Robot Has No Heart

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Mary Iron Chef - Chocolate Jaffa Boxes

Mary at Kenneth Falls
The picturesque Otways served an inspiring back drop to the inaugural Mary Iron Chef Challenge. Tension was high – I had teamed up with the renowned dessert specialist Amelia Ie, pitted against the young superstar couple Yujin and Katie (photo). Chairman Tim flamboyantly revealed the challenge ingredient – Chocolate! – and with a bang of the saucepan lid gong started the 90 minute Timer Of Impending Dessert.

Amelia and I made 3 dishes for this challenge. Our crowning achievement were the Chocolate Jaffa Boxes. As a judge gushed – ‘the rich velvet couverture of the enclosure frolics playfully with the airy mousse, while the mango reminds me of the playful delights of summer’. Accept that translation at your own risk.

Chocolate Jaffa Boxes

Makes 8


  • 500g dark chocolate, melted
  • 250g milk chocolate, melted
  • 1 packed orange jelly crystals
  • Generous splash of brandy
  • 500ml thickened cream
  • 1 Mango


  1. Spread dark chocolate thinly over 2 trays covered in foil, saving a small amount for later. Refrigerate until solid – this will become the boxes.
  2. Whisk cream until fluffy (use electric beaters)
  3. Mix together brandy and jelly crystals, then dissolve crystals in microwave (takes about a minute). Inhale fumes deeply.
  4. Add jelly mix to milk chocolate, then fold in half of the cream. You fold rather than stir because it helps keep the mixture aerated.
  5. This bit takes some geometric nouse – take the solid dark chocolate out of the fridge and with a sharp knife divide each tray into 40 portions – groups of 5 will be used to make each box. A diagram here would be nice but I don’t have the tools. The base portion can be bigger than the other 4, as long as they all come from the same strip so that they have the same edge length. Take your time with this step because you don’t want to shatter any of the pieces.
  6. Assemble each group of 5 portions into a box, using the left over melted chocolate to stick them together. Lookout, here comes some math: 40 × 2 / 5 = 8 boxes.
  7. Spoon chocolate mix in to each box, then add a dollop of cream to each
  8. Slice up the mango and arrange it NICELY on the top of each box
  9. Refrigerate until the chocolate mix sets (we didn’t do this because we only had 90 minutes, but the ones we left overnight were much tastier)

This challenge was a lot of fun. We got to wear funny hats. Special thanks to Amelia, without whose kitchen mastery I would have probably just served chocolate pieces in a bowl.

Iron Chef - Chocolate Jaffa Box

Apologies for the absence of tech posts lately, that’s just how life is at the moment. Hopefully have something geekier to write about soon.

Coconut Oats

A more appropriate name may be “Ghetto Dessert #1”. Once again, I neglected the supermarket and tried cooking with whatever was in the cupboards.

Coconut Oats

Serves 1-2


  • 1 bowl of oats
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • Caster sugar + maple Syrup OR brown sugar + cocoa


  1. Soak oats in coconut milk until it is absorbed (longer is better, I left mine for about 90 minutes)
  2. Mix in your choice of condiments

I experimented with a few different sweeteners – the four listed above individually and also honey. Honey didn’t work so well, but the 2 combinations above I think were winners. Adding fruit to the maple syrup variant would be particularly tasty, but we’re never home enough to have fruit on hand. I’m going to try turning the chocolate one into porridge by warming it in a saucepan. I have another bowl sitting in the fridge that I’m going to leave overnight a la bircher muesli to see just how much the oats can absorb.

And for bonus points it’s vegan – a rare property of my desserts.

UPDATE: Leaving overnight is highly recommended. A tasty non-vegan option is mixing in nutella.

UPDATE 2: Mix in castor sugar, dried apricot and cranberries, then serve with shredded coconut and flaked almonds. This is the best one.

