Chocolate Brownies

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I am going to say straight away that there isn’t anything magical or revolutionary about this method for making brownies. If you want that, try here.

A few weeks ago I was wandering around the supermarket minding my own business (i.e. silently judging other people’s shopping) when I spied something I’d never seen before: Mortimer Chocolate Company Pure Dark Chocolate Powder.

2014-02-05 15.32.14Feeling somewhat cocky – and attracted by the ‘free’ recipe on the back – I tossed it into my own trolley and off I went, thinking of chocolate brownie goodness (and also – “sustainably sourced”), although I wasn’t entirely sure of the difference between ‘chocolate powder’ and the normal ‘cocoa powder’ I already have at home, but it did seem to have different (i.e. fewer) ingredients than the ‘hot chocolate drink powder’ so that was a good thing (hot chocolate drink powder does not happy chocolate baking make).

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Mortimer Chocolate’s website offers information about the company (as you’d expect), products (four different chocolate powders from Ecuador, South America, Ghana and West Africa, as well as white ‘couverture’ powder – which is basically white chocolate but as it doesn’t contain dairy EU regulations mean it can’t be sold as such, and an oil-free mixture for chocolate fountains and fondues!) and recipes for both sweet and savoury dishes.

And the result? I’m not going to lie to you – they were good brownies.

Ingredients

  • 100g Mortimer Chocolate Powder
  • 125 g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 eggs

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180C and line a 9″ (23cm) square tin
  • Melt butter over low heat and whisk in chocolate powder until combined.

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  • In a bowl, beat together eggs and sugar.

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  • Stir in melted chocolate.

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  • Sieve in the flour and beat until smooth.
  • Pour mixture into the lined tin.

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  • Bake for 20 minutes.

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Foodie Penpals – January Part 2

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I really enjoyed my first month as part of the Foodie Penpal programme!

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My buyee was Consuelo at the beautiful blog Honey & Figs. An amazing blog and a wonderful person to correspond with! I could have happily bought and bought and bought items that I thought she might like, but had to rein myself in to the £10 budget! (Plus – posting to Spain meant nothing fragile that could explode in the post!) I also wanted to get some fantastic local items that would really show off where I’m from … and I now plan to try harder next month as there seemed to be a dearth of fantastic local produce that is easily transportable! (I figured that she didn’t want some Wiltshire cured ham or a Wiltshire pasty …)

But there are some local food festivals dotted throughout the year, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open!

Luckily her parcel arrived in time and she enjoyed the (rather random, admittedly) selection of items!

My buyer, Julie from Joolsy67, was hit by the post-Christmas bug that seemed to make people drop like flies (all 4 of my god-daughter’s family were struck with it also) so my parcel didn’t arrive in time for the initial reveal day … but that didn’t matter!

The selection I have is great! I’m not sure where to start first …

I mentioned in my emails to Julie that I like trying new ingredients and new recipes – and she didn’t disappoint. A packet of fenugreek leaves – not something I’ve cooked with before – and luckily Julie also included a recipe for Aloo Methi. Curry is actually on the list for this week, so hopefully this will make a wonderful accompaniment!

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Next up is some salad dressing – made locally to Julie. As its summer garden herb perhaps it’ll remind me, amongst all the wind and rain, that winter will end one day! Plus its made with rapeseed oil, so healthier than normal dressing!

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Then there’s the Amaretti … Very tempted to use them in something special I may or may not be making next Friday … !

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And then came the chocolate. Although I did tell Julie that I have a massive sweet tooth and love chocolate, I didn’t say that my all time favourite pairing is chocolate with sea salt – so absolutely spot on with the flavouring of this bar! (I’m surprised its lasted this long, to be honest …) Plus – edible lustre. Again – I am already thinking of something special that I can use with this!!

2014-02-03 13.53.52Last but not in any way least, Julie included a jar of lemon curd. Her own. Home. Made. Lemon. Curd. I love you, Julie. (And you’re right – curd should never be a low calorie choice!!)

2014-02-03 13.55.13I’d like to thank both Julie and Consuelo for making my first Foodie Penpal month a success!

Sorry for the shameless plugs

Sorry for the shameless plugs

Cherry and Lemon Biscuit Bites

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Last night I reached a metaphysical crisis point.

You see, I had gone to bed nice and early (9pm!) in order to read quietly before settling down to sleep. (My usual nightly routine is to stay online until whatever time my eyes feel like they’re bleeding and then haul myself off to bed with the potential inclusion of half an hour of my current book and a wonder at why it takes me ages to drop off to sleep.)

