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Monthly Archives: January 2020

Summer Plum Muffins

Sydney in summer, January 2020. And what a summer. The drought and the bushfires dominate the literal and emotional landscape, as we swelter through hot, hazy and humid days.

Despite these conditions, there is still amazing summer fruit in abundance, to bake, preserve or simply to devour fresh as an antidote to the heat.

I love stone fruit in high summer. I’ve been jam making with apricots and with blood plums, fantastic for their rich ruby red colour.

I made muffins a while back with yellow fleshed plums, using my current go-to muffin recipe adapted from Matt Stone’s The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste. Here is the recipe from 2018.

This recipe celebrates plums, baked in the muffin mixture and also as plum pieces on top of each muffin, but you could just as easily make it with other stone fruit – apricots, peaches or nectarines.

Ingredients

2 free-range eggs

140g raw sugar

1 Granny Smith apple unpeeled and grated

1 plum, diced

75ml vegetable oil

10-12 pecans, chopped (optional)

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp salt

3 plums, cut into segments, to decorate

A few pecan halves, to decorate (optional)

Method

Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl and when  the mixture is foamy, slowly pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size.

Whisk in the apple, diced plum and oil. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger  and salt.

The mixture can be baked straight away but Matt suggests leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will give the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture. Even leaving the mixture for a few hours in the fridge is beneficial.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced, 180 degrees C non fan-forced.

Grease a standard muffin tin and line 6 holes with squares of baking paper. Spoon in the muffin mixture, adding as many plum segments as you like on top to decorate, and pecan halves, if using.

Put the muffin tin in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the muffins at 15 minutes and every 5 minutes from there, using a skewer to check if cooked. From my experience, in my oven, they take about 20 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Remove them from the tin and place on a wire rack. I leave the baking paper on as the muffins are easier to store.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Great on their own, as they are so moist, but also good with butter, or Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

Baked Garlickly Mushrooms – 5 Ingredients


I’m revisiting a recipe I blogged in 2018 from Jamie Oliver’s super simple book 5 Ingredients. All the recipes in the book are easy to prepare and can be whipped up quickly with 5 simple ingredients.

I have recently grown some lovely Roma tomatoes on four tomato plants which I have nurtured from little seedlings. I’m no gardener, so I was delighted with their first bumper crop! I have another crop ripening, so I thought it would be great to use them in this delicious supper or lunch dish.

So here’s the recipe. Lovely on its own and even better served with crusty sourdough!

Ingredients

4 cloves of garlic

 ½ a bunch of fresh sage (15g)

350g ripe mixed-colour cherry tomatoes

4 large portobello mushrooms

40g Cheddar cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Peel and very finely slice the garlic. Pick the sage leaves. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Peel the mushrooms, reserving the peel.

Place it all (peel included) in a 25cm x 30cm roasting tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper and toss together. Pick out 12 perfect garlic slices and sage leaves for later and sit the mushrooms stalk side up on the top. Bake for IO minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven, crumble the cheese into the mushroom cups and sprinkleover the reserved garlic and sage*. Return to the oven for I5 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything’s golden then serve up.

*I added some rosemary sprigs too, as rosemary works well with sage.  

Sourdough Starter Crumpets

There’s always a dilemma when making sourdough, that is, what to do with left over starter. I often add sourdough starter to baking with man-made yeast, for added rise and that extra sourdough flavour.

Making sourdough crumpets is another favourite. There are recipes that suggest only using starter, with bicarbonate of soda added of course. Having tried these recipes, I’m not a fan of the resulting intensely “sour” flavour of the crumpets.

So I have experimented with a few versions and have come up with a recipe that is now my go-to crumpet recipe. In fact it’s easier than ordinary recipes involving man-made yeast!

The quantities are simple: equal amounts of strong flour, sourdough starter and water, plus a little salt and sugar and the bicarb. No proving or waiting involved. And the result is beautiful, flavoursome, dense crumpets complete with those crumpet holes!

Ingredients

200g strong flour 

200g sourdough starter 

200g water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2-3 tablespoons butter for cooking/greasing

Method

You will need a fairly large frying pan for the recipe plus crumpet rings. I used to use silicone egg rings until I invested in proper metal crumpet rings. The egg rings are fine, but I do like the stability of the metal rings.

Mix the flour, sourdough starter and water to a smooth paste. Add the salt and sugar and mix again. Add the bicarb. At this stage you will see some bubbles from the bicarb reaction. I get varying degrees of bubbles but I find that the crumpets still do their thing even when there are less bubbles.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and melt over low heat. Once the butter melts, use a pastry brush to carefully butter 4 crumpet rings. I use this method as it saves on melting butter separately. Add another tablespoon of butter, turn up the heat to medium and leave the rings in the pan to heat up.

