will deliver a deliciously smooth and velvety ice cream that is just right.

My Cuisinart ice cream maker (Ice Cream Professional) is a fantastic piece of kit. It is easy to use (and to clean) and having an in-built freezer, it will also churn the liquid-base mixture into ready-to-serve, firm ice cream in as little as 45 minutes. Cuisinart's Ice Cream Professional is definitely a cut-above anything else I have used in the past, and its sleek design is also the most appealing.

Here is the recipe.


  • 1 pint double cream
  • 1 pint full fat milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons green tea powder (known as "matcha" - available in Japanese food stores)


1. The base of most ice creams is crème anglaise or light custard. Unlike the more traditional crème anglaise flavoured with vanilla pod, this ice cream base will be flavoured with green tea powder. Dissolve the green tea powder in a cup with a few tablespoons of water until smooth. I find a mini whisk like those used for cocktails works better at this than a spoon (green tea powder is a nightmare to get smooth).

2. In a pan, heat the milk and cream until it starts steaming, this will be around 65°C. Add the green tea mixture to the hot cream, whisking well to ensure that there are no lumps.

3. As the cream and milk mix is being heated, whisk the 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is whitened (or "blanched" as it is known in patisserie). 

4. Pour 1/3 of the heated cream into the blanched egg yolks, mix well until completely combined. Pour this into the pan with the remaining cream & milk mixture and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a marise (heat-resistant spatula), scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir for about 5 minutes. The desired consistency is "coating consistency" or in other words, when a line remains clear as it is drawn on the back of the spatula. A word of warning - do not overheat the custard - egg yolks will coagulate at 65C, so to stop your crème anglaise from curdling, do not take it over that temperature. The high amount of sugar in this recipe will also help to stabilise the custard and stop it from curdling, but temperature control is essential when making crème anglaise.

5. Let the mixture cool down by placing it in an ice-bath. Pour the green tea custard into the ice-cream maker and churn until frozen, if using a Cuisinart's Professional Ice Cream machine, this will take a mere 45 minutes from room temperature. Place it in an airtight container and freeze until required. Partially thaw it for about 15-20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails, London, 13-14 July 2012

I have enjoyed Courvoisier Brandy as a base for cocktails for many years, but more recently their Courvoisier Punch - a delicious concoction of Courvoisier, lemonade and Angustura bitters that is a great option for those looking for a summer alternative to Pimms.

For 2 nights only, 13th and 14th July 2012, Courvoisier has taken over Victoria House in Bloomsbury Square to host the Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails, and provide an immersive and theatrical experience through a world of classic cocktails.

For only £10, for a 1 hour time slot from 6.30 to 10.30pm, you can enjoy a refreshing Courvoisier Punch in the building’s produce stores, make a toast with a Courvoisier Champagne Cocktail in a grand but derelict Rococo ballroom and sip a classic Courvoisier Sazerac in a New Orleans apothecary. Each of these rooms is brought to life by actors in period costumes who interact with guests.

I was lucky enough to have a sneaky preview of this event, and all in all, I found it a very interesting experience and fantastic value, but best of all a good introduction to other Courvoisier-based cocktails I was unaware of.

When: Friday 13 July, one hour sessions begin every 20 mins
from 6:30 – 10:30pm (SOLD OUT)
Saturday 14 July, one hour sessions begin every 20 mins
from 5:30 – 10:30pm

Where: The Heritage Rooms, Victoria House
Bloomsbury Square entrance
London, WC1B 4DA

Tickets: Tickets available from http://courvoisierinstitute.eventbrite.co.uk, priced £10

Monday, 9 July 2012

Hélène Darroze's Saturday Brunch at The Connaught

Hélène Darroze is a two-Michelin starred chef from Landes, South West France, famous for her outstanding restaurant at The Connaught Hotel.  The hotel dates from the late 19th century, and is an elegant 5 star affair in a beautiful location in London's Mayfair.

In recent months, Hélène has been running a sumptuous brunch on Saturday mornings. The brunch has been attracting an increasing number of loyal diners - from entire families to couples, shoppers and visitors, this is a perfect place to kick off your weekend in style.

The restaurant, Edwardian in design, has dark wood panelling, plush carpet and refined upholstery. While our table was being prepared, we headed for the bar to enjoy a glass of Ruinart Rosé Champagne, which got things off to an excellent start.

The brunch menu is priced at £55 per person (children £39).  The menu includes an open buffet of starters, a choice of an a la Carte main course, a fantastic cheeseboard and an open buffet for dessert including waffles made to order.  It is literally impossible to sample everything on offer, and for £55 for food of this quality, I believe this to be excellent value.

While all the items on the starter buffet are available, we were pacing ourselves and opted to start with a medley of charcuterie, chicken & truffle terrine, spiced foie gras terrine, pork & pistachio terrine, a fantastic 3-coloured beetroot salad (candy, ruby and golden) with the creamiest buffalo mozzarella I have ever eaten, creamy scrambled eggs, an assortment of freshly baked bread and the Connaught's own churned butter.  The starters were excellent and generous, and I was impressed by the routine use of the very finest ingredients Pata Negra charcuterie and lobster.

For the main course, we opted for 'Our Burger', stuffed with braised Aberdeen Angus beef ox cheek and duck foie gras from Les Landes and accompanied by the most fantastic chunky chips. The combination of unctuous foie gras with the intensely beefy cheek  in a toasted bun was surprising, intriguing and delectable - a remarkably refined burger.

We also had Eggs Benedict, with York ham and black truffle from Perigord (for a £5 supplement). This was very nicely executed. We also had a portion of Macaroni and cheese, gratinated with aged Comte.

There is a wide range of cakes and puddings, fruit salads, cheesecakes, but by this stage in proceedings, we were struggling to finish our food, and opted to share a freshly made waffle with a wonderfully tart rhubarb conserve and Chantilly cream.  Dr G has always fancied himself as a waffle connoisseur, and even he was impressed by the fine flavours and textures in the Connaught's version, accompanied by a good house blend coffee.

For more information about Hélène Darroze's fantastic brunch at The Connaught, including the entire menu on offer, visit the link here.

Cost: £55 per person (£39 for children)

Likes: Fine old Mayfair hotel setting, discreet elegance, great food. A fantastic place to take visitors for an impressive brunch.

Dislikes: None

Verdict: An outstanding place for a posh brunch on a Saturday.  It's not cheap, but represents very good value for money given the location, quality of ingredients and stellar chef. I loved it and will be returning. Highly recommended.

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught on Urbanspoon

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