Marvellous Moreish Muffins

I haven’t actually been in the kitchen very much of late as my lovely hubby has been cooking up a succession of delicious curries and Thai dishes for us, I’m hoping he’ll guest spot here one day with his fabulous spicy pork salad but up till now he can’t be persuaded.

That said I have been allowed in to make the odd dessert or two and I have found one of the simplest and most reliable muffin recipe I’ve ever used. And this is what I’m going to share today. This is a quick bake too- no more than 30 minutes start to finish.

This is so simple and delicious that it’s great for novice bakers, kids and old hands alike, and the variety of flavours are as limitless as your imagination!

I will start by giving the plain muffin mix recipe and method then go through a few variations after. These ingredients are enough for 6 large muffins. If you happen to have run out of muffin cases then it works just as well in cupcake cases and you will get 10 ( guess how I found that out!)

Marvellous Moreish Muffins.

In a Bowl

150g Plain Flour
1tsp baking powder

In a large Jug

1 egg
60g sugar
2tbsp oil
100ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
ingredients (Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)
Mix the egg,milk, oil and sugar together in the jug.

Pour the egg mixture into the bowl gradually and mix until combined *
IMG_3232
Spoon mixture into cake cases and put the tray in the oven at 160C for 20 until set and cracked at the top if not quite set put back in for a further 5-10 mins
So the plain muffins are delicious, but they are well, plain so let’s have some fun!

*Just before you spoon the mixture into the cups is a great time to start being creative. You can add just about anything here, chunks of fruit, chocolate, nuts or combinations of all 3 of those things. I have found that around 100g of ‘extras’ is about right, but if you are adding things like oats or desiccated coconut you may need a tiny bit more milk as they will absorb some of the moisture in your mix.
IMG_3233
(Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)

Here are a few flavours I’ve already tried;
Oatmeal honey and raisin
Apple and cinnamon
Chocolate chunk
Chocolate cranberry and coconut.
Marvellous Moreish Muffins
I’m quite sure I’ll be making more, I’m already tempted for a chocolate and orange, but do let me know what flavours are your favourite.

A Bientôt

Speedy Spicy Tomato Carrot & Apple Soup

There’s nothing nicer on a drizzly damp night than some spicy home made soup, and it just so happens that’s exactly what we had for tea tonight.

There’s also nothing nicer than something that only takes 20 minutes to prepare and cook.

So here is a very quick recipe for a very quick meal.

Tomato and Apple Spicy Soup

1 Onion
2 tsp Tomato Puree
200g ( half a tin ) Chopped Tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 Potato
4 Carrots
1 Apple
1l Vegetable Stock
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Roughly chop the onion and put in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, tomato puree and sugar. Stir well until the onions are coated in the puree then add the chopped tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
cook tomatoes and onion
Roughly chop the carrots, potato and apple and add to the pot, stir well for a couple of minutes and add the vegetable stock and cayenne pepper.

roughly chop veg
Boil for 15 minutes until the veg are tender then blend. Serve up with a splash of cream or a dollop of creme fraiche and some warm crusty bread.
serve with creme fraiche or cream
Simple, quick and delicious.

A Bientot.

Cinnamince PIes

Cinnamince Pie

Mmmmmm Mince Pies

I’m just putting it out there; I LOVE mince pies.

One of the best things for me about the build up to Christmas is the smell of mincemeat gently bubbling inside a crispy pastry shell. Oh just thinking about it makes me want to sing carols and stuff my face with pies – not at the same time obviously, that would be gross.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about,  the humble mince pie is a singularly British concoction that starts to appear around mid-November, hangs around for the festive season then disappears for the rest of the year. It is a small sweet pastry shell filled,  not with minced-meat, but with mincemeat. I hope that’s cleared that up.

I’ve been making my own mincemeat filling for a few years now, as it tastes so much better than shop bought,  and of course you can monkey around with it till it tastes just how you like it .Home-made mincemeat is VERY easy to make, but rather time consuming so its best to prepare it reasonably well in advance. The joy of this is that when it comes to actually making the pies, it takes a matter of seconds to fill the pastry cases.

You also get to monkey around with the pastry shell. Some people favour puff pastry, but my preference is definitely shortcrust and of all the different types I’ve tried out, my absolute favourite for mince pies is sweet cinnamon pastry.

This is my favourite mince pie combination to date, I hope you enjoy.

Mincemeat
(can be made up to 3 months in advance… definitely jar it and  leave it overnight before baking. This recipe makes around 1kg.)

