Before we left Sydney I did a massive declutter of cookbooks. I have no idea how many I actually donated to the local op shop, in fact, I don’t want to know. I was only getting rid of them because I knew that I had no shelf space in the new house, although if I’m being completely honest I had no shelf space where we were either – something the real estate agent had pointed out when she “suggested” that we do some serious decluttering before she took photos and began to “show” the house.
When I was deciding what books to keep I had to keep to some strict criteria. To stay on my shelves the book had to fall into one of the following categories:
- something I cooked from regularly
- great food writing
- great foodie travel writing
- have a good story
- be an absolute classic
- had been given to me by someone I adored
One book that caused me some deliberation was Gordon Ramsay’s “Healthy Appetite”. The book is a good one, but not one that I cook from much at all. Nor did it fall into any of the other considerations listed above. It probably should have gone on the “free to a good home” pile but the problem was that he’d inscribed it to me and signed it. There was even a message he’d written inside. Not that I can read it, the man seriously has handwriting a doctor would be proud of.
The thing is, I didn’t want him to write in it at all. It’s just that my friends had lined up for a signature and I was with them and he wasn’t taking no for an answer – but that’s another story entirely. In any case, I now have a book with an indecipherable inscription in it that I can’t bring myself to get rid of.
It’s why I was surprised when I bought Nigella’s “Nigella Express” from the second-hand bookshop at Mooloolaba Beach and found the following written inside the front cover:
Happy 50th Birthday. May this book help bring you and your friends together for lots of laughs, full bellies, and one or two naughty drinks.
I’ve deleted the names in case A or A happens to read this blog – as an aside, just how cool would that be? – but every time I take this cookbook out to read I’m amazed at how A was able to give the book away. I can only imagine her real estate agent must have put her foot down too because I couldn’t bring myself to part with a book that a bestie had chosen for me.
I’m reading “Express” a lot at the moment because it features in my new novel. “Escape to Curlew Cottage”. Spoiler alert, that means I’ll be posting recipes from it as well.
Tallis, one of the protagonists in the novel, cooks these totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies so that means that I have to. They’re a mouthful to say and a mouthful to eat. Nigella says that they’re the chocolatiest chocolate cookies you’ll ever eat – and she’s right. There are three kinds of chocolate in these – cocoa, dark chocolate and chocolate chips. They make a fudgey almost cakey sort of cookie, but one that brings deep comfort with every bite.
Despite the inclusion of this recipe in an express book, it isn’t a quick recipe to make. It is, though, what Nigella calls investment cooking so qualifies for that reason – it might take you some time now in order to have quick gratification later.
You see, these are the types of cookies that you need when you need to eat them if you get my drift. And generally, at the times when you really need to eat them, you have neither the ingredients or the time to mix them up and place them on the tray and wait for them to be cooked. That’s where investment cooking comes in. You pop some of these on a tray as if you were going to bake them but instead of popping the tray in the oven you put it in the freezer instead. Then when the little mounds are hard you stash them in freezer bags so that all you need to do is pop them on a tray and in the oven (naturally take them out of the freezer bag first) for when you need comfort cookie in a hurry.
As I said, investment cooking.
What you need
- 125g dark chocolate – the good minimum 70% stuff
- 150g plain flour
- 30g cocoa sifted
- 1 tsp bicarb soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 125g soft butter
- 75g light brown sugar
- 50g white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg – cold from the fridge
- 350g dark chocolate chips
What you do with it
Preheat the oven to 170C
Melt the 125g dark chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water
Stir the flour, bicarb, cocoa and salt together in a bowl
Cream the butter and sugar together
Add the melted chocolate to the creamed butter/sugar and mix together
Beat in the vanilla and the egg and then mix in the dry ingredients
Stir in the chocolate chips
Scoop out dollops of the mix – I use a 1/4 cup measure, but just a tad less than that – and place on the tray with plenty of space between them. Don’t be tempted to flatten out the balls.
Cook for about 18 minutes and test with a cake tester to make sure it comes out semi-clean.
Leave to cool on the tray for about 5 minutes – if you try and move them before this they’ll crumble and you’ll have no choice but to eat the crumbled bits. They will harden as they cool.