Sunday, 8 February 2015

Warm sticky figgy pudding


For Christmas last year, I wanted to try making a traditional Figgy pudding for the first time. When it came to it, I decided against making one. It would have been too much work (alongside making Christmas dinner) and I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed. I had already bought dried figs and still wanted to use them in a dessert somehow.

I came across this Food Network recipe for Warm sticky figgy pudding and it ticked the right boxes for me. It is similar to my Sticky date pudding except has the addition of dried figs and chocolate.

Don’t make the same mistake as me though when following the recipe from website. It says that it makes 4 portions. So, I decided to double the recipe to make 8 portions. I ended up making 16 individual portions plus enough to fill a large pie dish! I had to freeze most of the puddings and found it did freeze well. I wont be making the same mistake again. This recipe will make you plenty of individual portions without having to double it.


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It was a bit of a risk trying a new recipe for Christmas dinner but it was a risk that paid off! This pudding came out as a cross between sticky toffee pudding and chocolate cake! It  is yummy! It goes well with the accompanying toffee sauce and ice cream. It’s also nice served with custard or pouring cream. My cousin had it on Christmas eve and said that it was one of the best desserts she has ever had. High praise indeed :–)


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Ingredients

For the puddings:

150g chopped dried pitted dates
50g chopped dried figs
480ml water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
315g self-raising flour
75g dark chocolate, grated

Butter, for coating ramekins or large pie dish

For the sauce:

440g brown sugar
480ml double cream
200g butter

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
Grease ramekins.
2) Add the dates, dried figs and water to a medium saucepan.
Bring to boil over medium heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda.
Let cool for about 5 minutes, then add to a blender and puree.
3) Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
Add the eggs and beat well.
Fold in the flour, the pureed date mixture and the chocolate.
4) Put the mixture into individual ramekins or a large pie dish, filling halfway or slightly under.
Put in the oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
5) Prepare the sauce by stirring the sugar and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat.
Simmer until the sugar dissolves.
Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the butter and stir until incorporated.
6) Remove the ramekins/pie dish from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
Remove from the ramekins/pie dish.
Serve warm with the toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream (if desired).

Monday, 26 January 2015

Newcastle Restaurant Week and food with friends


Last week was Newcastle Restaurant Week (19 – 25 January 2015), where we decided to take advantage of offers and eat out. We went to three restaurants last year: Fat Buddha, Las Iguanas and  Juniper’s Pantry @ Nectar Bar.

Coop Chicken House


First stop this year was a mid-week (chicken) feed @ Coop Chicken House (21/1/15). I’d read positive things about this place and fancied trying it to see if it was any good.


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The Restaurant Week offer at Coop Chicken House was half a chicken, two sides and a shot of chilli sauce for £10. You save £6 with this offer. We ordered two of these so shared a whole chicken and the sides.

For the sides, we went for skin-on fries, homemade slaw, sweet potato fries and grilled corn on the cob. The sweet potato fries are amazing – best I have ever had! The skin-on-fries were really tasty too.

There’s an extensive list of chilli shots to choose from ranging from the mild to the extremely hot! I went for mild whilst Leigh had a hot one. I went for The Cambridge Sauce Company Sweet Chilli Sauce (mild & sweet, almost honey like in taste). Leigh had The Cambridge Sauce Company Smoked Scotch Bonnet & Red Pepper Sauce (Scotch bonnets smoked over maple with sweet red peppers). We both liked mine – it was a cross between Cantonese sweet & sour sauce and Thai sweet chilli sauce. But Leigh didn’t rate his – it was super sour! He preferred the free hot sauce on the table and used that instead.

The grilled chicken was tasty and moist. You could eat this on its’ own but the variety of chilli sauces intrigue me. There are a few that caught my eye I would like to try. Bim’s Coconut Relish (A coconut & chilli relish with a lovely kick, unusual & moreish) being one of them. It could be a hit-or-miss game but it’d be a fun one to play!


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I assumed that my half chicken and sides would come on one plate (like at Nandos) and was pleasantly surprised when it came out all together ‘tapas’ sharing style. If you fancy a lighter meal (i.e. for lunch) then sharing half a chicken between two people would be enough. At a push, we managed to finish a whole chicken between the two of us. It was our evening meal and we were both pretty hungry. No room for dessert though! But we were both very satisfied with our lot.

The staff were very friendly and efficient. Even though it is a little pricey at full price, we would return again as the food is good quality as well as tasty!

