Monday, November 12, 2012
Muffins are a little bit passe these days. Like Friends and Snapple, they're just a bit nineties. They have been overtaken by their brash, rather disgusting, cupcake cousin.
But I still have a lot of affection for them. I think muffins are nice. And I came across this very straightforward looking recipe in a newspaper, but which utilised American cup measurements.
I was annoyed about this, just as I am always annoyed when a recipe specifies some sort of wildly exotic spice, cut of meat or fruit in an offhand manner, which implies that of course you ought to know where to source it from. I fucking don't!! And even if I did, I am not going to spend one of my three child-free mornings a week tracking it down. If you can't get it in Waitrose I am. Not. Interested.
Of course these days I DO, however, have a set of cup measurements, which I bought in Waitrose, so can convert the measurements for you.
On a whim, I decided to make these muffins with some pear and hazelnut because those were some things I had knocking about. I also used soured cream instead of buttermilk, (buttermilk!! we are in ENGLAND, nowhere sells it except big branches of Waitrose and I'm not always near one of those), which worked just fine.
You do not have to use pear and hazelnut in these - pretty much anything works: apple, chocolate, sultanas, banana, whatever. It's a very flexible vehicle, muffin mix. Having said that, the pear and hazelnut combination was really terrific and I recommend it to you.
Pear and hazelnut muffins - makes 8
2.5 cups plain flour - 340g
1.5 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar - 160g
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup soured cream or buttermilk - 120ml
3 drops vanilla essence
1/cup melted butter - 75g butter, melted
2 ripe pears, diced
2 lady-handfuls of hazelnuts, chopped and toasted in a dry frying pan for about 10 mins
1 In one bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. You do not have to sieve this but you could swizzle it about with a whisk for a bit.
2 In another bowl mix the beaten egg with the soured cream, vanilla extract and melted butter. Someone like Raymond Blanc would separate the eggs first, beat the whites and then add them separately, to make the muffins lighter.
3 Add the flour to the egg mixture and mix just until there is still about 10% flour showing, then tip in your pear and hazelnuts (or whatever you are using) and mix to combine.
4 Spoon immediately into muffin cases. Fill these to just below the brim. This is important, as these will not rise that much on cooking and you want that big luscious, over-spilt look.
5 Bake at 200C for 16-20 mins. Keep an eye on them if you have a light on in your oven. Mine were slightly underdone as I put them in at 180 (because of fan nuke horror panic) but if you have a normal oven I think you'll be okay at 200C for 16 mins. Bake in the middle shelf.
Friday, November 9, 2012
If this looks familiar, it's because it is almost identical in every way to a Banana Bread For Dory (q.v.) but it uses dates instead of bananas.
I wanted to try this out because my friend Becky B brought over a sticky date cake the other day and it reminded me of the packet of dates in the larder I had been meaning to use to make a sticky toffee pudding, but have never quite found the excuse for.
It's also because I do LOVE that banana bread recipe but quite often don't find I have quite the right number of overripe bananas to justify it. So I wondered if it was possible with dates. And it is! It is still a sort of date bread, rather than a cake, because it's not especially sweet, which I think is a good thing. You could definitely spread this with butter, for example. Like all cakey/breads that are not a sponge, this keeps very well in tupperware for a few days.
Becky B did a terribly clever thing with HER date cake, which was to soak it, in the manner of a lemon drizzle cake, with a caramel sauce that she bought from Waitrose - it was Bonne Maman, she said: "Confiture de Caramel". She thinned it with some hot water, pricked the cake all over with a skewer and then went MAD with the sauce. It was really, really fab. My mother always says that things that other people have made for you are always more delicious than something you have made yourself, but still - Becky B is a terrific cook.
You can also make your own caramel sauce if you are that sort of person - there is a recipe somewhere on here, have a rummage.
So here we go
150 veg oil
200g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g natural yoghurt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
225g wholemeal spelt flour (get it from Waitrose)
2 tbs caster sugar or cane sugar
1 Pre-heat your oven to 170C and butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it (YES you must do this, don't be lazy) and line a baking sheet, too.
1 In a bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs
2 Chop up the dates roughly then put them in a bowl and pour over boiling water to just cover them. Leave them to soak for 20 mins then drain them and sort of gently mash them through the sieve to get out most of the water.
3 Add the youghurt to the dates and mix together. Sprinkle over the bicarb of soda, baking powder, and salt and stir again.
