Saturday 29 September 2012

Plum crumble muffins and a generous wall

The drainage holes in the wall separating us from our neighbours are home to dozens of sparrows. I've always loved watching them through the kitchen window: building their nests; feeding their babies and  protecting them. As young kids, my sister and I once carried a pair of ducks down the alley so they could peck the snails off that wall. Sounds strange but it was fun. My mum once caught my sister eating a snail, shell included, but that's another story. It's here we hang the washing, and when I reached for the line yesterday my mum spotted my shadow looked like a flamenco dancer. Tumbling grapes and branches of plums reach over the wall. We asked our neighbour if he wouldn't mind us picking plums from the branches on our side. We did some pruning. We ended up with two buckets of the most delicious fruit, sweet flesh and sharp skins that make you scrunch your face up.
So what do you do with a couple of hundred plums? I've made compote, jam, upside down plum cake, apple and plum crumble, I've even put plums in my rib sauce. Today I made plum crumble muffins with shredded apple. They are so delicious, just out the oven all steamy and light with a spoonful of hot syrupy plums on the top.
Muffins are easy, make a wet mix, make a dry mix, mix but don't over-mix!

Makes 8

200g Self Raising Flour
90g Caster sugar
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg

1 large grated apple
50ml Coconut oil (or sunflower)
100ml milk
80ml yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crumble
50g plain flour
40g brown sugar
40g butter
A sprinkling more cinnamon

For the plum compote
6 plums
1 tbsp brown sugar
juice of 2 lemons

Mix the dry ingredients and the wet separately.
Grate the apple and mix in with the wet then mix with the dry gently until just incorporated and spoon into silicone muffin moulds or cases.
Spoon the crumble on top and bake at 180C for 20 mins.

Heat the compote together and simmer until syrupy and spoon over the slightly cooled muffins. 

Put the kettle on.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Dora the Explorer cake

If you can paint or draw, you'll be able to have a crack at a novelty cake. Modelling sugar-paste into various characters can be really frustrating and even if you are a first class sculptor, with well known characters, the smallest difference in the configuration of facial features can make Hello Kitty look like 'Hi Kitty' you see on fake merchandising. With painting directly onto a cake and mapping out where the lines are going with a pin or similar you're that much safer.
When I was asked to do a Dora cake, I didn't know who she was, with a little youtube research it turns out she is the kind of cartoon I would have loved to watch as a kid. Dora, explores some place new every episode finding people she can help and teaching kids Spanish at the same time, cute!
Wish I had a little monkey friend.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Salted Caramel Brownies

I do not like cakey brownies. I do not like hard brownies. I like squidgy, goey brownies. I don't really like nutty brownies, cheesecake layered brownies or blondies. I've got my favourite recipe (base) and I've kind of stuck to it, recently I've been playing around with Japanese flavours, miso caramel concoctions and yuzu and cocoa nib... it started when a friend suggested I bake these brownies for her wedding from the Poires Au Chocolat blog and thought it wouldn't be the end of the world to loosen up a bit and try a new flavour..these are squidgy, salty caramel bites of sheer joy. And if I can tempt you with a follow up of fudge that not only melts on the tongue, but sings...scroll on
You must try these and don't let the pan size stop you if you don't have one, I just shoved mine up one end and held the brownie in with some moulds and an egg carton. I use this MAGICAL stuff from lakeland, its foil on one side and wax paper on the other... it works a dream from baking brownies to steaming fish. Buy here
 So from salted caramel brownies to salted caramel fudge...
Fits a 20x30cm brownie pan
850g Caster Sugar
300g Glucose Syrup
300g Unsalted butter
650g Double cream
200g Milk chocolate (melted and cooled)
Finish with coarse sea salt sprinkled over the fudge just after pouring it in to the pan
1.     Everything but the chocolate in to a heavy based saucepan. Cook to 120c degrees
2.     Remove from heat and stir for about 20 seconds to let off some of the heat.
3.     Carefully mix in the melted chocolate
4.     Pour into a greased and linked tray that has been warmed
5.     Sprinkle with salt
Set for a few hours, cut in to desired shapes, leave to dry out slightly before packaging