Food with friends


We went round our friends’ Debs and Rob’s house on Saturday for dinner. We had Barbecue slow cooked pulled pork nachos with cheese and sour cream to start. These were so yum and moreish – it makes me want to get a slow cooker! Followed by a Chicken, ham & leek filo pie using Hairy Bikers recipe. This is one of their healthy recipes and it was delicious. I was surprised when I found out as it is full of flavour! I would definitely have a go at making this myself. I brought round a homemade dessert. Warm sticky figgy pudding and toffee sauce served with vanilla ice cream. We had a fabulous night filled with wonderful food and a lot of laughter!


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Las Iguanas


We have been to Las Iguanas a few times and it’s always a pleasure to eat here. It was so good last year during Restaurant Week that we were keen to go again. This time for Sunday Lunch. The offer was the same – a starter, main and drink for £10. Excellent value for money!

The staff and service was friendly and efficient, as we’ve come to expect. There was also a Happy Hour offer on all January for buy-one-get-one-free cocktails. We didn’t take advantage on this occasion as Leigh was happy with his two beers (included in Restaurant Week offer; he had his own and pilfered mine) and me with my iced tap water. If it had been the evening and not a school night, Leigh probably would have indulged a bit, as it’s such a good offer.

I had tried two of the three starters last time so went for the remaining option - Taco (corn & wheat tortilla loaded roasted coconut butternut squash with pink pickled onions, radish, spring onion and soured cream).

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This was absolutely delicious. I didn’t expect the roasted butternut squash to come the way it did nor taste how it did. I was expecting big chunks of plain squash. I got a lovely spiced and fragrant curry. Divine. I could eat a plateful of this as a main course! It’s great when something surprises, delights and exceeds expectations. This dish did all these things.


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Leigh got the Quesadilla (tortilla, filled, folded, char-grilled & served with tomato salsa, spicy chicken, peppers, onion & cheese). Like last time, he enjoyed his starter.


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I chose the Albondigas (Patagonian style lamb meatballs with apple, mint, parmesan & a pinch of nutmeg and braised in a rich tomato, mint & mild chilli sauce) for my main. I wasn’t blown away with the way it looked but it did taste bloody gorgeous! The lamb meatballs were soft, succulent and melted in your mouth. The sauce was subtly spiced with a good balance of heat and sweetness. The rice was standard and served as a vehicle for mopping up all that unctuous sauce. I was very impressed. I couldn’t make this at home. Like I said in my last review of Las Iguanas, I love it when I eat out, try to figure out how the chef has cooked the food, and I can’t. I thoroughly enjoyed eating every mouthful of this dish and would return to eat this again!


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Leigh got the Chilli (braised in spiced tomatoes, with spring onion & garlic rice, warmed soft wheat tortillas, soured cream & pink pickled onion, slowly braised chunky beef steak, minced beef & black beans). He ordered this last time and enjoyed it again a second time. However, he did admit to a mild case of food envy upon tasty my dish.


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Las Iguanas is a very popular place to eat. We tried to book here originally for Wednesday evening but they were fully booked till after 9:30pm. That’s why we ended up going for Sunday Lunch instead. So, if you are wanting to go at a busier time, it’s best to get booked up early to avoid disappointment.

Friday, 16 January 2015

My first Blogiversary


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Happy new year everyone and Happy first birthday to my blog! Chow At Home turns 1 year old!

Apologies, I have not been blogging recently. I fell ill with the cold for the past couple of weeks and haven’t been feeling like myself. Anyways, I'm better now, and just in time to celebrate and look over my first year writing this blog. I can also sneak in a recap of the Christmas period (that I was meant to have done by now) in here too!

I made a mini blueberry and lemon birthday cake for my blog. I used my Blueberry muffin recipe and made a Bero lemon buttercream to go with it. Not tried this combo before as I normally eat the muffin on its’ own but it worked beautifully together and was absolutely delicious!


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I started writing my blog ‘Chow At Home’ to share my love of making (and eating) food. It led on from Instagram users requesting recipes of things I had baked and shared on my Instagram (@zoetcm).

I also created a Facebook page to go along with my blog. If you haven’t already, you can ‘like’ and keep updated with ‘Chow At Home’ :-)


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2014

I've really enjoyed sharing my baking Recipes with you. These take up the majority of my blog. I did blog some cooking recipes but it’s clear to see by the number of recipes that my interest in baking is greater! Really chuffed that some of these were tried and liked by readers. That’s what this blog is here for!

Alongside posting recipes, I have wrote some restaurant Reviews on this blog. I didn’t write as many reviews as I wanted too. Certainly not of all the places I did go and eat at this year!

I took part in What I Ate Wednesday a few times. However, I didn’t really get into this or keep it going.

