Buttermilk, Beetroot and Apple Muffins

I saw some gorgeous muffins over at the Great Big Vegetable Challenge and was immediately intrigued. Charlotte, who has completed an A-Z of vegetables with her son Freddie has now moved on to healthy packed lunches for her children. Freddie is still marking dishes out of 10 and these muffins gained a massive 9 out of 10! That is recommendation enough for me.

I have converted Charlotte's recipe into cups, but it is essentially still Charlotte's recipe. I made no changes except for the buttermilk. I didn't have any, so I made some with milk and a tbsp of lemon juice, filled up to the quantity and then left for a few minutes to develop, as it were.

Buttermilk, Beetroot and Apple Muffins

1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk (or milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice)
1/2 stick/4tbsp/50g butter, melted
1 eating apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
2 small beetroot, cooked and finely diced
1/2 cup Demerara sugar
1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or runny honey)
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 and a half tsp of baking powder

For the topping

1 tablespoon of porridge oats
1 tablespoon of Demerara sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180C. If you are using a deep muffin tray, cut out six squares of baking parchment 15 cms by 15 cms. Line each muffin tin with a square of paper. You can use paper cases if you prefer. Melt the butter, allow to cool slightly and in a bowl stir in the sugar, beaten egg and buttermilk. Mix well. Add the finely diced cooked beetroot and diced apple and spoon of maple syrup. Sieve the flour and baking powder and roughly stir in so the flour is distributed but don’t over mix. Spoon the mixture evenly into each lined muffin tin. Mix together the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle evenly over the top of each muffin.
Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.

Makes six large muffins or 12 smaller ones

We really enjoyed these muffins, but we both preferred the beetroot in these muffins, when they were still warm. I have since tried these without the beetroot and they are still great. I used the same recipe, but added more blueberries and some cinnamon to the muffins.

I encourage you to visit Charlotte's blog, which is packed with great recipes and some very amusing stories! Even better, buy a copy of her book - Great Big Veg Challenge: How to Get Your Children Eating Vegetables Happily. It is a beautifully produced book, that is a joy to flick through.

I am entering these muffins into Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. Ruth holds an event every Monday called Bookmarked Recipes .....where you can blog about a recipe you have bookmarked from a cook book, food magazine, food blog, food website or from TV and then make it and submit it to her weekly roundup.

Oh, I nearly forgot! I sprinkled these muffins with Angie's sugar topping. The most gorgeously aromatic sugar mix (another kind gift). I will post the recipe, once I have checked all the ingredients. Angie did tell me, but I was too busy sticking my nose in the tub and breathing deeply, to pay attention.

Trail Mix - a simple delight

I have never tried trail mix before. I have heard of it, but probably just a reference to it in films. It is not really a Scottish thing.

I came across the idea of trail mix on Jo's blog - Kitchen Girl. Jo regularly makes trail mix with her children as a healthy snack. She made her last mix out of raisins, peanuts, sunflower kernels, yogurt drops and banana chips. Sounds good, doesn't it? Jo describes Trail mix as "the perfect mix of salty, sweet, chewy and crunchy"!

I just couldn't believe that something so simple and tasty could pass me by, so I immediately started planning what to put in mine. My first thought was that popcorn might be a good idea and so it is! The rest came about as I wandered the aisles of my local supermarket.

It is such a great snack to take to work.

Holler's Trail Mix

dried banana chips
salted peanuts
dried mango
dried cranberries
dark chocolate chips

Cheddar & Dill Beer Bread Rolls

I came across this recipe for no knead beer bread over at Munchkin Mail. Lysy made some gorgeous Garlic Beer Bread Rolls, which I wanted to make as soon as I saw them. The original recipe by Farmgirl Susan was for a crusty Beer Bread with Sharp Cheddar & Fresh Dill. I decided to combine the two and make some really tasty rolls to serve with soup. The rolls were really crisp, but soft and aromatic in the inside.

Cheddar & Dill Beer Bread Rolls

3 cups plain flour
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp dried dill
1 cup mature cheddar, finely grated
300ml beer/lager

1 egg & 2 tsp water, beaten

Heat oven to 375f/190c/gas mark 5. Sift the flour into a large bowl and then add the sugar, salt, baking powder, dill, and cheddar. Gradually pour in the beer and mix until just combined, do not over mix. The mixture will be quite thick and stretchy.

