These probably aren’t going to be the prettiest muffins you will see in the run up to Christmas. If you want pretty – and I’m sure extremely tasty – festive baking, have a look at the world of wonder and fantasy that is Pinterest. I’m crushing on this page in particular. I practically weep at the skill and creativity contained within those rolling pixels of perfection. Maybe I have even wailed and gnashed my teeth over your dainty treats. To restore sanity and a sense of perspective I have recently adopted a habit of going over to Damn You Autocorrect. I find it is just the thing to cheer myself up after going on my increasingly regular Pinterest benders. True. Continue reading
I realise that some of you may be reclining on the sofa digesting a rather large meal. Feet up, hand on distended belly, telly at full volume (to drown out the clattering of a million dishes being cleaned in the kitchen). You may be kicking back waiting for a second wind; after all, Auntie Jean’s famous sweet potato meringue pie isn’t going to eat itself. *must find a clean plate* Continue reading
Obviously as you are reading this blog on some kind of device through the modern voodoo that is the Internet, you don’t need to be convinced of the value of New Media. Blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook (still a hold out on the latter), Reddit, Google+ etc are the way many of us get current, useable information. No more waiting for the 6 pm TV bulletins or morning newspapers to find out what is happening/has happened.
We also get to ‘meet’ some fantastically inspiring kindred spirits who, without the Internet, we would never know. Continue reading
For many of you labneh will need no introduction. Anyone keen on Middle Eastern food will have no doubt at least come across a mention of this delicious and creamy cheese in the food press, or even some cookery programmes. You may even have had a smear of it as part of a mezze in a Lebanese restaurant. But did you know that it is ridiculously easy to make? And make really well? Continue reading
Regular readers will know I am a bit of breakfast-head. If breakfast were a religion I would be proselytising on a street corner, shoving avocado-smeared toast in your hand as you rushed by, late and ratty for your train. In other words, a bit evangelical. Small e, mind.
Happily, I’ve noticed in my nutrition groups that when we discuss breakfast and its importance for blood sugar control (and consequently weight control), energy and basically running on all cylinders, I am preaching to the choir. A calm, unratty, insulin-controlled choir. Hooray! Big H. Continue reading
Cymbeline, Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 136-7. By William Shakespeare.
The three weeks of unalloyed golden heat have come to an abrupt end. And for some, not a moment too soon.
This was a most un-British of heatwaves: lasting, parching, predictable. We are used to our heatwaves coming in waves – crashing into the working week then rolling away by the week’s end, leaving only plant-shredding hailstones and blown over garden furniture. We are conditioned by years of experience to never expect a day of unbroken sunshine, never mind weeks of the stuff. And so when it happens, we are unsettled and disoriented. You see us bumbling about in our hastily-bought tank tops and shorts, fretting about whether or not to tuck a brolly in our bag (is it tempting fate not to? Will the heaven’s open and it be all our fault?). We smile a lot too. Or is that squinting at the sight of the light that burns? Continue reading
Milkshakes for breakfast. Not quite what you might expect from food to glow. Kale shakes, like my kale berry smoothie perhaps. But not a milkshake. And most certainly not one for breakfast.
I have previously had a rant about terrible breakfasts, but not a word did I write about milkshakes. Who in their right mind would have a milkshake for breakfast? All that sugar and saturated fat? Surely this is something only children might crave. Well… despite my predilection for savoury, kale-
infested packed breakfasts (my recipe index tells all…), the idea of a milkshake – a healthy one – on a hot summer’s day actually sounds kinda nice. So, if I think it sounds nice, 99% of the population probably thinks so too. And, this bad boy is adults only. Unless you like your children wired and tearing around the house like Superman. Continue reading
Some of you reading this may be packing too, Perhaps you are jetting off to some island to laze around and sip rum punch, or maybe you and your family will be threading your way through the queues in some exciting theme park. I however am packing to go to London. Not to shop (although I will definitely squeeze a bit of that in) or go to the theatre. No, I am down to attend my second Food Blogger Connect, and I am SO excited. Last year I was scared-excited. This year I am just excited-excited. Which is the same thing, but with less nervous sweating. Not a good mental image in a food blog, but I like to tell the truth.
