Chocolate Mousse

 

Firstly, sorry for the hiatus, I’ve been busy with exams and very, very boring stuff.

 

I was going to write an introduction but who doesn’t like chocolate mousse?

IMG_4362.JPG

 

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • a capful of coconut rum (Jack Daniels works well tool, or any other whisky – ditto amaretto)
  • 8 eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 300ml double cream
  • a pinch o’ cocoa powder
  • whatever fruit you wish (or freeze a chilli and bash it up over the top if you’re feeling hard)

Method

  • Break up the chocolate and put in a bowl above a simmering pan of water, stir occasionally until it is melted. Don’t burn it.
  • Whisk the living hell out of the cream… Had a bad day at work? the cream is the person who annoyed you. You want it to look like whipped cream.
  • Separate the white and yolks of your eggs. Keep both.
  • Whisk the eggs whites until you get soft peaks. For stiffer peaks, add a tiny bit of salt
  • Mix the yolks and sugar together (your wrists will probably hurt now, if you don’t have an electric whisk) Oh, and there’s quite a bit of washing up due to multiple bowls.
  • Fold everything together and refrigerate or freeze depending on how solid you’d like it. In the fridge it takes about two hours.
  • Garnish however you like.

 

Now, relax, and leave the washing up for someone else… You made dessert, after all…

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Spice Up Your Life

In 1997 The Spice Girls had a hit with the song “Spice Up Your Life”, and whilst I’m not suggesting you don a PVC Union Flag dress to create this soup, I think it’s a motto everyone should live by.

There’s no denying it’s cold, dark, and gloomy at the moment, so here is a little winter warmer I trialled last week:

Curried Parsnip Soup.

IMG_3666.JPGIngredients:

  • Four/five parsnips
  • 1 red onion (or 3 tablespoons of onion granules)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock  (can use store bought in liquid or cube form, but I used some I had made earlier)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder/paste of your choice
  • a chopped up red chilli
  • 4 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 1 clove garlic
  • seasoning to taste

 

Method

  1. Fry the onion, garlic and chilli together until the onion has softened and is golden (2-5 minutes)
  2. Peel and chop the parsnips into small chunks
  3. Make up the stock
  4. Add all of the other ingredients into the pan (but not the creme fraiche)
  5. Cook on a medium heat for 30 minutes, or until the parsnip cubes are soft
  6. Blend like your life depends on it
  7. Strain if you want super-smooth soup, leave if not
  8. Swirl in the creme fraiche, or any other cream-like product, into a pretty design of your choice.

I like this soup with crusty sourdough bread, but that’s totally up to you! It’s easy to tone up or down the spice by adding or removing the chilli.

Operation Cotton, what does it really mean for the Criminal Bar?

Legal Aid cuts protest, photo courtesy of the BBC

DISCLAIMER: This is essentially old news now, though the principle that Legal Aid should not be cut and is a highly important feature of our justice system remains. I wrote this for More Law earlier in the year, so I am posting it here to my personal blog.

Case: R v Scott Crawley and Others (unreported).

The legal aid row has been making headlines recently, with barristers and solicitors protesting in the streets of London, and at courts all over the country. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition had proposed cuts an incredible £220 million pound cut to the £2.2 billion pound legal aid budget; further restricting both who and what type of cases are eligible for legal aid (legal aid has almost ceased to exist in family proceedings). This has created a justice gap.

The Facts

Operation Cotton was an investigation into an alleged fraud. Due to its size and complexity the Legal Aid Authority designated the subsequent trial as a Very High Costs Case (VHCC). Due to a 30% cut in fees paid to barristers who conduct such cases, which has resulted in a decline in those advocates willing to undertake such work, the solicitors defending the accused were unable to find suitably qualified barristers to conduct the case. The Ministry of Justice, through its creation of the Public Defender Service (PDS), had attempted to prevent such an occurrence. The idea was that the PDS could field advocates to undertake such cases. But hardly any barristers joined. As a consequence of these cuts and the inability of the PDS to provide enough advocates of the requisite standard it became clear that the instant case was not going to be trial ready and would have to be adjourned.

The defendants argued that due to the impasse reached over the question of barrister’s fees and the lack of advocates recruited by the PDS the case should be stayed as an abuse of process rather than adjourned. The defendants were represented (for the purpose of this argument) by Alexander Cameron QC (the Prime Minister’s older brother). His Honour Judge Leonard QC granted a stay following Mr Cameron QC’s submission that “it would be unfair to try the defendants if they wished to be represented, and, through no fault of their own, they were not”.

HHJ Leonard QC also noted that the pool of PDS advocates, who it was suggested by some could handle the case, were grossly inadequate and to let them take the case would be manifestly unfair. He said: “I am compelled to conclude that, to allow the State an adjournment to put right its failure to provide the necessary resources to permit a fair trial to take place now amounts to a violation of the process of this court… Even if I am wrong about that, I further find that there is no realistic prospect that sufficient advocates would be available for this case to be tried in January 2015, from any of the sources available to the defence, including the PDS. Whatever reason is put forward by the party applying, the court does not ordinarily grant adjournments on a speculative basis.”

