|Hmm.. the perfect pairing?|
Although I have to say in all honesty, and I think many would agree, I wish the cupcake would die a swift death. However, in miniature they can be quite useful for parties. They look appealing, are bite-sized and come with their own self-contained wrappers, which is pretty convenient. So I suppose I reluctantly have to admit that there is still a time and place for them, but only if carefully considered.
Although still very sweet, these ones are a little bit more ‘adult’ in that you can add coconut rum and they have a meringue topping rather than frosting, which also makes them a bit more durable. They are therefore actually baked twice, so it is worth making sure you don’t over-bake them the first time round or they will be on the dry side.
Mini Lemon and Coconut Meringue Cupcakes
(for approx. 20 mini cupcakes)
You will need :
For the cakes:
125g unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp lemon zest
150g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp coconut essence or 1 tbsp coconut flavoured rum (optional)
80g desiccated coconut
185g self-raising flour
For the filling:
1 jar shop-brought lemon curd (or make your own!)
For the topping:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar
100g desiccated coconut
coconut flakes, to decorate (optional)
1. To make the cakes, preheat a 180C oven and line a mini muffin/cupcake tray with paper cases. I have some mini silicone cases, which I simply lined with mini paper cases for extra support and placed on an oven tray.
2. Beat softened butter with the sugar and rind until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs so the mixture does not separate.
3. Add the sifted flour and coconut. Finally stir in the milk.
4. Divide the mixture among the cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and beginning to come away from the sides. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
5. Using a teaspoon, make a small hole into each cake. Eat or throw away the tops.
6. Use piping bag fitted with a small nozzle or a plastic bag with a corner cut off to fill the holes with lemon curd.
7. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Make the meringue by beating the egg whites until medium peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until you have stiff peaks. Fold in the coconut.
8. Pour some of the meringue mixture into a piping bag and pipe onto the tops of the cakes in a swirling motion, creating a fair bit of height as you move towards the centre of the cake. Top with a flake of coconut if desired.
9. Bake the cakes in a hot oven for 10 minutes until the meringue has set and is beginning to crisp up and brown a little (but not burnt!). Remove and cool on a wire rack.
Easy-Peasy Flavoured Popcorn
Lemon and Dill Popcorn
You will need:
100g popcorn ( 1 microwavable bags worth, basically)
2 tbsp dill, chopped finely
1 lemon, juice and zest
1. Pop your popcorn and decant into a large bowl.
2. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. Add chopped dill, lemon zest and a few drops of the juice.
3. Pour over the popcorn. Season with sea salt and use your hands or a large wooden spoon to mix until most of the popcorn is covered with the lemon-dill butter. Consume.
Chilli and Lime Popcorn
You will need:
100g popcorn (1 microwave bag)
1 tsp chilli powder
1 lime, zest and juice
1. Very much as per the above recipe, pop your popcorn and decant into a large bowl.
2. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. Add chilli, lime zest and a little of the juice.
3. Pour over popcorn and mix together to combine completely. Season with sea salt.
(adapted from the cookbook What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies)
Makes about 60
You will need:
4 garlic cloves
260g plain flour, sifted
200g unsalted butter, cubed and cold
2 tbsp double cream
1 tsp dried thyme
140g Parmesan, finely grated
30 large cherry tomatoes, halved
sea salt + black pepper
1 jar pesto
extra virgin olive oil
1. To make the biscuits, first roast the garlic cloves in their skins, drizzled with olive oil, in a 200 C oven for about 30-40 minutes. They should be totally soft and gooey inside.
2. Blitz together the the flour and butter in a magi mix to a breadcrumb consistency. If making the biscuits by hand, quickly crumb together with cool fingers (run under the tap), making sure there are not large lumps of butter. If the mixture gets too greasy, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes before continuing.
2. Add the cream, roasted garlic (squeezed out of their skins), thyme, Parmesan, salt and pepper and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a floured work surface and bring the dough together with your hands to form a flat, puck-like shape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of about 5mm. Cut out rounds with a small cutter, about 3 cm in diameter, I used a shot glass. Place onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm.
4. Preheat the oven to 160 C. Sprinkle the biscuits with a little extra Parmesan and a good grating of pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden and set. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
5. To make canapes, drizzle the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, season and roast in a hot, 200 C oven until soft and beginning to caramelise. Allow to cool before assembling the biscuits. Dot each with a little bit of pesto (I actually found it easier to put the pesto in a plastic bag, snip a corner off and ‘pipe’ onto the biscuits), top with a tomato half and sprinkle with a little Parmesan, thyme leaves and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
I’ve always been a fan of things you can whack into a large pan and walk away from. Leave to potter and simmer and come together whilst you crack on with one or two of the other things that demand your time.