Anyways, here are some of my favourite baking recipes over the year:


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I really enjoy attending food making workshops. They can be expensive so I make use of offers (like Groupon) when I can. I’ve learnt how to make bread (one of the best things I’ve ever done!) and chocolate in the past. I managed to do two workshops this year. Chocolate making with Kenspeckle and sausage making with Northumberland Sausage Company. Both were really good fun! I thoroughly recommend them.


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I went to a couple of food festivals: Tynemouth and Sunderland. We’ve been to the NE Chilli festival before but didn’t manage to go this year. The food stalls do get a bit samey after you’ve been to a few food festivals but the cooking demos are always new and interesting.

The best thing we got to do was at the Sunderland food festival. We took part in the ‘Frugal chicken’ class (which was free), where we were shown how to joint a chicken with minimum wastage, jointed one for ourselves, and got to take it all home!


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It was a busy Summer with family visiting from India and America. Of course, I had to bake some of my signature bakes for them! ;-) We took my family round a number of places, including local sights in Newcastle and surrounding coastal area. We also made trips to Alnwick and Edinburgh, Scotland.

As well as lots of fun and food, it was so lovely to meet my cousins’ children and get to spend some quality time with family who I don’t get to see often.


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We celebrated our two year wedding anniversary with a mini road trip adventure to Wales. We camped in the South for a few days and then in the North east for a few days.

We did a lot of sightseeing (mainly castles) and some camp cooking, sampled Welsh cuisine and had a wonderful anniversary gourmet meal at Park House in Cardiff.

We were so lucky with the weather. It was red hot the whole time, whilst it had been awful in the run up to our trip. Wales is a beautiful country and we definitely would like to return. For me, this holiday beat the previous year when we went to Tenerife by a mile! It goes to show that you don’t have to travel abroad for the typical sunny beach holiday to have the best time.


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Towards the end of the year, I started to turn my focus from baking great tasting cakes to decorating awesome looking cakes. I already had a repertoire of celebration cakes that I had tested and knew tasted good. So, I became more interested in making them look pretty!

It started with me wanting to do something special for my cousin’s 30th. I set myself the challenge of working with modelling sugar paste for the first time and created a unique and personalised veggie patch cake for her. My father-in-law’s duck hunting themed cake followed shortly afterwards, of which I was extremely proud of.

I then fancied decorating with buttercream and got into it using Wilton piping tips and techniques. Buttercream rosettes using a Wilton 1M/2D piping tip for the win! If you haven’t tried these yet, get yourself one and have a go. So easy yet so pretty and effective!


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At the end of the year, in November, I received my first ever cake order! This was very exciting for me! I had only ever made cakes for family/friends/work colleagues voluntarily. I love to bake and share what I bake with others. I also didn’t know whether my bakes were good enough to sell and how to start going about selling them.

It took me by surprise but I was really pleased when I was asked by my friend to make some Superhero themed cupcakes for her partner’s birthday party. Thanks Gemma! I then was pleasantly surprised again, when I got my second cake order from a work colleague for his cycling club fundraiser in December. I hopefully will get to do more cake decorating and sell my bakes in the year to come.


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The end of the year was a busy one for us. We cooked Christmas dinner for my family on Christmas eve. December is always a busy time for us. As well as Christmas, it’s Leigh’s birthday and mine too. And this year, I turned 30!

For my 30th, I was treated to a lovely meal at Peace & Loaf in Jesmond. This was followed by a surprise birthday party the following day. My mother-in-law made my cute owls birthday cake. You can contact her on Homemade Cakes by Sandra Facebook page if you're interested in ordering a custom cake from her.

I had a lovely night spent with family and friends. Especially as it was a few days after Christmas and before New year’s eve – thanks to everyone who made the effort – I really appreciate it. And thanks to my hubby and bestie Tor for organising the party!


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2015

I have had a great year of foodie adventures in 2014. What does Chow At Home’s second year hold?

I hope to:

- Blog more frequently. Including writing more restaurant reviews.
- Streamline and refine the blog. Make it look better and be more accessible.
- Read other foodie blogs. There are people I follow on Instagram who I’d like to start reading their blogs regularly.
- Improve my cake decorating skills.
- Get serious and try to sell my cakes and bakes!

Thank you for reading / liking / following / commenting. For your all-round support & inspiration that keeps me and this blog going! Love to you guys :-D

Let's make 2015 even better - Keep baking! x

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Gingerbread


Christmas is coming! My fave bake this year for Christmas has been gingerbread.

I’ve tried a few different recipes and have found Rachel Allen’s to be the best. I first tried it a few months ago and made Halloween gingerbread. They went down really well. I planned to make some more again at Christmas time. And these went down a storm again.