Not only is my current book not doing it for me (A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin) but after an hour and a half I was hungry. Not for a roast chicken dinner or anything, but maybe a biscuit.

There were no biscuits in the house. No biscuits, no muffins, no cookies, no small snacks of any kind. In the end I had to make do with a slice of bread and butter – which is all very Dickensian and not something up with which I intend to put.

(In case you’re interested, I also changed my book to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.)

Consequently today I have had biscuits on my mind, and this afternoon I made some, cleverly including the extraneous pack of apple-juice sweetened dried cherries

I want to point out that I have a small amount of lemon curd in the fridge (a couple of tablespoons at most) and was very, very tempted to add that to the dough. But I refrained. I’m not sure why. Next time …

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Ingredients

  • 100g/3.5oz butter, softened
  • 100g/3.5oz caster sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 275g/10oz plain flour
  • 100g/3.5oz sweetened dried cherries, chopped

 

Method

Preheat oven to 190C/375F and line a baking tray/sheet pan with either greaseproof paper or a silicone sheet.

In a mixer cream the butter and sugar together. Once combined, add the lemon zest.

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Slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract and combine well.

(I then removed the bowl from the stand and used a wooden spoon for mixing in the flour.)

Sift in the flour (I did this in three batches) and beat well. Add the chopped dried cherries and continue mixing until the mixture comes together to form a ball. (Add a small amount of warm water or milk if it doesn’t!)

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Tip out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead slightly to form a ball.

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Roll out to approximately 1cm thick.

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Cut into whatever shapes your biscuit cutter collection allows! I used a 2″/5cm fluted circular cutter. Place onto your baking sheet and bake until pale golden brown.

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I was expecting them to do be done after 8-10 minutes, but they weren’t quite cooked so in total they were about 12-14 minutes in the oven.

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Remove and leave to cool slightly on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (or snaffle whilst still warm!).

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If you wish, you can ice them with water icing, or perhaps scattering with caster sugar when fresh out of the oven. Either way, enjoy with a cup of tea – or perhaps in the middle of the night when sleep proves elusive!

Foodie Penpals – January Part 1

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I’m quite excited.

Yesterday those undertaking the Foodie Penpals programme received the first pairing of 2014 – and my first month participating!

In a nutshell (more details here), you’re paired with two people – one for whom you put together a ‘care package’ and one from whom you receive a package. I am buying for a young Spanish lady and receiving from a lady from … oop north (well, Leeds).

I don’t think I’m supposed to be blogging about this yet, but I’m a bit excited (doesn’t take much nowadays!). Official blogging reveal day is at the end of the month (i.e. will be January Part 2). Ho hum.

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White Chocolate & Cherry Muffins

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Well, finally I got around to making these after going on about them for so long!

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Before I get to those, however, I wanted to let you know that I finally purchased a Flex Edge Beater for my KitchenAid. I purchased via Amazon – and it cost me £29.12 with free packing as it was done via Amazon Prime.

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Will it revolutionise my baking? Well, after one use with these muffins then I think it might! No scraping down the bowl. No collection of unmixed flour at the bottom. I look forward to making a sponge cake with it (oh, the things we dream of …)

But onward to the sour cherry saga. Well, you know part of it … Could I find dried cherries that hadn’t been sweetened with something? Could I buggery. Several supermarkets and healthfood shops were consulted – both chains and boutique – but they were all sweetened with some kind of juice – usually apple. I tracked some non-sweetened ones down online – and what a variety of prices! I eventually chose Pearls of Samarkand as these were a fair price (again, this was via Amazon as the price plus postage was slightly lower).

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As I’ve said before, I really wanted something of a clash of flavours in a muffin and white chocolate and cherry seemed to be the way to go, with the sweetness countered by the sour. Originally I had decided to soak the cherries in lime juice to up the ante on the mouth-puckering sourness. However, upon trying one of the dried cherries I decided that they were sour enough, thank you, and therefore opted to use them as they are.

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After just eating one of the (still warm) muffins – I have to say two things: the first is that if you’re after a chocolate and cherry muffin then this recipe is for you; the second is that if you’re after a real hit of sweet and sour then soak in lime juice. The sourness of the cherries is somewhat mellowed during the cooking, and I’ll definitely be a) pre-soaking the cherries and b) reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe.

