Recipes: Guinness cake, watermelon salad
“Big Flavors From a Small Kitchen” (Mitchell Beazley), a new cookbook by Chris Honor, the Australian-born chef behind Chriskitch in London, is approachable for all levels of home cooks despite its critically acclaimed restaurant roots. After all, they are humble roots: Chriskitch has seating for a mere 18 people inside, and started with one hotplate and one oven.
“What I cook is real food, but I’m not talking about some foodie cult of the authentic,” Honor writes. “I buy raw ingredients and I cook them. … Nothing I prepare is technically complicated - I do not have that luxury, either of time or equipment.”
The luxury in his book, written with Laura Washburn Hutton, is the ease with which one can imagine re-creating his recipes, which start with salads and move on to brunch dishes, soups, main courses, “bakery” (breads, cakes) and “extras” (salad dressing, drinks, flavored salts and vinegars). This isn’t super fussy food or food from a particular country, though it is refined and inventive. The flavors cull from all over the world, the ingredients mostly available at your local grocery store or farmers market; a beet salad zings with tarragon, a lamb pot roast delivers spicy warmth with a coffee and molasses crust.
“Big Flavors” is beautiful to behold, too, with delicious photographs by Tamin Jones married to each dish.
This summer-fresh watermelon salad and chocolate cake laced with Guinness and dates would be perfect to serve at your next dinner party or summer soirée.
Watermelon Feta Pumpkin Seed Basil Salad
From “Big Flavors From a Small
Makes 8 servings
2¼ pound watermelon, quartered, sliced and seeded
1 teabag of berry tea, removed from teabag
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, dry roasted
10 sprigs fresh mint, leaves stripped and torn
10 sprigs fresh basil, leaves stripped and torn
3 green tomatoes, halved
1 handful baby tomatoes
3 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
2 tablespoons Basil Sugar (see note)
Instructions: Line up the watermelon slices on a platter and sprinkle them with berry tea.
Scatter the cheese, seeds, herbs and tomatoes evenly on top. Drizzle everything with the oil, sprinkle with sugar and serve.
Note: To make Basil Sugar, in a small food processor combine 1 firmly packed cup of basil leaves a 1 cup superfine sugar. Blend until smooth. (This will lose its color after 4 to 5 days.)
Guinness Dates Chocolate Cake
Makes 8 to 10 servings
8 ounces of Guinness beer
2½ sticks unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1¾ cups superfine sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup pitted dried dates, very finely chopped
3½ ounce white chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup cream cheese
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease and line an 8½-inch springform cake pan.
In a large saucepan, combine the Guinness and butter, and melt over low heat. Remove from the heat, add the cocoa powder and sugar, and stir to blend. Stir in the milk and vanilla, and then add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
Stir together the baking soda, baking powder and flour into a mixing bowl. Add the cocoa mixture, folding gently with a large spatula to blend thoroughly. Add the dates, give the batter a quick stir, and transfer it to the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out dry. Transfer to a wire rack, unlatch the pan and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the frosting. Melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. In a small bowl, mix the melted chocolate and cream cheese to frost the cooled cake.