Monday, May 16, 2011

Pizza Muffins

Fusion food at its best - pizza muffins! Giant ones at that. I'm never entirely sure where in the day muffins are meant to be eaten. I cooked up a batch for dinner Sunday night as we'd been out for lunch and these are a delightfully savoury number. Definitely not a breakfast treat but lunch? I think so. Warm from the oven they made a fab supper.

I am in the process of teaching myself to bake in the hope of opening a cafe that sells all manner of lovely salads and cakes to go with seriously good coffee and juices. It's harder than it seems - there is a requirement for precision that is simply not relevant for casseroles and soups, noodles and risotto. When it's a success I find it fascinating, when it fails I find it hugely frustrating partly because I hate failing and partly because I have insufficient understanding of the process to know where I went wrong and how to fix it. So I'm baking a lot and gradually improving.

In my quest for baking brilliance I bought the Australian Women's Weekly 'Bake' which is ENORMOUS and full of interesting recipes, some old familiars from my childhood like melting moments and coconut slice and some new things like this muffin recipe. I have made those as well a coffee walnut cake, an orange yoghurt cake and a spiced banana cake. Mostly the man takes them to work to share and get a little feedback. He is becoming very popular.

Pizza Muffins

Makes 6 but to make them again I would use a smaller hole pan and make 12

1 small red pepper
375g self raising flour
1 egg
310ml milk
80ml olive oil
60g coarsely grated cheddar cheese
20g finely grated Parmesan
60g seeded black olives, halved
35g sun dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
2 tbspns basil, finely chopped
t tspns rosemary, sinely chopped
30g cheddar coarsely grated (extra)

Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 4. Grease a 6-hole texas (180ml) muffin pan.

Quarter the pepper, discard the seeds and membrane. Roast in a very hot oven, skin-side up, until the skin blisters and blackens. Put hot pepper into a bowl and cover tightlyw ith clingfilm for 5 minutes. Peel away the skin and then cut the flesh into strips.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the egg, milk, oil, cheeses, olives, tomatoes and herbs. Do not over mix, a bit lumpy is fine. Spoon mixture inot pan holes, top with the slices of roasted pepper and then the extra cheese.

Bake muffins for about 25 minutes. Stand muffins in pan for 5 minutes then turn out, top-side up, onto a wire rack to cool.

These tasted great. I am beginning to enjoy baking so there will definitely be more - there's a whole chapter on muffins alone!

They are bigger than they look in this picture!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I wanted...I bought...I made

Really fancy making a raw mackerel tartare that I learnt to make the other day at a Total day out for a fishy Friday but there was none as the seas had been too rough so I crumbed and fried whiting and had it with jersey royals and salad, definitely asparagus for Saturday simply roasted with steamed potatoes and more salad, Sunday I would like spicy pork with rice and greens big fat pizza muffins after a fabulous lunch at Gastronomica, Monday I'm thinking noodles spicy pork rice and greens, Tuesday perhaps burgers and salad lamb burgers with the fabulous roast vegetable cous cous pictured above, Wednesday omelette with jersey royals the man was out so I made lamb burgers again only better with grated ginger, garlic and chilli and a salad of tiny greens from my garden.The joy of spring. Thursday I'm hoping for dinner out. Disappointed in that - the man is out (again!) so I'm planning pork chop soup which I love.

Borough was fairly tense Friday, a lot of the small traders are really concerned with what's happening with evictions and developments. Flour Power have now been given 30 days notice to quit for being too big?!

John was cheery as ever at the Ginger Pig though, and happily diced me some pork and I added lamb mince for burgers for a cheap total of £12.20

Then to Neals Yard for milk and bread - they now sell St John bread and it is endlessly wonderful - and yoghurt - £9.80

Coffee from Monmouth - £13

Veg from the organic stall - asparagus, a new kind of lettuce which I forget the name of but looks a bit like oak leaf, and some lovely garlic - £8.20

Needed Parmesan from Gastronomica so bought a small sheep/goat cheese as well - £16

Over to the Sussex fish stall to find the seas had been so rough Thursday they had no mackerel - so much for plans! Bought a couple of whiting which the monger kindly filleted for me - a bargain at £2

Eggs from Wild Beef - gone up 20p a dozen as the price of wheat continues upwards - £3.20 but still great value for lovely eggs

Sundried tomatoes from Borough Olives, a while since I shopped there and was served by a delightfully cheerful young woman - £1.90

Lastly olives from Turkey for a change - love their semi dried kuru sele, oily and salty and wonderful - £3

Spent £69.30 in total

Asparagus Lasagne

It is spring and the sun is shining practically daily and that is strange and wonderful after such a long cold winter as we've had. It is asparagus season and we have been eating it joyfully and mostly simply, just lightly steamed with a little melted butter and some cracked black pepper for a few weeks. I could happily continute to eat it like this for months.