200g Apples ( peeled cored and finely diced)
100g shredded suet
175g raisins

100g sultanas

100g currants

175g Brown sugar

1 Orange ( rind and Juice)

1 Lemon ( rind and juice)

2 tsp mixed spice

½tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp Armagnac

4tsp Amaretto

add juice to fruit and nutsSimply put all of the ingredients, except the brandy and amaretto, into a large bowl, mix well and leave covered with a cloth for at least 12 hours.

place in an ovenproof dish and bakeStir the mixture well and place in a large dish and bake at 120 degrees for 2- 2&1/2 hours ( dont let it get too dry).

Take it out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

jar and top with greasproof paperOnce cooled stir in the brandy and amaretto and spoon into sterilised jars. Top with greaseproof paper and seal jars.

Cinnamon pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Cinnamon sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and dust finished pies. .
(* if you don’t have any cinnamon sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1/4tsp ground cinnamon to regular granulated sugar)

ingredientsCut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry blender gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand.

blend pasrtyAdd the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg as you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour. (reserve the remaining egg to brush the pastry).

gradually add egg

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.

ball pasrty dough, then refrigerateWhen your Pastry is cold and a little stiff, sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar and roll out to desired thickness ( I like about 1/4cm). Cut a large circle and a star for each pie.

roll and cut pastryGrease and flour your baking tin ( I prefer to use a deep tin as this tends to minimise spillage from over boiling in the oven), lightly place your pastry circle into the tin then spoonabout 1&1/2 to 2 tsp of mincemeat into each case. Gently place your star on top and brush with beaten egg.

fill and top piescook  in a 200 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brow. Remove to a wire tray and allow to cool for 5 to 10  minutes.

Cinnamince PiesWhen still warm, dust with icing sugar and eat immediately. You’ve waited long enough 🙂

You can serve with cream or crémé fraîche and i can assure you that they are just as tasty cold ( if they make it that far)

A Bientôt.

Oatmeal Apple Biscakes

Well I have to start this post with an apology. I’m sorry there has been such a gap between posts, we have suspended all but essential kitchen activity over the last week or so due to the appearance of a small battalion of hungry mice. The necessary upheaval has take quite a toll on my baking efforts ( that combined with a weekend trip to Barcelona to celebrate my best friends birthday has left little time to bake and post). The ‘squeaky situation’ is ongoing, but we are hopeful that our efforts will soon reap the required results.

So finally, it’s time for the recipe……

Whenever I make porridge I always make too much. With the best of intentions I pot up the remainder and pop it in the fridge intending to use it the very next day. I never do.

That said, this time I actually did.

I took a fancy for some thing biscuitty to go with my afternoon coffee, but there was nothing in the cupboard that fitted the bill so it was on with the apron.

Honey, Apple and Oatmeal Biscakes
(because they are not exactly biscuits and not exactly cakes)

250g of flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g of Butter
125g of Sugar
1 Egg ( beaten )
100g pre cooked Porridge
1 tbsp Clear Honey
1 Apple.
50g of Oats ( to roll biscuit dough in )
Mix together flour and baking powder then rub in the butter. ( It’s far easier and quicker to do this in a food processor ).

Stir in the sugar then add the beaten egg and mix well.

It’s now time to add your cold porridge to the mixture.

Now the debate rages ( in certain households of my acquaintance ) as to the perfect consistency for porridge and this is not a debate which I intend to enter into here. But what I will say is this ; Thick but pourable. If your your porridge is too wet you will need to add more dried oatmeal or your biscuit dough will be too runny, if it’s too dry your dough will not not be elastic enough so you will need to add a little milk.

Mix apples with the dough

Put a tablespoon of clear honey in a small bowl. Core, peel and finely dice your apple and add to the honey. Stir well to coat the apple pieces. Once this is done add the honey and apple to the dough and mix well.

Place the dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

This is a very sticky dough so be prepared to get your hands dirty.

sprinkle with sugar

Roll dough into balls about the size of a cherry tomato then roll in dried oats. Place on baking tray and squish down with your hand to flatten them. Sprinkle the tops with white sugar.

Bake in a 170 degree oven for 12- 15 minutes until golden brown on the top. Leave them on the tray for 5 minutes then move to a cooling rack until you can resist no more. 🙂

cool then eat!

A Bientôt

Let’s get ready to Crumble*

*sorry I couldn’t resist

Yes I know, more apples. I promise it will be the last one for a while ( not that I’ve finished using them all, I just don’t want you to get bored), but this is a really yummy one, so hopefully you will forgive me.