Now it’s time to cook the crumpets. Several important things to remember. Clean the crumpet rings in between cooking and butter again, otherwise the crumpets are in danger of sticking. Fill the crumpet rings half to three quarters full. Half for a traditional size crumpet and three quarters for a whopper size. I like my crumpets thick but I’ve learned from experience that filling the rings with too much mixture means the crumpets spill over the top and quite frankly end up so thick they don’t fit in the toaster!

Cook the number of crumpets that can fit in your pan. In my case, I can cook three at a time. I’ve always got the fourth ring ready to go with more mixture. Keep on cooking until you’ve used all the mixture. I usually get 6-9 crumpets from a mixture.

Fill each ring with the required amount of mixture and leave for a good 6-10 minutes to cook. The crumpets should rise and have almost cooked through. Remove the rings with tongs and flip over. The crumpets should be brown underneath. (If you can’t remove the rings don’t worry, turn the crumpets over in the rings and then remove the rings once cooked.)

Cook for a couple of minutes on the second side until brown. Remove from the pan. I find that the crumpets don’t all cook at the same rate so I remove them at different times.

Use the remaining tablespoon of butter as necessary to butter the rings for the next rounds of crumpets and also to add a little more butter to the pan as you cook more crumpets.

A word on holes. When you cook the first side, after a few minutes you will see the trademark holes forming on the top. The holes develop and pop as the mixture dries out.

I give the holes a helping hand, by popping the emerging holes with a skewer. I think this is quite acceptable as the ultimate aim in having holes is to allow more butter to be absorbed!

The crumpets, as is traditional, need to be toasted. Don’t be tempted to eat them untoasted just because they are freshly made!

I make these crumpets whenever I have left over starter after bread making and sometimes I top up my starter just to make a batch of crumpets.

They also freeze beautifully – I always have a few packs of crumpets ready to unfreeze and then toasted.

I serve them with lots of butter and good quality honey or jam. In the photos I served them with my homemade strawberry conserve, recipe here.

If you’re a dedicated sourdough bread maker, this is the perfect recipe to use that precious starter you have worked so hard to develop and want to put to good use.

Christmas Pudding Leftovers Strudel

It’s 6 January, Twelfth Night, and I’ve just taken down the Christmas decorations and returned my little living Christmas tree back to the fresh air in the garden.

I love Christmas pudding, but invariably always have some left over. So when I discovered Jamie Oliver’s fabulous recipe for Christmas Pudding Strudel, I was excited to find another way of serving up the remains of our delicious pudding.

It’s a lovely way to reinvent Christmas pudding leftovers and make something really yummy and quite special. I blogged this way back in 2015, but I thought it was worth reblogging in 2020! It’s basically layers of filo pastry, filled with grated apple, pear or quince, crumbled Christmas pudding and a surprise chocolate centre.

Ingredients

12 sheets filo pastry – if frozen, thaw.  I mention in my original post that perhaps you could use less filo, as 12 layers is a little too much

125 g butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

100 g demerara sugar + more for dusting when serving

4 ginger nut biscuits

400 g leftover Christmas pudding

3 apples or pears or 2 quinces or a mixture of the three

50 g good-quality chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced.  Lay out 6 sheets of filo pastry on a clean tea towel, overlapping each by an inch or so, so they cover the tea towel.
The filo should cover the tea towel completely, with just a little overhang at one of the shorter ends.

Work quickly so your pastry doesn’t dry out and brush some melted butter all over it. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and 50 g of the sugar, then crumble over your ginger nut biscuits to add crunch. Carefully layer the rest of the pastry sheets on top and brush again with butter.

Use your hands to crumble the Christmas pudding into a bowl then grate in the fruit, everything except the cores. (Jamie says to use the cores  – I don’t think you need them.) You want to have about the same amount of grated fruit as you’ve got pudding. Add about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and mix it all together to break up the pudding a bit more. Sprinkle this all over the pastry so it’s roughly covered, leaving the overhang clear. Place the chocolate in a row on top of the Christmas pudding, down the short side nearest the overhang. 

Fold the overhang over the chocolate and pinch it up, then lift up your tea towel, and use it to help you carefully roll up your strudel. Tuck the ends under to seal it and transfer to a large nonstick baking tray. Brush it all over with butter then sprinkle over a little more sugar. If it looks a bit rough, you could wrap an extra layer of filo round it before cooking to make it neater. Bake in the hot oven for about 40 minutes until crisp and golden. You may get a split once cooked – I agree with Jamie that that would add to the rustic effect!

Leave to cool, then use a serrated knife to cut the strudel into 5 cm slices.

Note: This recipe makes quite a large strudel –the photos here are of half the strudel.

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