The Court of Appeal

The Financial Conduct Authority appealed His Honour Judge Leonard QC’s ruling to the Court of Appeal. Following submissions the stay was lifted. The judgment handed down on the 21st of May by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division Sir Brian Leveson (sitting with Treacy and Davis LJJ) stated that the time for a stay of proceedings had not yet come. Advocates employed by the Public Defender Service were indeed available, and (in a reactionary measure during the appeal) the Ministry of Justice was actively trying to recruit more PDS adovactes.

The judgment also pointed out that Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling “undeniably” was responsible to sort out the defendant’s representation of the defendants. Sir Brian Leveson, summing up, said “on our analysis, there was a sufficient prospect of a sufficient number of PDS advocates who were then available who would enable a trial to proceed in January 2015. That pool included a sufficient number of advocates of the rank of QC”.

The Political and Legal Significance

This case has shifted responsibility directly to the Ministry of Justice to get their house in order. Even when this case does go to trial, the wider problems within the justice system will remain unsolved. There is a very real and apparent threat to the criminal bar, and to those who appear before the courts.

A long term deal needs to be made between barristers and the government. As Leveson LJ pointed out in his judgment, “it is of fundamental importance that the Ministry of Justice, led by the Lord Chancellor, and the professions continue to try to resolve the impasse that presently stands in the way of the delivery of justice in the most complex cases… The maintenance of a criminal justice system of which we can be proud depends on a sensible resolution.”

The proposed £220 million pound legal aid cuts, and the 30% fee reduction for barristers in VHCCs is something that desperately needs to be solved, not only in the interests of justice, but also to encourage talented young advocates to the Criminal Bar. Unless the Chancellor wants more complex cases such as this to be held up, progress will have to be made, or the most complex cases could go unrepresented, or represented by underqualified advocates.

Graduation Sponge

I call this recipe ‘Graduation Sponge’ for no reason other than it is the cake I made for my housemates and myself to celebrate with upon our graduation. I can confirm it goes well with champagne, that way.

It’s light and summery- essentially a classic Victoria Sponge with a couple of extras to taste. It’s so simple that even a largely bumbling baker such as myself could do it, and is perfect for a summer pudding or the much-needed sugar fix during an afternoon lull in the office.

It is rustic and wholesome, certainly not a piece of fine patisserie, but a nice accompaniment to the dessert table nonetheless.

Perhaps went a bit mad with the filling!

Perhaps went a bit mad with the filling!

 

Ingredients:

  • Four average-sized eggs
  • 300g butter (softened, but not melted)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2tbsp milk, or one if using evaporated milk/milk powder
  • vanilla (ground- Dr Oetker do a nice vanilla grinder- or use two drops of essence)
  • desiccated coconut- half a flat teaspoon
  • flaked almonds- one flat teaspoon

Filling:

  • 200g butter (softened)
  • 240g sifted icing sugar
  • vanilla (a drop of extract, or a scrape of a pod)
  • 400g strawberry jam (I will include the recipe to make it, or just use a shop-bought jar)
  • Extra icing sugar to sprinkle or make a fine icing with.

 

Jammin’

  • 500g of strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 400g or granulated, or jam, sugar
  • two tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • a sprig of thyme

I know adding balsamic vinegar makes this sound more like a salad dressing than a jam fit for a cake but trust me, it’s still very sweet! If you’ve never tried a strawberry lightly dipped in balsamic vinegar I highly recommend it!

  1. Use a thick-bottomed saucepan that can take some heat. The jam mixture gets ridiculously hot and you essentially have a pan of lava.  Put the saucepan over a medium heat and add the sugar and vinegar. Wait for the sugar to dissolve- you should see a slow rolling boil as it thickens like a caramel. Watch it carefully as it can turn into a burnt disaster quickly, but there shouldn’t be a need to stir it.
  2. Add the strawberries and thyme. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. This mixture should be left to cook for about 18 minutes, but could take more or less time. You’re after it becoming thick and glossy. Before it sets, remove the thyme sprig.

Allow the jam to cool, or strain it if you want a less chunky jam. Transfer to hot sterilised jars and seal. Kilner jars are ideal. The jam should keep for two weeks.

Sponge recipe

  1. Heat the oven to 180c fan, spray cake release spray on two sandwich tins (preferably 20cm ones), and beat all of the cake ingredients together.
  2. Divide the mixture in half, and add to each of the tins, making sure they’re even and smooth. Bake for around 20 minutes until golden and springy.
  3. Whilst the sponge is cooling, beat the butter and sifted icing sugar together until butter cream forms.
  4. Assemble the cake, when cool, by layering the butter cream and jam
  5. Ice if you like, decorate however,  and enjoy it with tea or champagne