The recipe I based mine off is located here. Oddly, it contains bicarbonate of soda AND self-raising flour, not something that I would usually do. However, with gritted teeth I added the bicarb and this – along with the two eggs – created a wonderfully light and fluffy muffin. I also only used 100g of white chocolate. You could probably increase this amount to 150g or even 200g if you wished.

Ingredients

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon bircarbonate of soda
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • Few drops vanilla extract
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 100g dried sour cherries
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped

Method

Preheat fan-assisted oven to 180C/350F. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.

Sift the flour and bicarb together into a bowl. Mix in sugar.

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Mix wet ingredients together and combine.

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Add wet to dry and stir until just mixed. Stir in cherries and chocolate.

Spoon into muffin cases (I use a tablespoon and this mix gave me about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons to each case for 12 muffins).

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Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool slightly in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Tips for the next bake? Other than the extra souring of the cherries, and the addition of more chocolate (ahem) then possibly the adding of some Demarara sugar on top to create a bit of a crunch. Part of me also wants to add something to the batter … a spice of some kind … but I shall resist as they are truly delicious exactly as they are!

Foodie Christmas 2013

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Last year I shared a post about the foodie Christmas that I had in 2012, and my previous post detailed a wonderful pre-Christmas evening with friends.

Christmas tree ... aka Bertie

Christmas tree … aka Bertie

This was followed up by a return hosting chez nous that consisted of a boiled and baked ham, luxury mac and cheese followed by dark chocolate bark and peanut butter cookies.

I have to say, the ham was glorious. It wasn’t special. It didn’t come from a butcher. As far as I’m aware, it wasn’t free range, organic or fed a special diet. Just an average smoked ham joint purchased in a supermarket. It weighed about 2.3kg – just for completeness. This was brought up to the boil in water and then the water and scum discarded. Back in some clean water (in the past I have used cider, but you can use anything from cola to ginger beer to ale) with the addition of a chunky chopped carrot, a quartered onion, star anise, quartered red chilli, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf and 5 green cardamoms that had been crushed enough to open the pods but not spill the fragrant seeds.

This was boiled for about 2 and a half to 3 hours (using the standard of 30 mins per 500g), drained and had the fat cut off (which is now hanging in the garden for the birds to peck at). Traditionally at this point the remaining fat could be scored and cloves inserted into the crossing of each diamond and then have a sticky glaze painted over before being roasted. However, I can’t be doing with all that, so I whipped up a glaze of ginger marmalade, English mustard powder, honey and dark muscovado slapped that on and then sliced up a couple of tangerines (could’ve been satsumas or even clementines …) into rings and placed on top. Into a pre-heated oven in a tray lined with foil for 30-40 minutes.

The ‘luxury mac and cheese’ is pretty simple. A cheddar and parmesan cheese sauce is made with the addition of cream, mascarpone or creme fraiche. Note here that the creme fraiche imparts a rather tart flavour which brings out the tang of the parmesan nicely. Consequently you can’t use the same volume of creme fraiche as double cream – but experiment yourself!

This is mixed with some fried leek and spinach (usually there would also be some pancetta, but in this instance we thought that we’d have enough pork!) before being added to the cheese sauce along with a packet of cooked macaroni. Honestly, use whatever small-ish pasta you want here. Nobody’s that bothered.

Put into an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with grated parmesan and place under the grill until bubbly and crisp.

Some garlic bread and a green salad dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and we were away!

The chocolate bark was a cinch to make. Just melted 200g of mixed very dark and milk chocolates in a bain marie before pouring onto a sheet pan lined with greaseproof paper. There was a rough rectangle drawn onto the reverse – approximately 9″ x 10″ – and then onto this was scattered some roast cashews, 100g of diced dried apricot and 100g of mixed dried berries (actually, the berry mix that I’d purchased when I was looking for dried cherries and didn’t use!). This was left to cool during the day and then cut into chunks. A great contrast in textures and flavours! A white chocolate one with some very tart fruit and salted nuts would be wonderful.

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The peanut butter cookies were taken from this recipe, with the addition of some dark chocolate chips and self-raising flour in place of the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda. Oh, and the removal of the salt …

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Christmas Eve over and done with, including the washing up, it was one sleep until the Big Day. This started – as it usually does for me – with a phone call to my mum (dutiful son …) and then on to some fried ham, eggs (this year scrambled, generally fried) and toast. With a lovely cup of tea.

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A brief sojourn to the living room for some peace and quiet (okay, okay, this would normally be a time for stockings but this year we’d decided on not) and then off to the woods for a walk.

