Banana chip and chocolate “minions”

Not being the most artistic cook out there, this is the closest I could come with what I had in my kitchen to making some Minions.  Of course, fans of the Minion will know that they love bananas, so that is what these chocolates are filled with.  These are quite easy to make, you just need moulds that are oblong (preferably ovoid, which I didn’t have, which is why my “Minions” have corners!)  I did actually get twelve with this recipe, but the first “practice” one looked pretty awful, so my son helped me out by eating it before I got the camera ready.  Sweet boy.

You will need chocolate moulds, a pastry brush, and some way to crush your banana chips.

Banana chip and chocolate

Banana chip and chocolate “minions”

220g yellow chocolate;

1/4 cup dried banana chips, smashed into small bits (I used a mortar and pestle, but you could put them in a plastic bag and whack them with a rolling pin);

Blue food dye;

Edible writing icing pens (I had black and blue, but if you have white and silver it would help too).

Temper the chocolate as per white chocolate (as it is probably just white chocolate with yellow colouring in it) – use the method as per the espresso chocolates, remember you melt the chocolate and bring it to 40-45 celcius, then down to 28-30 for moulding.  Pour into the mould, then leave for a minute to set before upending the mould over the remaining chocolate in the bowl to let the excess run out.  Put in the fridge while you are preparing the banana chips.  When the chips are in small pieces, fill the moulds to just below the surface, and cover with a layer of chocolate, scraping off the backs of the mould.  Put back in the fridge until it sets.

To decorate, I put blue dye in the remaining chocolate.  If you have run out, some white chocolate will do.  If you add liquid dye to the chocolate you will probably get some lumps, so beat vigorously.  I have heard that powdered dyes work better, but I haven’t worked with them yet.  Take the chocolates out of the mould and put on a plastic sheet or cutting board as it gets messy here.  Hold a small sharp knife over the chocolate so that you get a clean line when painting, and paint the blue chocolate over the bottom.  Dab blue dots of writing icing for eyes, then make sunglasses and little mouths to finish the faces.

If you are arty, you will probably get a much prettier finished product than I did, but they were tasty nevertheless.

Breaking up the banana chips

Breaking up the banana chips

Pork crackling

This isn’t really a recipe, just a few hints I have picked up over several years of hit and misses.  We have had some good, and some pretty awful, pork cracklings in my house, but I am improving – more hits than misses these days!

The first thing you need to do, is to make sure the rind is thoroughly dry.  You need to start preparing the day before you plan on roasting the joint.

Get a plate big enough to put your piece of pork on, and cover it with salt.  Just cooking salt or even table salt will do, so long as it is finely ground, not rock salt.  Using a paper towel, ensure that you have wiped as much moisture as possible from the rind, and then place it RIND SIDE DOWN on the salt.  This is important, salt will draw the moisture out, so make sure that the salt doesn’t get on the meat, only the rind.  If you have time, after several hours, repeat the process.

The salt draws the moisture out of the rind and it settles on the plate, so if you can change the plate (maybe just before you go to bed) you will get rid of some moisture instead of the rind sitting in it.

Preparing the pork

Preparing the pork

If you look closely at the above picture, you can see the salt, I should have used a coloured plate to contrast.

 

The next day, preheat the oven to a high heat, I usually make sure the oven is at least 220c celcius, take the pork off the plate, and wipe the accumulated moisture from the rind.  Then score the rind, rub it with olive oil, and salt it again.  Place meat side down, in a dish and when the oven is hot, place it in the hot oven.  The oven must be hot to make the oil and salt do their work on the rind.  After 20 minutes, turn the heat down to whatever heat you will be cooking at (usually around 180 degrees celcius) and cook for the appropriate time for the weight of the meat.

 

When the pork is ready, cut the rind from the meat before you rest it – if you cover it, the crackling will start to go soggy.  You can then cut it into pieces (I use kitchen scissors) while the meat is resting.  If something has gone wrong, you can repair it.  Sometimes I find that the top of the rind has crackled nicely, but the bits that were lower down in the dish are still a bit rubbery.  To fix this, I heat a frypan (no added oil) until it is nice and hot, then put the rind face down in the pan and cook a bit longer.  This is messy, it spits every where and sometimes I get hit by flying sizzle, but it usually works.  If the rind starts to curl, hold it down with something like a potato masher so it remains semi flat.  Even if you singe it a little, it will still be nice and crackly.

