Monday, 26 February 2007

Muffin Monday

These muffins are my entry to Muffin Monday, a month long muffin roundup hosted by Elena at Experiments. To check out the other entries go here. I actually made these muffins over the weekend, but considering the name of the event it seemed fitting to wait until Monday to post about them.

I wanted to try and create muffins that were a little different to the standard shop bought flavours and came up with the idea of placing a blob of jam in the middle of the muffin batter before baking, turning them into a sort of doughnut style muffin. The only jam I had in my fridge was the plum jam I made over the summer but I decided this would work very well and due to my love of mixed spice I added a generous ½ tsp to the batter mix, which really complimented the plum flavour.

I pondered how to ‘decorate’ the muffins. I felt they definitely needed some sort of topping but frosting or icing didn’t seem quite right. I then thought of sprinkling over a crumble mix, after all plum crumble is quite a classic. Pleased with my ideas I set to work. The resulting muffins were light, fluffy and gave off the most wonderful aroma whist in the oven. They have a lovely crisp golden brown topping which hides the secret pocket of oozey sweet jam. The spice adds great flavour and brings the whole thing together with the aroma reminding me of early autumn.

These are delicious eaten still slightly warm, but be careful the jam isn’t still too hot. I even heated one up the next day and ate it with some custard for a quick pudding.

Plum Jam Crumble Muffins
140g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
35g caster sugar
1 egg
85 ml buttermilk or (normal milk with ½ tsp lemon juice)
50 ml sunflower oil
6 tsp plum jam

For the topping
35g self raising flour
35g light soft brown sugar
15g rolled oats
15g softened butter

Pre-heat the oven to 190C and line a muffin tin with 6 muffin cases.
Start by making the crumble topping. Place all the crumble ingredients into a bowl and rub them together with the tips of your fingers until you get the appearance of rough breadcrumbs. Then set the bowl to one side.
For the muffins, place the flour, baking powder, sugar and mixed spice in a sieve and sift them into a bowl.
Measure out the oil and buttermilk into a jug and then beat in the egg.
Pour this wet mixture over the dry mix and gently fold everything together with as few folds as possible. (I find using a plastic spatula works best). Don’t over mix the batter, you want some flour lumps to remain.
Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of the mixture into the 6 muffin cases. You should use about two-thirds of the batter.
Then, using a teaspoon, add a small amount of the plum jam to the center of each muffin case. Cover the jam over with the remaining third of batter.
Sprinkle over the crumble topping and place into the oven for 20minutes.
They should look risen and golden brown when cooked.
Allow to rest in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.
Makes 6 muffins.

Saturday, 24 February 2007


I have always said that I cannot stand tofu believing it to be tasteless and rubbery. That was until recently when I went out to dinner with Chris and chose a tofu, vegetable and noodle stir fry in a satay sauce. Upon tasting it, I was amazed to discover I actually liked it. The tofu had been fried to give it a crispy coating and it had taken on the flavours of the sauce and was not in the least bit rubbery. It seems that the type of tofu you use and how you cook it can vastly alter its texture and flavour.

On my last trip to the shops I happened to spot some tofu that was on special offer and remembering how much I enjoyed the tofu stir fry I decided to take a chance and buy some. Once home, I tried to recreate the dish and although not quite as good as the meal I had out, for a first attempt I was pleased with the results. The peanut butter added good flavour and crunch and the sweet chili sauce gave it a warming kick.

Broccoli and Tofu Noodles in a Satay Sauce

60g firm silken tofu
3 broccoli florets
50g frozen peas
½ sheet dried fine egg noodles
½ tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp sweet chili sauce
½ tbsp crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp water
1tsp vegetable oil

Prepare the tofu according to pack instructions and then cut into small cubes.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan and fry the tofu for 2 minutes until golden and crisp around the edges. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Chop the broccoli into small pieces and add to the pan along with the frozen peas and dry noodles.
Cover the base of the pan with 1cm of water and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Meanwhile mix the soy sauce, chili sauce, peanut butter and water together to form a fairly runny sauce.
When the noodles are cooked and the vegetables just softened, pour away any excess water and return the tofu to the pan.
Pour over the sauce and toss well so that everything gets covered in the sauce. Heat for a few seconds until the sauce begins to thicken and then remove from the heat and serve.

Serves 1.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Walnuts for Wet Days

The weather today has been cold, wet, grey and miserable and after scurrying home from uni it left me with no desire to go out in it again. I wanted to bake something to cheer myself up and after a short rummage in the cupboards, which unearthed some dried yeast, I decided to make bread. Afterall, nothing is more spirit lifting than the smell and taste of freshly baked bread. I found a fairly simple recipe for a walnut loaf which I decided to turn into spiced walnut bread by adding mixed spice along with some black treacle to enhance the flavour.