Two hours later (ahem) we were home and I figured that I should probably start with dinner …

Bacon-wrapped corn-fed poussin, roast potatoes and parsnips, julienne carrots, red onion stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, chipolatas, sautéed sprouts with onion and bacon, bread sauce and pan gravy. Beautiful. And no room for dessert which was just as well as we hadn’t made any …

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So there you have it! I hope that you all are enjoying your own festivities, whatever form they may take.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the Foodie Penpal programme that kicks off again in January.

I’ll leave you with the image of Clive – the Christmas Ceratosaurus …

Clive, the Christmas Ceratosaurus

Clive, the Christmas Ceratosaurus

Still not a food blog but here is a blog post about food!

Now, this is a food blog. So I wanted to share the story of the most incredible selection of ‘party food’ I’ve ever had. The sausage palmiers were fantastic – and the smoked chicken was beautifully moist and delicately flavoured.
A fantastic evening!

Fudge & Poppy

As previously alluded to, we had my best friend Dom and his husband Peter over for some pre-Christmas nibbles and drinks on Friday. We had also invited my lovely friend Chloe but unfortunately in some freak Ikea Circus Tent Pole accident, she had done her back in and couldn’t make it!

I spent the Thursday and most of Friday preparing various different things for it. A lot of them were new to me so I wasn’t entirely confident that a. I wouldn’t totally balls them up and b. that they would taste nice.

I didn’t sadly take photos of everything we made but I did take a few.

I had scoured through various recipe books and looked online for some interesting ideas and things that would be fairly simple to prepare but be a little different. One thing I’d had in my mind for a while was something I had…

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Lemon Snowball Shortbreads

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Technically this should be entitled Lemon Snowball Cookies – as that is what the original recipe is called. But – and I don’t know if I can explain this in the right way that doesn’t make me seem awfully jingoistic – it sounds terribly American. I have nothing against the term ‘cookie’ and don’t automatically think ‘biscuit’ is the better word (after all, how often do we actually twice cook our biscuits?). However, I made these and immediately went “Oh – this is shortbread. Why not just call them shortbread?” So I am.

(As a potentially interesting aside, I actually had to look up the difference between shortbread and shortcake. Shortbread is one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Shortcake uses vegetable fat (usually) and a chemical leavening agent (i.e. baking powder) which gives a different texture. And the ‘short’? Its from ‘shorten’ in the sense of ‘make crumbly’ – which happens because the fat inhibits the formation of long gluten strands within the flour.)

I actually made these twice. For good reason. You see, the original recipe featured either lemon chocolate chips (which sound, quite frankly, AWESOME – but I didn’t really want to order them online around Christmas as who only knows when they might arrive) or lemon drops. Lemon drops clearly being the winner when it comes to ease of purchase … Or so I thought. Instead, all I could find was lemon sherbets. Shame. So I crushed up a handful (i.e. 5 or 6) to be added to the dough.

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Not the best idea I’ve ever had, I have to say. I have nothing against shards of cooked sugar in things, but the molten glass effect was exacerbated by the fact that I FORGOT TO REFRIGERATE THE RAW, SHAPED BISCUITS! Big tip for you when working with a dough that’s so high in butter: put it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes for the butter to firm up once you’ve handled it, and then cook it. Holds the shape and improves the texture all round.

Not that there was anything wrong with the first batch. Adding the crushed sweets didn’t take anything away from the biscuits – but it didn’t add anything either. So on to batch number two … No lemon sherbets. Just lemon zest and lemon extract (yes – lemon extract – a bad one is some kind of oil with lemon oil, a good one is lemon oil and a spirit – usually vodka) to give it that clean tang of citrus. And smaller balls. Which were refrigerated.

Another tip: Leave to cool completely on the baking tray and then dredge with icing sugar. When they’re straight out of the oven they are very friable and prone to breakage. The lemon flavour also improves as they cool.

As mentioned, the original recipe was from Chocolate Moosey, but its all in cup measures. Whilst I can work in cups – and have a set of cook’s cups – the fact that you can measure butter in cups threw me for a loop. Translating it into ‘sticks’ doesn’t help either. I want measures of mass, dammit, not volume! So I translated it all into grams where necessary.

Whatever set of measures you use, these are incredibly simple to make so give them a go!

