Peeking shyly from sandy soil, these soldiers of Spring are a true April-May delicacy. Whether pale, undercover and interesting, exotic purple or (appropriately) spring-green, asparagus attracts us like no other vegetable. A few of you may demure from its herbal charms, but for the rest of us the arrival of this short-lived crop is nothing short of sigh-inducing. It is one of the few vegetables that really is at its best nearly naked, save for a butter sauce, or something like this carrot-miso concoction. To be honest, I like it best plainly roasted, then finished off with lemon and salt as it comes out of the oven. If I can be bothered it instead gets tossed onto a griddle pan to get those pretty, restauranty charred bits, but the oven is fine I could eat it this way for days on end, only turning to ‘fancier stuff’ like this sauce when the sudden novelty wears off, or when just a heap of oddly-addictive vegetation – no matter how wonderful – won’t suffice. Continue reading
We aren’t really biscuit eaters here at food to glow. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t averse to them. A Hobnob biscuit and a cup of tea is a simple pleasure that I wouldn’t say no to, if offered (hint, hint). Let’s just say we don’t have a biscuit barrel full of the things. Or indeed usually any packets of them lurking in cupboards. Mainly this is because none of us has a big sweet-tooth but also because most bought biscuits are full of things we could all do well with avoiding – trans-fats, bleached flours, multiple incarnations of sugar (including the recently-notorious-but-now-just-another-sugar high fructose corn syrup), too much salt. And then there are the so-called ‘flavourings.’ We are not saints – I would happily arm wrestle you for a bag of salt and pepper Popchips – but biscuits just aren’t our thing. Usually. Continue reading
This redder-than-red curry not only looks amazing (for a curry that is – curries not being known for their looks), but features homemade paneer cheese. Yes, homemade cheese. An easy, fail-safe cheese. How good is that?
It gets better. Well, maybe not better-better, but better for you. Not only is it pretty (-ish) and has homemade cheese, this curry is also cheap, nutritious and quite low in fat. Woo hoo! Continue reading
This week’s recipe is a transitional one. Much like how we will wear a poloneck jumper under a summery shift dress, or pair thick wool tights with strappy sandals (at least here in the UK), today I am using a rather S/S ingredient in a slightly A/W way. When I think of grilled polenta and beans together, my immediate thought is mmm, stew with polenta. Or mmm, a bean and polenta bake. Very wintry, very -5C. What I don’t automatically think is wouldn’t this be nice with stir-fried new season’s chard.
But chard is an early-ish, cooler-weather crop, with more than a hint of hardy wintriness about it – even when young and small of leaf. It is a robust, no nonsense kind of vegetable that stands up to rough winds, cold temps and punchy flavours like no other. I would love to persevere with more adamantly Spring dishes such as last week’s crab one, but we still need the warmth of this sort of dish, combined with the promise of what is to come. For after chard comes asparagus and watercress, then broad beans, beetroot and courgettes. And then the flashier summer crops of tomatoes, artichokes, corn and aubergines, and as many tender herbs as you can ever wish. I am already making haphazard lists and scribblings of the many spring and summer-crop recipes I want to make because, like Little Orphan Annie says, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” Crossed fingers. 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.
I love breakfast. No, make that I LOVE BREAKFAST. It is without question my favourite meal. As you can tell from this blog I love other meals too. A lot. But breakfast is sine qua non to my daily happiness. Although it is rarely elaborate, and often involving no equipment other than a knife and hot overhead grill – or bowl and spoon – any sustenance is gratefully received. If ever I have to skip breakfast (I can’t remember when that last happened) I get seriously grumpy. Dropped pacifier, burst football, home team lost kind of grumpy. Stay the heck away if that happens is all I can say. Continue reading
As an ex-pat American living in Scotland, peanut butter and jelly is something I occasionally have a hankering for. It must be in my DNA. I can’t say I give into that craving very often, but when I do I have to say that it is not on nice seeded whole meal bread, or using posh jam. If for whatever reason I need to buy white bread – for Christmas stuffing, or bread and butter pudding – I always nick a piece. I then proceed to smear it with a good quarter inch of peanut butter, top with a crimson dod of Lidl morello cherry jam, and fold in half. Then I proceed to shove it in my gob with two hands, like a ravenous toddler. Again, a childhood/DNA thing. With today’s recipe I think I may have grown up. A bit. Continue reading
If you don’t know what a shawarma is, this recipe will not particularly surprise. But, if you know shawarma, you could be forgiven for uttering a popular acronymed Anglo-Saxon epithet beginning with W and ending with F. If you are from the Levant, you will no doubt be thinking an equivalent in Arabic or Turkish. Just perhaps not as rude. Continue reading
By all rights we should be getting well and truly tired of soup. In fact I have a friend who swears off the stuff after St Patrick’s Day, opting for salads and wraps, even if the mercury is mired in single digits and sleety rain. But I’m not quite ready to give up my comfort blanket of warmed and blended vegetables, pulses and herbs just yet. Continue reading
This recipe is one I make quite often at this time of year. But it is only one of many things that can be done with the humble cauli. Appropriately frugal in both expense and calories, winter cauliflower is a fairly magical vegetable. With little effort the pretty pale curds can be transformed into a credible mashed potato and rice substitute (paleo-adherents love this brassica), as well as being an equal partner in the UK’s number one comfort food, cauliflower cheese. I and others also like it tossed in a little oil and lemon or balsamic vinegar then roasted to golden perfection in a hot oven. And soon I will be posting how to make this vegetable go from pale to pukka in just a few ingredients. Continue reading