Wednesday 12 September 2012

A Foodie Weekend in London

As much as I love getting back to London after long catering stints in Spain, I love getting out of London too. Last Summer my most memorable trip was to Kent, for a day of cherry picking, apple pressing and cake baking with a friend. This year I was kindly invited to experience Jamie Oliver's Big Feastival at Alex James' home in Oxfordshire. I asked my friend Squeeze if she fancied bombing it down the motorway for some sunshine, food, cocktails and an outdoor concert and we were there in a jiffy.
This is me looking chuffed with my Barbecoa chilli dog.
It was a celebration of food and music, the great outdoors and a bit of a mess about. I would really recommend anyone with kids to try it next year. Go for a day, or camp out all weekend, there are plenty of things for kids to do whilst you sample local produce, street food such (mmm...Pizza Pilgrims) and cocktails and you can all enjoy a wee boogie to the live acts, we got there in time for Paloma Faith and The Noisettes who were both fantastic. 
So, the weekend got me thinking...Jamie Oliver seems to be like Marmite in the love him/hate him stakes.  Why is this?  Which side of the divide do you fall, I wonder?  People who have never met him in person are very quick to pronounce their dislike which seems grossly unfair. Not only in respect of his success in removing the “Turkey Twizzler” and other nasties from school dinners and his Fifteen project amongst others, but also these fault finders conveniently overlook the astonishing energy, entrepreneurism, professionalism, courage, conscience, care and responsibility that this man must have to have achieved and maintain what he has. Are his critics jealous that this cheeky chappy from Essex made it so big? I think the majority are trivial and a tad petty in their judgement.
After all the excitement of the weather warming up again we had a barbeque on the Sunday. I've been a little obsessed with ribs this Summer and the smells wafting from the BBQ really got the dogs' tails wagging.
 I have to scribble down my recipe for you some time.
As if the weekend hadn't been heavy enough on the plate, on Monday Reiko and I popped to Richard Corrigan's Oyster Shucking Championships at Bentley's on a glorious sunny afternoon. A wee band tooted away, welcoming us in and we arrived at the same time as a dancing bottle of tabasco, natch. It was such a fun afternoon celebrating the start of the Native Oyster season, sipping on champagne and slurping down oysters. So, I think the rules were, to shuck a box of oysters (30)and to turn them over in their shell in the quickest time but cleanly, with no grit/shell.

I would love to be a purist and declare my love of an oyster unadorned. I however, love a little spice in the form of a splash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lime. I particularly enjoyed Corrigan's Vietnamese style oysters, recipe found here.
The muscle needed, the faces pulled, all made for quite a show. Richard, of course won the celebrity round making his opponents look sloppy in comparison.
HAD to include this pic, I met Ainsley Harriot, what a charmer. If you are around my age, you would have been slumped on the sofa after school watching this guy add a bit of fun to the kitchen with his Percy Pepper and Susie Salt. Champ!
Rather ashamedly @Agirlhastoeat and I jumped straight on the tube after to Balham for a wonderful meal prepared by Omar Allibhoy. He also did some fab demos whilst we munched on olives and tapas. My favourite tip was never to beat eggs. Just to use a fork very lightly to break up the yolk and white, I tried it out and it is better for achieving that runny middle I so love and you don't get a smidgen of the egg being spongy. My tortilla-
Omar's recipe for Tortilla with chorizo and olives - Serves 4  

  • 3 Large potatoes for frying
  • 1 Spanish onion
  • 1 Spanish olive oil for deep frying
  • 8 Large free range eggs
  • 225 g (7.9oz) Hot chorizo sausage
  • 1 handful Pitted Spanish olives (green olives)
  • 1 pinch Salt to season
  1. Peel, wash and thinly slice the potatoes and cut in half into the shape of half moons. Repeat this with the Spanish onion.
  2. Pour olive oil in a deep frying pan over a high heat - use enough oil to just cover the onion and potatoes.
  3. Once the oil is hot, drop in a slice of onion and this should start frying immediately. Cook the onion for around 10 minutes until golden and then add the sliced potatoes. Stir occasionally for at least 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and cooked through.
  4. Drain the oil from the potato and onion and mix in the egg and place in a separate dish. Let it rest for 10 minutes while you cook the chorizo and olives.
  5. Chop the chorizo into chunks and halve the pitted olives.
  6. In the same frying pan you have used to cook the potatoes use a medium heat to cook the chorizo for 1 minute, followed by the olives for just 15 seconds before adding this to the potato, onion and egg mix. Season and stir slowly.
  7. To make the tortilla place a non-stick pan over a medium heat and drizzle in a drop of olive oil.
  8. Pour the tortilla mix into the pan and lower the heat. After 4 minutes use a large plate to cover the pan, hold it tightly and flip the tortilla onto the plate. Slide the 'non-cooked side' of the tortilla back into the pan to cook.
*I was very lucky to have been invited to the above events by the organisers but was not asked to write a review. I simply thought I would do a round up and include a couple of the recipes to share.*