When I put together the words autumn and apples what immediately comes to my mind is a lovely crumble, preferably with blackberries too. As it was such a beautiful day I took an executive decision to take the family on a bramble-ramble and we had a lovely walk and gathered just enough ( by the pick 2 eat 1 method) to go into a pud.

Toffee Apple Bramble Crumble

Filling;
300g of peeled, cores and diced apples
100g of sugar
200g blackberries
50ml of maple syrup

Put your sugar into a large mixing bowl and chop your apples into it. If you make sure your apple pieces are coated in sugar this will stop them going too brown, and also give them a nice crunch when cooked. Leave them in the bowl while you are making the crumble topping.

Sugared apples and maple syrup

Topping;
200g flour
1tsp of baking powder
75g sugar
100g of porridge oats
25g brown sugar.

 

 

Rub together butter, flour and baking powder till a breadcrumb consistency is reached, then stir in the sugar. Add to this your porridge oats and mix well. If you like a chunkier crumble use large oats, if you prefer a smoother topping then use small oats, or give them a whizz in the food processor before mixing.

Stir in a few blackberries

When you are ready to build your crumble, stir 50ml of maple syrup into the apples. Add your blackberries and mix gently so as not to break up the fruit. As soon as the fruit mix is ready, place it into a large oven proof dish till it’s around halfway full.

 

 

Tip 2/3 of the crumble mix directly on top of the fruit and press down gently. Pour the rest loosely on top and sprinkle with brown sugar.
Put into the oven ( pre-heated to 180 ) and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Sprinkle with brown sugar

 

Remove from the oven and allow to stand for around 5-10 minutes. Just enough time to whip up some custard 🙂

 

I know there is an ongoing debate about custard or cream with crumble, but for me there is nothing quite so perfect as lashings of custard on a hot crumble. That said, if you happen to be having a cold crumble midnight feast then cream is just the thing*.

A Bientôt

Serve with lashings of custard

*Not that I did of course. I’m just imagining it would be perfect. Honest.

Apples apples and more apples.

As I mentioned in the last post we haven’t had much luck with the garden this year. Last year our old apple tree yielded around 150 to 200 kg of fruit, much more than we could ever use, but this year we had a total of 6. Not 6 kilos, 6 apples, barely enough for a crumble. So when my friend asked me if I could use ‘a few’ from her garden I was understandably keen. Her definition of ‘a few’ equals slightly more than mine.

APPLES!

So 3 crates of apples and no freezer…. I managed to offload ‘a few’ to my neighbours within minutes of arriving home decreasing the crate count to 2, but that’s still quite a lot of apples to be getting on with. So let’s  do just that shall we?

A quick forage in the cupboards and everything was gathered and ready for a spot of  jamming.

Apple pie jam

300g sultanas
100 ml pumpkin jelly*
100 ml water

Gently heat the water and and jelly until the jelly has dissolved then take off the heat and add the sultanas. Soak the sultanas in the liquid while you are peeling the apples to plump them up nicely. *If you don’t happen to have any pumpkin jelly in your fridge then apricot jelly or jam is perfectly sufficient.

Now pull up a chair, put something interesting on the telly, get yourself a cuppa and settle down for the decidedly boring task of peeling, coring and dicing apples…

2 kg of peeled and diced apples
200g finely chopped crystallised ginger**
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 kg sugar.

** if you do not have crystallised ginger then use finely chopped ginger root and add 100g of sugar to the overall amount.

Usually for jam you would use a kilo of sugar for each kilo of fruit, but because of the extra sugar in the crystallised Ginger and the Pumpkin Jelly used to soak the sultanas, I reduced the amount to 1 kg.
Once the apples are ready, add them to the pan with the sultanas, ginger, cinnamon and sugar and heat gently, stirring until the mixture begins to boil. Simmer the mixture for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

just keep stirring
After 30 minutes of simmering the apple pieces should be soft and spongy and full of flavour, and now is the time to turn up the heat. Boil furiously for 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid is sticky and thick. Take off the heat and pot up into sterilised jars. Screw the lids on tightly and allow to cool for several hours. These quantities will make around 5 standard sized pots of jam, or 6 or 7 pots if you have a collection of higgledy piggledy jars like I do.

higgledy piggledy jars
This is a chunky thick jam with a strong flavour and is fantastic dolloped onto warm scones or freshly buttered toast, it also makes a delicious filling for jam tarts.

Well that’s 1/2 a crate of apples gone, now what to do with the rest?

A Bientôt.