Ingredients

  • 113g butter, soft
  • 31g icing sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Half teaspoon lemon extract
  • 145g plain flour
  • 50g lemon chocolate chips/crushed lemon drops (optional)

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Method

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line a baking sheet with either a silicone cooking sheet or a square of greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter and icing sugar in the mixer with the lemon zest and lemon extract. (I find it helps to hold a tea towel over the bowl to stop the icing sugar blasting over the kitchen surfaces.)

Slowly add the flour and mix until just incorporated. The dough should be thick and fairly unwieldy at this point.

Remove bowl from the mixer and stir through the chocolate chips or lemon drops (if using).

From the first batch - with crushed sherbet lemons

From the first batch – with crushed sherbet lemons

Scoop a teaspoon of mixture out and roll into a ball, placing on the baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining batter. The original recipe says this amount makes 24 cookies when rolled into one inch balls. The first batch I got 14. The second time I got 17.

These don’t spread too much so don’t need to be too far apart on the tray.

Refrigerate tray for 15-20 minutes before putting in the oven.

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Cook for around 8-10 minutes. The cookies should be brown on the bottom and golden on top, with a slight squidge to them (they feel slightly underdone at this point – but that’s what you want). Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet.

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Once cool dredge with icing sugar through a sifter/sieve or spoon sugar into a bowl and roll them through.

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Fantastic Festive Mincemeat

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There are some dishes that are inextricably linked in my head with a particular person – for better or worse. Sometimes there are people that are indelibly linked with food. The author of today’s guest post is one of those people … and definitely for the better. 

Indeed, my first memory of her is food-related (and muffins at that) and following the 5 years of working with her its still right up there with lasting impressions. All to the good, I assure you. Her love of baking – and all things foodie – was pretty legendary in the office and we shared many a discussion about recipes, cookery programmes and even once the relative merits of a Kenwood mixer versus a KitchenAid …

For those of you who are somewhat confused, there is no meat in mincemeat nowadays (although traditional recipes include some kind of animal fat such as beef suet), and is a mixture of chopped dried fruit, spices and distilled spirits and is very much a part of Christmas tradition here in the UK, most often used as a filling for sweet pastry pies.

I have a jar of this mincemeat, and look forward immensely to making some mince pies with it!

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Fat-Free Mincemeat

Years ago I read about making fat-free mincemeat in a slimming magazine, so I tried it ‘because it was healthy’. I realised the suet adds absolutely nothing to mincemeat and if you leave it out, you get more of the good stuff per bite. As a bonus, it’s inherently vegetarian, indeed vegan if that’s your thang. Over the years I’ve refined it so you get this: juicy and succulent, bursting with plumptious fruit. I’ll save the fat for the pastry, where it belongs! And maybe a dollop of brandy butter and some cream…

There is no greater start to the festive season than an hour or so making this mincemeat on a Saturday morning, whilst listening to Christmas songs. The aroma of the simmering mixture fills the house with luscious Christmas smells. I defy even the most bah-humbug of Scrooges not to feel festive – not to mention, hungry – after that. And all this joy for just a bit of chopping and stirring. Ho-ho-ho!

(But I should rename it really. It doesn’t sound very inviting, when Christmas is all about plenty. Maybe “Fantastic Festive Fat Free Mincemeat”? Or better yet, leave out the ‘fat free’ bit and don’t tell anyone, they’ll never know! Yeah. Fantastic Festive Mincemeat it is.)

Ingredients

  • 250g Dark Muscovado sugar
  • 250ml cider
  • 750g cooking apple flesh
  • 500g sultanas, raisins, currants or a mixture
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 75g dried or glace cherries
  • 75g chopped mixed peel
  • 50g stem ginger from a jar (drained weight – about 4 or 5 balls of ginger)
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
  • ½ teaspoon powdered allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 90ml brandy, or other spirit of choice (I used Amaretto this time which is yum, as is Cointreau)

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Method

Let me first say, this recipe is not an exact science. You can vary the dried fruit and flavourings completely to suit your tastes. Like a tropical mincemeat? Use dried pineapple and banana in place of the cranberries and cherries, and use rum (or Malibu!) as your spirit. Hate ginger? Leave it out. Cooking for somebody who shouldn’t have alcohol? Use apple juice instead of cider, and omit the spirits (maybe use an extra squeeze of lemon). Me, I love all of it! But my favourite variation is this one, loaded with citrus and ginger and with a nice boozy kick.

1) Cut apples into wedges, then peel and core each wedge. Chop each wedge – roughly, but not too large. To get about 750g of flesh, you need about 1kg of apples – 4 large or 6 smaller Bramleys, as a guide. But if it’s not exactly 750g, don’t worry. Somewhere in the right vicinity is fine. The apple will start to go brown before you’ve finished. Don’t worry about it. It’ll be browner by the end!