Any of you who were kindly reading me last October may recall a rather long post reviewing my weekend at FBC. It was beyond my rather pedestrian imagination. And this year promises to be even better. To wit, we are getting to press the flesh with Mr American in Paris himself, the wonderful David Lebovitz. There is the chance of winning a 15 minute one-to-one chat with David about how to improve one’s blog. Which sounds terrifying but probably a game-changer for the lucky winner.
Another highlight will be seeing fellow FBC alumni Ren Behan and Karen Burns-Booth on the podium sharing a panel discussion with Sarah Cook of BBC Good Food magazine on how to get published in magazines (I will be taking furious notes: Why didn’t I do shorthand!). I adore these bloggers as people and as wonderfully good examples of how to run a compelling, must-read blog. And of course, there will be -ahem – serious and academically-rigourous attention paid to the art of eating. I have lost count of the number of folks and companies lined up to help us expand our waistlines. But I am especially looking forward to sampling from Ren’s pop-up Polish Kitchen. Her website is already making me want to book a second holiday to Krakow.
So, the muffins. Which I will sneak into my miniscule Easyjet handluggage, along with a little tub of my butternut squash and almond dip and some homemade pitta chips. Anything to avoid getting hungry enough to buy one of the airline’s extortionate ‘snack packs’ (full of cr*p and more cr*p). I just hope my little healthy snack pack doesn’t get confiscated!
By the time you read this I will have said goodbye to friends old and new and be on my way to meet Mr A for his birthday lunch. Another London food adventure awaits! Back up the stairs to add another pair of stretchy trousers to the bag…
Carrot and Coconut Muffins
This is a riff on an old recipe of mine, Carrot and Marmalade Cake.
This is an easy and delicious way of making a sweet treat healthy. Perfect for trips, picnics, brownbags and handbags. I make this recipe as muffins mostly, but it happens to make a fine ‘plain’ cake too. The decoration is all on the inside…
NB. Trade the coconut for plump raisins or, what the heck, put them both in.
50g desiccated coconut, plus extra for sprinkling on top
*If you don’t have self-raising flour, just add an extra one and one-quarter teaspoon of baking powder (total) to the flour mixture.
Oil a 12-hole muffin tin (I tend to make them smaller and use an extra 6). You could also line the holes with squares of baking paper (so they look like the muffins you get in coffee shops) or regular muffin tin liners. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
Sift together the flours with the baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir in any bran that remains in the sieve from the wholemeal flour.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs with electric beaters or stand mixer until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil and sugar until thickened and leaves a trail when the beater is lifted. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Fold the wet mixture into the flour until the flour just disappears, and no more. Mixing any more may give you a tough muffin. Which sounds like an insult, or perhaps a strange compliment: “She’s one tough muffin!”
Fill each muffin hole evenly and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until well-risen and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you want to add coconut to the top, do this about halfway through the baking so as not to burn the delicate coconut, but just give it a lovely toasty tinge of gold. Let the muffins cool in the tin on a wire rack and eat immediately. Or store for a few days in an airtight container. You could always go a bit fancy and extra-sweet by spreading over your favourite cream cheese frosting, or one such as this vegan one from food.com; or a classic cream cheese one from cook.uk. I like to keep them ‘plain’ for my nutrition classes and serve with fresh fruit.
Makes 12-18 muffins or two small cakes (I don’t think this would be as good if made as a big fat cake).
*Living in Scotland, a place known for its love – nay, worship – of homey baked goods, fresh fruit scones are not common. Actually, in all the twenty-something years that I have lived here, I have yet to encounter one. I’m assuming someone here makes them, maybe sells them. But I don’t get out much. Maybe in Glasgow you can hardly get down the pavement without tripping over fresh fruit scones. Continue reading
The word English is in quote marks as we here in the UK don’t call this style of muffins English muffins, just muffins. It is somewhat confusing, however, because US muffins – sweet and spilling over their paper cups – are much more prevalent here than the former. But you can’t spread Marmite over American-style muffins, which is the whole point of muffins in my opinion. American muffins = sugary afternoon indulgence; English muffins = tasty vehicle for Marmite and butter. You can happily have one or two of these savoury ones for a light supper with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, or perhaps top with ripe sliced avocadoes and chopped tomatoes, plus obligatory sriracha sauce. Then you can impatiently wait until the morning to split, toast and butter the leftovers, smearing with Marmite or jam as desired. And I desire. Muchly.
