Christmas came early last weekend as I attended a family gathering to celebrate Diwali. And what a cracking afternoon it was; being all together is such a rarity these days. But it's not just the company that I appreciate.
If there is one thing that Indians know how to do it's lay on a humungous spread. The kind that encompasses everything from the root to the fruit and one that requires, believe it or not, a little strategy (no breakfast, a selective hand, lots of breaks).
The meal was largely the work of one auntie, who makes a sensational curry and lays an impeccable table – plates for plates, napkin holders … that sort of thing. That said, several other guests had contributed the odd dish (puri, pea rice, dhokra).
I woke up on Sunday morning and, being the strange bloke that I am, felt the urge to bake an American classic – the brownie. Like a scene out of Ready, Steady Cook, the clock was ticking and I could only use what I had in the house: a half-eaten bar of chocolate, some granola, a small punnet of blueberries and a box of ginger biscuits. Of course, I had the odd sack of flour and a bit of unsalted butter but hardly the exact bag of ingredients needed to reproduce these macademia morsels from the Hairy Bikers.
Anyhow, as I have done for most of this summer, I improvised in the kitchen and the results were very well received. "The best ever," one adroit auntie conceded as if accepting the gauntlet that I had inadvertently thrown down. Just how good were they? Well judge for yourselves by following this simple recipe. One bit of advice though: these are seriously dense so go easy on the first and/or second course so that you may indulge in a chunky square's worth together with a cone of almond and pistachio kulfi (Indian ice cream). Then, sit back beside a roaring fire with a cup of Earl Grey and eye up your next slab on the tray that's been placed invitingly before you.
Consider this training for the main event next month.
(serves at least 10)
- 280g/10oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing (Flora's new Cuisine worked very well)
- 5 free range eggs
- 250g/9oz caster sugar
- 250g/9oz light muscovado sugar
- 2 tbsp clear honey
- 200g/8oz plain flour
- 100g/4oz unsweetened cocoa powder
- 185g/6 1/2oz blueberries, quartered
- 150g/6oz Tesco's finest milk chocolate with caramelised nuts, broken up
- 150g/ 6 1/2 oz stem ginger biscuits, broken up into little 'nuggets'
- 90g/3 1/2oz nutty granola
- 90g/3 1/2oz Brazil nuts, chopped
- Icing sugar, to dust
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 50 minutes
Cool: 10 minutes
– Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Grease and line a 30cmx23cmx4cm/12inx9inx1½in baking tin.
– Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Stir in the clear honey or golden syrup.
– Sift the flour and cocoa into the mixture, then fold until well combined. Stir in the ginger bits, chocolate, Brazil nuts, blueberry bits and granola.
– Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes. Brownies should be firm at the edges but still slightly gooey in the centre. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool in the tin.
– Dust with icing sugar, cut into squares and serve with ice cream.