Divide the mixture into a 12 hole muffin tray and brush with the glaze(optional) and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden. The outside should be crispy and a skewer should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes before moving them onto a wire rack.

Best served warm.

You can also divide the mixture into a large, 6 muffin tin or a loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.

Lysy used a bottle of Budweiser in her rolls, but I just bought a can of Tyskie Premium Lager, which is a fairly cheap Polish lager. I knew I had made a good purchase when I was complimented on my choice by the Czech girl on the till, who said it was great to see a girl drinking proper beer. When I told her that I was making bread with it she was very interested and after a bit of conversation, she told me she was working until 7 o'clock, just in case I had finished baking it by then!

Curly Kale, Watercress & Potato Soup with Peas

Curly Kale, Watercress and Potato Soup with Peas

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
100g curly kale
100g watercress
1 handful fresh coriander
2 cups/1 pint vegetable stock
2 cups frozen baby peas
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes and then add the celery. Cook until the onion and celery have softened. Add the potatoes and a splash of water to prevent the potatoes sticking to the pot and stir for another 5 minutes. Next add the curly kale and the watercress, pour in the stock and stir until the leaves have wilted. Leave to cook gently for 10 - 15 minutes. Whizz up the soup in a blender, remembering to add the coriander. Return to the pot and heat through before adding the baby peas. Cook for a few more minutes and season to taste.

Serves 6-8

I served my soup garnished with some watercress and a drizzle of the sun-dried tomato dressing that I made by whizzing up the jar of sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary and garlic (I removed the rosemary before whizzing up the dressing) that I was given by Alison and accompanied it with a couple of fresh and crispy, beer bread rolls. Recipe to follow!

Graham and I both like this soup, but we differ in the finish. Graham likes the peas whole and bobbing about in the soup, whereas I prefer them blended in, however we both agree that the cheddar and dill rolls are gorgeous when eaten with it. Heck, they are just great anyway and dangerously moreish!

Madras Curried Tomato Soup

I have hardly used any of my cookbooks for anything more than bedtime reading for the last year, so I decided it was time to pick one up and try out a new recipe.

The cookbook I decided to choose a recipe from was my copy of Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. This fabulous book was a gift from my good friend Lisa from Lisa's Kitchen and let me tell you, it is a great read, but really it is now time to start cooking from it again.

In this book, Madhur moves away from the Indian cookery that we associate her with and draws on four decades of travelling around the world to provide us with over 650 recipes. She covers dried beans and peas, nuts, vegetables, grains, dairy, soups, salads, drinks, and sauces whilst reminiscing about when she first tried each dish, with recipes such as : Bulgur Wheat with Red Pepper Paste (Turkey), Sweet Potatoes with Raisins and Cinnamon (Morocco), Persian Sweet and Sour "Ratatouille" of Fruit and Vegetables (Iran), Tuscan Zucchini Pie (Italy), Ginger Fruit Punch (India) and Red Kidney Bean Stew with a Peanut Sauce (Nigeria).

Me being me, I decided to choose a soup, no surprise there then!

Madras Curried Tomato Soup

2 tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into coarse rounds
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into rough dice
1 cup fresh or frozen and defrosted peas
2 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup of vegetable stock

Put the oil in a medium-large pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the onion. Stir and saute 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is golden brown. Put in the curry powder and stir it around for 10 seconds, then put in the tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, peas, salt and 4 cups of water. Bring to the boil. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Blend the soup in batches in a blender and then stir back into the saucepan through a coarse sieve, making sure you create a soup of the thickness you desire, by adding the stock. Stir to mix. Heat the soup, if you want to serve it hot, or cover and refrigerate if you want to serve cold. Garnish with chives, if desired, when serving.

Serves 4 to 6

I really enjoyed this soup, but Graham wasn't too sure. Probably because it was so creamy. I think next time I make it, I will taste it first without the cream and if I decide to add some, I will only add a splosh.

Disclosure Statement: I did not receive this book free from the publisher to review, this is my own copy. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

A Gift from Alison

I wanted to share with you one of the foodie gifts I was kindly presented with at Christmas. A jar of the most beautifully tempting sun-dried tomatoes.

Alison and I had a preserving conversation one day in the locker room at work. I was wondering what delights she was making for gifts this time and lo and behold next day I was presented with a jar of sun-dried tomatoes. They just looked so gorgeous nestled in the jar with the rosemary and garlic cloves, that I wanted to know her secret. So here it is ......