4 Mix the date mixture and the sugar/egg mixture together. Then sprinkle over the flour and stir until things are only just combined. Over-mixing is disastrous here so stop as soon as you can't see any more flour. Spoon the batter into your smugly-lined tin.
5 Sprinkle some sugar - caster, cane or granulated -down the spine of the loaf and then put in the oven.
7 Bake for 45-50 mins.
HOW is Kitty, people say to me. How is she, how is she? I don't talk about her that much any more because she is just off my hands. She turns two in February but she has been off since she turned 18 months old and could walk, talk, ask for things, watch tv, sit and draw or look at her books, play imaginary games with her stuffed animals, scoot around the kitchen on her little trike and so on. She is an actual person these days and it's such a relief, I can't tell you.
When I look back on some of the darker things I wrote when she was small I feel awful, so guilty. But it must have been bad for me to write those things, it must have been like that. She's now this little chattering pixie, everyone wants a piece of her, everyone wants a smile and to hear her squeak "I'm knackered!" - her first party trick.
I used to dread her waking up in the night - the thought of it made me feel actually sick with anxiety. Now sometimes I wake in the night and hope that she might wake, too and need me. But she never does.
Though I can see the benefits of babies, I suppose. They are not constantly after your iPad and whatever it is that you are eating. And they don't have a massive fucking tantrum when you try to stop them from doing incredibly dangerous things.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
I felt so guilty all of yesterday for the carpet disaster that I set about making a very elaborate partridge thing for my husband's dinner, using the two partridge he had bought on an impulse at the Farmer's Market the previous Saturday.
This was a slightly over the top thing to have on a cold November weeknight but I think my husband liked it - though I had a sudden and unexpected massive attack of nausea at 7.45pm so couldn't eat a thing.
This would be very good for a dinner party - everyone gets their own partridge and the sides are straightforward and easy to do in bulk. I'm sure you could do this with quail, as well. Or pheasant? Or are pheasant huge?
Pot-roast partridge with Savoy cabbage
For the partridge
1 small savoy cabbage
1 medium onion
2 bay leaves
4 sage leaves
4 sticks thyme, leaves picked off
2 sticks celery
1 glass white wine
1 pint chicken stock
For the cabbage
(you do not have to have cabbage with this. Maybe some lovely mash instead, or a cauliflower cheese?)
1 small onion
4 rashers streaky bacon
1 tbsp cream if you have it
1 In a casserole pan with a lid, melt some oil and butter and then brown the partridge all over. Do this quite thoroughly - I'd say for about 6 minutes in total. Once browned, remove the birds to a plate and take the casserole pan off the heat.
2 Now make your mirepoix. Don't panic! I will explain what this is.
A mirepoix is a mound of very finely-chopped onion, celery and carrot, (although there are variations on this), which makes up the base of a lot of French sauces and soups. This is one of the reasons to own an incredibly expensive, very sharp knife from the likes of Global. Ask for one for Christmas! (I am not on commission)
Chopping up carrot and celery very small is easy enough, but I always struggle with onion. What I tend to do is try my best and then when it all starts going to piss and slipping about everywhere, I just go over it with my knife in a levering motion to get the rest really small. Not what Jamie would do BUT HE'S NOT HERE :(
Anyway so that is a mirepoix. Make one of these and then add to it your bay leaves, thyme leave and torn sage leaves.
|This is a mirepoix. The veg could stand to be even smaller but I am a bit ham-fisted.|
3 Add the mirepoix to the recently-vacated casserole pan and cook this over a medium flame for 4 minutes. I chose to stir this a lot to stop the onions from catching and it was a good idea. After this time, add your glass of white wine and turn the heat up so that it all bubbles down to just a thin pool of liquid at the bottom of your casserole. This takes a few minutes.
Now add your stock - it really must be decent stock, not from a cube - and put the partridge back in. Put the casserole with a lid on in a 180C oven.
The recipe I followed, although good, left the partidge rather scarily underdone as it only specified a 15 min cooking time. So if I were to do this again I would do 15 min with the lid on and then 10 mins with the lid off. Another benefit of this is that partridge can have an unfortunate greyish tinge to the skin and taking the lid off allows the top to brown, which is so important for presentation. And, because this is a pot-roast, you don't have to worry about the partridge drying out because it is protected by the surrounding liquid.
