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When it rains it pours! I’ve just got so busy at work that I didnt get around to writing at all last week. I barely had time to cook and eat anything, never mind contemplate pausing long enough to take a picture and say something intelligent about my food. So as penance for my radio silence I leave you with two recipes this week.

Both have a common theme of cheese, which goes against my current pre-wedding theme of healthy eating (which come to think of it isn’t much of a theme since I spend as much time breaking it as sticking to it), but when the going gets tough…the tough sometimes have to indulge in a little cheese…

Cheese Muffins 3 ways

I have made cheese muffins on this blog before but I just got a new book called Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, which I was prompted to buy after reading this post by Chocswirl and I was dying to put some of the lessons on basic baking ratios  into practice (looking back at the recipe I used before I now know why these turned out better – butter!)… plus we needed something for lunch on Saturday.

This, combined with an inability to choose between making several different flavour combinations that Dawn and I had found in other recipes, resulted in this recipe for 6 of each. If you want to try the Ruhlman ratio out yourself then use this recipe for flavour inspiration only and go with the ratio for a basic muffin batter – 2 flour : 2 liquid : 1 egg : 1 fat – to make whatever quantity you need (the ratio is by weight not volume).

Basic batter (makes 18 muffins)

  • 375g plain flour
  • 375g milk
  • 187g melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Pizza Muffins

  • small handful of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil

Parmesan and Herb muffins

  • 50g grated parmesan (we actually made these with cheddar as we didnt have any parmesan so you can use either)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • few sprigs chopped thyme
  • 1 sprig finely chopped rosemary

Feta and Caramelised Onion Muffins

  • 50g crumbled feta
  • half an onion, finely chopped and fried until golden and soft
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped and fried with the onion
  • 1/2 sprig finely chopped rosemary

Prepare all the flavourings in 3 separate bowls and preheat the oven to 180°C. Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the cooled melted butter with the milk and eggs and beat until combined. The butter will start to solidify if the milk is too cold but it doesn’t effect the end result so don’t worry. Divide the batter into 3 equal portions and the flavourings to each one. Spoon into silicone cups or a lightly greased muffin tray and bake for 25min until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack and cool slightly before serving (yummy with a lathering of garlic and herb cream cheese!).

Grilled Pork Loins with Caramelised Red Onion, Apple and Smoked Applewood Cheese

I owe Dawn for this recipe too. At some point during the muffin making proceedings she mentioned making pork loins topped with apple and cheese  like this and I immediately started thinking about how good that would be, especially made with Smoked Applewood cheese.  So by last night I was thinking about nothing else and had to make it today to get it out of my system. The sweet apple is perfectly balanced with the smoky cheese and caramelised onion, just served with a simple mash. I don’t know why I didn’t think to try this before.  Thanks D!

  • 2 pork loin steaks
  • 1 eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 50g grated Smoked Applewood Cheese
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large potatoes, boiled and mashed, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add the garlic and grated apple and fry a few minutes more until the mixture is softened and caramelised (don’t fry too long or the apples will get mushy).

Take off the heat, season with the thyme, salt and pepper and set aside. Heat another splash of oil over a high heat and fry the pork loins briefly on each side to sear the outsides. Place them on a baking sheet and top with the apple and onion mixture. Add the grated cheese and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the steaks are cooked through and the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Serve on a portion of mash (drizzle over the juices from the baking tray or gravy as optional).

Hope that makes up for last week’s absence and gives you something to perk up your week. Happing cooking! ♥

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First of all I should report back on what happened to the rest of my lamb. Remember this guy? What was left of him after I had made a roast and a lamb and white bean stew (see my last post) went into my freezer while I decided what would become of him. Thanks to my Aunt Judy’s suggestion he went from…

…A lamb, lentil and mint soup (soup crossed with a stew really) and I think it was a fine end to his existence. I’m not even going to post a proper recipe for the stew as it really was a “bung it” but here’s a rough guide if you need some idea of where to start.