The bread was fun and easy to make and allowed me to get on with some work while it sat proving away in the kitchen. The finished loaf is nice and nutty with a spicy overtone similar to hot cross buns. I think it would make great cheese and pickle sandwiches.

Spiced Walnut Bread
(Adapted from The Big Book of Bread by Anne Sheasby)
350g strong plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp dried fast action yeast
½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp black treacle
55g walnuts
180ml warm water
Milk for glazing

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, yeast and mixed spice.
Roughly chop the walnuts and add to the flour mixture.
Dissolve the black treacle into the warm water before adding it to the flour mixture, a bit at a time, you might not need all the liquid.
Work the flour mixture together with your fingers until a soft, slightly sticky dough is formed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for 5 minutes until soft, smooth and elastic.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size.
Once risen, knock back the dough and shape it into a round loaf and place it onto a lightly floured baking sheet.
Leave to rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C.
Brush the surface of the dough with a little milk and place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 190C and bake for a further 15 minutes.
Once cooked the bread should be golden brown in colour and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
Transfer the bread to a wire wrack and allow to cool.
Makes 1 small loaf

1) The warm water should be no hotter than blood temperature/feel nicely warm when you dip your fingers into it or else you run the risk of killing the yeast.
2) Suitable places to leave the dough to prove are on a table in direct sunlight, near a radiator, on top of your boiler or in an airing cupboard.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Bananas for Breakfast

I really love pancakes and every year after Pancake Day I always tell myself that I will definitely cook and eat them again before the following year and yet for some reason I rarely do. Does anyone else do this? However, I woke up this morning to find that my last banana had gone past the ‘soft’ stage and was fast approaching ‘mushy.’ With the pancake plan still fresh in my mind I decided to transform my banana into thick American style pancakes.

This recipe contains no milk, I did intend on using some but the batter turned out soft enough not to need any. I also decided against adding any additional sugar as I assumed the banana would provide all the necessary sweetness, although I did add in a little finely chopped dark chocolate for good measure. The resulting pancakes were light, fluffy and very tasty. They also make for quite a healthy breakfast as long as you don’t like to eat your pancakes drowning in syrup. Thinking about it now you could make them even healthier by using wholemeal flour in place of the standard white.

Banana Pancakes

1 ripe banana
1 egg
20g dark chocolate
3 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp sunflower oil

Peel the banana and mash it into a fairly smooth paste. Add the egg and mix together.
Finely chop the dark chocolate and add to the banana.
Fold in the baking powder along with the flour, a tablespoon at a time, until all incorporated and a thick batter has formed.
Heat a non stick frying pan with the oil until hot. Add small spoonfuls of batter to the pan and allow to cook gently until bubbles begin to appear on the surface, about 30 seconds. Flip the pancakes over, they should be golden brown, and leave to cook for a further 30 seconds.
Serve immediately while still hot, with a few extra slices of banana if desired.
Makes nine, 3inch/7cm pancakes.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Ooey-Gooey Chocolate Pudding

I came home today craving something warm, chocolaty and gooey. I immediately thought of the self saucing chocolate pudding recipe I have been meaning to try out for weeks. I have made chocolate self saucing pudding once before, with my sister a few years ago. I’m not sure what we did wrong but it turned out very dense with an odd texture that turned to slime once it entered your mouth – not pleasant. I remember we had fun pretending it was a sewage works and even went as far sticking a few Lego men into it who were drowning in the slime. Since then I have always been put off by the idea of them. That was until recently, when I saw Bill Granger make his version of the pudding on one of his Saturday morning TV shows. His puddings turned out moist and fudgey with a lovely layer of sauce underneath and in short left me thinking ‘mmmmm I want one.’

So tonight I hunted out his recipe and adapted it slightly to suit my own taste. Bill’s recipe made four individual puddings but I chose instead to half the recipe and cook it all in one bigger dish. I also added a little brandy to the mix as I think that always goes well with chocolate. The original also states that a sugar, cocoa powder and water mix should be poured over the top of the pudding before going in the oven, which is what forms the sauce layer. Rather than do this I decided to experiment by making some hot chocolate and using that instead. I also used a mint hot chocolate to give it an extra twist.

The result? Delicious! The sponge topping was moist and fudgey in texture and the sauce underneath was glossy and gooey with a lovely hint of mint and better yet no slime in sight! My head is now buzzing with all the other flavour combinations I could try using differently flavoured hot chocolates – orange, hazelnut or mocha. Ohhhhh I bet it would be great using strong coffee instead of the hot chocolate. I see many more self saucing puddings on the horizon.