This stew is one such dish. It takes about 35-45 minutes to cook and no time at all to prepare. It sits happily on the stove while you crack on with those emails, feeding the cat, ironing or whatever. I served it last weekend for my film-maker friend, Mike, who kindly came round to give me a photography lesson. Followed by a slice of plum and pear pie, I suppose it was really a bribe to trek East and patiently explain clever things about light sources and let me try out some better lenses. But it is also exactly the kind of food I crave on days like these, when it starts to get dark around 4.30 in the afternoon and the heating needs to be whacked up. In fact, it was the perfect meal before heading off to see the Guy Fawkes fireworks on Blackheath.
Lentils and sausages are of course very good friends and I for one have always thought of them as a particularly Germanic combo. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, but I think this recipe is a fresher, spicier take than the wurst you too might be familiar with.
Sausage and Lentil Stew with Fennel and Paprika
Serves 3 hungry people
You will need:
6 Sausages (preferably of the stronger, Italian variety- I used fennel and chili)
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp smoky paprika
300g green lentils (not puy please)
700ml chicken stock
A handful of parsley
1. Slice the onions and fry them in a large stewing pot over a medium high heat. They should begin to caramelise ever so slightly.
2. Meanwhile, brown the sausages all over in a separate frying.
3. Add the minced garlic, fennel seeds and paprika to your pot and stir for about a minute.
4. Add the sausages, passata and stock. Stir together.
5. Add the lentils and cook over a low, simmering heat until the sauce has reduced slightly and the lentils are cooked through. They should absorb a fair bit of the liquid. This should take about 40 minutes.
6. Plate up into large bowls, scatter with chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper. Serve with chunky bread.
- Roughly chop the onion, celery and pumpkin flesh and put in a heavy pan.
- Add chili, garlic, spices salt and pepper and the chicken stock. Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before stirring in the peanutbutter. Blend with a stick blender or in food processor.
- When you want to serve it, dice the chicken into neat cubes and add to the soup. Gently reheat and taste to season when hot. Do not let boil.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F or Gas mark 4)
- Heat about half the butter in a large casserole dish and fry the sausage pieces until brown and caramelised
- Add the rest of the butter and the chopped onions. Fry until softened before adding the minced garlic and chopped sage.
- Add the pumpkin and stir well until combined. Increase the heat and add the vinegar, let it bubble and evaporate.
- Add the tomatoes, beans and stock before seasoning.
- Bring this to the boil and then transfer to the oven for up to one hour, until the sausages are cooked through and the pumpkin is tender.
- Serve in hearty bowls, scatter with parsley. Enjoy next to a roaring fire.
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and celery and cook until softened. Remove from the pan and put in a large casserole dish or large pot. Add the lardoons to the pan and cook until golden. Add to the pot.
- Add a little extra oil (or butter if you prefer), to the pan and brown the chicken pieces all over, seasoning as you go.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and pour in the cider, scraping any crispy bits that have stuck to the pan.
- Arrange the chicken pieces in the pot, so they sit on top of the onions, celery and lardoons. Add the cider juices and the chicken stock and sprinkle with half the chopped sage. Cover with a lid and bake for 50 minutes.
- Add the apple slices, rest of the sage and stir in the crème fraiche. Cook uncovered for another 20 or so minutes, until the juices of the chicken run clear.
- To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with rice or mash and a simple green salad or perhaps some tenderstem broccoli.
- Preheat your oven to 170C or 325F, Gas mark3. Then grease a 20cm (8in) spring-form cake tin (or the closest thing you have) with about 20 g of the softened butter. Also add a dusting of flour (40g)
- First off, make your crumble topping. Sift 70g of the flour with the cinnamon before adding 40g of the cold, diced butter. Use your fingertips to rub the ingredients together until you’ve got a breadcrumb-like mixture. Stir in the light brown sugar and then set to one side.
- Use an electric whisk to cream the remaining 60g of softened butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing thoroughly.
- Sift together140g of flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Add about half of this mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, followed by half the milk. Mix well with your electric whisk, then repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles ontop of the batter, then sprinkle with the crumb topping to form an even layer.
- Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 min, until it is golden brown on top and a skewer or knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Set aside to cool before removing from the tin. Can be enjoyed warm or cold, with crème fraiche, whipped cream, ice cream or custard. Or all of the above.