4 While the partridge is cooking, shred the savoy cabbage and chop up the onion and bacon. Sweat the onion for a few minutes in some butter and oil and then add the bacon. Cook this for about four minutes and then add the cabbage. Put a lid on and leave for another four minutes. I was not happy about leaving this with so little liquid so added a ladleful from the partridge cooking sauce. In all I reckon I cooked the cabbage for about 10 minutes. The recommended 4 minutes just left it raw and crunchy. I finished the cabbage with some cream I had knocking about.
4 Once the partridge is done, remove and put somewhere to rest and keep warm. Put the casserole pan back on the hob and give it a good boil to reduce the sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper after it has reduced.
5 Serve with a pile of cabbage, a partridge (on or off the bone, up to you) and the cooking sauce.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The plan for this morning was to write some hilarious thing about something or other as an introduction to these terrific cinammon buns, while the carpet man replaced the scraggy old carpet in what is about to be Kitty's new bedroom.
It was all going so well. I hadn't lost the recipe for the cinnamon buns, (a miracle), my laptop was working (double miracle), I'd had a cup of tea and the carpet man was actually early (such a miracle that I ought, then, to have smelled a rat).
But then he brought in the wrong carpet. It was a stripey one, the one we use on the stairs. Not the plain beige one, that we use in bedrooms.
Oh god!! Oh god oh god oh god I've ordered the wrong fucking carpet.
I searched my email, shaking, looking, searching frantically for some indication that this wasn't my fault. But it just completely was. Is. Is my fault. So I now have to re-order the carpet at vast expense and try, for the rest of the day, not to burst into tears about it.
"YOU KNEW I WAS AN IDIOT WHEN YOU MARRIED ME," I screamed pre-emptively and defensively at my husband, who was standing in the kitchen looking at me sympathetically.
Anyway here's a recipe for some cinnamon buns. They're nice.
Cinnamon buns by Edd Kimber
For the dough
250ml whole milk
50g butter, plus extra for greasing tin
500g strong white bread flour
30g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
7g fast-action yeast. This is the equivalent of one of those sachets you get in boxes of yeast. I decided instead to use 7g of yeast in a tin, which was past its sell-by date, so the first lot of dough I made didn't rise and I had to throw it away and start again. It's all just going so well in my world at the moment.
1 egg, beaten
veg oil for greasing
For the filling
150g light brown soft sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
60g butter, very soft, plus a bit extra to brush over the buns pre-baking
... and some icing sugar. Edd mixes 125g icing sugar with 75 cream cheese and 2 tbsp whole milk. I didn't do this and plain icing is just fine. However, I have tasted this other sort of icing and it is very nice, so if you are so inclined, give it a go.
1 Put the milk and the butter in a small saucepan and heat very gently over the lowest available heat until the butter has melted. Set aside and leave it to cool to a lukewarm temperature.
2 In a bowl, mix together the:
to this add the milk/butter mix and the beaten egg. Mix this round until you have a dough.
3 Flour a surface and knead this for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is a VERY long time, so put a timer on or something because you will want, powerfully, to give up after about 3 minutes.
4 Put the dough in a bowl that is large enough for it to double in size. I do not have a bowl that big so I used a massive saucepan instead. Anyway whatever you use, lightly oil the base and sides.
And NOW stretch some cling film across the top of the pan/bowl in order to form an airtight seal over the dough. I think I am possibly the only person in the world who doesn't know that you are supposed to do this with dough, but I didn't. Maybe you don't know either. Maybe you think, like I used to, that you could just sling a tea-towel over it. No. If you do that air will get to it and form a very thin crust, which will both stop the dough from rising properly and also make it very difficult to shape later.
You're all laughing at me now, I can tell. Go ahead! I don't care! Kick me while I'm down why don't you.
5 Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hr. While this is happening grease with butter a 23cm x 33cm high sided baking tin. If you, like me, don't have one of these, you can use whatever combination of high-sided baking tins you've got to fit the buns in.
6 Tip your dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to 40x50cm. I ended up using a tape measure for this. The funny thing about rolling out dough like this is that at first you think - how am I going to roll this out to any sort of rectangle shape? If you try the dough sort springs back on itself and will only go into a round shape. But if you keep on rolling it out thinner and thinner it suddenly complies and relaxes into a rounded sort of rectangle. It has to be seen to be believed.
7 Mix the brown sugar and the cinnamon together in a bowl. Now take your 60g of very soft butter and spread the dough with it. Now sprinkle over the sugar mixture and then the currants. Don't be afraid to press all this into the dough reasonably firmly.