This recipe is a reworking of one found in Dan Lepard’s fantastic baking book, Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (UK link). Loads of his recipes have caught my eye but I made this one on the actual day I bought the book. From a real live shop! I have simplified Dan’s method, ditched his vinegar and water, and added baking powder and wholemeal flour for additional oomph. Oh, and the cheese and pepper. His original recipe is not difficult if you want to give it a go. But he wants you to leave the muffins overnight – or longer! – before you actually cook them. I’ve done the waiting thing as well as this quicker way without any real difference. You may think differently though. There are still a few rises to wait out, so this is probably a weekend bake. You could also start this the night before and do the first rise in the refrigerator, as Dan suggests. They are worth the wait, regardless of approach.
There are a few other, somewhat similar, recipes I fancy trying, including this one from Alton Brown. It sounds more like the thin, holey English muffins of my childhood. But the looser, almost pancake-like batter made to achieve this type of muffin is perhaps not so amenable to titivation. And we know how I like to titivate! Otherwise known as mess with/screw up.
Dan’s recipe is a stiffer, cuttable dough – suitable for add-ins like cheese, and more like the kind we get in our UK grocery stores, but obviously better (or at least my family thought so). I like the reassurance of cutting the dough rather than the scarier thought of wrangling a loose and wayward batter into baking rings. But I will tackle that at some point. For now the more methodical, contemplative approach suits me. Either way, pass the Marmite!
Belatedly I am popping this over to April’s One Ingredient Challenge (Cheese) hosted by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen and Laura of How To Cook Good Food. Please go over and see the other cheesey offerings, and maybe even send over one of your own. They will have a roundup with images later in the month.
Recipe adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (US link)
This Week in 2011: Tuna and Crème Fraiche Pizza
This Week in 2012: Forager’s Fritters
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Tom Odell, Supposed To Be. A word: stunning
These light but sturdy savoury muffins beg to be buttered and eaten right away. But any leftovers are delicious the next day, split and toasted as per bought muffins. They may look a faff to make, but they are not in the least bit difficult to prepare. You just need a bit of time and patience. You could even make a double batch to bake and freeze for eating in the future.
Polenta/cornmeal for dusting
Put the butter, sugar and milk in a large pan and heat gently just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add in the yogurt, salt and egg. Mix until smooth. Add in the flours, baking powder, and yeast to the buttery mix and stir well. Decant the dough onto a floured surface and stretch to a rough rectangle. Sprinkle over the cheese and pepper; fold in half. Press all over with your hands and fold again from the opposite direction, pressing well. Do this another time or until you feel the cheese is distributed evenly. Surround the dough with your hands flat out and draw your hands together underneath the dough. This will help make it a rounded shape. Pop the dough into the cleaned pan, or into a large bowl.
Cover the bowl and leave in a warm, draught-free place for one hour. It probably won’t rise very much, so don’t worry. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for one minute, then shape it into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of notebook paper (A4). Draw up the bottom third to the middle, then bring down the top third over the whole. It will be a third of its original size now. Cover it with a tea towel and leave for another hour to gently rise.
After the second rise sprinkle polenta or cornmeal onto a tea towel covered baking tray, and very gently roll the dough out to about 1 ½ cm, keeping a rectangular shape if you can. Cut the dough into even squares, flip each onto the polenta so that both sides are dusted, then cover again for about 2 hours. The soon-to-be muffins will rise by about half.
When the dough has risen for the final time, heat the oven to 180C/350F. (Although you will start the muffins off in a hot pan, they will be completed in the oven.) Now get a heavy skillet – preferably cast iron – and heat over a medium flame. Carefully place up to four muffins in the hot pan and cover. This allows the moisture in the muffins to create steam, which will help the muffins puff up. Check the bottoms after 2-3 minutes and flip when a good dark gold, with the polenta browned. Do the same on the other side.
Put the bottom-warmed muffins on a baking tray and place in the oven for about 10 minutes – maybe a minute or so more, if needed. Carry on with the remaining muffins in the same way. Eat fresh from the oven, with next days’ leftovers split and toasted under the grill/broiler until browned.