I started with chopped pancetta in a large saucepan, fried until crisp and then added chopped celery, onion, potato and  carrots (whatever veg you like or have left over). Gently fry the veg until soft and then add a teaspoon or two of dried mint, a few sprigs of rosemary and/or other herbs and your lamb bones and meat. Make sure you cut your lamb leg in half at the joint so that it fits into your pan properly! Top up with water to cover the lamb, bring to the boil and simmer for at least two hours until the lamb is falling off the bone and has flavoured the water to become stock (if you are making with just lamb meat you could also use a lamb stock cube but I recommend the real McCoy). Fish out the bones and pick off any bits of meat (you could actually leave them in but this just makes it easier to serve). Finally add two tins of cooked green or brown lentils, a glug of soy sauce (my aunt’s tip), a glug of Worcestershire sauce and a splash of red wine vinegar and simmer for another 20 mins or so before serving. Easy!

Now onto sweet things.

I am trying to restrain myself at the moment and make healthy meals during the week but the weekend is my excuse for two things. Puddings and special breakfasts. This weekend I made both. The breakfast was apple spice muffins from a recipe  in this book. The recipe was given to me by a friend at work who makes amazing muffins and he recommends the book which I now do too. I was very faithful to the recipe for once but I did use currants instead of raisins (purely because they were in my cupboard), left out the walnuts, added extra spices and used demerera sugar and cinnamon to top them because it gives more crunch.  The apple makes them lovely and moist and they feel just healthy enough to stop you feeling guilty whilst still being a pleasure to eat.

Apple Spice Muffins

Adapted from “Muffins: Fast and Fantastic” by Susan Reimer. Makes 10-12.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 apple peeled, cored and grated
  • 85g melted butter
  • 80g raisins (or currants soaked in boiling water and then drained)
  • 2 tbsp demerera sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon to dust

Line a muffin tray with papers and preheat oven to 190°C. In a large bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix in castor sugar.

In a separate bowl combine the egg, milk, grated apple and melted butter and then add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined and fold in raisins/currants. Spoon into the muffin papers and dust with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake in the oven for 20-25 min until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Delicious warm from the oven with a mug of tea.

Breakfast over, my sights turned to pudding… chocolate and thyme mousse. I know this sounds odd but I’ve seen it somewhere before and I was dying to try it. Weirdly it works. The thyme somehow enhances the chocolate flavour, giving it a fresh accent that cuts through the richness of the mousse. I made the mistake of making it at first without infusing the thyme in anything so it didn’t impart enough flavour to the mousse unless you got a mouthful with a little thyme leaf in it, which was delicious. To get the full fresh hit of thyme I have adjusted the recipe to infuse it in a little milk before cooling and adding this to the cream (I didn’t try to infuse it in the cream itself as I needed to whip it and boiling the cream can make it split and refuse to play ball). Adding a few fresh thyme leaves to the mousse as well is optional but as long as you don’t go mad you wont feel like a cow with a mouthful of meadow I promise.

Chocolate and Thyme Mousse

Serves 4.

  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) chopped
  • 60ml full fat milk
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1 large egg

Put the milk and thyme in a small pan and heat gently until almost boiled. Take off the heat and leave to infuse as it cools. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally.

Add the sugar and vanilla to the cream and whip to soft peaks. Separate the egg and add the yolk to the whipped cream and whip the white in a separate bowl until stiff. Add the cooled infused milk to the cream and egg mixture and mix through (add extra thyme leaves removed from the stem as optional). Fold the melted chocolate into the cream and then gently fold in the egg whites. Place in the fridge or freezer to set, depending on how fast you need to serve it. Garnish with a sprig of thyme to serve.

Before I go there’s one last bit of news to share. I have created a facebook page for my blog… partly to stop bombarding my friends and family with updates every time I write something but also so that I have another way of communicating when I have something shorter and more immediate to say about what I’m cooking or eating. I’d love it if everyone used the page too to post their own food related thoughts and photos too so feel free to pop past and leave a message or add a picture as the fancy takes you…

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Having survived several nights of gale force wind and rain with the roof of our house just managing to stay intact, we woke up yesterday to a beautiful sunny morning. Baltic outside, but beautiful. I managed to coax fiancé out of his Sunday bed with the smell of winter spice muffins for breakfast and then bribed him into a walk up the hills near our house with the promise of warm chourico bread for lunch on completion of said walk.