Mint Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding
(Adapted from Bills Food by Bill Granger)

60g plain flour
50g caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
120ml milk
40g margarine
1 egg
2 tsp Brandy

1½ tsp hot chocolate powder – I used mint flavoured
120ml hot water

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the margarine, egg and brandy.
Beat everything together using a wooden spoon until nearly combined and then gradually add the milk, bit by bit.
The pudding mix should be quite thin and batter like once all the milk has been incorporated.
Pour the batter into two 250ml pudding moulds or one 5x7 inch/12.5 x 17.5cm oven proof dish.
Dissolve the hot chocolate powder into the hot water and drizzle all over the batter.
Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes for the individual puddings or 30-35 minutes for the one big dish.
Once cooked you should have a dark spongy topping over a thick glossy sauce.Eat immediately and serve with cream or ice cream if desired.

Serves 2.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Soup’s On…

The weather has been cold, wet and dreary lately and nothing is more warming or comforting than a big bowl of thick tasty soup. I chose to make this soup as I love the combination of carrots and thyme. The red lentils act as the perfect thickener in place of the usual potato. The tortilla croutons provide a nice crunch and are lighter than standard croutons. The consistency of the soup is quite thick, which I personally love, but if you prefer thinner soups you could easily achieve this by adding more stock. I like to freeze the leftovers in single serving portions that I can then reheat and take into uni with me for lunch as it makes a welcome change to sandwiches.

This is also my first entry to any of the food events that regularly take place. ‘Soup’s on’ is an ongoing event for February that’s hosted by Alanna over at A Veggie Venture. Check out the other entries and rules here.

Carrot, Red Lentil and Thyme Soup with Tortilla Croutons

For the soup
1 onion
3 medium carrots
200g dried red lentils
1 clove garlic
2 tsp dried thyme or 2 fresh sprigs
2 pints vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to season
1 tbsp olive oil
Small knob of butter

Heat the oil and butter together in a large saucepan. Peel and roughly dice the onion and carrots and add them to the pan.
Crush the garlic and add to the pan along with the thyme. Cover with a lid and allow to sweat over a low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 10 minutes until the carrots are just beginning to soften.
Rinse the lentils under cold water and add to the pan along with the vegetable stock.
Cover and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes until the carrots have softened and the lentils have become soft and mushy. (If using fresh thyme sprigs, remove them at this point).
Blitz the soup either with a hand blender or in a liquidiser until thick and smooth.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the tortilla croutons and a drizzle of cream.
Serves 3 – 4 depending on appetite.

For the croutons
1 flour tortilla
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
Pinch of salt

Brush the tortilla with the olive oil and sprinkle over the dried thyme and a pinch of salt.
Cut into 1-2cm squares and place on a baking tray.
Bake in the oven at 200oC for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Mini Double Choc Chip Cookies

These cookies are loosely based on the well known Tollhouse Cookies. They are soft in texture and caramely in flavour with lots of little chocolate chunks throughout.

When I say these are mini, I mean mini. If you look at the picture below that green disc is actually a plastic milk bottle top that I added to the picture to allow a size comparison. These cookies are bite size and were perfect for dipping into a chocolate fondue that I made on Valentines Day to share with my boyfriend (Chris). They would also be great for children’s parties or for when you fancy a little treat and don’t want to eat an entire cookie. You could of course make them bigger and bake them for longer to get regular sized cookies.

Mini Double Choc Chip Cookies
(Adapted from: The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden)

55g unsalted butter/margarine
40g caster sugar
35g dark muscovado sugar
½ tbsp vegetable oil
100g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
25g dark chocolate
20g white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C or Gas Mark 4. Have a large baking tray ready, but there is no need to line or grease it.
In a bowl, beat the butter/margarine until soft and then add in both of the sugars and beat until well combined.
Add the vegetable oil and beat until incorporated. Then work in the flour and baking powder. The mixture should come together into a soft smooth dough.
Finely chop the white and dark chocolate and gently kneed into the dough until evenly distributed.
Then, break off small marbles sized pieces of dough and roll them into little balls. Set them on the baking tray about 1inch/2.5cm apart. Flatten each dough ball slightly with your hand.
Bake them in the oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden and just firm. Leave them to cool for 10 minutes on the baking tray before removing them to a wire wrack to cool.
These keep very well stored in an airtight container. Makes around 24 mini cookies.

Note: The cookies will be quite greasy when they first come out of the oven, this is due to the oil. I found that placing them on a sheet of kitchen roll after they were cool this got rid of any unwanted grease.

Friday, 16 February 2007

My very first post!

Welcome to Apple & Spice.
I have been an avid reader of many food blogs for the past year and have marveled at the talent and creativity of so many bloggers and their united love/enjoyment of food. So much so, that they have inspired me to create my own. I have put it off for a while – what if I didn’t do it right? What if it all went wrong? But I have since decided that unless you give things a go then you’ll never know and I hate wondering ‘what if?’ So here it is, my first post on my new blog, fingers crossed I work out how it all works. Enjoy.