2) Finely chop the stem ginger – it’s about 4 balls, drained.

3) Pour cider into a saucepan and add the sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

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4) Now add the the remaining ingredients apart from the lemon juice and spirit. Stir to mix and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about half an hour. Keep an eye on it – what you want is about 3/4 of the liquid to have evaporated, the remaining liquid to be syrupy and the whole thing to be pulpy and generally look like mincemeat! Bear in mind that as it cools, the remaining liquid will thicken and you can stir it into the mincemeat, so it’s fine to have some left when you stop cooking.

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5) Meanwhile, sterilise some jars – wash well in warm, soapy water. Rinse, then heat them in a cool oven (120C/250F) for 10 minutes or so until they’re dry and hot.

6) Once the mincemeat is ready, remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before adding the lemon juice to taste – start with half, taste, and add more if you think it needs it. Then stir in the spirit. If you’re not sure about how strong you want it, add half to start with (90ml is 6 tablespoons so add 3 tablespoons), stir to mix and then taste. Add the remainder to taste.

7) Once it’s cooled slightly, add into the jars. Keeps for weeks in the jars, thanks to the sugar (I’ve eaten it the following Christmas too, but it was in the fridge the whole time in between). Also freezes well.

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Yum!

 

Lime and Mint Muffins

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As I talked about previously, I currently have a yearning for something approaching a Mojito in muffin form. Mint … lime … rum (well, maybe not the rum as I don’t particularly like it) … I think you get the picture.

This recipe and these muffins are not that muffin. I wanted clear alpine meadows of minty freshness skewered by the sharp acid of emerald limes.

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Instead I got something more subtle. I suspect this was due to the quality of the limes. I have a friend who hails from Florida. I can only imagine her snickering if she saw the paucity of tiny limes currently to be found in my local supermarket. (I don’t know why I should think this specifically – she isn’t a snickery type of person and I know nothing about her knowledge of limes in her home state.) With a good lime with a particularly zesty skin and sharp juice then this would make these muffins closer to transcendental.

Another reason for the lack of pin-point clarity of flavour was my decision to use muscovado sugar. My thought process here was that if its good enough to go into making rum then its good enough for a muffin.

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This created a moist muffin that had whispers of treacle running through it. Also, as it readily forms lumps as its so moist, the muffins contain nuggets of almost-fudginess.

I was in a quandary when it came to imparting the mint aspect. Chopped mint leaves? Use lime curd that has had mint leaves steeped in it? Dried mint? Mint extract? I do actually have a recipe (from the wonderfully weird French muffin book) that includes chopped fresh mint leaves, but somehow I was afraid of the papery rustle of cooked leaves. Dried mint doesn’t taste the same as fresh mint so that was out, and steeping mint leaves in lime curd would give an intense mint-lime hit when cocooned inside the batter, but not the even spread I was after.

Which only really leaves mint extract (as with vanilla, extract is considered superior to essence) so I picked up a bottle of “American Peppermint Natural Extract”. I’m not entirely sure what’s American about it, but I do know that its quite a strong flavouring so should be used sparingly …

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Recipe

  • 300g (10oz/2.5 cups) self-raising flour
  • 100g (3.5oz/2 thirds cup) muscovado sugar
  • 50g (1.7oz/1 third cup) caster sugar
  • 200ml (1 cup) natural yoghurt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 125g (4oz) butter, melted and cooled
  • Zest of one lime*
  • Juice of half a lime*
  • Few drops good peppermint extract

*This depends on the quality and zestiness of your lime … In the muffins I made today, the lime was pretty paltry. If this is the case, up it to zest of two limes and juice of a whole lime. If your limes are big and meaty then use the one!

Method

Preheat oven to 180C (approx. 350F) and line a muffin tray with paper liners. (This recipe gave me enough batter for 12 muffins with a nicely heaped tablespoon of batter per cup – adjust to your own preferred size!)

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Mix the flour and sugars together.

In a jug, combine the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.

Spoon into muffin tray, and cook for 20-25 minutes.

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When a skewer comes out clean, they’re done! Remove and allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before removing.

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I could suggest making a lime syrup with which to drench these whilst still hot … I could also suggest making a rum syrup, or a rum-and-lime syrup. Or a rum frosting. Or a lime frosting. Or a mint frosting.

Either way. Enjoy your mojito responsibly.