The spice muffins are a new recipe but the chourico bread was the result of inspiration from two sources, old and new. Chourico is popular in SA, presumably because of our Portuguese influence and my parents used to make a delicious chourico loaf which I have tried to copy once before but not with any success. This is largely due to my bread making skills (or lack thereof)  which I’m trying to improve on. So when I joined the Foodie Blogroll last week (not exactly an award or difficult to achieve but I was quite proud that my blog was accepted even although they probably accept everyone besides axe murders and pornographers) and saw the Chourico contest, including a bread recipe,  I decided it was time to try it again.

The idea behind this recipe is to let the dough rise once, knock it back and roll it out, sprinkle with chopped chourico and then roll it up so the final loaf is dotted with little spicy morsels that ooze into the bread. It’s still not as good as my parent’s one which I’ll have to get the recipe for, but definitely edible (according to Ross anyway, but then he was dying of starvation by that point) and I thought pretty good straight out of the oven smothered in butter, with or without a few slices of cheese.

For the bread recipe, click here. I had to use a mix of wholewheat and plain flour because I realised at the last minute I didn’t have any bread flour but I would probably go with white normally unless you specifically want a brown loaf. I also made into two loaves instead of four and froze one to stop us eating it all in one sitting.

If you want to try my trick for getting your other half out of bed on a Sunday with the smell of Christmas wafting through the house, my winter spice muffin recipe follows. I used Nigella Lawson’s granola muffin recipe from her Feast book as a base and adapted to create what I hope is a pretty good cinnamon muffin with endless possibilities for further Christmasification, some of which I’ve suggested below. If you come up with even better ideas please let me know!

Winter Spice Muffins

Unfortunately these don’t keep very well so I recommend eating as many as possible when they come out of the oven and then freezing the rest. Just take them out and pop in the microwave when you need one. Makes 12.

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250ml buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground all spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 200g jumbo rolled oats (I tried using granola but I don’t like the chewy lumps, up to you)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a muffin tin with muffin cases.

If you want to make your own cases like I did here, cut 5-6inch squares (depending on the size of your muffin tin) from baking parchment. Spray the tin with cooking oil to help them stay in place and push the papers into each hole so that the edges crease into the round shape.

Now combine the sifted flour, bicarb, spices and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the sugar, egg, buttermilk and oil and pour this into the dry ingredients. Fold to combine and then fold in the oats. Spoon into the muffin papers and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack while you make a cup of coffee,pile a few on a plate and apply to face!

Optional extras:

  • Add the grated zest of an orange to the batter (I’m definitely going to try this next time) and/or make an icing with icing sugar and a little orange juice and drizzle over each muffin when cool.
  • Add dried cranberries or cherries  or chopped nuts to the batter

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What a week.

My new kitchen is finally in working order (and I choose the words working order as opposed to finished because its still not actually finished… trials and tribulations of which I wont go into) but on top of the chaos the building work has caused in our little house, I’ve had an exam to write (at 4pm on a Friday afternoon after a 3 day intensive course which frankly is just cruel) and roof disasters to deal with (‘disaster’ may be exaggerating slightly but its been a bad week).

The net result of all this is that I havent had any time to sit down and work on my blog so this one is a bumper summary of the week’s cooking adventures with a couple of recipes I wanted to share.

First something old…

Last sunday I was in the mood to bake. I’ve been thinking about cheese muffins for a while because I used to have them all the time in South Africa but the Scots dont seem to have discovered the joy that is the savoury muffin. There are 3 versions from my past that particularly stick in my head – the ones at our school tuck shop which I used to eat every week for 5 years of my life; the little ones that my friend’s mom used to make for parties at her house and were particularly addictive (thanks Mrs Shepherd!) and the ones at Mugg & Bean coffee shop which always had stomach-grumble-inducing flavour combinations and were large enough to double as a lethal weapon if flung at someone’s head.