Youth receives cookbook for Christmas, makes dessert

Recipe book

A coffee liqueur gateau, to be precise. A 3 star recipe (the highest!), I set aside the afternoon for preparation. It required 3 kinds of nut – hazel, brazil, and almond – all of which were readily available at the local nut shack. The idea was to roast for a while then ‘rub vigourously’ in a tea towel to remove the skins from the hazelnuts. Alas, with all the vigour I could muster I could only remove about half of them, so I surreptisiously threw them in the food processor beside the others and destroyed the evidence.

The cake required 7 egg whites, tips of which extracting include doing eggs one by one into a cup so if you screw one up all is not lost, and pouring the yoke between the two shell halves after cracking, allowing the white to flow out.

After cooking the cake needed to be cut into 3 layers. I probably didn’t allow it to cool enough before doing so, and using a serrated knife as the recipe suggested I struggled somewhat, ending up with two layers, one with a small hole in it. In the future, I will use dental floss for a finer cut.

Contrary to the suggested chocolate button covering (it looks a bit naff, don’t you think?), I used shaved chocolate for topping. You can use a grater and a peeler to get different textures, and it looks really nice. Added two fanned strawberries and a couple of blueberries for extra credit. Much more of a modern vogue feel, much trendier. Also, I did not serve on floral plates.

The result was a cake I would pay money for. Light, nutty, moist, very tasty served with cream. It was quite a lot of effort though, and requiring of implements only available at my parents’ house, so I won’t be making this too often. I did take a photo but it got deleted in a cruel act of fate. Here’s the example picture from the cookbook. Mine looked much more awesome.

Top kudos to Mum and my sister. I will never be able to cook half as well as them. Every suggestion in this post came from them.

Dulce de leche

In Guys and Dolls when Sky takes Sarah to Cuba, he orders a “Dulce de leche”. I got pretty excited when I saw this in my recipe book.

Dulce de leche

Makes 4-6


  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 cinammon stick


  1. Throw everything into a saucepan, bring to the boil then cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring constantly
  2. Remove cinammon stick, then serve warm

This is supposed to thicken up and go more like caramel, but mine patently didn’t. The reference picture had an almond sitting on top of it – my almond sunk :( I’ll have to check out other recipes to find out why this is so.

It was still very tasty. It wasn’t quite what Sky would have liked, containing no “preservative” (rum), but it seemed to go down well with the company I had around. I put some icecream with mine right near the end, an addition I can highly recommend. You can apparently also drink this cold – I suspect that would work better if it was a bit thicker.

Peanut Butter Balls

These things rock. I make them for all party occasions. This year batches were given as Christmas gifts. Everybody else loves them also. Full credit for this recipe goes to a lovely woman named Alex, a friend’s mum who always caters awesome parties. First, the original recipe, my notes after.

Alex’s Peanut Butter Balls

Makes 100


  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 50g butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing-sugar
  • 2 cups Coco Pops
  • 375g Milk Choc Melts, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil


  1. Beat peanut butter, butter and icing sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Stir in Coco Pops and mix well
  2. Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls and place on baking paper-lined trays. Refrigerate until firm.
  3. Combine Choc Melts and oil in a medium bowl. Using two forks, dip one ball at a time into chocolate mixture until coated; drain away excess chocolate. Return balls to trays; Refrigerate until set.

First of all, I just can’t get 100 out of this recipe. Record is 56. I think my teaspoon is too big. I don’t have an electric mixer, so I put the whole lot into a large bowl and just give it a good old fashioned mix. I have broken a wooden spoon doing this, so soften the butter a little more than normal to assist. In making the last batch I accidentally melted the butter, which made mixing really easy, but a little more difficult to spoon balls.

Do Choc Melts stay melted if you take them off heat? I have no idea – I melted them by putting them in a metal bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water, and then dipped the balls straight into that.

For bonus Christmas Cheer, I tried painting mini bits of holly on each with cake decoration material. I think it’s cool, but I don’t think anyone else will recognize them for what they are.

A pretty flower Another pretty flower