“Hey Lyndal, let’s hang out on the weekend and work on something for the blog.”

Good idea, Jo. What shall we cook?”

“Chocolate! You can find some way to make a main with chocolate right?”

And apparently, she can…

Chicken Mole

Adapted from a http://www.taste.com.au recipe

500g chicken thighs, in bite-sized pieces
2 onions, one roughly chopped, one finely diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs coriander, including root, chopped
2 tsp chilli flakes

1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp smoked paprika (pimenton)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
2 pieces white bread, crusts removed, torn int pieces
Olive oil
1 bay leaf
50g 85% cocoa content chocolate

Combine chicken, garlic, chopped onion and coriander.  Cover with water and poach for 30 min (or until chicken is cooked).

Chicken bubbling away merrily

Remove around 1/4 cup stock and add to chilli flakes, set aside.

Remove chicken from stock and set aside.  Strain stock and set this aside also.

Blend together tomatoes, spices and bread until sauce is smooth (have a smell – it smelly fantastic at this point!).

Blended tomato mixture

Heat oil in a saucepan and saute diced onion. Add tomato sauce and bay leaf and simmer for about 10min (it thickens slightly).

Add chicken and chocolate and enough reserved stock to cover chicken pieces (you don’t need much).  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25min (make sure you don’t let it stick to the bottom of the pan!).

Remove chicken and simmer remaining sauce until it thickens slightly. Coat chicken in remaining sauce.

Serve on tortillas (we had mini white corn tortilla) with guacamole, sour cream and fresh salsa made from diced capsicum, tomato, Spanish onion, lemon juice and olive oil (I like fresh coriander in this too, but Jo doesn’t, so I added chopped fresh parsley instead).


Doesn't look so great, but smells awesome!

The finished mole meal

Lyndal's slightly OCD lunch - separated out.

The verdict?  It looked like messy, lumpy, poo-brown goop, however it had a real richness and a depth of spice that both Jo and I found delicious.  Our male diners, however, did not find it quite so appetising!

And now for dessert…

With Lyndal’s specific request for pears ringing in my ears, I hit the ‘net to find something that I want to bake. 3 days later, I still haven’t found quite what I want. If we’re having an entree and a main featuring chocolate, there’s no way we’re going to be up for a super rich chocolatey dessert.

My main inspiration was this blog, but, deciding that the only way I’m going to get what I want is to make it up, I cross my fingers, crank up the Meatloaf and start in on…

Chocolate custard and pear tart

Crust ( borrowed from www.davidlebovitz.com)
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Beat together butter and sugar until well-combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add the dry ingredients, until the mixture just comes together.

Crumbly tart dough

Shape dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic and chill. Use approximately 2/3 of the dough, and pat into the base and sides of a lightly greased tart pan. Blind bake the base in a 180°C oven until lightly browned – about 15mins.

Blind baked tart pastry

Poached Pears
4 ripe buerre bosc pears, peeled, cored and quartered
5 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a light boil. Add pears, and cook around 15mins until tender. Drain and cool.

4 pears a-poaching

And now for the really good part…

Chocolate custard (adapted from the Rhubarb Custard Slice recipe in AWW’s Macaroons & Biscuits)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
1/4 cup custard powder
21/2 cups skim soy milk
30g butter
100g dark chocolate
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup light pouring cream

Combine sugar, cornflour and custard powder in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Add butter and chocolate; stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Reduce heat; simmer stirring, about 5 mins or until custard is thick and smooth.Remove from heat; whisk in egg yolk, vanilla and cream.

Now’s where it gets a little tricky, as you need to move fast before the custard sets too much and it all turns to crap.

Thinly slice the cooled pears and layer over the bottom of the cooled tart base.

Give the custard a final good whisk to make sure there are no lumps, then slowly poor over the pears, making sure to completely cover them and fill in all the crevices right to the edge of the tart.

Once the custard has cooled slightly, refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight to let the custard set fully. Just a note, I had enough for a full size tart and two mini-tarts (for taste testing purposes only of course :)).

Mini tarts

The verdict on dessert? Thumbs up from four satisfied choco-a-holics. I think next time I’ll put a bit of gelatine in the custard to help it keep it’s shape, but other than that, it was pretty good. Which is just as well as we only ate half of it, so we’ll be having dessert for days to come!

Baking = thumbs up

Flower arranging = not so much

Easy Jam TartServes 8-12

Adapted from the Crostata recipe at Wednesday Chef
This should work with any jam, conserves, or marmalade, but I’d be a bit wary about using jelly, which may be too thin and runny. I’m thinking next time about adding a small amount of finely-chopped fresh rosemary to the dough, and you could certainly add a few swipes of fresh citrus zest, or a dusting of ground cinnamon or cardamom, if you’re so inclined.

And although the tart is fine just as is, you could certainly serve this with vanilla or fresh ginger ice cream, or some whipped cream, to dress it up.
9 tablespoons (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (190g) flour
1/2 cup (70g) stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
1 3/4 cups (450g) apricot, raspberry or other jam

coarse raw sugar; known as cassonade, turbinado, or demerara sugar, for finishing the tart
1. Beat together butter and sugar until well-combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk and almond extract.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add the dry ingredients, just until the mixture just comes together.

3. Measure out 11 ounces (300g), which is about 2/3rd of the dough if you don’t have a scale, pat it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill it. Take the remaining dough and roll it into a log about 2-inches (5cm) in diameter, wrap it and chill it, too

4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to room temperature slightly. With the heel of your hand, press the dough into the bottom and sides of an unbuttered removable bottom tart pan (one that’s 9″ or 10″, 24cm), or springform pan, patting it evenly.

5. Spread the jam evenly over the dough.

6. Remove the log of dough from the refrigerator and slice in cookie-sized disks, then lay them over the jam. Top very generously with lots of coarse raw sugar, at least 2 tablespoons.

7. Bake until the pastry is golden brown. (If you don’t trust yourself, or your oven, Luisa’s recipe says 20-25 minutes.) Let cool before serving, and serve at room temperature.
Storage: Although lovely just after it’s made, this tart will meld together beautifully overnight and will keep well for a couple of days, well-wrapped. Since it’s not-so-fragile, it’d be perfect to take along on a picnic.