So, to satisfy my nostalgia and my Sunday food cravings I decided to make my own and thankfully the results turned out to be worth writing about. I mixed some chilli in with the cheese in this batch for a bit of kick but they can be made without or with any other spices or ingredients that compliment the cheese.  They are great on their own with a cup of tea or as a side with a bowl of soup and my favourite way to eat them is just cut in half , toasted and lathered in butter. Hopefully they will remind some of you of home. And hopefully they will introduce some of the rest of you to the tummy comforting effects of the cheese muffin.

♥♥♥

Something new…

Having made the muffins, there was still a biscuit shaped hole in my Sunday afternoon. I’ve never actually made biscuits and I wanted to try something new so I made these sugar biscuits from another blog I’ve discovered on my wanderings. I was going to make them into sandwiches with different fillings but they turned out to be really big (they spread quite a lot when they’re baking) so you wouldn’t ever get one in your mouth if they were stuck together. They were good on their own but not very exciting so I dipped the bottom of each biscuit in dark chocolate. The result is a chewy vanilla biscuit enveloped in a lovely velvety little chocolate sock, especially velvety when dunked in a cup of hot tea or coffee!

♥♥♥

Another highlight of my week was dinner on Wednesday night. We were back at Howies in the west end for a celebration with family and it was every bit as good as the first visit. I tried the duck liver pate with onion chutney this time as well as my favourites from before and it was delicious, very creamy and full of flavour.

The rest of the week is a bit of a blur and not as productive due to previously mentioned evil exam. I did make a new batch of pizza dough before things descended into chaos – I use a recipe from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros and it never fails (further praise for Tessa, her pizza dough recipe and my homemade tomato puree recipe to follow soon!).

I have to end this post by telling you about the pudding I had last night.  It was so rich it just about put us all to sleep but it was so worth the soporific effects for the heavenly experience of eating it and all the week’s stresses melted away in one mouthful. We were visiting friends and my friend Dawn, who is as mad about baking as I am, introduced me to these little chocolate sponge puddings by Nigella Lawson. These babies are seriously good, you HAVE to try them.

Just don’t eat them before driving or operating heavy machinery.

♥♥♥

This week’s recipes…

Cheese Muffins

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/4 sweet paprika
  • 2 cups grated mature cheddar cheese (the stronger the better)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • small handful of parsley, chopped
  • Optional – 1/2 a red chilli or a few sweet piquante′ peppers (e.g. Peppadew ones you can buy in a jar), finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade and grease a muffin tin. If you use muffin papers it’s still worth greasing them as the muffins tend to stick to the paper if you try and eat them when they’re still hot. Otherwise leave them to cool completely and they shouldn’t stick but who has that much self control?

Sift the flour twice, holding the sieve as high as you can to air the flour as much as possible. Then add the baking powder, salt, sugar and paprika and mix gently. Add the grated cheese and chillies or any other ingredients you’ve chosen.

In a separate bowl mix together the egg and milk and then fold into the flour mixture, being careful not to over mix. Pour the batter into the muffin tray so each one is 3/4 full and sprinkle with grated cheese. Place in the oven for 12 minutes or until the muffins bounce back when you touch them. Let them cool slightly on a rack before serving. They keep for about 2 days in an air tight container if you have enough restraint to make them last that long.

Sugar biscuits with chocolate socks

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run.

Makes about three dozen large biscuits but I recommend making them smaller which would also produce more.

  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 100g dark chocolate for dipping

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Combine the sugars together and then add the vegetable oil, vanilla extract, salt, eggs and bicarb. Whisk well to combine. Add the flour and stir. The dough will be semi-dry. Roll out little balls of dough on a lined baking sheet. Press each dough ball with a fork to flatten and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for eight minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a rack to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Dip the bottom of each biscuit into the chocolate and smooth with a spatula. Leave on a tray to set and then store in an airtight container.

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