Then I came across this recipe for lasagne and was instantly smitten. Not just because matching crisp asparagus with silky pasta is a kind of genius when you add cheese sauce, but because the sauce was made with chicken stock rather than milk and so has both greater depth of flavour and is lighter and more delicate at the same time. I used rocchetta for it's balanced rich creaminess but any spring like cheese would work a treat.

You could serve a salad after but it needs no accompaniment at all apart from a little crusty bread to guarantee that you mop up every skerrick of sauce.

The recipe comes from Jane Lear's blog and is an adaptation of an earlier version on Gourmet. She uses goat's cheese which would also be great, though not round ours as the man is not a fan.

Asparagus Lasagne

Serves 4

1kg asparagus, trimmed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt

60g unsalted butter

2 tbspns plain flour

400ml chicken or vegetable stock

½ cup water

200g rocchetta or other soft cheese, softened to room temperature and crumbled

About 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

About 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère, plus a handful for topping

1 box no-boil lasagne sheets, the best quality you can find

200ml double cream

1. Preheat the oven to Gas6/500ºF. Cut off the tips of the asparagus spears and set them aside. In a large bowl toss the asparagus spears with the olive oil, and spread them onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast them 5 to 10 minutes (depending on thickness), stirring them around halfway through, until they are crisp-tender. Season the roasted asparagus with salt, and, when cool enough to deal with, cut the spears into fork-friendly lengths, about ½ inch or so.

2. Melt the butter in a medium pot, add the flour, and cook over moderately low heat, whisking, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the stock and water and simmer 5 minutes. Whisk in the crumbled cheese and lemon zest and season with salt to taste; whisk the sauce until it is silky smooth.

3. Skim-coat the bottom of a buttered 20cm square baking dish with a little sauce, then make layers of pasta sheets, sauce, roasted asparagus, and Parmigiano, ending with a layer of pasta. Scatter the uncooked asparagus tips on top. In a bowl beat the cream with a pinch of salt until it holds soft peaks, and spread it over the asparagus tips. Scatter that handful of Parmesan over the whipped cream and bake the lasagne on the middle rack of the oven about 30 minutes, or until it’s bubbling around the edges and golden on top. Let it stand 10 minutes to collect itself, then cut into slices and serve.

Friday, May 06, 2011

I wanted...I bought....I made

Went to a day of cooking and eating with Total - the Greek yoghurt people - recently and made this orange yoghurt cake with some of their lovely product after as I teach myself to bake

Back again after a couple of pleasurable staycations, one south via Wiltshire to Cornwall and Dorset and another to the lovely Suffolk coastal town of Orford to make the most of lots of bank holidays and, more surprisingly, endless (feels like) sunshine and blue skies. It is lovely this spring we are having.

To follow that mood, Friday night we are at the theatre to see I am the Wind, but only for a short show, so cold collation at home after will be the perfect way to round out the evening. Saturday I am making asparagus lasagne, an outrageously decadent idea I came across on the web. Sunday we are out to lunch at the endlessly fabulous St John so dinner will be simple, perhaps spiced chicken and salads which will be good for lunch for a day or two as well. Monday more theatre, this time Rocket to the Moon at the National the man was unwell so a simple supper at home with cold chicken and fennel salad, Tuesday a book launch for Tim Wilson's Ginger Pig Meat but may have a quick pasta supper after missed the launch but had the pasta, Wednesday the lovely Vicki is over to bleach my hair so think some Chinese would be good steamed meatball pasta after home made taramasalata, Thursday salad I think - nicoise in fact.

Friday the market is much more pleasurable than Saturdays, it's not so mobbed and the traders tend to be cheery rather than overwhelmed. Started at Ginger Pig where they were selling 45 day aged rump for £18.50 a kilo but I was only momentarily tempted, bought bacon, pork mince and a chicken - £22.40

Then to Neals Yard for milk, cream, yoghurt and bread - £7.80

Tony was his cheery self at his veg stall selling english asparagus 3 bunches for a fiver which was what I needed for my lasagne

From Gastronomica I bought fresh pasta, a rocchetta and some spring goat/ewe's milk cheese that is utterly lush - £18.60

Then to the Parma Ham company for their exquisite parma ham and a couple of balls of buffalo mozzarella - £10.80

Wandering around to find Richard at the Wild Beef stall I noticed a sign at the Mons stall saying it was their last week and sadly I've just heard that they have been evicted from the market along with The Ham & Cheese Company and Kappacasein, in fact a total of eight traders are out, as 'punishment' for also trading at Maltby Street. More here

Thankfully Wild Beef is still there - got eggs for £1.50

Then to Turnips in search of rhubarb - was rewarded with a huge bundle which cost, with a lemon as well, £3.86, and noticed on the way out they have Lincolnshire asparagus at only £1.50 a bunch - really good value

Food sorted I rewarded myself with a hot sausage roll from Ginger Pig as a late lunch - £3 well spent!

Total this week is £72.96