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I got to try making and piping royal icing for the first time. I use this kidspot.com.au recipe. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to use royal icing. It’s not difficult to make, looks and keeps better on biscuits compared to glace icing. I will be using it all the time now!



gingerbread star


Ingredients

300g (11oz) butter
125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar
125g (4 1/2oz) soft dark brown sugar
225g (8oz) golden syrup or treacle, (I use half of each)
725g (11lb 9oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter together with the sugars and golden syrup or treacle.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda with the ground ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl.
Add the melted mixture to the dry mixture and mix together.
2. Knead the mixture for a few seconds until it all comes together.
Flatten the dough slightly into a round about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick.
Wrap with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Whilst the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) / Gas mark 4.
Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
4. Remove the dough from the fridge.
Dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough to about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick.
Cut out the shapes using cookie cutters and transfer onto the lined baking trays.
5. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, or until they are slightly firm and drier on top, a little darker around the edges.
Allow the shapes to firm up on the trays for a few minutes then place them on a wire rack to cool.
When they have cooled, they can be iced, if you wish.


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Royal Icing

Ingredients

1 egg white
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted


Method

1. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg white with the lemon juice until combined.
2. Gradually add in sifted icing sugar on low speed until smooth.
3. Add food colour of your choice.
4. Pipe onto gingerbread.
Leave for 2-3 hours to set hard.
Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container as this icing hardens when exposed to air.

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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Longhorns Barbecue Smokehouse


How’s your Christmas shopping going? We started ours last Sunday. After a successful day in town, we stopped at Longhorns Barbecue Smokehouse. We've heard a good things about this fairly new eaterie. So were really looking forward to this meal.

You can't make bookings here and over the course of our visit, it was clear to see why. There is not a lot of sitting and seems to be a very busy place. We were happy to wait for a table though and seating for the two of us did open up shortly. There are large communal tables downstairs if you're happy to sit by other people.

Onto the menu and ordering food/drinks. We were told that there were no more ribs and chicken wings, nor hog rind. This was such a shame as we were hoping to get the ribs (before getting there). The menu is compact to start with - so it seemed poor that some of the food offered wasn't available - therefore the menu was made even more limiting.

The prices of food seemed reasonable for what you get. However, the cost of the drinks is seriously overpriced. I got a can of cream soda, which cost £3! I felt begrudged paying this much for fizzy pop. Leigh got Jakehead IPA (Wylam Brewery) for £4.50, which not as overpriced as mine, was still a bit on the pricy side. Though Leigh did like it that there was a local beer on the menu.


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We both ordered a BBQ board each and between us got to sample 3 of the 5 meats on the menu (2 were sold out). The brisket was really tasty (the best bit), the pork was soft and moist but not that flavourful, and the Andouille sausage was alright. We tried all the sides (apart from Hog rind which was sold out). The fries were decent but we didn’t rate the coleslaw or the bean chilli much. You can get 3 meats and 2 sides for a tenner, which is reasonable for the quality.


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A family sat down on the table beside ours shortly after we had sat down. They had already ordered their drinks then went to order the food. They retuned to the table and we overheard them saying that there was virtually no food left, including the one vegetarian option, which was also sold out. They were clearly unhappy and left without finishing their drinks. It is a little concerning why they weren’t told about the food situation before they ordered their drinks. The customer service and care didn’t come across very well.

Food is constantly being cooked 24/7 and talking to the staff, it was clear that they have been unable to cook enough food to meet the demand. Often selling out way before closing hours. I think if they manage to sort out this problem then they are onto a winner! If they don’t, then I’m afraid they may lose customers if they keep disappointing people and turning them away.

We would return, as want to try the things we didn’t get to have today. Pork ribs in particular and the chicken wings (a staff member also recommended the beef ribs). But we will try to get there earlier rather than later, in the hope that the food hasn’t sold out yet that day! The staff member (who had been very helpful during our visit) advised us that the best time to get their food at its’ best is during the week at lunchtime. We are going to try here again very soon at these recommended times!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Be-Ro Chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream


At the end of last month, It was my work colleague's last day.  I'm known for my bakes at work, so a homemade chocolate cake was fitting for a parting gift. He has always been a really supportive co-worker. Over the years, I have learnt a lot about youth work from him.

I used Be-Ro recipes for both the cake and the buttercream. I made a naked two-tier cake (like I normally would) and was going to leave it as it was. However,  by the next day, I was unhappy with the way it looked (so ugly!), so decided to cover it all with the chocolate buttercream.