Crackling

Crackling

In my house, I have to hide the crackling until we are all sitting down, or the taste testers keep stealing it!

 

Grasshopper chocolates

Another attempt at making chocolates (and the poor self-sacrificing taste testers at my house are helping me out with “market research”!)

These have alchohol in them, and it isn’t cooked out, so be aware of that if you need zero blood alcohol!

Grasshopper chocolates

Grasshopper chocolates

Shells:

225g white chocolate, plus a handful of white chocolate buttons to use in the tempering process;

Filling:

1/3 cup cream;

1 tbsp liquid glucose;

190g white chocolate;

1 tbs creme de menthe.

With this recipe you will get twelve largish chocolates, plus have a bit of the grasshopper filling leftover, I put this in an airtight jar and store it in the fridge.  You can then save it for another time (if you accumulate enough differing types of fillings you can make some mixed chocolates later, or you can use the filling as dessert sauces if you heat it up.  Due to the alcohol in this, microwaving to reheat is not recommended, heat gently over the stove if you want a pouring sauce later – to use as a filling you only need it to be room temperature, so take out of the fridge in ample time and stand the jar in hot water to gently bring up to room temperature).

Make the filling first so that it can cool to room temperature while you are making the shells.  If it is too hot, of course it will melt the shells.

For the squiggly decorations, I used a tube of “handwriting icing” and just made random patterns in the mould before I put the white chocolate in.

Place the cream and glucose in a small pan and bring to simmer.  Pour over the white chocolate in a heatproof jug and beat until smooth and creamy.  Add the creme de menthe and mix through.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the shells – follow the method for the espresso chocolates – remember the temperature ranges for tempering white chocolate are to heat it to 40-45 degrees celcius, then bring it down to 28-30 degrees celcius to work it.  Pour into moulds, tap to remove air bubbles, leave to harden a minute, then upturn over the bowl of chocolate to let the excess dribble out.  I usually put the mould into the fridge to allow the chocolate to set, I know you shouldn’t store chocolate in the fridge, but this is only for a little while.  Once the chocolate is set, pipe or spoon in enough filling so that the filling is only about 1 millimetre below the top of the shell, and refridgerate until firm.  Remelt the remaining white chocolate and fill in the bottom of the shell, scraping to get a smooth finish.  Put back in the fridge until set, and then unmould.

Chicken with sundried tomatoes and capers

This is cooked in one pot, so is wonderful for a midweek easy meal.  It will serve four, I serve it with rice to soak up the sauce, although polenta might work with this, considering the mediterranean flavours in the dish.

Chicken with sundried tomatoes and capers

Chicken with sundried tomatoes and capers

6 spring onions, slice the white part finely, slice the green part into 1cm lengths;

1 clove garlic, finely sliced.

2 tbsp oil (you can either use olive oil, or the oil that the sundried tomatoes were preserved in);

Four small chicken breast fillets (or two large ones filleted in half);

1 cup of cream;

Half a 320g of sundried tomatoes which have been packed in oil rather than vinegar;

2 tbs capers (the capers should be salty enough that you won’t need to add salt, but you can add a little pepper if you prefer).

 

Heat the oil in a large, heavy based frypan which is capable of taking all the chicken at once.  Add the spring onions, garlic and chicken, and fry until the chicken is cooked almost all the way through (this will vary depending on the thickness of your fillets – to check, skewer the thick part of the breast, if the juice runs a vibrant pink the chicken is still raw inside.  If it is clear, the chicken is done, so you want it to be still a little bit pink, but not much).

Remove the chicken from the heat and keep warm.  Boil a kettle (you don’t want to use cold water or you might crack or warp your pan) and deglaze the pan with a little hot water, scraping all the burnt bits of garlic and onion and making a thick fluid in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the cream, tomatoes and capers, and slowly bring to heat, don’t allow the cream to boil or it will split or curdle.

Return the chicken to the pan, and finish off the cooking, turning and basting with the sauce to keep moist and to ensure the chicken is covered with sauce.

Yum.

If you like white wine, you could use some warmed wine to deglaze the pan instead of hot water.