Monday, 20 July 2009

Choc chip and banana muffins

This morning I woke up, walked into our lounge to be greeted with the smell of banana's - a sure sign they were on the turn, I hate wasting anything and immediately thought of my favourite banana bread recipe from the Avoca book; however my loaf tin is still wedged down the back of the kitchen cupboard and my banana recipe repertoire is very limited!

A thought crossed my mind about making muffins instead, based on the Avoca recipe, wishing for a second opinion, I tweeted my query and Alex thought it would work too! I was mainly wary following a less successful chocolate apple muffin recipe last week, however I am very pleased to report the experiment was successful! I've made a couple of minor tweaks to the original recipe and I'm really pleased with the result, so much so I have managed to devour one sitting here, typing this up!

Makes 9 muffins
Prep 5 minutes
Cooking 25 minutes

210g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
15g cocoa powder
handful choc chips - I had white and plain, reserve a couple for topping
2 large banana's, mashed
1 egg, beaten
75ml sunflower oil
110g golden caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to Fan 160/ normal 180

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and sugar. Gently mix in the egg, oil, vanilla - do not beat - use a fork to mash and stir the banana's and choc chips in, spoon into muffin cases. If desired, sprinkle a few extra choc chips on top and bake for about 25 minutes or until a skewer comes away clean.

Allow to cool slightly and transfer to a cooling rack. Now you can watch the clock until they are cool enough to eat!

I imagine custard would be a wonderful companion for these!! However its only 11am and possibly too early for custard...and I've eaten a lot of custard recently!..Though I don't think you can ever have too much custard...

On the new job front, all is going well! I am off today as I worked the weekend, is tiring but I'm enjoying it!


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Spinach, Coconut and Lentil Dhal with Turkish flatbreads

I will admit that upon first glance of the book, "Week in, Week out" by Simon Hopkinson, following Quadrille Publishing very nicely sending me a copy, I was a little unsure on whether I would get much use from it. I have 100+ food based books and whilst I do love them all equally, some do get more usage than others. However, upon actually sitting down, with a cup of tea in one hand and time to ponder through properly, I found myself getting drawn further into this book, and started thinking of when I will make Chocolate Bavarois (a forthcoming birthday) and a mmm sounding Baked pasta with asparagus, prosciutto and truffle! (one for me, and me alone!)

Those who consider themselves members of the offal club, will take potential delight with this books recipe offerings - though don’t let this deter non-offal-lover’s, as there are still many gems within its folds! I will be honest in that I am not a fully paid up member of the ‘I heart offal club’ (yet...) but merely skim the borders with the occasional steak and kidney pie or some chicken liver pate on toast! (or indeed with brioche as I had last night!)

The main part I enjoyed of this book was Simon’s writing, as mentioned above I have over 100 cookery books and my particular favourites are books where the author has taken time to write about their personal experience with the recipe, or as to how it came into existence. I find it brings the recipe often to life and often makes me want to make it even more so. This I feel also applies to us food bloggers, I find myself more often that not googling a recipe now before making it, to see if someone has had joy or failure with a recipe.

Anyway, enough of me rambling and back to the most important part - the food! The first recipe from the book that I bring to the blog table is a delightful Spinach, Coconut and Lentil Dhal, (copyright obtained by Quadrille) chosen for a number of reasons:

*First up, whilst I am no vegetarian, I really like vegetarian and vegan food, partially following a brief affair with being vegetarian a few years back and also being an unusual child in that I *loved* vegetables, often far more than its meatier alternative!

*Secondly, I’ve had mixed results with cooking Indian food at home, some quite nice but not sure if would make again and one big success, which I must get around to making and posting about soon! Within my limited experience though, I’ve never made Dhal and only eaten it maybe once or twice in a restaurant, however this recipe lured me in and I’m grateful for it, I also thought if this works, then so will the rest! This is now what I like to refer to as a ‘keeper’. Gloriously creamy, colourful, fragrant and moreish, I am a Dhal convert. I actually found the more I ate of this, the more I wanted to eat. In fact yesterday morning I had to fight the urge to make more (we were going out for dinner!) Am sorry to friends for waxing lyrical since making. Go on give it a try. You won’t even notice the meat is missing ;-)

Spinach, Coconut and Lentil Dhal

Serves 4 (generously)

