I'm cooking an early twelfth night dinner this evening. Our menu will be mulled wine (sweetened only with the zest and juice of clementines) jelly starters - nice and light and palate-cleansingly astringent, then roasted goose covered with seville orange, cinnamon and chili marinade with a gravy made of the giblet stock and more of the marinade, leeks in stiltony sauce, butternut squash mash with red onions and caraway and red cabbage with pancetta. Then my newly-invented wheat-free cake as shown below. It may be free of wheat but it is shamelessly luxuriant; if it were any more rich and bitter I would have to call it Frac.
Chocolate Chestnut Truffle Cake for owlfish
100g ground almonds
500g of chestnut puree (mine was the sweetened type with vanilla, but I'd prefer unsweetened next time)
two tablespoons decent cocoa
250g unsalted butter
250g good chocolate - at least 70% cocoa
large glug of chocolate liqueur
large glug of chestnut aperitif
five eggs (you'll have one yolk left over)
mixed cranberries, candied peel and raisins
1 tbsp caster sugar
more chestnut puree
more chestnut aperitif
I only have exact measurements because I used whole packets of some things. The measurements do not need to be exact. Catering is chemistry and requires exact ratios and adherence to the letter; cooking is alchemy and requires a generous heart and adherence to the spirit.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a basin over barely simmering water (I did mine over the stock pot to save energy and washing up and suspect it got contaminated slightly with a drop of goose stock). Stir to a slithering, silky mass while thinking pure, artery-cleansing thoughts. Allow to cool a bit then stir in the ground almonds and chestnut puree and the glugs of boozes and the cocoa. The texture should be that of very wet, posh potting compost - tweak the booze and cocoa as necessary. Separate the eggs, discarding one of the yolks so that it can be used to soup up an omelette later. Beat the eggs gently with the caster sugar till they are pale and frothy. Add them to the mixture. Then beat the egg whites till they stand in stiff peaks and fold them carefully into the compost. Pour into a large silicon cake tin and put in the centre of a medium oven. I decanted six tablespoons into a muffin tin so I could test the mixture, but this wasn't necessary. If it had all Gone Horribly Wrong we would have had trifle with very exuberant chocolate sponges in it. Cook for about 35 mins. It will make your life smell briefly like Nicholas Sarkozy - hot, French and powerful. You can tell it is ready when it is springy at the edges and looks springy in the middle but feels dangerously quicksandy and fragile if you poke it there(/Sarkozy analogy).
If you try eating it warm it will be too dry at the edges but pleasantly squidgy in the middle and would probably work with posh ice-cream. But it is better left overnight to cool and become properly truffly. Cold it has a big, rich flavour and unctuous texture but a very light, clean finish in the mouth (/end Sarkozy analogy NOW). Overnight you can soak the dried fruit in some more of the chestnut liqueur. Brandy would also work - and I want to substitute amaretto for the chestnut liqueur and pureed dried apricots soaked in amaretto for the chestnut at some stage. I am going to spread the top of the cake with some more of the chestnut puree, cover it in cream whipped with juices from the soaked fruit and then sprinkle the soaked fruits on top just before I serve it. We will have little glasses of the chilled aperitif with it.