Tone of voice: sotto voce.
Here is a recipe for what can only be described as the chocolate version of a hug. A delicious chocolate sponge pudding with a melt-in-the-middle chocolate fondant centre. This recipe makes about six small puddings, so you can halve the amount if you’re just serving two. Obviously the smaller the ramekin dishes the more you’ll make. Serve with your favourite vanilla ice cream.
75g butter, softened
300g good quality milk chocolate (or 70% dark if you prefer)
75g light muscovado sugar
4 organic free range eggs
40g plain flour
Half a tsp vanilla extract
A chocolate truffle or a square of chocolate per ramekin dish
Optional: either 2 tbsp strong filtered coffee or Tia Maria
Preheat the oven to 190°C/400F/gas mark 6. Grease out the ramekins with extra butter.
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a saucepan of water on a low heat. Place to one side.
Separate the egg whites and yolks into two bowls. Whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until fluffy and starts to form soft peaks.
Place the softened butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk together. Add the egg yolks and stir.
Add the egg whites and whisk until smooth. Don’t over-whisk as the eggs will curdle! Add the melted chocolate – check it’s cooled first – and mix together.
Sift in the flour and stir until smooth. Add the coffee or Tia Maria, if using.
Pour the mix into the ramekins filling each one three quarters full.
Place a mini chocolate truffle or a cube of chocolate in the middle of each one before putting them in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes.
2013 marked the centenary of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and to celebrate Liz Earle made this absolutely beautiful perfume, Botanical Essence No.100, which bottles the scent of a British flower shop. I first spotted it for sale in the RHS Wisley gift shop last year and it was love at first scent.
It’s not at all overpowering, yet the longevity of this perfume is truly remarkable. I sprayed some on my Fairisle scarf on Friday and on the following Monday I was greeted with the fresh smell of it once more; the top notes of mandarin and bergamot harmonise with comforting rose, light vanilla and sandalwood. I wish there was a way you could smell it for yourself by reading this!
So you can imagine my excitement when I went into Liz Earle in Guildford to find this lovely perfume in a limited edition set: for the price of a 50ml Liz Earle perfume (£47) you also get a Liz Earle Sheer Lip Gloss (worth £13.50) in Water Lily – a shimmery nude and a bright Strengthening Nail Colour in Pink Perpetue (worth £7.50.)
Obviously perfume choice is so personal and you can also choose one of the other Liz Earle perfumes (Botanical Essence No.1, or Botanical Essence No. 15.) to be in your set.
It’s only available until 17th February, making it a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day!
Liz Earle The Look of Love £47 available in store and online
Feeling inspired to make something sweet from the garden? Try this easy carrot cake recipe.
For the cake
2 organic free range eggs
175 g muscovado sugar
150 ml olive oil
50 g butter, softened
200 g carrot, finely grated
225 g plain flour or wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
115 g half fat cream cheese
4 tbsp butter, softened
85 g icing sugar (Tate and Lyle)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
Preheat the oven to 190° C/375°F/Gas 5. Grease out the cake tin with a bit of extra butter.
Put the sugar, oil and softened butter in a large mixing bowl and beat together. Then add the eggs. Mix well with a large spoon. Add the carrot, then mix again.
Sift in the flour and baking powder gradually by stirring as you go. Add the cinnamon and the honey. Mix everything together until well incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the well greased cake tin and bake at the bottom of the oven for 40-50 minutes until it has risen nicely and has a spring to the touch.
Carefully take it out the oven and turn it out into a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Put the cream cheese in a (new clean) bowl with the softened butter and mix slowly. Add the icing sugar gradually, stirring as you go. Add the lemon rind and mix everything together.
You can either spread the icing over the top of the cake or carefully cut the sponge cake in two and use it as a filling for the middle of the cake (as I have done in the pic!)
If you choose the latter option, sift some additional icing sugar and sprinkle the grated lemon rind on top and enjoy!