8 Now roll all this up into a tight log shape. I'm sure the Bake-Off Masterclasses showed a terribly clever way of doing this, but I missed that episode, so just do this the best way you can see how.
9 Trim the ends off the roll and then cut into 16 pieces. I used a tape measure again for this. All you do is mark out the middle of the roll, and then mark out the middles of those two halves and then again until you've got 16 bits. Cut these up and then arrange in your collection (or not) of baking tins then leave THESE to rise for 45 mins, again with the tins covered with an airtight seal of clingfilm. Before baking brush these with some melted butter.
10 Now - to bake. My oven is a fan oven and therefore nukes anything I bake, which is why I don't do much baking. If you have one of these wretched bloody ovens then bake your buns at 165 for 30 mins, laying a sheet of foil over the buns for the last 15 mins of baking time. If you don't have a fan oven, bake these at 180 for 30 mins, but also cover for the last 15 mins of baking time.
I lost my nerve halfway through baking these and turned the temp up to 180 and although the buns were a triumph, if anything they were a tiny bit over-cooked. So next time I will just stick to 165 the whole way.
11 Mix up whatever icing you are using and drizzle or spread once the buns have cooled a bit.
Eat and then hang yourself with a length of carpet gripper.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
I hope you don't mind my husband butting in on our conversation (that is not my husband above, that of course is Daniel Craig).
My husband, Giles Coren, will only be with us for a moment. He's just got a few words to say. It's a piece that was supposed to go in The Times on Saturday, you see - only they wouldn't run it. It was about James Bond and there's been too much Bond, they said, someone else is doing something on something or other. So write something else, yeah Giles? Well my husband is an accommodating sort of chap so he said okay then - but it's such a good piece it deserves to be read and Tweeted and to bust out from behind the paywall will make him so very chipper.
I promise this won't be a regular thing.
Coming soon: a recipe!!!
(The piece they tried to ban. Warning! This contains plot spoilers...)
by Giles Coren
There is a moment in the new James Bond film so vile, sexist and sad that it made me feel physically sick. If you have not seen the film and fear a spoiler, then look away now. Or cancel your tickets and do something less horrible instead. Like pull all your fingernails out.
In short, there is a young woman in this film whom Bond correctly identifies (in his smug, smart-arse way) as a sex-worker who was kidnapped and enslaved as a child by human traffickers. She is now a brutalised and unwilling gangster’s moll. She gives no sign of being sexually interested in Bond, merely of being incredibly scared and unhappy. So he creeps uninvited into her hotel shower cubicle later that night, like Jimmy Savile, and silently screws her because he is bored.
That is vile enough. And totally out of keeping, I’d have thought, with Daniel Craig’s Bond. But it gets much worse when she is later tied up with a glass of whisky on her head in a hilarious William Tell spoof, and shot dead in a game devised by the baddie. We knew already knew the baddie was bad, so there was no plot developing element here. It was merely disgusting, exploitative, 1970s-style death-porn (like when Roger Moore torpedoed the beautiful girl in the helicopter in The Spy Who Loved Me and then joked about it – a scene from which it has taken me 35 years to recover).
The ‘new’ Bond’s immediate response to the killing of a tragic, abused, indentured slave woman is to say, “waste of good scotch” (this must be the ‘humour’ Daniel Craig said he was keen to put back into the role) and then kill everyone. He could have done it three minutes before and saved her. But that wouldn’t have been as funny, I guess.
That Macallan (the whisky brand on her head) presumably paid to be involved in the scene, as part of the film’s much-touted product placement programme, is utterly baffling to me.
Personally, I am ashamed, as a journalist, of the five star ratings this film garnered across the board from sheep-like critics afraid or unable to look through the hype, to its rotten soul.
I am ashamed, as a man, that women are still compelled in the 21st century to watch movies in which the three female outcomes are:
1) Judi Dench’s ‘M’ dies, and is replaced by a man;
2) The young abuse victim is shagged by Bond and then killed for a joke; and
3) The pretty girl who manages to remain chaste despite Bond’s ‘charms’ is rewarded at the end with a job as his secretary.
And I am ashamed, as a British person, that this film will be mistaken abroad for an example of prevailing values here. It is a sick, reactionary, depressing film and its director, Sam Mendes, should be ashamed of himself, all the way to the bank.