Alison's Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, infused with Fresh Rosemary and Garlic


good quality, extra-virgin olive oil
sun-dried tomatoes
fresh rosemary
fresh garlic bulbs
bay leaves (optional)

This makes a lovely gift and is easy to make, just start planning well in advance, as you need to let the flavours infuse for a couple of months! An ideal addition to pasta dishes, these flavoursome tomatoes will also complement your cheeseboard selection and are perfect with olives and antipasto.

Firstly, you need to shop around to purchase quantities of sun-dried tomatoes - they can be very expensive if purchased in small amounts from your local deli or supermarket. This year I found that the 'Julian Graves' shops had a BOGOF, (Buy-one-get-one-free!), deal on large bags of good quality sun-dried tomatoes.

Make sure you have clean, scrubbed glass jars at the ready! I collect these all year round, ensuring a plentiful supply in Autumn, when it's time to make the Christmas goodies! It's also a good way of recycling your empty jars - let nothing go to waste!

The best quality extra-virgin olive oil you can afford, is another essential purchase - try Aldi's and Lidl on the high street, or a cash and carry if you have a ticket - or know someone who does! Buy in bulk....what you don't use for bottling, you can use for cooking or concocting tasty salad dressings.

Decide in advance how many jars of tomatoes you would like to make up.....ensure you buy enough extra-virgin olive oil and packs of tomatoes to fill them up.

Take your clean, dry jars and fill half-full of the olive oil. Then place sprigs of fresh rosemary in the jar, round the sides, plus several cloves of peeled fresh garlic. Bay leaves add flavour and look pretty too. Then pop the sun dried tomatoes into the centre of the jar - if they are whole, you may wish to cut them in half to make it easier to layer them up. Then top up with more olive oil to within a centimetre or so of the lid - make sure the contents are completely covered! Make sure too that the lid is screwed on tightly - leave in a cool dark place to infuse........

As the rosemary and garlic are fresh, they won't last for ever.....if you see the colours turning dark, it is time to remove them.....although they will have done their job by then! Simply filter through a sieve and throw out. You can replace them if you like, for added flavour, but that's not essential.

Label and date your jars, listing all the ingredients too. You can make them pretty by using raffia, tinsel or off-cuts of material to cover the lids. Most of all, keep some for yourself and Enjoy!!

Thank you Alison, I certainly will! They look and smell divine!

I am thinking of whizzing them up with the oil into a dressing to drip over bruschetta, to dress salads, pasta and anything else I can think of. Just imagine dipping crusty bread into this luscious dressing as an appetiser or drizzling some on to some soup just before you serve it. Yum!

Update: If you would like to dry your own tomatoes check out Andrea's dehydrator method or Kalyn's slow roasted tomatoes which can be cooked in the oven.

Update Number Two: Thanks to Jo over at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl for giving me a '2008 Fabulous Food Blogger Award'. I was late picking it up, but it was a lovely belated Christmas gift :)

Brownies with Dried Fruit

My first recipe of 2009 is a delicacy created by my good friend Lisa over at Lisa's Kitchen. Lisa took a Nigella Lawson recipe for chocolate brownies with nuts, played about with it and in my opinion, made it infinitely better by adding dried fruit. This makes for a really moist brownie, with little hints of fruit, which is simply gorgeous! I cooked my brownies in a cake pan and served the first portion hot with custard. It was just what we wanted.

Brownies with Dried Fruit

1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter
375 grams of dark chocolate
6 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 cups of chopped dried fruit

(Lisa used dates, figs and a few prunes, when I made it I added soft dried apricots and dates, which is what was sitting in my store cupboard)

Grease or line a 12 X 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large, heavy bottomed pot.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, chopped fruit and salt.

Pour the melted chocolate and butter into the egg and sugar mixture. Beat to combine and then add the flour and fruit and beat again. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for roughly 40 minutes, or until the top dries and begins to crack slightly and the interior is dark and gooey.

I am entering this brownie recipe into Ruth's Bookmarked Recipes .....where anyone from anywhere can blog about a recipe they had bookmarked from a cook book, food magazine, food blog, food website, from TV etc, make it and submit it to a weekly roundup. I think Lisa's recipe is well worthy of this challenge.
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