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My second attempt at crumb-coating a tiered cake. I also piped some buttercream stars around the top of cake (using a Wilton star tip), as well as gave it a few sprinkles. Think it looks much better for it!


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I was pleased that I decided to cover the cake and add extra decoration. It was also extra practice in cake decorating for me! My co-worker was really touched by the cake :–)


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For the 2 sandwich chocolate cakes

Ingredients
200g (7 oz) Self-raising flour
25g (1 oz) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
75g (3 oz) plain chocolate, broken into pieces
275g (10 oz) light brown sugar
50g (2 oz) butter, at room temperature
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
150ml (1/4 pt) sour cream
75ml (3 fl oz) milk

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan / 180°C conventional / gas 4.
Grease and line the base of s 2 x 23 cm (9 inch) sandwich tins.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.
3. Place chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl.
Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds intervals, stirring after each 30 seconds, until melted.
4. Cream sugar and butter together in another bowl.
5. Gradually add the eggs, with a little of the flour mixture after each addition.
6. Stir in the vanilla, sour cream, milk and melted chocolate.
7. Pour the mixture into the tins and bake for 30 minutes,
or until firm and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
8. Cool completely before icing the cakes.

For the chocolate buttercream

Ingredients
100g (4 oz) butter, at room temperature
220g (8 oz) icing sugar, sieved
2 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
4 tsp hot water

Method
1. Beat butter until soft.
2. Gradually beat in icing sugar and cocoa powder then the water.


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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Fig Almond Cake and Fig Chocolate Slice


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Parents got me many fresh figs on the cheap (4 for 23p)! I’ve never used fresh figs in baking and wanted to try a few experiments. Two out of three experiments were a success. Here, I am sharing the recipes for Fig almond cake and Fig chocolate slice. These turned out well and the evidence disappeared quickly at work!

I chose to use this Nestle recipe for Fig almond cake. I normally have condensed milk in the cupboard/fridge so this is a good way of using it up. I really enjoyed the taste and texture of this Fig almond cake. I didn’t have any flaked almonds to put on top so left them out. However, I think they would have added another tasty dimension to the cake.

I used this Taste.com.au recipe for Fig chocolate slice. People were surprised and couldn't tell that there were figs in the brownie-like Fig chocolate slice. Apart from the occasional crunch from the fig seeds, you wouldn’t know there was something very healthy in it. A great way to sneak goodness into a very chocolaty indulgent treat!

The original recipe for Fig chocolate slice is served warm with a Brown sugar cream. I didn’t make the cream but you may want to give it a go. I ate mine at room temperature but imagine it would be nice warmed up too.


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I made a few cupcakes out of the Fig cake mixture. I had leftover caramel buttercream icing leftover so used it up on these cupcakes. I use this recipe for caramel buttercream icing that goes well with chocolate cake. I let the caramel icing cool down and harden at room temperature. I then beat it with a hand-held mixer which loosens the hard icing. It becomes more like a buttercream consistency which you can pipe easily onto cupcakes. I had a go at trying different piping techniques with my new Wilton ruffle 125 piping tip.

Leigh really enjoyed these cupcakes. The Fig cake pairs well with the caramel buttercream.


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So, here are the recipes for both Fig almond cake and Fig chocolate slice.
Starting with the Fig almond cake…



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Ingredients

¾ cup butter (150 g), softened
½ cup (100 g) caster sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tin (397 g) condensed milk
1½ cups (210 g) plain flour
½ cup (50 g) ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups (300 g) fresh figs, peeled and chopped
¼ cup (25 g) flaked almonds, optional

 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Grease and line a 23 x 28 cm baking tin.
2. Mix in a bowl the butter and sugar until well combined.
Add eggs, vanilla and condensed milk then mix to combine all together.
3. Add flour, ground almonds and baking powder then mix until well combined.
4. Fold the figs into the mixture and pour mixture into the tin.
Sprinkle flaked almonds on top, if using.
5. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes,
or until when inserting a skewer in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool completely.

 
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And followed by the recipe for Fig chocolate slice…
 

 




Ingredients
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
150g butter, cubed
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, whisked
250g fresh figs, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
Line base and sides of 4.5cm (deep), 18cm (base) square cake tin with baking paper.
2. Place chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
Microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.
3. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
4. Stir egg and fig into chocolate mixture.
5. Sift flour and cocoa over mixture. Stir until well combined.
6. Spread chocolate mixture into prepared pan.
7. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out slightly sticky.
Slice should be set and have a crust, but still be a little soft inside.
8. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely in tin.
Cut into 16 slices.

 
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