It's almost time! Are you excited? Are your stockings hung and your presents wrapped? Will you remember to leave out a snack for Father Christmas tonight? When I was little we always left a mince pie and a drink, something strong to fortify him through the cold and the chimneys. There wasn't any annual consensus about what he'd like. Each year we were told to ask Daddy what he thought Father Christmas would want, and he would duly advise a port, sherry or whisky (or even, I seem to remember, a Bishop's Finger one year). Looking back, this whole "ask Daddy" thing seems a bit suspicious but we never queried it at the time - I suppose that we just agreed that he was best placed to advise, as a fellow white-bearded man. Anyway, whatever he suggested always seemed to go down pretty well with Santa, who left nothing but a drained glass and a few crumbs on Christmas morning. That is scientific PROOF that he really did come. But we never left a carrot out for Rudolph. Hard-hearted to animals, our household!
For the first time ever I'm spending Christmas with another family in another house, and their rituals are all different. They don't watch The Snowman - in fact, they never have. They eat Chinese on Christmas Eve. And they have duck spring rolls for a starter on Christmas Day. I'm shocked that they even eat a starter before their Christmas Lunch! It all seems very wrong to me.
As a guest I'm not allowed to cook, but I was asked to take a pudding to lunch today with my family and I gratefully and gleefully seized my legitimate excuse to get back in the kitchen. This tart was the result - rich and indulgent, a change from mincemeat or Christmas pudding but still Christmassy thanks to the spices. I selflessly taste-tested the crust and the filling while cooking (I know - such sacrifices) and they were both cracking, so my hopes were high. As was the calorie count. Oh well, we can't have everything.
The tart came out as a solid chocolate truffle surrounded by biscuit, rich and heavy and pretty damn good. The spices were there but not overwhelming, and I think the recipe is really versatile - you could easily add orange oil or zest, or change the flavour of biscuits, or even stir through some cherries. But in the meantime, this spiced, gingered chocolate means that the Christmas feasting has officially begun and I'm already feeling pretty full. Merry Christmas everyone!
Spiced Dark Chocolate and Ginger Tart
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 225g ginger biscuits
- 60g salted butter, melted
- 340g dark chocolate
- 230ml whipping cream
- 1 large egg and 2 large egg yolks
- 60g of sugar (she doesn't specify, I used golden caster for a bit of a caramel flavour)
- 1 tablespoon of plain flour
- 1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (I just did quite a few grinds of the peppermill)
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 165C and fish out a 9inch tart pan with removable bottom (snigger).
Start by blitzing the chocolate in the food processor until finely chopped, then pour it out into a big saucepan and set aside while you make the crust. If you prefer you can chop the chocolate by hand, but this is much quicker and a few chocolate crumbs in the crust won't hurt anyone.
Whiz the ginger biscuits in the food processor until they're reduced to fine crumbs, then add the melted butter and blitz again until well combined. Pour this out into the tart pan and press it down firmly on the bottom and around the sides. Place the tin on a baking sheet with a rim just in case it leaks or oozes.
Add the cream to the chocolate and put the saucepan over a low heat, whisking together until the chocolate is melted and it's all nice and smooth. Take it off the heat and set aside to cool down a bit.
In a big bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, sugar, flour, pepper, salt and cinnamon until well combined. Slowly and gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture until smooth and glossy. Then pour it into the crust and bake the tart for about half an hour, or until the filling is puffing slightly at the edges and the centre is just set. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes then have a go at removing the edges of the tin.
This is rich so serve in small slices at room temperature with softly whipped cream - sweetened, vanilla-ed or plain as you fancy.