Prep: 30 mins (I am slow with peeling tomatoes!)
Cooking time inc resting: 1hr 20

250g peeled and finely chopped onions (about 1.5 large ones)
75g butter
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1.5 tsp cumin seed, roasted
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds, roasted
4 cloves
2 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
200g split red lentils
400ml water
400ml can coconut milk
3-4 thick slices of unpeeled, fresh ginger
450g ripe fresh tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped (about 6)
250g fresh spinach
Black pepper, freshly ground
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp salt

In a very large pan (I used my 25x5 Meyer large saute pan), melt 50g of the butter and gently cook the onions until pale and golden. Add half of the garlic, cumin, mustard seeds and gently cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the turmeric and chilli powder, until blended in, cook for a couple more minutes then add the lentils, water, coconut milk, ginger, tomatoes and spinach, bring to a simmer and add lots of black pepper, cook very gently, stirring occasionally, for about 35-40 minutes or until the lentils are tender and have all but dissolved into the liquid.

Remove the pan from the heat. Use a small pan to melt the remaining 25g butter, when it starts frothing add the remaining garlic, stir vigorously until it starts to take on a little colour, and the butter starts to smell nutty. Immediately tip this mixture onto the lentil pan and stir in – be careful as will splutter. Add the lime juice, coriander, mint and salt to taste, cover with a lid and leave to mellow for 10 minutes, remove the ginger (if you can!).

The recipe suggests serving with hot and fresh flat bread, such as naan. I made these Turkish flatbreads by Rachel Allen, which my boyfriend loved! They are a little chewy but very pleasant to eat and very easy to make

Turkish Flatbreads:

Prep: 5 mins
Rest: 30 mins (mine were abandoned for about an hour and were fine!)
Cooking 5-10 minutes

Makes 12

125g strong bread flour
150g plain flour, (you could use 1/2 white and 1/2 wholemeal flour here)
1-2 tsp Fennel seeds, or cumin seeds, lightly crushed (I used cumin)
1 tsp Salt
175 ml warm water

1. Mix the flours, spices and salt in a bowl.

2. Add the warm water, and mix to a dough, kneading for 2 minutes.

3. Divide into 12 pieces, cover and leave to rest - if possible for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out each piece of dough to 1/2 cm thickness.

5. Heat a griddle or frying pan over a medium heat.

6. Cook each piece of dough on the frying pan or griddle for about 2 minutes on each side, until speckled with brown. (be careful as the pan gets very hot - my counter top now has a reminder for me to use the trivet!)

7. Keep warm, wrapped in a tea towel. They should be soft not crisp. (mine kept warm for ages)

(You will notice in the picture below some pilau rice hiding, whilst not essential for the dish it was requested by the boyfriend!)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

I'm still around..and news!

I feel slightly guilty that my blogging of late has been a little sporadic and not very exciting, as some of you will know I was made redundant back in April, without warning, and thus resulted in a rather large dent in the weekly shopping bill!

However, it has been a couple of weeks in the process but I am now *very* pleased to report that I have a new job, at last, which I will be starting hopefully in the next week or two!! I am in process of completely re-training and looking forward to a big change!! I also can't wait to get back to actually affording good ingredients again!!

By nature, whilst I love ingredients like expensive aged rib-eye steaks, I also am a bargain hunter and having a lot less money has resulted in a few good and interesting dishes, which will probably become regulars here!

A favourite was a gammon risotto, made using a small Basics unsmoked gammon joint which was about £1.80, also I had some romaine lettuce that needing eating so it got shredded and added at the end, a new one on me but it tasted great and gave the risotto a little crunch!

Also a good dinner was courgettes, fried and cooked with tinned tomatoes and a tin of mixed bean, along with chillis and garlic:

Whilst it needs a little tweaking, this good value bake made from tomato & oregano ravaoli, topped with a tomato and red onion sauce, slices of Basics pepperoni and basics mozzarella, grilled until golden, will be featuring again:

Unfortunately, amongst all the good I suppose there has to be some bad - these rather attractive looking Peach Melba cheesecakes, made to a Waitrose recipe, went swiftly into the bin! Please do not ever use light soft cheese to make cheesecake, unless of course you particuarly like the taste of fruit with soured cream flavouring...However the fruit topping part was good, so I will be making again - but with the full fat soft cheese!

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